Oatka Cemetery, Smith and Springsteen families

How many of us are related to John Smith? Well, maybe not the same John Smith. My three-times-great grandparents Jacob and Margaret Springsteen brought the Smith and Springsteen families together in Monroe County, New York. Margaret, known as Peggy, was the daughter of John and Nancy Smith, immigrants to New York from Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

John Smith of Annan was trained as a surveyor. After bringing his family to New York in 1796 he reportedly worked as a landscape gardener for Aaron Burr.[i] By 1805 he had settled in the present-day Town of Wheatland in Monroe County, where he died in 1821. According to Carl F. Schmidt, former Historian of the Town of Wheatland, John Smith was active in the early community of Scottsville.[ii]

According to an unpublished research report by Frank Van Rensselaer Phelps dated 27 September 1970, John and Nancy Smith had eleven children, the first five born in Scotland:

  1. Francis Smith, born 19 April 1787, married Elizabeth Conkle.
  2. James Smith, born 28 December 1789, married Lydia Currier and her sister Huldah Currier.
  3. Andrew Smith, born 1 September 1790, married Lucinda Dillingham and Sarah (Winslow) Williams.
  4. Robert Smith, born 6 April 1792, married Amanda [?] and Nancy Sackner.
  5. David Smith, born 7 February 1795, married Sarah Cory [Frank didn’t have her name].
  6. Margaret Smith, born 25 December 1796, married Jacob Springsteen.
  7. John Smith, born 15 Jul 1798, is not known to have married.
  8. Jane Smith, born 15 December 1799, married Asa Abell.
  9. Agnes Smith, born 23 June 1801, is not known to have married.
  10. William Smith, born 3 February 1803, married Clarissa Munn.
  11. Thomas Smith, born 15 March 1805, married Emeline June.

Jacob and Margaret Springsteen had five children:

  1. John S. Springsteen, born in 1818, married Mary E. Howe.
  2. Nancy M. Springsteen, born 26 May 1820, married Davis Huntley.
  3. Jane Springsteen, born about 1824, married Sherman Hyde Rogers.
  4. Francis Eugene Springsteen, born 4 March 1825, married Cornelia Ireland Grenelle.
  5. Lucinda Margaret Springsteen, born 18 June 1828, married William L. Miller.

I hope to write more about these families in future articles.

Smiths and Springsteens in the Oatka Cemetery

Scottsville, New York is at the east end of the Town of Wheatland near the outlet of Oatka Creek into the Genesee River. Staats and Anna Springsteen moved with their family to the Scottsville area before 1810, enabling the union of the Smith and Springsteen families. Some structures from their time still stand in Scottsville.

Downtown Scottsville in September 2015. John Smith lived down the road to the right. His youngest son Thomas lived up the road to Rochester on the left.
Isaac Scott historical marker at Oatka Cemetery

The Oatka Cemetery, located on Scottsville Mumford Road southwest of Scottsville near Oatka Creek, is the final resting place for several family members who remained in the area.

Thomas and Emeline Smith’s family, Oatka Cemetery
Thomas and Emeline Smith family monument
Graves of Emeline and Thomas Smith
Grave of Isaac Smith, son of Thomas and Emeline
Grave of Emily Goodnow Smith, wife of Isaac
Grave of Pearl Smith, daughter of Isaac and Emily
Grave of Henry Smith, son of Thomas and Emeline
Frank and Margaret Smith’s family, Oatka Cemetery
Grave of Frank Smith, son of Thomas
Grave of Margaret Smith, wife of Frank
Grave of Dwight Smith, son of Frank and Margaret
Edwin (son of Thomas and Emeline) and Helen Woodruff Smith family monument
Grave of Fred (son of Edwin and Helen) and Edith Smith
Graves of Eleanor Smith and Marvin Kerber and of Edwin and Olive Smith, children of Fred and Edith
Grave of Francis Springsteen, son of Jacob and Margaret Smith Springsteen
Grave of Francis Springsteen, son of Jacob and Margaret Smith Springsteen

John and Nancy Smith’s son Robert, and likely other family members, are also buried in the Oatka Cemetery. Several of John and Nancy’s sons and daughters moved to Michigan and Ohio.


[i] Account of Andrew Smith in History of Washtenaw County, Michigan (Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman & Co., 1881), 735; digital image, Michigan County Histories and Atlases (page 735).

[ii] Carl F. Schmidt, History of the Town of Wheatland (Rochester, New York, 1953), 14, 17, 22.

