Ingham & Livingston Counties
GOVERNORS OF MICHIGAN
STEPHEN T. MASON
Image of Stephen T. Mason
Stephen T. Mason, the first Governor of Michigan, was a son of Gen. John T. Mason, of Kentucky, but was born in
Virginia, in 1812. At the age of 19 be was appointed Secretary of Michigan Territory, and
served in that capacity during the administration of Gov. George B. Porter. Upon the death of Gov. Porter, which occurred on the 6th of July, 1834, Mr. Mason became Acting Governor. In October, 1835, he was elected Governor under the State
organization, and immediately entered upon the performance of the duties of the office, although the
State was not yet admitted into the Union. After the State was admitted into the Union, Governor
Mason was re-elected to the position, and served with credit to himself and to the
advantage of the State. He died Jan. 4, 1843. The principal event during
Governor Mason's official career, was that arising from the disputed southern boundary of the State.
Michigan claimed for her southern boundary
a line running east across the peninsula from the extreme southern point of Lake Michigan, extending through Lake Erie, to the Pennsylvania line. This she claimed as a vested
right--a right accruing to her by compact. This compact was the ordinance of 1787,
the parties to which were the original 13 States, and the territory northwest of the
Ohio; and, by the succession of parties under statutory amendments to the ordinance and laws of
Congress--the United States on the one part, and each Territory northwest of the
Ohio, as far as affected by their provisions, on the other. Michigan, therefore, claimed it under grant,
of assignation of boundary.
Image of William Woodbridge
WILLIAM WOODBRIDGE, second Governor of Michigan, was born at Norwich, Conn., Aug. 20,
1780, and died at Detroit Oct. 20, 1861. He was of a family of three
brothers and two sisters. His father, Dudley Woodbridge, removed to Marietta, Ohio, about
1790. The life of Wm. Woodbridge, by Chas. Lauman, from which this sketch is largely compiled, mentions nothing
concerning his early education beyond the fact that it was such as was afforded by the average school of the time, except a year with the French colonists at
Gallipolls, where he acquired a knowledge of the French language. It should be borne in mind, however, that home education at that time was
an indispensable feature in the training of the young. To this and to a few studies well mastered, is due that strong mental discipline which has served as a basis for many of the grand intellects that have adorned and helped to
make our National history.
JOHN STEWARD BARRY
Image of John S. Barry
John Steward Barry, Governor of Michigan from Jan. 3, 1842, to Jan. 5, 1846, and
from Jan. 7, 1850, to Jan. 1, 1852, was born at Amherst, N. H., Jan. 29, 1802. His parents, John and Ellen (Steward) Barry, early removed to Rockingham, Vt., where he remained until
he became of age, working on his father's farm, and pursuing his studies at the same time. He married Mary Kidder, of Grafton, Vt., and in 1824 went to Georgia, Vt., where he
had charge of an academy for two years, meanwhile studying law. He afterward practiced law in
that State. While he was in Georgia he was for some time a member of the Governor's staff, with the title
of Governor's Aid, and at a somewhat earlier period was Captain of a company of State militia. In
1831 he removed to Michigan, and settled at White Pigeon, where he engaged in mercantile business with
I. W. Willard.
Four years after, 1834, Mr. Barry removed to Constantine and continued his mercantile pursuits. He became Justice of the Peace at White Pigeon, Mich. in 1831, and held the office until the year 1835. Mr. Barry's first public office was that of a member of the first constitutional convention, which assembled and framed the constitution upon which Michigan was admitted into the Union. He took an important and prominent part in the proceedings of that body, and showed himself to be a man of far more than ordinary ability.
Upon Michigan being admitted into the Union, Mr. Barry was chosen State Senator, and so favorably were his associates impressed, with his abilities at the first session of the Legislature that they looked to him as a party leader, and that he should head he State ticket at the following election. Accordingly he received the nomination for Governor at the hands of his party assembled in convention. He was elected, and so popular was his administration that, in 1842, he was again elected. During these years Michigan was embarrassed by great financial difficulties, and it was through his wisdom and sound judgment that the State was finally placed upon a solid financial basis.
During the first year of Gov. Barry's first term, the University at Ann Arbor was opened for the reception (114) of students. The Michigan Central and Michigan Southern railroads were being rapidly constructed, and general progress was everywhere noticeable. In 1842, the number of pupils reported as attending the public schools was nearly fifty-eight thousand. In 1843, a State land office was established at Marshall, which was invested with the charge and disposition of all the lands belonging to the State. In 1844, the taxable property of the State was found to be over twenty-eight millions of dollars, the tax being at the rate of two mills on the dollar. The expenses of the State were only seventy thousand dollars, while the income from the railroads was nearly three hundred thousand dollars. At this time the University of Michigan had become so prosperous that its income was ample to pay the interest on the University debt; and the amount of money which the State was able to loan the several progressing railroads was one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. Efforts were made to increase the efficiency of the common schools with good results. In 1845, when Gov. Barry's second term expired, the population of the State was more than three hundred thousand.
The constitution of the State forbade more than two consecutive terms, but he was called upon to fill the position again in 1850--the only instance of the kind in the history of the State. He was a member of the Territorial Legislature, of the Constitutional Convention, and afterward of the State House of Representatives.
