I received an email from Cheryl Walker stating that this article was written by Kenneth Hale, Charles Perry Rhead's grandson. Cheryl's husband is a blood descendant of Mahala Walker Rhead and they are looking for anyone who might have the family bible and pictures of the family. If you have any information regarding the Mahala and Charles Rhead family, please contact Cheryl at: cherylswalker4@gmail.com


Charles Perry Rhead was born January 6, 1847 in Nankin Township, Wayne County, Michigan. His parents, Aden Rhead, a farmer, and Melvina Wilsey both were natives of New York. A brother, George, was born in 1850 but the child died while an infant. A second brother, Frank, was born on June 25, 1852. His wife was Edith H., born March 11, 1857, and died April 25, 1946. Frank was killed on April 30, 1915 at the proving grounds or race track at Toledo, Ohio. He was about to cross the track and waited for an oncoming vehicle. He started across the track but didn't see the next car coming. He was struck and killed by that car.

The Nankin Mill, a historic place, is located near their birthplace. It was built in 1837 and was used as a station in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War period.

Nankin seems like a strange name for a town or township in Michigan. At the time it was founded, a state law of April 12, 1827 decreed that no township should bear the same name as any other post office then existing in the United States. Also, at the time the first missionaries were sent to China. To comply with the state law and to recognize the then popular missionary efforts, three Wayne Count townships were named, Canton, Nankin, and Pekin.

When Charles was 13 years of age, three Brown children were residing in the Aden Rhead household. They were Elizabeth Ann, 18, Olive A., 8, and Andrew C., 5. Apparently they were the children of neighbors Andrew C. and Elizabeth Brown, New York natives, who were listed in the 1850 census of Wayne County. Charles early life and school days were spent in Nankin. We know nothing more of him until he moved to Lapeer, possibly about the age of 33. According to the 1866 year end edition of the Lapeer Democrat newspaper, he was engaged with his brother, Frank, dealing in windmills and wells.

Somewhere along the line Charles had developed expertise in handwriting. Perhaps two extant "Rewards of Merit" presented him by his teachers, Eliza McCartney and Mary B. Gaugh, were for penmanship. The certificates are undated and neither the subject not the school are identified. His handwriting, in Spenserian style, was so excellent that he taught penmanship while a young man.

One day, Charles was called to repair a sink at a restaurant or boarding house operated by Mahala Walker and a sister, probably Ella. It was on this occasion he first met Mahala. She had related this to her granddaughter, Yvonne Hale.

Charles and Mahala Walker were married on July 23, 1891. Mahala was the fourth of eight children born to Charles Augustus Walker and Anna Deneen. The latter was the first white child to be born in Lapeer County.

The newlyweds made their home in Lapeer, but due to health reasons or lack of employment, or perhaps both, they moved to Mobile, Alabama where Charles sought work as a carpenter. Their only son, C. Clifton Rhead, was born in that city on November 24, 1893.

The couple lost twins when Mahala had a miscarriage, the date and place are unknown. The Rheads returned to Lapeer where their only daughter, Lucille Florence, was born on June 20, 1898. They lived in a house on Franklin Avenue, in the Northern part of the city. Their neighbors included the only black family in Lapeer and who were janitors in the three Lapeer schools.

They next bought a house and four lots located on a hill near the Flint River. The address was 63 Pearl Street. The property also had a barn for the horse and cow they kept. Lucille recalls delivering the rich Jersey milk to customers for 5 cents a quart tin pail. She also recalls selling lovely stalks of asparagus at 10 cents per bunch.

Charles was an avid Democrat in politics and ran for Mayor of Lapeer in one election in the predominantly Republican city. He did not win but was satisfied to have made the effort. His brother, Frank, was an equally avid Republican.

Charles was a man of many talents. He was a carpenter, plumber and broom maker. He made a bath tub out of lead which he molded in a wood frame. It drew water from the boiler on the kitchen wood stove. As a broom maker, he grew his own broom corn and had a large vat where he bleached it. He had fancy labels bearing his name which he glued to the broom handles.

