The Isaman’s – Grandma’s cousins from East Jordan, Michigan

It seems strange to think about Grandma having cousins, yet clearly she did. Some had the last name “Isaman.” Allow me to attempt to explain.

Grandma’s mother, Emma Kowalske , grew up in East Jordan, Michigan during the middle years of the 19th century.

Her father, Michael Kowalske had immigrated from Germany to America, along with his wife, Minnie and their five children.  They settled briefly with his parents, who had immigrated to America in 1847,  near the town of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, then travelled by sail boat to the eastern shores of Lake Michigan where they disembarked with farm animals and began their new life in the wilds of Northern Michigan. There is a lot more to write about Michael and the Kowalske’s, but that is for another entry. Today we are visiting the Isaman’s.

The following is from the Charlevoux County Genealogical Society.

A history of the Village of South Arm – and the early pioneers of that region

In the spring of 1867, a young man with his entire worldly possessions packed upon his back, made the journey on foot from Pine River, where be had spent the winter, to the head of the Arm. He was unmarried, and the location, which he selected, was a solitary one- it was indeed in the depths of the wilderness. The individual referred to was Mr. Isaman, now the pioneer of this point, and of whom we give a brief sketch herewith:

Solomon G. Isaman, the pioneer of South Arm village, is a native of Allegany County, New York. In 1862 he went to Illinois and in the summer of 1864 enlisted in the army and was in service until January 1866. In the fall of 1866 he came to Charlevoix County, and the following spring located on eighty acres of land in Section 22, Town of South Arm. He was unmarried at that time and brought his worldly effects from Pine River on his back. He built a small log house a short distance from where his store now stands. The first few years were spent in clearing land, getting out cordwood, etc. About the year 1873 he began his mercantile business. His first store was a primitive affair, and consisted of a few articles in one corner of his old log house. A little flour, some pork and perhaps a few other articles comprised his stock in trade. After two or three years he built a small store at the dock, where he continued with his business. Mr. Empey, now postmaster at East Jordan, was the next to carry on a store at the village. Mr. Isaman was the first postmaster, and held the office from 1874 to 1877. The place was first called Nelsonville. The exact location of Nelsonville, however, was about one mile west from the present village of South Arm. Mr. Isaman now owns 170 acres of land at the village and about 200 acres more in other localities. He has been successful in his business operations and has acquired considerable property. It has all been accumulated by his own exertions. He has a wife and three children.

When great-great grandfather, Michael Kowalske, arrived in East Jordan in 1867, perhaps one of the first people he met was Soloman George Isaman, arriving shortly before Michael Kowalske.  Later, Soloman married a woman named Minnie Sincus and together they had children named Retta, Lillian, Blanche and Cleve. The above quoted article says he had three children. He and Minnie must have had another. My source (my grandmother) said he had four.

These four children are referred to by my grandmother, Blanche, as her “cousins.” When I received a trove of family photos from my brother Herb., there was a folder marked “Isaman.”  When I looked at the photo’s I discovered that on the back of each photo my grandmother had written each of the person’s names followed by the word “cousin.”.  This is how I came to know her first cousins and my distant relatives.

Later I found my grandmother’s note book from the 1950’s. On one of the pages, I see the name Lillian Isaman, followed by the word “Gone.”  Lillian had died in San Bernardino, California on March 21, 1950. In another address book of my grandmother I found the name Retta with an address in Ontario, California.  Those Isaman’s picked some special places in which to live!

Another photo is of Cleve Isaman as a young, stern-looking man. Through ancestry research I found out that Cleve worked for Studebaker Car Company in Detroit and was described on his WWl draft registration card as being tall, having black hair, and dark brown eyes.

Another photo shows the funeral flowers of Blanche Isaman, along with her picture as a young girl. She died in her early teens and is buried in East Jordan, Michigan.

There are two photos of a young boy, one with the boy and his huge dog. On the back is written: “Retta’s son.”

Two other photos have written on the back: “Lillian Isaman, Cousin.”  One is of Lillian as a young girl, the other of Lillian as a middle-aged woman.

Another photo has the image of a middle aged woman.  On the back, grandma had written: “Aunt Minnie’s sister Beibertz.”

Those photos, together with a few composite ones, are the only evidence I have that the Kowalske’s and the Isaman’s are related.  I will leave the more exacting genealogy to keener minds like Claudia Breland, a second cousin and highly regarded genealogist, who lives in Seattle, Washington.  Claudia has done extensive research on the Thompson Family.  Her excellent web site can be found at Check it out.

Until more information is collected, I leave you with these fine photo’s of the Isaman’s of East Jordan, Michigan – our relatives.


Isaman Lillian 1

Lillian Isaman as a girl

Isaman Lillian 2

Lillian Isaman as a woman

Isaman Rettas son 1

Retta Isaman’s son with his dog

Isaman Rettas son 2

Retta Isaman’s son

Taken from Blanche Bucher Thompson's  address book

Taken from Blanche Bucher Thompson’s address book

Isaman note 1

Taken from Blanche Bucher Thompson’s notebook

Isaman Cleve

Cleve Isaman

Isaman Blanche funeral

Blanche Isaman’s funeral picture

Isaman Aunt Minnies sister

Aunt Minnie’s sister Beibertz

Isaman composite

Found with the Isaman photos….no writing on back


  1. Actually they came from Prussia.
    German spelling Biebertz, i as e & e as i
    I have other info if you are interested.

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