Military service became something of a tradition in James Follett’s family. His paternal grandfather served in the Revolutionary War. James Ivan Follett enlisted in Company F, 12th Michigan Infantry as a Corporal on 4 December 1861 at Kalamazoo. His 19-year-old son, James Saxton Follett, followed him into the same company three weeks later. The elder James was steadily promoted and was finally commissioned Captain of Company H about six weeks before he wrote the letter reproduced here. The younger James was a prisoner of war from May 1864 to May 1865, but survived the war. Father and son were mustered out together at Camden, Arkansas on 15 February 1866 and returned to their family in Kalamazoo.
Like many immigrants to Michigan, James Follett was a native New Englander, born in Massachusetts in 1818. He married Calista Saxton, a New Yorker, in 1842. For a few years they lived in Indiana, where their son James and daughter Ellen were born. They moved to Kalamazoo in early 1850 where they had another son Frank. James was a carpenter and joiner by trade, and Calista was working as a tailoress when the 1860 census taker found them in Kalamazoo. After the war, both Jameses manufactured bricks here. Sometime in the early 1870s, after the death of their teenage son Frank, the Folletts moved to Whitewater Township in eastern Grand Traverse County and took up farming. James Sr. and Calista both died there in 1884 and 1895 respectively. James Jr. moved on to Antrim County and lived until 1926.
James J. (sic) and James S. Follett entries
- Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-65
- Volume 12, page 57
- H 977.4 M61 (microfilm)
"John W. Follett" [James I. Follett's brother] biographical sketch
- Portrait and Biographical Album of Sedgwick County, Kansas
- Chapman Brothers, 1888, pages 232-233
Captain J. I. Follett death notice
- Kalamazoo Gazette, 22 August 1884, page 3 column 1.
Saxton – Millar Genealogy Project
- Online at Ancestry.com (private subscription needed to view).
Michigan censuses are available on microfilm in the Local History Collection, or on Ancestry.com accessible through the library's subscription.
William E. Trowbridge household [James’s family was living with them]
- 1850 U.S. census, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, Kalamazoo village
- page 24R, dwelling illegible, family 367
James Follett household
- 1860 U.S. census, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, town of Kalamazoo
- page 568, dwelling 1150, family 1143
James I. Follett household
- 1870 U.S. census, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, Kalamazoo village
- page 168, dwelling 400, family 383
James I. Follett household, 1880
- U.S. census, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, Whitewater Township
- page 426C, dwelling 142, family 146. James Jr.’s household is directly above his father’s