William H Cross

Brother of Robert J Cross

WmHCross (336K)

1On the banks of the upper Delaware in the hilly country of Sullivan county New York in the town of Bethel on the 6th day of March 1807 William Hanna Cross was born His father John Cross was an only son of Joseph Cross of county Londonderry Ireland who soon after the birth of John left his wife and child and came to America.

The Revolution of the colonies soon after commenced and the wife never again met her husband nor heard from him but a few times but learned that he had joined the armies of the colonies and was wounded at Charleston South Carolina and so concluded that he died from this cause

Left alone the mother struggled to provide for herself and child and soon after he arrived at an age sufficient to do somewhat for his own support she too left him then alone in the world. By dint of hard work and self denial the lad obtained a limited education and before he attained his majority became a convert to Methodism and was licensed as one of Wesley's earliest itinerants in his native land. In his travels he met Margaret the young widow of Bernard Connolly of Armagh, a daughter of the aristocratic Hannas of Newry and contrary to their wishes the young itinerant and the blooming widow were married.

The opposition of the wife's family continuing the young couple removed to Sligo where they resided for several years and until after the Emmett rebellion in 1798. Mr Cross protected some of the implicated parties and in consequence fell under the suspicion of the government as being in sympathy with the rebels and his business as a grocer which he had taken up some time after his removal to Sligo was so much disturbed that in 1803 he determined to remove to America.

Fearing annoyance and possible arrest the mother took the family and crossed the Atlantic alone with the children leaving the father to close up his business and follow her two months later when they were again united in New York city and after a short stay settled in Newburgh Orange county New York where Robert J the brother of the subject of this sketch was born in 1804. In 1806 the family removed to Bethel Sullivan county where Mr Cross engaged in the mercantile business. Here in the rude school houses of that day under the government of the birch rod and maple ruler the ideas of school education instilled into the youthful minds of Robert J and William H were wrought out.

The second war with Great Britain in 1812 so disturbed all business relations that Mr Cross found himself at its close financially crushed and the mother having some means in Ireland and hoping for some aid from her family there to check the tide of misfortune left her home to again cross the ocean in 1815 going and returning alone but bringing means with her sufficient only to stay the rush downward for a time. After struggling on between hope and fear for a few years they at last gave up all and in 1822 removed to Bloomfield, Ontario county where the father gave up the unequal contest in July 1824 and sank to his rest.

The sisters being married and the two remaining sons being aged twenty one and eighteen respectively the family home was broken up in the spring of 1825. Robert J coming in June of that year to Tecumseh, Lenawee county, Michigan and locating a farm whither in September 1826 he and William removed and began their pioneer life as bachelors being their own cooks housekeepers and washer women sick at times and no one to care for them but the sympathizing settler miles away perhaps yet gaining a self reliance that no school but that of bitter experience could give. For a year and a half theirs was the frontier cabin on the Raisin River. In 1829 William transported a load of goods to Mottville to the old trader Elias Taylor and looked first upon the prairies of the west. He hauled one thousand five hundred pounds of merchandise mostly whisky with two yoke of oxen and was three weeks on the round trip. The view of Sturgis prairie so pleased the young man that the brothers sold their lands on the Raisin in June 1830 and in the month of September following selected their farms at Coldwater then the town of Greene county of St Joseph being the east three quarters of section twenty two.

In November following they built their second cabin twelve by fourteen feet inside with a sloping roof to the north leaving the roof inside at the rear but six feet high. Here they spent two winters and one summer hauling their supplies the first year from Tecumseh and Detroit. In the fall and winter of 1831-32 William built a log house on his own farm on the same ground now occupied by the mansion of Judge Loveridge of Coldwater. But a bachelor's freedom could not always compensate for its other disadvantages and the pioneer met his fate at Tecumseh where on the 12th day of March 1832 he surrendered his single blessedness unconditionally to find a more perfect union and was united in marriage to Nancy a daughter of John and Lydia Landon of Ithaca New York.

Scarcely six weeks had passed when the Black Hawk war which had been raging in Illinois reached Michigan in its effects and the colonists were called to the defense of their own borders and to assist their brethren farther west and the young bride was left with two others who had just passed the honeymoon with her. Mrs Judge Harvey Warner and Mrs James B Tompkins to alternate fears and hopes while the young husband shouldered his rifle in obedience to the command of the State and the instincts of self preservation. But the cloud of war was soon dissipated by the capture of Black Hawk and the young people were reunited in about three weeks and business though seriously interfered with recommenced again on the farm. In June 1835 Mr Cross and his brother Robert sold their farms to an eastern company Robert going to Winnebago county Illinois and settling on Rock River where he died in 1873. Owing to the poor health of Mrs Cross and her child William instead of going into a new country for a beginning concluded a partnership with Judge Silas A Holbrook in mercantile trade but the crash of 1837 and wild cat banking overwhelmed the new merchant and operator and the means he had gathered a farmer were scattered to the winds of heaven and the pioneer but still undaunted began again at the foot of the toilsome ascent pushed bravely onward encouraged by the companion of his choice nerved by the dependency of his little ones. But disappointments were yet in store for him and many a promising golden apple of Hesperides turned ashes in his grasp as contractor on the Michigan Central railroad the Fort Wayne and Michigan City canal and as a forwarding and commission merchant in Hillsdale.

