*NOTE: According to a newspaper article pertaining to the life of Henry W. Lee, reportedly a distant relative of Robert E. Lee, published at some point prior to his death in 1928, and reprinted, in part, afterwards, he related having been in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. However, his tale of this period in his life is brief and confusing in terms of its detail. Thus, as of this writing, although a Henry Lee of Wisconsin with an enlistment date coinciding with the year he notes, Mr. Lee’s claims cannot be adequately tied to this or any other Civil War participant. Perhaps additional information will be found at a later time which will shed light on this mystery.
Henry William Lee was reportedly born on 3/3/36 in London, England. He had at least two siblings, both brothers. Taught to read at home, at age six he entered one of England’s “free schools.” His education continued until age thirteen when his father claimed “he had school learning enough for a worker.”
On January 1, 1850 the Lee family set out for America with approximately 400 other steerage passengers aboard a sailing ship. Beset by a terrible storm, the ship returned to England and remained in port for 50 days before resuming its journey to New Orleans, LA. Ultimately the Lees made way to and settled in Portage City, WI where Henry assumed the trade of a stone or brick mason. In 1858 he married. Eleven children were reportedly born from the union.
Mr. Lee is said to have performed masonry work and farmed from 1850 to 1863. According to the newspaper article, (During the War of the Rebellion) “Under the last call, for three months’ troops he enlisted as did most of the men of Wisconsin of fighting age. Before being called to muster, three years’ troops were demanded, it being claimed that trained soldiers and not raw recruits were necessary to put down the rebellion, although the battle of Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh, TN 4/62) proved different, related Mr. Lee. Under the last call. Volunteering ceased and drafting was resorted to. In 1863 he enlisted in the quartermaster department for three months, expecting to be able to choose his officers and get to the front. Before his three months of service expired, he says he found that saving slavery and a national debt was desired and, as he was opposed to both these propositions, he returned home.”
From 1863 to 1869 Mr. Lee worked in the building trade(s) and read law. During the latter year he was admitted to the bar and subsequently practiced law in Wisconsin. In 1875 he resettled in Stephens Point, MN, while in 1885 he was in Thief River Falls, MN. He next moved to Snohomish, WA circa 1907. Why the Lees came to the Puget Sound area is not clear. At one point he was Justice of the Peace for the latter city. As Mr. Lee put it, he quit practicing law when “the people of Snohomish and its neighborhood went to Everett to sell their eggs and buy their law.”
In 1898 Mr. Lee remarried. From this union were born two children, Harry M. Lee (b. unk.) and Thelma O. Lee (aged 18 at time newspaper article quoted above was published.)
Harry William Lee died Wednesday, 4/25/28 at his Maple Street home in Snohomish. His Snohomish Tribune obituary noted him as survived by “his wife and two sons, Grant R. Lee, Snohomish and Harry M. Lee, Bremerton, also four daughters in Wisconsin.” At death Henry had reached 92.1 years of age.
Don and Janiece Johnson
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