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in 2010 with funding from

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center












Copyright, 1906
By Hunt and Junk









Several years ago, when I was about to leave for New York,
the General, as we always called him, said rather sadly, "It will
be very lonesome, when you are away and the hours will be long
and sometimes weary."

"Why don't you write your reminiscences?" I asked. "That
will keep your heart and mind busy and time will pass so swiftly
that I will be back before you have fairly missed me."

"Where will I commence," asked the General.

"Take the river front from the River Rouge to Bloody Run
and then zig zag to and fro until you have covered the old city."
He did so. He started the papers for the Detroit Free Press and
they have been published regularly vyith but few intermissions
ever since.

He has woven a story which will interest many in whose
veins runs the blood of the pioneers and one which will prove of
infinite value to the historian who shall write the story of Detroit
and the great Northwest.

General Palmer was my cousin, my friend and my lifelong
comrade. For many years he shared my home, and in that home
he closed his eyes forever. In these papers there is kindness for
all and malice for none.


No work was ever published without omissions or trivial
errors, and the publishers claim no better verdict for this volume.

Friend Palmer was stricken with his fatal illness the very
day he and the editors were to begin re-editing the manuscript.
As these are strictly personal reminiscences, the editors did not
feel authorized in making any alterations without the author's
co-operation. We therefore present it without rearrangement or

If the living representatives of the families named herein
will notify us of any mistakes or omissions, we will be happv to
correct them in future editions.

With a tender appreciation of Friend Palmer's lovable and
kindly characteristics, we present his book in its present crude
but authentic form.

The Editors,

H. P. Hunt,
C. M. June.


DIED OCTOBER 9th. 1906

The remains of Gerferal Palmer were removed from the resi-
dence of former Senator Thomas W. Palmer at 10 o'clock and
taken to the Elmwood Cemetery chapel, where the services were
held at 2 130 o'clock, Rev. Reed Stuart of the Unitarian Church

Senator T. W. Palmer, who said, "When I was a boy I read
a couplet written, I know not by whom, which impressed me so
forcibly that I have remembered it through life. It is as follows :

" 'Thou art not a king of terrors, Death,
But a maiden with golden hair.'


"This couplet has clung to me through life, and on occasions
like this is brought forcibly to my mind. While it does not apply
to those who are in the heyday of life, full of health and strength,
when life lies all before them, full of achievement and promise
of achievement, it is particularly applicable to cases like this.

"The General, as we called him, sank away gradually with-
out preliminary suffering, and went down into the valley so
quietly that it seemed to me the maiden with golden hair took him
by the hand and led him across the line into the other life.

"He was a member of my father's family when I was born
and for seventy-six years we were very near each other. Although
we were separated from each other by other family ties, our sympa-
thies were almost always in common. In his youth General Pal-
mer was the friend of all young men in his town, and as they
came to manhood their regard for him was not diminished. He
was a kind and sympathetic man, and all went to him with their
troubles. He met the vicisitudes of life with calm philosophy.
He lost his wife and two children, leaving only one behind, and
while he grieved for them it never affected his deportment toward
others. He was a helpful man and too responsive for his own
good in material things.


"Although' he may have had resentments he retained no ani-
mosities. He was a philosophic man and took the ordinary annoy-
ances of life with cheerful acceptance. He was a religious man
and, although not devout in conversation, believed in the great
law of compensation and that time at least would make all things
even. His religion was not dogmatic. He was charitable in his
judgment of others. He believed in the great hereafter that
would bring every wanderer home. He'was a man of critical lit-
erary tastes, and, although he did not obtrude his conversation on
others would astonish his friends when circumstances caused him
to expose his knowledge of literature, and particularly of books
of travel.

"He will be much missed by me, my family, my household,
and all who knew him. I can think of no better way of ending
my remarks than by a quotation which a friend repeated to me
in the carriage on my way to the cemetery and which I asked him
to write out :

" 'Calm]}' he looked on either life, and here
Saw nothing to regret or there to fear,
Erom Nature's temperate feast rose satisfied.
Thanked Heaven that he had lived, and died.'

"Today we place him beside his wife and children in the same
ground with his parents and two generations of friends who have
preceded hfm, happy in his life and thrice happy in his death."

