Francis Bacon Trowbridge.

The Trowbridge genealogy. History of the Trowbridge family in America (Volume 3) online

. (page 78 of 115)
Online LibraryFrancis Bacon TrowbridgeThe Trowbridge genealogy. History of the Trowbridge family in America (Volume 3) → online text (page 78 of 115)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

home in Horseheads and embarked for Detroit on the steamer Walk-in-the-
Water, being seven days on the voyage. Upon arriving at Detroit he purchased
of a Frenchman a pair of young steers, and loading his household goods on a
wagon, with his wife and children, he started for his squatter's log cabin in what
is now known as the town of Troy, where he arrived the following day. It was

* This sketch Is in greater part talsen from "Stephen V. R. Trowbridge and Family," a
paper read Ijefore the Oalcland County (Mich.) Pioneer Society on Feb. 22, 1892, by Gen.
liiUher S. Trowbridge.

t The above facts as to his military service were so stated in 1871 by his widow in her
declaration for a pension, which was granted her. The papers are on file in the U. S. Pension


not long after they were settled in their new home before a strong current of immi-
gration set in, and many families from the East soon settled in that part of the
country. Anyone who had shelter and provisions was obliged to be hospitable.
On one occasion in their little log house with one room, which served as sitting-
room, dining-room, sleeping-room and kitchen, was lodged and fed a party of
sixteen men besides their own family. Tradition has preserved the name of but
one of that party and that was Mr. Samuel Satterlee,* who located on an adjoin-
ing farm in Bloomfield. It was not very long before they built a large double log
liouse, which was considered quite a mansion in those days; as the family
increased in numbers a still larger house was required and a frame house was
built on the town line. It was in raising one of the earlier of these houses that
Mr. Trowbridge braved public opinion by declining to furnish whiskey to the
neighbors who had come to help him. He went to the top of the frame, carrying
a bottle of water, broke the bottle, and called out: "Strawberiy Hill," by which
name the place was loiown ever after. Instead of whiskey he furnished a bounti-
ful supper, stating the reasons for the change in a temperance lecture of much
force, which was well received, and was indeed the beginning of a strong
temperance movement in that section. It was in his new log house, before even
the doors and windows were put in, that the first sermon was preached in Oakland
county, t

Mr. Trowbridge began his public service in 1825, when he was appointed
assessor of Oakland countj', and made the first assessment in Michigan in
November, 182G. He was also the first county coroner. He was the first super-
visor of Troy, in 1828, and for four terms afterwards. He was also in that year
a member of tlie first legislative council of the territory, a body composed of thir-
teen members, and when Michigan became a state he was elected to the senate in
1839, 1840, 1841 and 1842. In the meantime he was frequently employed by the
government in offices of responsibility and trust connected with the Indian
Department, which in those days was of great extent, including seven states and
territories, and of great importance, having care of the disbursement of tlie treaty
moneys paid for the extensive domain of Michigan and Wisconsin. His treat-
ment of the Indian was so fair and reasonable, so just and merciful, that he
gained his confidence, while he had also the hearty approval of the government.
The discovery of copper in the Lake Superior country started many new enter-
prises in mining. At first the United States, the owner of the land, leased the
mines to companies which worked them and paid a royalty to the government.
It became necessary for the latter to have a resident agent on Lake Superior and
Mr. Trowbridge was appointed to that position. He spent two s umm ers there,
making his headquarters principally at Sault Sainte Marie. The business
so changed that he had little to do, and he had conscientious scruples about
taking a salary for what seemed to him a sinecure, and, recommending that it be
abolished, he showed his sincerity by resigning at the same time. To his inti-
mate friends, who alone knew what he had done, for he was no boaster, his
conduct was no surprise, but only what might be expected from one following
so closely as he did the commands of conscientious duty. In liis politics Mr.
Trowbridge was in early life a Whig and later a Republican, after that party was

Wliile thus occupied with public affairs, his chief business was that of a plain
farmer. He worked industriously and lived frugally. From time to time he
added to his original purchase from the government until he had a fine farm of
300 acres, well cultivated and furnished with comfortable buildings. He was a
pattern of sobriety to all his neighbors and his cheerfulness was so contagious
that he entertained and enlivened every circle. The affectionate name of "Uncle

* His daughter Mary Ann became the wife of Mr. Trowbridge's son Rowland (No. 1164).
t lietter from his daughter Mrs. Goodell.


