Collection,   1862, 2002, and undated
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History

Biography:

LaFayette Church was born July 16, 1816 in Wayne County (N.Y.), the son of Willard and Sally (Davis) Church of Connecticut. He was the youngest in a family of nine. At age 16, LaFayette started work in Rhode Island. He later moved to Oakland County, Michigan, in 1836. He lived and traveled between Ionia and Clinton counties, Michigan.

In Lyons, Michigan, LaFayette married Sophronia Benjamin (October 26, 1823-December 20, 1911) on January 29, 1840. They lived in Lyons until 1847, in Hillsdale County, Michigan, 1847-1854, and Arcada Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Together they had ten children: Nathan (1840-1926), S. Cornelia (1842-1878), Frances, also called Frank (1844-1865), Susan (1849- ), Marie E. (1851-1927), Avolin (1853-1916), Julia (1856-1947), Flora or Florence (1859- ), Willard (1861- ), and Frederick (1863-1910).

LaFayette did not have any formal education, yet was served as an ordained Baptist minister. He was selected as the first Baptist minister in Alma, Michigan, and served as pastor, 1862-1867, in between his war service. He owned a large farm, helped found the town of Ithaca, and operated a grist and saw mill, 1857-1863. A Republican, LaFayette served as the first county treasurer, elected in 1856 and 1858. He was also the first treasurer for Arcada Township. In 1855 LaFayette organized the first Sunday school in Gratiot County.

During the Civil War, LaFayette received permission to organize a company, which he did on July 19, 1862 at Detroit. In this unit, Company D, 26th Michigan Infantry, he was commissioned as Captain on July 19, 1862 at Detroit at the age of 46. He was commissioned Chaplain on April 2, 1864 and mustered on August 12, 1864. On June 4, 1865 LaFayette was mustered out at Alexandria, Virginia.

LaFayette died on January 2, 1907 at the age of 91.

Civil War hero Nathan Church, was born on November 22, 1840, the son of LaFayette Church. Until the age of 16, Nathan attended common schools in Hillsdale and Gratiot counties and Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Afterwards, he worked with his father as Assistant County Treasurer and taught two terms of school.

Nathan first enlisted as a Sergeant in Company C, 8th Michigan Infantry on August 12, 1861 at the age of 21. He was mustered on September 23, 1861, but was discharged for disability on January 17, 1862. A year later, Nathan re-enlisted, this time in Company D, 26th Michigan Infantry as a first lieutenant. He was commissioned on September 1, 1862 and mustered fourteen days later. He served as Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier General Slough in 1863. On April 15, 1864, Nathan was commissioned as Captain of Company I, 26th Michigan Infantry. He was mustered on May 20, 1864. During August and September 1864, Nathan served as Assistant Inspector-General of the 1st Brigade. On September 12, 1864, he was commissioned as a Major and mustered on October 1, 1864. Nathan was honored as Brevet Major U.S. Volunteers on July 6, 1864 for gallant service near Petersburg, Virginia, in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 12, 1864, and as Brevet Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Volunteers on April 8, 1865 for conspicuous gallantry and meritorious service while commanding the 26th on March 7, 1865 when Lee surrendered. Nathan was mustered out on October 30, 1865.

On December 25, 1866 he married Mary H. Bills (birth and death dates unknown). Together they had five children: Carrie H. (1868-1931), Leroy B. (1869-1931), twins Clarence N. (1871-1938) and Gaylord P. (1871-1872), and Edgar N. (1874-1907).

After the war, Nathan opened a general store in Ithaca, Gratiot County, Michigan, with Wilbur Nelson, which they operated until 1872. He founded the Gratiot Journal, which he operated from 1866 to 1872. In December 1872, Nathan purchased a sawmill in Arcada Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. He also dealt in real estate. With his wife and father-in-law, Perley Bills, Nathan organized a bank in 1877. The Church, Bills and Companies Bank ran until it failed in 1892.

A Republican, Nathan served as the Ithaca post master for seven years, county clerk for four years, and was regularly nominated for political positions. Nathan also helped organized and was the first president of the Gratiot County Agricultural Society.

Nathan died on December 26, 1926. (This Information is from: Gratiot County MI Portraits and Sketches (1884); Biographical Memoirs of Gratiot County Michigan (1906); Gratiot County Michigan Historical, Biographical and Statistical 1913); Obituaries 1884-1924 ... from the Gratiot County Herald, Compiled 1939, and the family tree information donated in 2002.)