Huston Family, Alpena, MI

 

My motherís father was Thomas Merrick Huston, son of Joseph and Annie Huston. His family, headed by another, earlier Joseph Huston came originally from the Belfast area of Ireland sometime in the early 1800's. They moved first to Canada, then to Iowa, and then back to Michigan. T. Merrickís father, Joseph, married Annie McDade, a sister of Tom McDade, a prominent Alpena lumberman at the turn of the century.

 

The Hustons lived on a farm that they bought from the brother Tom McDade. It was a piece of logged-over land on the South Branch of the Thunder Bay River between M-32 and the Fletcher Floodwaters (or the land that became the Fletcher Floodwaters before there was a dam or floodwaters behind the dam). My grandfather, Merrick Huston, married Elsie Munns, a young English immigrant around 1918. He died in 1928 while he was still a young man of 38, leaving two young children, my mother Catherine, and a brother, Bob. He was buried with his parents in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Alpena.

 

My maternal grandmother, originally Elsie Munns of Leicester, England, remarried to James James and as a result of this she became forever Grandma Jim. It turns out that his father had owned the same farmstead for a period in the late 1800s. However, Uncle Tom McDade repossessed it because Mr. James had a taste for refreshment that clouded his judgment about the wise use of capital and fogged his memory as to whether he had already made the necessary payments. Grandpa Jim died in 1967.

 

Grandpa Jim's two children by a previous marriage, Grace and Harley, have both since died. Grace died in 1992, a couple of years after retiring as a welder, a job she started during World War II. Harley died in 1999, I believe, after retiring from the Rockport quarry in Rogers City.

 

Grandma outlived Jimmie James by another 30 years, leading an adventurous life for an septugenarian/octagenarian. She reconnected with her relatives in England in the early 1970s, and visited them several times. She came to Ireland for our wedding at a relatively sprightly 89 years of age. She went touring with us to Glendalough, the ancient hermitage south of Dublin, and enjoyed the sausages with the best of us, although I don't think she tried any Guinness. Then she went to England for a couple of weeks. That was her last overseas trip, but she continued to travel to California to stay with her son Bob Huston and his family. We saw her once or twice there. She died in 1996 at 96 years of age. Unfortunately, her last three years were not nearly as lucid. She was buried with Grandpa Jim in the Greeley Cemetery at the intersection of M-32 and southbound M-65.

 

Grandma Jim also started life as an adventurer. When she was about eight her parents both died. Her father was killed in a train wreck (he worked for the railroad) and her mother died giving birth to the youngest daughter, Kathleen. So as a ten- or eleven-year old she boarded a steamer by herself and set sail for the U.S. on the promise that her aunt would be waiting for her at the other end. By the time she was seventeen or eighteen she was living in northern Michigan. She developed a pretty good eye along the way because I have heard that she would sit in the yard and shoot at the chimney with the old trappers pistol until it was so full of holes it no longer drafted properly.

 

My momís Uncle (granduncle) Tom McDade took an active part in ensuring mom and her brother Bob got their religious education after their dadís death. However, he died only about six or seven years after their father. During this time (around 1930) my grandmotherís brother Bill Munns lived with my grandmother and the kids for a year, helping to raise the young uns. However, he was a merchant seaman and he went back to sailing. He was killed in an accident in Cuba around 1960. My grandmother always seemed to blame Fidel Castro for his death. I have no idea why he would want a 60-year old English merchant seaman killed, but she seemed sure of it.