Fred. (Frederick) Carlisle.

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

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He acted with the Whigs until the Abolition party was organized,
when he united with it until the Republican party was organized in

A purer man than Judge Dexter is rarely to be found. He
sympathized with human suffering, and hated wrong-doing, and never
counted cost, either in money or time, in righting the subject of wrong,
and punishing and correcting the cause.

He died at his home in Dexter, February 6, 1863.


Although frequent allusions have been made to James Witherell
and B. F. H. Witherell, inasmuch as both have been so prominently
identified with Michigan and Wayne county, yet a history of either
State or county, would be incomplete without special reference
to them.

James Witherell was born in Mansfield, Mass., June i6th, 1759.
His ancestors emigrated from England and settled in the Province of
Massachusetts in 1630.

It is inferred that the subject of this memoir availed himself of
such educational advantages as the times and circumstances surround-
ing afforded. We find that soon after the battle of Bunker Hill he
enlisted in a Massachusetts regiment and served at the siege of Boston
and through the War of the Revolution, until the army was disbanded
at Newbury in 1783. He rose from a private to the rank of an adju-
tant. At the battle of White Plains he was severely wounded. He
participated in the battles of Long Island, Stillwater, Bemis Heights and
at Saratoga, where Burgoyne surrendered. He encountered the pri-
vations and hardships of the winter quarters of the army at Valley
Forge, and the following summer fought at the battle of Monmouth,
New Jersey, witnessed the execution of Major Andre, and when the
war closed found the net result (in cash) of his eight years' service to
be eighty dollars in continental scrip.

When peace was assured he went to Connecticut and studied
medicine, and in 1788 emigrated to Vermont where he practiced his
profession, meanwhile holding several public positions, among them
associate and chief justice of Rutland county, member of the Gover-
nor's Council and of the State Legislature. In 1807 he was elected to

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Congress, and took part in the discussion and voted for the Act
abolishing the slave trade, which passed in 1808. It was while he was
a member of Congress that President Jefferson appointed him one of
the judges of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Michigan.
Resigning his seat in Congress, he accepted the position and started
for the then almost unknown region of Michigan to enter upon the
arduous duties which it imposed. In 1810 he removed his family, con-
sisting of his wife and six children, from Fair Haven, Vt., to Detroit. The
unsettled condition of the country, however, so affected the health of
his wife that he was compelled, in the autumn of 181 1, to send her and
the children back to Vermont, In 1812, on the declaration of war with
England, he being the only Revolutionary officer of experience. Gov.
Hull appointed him to command a bataUion of volunteers. On the
surrender of Hull he refused to subject his corps to its terms and told
his men to disperse and go where they chose. His son (James C. C.)
and his son-in-law, Colonel Joseph Watson, and himself, were sent as
prisoners of war to Kingston, Canada, and were subsequently paroled
and went to their famihes in Vermont. After being regularly ex-
changed the Judge returned to Detroit and resumed the discharge of
his judicial duties, until appointed secretary of the Territory by Presi-
dent John Quincy Adams.

Judge James Witherell died at his residence on the Campus
Martius, Detroit, where the Detroit Opera House stands, January 9th,
1838. Both houses of the Legislature, then in session, and the Bar of
the Supreme Court passed resolutions of respect and regret.

It is said of Judge Jas. Witherell that while not a profound lawyer,
yet his strong mind and clear common sense, united with his industrious
habits and upright purpose, made him an able and acceptable judge.

On November nth, 1790, Judge Witherell married Amy
Hawkins. She was descended from a Rhode Island Quaker family,
related in direct line to Roger Williams. Her father's name was
Charles and her mother's maiden name Sarah Olney. Her father's
family removed from Rhode Island to Vermont in 1786. Although of
Quaker stock she was converted to Methodism at an early age and
throughout life was a member of that church. She died in 1848.

Six children were born to the Judge and his wife : James Cullen
C, July 14th, 1791, died at Poultney, Vt., August 26, 1813 ; Sarah
Myra, born September 6th, 1792, married Colonel Joseph Watson, died
March 22d, 1818, at Poultney, Vt.; Betsey Matilda, born in 1793,
married Dr. E. Hurd, and died at Detroit in 1852; Mary Amy, born
October, 1795, married Thomas Palmer in 1821, and died at Detroit
March 19th, 1874. She had seven children, one of whom is now living,
the Hon. Thomas W. Palmer. But one grandchild survived her
demise, the daughter of Mrs. Roby, and she died very recently. B. F.

