Frederick W. Worden was born on March 20, 1820, in Ossining, Westchester County, New York, son of Ananias (1790-1861) and Harriet (Gresham, 1794-1883).
Fred’s parents were married in September of 1813, probably in Westchester County, New York, where they resided for some years. The family eventually left New York and Fred himself came to Michigan around 1840 or perhaps the late 1840s and engaged in the milling and lumbering business in the earliest days of Grand Rapids’ history.
According to Rockford historian Kathy Cornwell Fred, along with his father and two of Fred’s brothers came to the Rockford area in 1847, settling on 200 acres of land in Courtland Township (on the northeast corner of 10 Mile Road and Myers Lake Avenue) Ananias had recently bought from the federal government. “They built a log house,” Mrs. Kornwell writes, “and cleared some of the land before Ananias went back to Dutchess County, N.Y. to bring his wife, Harriet, and eight of their other children to” Michigan.
Fred married his first wife Catharine McDuffie (1818-1858) on July 29, 1846, probably in New York, and they had one child, a daughter Leonnie (she died when she was three).
In November of 1856 Fred was elected Register of Deeds, and the following month he was made a director of the Grand Rapids & Northern Railroad Co. By 1860 he was a lumberman living with his parents in Courtland, Kent County, where his father owned a substantial amount of property. (It is quite possible that Fred was in fact the head of the household at that time and was probably taking care of the family properties.
According to the 1860 census his father had been “rendered insane” by a kick to the head from a horse, while his younger brother William was described as “idiotic”. Another brother, Ananias Jr., would commit suicide in July of 1890.) That same year, Fred joined with several other local residents and organized St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Courtland, located across Myers Lake Avenue from the Courtland Township cemetery (where the United Methodist church is presently located).
Fred also played an active role in the establishment of a local militia in Grand Rapids. In August of 1855 he joined the newly formed “Grand Rapids Light Guard” as one of its lieutenants. He was serving as First Lieutenant when some months later the unit was reorganized as the “Valley City Light Guard,” shortened to “Valley City Guard”; this particular militia company would serve as the nucleus for Company A of the Third Michigan infantry. Fred took an active interest in the continuing development and growth of the state militia movement. Indeed, Fred would remain with the VCG until May of 1857 when he was possibly and perhaps only temporarily) succeeded by John Earle. However, the record is confusing here since he was also reported as being succeeded as First Lieutenant by Byron Pierce, a local Grand Rapids dentist, in February of 1858.
In any case, by the end of April of 1861, Fred was again involved with militia affairs. According to the Grand Rapids Enquirer of April 30, 1861, one of the companies organized in Grand Rapids to answer the recent call by President Lincoln for 75,000 state volunteers was the so-called “Michigan Union Guards.” “This company,” wrote the paper, “has the name[s] of 61 privates on its roll, with recruiting officers around the County, who have not yet reported.” The company’s captain was Lucius J. Patterson, First Lieutenant was Benjamin Luce (who would become sutler for the Third Michigan), Second Lieutenant was Frederick W. Worden, and First Sergeant was A. C. McKenzie.” The “Union Guards” never materialized.
When the Third Michigan infantry was organized in Grand Rapids in April of 1861, the staff of the new regiment relied to some extent on the prewar local militia companies to provide officers for the new companies then being formed at the old fairgrounds south of the city. For example, Byron Pierce who had served as captain of the Valley City Guard was appointed to command Company K while another captain of the VCG, Samuel Judd, was appointed to head up Company A. Indeed, the command structure of Company A filled quickly, and several former VCG officers and noncommissioned officers found commanding billets in other companies.
At the age of 41 Fred enlisted as First Lieutenant in Company F, Third Michigan Infantry, on May 13, 1861, and was commissioned Captain on August 11. He resigned on December 29, 1861, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia in order to accept a promotion in the Thirrteenth Michigan infantry then forming in Kalamazoo, Kalamazzo County, Michigan.
