James B. Ten Eyck was born on July 18, 1838, in New York, probably the son of Cornelius (b. 1808) and Emma (b. 1811).
New York natives Cornelius and Emma were married, presumably in New York, sometime before 1836, and by 1850 James was attending school school with three of his siblings and living on the family farm in Vernon, Oneida County, New York.
Cornelius eventually moved his family west and settled in Michigan. By 1860 Cornelius was working as a carpenter and living with his wife and children in Lansing’s First Ward, Ingham County. James was probably living in Lansing, Michigan, in the Spring of 1861 when he became a member of the Lansing militia company called the “Williams’ Rifles,” whose members would serve as the nucleus of Company G.
James was 23 years old and probably living in Lansing when he enlisted as Second Lieutenant in Company G on May 10, 1861, along with his cousin (?) Jerome.
He was married to New York native Elizabeth Freeman (1842-1915), on June 9, 1861, and they had at least two children: Flora or Florence (b. 1864) and Grace (b. 1869). James was married just four days before he left for Washington, DC, with the Regiment. According to one report, “Lieut. Ten Eyck married on the 9th, . . . leaves a bride, and . . . goes direct from the altar to the field, leaving sad hearts behind [him]. Heaven grants [him] a safe return.”
During the first battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, James had suffered considerably. “Lieutenant Ten Eyck,” wrote the Republican on August 7, “acquitted himself most honorably in the recent engagement. He was on parole for the benefit of his health when the order to advance was given, but took his place promptly in the company and went forward with it, although he had to be carried a considerable of the way in an ambulance. He was the only commissioned officer of the company in the battle, Lieutenant Jefferds having been broken down with sickness, and Captain Price having been taken sick at Vienna, and returning to Washington [true]. After the battle Lieutenant Ten Eyck was too much exhausted to walk, and was borne some distance on the shoulders of a couple of men, and was subsequently taken on horseback by a mounted officer.” The paper added, “Lieutenant Ten Eyck states that, from information derived from prisoners and deserters, he learned there were ten thousand Negroes and three thousand Indians in the rebel army. The Negroes were trained to work the artillery, and the Indians had been told that the South were going to conquer the North and give the Indians back their lands.” Ten Eyck resigned on account of disability on July 29, 1861, and returned to Lansing on Friday, August 2.
Shortly after his return to Lansing Ten Eyck wrote the Republican to make a correction in one of the paper’s recent stories. “I notice that in your announcement of my return, as published in your local column of last week, you give me the credit of having command of my company in the battles of both Thursday and Sunday at Bull Run. This is a mistake. Lieutenant Jefferds had the command in Thursday's battle, I only acting as second in command. Lieutenant Jefferds was taken sick that night, and I only took command from that time -- having command on Sunday. Justice to him demands this correction, as nothing but sickness and inability prevented him from staying with his company, and not cowardice, as some of his enemies would endeavor to make out. Lieutenant Jefferds, when able, ever did his duty.”
It is not known how long James remained in Lansing after he was discharged from the army, but by the end of 1865 he had apparently settled in Eaton Rapids, Eaton County. He soon became a newspaper publisher.
On December 7, 1865, James became owner and publisher of the Eaton Rapids Journal. In his first editorial James wrote:
In commencing the publication of the Journal, we do so at the earnest request and with the promise of the hearty support of the citizens of the locality in which it is published; what the future of our experiment shall be -- its publication for a short or a long period -- depends alone upon the maintenance of these pledges, and the otherwise general support and patronage it will receive from the hands of the people. The Journal is intended to supply the want, so long felt, of means whereby to advertise to the public at large the business wants and resources of this section of the State, and that the Journal will do so can be proven alone by its future career, and not by any promise that wemight, perhaps, see fit to give now. Such promises on the part of a paper can alone be kept so far as the same is made the medium to advertise those wants and resources by those having such matters in charge. In fact, while a newspaper is indeed a means by which the people are expected to derive all kinds of intelligencer, from the knowledge of what th3e business of a place is by means of its advertising columns, to the latest general news, in order to do this it must have the advertising patronage of the place, a good subscription list, and both paid for as a means of doing it.
It is our intentiuon to make the Journal a paper worthy of a place at the fireside of every family in Eaton County, and as such, will contain as far as possible, all matters of interest transpiring in the County, the patest politcal, foreign, general and state news, the latest market reports, in fact, all matters of general interest and importance usually found room for in a weekly paper. But while the politicval news will be given more or less in its columns, the Journal will not be the organ of any party, and upon all political questions of the day will maintain a strict neutrality, believing that the intersts of the locality in which it is published can thus be better subserved, than by devoting its columns to the use of the long-winded and abusive articles usually found in papers of a political stripe, and which far toward engendering strife and ill-will rather than peace and harmony, a prosperous paper or a prosperous community.
With these few explanations of what are our intentions and expectations, we are content to make our bow to the public, and ask of the citizens of Eaton Rapids, and Eaton County in general, their future support and patronage.
The following week, the editor of the Eaton County Republican wrote that he had just received the first issue of the Eaton Rapids Journal, “published by J. B. Ten Eyck, $1.50 a year. Neutral in politics. The Journal is as well filled with reading matter, local news, advertisements, etc., as many older papers, and from its make-up, and the policy announced by its publisher, we have little doubt of its success. It will probably have less contempt for ‘politics’ as it grows older.”
He was probably the same J. B. Ten Eyck who was U.S. Postmaster in Eaton Rapids in the late 1860s and who was replaced by one H. M. Hamilton by February of 1869. By 1870 James had apparently moved to Bay County where he was working as the publisher of the Bangor (?) Herald and living with his wife and two daughters in Bangor, Bay County .
According to one source, however, James reportedly published the Eaton Rapids Journal until 1874 (?) when he sold the business to one Frank C. Calley (who subsequently changed the name of the paper to the Saturday Journal).
James died probably in Lansing or perhaps Eaton Rapids on July 2, 1873, and his remains were eventually reinterred in Mt. Hope cemetery in Lansing, section A lot 148 graves no. 7/8.
Elizabeth and Florence were living in Lansing’s Second Ward in 1880. In December of 1884 James’ widow was admitted into the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association as an honorary member. In 1908 his widow applied for a pension (no. 898453), but the certificate was never granted.