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George H. Prentice of NY and Lawton, MI

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George H. Prentice of NY and Lawton, MI
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Winter 1999 and Revised 19 Feb 2004

Update of 17 Jun 2000: George H. Prentice is a descendant of Thomas Prentice, #229/3 in our PRENTICE book; Thomas may, or may not, be a descendant of Robert Prentice of Roxbury, MA. The article has been revised to include new information from Robert Shirkey and Guy Prentice.

1. George H. Prentice was born 8 Feb. 1843 in Pultneyville, NY on the banks of Lake Ontario and d. 24 Sep 1907 in Lawton, MI.

As a youth, George lived in Rochester, NY. He was the first man to enlist in the township at the opening of the war in Williamsville, NY for 3 mo. in the 17th NY Infantry, reenlisted for 2 years with the 37th NY Inf. and just before the 2 years ended he was discharged due to physical disabilities. During the war, he was captured and imprisoned in Libby and for 6 mo. in Andersonville.

Guy Prentice relates that during George's incarceration at Andersonville prison, he made a meager living out of selling potatoes and a sassafras drink. It is said that he was a Captain of a police squad at Andersonville during the time a band of Union marauders known as the Raiders were being rounded up and their ringleaders hanged. Guy recalls that as a young boy in the 1950's he visited his great-grandmother Ophelia Burr Prentice (widow of Herbert) and being shown a golfball sized cage with a small marble inside that George Prentice had carved from bone while he was in Andersonville.

He moved to Lawton, Van Buren County, MI. He enlisted in Co. H of the MI 7th Cavalry, served out the war and was sent west to fight Indians. According to Guy Prentice, George's service with the 7th MI Cavalry ended also in disability after he rode horseback 75 miles each way during one 24 hour period to deliver dispatches from Ft. Hallack (sp?) near the Wyoming-Montana border. The strain of the ride either caused or exacerbated a heart condition. A Sargent in the 7th, he was discharged in January of 1866.

After his discharge, George lived for a short time on a farm in Porter Twp. south of Lawton and then moved to town where he lived from 1866 to his death in 1907. From 1905 through the time of his death, George Prentice had been wintering in Southern California. In early 1907, he and his son, Herbert J. Prentice, were among the seven founders of the "California Vineyards & Improvement Company" in North Cucamonga, CA. which was in the business of growing grapes, providing water and buying and selling land. Herbert J. was also the vineyard manager. Herbert's son, Burr, lived in the township of Rochester, which is now the site of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes minor league baseball stadium.

George Prentice wintered in a town called Bairdstown located somewhere between Los Angeles and Pasadena. There was a Bairdstown in that area which was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1915 and became the community of El Sereno.

George was killed during a dispute at a baseball game in Lawton on 24 Sep 1907. George was attacked by a Mr. Charles S. Smith over an argument apparently after a baseball game. The attack was on a Saturday evening a few minutes past seven o'clock. The baseball game had been played earlier in the day.

George was attacked with a baseball club but the attack took place on Main Street in front of Fuhrman's Drug Store. Apparently the baseball club had been taken out of the Drug Store. The two men had been arguing, continued the argument into the store, been asked to leave the store, continued the discourse back onto the street and then Mr. Smith went back into the store, got the bat, went back out onto the walk, verbally attacked, swung and missed, Mr. Prentice responded verbally but not physically and Mr. Smith swung again and hit Mr. Prentice in the head.

Fellow citizens took Mr. Prentice across the street to his home where he received care from two doctors. Unfortunately, he died the next Tuesday at about one o'clock PM. Mr. Smith turned himself in to the sheriff on Saturday night. The altercation evidently took place because Mr. Prentice had opinions which he was not afraid to express and Mr. Smith was quick tempered. Mr. Smith was charge with murder, convicted, and may have been convicted of manslaughter and served 3 years in prison.

Robert Shirkey's wife's great grandfather, Sheldon Coleman, as well as at least one other man had been walking down the street discussing the game with Mr. Prentice when Mr. Smith initially came up. The discussion grew a bit heated and Sheldon (Shed) and the other man walked away before the incident escalated.

What were Prentice and Smith arguing about? Guy Prentice says that if family stories passed down from generation to generation are to be believed, the argument started over a disputed call by an umpire at the baseball game. George Prentice was a practicing spiritualist, and it is said that he once predicted a train crash. Smith had argued with George Prentice about the disputed call, apparently figuring that if he could predict a train crash, he should know if the runner were 'safe' or 'out.' The dispute alledgedly escalated from there. Toward the end of the argument, Smith accused Prentice of being a "government pauper" and Prentice called Smith a "pimp." Guy's information is that George would argue about anything, and wasn't afraid of stepping on anyone's toes.

The details about the attack, including a picture of George Prentice, is the front page news in the 27 September 1907 issue of the Lawton Leader, on microfilm at the State of Michigan Library. The next issue: 4 October 1907 also has a memorium and another short article. There is great detail on his survival at Andersonville and some on the type of man he was.

George was a member of the GAR and may have held the title of Captain in the GAR. In Lawton, he was often referred to as Captain Prentice.

About 1865 he m. to Harriet M. Markle. She was b. Apr 1848, MI. Children of George and Harriet:

  1. Herbert J. Prentice, b. c. 1865-70. He m. Ophelia Burr. Lived in Rochester, CA in 1907. Son:
    1. Burr H. Prentice, b. 26 Jan 1893, MI. He m. Mildred L. Prescott, b. c. 1898, Canada. Lived in Downey, CA. In 1920 San Diego, CA. Died 16 Feb 1963, Riverside Co., CA, age 70 (per Cal. Death Records). Son:
      1. Herbert L. Prentice, b. 1916, CA. He m. Bettie Peitzke. Lives in Downey, CA. Son:
        1. Guy Prentice
    2. Diamond Prentice, b. c. 1897, MI. She m. Mr. Zug. Son:
      1. Kenneth Zug, b. c. 1915, CA. He may be the father of:
        1. Kenneth Douglas Zug shown in Cal. Death Records as b. 20 July 1932, CA and d. 24 Apr 1996, San Mateo Co., CA.

Correspondence:   If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please send your information to us at the Prentice Newsletter. Be sure to give the full title and date of this article in the Subject line of the email.

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