On December 26, 1861, Fred wrote to the assistant adjutant general, “Having been promoted to Major of the 13th Regiment Michigan Volunteers I therefore tender my resignation as Captain of Company F, 3rd Regiment Michigan Volunteers.”
Fred was promoted to Major and transferred to the Thirteenth Michigan infantry, commissioned on December 26, 1861, but was almost immediatelly promoted and mustered as Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment on January 4, 1862, commissioned the same day. According to Eli Hamblin of Company F, writing on January 25, 1862: “We have got a new captain now; he is a good one. Our old captain [Fred Worden] has gone to Kalamazoo to join the Thirteenth Michigan Regiment; he is Lieutenant Colonel of that regiment. He was a good captain. His name is Frederick Worden. The captain’s name we have now is Israel Smith. Our old captain left New Year’s [day].”
The Thirteenth was formally mustered into service at Kalamazoo on January 17, 1862 and left the state for Nashville, Tennessee on February 12. The regiment marched from Nashville to Savannah, Tennessee March 29- April 7 to reinforce the Army of Tennessee and participated in the battle of Shiloh on April 7.
According Colonel Michael Shoemaker, former commander of the Thirteenth Michigan, Worden was in good health until shortly after the battle of Shiloh in April when he developed a low-grade malarial fever “and became quite feeble. In July of the same year while we were at Stevenson, Ala., he was very sick with jaundice and was treated by Dr. Pratt, regimental surgeon. His health continued very poor after this attack and being unfit for active service he was sent back to Nashville where after a short time he as placed on detached duty as a member of a court martial. His health continuing to fail he was discharged early in 1863.’
Many years after the war, Fred himself claimed that “In April and May 1862 he was much exposed to rain and rough weather during and after the battle of Shiloh and also exposed to marsh miasma whereby he contracted malarial fever and became very feeble and much reduced. He kept with the regiment until they reached Stevenson, Alabama, about the last of July 1862 when he was taken with a severe attack of jaundice, for which he received treatment from Dr. Pratt, Reg. Surgeon. Said jaundice developed severe malarial cachexia, poisoning his blood and deranging his whole system.”
Indeed, he was reported sick from August through September, and was probably at home on sick furlough in Michigan when he married his second wife Mary McKiben (1833-1884), on August 14, 1862, and they had one child, John William (1869-1886). ( “Johnny” would one day be accepted to the Naval Academy at Annapolis but would die before leaving Michigan. He and his mother Mary are both buried in Oak Hill cemetery in Grand Rapids.)
Although he was reported as having rejoined the Regiment by mid-October, on November 28, 1862, “he was sent to Officers’ Hospital at Nashville, Tenn., and was placed on special service as member of Court Martial, and remained [on] such special service nearly to the time of his discharge.” Fred remained sick at Nashville from December through January of 1863, but “He grew no better however and feeling that he was unfit for the ‘service’ resigned” on February 26, 1863, on account of disability, and his resignation was accepted July 26, 1863.
Fred returned to western Michigan, probably Courtland where he resumed his lumber interests, and in 1865 settling in Kalamazoo where he worked as a farmer until October of 1872 when he moved to Grand Rapids. In 1872 he was a founder, stockholder and employed as secretary and treasurer of the Grand Rapids Chair Co., and then engaged in real estate and worked as an insurance agent.
By 1879 he was residing at 88 Livingston Street, and his malaria continued to plague him. From 1863 until 1865 he was treated for malaria by Dr. Benjamin Babcock in Grand Rapids, by Dr. Foster Pratt (who had treated Fred in the Thirteenth Michigan) in Kalamazoo, by Dr. Botsford in Grand Rapids and he was under the care of Dr. Robert Luton in Grand Rapids who first saw Fred in May of 1878 and who treated him through May of 1879. Dr. Luton claimed that during this time Worden suffered from “a general debilitated condition of the nervous system, the digestive and evacutory [?] organs and consequently a lack of assimilation which resulted in a low form of inflammation of the cornea of his right eye.”
