Orson Barber of Calhoun County and the Early Censuses

Census Sunday
By Don Taylor

My 2nd great-grandfather, Franklin E. Barber, was born in Sheridan (Township) Calhoun County, Michigan His marriage record said he was 28 years old and when he married in Calhoun County in November 1869. Likewise, he lived in Calhoun County during the 1870 and 1880 Censuses.

  • 1841 – Born in Sheridan Township, Calhoun County.
  • 1869 – Married in Calhoun County.
  • 1870 – Census lived in Sheridan Township, Calhoun County.
  • 1880 – Census Lived in Albion, Calhoun County.

Because his known life events prior to 1897 all take place in Calhoun County, I am hypnotizing that he probably lived in Calhoun County during the 1860 and 1850 Censuses. Searches for him during these censuses have been unsuccessful, so I thought I’d take a closer look at Barber families in Calhoun County of the 1840s, 50s, and 60s. In the 1840 Census, there were two Barber households in Calhoun County, Orson and Thomas. First, I’ll look at Orson Barber and learn about him.

Orson Barber of Calhoun County, MI

1840 Census

Orson Barber’s household in Pinckney, Calhoun County consisted of:

  • 1 Male, under 5          [Asa J] v. (b. 1835-1840)
  • 1 Male, 20 thru 29      Orson b. (b. 1810-1820)
  • 1 Female, Under 5      [Clarissa A.] (b. 1835-1840)
  • 1 Female, 20 to 29      [Mary A.] (b. 1810-1820)

I was really confused by this entry. Pinckney is located in Putnam Township, Livingston County, Michigan, however, the 1840 Census apparently places Pinckney in Calhoun county, two counties away. Regardless of where Orson Barber and family were in 1840, they definitely moved to Calhoun county in 1843.

1843 – Land Purchase

On 1 February 1843, Orson Barber and Henry L. White of Calhoun County acquired 38.11 acres, the SE¼ of the NW¼ of Section 24 in township One (Clarence Township) South of Range 4 West.

Current map/view of Calhoun County showing where Orson Barber’s farm was in 1843.

1850 Census

The 1850 Census found Orson Barber and family living in Tekonsha Township:

  • Name              Age      Born                Occupation     Real Estate Value
  • Orson              37        New York        Farmer            (Blank)
  • Mary A.           35        Connecticut
  • Clarissa A.       14        New York
  • Asa J.               12        New York        Attended School ¼
  • Harriet L.         5          Michigan         Attended School

1860 Censuses

Orson Barber – The 1860 Census found Orson living in Clarence Township.

  • Name              Age      Born                Occupation     Real Estate Value
  • Orson              49        New York        Farmer            $900
  • Mary A.           46        Connecticut    Housekeeper
  • Asa J.               22        New York        Farmer Labour
  • Harriet L.         15        Michigan         Domestic
  • Martha            20        Michigan         Domestic
  • Frances A.       5          Michigan

It appears that Clarissa is no longer in the household (married, moved, or died).

It appears that Asa married Martha and had a daughter, Frances.

Orson’s farm value in 1860 was the second lowest of the five farms on the census page, which ranged from $800 to $4,000. Still, his farm had 120 acres, 80 of which was improved.

1870 Census

None of the Orson Barber family appear in the 1870 Census in Calhoun County, Michigan. Other researchers suggest he located to Ingham County, Michigan, and he died and was buried there in 1893.

Facts of Orson Barber’s Life

  • 1813 – Orson Barber was born between 1810 and 1813 in New York.
  • 1835 – He married Mary A. [LNU] about 1835.
  • 1836 – His daughter Clarissa was born in New York.
  • 1838 – His son Asa was born in New York.
  • 1840 – He was enumerated in Calhoun County.
  • 1843 – He purchased 38 acres in Clarence Township, Calhoun County, Michigan.
  • 1845 – His daughter Harriet L. was born in Michigan.
  • 1850 – He was farming in Tekonsha Township, Calhoun County, Michigan.
  • 1860 – He was farming in Clarence Township, Calhoun County, Michigan.
  • 1893 – He died in Ingham County, Michigan.

Orson Barber appears in the Agriculture Schedules for 1850 and 1860.

  • Items                             1850    1860
  • Acres Improved            35        80
  • Acres Unimproved      20        40
  • Cash Value of Farm    400      900
  • Value Imp. & Mach.    40        60
  • Horses                            –           2
  • Asses & Mules            –
  • Milch Cows                 2          3
  • Working Oxen            –
  • Other Cattle                –           6
  • Sheep                            –           40
  • Swine                            –           6
  • Value of Live tock       25        252
  • Wheat                             50        150
  • Rye                                 –
  • Indian Corn                 40        250
  • Oats                                              140
  • Rice                               –
  • Tobacco                      –
  • Cotton
  • Wool                                             130

Although it appears that Orson moved around, he seems to have improved with each move. Certainly, his original 38 acres in Clarence Township was unimproved in 1843. By 1850, he had 55 acres, 35 acres had been improved in Tekonsha Township. And by 1860 he had 80 improved acres out of 120 total back in Clarence Township.  Without a doubt, Orson had a prosperous life.

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