In 1845 he removed to Leonidas St Joseph county and engaged in mercantile trade again and in 1847 constructed the first dam across the St Joseph river ever built in Michigan but at a loss for want of funds complete the additional improvements necessary to utilize the really excellent water power he had secured. In 1851 the allurements of California proving too great to be resisted Mr Cross left his family for the new El Dorado where for seven years he in the mines led on by fickle fortune's flattering promises which at seemed just ready to become solid realities only to be dissipated the moment into nothing tangible. In 1858 he returned to Leonidas and was within a short time elected to the office of supervisor a position he had held for the five preceding his departure to California and in which he continued until secured an appointment which was deemed inconsistent to be held with former one. Since that time to 1872 he served the public in the various positions of assistant assessor of internal revenue assistant United States provost marshal and postal clerk on the Michigan Southern and Lake Shore railroad. In 1872 he was elected judge of probate of St Joseph county while resident of Sturgis but removed to Centreville the following summer he still resides.

In 1876 the Republicans re-nominated him unanimously to the same position and he was re elected by the largest majority given to any candidate the ticket over his opponents on the Democratic and Greenback tickets. In fact it was difficult to find a man in those parties to run against him several declaring they would not but should vote for Judge Cross. The tender and sympathizing nature of Judge Cross eminently fit him the discharge of the delicate and arduous duties of his position which him in contact with the widow and orphan and charges him with the settlement of their estates and interests and it is currently stated that Cross tribunal is less a court for legal adjudications than an for the reconcilement of differences and difficulties between heirs. His success in that direction is most satisfactory to the parties who appear him as well as to himself. A single incident will illustrate his manner of dealing with which by a technical construction there is no warrant for in the law. A lady dying expressed a wish that a small portion of her estate be appropriated by her administrator for a certain object but left no will written instrument to that effect. When the estate was settled the administrator asked Judge Cross what he ought to do in the premises. He quietly said 'What would you wish to have done if you were in her position and she in yours?' 'Why I should want my wishes carried out replied the administrator.' 'Then as you would have others do for you so do you do for her' responded the judge and the matter was ended. His decisions however are good for with a single exception not one of them has ever been reversed on appeal to the circuit or supreme court. Judge Cross political fealty was first pledged to the Whig party and to it he remained true and steadfast till it disappeared and then he gave in his adhesion to the new opponent of the Democratic party which rose in 1856 ,the Republican party, and has been a staunch unbending partisan in its ranks to the present time.

Judge Cross united with the Presbyterian church in Coldwater in 1837 his wife joining a church of the same faith in Ithaca ten years before and they have continued as members of kindred churches wherever their lot has been cast since that time. Mr Cross having been an elder from the second year of his membership in Coldwater. When Judge Cross resigned his position as postal clerk he was recalled to Toledo by the superintendent of that division of the service and on his arrival found his fellow clerks assembled in the superintendent's room who proceeded through that official to present the judge with a gold headed cane accompanied with a very complimentary expression of confidence and esteem.

Mrs Cross was born in Ithaca New York on the 7th day of November 1812 and removed to Tecumseh in 1828. Five children gathered around the family hearthstone of Mr and Mrs Cross one the oldest a son and four daughters who with the exception of one who is deceased reside at and near the present homestead. Mr and Mrs Cross have traveled life's pathway together forty five years mutually sharing its sorrows and its joys and their heads are now silvered with the snows of nearly seventy winters but with hearts so full of human kindness they never grow old and their eyes undimmed by naught save time they are confidently walking in that light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

1Page 108, History of St. Joseph County, Michigan. Philadelphia. L H Everts & Co., 716 Filbert Street. 1877.

Page 293 History of St Joseph County Michigan. Lewis Publishing Do, Chicago, 1911

William H Cross died at the family residence in Centreville Wednesday evening September 29 1886 in his 50th year having been born in Sullivan county New York March 6 1807.
Judge Cross was an early settler in Michigan territory having come to the territory in 1826. When but a boy of 19 years he with his brother Robert who was also a mere boy took up their habitation in the woods in Lenawee county on the bank of the river Raisin here they kept bachelor's hall for a time having to pack their provisions from Detroit.
After a time they sold their farm in Lenawee and came to where Coldwater is now located entered lands in 1830 and commenced pioneer life anew. Mr Cross remained single until March 1832 when he took a helpmeet in the person of Nancy Landon who survives him after living a happy life of 54 years with him.
Mr Cross has always been a representative man wherever his lot was cast, he was an early merchant in the country, he was in the gold mines of California for several years, was judge of probate of St Joseph county for 12 years which office he filled with ability and to the satisfaction of his constituents.
He was a man of strong will power but always willing to listen to the teachings of others and if their views harmonized with his he adopted them if they did not he acted on his own conviction of right and when his rulings as judge have been tried in the crucible of high legal talent his decisions have stood the test.
Politically he was a staunch republican ever faithful ever true.
He has been connected with the Reformed church since his residence in Centreville over 15 years.
In the death of Judge Cross the community have lost a valuable citizen his children a kind father his wife a loving husband He was buried at Sturgis on Saturday October 2 1886
Historical Collections made by the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, 1887

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