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History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

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days were coming.

During the winter of 1812-13 and the spring following, a young lieu-
tenant of the navy named Oliver Hazzard Perry had been entrusted with
the task of creating a navy on the Great Lakes that should be able to
compete with the British ships in those waters. So well did young
Perry meet the conditions imposed by his government that in the
following August he sailed from his improvised ship yards in the harbor
at Erie, Pennsylvania, with a squadron of two brigs, two schooners and
a brig that had been earlier captured from the British, and on the
10th of the following September a decisive engagement took place off
Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie. "We have met the enemy and they are ours,"
said Perrj' in announcing the result. It not only thrilled Americans
then but will start the red blood bounding through the veins of every
patriot as long as the flag floats over the nation.

While Perry was capturing the British fleet on Lake Erie, General
Harrison was moving toward Detroit with a large force of infantry and
cavalry. The enemy withdrew to Canada. Harrison followed and
on the 5th of October, 1813, the decisive battle of the Thames was
fought in which the British, under Proctor, were badly defeated.
Tecumseh, his great Indian ally who bore a commission as Brigadier
General in the royal army, was killed and his followers driven in con-
fusion or captured on the field.

This battle ended the war in this section of the country. The con-
fidence of the Indians in their British friends was broken forever.
Michigan was redeemed and the flag again floated without dispute over
the lower peninsula, to be followed in the upper with the signing and
proclamation of the Treaty of Ghent in the following year.



CHAPTER V

MICHIGAN UNDER (iOVERXOR CASS

Material Development — The Territorlvl Roads.

Lewis Cass, who, on October 29, 1813. was appointed by President
JMadison Governor of the territory of ^liehigan, was born in New Hamp-
shire in the year 1782. His fatlier, who had l)een an officer in the
army, brought his wife and several children, of which Lewis was the
oldest, to ^larietta, Ohio, then on the frontier, in the year 1800, when
the future Governor of Michigan was eighteen years okl. Shortly after
coming to Marietta, he began the study of law in the office of IMr. R. J.
Meigs, who was afterward Governor of Ohio. At twenty-one he was
admitted to the bar and following a practice of many young lawyers,
he soon became a candidate and was elected Prosecuting Attorney, then
later a member of the legislature. In 1812 he was commissioned
Colonel of an Ohio regiment and soon after was on his way to the scene
of action near the Canadian border. During the war he so acquitted
himself as to gain the rank of Brigadier General and at its close, as
we have before stated, was made Governor of the Michigan territory.

Henceforth, his life is inseparably associated with the commonwealth,
he did so much to shape and develop in its formative period.

The Battle of the Thames was decisive in so far as the lower peninsula
of ^Michigan was concerned. The Indians, however, were a constant
source of apprehension to the settlers. To the task of removing that
element of danger and consequent uneasiness. Governor Cass early set
himself. He succeeded in negotiating a number of treaties, the com-
bined effect of which was to secure the transfer of most of the aborigines
to the west of the ^lississippi River.

The chief undertaking to which Cass addressed himself was to build
up the waste of war, Americanize the population, induce an infiow of
people from the states, and in tiie wake of material development and
progress lay the foundations secure and strong for a great and pros-
perous State in the American Union. It is estimated that at the close
of the war of 1812-14 there were not in the territory of Michigan to
exceed 5,000 white people. For nearly fifty years the population had
not materially increased. In 1810, Detroit though 109 j'ears old and
then, as now, the metropolis of the State, had but 1,400 people. In the
entire territory outside of Detroit there were but 4,762. The settlements
fringed the eastern border from ^Monroe, or Frenchtown as it was then



10 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

called, to Fort Gratiot with an occasional settlement as far north as
Mackinaw and even to Sault Ste Marie. With the exception of some
venturesome traders, the inhabitants were almost wholly French. The
interior to the west, south and southwest for two hundred miles was an
unbroken and, save hy the savages, an uninhabited wilderness. There
were no roads worthy of the name west and north of the Ohio, while no
steamboats navigated the waters of the Great Lakes. All these were
serious obstacles to overcome, but the greatest blow to the governor's
ambition came from an unexpected quarter and from within the house
of his friends in the shape of a report by Surveyor General Tiffin to
the Commissioner of the General Land Office, in November, 1815.