Steve," by which he was known throughout the section about his home, indicated
the esteem and regard in which he was held. As a neighbor he was always kind
and accommodating, always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in distress.
His hospitality was proverbial; it began in the earliest days of his pioneer life,
and never ceased. He was frequently called upon to prepare the last wills of his
neighbors, a duty in which his early training as a law student was of great service
to him. He was foremost in all good works, and contributed cheerfully and
liberally according to his means in aid of charitable and philanthropic measures.
At the time of the great famine in Ireland he was sent to New York in charge of
a shipment of 2,500 barrels of flour contributed by the generous people of his
state ; and when a cry of suffering came from the early settlers of Gratiot county,
he was laboriously engaged in soliciting aid for them, and was sent to see to the
proper disbursement of the contributions made.

As to the religious character of Mr. Trowbridge it may be said, with him reli-
gion was not a mere tlieory. If ever a man strove earnestly to exemplify the
religion of Jesus Christ in his daily life, he did. He had weaknesses such as all
flesh is heir to. Naturally he was quick-tempered, as most generous natures are,
but no one knew it better or lamented it more than he. He was the soul of honor
and with all who knew him his word was as good as his bond. He became a
member of the Presbyterian church at Pontiac, and was successively deacon and
elder of tlie churches at Troy and Birmingham up to the time of liis death, which
occurred at his home. Strawberry Hill, in, Troy.

childee:s :*

JiTJA CONKLING, b. Xov. 27, 1S15 ; m. July S. 1S37, Charles Hastings of

Troy. Mich.
Charles ArorsTus, b. Aug. 5. ISIT.
EozABETH Frances, b. .Tuly 23, 1819; m. Jan. 2.">, 1842, Caleb Hamraill of

Brooklyn. N. Y.. and resides in South Woodstock, Conn.
Rowland Ebenezer. b. June 18. 1821.
Catherine Jones, b. Oct. 31. 1823 ; m. July 20. 18.54. Rev. Edwin Goodell

of Birmingham.. Jlich.. and resides in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Edmlnd. b."^Dec. 10. 1825.
Wllliam Petit, b. May 25, 1828.
TiLLiFAN CONKLINO. b. Jan. 28. 1831.
Gut JIaxwell. b. Jan. 31. 1834.
Luther Stephen, b. July 28. 18.36.
Augusta Sibley, b. Apr. 25. 1842 : m. Aug. 17. 1870. William Samuel

Albertson and resides in Duhith, Minn.

1072. Hex. Charles Christopher Trowbridge (Luther^"^-. Thomas^"'^^,
John^""'. TJwmns^'"'-, James'^'""', Thomas'-), bom December 29, 1800, in Albany,
X. T. ; died April 3, 1883, in Detroit, Mich. ; married July 13. 1826. in Detroit,
Katherine Wliipple Sibley, daughter of Hon. Solomon and Sarah Wliipple
(Sproat) Sibley, born February 27, 1809, in Detroit; died March 24, 1880, in

Charles C. Trowbridgef when a lad of not quite thirteen years of age was
apprenticed as a clerk to Major Horatio Eoss, then living at Owego, but having
considerable branch stores at Athens, in Pennsylvania, and Elmira. who offered
to take him and bring him up as a merchant. This excellent man was faithful
to his promises, and 'Mr. Trowbridge owed much of his thorough business habits
to the teaching of this friendly employer. The first year was spent at Elmira.
The next year he was talven into the family of Major Ross at Owego, where he
was cherished with parental tenderness. The business troubles that succeeded
soon after the peace of 1815 ultimately ruined Major Ross's business, and he

• i-iv born in Horseheads. N. Y. : the others in Troy, Mich.

t This sketch is extracted from a biographical sketch prepared for the Michigan Pioneer
Society in June, 18S3, by James V. Campbell.