Frank, Charles' brother, lived across the street. His son, Ronald, had a large dog which he used to hitch to a wagon and pulled cousin Lucille around the neighborhood. Charles' health continued to be poor so much of the bread winning fell to Mahala. She was a superb cook and baker. People came to her for her freshly made fried cakes, wedding cakes, etc. She also took in roomers and boarders.

In an undated letter to "Dear Children," the contents which indicated it was addressed to her youngest daughter, Augusta Walker Weldon, Anna Deneen Walker Patten wrote, "If you have anything, send it to Mahala. She is so needy my heart aches for her." The letter underlined the difficult economic circumstances of Charles and Mahala Rhead. The letter probably was written 1909.

It finally was decided that Charles should go to the Southwest for his health. Accordingly, the cow was sold to help provide funds. He went to New Mexico where he visited friends, the Spauldings, and then went on to California. The travel to warmer sections of the country did nothing to improve his health.

Lucille was in the third grade at the time of her father's trip West. She vividly recalled he bought her a lovely string of beads which she proudly wore and told about at school. Clifton's future was a problem. He was to graduate from high school in 1910. He wanted to go to college, but how? Mahala learned of an opening as a matron at M.A.C. (Michigan Agricultural College), so she went to East Lansing where she was an apprentice for three months in the Club "A", one of the three eating clubs in Williams Hall, a men's dormitory. She got the job at $100 per month. What a fortune, and what good fortune! So, the family moved into Williams Hall in July, 1910. They had a second floor living room, two bedrooms, and a bath. They took their meals in the kitchen below. In the meantime Charles obtained a job in the college power plant just behind Williams Hall. It was an inside job and he was quite comfortable working there.

Two years later, in 1912, the Rhead's bought a lot, sold it and bought a six bedroom house at 258 Michigan Avenue, East Lansing. Dr. Snyder was president of the college at that time. After his death, his family of three boys moved into the home two doors away from the Rhead's. Lucille's school opened early in September, 1910, but she didn't like it. Charles and Mahala thought her schooling was as important as Clifton's so Charles took her to the superintendent of schools in Lansing. She was enrolled but was set back one whole year because she did not have "percentages" in her previous arithmetic classes. She first attended Larch street school, by going by trolley car. Tickets then were six for a quarter. After one year, she was transferred with others to Townsend Street School near the State Capitol Building. Tuition then was $60.00.

Lucille was gifted with musical talent. She played the piano and sang. She once was selected to sing a duet, "Annie Laurie" with Neal _____ in front of the school assembly.

Upon completing the 7th and 8th grades at Townsend Street School, she went to the only Lansing high school located on North Capitol Street. She was determined she would make up the year she lost in the sixth grade. She took five subjects for three years. along with glee club and chorus, and graduated in the top ten of her class. She never was a junior in high school but her father scrimped and saved to buy her a class pin for $60.00.

Charles did not live to see his daughter graduate from high school. He suffered a stroke early in 1916 and after several more strokes, died on April 17, 1916. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan. After high school, Lucille obtained a part time job on the M. A. C. campus working on duplicating machines to help with college expenses.

Meanwhile, Mahala took over the Delta Club, a group of unmarried instructors. She roomed and boarded the group. During the season, she also ran the training table for the college football team. The stars of the period included Hugh Blacklock (later long time Kent County Sheriff), and the Miller brothers, Gauthier, and Ralph Henning. Macklin was the coach.

