DETROIT 1815-1816
Pioneer Society of Michigan 1876
by Samuel Zug Secretary of the Pioneer Society

Wayne County Michigan




Gentlemen of the Detroit Pioneer Society, — I have in my possession part of a newspaper published in Detroit in 1834, containing an account of the buildings in the city in 1815-16. I have also a reprint of the same published in the " Advertiser,'' Jan. 7th, 1858, with explanations of the locality of some of the places. I copy the first article, and some of the explanations from the second, and add others that will enable these now living (1876) to locate the places.

The act to incorporate the city of Detroit was passed Oct. 24,1815. By this account, at that early day our city must have boon a very small place. For aid in locating some of these places, 1 am indebted to earlier residents, and to older heads than mine.

In 1815-16 there was but one wharf in front of Detroit. This was called the " public wharf " ; it consisted mostly of a pier, formed by a crib of logs, filled in with stone or gravel, and about 150 feet from the shore, with which it was connected by a bridge or plank way. All vessels, public, or private, had to load at this wharf. The rest of the water-front of the place was nearly in a state of nature. After other wharves were built, the bridge of this old one fell into decay. The wharf was built where Buhl & Ducharme's hardware store now is, on Woodbridge street.

The buildings then standing nearest the water's edge, were the public store house,—taken down in 1830. This small store house was the last remnant of the town which was destroyed by fire in 1805. That part of the city south of Michigan avenue (north of Lamed), west of Griswold street, and east of the Cass farm line, together with that (south of Larned) to the water, and west of Wayne street, to the Cass line, except a strip along the west line of Wayne street, south of Jefferson avenue, belonged to and was occupied by the U- S. for military purposes, and was known as the Military Reserve.

The wharf and store house above mentioned belonged to the United States, and therefore were called "public." The building belonging to Mr. Hunt was west of and near Wayne street. The Meldrum House, still standing on Woodbridge street, at the corner of the alley leading down between Joseph Campau's and Seeks* house was the next building. This was a two-story wood house, a little east of, and opposite the Board of Trade building, and was taken down about ten years since. In this house, the " Detroit Gazette," established in 1817, was first printed. Nearly opposite where Campbell's tavern now stands was another smaller building, while that which is immediately in the rear of the Campaus', was the third and lost house on the water's edge, between the Meldrum house and Judge Abbott's present house.

Campbells tavern was afterwards the "Eagle" last kept by B.S. Farnsworth. It stood where Farnsworths two brick stores (Nos. 31 and 33) now stand—at present occupied by a commission and a candy house. At that time the shore line was nearly up to Woodbridge street. Immediately below Judge Abbott's was the ferry-house, a small log building still seen adjoining his red store, where the post-office, previous to 1830, was kept. The post-office was kept by Judge James Abbott, and was where Allen, Sheldon & Co.'s store on Woodward avenue now stands. the ferry-house was directly below.

On the east side of Woodward avenue, or Market street, stood the Jermain House, nearest to the water. This house is now the third from the corner of Atwater street; the corner being vacant. Nearly in the rear of the Jermain House was a small log building which was recently pulled down. Mrs. McNiffs house (since Major Rowland's); the Elliot House (where Mr. Sanderson afterwards built) and the Magee House, still standing next to the brick market, were the other houses, then between Market and Randolph streets. On the other side of that street, still following, the course of the water's edge, was the Bartlett House, now occupied by Mr. Lebot, the gunsmith. A small building and a tan-yard (neither now remaining) filled up the interval between Randolph street, and the Brush house (still standing) was at the gateway of the pickets on that side of the town. These pickets, a line of which surrounded the town, had been erected during the war, immediately preceding, and ran from this gateway at the Brush house up to Jefferson avenue, and crossed it on the eastern line of Judge Sibley's present place. This avenue terminated there, and had a block-house in the center of it. The pickets extended thence to about the end of Michigan avenue, turning near LaPicre's house, and crossing Woodward avenue near Mr. Fournier's present house, joined the pickets around the military grounds. There was also a gateway at the west end of the town, near what is now the Mansion house, which was connected by pickets with the military grounds on that side.

