The Alfords

Some time ago, in consultation with others looking into this family line, Benedict Alford (b. 1756 Windsor, CT-d. 1838 Troy, Geauga, OH) and Hulda Hickock (b. 1757, Norwalk, CT – d. 1839 Troy, Geauga, OH) fell into place as the better of several candidates for William’s parents. They had mysteries of their own: We know from records that Benedict Alford married a woman named Hulda, but her surname is never mentioned. We know from documents that Benedict and Hulda had three sons. One is confirmed: Benedict Alford Jr. Another is strongly inferred from records linking him to this family: Ammi Alford. The third son is unnamed.

We identified Hulda Hickox, who was born in Norwalk in Connecticut on 1 Nov 1757 as one of the likely candidates for the wife of Benedict—everything fits, but again there is no hard documentary evidence. But there is compelling circumstantial evidence: Ammi Alford’s first child is named Jane Hickock Alford and his fifth is named Hulda. Naming children for parents or grandparents was common.

The family lost contact with the two younger boys after the War of 1812 in which all three boys were participants. Ammi stayed in Vermont, Benedict Jr. moved west with his parents, and the unnamed son disappears.

By February 14, 1837, Benedict Alford resided in Troy, Geauga County, Ohio with his son Benedict Jr. We know this because he made formal application to have his veteran’s pension changed from New York to Ohio. We also know from the records that Benedict Jr. stayed close to and probably cared for his parents for 30 years until their deaths.

In the Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. I, A-E, as abstracted by Virgil D. White1 we find this relevant quote: son Benedict Alford, Jr. lived in Troy OH in 1859 aged 73 … made reference to 2 brothers one in MO & the other in Lower Canada …” 2 Benedict Jr. also stated that neither brother had been heard from for 40-50 years.

The ancestry of William Alford (abt 1796 – 4 Aug 1849) may now be solved. Stories passed down to the Alford and Gunn grandchildren say that the father of William Alford was a soldier in the Revolution, and that William himself was in the War of 1812. Some in the family thought he was captured and a prisoner in Canada for a while. There were various opinions about his place of birth.

Records show, in fact, that the Benedict Sr. mentioned above was indeed a veteran of the Revolution, and show that a William Alford, an Ammi Alford and a Benedict Alford, all from Vermont, were veterans of the War of 1812.

Ammi apparently did not go to Missouri as his brother Benedict Jr. believed, but stayed in Vermont and raised a family there. However, William did go to Canada (to Eramosa, Ontario) where he also married and raised a family, and later moved Michigan. It is likely that he is the missing third brother. Though there is no hard evidence, all the pieces fit, strongly suggesting that William Alford is the missing Alford brother.

William enlists in the War of 1812 in Benedict’s Regiment of the New York Militia in Frankfort, Herkimer County, New York in June 1812. He is wounded at the Battle of Fort Detroit in August and is honorably discharged at Ogdensburgh, New York, on 7 January 1813.

In the 1820’s his name appears in Belleville, Ontario, Canada as one of “the builders up of Belleville and the neighborhood…” On June 30, 1827 William purchased 100 acres on lot 17, 2nd concession for £38 from Robert McCormack. It is speculated that he might have been a land investor in Belleville since he paid for the McCormack land in cash without ever taking out a mortgage.

William Alford lived on his farm and improved it until March 12, 1838, at which time he suddenly sold it for £125 to his sister-in-law, packed his family (wife and 6 children) into a sleigh, and headed for the border with the United States.

In 1837, Canada went through a period of revolt, centered in that part of Ontario, led by William McKensie. Seven men were arrested in Eramosa and on March 8, 1838 the seven were given ten days to prepare their defense. Although William was not one of them, it is interesting to note that he and Martha McCullough sold their much improved land 4 days later and left the country. This strongly suggests that William was involved in some way and was eager to leave before suffering the consequences.

William is listed in the “History of Kalamazoo” as a land owner on May 7, 1838, but this date probably refers to the date he and his family arrived in Kalamazoo. He actually purchased 80 acres [in Section 14 of Kalamazoo County] on October 10, 1840 and listed his residence as Hilton County, Ontario, Canada. They lived in Alamo until William’s death on August 4, 1849. From court documents dated 1854 and 1860, it is evident that upon his death his property was probated and actual title to the property was transferred to his wife, Martha McCullough Alford.

The Alfords had 14 children: Eliza Jane, George Washington, Robert McCullough, Abigail Hannah, Mary Maria, Sarah Ann, Idena, William Henry Harrison, Martha A., Freelace Maria, Esther Louise, Francis, Helen Caroline, and Joseph Franklin. The first six were born in Wellington, Ontario and made the trip to Kalamazoo with their parents in 1838. The last eight were born in Kalamazoo. Six of these– Idena, Martha A., Freelace Maria, Francis G. and Joseph– died before adulthood and according to Martha McCullough’s obituary are buried with William and Martha in Greenbower Cemetery, Alamo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan.

Life was not easy in those years. Not only did the Alfords lose nearly half their 14 children before adulthood, but they also suffered another extraordinary tragedy. Their son, George Washington Alford, was a Corporal in Company D of the 6th Michigan Infantry, enlisting on 20 Aug 1861. He died at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from wounds he received in action at the Battle of Port Hudson on the 28th of July, 1863. He was only 29 years old. He is buried in the Baton Rouge National Cemetery, the original one in the city. His name is misspelled: Alfred.

While in Louisiana George received word that his beloved 5-year-old daughter, Stella, had died. One of several letters, still in possession of the family, describes his grief at the news. George himself dies in July 1863 and his wife and first son die of cholera a year later, leaving the last and youngest child orphaned. His name was George Washington Alford Jr. He was informally adopted and at some point changed his name to Adams.

The Alfords and the Gunns
The Gunn and Alford family lines were joined with the marriage of Christopher Conrad Gunn and Helen Caroline Alford on August 15, 1877 in Kalamazoo. According to census data, in 1880 they were living in Oshtemo with Caroline’s son William Slack (who would later take the Gunn name). In 1900 and 1910 they were in Almena, Van Buren County and their sons Conrad Glenn and Irwin Simpson are with them. By 1920 they are living in Watervliet, Berrien County. Christopher died there two years later on August 2 and is buried in the West Oshtemo Valley Cemetery. Helen died on December 15, 1924 from the effect of inhaling illuminating gas which had escaped from a broken main in front of the residence of her son, Dr. Conrad Glenn Gunn in East Kalamazoo. She is also buried in the West Oshtemo Cemetery.3

  1. The National Historical Publishing Company, Waynesboro, TN, 1990.
  2. pages 30 and 31.
  3. For an article on the death of Helen Gunn, see The Kalamazoo Gazette, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Monday, December 15, 1924, Pages 1 and 2.

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