— 277 —

H. Witherell, born 1797, died June 22d, 1867; James B., born May 12,
1799. He became a midshipman and died of yellow fever on board
the United States ship Peacock, on a voyage between Havana and
Hampton Roads.


Benjamin F. H. Witherell, the second son of Judge James With-
ell, born in 1797, and sent back to Vermont with his mother in 181 1,
returned to Detroit in 1817 and commenced the study of law in the
office of Governor Woodbridge and was admitted to the bar in 1819.
His admission to the United States Supreme Court was on the motion
of Daniel Webster. From 1830 to 1840 he filled the offices of Probate
Judge and Prosecuting Attorney in Wayne county. In 1843 he
became the Judge of the District Criminal Court, composed of the
counties of Wayne, Washtenaw and Jackson, which office he held
untill 1850, when it was constitutionally abolished. A few years after
this he was chosen circuit judge to fill the vacancy made by the resig-
nation of Judge Samuel T. Douglas. At the expiration of this term he
was again elected and had served four years at the time of his death.
Judge B. F. H. Witherell had also filled several other positions of trust
and honor. He was a member of the Legislature and of the Consti-
tutional Convention of 1850. Among the positions of honor was that
of president of the Historical Society and Soldiers' Monument Asso-
ciation, both of which he held at the time of his death. He is said to
have been the most skillful criminal lawyer at the bar and was uni-
versally esteemed as an upright and honorable man, and had hosts of
friends, especially among the French residents. He was the best
informed man living, as to the early history of Michigan, and was called
by his friends a " walking historical dictionary of Wayne county." He
wrote several articles on the early history of Michigan which were
published in the Free Press over the signature of "Hamtramack." Thir-
teen of these sketches covered thirty-seven pages and were published
in the Historical Sketches of Wisconsin. There are many others pub-
lished since, which we purpose to collate for preservation.

Thomas W. Palmer says : " In his prime. Judge Witherell was
over six feet in stature and about two hundred and forty pounds. He
was genial and kindly in disposition, lenient in his sentences for first
offences, but when an old offender w^as convicted he usually gave him
the full term prescribed by law."

The eldest son of Judge Witherell, James B., was born in Detroit
in 1828, and graduated at the Michigan University in 1848. He
traveled through Spain with T. W. Palmer, was city attorney, was

— 278 —

appointed second lieutenant in 1855, promoted to first lieutenant in June,
i860, gazetted twice for gallant conduct in fighting the Indians, was in
Twigg's command at the beginning of the Civil War, and started
north with those who remained true to the government. He was very
near-sighted, and on boarding the steamer stumbled and fell overboard
and was drowned. His body was recovered and buried by the Masonic
fraternity at Port Isabell. He is said to have been a generous, gal-
lant and brave man.

Judge Witherell was married three times. In 1824 to Miss Mary
A. Sprague, at Poultney. They had one son and three daughters.
Mrs. Mary A. Witherell, nee Sprague, died in August, 1834. ^"^ ^^37
he married Deha A. Ingersoll. She had one son, Charles I. Witherell.
Her death occurred in 1847, and in 1848 he married Casandra S. Brady,
who died in 1863, leaving no children.

Benjamin Franklin Hawkins Witherell died June 22d, 1867. Only
one child survived his death, Mrs. General Friend Palmer. She has
since deceased (October, 1880). Three grandchildren also survived
his death. One, the daughter of General Friend Palmer (Mrs. Capt.
J. Hale), died in October, 1887.


" A brave man bears no malice, but forgets at once in peace the injuries
of war." — Cowper.

We have an illustration of such a character as Cowper describes
in the life of the subject of this sketch.

