Our mill’s founder, William Henry Yates, had a long family history in the United States, with lineage that stretched back to the seventeenth-century Dutch settlers of colonial New York. His wife, Scholastika Caroline Hamer, who was called Caroline, was born in Wuerttemberg, Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1852, when she was about seventeen years old.
Caroline entered the U.S. through the port of New York. How she met William is unknown, but the two must have been married sometime in 1853 or early 1854, as their son, Frank William Yates, was born in December 1854. The couple lived in the town of Sullivan in Madison County, New York, where William Yates’s parents and siblings also lived at the time. According to census records, William was farming with his brother, George, and some of Caroline’s younger siblings had come from Wuerttemberg to live with the family.
The Yates family’s home in Sullivan was on the Erie Canal, meaning that they had access to a water route when they decided to move westward to Michigan. It would have been possible for the family to travel the canal to Lake Erie, and from there to travel up the Detroit River.
William and Caroline settled in Avon Township in 1863. Their son, Frank, was nine years old at the time that his parents made the move to Michigan. Caroline’s sister, Theresa Hamer, also came to Michigan with the family. Theresa never married and lived with the Yates family until her death in 1932.
When the Yates family arrived in Avon, they weren’t surrounded by strangers. William’s uncle, John Sipperley, already lived here. John Sipperley was the brother of William’s mother, Catherine Sipperley Yates, and he sold William and Caroline the land upon which they would build their home and mill. Several of John’s children owned farms in the immediate area, so although he was living in a new place, William Yates was surrounded by cousins, and his mill probably had some built-in business!
William and Caroline Yates had only one child, Frank, but the Yates family in Avon continued to grow through the succeeding generations. Frank and his wife, Maggie, had four children: Adam (sometimes called Addy), Sadie, Harry, and William. Harry and William helped their father run the mill, and Harry eventually took over the business as the third generation to run William Yates’s mill. Sadie married and had a family in Shelby Township, while Adam Yates ran a successful machine shop on Main Street in Rochester, near the South Hill Bridge (the Yates name is still visible on this building today).
Written by Deborah Larsen
Freelance writer, Copyeditor, Proofreader,
Research Committee chairperson with
Rochester Avon Historical Society.