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City of Detroit 



CLARENCE M. BURTON, Editor-in-Chief 
Wn^LIAM STOCKING, Associate Editor 
GORDON K. MILLER, Associate Editor 



































Spain's policy toward the Indians — the french policy' — the English policy 










































UNION 137 



By Clarence M. Burton 

character op people the military commandant priest as arbitrator — 

Cadillac's autocratic rule — incendiarism — criminal assault — military 











By Clarence M. Burton 














By Clarence M. Burton 
organization of northwest territory territorial laws and courts — 






















OF AREAS. . 295 


















By William Stocking 






William Stocking, Contributing Editor 








By William Stocking 

By Clarence M. Burton 





By William Stocking 
the state democratic in early days the rising tide of anti-slavery 





PAIGN 463 



By William Stocking 

slavery and the colored people in michigan adoption of the higher 

law the blackburn rescue and riot other slave rescues the 

underground railroad and its operation the anti-negro riot of 

1863 plans formulated here for the john brown raid in 1859 a 

notable celebration of negro enfranchisement 475 





METHODS — Cadillac's land grants — immigration encouraged — under 


















OF Detroit's greatest industry — Cadillac — ford motor company — 

packard dodge hudson hupmobile maxwell other automobile 

companies — Detroit's war industries — liberty motor — general motors 

corporation automobile accessory and body plants miscellaneous 

establishments 530 



Clarence M. Burton and William Stocking, Contributing Editors 











By William Stocking 

primitive modes of travel on land and lake — the indian trail the first 
i connecting link between villages — blazed the way for modern trans- 
' portation lines the beginning of highway building — different 

Vol. 1—2 








By William Stocking 







By Clarence M. Burton 

















































PLOT OF 1747 866 













Campbell's death — continuation of siege — arrival of dalzell's com- 





By Clarence M. Burton 

importance of detroit in the revolution detroit and the adjacent 

country streets, buildings and character of the village the 

fortifications the french inhabitants coming of hamilton — illegal 

acts of hamilton and dejean hamilton's employment of indians 

inter-post communications arrival of captain lerxoult — hamilton's 

desire to escape detroit indictment of hamilton and dejean 

Hamilton's expedition to vincennes — clark retakes vincennes — 
hamilton and dejean as prisoners detroit under lernoult con- 
dition of detroit appointment of de peyster the post under de 

peyster the story of colonel la balme — indian claims and legal 

procedure meaning of the term " fort " religion in detroit 







INDIAN WARS: 1783-1811 







THE WAR OF 1812 









BORN'S career: his mistakes — beginning OF THE TRIAL — HULL's CAREER 































Spain's oppression of cuba — the lopez expedition — the ten years' war — • 





















By J. H. Dempster, M. D., F. A. C. P. 









By William Stocking 

Detroit's place in literature and art — the first historians and chron- 






By William Stocking 

detroit men in public life — new england's contributions during the 
formative period — men who established the character of the new 
commonwealth — distinguished governors and eminent judges — a long 
line of united states senators from detroit — a few cabinet officers 
and foreign ministers 1199 













By Clarence M. Burton 

directory of cadillac's village, 1701-1710 — detroit residents in 1789 — in 
1795 — detroit in 1820 the prominent families and names of the 

