Esther Jenks Lee
Grandma Lee died 10 February 1918, 101 years ago. She was my grandfather’s grandmother [my great great grandmother]
Three years before Michigan became a state – in 1832, to be exact, a baby girl was born on a farm on the Burg Road in Southfield Township – and was Christened Esther Jenks. She was the daughter of Morris and Almira Botsford Jenks. Of course, in those days, the present day road was called the Reservation Trail and the very few clergymen who made that trail two or three times a year visiting the several Indian reservations in the south part of Oakland County were known as Indian Missionaries. But the Jenks homestead was known all over southeast Michigan as a place where hospitality was a habit. And one of not more than 10 or 15 similar places in Wayne County outside of Detroit which at that time boasted of about 2000 inhabitants.
The babe, Esther Jenks, grew in the homestead in the woods to girlhood, of handsome face and figure, sweet disposition, and a pronounced character marked by industry, thrift, and uprightness. At about the age of 17, she went to Detroit and, staying with her Aunt Mary Botsford Cook, she attended the old Cass School for two or three terms. At the close of her school days – often interrupted by the general community conditions common to pioneers, she emerged a young woman of rare intelligence.
I think the young people of her day enjoyed themselves far more than those of today. Their pleasures were simple and perhaps far apart but were satisfactory and were thoroughly appreciated. I have heard Esther tell many amusing and interesting stories of her youthful days. But. I am sorry to say that my memory has failed and I remember but a few instances and have had to depend on others and items from newspapers for a good bit of my information. But once when they still lived in the old log house, Uncle Smith Jenks lived a little south of the corners on the west side of the road. And one fine evening a lot of the young folks decided to go down to Uncle Smith’s calling. Esther was entertaining her very first beau, so they walked slowly and let the others get there a few minutes ahead. Then walking up to the door, they very politely knocked. Instead of the door being opened with an invitation to enter, someone sang out, “Come in if you’re fat — stay out if you’re lean.” Esther’s dignity received such a shock that she marched her escort back home very much disgusted with the rest of the crowd.
Another time, a young man came to take her and sister, Minerva, to a party and one of them said “I haven’t a thing to wear” and the young man said, “You’d better stay home then.” I never knew who these two young men were but I do know she did not marry her first beau.
This other little remembrance of her dignity and uprightness was with other little notes and items that he remembered hearing his parents speak about, Mr Frank Lee, kindly handed over to help me out in writing a little about their happy youthful days. At one time, two of the Lee boys, George and Charlie, then living west of the stone school house, hitched up a four horse team to a sleigh and packing up a half dozen couples, drove to Birmingham. Besides the young teamsters, there were Esther Jenks, Helen Babcock, Julia Waters, John Hutchins and wife, Mr and Mrs Hut Hall, a Miss Hicks, and, I think, a sister for John Hutchins. They were expecting a Mrs Wallets (sister of John Harmon) would have a turkey dinner or, at least, an oyster stew for them. So with appetites sharpened by the 10 mile ride in the cold night air, they drove up to the Willets’ house. But, there was no fire in the parlor. A quilt was on the dining room and no fire there. Some of the girls were so much at home that they went out in the kitchen to get warm and took the others along much to the disgust of Mrs Willets. After it came to the crowd that they would have neither turkey dinner or oyster stew or even a whack at a cold ham bone, the boys gathered up some crackers, cheese, and candy and started home and, I suppose, had as much fun on the homeward journey, as they did going. Those living along the way got out as they came to their homes. George Lee left his girl at her father’s (John Waters). Also, the sleigh bells and Buffalo robe. And Miss Hicks was also let out at her gate. When they came to the stone school house corners the 4 horse team did not fancy going east instead of toward home and it took about all the horsemanship the boys had to make the turn right side up. And when they got to the Babcock house they were so busy keeping the horses from getting hopelessly tangled up that Miss Helen gathered up the robe and found her way to the door alone. When they got back to the corner again, they had quite a time to get the horses to go south to the Jenks place and by the time they got there, the boys had all four horse team ride they cared for so unhitched the leaders with the idea of leading them behind the sleigh. In the scramble they did not pay much attention to Miss Esther Jenks and so as she was going in the gate, she turned and said, “I don’t mind going in alone, but I’ll be darned if I’ll lug in the buffalo robe.” But even at that neither she nor Miss Waters went back on their beau teamsters. For they at least helped to tote the buffalo robes all the rest of their lives.