The active pallbearers were Charles Miller. Ernest Mar-
son, Henry M. Rice, William Wemp, Henry Grix, Roswell A.
Hollister, Clare Bennett and Mr. Marshall.

The honorary pallbearers were Alexander Lewis, Alexander
M. Campau, Gen. Henry L. Chipman, Don M. Dickinson, George
N. Brady, William Livingstone, William E. Quinby, General L.
S. Trowbridge, Colonel S. E. Pittman, Colonel J. D. Lydecker,
Richard R. Elliott, William V. Moore, Richard H. Fyfe, C. A.
Kent, J. M. Shepard, John M. Wendell, Colonel James M. Shep-
herd and J. B. Cook.


In Days of Danger *• • l 7

My Arrival in Detroit, May, 1827 23

The Early Marine -26

Earlier Navigation on Lake and River 30

Slavery Days in Michigan 103

The Toledo War 108

Incidents oe the Patriot War 113

Early Day Architecture 120

Surveying in Early Days 123

Perils of Pioneer Days 124

The Happy French Habitant 126

"The Winning of the West" 130

The Iron Men of the Border 134

In Days of Old , 138

Early Days in Detroit 144

Our Citizen Soldiers 163

Old Express Days 194

Old Hotels of Detroit 213

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too 240

Remarkable Specimen of Native Copper 247

When Detroit Had a Town Pump 254

Royalty Saw Detroit 261

First Baptist Church 264

Detroit Merchants of Long Ago 269

No More Credit at the Postoffice 275

Fighting Epidemics 280

When Woodward Avenue Was a Corduroy Road 287

Colonel McDougall Was a Rare Old Soul 294

Rev. John N. Maffitt's Work in Detroit 299

Went to Pontiac by Way of Mt. Clemens 304

12 early days in detroit.

Tramps Received Ten Stripes 310

When Indians Were Hanged in Michigan 315

Washington Bonnet Inspired a Poet 321

Early History of the Detroit Free Press 325

Fighting Fire in the Old Days 331

Keen Rivalry of Fire Fighters 335

Famous Buildings Destroyed by Fire . v 341

Darius Clark and M. C. R. R. Fire in 1850 347

Heroic Work of Volunteer Firemen 351

Volunteer Firemen Became Famous 357

Social Functions of Volunteer Firemen 361

Fined $10 if Your Chimney Blazed 366

The Old River Road 370

Early Festivities 374

Down-River Homes 378

The Cass Family 381

Old Mansion House 385

Old River Front 389

Many Old Buildings 393

Tunis S. Wendell 397

Old Jefferson Avenue 401

Dancing Teachers 407

Old Business Men 412, 463

S. L. Rood's Store 418

Mr. John Owen 421

A Son's Tribute • 427

Joseph Campau 433

The Campau Family 438

F. & T. Palmer's Stores 443

F. & T. Palmer 449

Old Storekeepers 455

Early Postmasters 459

Makers of Detroit 467

Men of the Forties 473

The Desnoyers Heirs 476

Recollections of Men Prominent in the City's Affairs 481

Colonel Joshua Howard a Man of Note 594

General Isaac DeGraff Toll 601

contents. 13

The Navarre Family 606

The St. Martin Family 614

The Peltier Family 619

The Labadie Family 623

The CHAroTON and Cicotte Families 630

Five Prominent Families — Rivard, Lafferty, Riopelle,

DuBois, St. Aubin 636

The Chene Family 640

The Merry French Carts 644

Hamtramck . . ., 650

The Streets in the Lower Part of the City 665

Christmas in Detroit's Earlier Days 669

The Old Berthelet Market 674

Woodward Avenue in the Thirties 7i0 4

Visiting Firemen 802

The Cass Farm 805

Judge Solomon Sibley 814

A Noted Firm ' 826

Conspicuous Men in Life of the City 819, 842

The Lewis Family 842

Business Houses in 1850 852

Persons Prominent in the City's Life 856

State Capitol and Supreme Court 865

Detroit Boat Club 868

Recollections of Persons and Events in Years Long

Past , 872

Recollections of Mexican War 876

Fall of Fort Dearborn (Chicago) 880

Something About Business Men of the City Seventy

Years or More Ago 886

The Old Ten Eyck Tavern 906

Marriage and Death Notices 910

Some Residents That I Have Overlooked 915

The Plat of the Town Known as Woodward's Plan. . 918

Buffalo to Detroit by Steamboat in 1821 921

Elkanah Watson and the Erie Canal 925

Prince Philip and Queen Mary 928

14 early days in detroit.