DAY 1314 


































LAGES 1559 


Portrait Clareuce M. Burton • Opposite title 

Cadillac Village in 1701 73 

Plan from Conveyances of Cadillac 79 

De Lery 's Plan of Detroit, 1749 99 

Old "Moran" House, built about 1734 107 

Detroit in 1763, from Bellin's Atlas of 1764 115 

Southeast Corner Farmer and John R Streets, House built about 1811 .... 127 

Old Campau House, Erected in 1813 139 

Old Hamtramck House in 1891 139 

Early view of Woodward Avenue 147 

Campus Martins, South from Woodward, 1894 147 

View of Detroit in 1796 161 

Detroit River Front of Jones and Cass Farms, 1819 161 

Detroit River from Windmill Point, 1838 161 

Ste. Anne's Street (Jefferson Ave.), in 1800 171 

Detroit in 1826, from Drawing by General ilacomb 183 

James May, Earlj' Merchant and Trader 251 

Solomon Sibley 279 

Original plan of Detroit, after fire of 1805 297 

Mullett's map of Governor and Judge's plan, 1830 301 

S. W. Corner Griswold Street and Lafayette Boulevard, 1873 307 

St. Andrews Hall, 1882 307 

View from City Hall tower, W^estward, about 1877 313 

Eastside Woodward Avenue, about 1885 313 

Corner Michigan Avenue and Lafayette Boulevard in the '90s 317 

N. E. Corner Woodward and Campus Martins about 1881 317 

Campus Martins in 1919 323 

Detroit Skj'scrapers 329 

Vinton Building 335 

Book Building 335 

Real Estate Exchange 339 

Majestic Building 339 

Kresge Building 345 

Recreation Building 345 

Old State Capitol, later used as High School 349 

Municipal Court Building 349 

Wayne County Building 353 

Old City Hall, Campus Martius, 1870 357 

Old City Hall and Surroundings in 1862 : 357 

Old and New City Halls 361 

Removal from Old City Hall, in 1872 361 

Old Post Office and U. S. Custom House 367 



Excavation for old Post Office, Griswold and Larned 367 

Water Works Park 375 

Highland Park Railway, early '90s 393 

Detroit Railway Company. Opening day, 1895 393 

Municipal Building, Clinton and Raynor Streets, 1890 399 

Old Firemen's Hall, 1870 403 

Fire Headquarters, 1881 403 

Old Block House 407 

Old Jail, stood on the site of Public Library 407 

Gratiot Avenue Police Station, 1874 407 

Police Courtroom, rear of jail 1870 413 

Old Detroit Jail 413 

Protestant Orphan Asylum, Jefferson Avenue, 1881 417 

The First Industrial School Building in 1879 423 

Second Industrial School Building, still standing 423 

Dedication and Opening of Grand Boulevai-d 431 

Old Belle Isle Casino 439 

The Casino, Belle Isle, 1922 439 

Old Belle Isle Bridge, destroyed by fire 449 

Burning of Belle Isle Bridge 449 

First State Election held in Detroit, 1837 465 

Old Finney Hotel, built in 1853 479 

The Old Finney Bam 479 

John Palmer homestead, built in 1823 495 

Residence of Gov. J. J. Bagley (site of Statler Hotel) 495 

Old Sheley House, Woodward, near Gratiot, in 1867 495 

N. E. Corner Woodward and Jefferson Avenues, 1858 499 

Woodward Avenue, Grand River to Clifford, 1876 499 

East side of Washington Avenue, 1897 503 

Old Abbott Homestead, built in 1835 503 

Broadway Market 507 

Old Market on Cadillac Square 507 

David Whitne.y Building 511 

Site of David Whitney Building, 1881 511 

Southeast Corner Woodward Ave. and John R Street in 1883 517 

North side of Michigan Ave., East of Griswold St., in 1891 517 

Newcomb-Endicott Company 521 

Scotch Store, N. E. Corner Woodward and Jefferson Avenues 521 

Fyfe Building 525 

N. W. Corner Woodward and Adams, in the '80s 525 

General Victors Building 531 

Thomas Berry 539 

Merrill Mills 539 

Daniel Scotten 539 

Christian H. Buhl 539 

Frederick Stearns & Company 547 

Parke, Davis & Company 547 

Berry Brothers Plant 553 

Dodge Brothers ]\Iotor Car Company 553 


Micliigan Stove Company 559 

Buri-oughs Adding IMachine Company 559 

Packard ]\Iotor Car Company 567 

Maxwell Motor Company 567 

Ford Motor Company 576 

Paige-Detroit Motor Car Company 585 