11 68.






turned over all his assets to his creditors, who, admiring his uprightness, made
over to him a considerable amount of accounts, and left him his homestead. The
creditors put the property into the hands of Mr. Trowbridge, who was then not
quite eighteen years old, and he closed up the business. He went down the Sus-
quehanna with salt, gypsum and lumber, and disposed of them in Pennsylvania,
and came back with the proceeds. In 1S19 Mr. William A. Ely of Owego sent
him as supercargo to Havre de Grace and Baltimore, and he returned through
the country unarmed, eaiTying all the proceeds of his voyage in bank notes upon
his person. After his return from Baltimore he was put in temporary charge of
the stock in trade of General Goodrich, a merchant lately deceased. But at this
time he was turning his eyes to the future and reflecting on the place where he
should fix his home. He was offered by Mr. Ely a share in his business as
partner, but he preferred going westward. His first purpose was to go to New
Orleans, but his friends opposed it. He was finally induced to prefer Michigan,
by the favorable report of a young friend who had preceded him. Having indi-
cated this preference, some of his friends through the intervention of Rev. John
Monteith, then a missionary and teacher in Detroit, secured for him an ajipoint-
ment under Major Thomas Rowland, who, having served meritoriously in the
army during the war, had settled in Detroit and was then United States marshal,
clerk of the courts, justice of the peace, trustee of the city, and exercising many
functions. Major Rowland was a gentleman of culture, of sterling character,
and during his whole life much esteemed. He took Mr. Trowbridge at once into
his own family, made him deputy in both his offices, and paid him as liberally
as business would permit.

In August, 1819, Mr. Trowbridge started for his destination and went to
Buffalo. Just as he left he received l>y the hands of one of his former associates
under Major Ross, Felix Hinchman, a very earnest letter of recommendation to
all good people, signed by four of the principal citizens of Owego. This
unsolicited testimonial was very cheering, and it remained among his most
^•alued papers at his death. As Buffalo then had no harbor, the steamer Walh-
in-the-Water, which was then the only steam vessel on Lake Erie, made her port
at Black Rock. He secured passage in her, and at the appointed time the vessel
slowly went up the river to Lake Erie, aided by what was familiarly called the
"horned breeze," being towed up by twenty pairs of stout oxen. Once in the
lake she made her own way, and in due time he landed in Detroit. The little
frontier post, with a very small English-speaking population, had a society which
was somewhat remarkable for its refinement and for its entire freedom from stiff-
ness and ostentation. Economy was not despised, and every door was open to any
young man who was personally worthy. The militaiy element, which was then
very large, included a good many officers who then or afterwards were distin-
guished. During the first year there was not much work to be done in Major
Rowland's office, but Mr. Trowbridge made himself a master of all the legal for-
malities. Major Rowland was much attached to him, and procured from New
York a full supply of leg'al treatises and urged him to turn his attention to legal
studies. But he had relatives whom he desired to aid in their struggles to equip
themselves, and he preferred to do all that came within his reach in the shape of
remunerative employment. During the winter of 1819-20 preparations were
going on somewhat confidentially for an expedition among the Indians, to remove
some difficulties. During the War of 1813 the British had obtained great
influence over the Indians, and had kept it up since the peace by generous pres-
ents and flattering treatment. The purpose of this exiiedition was partly scien-
tific to explore the sources of the ilississippi, but chiefly to impress upon the
tribes the power of the United States, and to induce them to become friendly.
General Cass sent for Mr. Trowbridge, and was so pleased with him that he made
him a clerk and assistant topographer, and when the expedition started took him


into his own canoe, and made him his personal companion during the four
months which were consumed in the long voyage of four thousand four hundred
miles. The expedition started May 24, 1S20, and returned December 24 and was
made throughout in bark canoes.

