Pioneer Families of Grand Traverse County, Michigan



Ira Chase (1829-1919) and Susanah Fillmore (1841-1912)

Susanah Fillmore. Susanah was born 24 September 1841 in New York, daughter of Ebenezer Fillmore and Harriet Bessey. She was married on 3 July 1863 in Lenawee County, MI to Ira Chase. Ira was born in 1829 in St. Lawrence County, New York, the son of Joseph and Electa Harrington Durga. His parents were unable to care for him and he was adopted by John and Betsey Chase. According to his Civil War volunteer enlistment record, Ira was 5 ft 7 1/2 inches tall, brown hair, brown eyes, and a fair complexion.

Ira and Susanah moved to Long Lake township, Grand Traverse County, MI in 1862 or 1863 "when it was a wilderness." The Grand Traverse Herald noted that: It might not be out of place to give one little incident of the pioneer life of Ira Chase, who came here and settled on the southeast quarter of section 17, in February 1862, where he still resides.

Early in February of '62 E. Fillmore, who was then living in Whitewater town, brought Mr. Chase out to his land, which he entered. The snow was then near three feet deep, and they had to cut their own road through the forest from section 11. When they arrived to erect his cabin, they cut a place for it and built a rude one, camping out for a while. They worked away until they got it erected, when they went back to Whitewater for a few days. Then Mr. Chase came back alone and shoveled a large amount of snow off of the cabin and put a roof on it. He then went and brought his wife, who was the first white woman that settled west of Long lake, and they set to work gathering moss to chink the house with. They thus began life in the wilderness. Mr. Chase supported his family by hunting and trapping principally. He has killed fifteen black bear in these regions since coming, and numerous other wild animals. Hay in those times was worth from $30 to $40 per ton in Traverse City, and other things for man and beast were in the same proportion.

Ira enlisted in Grand Rapids in October 1864 and served in the Civil War in the 10th Michigan Cavalry. He was stationed in Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN; Chattanooga, TN; Knoxville, TN; and Strawberry Plains, TN. In the latter place he did picket duty and suffered from the extreme cold, standing in mud ankle deep. Apparently, Ira's shoes had fallen apart and all that remained were the upper portions. He stuffed rags into these to keep the mud out and slept with his feet "near the stove and getting them real warm." Eventually he was sent to the hospital in Knoxville and was given a pair of shoes. The doctor used "Hartshone liniment" on his feet and legs. He was discharged on 20 May 1865 in Knoxville and arrived back at Long Lake on 3 June 1865.

Less that a year later the Grand Traverse Herald for 18 May 1866 reported on a disaster the Chase family underwent.


"A Sad Calamity-The dwelling house of Ira Chase, who resides on the west side of Long Lake, in this township, was entirely consumed by fire on Thursday last, while he was absent in Traverse City. All his household furniture, clothing and the clothing of his family, together with all his provisions, including two or three hundred pounds of maple sugar, were burnt. He also lost a considerable sum of money. His barn was also burned, and a span of French Ponies perished in the flames. A cart, all his grain, and, in short, everything that he possessed, except the clothing on his back, was destroyed."

In 1870, the Chase farm was worth $1600 and their personal possessions were worth $200. Ira received a land patent for 155.35 acres in section 17 of Long Lake twp on 20 August 1873. Seven years later the Chases lived in Long Lake twp. next door to Susanah's parents. In February 1882 the Chase's burned again. Ira rebuilt the house, beginning in April and finishing in November. The newspaper reported that a son-in-law was visiting in May 1884. The following February, Ira had to go and plow the ice off of Long Lake with his pony team so that the ice could thicken. The ice was needed so that horse teams could unload logs at the lake. Ira resigned from the Long Lake Friends Church in 1890.

Ira and Susan's marriage was quite stormy. On one occasion Ira chased Susan around their house with a frying pan until her sister Phebe threatened him with an axe. Susanah sued Ira for divorce in 1891. The divorce was granted on 23 April 1891 by the Circuit Court of Grand Traverse County. Benjamin Durga testified: "Mr. Chase has used obscene and abusive language and when she was out to church he would lock her out and she would have to come to my house, about half a mile, to stay over night. He called her a God damned lying thing and has talked mean and abusive to her and about her. And he talked meaner to her than to any one else. He is naturally a rough talking man swears a great deal, he has (illegible) so treated her. She has worked on the farm and done more on the farm than he has. He accused her of stealing his money. For me what I know she has supported herself and him. She has picked berries, gone 4 1/2 miles to wash and worked very hard to support herself and family. He has never done much to support the family nor cloth them. She told me in his presence that he struck her and pulled her hair. He did not deny it. She has always performed her duties well as a wife..."

