As the territory which forms the present State of
Michigan was first explored, settled and controlled
by Frenchmen, its earliest history is inseparably
connected with that of the province of New France.
During the first quarter of the century which
followed the discovery of America, while Spain and
England were deeply interested in projects of exploration and excited by dreams of gold and glory, the
kings of France were too deeply involved in Italian
wars to give much attention to the Western World.
But after the defeat of 1521, King Francis I of
France found time to observe, in a spirit of envy,
that his rival, Charles V of Spain and Germany,
was reaping profit and renown from explorations in
America. Accordingly King Francis I fitted out an
expedition under John Yerrazzano, a Florentine
navigator whom he had enlisted in the service of
1524—This expedition crossed the ocean in the
early part of the year 1524, making the voyage
from Madeira Island to the coast of North Carolina
in fifty days. Verrazzano examined the coast from
Carolina to Nova Scotia in the hope of finding a
passage to Cathay—as China was then called—which
had been one of the chief objects of the expedition.
By the time they reached Newfoundland, provisions
began to grow short and they set sail for France.
Verrazzano's voyage is interesting to us for two
reasons: First, he named the country New France;
and secondly, he wrote the first description of its
1534—The next French movements of importance
in this connection were the voyages of Jacques
Cartier—a bold seaman of St. Malo. On his first
trip to New France (1534) Cartier entered the Gulf
of St. Lawrence and sailed up as far as Anticosti
Island, supposing all the time that he had found
the long-sought passage to Cathay. But the weather
was becoming cold and stormy, and the explorers
returned to France for the winter. The next spring
(1535) Cartier came back with three vessels and
ascended the St. Lawrence River to the present site
of Montreal. After visiting the Indians of the
neighboring village and making the ascent of the
mountain — which he named Mont Royal—Cartier
and his comrades sailed down to the spot now occupied by the city of Quebec, where they went into
winter quarters. Before spring the scurvy broke
out, and not less than twenty-six of the company
found graves under the deep Canadian snows. In
the early summer (1536) Cartier, with the rest of
the survivors, returned to France.
1541—Not dismayed by the hardships through
which he had passed, the courageous navigator of
St. Malo made another voyage to the New "World,
this time for the purpose of planting a colony on
the banks of the St. Lawrence. Roberval, who was
to have followed him shortly, failed to reach New
France until the following spring (1542), when he
found Cartier just on the point of leaving for
France. Roberval tried to prevent the old navigator
from deserting the enterprise, but in vain, as Cartier
stole away under cover of night.
The attempts of Roberval, La Roche, Pontsrave
and Chauvin to found colonies in New France ended
in speedy failures.
1605—The first effort to plant an agricultural
settlement on the shores of Acadia was made by
De Mouts, at Port Royal (now Anapolis), Nova
Scotia. After a struggling existence of two years,
the enterprise was abandoned.
1608—The next year after the planting of the
English colony at Jamestown witnessed the founding
of Quebec—where Cartier had spent the winter of
1535-36—by Samuel Champlain. " Five years before,
he had explored the St. Lawrence as far as the
rapids above Montreal. On its banks, as he thought,
was the true site for a settlement, a fortified post.
whence, as from a secure basis, the waters of the
vast interior might be traced back toward their
sources, and a western route discovered to China and
the East. For the fur trade, too, the innumerable
streams that descended to the great river might all
be closed against foreign intrusion by a single fort
at some commanding point, and made tributary to-
a rich and permanent commerce; while—and this
was nearer to his heart, for he had often been
heard to say that the saving of a soul was worth
more than the conquest of an empire—countless
savage tribes, in the bondage of Satan, might by
the same avenues be reached and redeemed.
"De Monts embraced his views; and, fitting out
two ships, gave command of one to the elder Pontgrave, of the other to Champlain. The former was
to trade with the Indians and bring back the cargo
of furs which, it was hoped, would meet the expense
of the voyage. To the latter fell the harder task of
settlement and exploration.
Champlain and his party began their work at
Quebec early in July (1608), and after weeks of
vigorous exertion they were comfortably housed in
wooden buildings surrounded by a strong wall.
Twenty-eight persons went into winter quarters, but
the scurvy broke out before spring, and only eight
of the founders of Quebec were alive at the close of
the gloomy winter.
During the next few years Champlain devoted his
time and energies to the strengthening of the colony
and to the exploration of the great interior. He
discovered the lake which bears his name in 1611,
and visited Lake Huron in 1615. In 1620 he brought
his wife over to New France, "and entered with
renewed vigor upon all the enterprises connected
with colonial life. The colonists were greatly encouraged to find their governor willing thus to unite
all his interests with theirs, and pursued the arduous
labors, and endured the privations of their lot with
an energy and fortitude hitherto unknown."
Meanwhile other settlements were planted, of which
Montreal was the most important; but, as the fur
trade was the chief occupation of the colonists as
well as the chief concern of the companies that supported the enterprises, the growth and prosperity of
New France by no means fulfilled the expectations
of its founders.
1626—About this time the company of New
France, consisting of one hundred associates with the
French minister,—Cardinal Richelieu,—at the head,
was organized, with a capital of three hundred
thousand livres, and with many privileges from the
1629—In 1629 Quebec was surrendered to the
English who espoused the cause of the Huguenots
in their revolt then in progress. Champlain and
his people were distressed by famine, and he deemed
it best to comply at once with the demand of the
English commander, and surrendered the post without resistance. Some of the colonists remained at
Quebec, and three years later (1632), by the treaty
of St. Germain, the territory was returned to the
In 1635 New France suffered a severe loss in the
death of Champlain, who for a third of a century
had devoted the best energies of a strong mind and
a warm heart to the French interests in the New
Other governors came and went with the busy
years, but, as it is not the purpose of this little
narrative to follow the historic fortunes of New
France further than seems necessary for a starting
point in Michigan history, their names and deeds
must be left to the goodly volumes which discuss the
subject at length.
French Period—1634 to 1760
THE FIRST EXPLORER.
1634—It is believed that the first white man
who visited any part of the territory embraced in
the present State of Michigan was Jean Nicolet—who was in the service of Governor Champlain—and
that he first set foot upon the soil at the spot now
occupied by the town of Sault de Ste. Marie.
Nicolet ascended the Ottawa and Mattawan rivers,
passed through Lake Nipissing, descended French
River, coasted the northern shore of Lake Huron
and ascended the strait to the falls, where he probably arrived in the summer of 1634. After a few
dabs of rest and some friendly interviews with the
natives, Nicolet descended the strait, made a brief
visit at Michilimackinac — the Mo-che-ne-mok-e-nung
of the Indians — and passed on to other fields of
exploration not immediately connected with this narrative.
1641—The next Europeans that came to this
region were the Jesuit missionaries, Raymbault and
Jougues, who arrived at the Sault in 1641. They
found about two thousand Indians there, who gave
them a warm welcome and urged them to remain;
but this they could not do, and after suitable religious ceremonies, the priests returned to the eastern
1660—In 1660, Pere Rene Memird resolved to
found a mission on Lake Superior, and after a long
and tiresome voyage he reached the head of Keweenaw Bay, in October. He spent the winter with the
Indians in that vicinity, and in the spring resumed
his travels, intending, it is supposed, to visit La
Point, on Madeline Island. He was accompanied by
a single Indian guide, and was either lost or murdered near the modern waterway known as the
Portage Lake Ship-canal.
1660—Five years later, Pere Claude Allouez
reached La Point, established a mission and erected
a chapel—which was the first church edifice west
of Lake Huron.
1668—The second mission on Lake Superior
(called by the Indians Gitchee Gomt, and by the
French Lac de Tracy) was founded at the Sault de
Ste. Marie, by Pere Marquette, in 1668. Inhabited
by Europeans from that time forth, the Sault is
the oldest settlement in the State.
1669—In 1669 Marquette was joined at the Sault
by Pere Dablon, Superior of the mission, and they
are described as "established in a square fort of
cedar pickets ***** enclosing
a chapel and a house," with growing crops of
wheat, maize, peas, etc.
In the fall of the same year, Marquette took
charge of the mission at La Point, Allouez went to
Green Bay, and Dablon remained at the Sault.
1671—For the purpose of gaining a better foothold in the region of the great lakes, and in order
to foster and perpetuate the spirit of friendship in
which the Ottawas had received the early missionaries and explorers, M. Talon, Intendant of New
France, sent messengers to call a great council of
the Indians at the Sault, in the spring of 1671.
