Calkins

John Calkins - updated 1/28/2017

John Calkins was born 1836 in New York, probably the son of William (b. 1800).

His parents were reportedly born in Canada, although according to the 1850 census his father William was born in New York. In any case, John left New York with his family and moved west, eventually settling Leoni, Jackson County by 1850, where his father worked as a wagon-maker (as did his older brother Clinton). By 1860 John was working as a wagon-maker and living at the Day boarding house in Allegan, Allegan County.

John was 25 years old and probably still living in Allegan when he walked to Grand Rapids and enlisted in Company F sometime in the first week of June of 1861.

According to the Allegan Journal, the “Allegan boys” were “spiling [sic] for a fight”, and on the evening of June 5, “two of our boys, George W. Bailey (son of our wealthy fellow townsman Leonard Bailey), and John Calkins started from here afoot, bound for Grand Rapids, where they intended to join the Third Regiment. We have no doubt but that if there is any fighting to be done, the boys named above will have a hand in it.” The paper added, “we learn that the boys have been mustered into the Third Regiment.” In fact, according to George Bailey’s lengthy account of that walk to Grand Rapids, John Champion also accompanied Bailey and Calkins. At a little before 7:00 p.m. on June 4,

John B. Champion, John Calkins, and G. W. Bailey, after bidding farewell to relatives and friends, were seen wending their way eastward, via Martin Corners to Grand Rapids, taking the old and reliable line of foot and walker, as the surest way to “get there”. None of the trio had ever been to the Rapids, and all were confident they could not get off the right road after striking the plank. The early evening was very dark and the atmosphere torrid. On our journey through Watson we came to ‘a little red school-house’ where a meeting of some kind was being held. Here an inquiry was made as to the direct route and distance to Martin. We had not proceeded many miles when the road seemed to come to an abrupt termination, and all felt sure that Lake Michigan nor the ocean was on the east boundary of Allegan County, and it was our most solemn opinion that “Saint Patrick” had in his travels through Ireland found himself in our plight, and he did then and there banish all snakes and frogs from the land, and the whole outfit -- in our imagination -- had dropped right here in a large swamp. After skirmishing around a short time, we found the right turn of the road, and some came to a corduroy bridge leading across a large swamp, whose inhabitants were as disloyal as any ranting traitors in the south. This is the manner in which they encouraged our patriotism and self-sacrifice. First the little frogs squeaked, “going-t'enlist, going-t'enlist, going-t'enlist”, then the guttural voice of Mr. Bull would bellow “Dam-phool, dam-phool, dam-phool”.
At 11 o'clock we arrived at Martin, ate a lunch, then proceeded on our journey, being well pleased with the “plank road”. At 2 a.m. we were well on our way, but mighty sore on the feet. At 3 o'clock we were spread out, Calkins taking the advance, Champion holding the center, and Bailey the rear guard. At about this hour we came to a hotel and after consultation it was agreed to awake the proprietor and hire him to drive us the balance of the way. After vigorous pounding assisted by the loud bark of a dog within, we finally aroused a small boy, who informed us that “it was about 9 miles to Grand Rapids.” We then informed this boy -- and he the proprietor of our wish, and were informed that $6 would be the price. To this we readily agreed. I was then conducted to the bedroom door, to talk with the proprietor (who would not arise), informed him of our great haste (we were going to enlist in the third Regiment of Michigan infantry, and understood the Regiment left Grand Rapids for the front that day, June 25.) This did not seem to impress him favorably, for he and his wife had a talk in an undertone, after which he said, “I don't care to go for less than $9”’ This attempt at extortion was rejected and we again took up the old line of march (foot and walker), consoling ourselves in the belief that “mine host” was a rebel sympathizer, and a fit companion to those frogs who inhabit the pond near Martin, for all seem to think or call us “dam-phools”, if we were going to enlist. Calkins again took the lead, Champion the center and I way back.

