Oh, Abner Lemon. I knew Abner Lemon before I knew he was related to me. It’s a strange story.
I was born to Russell R Lemon and Myrna Loy Barnard in Pontiac, Michigan, a bedroom community of Detroit. As children, my brothers and I knew our Dad’s mother’s side of the family and our mother’s side. We visited each other, had cookouts together, spent the night at each other’s houses, normal things kids did in the ’60’s. I don’t remember ever meeting a single relative on my father’s Lemon side though it was a large family. My grandpa Lemon was one of the seven children born to Isaac B. and Eva Wilder Lemon, my grandpa being the youngest. My father and his twin brother talked a lot about their Lemon cousins, but we children did not know them at all.
My dad’s brother, Richard Lemon (Uncle Dick to me), was interested in genealogy though I didn’t know that until much, much later. He was a truck driver who delivered brand new cars that were made in Pontiac and Detroit and shipped on double-high trailers pulled by big diesel trucks. Apparently he had been seeking out members of the Lemon and Wilder families, visiting cemeteries, taking notes, writing them up and filing them away. My parents moved from Pontiac to a little town in West Michigan and we didn’t see Uncle Dick’s family very much after the move.
In 1996, Uncle Dick and Aunt Mary moved not 5 miles away from me here in Montcalm County and we started working together on the Lemon side of our family. I told him of finding an Abner Lemon in the Coral Cemetery back in the 1980’s when I would go looking for Wheelers, my husband’s side of the family. I can remember the day I found Abner’s headstone and the wonder I felt. My maiden name is Lemon and the only time I had ever seen a headstone with that name was in the cemetery in Pontiac when my grandparents were buried. To find a Lemon up here in Montcalm County, 181 miles west of Pontiac, was astounding to me. I remember saying out loud, “Who ARE you? Are we related?” When I told Uncle Dick about Abner, he got excited. Using AOL and fax machines, we were able to piece together the Lemon genealogy, learning that the Lemon family started in New Jersey, moved to Columbia County, Pennsylvania, then a small fraction of the family moved to Ontario, Canada and started a little town called Lemonville. Those Lemonville Lemons were our Lemons, and Abner was one of them.
Abner Lemon was the 2nd son, 4th child of Baltis Lemon and Mary Mendenhall, the 2nd child of theirs to be born in Canada in 1825. He was the older brother of my 2nd great-grandfather, Isaac M. Lemon. Abner married Lucy Harmon in Canada in 1849, had their first child there, a daughter, Jemima, then moved down into Macomb County, Michigan, where their 2nd child, a son, William, was born in 1855. The couple had 4 more children together before something went wrong in the marriage and Abner left Lucy and married a woman named Louisa Charlotte Palmer in 1885 in Addison, Lenawee County, Michigan. They had a daughter together, Charlotte Louisa Lemon, in 1886, and moved to Coral, Montcalm County, Michigan before 1900 when they were enumerated in the Federal Census for that year. Abner stated he was married, but Louisa was in Addison in 1900 with Lottie, as Charlotte was called, in the household of her sister, Victoria Palmer Maples. The 1900 census was taken on the 2nd day of June in Addison and on the 25th of June in Coral, where Abner was. Abner died exactly a month later and was buried in the Coral Cemetery where I found his headstone 82 years later.
There are many mysteries about Abner’s life: how did he meet Louisa? Why did they move to Coral where Abner ran the Coral Hotel until his death? Who was the John B Lemmon who gave the information for his death certificate? He stated Abner’s father was “Mr. Lemon” and his mother Mary Mendenhall, which is how Uncle Dick and I knew he was part of our family. I doubt the answers to my questions will ever be answered in my lifetime, which saddens me. I like knowing how Abner’s story ended, but I’d love to know all the details in the middle.
As an odd coincidence, when my parents moved our family up here to Montcalm County, we came because Pontiac and Detroit had become unstable; there were race riots and Pontiac was no longer felt by my mom and dad to be a safe place to raise a family. My father’s cousin, Shirley Robinson Betham had moved up to Montcalm County a few years before and convinced my parents it was a nice place to live. My father, who was a sewage treatment plant operator at the time in Pontiac, got a job with the City of Greenville working in their wastewater treatment plant. He worked with a man named Norris Sipperley and I can remember him talking about “Ol’ Norris” from work. I discovered last year that Norris was Charlotte Louisa Lemon’s son. My father had been working with a blood relative and never knew it. My dad died in 2010, so I couldn’t tell him about the coincidence, but I like to think that he and Uncle Dick both know now.