The Germain house was on the first lot north of Chauncey Hurlbut*s present store. The vacant corner lot is whore Eaton's store now is. the small log building was on the lot first north on Bates street, and where a brick building stands, now occupied by " Schcuts." Mrs. McNiff's house was on the lot where Hawley's malt house is, on the east side of Bates street. The Magee and Elliot houses were on the north side of Atwater street, where the two-story brick saloons and sailors* boarding houses now stand. The brick market was on the northwest corner of Randolph and Atwater streets, and was called the "Berthlet market." The Berthlet house was on the north side of Atwater street and a little east from the northeast comer of Randolph street. The Brush house was near the intersection of Atwater and Brush streets, and the pickets ran North, nearly through the center of the block between Randolph and Brush streets, and La Piere's house was at their intersection with Congress street,—Pounder's on Russell house corner. In ascending Randolph street from the water's edge, on the left-hand side, was Lamothe's house, standing nearly where the brick market now stands, and Wood worth's; these, with the house on the southeast comer of Randolph and Woodbridge streets, were all the dwellings between the water's edge and Jefferson avenue. The old Council house, then only one story high, and Gov. Hull's (now Major Biddle's) house, formed the two comers of Randolph street and Jefferson avenue. The present brick stable opposite to Woodworth's was then standing. On the opposite comer of Randolph street stood the wooden part of Judge Sibley's present house, and the office of the old Detroit Bank, a small brick building, occupying the site of Major Kearsley's present office. There were no buildings on the west side of Randolph street beyond the Bank. Beyond Judge Sibley's, on the other or east side, were seven houses. Boulinger's (since moved or torn down), S. Andre's, Major Whipple's, Judo Abbott's, Drouillard's, and La Piere's.

Lamothe's house was on the lot on the northwest corner of Atwater and Randolph streets, afterwards known as Borthlot market, and destroyed by fire in 1848. Woodworths hotel burnt by the same fire, stood on the northwest corner of Randolph and Woodbridge streets. The old council house was where the western half of the Fireman's Hall now stands. Gov. Hull's was where the Biddle house now is, and a little east from the comer. Judge Sibley's house was opposite the Biddle House, and Major Keareley's and the old Detroit Bank were on the northwest corner. the Whipple house was where Chopes' wagon shop now is.

Ascending Bates street in the same manner, Mrs. McNiff's house on one side and Mr. Wing's (then Hudson's) on the other, wore the only houses between Woodbridge street and the water. Between Woodbridge street and Jefferson avenue stood the present yellow building of Gen. William's, on the comer of Bates and Woodbridge streets, and Mrs. Hanks' house (still standing) nearly opposite Gen. Williams' house and store (a one story wooden building) then occupied the site of his present brick stores. Mr. Peter Desnoyor's house (his store then a part of it) occupied, as it now does, the northwest comer opposite. Between Jefferson avenue and the pickets, there were no other houses on Bates street, excepting a small log house of Mrs. McMillan's at the comer of Larued street. As before stated, the McNiff house was where the malt house now is; Wing's house was on the southwesterly comer of Woodbridge and Bates streets, where Gov. Bagley is now building. Gen. J. R. Williams' yellow store was on the southeast comer of Bates street and Jefferson avenue, with the dwelling in the rear. Mr. Desnoyor's house was on the northwest corner of the same streets. The McMillan house was on the southwest comer of Bates and Lamed streets.

Ascending Market street (or as now known, Woodward avenue) in the same manner, on the right hand Bide, the Germain house (as has been mentioned) was the nearest to the water, there being one house, occupied by Doctor Henry, between it and Mr. Jacob Smith's (now occupied by Mr. Brownson) on the comer of Woodbridge street. On the other Bide above the before-mentioned ferry-house stood the present rod store of Judge Abbott, and one-half the present house.

The Scott house, now Col. Anderson's, and Col. Richard Smith's were between Woodbridge street and Jefferson, on the same side, while the Godfrey house on the other corner of Woodbridge and Market street, was the only building on the other side. This house of Mr. Godfrey's was moved to the foot of Griswold street, during the year 1833-4. the four corners of the intersection of Woodward street and Jefferson avenue wore then unoccupied.

The Smith or Bronson House was on the southeast corner of Woodbridge, the Godfrey House on the northeast corner, the Scott or Anderson House where the Mariners' Church now stands ; the house of Doctor Henry was between Chauncey Hurlbuts and the corner above the Abbott House was just below the corner where Baldwin's shoe store now stands.

