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Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published by Biographical Publishing Company in 1893.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JOSEPH R. EDWARDS. A prominent business enterprise of Dowagiac is the boot and shoe store owned and managed by the subject of this sketch, who is also agent for the American Express Company at this place. Mr. Edwards was born in Haddonfield, Camden County, N. J., June 28, 1839. His paternal grandfather, Joseph Edwards, was born in Maryland on the l0th of May, 1754, and was the son of Joseph and Eleanor Edwards. Throughout his entire business life he engaged in merchandising, and followed that occupation in Lumberton, N. J., where he settled about the time of the Revolutionary War. His family numbered twelve children, six of whom survived to the advanced age of eighty years.

The father of our subject, Joseph Edwards, was born at Lumberton, N. J., August 15, 1806, and in his youth served an apprenticeship to the trade of a wagon and carriage maker, at Vincentown, N. J. In 1856 he came to Michigan and settled in Pokagon Township, Cass County, where he purchased a farm, remaining there until his career was terminated by death on the 11th of January, 1889. His wife, whose maiden name was Rebecca Zanes, was born in Haddonfield, N. J., in 1810. They were the parents of nine children seven sons and two daughters, and seven of that number are still living. One of the sons, Isaac Z., served in the late war as Lieutenant of the Nineteenth Michigan Infantry, and died from wounds received in the army.

In his political belief, the father of our subject was first a Whig, and upon the organization of the Republican party became identified with it and remained a devoted adherent of its principles until his death. He was a conservative man, honorable and upright in all his dealings, and his word was in every instance as good as his bond. He was a firm believer in Christianity and possessed deep religious convictions. In his farming enterprises he met with success and accumulated a large and valuable property.

When seventeen years of age, our subject came to Michigan, and three years later he commenced to teach in Berrien County. On the 20th of September, 1861, he enlisted in Company A, Twelfth Michigan Infantry, and served as Sergeant of his company, participating in the battles of Shiloh and Hatchie River Bridge, and the various skirmishes of the campaign through West Tennessee. In 1863 the regiment was ordered to Vicksburg and thence went to Arkansas, where Mr. Edwards took part in the engagement at Little Rock. June 8, 1865, he was mustered out of the service and resumed the duties of private citizenship. For a time he carried on a restaurant in Little Rock, but in November, 1865, returned to Michigan and settled in La Grange. Two years afterward he went to Cassopolis and secured a clerical position in the general mercantile establishment of Joseph K. Ritter.

On the 4th of November, 1871, Mr. Edwards leased the Cassopolis House and was its proprietor for three years, after which he came to Dowagiac and clerked for Hirsch & Phillipson until December, 1878. On the 1st of January, 1879, he assumed the position of County Clerk, to which he had been elected and which he held for two successive terms. In 1882 he was again nominated for the office, but was defeated by seven votes. During his clerkship he studied law, and at the close of his term of office was admitted to the Bar. Subsequently he engaged in the real-estate business in Chicago and while there was admitted at Ottawa to practice in all the courts of Illinois. Leaving Chicago, he came to Dowagiac and embarked in business as a dealer in boots and shoes and gents’ and ladies’ furnishing goods, which he still continues. In March, 1888, he was appointed American Express Agent at Dowagiac, and still holds that position.

November 28, 1866, Mr. Edwards married Miss Matilda Van Riper, daughter of John Van Riper. She was born June 10, 1848, at Haverstraw, N. Y., about forty-two miles from New York City, and was there reared until eight years old, when she came to Michigan, residing in La Grange until her marriage. Possessing a voice of unusual sweetness and volume, she has given considerable attention to voice culture, and has sung in the church choir at Dowagiac for a number of years. Politically, Mr. Edwards has always been an advocate of a protective tariff, believing that protection augments the wages of workmen and enriches the common people. He was influential in the incorporation of Dowagiac, and is now Circuit Court Commissioner of Cass County. Socially, he is a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and of the Grand Army of the Republic.

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This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in the Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published in 1893. 

View additional Cass County, Michigan family biographies here: Cass County, Michigan Biographies

View a map of 1911 Cass County, Michigan here: Cass County Michigan Map

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