Consul Willshire Butterfield.

History of George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Illinois and the Wabash towns 1778 and 1779 online

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Solomon Sibley. The history of our country has ever been the
history of the frontier and the sure but slow-moving march of civili-
zation. The spirit that has presided over our destinies from the day-
dawn of freedom has ever been the spirit of the pioneer. All that has
been wrought, all civic and material progress, had birth, inspiration
and fruitage in the lives and labors of our pioneers, and well it is
that in recorded history should be paid to them a deep tribute of re-
spect and honor for the gracious heritage they have left to poster-
ity. These men deserve to be canonized in the cathedral of liberty
and their deeds deserve to be told to generations yet unborn.

A contemporary of Woodward, Hull, Cass, Macomb and others
of a brilliant group of men who had so much to do with formulating
and directing affairs in the early pioneer epoch of the history of the
present state of Michigan, Judge Solomon Sibley was one of the most
illustrious of the group and his influence permeated benignantly in
many directions. He it was who presented to the general assembly of
the Northwest Territory the popular petition from the citizens of De-
troit asking for the incorporation of the settlement as a town and this
petition was formally granted by enactment in February, 1802. He was
one of the foremost in all enterprises for the good of the embryonic
metropolis during the days when Michigan was a part of the far-
stretched Northwest Territory, while it was a part of the Territory
of Indiana, while it was an individual territory under its present
name, and in the early period of its history as a sovereign state of
the Union. Michigan owes much to the loyalty and noble services of
Solomon Sibley, and it may well be understood that a publication of
the province assigned to the one at hand would stultify entirely .its
consistency were there failure to enter at least a brief record of his
career as one of the founders and builders of the city of Detroit and the
state of Michigan.

The Sibley family traces its genealogy back through many genera-
tions in England, where the line has been authentically followed to the
year 1066. The original American progenitor was John Sibley, who
emigrated from England to this country in 1629, making the voyage in
one of the vessels of Governor Winthrop's fleet. One of his descendants
held the rank of colonel in the Continental army during the War of the
Revolution, in which other representatives of the family were likewise
patriot soldiers, not less than ten of the name having fought at Con-
cord. The same intrinsic loyalty has been shown in succeeding genera-
tions, for members of this distinguished family have been found enrolled
as valiant soldiers in the various other wars in which the nation has
been involved.

Solomon Sibley was bom at Sutton, Worcester county, Massachu-
setts, on the 7th of October, 1769, and after due preliminary educa-


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tional discipline he entered Brown University, from which he was
graduated with honors. In the city of Boston he studied law under
effective preceptorship and thoroughly grounded himself in the science
of jurisprudence. In 1795, when about twenty-six years of age, Judge
Sibley came to the western frontier and located in the old town of
Marietta, Ohio, where Governor St. Clair set up thie headquarters of
the Northwest Territory in 1783 and thus founded the first civil govern-
ment west of the Alleghanies. From Marietta Judge Sibley removed to
Cincinnati, where for a short time he was associated in the practice
of his profession with Judge Burnet, a prominent figure in the history
of Ohio.

In 1796, within a brief interval after the English had formally
retired from control of Detroit, Judge Sibley came to. this place which
was but a straggling frontier village, but a point of much strategic im-
portance. He was twenty-seven years of age at the time and within a
short time he here established his permanent home. In January, 1799,
he was elected a member from Wayne county of the general assembly
of the Northwest Territory, and in this body, in the session of 1802, as
already noted in this sketch, he was the prime factor in securing the
incorporation of Detroit as a town. He was thus a member of the first
territorial legislature of the Northwest Territory, and Wayne county, of
which he was then representative, embraced the present state of Mich-
igan. This legislature held its sessions in Cincinnati, and in the records
of the Ohio Historical Society Judge Sibley is mentioned as ** among
the most talented men of the house, possessed of a sound mind, im-
proved by liberal education, a stability of character which commanded
general respect, and a prudence of conduct which secured to him the
confidence of his fellow members.'' That his fellow citizens placed a
high estimate upon him at that time as well as later, is indicated by the
circumstances that in 1802 the electors of the new town of Detroit voted
him the freedom of the corporation, in recognition of his eminent serv-
ices in behalf of the people of the territory.