Esther Jenks, daughter of Morris and Almira Botsford Jenks, became the bride of Charles Norton Lee, son of Horatio and Hannah Munn Lee on December 25, 1855. The ceremony was performed by the Rev Robert Lanning at the home of the bride’s parents. They were attended by her brother, Leman, and Lydia Sickner Jenks, his bride of a few weeks. After dinner a load of the young folks went for a sleigh ride to Detroit. The two young married couple stayed and made a visit. The bride’s dress was an all wool Challis, ashes of roses in color, and made with a very long full skirt, little tight waist with a leg of mutton sleeves, and an embroidered silk collar. The wedding guests included a number of Mr Lee’s near relatives as well as a number of the bride’s cousins from Detroit.
The Reunion Papers of the Jenks Family – Eva Seymour Jenks
And from the Notes on the 1918 reunion from the same manuscript:
At her home, “the old Jenks homestead” in Southfield, Michigan, February 1 0, 1918, Esther Jenks Lee, aged 85 years, beloved mother of Mrs. Effie Weaver [my great grandmother], Mrs. Myra Churches, Mrs. Etta Wright, and Mrs. Ora Churches. Mrs. Lee was the last one of Morris Jenks children and leaves to mourn her loss (besides her children) a number of loving grandchildren, a sister-in-la w, Mrs. Oliver Jenks, and a host of other relatives and friends. Her last days were seemingly free from pain. Her only complaint being “so tired” and so soft and so still did she leave us, that none save the Angels could tell precisely the moment when Jesus recalled her to Heaven to dwell. Her funeral was held February 13, and was attended by hundreds from Oakland and Wayne counties, and she was laid to rest beside her beloved husband and only son in Southfield Cemetery. – Eva Seymour Jenks.
And the obituary from the Southfield Newspaper: Three years before Michigan became a state – in 1833 to be exact – a baby girl was born on a farm on the Burg Road in Southfield township and she was christened Esther Jenks. Of course, in those days the present day road was called the “Reservation Trail” and the very few clergymen who made that trail two or three times a year – visiting the several Indian Reservations in the south part of Oakland county, were known as Indian missionaries. But the Jenks homestead was known all over southeast Michigan as a place where hospitality was a habit and one of not more than ten or fifteen similar places in Wayne county, outside of the city of Detroit which at that time boasted of about 2,000 inhabitants.The babe, Esther Jenks, grew on the “homestead in the woods” to girlhood, of handsome face and figure, sweet disposition and a pronounced character marked by industry, thrift and uprightness. At the close of her school days – often interrupted by the general community conditions common to pioneers, she emerged a young woman of rare intelligence and grace. Still she lived on the old farm. At 23 years of age she became the wife of Charles M. [ed.- N.] Lee – who died in 1905. And they lived on the old farm, rearing a large family and winning the respect and admiration of all in the rapidly growing neighborhood. Life to them was satisfying and prosperous. After the death of her husband Mrs. Lee still remained on the old farm until Sunday, February 10, when she died, for eighty-five years being a resident on the farm. A very rare record. The children were Emma, Estelle who died at three years of age; Welly Lee who died last fall, Mrs. Effie L. Weaver, Mrs. Myra H. Churches, Mrs. Etta Wright and Mrs. Ora Churches, all of whom are still living. Mrs. Lee’s funeral, held last Wednesday afternoon was attended by hundreds from Oakland and Wayne counties and the burial was in the Southfield cemetery. Rev. Evans officiated. The funeral arrangements were under the supervision of R. B. Northrup. Grandma Lee is laid to rest in the Southfield Cemetery with her husband, Charles Norton Lee and their beloved son, Lewellyn Lee [Uncle Willy] who passed away the year before.