George Washington Bellows was born about 1807 in Essex or in Milton, Chittenden County, Vermont, the son of Jotham (1776-1860) and Polly (Wheeler, b. 1780).
Massachusetts native Jotham Jr. married native Polly in 1800 in Worcester, Massachusetts and they lived in Massachusetts for some years before moving north to Vermont sometime between about 1803 and 1805 when their daughter Susan was born. The family living in Vermont for several years before moving west to New York state, eventually settling in Orleans County where they lived for many years (in fact Polly died in Clarendon, New York 1854 and Jotham Jr. died in Clarendon in 1860). George was reportedly the twin brother o Joseph Cheney Bellows.
By 1850 George, also known as “Washington” was probably the same Washington Bellows, born in New York, and working as a furnanceman and living with a tavern keeper named Horace Perry and his family in Murray, Orleans County, New York. One Jotham Bellow (b. 1776 in Massachusetts was also living in Orleans County (in Clarendon), and a brother of George’s named Jotham Bellows (born about 1823 in New York) was reportedly still be living there in the mid-1880s. Also living in Clarendon, Orleans County in 1850 were David Bellows (b. 1800 in Massachusetts) and Edwin (b. 1823 in New York). In 1850 another brother, Joseph and his wife Lucy Ann were living in Eaton, Madison County, New York (as was another brother or cousin Alfred and his wife Abigail). Joseph and Lucy were still living in Eaton, New York in 1860 (although they too would eventually settle in Eaton County, Michigan within the next decade).
“Washington” left Vermont and moved west, eventually settling in western Michigan. In fact, he appears to have settled in Barry County and by 1860 he was working as a plow maker and living in Hastings, Barry County. And further, he was probably the same “W. Bellows” who was possibly living in Hastings, Barry County and who was a fifer in the Hastings Rifle Company in April of 1861. However, when the Hastings company came to Grand Rapids in late April to join the Third Michigan regiment then forming at the fairgrounds, Bellows was not among them.
In any case, “Washington” stood 5’8” with blue eyes, gray hair and a fair complexion, and was a 57-year-old plow maker or mechanic possibly living in Hastings or Eaton County when he enlisted in Company E on February 8, 1864, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Manistee or Stronach, Manistee County, and was mustered the same day. Shortly after arriving in Grand Rapids he was given a ten-day furlough and went home to Hastings where, he claimed in later years, he was engaged in “drumming up recruits and playing for different squads of soldiers”.
George went on to say that “it was a very cold day in Feby. [and] we were taking a squad of recruits to Grand Rapids in a Band Wagon. I contracted a very severe cold. . .” He nevertheless departed Michigan for Virginia where he joined the regiment. He said after the war that not long after he arrived in camp “while our Regt was at or near Alexandria, Va., through hardship and exposure I again took a violent cold which seemed to settle on my lungs and in fact over my whole body. I was sent to the Grosvenor Hospital in Alexandria.” He was reported as being admitted to Third Division hospital at Alexandria, Virginia in late February suffering from “intermittent fever” -- malaria -- and was treated with cathartics and quinine sulfate; he was then transferred to Fairfax Seminary hospital, Virginia on March 31, 1864. (“Washington” listed his nearest relative as a brother Jonas or Jonah living in Hastings. In 1864. Jonah Bellows, who was married to Ervilla, was living in Eaton County in 1850 and 1860.)
George remained in the hospital for some 2 or 3 weeks before he was transferred to the Fairfax Seminary hospital some three miles from Alexandria. He was reportedly transferred to Washington Square hospital, where he remained until about May 3 and was then sent to the Chestnut Hill hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He remained there until sometime in July, and was diagnosed with acute bronchitis.
While he was absent sick George was transferred to Company E, Fifth Michigan infantry, upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.
Sometime late in July he was sent back to Washington and then to Camp Distribution near Alexandria. From there he was sent to rejoin his regiment near City Point, Virginia, possibly in late August.
George was present for duty with the regiment (now the Fifth Michigan) during the raid on the Weldon Railroad, near Petersburg, Virginia, in December. As the Fifth Michigan was returning from the raid, on or about December 10 or 11, George later claimed, he and several others found themselves “ahead of the regiment. There was trouble anticipated and we were hurried up so as tyo get within our lines, it was after dark, the road was nearly made [completed], and full of stubs [stumps], and in my hurry and not being able to see my way very well, I caught my foot on one of those stubs which threw me suddenly and violently forward on my hands and knees, and sending my knapsack and traps over my head. I found I was hurt and afterwards discovered that I was ruptured.”