After the second municipal election held in Detroit, Judge Sibley
became chairman of the board of trustees of the corporation, and under
the first city charter, that of 1806, he was made mayor of the city,
through appointment by Governor Hull. He was auditor of the terri-
tory from 1814 to 1817 ; was United States district attorney from 1815
to 1823; was delegate fcom the territory of Michigan to the Uriited
States congress from 1821 to 1823, and from the latter year to 1837 he
wa« one of the judges of the supreme court of the territory of Michigan,
having retained this incumbency until the admission of the state to the
Union in 1837. An interesting feature in this connection is the fact that
one of his colleagues on the bench was Ross Wilkins, late United States
district judge, whose son, Colonel William D. Wilkins, afterwards mar-
ried Judge Sibley's granddaughter, Elizabeth Cass Trowbridge. Of
Judge Sibley the following statements have been made: **He won, as
he well deserved, the affection, respect and entire confidence of his con-
temporaries and associates. In the uniform, quiet and unostentatious
devotion of his time and talents to the interests of his country Judge
Sibley continued to receive the most marked evidence of universal re-
spect and confidence until he was finally compelled, by physical infirm-
ity, to retire from public life.'' He was one of the most conspicuous
and honored figures in the early history of Michigan and his name
shall ever be enrolled high on the list of the worthiest and most useful
pioneers of this commonwealth.

He continued to reside in Detroit, secure in the aflfectionate regard
of the entire community, until his death on the 4th of April, 1846, at

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the age of seventy-six years and six months. In the fulhiess of years
and without an enemy this venerable pioneer thus consummated his
honorable career and was lamented by an entire community. At a
meeting of the members of the bar of Detroit, in the United States court
room, on Saturday, April 4, 1846, Alexander D. D. Fraser, president of
the association, was called to the chair and James B. Van Dyke was
appointed secretary. Judge Chipman stated the object of the meeting
and after appropriately and pertinently sketching the life and services
of Judge Sibley, expressed his high respect for the character and abil-
ity of the deceased. Thereupon, on motion, Judge Chipman, A. S.
Porter and George E. Haug were appointed to draft and report resolu-
tions appropriate to the occasion. These resolutions, which were duly
signed oy the chairman and secretary of the bar association are as
follows :

** Resolved, That the members of this bar, having learned with deep
regret the death of Hon. Solomon Sibley, for many years one of the
judges of the supreme court of the Territory of Michigan, and who
had lived not only to be the last relic of the ancient bar of Michigan,
but also the last remaining link connecting the legal profession of the
present day in this state with that of the Northwest Territory, of which
the deceased was a member previous to his removal to Detroit,

** Resolved, That we* entertain the highest respect and veneration for
the character of the deceased, a character so justly acquired and sus-
tained through a long and well spent life ; in all his public and private
relations exhibiting a man amiable, pure and kind in the one, and
faithful, upright and honorable in the other; true to all the various
trusts confided to him; sound and able as a lawyer; impartial, honest
and discriminating as a judge,

*' Resolved, That we, as members of the bar and oflScers of the re-
spective courts, in testimony of the respect for the memory of the de-
ceased, will wear the usual badge of mourning and will in a body attend
the funeral.

** Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions, signed by the chairman
and secretary, be presented to the family of the deceased as an expres-
sion of our sympathy in their aflSicting bereavement.

** Resolved, That at the next sitting of the circuit court of the United
States for this district, and of the supreme and chancery courts of the
state, in Detroit, the Chairman be and is instructed to present the above
resolutions and to move their insertion on the journals of said courts.

** Resolved, That these proceedings be recorded by the secretary and
be published in the daily papers of the city."

I'he domestic life of Judge Sibley was one of ideal order and his
affections and interests centered in his home and family. In October,
1802, was solemnized his marriage at Marietta, Ohio, to Miss Sarah
Whipple Sproat, and she was summoned to eternal rest on the 22nd of
January, 1851, at the age of sixty-nine years, having been a zealous
member of the Protestant Episcopal church. Concerning their eight
children the following brief record is given in conclusion of this memoir.
Colonel Ebenezer Sproat Sibley, of the engineering corps of the United
States army, died in 1884. He was graduated from the United States
Military Academy at West Point and did a large amount of important
government work in addition to his gallant services as an officer in the
Civil war. He also served in the Seminole war and in the war with
Mexico, in which latter he held the office of quartermaster general.
Katherine Whipple Sibley became the wife of Charles C. Trowbridge, a
distinguished citizen of Detroit. Henry Hastings Sibley was a delegate
to congress from the territory of Wisconsin, became the first governor