It was now getting to be daybreak. “Walking the plank” had become tedious on account of blistered feet, which made me doubly tired, and necessitated a long rest for a short distance traveled. While taking one of these rests, and meditating on the “croaking of frogs”, my ear caught the sound of a wagon approaching from the rear. This welcome sound revived me, and I at once prepared for a ride. In a short time it drove into sight and proved to be a men [sic?] moving a load of household goods “up north”. On his approach I hailed him, and requested a ride, informed him of my two companions, on the road ahead, and of our willingness to pay him well. But he refused on the plea “of a large load, and a tired team”. I then explained to him our situation, also our experience with the landlord a short distance back. That story (it was no fable, either), fired his loyal heart and he exclaimed, . . . “You climb up here, and we will arrange this furniture so you can all ride.” this done we soon overtook Champion and Calkins, who were taken on the load. At 8 o'clock we arrived at the fairgrounds where the Regiment was quartered, and as ‘our loyal friend’ could not be induced to take money consideration, large or small, for our ride, on parting with him he accepted one dollar, with our express wish that his horses should be well groomed and have a substantial breakfast. As we approached the gate we passed a soldier who informed us that we were “all right, and one time”, and for us to request the guard at the gate to call for Captain J. J. Dennis of Company F, who wanted a few more men to fill his company. On arrival at the gate, we were confronted by a soldier marching back and forth carrying a gun, with a sharp and ugly prodding rod on its muzzle end. Being green hands at this business, we attempted to pass him. That act brought forth the challenge, “Halt!”, at the same time the point of his gun was brought to bear on us in such a savage manner that our hair “riz” (we were not bald-headed then). We now followed instructions, called for Captain Dennis, who soon appeared, ordered the guard to ‘let the boys pass’. The captain was very glad to assign us in his command, conducted us to his company quarter in the barracks, where we enjoyed a rest and sleep until noon. After dinner we were conducted to the surgeon's office, where we were ‘sized up’ in length, breadth, and thickness, were accepted and sworn into state service -- to date from May 10. Champion, who was a musician, joined the Regiment band (which was at that time regularly enlisted musicians). We then returned to the barracks, where we found several of our Allegan County friends, some of whom were late members of Captain Bassett's home company [from Allegan]. We were now real soldiers and genuine “tenderfoots”, and our first business was to inspect “mudsills”, so off came the boots, when lo! what a sight! Each foot had one blister, in size the full width of foot, and extending from the end of toes to heel, and as to thickness, will say, I was one half inch taller when measured that day, than I have been able to stretch up to since; and they were not vanity puffs, either. After foot inspection we took to our bunk, being reminded of “Pilgrim's Progress”, and the welfare of our soles, although we were not as yet, “bowed down with a hump on our back”, neither had we wallowed in Virginia mud. Still, the argument was forcibly brought to mind that “it is better to travel in the straight and narrow path,” than follow the broad highway, which, if not leading directly to Sheol, did (with us) in after years, pass so near that we saw fire and smoke, heard its roar, and witnessed all the devilish accompaniments of four years in “hell let loose.”

John was reported as missing in action on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and was probably taken prisoner (although the record is unclear on this). He was reportedly exchanged and returned to the Regiment on either September 27 at Upton’s Hill, Virginia or September 28 at Camp Pitcher, Virginia. He may have been among the parolees who were mentioned in the Richmond Dispatch of September 15, 1862,

Three thousand three hundred of the Yankee prisoners left Richmond on Saturday for Varina to be exchanged. – Such as could not walk were conveyed away in wagons. The officers, of which there were 61, went in carriages, provided for the purpose. As the long line filed past the C. S. Prison, on Cary Street, they greeted their less lucky compeers with a feeble cheer. A small cavalry escort accompanied them down. Another large gang were started for Aiken’s landing, on James River, yesterday morning. During Saturday and Sunday five thousand two hundred and twenty-eight were sent away. This leaves on hand only about seven hundred, a good many of whom are in the hospital under treatment for wounds or disease, who were unable to bear removal. Three Yankee women and eight Yankee deserters, or rather men who came over to us and professed to be such, were sent from Castle Thunder. Though these deserters professed to have left their brethren in great disgust, they were very willing to be sent back to the North. The departure of the prisoners will save the Confederate Government an expense of about $4,000 per day, which was the average that their food as soldiers cost.

John was working as a clerk for the Brigade commissary from January of 1863 through May, and in June was wagon-master, probably in the Brigade Commissary, a position he held through July. By August he was reported AWOL, and in November was serving in the ambulance corps, probably as a wagoner. He was a teamster with the Third Brigade from December of 1863 through May of 1864, and was mustered out of service on June 20, 1864.

John eventually returned to Michigan.

He married Ohio native Emily Jane Odell (1847-1914) and they had at least one child: a daughter Hetta Belle (b. 1868).

They were living in Michigan in 1869 and by 1870 John was working as a wagon-maker and living with his wife and child in Allegan village, Allegan.

It appears that at some point between 1870 and 1880 John and Emily were divorced (she eventually remarried to a man named Odell). By 1880 John was listed as divorced and working as a farmer and living with his older brother Clinton and his family in Mason, Murray County, Minnesota. He was still living in Murray County, Minnesota in 1882, the year he became a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association. At some point he eventually settled in Claremont, Surry County, Virginia where he was living by 1890, when he was drawing pension no. 728,604.

For unknown reasons, sometime in the mid-1890s his pension rate was reduced from $12 per month to $8.

John probably died in Virginia, on February 19, 1897, and was buried in St. Anne’s Cemetery, Claremont, Virginia (there is a monument in the center of the cemetery dedicated to the Union soldiers buried therein).

