Hiram C. and Townsend M. Luce

Hiram C. Luce was born on February 29, 1828, in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the son of Abijah (1792-1875) and Nancy (Norton, b. 1790).

Abijah was born on Martha’s Vineyard and resided there for many years. He reportedly served in the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812 (and in fact he claimed to have been captured off Lisbon, Portugal).

He married Massachusetts native Nancy Norton in 1813 and eventually settled his family in Rhode Island around 1835. After Nancy died around the same time, Abijah married Sarah Townsend Foster (1802-1841) in 1836, in Bristol, Rhode Island and she died in 1841 in Bristol. Throughout the second half of the 1830s Abijah owned and operated a steam mill in Bristol. In 1840 he was vice president of the Bristol Seaman’s Friend Society and in 1841 was President of the Bristol Suffrage Association.

In any case, Abijah soon moved his family westward, settling in Michigan along the Grand River in the mid-1840s and in 1846 he married New York native Violette or Violetta Davis (1803-1878) in Kent County, Michigan. By 1850 Abijah and his wife Violette and their children were living in Paris, Kent County, Michigan where Hiram worked as a farmer with his father.

Hiram was reportedly working as a mariner and probably living in Rhode Island when he married Rhode Island native Sarah Abbie Lake (1828-1913), on January 5, 1852, in Bristol, Rhode Island, and they had at least four and possibly five children: Virginia W. (1852-1856), Hattie B. (b. 1859), Mildred, Hiram (b. 1862), and Julia May (b. 1869).

Hiram had moved to Michigan by 1856 when Virginia died, and by 1860 Hiram was working as a grocer and living with his wife and child in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward. (His parents were living in Paris, Kent County.) Sometime in early 1861 Hiram became a member of the Valley City Guards, the prewar Grand Rapids militia company whose members would form the nucleus for Company A.

He stood 5’5” with blue eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was 33 years old and probably still living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company A on May 13, 1861. (His younger half-brother Townsend enlisted in Company F.) By November of 1862 Hiram was employed as a clerk in the Third Brigade commissary. The following month he accepted the appointment of Master’s Mate, United States Navy, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia.

Hiram was appointed a Mate on the U.S. Navy on December 11, 1862, and ordered to report to the Navy Yard in New York City. He failed to report, however and his appointment was revoked on January 19, 1863. In 1889 Hiram claimed that in fact he did report to New York but that Admiral Paulding gave him a leave of absence. Upon returning home he found a letter informing him that his appointment had been revoked. “I made no attempt,” he informed the Pension Bureau, “to make it right but came home.”

Hiram returned to his home in Grand Rapids where he reentered the service in Company E, Tenth Michigan cavalry on February 25, 1865, for one year and was mustered on March 8, crediting Paris, Kent County. Hiram joined the Regiment at Sweetwater, Tennessee on March 6, and possibly participated in Stoneman’s expedition into east Tennessee, southwestern Virginia and west North Carolina from March 21-April 25; the regiment was on duty at Lenoir and Sweetwater, Tennessee from about May until August and in west Tennessee until November. Hiram was promoted to hospital steward on September 1, and was mustered out of service with the regiment on November 11, 1865, at Memphis, Tennessee.

Hiram returned to western Michigan after the war and by 1870 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Cascade, Kent County. (His parents were living in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward in 1870.) Around 1872-74 he and his sister Sarah Vosburg and their families moved to Martinsburg, WV, where they tried farming.

Sometime in the mid-1870s, Hiram moved back to Rhode Island and employed as a rubber worker and boarding on High street near Bourne in Providence, in 1876-77. He appears was probably living in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1879-82, and was a rubber worker living with his wife and three children in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1880. In fact, he might very well be the same Hiram C. Luce who appears as a member of the Hope Lodge of the Masons in Bristol in 1884.

In any case, Hiram and his family eventually returned to Michigan and for some years he worked as a clerk. He was residing in Paris, Kent County when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association in December of 1890.

In 1888 Hiram was living in Grand Rapids when he applied for and received a pension (no. 493974).

