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Rebecca (Ferguson) Bristol


Rebecca Ellen (Ferguson) Bristol was born on April 25, 1830, presumably in Perry County, OH, the daughter of John H. and Sarah (Miner) Ferguson. Her husband was a Union Army soldier and prisoner of war during the Civil War. 

At some point in time, Rebecca moved from Ohio to Michigan, where she settled in Porter Township, Cass County. There, she apparently met her future husband.

On New Year's Day 1850, when she was age 19, Rebecca married 21-year-old Lemon Watson Bristol (1830-1905), a native of Potsdam, NY, and the son of Almarion and Mabel Bristol. The ceremony was led by justice of the peace J.N. Jones, and took place in Porter Township, Cass County. Witnesses were Albert Jones and Emily Curtis. A record of the wedding was written in the family Bible.

Lemon stood five feet, nine inches tall, with black hair and hazel eyes. He had come to Michigan as a boy of age five in 1836, with his parents, settling in Constantine, St. Joseph County.


"A Soldier's Dream of Home"
The Child At Home, American Tract Society, Boston

The Bristols had six children. Lemon W. "Frank" Bristol, Harvey S. Bristol, Ellen Granger, Clarisa "Clara" Belle Weikel, Ulysses S. Bristol, and an infant who died at the tender age of eight months. 

Prior to the war, Lemon and John Ferguson were "engaged in pioneer wood-working industries," said the Berrien County (MI) Record. Lemon also had "bought a sawmill meanwhile on the banks of the Little Fish lake in Cass county." The mill was located at Ropertown, "a pioneer sawmill town long since disappeared," said the Record

On Aug. 9, 1862, with the Civil War in full fury, Lemon went to Constantine, St. Joseph County, MI to enlist into the Army. He was assigned to the 19th Michigan Infantry, Company D. 

While serving in McMinnville, TN, or about March 15, 1863, he caught a bad cold "brought on by long exposure on picket duty during cold & wet weather," remembered Capt. Frank D. Bolstein. "On the night when he contracted said disease he was exposed to a violent storm of rain, sleet & snow, and when relieved he had a violent cold & his eyes were inflamed.... It rendered him unfit for duty, & nearly destroying his eyes." 

One can only imagine Lemon's thoughts and emotions as he suffered his ailments so far away from the comfort of his wife and children.

In an affidavit later in life, Lemon described his capture as follows:


Lemon's medical discharge

On the 2 day of March 1863, I left Brent Wood Tennessee for Franklin Tennessee with post train being on detailed duty driving team. At that time, was the last I saw of my Company, they being left at Brent Wood on guard while the Regiment went to Franklin Tenn. with John Coburn brigade. March 4, 1863, ordered to advance and attack the rebels at Spring Hill & Thompson Station, south of Franklin, Tenn. -- On the 5 1863 was over powered and taken prisoner. On the 25th Mar 1863 Rebel general Forest went to the right of, or to the west of Franklin and captured Co. D and what was left of John Coburn brigade at Brent Wood. May 29 1863 ordered to report at the Fort for duty, June 4 was attacked by Forest about 10 A.M.,. In the Fort was 2.24 lb. siege guns and 1.32 lb parrot runing or fireing the balance of the day, I standing within 25 feet of them, at night laying in fort on our arms and raining all night. Takeing cold and setling in my head causing both ears to gather and discharge, both ears discharging for several days. My ears was washed out with soap such by the use of syringe by some surgeon 3 or 4 days, who he was I never found out. On the 19th of June 1863 my Regiment returned to Franklin Tenn. I done no duty till the last of July 1863. My Lieutenant Frank Baldwin would not let me be put on guard or picket on acount of my defective hearing for a long time.

Testifying on Lemon's behalf, fellow solider John S. Doty said: "I remember that in the month of June 1863 the whole Regiment had been prisoners of war, and returned to Franklin Tennessee and I also remember when our Regiment was taken prisoners, that [Lemon] with several others was on detached service and not present, consequently I did not see him for some time untill we [were released from captivity and] got to Franklin... I discoverd when I spoke to him that he was deaf for I had to repeat my questions several times and talk very loud to make him understand. I knew that [he] was good on hearing when he went away on detached service." 

Lemon was sent to the Desmarres Eye and Ear Hospital in Chicago. There, on March 6, 1865, he was honorably discharged from the Army.

