History: Finding James Law, Civil War veteran, Sheridan Twp. farmer.

June 5, 2019

James Law

History: Finding James Law, Civil War veteran, Sheridan Twp. farmer.

MC History Spotlight is a weekly history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Living and Memory Care. Each week this column features a story from our county’s past.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.


I have a confession. I really enjoy walking around cemeteries. I find myself stopping at random graves, taking a picture of the gravestones, and wondering about that person’s story. Recently, I decided to take it a step further. I was walking in Scottville’s Brookside Cemetery and came across the grave of a Civil War veteran named James Y. Law. The only information I had about Mr. York was from his gravestone: James V. Law, 1834-1912, corporal, Company K, Michigan 19th Infantry, member of GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Post 348.

This grave already gave out a lot of information about Mr. Law. Now, it was time to find out more. First, I went to Google: “James V. Law, Scottville, Michigan.” Nothing came up. My second source was ancestry.com. Here I found a family tree with some great information.

James York Law was born on Dec. 25, 1834 in Isham, Northamptonshire, England. He was the son of John and Mary (York) Law. He had three siblings: twins Achsah (sister) and Benjamin, born in 1836 and sister Hannah, born in 1838.

He immigrated to the United States in 1850, leaving England via Liverpool and arriving in New York City on May 13, 1850 at the age of 15. It’s not clear if he came here with his family but the passenger and immigration list from the National Archives lists him as being 17-years-old, which to me, indicates he may have been traveling alone and exaggerated his age.

Narcissa A. Bartlett-Law

On Jan. 1, 1861, he married Narcissa Antonette Bartlett (April 12, 1840, Kalamazoo -Dec. 14, 1914) in Kalamazoo. He was 27 and she was 20. They then made their way to Mason County living first in Scottville and then moving to Sherman Township and eventually Sheridan Township. Their children included:

  • James Worthington Law (May 6, 1863 to 1943).
  • Frances A. Law (1867 – ?)
  • John J.G. Law (July 31, 1871 – ?)
  • Cora V. Law (1873-1884)
  • Theresa A. Law (1875-?)
  • Mary Law (Feb. 13, 1877-1938)
  • Walter M. Law (June 3, 1879-1976)
  • Marvin Samuel Law (March 1, 1881-1967)
  • Elbert Leroy Law (July 3, 1883-?).

James enlisted in Company K, Michigan 19th Infantry Regiment on Sept. 5, 1862 and was enlisted as a private. On July 15, 1863, he was promoted to corporal. The unit mustered out on June 10, 1865 in Washington, D.C. It’s clear from those dates, that James missed the birth of his firstborn, James Worthington.

The 19th Michigan Infantry was mustered into Federal service at Dowagiac on Sept. 5, 1862 (notice the same dates as when he enlisted?). According to Wikipedia, one of the soldiers of notoriety in the regiment were Frank Baldwin, who would become one of only 19 men to ever receive two Medal of Honor citations, one for his actions in the Civil War and another after the war fighting Native Americans in the U.S. Cavalry.

The regiment, which was commanded by Col. Henry C. Gilbert and Lt. Col. William Shafter, suffered 7 officers and 88 enlisted men who were killed in action or mortally wounded and 160 enlisted men who died of disease, for a total of 255 fatalities. Its engagements included

According to U.S. Census records, in 1880, James and Narcissa lived in Sherman Township and he was occupied as a farmer. A 1904 Mason County plat map lists him as owning 40 acres of land in Section 14 of Sheridan Township. The property was located on the north side of modern Millerton Road across from the what is now Stephanie Road, a private access road to modern Cartier Lake. Much of the land in that area, at that time, was owned by lumber barons Warren Cartier and Justus Stearns.

I drove out to the site of Law’s Sheridan Township farmstead. The property pretty much now consists of woods, no sign of a farm existing there (I didn’t wander beyond the road and I did make an attempt to contact the present day property owner who lives nearby, however contact was not made).

According to records in ancestry.com, the Laws eventually moved back into Scottville, into Ward I, which is the west side of town. James is buried in the center of the south side of Brookside Cemetery. Death records show that Narcissa died on Dec. 14, 1914 in Milwaukee.

So, now we know a little bit about Civil War veteran James Law. If anyone has any more information, please feel free to email me at editor@mediagroup.com.

Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.

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