George W. Arms

George W. Arms was born October 21, 1842, in Ionia County, Michigan, the son of Selah (1809-1865) and Margaret (Utter, 1816-1851).

Selah, the son of Noah Arms (1783-1842) and Ruth Brand or Branch (b. Vermont), was born in Rutland County, Vermont; Noah had fought in the War of 1812. Selah or Sela moved to Michigan in 1834, and by 1836 had settled on government land in Orange Township, Ionia County. He was the first pioneer in the Township and helped to organize it, and shortly afterwards he married New York native Margaret (George’s mother). By 1850 George was attending school with his younger brother James and living on the family farm in Orange. After Margaret died in 1851, Selah then married Canadian native Mahala (b. 1819 in Ontario).

George grew up in Orange Township and after attending the district school he went to Portland High School, and, according to one source, at the age of 17, or about 1859, he sought to make his way in the world. In fact, in 1860 he was listed as attending school with his five younger siblings and working as a farmer and living with his family in Orange.

George stood 5’9”, with gray eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was 18 years old and still living in Ionia County when he enlisted in Company E on May 13, 1861. (Company E was composed in large part by men from Clinton and Ingham counties, as well as parts of Ionia County.) During the battle of Second Bull Run, on August 29, 1862, George shot himself accidentally in the foot. Apparently, “while he was loading his gun a minie ball struck his right leg and passed through it just above his heel, entering his left ankle. He crawled upon his hands and knees a mile and a half to an ambulance, in which he rode two miles to the field hospital. He lay there a day and a night then traveled ten miles in the ambulance to a railroad track and lay beside it for two days; then on a flat car he was transported to Washington, DC. From the station at Washington he was put into an omnibus and lying on the floor of it was rattled over the cobble stones to Georgetown Hospital.”

Curiously, on July 1, 1874, Edwin Pierce, former Captain of Company E, swore that George “received a gunshot wound by a musket ball from the enemy’s gun in his right ankle which at the same time broke the left leg. Said ball struck the right ankle just above the heel in the right leg and severed the heel cord of said leg and then struck the left leg in the ankle joint and broke the same which was afterwards amputated.”

In any case, as of October 6, 1862, George was in Union Hotel hospital on Bridge Street in Georgetown. It was later reported that “Great difficulty was experienced in locating and extracting the ball. Amputation was deferred from day to day hoping against hope that the limb might be saved. Fifteen days after his arrival it was finally decided that it could no longer be postponed and the left leg was amputated below the knee.” He remained a year in the hospital, probably at St. Elizabeth’s (where many amputees were hospitalized) in Washington, DC, and was discharged for disability on July 24, 1863.

After he was discharged from the army George returned to Michigan and he “went to school for a while and in 1865 he went to work upon the home farm where he has since lived excepting one year which he passed in Portland. He has 80 acres of land, all of it improved.”

He was living in Orange when he married to Ohio native Alvira P. King (1845-1910) on October 5, 1867, at Ronald, Ionia County, and they had at least two children: Frank C. (b. 1868) and Mrs. Clara M. Knight (b. 1875).

By 1880 George, listed as suffering from an amputed leg, was working as a farmer, and living with his wife and two children in Orange, Ionia County.

According to one postwar biography, in the late 1880s

He built his present residence . . . at a cost of $2,600 besides his own labor. He does active work upon his farm, carrying on mixed farming. He has Short-horn cattle, also some fine specimens of horses both for draft and roadsters. He has one of the finest Short-horn herds registered in Ionia County. He began his herd in 1882 with ‘Lady Thornapple’, No. 20. She is recorded in volume 26, page 491. She was of ‘Young Mary’ family, tracing back to ‘Young Mary’ by ‘Jupiter’ No. 21,070. He has nine of this grade of cattle, including ‘Lady Thornapple’ and her descendants. At the head of his present herd is ‘Gladstone’ No. 86,708, bred on the farm of the Michigan Agricultural College at Lansing. He is a Victoria Dutchess recorded in volume 33, page 161 of the American Short-horn Herd Book; calved May 25, 1887; is of red color. His dam's sire was 23rd ‘Duke of Airdrie’, who was valued at $10,000 and the most noted one ever owned in Michigan. ‘Gladstone’ was sired by ‘Fennel, Duke 2d’ of Sideview, Ky. He has 8 distinct Duke top crosses; he took first premium at the Ionia Fair in the fall of 1890.
George was a Democrat and for many years a member of the School Board in Portland and was frequently elected to Township offices. “He is the only person,” noted one observer, “now living in this district who was a pupil in the first school organized here 46 years ago when his father was taken down with the fever there were no doctors here. His wife left with the neighbors her two babies and putting her husband in a one-horse wagon upon a bed took him to Harrisville, Medina County, Ohio, for treatment. Our subject was one of the babies whom this brave mother left in the kind care of benevolent neighbors.”

In addition to his interest in livestock George was apparently quite fond of trees. By 1890 he had placed some 200 trees on his property and planned to set out 600 more in the spring. His goal was to eventually have 1,000 trees planted.

George became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association in 1884, and was a charter member of Grand Army of the Republic Lyons Post No. 100, although he lived in Portland for most of his postwar life. Indeed, he was living in Portland, Ionia County in 1883 drawing $18.00 per month (pension no. 20,260), and this was increased to $46 by 1903. He was still living in Portland in 1888, 1890 and 1894.

In early 1907 George probably had a stroke, causing paralysis, and he died of nephritis in Portland on January 26, 1908. He was buried on January 28 in the Portland cemetery: block A, section 4, grave no. 259.

His widow applied for and received pension no. 646,484.