Fourteen tribes of the northwest sent representatives
to meet the French officers, who. with due ceremonies, took formal possession of the country. After
raising the cross and the lilies of France, Pere
Allouez, who acted as interpreter on the occasion,
made a speech, in the course of which he pronounced
a glowing panegyric on his king, Louis XIV, representing him as "the chief of chiefs," who had not
"his equal in the world."
During this year (1671) Marquette lost the greater
portion of his La Point people through removal, and
himself accompanied a band of Hurons to the Straits
of Mackinac, where he founded the mission of St.
For the next nine years (1671-1680) Pere Druilletes-was the leading spirit at the Sault. On several
occasions his little chapel was burned to the ground,
but the aged missionary was full of energy, and
continued to work until, "broken by age, hardships
and infirmities," he found it necessary to return to Quebec, where he died in 1680.
The achievements of the French missionaries in
the wilds of this distant region in those early days
added not a little to the geographical knowledge of
the country; their religious instruction, gentle manners and Christian character no doubt did much
to soften the savage nature of the Indians whom
they taught, and thereby removed some of the difficulties from the way of other explorers; and although
the visible results of their attempt to Christianize
the natives were few and discouraging, the zeal and
heroism of the men who braved danger without
flinching and endured suffering without complaining
entitle them to warm places in the hearts of all
who love the good and admire the brave.
As the first settlements in New France were made
under the auspices of companies organized for the
carrying on of the fur trade, the enterprising followers of this traffic were early and frequent visitors
in the region of the great lakes. Induced by the
prospect of gain, and having perhaps a keen relish
for adventure, the trader embarked with his merchandise in birch canoes, coasted the shores of the
lakes, followed the winding courses of the rivers
and penetrated the secluded retreats of the vast
This trade gave employment to a large number of
boatmen and woodsmen known as coureurs des bois.*
"A wild looking set were these rangers of the
woods and waters! * * They had a genuine love
for the occupation, and muscles that seemed never
to tire at the paddle and oar. From dawn to sunset, with only a short interval, and sometimes no-mid-day rest, they would ply these implements,
causing the canoe or barge to fly through the water
like a thing of life; and again they contended with
head winds and gained but little progress in a day's-rowing. The labor of the oar was relieved by songs,
to which each stroke kept time with added vigors.
But owing to too great freedom from the restraints
of law and civilized society, many of the coureursdes bois became so reckless and dissolute as to
endanger the interests of their employers, to say
nothing of the corrupting influences which they
exerted upon the Indians. Fortified posts were
therefore established for the protection of the companies.
AN EARLY MAP OF THE GREAT LAKES.
1669—Two of the Jesuit missionaries—probably
-Allouez and Marquette—made a map of this region
about 1669. This map, which was published in
1672, was remarkably accurate for that age. And
when we remember that its authors were not engineers by profession, and that the map of the
country was only an incidental part of their work,
we can hardly understand how the task was so well
LA SALLE AND THE VOYAGE OF THE GRIFFIN.
1679—Soon after his appointment to the governor-generalship of New France, Count Frontenac directed
his attention to the extension of the French power
and interests in the New World. And among the
strong men who assisted in the exploration of the
interior, La Salle acted a prominent part. After
establishing a trading post called Fort Frontenac, La
Salle decided to build a vessel suitable for the navigation of the great lakes, for the purpose of
conducting an exploring expedition to the Mississippi
River. He resigned his command at Fort Frontenac
And went to a point two leagues above Niagara
Falls, where he began the construction of the vessel
late in the autumn of 1678. The schooner, which
was called the Griffin, was of sixty tons burden,
armed with five guns. On the 7th of August, 1679,
she set sail for the first voyage ever made by a
vessel on the great lakes. The Griffin was commanded by La Salle,—who was accompanied by
Hennepin, the missionary,—and manned by a crew
of fur-traders. They were ignorant of the depth of
the water, and felt their way cautiously. They
reached the mouth of the Detroit River on the 10th
of August, and sailing northward passed the Indian
village of Teuchsagrondie, on the site now occupied
by the city of Detroit. The place had been visited
by the French missionaries and traders, but no settlement had been attempted.
They passed on through Lake St. Clair, ascended
the St. Clair River, and experienced a severe storm
on Lake Huron.
At length the tempest-tossed Griffin reached the
harbor of St. Ignace. "Before her rose the house
and chapel of the Jesuits, enclosed with palisades;
on the right, the Huron village, with its bark
cabins and its fence of tall pickets; on the left, the
square, compact houses of the French traders: and,
not far off, the clustered wigwams of an Ottawa
village. Here was a centre of the Jesuit missions,
and a centre of the Indian trade; and here, under
the shadow of the cross, was much sharp practice in
the service of Mammon."
Early in September, La Salle resumed his voyage,
crossed Lake Michigan and cast anchor at some
point on Green Bay.
The Griffin was loaded with furs, and sailed for
Niagara, with orders to return to the mouth of the
St. Joseph River as soon as possible, but was never
heard of more. It is probable that she foundered
the night of her departure, as at that time a violent
storm swept over the lake.
La Salle, with a few men, coasted Lake Michigan
to the mouth of the St. Joseph—the site of the
modern village of the same name—and built a rude
fort. After spending nearly a month at Fort St.
Joseph, where they were joined by a party from
Mackinac under Tonty, La Salle's trusted agent,
they lost nearly all hope of the return of the Griffin
with needed supplies. The near approach of winter
made further delay dangerous, and the explorers at
once began the ascent of the St. Joseph River.
Near the site of South Bend, Indiana, they made
the portage, and descended the Illinois to the point
where they built Fort Crevecoeur.
FOUNDING OF DETROIT.
1701—On the 24th of July, 1701. Antoine de la
Motte Cadillac founded the first European settlement at Detroit. He brought fifty soldiers and fifty
traders and artisans. "A stockade fort was immediately constructed, which ***** was
named Fort Pontchartrain, and log houses thatched
with grass soon went up, in which the settlers
found shelter and a home."*
Cadillac and the officers of the French fur company quarreled from time to time, and on one
occasion, when he was at Montreal on business, in
the fall of 1704, he was arrested and detained from
his post for about a year. He remained in charge
at Detroit until called away from the colony by
private interests, in 1710. Detroit continued to
exist, but did not grow much during the period of
THE FRENCH War.
1754 to 1760—Meanwhile the rival claims of
France and England to the same territory, in the
valley of the Ohio and elsewhere, led to quarrels
which finally culminated in war. During the struggle, the French lost the forts of Niagara, Ticouderoga and Crown Point; and the surrender of Quebec-
in the fall of 1759 practically decided the contest.
In September, 1760, the vast territory was abandoned
to the English, and Nouvelle France became a
GENERAL NOTE ON THE FRENCH PERIOD.
The most prominent feature of the French management, or rather mismanagement, of the territory
was the neglect to develop the agricultural and
other resources of the country. Very little land
was cleared, few permanent improvements were
made, and the settlements were small and weak.
The fur trade, which was the chief occupation of
the people, was not calculated to build up and
sustain large and thriving settlements. And at the
close of the French war, the little trading posts of
Sault de Ste. Marie, Michilimackinac and Detroit
were the meagre results of two hundred years of"
French colonization and control in the future State of Michigan.
English Period 1760 - 1796
1760—Shortly after the surrender of the territory to the English, Major Robert Rogers was sent,
with a military force, to take possession of the post
at Detroit. While journeying along the southern
shore of Lake Erie, the English were met by messengers from Pontiac* who forbade them to advance further without the consent of the chief.
Pontiac, who was not far distant, soon appeared in
person and demanded why they had presumed to
enter his dominions without asking permission.
Major Rogers explained that the sole object of the
expedition was the removal of the French, who, he
said, had been the means of preventing friendly
intercourse between the Indians and the English.
After sleeping over the subject, Pontiac gave his
consent and the British soldiers moved on to Detroit.
After reading the articles of capitulation signed
by his superior officers, M. Bellestre, the French
commandant, surrendered Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit), in November, 1760, and the English took
quiet possession of the post. The population of
Detroit and vicinity was estimated at 2,500 persons
at that time.
The forts at Michilimackinac, Sault de Ste.
Marie, and St. Joseph were not occupied by the
English until the fall of 1761.