Hiram died of consumption at his home at 1028 Fifth Avenue in Grand Rapids on June 14, 1896, and the funeral was held from his residence on the afternoon of June 16. He was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section 10 lot 35; see photos G-155 and P-54.

In July of 1896 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 432781). She was living at 22 Crawford Street in Grand Rapids where she died in December of 1913.

Townsend M. Luce, alias “Byron Hickle,” was born on March 17, 1838, in Bristol, Bristol County, Rhode Island, the son of Abijah (1792-1875) and Sarah (Townsend Foster, b. 1790).

Abijah was born on Martha’s Vineyard and resided there for many years. He reportedly served in the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812 (and in fact he claimed to have been captured off Lisbon, Portugal).

He married Massachusetts native Nancy Norton in 1813 and eventually settled his family in Rhode Island around 1835. After Nancy died sometime in the early 1830s, Abijah married Sarah Townsend Foster (1802-1841) in 1836, probably in Rhode Island; she died in 1841 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Throughout the second half of the 1830s Abijah owned and operated a steam mill in Bristol. In 1840 he was vice president of the Bristol Seaman’s Friend Society and in 1841 was President of the Bristol Suffrage Association.

In any case, Abijah soon moved his family westward, settling in Michigan along the Grand River in the mid-1840s and in 1846 he married New York native Violette or Violetta Davis (1803-1878) in Kent County, Michigan. By 1850 Abijah and his wife Violette and their children were living in Paris, Kent County, Michigan, where Townsend attended school with his younger sister Sarah, while his older half-brother Hiram, who would also join the Third Michigan, worked on the family farm.

In 1857 Townsend married New York native Carrie Finch (b. 1838), reportedly in Ottawa County, and they had at least one child: Addie (b. 1859).

By 1860 Townsend was a farmer of some wealth living with his wife and daughter in Cannon, Kent County. (His parents were living in Paris, Kent County.)

Townsend was 23 years old when he enlisted as Second Corporal in Company F on May 13, 1861 (his older half-brother Hiram joined Company A). He was promoted to 5th Sergeant in August of 1861.

Sometime probably in the first half of 1862, Townsend wrote a letter home to his parents, in which he attempted to reflect on his character and his previous life, pointing out that he was “sinful by nature.” He then observed how sorely he wanted to be home and what he wouldn’t give for “what you would have for supper. . . .” He spoke of someone named Davis writing a letter to a woman or girl named Mary and then said, “that lately I have thought much of old Kate. Is she well poor old thing; it is time she was turned out for good. I have wronged her too; who have I not wronged? Well I am paying for it both bodily and mentally.” He then added a note to his father asking about the family livestock. “How do the sheep & lambs look? they must be fine. Please let the Durham calf run with the cows. Father do not be discouraged about this war, tis all right. This is a big wheel & takes a great while to get it started but it will be successful. If you could only see the troops here in our new place of camp you would be astonished. . . .Our camp now is three miles northwest of the city it is not so good a situation as Arlington. This wing of the army is very strong and will come in behind Manassas Junction some fine morning. The men are all in good spirits.”

He closed by thanking his father for some recent financial assistance, saying that he had been unfortunate in some endeavor during the past year but that he was going to try again. “Hoping you are all right I remain your Thankful son, Townsend Luce.”

Townsend was present for duty through much of the first half of 1862 but on May 8, 1862, he was reduced to the rank of Private. He was reported a private and a deserter on August 23, 1862, at Alexandria, Virginia, although in fact he had apparently been hospitalized in Alexandria.

On September 5 he was among a group of sick and wounded soldiers who had been brought to New York City from Alexandria aboard the steamer Daniel Webster, on September 5. He was soon afterwards officially returned to the Regiment from desertion but on September 18 was listed as under arrest, apparently at the hospital, and he deserted from the hospital at David’s Island, New York harbor sometime in November of 1862.

Townsend eventually returned to his home in Cannon, Michigan.

