Ebenezer Duncan Curtis
"Feared by His Children, Adored by His Grandchildren"

Manley Bell, Grandson of Ebenezer Duncan Curtis

Ebenezer walked to Tawas forty miles for staple supplies. It was an overnight trip each way. He would pick a big log, pull the snow away, build a fire in front of the log. When the fire near the log burned down he pulled the ashes away - rolled up in his blanket on the warm spot and went to sleep. Awaking several times during the night to replenish the fire.

No hotels or restaurants in those days. Eben had to eat in a saloon. He was famous for taking on the roughest lumbermen before the evening was over. Then Ebenezer found the Lord. The next trip to, when his food was delivered, he stood up raised his arm and said Everyone quite while I ask the blessing. Dead silence. No one challenged Ebenezer. After that he didn't have to ask for quiet. It was the accepted thing.

Ebenezer and Mary stood at the bedside of their daughter Jane Sarah (Jennie Bell) as she passed away after giving birth to her son Daniel. Weeping Mary said - Who will ever raise Jennies' baby? Ebenezer picked the baby up, placed him in Mary's arms and said, Mary my girl, we will, and they did. Ebenezer was probably seventy and Mary sixty two.

One time the school teacher wanted to practice and present the school's Christmas program in the church. Somehow Dad found that a grumpy lady from the church was going to appear and tell her she couldn't use the church. As the children and the teacher started down the road (about half mile) Dad broke away and ran for his grandfather - well, here comes Ebenezer with his walking stick - approached Mrs. Bower - shook his finger at her and said Get ye down the road ye vile woman! Now, my dear go ahead and have your program.

Ebenezer always spoke in the old English and phrased his words in the English diction.

As his hearing became poor he would place a chair - back to the altar - insert his hearing horn and enjoy the sermon. He lead the singing using the old meter measure - used back in the Curtis Church in New Brunswick.

The Curtis' encouraged their grandchildren to received a good education. Mr. Ferris, founder and President of Ferris College in Big Rapids, Michigan often attended church here and had Sunday dinner with Ebenezer and Mary. At that time Ferris was one building. It now has a huge campus and is one of the finest colleges in the state. One year Mr. Ferris paid Edward Bell's tuition $18.00. Edward was Jane Sarah oldest son. Another son Joseph graduated from Ferris in 1906, with a degree in Pharmacy. He was a pharmacist in Seattle, Washington all his life. In a letter to grandson Joe, Mary wrote that Mr. Ferris was a fine gentleman.

Michigan is known for its hot humid summers. When the timber was tall and not much clearing the summer nights were almost unbearable. One of those nights, a grandson Manley Bell, was returning home from visiting a friend. He heard two people talking and hid in the bushes and listened. It was Grandpa and Grandma Curtis, all they had on were their long summer undershirts. They were puffing on clay pipes (helped keep the mosquitos away). They were discussing the scriptures and praising God for His goodness to them.

One daughter Mary (Mame) and Ebenezer just didn't get along. Mary eloped and got married. She borrowed a dress from a neighbor to be married in. When the bride and groom told Eben what had taken place, he looked at her and said, By Gracious King, Mary I always knew you were a devil!


Aunt Mame to all of us was a colorful character. She also spoke with an English accent. A few of her sayings were: He's meaner than the Lawd (Lord) on howse (horse) back. That baby is uglier than piss on a plate. Aunt Mame walked tall and straight - never without her umbrella. She had beautiful white hair which she occasionally rinsed with clothes bluing (quite blue at times). She pulled all her own teeth with a hair pin. She had a fainting spell if things didn't go the way she wanted. One day a neighbor boy stopped his car and said, Could I give you a ride Aunt Mame? She replied, " Young man, I'll have you know I'm not Aunt to every cat and dog in the country."

Ebenezer Curtis' original two story log house burned about 6 o'clock one morning late in the fall. The house had a ladder on each side. They were used to check the roof for fire each night before retiring. The wood stakes when old grew thick with moss and when dry caught fire from sparks very easily. For some reason all the early homes in this area had stove pipes - no stone chimneys. We have often wondered about the absence of fire places. After the house burned, Ebenezer and Mary moved in with son Richard and his wife Mary. Granddad had pigs to butcher for winter's meat. He smoked the hams and bacon in the privy, which had escaped the fire. Grandmother didn't eat meat all winter.

Courtesy of Arbutus (Bell) Milholin, daughter of Manley Bell


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Last updated on:  Thursday, November 22, 2018