During Mr. Barry's third term as Governor the Normal School was established at Ypsilanti, which was endowed with lands and placed in charge of a board of education consisting of six persons. A new constitution for the government of the State was a also adopted and the "Great Railway Conspiracy Case" was tried. This grew out of a series of lawless acts which had been committed upon the property of the Michigan Central Railroad Company, along the line of their road, and finally the burning of the depot at Detroit, in 1850.
At a setting of the grand jury of Wayne County April 24, 1851, 37 men of the 50 under arrest for this crime were indicted. May 20, following, the accused parties appeared at the Circuit Court of Wayne, of which Warner Wing, was resident Judge. The Railroad Company employed ten eminent lawyers, including David Stuart, John Van Arman, James A. Van Dyke, Jacob M. Howard, Alex. D. Fraser, Daniel Goodwin and William Gray. The defendants were represented by six members of the State bar, led by William H. Seward, of New York. The trial occupied four months, during which time the plaintiffs examined 246 witnesses in 27 days, and the defendants 249 in 40 days. Mr. Van Dyke addressed the jury for the prosecution; William H. Seward for the defense.
The great lawyer was convinced of the innocence of his clients, nor did the verdict of that jury and the sentence of that judge remove his firm belief that his clients were the victims of purchased treachery, rather than so many sacrifices to justice.
The verdict of "guilty" was rendered at 9 o'clock P.M., Sept. 25, 1851. On the 26th the prisoners were put forward to receive sentence, when many of them protested their entire innocence, after which the presiding judge condemned 12 of the number to the following terms of imprisonment, with hard labor, within the State's prison, situate in their county: Ammi Filley, ten years; Orlando L. Williams, ten years; Aaron Mount, eight years; Andrew J. Freeland, eight years; Eben Farnham, eight years; William Corvin, eight years; Richard Price, eight years; Evan Price, eight years; Lyman Champlin, five years; Willard W. Champlin, five years; Erastus Champlin, five years; Erastus Smith, five years,
In 1840, Gov. Barry became deeply interested in the cultivation of the sugar beet, and visited Europe to obtain information in reference to its culture.
He was twice Presidential Elector, and his last public service was that of a delegate to the National Democratic Convention held in Chicago in 1864.
He was a man who, throughout life, maintained a high character for integrity and fidelity to the trusts bestowed upon him, whether of a public or a private nature, and he is acknowledged by all to have been one of the most efficient and popular Governors the State has ever had.
Gov. Barry was a man of incorruptible integrity. His opinions, which he reached by the most thorough investigation, he held tenaciously. His strong convictions and outspoken honesty made it impossible for him to take an undefined position when a principle was involved. His attachments and prejudices were strong, yet he was never accused of favoritism in his administration of public affairs. As a speaker he was not remarkable. Solidity, rather than brilliancy, characterized his oratory, which is described as argumentative and instructive, but cold, hard, and entirely wanting in rhetorical ornament. He was never eloquent, seldom humorous or sarcastic, and in manner rather awkward.
Although Mr. Barry's educational advantages were so limited, he was a life-long student. He mastered both ancient and modern languages, and acquired a thorough knowledge of history. No man owed less to political intrigue as a means of gaining position. He was a true statesman, and gained public esteem by his solid worth. His political connections were always with the Democratic party, and his opinions were usually extreme.
Mr. Barry retired to private life after the beginning of the ascendancy of the Republican party, and carried on his mercantile business at Constantine. He died Jan. 14, 1870, his wife's death having occurred a year previous, March 30, 1869. They left no children.
Image of Alpheus Felch
Alpheus Felch, the third Governor of Michigan, was born in Limerick, Maine, September 28,
1806. His grandfather, Abijah Felch, was a soldier in the Revolution;
and when a young man, having with others obtained a grant of land between the Great and Little Ossipee Rivers, in Maine, moved to that
region when it was yet a wilderness. The father of Mr. Felch embarked in mercantile life at Limerick.
He was the first to engage in that business in that section, and continued it until his death. The death of the father, followed within a year by the death of the mother, left the subject of this sketch, then three years old, to
the care of relatives, and he found a home with his paternal grandfather, where he remained until his death.