1763—Although the French had surrendered the
territory, and their chief military leaders had
returned to France, the English were not long permitted to possess the land before a dangerous
and secret foe sought their destruction. We have
had occasion to notice the attitude of Pontiac,
who regarded the French as friends and their conquerors as enemies of his people. Less than three
years of intercourse served to deepen the hostility
of the Indians. With brusque manners, the English
failed to make themselves popular in the wigwams
of the natives; as a rule their tastes did not lead
them to marry the Indian women—which was one
of the ways by which the French had woven ties
of friendship between the two races—and in their
dealings with the red men, the English traders were
not only unjust but too often arrogant and provoking. When the French traders cheated them, it
was done in a graceful and pleasant manner; and,
rude children of the forest as they were, they could
not appreciate the pleasure or propriety of being
cheated and abused at the same time. Many of the
French inhabitants remained in the settlements, and
as no effort had been made to win their favor they
had little attachment for the new government, but
— in common with the Indians — hoped for its
speedy overthrow. " The fires of discontent were
smouldering everywhere, and nothing was needed
but the breath of a bold and daring spirit to blow
them into flame."
Pontiac, the originator and leader of the Conspiracy, was an Ottawa chief. He was well fitted for
the daring enterprise. An effective speaker; a bold
and crafty warrior, who had won the first place
among the Indians of his day; and, more than all,
he was a thoughtful and far-seeing general who
could originate and manage complicated plans. In
the latter qualification, he was probably the greatest
chief that his race has produced. But his plans
were founded upon treachery and assassination, he
could violate a truce without shame, and in the
chief elements of true manhood, like most of the
savages, he was anything but a hero.
Pontiac's plan was to attack all of the English
posts west of the Allegheny Mountains at about the
same time. The Indians were to massacre the soldiers of the garrisons, and thus, at a single stroke,
they hoped and planned to rid themselves of the
presence of a people whom they hated and looked
upon as intruders in the valleys of the west. The
plan of operations included a line of posts scattered
from Niagara to Chicago, twelve forts in all, three
of which—St. Joseph, Michilimackinac and Detroit
—were in Michigan. Pontiac's ambassadors visited
the various Indian tribes between the Ottawa and
the lower Mississippi, and succeeded in enlisting all
of the Algonquins, most of the Wyandots and some
of the southern tribes in the enterprise. "Each
tribe was to dispose of the garrison of the nearest
fort, and then all were to turn upon the settlements."
A great council was held at a point on the River
Ecorces, near Detroit, April 27, 1763. Pontiac
made a long speech in which he described the
wrongs that the English had done to the Indians,
and assured the latter that these dogs dressed in red
had come to rob them of their hunting grounds and
drive away the game.
Arrangements were made to attack the posts in
Detroit—The attack on the fort in Detroit was
led by Pontiac in person. The crafty chief sought
an interview with Major Gladwyn, commander of
the post, on the 7th of May, and was admitted.
He was accompanied by a band of sixty warriors,
who to all appearance were unarmed, as their
weapons were carefully concealed under their
blankets. It had been arranged that Pontiac should
make a speech to the commander of the fort, and
at the point where he should present a belt of
wampum wrong end foremost the Indians were to
strike down the officers, and the massacre was to be
continued by the hosts of savages in waiting outside. Happily for the garrison, however, the plot
had been revealed to Major Gladwyn, by an Ojibwa
girl, the evening before the proposed attack, and
he was prepared for it. When the Indians entered
the fort they found the soldiers in arms and ready
for duty at a moment's notice. Feeling sure that
his treacherous purpose was known, and that there
was no chance to surprise the English, Pontiac
scarcely knew what to do or say, and made his
speech very brief. Major Gladwyn told the Indians
that they should have the friendship of the English
"so long as they deserved it," but "that instant,
vengeance would be taken for any hostile act."
On the 9th of May the crafty chief tried to gain
an entrance with a larger party of his followers,
but was promptly refused. The Indians then set
up the war-whoop and proceeded to murder several
defenseless English persons who were outside of the
stockade, and after these fiendish acts they began
the attack on the fort.
A re-enforcement, with provisions and ammunition
was expected about the last of May; "and, on the
30th, the sentinel on duty announced that a fleet of
boats was coming round the point, at the Huron
church. The whole garrison flocked to the bastions,
eagerly anticipating the arrival of their friends.
But they were greeted with no sounds of joy. The
death-cry of the Indians, that harbinger of misery,
alone broke upon the ear. The fate of the detachment was at once known. The Indians had ascertained their approach and had stationed a party of
warriors at Point Pelee. Twenty-three batteaux,
laden with all the stores necessary for the defense
of the town and the subsistence of the garrison,
and manned by a detachment of troops, landed at
this place in the evening, ignorant of danger and
unsuspicious of attack. The enemy watched all
their movements, \and, about the dawn of day,
rushed upon them. An officer, with thirty men,
threw himself into a boat and crossed the lake to
Sandusky Bay. All the others were killed or taken.
The line of barges ascended the river on the opposite shore, escorted by the Indians upon the bank,
and guarded by detachments in each boat, in full
view of the garrison and of the whole French settlement. The prisoners were compelled to navigate
the boats. As the first batteaux arrived opposite to
the town, four British soldiers determined to effect
their liberation, or to perish in the attempt. They
suddenly changed the course of the boat, ^and by
loud cries made known their intention to the crew
of the vessel. The Indians in the other boats, and
the escort upon the bank, fired upon the fugitives,
but they were soon driven from their positions by a
cannonade from the armed schooner. The guard on
board this boat leaped overboard, and one of them
dragged a soldier with him into the water, where
both were drowned. The others escaped to the
shore, and the boat reached the vessel, with another
soldier wounded. Lest the other prisoners might
escape, they were immediately landed and marched
up the shore to the lower point of Hog Island,
where they crossed the river, and were immediately
put to death with all the horrible accompaniments
of savage cruelty."
One of the most note-worthy episodes in the
siege of Detroit was the massacre at Bloody Run.
Captain Dalzell, who arrived at the post in July
with re-enforcements and supplies, foolishly imagined that he could surprise the Indians in their
camp by a night attack, and against the better
judgment of Major Gladwyn, the attempt was made.
"At two o'clock in the morning of July 31, 1763,
250 men marched out of the fort and up the River
Road, protected in part on the river by two large
boats with swivels. Two miles above the fort the
road crossed a bridge at the mouth of a stream
then known as Parent's Creek, but since as Bloody
Run." ^ By some means Pontiac had learned of
their movements and had prepared an ambush for
them. " As soon as the troops reached the bridge
they were assailed by a murderous fire, and the
ravine became a scene of carnage. The darkness
bewildered them and they were compelled to
retreat, fighting against ambuscades all the way,
until they reached the fort again at eight o'clock,
after six hours of marching and fighting in that
short road. Dalzell was killed while gallantly striving to save a wounded sergeant."* In this engagement seventy Englishmen were killed and forty
The siege lasted from early May until late October, but the battle of Bloody Run was the only one
fought outside of the stockade. Within the fort
the watchful garrison had little to fear from Indian
arms or valor. The chief danger was that the siege
might be continued until their provisions were
exhausted j and this fear came near being realized
when scarcity of food in the Indian camp made it
necessary for the natives to raise the siege and go
on their annual hunt. Major Gladwyn at once laid
in a good supply of provisions for the winter, in
anticipation of a possible renewal of hostilities, but
the Indians made no further demonstrations until
spring, when "the negotiations of Sir William
Johnson and the approach of General Bradstreet
* * * induced them to relinquish their vengeful purpose."
Fort St. Joseph was held by Ensign Schlosser and
fourteen men. On the 25th of May (1763) a band
of Pottawotamies gained admission to the fort
through pretended friendship, suddenly fell upon
the unsuspecting garrison and massacred all except
the commander and three men who were taken to
Detroit and afterwards exchanged.
This fort,—situated on the south site of the
strait, about one-half mile southwest of the present
site of Mackinaw City, — was occupied by Major
Etherington, ninety-two soldiers, and four English
The commander had full and timely warning of
the designs of the Indians, but foolishly disbelieved
the reports and neglected all precautions. On the
2d of June (1763), the King's birthday, the savages
were engaged in a game of ball near the gates of
the fort. The officers and soldiers, unsuspicious of
danger, were idle spectators of the sport. About
noon the ball was thrown into the fort and the
dark-skinned players rushed after it through the
open gate. A party of squaws standing near furnished the assassins with tomahawks which had been
concealed beneath their blankets, and the massacre
began. "The amazed English had no time to think
or act. * * * Some of the Indians assailed the
spectators without, while others rushed into the fort,
and all was carnage and confusion." Lieutenant
Jamette and seventy men were killed. Major Etherington, three of the English traders, and twenty-three
soldiers were taken prisoners and afterwards released.
