History of Original Homesteaders

Like many American families, the family roots are found in the Old World. William Durance, born 1781, and his wife (Frances Dickman) were married April 26, 1817 at Stathern, St. Guthlake, Leicester, England, according to family geneology records. When Daniel Durance was about 10 years old, the family emigrated to Ontario, Canada. Daniel Durance was the father of George Durance, the homesteader of the Durance Farm in Charlevoix.

The 1849 Historic Atlas, County of Lambton, Township of Enniskillen in the Public Library, Petrolia, Ontario reported Daniel Durance was the first postmaster who served until Nov. 2, 1860, and the post office was called Durance (1859-1861). Daniel Durance married Margaret Kitcher in 1843 in Ontario, Canada. They had three sons, Andrew, who died young, William, born 1848, and George, born 1850. After their mother’s early death, and their father’s remarriage to Frances DuPree London, a widow with two sons, William and George moved to Durand, Michigan where they had two uncles living, John and Isaac Durance.

Daniel Durance and his second wife became the parents of 8 more children. After his second wife’s death, Daniel Durance emigrated to Charlevoix, Michigan with his younger children, sons Jone and Daniel, and daughters Julia (Mrs. Thomas Shier), Frances (Mrs. Jake Marshall) and Hannah (Mrs. White) (according to geneology provided by Mrs. Barbara Leachman, Fenton, Michigan, a grand-daughter). Daniel Durance and many of his children are buried in Brookside Cemetery. Daniel lies next to his daughter’s family in Julia and Thomas Shier’s plot.

As young teens, William and George Durance began laying railroad ties northward for the Grand Rapids Indiana Railroad. Eventually they bought a farm near Ellsworth. They suffered a severe reversal of fortune when they lost their team that broke through the ice crossing Long Lake near Petoskey on their return from winter logging. William and George left the Ellsworth farm and William found work at the Mancelona Iron Works, while George came to Charlevoix to work as a mason with mason Henry Hopkins. George helped plaster the four churches on State St.—Congregational, Methodist, Episcopal and Baptist, during that time.

Mary Isabel Cook was born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada in 1864 to William and Phoebe (Haven) Cook. Mary Isabel (Minnie) Cook left her Brantford home to live with relatives in Cleveland, Ohio. She later moved to Boyne Falls to help her aunt and uncle, Samuel and Hannah Slaughter who were homesteading there. Minnie worked for Mary Sanborn, who operated a boarding house near Ironton, when she met George Durance who was working at the Ironton Iron Foundry.

George and Minnie were married in Boyne City, November 29, 1885, and moved to Charlevoix, living in the Eaton House at the end of Stover Road (site of the old sugar factory, now the Marina site). George worked as caretaker for the Kalamazoo Resort Club, later the Belvedere Club. There were three sons born while they lived there, Daniel and twins, Samuel and George (the first twin boys born in Charlevoix). In the fall of 1888, they lost all three infant sons during a polio-like epidemic in Charlevoix.

In November, 1889 they moved to, and later purchased the present Durance Farm property. The children born at the present farm were: Margaret, 1889, Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie), 1891, Frances, 1893, Genevieve, 1894, William, 1895, Albin, 1901, and Myrtle, 1905. George Durance died November 24, 1921, and Mary Isabel, died December 31, 1946. They are buried in a Durance family plot close to the brook, with their daughters, Frances, who lived to be 105 and Myrtle, who died as a teenager, and sons, William and Albin. Their daughter Margaret, trained as a nurse at Providence Hospital, Detroit, and died after surgery there in 1919 at age 30. In a letter to her mother before her surgery, she requested that she be buried with the “babies” if she not survive the operation, and she is buried in the older section of Brookside Cemetery with infants Daniel, Samuel, George, and Lizzie.

The present owners of the farm are Edward George and Shirley Durance, and their four children, Paul William, Stephen Edward, Diane Frances, and Laura Dean. They are the descendents of William and Mildred (Dean). Frances and Albin never married, and Genevieve’s daughter Marygrace Ragan (Robinson) predeceased her with no living descendent.