Biography of Mrs. Mary Cross of Banks Township and Central Lake, Michigan

Wholly devoted to home and domestic duties, doing through all the best years of her life the lowly but sacred work that comes within her sphere, there is not much to record concerning the life of the average woman. And yet what station so dignified, what relation so loving and endearing, what office so holy, tender and ennobling as those of home-making wifehood and motherhood. In the settlement of the great middle West woman bore her share of the hardship, sufferings and other vicissitudes, helping man in the rugged toil of wood and field, cheering him when cast down and discouraged, sharing his dangers, mitigating sufferings, in the end quietly and unostentatiously rejoicing in his success, yet ever keeping herself modestly in the background and permitting her lord to enjoy all the glory of their mutual achievements. In a biographical compendium, such as this work is intended to be, woman should have no insignificant representation.

Mrs. Mary Cross is a native of the land of hills and hether, having been born in Scotland’s famous little town of Glasgow, being a daughter of Duncan and Catherine (Cameron) Crawford. At ten years of age she was brought by her parents to Canada, where she was reared and received her elementary education in the common schools. At the age of nineteen she was united in marriage to William Melbourn Wilson. He was a native of Ontario, Canada, and the two families lived as neighbors. He was twenty-three years of age at the time of their marriage. They remained in Ontario until the spring of 1871, when they, with their three small children, came to Antrim county and located in Banks township, four miles northwest of Central Lake, their place being located near the north shore of Intermediate lake. Mr. Wilson homesteaded eighty acres of land, upon which he found that a tree had not been cut and so dense was the wilderness that in hunting for a suitable site for a house he became lost and had some difficulty in regaining his family. He at first erected a large log cabin, which was subsequently replaced by a larger and more commodious frame dwelling. He labored indefatigably and cleared the land and so was finally enabled to put forty acres under cultivation. He was by trade a mill sawyer and erected a mill one mile from his home on Intermediate lake, it being run by water power. This mill was built in 1879 and Mr. Wilson operated it about ten years and then built a steam sawmill two and one-half miles east of his home, though also on Intermediate lake and on what was known as the Ox Bow. He operated this mill until his death, which occurred in 1891, at the age of fifty-three years. He had been in failing health for some five or six years and in the hope of regaining it he took a trip to Utah, but the effort was without avail and he died while in that state. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson became the parents of five children, of whom four are living, namely : Emmanuel, who lives where his father’s first mill stood; Katie, who is a teacher in Oregon, was for sixteen years engaged in that occupation in Antrim county; Minnie, who is the widow of Frank Cutler, is living at Dayton, Ohio; her daughter Agatha makes her home with Mrs. Cross and is attending school; the deceased child died at the age of six years. After Mr. Wilson’s death, Mrs. Cross, with the assistance of her son Emmanuel, carried on the farming until her marriage with Mr. Cross and during the last three years of this period she operated it alone, owing to the fact that her son Emmanuel had married and moved elsewhere. Since her union with Mr. Cross in 1902, they have removed to the village of Central Lake, where they reside in a pleasant and commodious home, which is the center of attraction for a large circle of friends. She retains the old farm and also has several acres planted in orchards. Mr. Wilson was all his years an active Democrat in politics and was an influential man in local affairs. He was a Master Mason, belonging to the lodge at Torch Lake, and stood high in the estimation of the members of the time-honored order.

When Mr. and Mrs. Wilson first settled in this community they were without money and it was necessary for Mr. Wilson to work out by the day some time, his occupation requiring his absence for a week at a time at a distance of fifteen miles. Mrs. Wilson was thus compelled to remain alone with her three helpless children and during the long dreary winter nights bears would come around the house and oftentimes the family dog would become engaged in fights with them. During the second winter the dog treed a bear, which finally descended and attacked the dog. This occurred about one-half mile from the house and Mr. Wilson had no other weapon but a jack knife; however, he grabbed the bear by the ear and cut the animal’s throat, causing its death. It was a large specimen of its kind and was so strong in its death struggles that it tore up roots as large as a man’s arm. As stated above, it frequently happened that Mr. Wilson was absent from home from Sunday night until Saturday night and during six months of one winter season Mrs. Wilson did not see the face of a human being besides her children and her husband. She had many thrilling experiences during these days but was a woman of courage and fearlessness and bore her part in rearing the family to manhood and womanhood. It is stated that for twelve years she was the only recourse of the women of her locality during confinement, there being no physician closer than Charlevoix, twelve miles distant. This was emphasized strongly by the fact that frequently snow was so deep as to make a trip impossible so that Mrs. Wilson’s efficiency as a midwife was valuable indeed. She had had no former experience, but had read extensively and possessed a large share of good common sense, which may be appreciated from the statement that she was the sole attendant at twenty-two births, and of this number she lost neither child nor mother. In her own two confinements Mrs. Wilson was attended only by her husband. At one time during her husband’s absence, their little daughter six years old fell and cut her throat on an ax which Mrs. Wilson kept for protection, the cut being so deep as to expose the chords in the child’s throat. Being alone, Mrs. Wilson bandaged the wound as best she could and by careful nursing saved the child’s life. Following the birth of one of her children Mrs. Wilson was seized with a severe attack of fever, during which she was delirious for several days. Her husband was absent and her eldest child, ten years old, was her nurse and such was the excellent care rendered by the child that she recovered from the fever without serious effects.

As before stated, Mrs. Wilson was married to George W. Cross in August, 1902. Mr. Cross was born in Leeds county, Ontario, on the 23d of July, 1835, and was reared to manhood under the parental roof. He was reared to farming life and spent the first thirty-five years of his life in his native country. In 1870 he came direct to Antrim county, settling in Central Lake township, three miles northwest of Eastport, at the head of Torch lake. He had bought a relinquishment and took it as a homestead. About five acres of the land was cleared and on it was a small frame house. The balance of the land was all covered with dense timber and much hard labor was required to bring the place up to a satisfactory condition. Mr. Cross lived on this place for twenty-five years, during which time he had succeeded in putting seventy acres under the plow and making a number of good buildings. It was fifteen years after moving on this place before he was able to realize anything for his lumber and often then he only realized enough from it to pay for the labor of cutting and often during the last years returns from it were very moderate. Though he still owns this place he does not operate it personally, but rents it. Mr. Cross has been twice married, the first time in Canada to Miss Orpha Clow, who is a sister of Murray and Wallace Clow, of Central Lake. To them were born six children, of whom five were reared in Antrim county. Their names are Alden E., who is a resident of Charlevoix and is superintendent of the seed house of D. M. Ferry; Hattie is the wife of Ray Wilkinson, of Central Lake township; Per-melia is the wife of Willis Wilkinson, also of Central Lake; Lydia is the wife of William Hopkins, of Toledo, Ohio; Azella is the wife of Charles Obney, of Dayton, Ohio. James, Mrs. Cross’ oldest child, married Phoebe Ellis, of Central Lake, and is now living on Mrs. Cross’s old homestead in Banks township. He has one-half of the old homestead and, with other additions made by him, now owns one hundred and sixty acres.

Mr. Cross was formerly a Republican, who became later convinced that the Democratic policy was most conducive to the public welfare, so transferred his affiliations to the latter party, with which party he is now aligned.

Source: Biographical history of northern Michigan containing biographies of prominent citizens; Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1905.

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