Joseph Voisin & Mary Ann Yuncker

My great-grandparents were Joseph and Mary Voisin.

Joseph Voisin
Joseph Voisin

Joseph Voisin was born January 10, 1858 probably in Ontario, Canada. He was the son of Joseph Voisin. The name of his mother is unknown.

Joseph settled near Beal City in Nottawa Township, Isabella County, Michigan probably about 1879. Deed records indicate that on October 3, 1879 he purchased the eastern half of the southwest quarter of section 22. He paid $725 for 80 acres.

About 1880, he sold the eastern forty acres of that parcel to Clements Starr. Curiously, although Joseph originally purchased the land, he is listed in the household of the Starr family in the 1880 federal census. The Beal City Centennial book indicates Joseph travelled with Clement and Elizabeth Starr, who were also from Ontario. They arrived first in Remus, Michigan, then moved to Beal City. The deed however indicates Joseph resided in Mount Pleasant at the time of purchase.

Mary Ann Yuncker
Mary Ann Yuncker

Joseph married Mary Ann Yuncker on February 16, 1885 in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Mary Yuncker was born October 31, 1866 in Westphalia, Michigan. She was a daughter of Jacob P. Yuncker and Anna Margaret Pohl. She and her parents moved from Westphalia to Beal City.

In an 1884 letter to Mary nearly a year before their wedding, Joseph expressed his love for her. Mary's father Jacob was planning a trip to Oregon. Joseph was prepared to follow the Yunckers to Oregon to be with Mary.

The letter implies that Mary, age 17, was living elsewhere even though it is fairly certain her father was in Nottawa Township. Perhaps she was still in Westphalia with her grandparents and siblings. Nottawa Township could still have been considered a frontier area at the time.

Joseph's personal journal has survived. In it he records the dates he drove his cattle to market, the dates of new born calves, and the purchases he made. His journal indicates he worked in Hawkesville, Ontario in April 1877, prior to emigrating to America.

Joseph and Mary had eleven children, the births of whom Joseph recorded in his journal.

Joseph was musically inclined. He was the first organist at the St. Philomenia Catholic church in Beal City from 1882 to 1905. He performed at social dances. Although uncertain, he probably played the piano and fiddle. He was interested in popular ballads of the day, such as Take This Letter to My Mother. He may also have been a square-dance caller, according to the verses in his personal journal.

Joseph purchased his land from a speculator named John W. Hance, who also was registrar of deeds for the county. Hance and his partner Phillip Gruett obtained the land from Key-taw-ge-quaw-nay-be about 1872. The names Hance and Gruett appear frequently in the deed records.Together and separately they accumulated large tracts of land in several townships from the Indians in 1871 and 1872. They in turn sold to white settlers starting about 1877. Most settlers probably started arriving in Nottawa Township about 1877.

The United States government originally granted the land to Key-taw-ge-quaw-nay-be in 1871. In fact it was granted to two different Indians in parcels comprising the north and south halves of the southwest quarter. Interestingly, it was sold to Hance and Gruett as east and west halves by just one Indian. A second Indian, Ke-zhe-quaw-min-ne, was granted the north half, but there is no record of a transfer from him to Key-taw-ge-quaw-nay-be.

Since Key-taw-ge-quaw-nay-be was the only grantor, a transaction between the two may have been conducted privately within the tribe. Or this may be a case of speculator trickery. As J. E. Day related in 1896, "...sometimes, too, by a convenient change of Indian names, the same party could select land more than once, to the benefit of a waiting white." However there is no evidence for such a conclusion here. The table below summarizes successive ownership of the parcel in section 22 as listed in the deed index:






United States


S of SW


United States


N of SW



Phillip Gruett

W of SW



Gruett & Hance

E of SW


Phillip Gruett & wife

John W. Hance

E of SW


John W. Hance

Joseph Voisin

E of SW


Joseph Voisin

Clements Starr

E of E of SW

In his journal Joseph listed two receipes for bitters, or medicinal tonics he probably concocted. The same page hints at the rigors of farm life in the 1890s, which made such tonics necessary. Neighboring farmers remembered Joseph as an efficient straw stack maker when threshing.

He suffered with prostate cancer, which got progressively worse. Under news from Beal City in the Mt. Pleasant Times, on May 18, 1916 it says, "Joe Voisen is under the Dr. care again." A week later on May 25 it says, "Joseph Voisin is very low at this writing." On May 29 Joseph signed his Last Will and Testament. He died June 2, 1916. A final inventory of his estate reveals the details of farm life in 1916. The total value of his estate was $5,125, which would be at that time, the equivalent of $93,481 in today's dollars.

Item Value
Farm $4,000 $72,961
3 horses 400 7,296
4 cows, 3 calves 250 4,560
200 hens and chickens 100 1,824
2 sheep 10 182
2 wagons, 1 sleigh, 1 buggy 75 1,368
1 scraper 15 274
1 mower 10 182
1 plough, 1 harrow and other small farm implements
[the initial inventory also lists 1 rake]
25 456
harnesses 40 730
12 pigs 100 1,824
Saving deposit in Weidman, Mich. 100 1,824

Mary was a quilter as mentioned in the Mt. Pleasant Times, "Mrs. Voisen entertained a number of ladies at a quilting Saturday afternoon." She died December 2, 1943 of heart disease.

-- Mike Voisin


  • Weber, Ben, Beal City Michigan Area Centennial 1875-1975.
  • Register of Deeds, Isabella County Michigan Deed Index, 1838-1927. LDS microfilm #1003889 and #1003890.
  • Register of Deeds, Isabella County Michigan Deeds, Vol 27, page 308. LDS microfilm #1003907.
  • Register of Deeds, Isabella County Michigan Deeds, Vol 28, page 321. LDS microfilm #1003907.
  • Mt. Pleasant Times, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, V22, N31, May 4, 1916, p. 6, c. 4.
  • Mt. Pleasant Times, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, V22, N33, May 18, 1916, p. 7, c. 4.
  • Mt. Pleasant Times, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, V22, N34, May 25, 1916, p. 6, c. 6.

Contact: Mike Voisin

Revised: November 16, 2010
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