By 1880 Fred was working in real estate and boarding with a lawyer named Oscar Ransom in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward; also living with him was his wife Mary and son John. He was still living in Grand Rapids in 1883 and 1885, and as an enthusiastic Democrat, he was appointed United States Timber & Land Agent in 1886. According to the Rockford Register of February 3, 1886, Worden “received from the President [Cleveland] a very desirable appointment in the Interior Dept. In this appointment the President has honored a gallant soldier, a pleasant gentleman, a respected citizen and a man who will honestly and fearlessly discharge the public duties intrusted [sic] to him.”
The job required that he move to Reed City where he was living when the Register of March 30, 1887 reported in early Spring of 1887 that Worden was “busy with trespassers upon government land within his jurisdiction” who were illegally cutting timber. On January 11, 1888, the Register reported a rumor that “Col. F. W. Worden, U.S. Timber Agent of Grand Rapids, has purchased of Messers Wachtel, Metheny & Simpson a half block of lots at Oden, on which he will erect a hotel and sanitarium early in the spring, in time for next season's trade. Oden is a station of the G.R. & I. Railway on Crooked Lake, about 6 miles north of Petoskey.”
It is not known for certain whether he did build the hotel or not, and if he so how long he was proprietor.
Fred was living in Oden in 1888 when he married his third wife Dr. Mattie Elna Harman Haverfield, M.D. (1844-1909), on December 18, 1888. She was the widow of George A. Haverfield who died in 1881, and she usually went by the name of Elna.
(According to her headstone she died at the age of 63 in 1909, thus placing her birth date in 1843 or 1844. However, she claimed in her affidavit dated July 6, 1899, for a widow’s pension, that she was 47 years old, thus placing her date of birth at 1852. However, their marriage license notes her age in 1888 as 45, placing her birth date in 1843 or 1844. Elna died June 14, 1909, and was buried in Greenwood cemetery, Petoskey, sec. K, block 100, lot 11, north 1/3, grave 2.)
They settled in Oden where they resided at the “Happy Home Farm.” “This marriage,” writes Kathy Cornwell, “was not a happy one and Fred was gone from home much of the time.” Elna was described by a disinterested party in 1899 as “an educated woman one with a decided mind of her own and I was given to understand by herself when occasion required she did not hesitate to express it. This has made her not a few enemies in her little community but her reputation for truth is good.”
In 1890 Fred lived briefly in Marquette, Marquette County, and also in Maple River, Emmet County and by 1891 was working at the United States land office in Grayling. The Democrat wrote on February 26, 1891, that “Worden of the United States land office at Grayling . . . was a guest at Sweet’s [Hotel] yesterday. ‘I am on my way home,’ he said, ‘from Mt. Pleasant. A distribution of the last Indian reservation in Michigan is being made there and they wanted to consult with me. There are about 5,000 acres of land there to be divided among about 300 Indians. The Indians are of the Chippewa tribe. There is quite an activity among persons wanting homesteads, and the entries are quite large. The law now requires parties to go on the land and live there. No land is sold.” He added on a different note that “The impression prevails in our section that Judge [John W.] Champlin [brother of Stephen, former colonel of the Old Third] will be renominated and he should be. He is not only strong in our country, but all over the state. I think the Democrat is one of the finest papers in the state, and is a credit to Grand Rapids.’”
Worden was residing in Oden in 1892, and in Maple River in 1894. He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, as well as Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids, a staunch Democrat, a member of the Old Residents’ Association in Grand Rapids, and he received pension no. 165,131, dated February of 1863, at the rate of $6.25 per month, increased to $18.75 in March of 1879.
According to Fred’s sister, Mrs. Clara Kipp, Fred went to Washington, DC in the fall of 1897, to attend the funeral of his brother Admiral John Worden, wartime commander of the famous U.S.S. Monitor. Upon returning to Michigan Worden stopped at her home on the southeast corner of 10 Mile road and Myers Lake Avenue near Rockford, where he remained until he died of heart failure at about 9:00 a.m. on August 22, 1898.