On his return Mr. Trowbridge was sent with Colonel Beufait, a well-knowai
citizen of Detroit, who was then an Indian interpreter, to make a payment to the
Saginaw Indians. The silver for this purpose was carried on pack-horses, with-
out an escort, and the journey took five days, during which the little party
camped out every night without fear of robbery or molestation. After this time,
while continuing deputy clerk, he began to act as private secretary and amanuen-
sis to General Cass, and in that capacity wrote down, from his dictation, not only
his public documents and communications, but some of his literary contributions
to the North American Review and other publications. lie was also employed in
some positions of great responsibility. In 1821, the Ogdens of New York having
obtained the state's reversionary interest in considerable tracts occupied by the
Si.x Nations, they desired, if possible, to induce the Indians to remove westward
and vacate their territory. The secretary of war, Mr. Calhoim, favored the project,
if feasible, and Mr. Ti-owbridge was ajjpointed agent to accompany the chiefs and
representatives of the tribes to Green Bay, and negotiate with the Winnebagoes
and Menominies for the purchase of suitable lands. During his residence in
Michigan Mr. Trowbridge, who was already an accurate French scholar and
familiar also with the Canadian, had become pretty well acquainted with the
Chippewa dialect, and had spent the considerable leisure which is always enforced
during Indian negotiations, in studying the variations in tribal dialects, and the
customs and traditions of the Indians. On his return from Green Bay he was
given a post in the local Indian department as assistant secretai-y and accountant,
and soon after was also made interpreter. These employments, added to his
salary as deputy of Major Rowland, gave him what was then considered a very
good income, and enabled him to make some savings.

About this time he was also made secretary of the board of regents of the
university, with a salary of sixty dollars. This office was chiefly valuable to him
by bringing him into familiar relations with the most prominent and cultivated
gentlemen in the town, who were afterwards his personal and intimate friends.
In 1^22. in consequence of a treaty of the previous year with the Ottawas,
Chippewas and Potawatomies, whereby they ceded large tracts in Southern and
Western Michigan, it became necessary to fix upon the places where the govern-
ment should locate teachers, blacksmiths and other persons in the service of the
tribes, and Mr. Trowbridge was appointed to make these selections and sent to
get advice from General Tipton at Fort Wayne and Doctor Woleott at Chicago,
who represented the tribes at the agencies, after which he was to meet Col.
Gabriel Godfrey at Bertrand's, near Niles, and proceed to make the desigma-
tions. One vessel a year then visited Chicago, and took supplies and brought
away furs and peltries. Most of the travel therefore was on horseback, and the
usual time between Chicago and Detroit was ten days. This excursion occupied
six weeks. In 182.3 he was sent to Green Bay to take temporary charge of tlie
Indian agency during the sickness of Commodore Brevoort, who was then agent.
He improved this opportunity to make further studies in the languages of the
Menominies and Winnebagoes. His first visit to New York City was with Major
Forsyth, in 1823, to obtain and bring back $20,000, in silver, to malce payments to
the Indians. In 1825 he went on horseback with General Cass to Wapaghkon-
ctta, through a wet and difticult country, to treat with the Senecas for their
removal beyond the Mississippi. After the treaty General Cass and Mr. Trow-
bridge accompanied General Clarke in their canoe to St. Louis, and returned by
the Ohio river, visiting Cincinnati to enjoy a meeting with Judge Burnett and
General Harrison. About this time Mr. Trowbridge was made sub-agent, retain-
ing his former position as interpreter and accountant.



But lie was about to enter upon a new employment in which he was perhaps
better loiown to the community for a long period than in any of his other occu-
pations, and he gave up his place under Major Rowland and all of his Indian
employments except that of accountant, in which General Cass found him
indispensable. In 1825 the immigration from the East began to increase more
rapidly than before, as the Erie canal, just completed, furnished better means of
travel and transportation across New York. Banlving facilities were entirely
lacking in the territory, the Banlv of Detroit, incorporated during the early days
of Hull's administration, having been disapproved by Congress, and having had
no success. The Bank of Michigan was now established, and in this year its
capital was largely increased, and Mr. Trowbridge was made its cashier. He
continued connected with it as cashier or president, except for an interval from
1836 to 1839, until the banlc was finally closed in the troubled times of 1842. He
built his house at what was then regarded as a considerable distance from the
town and off of any opened street, although on tlie line where it was expected
Jefferson avenue would some day be laid out. In this house, added to from time
to time, but not otherwise changed, he spent more tlian fifty-six years of his life.

In 1831 General Cass was appointed secretary of war and was very anxious
to have Mr. Trowbridge as his chief clerk, and even told him that his acceptance
of that position would determine his own doubts about taking that office. The
temptation of the great increase of income he would secure by this appointment,
and his personal attachment and obligations to the general, were very strong
inducements, but he finally concluded that an independent private station was
preferable to any uncertain juiblic employment, and he determined to remain in
Detroit. In 1833 he was one of the members of the so-called Boston Company,
a lumber manufacturing concern on tlie Kalamazoo river, at the site of the
present village of Allegan, which they laid out and in which he retained an
interest. He was interested during the next few years in many other enten^rises,
and was one of the original purchasers of tlie Cass Eront in Detroit, from which
he and most of the other purchasers were finally released on terms which he
declared very emphatically were not only just but liberal. He left this testi-
mony as a matter of no more than justice to the memory of General Cass.