The Congress, in anticipation of war and as an inducement to men
to enlist, had, in 1812, provided for a government survey of six million
acres of land "suitable for cultivation," two million of which was to be
located in the territory of Michigan and to be known as military bounty
lands for the reward of soldiers who cared to make entry.

To Edward Tiffin, a former Governor of Ohio and afterward Surveyor
General, was committed the task of having the surveys made and reports
upon the same transmitted to the government at Washington. In his
report he says: "I annex a description of the country which has been
sent me and which, I am informed, all the surveyors concur in * * *
I deem it my duty to give you the information, believing that it is the
wish of the Government that the soldiers should have, as the Act of
Congress proposed, lands fit for cultivation and that the whole of the
two million acres appropriated in the Territory of Michigan will not
contain anything like one-hundredth part of that quantity, or is worth
the expense of surveying. Perhaps you will think with me, that it will
be proper to make this representation to the President of the United
States, and he may avert all further proceedings by directing me to
pay off what has been done and abandon the country."

Then follows a description of the military lands in Michigan terri-
tory, a part of which, in view of what is now seen, is deemed of sufficient
interest to reproduce here. ' ' The country is, with some few exceptions,
low wet land with a very thick growth of underbrush, intermixed with
very bad marshes, but generally very heavily timbered with ash, cotton-
wood, oak, etc. From these, continuing north and extending from the
Indian boundary line eastward, the number and extent of swamps
increase with the addition of the number of lakes from 20 chains to two
and three miles across, many of them having extensive marshes adjoining
their margins, sometimes thickly covered with species of pine called
'Tamarack,' and other places covered with a coarse, high grass and
uniformly covered from six inches to three feet, and more at times with
water. The margins of these lakes are not the only places where
swamps are found, for they are interspersed throughout the whole
country, and filled with water as above stated and varying in extent.
The intermediate space between these swamps and lakes, which is prob-
ably near one-half the country, is, with a very few exceptions, a poor,
barren, sandy land on which scarcely any vegetation grows except very
small scrubby oaks. In many places that part which may be called dry
land is composed of little short of sand hills forming a kind of deep



HISTORY OK CAMlorN (OrXTV II

basins, tlie hottmii of iiuiiiy of wliii-li arc coiniiosi'd nl' a iiiarsli similar
to those above deseribed. Tlu' streams are generally narrow and ver\-
deep eompared witli tiieir widtii, the siiores and bottoms of wliieli are.
with a very few exeeptions, swampy beyond deseriptiou and it is with
difficulty that a place can be found over which horses can be conveyed."

How different is the description written 114 years earlier by Cadillac,
the founder of Detroit. Referring to the scenes along and adjacent
to the Detroit River, this native son of France said: "The borders of
the strait are vast prairies and the freshness of the beautiful waters
keeps the banks always green. Natural orchards soften and bend their
branches under the weight and (|nantit.v of their fruit toward the
mother earth which has produced them. The ambitious vine, which has
never wept under the pruning knife, builds a thick roof with its large
leaves and heavy clusters, weighing ilown the top of the tree which
receives it and often stifling it with its embrace. The woods are full of
game: the forest trees are straight as arrows and of prodigious size:
above them the courageous eagle soars looking fixedly at the sun; the
swans in the river are so numerous that one might take for lilies the
reeds in which the.y crowd together and the fish are none the less
delicious for their great abundance." The latter is not only much the
prettier but much the truer picture. Her forest trees, "straight as
arrows and prodigious in size," converted into boards and shingles and
lath, until approximatel.v exhausted, long placed her among the foremost
of lumber producing states. The product of her orchards and her
vineyards, in (luantity and quality, have carried her fame as a fruit
producing state to every part of the home land and even be.vond the
seas. Her "poor, barren and sandy land in the intermediate spaces
between the swamps and lakes" has produced inore wheat per acre
than any other state in the Union, while in quantity she has ranked
fourth among the great wheat growing states of the Nation. This land,
of which not more than one acre in a hundred, would ever be "fit for
cultivation" has given ^lichigan a most creditable rank among the
leading cereal states, while neither Cadillac nor Tiffin dreamed of the
uncounted millions of dollars that la.v sleeping the centuries away in
her beds of iron and copper ore and in her deposits of salt and coal.