Dr. Phineas Watson of Rockford confirmed that there was a palpable enlargement on the left side of his abdomen, which he felt was quite possibly an enlarged spleen while Dr. Harrison Appley of Grand Rapids, who attended Worden only twice before his death, testified that Worden had been suffering from cancer of the liver and that it terminated in general dropsy. Dr. Appley further stated that in his opinion “there was nothing the matter with the spleen” and that “the enlargement was on the other side of the body.” (Although the spleen is on the left side of the body.)
Dr. Hollis Sarber, of Rockford, who attended Worden on April 23, 29, July 23, August 3, 4, 7, 9 and 21, but was not present when he died on August 22, 1898, at Clara’s home, thought differently. He testified on March 15, 1899, that Fred had died from dropsy resulting from malarial poisoning. “He had,” said the doctor, “that yellowish complexion and an enormously enlarged spleen, and as the dropsy progressed the heart action became more enfeebled and irregular.”
In November Dr. Sarber again argued that the cause of death was due to an “enlargement in the region of the spleen and while I am no specialist and there was no autopsy I concluded that he had enlargement of [the] spleen.” He added that it was five or six times larger than a normal spleen. He “considered the enlargement of the spleen with resulting diarrhea and malarial poisoning causing the enlargement of spleen as causing death and he gradually grew weaker until his heart quit beating.”
The undertaker, Clarence Slocum of Rockford, testified in November of 1899, that when he arrived to pick up Worden’s body he found it “very much swollen in the abdomen and I supposed it was gas but when I tapped him fluid began to flow and I took about one and one-half gallons of fluid from him and the bloating disappeared. When there is an enlargement like a tumor I could feel it after the fluid was drawn off but in this case there was no enlargement at all. I examined him for a tumor but there was none.” He was “not able to say whether or not he had enlargement of the spleen.” Clara said that several doctors
all said he had [a] tumor of the stomach. He did not complain of this until the summer that he died. He was quite well when he came here and he remained that way for a good while. His appetite was good when he came but the next summer he lost his appetite and then the doctors examined him and said he had a tumor of the stomach and dropsy of [the] heart and he suffered very much with pains in the back. This was before the tumor of stomach appeared. He got so he had to wear his vest open on account of enlargement of stomach and the stomach was very hard. I think that his bowels worked all right. I did not know of him vomiting any but there was very much pain in his stomach. His principal diet was oatmeal and eggs and he could eat a little steak at times, but for a few days before he died he got so he could not take food at all, and whatever he drank he wanted it without sugar. He drank lemonade that way. He felt that his heart was somewhat diseased but he did not seem to have trouble in getting his breath. He was only bedfast a few days and he died very unexpected to me. He appeared to sleep well that night though we had been up with him his breath became shorter and he died very easily. While he had been able to walk around he wore his shoes. I don’t recall that his feet or limbs were swollen.
Question: Did you hear the doctors say that his spleen was enlarged?
Answer: I did not. No, I did not hear my brother speak of the disease being of his spleen. Mr. Slocum was the undertaker.
Clara, who had attended the funerals of Fred’s previous two wives, apparently disliked Elna. In November of 1899 she testified that she did not know Elna before she and Fred were married, but that her “brother had made an application for a divorce from his wife “ and that she was “quite sure that he was not going back to live with her again” in the summer of 1898. In Clara’s view, Elna “was too hard to get along with” and in her estimation she did not treat Fred well.
And indeed, Elna told a rather different story, albeit one of candor and frankness. On July 6, 1899, she testified that he left his home in Oden in February of 1898 and “went to Rockford and I never saw him afterwards.” She did not even know of his death until his read about it in the newspaper. She explained further.
