Calvin Handy — The First Settler

Calvin Handy and his family were the first settlers in what would become known as Handy Township, arriving here in June, 1836.

Calvin was born about 1798 in Bennington, Vermont. At the age of 12, or around 1810, he moved with his parents to Danby, Tompkins County, New York, near the Finger Lakes. It was there that he married his wife, Patience Ostrander, and had three children: Polly (born 1825), Homer (born about 1827), and Eliza (born about 1834). On March 25, 1836, Calvin purchased 240 acres from the United States government in Section 2 of the future Handy Township.

Early in May of that year Handy shipped his household goods, a wagon, and some farming implements via the Erie Canal and Lake Erie to Detroit. He and his family, including two-year-old Eliza traveled the same way. Arriving in Detroit, they puchased a yoke of oxen, loaded up the wagon, and began the hard journey to their new property. By late May they had arrived at the log home of Sardis Davis, in Marion Township, south of what would become the city of Howell. The Handys stayed with Mr. Davis, the first settler of Marion Township, for about three weeks until their cabin in Handy Township was built.

On June 16, 1836 Calvin and his family moved into their new log home. That afternoon six other settlers arrived, including brothers Frederick B. and Cecil D. Parsons. They asked Mr. Handy if they might sleep on his floor that night, and were quite taken aback when he replied “no.” Then Handy explained to them that they couldn’t sleep on the floor, as he didn’t yet have a floor, but that they were welcome to stay, and Patience would try to make them as comfortable as possible. She unpacked some boxes of beds and bedding, spread them on the ground, and the six men were able to sleep, spread around the bedding with their heads and shoulders on the mattress. The children were bedded down in half-empty packing boxes, and Mr. and Mrs. Handy found a place to sleep.

By the following year, Handy’s property (240 acres) was valued at $720, or just $3.00 per acre. In 1839 he became the second township supervisor, and later served in other offices. Sometime around 1842 the Handys became parents to another daughter, Helen.

Handy’s property in Section 2 was approximately the site of the former Ken Curtis home on Sharpe Road, just west of Cemetery Road. At some point in time Handy moved from the farm into the village. After the Handys owned the home it was owned by Dr. Arthur Austin, and later, Henry Curtis, a janitor with the Fowlerville schools. It was located at 309 E. Grand River (between Collins and Hibbard Streets), the site of the present Murphy Chiropractic building. The house was torn down in April, 1971.

IMG_5577According to the History of Livingston Co., Michigan by Ellis, Calvin Handy died on May 29, 1874. However state records and cemetery records give the year of death as 1875 rather than 1874. Patience lived until November 29, 1886, living with her daughter and son-in-law, Helen and Mathew Alsbro, and her granddaughter, Addie Alsbro.

Polly Handy (1825-March 9, 1918) married William Alsbro (1821-March 5, 1913) and lived in Handy Township. They had two children, Charles (1848-1913) and Ella P. (1854-Feb. 17, 1940). Ella married  Eugene H. Gibson Oct. 31, 1878. He was born in 1851 in Deerfield Township, and died June 18, 1918 at the age of 66. After the death of her husband and parents, Ella moved to Greenville, in Montcalm County. Polly and William, along with their children and Eugene Gibson are buried at Greenwood Cemetery with Calvin Handy.

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Homer apparently never married, and lived with different people as an adult. In 1880 he was 52, a “retired farmer”, and boarding with Edwin E. Watson.

Eliza Handy was born around 1834 in New York and died in 1853. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery with her father.

Daughter Helen (1842-1915) married Mathew Alsbro (Feb. 1831-Dec. 25, 1922) sometime in the mid 1860s. The Alsbros had one daughter, Ada (Jan. 1872-Feb. 7, 1954), and a son, 

Charles C. (Oct. 17, 1873-Nov. 25, 1876), who died at the age of three from scarlet fever. 

They lived in Handy Township for a while, but by 1900 had moved to Owosso in Shiawassee County. 

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Addie married Edward Wixson around 1900. The young couple were living with Helen and Matthew in Owosso in 1910. At that time Addie was 38, had been married for 10 years and had no children. Addie appears to have been the last living descendant of Calvin and Patience Handy. Helen and Matthew, along with their two children, son-in-law Edward Wixson and Helen’s mother, Patience Handy, are buried in a plot at Greenwood Cemetery. The large stone says Wixson-Alsbro, and there are two small markers; one for Helen Alsbro and another for Edward Wixson.


Sources:

Charboneau, Milton. Greenwood and Mount Olivet Cemeteries, Fowlerville, Michigan: Transcribed Records. Howell, MI: Livingston County Genealogical Society, 1985.

Ellis, Franklin. History of Livingston Co., Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: Everts & Abbott, 1880. Reprint Evansville, IN: Unigraphic, 1975.

Lewis, Helen F. Southeastern Michigan Pioneer Families: Especially Livingston County and New York Origins. Rhinebeck, NY: Kinship, 1995.

Federal Census records of Michigan.

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