Leaves From the Ferris Family Tree

The lineage of Jeffrey Ferris in America

The Four Husbands of Minerva Ferris

You could get the impression from this site that it is just Ferris men who have troubles with the opposite sex. Not so. And, I give you Minerva Ferris.

Minerva was the daughter of Wilson Ferris and Martha Briggs. Born in the summer of 1837, she grew up in Jackson, Michigan, one of the hot spots for the Jeffrey Ferris lineage.

In the late 1850s, she married one James G Giles. By her account, he left her to go to California not long after. The letters stopped, and then she heard that he had died.

What happened to James Gilbert Giles, the father of our Great-grandfather William Henry Giles? After almost literally robbing the cradle by marrying Minerva Ferris, the 13-year-old daughter of his employer in Jackson, Mich., James Giles vanished from historical records only two or three years later. Minerva married another man and gave birth to a second boy, Nelson Cowden, who would become our William Giles’ lifelong companion on truly epic adventures here in the Wild West. But lasting happiness was again elusive for Minerva, as her husband Stephen Cowden died of a fever in Nashville in 1865 after serving honorably throughout the Civil War in the Jackson Rifles.

At that point she married Stephen A Cowden. He served with Union troops in the Civil War and was killed in Kentucky about 1865.

August 14, 1869, she married Frederick Hall, only to find out that she was not his first wife. In fact, his other wife was alive, well, and he was not about to divorce her.

In 1874, James Giles returned from California. He was not dead and he was quite upset that she had remarried. He divorced her, charging flagrant adultery, etc., and trashing any good name that she might have had.

Finally, she married Joel Smith, a Civil War veteran, on September 23, 1882. He died in 1897 and she died in 1909 and was buried next to him in Woodland Cemetery, Jackson, Michigan.

Minerva outlived the last of her four husbands by 13 years, dying in the care of her daughter Frankie Cole in Jackson in 1909, but not before paying a last visit to her sons in Washington. According to the Fairhaven Times of Dec. 5, 1903, “Mrs. Minerva Smith of Jackson, Michigan, is visiting her son, W. H. Giles of Whatcom, and will spend the winter here.” It is an interesting irony that the Michigan house in which Minerva died was rendered nearly worthless by mining, which destabilized its foundation just as gold mining undercut her young family more than 60 years before.

Most of her story is told in a 1901 submission that Minerva made to a local court in an effort to rectify the legal mess that was her marital history and obtain Smith’s veteran’s pension. She hoped to do this through a bill in chancery.

Affidavit
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