Clifton was graduated in 1914 with a degree in engineering. Lucille met her husband to be, Herman B. Hale, on a blind date for the alumni dance on June 1, 1917 when the latter returned from duty on the Mexican Border. They were married upon his return from France after World War I on July 15, 1919 at Mason, Michigan. They made their home on the Hale farm in Gaines Township, Kent County, which Herman bought from his father using his Michigan Veterans' Bonus as partial payment. Shortly thereafter, Mahala sold her large house on Michigan Avenue, East Lansing, and went to live with her daughter and son-in-law. She remained there about three years and returned to East Lansing where she bought a duplex at 318 Albert Avenue. She rented one unit and lived in the other. Each apartment had three bedrooms. She rented two of her bedrooms to single working girls and one time had a "professional" music student. This man, Michael Press, alleged he was a professor of music- a real hot shot. He failed to pay his rent. Mahala had the sheriff attach his baby grand piano. On one occasion, he even locked her out of her apartment, claiming she was keeping house for him. She had to resort to living temporarily with a friend on M. A. C. Avenue.

There were others who tried to take advantage of her because she a widow. But, she was strong willed and held her own. A man named Knapp was one. He was a realtor and used to say, "I have this deal and it is this close to closing," holding up a thumb and forefinger about one inch apart. When this man's son, Gerald Knapp, was responsible for the rent, he always was prompt in making payments.

Going back a moment to the time the Rhead's were living in Lapeer and when Mahala prepared fresh fried cakes for the local trade, there was a special clique who reveled in her delicacies. One was a man named Vincent, who owed a drug store. He and three other men gave her a plush coat for Christmas one year. The minister also gave her a lovely velvet dress. Mahala cut it up and made two beautiful dresses for daughter Lucille. Where there was a will there was a way. She was determined to insure her grandchildren would have the benefit of a college education. She had converted her coal burning furnace to oil. The old coal coal bin was towed out and in its place a comfortable students' bedroom was constructed, complete with a large double desk and bunk beds. The first occupants in the fall of 1937 were grandson Kenneth Hale and a classmate, Stuart Preston Barr of Detroit. They used the bath facilities of Mahala's apartment on the first floor. The basement room had a private side entrance so their coming and going didn't disturb Mahala or her roomers.

The children of Clifton elected to attend colleges in their home town of Detroit.

This selfless woman had a goal of assisting all four of the Hale grandchildren with their education at Michigan State College, but she lived only to see the eldest, Kenneth, graduate. A few weeks later she died in her daughter's home in Caledonia, Michigan on July 24, 1941. Services were held two days later in the Peoples Church, East Lansing. All five of her grandsons were her pallbearers. Her remains were interred at Mount Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan.

Even so, her goal was realized after her death for her home provided the facilities for Phillip, Yvonne, and Carl to complete their education at Michigan State College.

History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Marriages, by Silas Farmer, published by Dunsell & Company, N.Y. 1890.
1860 Michigan Census.
Pioneer Families and History of Lapeer County. Michigan, 1979.

MAHALA WALKER, b: 1 MAY 1859 in Almont Twp., Lapeer Co., MI
Married: 23 JUL 1891 in Lapeer, Lapeer Co., MI 2 1
Event: License Number/Record # 23 JUL 1891 in #138/ Lapeer, Lapeer, MI 1
Event: Official's Name in Wm G. Stone, Rector Grace Church 1
Event: Witness's Names in Jasper Walker and Augusta Walker both of Lapeer 1
Event: Location of Residence 1891 in Lapeer. then moved to Mobile Alabama 1

1. Title: deneen.FTW
Call Number:
Media: Other
Text: Date of Import: Aug 25, 2003

2. Title: Lapeer County Marriage Records 1887-1932
Author: Church of Latter Day Saints
Publication: 1975
Note: FHC-Newport News
Call Number: 0974259
Media: Microfilm
Page: Film#0974259, vol 4, pg 66, #138

Text: DORec: July 23, 1891 Charles P. Rhead 44, Res: Lapeer city, Born MI; Occupation: Mechanic; Parents Elder Rhead and Melvina Wilson. He married once before; Married Mahala Walker 32, Res of Lapeer City, born MI. Occup: Housekeeper; Parents Chas. A. Walker and Annie Deneen, she never married before; Married on July 23, 1891, Lapeer, by Wm G. Stone, Rector Grace Church, Witnesses: Jasper and Augusta Walker both of Lapeer.