Fred. (Frederick) Carlisle.

Chronography of notable events in the history of the Northwest territory and Wayne County online

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and dealing in pine lands, in which he continued until his death. About



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1856 he returned to Detroit as senior member of the firm of Brooks &
Holland, and afterwards of the firm of Brooks & Adams. The firm of
Brooks & Adams also owned extensive tracts of pine timber in northern
Michigan and mills at Bay City.

Although not a member of any church denomination Mr. Brooks
was a trustee and a regular attendant of the first Congregational church
of Detroit, and never withheld in giving hberally towards its support;
neither was he parsimonious in his gifts of time and money to advance
the interests of all objects and enterprizes, of a moral, benevolent or
educational character. He was an earnest Republican, and during the
late Civil War his energies, time and money were devoted to the
Government and its measures for the restoration of the Union. His
earnest efforts in this direction brought him into confidential relations
with President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton, and made him
prominent among the leading men of that period. He never sought,
nor would accept a public political position for himself, but was regarded
as a power in securing such positions for his friends. He was bold
and fearless in asserting and maintaining his political convictions, but
granted to his opponents the right to advocate theirs, providing they
did not conflict with the law protecting public good, and the liberties of
the people.

Personally, Mr. Brooks was genial, somewhat blunt in speech,
generous to a fault, not a particle of vindictiveness in his nature;
prompt in acknowledging a wrong act or word ; full of sympathy for
the misfortunes of others, and ready to relieve them to the extent of his
ability; a faithful friend and a generous foe.

In 1838 Mr. Brooks married Miss Caroline Frances Jeffords. She
was born at Columbus, Ohio, on the 12th day of May, 1818. She was
indeed a helpmeet and a woman of more than ordinary business capa-
city, which she exercised and devoted to aid him in all the transactions
of his life. That he fully appreciated her sagacity and judgment is
evidenced by the provisions of his will, which placed all his large busi-
ness interests under her sole control. Nathaniel W.;;Brooks died at his
residence in Detroit, leaving a widow and one married daughter, Mrs.
Wm. B. Morton, losing one son, Jno. W. Brooks, and two daughters,
Mrs. Edw. P. Cressey, and Miss Margaret P. Brooks. Mrs. Brooks
survived her husband 13 years, meantime conducting the extensive
business interests committed to her charge by Mr. Brooks successfully,
and leaving it at her death in a prosperous condition. Mrs. Caroline
Frances Brooks departed this life October 25, 1885, at her residence in
Detroit.



— 122 —

THOMAS and FRIEND PALMER.

Thomas and Friend Palmer were so closely identified in all the
relations of life that the story of one is that of the other, and for the
purposes of this sketch relating to their experiences and incidents con-
nected therewith, we use the plural.

They were born in the town of Ashford, Windham County, Con-
necticut, Friend in 1787, and Thomas, February 4th, 1789. As
farmers' boys they were taught to labor, and at such times as the work
on the farm would permit, availed themselves of the educational
advantages afforded by the public schools of their native town. When
Thomas arrived at the age of 19, and Friend that of 21 years, the two
set out to become merchants. They had heard their grandmother
Barber relate the experiences of their grandfather, Thomas Barber, of
Sunsbury, Conn., who was an early Indian trader in the Northwest,
said to have been one of the first to contest the supremacy of the
French ; who in 1765 bought a stock of goods, hauled them overland
to Schenectady, N. Y., then purchased boats, and engaging boatmen,
proceeded up the Mohawk, thence through Wood Creek to Oneida
Lake, thence down its outlet to Oswego, up Lake Ontario to the Nia-
gara river, thence making the portage over the Niagara Falls, up Lake
Erie to Detroit. The English general, Bradstreet, had the year previ-
ous concluded a treaty with all the Indian tribes hostile to the English,
which thus opened up this section to English traders. Mr. Barber was
one of the first New England men to avail himself of this new state of
things, and his goods being suitable for the Indian trade, he soon was
able to exchange them for valuable furs at a handsome profit.