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of Minnesota and extinguished the Sioux rebeUion in that state at the
tune of the Ciyii war, having been a colonel in the United States army
at the time. Augusta became the wife of James J. Armstrong of De-
troit, and Mary married Charles S. Adams, of this city. Alexander
Hamilton bibley was a pioneer in the development of the mines of the
Lake Superior district and also those of California, and he continued
to reside in Detroit until his death. Sarah Alexandrine Sibley never
married, and is now the only surviving member of the immediate fam-
ily. She resides in her home at 432 Jefferson avenue, and is a noble
and loved member of this patrician old family of Michigan. She has
been a resident of Detroit from the time of her birth, and is one of the
most venerable, if not the oldest, native daughters of Michigan, being
ninety-one years of age at the present time and still taking deep^interest
in current events, with a mind that is alert and with a gentle presence
that has gained to her the love of a wide circle of friends. She is one
of the very few whose memory links the early pioneer days of Detroit
with those of the present day of opulent prosperity and progress. Fred-
eric B., the youngest of the children, died in Detroit in 1907.

Frederic B. Sibley. No work purporting to touch upon the his-
tory of Detroit and the state of Michigan can be consistent with ijtself
if there is failure to accord special attention and honor to the Sibley
family, for few names have been so prominently and so worthily linked
with the civic and material development of this commonwealth and its
beautiful metropolis. But Frederic B. Sibley marked for himself a
place of his own as one of the representative citizens and influential
business men of Detroit, and in his character and services he well upheld
the high prestige of the honored name which he bore.

Frederic Baker Sibley, the youngest of the eight children of Judge
Solomon Sibley and Sarah Whipple Sibley, was born in the old
family homestead at the northeast corner of Jefferson avenue and Ran-
dolph street, Detroit, on the 23d of September. 1824. and he was sum-
moned to the life eternal on the 9th of April, 1907. As a child he often
went to the Sibley farm, in the vicinity of the juncture of the present
Sibley street with Woodward avenue, with the promise to be at homo
before dark, as there were bears in the woods near the farm. Theiv
were remains of a curious old fort on this farm witli earth works and
a moat or ditch around it. It was not known when it was built or why,
for it seemed too small for a defense. It remained some years during
the boyhood of Frederic B. and was a wonderful attraction for tho
Sibley boys and their companions. This farmhouse occupied a site, it
will be remembered, not far from the principal business center of the
city of today.

Reared in a home of distinctive culture and refinement, the boyhood
and youth of Mr. Sibley were compassed by the most gracious of influ-
ences. After a preliminary discipline in the local schools he was sent
to Flushing, Long Island, where he continued his studies under the
direction of Dr. Augustus J. Muhlenberg, a celebrated educator of his
day. After thus gaining adequate academic? training, Mr. Sibley re-
turned to Detroit and began the study of law in the office of the firm of
Joy & Porter, whose members were the late James F. Joy and Oeorgt^,
E. Porter, distinguished figures in Michigan history. It soon transpired,
however, that Mr. Sibley had slight predilection for the dry and pro-
saic intricacies of the science of jurisprudence, and he demanded a
more active life, both as a matter of temperament and for the sake of
his physical health. He accordingly turned his attention to the fur-
trading business, in which connection he operated throughout northern

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Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. He did not long remain in the
north country and upon the inception of the Civil war he removed to
New York City, where he became a successful contractor for army sup-
plies. After the close of the war he returned to his native city, with
whose business and social activities he thereafter continued to be prom-
inently identified until he was summoned to eternal rest.