Home of the Hudson Super-Six 585 

The Timken-Detroit Axle Company 593 

Main Factory of Hupp Motor Car Company 593 

The J. "W. Murray ilanufacturing Company 605 

D. M. Ferry & Company 605 

Penberthy Injector Company 611 

Roberts Brass Works 611 

George H. Hammond, Sr 617 

Simon J. Murphy 617 

Alexander McGraw 617 

Francis Palms 617 

S. E. Corner Griswold and Congress, about 1881 623 

Site of Union Trust Building in early '90s 623 

Wayne County Savings Bank and Masonic HaU in the '90s 629 

Michigan Exchange, cor. Jefferson and Shelby 629 

Hugh McMillan 637 

Hiram Walker 637 

John S. Newberiy 637 

Henry B. Ledyard 637 

Old Russell House, site of First National Bank Building 646 

Demolition of Pontchartrain Hotel, 1920 646 

Russell House in 1881 646 

Pontchartrain Hotel 647 

New First National Bank Building, erected in 1921 647 

Wayne County Home and Savings Bank 653 

People 's State Bank 653 

The National Bank of Commerce 659 

Peninsular State Bank 665 

City Hall and Dime Bank Building 665 

Michigan Central Railroad Buildings in 1861 689 

Michigan Central Terminal 689 

Michigan Central Depot, 1853-1883 695 

Michigan Central Depot Yard, about 1868 695 

David Bacon 715 

First Free School Building, 1838-42 733 

Central High School 733 

Ruins of Detroit High School, burned 1893 739 

Old Detroit High School 739 

Original Cass School, about 1881 747 

Bishop School, about 1881 747 

Rev. John Monteith 753 

Old University Building, Bates Street, 1858 759 

Jesuit College (University of Detroit) about 1881 765 


University of Detroit 765 

Detroit Female Semiuaiy, built in 1834 771 

German-American Seminary, 1882 771 

Old Catholic School Building on Gratiot Road, 1864 781 

Academy of Sacred Heart, about 1881 781 

James E. Scripps 791 

William E. Quinby 791 

William II. Brearky 791 

Richard S. Willis 791 

Detroit Daily Post Building 801 

Ruins of Detroit Tribime Building, 1873 801 

Free Press Building 809 

Evening News Building 815 

Journal Building 821 

Evening News Building, about 1881 821 

Detroit Public Library in 1881 839 

New Detroit Public Library 839 

Old Arsenal, built in 1816 859 

Fort Lernoult, location compared with present city plan 863 

Old Pontiac Tree, 883 

Old Pontiac Tree, in 1881 883 

Heniy Hamilton 911 

Fort du Detroit in 1775 921 

View of Detroit in 1796, from Original painting in Paris 959 

Detroit, 1796. (Plan of town.) 971 

Plan of Gov. William Hull in 1809 981 

William Hull 991 

Facsimile of Hull's First Letter to Brock 991 

General Lewis Cass 1001 

Facsimile of Hull's Second Letter to Brock 1015 

William Evans drew this map during War of 1812 1025 

Administering the Oath of Allegiance, 1861 1073 

Presentation of Colors to First Michigan Infantry, 1861 1079 

Meeting on site of City Hall, 1865, account of Lincoln's death 1085 

Old City Hall and site of present City Hall, 1091 

Triumphal Arch, Woodward and Jefferson, August 27, 1862 1091 

Unveiling of Soldiers' and Sailors' monument, April 2, 1872 1101 

House occupied by U. S. Grant, at 253 Fort Street, East 1105 

House occupied by U. S. Grant, at Corner Jefferson and Russell 1105 

John R. W^illiams, First :\Iayor of Detroit 1121 

Judge J. V. Campbell 1121 

Joseph Campau 1121 

Judge Isaac Marston 1131 

Judge Thomas M. Cooley 1131 

Judge James Witherell 1131 

Judge Ross Wilkins 1131 

Theodore Romeyn 1141 

Alexander D. Fraser 1141 

Halmor H. Emmons 1141 


Charles C. Trowbridge 1141 

Alfred Russell 1151 

Charles I. "Walker 1151 

Divie B. Duffield 1151 

Joseph P. Marsac 1167 

Dr. Herman Kief er 1167 

Dr. Marshall Chapin 1167 

Providence Hospital 1175 

Ford Hospital 1183 

Harper Hospital 1183 

Alexander Chapoton 1198 

Frederick Bates 1198 

John Winder 1198 

George Jerome 1198 

Judge Benjamin P. H. Witherell 1201 

Henry Ledyard 1201 

William C. Maybmy 1201 

Hon. Benjamin G. Stimson 1201 

