March 2008

Fred Clemons – Knight in Shining Armor

When I wrote the chapter in Only a Week Away about Pvt. Clemons, I did not have the following article. It was sent to me by Fred’s great granddaughter, along with his picture. It is unknown what paper this article may have been printed in, but judging from the content, perhaps it was a fraternal organization. The Knights Templar were popular in this era and might account for the references to knighthood.

Untitled clipping

“The ladies will certainly recognize the above photo as that of our gallant cavalier, Mr. Fred Clemons. He is a fair sample of the old days when knighthood was in flower. He decided for the priesthood at an early age that he might save men, but his fondness for the other half of humanity overcame his early inclinations, and he launched out, determined to save all especially the other half, and he has stuck bravely at it for 50 years and says he will continue on in the good old way. He says there is a slight variation in the two halves, but thanks the Lord for that. He was born in old Jefferson County, N.Y., not far from 50 years ago, joined the army at the age of 16 and was at the battle of the Wilderness, siege of Petersburg, and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, coming to Michigan shortly after this, and has been engaged in all kinds of business ever since, namely, doctor, tailor, butcher, barber, harness maker, Jack the giant killer and photographer. Fred is an all round good fellow, made a rip roaring good commissioner for six years, but gave this position up four years ago to devote all of his time to “that other half,” and says he is making a howling success of it. He makes a rattling good Times correspondent and is sporting editor of the Chicago Chimes-Herald, edits the matrimonial column in the Lodies’ Old Journal, and is the author of the book entitled “How to be Married Though Happy, or What Must I do to be Shaved?” (in two volumes). In religion he is a staunch Republican and is intensely devoted to the welfare of the ladies of this or any other town. His good looks are constantly getting him into trouble. Last winter he was challenged to fight a duel for his lady love, as they did in days of yore in Merry England. He chose flails as the weapons and it is needless to say that his opponent beat a precipitate retreat. He is also a poet of no mean order and writes interestingly of the days when chivalry was abroad in the land. Being a true knight at heart, with a soul filled with chivalry, he longs to tilt at a jousting with knights who ride to glory or defeat for the favor of his Ladye Fayre as did the knights of old England.

At present he is in quest of Adams’ lost rib or what it was made into, and the probabilities are that before fall he will overtake it, that is if one can judge from appearances, for lately the snug little home on Saginaw street has undergone quite a transformation – everything on the European plan – and …he says himself all that’s needed is a piece of calico about five feet two inches long, cut diagonally and belted in the middle. Well, Fred, here’s to…. (copy of clipping ends there)

There is a newspaper date of August 8, 1902 cut out and pasted to the page on which this clipping was pasted. Fred was born in 1846 so that would make him 56 in 1902, “not far from 50”. His first wife died in 1896 and he married Rosella Livingston in 1897. Unfortunately, in the 1900 census he is listed as divorced. So all the comments in the article about “the other half” may be related to Fred once again courting the ladies. I did not find any record of a third marriage. Fred Clemons died in January 1919 and is buried in Newton cemetery, Arbela township, Tuscola County, Michigan.


In 1880 Fred’s brother, Edward, left Redfield, NY, with his family and traveled to Trego County, Kansas. Perhaps Edward intended to homestead in the area, but things were very unsettled there at that time.

According to the cyclopedia of Kansas, 1879 has been a bad crop year and many immigrants were returning east broke. Also there had been reports of some Indian marauding within the recent past in the western area of the state. The returning immigrants, the risk of Indian raids and the recent problems with cattle drovers, who drove their herds wherever they wanted on the way to Abilene, would have been discouraging. Several murderers from incidents in unorganized territory were turned over to the sheriff but they had to be let go as there was no authority to try them. Three counties were attached to Trego County for jurisdictional purposes succeeding this event. No wonder Edward and his family left; they went to Tuscola, Michigan where his brother Alfred was living. They were there about a year when Edward’s wife, Julia (Streeter), died and he took her back to NY state for burial. She is buried in Greensboro cemetery, north of Redfield.

A year and a half later, Edward went once again to Tuscola. It is unknown how long he stayed there but ultimately he returned to Oswego County, NY. He never remarried and lived with his daughter and son-in-law, Aurelia and Alfred Ackley many of his remaining years. He was buried next to his wife in Greensboro in Oct. 1927.

Alfred (“Fred”) was the only one of his siblings who moved from NY state.


I have been looking forward to my trip to Virginia Beach, because I planned to drive through Lynchburg and would have the opportunity to do some family research there. I am making progress in finding descendants of the Catharine Douglass Harrison branch of the family at long last. That means that I only have the Mary Douglas Cramer branch to continue searching. Mary had fourteen children and her obituary in 1885 said that nine were still living, but so far I have not been able to track her descendants in the 20th century. I know where a few of them lived but can not find any descendants. Perhaps they had none, but my experience says that is unlikely. Often when the available information denies any descendants, I have not only found descendants but sometimes a family with many children and grandchildren.

I will keep looking.


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