William Hull
Territorial Governor (1805-1813)

  The first governor of Michigan territory was General William Hull, appointed by President Jefferson, March 1, 1805. The other appointed officers were: Stanley Griswold, secretary; August B. Woodward, Frederick Bates and John Griffin, judges. They arrived in Detroit June 12, 1805 to set up a government for the new territory, but found the little colony in a deplorable condition, for, on the day previous, the village had been devastated by fire and but two buildings remained to offer shelter to the entire population. ON the 30th of June, the appointed officials took their respective oaths of office, and a civil government for the territory of Michigan was established, until which time all government within the present state of Michigan had been through the military commanders, appointed successively by the French, British and American governments.

An act regulating grants of lands in Michigan territory was passed by congress March 3, 1807. At this time no provision had been made for the extinguishment of the Indian title except to a small tract in the vicinity of Detroit.  In 1812, Detroit had a population of only about 800 and the entire territory about 5000, mostly French.

The Indian titles were the great hindrance to settlement. In 1806 Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief, endeavored to organize the Indian confederacy of the Michigan, Ohio and Indiana tribes to withstand the encroachments of the whites; and, as a consequence, renewed fears of Indian wars retarded the progress of Michigan settlement. Governor Hull was instructed to negotiate a treaty with the Indians, and to that end, a council was called and held at Detroit and was participated in by the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandotte and Pottawottomi tribes, with a result  that on November 7, 1807, a treaty was signed ceding to the US a considerable territory within the Lower Peninsula, but was important to the whole territory as being the opening wedge that soon thereafter opened up the way to settlement, or purchase by the government, of nearly all the land within the present state of Michigan.

Up to this time the only means of traveling to the interior was by way of the Indian trails, which centered at Detroit, the principal; of which came to Michilmackinac and Sault Ste. Marie, commonly called the war-path, by which the tribes of the north were connected with those of the south. Besides the fear of Indian wars, there was another serious impediment to the settlement of Michigan territory; because so much thereof, including all principal settlements, was exposed to direct attack by water, and was so contiguous to the British possessions in Canada, where the war clouds were growing in England were also becoming ominous and war between the nations, making this a hostile and disrupted territory seemed imminment.

From a petition published in the papers, addressed to his Excellency James Madison, President of the U. States, from the Michigan Territory, praying the removal from office of Governor Hull, we extract the following paragraphs:

"This Territory is situated on the frontier of a Foreign Government, the Province of Upper Canada, belonging to his Britannic majesty; notwithstanding the difference of government, the French population with forms the principal part of both, are one and the same people. In Upper Canada, African Slavery has always existed; and the labor of their slaves, is a principal reliance of many families, on both sides for subsistence. Mr. Hull has much countenances the runaways, from that Province, by embodying them into a military company, and supplying them with arms from the public stores. He has signed a written Instrument appointed a Black man to the command of this company. This transaction is extremely dishonorable to the Government on this side of the river; violates the feelings of the opposite side; essentially injures their interests; and eventually injures our own people, by exciting the other to retaliate in the same way.

The savages belonging to the tribe called Chippewas, make frequent visits in our settlements. On one occasion, a man of that nation, was barbarously murdered by another, in broad daylight, on the farm of one of the French settlers. It behoved all persons to discountenance so infamous as action: but Mr. Hull, totally insensible of the honor of the country he represents, and of the station he is permitted to fill, visited the murderer at his place of abode, and made him is convivial companion in a manner outraging the sensibility of the virtuous and respectable part of the community.

It has been our lot, to be harassed with the incessant and artificial alarms of an attack from the Savages. These alarms are entirely false and unfounded, and nothing by the incapacity and want of judgment of the Executive officer keeps them alive. The United States have been unnecessarily put to an immense and useless expense on this account, and the inhabitants of the country have been subjected to great vexation and oppression."

Contributed by Nancy Piper - The Centinel, Gettysburg, PA, February 28, 1810


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