Colonel Andrew T. McReynolds was born in the town of Dun-
gannon, Tyrone county, Ireland, December 25, 1808. At the age of
twenty-two he left his native land and came to the United States, and
took up his residence at Pittsburg, Pa. Soon after his arrival, the
State of South Carolina passed certain laws in conflict with those
enacted by Congress regulating foreign importation, and sought to
enforce them against the order of the general government, whereupon
General Scott was ordered to employ the army to suppress them.
Among the first to volunteer his aid was the subject of this sketch, and
he was elected an Ensign of the Duquesne Grays of Pittsburg — the
first volunteer military company organized west of the AUeghanies,
after the war of 181 2. The prompt action of the President, however,
averted a collision between the military of the United States and the
State of South Carolina, so that the Colonel was not called into active

He removed to the then Territory of Michigan in 1833, and settled
in Detroit. In 1834, ^^^^ ^^ ^^^ characteristic public spirit and senti-

— 279 —

ment, " That in peace we should prepare for war," he was one of
four to initiate the organization of the Brady Guards, the first volunteer
company in Michigan, and also was appointed Major of the Territorial
Militia, then commanded by Major-General Williams, and was Lieut.-
Colonel and Colonel of the ist Regiment (Michigan Militia) eleven
years. Meanwhile, he having prepared by its study, he was admitted
to the practice of law, and soon took high rank as a lawyer. He was
also active in the organization of the Montgomery Guards, and was
their first commander in 1844. This organization is still active under
the name of the Montgomery Rifles. In April, 1847, he was com-
missioned Captain of Dragoons in the U. S. Army, resigning his seat
as State Senator to take part under General Scott in the Mexican War.
He was disabled for life in the dragoon charge at the gates of Mexico.
For his services during that war he was complimented by the Presi-
dent and the United States Senate.

At the close of the war he retired from the army and resumed the
practice of his profession in the city of Detroit, which he continued for
thirteen years, when the civil war occurred, and he was commissioned
by President Lincoln, Colonel of the Lincoln Cavalry, the first cavalry
regiment for the war, which he commanded for the year 1861, and was
then promoted to the command of a brigade, and subsequently to that
of a division. After serving in the army three years and two months,
his term having expired, he was honorably discharged, and returned to
Grand Rapids, where he has since been and is now in the active prac-
tice of his profession.

In civil life he has held the following positions of honor and trust,
viz.: Alderman of Detroit, 1837-8, Prosecuting Attorney of Wayne
County in 1852, and Member of the Board of Education and its first
President, and United States District Attorney for the Western Dis-
trict of Michigan. In all, both military and civil, he has discharged the
duties of the respective positions with honour to himself and fidelity to
the public. Colonel McReynolds was a member of the National Con-
vention which nominated William Henry Harrison, at Harrisburg, in
1839, ^^^ "^^^ elected a member of the Michigan Legislature the same
year. He held the office of Indian Agent under John Tyler, he served
as Director in the Detroit City Bank, was one of the charter members
of the Detroit Commandery Knights Templars, is President of the
Michigan and Vice-President of the National Association of Mexican
War Volunteers, has been twice elected Commander of Custer Post,
G. A. R., and subsequently Commander of the Department of Michi-
gan Division, G, A. R. During his professional life, he has held the
office of Circuit Court Commissioner and that of Master in Chancery,
both State and National.

— 280 —


Eralsy Ferguson, the subject of this sketch, is well known as
among the earlier residents of Detroit, and was born in Oneida county,
N. Y. When but a lad his parents removed to Canada, taking him
with them. In 1826, he came to Detroit, which has since been his
home. Mr. Ferguson is full of incidents connected with the history of
Detroit, from that period to the present. He can remember when
communication was had between Detroit and Windsor by means of a
small sail boat, called back and forth by blowing a horn, when this
was succeeded by a steam craft whose hull consisted of two dugouts,
joined together, and finally by the magnificent steamboats of the pre-
sent day.

In 1829, his father settled upon a farm owned by Judge James
Witherell, and for a number of years he was in the employ of the
latter, during the summer season, and in winter attended the Detroit

In 1838, he became possessed "^through Judge Witherell, with
eighty acres of land in Oakland county. In the winter of 1839 ^^
commenced clearing and improving it, but after two months of hard
labor decided he was not designed for a farmer, and returned to
Detroit and commenced the work of transportation, employing a large
number of horses for the business.

Most of the timber and logs used in the construction of the log
cabins in the hard cider times of 1840 were drawn from the woods by
his teams. During the winter of 1841, he established a passenger and
freight line for transportation by teams between Detroit and Chicago.
In 1844 he entered the service of the Michigan Central railroad, and
advancing from one position to another, reached that of depot and
train master, resigning that position January i, 1875, after thirty years'
connection with the road. He then turned his whole time to trucking
and transfer of freight.

