The family of Nelson Drake

Title:The family of Nelson Drake; back to 1630, New York and Michigan pioneers, with genealogy supplement
Author:Drake, Floyd Nelson
Publication date:1963
Publisher:[St. Cloud, Fla.] 1963
Digitizing sponsor:Internet Archive
Contributor:Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
RepositoryInternet Archive
The Family of Nelson Drake
The Family of Nelson Drake

My first interest in this family study was from pure curiosity. I wanted to know how we got here, where we came from, and what kind of people were our ancestors. All of this was unknown to me beyond my paternal grandparents. As search for this information gradually widened and penetrated farther back into the history of Michigan, New York State and New England, it occurred to me that this written account might have an interest to some persons beyond our own family.

Basically this is an humble attempt to preserve our family record before the dim tracks in the sands of time are altogether trampled out. It is not just a searching out of names and birth dates, but also a history study of the times and places in which our forebears lived. It will help us to see them more nearly as they really were. They were very real people. We could wish that some of them were different, but we cannot change that. We might wish that we were different, too. I will stick to the facts as I have found them. Truth will prove to be stranger than fiction. There is plenty of romance, excitement, danger, faith, courage and tragedy in this account. These people had important parts as defenders of the nation, pathfinders and pioneers, moving with the advancing frontiers, where life was hardest in the development of our great land.

The Drakes have furnished important leadership in Michigan and also in the nation. This account is not at all in the nature of a genealogy. It is rather the story of a family, whose line reaches back to 1630 in America. I have however appended a genealogy of the last five generations beginning in Dansville, Michigan, in 1840.

I had often thought of making this research, but as a minister of the Methodist Church, I had not the time nor the sustained interest necessary for doing it. But, in my retirement, I believed that it was something important and satisfying that I might do; and perhaps it would be something that no one else would do. Piecing together scattered facts with assumptions is rather hazardous, but I will try to indicate where my personal opinions enter in. Family historians, who may come later, perhaps will supplement my information and correct my mistakes.

I have not been motivated by any fond notion that I might find some great ancestor, who would shed glory on us all. I do not hold to the idea that we are to be credited very much for the achievements of our forefathers, or to be discredited for their failures. Each generation gets a new issue of life, coming from another family. So the older family strains are soon diluted, or enriched, as the case may be. It seems to me that each of us has a heavy responsibility for himself to make the most of, or the best of his family inheritance.

I find that there are a few early Drake genealogies. The best that I have found are in the Burton Historical Collection. However, one soon discovers that family lines branch off with every generation, and they also multiply rapidly. So such genealogies are not much help in tracing backward the family line. If one can get his family line back far enough, then he may be able to hitch onto one of these genealogies, which I have done back through one hundred years to 1630.

Having a good heritage is something of which to be proud. It helps us to straighten up our shoulders and try to be good ancestors ourselves. It is very satisfying to know the line of one’s descent, and to know exactly how we came to be, and to be citizens of this great state of Michigan and of our nation. We were born free! Free, back as far as you can go! Some people can boast that their ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Ours came over only ten years later, and nearly in the same place, and they were actually associated with the Pilgrim venture. We have behind us three centuries of American citizenship in the Drake family. For about two hundred and fifty years they were pioneers in America.

As this story proceeds it eventually comes to my own personal family. Until I was more than thirty years old, my life was closely linked with my father, Nelson Drake. This means that in this account there must be considerable reference to myself. I have attempted to spare the reader much of this by confining this narrative to that which is relevant to the family story and to the times of it. It is probable that younger readers will appreciate their own privileges more if they became more acquainted with the times of even my generation.

Vital statistics were not kept in Michigan until 1837, and then very poorly in some counties. Many new officials were unacquainted with such work, and they did not have the techniques for the collection of such facts well worked out. It was even later in western New York state. In the post-Revolutionary War period families generally were shifting to new lands of the West and it was difficult or impossible to keep track of them. We have had to rely on court and land records, old newspaper files, cemetery lists, census files and military records. There is an abundance of historical material in the libraries, but the names we want are seldom or never mentioned. However, the descriptions of the times and places are reliable and they help very much in giving us ideas of how our ancestors lived.

A valuable helper to me was Mrs. Dorothy Facer, Historian for Wayne County, N.Y. She has access to and can dig up the necessary files in that area. Another was Albert L. Johnson, a sheep ranch owner at Harlem, Montana, whose wife is a Drake. Our common quest met in the search at Lyons, N.Y. Mrs. Facer brought us together by mail. Albert Johnson has spent considerable money and travel in this search. Our families met or were joined by two brothers, Reuben and John Drake of Lyons, N.Y. Mrs. Johnson is descended from Reuben Drake of Lyons, and our line is through John. Our subsequent frequent correspondence by mail has been mutually helpful, particularly to me.

I want to express thanks to the many members of the family who have readily replied to my inquiries for the preparation of the genealogy supplement. They should feel that they are really a part of this record.

The significant thing about this story is not the importance of anyone mentioned in it, but rather that this family is quite typical of a cross section of American pioneer and rural life, as it has unfolded in those years. From such comes a good omen for tomorrow.


  • No copyright.
  • Photocopied book.
  • Irregular pagination.
  • Missing pages acknowledged in book.

Table of Contents

  • Name — Coat of Arms and Sir Francis. xi


  1. Parting the Curtains of the Past. 15
  2. John Drake of Lyons, N.Y. 19
  3. Col. William Drake of the Revolution. 25
  4. The Reverend Reuben Drake. 33
  5. The First Hundred Years. 35
  6. To Michigania. 41
  7. Trails to Ingham County. 51
  8. Making Homes and the Beginnings of Dansville. 55
  9. Raising a Family in a New Land. 59
  10. The Civil War. 63
  11. Home After the War. 69
  12. To the Shiawassie Frontier. 73
  13. Pioneers in Mason County. 77
  14. The Panic of 1893. 93
  15. We Kids Grow Up. 99
  16. Stepping Stones of Teaching School. 105
  17. We Walk by Faith. 111
  18. Serving the Elderly. 119

Supplement: Genealogy Sections

  1. First Nine Generations. 123
  2. Nelson Drake. 126
  3. Mary Etta Drake. 131
  4. Martha Drake. 135
  5. Katie Drake. 143


  • Detroit Harbor, 1838. 42
  • The Michigan, 1838. 44
  • Nelson Drake, Soldier. 70
  • Nelson and Ada Ward Drake. 76
  • George Drake. 78
  • Nelson Drake, 1888. 80
  • Nelson and Katie McClellan. 82
  • Katie McClellan and daughter, Nellie. 84
  • Nellie McClellan Wickham and Husband. 91
  • Martha Drake McClellan. 98
  • Nelson Drake in 1922. 112


  • Drake Coat of Arms. ii
  • Drake Monogram. 14
  • Map New York 1830-1840. 29
  • Map New York 1663-1776. 32
  • Trails into Ingham County. 49


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