Undoubtedly, the relation of their grandfather's success had much
to do in determining the future course of the Palmer brothers, for in
1808, we learn they obtained a small stock of goods, a wagon and span
of horses, and commenced as itinerant merchants, choosing as their
field of operation. Western Canada. After encountering numerous
hardships, and making many narrow escapes, but having been reason-
ably successful, they decided to locate permanently at Maiden as settled
merchants, and just as the war of 181 2 began, they were doing a
thriving and profitable business. Although the declaration was made
June i8th, 1812, the news did not reach the people of the Northwest
until the ist of July. Upon the announcement at Maiden, all the
Yankees at that place, some fifteen in number, including the Palmer
brothers, were arrested and imprisoned. Some of them afterwards on
taking the oath of allegiance to the British crown were released, but
the Messrs. Palmer and five others refused, and were held as prisoners
for five weeks or more, when they were run over the river and landed
at Monguagon, and footed it to Detroit. Thus they made their first



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entrance into what subsequently became the seat of their future suc-
cesses as well as misfortunes. Prior to their imprisonment at Maiden,
they had been permitted to pack and safely store their goods, and on
the surrender of Hull were allowed to return to Maiden on parole,
when they unpacked and exchanged their goods for furs, making a
good speculation. They then returned to Connecticut, when after a
few months looking around, they fixed upon Canandaigua, N. Y., as a
good point to start anew, it then being the most important town in
Western New York. Neither Buffalo or Rochester were known as
substantial settlements, Canandaigua being the centre of commerce for
nearly the whole of Western New York, from Ca}Tiga to Lake Erie.
The firm of F. & T. Palmer enjoyed an extensive and lucrative trade.
Peace between the United States and Great Britain was declared
December 24, 1814, and in the spring of 1815, the firm found them-
selves with a large stock of goods, which had depreciated in value, and
it was decided that Thomas should go to Canada and dispose of a por-
tion. Taking about $40,000 worth, he selected Bay of Quinte as his field
of trade, where he disposed of his goods at a handsome profit, and on
the i6th of June, 1815, Thomas came to Detroit with a large stock of
goods, and commenced business for the first time in Detroit, under the
firm name of F. & T. Palmer, Friend remaining in charge of the busi-
ness at Canandaigua, and Thomas that at Detroit. In this way the
firm continued a successful business until 1824, when there came a
financial crash. Up to this time there was no more reliable house in
the west than that of F. & T. Palmer, and their credit in New York
and Boston was almost unlimited. It was unfortunate for them that
the means of communication between the East and West were so
limited, for in those days there were no railroads or telegraphs;
had there been, the misfortune which befell them at this time
would have been avoided. It was occasioned as follows : The firm
had a note payable at the Ontario Bank, Canandaigua; H. B. Gib-
son, was at that time the cashier. On the day the note fell due
Friend called at the bank to know if it would make any difference if
the note was not paid immediately, as he daily expected funds from his
brother Thomas to meet it. The banker knew it would be taken up as
promised, but he had his own rules for conducting the business in his
charge. " No," said Mr. G., " it won't make any difference with the
bank, but it will make a d — n sight of difference with you, unless it is
taken up before the hour of closing." There wasn't much time to
" skin." Indeed, " skinning " was not a common practice in those days,
and the note went to protest. Thus they came to a commercial pause,
or in other words, stopped payment. While their creditors in New
York and Boston had full confidence in both their integrity and ability
to cancel their habilities, still their credit suffered a blow, which they
felt in all their future undertakings.



— 124 —

Congress had granted to the territory of Michigan 10,000 acres
of land adjoining Detroit, for the purpose of building a court
house and jail. The firm of F. & T. Palmer were awarded the con-
tract. The building was commenced in 1823, and was erected where
now stands the High School. By virtue of the contract 6,500 acres of
the 10,000 acre tract was awarded them, together with other valuable
land, which was subdivided into some 200 lots. The Eastern creditors
of the Palmers, felt that these and their other assets, if time was
given, would enable them to liquidate, and hence were lenient, and
gave them their own time. Among these generous creditors were:
David I. Boyde & Co., Boyde & Suydam, Lafferty & Gautly, Spafford
& Filester, and others. Meantime Friend closed up their business at
Canandaigua, joined Thomas in 1826 in Detroit, and aided as far as in
his power in closing their affairs. But he died the following year, and
the task of closing their affairs devolved upon Thomas. To such of the
creditors as were importunate he turned over the lands acquired at
their appraised value, and eventually paid the firm's indebtedness to the
satisfaction of all, and had some means left.