WUliam Woodbridge 1205 

John J. Bagley 1205 

Henry P. Baldwin 1205 

Hazen S. Pingree 1205 

Russell A. Alger 1209 

Thomas AY. Palmer 1209 

James McMillan 1209 

Zaehariah Chandler 1209 

Rev. Gabriel Richard 1213 

Ste. Anne's Church, built in 1818 1217 

Ste. Anne's Church, Fourth one erected 1217 

Ste. Anne's Roman Catholic Church (French), 1887 1221 

St. Joseph's Protestant Episcopal Church, about 1881 1221 

St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church 1225 

St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church in 1882 1225 

Rev. George Duffield 1229 

First Presbyterian, or First Protestant Church, in 1874 1229 

Old Scotch Presbj-terian, about 1871 1229 

Fort Street Presbyterian Church 1233 

View of Churches on East side of Woodward, 1849 1233 

St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church, in 1881 1237 

Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul (foi-merly St. Patrick's) in 1880 ,1237 

Original Christ Episcopal Church, in 1860 1243 

Church of Our Father ; Michigan Conservatory of Music 1243 

First Congregational Church, 1857 1249 

First Brick Building of the First Baptist Church 1249 

Central Methodist Episcopal Church 1255 

First Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1860 1255 

First Unitarian Church 1261 

First Church of Christ, Scientist 1261 

Temple Beth El 1265 


Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Detroit 1265 

Elliott T. Slocum 1459 

Shubael Conant 1459 

Chaimcey Hurlbut 1459 

Frederick Buhl 1459 

Theodore H. Hinchman 1473 

D. M. Ferry 1473 

Thomas McGraw 1473 

Christopher R. Mabley 1473 

Richard H. Fyfe 1487 

Joseph L. Hudson 1487 

Martin S. Smith 1487 

Henry A. Newland 1487 

Campus Martins and Majestic Building Corner 1505 

Campus Martius, Looking up Monroe Avenue, in 1873 1505 

Ruins of Detroit Opera House, October 9, 1897 1511 

Detroit Opera House and Surroundings in 1878 1511 

Whitney Opera House 1876 1517 

Y. M. C. A. Building 1523 

University Club 1523 

Old Biddle House 1529 

Steamboat Hotel 1529 

Hotel Statler 1535 

Hotel Fort Shelby 1535 

Masonic Temple 1541 

Elks Club 1541 

Maps of Wayne County 1551 

Maps of Wayne County 1555 

Detroit Athletic Club 1561 

Detroit Club 1561 

Country Club 1575 

Detroit Golf Club House 1575 

The City of Detroit 







Wayne County, of whieli Detroit is the county seat, is situated in the 
southeastern pai-t of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is bounded on the 
north by the counties of Oakland and Macomb ; on the east by the Detroit 
River, ^Yhich separates it from the Dominion of Canada ; on the south by the 
County of Monroe, and on the west hj the County of Washtenaw. According 
to Rand-MeNally's Atlas of the United States, the area of the county i.s 626 
square miles. (For changes in area and boundary lines see Chapter LVII.) 
Observations made by the United States Geological Survey show Detroit to be 
located in latitude 43° 19' 50" north and in longitude 83° 2' 5" west of 


In January, 1839, Bela Hubbard, then assistant state geologist, submitted to 
Governor Mason the first official report concerning the topography of the 
county. This report says: "Nearly the whole of Wayne County is included 
in that portion of the peninsula constituting the eastern border, in which no 
considerable prominences occur, and the descent to the coast is gradual and 
uniform. In this county, consequently, if we except the township in the 
northwest corner, the general level is varied only by gentle undulations or 
isolated sand ridges, forming no continuous ranges and seldom exceeding the 
relative height of twenty feet. Along the whole eastern border of the county 
the altitude at a distance of six miles from the coast varies but little from 
thirty-three to thirty-six feet. At a single point only, in the vicinity of 
Detroit, it attains to forty-five feet above the river." 