The Fort Street Girls 934

Belles and Beaux oe Bygone Days 944

Randolph Street 953

First Protestant Society 962

Farewell to Judge A. B. Woodward 965

Early Social Conditions 973

Recollections oe the First Theatres in Detroit 980

On tlie Canadian Side 1000






UT N 1807 the little town of Detroit was just rising from its

ashes. The Indians of the surrounding wilderness were

even then seriously threatening the settlements. At that

time there was but a small regular force in garrison at the old

fort, and, for the purpose of affording additional protection, a

body of volunteers was called out and placed under the immediate

command of Major John Whipple.

"The main guard was posted at the Indian council house,
where the new firemen's hall now stands, and a blockhouse was
erected on Jefferson Avenue, on the Brush farm. The town was
surrounded by a row of strong pickets fourteen feet high, with
loopholes through which to fire. The line of pickets commenced
at the river on the line of the Brush farm and followed that line
to about Congress Street, and thence westerly along or near Mich-
igan Avenue back to the old fort, to the east line of the Cass farm,
and followed that line to the river. At Jefferson Avenue, at the
Cass line, and on Atwater Street, on the Brush farm, massive
gates were placed, which, daily, at rise and set of sun, grated on
their ponderous hinges. Pickets were placed at them and along
the line.

"It was rather an exciting time, but many ludicrous scenes
occurred. Among others, on a dark, rainy night, a sentinel fired
at an imaginary Indian, the drums beat to arms, the troops turned
out, and a militia colonel (he was not a native of Michigan),
who lived at a distance from the quarters of the troops, hearing


the alarm, seized his portmanteau in one hand, and the muzzle of
a musket with the other, ran at full speed to the guard house,
dragging the but of his gun in the mud. He kept on his headlong
way until, encountering a small shade tree, it bent away before
him, and he slid up to the limbs, but the recoil of the sapling left
the gallant warrior flat on his back in the mud.

"The pickets remained around the town when the war of
1812 began.

"In 1814 General Cass, then a general officer in the army, was
in command of the frontier, with a body of troops to protect the
country. Our army on the Niagara frontier was hard pressed,
and the general, unsolicited, sent to General Brown all his force;
only a dozen or so of invalids, unfit for service, remained. Gen-
eral Cass had become acquainted with our people, well knew their
courage and patriotism, and determined, with them alone, to
defend the country ; and they did not disappoint his expectations.


"Mr. McMillan, whose widow and children, after the lapse
of forty years, are still with us, had joined Captain Andrew West-
brook's company of Rangers. Captain Westbrook was a native
of Massachusetts, and had been taken in his childhood by his
father to Nova Scotia. He afterwards found his way to Dela-
ware, on the Thames, in Upper Canada, where he was living when
the war of 1812 broke out.

"He was too much of a Yankee to be quiet, and they drove
him off. He came to Michigan, raised a company of Rangers,
and proved to he an exceedingly active partisan soldier, and seri-
ously annoyed the enemy. He made frequent incursions into the
province as far up as Delaware.

"He was at that time a man of considerable wealth, had a
fine large house, distillery, etc., at Delaware. On his first visit
there with the Rangers he called them around him at, his own
place and, swinging a firebrand around his head, he said:

" 'Boys, you have just fifteen minutes to plunder my prem-
ises; after that I give them to the flames!' And true to his word
he applied the brand and burnt up the whole concern.

"Captain Westbrook afterwards settled on the beautiful
banks of the river St. Clair, where we have often experienced the
generous hospitality of 'Baronial Hall.' We usually called him
Baron Steuben.



"McMillan belonged to this corps. He was a gallant soldier
and did good service for his country. On the 15th of September,
18 14, the morning after his return from the Ronde, in Upper
Canada, he, with his young son, Archibald, then 11 years old,
went upon the "common to find his cow. What follows, I have
from an eye-witness, Mr. William McVey, of the Rouge :

"David and William Burbank and myself were sitting down
at the Deer park, on the Macomb (now Cass) farm, near where
Lafayette Avenue crosses it, watching our cows. Mr. McMillan
and Archie passed us. We spoke to them about some apples they
were eating. They passed towards some cows that were feeding
near some bushes (the bushes then came down to where the cap-
itol stands). We kept our eyes on them, thinking danger might
be near. When they approached within gunshot of the bushes,
we saw three or four guns fired and saw McMillan fall. The
Indians instantly dashed out upon him and took off his scalp.
Archie, on seeing that his father was killed, turned and ran
towards us with all the speed that his little legs could supply.

