Henry S. Calkins was born on August 14, 1837, in Clinton County, New York, the son of New York native John Calkins (b. 1807) and Canadian Elizabeth “Betsey” Hedges (1805-1895).
Between 1838 and 1846 the family left New York and settled in Michigan and by 1850 Henry was living on the family farm in Tallmadge, Ottawa County. In 1860 Henry was working as a farm laborer and still living with his family in Tallmadge.
Henry stood 5’10” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 24-year-old farmer probably living in Tallmadge, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861. According to Reuben Randall, who was also from Tallmadge and who also served in Company B, Henry was taken sick sometime in mid-July and was confined to the regimental hospital while the regiment was advancing towards Bull Run. Henry was discharged on July 29, 1861, for consumption and “a predisposition to insanity.”
After his discharge he returned to Michigan and settled in Tallmadge, Ottawa County. He was living as a single man in Tallmadge, Ottawa County in the summer of 1863 when he registered for the draft.
In 1863 Henry married Michigan native Ellen Coldron (1845-1934), and they had at least two children: Charles (1867-1929) and Elizabeth Bertha (1868-1934, Mrs. Ransom).
By 1870 Henry was working as a painter and living with his wife and children with his in-laws, the Jacob Coldron family in Grand Rapids’ 2nd Ward. (In 1870 his parents were still living in Tallmadge.) By 1880 Henry was reported to be working as an engineer and still living with his wife, who was working as a dressmaker and son Charles was working in a laundry at his in-laws’ home on Coit Avenue in Grand Rapids (his parents were still living in Tallmadge).
Henry may have been active in the Reform (or Temperance) movement in Ottawa County, and although he was mentioned in Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association records he was apparently not a member. At some point Henry became mentally unstable and he was reportedly unable to support his wife (but not as a consequence of “vicious habits”).
Henry was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 386) for the first time on July 31, 1886. Although he reported himself as a married man he listed his nearest relative as his mother Betsey who was then living in Lamont, Ottawa County. He was discharged at his own request on November 29, and in February of 1887 he was residing at 87 Coit Avenue in Grand Rapids (possibly with his wife and/or in-laws). Sometime around 1888 he was admitted to an insane asylum, presumably in Kalamazoo, where he resided for about six months before being transferred to the Soldier’s Home in Grand Rapids. He was readmitted to the Home on November 29, 1888, discharged on June 20, 1891 and was in and out of the home several times until he was admitted for the last time on November 11, 1904. By 1900 Ellen had moved to Oregon and was living with her daughter Bertha and her family in Portland’s 9th Ward. It appears that she remained in Oregon for the rest of her life.
In 1890 he applied for a pension (application no. 966,665) but the certificate was never granted (and indeed his Home records note that he received no pension).
Henry was listed as a widower when he died of valvular heart disease at the Home on January 12, 1908, at 4:00 a.m., and according to the Home records his remains were taken to Ottawa County for interment in Berlin (Marne) cemetery, Ottawa County. In fact it appears that he was buried in Maplewood Cemetery, Lamont, Ottawa County, section I.
Curiously, his wife Ellen, who sometime around 1900 (or perhaps earlier) had moved to Oregon to live with her daughter Bertha and her husband Oscar Warren, listed herself as a widower in the Portland city directories beginning in 1900.
By 1910 Ellen was living with her son Charles and his family in Hood River, Oregon. By 1920 Ellen was living with her daughter Bertha and her family in Mount Hood, Hood River County, Oregon. She was living in Portland, Oregon in 1930 and 1931, and she died in Portland in 1934.