Mr. Felch received his early education in the district school and a neighboring academy. In 1821 he became a student at Phillips Exter Academy, and, subsequently, entered Bowdoin College, graduated with the class of 1827. He at once began the study of law and was admitted to practice at Bangor, Me., in
He began the practice of his profession at
Houlton, Me., where he remained until 1833. The severity of the climate impaired his health, never very good, and
he found it necessary to seek a change of climate. He disposed of his library and started to seek a new
home. His intention was to join his friend, Sargent S. Prentiss, at
Vicksburg, Miss., but on his arrival at Cincinnati, Mr. Felch was
attacked by cholera, and when he had recovered sufficiently to permit of his traveling, found that the danger of the disease was too great to permit a journey down the river. He therefore determined to come to Michigan. He first began to practice in this State at Monroe,
where he continued until 1843, when he removed to Ann Arbor. He was elected to the
State Legislature in 1835, and continued a member of that body during the years 1836 and
1837. While he held this office, the general banking law of the State
was enacted, and went into operation. After mature deliberation, he became convinced that the proposed system of banking could not prove
beneficial to the public interests; and that, instead of relieving the people from the pecuniary difficulties under which they were laboring, it would result
in still further embarrassment. He, therefore, opposed the bill, and pointed out to the House the disasters which, in
his opinion, were sure to follow its passage. The public mind, however, was so favorably impressed by the measure that no other member, in either branch of the Legislature, raised a dissenting voice, and but two
voted with him in opposition to the bill. Early in 1838, he was appointed one of the Bank
Commissioners of the State, and held that office for more than a year. During
this time, the new banking law had given birth to that numerous progeny known as
"wild-cat" banks. Almost every village had its bank. The country
was flooded with depressed "wild-cat" money. The examinations of the Bank Commissioners
brought to light frauds at every point, which were fearlessly (118)
reported to the Legislature, and were followed by criminal prosecutions of the guilty parties, and the closing
of many of their institutions. The duties of the office were most laborious, and in 1839 Mr. Felch resigned. The chartered right of almost every bank
had, in the meantime, been declared forfeited and the law repealed. It was subsequently decided to
be constitutional by the Supreme Court of the State. In the year 1842 Governor Felch was appointed
to the office of Auditor-General of the State; but after holding the office only a few weeks, was commissioned by the Governor as one of the
Judges of the Supreme Court, to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge Fletcher. In January, 1843, he was
elected to the United States Senate for an unexpired term. In 1845 he was elected Governor of Michigan,
and entered upon his duties at the commencement of the next year. In 1847 he was elected a Senator
in Congress for six years; and at once retired from the office of Governor, by
resignation, which took effect March 4, 1847, when his Senatorial term
commenced. While a member of the Senate he acted on the Committee on Public Lands, and for four years was its Chairman. He filled the honorable position
of Senator with becoming dignity, and with great credit to the State of Michigan.
William L. Greenly
Image of William L. Greenly
WILLIAM L. GREENLY,
Governor of Michigan for the year 1847, was born at Hamilton, Madison Co.,
N. Y., Sept.
18, 1813. He graduated at Union College, Schenectady, in 1831, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1834. In 1836, having removed to Michigan, he settled in Adrian, where
he has since resided. The year following his arrival in Michigan he was elected State Senator and served in that capacity until 1839. In 1845
he was elected Lieut. Governor and became acting Governor by the resignation of
Gov. Felch, who was elected to the United States Senate.
The war with Mexico was brought to a successful termination during Gov. Greenly's administration. We regret to say that there are only few records extant of the action of Michigan troops in the Mexican war. That many went there and fought well are points conceded; but their names and nativity are hidden away in United States archives and where it is almost impossible to find them.
The soldiers of this State deserve much of the credit of the memorable achievements of Co. K, 3d Dragoons, and Cos. A, E, and G of the U. S. Inf. The two former of these companies, recruited in this State, were reduced to one-third their original number.
In May, 1846, the Governor of Michigan was notified by the War Department of the United States to enroll a regiment of volunteers, to be held in readiness for service whenever demanded. At his summons 13 independent volunteer companies, 11 of infantry and two of cavalry, at once fell into line. Of the infantry four companies were from Detroit. bearing the honored names of Montgomery, Lafayette, Scott and Brady upon their banners. Of the remainder Monroe tendered two, Lenawee County three, St. Clair, Berrien and Hillsdale each one, and Wayne County an additional company. Of these alone the veteran Bradys were accepted and ordered into service. In addition to them ten companies, making the First Regiment of Michigan Volunteers, springing from various parts of the State, but embodying to a great degree the material of which the first volunteers was formed, were not called for until October following. This regiment was soon in readiness and proceeded by orders from Government to the seat of war.
Image of Epaphroditus Ransom
The HON. EPAPHRODITUS
RANSOM, the Seventh
Governor of Michigan, was a native of Massachusetts. In that State he received a collegiate education, studied law,
and was admitted to the bar. Removing to Michigan about the time of its admission to the
Union, he took up his residence at Kalamazoo. Mr. Ransom served with marked
ability for a number of years in the State Legislature, and in 1837 he was appointed Associate justice of the Supreme Court. In 1843 he was promoted to Chief
Justice, which office he retained until 1845, when he resigned.
Shortly afterwards he became deeply interested in the building of plank roads in the western portion of the State, and in this business lost the greater portion of the property which he had accumulated by years of toil and industry.
Mr. Ransom became Governor of the State of Michigan in the fall of 1847, and served during one term, performing the duties of the office in a truly statesmanlike manner. He subsequently became President of the Michigan Agricultural Society, in which position be displayed the same ability that shone forth so prominently in his acts as Governor. He held the office of Regent of the Michigan University several times, and ever advocated a liberal policy in its management.
Subsequently he was appointed receiver of the land office in one of the districts in Kansas, by President Buchanan, to which State he had removed, and where he died before the expiration of his term of office.