Cass knew something of the possibilities of the embryo state and that
knowledge laid under tribute all the resources of his being, personal and
official. Though the soil of the state iiad been aspersed aud the govern-
ment's official seal of condemnation put upon it, though the tides of
emigration sweeping westward were dellected and passed by Michigan,
he was nothing daunted. He put forth his best efforts to secure govern-
ment aid to the territory to build roads, where only Indian trails
traversed the wilderness. These efforts were rewarded by roads, crude
it is true, but nevertheless roads surveyed and somewhat improved,
leading through the forests to the westward and southward, eastward
and northwestward. He caused to be made known the territory's many
advantages and when inquiries from home seekers began to multiply,
secured the establishment of a Government Land Office in Detroit, the
first in the State.

Following these sucfpssful efforts within the territoi-y was the intro-



12 HISTORY OP CALHOUN COUNTY

duction of steam navigation on the Great Lakes above the falls of Niagara.
One steam boat followed another until there was a daily line between
Buffalo and Detroit. About this time the Erie Canal was put in com-
mission and an all water route was open from New York and western
New England to ilichigan. The tides of emigration, which now set
toward the peninsular territory, caught in their flow much of the best
blood and brains of the northeastern states of the Union. Intelligent,
resolute and courageous young men and women in large numbers came
into Michigan to lay the foundations of a new commonwealth.

]\Iatkbial Development

While material development and improvement was going on in a
most gratifying way, Governor Cass was not unmindful of the necessary
political changes that should accompany them. Out of the original
Northwest Territory, of which Michigan was a part, Ohio had been made
a State in 1802 ; Indiana in 1816 and Illinois followed two years later.
From 1818 to 1836 the Territory of Michigan embraced all of Michigan
and all the territory now known as Wisconsin and Minnesota east of the
Mississippi.

Prom 1810 to 1820 the population of the territory nearly doubled.
When Governor Cass came into office, the first system of government
under the Ordinance of 1787 was still in vogue. Under that system the
Governor and Judges, all appointed by the President, were supreme
within the limitations of the Ordinance of 1787. In 1823 the second
step in territorial government was taken when the people elected by
popular vote eighteen councilmeu from which nine were selected by the
President and by him recommended to the Senate for confirmation.
The territory remained under tlie Governor and Council, appointed and
confirmed as stated, until 1827 when the exclusive power of choice was
given to the people. This last step carried the people to the third
grade in territorial government. In 1819 the Territory was given the
privilege of electing a delegate to Congress.

William Woodbridge, of Detroit, was chosen. He was succeeded,
after one term, by Judge Solomon Sibley, of the same place, and he in
turn by a Catholic priest in the person of Gabriel Richard, who took
his seat December 8, 1823. Pather Richard was born in Prance and
educated for the priesthood. He came to Detroit in 1798, where he
built St. Ann's Church. He was popular with all classes. He was not
only a loyal and devoted churchman but an energetic and public spirited
citizen. He published the first newspaper ever printed in JMiclugan,
was much interested in education and helped to lay the foundations of
the State University. While he served but one term in Congress, he
proved in Washington, as in Michigan, a useful friend of the new and
rapidly developing territory. In 1832 he fell a victim of the cholera
epidemic which that year raged with great virulence in Detroit and other
parts of the territory. Pather Richard is the only Catholic priest in
Michigan that ever served in the Congi-ess of the United States and
though nearly ninety years have passed since that service was rendered.



HISTORY OF CAiJiorx corxTY i:i

his inoinory is still fragrant to all llicliigaii people who know of his
worth and works.

Another evidence of the growth and development of the Territory
was evidenced by the organization of new counties. Wayne was tiie
first county organized by Governor Cass in 1813, and at that time
embraced the whole territory of Michigan. In 1817 President Monroe
paid a visit to Detroit and soon after, Monroe County was organized and
named in honor of the then chief executive. A year later IMacoinb was
organized and named in honor of the General. Then followed in quick
succession Jlackinac, Oakland, St. Clair, Lenawee, Sanilac, Saginaw and
Shiawassee, all up to 1822 inclusive. These county organizations tell,
better than anything else the trend of population, very little of which
had to that time penetrated the interior, but followed mainly the water
courses of the eastern section. The intluences were at work, however,
which would soon change this. The building of

The Territorial Exjads

did much to open up the new Territory to settlers in the interior. The
tirst of these ran from Detroit to the foot of the rapids on the Maumee
River at what is now Perrysburg, Ohio, at that time considered as a
part of Michigan.

The bill authorizing the survey and construction of this road was
gotten through Congress during the term of Father Gabriel Richard
an,d was the first of the territorial roads built in ^Michigan. In 1826
the Government made provision for the survey and construction of
additional roads, notably from Detroit to Fort Gratiot, from Detroit to
Saginaw Bay, and from Detroit to Chicago. One territorial road ran
from Detroit west via Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Jack.son and Marshall;
another passed through the southeastern counties. In 1832 Congress
passed an act to authorize the surveying and laying out of a road from
Detroit to the mouth of the Grand River on Lake ^lichigan. Laterals
were constructed running from different parts to intersect with the
main lines. Settlers in large numbers followed the opening of these
new roads, postoffices were established at many points in the interior
and new counties were organized. Here again, by the names of the
new* counties formed, do we see the course of the immigrants seeking
homes in the territory. Jackson, Calhoun, Hillsdale, Branch, Cass,
Berrien, Kalamazoo, Van Buren, Saint Joseph, Ingham, Eaton and
Bany were organized by 1829. It will be seen that this gave two tiers
of organized counties entirely across the lower part of the State and a
third one nearly so.

The federal census of 1832 gave the population of ^Michigan as
32,538. Governor Cass in 1831 was made a member of Jackson "s
cabinet. George B. Porter, of Pennsylvania, was appointed to succeed
him, while John T. ilason. of Virginia, was named as Secretary to
succeed William Woodbridge, who had long held the office under
Governor Cass. This latter office of Secretary derived its importance in
a large part from the fact that in the absence of the Governor the Secre-
tary acted in his place. Governor Porter did not arrive in .Miilii^'aii



14 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

for nearly a year after his appointment and in the interval Mason acted
as Governor, but he soon resigned and went abroad and President Jack-
son appointed Stevens Thompson Mason, the Secretary's son, to succeed
his father and so it came about through favoritism in appointments that
ilichigan's acting Governor was under twenty-one years of age. Pro-
tests to the administration at Washington were made in vain. The
younger Mason held his place as Secretary and continued to act as
Governor notwithstanding his youth. Subsequently he was appointed
Governor of the Territory.

In the meantime the desire for statehood was growing among the
people and in 1834 took form in the shape of a memorial to the Congress
by the Territorial Council for the passage of an act to enable them to
proceed to form a state constitution and organize a state government.
A long drawn-out controversy with Ohio over the southern boundarj'
of ]Michigan, which involved during its course the President, his cabinet,
both Houses of Congress, together with the Governors and people of
the two states as parties to the controversy, not only delayed the admis-
sion of Michigan into the Union but at one time threatened a serious
Collision of arms by the immediate disputants. Congress finally settled
the difficulty by granting Ohio's claim of the ten mile strip in dispute
and giving to Michigan in lieu thereof the Upper Peninsula. In the
meantime Michigan had held her convention, framed a constitutton,
elected a Governor and other state officers, a legislature, two United
States Senators and a member of Congress. The machinery of state-
hood was all constructed and set up but could not be put in motion
until Congress said the word. This was done on the 26th day of January,
1837, when Michigan was duly admitted as the twenty-sixth State into
the Federal Union.



CHAPTER VI

MICHIGAN IN ITS PRIMITIVE STATEHOOD

Calholn and Gai^houn County — Important Year for the County
AND ^Iarshall — Rapid Growth of County and County Seat —
Public and Private Buildings — First County Court House — A
New Court iIouse Needed — A New Jail — The Calhoun County
Home — lounty Officers.

it is doubtful if any state in the great middle west was more fortunate
than Miclngan in the charaeter and quality of her pioneers. Except
the French, wnose holdings were almost entirely confined to the river
front from Monroe to Saint Clair where they had existed for more than
a hundred years with little of material progress and comparatively
slight increase ni numbers, there were few foreigners. Nearly all the
new comers arter the second war with Great Britain were from New
England, New York and Ohio. Among these were many men and
women of education and refinement who sought to better their material
condition in the new State bordered by the Great Lakes. Nearly all
were without means, who had everything to make and little to lose;
hence they were willing to subject themselves to the hardships, privations
and toil inseparable from pioneer life in the -fii-st half of the last century.

The French settlers may be said to have constituted a class by thein-
seives and of these the late Chief Justice Cooley has given the following
interesting picture: "' French farms may almost be said to have lined
the river from the mouth of the Detroit to Lake St. Clair; their houses
fronted upon the road which ran along the river bank, ;in



Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 74)