In 1828, Thomas had acquired through a mortgage belonging to
the firm, a large tract of pine land at the mouth of Pine River, near
where St. Clair is located, upon which he erected mills for the manu-
facture of lumber; he also opened a store there, and for a number of
years did business, then sold out to Wesley Truesdell. In 1845 he
purchased several mining interests in Lake Superior, and engaged in
mining, but this not proving profitable he returned to Detroit, and
engaged in the insurance business with his son, Thomas W.

The blow received by the suspension of 1824, was one from
which it was not easy to recover, and while he was able to save some-
thing from the wreck, what was of more value to him than gold was
the fact that he was able to maintain and preserve his integrity and
mercantile honor. He was not an avaricious man. It has been said, in
fact, that he was too kind hearted to have been eminent as a business
man, in the ordinary acceptation of the term. He generally took the
world easy, never fretting about things that could not be helped,
minded his own business, and never interfered with the affairs of his
neighbors. Mr. Palmer was a Whig in politics, but never sought office.
In 1827 he was elected alderman, and re-elected several terms as such.

In 1823, Thomas Palmer married Mary A. Witherell, a daughter
of Judge James Witherell, who, as member of Congress from Vermont,
was appointed by President Jefferson one of the judges of the North-
west Territory, to. succeed Judge Bates. He was then but 49 years of
age, and was born at Mansfield, Massachusetts, in 1759. He had
entered the Revolutionary Army at 16 years of age, and served during
the war. At its close, he studied medicine, removed to Vermont, and



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after practising medicine some years, turned his attention to law, and
held a judicial position until elected to Congress. At the close of his
congressional term, as stated, he was appointed one of the judges of
Michigan, and arrived at Detroit October 8th, 1808. The venerable
Col. James W. Knaggs, still living, says of him : " He was the kindest
man I ever knew. He was often a guest of my father, and even after
I went to Toledo, he spent a week with me, which was the happiest of
my life, because of the associations of my boyhood and his." It is said
that while associated with Judges Woodward and Griffin, he had no
sympathy for the eccentricities of the former or the whimsicalities and
fickleness of the latter. Judge James Witherell died in January, 1838.
Thomas and Mary A. Palmer {nee Witherell) had nine children ; two
only survived his death, Thomas W. Palmer and Julia E., wife of
Henry A. Hibbard, of Kenosha. He died August 3rd, 1868. Mary A.,
his wife, survived him six years, departing this life in 1874.

Thomas W. Palmer, the only son of Thomas and Mary A. Palmer,
possesses many of the characteristics of his father. The most lovable is
that freedom from arrogance, which has gained for him the sincere and
enthusiastic regard of the people of his native State, irrespective of
partisan prejudices or affiliations. He cherishes for Michigan a love
approaching idolatry, and notwithstanding the exalted positions ten-
dered and held by him, calling him away from it, he anxiously desires
the time to come when he can forego and decline them, that he may
take up a continuous residence therein. He married the only child of
Charles Merrill, a sketch of whom will be found elsewhere.

Mr. Palmer has been a State and United States Senator, and at
present represents the United States at the court of Spain.

Friend Palmer, the elder brother of Thomas, was a man of equal
integrity and enterprise, but of a more sensitive nature in regard to
matters pertaining to their financial disasters of 1824 ; he brooded over
them more, and could not take them in the philosophical way, as
did his brother, who believed that " what could not be cured must be
endured." He married Miss Thankful Davis, a native of Pittsfield,
Massachusetts.

General Friend Palmer, the son of Friend and Thankful Palmer,
7iee Davis, was born at Canandaigua, N. Y., May 7, 1820. Nov. 6,
1851, he married Miss Harriett C. Witherell, of Detroit, daughter of
Judge B.F. H. Witherell. She was born at Detroit, May 7, 1830. She
died in Detroit, October i, 1880, leaving two children, Patti and
Winnie. The former married Captain J. Hale, 3rd U. S. Infantry.
She died in October, 1887. The latter married Mr. T. E. Lockwood,
of Detroit ; they are now residing in New York. Gen. Friend Palmer
served for a number of years as Quartermaster in the regular army
during the Mexican War. When his term of service expired he



— 126 —

returned to Detroit, and for a number of years was engaged in the
book trade, until the recent civil war broke out, when he was appointed
Assistant Quartermaster-General of the State. Subsequently he was
made Quartermaster-General, and served as such until succeeded by
General Wm. H. Troop. The military records of the State thus speak
of him : " His experience in the Quartermaster's department of the
regular army rendered him a valuable officer, and to him the State was
greatly indebted for the efficient and economical direction given to the
administration of that department."

