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Nellie Harrington, age 4

Nellie J. Harrington was born on January 16, 1882 in Orleans Township, Ionia County, Michigan. She was the youngest of three children and only daughter of Edwin C. Harrington and Alpha “Alfie” Amelia Johnson. Nellie had two older brothers, Erie Wellington, born 1875, and Warren, born 1879.

In August 1885, Alpha Harrington died of a strangulated hernia. According to the death record, her husband Edwin was still living at the time of her death, but soon after, the children had scattered to different households. Nellie went to live with the family of Sanford and Mary White of Campbell Township, Ionia County, Michigan. It is unclear when Nellie joined the White household. It may have been directly after her mother’s death when she was three years old, or sometime later. Sanford White and his wife, Mary Waller, had two older children: Elmer S, born 1868, and Sarah E, born 1870. Sarah died in 1890 and is buried in Clarksville Cemetery.

Nellie Harrington as a teenager, maybe 15. Circa 1897. Courtesy of Beth Mowery.

Sometime after 1894, Lapeer County native William Firman Carter traveled to Campbell Township, possibly to visit his grandmother Sarah Bradshaw Firman, who also lived in Campbell Township, and to find work. While there, he met Nellie Harrington. The couple married on September 22, 1898 at Campbell Corners. Witnesses were William’s brother, Norman Carter, and Nellie’s adopted sister-in-law, Mrs. E.S. White.

William Firman and Nellie Harrington Carter remained in Campbell Township, where William worked on Sanford White’s farm. The couple had their first child, daughter Florence Gladys, on April 11, 1899. Their second daughter was born on June 30, 1900. According to the 1900 U.S. Census, which was recorded two weeks before, the Carter family lived near the White family in Campbell Township. Nellie’s adopted aunt, Mrs. Sarah White Van Tassel, who most likely helped Nellie with household duties and taking care of one-year-old Florence before and after having her second child. Unfortunately, the new baby died three months later on October 2, 1900 of Cholera Infantum and was buried without a stone in Clarksville Cemetery. William and Nellie’s third child, Leon Jay Carter, was born June 17, 1901, and another son, Sanford White Carter, would be born December 21, 1903 in Attica, Lapeer County (however, his birth certificate is filed in Ionia County).

A photo of Nellie and William Carter, perhaps a wedding photo. Circa 1898.

This is just an assumption, but I believe that sometime in late September or early October of 1903, William and Nellie left Campbell Township and traveled with their children to Attica, Lapeer County. Nellie would have been about six months pregnant at the time, and it would have corresponded with the beginning of the farming “off-season.” Traveling by rail would have been the easiest conveyance for the family, since the train connected nearby Saranac to Lansing and Attica. A slower (and much less comfortable for a pregnant woman) option would have been traveling by horse and wagon along present-day Corunna Road/M-21. The reasons the family decided to travel to Attica in 1903 are speculative at best. William’s entire family lived in Attica or nearby in Lapeer County, and they most likely stayed with his parents Dana Park and Eliza Firman Carter for the holidays. William may have also been planning a permanent move to the east side of the state, as the area had begun to flourish with the success of the vehicle industry in nearby Flint.

Nellie gave birth to Sanford on December 21, most likely at her father-in-law’s house in Attica. One week later on December 28, she died of Peritonitis and heart failure as a result of puerperal fever. According to her death record, Nellie J. Carter is buried in Clarksville Cemetery, Clarksville, Ionia County, but no stone has been found. According to descendants of her daughter Florence Carter Scramlin, the building that held the cemetery records burned, destroying any information about where she may be buried.

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