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Mrs. Elizabeth O.J. (Chillson) Terbush (1814-1896)
Born at Breadport, VT, and resident of West Bay City, MI..

1892 biography. (Added Jan., 2009)

Portrait and Biographical Record of Saginaw and Bay Counties, Michigan, 1892


(Page 349)

In the quaint and picturesque little town of Breadport, Vt., where the Green Mountains stretch along the eastern horizon, and the blue waters of Lake Champlain for a pleasant foreground, with old Crown Point on the other shore, was born the subject of this sketch, March 17, 1814. It is the inherent right of every child to be well born, and Benjamin and Lydia Moore recognized that right.

It was the fashion in those days to bestow many names on the children, and this Green Mountain girl was christened Elizabeth Ovanda Jane, with the euphonius title of Ovanda for every day use. The mother died when the child was but ten years old and the motherless girl was transferred to the household of her maternal grandfather, James Wilcox, a Revolutionary hero. He was a minute man, one of those who left his plow in the field and without good-bye to his wife or children, shouldered his gun, as the messenger rode through the country calling, “The British are coming!”

James Wilcox was the second man to enter Ft. Ticonderoga when Ethan Allen demanded its surrender “In the name of God and the Continental Congress.” His wife Eunice was equally intrepid and cared for the farm during her husband's absence, although several times she found it necessary to flee on the approach of the British and Indians, and at one such time she returned to find her home in ashes and every living creature either killed or driven off by the red-coats. Despite such hardships the devotion of Grandmother Wilcox to her country's cause never faltered.

Brought up under such influences and with such hereditary tendencies, Ovanda developed into an independent, self-reliant womanhood, a typical Green Mountain woman. Upon the 4th of April, 1834, she was married to a young millwright, Calvin C. C. Chillson, a sketch of whom appears in the Bay County Historical Collection. They were married in Ticondergo, N. Y., and came to Michigan in the autumn of 1836. They spent the winter in Riley and the following spring bought a farm on the Flint River, near the village of Flushing. Here were born their two children, Cornelia M., now Mrs. Moots and Caroline W., who is now Mrs. Faxon.

In those early days times were hard, money scarce and a new farm with a few acres of clearing was rather discouraging to a man brought up in a sawmill, and when Mr. Chillson proposed going to Saginaw and trying his fortune there his wife sanctioned and forwarded the subject, and with a boy of fourteen and two babies kept up the homestead. During the dreary evenings when the doors were barred against prowling Indians and the wolves, whose howl could be often heard in the clearing, she drowned disturbing sounds by the hum of her spinning wheel and the songs of olden times.

In 1849 Mr. Chillson decide that it was best to move his family to Saginaw Valley and their house hold goods were put on a board of craft which was called the ark, and floated down the Flint and Saginaw Rivers to where is now the city of Saginaw. The trip occupied nearly a week and now takes but an hour and twenty minutes to go from point to point. The farm near Flushing was sold and they bought and located permanently in Lower Saginaw in 1853.

It is impossible to write a biographical sketch of our subject that will not include much in regard to her husband, so closely were they allied in sympathy and thought, being of one mind in all philanthropic work. Seasons of trial visited the young community, small-pox raged through the new settlement and was followed by cholera, when the sick, dead and dying lay in nearly every house. Night and day this couple forgetful of self administered to the distressed. They were also known as Black Abolitionists, as they were officers in the underground railroad that bought dusky travelers from the South, and under their roof these fugitives found a welcome shelter and safe guide toward their earthly paradise, Canada.

With the influx of population the vice of intemperance increased and together Mr. And Mrs. Chillson lent voice and influence against the liquor traffic, nor did they desist until the windows of their home were broken and their lives endangered. A German family removed into the place and the mother when dying placed her two weeks' old baby in Mrs. Chillson's arms and asked her to care for it. It was loved and cared for by this benevolent couple until its death five months later, and within the next seven years five motherless children temporarily occupied their home, and the influence of Mr. and Mrs. Chillson provided for them permanent homes. About this time they bought property on the west side upon which they removed in 1860, and in 1864 when there were indications that the toil of years was brightening into financial prosperity Mr. Chillson was called from earth without reaping the reward which he had earned.