We sum up the events and affairs of the State under Gov. Ransom's administration as follows: The Asylum for the Insane was established, as also the Asylum for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind. Both of these institutes were liberally endowed with lands, each of them placed in charge of a board of five trustees. The appropriation in 1849 for the deaf and dumb and blind amounted to $81,500. On the first of March, 1848, the first telegraph line was completed from New York to Detroit, and the first dispatch transmitted on that day. The following figures show the progress in agriculture: The land reported as under cultivation in 1848 was 1,437,460 acres; of wheat there were produced 4,749,300 bushels; other grains, 8,197,767 bushels; wool, 1,645,756 pounds; maple sugar, 1,774,369 pounds; horses, 52,305; cattle, 210,268; swine, 152,541; sheep, 610,534; while the flour mills numbered 228, and the lumber mills amounted to 730. 1847, an act was passed removing the Legislature from Detroit to Lansing, and temporary buildings for the use of the Legislature were immediately erected, at a cost of $12,450.
Image of Robert McClelland
Governor of Michigan from Jan. 1, 1852, to March 8,1853, was born at Greencastle, Franklin Co., Penn., Aug. 1, 1807.
Among his ancestors were several officers of rank in the Revolutionary war, and some of his family connections were distinguished in the war of 1812, and that with Mexico. His father was an eminent physician and
surgeon who studied under Dr. Benj. Rush, of Philadelphia, and practiced his profession successfully until six months before his death, at the age or 84 years. Although Mr. McClelland's family had been in good
circumstances, when he was 17 years old he was thrown
upon his own resources. After taking the usual preliminary studies, and teaching school to obtain the
means, he entered Dickinson College, at Carlisle, Penn., from which he graduated among the first in his class, in 1829. He then resumed teaching, and
having completed the course of study for the legal profession, was admitted to the bar at Chambersburg, Penn.,
in, 1831. Soon afterward he removed to the city of Pittsburgh, where he practiced for almost a year.
In 1833, Mr. McClelland removed to Monroe, in the Territory of Michigan where, after a severe examination, he became a member of the bar of Michigan, and engaged in practice with bright prospect of success. In 1835, a convention was called to frame a constitution for the proposed State of Michigan, of which Mr. McClelland was elected a member. He took a prominent part in its deliberations and ranked among its ablest debaters. He was appointed the first Bank Commissioner of the State, by Gov. Mason, and received an offer of the Attorney Generalship, but declined both of these offices in order to attend to his professional duties.
In 1838, Mr. McClelland was elected to the State Legislature, in which he soon became distinguished as the head of several important Committees, Speaker pro tempore and as an active, zealous and efficient member. In 1840, Gen. Harrison, as a candidate for the Presidency, swept the country with an overwhelming majority, and at the same time the State of Michigan was carried by the Whigs under the popular cry of "Woodbridge and reform" against the Democratic party. At this time Mr. McClelland stood among the acknowledged leaders of the latter organization; was elected a member of the State House of Representatives, and with others adopted a plan to regain a lost authority and prestige.
This party soon came again into power in the State, and having been returned to the State Legislature Mr. McClelland's leadership was acknowledged by his election as Speaker of the House of Representatives (130) in 1843. Down to this time Michigan had constituted one congressional district. The late Hon. Jacob M. Howard had been elected against Hon. Alpheus Felch by a strong majority; but, in 1843, so thoroughly had the Democratic party recovered from its defeat of 1840 that Mr. McClelland, as a candidate for Congress, carried Detroit district by a majority of about 2,500. Mr. McClelland soon took a prominent position in Congress among the veterans of that body. During his first term he was placed on Committee on Commerce, and organized and carried through what were known as the "Harbor bills. The continued confidence of his constituency was manifested in his election to the 29th Congress. At the opening of this session he had acquired a National reputation, and so favorably was he known as a parliamentarian that his name was mentioned for Speaker of the House of Representatives. He declined the offer in favor of J. W. Davis, of Indiana, who was elected. During this term he became Chairman of Committee on Commerce, in which position his reports and advocacy of important measures at once attracted public attention. The members of this committee, as an evidence of the esteem in which they held his service and of their personal regard for him, presented him with a cane which he retains as a souvenir of the donors, and of his labors in Congress.
In 1847, Mr. McClelland was re-el elected to Congress, and at the opening of the 30th Congress became a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations. While acting in this capacity, what was known as the "French Spoliation Bill" came under his special charge, and his management of the same was such as to command universal approbation. While in Congress, Mr. McClelland was an advocate of the right of petition as maintained by John Q. Adams, when the petition, was clothed in decorous language and presented in the proper manner. This he regarded as the citizen's constitutional right which should not be impaired by any doctrines of temporary expediency. He also voted for the adoption of Mr. Gidding's bill for the abolishing of slavery in the District of Columbia, Mr. McClelland was one of the few Democrats associated with David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, in bringing forward the celebrated "Wilmot Proviso," with a view to prevent further extension of slavery in new territory which might be acquired by the United States. He and Mr. Wilmot were together at the time in Washington, and on intimate and confidential terms. Mr. McClelland was in several National conventions and in the Baltimore convention, which nominated Gen. Cass for President, in 1848, doing valiant service that year for the election of that distinguished statesman. On leaving Congress, in 1848, Mr. McClelland returned to the practice of his profession at Monroe. In 1850 a convention of the State of Michigan was called to revise the State constitution. He was elected a member and was regarded therein as among the ablest and most experienced leaders. His clear judgment and wise moderation were conspicuous, both in the committee room and on the floor, in debate. In 1850, he was President of the Democratic State convention which adopted resolutions in support of Henry Clay's famous compromise measures, of which Mr. McClelland and was a strong advocate. He was a member of he Democratic National convention in 1852, and in that year, in company with Gen. Cass and Governor Felch, he made a thorough canvass of the State. He continued earnestly to advocate the Clay compromise measures, and took an active part in the canvass which resulted in the election of Gen. Pierce to the Presidency.