After appropriating the goods of the traders and
burning Fort Michilimackinac, the savages sought
greater security from the deserved vengeance of the
English by encamping on Mackinac Island.
GENERAL NOTE ON THE STRUGGLE.
Eight out of the twelve posts attacked by the
Indians, during the execution of Pontiac's plans,
were captured, hundreds of Englishmen were killed,
and a reign of terror prevailed throughout the valleys of the west. But in the chief object at which
it was aimed—the removal of the English from the
great interior—the scheme failed.
In the summer of 1764, General Bradstreet arrived
at Detroit with an army of three thousand men.
" The Indians, perceiving that they could no longer
contend against so powerful a foe, laid down their
arms, and thus the war was brought to a close."
CONCLUSION OF THE ENGLISH PERIOD.
Few noteworthy events took place during the
remainder of the English Period. Settlements grew
slowly. The influence of the fur companies, and
of the Quebec Act, alike prevented the development
of the country.
During the American Revolution the scene of conflict was too far distant from this region to permit
the inhabitants taking an active part in the war; but
the posts of Michilimackinac and Detroit were still
occupied by British garrisons, and the officers, by
every means in their power, employed the savages in
the fiendish work of assassinating and robbing defenseless American colonists in Ohio and other
Although the treaty of Paris, 1783, provided for
the surrender of all these posts to the United States,
Great Britain retained possession of Detroit and
Michilimackinac until July, 1796, when "Michigan,
for the first time, became an American possession."
Territory 1796 - 1837
Michigan as Part of the Northwest Territory
Although the ordinance creating the Northwest
Territory was passed by Congress in 1787, the retention of Michigan posts by the British until 1796
made the latter date the practical beginning of the
American Territorial Period. This ordinance, providing for the government of the vast territory lying
between the Ohio River and Lake Superior, was
framed with such wisdom that it has received high
praise from an eminent modern jurist. "No charter
has so completely withstood the tests of time and
experience; it had not a temporary adaptati:n to a
particular emergency, but its principles were for all
time, and worthy of acceptance under all circumstances. It has been the fitting model for all
subsequent territorial governments in America."*
This ordinance contained six articles of compact
between the original States and the people and
States of the territory, and it provides that these
articles shall forever remain unalterable except by
common consent. Provision was made for each of
the following important objects:
I. Freedom of worship.
II. A bill of rights, with a provision making-contracts inviolable.
III. " Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of
mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
IV. The States to be formed out of this territory were bound to remain in the Union and help tc*
bear the expenses and obligations of the general gov- ernment, and all navigable waters should be free to commerce.
V. The fifth article provided that not less than
three nor more than five States should be formed
from the Northwest Territory, and that these, as they
attained a population of sixty thousand, should be
admitted to the Union under republican constitutions.
VI. The sixth article declared that neitlier slavery
nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment for
crime, should ever be allowed in this territory or in
the States to be erected therefrom.
Thus at the very dawn of its political existence
under the United States, this vast region was pledged
to education, freedom, and equal rights for all.
In the fall of 1787 Congress appointed General
Arthur St. Clair governor of the Northwest Territory.
Owing to the failure of the British to surrender
the posts in this section until 1796, however, the
first pages of territorial history have slight connection with Michigan. After the Americans gained
actual possession of the country, the Lower Peninsula formed the single county of Wayne in the
Northwest Territory, and was entitled to one repre-sentative in the territorial legislature.
Indiana Territory was organized by act of Congress
in 1800, and two years later (1802) the Lower Peninsula of the present State of Michigan was made a
part of the new territory, and so remained until
1805. Nothing of importance to Michigan history
occurred during the brief union with Indiana, except
the passage of an act of Congress (1804) "providing
for the disposal of the public lands within the
territory, to which the Indian title had been extinguished. * * By this act, section 16 in each
township was reserved for the use of schools within
the same, and an entire township was to be located
in each of the districts afterwards forming Michigan,
Indiana, and Illinois, for a seminary of learning.
This was the germ of the university fund in Michigan, and of the primary school fund."
On the 11th of January, 1805, Congress passed an
"act for the organization of Michigan Territory. "It
was to embrace all that portion of Indiana Territory
lying north of a line drawn east from the southerly
bend or extreme of Lake Michigan, until it intersected Lake Erie, and lying east of a line drawn
from the same southerly bend through the middle
of Lake Michigan to its northern extremity, and
thence due north to the northern boundary of the
United States."* General William Hull was appointed governor of Michigan Territory, and arrived
in Detroit in July, 1805. A few weeks before the
arrival of the governor the town had been destroyed
by fire, and he found the people encamped in the
fields, with scanty food and little shelter. But they
were not discouraged by misfortune, and at once
began to rebuild on the site now occupied by the
metropolis of Michigan, f The population of the
territory at that time did not exceed four thousand
persons, and unfortunately there seemed to be little
inducement for emigration from the eastern States.
Detroit was made the territorial capital.
About two years after the arrival of Governor
Hull in Michigan, the Indians, instigated by the
English fur traders, began to show signs of evil
intentions concerning the frontier settlements. Tecumseh and his brother, generally known as the
Prophet, were the leaders. The plan, which resembled
the scheme of Pontiac, was not ready for execution
for several years, but well-founded rumors of ill-feeling and evil designs reached the governor and
people from time to time, which caused anxiety and
retarded the settlement of the territory.
Governor Hull" had made a fair record in the
Revolutionary War, but he was poorly fitted to manage discontented and crafty natives, or to guide the
destinies of struggling pioneer settlements. Weak,
vacillating, and timid, his administration was equally
unfortunate for his own reputation and for the
interests of the people of Michigan.
Judge Woodward, chief justice of the territory at
that time, did much to bring the governor into disrepute; and General Hull contributed to this end
by foolishly allowing himself to be drawn into frequent and undignified quarrels with the eccentric
and testy justice.
THE SECOND WAR WITH ENGLAND.
Such was the condition of territorial affairs, and
such the leader, when the impressment of American
seamen and other British insults, furnished occasion
for another struggle with England.
The Indians were encouraged by the gathering
war-clouds long before the breaking of the tempest,
and, in 1811, they assembled in considerable numbers
on the banks of the Wabash Eiver. Fortunately for
Indiana and the whole northwest, General Harrison,
the governor of that territory, was a brave and
energetic officer, and lost no time in taking vigorous
measures against the redskins. With an army of
about nine hundred men he marched to the Indian
camp, called the Prophet's Town. He was met by
some of the chiefs who professed surprise at his
warlike movements, assured him that they had no
thought of fighting, and asked for a conference on
the morrow. General Harrison replied that he would
be glad to give them an opportunity to disperse in
peace, and would grant the desired council. In
selecting an encampment and in making arrange-
ments for the night, however, every precaution was
wisely taken to prevent surprise in case of a treacherous attack. True to their nature, the wily savages
had only requested a conference for the purpose of
throwing the soldiers off their guard and gaining an
easy victory by a night attack. The Indians fell
upon the camp about four o'clock in the morning,
but, contrary to their expectations, they found the
army ready for action at a moment's notice. The
engagement, which is known in history as the battle
of Tippecanoe, took place on the 7th of November,
1811, and resulted in the total defeat of the Indians,
who dispersed and made no more trouble for the
Governor Hull spent the winter of 1811-12 in
Washington. He expressed deep anxiety concerning
the exposed and defenseless condition of Michigan
in the event of the threatened war with England,
and urged the war department to place a strong
naval force on Lake Erie. This advice was not
heeded. Governor Hull was offered the command of
a military force for the protection of the frontier,
and the invasion of Canada if war should be declared.