After the death of her husband Mrs. Chillson displayed that executive ability which had in a measure lain dormant awaiting development. The tangle of settling the estate was straightened, encumbered property was disencumbered and a valuable estate made available. A wealthy Eastern firm had bought the land lying adjacent to the river and built a mill and a new town was springing up on the west side. Mrs. Chillson platted the forty acres which she had bought and it is now the central part of West Bay City.

A Methodist Episcopal itinerant soon located in the growing town and formed a society which met for worship in public hall. Mrs. Chillson saw the necessity for better quarters, and with characteristic promptness donated the lots for a church building, circulated a subscription and had the building up and partially enclose before a man could be found to take hold of the enterprise. The presiding elder visited the charge and appointed a Board of male Trustees, (it being against Methodist Episcopal discipline for a woman to be a church trustee) but requested Mrs. Chillson to continue to collect funds, which honor she respectfully declined. This first church was begun in 1868, and dedicated in November, 1869. It was burned in 1885, and a fine brick building was erected on the new site nearly opposite the old building. Mrs. Chillson laying the corner-stone.

In 1870 Mrs. Chillson was married to Alexander Terbush, an old friend of former years and a highly respected citizen of Davisburg. Household cares and advancing years were no check to her philanthropy, and other waifs were added to her household until sixteen in all (besides her own) had shared her love and care. Some are now married, some are dead and a few are she knows not where. Mr. Terbush died in 1889; Mrs. Terbush still survives (1892). Her seventy-seven years of life have been full of blessed work and her ear is ever open to the cry of the needy. Her will provides liberally for some kind of charitable institution in which she is deeply interested. These broader fields of humane work are more in harmony with her spirit of doing good than those channels continued by church creed; though for more than fifty years she has been an active member of and a generous contributor to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Since 1874 she had resided outside the city limits and in her pleasant home there she expects to spend the remainder of her life. Surely in the day when she goes to her reward, many shall rise up to call her blessed.

The attention of the reader is invited to a lithographic portrait of Mrs. Terbush presented elsewhere in this volume.

Additional Notes.

    1860 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Chilson, Columbus - b. 1813, New York
  • Oranda, wife - b. 1814, Vermont (Orvanda Moore)
  • Cornelia, daughter - b. 1844, Mich.
  • Caroline, daughter - b. 1847, Mich.

    1870 - Cenus: Mich.

  • Turbush, Alex - b. 1806, New York.
  • E.O.J. C., wife - b. 1814, Vermont (widow of C.C.C. Chilson)
  • Faxon, Caroline, daughter - b. 1846, Mich. (daughter of C.C.C.)
  • Faxon, Marselus, son, unk. - b. 1831, New York
  • Chilson, Josephine, unk. - b. 1861, Mich.
  • Chilson, Henry, unk. - b. 1864, Mich.

    1880 - Census: Bangor, Bay, Mich.

  • Terbush, Alexander -
  • E.O.J., wife - b. 1814, Vermont. (nee Moore, widow of C.C.C. Chillson)
  • Faxon, Caroline, daughter in-law, b. 1846, Mich.
  • Chilson, May, daughter - b. 1861, Mich.
  • Chilson, Henry, son - b. 1864, Mich.
  • Green, Amanda, daughter - b. 1867, Mich.

Related Note & Pages
Mrs. (Wilcox-Chillson) Terbush

Related Pages:
Chillson, Calvin husband
Faxon, Caroline Mrs. dau.
Moots, Cornelia Mrs. dau.
People Referenced
Allen, Ethan
Chillson, Calvin (husband-1)
Faxon, Caroline Mrs. (sister)
Moore, Benjamin (father)
Moore, Lydia Mrs. (mother)
Moots, Cornelia M. (dau.)
Terbush, Alexander(husband-2)
Wilcox, Elizabeth O.J.(subject)
Wilcox, Eunice Mrs. (g-mother)
Wilcox, James (g-father)
Subjects Referenced
Adrian, MI
Bay City, MI
Black Abolitionists
Breadport, VT
Davisburg, MI
Flint River, MI
Flushing, MI
Ft. Ticondoroga
Lower Saginaw, MI
Methodist Episcopal Ch.
Riley, MI
Saginaw, MI
Saginaw Valley, MI
Underground railroad
Wenona, MI
West Bay City, MI
Related Internet Resources
[-] Women's suffrage movement. (Wikipedia)
[-] The underground railroad. (National Geographic)
[-] Book: Voice of Freedom, a story about Frederick Douglass. (Google.com)
[-] Michigan and the underground railroad. (Michigan.gov)
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.