In 1851, the new State constitution took effect and, it was necessary that a Governor should be elected for one year in order to prevent an interregnum, and to bring the State Government into operation under the new constitution. Mr. McClelland was elected Governor, and in the fall of 1852 was re-elected for a term of two years, from Jan. 1, 1853. His administration was regarded as wise, prudent and conciliatory, and was as popular as could be expected at a time when party spirit ran high. There was really no opposition, and when he resigned, in March, 1853, the State Treasury was well filled, and the State otherwise prosperous. So widely and favorably had Mr. McClelland become known as a statesman that on the organization of the cabinet by President Pierce, in March, 1853, he was made Secretary of the Interior, in which capacity he served most creditably during four years of the Pierce administration. He thoroughly re-organized his department and reduced the expenditures. He adopted a course with the Indians which relieved them from the impositions and annoyances of the traders, and produced harmony and civilization among them. During his administration there was neither complaint from the tribes nor corruption among agents, and he left the department in perfect order and system, In 1867, Michigan again called a convention to revise the State constitution. Mr. McClelland was a member and here again his long experience made him conspicuous as a prudent adviser, a sagacious parliamentary leader. As a lawyer he was terse and pointed in argument, clear, candid and impressive in his addresses to the jury. His sincerity and earnestness, with which was occasionally mingled a pleasant humor made him an able and effective advocate. In speaking before the people on political subjects he was especially forcible and happy. In 1870 he made the tour of Europe, which, through his extensive personal acquaintance with European diplomats, he was enabled to enjoy much more than most travelers,
Mr. McClelland married, in 1837, Miss Sarah E. Sabin, of Williamstown, Mass. They have had six children, two of whom now survive.
Image of Andrew Parsons
ANDREW PARSONS, Governor of Michigan from March
8, 1853 to Jan. 3, 1855, was born in the town of Hoosick, County of Rensselaer, and
state of New York, on the 22d day of July, 1817, and died June 6, 1855, at the early age
of 38 years. He was the son of John Parsons, born at Newburyport, Mass., Oct. 2, 1782, and who was the
son of Andrew Parsons, a Revolutionary soldier, who was the son of Phineas
Parsons, the son of Samuel Parsons, a descendant of Walter
Parsons, born in Ireland in 1290.
Of this name and family, some one hundred and thirty years ago, Bishop Gilson remarked in his edition of Camden's Britannia: "The honorable family of Parsons have been advanced to the dignity of Viscounts and more lately Earls of Ross."
The following are descendants of these families: Sir John Parsons, born 1481, was Mayor of Hereford; Robert Parsons, born in 1546, lived near Bridgewater, England. He was educated at Ballial College, Oxford, and was a noted writer and defender of the Romish faith. He established an English College at Rome and another at Valladolia. Frances Parsons, born in 1556, was Vicar of Rothwell, in Notingham; Bartholomew Parsons, born its 1618, was another noted member of the family. In 1634, Thomas Parsons was knighted by Charles I. Joseph and Benjamin, brothers, were born in Great Torrington, England, and accompanied their father and others to New England about 1630. Samuel Parsons, born at Salisbury, Mass., in 1707, graduated at Harvard College in 1730, ordained at Rye, N. H., Nov. 3, 1736, married Mary Jones, daughter of Samuel Jones, of Boston, Oct 9, 1739, died Jan. 4, 1789, at the age of 82, in the 53rd year of his ministry. The grandfather of Mary Jones was Capt. John Adams, of Boston, grandson of Henry, of Braintree, who was among the first settlers of Massachusetts, and from whom a numerous race of the name are descended, including two Presidents of the United States. The Parsons have become very numerous and are found throughout New England, and many of the descendants are scattered in all parts of the United States, and especially in the Middle and Western States. Governor Andrew Parsons came to Michigan in 1835, at the age of 17 years and spent the first summer at Lower Ann Arbor where for a few months he taught school which he was compelled to abandon from ill health.
He was one of the large number of men of sterling worth who came from the East to Michigan when it was a infant State, or, even prior to its assuming the dignity of a State, and who, by their wisdom, enterprise and energy, have developed its wonderful natural resources, until to-day it ranks with the proudest States of the Union. These brave men came to Michigan with nothing to aid them in the conquest of the wilderness save courageous hearts and strong and willing hands. They gloriously conquered, however, and to them is due all honor for the labors so nobly performed, for the solid and sure foundation which they laid of a great Commonwealth.
(134) In the fall of 1835, he explored the Grand River Valley in a frail canoe, the whole length of the river, from Jackson to Lake Michigan, and spent the following winter as clerk in a store at Prairie Creek, in Ionia County, and in the spring went to Marshall, where he resided with his brother, the Hon. Luke H. Parsons, also now deceased, until fall, when he went to Shiawasse County, then with Clinton County, and an almost unbroken wilderness and constituting one organized township. In 1837 this territory was organized into a county and, at the age of only 19 years, he (Andrew) was elected County Clerk. In 1840, he was elected Register of Deeds, re-elected in 1842, and also in 1844. In 1846, he was elected to the State Senate, was appointed Prosecuting Attorney in 1848, and elected Regent of the University in 1851, and Lieutenant Governor, and became acting Governor, in 1853, elected again to the Legislature in 1854, and, overcome by debilitated health, hard labor and the responsibilities of his office and cares of his business, retired to his farm, where he died soon after.