On August 26, 1863, Townsend was arrested for desertion by one of the deputy provost marshals and Grand Rapids City Marshal George Dodge, who, curiously enough had formerly served in Company F, Third Michigan infantry; Dodge must have certainly known Townsend. In any case, the Grand Rapids Eagle reported

Early yesterday morning Provost Marshal Bailey received information that a deserter, by the name of Town. Luce, for whom he and his deputies had long been searching, arrived on the night train, and was probably secreted somewhere in the city. The necessary means were at once taken to spot his hiding place, and during the day it was ascertained that he would probably be found at the house of Mr. Belknap, last night. Deputy Provost Marshal Cady, and City Marshal Dodge, with some assistants, were detailed for the business of arresting him, and on searching the house, the stray soldier was found secreted between the upper and nether ticks of the bed, the whole attempted to be disguised by the presence of his wife, who occupied the upper story of the bed. -- The officers, very ungallantly, perhaps, invited him to come forth from his hiding place, and leave the soft dalliance of woman for a short residence at the boarding house kept by one Vanauken [jailer], whence he will soon be sent to the Regiment from which he deserted. Deserters are beginning to find that ‘Jordan is a hard road to travel.’

Townsend was sent back to the Regiment and placed under arrest at Alexandria, Virginia. He was quite possibly forwarded on to the regiment while it was in Troy, New York, in September.

In any case, he was on duty with the regiment after it returned from New York to Virginia and was bivouacked in Alexandria, Virginia in early October of 1863. According to Charles Wright of Company A, Luce feared for his life. Writing to his sister on October 2, 1863 Wright stated that “Townsend Luce, of the Third Michigan is here; he was catched [sic] at Detroit [and] he thinks he will be shot.” Townsend reportedly deserted for on December 9, 1863, at Alexandria, Virginia. He was still on the List of Deserters in late February of 1864.

According to his Third Michigan infantry service record Townsend apparently went to New York where he reentered the service under the name of Byron Hickle. Claiming he was from London (England or Ontario is unclear) a “Byron Hicks” enlists in Unassigned, One hundred and ninety-fourth New York infantry on March 23, 1865, in Rochester, New York. He was mustered out of the service on May 1 or 10, 1865 at Elmira, New York. Apparently on his way back home to Western Michigan, Townsend was again arrested as a deserter on May 22, 1865, in Detroit by one J. Rodman of Company E, Second Veterans’ Reserve Corps.

There is no further record. There is no pension record for either Townsend Luce or a Byron Hickle or Byron Hicks.

It is fairly clear that Townsend was probably court martialed and sent to the penitentiary at Fort Madison, Iowa. It is unknown what became of his wife Carrie. Interestingly, in 1870 one Ada Luce, age 11 (probably Townsend’s daughter Addie) was living with Townsend’s parents, Abijah and his wife Violette in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward. In fact, when Abijah died in 1875 he left his entire estate to his wife Violette; after her death everything was to go to Addie. No mention of any of his other children, and certainly not Hiram or Townsend.

Townsend is reported as a “physician-convict” in the Fort Madison prison census for 1870; he listed his place of birth as Massachusetts. Townsend was eventually released from prison but did not return to Michigan.

He eventually married Ohio native Mary Elizabeth Stevens Reed (b. 1843) on May 27, 1873 in Montgomery County, Missouri and they have at least two children: an adopted daughter Fannie Amelia Hensley (b. 1873) and Gertrude (b. 1876).

By 1880 Townsend is working as a physician and living with his wife and two daughters in Prairie Township, Montgomery County, Missouri. (He reportedly received his medical license in Missouri in 1887.) Townsend is reported living in LaGrange, Adams County, Illinois in 1892, but in 1900 is listed in Prairie township, Montgomery County, Missouri. By 1910 he is living in St. Louis.

Townsend died of heart failure on January 12, 1917, in St. Louis, Missouri and was buried in Providence Cemetery, near Wellsville in Audrain County, Missouri. Mary was living her daughter Gertrude Werly and family in Taney County, Missouri, when she died on January 10,1930.