Below the River Rouge, beginning about two or three miles from the 
Detroit River, was in early days a chain or network of wet prairies, the ground 
gradually rising until at the west line of the county it was about one hundred 
and forty feet higher than at the river. The streams in the southwestern 
part of the county therefore have a swifter current and are available for water 
power. Mr. Hubbard reported sixty-three square miles of marsh land, dis- 
tributed over the county as follows : Eleven sections in Brownstown Township : 

Vol. 1-3 33 


eighteen sections in Ecorse; four sections in Greenfield and Redford, which 
he describes as "good cranberry land;" ten sections in Hamtramck; ten 
sections in Huron and ten in Romulus. 

About the little lakes and ponds in these wet prairies and marshes was once 
a fruitful field for the trapper. Beavers were plentiful here until about the 
beginning of the Nineteenth Century, when they disappeared. The early settlers 
cut large quantities of wild hay from these wet lands to provide sustenance for 
their live stock during the long, cold winters. 

In the northwestern part the gi-ound is more rolling and broken into frequent 
ridges, which often rise sixty or eighty feet above the general surface. The 
dividing line between the lands of this character and the more level tracts, which 
constitute the remainder of the county, is marked by a low gravelly j-idge, 
supposed to have been at some remote period in the past the shore of the lake. 
The course of this ridge is from northeast to southwest, passing through the 
northwest corner of Livonia Township, entering Plymouth about two miles 
from the northern boundary, and crossing the west line of the county near the 
southwest corner of Canton Township. 


The Detroit River, which flows along the eastern border, forms the inter- 
national boundary between the United States and the Dominion of Canada, 
though the United States exercises jurisdiction over the greater portion of the 
stream. By act of Congress, approved by President Monroe on December 
19, 1819, the river was declared to be a public thoroughfare for the passage of 
vessels. It receives all the waters of Waj'ne County except the Huron River. 
The name, which is of French origin, means "The Strait." 

From the point where it leaves Lake St. Clair to the point where it empties 
into Lake Erie, the distance is a little less than twenty-eight miles. At its 
narrowest point, in front of the City of Detroit, it is a little over half a mile 
wide. The greatest width, at the foot of Grosse He, is about three miles, and 
the average width is about one mile. The average depth is about thirty-five 
feet and it is navigable for the largest vessels on the lakes. There are but few 
rivers in the world that surf)ass the Detroit in the volume of water that passes 
through its channel. It is the outlet of the largest three of the Great Lakes — 
Huron, Michigan and Superior — and all the streams that empty into them. 
The area drained by the Detroit is as great as that drained by the Ohio, 
though the latter is nearly one thousand miles long. Likewise, there are but 
few rivers that present more attractive scenery. Along its course are numerous 
islands, which rise like emeralds from the clear, tranquil water, and passengers 
upon the great steamers never tire of watching the constantly changing pano- 


Beginning at Lake St. Clair, the principal islands in the Detroit River are as 
follows : La Peche, or Isle of the Fishes, which is on the Canadian side of 
the river and was once the summer home of Pontiac, the great chief of the 
Ottawa nation. Belle Isle (formerly called Rattlesnake and later Hog Island) 
is now the property of the City of Detroit and one of its most beautiful parks. 
(A history of Belle Isle appears in another chapter.) Turkey Island (also 
called Fighting Island) a long, narrow island on the Canadian side, takes its 


name from the great numbers of wild turkeys found there in early times. This 
island was the scene of the contest between the Indians under Pontiac and 
the vessel sent to relieve the fort at Detroit in 1763. The remains of an old 
Indian earthwork at the upper end were plainly visible in the early years of 
the Nineteenth Centurj-. Near the foot of thLs island are Little Turkey and 
Mammy Judy islands. The latter, containing about thirty acres, was named 
for an old Indian squaw who used to come there every year during the fishing 
season, and who finally died on the island. Mud and Grassy islands lie between 
Turkey Island and the Michigan shore. 