Upon returning home, he went to see his friend Abraham Miller of nearby Three Rivers, St. Joseph County. Miller recalled that "on the first day when [he] got home, [I] noticed in particular a change in the condition of {the soldier's] health, he appeared to be broken down in health and physical strength. [I] noticed that [he] was very thin, and that [his] eyesight was strongly impaired."

He immediately applied for and was granted a pension from the federal government as compensation for his disabilities. 


Buchanan's railroad depot at the turn of the century


In June 1880, when the United States census was taken, Lemon and Rebecca were residing in Penn Township, Cass County, MI. Lemon was employed as a cabinet maker. In 1885, they were in the town of Three Rivers, Cass County.


Berrien County Record, 1905

Lemon's wartime eye and ear problems began to affect him even more in later years. In about 1881, he wrote: "I began to lose my hearing and gone to the condition reported from the examination board at Kalamazoo and still growing deafer." In 1885, he wrote that "I cannot hear common conversation two feet from me. By holding my hand so I can catch the sound. I can hear by imperfectly. My left ear is no good to hear out of at all. My right ear troubles me by not being able to hear only as above described, and there is a rumbling and cracking sound. As to my eye sight I am almost blind in both eyes and cannot perform any kind of manual labor that will assist me in making a living and I cannot get any labor to do on account of my defective eye sight."

By 1888, the Bristols had relocated to Buchanan, Berrien County, MI. They made their home on Portage Street. The census of 1900 shows them in Buchanan, having been married for 50 years. Son Ulysses resided with them that year, and worked as a day laborer. In his final years, Lemon drew a military pension of $25 per month. He could only read "with the aid of a strong magnifying glass," he said.

After a lifetime of suffering from his war-related illnesses, Lemon died at home on Aug. 5, 1905, at the age of 75. The Berrien County Record said he "had been sick for some little time and quietly passed away at his late home on Portage street last Saturday." He was laid to eternal rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, following a funeral led by Rev. W.J. Douglass and attended by members of his former post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).

Rebecca outlived her husband by eight years. She submitted extensive paperwork to the federal government, and was awarded her husband's pension to provide her with needed financial support. Living in her household in 1910 were son Ulysses, daughter Ellen, and granddaughters Pearl and May.

At the age of 82, she became sick the first week of January 1913. She passed away after a nine-day illness, on Jan. 13, 1913, of "pneumonia and old age," stated her death certificate. She was laid to rest at the Oak Ridge Cemetery.


~ Son Lemon W. "Frank" Bristol ~

Son Lemon W. "Frank" Bristol (1853- ? ) was born in 1853.

As an adult, in 1913, he resided in Council Bluffs, IA.

He may have married Ellen M. (1856- ? ).

By 1920, they are believed to  had migrated to Southern California, where they were living in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena. Frank worked in Gardena as a carpentry contractor. 


~ Daughter Clara Belle (Bristol) Granger ~

Daughter Clara Belle Bristol (1859- ? ) was born in 1859.

She wedded William F. Granger (1853- ? ) on Feb. 9, 1879. William, a native of Geaugea, OH, was 26 at the time of marriage, and Clara 19. The ceremony was performed by justice of the peace H.A. Crego, in the presence of witnesses Benjamin and Helen Granger.

The Grangers were farmers. They were both residing in the household of Clara Belle's parents when the federal census was taken in 1880.

They possibly had a son, Earl Bristol, born in 1879.

The marriage must have fallen apart, as the federal census of 1900 shows William as a farmer and single man, and boarding in the home of James Stevens in Penn Township, Cass County.

Clara apparently later married Malcolm Weikel ( ? - ? ). They resided in Newberg Township, Cass County circa 1898. When the federal census was taken in 1900, the Weikels were farmers, and 12-year-old daughter May Weikel was in their household. In 1948, Belle made her home in Detroit, MI.

Son Earl Bristol (1879- ? ) was born in 1879. He resided in Buchanan, and died at the age of 62 on Feb. 13, 1941.


~ Daughter Ellen (Bristol) Granger ~

Daughter Ellen Bristol (1856- ? ) was born in 1856.

She apparently married her divorced brother in law William Granger (1853- ? ). More will be added here when learned.


Copyright 2007, 2019 Mark A. Miner