George was mustered out as a Musician on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
After the war George returned to Michigan, and according to David Leach, who also served in Company E (both Third and Fifth infantry regiments) they came home together to Hastings. Leach recalled that George remained in Hastings (and that he saw George every day during that time) until the early fall when “he left for his sister-in-law’s home. . . .” This was Lucy Ann Bellows, wife of Joseph Bellows, who testified in the late 1880s that George came to her house in the fall of 1865 and remained with her until the summer of the following year, and that he was suffering from lung ailment.
George himself claimed that upon his discharge from the army he returned not to Hastings but Eaton Rapids, Eaton County (which is where Joseph and Lucy Bellows were living in 1870), where he lived until the winter of 1866, doing light manual work, and that in 1867 he moved to Tompkins, Jackson County where he resided for 3 or 4 years, working an 80-acre parcel of land. In a statement he gave in about 1885 he claimed that he owned some land in the vicinity of Berryville, Jackson County which someone else had laid claim to and he had to spend nearly all of his money available to settle that claim and that he worked the land for some 4 or 5 years.
Welcome Chesbro stated in 1883 that George in fact boarded with him in Tompkins off and on during 1866 and 1867. In 1869 or 1870 he sold out and went to live in Onondaga, Ingham County, and for several years lived with William Swift and his family in Onondaga. George may very well have lived off and on between Eaton Rapids and Onondaga. By 1880 he was back in Eaton Rapids living with his sister-in-law Lucy Bellows (who was listed as head of the household). He probably resided in Eaton Rapids, for some years, working as a laborer and also as a mechanic.
In 1880 he applied for and received a pension (no. 381,972).
George claimed that since the war he had been generally incapable of doing anything but light work, and that “because I am poor, [and] have no home and considerable [sic] of an invalid, I find many ready to take advantage of me [and] get me to work for them and then pay me scarce anything and sometimes refuse altogether.” He added that “among such are my own nephews, Ransom and Benjamin Bellows [Jonah’s sons] for whom I have worked a great deal and for a hard summer’s work they would put me off one of them with $5, the other $9.00 and the summer of 1884 I worked all summer planting & hoeing and cutting summer’s wood for said Benjamin Bellows and all he would pay me was about $2.50 and then made application to the Probate Court of the County of Eaton, Mich., for the appointment of a guardian for me, as an incompetent and a spendthrift.”
Indeed, about 1884 or 1885, “said probate judge did without giving me any opportunity of making any defense . . . although I appeared in person and with my attorney for that purpose did, as I understand, appoint David B. Hale as my guardian.” (He may have been the same David Hale who was born about 1820 in Vermont and working as a farmer in Hamlin, Eaton County in 1880.)
George went on to protest this action as “uncalled for and unjustified” since he was in fact not “a resident of’ Eaton County but of Ingham County “at that time. And I would further show that I am aware that I am getting infirm with age, 77 past, and health quite feeble.” He then asked the court to consider “if it is necessary for me to have a guardian to which under the circumstances I have no particular objection I would respectfully suggest that I should be allowed at least the right to select my own – and have in my own mind made choice of Mr. Pomery Van Riper, present postmaster of Onondaga” in Ingham County, and “a man without reproach and expect to make application to the Probate Court of said County of Ingham for his appointment.” (Van Riper was in fact living in Onondaga in 1880.)
On November 10, 1885 George was admitted to the Michigan Soldier’s Home (no. 73); he listed himself as a single man and his nearest relative as a brother “Jotham” Bellows who was living in Orleans County, New York in 1885.
(Jotham Bellows, b. c. 1823, and his wife Harriet and their children were living in Eaton, Eaton County, Michigan in 1870. He is not listed in the 1880 census for either Michigan or New York state, although one source does report that he died in Clarendon, Orleans County in 1895. Indeed Jotham is reported as buried in Robinson cemetery, Clarendon, Orleans County, New York, alongside another Jotham (1776-1860) and his wife Polly (1780-1854). In any case, in 1880 Jotham’s wife Harriet and their daughter Laura were living with Harriet’s father, Richard Brown, in Eaton, Eaton County.)
George probably died in Grand Rapids (see his probable death certificate in book 3 page 173 for Kent County), on May 28, 1889, and was buried in Valley City cemetery (present-day Oak Hill south), in the Custer GAR post lots, section E, grave 12. Although he was apparently never a member, the records of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association reported that George was dead by 1906. In any case, he is not listed in the MSH burial cards.