Henry S. Calkins - updated 1/28/2017

Henry S. Calkins was born on August 14, 1837, in Clinton County, New York, the son of New York native John Calkins (b. 1807) and Canadian Elizabeth “Betsey” Hedges (1805-1895).

Between 1838 and 1846 the family left New York and settled in Michigan and by 1850 Henry was living on the family farm in Tallmadge, Ottawa County. In 1860 Henry was working as a farm laborer and still living with his family in Tallmadge.

Henry stood 5’10” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 24-year-old farmer probably living in Tallmadge, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861. According to Reuben Randall, who was also from Tallmadge and who also served in Company B, Henry was taken sick sometime in mid-July and was confined to the regimental hospital while the regiment was advancing towards Bull Run. Henry was discharged on July 29, 1861, for consumption and “a predisposition to insanity.” After his discharge he returned to Michigan and settled in Tallmadge, Ottawa County. He was living as a single man in Tallmadge, Ottawa County in the summer of 1863 when he registered for the draft.

In 1863 Henry married Michigan native Ellen Coldron (1845-1934), and they had at least two children: Charles (1867-1929) and Elizabeth Bertha (1868-1934, Mrs. Ransom).

By 1870 Henry was working as a painter and living with his wife and children with his in-laws, the Jacob Coldron family in Grand Rapids’ 2nd Ward. (In 1870 his parents were still living in Tallmadge.) By 1880 Henry was reported to be working as an engineer and still living with his wife, who was working as a dressmaker and son Charles was working in a laundry at his in-laws’ home on Coit Avenue in Grand Rapids (his parents were still living in Tallmadge).

Henry may have been active in the Reform (or Temperance) movement in Ottawa County, and although he was mentioned in Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association records he was apparently not a member. At some point Henry became mentally unstable and he was reportedly unable to support his wife (but not as a consequence of “vicious habits”).

Henry was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 386) for the first time on July 31, 1886. Although he reported himself as a married man he listed his nearest relative as his mother Betsey who was then living in Lamont, Ottawa County. He was discharged at his own request on November 29, and in February of 1887 he was residing at 87 Coit Avenue in Grand Rapids (possibly with his wife and/or in-laws). Sometime around 1888 he was admitted to an insane asylum, presumably in Kalamazoo, where he resided for about six months before being transferred to the Soldier’s Home in Grand Rapids. He was readmitted to the Home on November 29, 1888, discharged on June 20, 1891 and was in and out of the home several times until he was admitted for the last time on November 11, 1904. By 1900 Ellen had moved to Oregon and was living with her daughter Bertha and her family in Portland’s 9th Ward. It appears that she remained in Oregon for the rest of her life.

In 1890 he applied for a pension (application no. 966,665) but the certificate was never granted (and indeed his Home records note that he received no pension).

Henry was listed as a widower when he died of valvular heart disease at the Home on January 12, 1908, at 4:00 a.m., and according to the Home records his remains were taken to Ottawa County for interment in Berlin (Marne) cemetery, Ottawa County. In fact it appears that he was buried in Maplewood Cemetery, Lamont, Ottawa County, section I.

Curiously, his wife Ellen, who sometime around 1900 (or perhaps earlier) had moved to Oregon to live with her daughter Bertha and her husband Oscar Warren, listed herself as a widower in the Portland city directories beginning in 1900.

By 1910 Ellen was living with her son Charles and his family in Hood River, Oregon. By 1920 Ellen was living with her daughter Bertha and her family in Mount Hood, Hood River County, Oregon. She was living in Portland, Oregon in 1930 and 1931, and she died in Portland in 1934.

Charles R. Calkins

Charles R. Calkins was born December 4, 1836 or January 4, 1837, in either Unadilla, Otsego County, or Chenango County, New York, the son of Sylvanus or Sylvester (b. 1798) and Jane (Vanderberg, b. 1806).

Sylvanus was living in New Berlin, Chenango County, New York in 1840. In any case, by 1850 Charles was attending school with his two siblings and living with his parents in Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, where his father (listed as “Sylvester W.”) was working as a shoemaker (the Vanderberg family lived nearby). it is not known if Charles left New York on his own if he moved west with his family. By 1860 Charles was probably working as a sash-maker for Warren Rindge in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward. That same year his mother (?) Jane was working as a nurse for and living with the George Judd family in Grand Rapids’ First Ward; George and his brother Samuel would also join the Third Michigan in 1861.

Charles stood 5’7” with black eyes, black hair and a dark complexion, and was 24 years old and probably still living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company A on May 13, 1861. (Company A was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, and many of whom had served in various local militia units before the war, specifically the Valley City Guards, or VCG, under the command of Captain Samuel Judd, who would also command Company A.)

