Harley C. Bement - update 9/7/2016

Harley C. Bement was born January 3, 1835, in Prattstown, Steuben County, New York, the son of Harley (1797-1882) and Eliza (Briggs, 1805-1856).

According to a family source, Harley (elder) was about 14 years old when he enlisted “in Capt. Hugh "Henry" R. Martin's Company, 13th U.S. Infantry at "Skenactady" New York, commanded by Colonel Christie,” during the War of 1812. “Records indicate service in the battles of St. Johns Canada, Little York (later Toronto) under General Pike, Fort George, 2nd Battle of Queenstown, Burlington Heights, Eldridge's Defeat, Wilkerson's Defeat and Plattsburgh. He served as a second sergeant and was honorably discharged July 1815 by a proclamation of the President of the United States while home on furlough at Onondaga, New York.” According to the family history,

In or about the year 1832, he left Bath, Steuben County, New York, and settled for a time at New Haven, Macomb County, Michigan, later moving on to Ingram County, Michigan and became one of the early pioneers of Central Michigan. The family existence was primitive with Harley, an excellent hunter, often providing game for food. Michigan was yet a Territory and their nearest neighbor was four miles away. The area Indians were harmless but given to dishonesty. Apparently he was quite the "Old Boy", often very ornery and few got along very well with him. In June 1839 Harley purchased 40 acres in Putnam Township, Livingston County, and sold it in October same, for a tidy $400 profit. In 1840 they resided in Handy Township, Livingston County where he helped build the first sawmill. In 1844 he owned 80 acres in Leroy Township, and purchased additional land in 1847. Sometime before 1850 his family made a western mover to Georgetown, Ottawa County, where he farmed and lumbered. For eight years prior to the Civil War he ably administered the law as a Justice of the Peace. While at Georgetown, Harley and Eliza were devout members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Eliza died in a disastrous home fire in June or October of 1856. He then married, 27 Feb 1857, Mrs. Anna M. (Wood) Parker, the widow of Ezekiel W. Parker of Ohio. As a resident of Alaiedon Township, Ingham County in 1858 he purchased 40 acres, selling it later that year. In June of 1858 his son Harley C. Bement married Anna's daughter (his step sister) Marinda Parker at Georgetown.

On 19 Jan 1863, in his middle sixties but apparently in excellent health and residing at Georgetown, he enlisted in the Civil War at Grand Rapids. He was assigned to Company F, 7th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry (Capt. Mann) and served as a Ferrier, later changed to Private's rank, in charge of horses in transit from Michigan. On 26 Mar 1863 after an extremely tough winter camp at Washington, D.C., he was admitted to the Washington Columbian Hospital suffering from diabetic complications and diarrhea. On 12 May 1863, at the age of 66, he was discharged from that hospital and the army for disability, suffering from bronchitis and chronic diarrhea, with the comment that he "should not have been enlisted".

His last two decades are cloaked in mystery. Apparently he never recovered from his war exposures and privations and was unable to do a days work thereafter. His daughter Hannah indicated that he was forced to break up housekeeping because of his Civil War disability. According to the 1870 Census records, at age 74, he resided at Leroy with his son Silas; Anna's whereabouts then are unknown. In the 1880 Census (age 86, MA/CT), and an old record book, he resided at least three months in the Ottawa County Poorhouse, and was listed as a Pauper. Anna later applied for his military pension, being turned down more than once, but finally receiving $8 per month a few months before her own death.

Little documentation is available on Harley Bement in the original chronicles. Almost all of the preceding documentation was gathered by Spencer Leigh BeMent of Ann Arbor, Michigan who is believed to be Harley's second great-grandson. He indicated that little was known about Harley's parents and the early facts about him are vague and inconsistent. His birth era and the naming of his children provide some evidence that he is from the Samuel/Silas line. He may be an undeclared last son of Samuel or the first child of Bingham, or one of several other assumptions that are still being explored.

In 1836, when Harley C. was only a year old, his family moved to Michigan from New York, settling in what would become Macomb County. “At first,” wrote one postwar biography, “the family were obliged to go to Mt. Clemens for their flour, and the father frequently carried it on his back the long distance of fifteen miles. The Indians, who were numerous, were usually harmless, although driven to dishonesty, and upon one occasion during the absence of the family stole everything the house held, even carrying away the clothing of the mother and children. The father followed the Indians two days and recovered their table-knives, all ground to fine points, and his wife's silk dress, which had been cut short in the skirt to be worn by the Indians. The daughters’ dresses were served in like manner, and everything which had been carried away was more or less injured.”

