A One-Name Study
for the BARNUM/BARNHAM Surname
Notes for Frederick CHRISTLER
The following information is quoted from "Up the Schwartz," a book about the history of Schwartz Creek, MI:
During the Revolutionary War, the British imported to the American colonies a large group of mercenaries from Hesse, Germany. Included in these troops of Hessians were five brothers named Christler (also spelt Chrystler). Following the end of the Revolutionary War, one of the brothers remained behind in America, married and raised a family including a son, Frederick. In the late 1820s this same Frederick Christler and his wife, Martha Bennett Christler moved their family westward from Seneca County, New York to Ohio. Leaving Ohio they moved first to Linden [Michigan], near Miller's Settlement where Frederick built the first gristmill.
In 1833 Frederick Christler walked to Lansing to buy 125 acres for 12-1/2 cents an acre, located on Reid and Sharp Roads. So strictly budgeted that there was nothing left for incidentals, Christler carried his lunch and supplemented his diet with nuts and apples picked along the route to Lansing. Frederick and Martha Christler were the parents of seven children, including four sons. Three of their sons joined the Union forces during the Civil War, two of them dying. The youngest son, James Carlo, remained at home, too young to fight but old enough to do his brothers' chores around the farm.
James married Elizabeth Barnum whose descendants were Scot-English from the state of New York. A second cousin of master showman, P. T. Barnum, of the "Barnum and Bailey Circus'' -- the Christlers always received free tickets whenever the circus came to town. [N.B.: Elizabeth Thankful Barnum and Phineas taylor "P. T." Barnum were actually fourth cousins once removed]. The young Christlers were the parents of nine children including six strapping sons towering over six feet in height. They were Raymond, Frederick, George, Alonzo, Dawson and Lockwood. In addition there were three Christler daughters: Sarah, Orpha and Rosella. The family was raised on the farm that Frederick bought and worked on Reid and Sharp Roads between the years 1864-1895.
Money was a scarce commodity and like many of their neighbors, the Christlers depended on a barter and trade system to survive. Hay was sold to the livery stables for $5 or $6 a load to pay the taxes on the land or a cord of wood was used to obtain a new harness for the horses. Oats sold for 12 cents a bushel. One year Frederick sold and traded enough to wind up with a $300 profit, money that made him feel like a very rich man.
There were no taxes levied for roads then, so residents of any one community would find themselves assessed for labor instead. Crews would be organized of local manpower to build, repair and maintain a township's roads. Often the road leading from Sharp and Reid into Flint or Swartz Creek was so bad, in the rainy seasons, that a horse would be unable to lift its foot out of the mire to pull ahead. The clay was often so heavy and sticky that the horses would sometimes have to lie down in the road to rest before they could continue the journey into town.
The Christler family, like their neighbors, attended the local Kline School. Alonzo Barnum Christler married Rose LaFray and became the father of two children: Lavern, who married Helen Good and Violette, who became the wife of Ivan Washburn. The Washburns had a daughter, Arlene, who married Tom C. Hartley, was the mother of a daughter, Linda who is now Mrs. Henry Jennings. Linda Hartley Jennings remembers that the buildings on her great-grandparents' farm were often filled with hidden surprises like yellow kittens, baby lambs, puppies and banty eggs hidden in the barn.
The senior Christlers raised not only their two children but several nieces and nephews as well, following the deaths of their parents. They were also the favorites of many of the children in the neighborhood. Linda recalls that the two of them were always taking a group of children on a picnic or hunting flowers in the woods or constructing a tent over the piano bench and pretending to be cowboys to a great-granddaughter's Indian. The Christler farms were located on both sides of Sharp Road south of Reid Road which was eventually sold for a subdivision.
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