John S. and Mary E. Springsteen’s family

The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 opened the floodgates for migration from New England and western New York to Michigan Territory. The flow of settlers in the next decade led to Michigan statehood in 1837. Among those who came to Michigan during the next ten years were my great-great grandparents John S. Springsteen and Mary E. Howe, both born in Genesee County, New York. An 1825 map shows the counties in western New York that had originally constituted Genesee County. This map includes the towns of Wheatland, Monroe County, from which John came, and Bethany, Genesee County, Mary’s early childhood home. Wyoming County was yet to be created from the south half of the remainder of Genesee County.


In 1825, John S. Springsteen was seven years old. He was probably born in what in 1818 was the north part of the Town of Caledonia, Genesee County. In 1821, this portion of Caledonia became the Town of Wheatland in newly created Monroe County. John’s parents were Jacob Springsteen, son of Staats and Anna Springsteen, and Margaret Smith, daughter of John Smith and Nancy Johnston. John might have been named after his grandfather John Smith. I wonder if John’s middle name was either Smith or Staats. I have seen one report that Jacob and Margaret removed to Michigan, but have found no corroborating evidence. John was enumerated in Jacob’s household in 1820, 1830, and 1840. All of Jacob’s brothers and sisters moved to southeast Michigan, including John Price Springsteen and his wife Mary E. Bristol. John S. Springsteen moved to Michigan sometime in the 1840s.

When the Erie Canal opened, Mary E. Howe was still more than six years from her birth in the Town of Bethany, Genesee County, New York on 11 May 1832. Orison M. and Susan (Filmore) Howe, Mary’s parents, moved with their family to Oakland County, Michigan in 1837. Orison and Susan established a farm in Section 36 of Springfield Township between the communities of Holly and Davisburg. Mary was counted in Orison’s household in 1840. Orison died on the farm in 1842, leaving Susan to run the farm and raise their family.

John and Mary’s family

John S. Springsteen
Mary E. Howe Springsteen

John S. Springsteen and Mary E. Howe were married 23 October 1848 and took up residence in Fenton Township, Genesee County, Michigan. They apparently had nine children:

  1. Maliza Springsteen, sometimes called Eliza, was born about 1849, presumably in Fenton Township. She appears to have been named after Mary’s older sister Maliza Howe. Maliza Springsteen married David Overacker on 28 Feb 1867 in Clinton County, Michigan. David and Maliza do not appear to have had children, but I wonder if she might have died from complications of childbirth. Maliza died in 1868 and was buried in the Wilsey Cemetery in Olive Township, Clinton County.
  2. John Willard Springsteen, known as Will, was born 11 April 1851 in Fenton. He married Elenora Elderkin (or Eldercan) on 23 January 1877 in DeWitt, Clinton County. Will and Elenora had no children. She died 12 October 1907 and he on 15 September 1909, both in DeWitt Township. They were buried in the Gunnisonville Cemetery in DeWitt Township.
  3. Marvin L. Springsteen was born 10 August 1852 in Fenton. He might well have been named after his mother Mary’s brother Marvin Howe. In 1870, he was a farm laborer in the household of Christopher Overacker, likely the family of Maliza’s husband David. According to the 1900 census enumeration, Marvin married Eliza Becker in 1872. However, Marvin and Eliza were married in Windsor, Essex County, Ontario on 24 March 1910, suggesting that they had either divorced or never been married. The marriage registration indicates that Marvin was a bachelor and Eliza was widowed. Eliza died in Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan on 6 September 1919. Marvin and Eliza had one son:
    • Jerry Springsteen, born 5 May 1876 in DeWitt Township, married Lottie May Schoals. They had no children. Jerry died 17 January 1939 in Lansing.

    Marvin married Nellie Anderson in Lucas County, Ohio on 16 October 1926. A notation on their marriage registration instructed ‘Don’t publish.’ Marvin was reported to be 74 years old and Nellie 40 when they were married. Nellie’s mother Mariah Becker might have been Eliza’s sister. Marvin, a retired farmer, died at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing on 23 September 1934. He and Nellie were residents of Eaton Rapids, Eaton County, Michigan at the time of his death. Marvin was buried in the Gunnisonville Cemetery, apparently with Eliza.

