Governor Josiah W. Begole. Elsewhere in this volume will be found a sketch of the honored ex-Governor of Michigan, whose portrait appears on the opposite page. It pertains, however, more to the salient points of his career as chief Executive of the State, and we here take pleasure in presenting to our readers a more intimate sketch of his personal life indicating the attributes of character that had lead to the honors nobly and graciously borne.
Governor Begole is a son of William and Eleanor (Bowles) Begole. He was born in Groveland, Livingston County, N.Y., January 20, 1815, just twelve days after the memorable battle of New Orleans. The Governor’s career exemplifies strongly the power of heredity. He is a descendant of a good old French family, whose members have ever been conspicuous in loyalty to their homes and country. His father was an officer in the War of 1812 and although like most other men of means at that time, his grandparents on both sides of the house were slave owners, on the evolution of sentiment in regard to slavery they became strong Abolitionists and brought their slaves with them to New York in order to free them. Thus were the seeds of liberty and independence sown for future generations.
About 1800 William Begole, who was born in 1787, went to New York with his parents and located in Livingston County, where he became engaged in farming. He later located in Mt. Morris of the same county and State, where he spent the remainder of his life, being devoted to the agricultural calling. He was married in the year 1814 to Eleanor Bowles, who was born in Fredericksburg. MD. She was a daughter of Capt. Thomas Bowles, whose record as a Revolutionary soldier serving under Washington, is treasured by his family, and who was of English descent and was born in Maryland. Both our subject’s parents were professors of the creed as held by the Baptist Church.
Governor Begole was the eldest of ten children born to his parents, and was reared in Mount Morris, Livingston County, N.Y,. upon a farm. His first knowledge of the three R’s was acquired in a log schoolhouse, where the little ones legs dangled from slab benches held upright by oaken “pins”. This was the extend of his schooling with the exception of six months at the Temple Hill Academy at Geneseo. He remained at home until 1836, when, having saved from his small earning $100, he determined to try his fortunes in the new country which was known as Michigan. In coming hither the young man who was only twenty-one years of age made the journey to Toledo by a steamer, thence by foot to Jackson and then on to Flint, to which he was attracted because he had read in the papers that it was to be the county-seat of Genesee County. He traveled alone, finding a trail which was at times obliterated in the woods and then making his way with the aid of a compass.
On arriving here there were only five houses, which is indeed a dignified name for the board shanties, and the place was simply a trading post. The young man purchased eighty acres of land and with the whole-heartedness that has characterized him throughout life immediately identified himself with the new but strong and healthy growth of the infant town. He turned his hand to what there was to be done – surveying the first village lot, swinging the hammer and ax in building, and teaching school, in which last work he was in employ for several years. He was the Clerk of the first election in this place and helped to build the land office, which was on the present site of the Citizens Commercial & Savings Bank. He continued to buy land until at the end of eighteen years, he owned five hundred acres and set himself energetically to work in improving it. It was nearly all soon under the plow and he made it pay him handsomely by devoting himself to general farming, giving special attention to sheep-raising in which he was very successful.
April 22, 1839, the future State Senator and Governor of Michigan was united in marriage with Miss Harriet A., daughter of Manley and Mary Miles. The sturdy groom was attired in a handsome blue suit, covered with large brass buttons and the blushing bride in the conventional white. The ceremony was performed in the log cabin of the bride’s father on the Saginaw Road two miles north of the city. In 1889 many honored guests from various portions of the country took delight in congratulating the couple who had passed fifty years of married life so helpfully and happily together.
Immediately after the marriage the young couple settled upon their farm of one hundred and sixty acres in the town of Genesee. By energy, perseverance and the aid of his faithful wife, success hovered over the humble, but contented household. Little ones gathered about the hearthstone and filled their allotted space in the family circle. With years came political honors, and as State Senator, Congressman, and Chief Executive of the State, the Governor served the people who ad honored him by showing their confidence in his ability to fill these positions.
In 1871, Governor Begole was made State Senator and in the fall of 1872 he was elected to congress, representing the Sixth District, and serving for a term of two years. In 1882 he was nominated Governor as the candidate of the Democratic and Greenback parties, and carried the State by a vote of thirty-one thousand over and above the ballots cast for Governor Jerome two years before in 1880. Taking his position January 1, 1883, he was Chief Executive of the State for two years, after which he resumed the quiet, unpretentious life in his cozy residence in Flint. Governor And Mrs. Begole have had five children, namely: Mary, Mrs. C. W. Cummings, of Otter Lake; William, who died during the late war in the hospital at Lookout Mountain, the body being brought to Flint were it was interred with military honors; Frank, who died in Florida in 1877; Charles, who resides on the farm, and one daughter, who died in infancy.
Although advanced in years, our honored subject is still prominent in the enterprise and progress of the city of his home. He is connected with the most important of its best features and industries, notably the Flint Wagon Works, water works, and gas works, and he is also Vice-President of the Citizens Commercial & Savings Bank and has been interested in banking since 1871. For many years he 3was an extensive lumberman and has given liberally of his time and means for the promotion of worthy enterprises. Not only has he served the State Government, but the municipal Government as well. He and his estimable wife are members of the Presbyterian Church. Full of years and honors we can only hope that the halcyon days of peaceful age will continue until he and his wife bid a last good night to friends on earth that they may say good morning to the brightness of the future.
Source: Chapman Brothers. Portrait and biographical record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1892.