The command was first declined but afterwards
accepted. With an army of about fifteen hundred
men. General Hull started from Dayton, Ohio, and
after a tedious march of three weeks reached Detroit
on the 6th of July (1812). War was declared on
the 18th of June, but through some neglect General
Hull was not notified of the fact until the 2d of
CAPTURE OF FORT MACKINAC*
Fort Mackinac was garrisoned by a little band of
fifty-seven men, under command of Lieutenant Porter
Hanks. Situated in the heart of the Indian country, this post was of great importance, and we can
hardly understand why the war department and the
commanding general were so stupid as to make no
effort to send reinforcements. The British commandant on St. Joseph's Island learned of the
declaration of war about the middle of July, and at
once started for Mackinac with a force of nearly a
thousand men. The British landed in the night
time, on the northwest side of the island, and proceeded to a commanding position above the fort,
where they planted their cannon and awaited the
light of day. The sharp report of a hostile sunrise
gun announced to the garrison the presence of the
enemy," and before the distant forests had ceased
to re-echo the sound, a British officer, with
flag in hand, appeared and demanded a surrender,
emphasizing the demand by a statement of the over-whelming numbers of the invading army and a threat
of indiscriminate slaughter by the savages at the first
motion toward resistance."
As he was apparently at the mercy of the foe,
Lieutenant Hanks was obliged to surrender, and himself and his men were paroled and sent to Detroit.
Thus Fort Mackinac fell into the hands of the British, on the 17th of July, 1812.
GENERAL HULL'S CANADIAN CAMPAIGN—1812
General Hull had orders to cross the Detroit River,
take possession of Canada, and dislodge the British
at Fort Maiden.* His officers and men were impatient to go at once, but the slow-going commander
was not ready to move until the 12th of July. At
that time every hour of delay enabled the enemy to
gather additional strength and lessened the chances
of American success. The garrison at Maiden was
small, and would probably have surrendered at onco
if General Hull had moved forward in a vigorous
manner. But there was nothing of a vigorous or
rapid nature in Hull's movements. " Under pretest
that heavy artillery was necessary to an attack on
the fort at Maiden, the army lay inactive at Sandwich from the 12th of July to the Sth of August.
One or two detachments were sent out in the meantime, one of which, under the command of Colonel
Cass, soon after the army crossed, drove in a picket
stationed on the bridge over the river Canard, only
a few miles from Maiden, and took possession of it,
advising General Hull of the movement, and recommending an immediate attack on that place. The
recommendation was slighted, and the detachment
ordered to return, leaving the enemy to re-occupy a
situation highly important to either party, in the
event of a future attack."
While General Hull, Micawber like, was waiting
at Sandwich for ei something to turn up," General
Brock moved toward Fort Maiden with a considerable military force. On the 9th of August Hull
recrossed the river, entered the fort at Detroit, and
abandoned Canada after less than a month of inglorious occupation.
The next day after his arrival at Maiden, General
Brock moved up to Sandwich and summoned General Hull to surrender. On the refusal of the latter,
the British at once began a cannonade on the
American fort, and the fire was returned, with little
damage to either side.
HULL'S SURRENDER OF DETROIT AND MICHIGAN—1813.
On the morning of July 16th General Brock
crossed the river in plain sight and without resistance, and at once repeated his demand for the
surrender of the fort. Brock had about thirteen
hundred men and Hull not less than a thousand.
Without consulting his officers, and without waiting
to make any stipulations or terms, General Hull
hoisted a white flag * and sent word to the British
commander that he would surrender.
The American officers and soldiers were provoked
beyond measure at the cowardly action of the commander. Complaints were both loud and deep, and
these criticisms found an answering echo in every
part of the country."
Hull was accused of treason, cowardice, and criminal neglect of duty; and although acquitted of the
first charge, he was convicted by court-martial of
the second and third, and sentenced to be shot. The
President of the United States pardoned him in
consideration of his services in the Revolutionary
BRITISH POSSESSION OF MICHIGAN FOR A TIME.
On taking possession of Detroit, General Brock
placed Colonel Proctor, with a small force, in command of the fort and Territory. Proctor soon proceeded to organize the civil government. He assumed
the title of Governor, and appointed Judge Woodward Secretary. In this position the former chief
justice had some influence with the cruel Briton,
and won the gratitude of the people whose interests
he tried to protect.
During the fall and winter following Hull's surrender, General Harrison collected an army and
started northward for the recovery of the frontier
posts. While at Sandusky, he sent General Winchester in advance to the Maumee. A few days
later General Winchester moved forward and encamped on the River Raisin. On the 22d of January (1313) the camp was attacked by the British and
Indians, under Proctor. The Americans were surprised and obliged to surrender, and during the following night the savages butchered the wounded
soldiers and defenseless inhabitants of Frenchtown
without mercy. For this and other cruelties for
which Proctor was in a measure responsible, his name
is held in deserved contempt.
PERRY'S VICTORY AND THE RECAPTURE OF MICHIGAN.
Commodore Perry's victory at Put-in-Bay, Sept.
10, 1813, by which the entire naval force of Commodore Barclay was surrendered to the Americans,
was a fortunate and decisive stroke. " The engagement began a quarter before noon. At three o'clock
the British fleet surrendered, after one of the closest
engagements known in naval history. No entire
British fleet had ever been captured before. The
utmost bravery was shown on both sides. The
American loss was 27 killed and 96 wounded; the
British, 41 killed and 94 wounded. The brave victor was as humane as he was valiant, and
the dead of both fleets were buried together, with
the same honors and the same solemn services, while
the wounded were all tenderly cared for, and the
unfortunate British commander, who was severely
crippled, was treated with the generous kindness
which he deserved."
Immediately after the surrender. Commodore Perry
wrote his immortal dispatch, " We have met the
enemy and they are oars" and sent it to General
Harrison, who was on the lake shore about thirty
This victory prepared the way for the recapture of
Michigan and the entire northwest. General Harrison used the captured vessels to transport his army
across Lake Erie, and prepared to clinch the advantage gained by a vigorous campaign in Canada.
Maiden and Detroit were evacuated by the British
and Proctor made a speedy retreat, much to the disgust of Tecnmseh, but was overtaken and thoroughly
defeated at Moravian Town.f Tecumseh was killed in the engagement, and Proctor fled.
On the 29th of September (1813) the Americans again took possession of Detroit, and Colonel Lewis Cass was placed in command.
MICHIGAN TERRITORY UNDER GOVERNOR CASS—1S13 TO 1S31.
On the 9th of October, 1813, Lewis Cass was made Governor of Michigan territory, by appointment of
In the mid-summer of 1814 an attempt was made
to recover Mackinac Island, still held by the British.
Lieutenant Croghan was sent to effect the recapture,
but delayed the attack so long that the English
commander had an opportunity to strengthen his
position and increase his force, and the expedition
ended in failure. During the engagement, Major
Holmes, a brave and accomplished American officer,
was mortally wounded. The island remained in the
possession of the British until the year after the
close of the war. The post was evacuated in the
spring of 1815, and the fort was again occupied by
The appointment of General Cass to the office of
Governor was a fortunate event for Michigan. No
better choice could have been made. The office at
that time was one little to be coveted by any one
who was afraid of difficulties, or unwilling to do
hard and patient work. A man of strong character—thoroughly alive to the interests of the people,
energetic, persevering, with large experience of
pioneer life, and endowed with excellent judgment —such was the man who guided the destinies of
Michigan through the better part of her territorial
At the beginning of his term of office, Governor
Cass found a small population, confined to a few
settlements on the eastern border, while the great
interior was not only an uninhabited, but an unknown wilderness.
Worse yet, it was often regarded as an impenetrable swamp, and people in the eastern states had no
desire to gain a closer acquaintance with the country. Some of the civil engineers sent out by the
United States Government to survey lands for the
bounty claims of soldiers, soon after the war of 1S12,
were responsible for false reports of this kind which
helped to injure the territory. Governor Cass took
pains to correct these wrong impressions, made
treaties with the Indians, and secured the titles to
their lands for the United States Government—
always treating them fairly and honorably. And
after the necessary treaties had been made the lands
were surveyed and opened for settlement.
SURVEY AXD SALE OF PUBLIC LANDS.
The survey of public lands was begun in 1816,
and, two years later, had progressed sufficiently to
permit the authorities to begin the sale. " This is
the most important era in the history of Michigan, and from it may bo dated the commencement
of her march in the career of improvement."
Farmers would not come in large numbers until
there was a chance to procure lands, and little
growth or prosperity could be expected without the
tillers of the soil. But with the settlement of
the interior, which practically began in 1818, came
substantial growth and prosperity.
THE PRINTING PRESS.
