By David Fleet
Ortonville-When 45 descendants of the Abram Howell gathered at the Edna Burton Senior Center on Aug. 25, 2019—103 years and 6 days had past since the first family reunion Aug. 19, 1916 at the nearby Ball Street home of Sarah Howell Jones.
The 100th Howell Family gathering includes a reunion journal containing the signatures of all family members in attendance at the reunions from 1921 to today.
Kathleen Saunders Leece, 101 years old attended the 2019 family reunion. Kathleen, the daughter of Jennie Howell Sanders, shared her memories of reunions past.
“The Sunday before the Sunday before Labor Day,” said Leece, regarding when the reunion is held. “Each child was asked to speak a piece, sing or dance.”
Leece recalls her moth, Jennie, getting up early in the morning to bake pies and then packing up the family of six for the short walk downtown to the Town Hall in their new school cloths.
“Jennie along with her two brothers, Don and Marion Howell, entertained the family on the piano, banjo and guitar,” she recalled. “Everyone sang danced, and celebrated the opportunity to get together once again.”
The family continues to sing the hymn, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” a century long tradition. From the 11 children born to Abram and Sally Howell from 1842 to 1863, five were represented by their Howell family descendants at the 100th reunion. The Howell family donated to the Ortonville Historical Society to support the construction of the Village Blacksmith Shop in honor of the 100th family reunion.
In 1926 Kittie Howell, then 63 years old composed a story about her father Abram.
In the summer of 1857, Abram Howell with his family, his aged father and his maiden sister, Catherine, moved to Michigan which at that time was practically a wilderness. They came by way of the Old Erie Canal to Sandusky, from Sandusky to Detroit by boat across Lake Erie. From Detroit the men and household goods found transportation on a farm wagon drawn by an oxen team while the roomy and more comfortable two seated carriage drawn by a span of horses was reserved for the women and children. The road, which they had to follow was a mere wage wagon track through the forest, so dim in many places it was followed with difficulty. Very slow and tedious was this part of the journey, but they kept good courage and traveled on until they reached the farm in Groveland Township, which had previously been purchased and where they began the life of a typical pioneer.
Through the house was a small log structure, which by the way was at the time considered to be the only thing, the family gathered at the evening fireside and numbered 14. Yet, there was plenty of room for happiness and a cordial welcome and always extended to all who might wish to come, including young and old.
By David Fleet