Proceeding up Woodward avenue towards the "common," Mr. Smart's present dwelling-house on one side and Gen. Larned's on the other were all that stood between Jefferson avenue and Larned street,—on the west side was a small house, La Garde's, on the corner of the street, Mr. Cole's present house. Another small one—A. Langdon's—on the site of Mrs. Devereux's present house, the same on the site of Dr. Kurd's, and two other small dwellings still standing. On the opposite side of the street, between the present church and the pickets, were three small houses, since moved or taken down, occupied by Peltier, Monet, and Fouruier. Neither Griswold, Shelby, or Cass streets were then opened. On Woodbridge street there were no other houses than these which have been mentioned, excepting one small building on the south side, between Bates and Randolph streets.

Mr. Smart's dwelling was where Preston's bank now is; Gen. Larned's house was on the west side of the street. Nail's and Steam's two stores occupy the site of LaGardo's house; T. A. Parker's and the stove stores are on the site of Mr. Cote's old residence; Mrs. Doveroaux's house was where Abbott & Kotchum's carpet store now is; the Hurd house on the northwest comer of Congress street; the Fouruier, Peltier, and Monet houses were on the east side, between Congress street and the Russell house, and Fouruier was on the Russell house corner.

Ascending Jefferson avenue from the west, the first house above Gov. Cass' farm (then owned by the heirs of Wm. Macomb) was a one-story stone building just at the entrance gate. It forms the first story of the main building of the present "mansion house it was then owned by Judge Woodward, and occupied as an inn by Major Whipple. The barn of the establishment and a small store stood in a line with and between it and the military grounds. The front of these military grounds began at the present Cass street and extended to Wayne, running up Wayne to Lamed, up that street to Griswold, and up Griswold to Michigan avenue, thence by the line of that avenue to Gov. Cass' farm.* On the river side of the avenue the first building was the public store, standing a little below the slope contiguous to Mr. Kercheval's garden. Col. Henry I. Hunt's house and store—the house now Kercheral's, the store the present postoffice—were the next.

Between Wayne and Shelby street, on the same side, stood the same buildings that are still there, excepting Mrs. Itoby's; Mr. Kinsey occupying the first, Mr. Audrain, the receiver, the second, and Doctor Edwards the third. On the site of Mrs. Bohr's present house, and where Mr. Conanfs brick stores are being built, stood an old house occupied by Mrs. Dodemead.

On the opposite side of the avenue between the same streets, were only Mr. D. Campau's (next to Mr. Mondell's), and the Thibault; above the Thibanlt house stood a building, in what is now Shelby street, that was then occupied as an ordinary store. It now forms the dwelling of Mr. Levi Cook in Shelby street. Mr. Coots' house was the next. the site of Mr. Sheldon's brick stores was then occupied by a one-story yellow store, one half of which had been used as a jail. The foundation of the Catholic church burnt down iu 1805 filled up most of the space now occupied by Messrs. Wright's, Cook's, and Brown's buildings. It projected half across Jefferson avenue, the rubbish, however was then being removed. Between this foundation and the present Griswold street was Mr. Deqnindre's house,—where Mr. Wells' book store, etc., now is and the store afterwards occupied by Mr. Newberry, and burnt down while occupied by Mr. "Wendell. The Mansion Honse (hotel) was where Parker, Holmes & Co.'s tobacco store now is. the Henry I. Hunt house and store on the southwest corner of Wayne street and the avenue. The Kinzie house was where Jeuncss and Fisko's crockery store now is. the Audrain house was where Bourkes' liquor store stands. The Edwards house was on the spot occupied now by Johnson and Wheeler, Nos. 100 and 102. The Roby house and the Conaut stores are now the Michigan Exchange The Dodemead house was on the corner east of Shelby street. The Dennis Campan house was where Wormer's machinery depot now is. The Thibault house was on what is now the northwest corner of Shelby street and the avenue, and Mrs. Coates' was the northeast corner.

