At one time the name ‘Yerkes’ was very well known in the Ada/Lowell area. Anthony Yerkes was born on December 17, 1808 in Pennsylvania. He came to Vergennes Township in 1839 with his wife Esther, settling on the Northeast quarter of Section 32. The road at the time was called ‘The Walker Road’ after the Walker family who operated their Walker Tavern, the local stage coach stop. The land patent dated November 10, 1841 is hand signed by then President John Tyler.
Anthony Yerkes was instrumental in starting the Vergennes Methodist Episcopal church in 1843. The church was part of a circuit, with a preacher that traveled to the various churches. Anthony Yerkes opened his home and barn for services, and served as a lay preacher when the circuit preacher was unavailable. When the Yerkes (Bennett) log schoolhouse was completed, the services moved there. Services were also held at the Bailey school and the Smith Bailey home, until a permanent church building at Parnell and Bailey was built in 1864.
Anthony Yerkes invested in the community from Ada to Lowell. In 1857 the Ada toll bridge built by Jared N. Brazee (who also built the Fallasburg bridge) was completed after the first bridge had collapsed. Anthony Yerkes had invested heavily in the bridge and kept up repairs to ensure that the bridge could function and collect fares, until it was no longer a toll bridge but a public bridge.
The Franklin House in Lowell was built by Cyprian S Hooker in 1855. During the Civil War and until it burned in 1882, it was the main hotel in Lowell. At one time the owners were heavily indebted to Anthony Yerkes who was forced to foreclose, acquiring ownership of the hotel. He sold it to Freeman S Jones. After the hotel burned the Jones & Lyon brick block was built, now simply called the Lyon block.
Anthony and Esther Yerkes’ only son Silas was a noble representative of the Vergennes/Lowell area both within the state and nation. He taught school locally when he was only 17. He attended Hillsdale College in 1856 and 1857 and then went on to Michigan State Agricultural College (now Michigan State University). He served as Supervisor in Vergennes Township. In 1861, he was the first from Vergennes Township to hold state office. Governor Austin Blair appointed him to the first Michigan Board of Agriculture. He resigned that position to serve as a Lieutenant in the 13th Infantry during the Civil War and became Captain on February 26, 1863.
On September 19, 1863, Silas was wounded at Chickamauga by a gunshot to his left thigh. He spent the next two years suffering. He was in and out of hospitals, he was sent home even to recover. Silas was finally sent home at the end of April of 1865 in extremely poor condition. He was promoted on May 12 to Bvt. Major for meritorious conduct. He was medically discharged on May 15, 1865. Major Silas A. Yerkes died October 26, 1865, and was buried in the family burial ground, the Yerkes Cemetery.
In 1961, a Yerkes relative, Jessie Wright Bennett Rogers shared with Lowell citizens a memorial tribute about Silas. She shared diaries with battle reports that he had written. These diaries are still in the family’s possession. Today much has changed in the area. The Walker road is here, but we called it Vergennes road. Between Cumberland and Parnell is the privately owned large Yerkes home, and the Yerkes Cemetery is called Krum Blanding Cemetery. One thing that hasn’t changed is the clarity of Major Yerkes’ memorial monument. It clearly reads, “He died as he lived, for his country.”
The images show the grave of Silas Yerkes and the 1855 plat map of Vergennes showing the Yerkes land in section 32.