RICHARD KARNS: Do you know the Balch Family?

I, like many of you, didn’t know the Balch family. I, however, did know their great-great-grandchildren, Betty Clark Pontz and Ron Clark. Betty asked if I would write an article on Newton A. Balch, her great-great-grandfather on her mother’s side, and I agreed. This article is written from Betty’s account, photos, written material and the Balch family tree dating back to 1579.

Keeping track of the family tree has been important since the time of Abraham. Most people at that time didn’t read or write. The practice of verbally repeating the family tree to younger members of the family was necessary so they would know how to trace their lineage, and would pass this practice on to their children.

There is usually one family member who likes genealogy and is considered the family historian. They enjoy documenting their family’s journey and how that relates to their family today. It’s fascinating to look at old family pictures. There is, however, nothing as sad as looking at old family pictures and not knowing who they are. That is why it is a good idea to write their identity on the back of the picture. I remember looking at some of the old family pictures and the caption read “grandpa and grandma and me.” You can see where years later that wouldn’t give very much information as to their identity, unless you have relatives that lived during that time.

Betty’s cousin, Jane Prebble, from Boyne City, was researching the family, and found their great-great-grandfather Newton Balch (1840-1915) had served in the Civil War. In her research, she found he was buried in the Charlevoix cemetery, but couldn’t find his grave. With the help of the sexton, they found the unmarked graves of Newton and his wife Lavine.

Jane contacted the Civil War Veterans Association in Traverse City which was extremely helpful in finding information on Newton Balchs’ service record. He was a private in Company 1, 5th New Hampshire Infantry. On Sept. 12, 2009, the CWVA held a ceremony at the graveside. They provided a military headstone for Newton A. Balch and one for his wife Lavina. Relatives attended the celebration from the Clark, Jackson and Balch families. The honor guard afforded Newton A. Balch full military honors, along with the 21-gun salute and taps.

Mason Clark (Betty’s grandfather on her dad’s side) lived in the East Jordan area, and had been adopted, so there isn’t much information about his family. Dale’s (Betty’s dad’s) mother Margaret Batterbee, on the other hand, has documentation of who the Batterbees’ were. The Batterbee family lived in the East Jordan area and came from a long line of Methodist ministers. Mason and Margaret had three children, Dale, Correll and Mason.

Florence Balch married Marion Jackson and lived in the East Jordan area. Their daughter Hilda married Dale Clark on March 31, 1939; they had two children, Betty Lou and Ronald Dale. Dale served in the U.S. Army during World War II and then attended Michigan State University, teaching two years in Bellaire, before coming to Reed City where he taught social studies and coached in their sports programs. Dale was inducted into Michigan’s Coaches Hall of Fame in 1980. Dale and Hilda are still remembered fondly in Reed City.

Betty Clark graduated from Reed City High School in 1957, and that same year married Allen Pontz. They made their home in Reed City. They had three children, Rita, Steve and Sandy. Ron Clark graduated from Reed City High School in 1959 and lives in the U.P. near Newberry.

I couldn’t write this article without putting my two-cents in about Dale and Hilda Clark. I, like countless others, had Mr. Clark as a teacher. Being in Mr. Clark’s class was always interesting. He was knowledgeable about what he was teaching and knew what it took to help students succeed. He was not one to accept a lot of nonsense, but was fair. Both Mr. and Mrs. Clark had a good work ethic and provided a good example of what a good citizen should be. I got to know Mrs. Clark (Hilda) through her involvement in the community and The Old Rugged Cross Museum.