The Deneen Family – The Beginnings – Coming to Almont

James Deneen was the first settler to come and settle in what is now Almont Township.  He brought his family to Almont in 1828.  This is the story of James and his brothers and sisters and how they came to be in Almont.

James Deneen was born on July 26, 1794 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.  His parents were Samuel Hackett Deneen Sr. (born February 14, 1766 in Hunterdon County, New Jersey) and Phoebe Nixon Deneen (born June 3 1773 also in Hunterdon County).  Samuel and Phoebe were married on June 3, 1791 in New Jersey.  Shortly after Samuel and Phoebe married, they moved to Bedford County, Pennsylvania and started their family.  Samuel and Phoebe had a total of at least 12 children (at least two died in infancy), four born in Bedford County. 

About 1800, Samuel moved the family to Trumbull County, Ohio.  Their family continued to expand.  Samuel Hackett Jr. was born in 1801, Phoebe in 1805, Mary in 1807, Joab in 1808 (died as infant), Sarah Ann in 1810, Joseph Beard in 1813, Ann in 1814 (died as infant), and John Nixon in 1816.

James married Elizabeth “Betsy” Miller on November 5, 1816 in Newton Township, Trumbull County, Ohio.  Betsy was born on July 9, 1793 in York County, Pennsylvania.  James and Betsy’s first child, Alexander Arthur was born on May 4, 1821.  He was followed by John and twin brother Leonard on June 25, 1822, Catherine in 1825 and Elizabeth in 1827.

James was 34 years old when he moved the family from Trumbull County to Almont.  On October 29, 1828, James Deneen purchased property in Section 9 of Almont Township, which is now located on the east side of Van Dyke Road between Hollow Corners and Dryden Roads.  He constructed a log cabin and barns and out-buildings and cleared the land for his fields.

On their travels to Almont, when they came to Washington Township, Macomb County, the Deneen’s met the William Allen family.  William and his son George Washington Allen constructed the road from Washington Township to essentially downtown Almont the previous summer of 1827.  George Washington Allen traveled with the Deneen’s to the end of the road.  George then assisted James in cutting the pathway to his property. 

On the day that James purchased the property, Elizabeth was already pregnant with their sixth child, Anna.  Anna was born on March 15, 1829.  She was the first white person born in Almont Township and Lapeer County.  Their last child, Mary Deneen, was born on June 14, 1832 in Almont. 

James’ family spent 1829 alone in the wilderness.  There were visitors who were looking for property to buy and develop but no one settled in Almont in 1829. 

On February 24, 1831, Samuel Hackett Deneen Jr. – James’ younger brother – purchased land in Section 4 of Almont Township, which is on the west side of Van Dyke and between Hollow Corners and Webster Roads.  He also purchased land in Section 33 of Imlay Township but did not develop either parcel until later.

On February 17, 1832, William Boles purchased property in Section 33 of what is now Imlay Township.  This property is located west of Van Dyke between Webster and Hunters Creek Roads.  William Boles was James Deneen’s brother-in-law.  He was married to Sarah Ann Deneen.  William was born on November 25, 1807 in Portage County, Ohio.  He and Sarah were married April 15, 1831 in Milton, Trumbull County, Ohio.  They came to Imlay Township with two children – Samuel Boles born in 1831 and Albert Nixon Boles born in 1832 both in Trumbull County, Ohio.

Sarah and William would have another nine children once they came to Almont.  Annelta Arminta “Annette” Boles was born in 1833 and Melissa Boles was born on March 24, 1835.  The public trees on show that both of these daughters were born in Imlay Township.  However, J. Dee Ellis’ book “Pioneer Families and History of Lapeer County” indicates that Melissa was the first white child born in Imlay Township.  It is possible that William and especially Sarah were staying with James and Betsy when “Annette” was born, which would mean her birth location would be Almont.  Melissa would have been the first white child born in Imlay Township assuming that William and Sarah had completed and occupied their cabin in Imlay Township.  

On July 22, 1833, William purchased property in Section 8 of Almont Township, which would have been about a mile west of James’ property.  The next year on October 29th, James purchased additional property which was located next to William’s.Before 1860, William moved the family to the property in Almont Township.  William died on May 13, 1888 in Imlay City and Sarah passed away on February 7, 1896. 

It wasn’t until the fall of 1832 that Samuel Jr. began construction of his homestead in Section 4.  He also constructed and operated a tannery on the land in Imlay Township.  Samuel and his wife Margaret Conley Deneen had two children, a boy and a girl, born in Ohio.  Sometime after 1850, Samuel moved to Wisconsin where he and Margaret died.  His Find A Grave memorial indicates that he became a doctor.  Margaret died on October 15, 1890 and Samuel died on June 30, 1891. 

On November 12, 1834, Joseph Beard Deneen purchased property in Section 4, which was near Samuel’s.  Joseph would marry Amy Sophronia Edgerton on December 24, 1838 in Bruce Township.  Joseph and Amy would have at least nine children.  John was born in 1845, Ermine Harriet in 1847, Willard Wales in 1849, Clarence E. in 1851, Clark in 1852, Henry in 1853, Ida in 1857, William in 1858 and Byron in 1859.That same year, John Nixon Deneen visited his brothers and sister but did not stay.  Joseph would move to Imlay Township in 1837.In 1840, John finally moved to Imlay Township but the location is not currently known.

John married Ann M. Chapman on June 3, 1836 in Trumbull County, Ohio.  John was born on June 25, 1816 in Milton Township, Trumbull County, Ohio.  Ann was born March 22, 1815 in Youngstown, Ohio.  John and Ann would have four children.  William L. was born in 1839 in Ohio.  The other children were born after moving to Almont.  Edward H. was born in 1847 and Jessie and Charles Henry in 1849.  In 1867, in Lapeer County, John was married a second time to Salley E. Hennesley and there were no known children.  John died on April 30, 1884 in Imlay City but his burial site is not known.

In 1850, Imlay Township was established.  The organizational meeting for Imlay Township was held at the home of Joseph Beard Deneen.  A temporary election board was created with John Nixon Deneen as clerk and Joseph Beard Deneen as one of the inspectors for the election.  A total of 35 votes were cast out of a population of only about 70 people.  

1850 was also the year that James Deneen left Almont leaving his wife and children behind.  He and a group of Almont men known as the “Almont Boys” followed the lure of gold to California.  Unfortunately, James died near Sacramento, California in January 1851.  Elizabeth lived for another 15 years before dying on November 1, 1866 in Imlay City The public family trees on show Samuel Hackett Deneen Sr., dying in Lapeer County in 1845, his wife Phoebe Nixon Deneen dying in Michigan in 1849, and their oldest daughter, Martha Hazel Deneen, dying in Almont on December 1, 1871 but I have not been able to find their final resting places.

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