  4. Francis A. Springsteen, perhaps named for John’s brother, was born 6 August 1853 in Fenton Township. Known as Frank, he died in DeWitt Township 13 September 1868 and was buried in the Wilsey Cemetery.
  5. Ella Springsteen was born in 1855, presumably in Fenton Township. She married Levi Linn 12 October 1870 in DeWitt Township. Ella died in 1887 and was buried in the Wilsey Cemetery. Levi and Ella had two children:
    • Claude C. Linn, born 9 November 1883 in DeWitt Township, married Kate Emmer. They had six children. Claude died 14 November 1953.
    • Emma N. Linn, born 22 June 1885 in DeWitt Township, married Roy L. Reasoner. They had three sons. Emma died 28 February 1965.
  6. Ida J. Springsteen, born about 1856, died sometime before her family moved to Clinton County in 1863. She was enumerated with her family in Fenton Township in 1860.
  7. Eda Springsteen, apparently the Alace listed with her family in Fenton Township in 1860, was born about August 1859. She also appears to have died young but might possibly have been taken in by someone else after her father’s death.
  8. Emma J. Springsteen was born about 18 December 1861 when the family still lived in Fenton Township. She married Elmer E. Allen 10 January 1889 at Davisburg, Oakland County. She died 25 July 1898 in Springfield Township, Oakland County. Elmer and Emma had four children:
    • Jay Elmer Allen, born 18 October 1889. Jay never married. He died 10 October 1944.
    • Lucy May Allen, born 2 June 1891, married John William Davis. They had no children. Lucy died 20 March 1989.
    • Charles Ray Allen, born 15 January 1893, married Mary LaVerna McPhail. They had three children. Ray died 29 August 1981.
    • Doris Ruth Allen, born 12 December 1897, married Elmer E. Thompson, with whom she had two children, and Thomas F. Clark. I don’t know when or where Ruth died. My granduncle Clinton “Joe” Springsteen reported that Jay and Ruth were raised by Marv and Eliza and that Lucy and Ray were raised by Joe’s parents L.D. and Agnes.
  9. Loyal Davis Springsteen, my great grandfather, was born 6 December 1864 after John and Mary moved with their family to Clinton County. Generally known as L.D., I wonder if he might have been named in recognition of his father’s sister Nancy Springsteen’s husband Davis Huntley. I also wonder if L.D. had any memory of his father, who almost certainly died before L.D. was three.

L.D. married Katherine (or Catherine) Agatha Keck, who became known as Agnes, on 2 March 1892. They were married at her parents’ home in DeWitt Township. L.D. died 12 October 1943 in Lansing. L.D. and Agnes had three sons:

  • Aden Loyal Springsteen, born 29 July 1896, married Goldy Verda Case. They had seven children, including my father. Aden died 6 March 1941.
  • Clinton J. “Joe” Springsteen, born 19 December 1898, married Iva June Woods for a short time and Mary Rosetta Eddy for a lifetime. Joe and Mary had one adopted son. Joe died 2 January 1985.
  • Harold Edward Springsteen, born 2 May 1904, married Martha K. Feneis, with whom he had one daughter. After Martha’s death, he married Frances Ellen Kiplinger Jeffries. Harold died 7 June 2000.

John and Mary in Fenton Township

John and Mary Springsteen lived in Fenton Township, Genesee County for about fifteen years. In 1850 we find them in Fenton with Maliza, listed as Malissa. Their neighbor Henry Sackner was John’s uncle, the widowed husband of Jacob’s sister Mary “Polly” Springsteen. Another neighbor, Eloner Carle, piques my curiosity. I vaguely remember receiving email from a Carle or Carl around fifteen or twenty years ago with the message “hello cousin.” I think I was still working at the time and my response would likely have been brief. I suspect that the Eddy neighbors were related to Mary Eddy Springsteen.

Sometime in the early 1980s I abstracted index entries for Springsteen land transactions in the office of the Genesee County Register of Deeds. I apparently examined a few of those registrations and took additional notes on them. In 2004 I found a Fenton Township land patent certificate for Francis E. Springsteen on the General Land Office Records web site. The certificate identified Francis as a resident of Monroe County, Michigan, but he was probably a resident of Monroe County, New York.

Here is a summary of land transactions for Springsteens in Section 13 of Fenton Township:

Date of record Instrument Grantor Grantee SW frl 1/4 NW 1/4 of SE 1/4
4/25/1854 Agreement John Duncan John S. Springsteen X
4/28/1855 Warranty deed John Duncan John S. Springsteen X
4/28/1855 Warranty deed John S.  and Mary Springsteen Frances E. Springsteen X
1/10/1856 Certificate United States Francis E. Springsteen X
6/17/1859 Warranty deed Frances E. and Cornelia Springstein Thomas Smith X
11/15/1862 Warranty deed Frances E. and Cornelia T. Springsteen Thomas Smith X

The 1854 agreement between John Duncan and John S. Springsteen indicated that Duncan was a resident of Avon, Connecticut and that Springsteen was of Fenton. The 1855 deed conveying land from John and Mary Springsteen to Frances Springsteen indicated that the grantee acquiring the property was of Rochester, New York.

Francis E. Springsteen was John’s younger brother. Thomas Smith was their mother Margaret Smith’s brother.

W. Beers’ 1873 Atlas of Genesee Co., Michigan shows the combined properties in the name of I. J. Smith. Israel J. Smith was a son of Thomas Smith and a first cousin of John and Francis Springsteen.

