The Van Hoosens: An 1850s Love Story

The timeless love story of Rochester settlers Joshua Van Hoosen Jr. and Sarah Taylor.

History is filled with stories of real people who experienced troubles and jubilations, much the way we do today.

When we think of the similarities we have with the people of long ago, they don’t seem so different or far away. We share with them feelings of joy, sorrow, celebration, friendship, fun and especially love.

The Taylors and the Van Hoosens

Lemuel Taylor, his wife, Sarah, and their nine children, including son Elisha, arrived in Michigan in the early 1820s. The Taylors came from upstate New York and traveled west in search of good fortune and a prosperous new life. They bought 160 acres of land in Avon Township (now Rochester Hills), set up a log-cabin community and named it Stoney Creek Village.

Elisha Taylor’s daughter Sarah was born and raised in the village, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse (though not the one that currently stands on Washington Road).

Stoney Creek Village flourished and, in 1836, Joshua Van Hoosen and his family, including six-year-old Joshua Jr., arrived from New York.

Young Joshua attended the one-room schoolhouse with Sarah Taylor and they became friends. As they grew, the friendship blossomed into romance.

A band of gold

Throughout his teen years, Joshua worked hard to earn money and had dreams of owning a farm. In the early 1850s, at the height of the Gold Rush, 22-year-old Joshua left Stoney Creek for the hills and valleys of California. 

“Our country was in the grip of the gold fever,” wrote Bertha Van Hoosen, one of Joshua’s daughters, years later in her book Petticoat Surgeon, “and it must have spread like a contagious disease to have reached and inoculated so simple a lad in so remote a village.”

Joshua planned to travel by boat from New York to San Francisco, “crossing Nicaragua in wagons,” wrote Bertha.

“I left Stoney Creek and headed out to California with the Gold Rush of ’52,” the six-foot tall, blue-eyed Joshua once wrote. “Sara stayed behind to teach school. I struck gold and had a ring made, which I sent along with a proposal of marriage to Sarah.”

The ring was made from the nuggets of gold Joshua had found in California.

In response to such a straight-forward marriage proposal, Sarah penned a letter to Joshua, writing:

“I don’t know what to say. If you was here, I could say it to you. I could say anything. But now you are so far off I hardly dare say what I want. But this much I can say. I like no one better than you.”

Joshua regarded Sarah’s written reply as a “yes.”

Sarah pleaded with him to come home, but he insisted on staying in California another year.

In 1853, Joshua returned to Stoney Creek Village and, with the rest of the fortune he struck in California, bought the Taylor home (now the Rochester Hills Museum Farmhouse) and farmstead.

The childhood sweethearts were married New Year’s Day 1854.

Over the years

Together, Joshua and Sarah had two daughters, Alice and Bertha. Joshua became a successful farmer and member of the community, holding a variety of positions including president of the Agricultural Society of Oakland County. He was also a staunch proponent of education and a member of the township school board.  

He died on July 11, 1894.

Sarah lived a long life, watching her daughters grow to adulthood and prosper in their own way. She traveled with them to Europe and North Africa in 1909 and became great friends with her granddaughter, Sarah Van Hoosen Jones.

“Even after her ninetieth birthday,” wrote Bertha, “she was self-reliant, able to care for herself . . .”

Sarah died in 1921 after a brief illness; she was 92.

Contributing sources: The Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm web site and “The Early Rochester Area: Our Legacy Your Heritage” documentary from the Rochester-Avon Historical Society.

Kim Simons February 14, 2011 at 04:22 PM
What a darling story! I wonder if the family still has the golden ring.
Alan Stamm February 14, 2011 at 06:21 PM
This poignant, toughing tale is skillfully told. You've connected us meaningfully to our forebears again, Tiffany.
Kristin Bull (Editor) February 14, 2011 at 06:47 PM
That's exactly what I was just about to ask, Kim! Hmmm....
Kristin Bull (Editor) February 14, 2011 at 06:48 PM
What a simple love story. The details about Sarah's written response are classic. I can't help but wonder: is the cross-country love letter marriage proposal a precursor to the "post-it-note" break-up?
Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki February 14, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Thanks everyone! I love this story, too. I agree that it is simple and adorable. I asked the museum about the ring and they believe it's most likely still on Sarah's finger. It doesn't seem to have been passed down through the generations. Of Sarah's two daughters only Alice married and had a child, Sarah Van Hoosen Jones. The junior Sarah never married.
Rebecca February 15, 2011 at 04:09 AM
For the history buffs in the area "Petticoat Surgeon" is an excellent book. Great story you have written here, love to hear about our local history. Thanks:)
Mary Howarth February 15, 2011 at 08:30 PM
Tiffany, Thank you for another wonderful story associated with the history of the area. I hope readers will visit the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm to learn more about this founding family. There are many terrific weekends ahead on the Museum schedule, as well as vintage base ball games played by the Rochester Grangers in the back field during the summer.
Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki February 16, 2011 at 12:01 AM
I couldn't agree more, Mary! The museum is a fantastic place. Stay tuned for an article about the Rochester Grangers in the next few months! Thank you for your comments!
Barb L February 16, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Thanks, this was very interesting! I love when history has a personal touch! I'm going to see about checking out this museum!
Sue Thomasson February 17, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Tiffany-Thank you for sharing one of my favorite stories from the Museum! - Museum Staff Member - Sue Thomasson
Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki February 17, 2011 at 08:49 PM
You're very welcome, Sue! Glad you and Barb liked the article.
Michele Manhire February 10, 2013 at 01:14 PM
Touches the heart how dedicated they were to one another, and how driven to great success Joshua was. Makes me long for a touch of Those Days to come back to us!
June Hopaluk February 10, 2013 at 04:05 PM
This is a beautiful enduring love story. Even though Tiffany wrote it in 2011, it is worthy of reading today as well as again and again into the future. Thank you for your wonderful sense of history, Tiffany. Thank you to Patch for publishing it again. How about more local history stories?
Ann Ehlert February 10, 2013 at 04:40 PM
I love these stories that you have been publishing! It was great to read about the ski jump as well.
Ron Harman February 10, 2013 at 07:34 PM
​I think this would be a great time and place to mention that in my opinion Patrick McKay, Director, Rochester Hills Museum has been a driving force behind many if not most of what we see and experience at the Museum. If it were not for Patrick's enthusiasm and dedication to the Museum our community would have significantly less of a treasure to visit. Thanks for all you've done and continue to do Patrick! :-)


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »