MICHIGAN TRAILS
GENEALOGY and HISTORY
 

Aaron Bliss
Governor (1901 - 1905)

 (Special to The Free Press)
Saginaw, Mich., September 16. -- Former Gov. Aaron Thomas Bliss died at Sacred Heart sanitarium at Milwaukee at 4 o'clock this morning, of a stroke of apoplexy.

The death was sudden, but not entirely unexpected, because his condition was such that a stoke was momentarily looked for.

A few moments before he died he awoke and aroused his nurse, who took him his bathrobe. Mr. Bliss was returning to his bed with the aid of his nurse and was only a few feet from the bed when he was stricken and plunge to the floor.

Dr. E. S. Davis, his private physician, who has been in constant attendance, was asleep in the next room. He was aroused by the nurse and hurried to his patient's assistance, but found him dead.

STRICKEN A YEAR AGO

Gov. Bliss was stricken with paralysis about a year ago and has been in failing health ever since. Bright's disease developed and his condition became so serious that his family became alarmed. Last July he went to Milwaukee, accompanied by Mrs. Bliss, his nurse and Dr. Davis, and took treatment at Sacred Heart sanitarium. He improved considerably and on August 10 he returned to his home. A relapse occurred and a week ago yesterday he returned to Milwaukee.

His arteries had become so brittle that it was constantly feared he would pass away suddenly and he was constantly watched by his doctor and nurse.

The body was prepared for burial this morning and will reach Saginaw at 7 o'clock Monday morning.

BROTHER'S DEVOTION

During the long illness of the distinguished patient the brotherly devotion and faithfulness of Dr. Lyman W. Bliss has been a touching sight. Although the senior of the governor by two years and a man whose life has been active and full of wearing toil, the physician has given his every effort and moment to the single duty of making better the condition of his ailing brother, and that life has been so long spared has been due almost entirely to his tender care and devotion.

Night after night, during the many critical periods in the long illness, the loyal brother has sat alone by the bedside, and during the long vigils he has been able  to encourage a weakening spirit and postpone the final collapse by this unusual devotion. In his heart-rendering work the doctor impaired his own health. and a few months since it became necessary for him to relinquish entire care of the patient, and Dr. W. Davis has since assisted.

The doctor was not alone in giving such solicitous attention to the sick, as Mrs. Bliss, although not in good health herself, has also been on constant watch, going with him on all his trips, including the last. This was the first trip Dr. Bliss had ever missed.

It was announced at the Bliss home tonight that no arrangements for the funeral would be made until the arrival home of Mrs. Bliss. This will be Monday morning.

GOV. BLISS'S CAREER

Aaron T. Bliss twice served the state of Michigan as its chief executive, his first term beginning in 1901.l His political career also embraced a term in congress, the fifty-first, and been elected state senator in 1882.

HIs home city, Saginaw, he represented at various times as alderman, supervisor and member of the board of education.

The ex-governor made his money out of the lumber woods of Michigan during the years the Wolverine state ranked the country in that commodity.

Born on a farm in New York state, May 22, 1837, he was the youngest of a family of seven boys. His education was confined to an occasional attendance at a district school When the civil war broke out he enlisted in the Tenth New York cavalry and rose from private to captain. He served three years and five months in the army, six months of which were spent in different confederate prisons.

STARTED FOR MICHIGAN

An elder brother had left the army and started to practice medicine in Saginaw and in 1865 the future governor struck out for that city to secure employment in the lumber woods. He reached there no New Year's Day, slept on his pack overnight and next morning started north for a lumber camp near Midland.

Not long ago, in a chat about his early struggles, the former governor said:
"When I started my first winter in the woods I did not have anything, but I could see a chance to make something if I could save enough to buy timber lands. I started in as a team driver and swamper and when the camp cook left, I took his place.

"The next year my brother, Dr. Bliss, and myself bought 320 acres of land. I was not experienced enough, so I hired a foreman and worked under him. We had three teams and a yoke of cattle. After two winters' work on this tract I was $250 ahead and I went back to New York state and was married.

BOUGHT HIS FIRST MILL

"On returning to Saginaw I found that the mill at Zeeland could be bought for $30,000. I went to the man and asked him to sell it to me on time. He agreed if I would pay $3,000 down and so much a year. I borrowed the money from my oldest brother back on the farm and practically rented the mill by securing a contract to cut logs. We lived right there at the mill for four years and my wife started a boarding house. She saved $2,000 in four years and that money made the last payment on the mill.

"Most of my money I made from second cut timber lands and nearly always got more timber than the men who made the first cut. Things began to get easier and I acquired another mill at Carrollton.

"All my life I have been a heave borrower and have kept my money tied up. For years my operations neetted me from $100.000 to $175,000 a year, but I always put the money into something else.

ENTRANCE INTO POLITICS

"I never wanted to go into politics, but the party was anxious to get a Republican in congress from this district and as I was prosperous they insisted that I should run. I refused several times and finally went to Detroit to consult with Gen. Alger.

"He told me that as I had no children I owed it to the party to run, even if it cost me $50,000. I asked him if I could get off with that amount, but it actually cost me a good deal more than that before I got through.

"I was in congress one term and that was all I wanted, but I ran again and was defeated. I secured the post-office for Saginaw and the Indian school for Mt. Pleasant and was glad to stay at home."

In all these years Mr. Bliss had acquired wide timber interests and also became very well known throughout the state. He was a member of the board which organized and located the Michigan Soldier's Home and served as an aide on the staff of Gov. Alger. He was first mentioned as gubernatorial timber when Gov. Rich was nominated, but his name was withdrawn and not presented to the convention. He was selected to oppose the aspiration of the late Hazen S. Pingree for governor in the fall of 1896, but he was defeated by Detroit's famous mayor.

POLITICAL SUCCESS AT LAST

Success came to him in 1900 in the most memorable political fight that the state has ever had, when he was nominated at Grand Rapids in June of that year over Dexter M. Ferry, of Detroit, Justus S. Stearns, of Ludington, and James O'Donnell, of Jackson. It was a bitter contest and it is no secret that fully $500,000 was spent in that battle. In order to win Aaron T. Bliss had to mortgage the personnel of the state tax commission to the railroads. He did it, but he is not the only governor who has had to do the same thing.  His administration on the whole wa a very creditable one, far more so that some of hi predecessors. He insisted on economy and secured it. The one regret that he expressed after leaving the executive office is that he paroled Frank Andrews, the bank wrecker. Many of the men who hounded him to do so were afterwards loud in condemning his action.

NEVER LIKED PUBLICITY

The public never saw the better side of Aaron T. Bliss. He was vacillating and weak in many ways; dogged in others. Publicity was a terror to him. HIs business experience was more or less bitter, for he was often nipped, and this made him hard to deal with in petty matters. Somehow his environment was such that he seldom could exercise his own judgment, and horror of being known as a millionaire, for he was being constantly pestered for contributions. His instinct for business was excellent, but he was a very poor judge of human nature and paid for it many times. His business integrity was always above reproach.

The ex-governor was always prominently identified with Saginaws' interests. In his mills and salt blocks hundreds of men have been employed, as well as in his extensive lumbering operations. He organized the Valley Sugar Co., and on his different farms went extensively into the raising of sugar beets. He was also a heavy holder of real estate. Several years ago the ex-governor gave a valuable tact of twenty acres, on one of the principal residence streets, to the city for a park, and let it be known that he would leave a sufficient amount to erect a soldiers' monument in it.

Published in Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) 17 Sep 1906

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