Archive for the ‘Family Tree’ Category

I’ve decided to try and get back into the swing of the letter writing, among other things, but first I’d like to share a collection of photos sent in by reader Nicole, who happened to be in the cemetery where the Aray family were buried and was kind enough to share:


She adds:

The text from the historical marker at the cemetery reads:
Washtenaw County PI-53 Historical Marker, Washtenaw County Historic District Commission

“Hardwood Cemetery
This peaceful parcel of land, named for the family who donated it, is the final resting place of a key figure in the founding of Ypsilanti as well as prominent participants in the Underground Railroad.
William Webb Harwood came to the area from Palmyra, New York with his wife, Sally and their children in 1824.  With Augustus Woodward and John Stewart, Harwood platted the village of Ypsilanti.  In 1829, he erected a dam and established a gristmill and, the following year, built Ypsilanti’s first schoolhouse.  Moving to Pittsfield Township in the mid-1830s, Harwood became a supporter of the abolitionist movement and offered sanctuary to escaping slaves.  In this endeavor, he was joined by Asher Aray, a man on mixed race whose family farmed east of the Harwoods on the Chicago Road (now US-12).  In 1853, Aray sheltered a group of 28 slaves whose flight to freedom was documented nationwide.
The Arays and their relatives, the Days, are both buried here in an unusual show of tolerance for the time.  Harwood Cemetery, once the central burial ground for Pittsfield Township, also contains the remains of Robert and William Geddes, two of the area’s original land patentees.”

Thank you, Nicole!


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Asher Aray originally came to Washtenaw County, Michigan in 1827. Little is known about his early years, but he may have been a slave, ultimately bought and freed by Jacob Aray, a Dutch immigrant whose family had moved to Washtenaw County in 1774. (which would explain the name Aray, as there seems to be no actual familial relation). There is some confusion, however, about the relationship between Jacob and Asher Aray.

In 1829, Jacob Aray deeded an eighty acre parcel of land to Asher Aray, a large farm with several outbuildings. This parcel of land was used for many years as a station in the Underground Railroad. Asher was a stationmaster who always kept a wagon and horses ready to help runaway slaves and their families escape through Detroit to Canada, at one point sheltering a group of 28 people on his property until an escort could lead them to safety. (sources: freep.com, Pittsfield Township Historical Society)

Asher and his wife, Catherine had at least six children: Jacob, James, Eglan, Horace, Martha, Eliza and Allie.
(source: Pittsfield Township Historical Society)

Jacob’s daughter Martha married Benjamin Day. They had two children, Herbert and Alice. Alice died of tuberculosis at the age of thirteen. Herbert married Ida Adelle Sherman, and had three daughters: Lillian, Martha and Alice (who also died of tuberculosis).

Lillian was my great grandmother.

This was Lillian:

You can see the echoes of her face in my grandmother, my mother and aunts, myself, and to an eery degree my sister, who could almost be her twin.

For now, this is most of the information I have about Asher Aray, but I hope to know more in the future.

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