David Wares testified: I am related to Chase being first cousin defendant. They have lived there all this time. I live about 3/4 of a mile from them. I have been to their house frequently. He has treated her rough. He called her all kinds of names. made her earn her own living and work out on the farm and go out washing while he would sat around doing nothing. He is an able bodied man. I don't think he has contributed any thing to her support the last year. He is able to do it, has money all the time but won't do any thing for the family. I heard him say he was going up there and take what apples he was a mind to and if she resisted him taking the apples he would stomp the dammed shit right out of her. He told me she was a damned bitch and a damned whore and he wouldn't provide another thing for her and I don't think he has since. She has been a hard working woman and very saving and I should say been a dutiful wife in her conduct towards him."

Ira Chase answered the divorce complaint. He denied that he was guilty of extreme cruelty and had not practiced personal violence toward her. He stated that he had not lived with her for a year, although he visited the house frequently. "Defendant admits that he went to complainants house on the 4th day of October 1890 and pushed her down but alleges that it was done in defense of his person that he went into a back room of the house to get a peck measure, that as he was passing through the room complainant broke a club over his head and took a rolling pin a struck him three times with it whereupon he pushed her out of his way and she fell over a chair and denies that he called her a god damned bitch or that he has ever punished his son Dominick except in moderation and to enforce obedience....Defendent alleges that he is 61 years of age and is troubled with rheumatism and kidney complaint and his eye sight is failing him and he is unable to do very little work, that he was driven from home a year ago by the abuse of complainant. That complainant told him just before (sic) he left that if it had not been for the law she would have killed him long ago and she and the boys could get along better without him than with him, that complainant has used large quantities of alcohol for the last twenty years and has been frequently under its influence that at such times it is almost impossible to live with her; that in the spring of 1868 defendant had saved about two hundred dollars and while defendant was away she took the money and left him that he followed her and got most of the money back and complainand (sic) remained away for some time and then came back and wanted defendant to take her back again which he did, that again in 1877 complainant took most of the beding in the house and fifteen dollars of defendant's money and left him again and after being away six weeks came back and wanted defendant to take her back again which he died. That soon after this she tried to get their daughter, Irinda to poison defendant and has threatened to poison defendant at different times since then, that defendant had a pet dog to which he was very much attached and complainant about one year ago in order to vex and annoy defendant took the dog, tied his legs together and buried him alive..."

Ira Chase later married Ella Benjamin Middleton on 13 August 1893 in Long Lake twp. James M. Elliot, Justice of the Peace, performed the ceremony, which was witnessed by David Wares, Jr. and James M Elliot of Long Lake twp. The 31 August 1893 issue of the Grand Traverse Herald reported that "Ira Chase and Mrs. Middleton were united in matrimony last Wednesday. Mr. Chase is putting up a fine residence on his farm; it is a great improvement to that road. Joy and peace for the future." Ella was born in 1859/1860 in Michigan and had been previously married to Edward Middleton, who she divorced in 1893.

Ira and Ella's marriage did not survive long, by 1901 he had filed for a divorce. In 1900 and 1910, Ira was living alone on his farm in Long Lake twp. Ira Chase died on 24 June 1919 (aged 90 y 10 m 10 d). He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery (Lot 241) in Traverse City.

Susan was next married to David Wares on 23 April 1891 in Traverse City. David was born in 1840/1841 in New York. His mother's maiden name was Clarissa Harrington. This marriage also ended in divorce in 1894.

Susan was married in 1895 to Cornelius Jones. Cornelius was born around 1855, the son of Comitias and Elizabeth Carick Jones. He died prior to 1910.

Lastly, she was married on 24 September 1910 in Grand Traverse County to Albert LeVere. Albert was born around July 1837. He served in the Civil War. He died 17 November 1912 in Traverse City after suffering from cancer of the stomach.

Susan died in November 1912 in Traverse City with her cause of death listed as cardiac insufficiency (her date of death varies between records, cemetery records say date of death was 2 December whereas the Traverse City Record Eagle printed her obituary on 8 November). She is buried in Linwood Cemetery.


i. Ida Estelle Chase born 12 February 1863 in Long Lake township.

ii. Irinda Chase born 20 March 1867 in Long Lake township. Irinda was in 4th grade at school in July 1881.

iii. Irene Chase born 13 October 1869 in Long Lake township.

iv. Ebenezer Chase born in April 1873 in Long Lake township.

v. Domineck Chase born on 3 November 1875 in Long Lake twp.

Pioneer Families of Grand Traverse County