The first printing press in Michigan was brought
from Baltimore by the Rev. Gabriel Richard—a
public-spirited man, who did much for the education and enlightenment of the people. A printing
office was fitted up at Detroit, and a weekly newspaper, called " The Michigan Essay or Impartial
Observer," was started in 1809, with James M.
Miller as publisher. The price of the paper was
" $5 a, vear to citv subscribers, S4.50 by mail to residents of Upper Canada and Michigan, and $4 to
more distant subscribers"^) So far as can be ascertained this paper perished after an existence of
The second Michigan newspaper, started in 1817,
was called " The Detroit Gazette," and was published
for a number of years, by Sheldon & Reed. " It
was a Democratic paper" and was "established at
the suggestion and under the patronage of Governor
Cass."* That the publishers of the " Gazette" did
not grow suddenly rich, may be readily accounted
for, as the total number of subscribers in 1820 was
152, and the proprietors complained that only 90 of
these were prompt in paying the annual subscription.
The first steamboat on the great lakes—the Walk-in-the- Water—reached Detroit in the summer of 1818.
From that time forth westward-bound settlers found
fewer difliculties in coming to Michigan. For, although the Wtdh-in-the- Water was wrecked in 1821,
the Superior and other steamers soon took her place,
and steam navigation contributed not a little to the
commercial prosperity of the growing Territory.
"Another matter of immediate and pressing importance was that of roads. Immigrants could not come
into the Territory in any considerable numbers so
long as they must find their way through the woods
by trails, or by roads cut out but never worked,
and which in a little while by use became nearly
impassable."* Roads around the west end of Lake
Erie to Detroit, and from the latter place to Chicago, and other highways of importance were built
as soon as possible, through the energetic and wise
management of Governor Cass and his efficient
assistant. Secretary Woodbridge.
THE ERIE CANAL—1825.
The opening of the Erie Canal, in 1825, was an
event of great importance to Michigan.
Steamers and sailing craft became abundant on the
lakes, and it was estimated that not less than 300
passengers a week were landed at Detroit during the
fall of 1825.
PROMOTION OP GENERAL CASS AND CONDITION OF THE
TERRITORY IN 1831.
In 1831 General Cass accepted the office of Secretary of War under President Jackson.
For eighteen years he had managed the affairs of
Michigan Territory with satisfaction to the people
and honor to himself. He found the Territory suffering from the ravages of war, with a population
of perhaps five thousand persons; he left it in prosperity, with more than thirty thousand inhabitants,
with developing resources and a bright future.
CLOSE OF THE TERRITORIAL PERIOD.
Geo. B. Porter of Pennsylvania was then appointed
Governor of Michigan Territory, and Stevens T.
Mason, Secretary. As Governor Porter was absent
a considerable portion of the time, the Secretary—
who was a beardless youth at the time of his appointment—was acting Governor; and after the death
of the chief executive, in 1S34,* no change was
made, and Mr. Mason continued to manage the
duties of the office until the close of the Territorial
Meanwhile the population of Michigan Territory
had reached and passed the number fixed by the
Ordinance of 1787—60,000—as necessary to admission
as a State, and the people desired to be admitted
into the Union.
THE TOLEDO WAR.
About this time a dispute arose concerning the
boundary between Michigan and Ohio. Careless
management had admitted Ohio, in 1802, with an indefinite northern boundary. The act of 1805, organizing Michigan Territory, fixed the boundary at a
line running due east from the most southern bend
of Lake Michigan. This included Toledo and a considerable strip of land which Ohio tried to claim.
In 1835 Governor Lucas of Ohio issued a proclamation assuming control, and the State Legislature
passed an act to organize the county of Lucas. Acting Governor Mason of Michigan Territory called
•out the militia and proceeded to Toledo- to prevent
the Ohio officers from exercising control of the disputed land. Several shots were exchanged, but no
blood was shed.
Anxious to settle the dispute without giving offense
to Ohio and Indiana-—as a presidential election was
soon to take place, and votes were valuable—Congress endeavored to satisfy both parties by giving to
Michigan the extensive territory known as the Upper
Peninsula. Michigan reluctantly accepted the terms,
permitted Ohio to fix the boundary as it is shown
-on our maps, and herself acquired the title to the
Tich and valuable mineral districts of the Lake Superior region.
The first State Convention for the adoption of a
Constitution was held at Detroit, in May, 1835. An
-election for the adoption of the Constitution, and
for the election of State officers, was held on the
first Monday of the following October. The Constitution was adopted by vote of the people, and Stevens T. Mason was elected Governor, Edward Mundy,
Lieutenant Governor, and Isaac E. Crary, Representative in Congress. The Legislature met in
November (1835), and elected John Xorvell and
Lucius Lyon United States Senators for Michigan.
Everything was ready for admission into the Union,
but the unfortunate boundary dispute with Ohio
prevented the favorable action of Congress. Several
conventions were held in 1836, and in December of
that year a body of men, mostly politicians, held a
convention at Ann Arbor and decided to accept the
terms proposed by Congress. This was called the
" frost-bitten convention," but in spite of public ridicule, the action of this body was accepted by Congress, and Michigan was admitted into the Union,
January 27, 1837.
Michigan as a State 1837 - 1886
First Constitution of Michigan
The State Constitution under which Michigan was-admitted into the Federal Union contained several
peculiar features, which deserve brief mention. The
Secretary of State, Auditor General and Attorney
General were appointed by the Governor, with the
advice and consent of the State Senate. The Superintendent of Public Instruction was appointed by the
Governor, with the advice and consent of the Legislature, in joint vote. The Governor and Lieutenant
Governor were elected, and all State officers above
mentioned were chosen for a term of two years, as
at present. Judges of the Supreme Court were appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of seven years.
The Constitution contained the following provision, which had a considerable influence on the early
history of the State: "Internal improvements shall
be encouraged by the Government of this State; and
it shall be the duty of the Legislature, as soon as
may be, to make provision by law for ascertaining
the proper objects of improvement in relation to
roads, canals and navigable waters," etc.
INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT SCHEME.
It so happened that the Hon. Stevens T. Mason
—"the boy Governor of Michigan'-'—who was the
first chief executive of the young State, was in
hearty sympathy with the plan of internal improvements for which provision was made in the Constitution. With his approval, the Legislature speedily
passed the necessary laws, and the scheme was put
into execution. Arrangements were made to borrow five millions of dollars on bonds issued by the State,
and Governor Mason was authorized to negotiate the
loan. The Morris Canal and Banking Company
bought a portion of the bonds, and as agents, disposed of the remainder to the Pennsylvania United
States Bank. About half of the purchase money
had been paid into the State treasury when both of
the buyers failed, and the Michigan bonds—which
were all in their possession—were turned over to
their creditors. Here was a dilemma. It was highly
important that the credit of the State should be
maintained; and it was equally important to avoid
the payment of several millions of dollars for which
the State had received nothing. After due deliberation, Michigan statesmen decided to redeem the
bonds that had been bought, and to refuse to pay
the bonds that had been seized before they had been
paid for. This decision, founded upon principles of
equity, was received with respect by the business
world, and the terms offered were soon accepted by
the holders of the bonds.
Among the various internal improvements which
were begun and carried on for several years by the
State, two of the most important were the Michigan.
Central and Southern railroads. The first-named
road was to begin at Detroit and extend to the
mouth of the St. Joseph River, on Lake Michigan.
The second was to extend from Monroe to New Buffalo. After an experience of four or five years in
prosecuting these enterprises, and others of lesser
note, it became evident to careful observers that it
would be better for the State to dispose of the railroads to private corporations; and accordingly, the
Michigan Central and Southern railroads, which were
only partially completed, were sold, in 1846, for the
sum of two and a half millions of dollars. This was
less than they had cost the State, but nevertheless
the sale was considered a good bargain. Under the
management of their new owners the roads were
speedily pushed forward to completion, with some
changes in the western portions of their routes.
The rising city of Chicago, like a great magnet,
drew the iron bands to the southward, and St.
Joseph was left as a quiet monument of what "might have been."
When Michigan became the twenty-sixth member
of the Union, there were fifteen banks doing business within her borders. But among other fanciful
theories of that time was the notion that banking,
like farming and store-keeping, should be free to
all. Accordingly, in the spring of 1837, a general
banking law was passed by the Legislature. Under
this act "any ten or more freeholders" might engage
in banking with a capital of not less than fifty thousand nor more than three hundred thousand dollars.
