Scotch Settlement Letters
Scotch Settlement Letters and Family Memories

Lee Family History

From the 1964 manuscripts of Melissa (Wilson) Lambert (1885-1965)

According to my mother, Mary Jane (Lee) Wilson, the Lee's were of English descent, but lived in Ireland from 1435. The land known as Castle O' My Barney, Rahugh Parish, County Westmeath, Leinster, Ireland was granted to them by the King of England in 1435 for valor shown during the War of the Roses. (Note dates do not coincide with the event.)

Edward and Jane Lee were the parents of Thomas, Eliza, and William Lee, but James Lee was a brother-in-law and a cousin, married to Eliza. His family also lived in County Westmeath, but I don't know how far from mother's folks. They used to visit one another.

All but William emigrated to the United States before 1860 and settled in Michigan: Thomas, 4 miles east of Almont; a brother-in-law, Thomas Glanvills, 1000 acres northeast of Almont; and James, in the Scotch Settlement.

In 1865, William Lee and his wife Margaret Neil or Neale Lee, of Scottish ancestry, followed his siblings to America. With them were their three children, Edward, Mary Jane, and George. It was a long and tedious voyage. A bad storm prolonged the trip and passengers were locked in their cabins for a time. It was feared the ship would be lost. Margaret became very sick, terribly frightened, and homesick. Mary Jane's most vivid memories upon arrival in New York were of hearing the newsboys calling EXTRAS that President Lincoln had been shot and being entertained by the Dobbyns for a time!

From New York, the family traveled to Michigan to live near Thomas and James. At Belle River, William bought or was given a grant of land with a small log house on it. Living conditions were very primitive. Margaret, a very beautiful woman with auburn hair and a heart-shaped face, never adjusted to her new home or regained her health after the trip. She finally passed away not long after their new baby, Richard, was born in Michigan.

Mary Jane tried to keep house for her father and brothers. Baby Richard was cared for by a neighbor. After a time, William brought home a new bride, Annie Murphy, much to Mary Jane's relief. She was a wonderful woman and a loving mother to the four stepchildren as well as her own three children, Sarah, Kate, and little Robert who died in infancy. To her and William were born three children, William Jr., Margaret, and Walter.

Grandfather Lee must have been very hard up financially for a time. He sold the sterling silver by the pound to a family in Memphis, MI. After he married our stepmother things were better. She was a hard worker. She raised turkeys, chickens, and geese. Every bed had one or two huge feather mattresses. She had a wonderful garden. Most important she gave the little half-orphans love. She must have been especially tender with little Richard. A neighbor, Mrs. Eastman told me that she and Mr. Eastman visited them and she thought our step grandmother very partial to Richard. Richard was small and Willy, her first born by our grandfather, was large so it was easy to mistake Willy for the stepson.

Edward, in his early teens, had idolized his beautiful mother and naturally wanted nothing to do with a stepmother. He ran away but Grandfather Lee went after him and brought him home. I think he finally succumbed to Annie's goodness. They used to argue about pronunciations. Grandmother Annie Lee had her English dictionary and Edward, an American one. She was well educated and had been a governess in wealthy homes in England. We begged her to tell us of London where she had visited all the famous places and laid her head on the block where Queen Mary was beheaded. My mother must have thought I might not love Grandmother Lee as much if I knew she was my step-grandmother - finally Grandmother herself told me. I don't remember any reaction except that I couldn't have loved her more. Grandfather Lee was very religious. I was always afraid of him.

My mother, Mary Jane, was a wonderful story teller. We never tired of tales of Ireland. There was the beggar Larry Hacket who used to come to the door with, "Shure Mistress Lee could ye be after letting me have a cup of foreign leaves and scalding wather?" and the old woman who crept up behind a Leprechaun and captured him! She wouldn't let him go until he showed her where his gold was buried. It was at the foot of a daisy which she marked by tying her garter to it while she went for a spade to dig up the gold. When she came back, every daisy in the field had a garter just like hers tied to it.

Eventually, Edward went to Flint, MI and became a lawyer. Richard Lee, MD was killed by a runaway horse when it hit a tree. He never married.