By good management and close attention to his affairs, Mr. Fergu-
son has secured a competency, and while he still oversees his business,
is not so closely confined as in former times.

Mr. Ferguson has a commission as first lieutenant issued to him
by Governor Mason, in 1837. During the Patroit War of that year
his company was called into service to guard the arsenal at Dearborn.

Mr. Ferguson, originally a Whig, united with the Republicans
when that party organized, but has never been an office seeker or held
a public office. In 1842, he married Miss Nancy Canfield, by whom
he had four children.

As matters of interest, Mr. Ferguson permits the publication of the
following :

— 281 —

Headquarters First Regiment, M. M.

Detroit, May 29, 1845.

I hereby certify, that ist Lieutenant Eralsy Ferguson, has
deposited with me an affidavit, in accordance with law, setting forth
that he was commissioned, equipped and did duty in the militia of the
State of Michigan, for five years and upwards, and that he is by virtue
of the statutes in such case made and provided, exempt from military
duty therein, except as is in said statutes excepted.

Given under my hand at Detroit, this 29th day of May, a. d. 1845.
The said Ferguson is honorably discharged.

Andrew T. McReynolds,

Colonel Commanding ist Regiment, M. M.


governor in and over the state of MICHIGAN :

To all who shall see these presents — Greeting :

Know Ye, That, reposing special trust and confidence in the
patriotism, valor, fidelity, and abilities of Eralsy Ferguson, in the name
and by the authority of the people of the State of Michigan, I do
hereby appoint him a First Lieutenant in the Militia of the said
State. He is therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duties
of a First Lieutenant of the First Division, First Brigade, First Regi-
ment, (C) Company, by doing and performing all the duties thereunto
belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all Officers and
Soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders as First
Lieutenant. And he is to observe and follow such orders and direc-
tions from time to time as he shall receive from the President of the
United States of America, the Governor of the said State, or his
superior Officer set over him, according to law. This Commission to
continue in force during the pleasure of the Governor of the said State
for the time being.

In Testimony Whereof, I have caused these

[seal] Letters to be made Patent, and the great seal

of the State to be hereunto affixed.

Given under my hand at Detroit, this Twenty-
fourth day of April, in the year of our Lord
[seal] one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight,

and of the Independence of the United States
of America, the sixty-second.

By the Governor: Stevens T. Mason.

j. e. schwarz,
Randolph Manning, \ Adj't Gen.

Secretary of State.

— 282 —


Headquarters First Reg't M. M.

Agreeable to the new organization of the ist Reg't, M. M.: The
bounds of Company (C) will be as follows, viz.: Embracing all that
part of the city of Detroit lying between Griswold and Bates street,
and extending from Griswold street up Clifford street to Woodward
avenue; up Woodward avenue to the Grand Circus ; thence on a right
line until it strikes the southern end of Witherell street ; thence up
Witherell street to the northern limits of the city of Detroit; thence
east along said limits to the rear end of Williams street ; thence down
Williams street to the Grand Circus; thence on a right line to the rear
end of Miami avenue; thence down Miami avenue until it intersects
John R. street; thence along John R. street to Farrer street; thence
down Farrer street to Farmer street; thence down Farmer street to
Bates street; thence down Bates street to the river Detroit.

Agreeable to an order issued by Colonel Spencer, commanding

First Regiment M. M., an election will be held in the above named

Company at the Detroit Cottage, on Wednesday, the 6th instant, at

seven o'clock, p. m., for the purpose of electing one captain and one


By Lieutenant E. Ferguson,

In Command.
Detroit, May 4th, 1840.


General James E. Pittman is a native of Michigan, was born in
1826. The General is the father of the coal trade in Detroit, he
having estabHshed a coal depot when only twenty-eight years of age.
That article was used in Detroit prior, but there were no yards or
dealers making it a specialty. He has continued his interest in the
business up to the present time, the firm being Pittman & Dean.

The General has always been active and prominent in military
affairs and was, early in life, a member of one or more volunteer com-
panies. On the 2ist of May, 186 1, he was appointed state paymaster,
making large disbursements to the troops in the service of the State,
was a member of the State MiHtary Board from September 19th, 1861,
to November ist, 1862, when he was appointed Inspector General,
serving in that capacity until March, 1867.