The provisions for the security of the public were
loosely framed, and proved utterly worthless in practice. Among other things, it was provided that
thirty per cent, of the entire capital should be paid
in, in specie, before commencing business; that debts
and bills issued should be secured by mortgages on
real estate, etc. The batiks were subject to examination and supervision by commissioners. But all
provisions of safety were successfully evaded by
shrewd rascals in one way or another. Banks were
started by persons who were mere adventurers, alike
destitute of capital and credit. When the bank commissioners started upon their rounds of inspection,
bags of coin were secretly and swiftly carried by
messengers from one bank to another, so that they
were constantly deceived. The requisite amount of
coin would be found in the vaults, the commissioners could discover nothing wrong, and the inspection was over. During the following night the coin
would be spirited away to the next bank, and
counted again as before. Meanwhile these fraudulent
banks were issuing bills and getting them into circulation as fast as possible.
The year 1837 is memorable as the time of a great
financial panic in the United States. In June of
that year, the Legislature of Michigan, in the hope
of relieving the financial difficulties for the time being,
passed a law authorizing the suspension of specie
payment until May 16, 1838. But the general banking law remained in force, banks were organized,
and bills were issued as fast as possible during the
period of suspension. The fraudulent banker waxed
fat with his ill-gotten gains, and the irredeemable
paper currency—generally known as "wild-cat"
notes — became almost as worthless as the paper
upon which it was printed. Banks were located
anywhere and everywhere. One was found flourishing in an old saw-mill; and it was humorously
asserted that "a hollow stump, to serve as a vault,"
was all that was needed for a bank in those days.
The commissioners proceeded to close all banks
that they could discover to be in an unsound condition. And manv of these fraudulent concerns only
wished to operate long enough to put their worthless bills upon the market. So, with those which
were closed by the officers, and those which were
closed voluntarily, the greater number of the "wild-cat" banks had suspended operations by the end of
the year 1839. But more than a million dollars of
their worthless bills had been put in circulation, and
whatever had been received in return was practically
stolen from the people. In 1844 the general bank-
ing law was declared unconstitutional, and "wild-cat" banks caused no further trouble.
By the Ordinance of 1787 — creating the Northwest Territory—.and subsequent legislation. Congress
made provision for the support of public schools in
this part of the Union. The sixteenth section of
every organized township* was set apart for the creation of a permanent school fund, of which the
interest only is used from year to year. Since 1858,
the "primary school fund," as it is called, has been
increased by the addition of one-half of the yearly
cash receipts from the sale of swamp lands belonging to the State. It is estimated that when all the
lands are sold, the primary school fund will reach
the sum of four and a-half millions of dollars, and
earn an annual income of three hundred thousand
dollars for the support of schools. So much for
the financial foundation of the Michigan school
system. After the State was admitted into the Union, one
of the first steps of interest in this connection was
the appointment of a Superintendent of Public
Instruction. Bv the advice of General Isaac E.
Crary, Governor Mason selected for this important
office the Rev. John D. Pierce, a Congregational
clergyman, who was engaged in missionary work
among the pioneers of central Michigan. The first
State Superintendent of Public Instruction was a
man of sound culture, broad views, and good judgment. He had studied the school system of Prussia
with care, and in mapping out a plan for Michigan
he availed himself of whatever good things he could
discover anywhere. Under his careful guidance, laws
were devised and plans perfected for an educational
system that has been a permanent blessing to the people of the State.
Father Pierce — as the founder of the Michigan
school system is reverenth called — wished (1) to
place the primary school within the reach of every
child in the State; and (2) to establish a State
University* for the higher culture of advanced students.
The plan which was drawn up by Superintendent
Pierce, and passed by act of the Legislature in 1837,
contained most of the essential" features of the present school system. And when it is remembered that
Father Pierce was the first State Superintendent of
Public Instruction in the United States, we are the
better prepared to appreciate the wisdom and foresight of the founder of Michigan schools.
After five years of hard work in the educational
field, the worthy State Superintendent resigned his
office to other hands, and resumed the work of the
Other educational institutions were provided from
time to time. The State Kormal School—at Ypsilanti — was chartered in 1849; the Agricultural College— at Lansing — in 1855. The latter was the
first agricultural college established in the United
States. In providing for general education, the
unfortunate have not been forgotten. There are (1)
the School for the Blind — at Lansing; (2) the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb — at Flint; (3) the
State Public School for Dependent Children — at
Coldwater.* Youthful criminals and unmanageable
children may be sent to the Reform School for Boys
—at Lansing—or the State Industrial Home for Girls
—at Adrian—where they receive sound training, and
often become good members of society.
Meanwhile, one department after another has been
added to the State University, eminent teachers have
been employed, and it has become one of the leading
educational institutions in America.
The public schools have grown from the modest
beginnings of pioneer days, until their good influence, in "some measure at least, has reached every
nook and corner of the State. The high schools of
the cities and villages have done excellent service as
connecting links between the primary schools and
the higher institutions of learning, and in providing
the means of fair culture to large numbers of students who could not or would not secure it otherwise.
It is to be hoped that this educational system,
established by the founders of Michigan, and nurtured by several generations of patriotic citizens,
may be cherished in the future as in the past, for
education is the chief safeguard of a free State.
Most of the early settlers of interior Michigan
came from New England, New York, and Ohio.
Reared in the enjoyment of many of the blessings
of American citizenship, they were alive to the value
of the refining and ennobling influences of intellectual, moral, and religious training. Hence, they were
the firm friends of the school and the church. Some
of them came from the birth-place of the "town
meeting," and they took an active interest in the
wise and honest government of their adopted State.
Intelligent and public spirited, but prudent as well,
they were good and safe citizens.
The style of living was necessarily plain. For
clothing, "cheap, coarse cloth answered the purpose,
and the wives and daughters made it up for use.
The pioneers could not be particular about other
qualities of their cloth than those of wear and comfort, and nobody would criticise the style or the fit.
Silks for the woman and broadcloth for the man
were rare extravagances; many a bridegroom, destined to become an important personage in business
and political circles, went to the altar in Kentucky
jean, and received his bride in calico; and the wedding journey, from the bride's home to the husband's,
was made with an ox-team. * * There was little
sentimentality in this, but there was New England
hard sense, and good promise of domestic virtues and
The first houses were log cabins, and the food of
the pioneers, like the clothing, was plain and substantial. Hard work was the order of the day.
Village loungers and corner loafers were scarce among
the people who converted the forests and " oak-openings" of the past into the fine farms and fruitful orchards of the present.
Hospitality and genuine friendship are usual characteristics of pioneers, and the "pathfinders" of the
Michigan wilderness were bright examples of the
general rale. One who knew them says, they " were
a band of brothers in those times that tried men's
souls. If one had a barrel of flour, it was divided
with the others. K"o one was allowed to want for
what another had."
MORMONS IN MICHIGAN.
In 1847, a colony of Mormons, under the leadership of James J. Strang, located on Beaver Island.
Their settlement was on the shore of the beautiful
bay still occupied by the little hamlet of St. James
—which they founded and named after their leader.
Strang styled himself "King," and monopolized the
offices of "apostle, prophet, seer, revelator, and
translator." At first the Morman colony consisted
of only five families, but a system of vigorous proselyting increased their numbers to nearly two thousand
persons within the few years of their stay on the
island. But internal dissensions arose, and Strang
was assassinated in 1856. Soon after the death of
the leader,¦ the colony was dispersed by an armed
band of fishermen from the neighboring shores, and
the Mormons were given only twenty-four hours to
"emigrate," which they lost no time in doing.
REMOVAL OF THE STATE CAPITAL-1847.
From the time of Cadillac's occupancy of Fort
Pontchartrain (1701) until 1847, the seat of government was at Detroit, but in the latter year the
Legislature decided to locate the permanent capital
of Michigan at Lansing—then covered by a dense
forest, and forty miles distant from a railroad. The
project was greeted with both ridicule and severe
denunciation at first, but the decision was made and
the location—on the banks of the Grand Riverproved to be pleasant and generally satisfactory.
SECOND CONSTITUTION OF MICHIGAN—1850.
After an experience of more than a dozen years
with the State Constitution under which Michigan
came into the Union, the people wished to make
some changes in the supreme law of the Commonwealth, and a convention for that purpose met at
Lansing in June, 1850. After careful preparation,
a new .Constitution was submitted to the people, by
whom it was adopted in due time.