His earliest religious connection was with the Eirst Protestant Society, which
was originally composed of Protestants of various denominations, the numbers
not being such at first as to warrant separate congregations, and he was elected
secretary of this coriioration in 1822. After his marriage he cast in his lot with
St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church, where he became at once an active and
useful member and officer. He continued to act as vestryman or warden until
1845, when the increasing numbers made it necessary to organize a new parish,
which was named Christ Church, in which he was senior warden until his death.
His interest in religious matters was great and devoted, and while his modesty
was remarkable, he was during life a conspicuous and influential member in the
church, and as wise in his counsels, as munificent in his gifts and sacrifices. In
1832 a was organized, in which he became a member of the standing
committee, and lie continued by annual re-election to be such a memlier imtil he
died. He was also elected a member of every general convention of the Protest-
ant Episcopal Church in the United States from 1835, and act^u^lly attended most
of the sessions.

He was not afflicted with any extreme desire for public ofiice. The only politi-
cal offices he ever held were those of alderman of Detroit in 1833 and mayor
in 1834, As a candidate for the latter office he received all the votes cast in the
election but three. During this period he rendered essential service to the city
by tracing out and securing the remnants of a fund derived from the gi-ant of the
Detroit Military Reserve to the city. The fund tlius saved was put into the old
City Hall building, and secured its completion. The early months of his mayor-


alty were burdened by the cares occasioned by the visitation of the cholera.
Wlien this had jiassed away he resigned his mayoralty and deposited in the city
treasury the penalty then imposed for declining such duties. This is the solitary
instance to be found in tlie municipal history of the payment of such a penalty.
In 1837 he was nominated by the Whigs as governor of the state, and was
defeated by only 237 majority for Stevens T. Mason, who, as acting governor of
the territory and governor of the young state, had excited considerable enthu-
siasm by his spirited course in vindicating the boundary rights, and whose party
was in power. Mr. Trowbridge never allowed any further use of his name as a
candidate for political station, thougli always holding and expressing decided
views. He was a Wliig until the Kepubliean party was organized and was
thereafter a Republican.

In 1842 the pressure of business labors and anxieties wore out his strength, and
for several months he was obliged to give up all occupation. His health, after a
long intei-val. was gradually restored, and he was during most of his subsequent
life hale and vigorous. He took charge in 1844 of the Michigan State Bank,
of which he was president until its final winding up in 1853. He then became
secretary and treasurer, and afterwards president, of the Oakland and Ottawa
Kailroad Company and its successor, the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad Com-
pany, and continued in charge until its further re-organization. He had also
been manager or director of various minor tmdertakings. He was one of the
directors of the Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad Company, the corporation that
began the Central railroad, and ran it until the state purchased it.

His constant business engagements did not prevent his cooperation in those
enterprises and imdertakings in which there is no pecuniary profit and where
the work done is of general importance. He took a lively interest in everything
which was calculated to promote intellectual, moral and religious culture. He
was one of the founders of the Historical and Algic societies. He was a member
and officer of various Bible and missionary societies. He was appointed a regent
of the University of Michigan in 1839, and took part also in the promotion of
local schools and seminaries. He was president of the Detroit Board of Public
Charities. His close business habits, his sound judgment and his wonderful
memory, combined to make him a coveted agent in tliose places which should be
filled with the best men and which, fortunately for the community, few but good
men are willing to take.

He did not retire from active pursuits until he had reached an age where
few are capable of following them, and then he did not retire into idleness. His
services in procuring the erection and completion of the Soldiers' Monviment
deserve special mention. As usual in such matters, tliere is always a sum to be
made up at the close of the subscription list, which is more difficult to raise

Online LibraryFrancis Bacon TrowbridgeThe Trowbridge genealogy. History of the Trowbridge family in America (Volume 3) → online text (page 78 of 115)