"A savage on horseback pursued him. As he rode up and
stooped to seize him, the brave little fellow, nothing daunted,
turned and struck the horse on the nose with a rod which he hap-
pened to have in his hand. The horse turned off at the blow and
Archie put forth his best speed again. And this was repeated sev-
eral times, until the savage, fearing of losing his prize, sprang
from the horse, seized the boy and dragged him off to the woods ;
and thence was taken to Saginaw.

"About the same time a man by the name of Murphy, who
lived with the late Abraham Cook, went with a horse and cart
into the field on Judge Moran's farm, just back of where the
judge now lives. He was shot, scalped and his bowels cut open
and left exposed in the field, and the horse was taken off.


"The Indians were constantly beleaguering the town, sallying
out occasionally, and driving off and killing the cattle, etc., that
approached the bushes. Determined to put a stop to this, General
Cass called upon the young men to arm and follow him.

"They were ready at the first blast of the bugle, mounted on
ponies, such as could be had (for there were but few left), and


armed with all varieties of weapons — rifles, shotguns, war clubs
and tomahawks, and whatever other instruments of death could
be had. As the woods and underbrush were very dense, they
expected to have a hand-to-hand fight, and prepared for it accord-
ingly. The company consisted of General Cass, Judge Moran,
Judge Conant,Captain Francis Cicottjames Cicott,- Edward Cicott,
George Cicott, Colonel Henry I. Hunt, General Charles Larned,
William Meldrum, James Meldrum, James Riley, Peter Riley,
Lambert Beaubien, John B. Beaubien, Joseph Andre, "Ditt" Clark,
Louis Moran, Louis Dequinder, Lambert Lafoy, Joseph Riopelle,
Joseph Visger, Jack Smith, Ben Lucas and John Ruland. I know
nearly every one of them personally, and a better lot of fellows
for the business they were on could not be well got together. They
were then young and full of spirit.

"After assembling, they rode up along the border of the river,
to the Witherell farm, and rode through the lane to the woods.
They soon came upon an Indian camp; the Indians having fled,
leaving their meat roasting before the fires upon sticks.

"Here they found Archie McMillan's hat, and were in hopes
of finding him. The Rileys discovered the tracks of the enemy
and a hot pursuit commenced. They were overtaken on the back
part of the Cass farm and a hot fire was instantly opened upon
them, and was kept up until the word was passed to "Charge!"
Then, on the whole body went, pell-mell. It was hot work for the
Indians, and after awhile they fled. Peter Riley, who was in*
advance when the firing commenced, suddenly reigned up his
horse across the trail, sprang off, and, firing over the horse's back,
brought a warrior to the ground, and in a twinkling took off his
scalp and bore it away on a pole in triumph. How many Indians
were killed is unknown. A squaw came in with a white flag
a few days afterwards and reported that several of their people
had been killed. Their chief, Kish-kaw-ko, was carried off in a
blanket, but whether wounded or killed could not be ascertained.

"Ben Lucas had a personal encounter with an Indian by the
side of General Cass. After the fight the company came out upon
the common, except two who were missing. They were the late
William Meldrum and Major Louis Moran, now of Grand Rap-
ids. Much anxiety was felt on their account. It was feared that
they had been killed. However, after a long while the brave fel-
lows appeared. They had been in hot pursuit of the enemy, and
had brought back a scalp, as they said, in token of victory.


"During the whole affair General Cass rode at the head of
his men, and when advised by Major Whipple to fall back (for
should he be killed it might create confusion), replied, 'Oh, major,
I am pretty well off here ; let us push on,' and he kept his post."

The venerable Judge Conant, who, as I have before men-
tioned, was among the volunteers, and to whom, as now, a squir-
rel's eye at forty yards was a sufficient target, states that General
Cass, and in fact every man in the company, behaved with perfect
coolness throughout the whole affair. They were nearly all
accustomed to the «woods and the enemy knew it or they might
have been cut off to a man.