The genial smile and kind manner of Friend Palmer characterize
a generous, noble nature, which endears him to all whom he meets, as
well as to those who have made his personal acquaintance. In religious
matters, he leans to the Unitarian doctrine. In politics, he is an earnest,
active Republican, and as a native of Detroit, he ranks with all who
desire its healthful growth in morals, education, wealth and beauty.



SEYMOUR FINNEY.

" Health and sickness, enjoyment and suffering, riches and poverty, knowledge
and ignorance, power and subjection, liberty and bondage, civilization and barbarity,
have all their offices and duties— all serve for the formation of character."— Paley.

The experience of the subject of this sketch in the character he
develops at this day, is an illustration as to how all the circumstances
enumerated by the philosopher Paley have been utilized by him, for in
his Hfe he has encountered all of them. Born of parents, not in affluent
circumstances, he was compelled at the age of sixteen to rely upon his
own efforts for a living. The avocation adopted disagreed with his
physical condition, ill health followed, causing him to seek a more con-
genial employment, in the course of which he had to contend with all
the ills and disappointments incident to a dependence upon the whims,
caprices and selfishness of others.

Seymour Finney was bom in Orange County, New York.

The first sorrow of Mr. Finney was occasioned by the death of his
mother, which occurred when he was but nine years of age. Her loss
threw him upon his own resources. It was a second grief when he
found that he must give up his desire for an education. At the age of
sixteeen he was obliged to leave his school, and was bound out to a
tailor. During his apprenticeship his father moved to Yates county, and
from thence to Michigan, and settled upon a farm in Redford, Wayne
county, where he remained until death. Mr. Finney's failing health
obliged him to give up the tailor's trade, and at the age of twenty he
came to Michigan, but stayed only a few months, and returned to



— 127 —

New York, spending the winter there. Finally, he came to Detroit,
where he has since made his home.

Finding nothing to do, he for a short time worked at the tailor
trade in Canada. This was during the Patriot War, but in 1838 his
health led him to abandon his trade, and accept a clerkship with Mr.
Warner, who was then keeping the Franklin House. He remained
with Mr. Warner three years, and then bought a hotel on the corner of
Bates and Jefferson Avenue. The city directory of 1845 gives "Walter
Finney, bar keeper, Franklin House," and many confound Seymour
with him. Mr. Seymour never kept a bar for anyone. In 1843 he
engaged in the grocery business, which proved disastrous, and he was
forced to earn bread for his family as day laborer.

In 1846 he rented the Franklin House, which he conducted for five
years, and then bought the site and erected the Finney Hotel, a frame
structure. He then purchased a lot on the corner of Griswold and
State streets, on which he built a barn, known as the " Finney Barn."
In 1854 ^^ removed the frame building, and built on the site what is
now the " Finney House." He conducted the hotel on temperance
principles until 1857, when he retired, and in 1861 built his present
residence on the corner of Cass avenue and High streets.

Mr. Finney, in religious matters, has been long connected with the
Baptist denomination, and has ever maintained the character of a con-
sistent Christian, affording a good example for others in all his walks
and conduct.

In politics, Mr. Finney, although originally a Democrat, was anti-
slavery in sentiment, and when in 1852, the Free Soil Party was
organized, he acted with it. For a long time prior to that, however,
his barn was the rendezvous for refugees from slavery, making for
Canada. Many a poor slave has been hidden in the loft of the Finney
Barn during the day and piloted at night across the river to Canada.
As far back as 1840, Mr. Finney was known as the superintendent of
the underground railway; and undoubtedly Mr. Finney must look back
with much satisfaction to that portion of his life. During his long resi-
dence in Detroit he has ever been recognized as the firm, outspoken
champion of the poor and unfortunate of all classes.

From 1874 to 1888, Mr. Finney was a member of the Common
Council, a greater portion of which time he was chairman of the com-
mittee of ways and means. No measure could escape his scrutiny, and
none pass having the least scintilla of wrong. Hence he was regarded,
and bore the cognomen, " Guardian of the City Treasury."