His folks did not even notify me of his death. No it was not a separation but Colonel Worden was a man well up in years (78) and had lost his position with the government and was unable to find employment by which he could make a living for us and the fact is he had meddled in politics a good deal and lived up to his income and when he lost his place we were without any funds. I suggested to Colonel Worden that he stay here on the far, one I had homesteaded myself, and live on his pension and I would go out and establish myself in the practice of medicine for which I had been fitted and am a graduate of two schools, Indiana Med College & Med. College of Indiana, both of Indianapolis. Ind. Colonel Worden said he wouldn’t stay here for all the wealth in northern Michigan & went to his sisters near Rockford & died there. I do not know a thing about his death or the cause but I visited Rockford afterwards & met with Dr. Saber who had attended him during his sickness and he told me he thought it was his old army trouble malaria or malarial poisoning. He was in his usual health when he left home but his usual health was bad. He never was a well man while I knew him and was really worn out when I married him, although you could not tell it from his appearance. Well he suffered a good deal of the time with pains in the back of his head and neck and back. His bowels were also very irregular either too loose or else constipated, not all the time but he had frequents attacks of this kind. He also had a weak heart and suffered at times with palpitation and shortness of breath. In fact he had about all the ailments there are or thought he had during the years we were married. He also suffered a good deal with bloatings, a dropsical tendency. He always had that. He always said his ailments were due to his army service and attributes them all due to malarial poisoning which he said he got in the army whenever he got in a malarial climate. He always suffered from malaria but up here we have very little of it and he only while here was bothered once in awhile.
No I do not think he had any kidney disease but like old [?] person’s kidneys were sluggish at times. His hands would bloat & feet and around his stomach and at times his face would bloat, not enough to confine him to his bed but he had frequent attacks of bloating/ Dr. Saber told me he was very much bloated in his last illness. The papers I believe gave it heart disease. I do not think there was an autopsy after death. There was another physician called in consultation during Mr. Worden’s last illness but I do not know his name but Dr. Saber can give it. . . . I understand that Mr. Worden died suddenly & that he was up and about the day before but of course was not well and had been ailing all the time. [He] was always ailing from the time I first knew him.
Elna then went on to say quite frankly that Worden’s family were “very much prejudiced against me but why I do not know” When asked if the colonel had been engaged in business before his death, Elna replied that “Yes, Mr. Worden attended to business up to a short time of his death but he was very sickly and not strong at all. He did not have regular chills and fever but his blood at times was sluggish.” Still, according to Elna, Worden “attributed everything to malarial poisoning.”
The special examiner of Elna’s pension application (no. 487801) concluded that “It was rumored” that her and her husband “did not agree very well and had many differences and “ she “admits as much and also that the soldier left her in February 1898 and she never saw him afterwards. She declares however there was no divorce and it was not intended as a full or final separation.” She further stated that “she was not even notified he was sick and did not know of his death until she read it in the papers. This she claims was due to prejudice on the part of his relatives,” which presumably referred to his sister Clara. Elna was eventually granted a widow’s pension.
Funeral services were held on the morning of August 24 in Rockford. Fred was reportedly buried in Courtland cemetery (presumably in the family plot between his first wife Catharine and their child Leonnie), but no record of his interment is found.
Nevertheless, after exhaustive research, Rockford historian Kathy Cornwell has deduced that Fred was in fact buried between Catharine and their little girl. Ms. Cornwell believes that since Fred died at his sister’s home, it was probable that his remains were entrusted to her for burial, and indeed, all of the contemporary reports of the time state flatly that Fred was in fact interred at Courtland cemetery. Ms. Cornwell also draws attention to the fact that a local genealogy compiled in the 1930s notes that along with Ananias and Harriet, eight of their twelve children are buried in Courtland.
“We know,” Mrs. Cornwell writes, “the four children who were buried elsewhere, and found seven markers for the other children. All the children except Fred were accounted for.”
On July 30, 1995, a group of interested parties gathered in Courtland cemetery for the dedication of veteran’s marker for Fred Worden. “I am sure,” stated Ms. Cornwell, “Fred would be pleased to be remembered at all, and especially in such a grand way -- even if it was nearly a century overdue.”