"After coming out of the woods the company formed and
marched to the River Rouge, drove a band of savages out of the
settlement and in the evening returned, having performed a good
day's work — one that gave quiet to the settlement until the end
of the war.

"Before the return of the company to the town it had been
rumored that the whole party had been killed. On their way up
from Springwells, the young men of the company raised a shrill
war-whoop. This confirmed the rumor and numbers of women
and children rushed to the river and put off in canoes, boats and
periaguas for safety in Canada.

"I have mentioned the three Rileys, James, Peter and John ;
they were half-breeds. The latter is yet living on the St. Clair
River. They were educated men, and when with white people
they were gentlemanly, high-toned, honorable men; when with
the Indians in the woods, they could be perfect Indians, in dress,
language, hunting, trapping and mode of living. They were the
sons of the late Judge Riley, of Schenectady, who was formerly
in the Indian trade at Saginaw. The three were thorough-going
Americans in every thought and feeling, and were thought to
be by the British, after they had gained possession of the terri-
tory, too dangerous persons to be allowed at large. They sent an
officer and a few soldiers to St. Clair, seized James and sent him
to Halifax, where he was kept until the war was over. He was.
aftedwards killed by the explosion of a keg of gunpowder at
Grand Rapids.

"Peter remained about Detroit. He (as well as his brothers)
was a great favorite with the Indians, and used occasionally, when
a little corned, to annoy the British authorities by putting on the


uniform of an American officer, and with twenty or thirty Chip-
pewas at his back, parading up and down Jefferson Avenue, every
now and then giving the war-whoop.

"The warriors were, of course, in the British service, but
Riley was their favorite, and of their own blood, and they would
not suffer him to be injured without a fight. They were proud
of his courage and his frolics amused them, so Peter remained

"Some months after McMillan was killed, and his son carried
off, Colonel Knaggs seized three Indians, the. relatives of those
who had made the boy a prisoner. They were placed under guard,
and John Riley was sent to Saginaw to propose an exchange. The
terms were agreed to, and on the 12th day of January, following
his capture, Archie was brought in and delivered, as one from
the dead, to his excellent mother.

"There were many sufferings endured and danger encoun-
tered in those days, which no mortal tongue will ever utter and
no pen record."



I CAME to Detroit in May, 1827, with my mother and two
sisters, on the steamer Henry Clay. We were under the
friendly guidance of Mr. Felix Hinchman (father of Mr.
Guy F. Hinchman), who took charge of us at Canandaigua, N. Y.

My father, Friend Palmer, had preceded us some two or
three months, on account of urgent business matters connected
with the firm of F. & T. Palmer, of Detroit, of which he was the
senior partner.

Our trip through New York from Canandaigua to Buffalo
was by stage and very rough, the roads having been rendered
almost impassible by recent rains. It took us, I think, two days
and two nights to reach Buffalo. We had to wait at that point
two or three days for the steamboat Henry Clay. We did not
mind that in the least, for we were quartered at the Old Eagle
Hotel, kept by Benjamin Rathbun, a most sumptuous resting
place, I thought it, and so it was for those days. Our trip up the
lake to Detroit on the Henry Clay was uneventful. We had a
pleasant passage that occupied, I think, two or three days. The
Henry Clay, Captain Norton, was a floating palace, we thought,
and we greatly enjoyed the time spent on it. The Henry Clay
had no cabin on the upper deck — they were all below. When you
desired to retire for the night or for meals, or get out of the reach
of rain and storms, downstairs or between decks you had to go.


We landed at Jones's dock, between Griswold and Shelby
Streets, on a fine day, about 10 o'clock in the morning, and all
walked up to the residence of my uncle, Thomas Palmer, corner


of Jefferson Avenue and Griswold Street. There were no public
conveyances in those days. Thomas Palmer lived over his store,
as did many of the merchants doing business here at that time.

Let me refer once more to Captain Norton, one of the most
conspicuous and popular captains on the lakes at that early day.
The Henry Clay was a crack steamer and, of course, must have
a corresponding chief officer. Of commanding presence, Captain

Online LibraryFriend PalmerEarly days in Detroit; → online text (page 1 of 94)