The General was a member of the Board of Police Commissioners
for a number of years, and withdrew upon being appointed to succeed
E. F. Conely as Superintendent of Police, which position he now holds.

— 283 —

He has always borne his share of the burdens in local, State and
National affairs, contributing time, money and influence to advance and
promote the welfare of each, thus shaping the destiny of the city and
State to the achievement of results of which all citizens are justly

The General married Miss Lizzie Hutchinson of Bristol, Pa.,
September 9th, 185 1. They have no children living.

As an old member of the Historical Society of Detroit, by virtue of
its having been merged into the Wayne County Pioneer Society, he
became a member of the latter and is recognized as such.


Rev. David M. Cooper, present pastor of the Memorial Presby-
terian church of Detroit, is the son of David Cooper whose sketch will
be found elsewhere, as well as that of his maternal grandfather. Col.
Stephen Mack.

The Rev. David M. Cooper was born in Detroit, April i8th, 1827.
Upon reaching the proper age he was sent to the schools of Detroit,
and after obtaining the necessary preliminary preparation, entered
college, taking a literary course.

Mr. Cooper in early life decided upon the ministry as a profession,
and after a year spent at Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey,
prosecuted his studies under the supervision of the Rev. Dr. Duflield.
He was licensed by the Detroit Presbytery about 1850, temporarily, and
afterwards supplied the pulpit of Rev. Mr. Atterbury, at Flint. In 185 1
he was induced to take charge of the missionary work in the Saginaw
valley. Hon, Albert Miller, of Bay City, relates the following: "In
the spring of 185 1 I was staying over night at the Northern Hotel, at
Flint, where the office of the Flint and Saginaw stage was kept. In
the evening a very fine looking young man came in and engaged pass-
age for the next day to Saginaw, saying he would be found at Mr.
Atterbury's, the Presbyterian clergyman. At that time tri-weekly
stages were able to do all the passenger business between Saginaw
and the outside world. The plank road was not completed and pass-
age from Flint to Saginaw was anything but pleasant, and it was a
wonder to his fellow passengers what should call the young man to
Saginaw when the roads were so bad. It was suggested to him on the
way that there must be some female attraction at Saginaw. I after-
wards became acquainted with the young man (who was none other
than the Rev. D. M. Cooper) and knew him long as the beloved pastor
of the Presbyterian church at Saginaw." On Mr. Cooper's arrival at
Saginaw he found that the membership consisted of but ten persons, of

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which number only three were males. He entered upon his work
with some hesitation and had proceeded to prepare for the erection of
a church edifice, when the excitement at East Saginaw drew away
most of his congregation to that town. He still resolved to follow them
with his ministrations and accordingly commenced holding afternoon
service at East Saginaw, crossing the river in a canoe. With the
exception of a Rev. Mr. Adderly, he was the first minister that
preached in East Saginaw. The rapid growth of East Saginaw
induced a corresponding increase of members to the church, and at the
end of eighteen months, finding the labor of supplying the two churches
too much for his strength, he turned over his East Saginaw work to the
Rev. Wm. C. Smith, and also secured the services of the Rev. L. I.
Root to organize the Presbyterian church at Bay City, then called
Lower Saginaw.

Thus Mr. Cooper has the satisfaction of knowing that those two
flourishing organizations sprang from the germ of the Saginaw
City church planted by him. In 1859 he was compelled, on account
of ill health, reluctantly to leave the valley, and after long and success-
ful pastorates at Grand Haven and Albion took up his residence,
upon the death of his father, in Detroit, the city of his birth, in the year
1878. Preferring to work out, rather than to rust out, he immediately
erected, largely at his own expense, and in honor of his beloved parents,
that tasteful structure known as the Memorial Presbyterian church,
situated at the corner of Clinton and Joseph Campau avenues. The
congregation that now statedly worship within its walls was gathered
together by his own exertions. For the last ten years he has ministered
to them as their chosen pastor, without compensation, and still continues
to do so with all the ardor of early youth.

Referring to the Memorial church, it is but proper, in connection

Online LibraryFred. (Frederick) CarlisleChronography of notable events in the history of the Northwest territory and Wayne County → online text (page 30 of 51)