Among other changes, the second Constitution
provides for the election, by the people, of all heads
of State Departments and Judges of the Supreme
Court, thereby lessening the power formerly given
to the Governor, and placing the selection of the
principal State officers—where it properly belongs—
with the people,
Suitable- restrictions are placed upon the Legislature to prevent the recurrence of any of the reckless
financial management that involved the State in
debt and loss in the early days.
In their desire to be economical, the framers of
the new Constitution fixed the salaries of State officers at low rates, and named the respective sums in
an instrument which cannot be changed without the
consent of a majority of the legal voters. The salaries of the Governor, State Treasurer, Auditor
General, and Superintendent of Public Instruction
were fixed at $1,000 each, per annum; the Secretary of State, Commissioner of the Land Office, and
Attorney General at $800 each. These salaries were
low at the time, and, with the changed conditions
of the labor market and cost of living, they have
long been regarded as entirely out of keeping with
the value of the services required, and not at all
creditable to the great State of Michigan. Attempts
have accordingly been made to amend this clause of
the Constitution so as to offer a reasonable compensation for services that at present are only rendered
by men of ability at a constant personal loss.*
Strange to say, however, thus far (1886) the amendment has failed to pass.
When Michigan was admitted into the Union, the
Democratic party was in power and the Governor of
the State was a member of that party. Dissatisfaction with the financial mismanagement of 1837 and
1838 caused a change in the political control of the
State, which was secured by the Whig party—headed
by William Woodbridge—for a single term. From
1841 to 1854 the Democrats were again in power.
In the latter year the newly organized Republican
party elected its candidates, and, with the exception
of a single term—1883-85—has continued in political
control of the State to the present time (1886).
REFERENCE LISTS OF PROMINENT OFFICERS OF
Governors of the State. *
Stevens T. Mason.....................1837 to 1840
William Woodbridge...................1840 " 1841
J. Wright Gordon (acting).............1841 « 1842
John S. Barry........................1842 " 1846
Alpheus Felch........................1846 « 1847
Wm. L. Greenly (acting)..............1847 " 1848
Epaphroditus Ransom..................1848 *¦ 1850
John S. Barry........................1850 " 1852
Robert McClelland....................1852 " 1855
Andrew Parsons (acting)..............1853 " 1855
Kinsley S. Bingham...................1855 " 1859
Moses Wisner.........................1859 « 1861
Austin Blair..........................1861 « 1865
Henry H. Crapo________-'.............1865 " 186&
Henry P. Baldwin....................1869 " 1873
John J. Bagley.......................1873 " 1877
Charles M. Croswell...................1877 " 1881
David H. Jerome......................1881 " 1883
Josiah W. Begole......................1883 " 1885
Russell A. Alger......................1885 " 1887
Superintendents of Public Instruction.
Rev. John D. Pierce..................1837 to 1841
Franklin Sawyer.....................1841 " 1843
Oliver G. Comstock....................1843 « 1845
Ira Mayhew...........................1845 « 1849
Francis W. Shearman.................1849 « 1855
Ira Mayhew...........................1855 " 1859
John M. Gregory......................1859 " 1865
Oramel Hosford......................-1865 " 1873
Daniel B. Briggs......................1873 " 1877
Horace S. Tarbell.....................1877 " 1878
Cornelius A Gower....................1878 " 1881
Varnum B. Cochran...................1881 " 18S3
Herschel R. Gass......................1883 « 1885
Rev. Theodore Nelson.................1885 « 1887
U. S. Senators from Michigan,
Lucius Lyon... ......................1836 to 1840
John Norvell.........................1836 " 1841
Augustus S. Porter....................1840 " 1845
"William Woodbridge..................1841 " 1847
Lewis Cass............................1845 " 1848
Alpheus Felch........................1847 " 1853
Charles E. Stuart...................1853 « 1859
Zachariah Chandler____...............1857 " 1875
Kinsley S. Bingham...................1859 " 1861
Jacob M. Howard..............._.....1862 " 1871
Thomas W. Ferry.....................1871 " 1883
Isaac P. Christiancy...................1875 1879
Zachariah Chandler...................J1879 " -
Henry P. Baldwin_________...........1879 " 1881
Omar D. Conger......................1881 « 1887
Thomas W. Palmer_________..........1883 « 1889
Michigan Members of Presidents* Cabinets.
General Lewis Cass, Secretary of State under
Robert McClelland, Secretary of the Interior
under President Pierce.
Zachariah Chandler, Secretary of the Interior
under President Grant.
MICHIGAN IN THE CIVIL WAR—1861-&5.
During the four years of the Civil War, Michigan
was fortunate in having Austin Blair as her chief
executive. Every effort was made to lend all possible
support to the United States government in its
struggle for existence. Few States were more prompt,
and none sent braver soldiers to the front. All
told, Michigan furnished 90,747 men, of whom
14,800 died in the service of the Nation. The 'war
Governor" devoted his entire time and energy to
the performance of his public duties, and earned
the respect and gratitude *of all patriotic citizens.
The veteran General Cass,* who had recently been
a member of President Buchanan's cabinet, was
present at the first "war meeting" held in Detroit
and lifted his voice in support of the federal
At that time, Zachariah Chandler was a member
of the United States Senate, and no man exerted a
more vigorous influence in opposition to the Rebellion than the brave and outspoken " war Senator of
Michigan." On the floor of the Senate, in public
speeches, in hisMntercourse with the people and with
the oflicials of the Nation—everywhere, Senator
Chandler was an active and influential supporter of
the Constitution and an unflinching foe to treason
and disunion. He was the champion of whatever he
believed to be right, and no threats or dangers were
sufficient to turn him from the path of honor or the
performance of duty. As the friend of the soldier,
he rendered unnumbered services of kindness. "A
blue uniform gained for its wearer prompt admittance to his room and a careful hearing for any
With prudent and fearless leaders, and brave
soldiers, Michigan made a good record in the war.
In 1852, Congress granted 750,000 acres of land
to the State of Michigan for the construction of a
ship-canal around the rapids of the St. Mary's River.
The contract was let to a private company and the
canal and lock wore completed in 1855. This opened
Lake Superior to the navigators of the lower lakes
and exerted a great influence upon the development
of the Upper Peninsula. A new lock, with a single
"lift" instead of the two used in the old lock, was
completed by the United States government in 1881,
and has proved of great convenience to the shipping
of the lakes.
The new State Capitol building was begun in
1873, and has been completed at a cost of about one
and one-half millions of dollars.
Under the present Constitution, the State Legislature consists of one hundred- Representatives and
thirty-two Senators, chosen at the general election—which is held on the first Tuesday after the first
Monday in November of every even year. The
Legislature holds one regular session every two years,
beginning on the first Wednesday of January after
the general election.
Under the apportionment based upon the census of 1880, Michigan is divided into eleven congressional
By the revision of the criminal laws in 1846, the death penalty for murder in the first degree was
changed to imprisonment for life.
From 1855 to 1875 the State had a prohibitory liquor
law on her statute books. Since that time laws have
been enacted for the taxation and restraint of this traffic.
REFERENCE LISTS OF STATE INSTITUTIONS.
State University........................Ann Arbor
" Agricultural College..................Lansing
" Normal School--------..............Ypsilanti
" Institution for the Deaf and Dumb......Flint
" Institution for the Blind.............Lansing
" Public School for Depend't Children, Coldwater
Michigan Mining School..................Houghton
Educational and Reformatory.
State Reform School for Boys..............Lansing
" Industrial Home for Girls.............Adrian
Insane Asylums____Kalamazoo, Pontiac, Traverse City
Soldiers' Home.......................Grand Rapids
State'House of Correction....................Ionia
" ¦ " .............................Marquette
The first half century of State history has witnessed many wonderful changes. In 1837 the interior
was sparsely settled, and the forests and prairies
showed few signs of human industry. Wagon roads
were scarce and poor, and there was no completed
railroad. Postal arrangements were exceedingly inconvenient, and correspondence was an expensive
luxury. The population of the State was 174,467.
Cities there were none. Schools, churches, and
newspapers were few, and the privations of pioneer
life were many and severe.
Fifty years have changed the wilderness into more
than a hundred thousand cultivated farms. Five
thousand miles of railroads afford good market and
travelling facilities to the people of almost every
county in the State. The census gatherer reports a
population of nearly two millions of people. Ten
thousand schools afford instruction to about four
hundred thousand pupils. Churches are numerous,