Concerning his principal industrial activities, the following perti-
nent record has been made : * ' Solomon Sibley w^as an extensive dealer in
lands in Detroit and other parts of Wayne county, as the records abun-
dantly show\ One of his important acquisitions, in 1824, by United
States patent, was in partnership with David Cooper, an assignee of
Austin E. Wing, and consisted of three hundred and twenty acres in
Monguagon township, Wayne county, on the^ banks of the Detroit river.
In this parcel is located a bed of valuable limestone, which extends
across the Detroit river into Canada and forms the troublesome reef
known as the Lime Kiln crossing. The price was probably one dollar
and a quarter per acre. Subsequently David Cooper sold half interest
to Judge Sibley for twelve thousand dollars. After the death of his
father, Frederic B. Sibley acquired, in 1856, the claims of his brothers
and sisters to this property, and added to his holding over four hun-
dred acres of adjoining farming land. He quarried and sold the stone
until 1906, when he sold the quarry property, consisting of six hundred
and sixty acres, to the Sibley Quarry Company, and also disposed of sev-
eral other properties. He retained possession, however of his fine farm
of over two hundred acres, adjoining the quarry properties. The ab-
stract consideration for the quarry properties was four hundred thous-
and dollars. ' ' A further and more intimate estimate was given in a De-
troit paper at the time of his death and is worthy of perpetuation in
this memoir: **More than fifty years .ago Mr. Sibley became identified
with the quarry near Trenton which now bears his name. Largely
through his endeavors the business grew to its present gigantic pro-
portions. Perhaps no man in Michigan was ever more looked up to by
his employees. Always considerate, and a gentleman of the old school,
Mr. Sibley had always a kind word or deed for those who labored with
him in building up the great industrial monument which he leaves be-

For thirty years Mr. Sibley was a member of the directorate of the
Detroit Savings Bank and he was also vice president of tiie Wyandotte
Savings Bank, besides which he had other and important eapitalistic
interests in his native city and county. Though he never consented to
appear as a candidate for public office of any description his interest
in all that touched the welfare of Detroit was of the most loyal and
insistent order, and was shown in deeds as well as words. He gave his
allegiance to the Democratic party, and to the last kept himself well in
touch with the questions and issues of the hour, as a man of fine intel-
lectual powers, mature judgment and deepest patriotism.

The writer of the present article had previously given the following
mark of appreciation of the life and character of Mr. Sibley and it
can not, therefore, be inconsistent to reproduce the statements: **Mr.
Sibley was a man whose spirit was never soiled by unfaithfulness or
unkindness. His was not a vacillating character and he ever had the
courage of his convictions, but he was tolerant in his judgment of his
fellow men, devoted to those allied to him by consanguinity, and in a
quiet and unostentatious way he showed his spirit of charity and benev-
olence along effective lines. A noble and gracious personality denoted
the man as he was, and his life was one worthy of the honored name
which he bore." During the last fifteen years of his life ]\rr. Sibley

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occupied a home at 133 Lamed street, East, and his funeral was held
at the home of his sister, Miss Sarah A. Sibley, who was then, as now,
the only surviving member of the immediate family. Miss Sibley, who
resides in the unpretentious old homestead at 432 Jefferson avenue, is
undoubtedly the oldest person now residing in Michigan and claiming
this state as the place of her nativity. She has passed most of her lif<»
in Detroit, but has traveled extensively, and will celebrate her ninety-
second birthday anniversary on the 25th of July, 1912. A most gracious
figure in the social life of Detroit for many years, she is held in rever-
ent affection by all who come within the sphere of her gentle influence,
and is the last survivor of the children of one whose name is honored
in the annals of Michigan history. Frederic B. Sibley never married,
and the relations existing between him and his venerable sister during
the long years were of the most idyllic order. He was true and stead-
fast in all the relations of life and his name merits enduring place in
the recorded history of his native city and state.

Hazen S. Pingbee. The power of crystalizing high ideals into
practical results has been given to few in so marked a degree as to the
late Hazen S. Pingree, of Detroit, whose it was to give exalted service as
governor of the state and as mayor of his home city, the while he gained
for himself high vantage ground in the business world. It is doubtful
if the enduring and far-reaching effects of his benignant and well or-
dered efforts while serving as chief executive of a great state and as
mayor of a great city were more than dimly appreciated in his lifetime,
but with the perspective to be gained at the present day there must be
inspired in the minds of all who study his life history a feeling of utmost

Online LibraryConsul Willshire ButterfieldHistory of George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Illinois and the Wabash towns 1778 and 1779 → online text (page 1 of 61)