Alva Randall, the pioneer physician, was the eldest child of Caleb and Lydia Randall, and was born at Danby, Vt., Feb. 4, 1800. He was educated in the district school, and selected the medical profession, being the first of the family to enter that profession. He graduated at Castleton Medical College, Vermont, and began practice in Grafton, Vt., boarding in the family of Benjamin Dwinell, and was united in marriage to Joanna Woodburn Dwinell, the daughter of his host.
The young couple soon moved to Conquest, Cayuga Co., N. Y., and renting a log house he taught school the first winter and also began his practice. They were soon able to buy a small frame house and a few acres of land. Here their first child, Esther Sophia, was born, March 23, 1825. Their first great sorrow came when she died, Sept. 9, 1830; she was laid at rest in the old cemetery in that quiet little hamlet. Here also their daughter, Abigal Maria, was born, in 1827, and Caleb Dwinell, Feb. 15, 1831.
In October, 1835, Dr. Randall and his family removed to Michigan, and settled in the village of Bronson, which at that time was the most prominent in the county. Here he purchased land in Bronson and Bethel, and entered upon the practice of his profession. There was no other physician for about ten miles from the village. The years that followed were noted for sickness. His ride was very extensive, and the compensation very moderate, often being paid in cattle, or other personal property, and often not at all. He had his land improved in Bronson and Bethel. He was a hard-working, ambitious man, and in a sickly climate his severe labors told on him severely and rapidly.
He and his wife were members of the Methodist Church, and their house was a welcome home for the pioneer ministers of the various denominations; Rev. Jacob Patch, Presbyterian, and Rev. Messrs. Sabin, Erkenbrach and McCarty, Methodist, who were often there, are among the well remembered names. The Doctor was a Whig. In his day his party was greatly in the minority. He was once nominated, and ran for the Legislature, but was of course defeated. He was well informed on all political and historical matters. In character and habits he was irreproachable. He had a high sense of honor, and was highly respected by all who knew him. He was cordial and frank, and popular with the people and his patients. As a family physician he was endeared to the families of the old pioneers, many of whom yet remember him with most kindly feelings. Brusque and cheerful in his ways, he was kind-hearted to all, and never distressed any man for his pay. Many of his debts remained uncollected and outlawed.
While in Bronson two more children were born to him—Lydia Conger and Helen Lydia. The first was born Sept. 15, 1836, and the latter May 31, 1844, and there, within a few weeks of each other, Abigal M. and Lydia C. died of brain fever, leaving only one child, the son. Abigal M. died Jan. 18, 1843, and Lydia C. died March 3, 1843. This was a great trial to the parents, a sorrow which followed them to the grave. Abigal was a beautiful and precocious child, the most promising one of the family. She had joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, having been baptized in Swan Creek with many others. We here quote the affectionate words of the brother, C. D.:
How well I remember her fine form, her bright looks and red cheeks; a noble girl and a born leader. Lydia was a dear, sweet girl, light hair, very pretty, and attractive in her ways.
She was only about six years old. When Abigal died—that night—the writer remembers hearing her sing in the delirium of her fever:
On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
And before the morning came to the pioneer home she had passed over to that "happy land," leaving most desolate and afflicted her parents, sister and brother. It was only a few weeks when the same brain fever took away the little sister, and left the home more desolate than ever. Only one child remained, and he in his youth wrote these words:
My sisters! How we dearly loved in childhood
To play beneath the oak tree, lone and shaded
Decking its rough bark with early flowers,
While merry rang our voices, making music,
Seeming to start the Spirit of the forest.
It was only about seven years after their death, Dec. 23, 1851, when Dr. Randall, after a few days' sickness—pneumonia, induced by exposure—also passed away. He had fought a good fight, in his church, in society, and in his profession, and when his career was ended, it was that of a good soldier "honorably discharged."
Michael Dwinell. By the famous Edict of Nantes, Henri IV of France, April 13, 1598, gave religious freedom to Protestants. The Huguenots had been so faithful to the king that this edict was confirmed by royal decree in 1652. But in 1656 another decree annulled that of 1598. Then began the persecutions of Protestants, which culminated in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Oct. 18, 1685, by Louis XIV. The persecutions under this despotic ruler continued many years, especially from 1656. It was an effort of Louis XIY and the Catholics, by the dungeon, by fire, by the wheel and confiscation, to crush out the religion of more than a million and a half of people under this persecution. Though the government endeavored to prevent emigration, over 400,000 among the most industrious, intelligent and religious of the nation left France and settled in Great Britain, Holland, Prussia, Switzerland and America. The loss to France was immense, and the gain to other countries very great. Among the refugees in 1668 was Michael Dwinell, from Paris. He settled in Topsfield, Mass., and was a maternal ancestor of our subject. From him descended the Dwinells of this country—probably all. The name of his wife was Mary Reade, an English girl. The children were Mary, Michael, Thomas, John, Elizabeth, Magdalene, Joseph. Joanna and Susanna.
Michael Dwinell, the eldest son, was a physician, and was married five different times. Benjamin, son of Michael, and grandson of Michael the emigrant, married Mary Esty. He was born in Massachusetts, Dec. 25, 1763.
Among his children was a son, Benjamin, the grandfather of C. D. Randall. He married Mehitable Goodridge, by whom he had eleven children. Joanna Woodburn, one of his daughters, was born Dec. 23, 1802, and married Dr. Alva Randall, July 24, 1827, and died at Coldwater, Mich., Dec. 13, 1877. This lady, the mother of our subject, was a typical New England lady. She was well educated and a most affectionate wife and mother. With her husband she early joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Bible was a familiar book with her; she read it through a good many times and had in its teachings the most implicit faith. It was an unfailing source of consolation and inspiration in health or sickness, pleasure or sorrow. She was a devout follower of her Master, and suffered the hardships and privations of pioneer life, and was faithful, neighborly and self sacrificing to the last.
C. D. Randall was born in Conquest, Cayuga Co., N. Y., Feb. 15, 1831. In October, 1835, his father's family settled in Bronson, Mich., on a farm, where young Caleb grew up, attending the district school. While preparing for the university in the Wesley an Seminary at Albion, he was called home by the serious illness of his father in 1851. His school days then terminated. In the spring of 1855 he was graduated at the Albany (N. Y.) Law School. May 26, 1857, he married Miss Hattie Smith, of Morrisville, N. Y., and they began their married life in Coldwater, and there his wife died Feb. 3, 1863. She was an attractive and cultivated lady, a Christian in belief and practice, and a member of the Baptist Church. The brief tribute at her grave tells her character truly:
She kept God's Commandments,
She lived Christ's Beatitudes.