History of Bay County, Michigan - H.R. Page, 1883
CALVIN CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS CHILLSON.
Calvin Christopher Columbus Chillson, deceased, was born in the township of Ticonderoga, Essex Co., N. Y., in the year 1812. His father, with his young bride, had some years previous come from Vermont and settled, the first one, upon a hill to the present day bears the name of Chillson Hill. Here their numerous family numbering sixteen children, was born, received their long names, which did not impede their growth, and from here went forth, as they grew up, to all parts of our broad land.
In the town of Breadport, Vermont, lived Benjamin Moore. His dwelling stood on one of the beautiful hill slopes that sweep down to the waters of Lake Champlain. Here the ninth of his large family of children was born, on St. Patrick's Day, in the year of 1814. As was the fashion at that time, they gave the baby a long sonorous name, calling her Elizabeth Ovanda Jane Moore.
In course of time, Cupid in wandering about, whether by design or not, sent his arrows flying direct to the hearts of the young man and maiden. As a natural result they were married April 5, 1834, in Ticonderoga.
Mr. Chillson's life had until then been spent in the region rendered famous by the adventures of Gen. Putnam with the Indians. One of the most beautiful of mountain streams waters this region. By its banks and in its adjacent dells, occurred some of the most thrilling adventures of the general. Hence the stream is called Putnam's Creek. In this brook the subject of our sketch was baptized by immersion when he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Believing that the West offered great opportunities to the young and able, he took his few household goods, and with his wife came by way of Erie Canal to Buffalo, thence onward to the almost unknown wilds of Michigan, reaching the state sometime in September, 1836. A short stay at Belle River convinced him that he did not wish to remain there, so he moved to Flushing, Genesee County. Here they were often entertained by the music of howling wolves, their wild concerts being varied by the more hideous music of the savage Indians who came from time to time to hold their pow-wows a few rods from their dwelling.
In this home were born their two daughters, all the children they had. Cornelia was born October 14, 1843; Caroline June 13, 1846. During these years Mr. Chillson was trying to be a farmer. He had cleared and improved some acres, and had a good home well begun; but agricultural pursuits were not at all to his taste, and hearing of the great lumber region of Saginaw Valley, which was just being opened, he came to Lower Saginaw prospecting, in the year 1849. As a result he returned, packed his goods and looked around for the best means of conveying them to Saginaw.
At this time a merchant named Clark occasionally sent various products to the valley. His way of doing this was to build a rude square boat, load it with produce, and taking advantage of high water float the cumbersome thing down the Flint and Saginaw Rivers.
Here was Mr. Chillson's opportunity. He with his family and household effects embarked in the early Spring for their future home. Passengers and crew name the boat “The Ark,” and with the aid of the current and long poles this Noahchian party made a journey of some sixty miles. Many a snag was only just safely passed, and they narrowly escaped serious damage by the falling of a burning tree into the stream just behind them.
One night severe cold came on, when the carpets, bedding and every available article on “Ark” board was called into requisition to keep crew and passengers, especially Mr. Chillson's two small children, warm.
The journey over at length, Mr. Chillson bought a house and some lots on what is now Water Street, Bay City. They were between First and Second Streets. Establishing his fame here, he found employment in one of the mills, a business more congenial to him than farming.
He was a keen-sighted, good business man, and if he had had a little capital to start with would have laid the foundation for a very large fortune.
The prosperity and future greatness of Bay City seemed to be as plain to his mental vision, as now in the fulfillment of his predications years after his decease.
He was one of the first in helping to establish the first Methodist Church organization in Bay City, and for years acted in the capacity of class leader. He was as fully alive in temperance work as in religious affairs.
Like every sea-port town, Lower Saginaw was cursed with the rum traffic, which among the rough hordes gathering in such places, causes a wretched state of affairs, unknown in quiet inland towns.
Good laws were on the statute books but Lower Saginaw lacked sufficient good public opinion to enforce them. Mr. Chillson was elected justice of the peace, and assisted Rev. P. O. Johnson, then missionary among the Indians settled along the Kawkawlin River, sought to enforce the law forbidding the selling of intoxicating drinks to the red men. The long lines of Indians and squaws sometimes twenty at once, issuing from the saloons and reeling and screaming through the streets, was a matter of extreme annoyance to the order-loving class of citizens. Yet while many wished for better things, scarcely one, save these two, dared stand forth opposed to the whiskey sentiment and demand compliance with the law. For many months these two did the best they could; at length Rev. Johnson moved away. About this time Mr. Chillson was taken serious ill. Just before night, one day during his illness, he was moved from the apartment in which he had been hitherto into another room. No noise distrubed the household, yet the next morning revealed the fact that the windows of his abandoned room were broken, while several stones were lying on the floor in such places as to indicate that if the invalid had been there he would have suffered martyrdom for his temperance principles.
About this time, Mrs. Chillson was one afternoon walking from her door down the path to the gate. A man from a neighboring saloon came forth with a gun in his hand. He aimed toward Mrs. Chillson. She, realizing that flight would be useless, continued slowly advancing. The miscreant turned the gun a little to one side and fired, the ball whizzing uncomfortably near her head. Mr. Chillson could endure persecution when directed to himself, but would no longer endanger his family.
After several years' residence in Bay City, he sold his property there, and with part of the proceeds purchased forty acres on the West Side. This piece of land was owned by a Mormon name Smith, who wished to move to some place where other Mormons lived. Mr. Chillson paid him $450 for the forty acres. Now it forms part of West Bay City, and many fine residences are built upon it.
Tramping through the woods with compass and line for his guide, Mr. Chillson looked over the neighboring wild lands quite thoroughly. A road was talked of being put through to Midland. He purchased a half of Section twenty in Town Fourteen North, and Range Five east, saying that if ever a road was put through to Midland it would follow the quarter section line, dividing his purchase in halves. Others contended that the road would follow the section line north of this. After years proved the wisdom of his choice, the present road following the vary line he indicated.
Become weary of farm life again, Mr. Chillson rented his farm and purchased a sash and blind factory on the river bank just above Center Street, in Bay City. This was afterward sold to Thomas Carney, Jr., and during his ownership was destroyed in the first extensive conflagration that visited Bay City.
In all public enterprises Mr. Chillson used his time, means and influence as far as he was able, but now for him life was nearly over. To his family he had often remarked: “Bay City will some day be a large city. You will live to see it, but I shall not.” Now good roads led out of Bay City, railroads were talked of, regular passenger boats came from and west to various ports, a bridge across the river was commenced, and H. W. Sage had begun his great mill.
For days Mr. Chillson worked about the beginning of this mill then returned to his home, one March night, feeling ill. This was in 1864. He lingered in suffering and pain until the 3d of May; then, as the sun was setting brilliantly in the west, he closed his eyes to earthly scenes forever, leaving behind remembrances of a noble character, unsullied reputation, and a name from friend and foe alike of being an honest man.
In all the struggles of life Mrs. Chillson had been a friend and helpmate for her husband. Now she was left to bear the burdens of a state of affairs financially appearing very unpropitious. Endowed with a remarkable business capacity and sound judgment, she brought order out of chaos, and now, at the age of nearly sixty-nine, manages her estate with good success. She believes that we each have a mission in life. Her labor of love seems to be the caring for homeless children. Besides bringing up her own two, she has adopted four others, and has kept in her home, giving them all the privileges of her own children, for a period of from one to four years, thirteen other children. At the present writing three of these remain with her, while others have found good and profitable ways of earning their own living. Mrs. Chillson, in the year 1870, married Alexander Terbosh, a pioneer of Genesee County, and at the present time they reside on a farm one mile west of West Bay City.