He was a fluent and persuasive speaker and well calculated to make friends of his acquaintances. He was always true to his trust, and the whole world could not persuade nor drive him to do what he conceived to be wrong. When Governor, a most powerful railroad influence was brought to bear upon him, to induce him to call an extra session of the Legislature. Meetings were held in all parts of the State for that purpose. In some sections the resolutions were of a laudatory nature, intending to make him do their bidding by resort to friendly and flattering words. In other places the resolutions were of a demanding nature, while in others they were threatening beyond measure. Fearing that all these influences might fail to induce him to call the extra session, a large sum of money was sent him, and liberal offers tendered him if he would gratify the railroad interest of the State and call the extra session, but, immovable, he returned the money and refused to receive any favors, whether from any party who would attempt to corrupt him by laudations, liberal offers, or by threats, and in a short letter to the people, after giving overwhelming reasons that no sensible man could dispute, showing the circumstances were not "extraordinary," he refused to call the extra session. This brought down the wrath of various parties upon his head, but they were soon forced to acknowledge the wisdom and the justice of his course. One of his greatest enemies said, after a long acquaintance: "though not always coinciding with his views I never doubted his honesty of purpose. He at all times sought to perform his duties in strict accordance, with the dictates of his conscience, and the behests of his oath." The following eulogium from a political opponent is just in its conception and creditable to its author: "Gov. Parsons was a politician of the Democratic school, a man of pure moral character, fixed and exemplary habits, and entirely blameless in every public and private relation of life. As a politician he was candid, frank and free from bitterness, as an executive officer firm, constant and reliable." The highest commendations we can pay the deceased is to give his just record,--that of being an honest man.
In the spring of 1854, during the administration of Governor Parsons, the Republican party, at least as a State organization, was first formed in the United States under the oaks at Jackson, by anti-slavery men of both the old parties. Great excitement prevailed at this time, occasioned by the settling of Kansas, and the issue thereby brought up, whether slavery should exist there. For the purpose of permitting slavery there, the "Missouri compromise " (which limited slavery to the south of 36° 30') was re-repealed, under the leadership of Stephen A. Douglas. This was repealed by a bill admitting Kansas and Nebraska into the Union, as Territories, and those who were opposed to this repeal measure were in short called "anti-Nebraska" men. The epithets, "Nebraska" and "anti-Nebraska," were temporally employed to designate the slavery and anti slavery parties, pending the desolution of the old Democratic and Whig parties and the organization of the new Democratic and Republican parties of the present.
KINSLEY S. BINGHAM
Image of Kinsley S. Bingham
KINSLEY S. BINGHAM, Governor of Michigan from
1855 to 1859, and United States Senator, was born in Camillus, Onondaga County,
N. Y., Dec. 16, 1808. His father was a farmer, and his own early life was consequently
devoted to agricultural pursuits, but notwithstanding the disadvantages related to the acquisition
of knowledge in the life of a farmer he managed to secure a good academic education in his native State
and studied law in the office of Gen. James R. Lawrence, now of Syracuse, N. Y. In the spring of 1833, he married an estimable lady who had recently arrived from Scotland, and obeying the impulse of a
naturally enterprising disposition, he emigrated to Michigan and purchased a new farm in company
with his brother-in-law, Mr. Robert Worden, in Green Oak, Livingston County. Here, on
the border of civilization, buried in the primeval forest, our late student commenced the arduous task of
preparing a future home, clearing and fencing, putting up buildings, etc., at such a rate that the land
chosen was soon reduced to a high state of cultivation.
Becoming deservedly prominent, Mr. Bingham was elected to the office of Justice of the Peace and Postmaster under the Territorial government, and was the first Probate Judge in the county. In the year 1836, when Michigan became a State, he was elected to the first Legislature. He was four times re-elected, and Speaker of the House of Representatives three years. In 1846 he was elected on the Democratic ticket, Representative to Congress, and was the only practical farmer in that body. He was never forgetful of the interest of agriculture, and was in particular opposed to the introduction of "Wood's Patent Cast Iron Plow" which he completely prevented. He was re-elected to Congress in 1848, during which time he strongly opposed the extension of slavery in the territory of the United States and was committed to and voted for the Wilmot Proviso.
In 1854, at the first organization of the Republican party in consequence of his record in Congress as a Free Soil Democrat, Mr. Bingham was nominated and elected Governor of the State, and re-eIected in 1856. Still faithful to the memory of his own former occupation he did not forget the farmers during his administration, and among other profits of his zeal in their behalf, he became mainly instrumental in the establishment of the Agricultural College at Lansing.
In 1859, Governor Bingham was elected Senator in Congress and took an active part in the stormy campaign the election of Abraham Lincoln. He (138) witnessed the commencement of the civil war while a member of the United States Senate. After a comparatively short life of remarkable promise and public activity he was attacked with appoplexy and died suddenly at his residence, in Green Oak, Oct. 5, 1861.