Around 1839 or 1840, Harley’s family moved to Ingham County, where his father “assisted in building the first sawmill erected in Hardy, Livingston County, and which was on the County line of Livingston and Ingham counties.” By 1850 Harley (elder) and his brother Levi had moved their families to Georgetown, Ottawa County where Harley Sr. engaged in farming and lumbering. Harley Jr. was educated in the common schools and spent most of his time working on the family farm and in the lumbering business prior to the war.
Eliza died in a fire in June of 1856 and in 1857 Harley Sr. remarried Anna Wood Parker. (Mrs. Parker was the mother of Benjamin Parker who would also serve in the Old Third during the war.)

Harley Jr. married his stepsister Miranda A. Parker (d. 1916) on June 14, 1857, and they had at least 11 children: Elemuel (b. 1858), Harley G. (b. 1860), Medona or Dora (b. 1863), Clemens (b. 1866), Benjamin (b. 1867), Pearl (b. 1870), Priscilla (b. 1873), Anna (b. 1874), Albert (b. 1879), Charles (b. 1881) and Maud (b. 1883).

By the time the war broke out Harley (younger) was living in Georgetown, working a farm next to Stephen Lowing who would serve as Lieutenant and then Captain of Company I; in fact according to Lowing Harley was working for him by the spring of 1861.

Harley Jr. stood 6’0” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 27 years old and working as a farmer living in Georgetown, Ottawa County when he enlisted as Fifth Corporal in Company I on May 13, 1861, along with his first cousin Wilbur. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.)
Harley Jr. was wounded three times on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run: first, through his left hand; second, before he could get off the field he was shot in the fleshy part of the right thigh; and third, he was hit by a grape shot, which struck him in the back, tearing his cartridge box into pieces. According to Harley, he was struck by a minie ball in the left hand “and by the same ball at the same time in his left elbow . . . said ball struck near the knuckle of the second finger of his left hand passing through the back of his hand lengthwise passing to and striking his left elbow.” He was eventually hospitalized in New York City and was discharged for disability on December 11, 1862, at Bellevue hospital in New York City.

After his discharge from the army Harley “returned at once to his home and family in Michigan” and “devoted himself to farming and threshing, and for seven years farmed for Edward Cole, of Ottawa County, hauling logs and lumber from the woods to the sawmill.” Indeed, by 1880 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Georgetown, Ottawa County.

In 1875, Harley “went to Utah for the purpose of mining, first stopping at Salt Lake City. He remained in Utah one summer, but not finding his mining venture a success returned home and engaged in farming in the Township of Croton,” Newaygo County. In 1882 he moved to a farm of 80 acres in Georgetown (at the southeast corner of Pierce Street and 92nd avenue), Ottawa County. “At the time Mr. Bement purchased his Allendale Township homestead, the land was entirely unimproved, but” by the late 1880s “contained 50 highly cultivated acres. In February, 1892, the residence and contents were entirely destroyed, and since then our subject has erected a handsome two-story frame building at a cost of $1,100.” Aside from the year spent in Utah in 1875, Harley lived all his life in the Allendale and Zeeland areas.

In 1883, Harley’s son Clemens (named after Harley’s brother who had died during the war) was thrown from a horse, and suffered a head injury that left him an invalid for five years, two of which he spent flat on his back unable to turn or move. However, “Science restored him in great measure to health, but excellent care and a large outlay of money was needed to save his life and give him permanent relief.” Harley’s family was, noted one source, “widely known and highly esteemed, occupy positions of useful influence and command the confidence of many sincere friends.” The same year in which his son was injured Harley was residing in Allendale drawing a pension of $6.00 per month (no. 10,487), and increased to $24.00 by 1916.

He and his wife were both members of the First Christian Church of Georgetown, and he may have been a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association. He was a member of Grand Army of the Republic Thirkittle Post No. 388 in Allendale, in which he served as Post Commander for two years; he may also have been a member at one time of Weatherwax Post No. 75 in Grand Haven, Ottawa County.

Harley was a widower when died in Zeeland, probably at the home of his son Albert, of “general old age” and chronic cystitis a widower, on November 5, 1916, and was buried in Allendale cemetery.