I. J. Smith property, Section 13, Fenton Township, 1873

The land south of Butcher Road between Long Lake (now Lake Fenton) and Crooked Lake that was once owned by the Springsteens and Smiths is now extensively developed as can be seen here.

Further research at the Genesee County Register of Deeds office should yield more information based on my increasing understanding of the extended family. John and Mary Springsteen might have owned the land acquired from John Duncan solely as proxies for Francis Springsteen, but a comparison of neighbors in the 1860 census enumeration for John and Mary Springsteen, the 1870 census enumeration for Israel and Helen Smith, and Beers’ 1873 map suggests that John’s family had lived in the immediate vicinity if not on the same land that Israel’s family called home in 1870.

John and Mary in DeWitt Township

John and Mary Springsteen moved from Fenton Township, Genesee County to DeWitt Township, Clinton County in 1863. This move might have been prompted by the sale from Francis and Cornelia Springsteen to Thomas Smith of the land in Fenton. Clinton J. Springsteen (Uncle Joe) told me that [John and] Mary lived in a log cabin on the south side of Howe Road east of Wood Road in DeWitt Township. This location is now probably in the path of US 127, a divided highway.

John died around 1865-1867 and was buried in the Wilsey Cemetery. His gravestone records his death as 1867, but it is not clear whether it was placed shortly after his death or much later. Notes that appear to have been written by a family member for Mary’s obituary initially recorded his death year as 1867 and then changed it to 1865.

John was identified in August 1866 as an heir-at-law in the probate of his brother Francis’s will. John was notified by mail and ordered to appear at the Surrogate’s Court of Monroe County in Rochester, New York on 15 October 1866. There is no indication in the estate file for Francis that John either appeared or was determined to be deceased. Uncle Joe told me in 1980 that John was on a train from Holly to Detroit to settle an estate when he died. Perhaps this was regarding the estate of his brother Francis.


Next of kin, Francis E. Springsteen, August 1866

The Oakland County Clerk’s office informed me in 1980 that they had no record of John’s death, but the State of Michigan didn’t require counties to keep death records until 1867 and the practice wasn’t well established for several years. I should investigate the possibility of an estate file for John S. Springsteen at the Clinton County Probate Court office.

Mary’s later years

Mary was living in DeWitt Township with Will, Marvin, Ella, Emma, and Loyal in 1870. Her obituary stated that she struggled to keep her family together after John’s death. Uncle Joe said that she bartered with Chief Okemos for meat, but this is probably not correct at least in terms of his identity given that Okemos reportedly died in 1858.

Mary moved back to Oakland County around 1872 to care for her mother Susan Howe and perhaps to pool resources. Mary was listed in Susan Howe’s household in Springfield Township in 1880 and 1900. This household was on the farm where had Mary lived as a girl. By 1900 Mary’s brother Jerome, who lived across the road in Groveland Township, owned the farm. An 1896 Illustrated atlas of Oakland County, Michigan shows the adjacent properties in Section 6 of Springfield Township and Sections 31 and 32 of Groveland Township. In October 1980, I participated in a road trip to Holly with Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary, Grandma Olsen (Joe’s sister-in-law), Dad, and some of Dad’s siblings. Joe identified Orison and Susan’s home, the tenant house, and Jerome’s house on Tucker Road east of Holly. Joe and my grandfather Aden Springsteen were born in the tenant house where their parents lived while L.D. worked for Jerome. After Susan’s death, Mary lived alone in Springfield township in 1910.

Howe homes on Tucker Road

In 1920, Mary lived with her brother Charles E. Howe in DeWitt Township. At the time of her death on 12 August 1922, Mary lived with L.D. in Section 12, Watertown Township, Clinton County. L.D. and Aggie were living on the Brink farm on the west side of what is now Airport Road west of DeWitt. Dad was born on this farm in 1924.

L.D., Mary, and Marvin Springsteen
L.D., Mary, and Marvin Springsteen
Mary E. Springsteen
Mary E. Springsteen

Mary E. Springsteen and her mother Susan Howe were both widowed in their mid-thirties; neither remarried. Susan lived to the age of 95 and Mary to age 90, both after long lives sustaining their families. For many years in my occasional early exploration of family history, they and their husbands were among my earliest known ancestors. I hope to learn more about their lives and families.

Biographical notes, John and Mary Springsteen’s family
Obituary, Mary E. Springsteen
Memoir, Mary E. Springsteen
Frank, Mary, and John Springsteen’s graves, Wilsey Cemetery

Assorted research notes

  1. Genesee County, Michigan Register of Deeds, select Springsteen transactions
  2. Notes from Joe and Mary Springsteen, 23 March 1980
  3. Notes from Joe and Mary Springsteen, 26 May 1980
  4. Notes from road trip to Holly, 11 October 1980