Mr. Finney has been twice married. His first wife was Miss Mary
A. Segar, who was born in Steuben county, N. Y. She departed this
life in 1876. They had six children, four sons and two daughters. He
married the second time Miss Matthews, who died recently.



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DA VID PARSONS.



To those familiar with the early history of Michigan the name
of " Parsons " is associated with " energy," " activity " and " enter-
prise." So far as connected with the progress of the territory to
a State, culminating in its present prosperous condition, this name
has been identified with all efforts and measures tending to promote
educational, industrial and benevolent enterprises. How far, and to
what extent, the subject of this sketch ma}^ have been instrumental
in securing such results will appear in the notable events and acts in
which he took a prominent part.

David Parsons was born at New Haven, State of New York,
June 19th, 1820. His ancestry on the paternal side were of New
England descent. His father, John Parsons, was born at Vernon,
Vermont, in 1788, and his mother, whose maiden name was Betsy
Tyler, was born in Connecticut in 1788 and was descended from an
EngHsh family. His parents w^ere married at Windom, Vermont, in
1808. His father died at Butterfl}^, Oswego county, N. Y., in 1849,
and his mother at the same place in 1832. They had, as a fruit of the
union, six sons and one daughter. In 1835 the subject of this sketch
married Miss Sophronia C. Osborn, of North Bloomfield, Ohio. She
was a daughter of Leonard Osborne and Amanda Smith and was born
at North Bloomfield, Ohio. They had five children. Mr. Parsons
came to Michigan in 1836.

Mr. Parsons has but one brother, an honest, industrous farmer,
living near the old homestead in New York. Of his other brothers,
S. Titus Parsons was in the Legislature and last Constitutional Conven-
tion of this State ; Luke H. Parsons was said to be one of the most reli-
able counselors of Michigan and was for some time regent of the Uni-
versity ; Benj. Rich Parsons, a farmer, teacher and preacher, had the
Bible at his tongue's end so completely as to induce ministers who knew
him to declare that if the Bible was struck out of existence Rich, as he
was called, could produce it again from memory; Andrew Parsons, who
held almost every office of trust in the State of Michigan, including that
of Member of Assembly, Senator, Regent of the University, Lieutenant
Governor and finally Governor. These are all dead. The father was
a farmer and taught all his children to work. But David was, from a
mere youth, determined to get his living by " teaching school." When
only fifteen years of age he followed his older brothers to Michigan
and taught his first school during the winter of 1835-36 following. He
was successful in his youthful efforts, and after working all summer on
a farm near Marshall, he returned to his father's in New York and
entered the teachers' department of the R. O. Academy, where he
received the teachers' course.



— 129 —

After spending the intervening years between 1840 and 1845 in
New York in teaching and as superintendent of public schools, in
1855 he went to Grant county, Wisconsin, where he founded the
Tafton Collegiate Seminary, of which he was principal for eight years.
During this time hundreds of teachers were educated under his special
training. In 1862 he was elected county superintendent of schools
without an opposition vote, being on the Democratic as well as the
Republican ticket. Although a strong Democrat, the Republicans
acknowledged his educational abilities and his love for his country,
he sending five of his family and thirty-five of his students to the war
and contributing liberally to its support; and, therefore, with unanimous
consent, the Republican party placed his name on its ticket after his
nomination by the Democrats. In 1864 he was called to Dubuque, la.,
to aid in grading the schools. In 1866 he had more liberal offers to
take the superintendence of the city schools of Freeport, 111., where he
most thoroughly organized and completely graded and built up the
schools of that city.

In 1870 he came to Michigan and settled in Detroit, and devoted
his time to business and business education until March, 1873, when he
was appointed to the office of Deputy State Superintendent of Public
Instruction.

During the many years of Mr. Parsons' labors as a teacher he con-
ducted large numbers of teachers' institutes in New York, Ohio, Penn-
sylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. He has contributed largely to
the educational literature and written various school books that have
had extensive use, all of which, except "Parsons' Philosophical and
Practical Orthography," are out of print. The first edition of that
work, as well as his graded school system, was written when he was



Online LibraryFred. (Frederick) CarlisleChronography of notable events in the history of the Northwest territory and Wayne County → online text (page 13 of 51)