The most noticeable event in Governor Bingham's first term was the completion of the ship canal, at the Falls of St. Mary. In 1852, August 26, an act of Congress was approved, granting to the State of Michigan seven hundred and fifty thousand acres of land for the purpose of constructing a ship canal between Lakes Huron and Superior. In 1853, the Legislature accepted the grant, and provided for the appointment of commissioners to select the donated lands, and to arrange for building the canal. A company of enterprising men was formed, and a contract was entered into by which it was arranged that the canal should be finished in two years, and the work was pushed rapidly forward. Every article of consumption, machinery, working implements and materials, timber for the gates, stones for the locks, as well as men and supplies, had to be transported to the site of the canal from Detroit, Cleveland, and other lake ports. The rapids which had to be surmounted have a fall of seventeen feet and are about one mile long. The length of the canal is less than one mile, its width one hundred feet, depth twelve feet and it has two locks of solid masonry. In May, 1855, the work was completed, accepted by the commissioners, and formally delivered to the State authorities.
The disbursements on account of the construction of the canal and selecting the lands amounted to one million of dollars; while the lands which were assigned to the company, and selected through the agency at the Sault, as well as certain lands in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, filled to an acre the Government grant. The opening of the canal was an important event in the history of the improvement of the State. It was a valuable link in the chain of lake commerce, and particularly important to the interests of the Upper Peninsula.
There were several educational, charitable and reformatory institutions inaugurated and opened during Gov. Bingham's administrations. The Michigan Agricultural College owes its establishment to a provision of the State Constitution of 1850. Article 13 says, "The Legislature shall, as soon as practicable provide for the establishment of an agricultural school for the purpose of carrying into practice this provision, legislation was commenced in I855, and the act required that the school should be within ten miles of Lansing, and that not more than $15 an acre should be paid for the farm and college grounds. The college was opened, to students in May, 1857, the first of existing agricultural colleges in the United States. Until the spring of 1861, it was under the control of the State Board of Education; since that time it has been under the management of the State Board of Agriculture, which was created for that purpose. In its essential features, of combining study and labor, and of uniting general and professional studies in its course, the college has remained virtually unchanged from the first. It has a steady growth in number of students, in means of illustration and efficiency of instruction.
The Agricultural College is three miles east of Lansing, comprising several fine buildings; and there are also very beautiful, substantial residences for the professors. There are also an extensive, well-filled green-house, a very large and well-equipped chemical laboratory, one of the most scientific apiaries in the United States, a general museum, a museum of mechanical inventions, another of vegetable products, extensive barns, piggeries, etc., etc., in fine trim for the purposes designed. The farm consists of 676 acres, of which about 300 are under cultivation in a systematic rotation of crops.
Adrian College was established by the Wesleyan Methodists in 1859, now under the control of the Methodist Church. The grounds contain about 20 acres. There are four buildings, capable of accommodating about 225 students. Attendance in 1875 was 179; total number of graduates for previous year, 121; ten professors and teachers are employed. Exclusive of the endowment fund ($80,000), the assets of the institution, including grounds, buildings, furniture, apparatus, musical instruments, outlying lands, etc., amount to more than $137,000.
Hillsdale College was established in 1855 by the Free Baptists. The Michigan Central College, at Spring Arbor, was incorporated in 1845 It was kept in operation until it was merged into the present Hillsdale College. The site comprises 25 acres, beautifully situated on an eminence in the western part of the city of Hillsdale. The large and imposing building first erected was nearly destroyed by fire in 1874, and in its place five buildings of a more modern style have been erected. They are of brick, three stories with basement, arranged on three sides of a quadrangle. The size is, respectively, 80 by 80, 48 by 72, 48 by 72, 80 by 60, 52 by 72, and they contain one-half more room than the original building.
The State Reform School. This was established at Lansing in 1855, in the northeastern portion of the city, as the House of Correction for juvenile offenders, having about it many of the features of a prison. In 1859 the name was changed to the State Reform School. The government and discipline, have undergone many and radical changes, until all the prison features have been removed except those that remain in the walls of the original structure, and which remain only as monuments of instructive history. No bolts, bars or guards are employed. The inmates are necessarily kept under the surveillance of officers, but the attempts at escape are much fewer than under the more rigid regime of former days.
Image of Moses Wisner
MOSES WISNER, Governor of Michigan from 1859 to 1861, was born in Springport, Cayuga Co., N. Y., June 3, 1815.
His early education was only what could be obtained at a common school. Agricultural labor and frugality of his parents gave him a physical constitution of unusual strength. and endurance, which was ever preserved by temperate habits. In 1837 he emigrated to Michigan and purchased a farm in Lapeer County. It was new land and
he at once set to work to clear it and plant crops. He labored diligently at his task for two years, when
he gave up the idea of being a farmer, and removed to Pontiac, Oakland Co. Here he commenced the study of law in the office of
his brother, George W. Wisner, and Rufus Hosmer. In 1841 he was admitted to the bar and established himself in his new vocation at the
village of Lapeer. While there he was appointed by Gov. Woodbridge Prosecuting Attorney for that county, in which capacity
he acquitted himself well and gave promise of that eminence he afterward attained in the profession. He remained at Lapeer but a short time, removing to Pontiac, where
he became a member of a firm and entered fully upon the practice.