The brick stores^Nos. 141 and 143, known as the Chaffee stores, are on the old church lot, and the Dcquindro, Wells, and Newberry places are between these and Griswold street. On the other side of the avenue, there were between Shelby and Griswold streets only Mr. Conrad Seek's, and Mr. Joseph Campau's house. the Seek house was where Mr. McGraw's shoe store is, and the Campau house may be seen by all. A store and house belonging to Mr, Carrie, and a store belonging to Mr. Ten Eyck, had stood between Market and Griswold streets, but were burnt down in 1815. The block was sold in 1816 in four lots to Col. Mack and Major Dcquindro. The Major put up his late dwelling house and store in 1816. On the other side of the avenue between the same streets were the building still at the comer of Griswold street, and the Piquette house now Mr. Piquotte and Miss Moon's Shops. the Piquetto house was on the lot where T. J. Scotts bank stands.

Between Market street (Woodward avenue) and Bates street were Mr. Desnoyer's house on the northwest comer of Bates street, and Mr. Harvey's house and bakery on the south side opposite to Mr. Desnoyer's. Continuing up the avenue, on the north side was a singularly narrow two-story house, where Mrs* Calhoun's shop now is. The next was Oliver Williams' "Globe" tavern (Maj. Keorsloy's late dwelling); between that and the office of the Detroit Bank, were Dr. Brown's, Mr. Homer's, Mr. Cook's, and Dr. McCoskry's, all still standing, though some of them in a modified state. These were scattered in the order named, between Bates and Randolph streets.

On the other side of the avenue, after Gen. Williams' store, came Mr. Palmer's tavern, an old one-story building, then the present Miller house, Judge Chipman's (then Col. Stephen Marks'); and Mr. B. Campau's, which was then, as now, next to the council-house. Gov. Hull's house on the south side, and Judge Sibley's on the other side, were the last houses on the avenue in that direction.

The Williams store or dwelling, as has been stated, was on the southeast corner of Bates street and the avenue—the Palmer tavern, where Beatty & Fitzsimmons store is—the Miller and Mack house between that and the Campau house, which was directly west of Fireman's hall. There were two or three other small buildings then on Larned street, such as the Belcher house, the Gobelle house in the rear of Wormor'a store on Jefferson avenue, and another on Griswold street.

The Catholic service was then held in the house of Mr. La Salle, on a farm about two miles below the town, now Maj. Stanton's (18th street). There was then not a place of public worship in Detroit. The stores in the place at that time were If. I. Hunt's, at the southwest corner of Wayne street and the avenue, Mack & Conant, in the east end of the Kinsey building (Jenness & Fiske's crockery store), A. Edwards', John R. Williams' P. J. Penoyer's, northwest corner of Bates street and the avenue, and P. Lecuyer's, opposite the Biddle house. The taverns wore Whipple's, Williams', Palmer's, Woodworth's, and Smith's. There were four lawyers and two doctors.

Not a vessel that then navigated the lakes was owned iu Detroit. There were but three or four on Lake Eric, belonging mostly to the British. A "public" vessel,—the brig Hunter, was the ordinary means of communication between Detroit and Buffalo. The road around the lake was not practicable for wheels one-third of the distance, and for one-third of the year scarcely available for a horse.

No road led out of Detroit except up and down the river. The mail was brought in on horseback, once a week, in a small mail bag, which, in bad traveling, was borne on a man's shoulders, through the black swamp. It thus continued to be brought till 1827, when the first line of wheel carriages was established between Detroit and Ohio.

The military grounds were occupied by Fort Shelby and the infantry cantonment with a few outbuildings. Fort Shelby, which stood at the intersection of Fort and Shelby streets, was thrown up by Major Le Nault, the British commander, in 17??. Judge McDonald's late residence, on the corner of Fort and Shelby streets, was the quarters of the commanding officer of the Fort. The quarters of the commanding officer of the cantonmont still remain on the bock part of the lots 9 and 10 Congress street, partly in the alley behind, the Adjutant's office was the small building now standing on the rear of Colonel Brooks' lot. The military burying ground occupied most of the square formed by Fort Shelby, Lafayette, and Griswold streets. During the year 1828, the bones of the bodies deposited there were removed to the new burying ground. The surface was taken off three or four foot to fill up the embankment then in process of construction on the whole water front of the city. Lots 9 and 10 were on the north side of Congress street, the second and third lots east from Wayne street. It may be proper to state that full two-thirds of this article had been copied before the recent articles on the same subject appeared iu the "Post" and "Tribune." The one confirms the other, and either may be taken as a very correct description.