According to a statement he made after the war, sometime in the fall of 1861, while serving with the regiment in its camp near Alexandria, Virginia, Charles was taken with chills and a fever and in “November 1861 was seized with pneumonia and placed in [the] regimental hospital” where he remained for about three weeks and then came home in a furlough. He was reported absent on furlough from January 23, 1862 and reported as still in furlough through the end of April, 1862.

He was reported at home sick on furlough in Grand Rapids in June of 1862, and on June 13, 1862, he wrote to Colonel Smith commanding the military rendezvous in Detroit inquiring what he should do about his furlough and his presumed discharge. He began by saying that in a recent issue of the Detroit Free Press he had seen

a notice to soldiers on furlough to report at your office. So I will state my case and await your advice [as to] what to do. I am a private of Co. A Capt. Judd (before he was killed) 3 Mich regt of infantry. I was taken sick in October [and] obtained a furlough the last of February. I was suffering with bronchitis when I came home and am now got [have now gotten] my furlough renewed [extended]. The next time I reported I sent my surgeon’s certificate for a discharge but did not hear any more for sometime but reported regular[ly] when my time expired. When Capt [Charles] Lyon went back [to the Regiment after] recruiting here for our Regt he said that I never would be fit to soldier anymore very soon anyway, and he would see what the Col. had done. Shortly after Lt. Lindsey of co. B resigned and came home and Col Champlin and Capt Judd sent word by him that my papers were properly made out and sent to Washington and that I ought to have had them before this time but to rest easy and he [Lyon] would make it all right.

Calkins added that Colonel Stephen Champlin, commanding the Third Michigan and who had recently been wounded, was “on his way home and I think the best way is let wait until he comes.” He also said that he asked the Kent County clerk to write “to the Auditor Gen to look for my papers now if they shouldn’t come shall I report to you [Smith] I have lost my health in the army and it seems as so I ought to be entitled to an honorable discharge but the pay is not what I am after but the thing has run long enough and the prospects are that I will not be able to do anything this summer at least. Please send me a letter by return mail with your advice.”

It is not known what Colonel Smith’s reply was, but apparently Charles was ordered to report to Detroit where he was examined by a Dr. Pritchard who found him recovered sufficiently to be returned to his regiment in Virginia. Charles claimed some years later that while en route to his regiment he took sick again and was admitted to a hospital in Baltimore.

By mid-July he was reported in Hygeia Hospital near Fortress Monroe, in “feeble” condition and “of little use as a soldier.” In fact, he was apparently suffering from typhoid fever. He was soon transferred up north, and on July 10, 1862 he was admitted to the general hospital at Fifth & Buttonwood Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, suffering from bronchitis. (Variously known as either fifth Street hospital or Buttonwood hospital.) He told an agent for the Michigan Soldiers’ Aid Association who interviewed him in Fifth Street hospital in Philadelphia that he thought he would soon be discharged, and indeed, he was discharged for bronchitis on August 2, 1862, at Philadelphia. (Charles claimed that he was admitted to Buttonwood hospital in Philadelphia and discharged from there as well.)

According to one report Calkins had contracted pneumonia during the war and “was sent home to die, but proved the surgeons in error by living nearly fifty years.”

Following his discharge from the army Charles returned to western Michigan.

He married New York native Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keeley (1845-1915) in 1863, and they had probably at least four children: Carrie (b. 1866), Mary E. (b. 1868), Emma (b. 1870), Clarence A. (1872-1894) and Frederick (b. 1876).

By 1867-69 Charles was working as a cabinet-maker and living on the west side of Broadway between Fifth and Sixth Streets in Grand Rapids, and in 1870 he was living with his wife and four children in the Fourth Ward working as a blinds-maker. By 1880 Charles was working in a furniture factory and living with his wife and children in Grand Rapids’ Seventh Ward; by 1881 he was residing at 149 Broadway in Grand Rapids. In fact he lived his postwar years mainly in Grand Rapids, in the Second and Sixth Wards, working as a cabinet-maker, and then operating a grocery business for some years on east Bridge Street Hill. In 1889-90 he was probably living at 346 Broadway, working for T. W. Allen in 1889 and C. C. Comstock in 1890.

Charles was a member of both the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 29 in Grand Rapids, and in 1881 he applied for and received pension no. 268315.

He resided at Eleventh and Broadway Streets for more than 25 years, probably at 344 Broadway, and in about 1906 he retired to a farm near Cascade. He was living in Cascade in 1907.

When he became ill in the summer of 1910 he was taken to his daughter’s home at 445 South College Street in Grand Rapids, where he died of apoplexy on July 26, 1910. Funeral services were held at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Schmidt, at 2:00 p.m. Friday afternoon, July 29, and he was buried in Greenwood cemetery: section P lot 17.

His widow applied for and received a pension (no. 708759).