In politics he was like his talented brother, a Whig of the Henry Clay stamp, but with a decided anti-slavery bias. His practice becoming extensive, he took little part in politics until after the election of Mr. Pierce to the Presidency. in 1852, when he took an a active part against slavery. As a lawyer he was a man of great, ability, but relied less upon mere book learning than upon his native good sense. Liberal and courteous, was he yet devoted to the interest of his client, and no facts escaped his attention or his memory which bore upon the case. He was no friend of trickery or artifice in conducting a case. As an advocate he had few equals. When fully aroused by the merits of his subject his eloquence was at once graceful and powerful. His fancies supplied the most original, the most pointed illustrations, and his logic became came a battling giant under whose heavy blows the adversary shrank and withered. Nature had bestowed upon him rare qualities, and his powers as a
popular orator were of a high order.
On the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, repealing the Missouri compromise and opening the Territories to slavery, he was among the foremost in Michigan to denounce the shameful scheme. He actively participated in organizing and consolidating the elements opposed to it in that State, and was a member of the popular gathering at Jackson, in July, 1854, which was the first formal Republican Convention held in the United States. At this meeting the name "Republican" was adopted as a designation of the new party consisting of Anti-slavery, Whigs, Liberty men, Free Soil Democrats and all others opposed to the extension of slavery and favorable to its expulsion from the Territories and the District of Columbia. At this convention Mr. W. was urged to accept the nomination for Attorney General of the (142) State, but declined. An entire State ticket was nominated and at the annual election in November was elected by an average majority of nearly 10,000. Mr. W. was enthusiastic in the cause and brought to its support all his personal influence and talents. In his views he was bold and radical. He believed from the beginning that the political power of the slave- holders would have to be overthrown before quiet could be secured to the country. In the Presidential canvass of 1856 he supported the Fremont, or Republican, ticket. At the session of the Legislature of 1857 he was a candidate for United States Senator, and as such received a very handsome support.
In 1858, he was nominated for Governor of the State by the Republican convention that met at Detroit, and at the subsequent November election was chosen by a very large majority. Before the day of the election he had addressed the people of almost every county and his majority was greater even than that of his popular predecessor, Hon. K. S. Bingham. He served as Governor two years, from Jan. 1, 1859 to Jan. 1, 1861. His first message to the Legislature was an able and statesman-like production, and was read with usual favor. It showed that he was awake to all the interests of the State and set forth a an enlightened State policy, that had its view of the rapid settlement of our uncultivated lands and the development of our immense agricultural and mineral resources. It was a document that reflected the highest credit upon the author.
His term having expired Jan. 1, 1861, he returned to his home in Pontiac, and to the practice of his profession. There were those in the State who counselled the sending of delegates to the peace conference at Washington, but Mr. W. was opposed to all such temporizing expedients. His counsel was to send no delegate, but to prepare to fight.
After Congress had met and passed the necessary legislation he resolved to take part in the war. It the spring and summer of 1862 he set to work to raise a regiment of infantry, chiefly in Oakland County, where he resided. His regiment, the 22d Michigan, was armed and equipped and ready to march in September, a regiment whose solid qualities were afterwards proven on many a bloody field. Col. W's. commission bore the date of Sept. 8, 1862. Before parting with his family be made his will. His regiment was sent to Kentucky and quartered at Camp Wallace. He had at the breaking out of the war turned his attention to military studies and became proficient in the ordinary rules and discipline. His entire attention was now devoted to his duties. His treatment of his men was kind, though his discipline was rigid. He possessed in an eminent degree the spirit of command, and had he lived he would no doubt have distinguished himself as a good officer. He was impatient of delay and chafed at being kept in Kentucky where there was so little prospect of getting at the enemy. But life in camp, so different from the one he had been leading, and his incessant labors, coupled with that impatience which was so natural and so general among the volunteers, in the early part of the war, soon made their influence felt upon his health. He was seized with typhoid fever and removed to a private house near Lexington. Every care which medical skill or the hand of friendship could bestow was tendered him. In the delirious wanderings of his mind he was disciplining his men and urging them to be prepared for an encounter with the enemy, enlarging upon the justice of' their cause and the necessity of their crushing the Rebellion. But the source of his most poignant grief was the prospect of not being able to come to a hand-to-hand encounter with the "chivalry." He was proud of his regiment, and felt that if it could find the enemy it would cover itself with glory,--a distinction it afterward obtained, but not until Col. W. was no more. The malady baffled all medical treatment, and on the 5th day of Jan., 1863, he breathed his last. His remains were removed to Michigan and interred in the cemetery at Pontiac, where they rest by the side of the brave Gen. Richardson, who received his mortal wound at the battle of Antietam. Col. W. was no adventurer, although he was doubtless ambitious of military renown and would have striven for it with characteristic energy. He went to the war to defend and uphold the principles he had so much at heart. Few men were more familiar than he with the causes and the underlying principles that led to the contest. He left a wife, who was a daughter of Gen. C. C. Hascall, of Flint, and four children to mourn his loss. Toward them he ever showed the tenderest regard. Next to his duty their love and welfare engrossed his thoughts. He was kind, generous and brave, and like thousands of others he sleeps the sleep of the martyr for his country.
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