The ABCs of Lowell History: O is for O’Dell

The ABCs of Lowell History is back for another round. This popular series explores a wide variety of topics in Lowell area history in weekly online articles and is written by volunteers and staff from the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

O is for O’Dell

The O’Dell family has lived in the Lowell area since 1844. The family members have served and led the community in many ways.

The O’Dell adventure began when Orlando and Silence O’Dell and family left Chenango County New York and came by the Erie Canal to Michigan. They settled in Vergennes Township on what is today Bailey Drive just east of Parnell. In 1848 he was appointed to be the postmaster.

Orlando and Silence O’Dell house

The Post Office was hosted in the home of the O’Dell family. Orlando served as Supervisor and Clerk of Vergennes Township. While he was supervisor, he was elected to chair the Kent County Board of Supervisors. Their children were Adelbert, Abby and Simeon.

Abby married Dr Isaac Malcom. Both Dr Malcom and their son Fred were very well known within the horse racing world. Besides breeding and raising racehorses, the Malcom’s owned property near where Atwood stands today, and operated a horse track. They planned and hosted races, and Fred judged races here and for other tracks.

Simeon moved out west, but his daughter Daisy moved back to Lowell, living with the Malcolms for a time to attend school. She later married George Giles of Lowell and was unfortunately killed in the worst Pere Marquette train accident in its history.

Orlando and Silence’s son Adelbert continued the family name on the family farm. He married Caroline (Carrie) Wingler. Adelbert named his only child, a son, after his own father, Orlando J. O’Dell. Orlando spent his entire life on the farm that was homesteaded by his grandfather of the same name. This generation experienced tragedy as Orlando and wife Sophia grieved a baby girl who died at birth and later the loss of their precious Abby.

Abby graduated from Lowell in the class of 1923. The class prophecy, a fun yearbook sketch, predicted Abby would grow up to run a merry go round. The class elected her as the ‘blusher’. Less than ten years later she died of a brain tumor. It was said that even through her suffering she remained “the bright, hopeful spirit she always was” even after she couldn’t speak, she would smile to her friends.

Orlando held various offices in the township and on the school board. He also served as director and agent for Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company, served as Justice of the Peace, was on the Kent Jury Commission centered in Grand Rapids, and was one of the community’s most useful and highly respected citizens. It was through Orlando’s second wife Bertha that the family line on the farm continued with son Adelbert.

Adelbert and Connie O’Dell

Adelbert met his future wife when she came to Michigan from Indiana to work at the Lone Pine Inn, located just down the road from the O’Dell farm. Mrs. Bailey at the Lone Pine Inn called Cordelia ‘Connie’, and soon that’s how she was known. Adelbert and Connie married and continued the O’Dell story, raising their family on the farm. Adelbert, following his ancestors, served on the township board.

Roger O’Dell

Adelbert’s son Roger, still living on the O’Dell family land, walked in his Great, Great, Grandfather’s footprints, serving as the Vergennes Township Supervisor. Roger was 33 at the time, the youngest Supervisor to serve in Kent County. He continues to serve in other capacities at the township level.

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