Grosse He is the largest in the river. An old French document of 1717 
says: "It is very fine and fertile and extensive, being as it is estimated 
from six to seven leagues in circumference. There is an extraordinary quantity 
of apple trees on this island, and those who have seen the apples on the 
ground say they are more than half a foot deep ; the apple trees are planted 
as if methodically and the apples are as large as small pippins. Abundance 
of excellent millstones are found on this island; all around it are very fine 
prairies. It was a long time doubtful whether Detroit should not be founded 
there. The cause of the hesitation was the apprehension that the timber might 
some day fail." 

About the foot of Grosse He are gi'oupecl a number of smaller islands, viz. : 
Bois Blane (or Whitewood), Calf, Celeron (or Tawa), Elba, Fox, Hickory, 
Horse, Humbug and Sugar. Several of the islands in the river were the scenes 
of stirring events during the early wars. 


As previously stated, the Detroit River receives the waters of all the streams 
of Wayne County, except those of the Huron River, which empties into Lake 
Erie at the southeast comer of the count.y. The Huron, the largest stream in 
the count}', has its source in the lakes and marshes of Livingston and Washtenaw 
counties. At first it flows in a southerly direction, but near the City of Dexter 
it turns eastward and enters Wayne County about nine miles north of the 
southwest corner. Near the Village of Romulus it turns toward the southeast 
and follows that direction until it empties into Lake Erie, near the mouth of 
the Detroit River. During the last eight or ten miles of its course it forms the 
boundary line between Wayne and ilonroe counties. 

Next in importance is the River Rouge, which is formed by the north, south, 
east and west branches. The North Branch is formed near Redford Corners 
by the Belle River, Powers Creek and some smaller streams. Its general course 
is southeast until it unites with the West Branch near the center of Dearborn 

The South Branch rises near the western boundary of the county and flows 
east through Canton, Nankin and Dearborn townships, uniting with the main 
stream near Dearborn Village. It is sometimes called the "Lower Rouge." 

The East Branch, formed by Campbell's, Holden and Knagg's creeks, falls 
into the main stream near the Village of Delray. Knagg's Creek and some of 
the others contributing to the formation of this branch are now within the 
city limits and have been filled in and the "made land" converted into cit.v lots. 

The West Branch rises in Washtenaw County. It enters Wayne about four 
miles south of the northwest corner and flows in a northeasterly direction to 
Northville. There it changes its course to southeast and unites with the North 


aud South braui-hes near Dearborn. From that point tlie Ronge folhnvs an 
easterly course to the Detroit River. 

The Belle River, one of the principal tributaries of the North Branch of the 
River Rouge, is only a few miles in length. It is formed in Livonia Township 
by Collins and Briggs creeks aud a few minor streams, flows in an easterly 
direction and empties into the North Branch near the center of Redford Town- 

The southeastern portion of the county is watered by the Ecorse River, which 
flows through the township of the same name ; Big Browustowu and Hunting- 
ton creeks, which empty into the Detroit River a short distance below Gibraltar ; 
and Smith's aud Silver creeks, which unite and empty into the Huron about 
a mile above its mouth. 

Connor's (also called Tromblj'"s) Creek, in the northeastern part, flows in 
a southeasterly course and empties into the Detroit River near the upper end 
of Belle Isle. 

In the southwestern townships are a number of small streams, such as "Willow 
Creek, Swan Creek, Tonquist and Woods" creeks aud Willow Run, which fall 
into the Huron River ov the West Branch of the Rouge. 

Pi'obably one of the oldest maps in existence, showing accurately the courses 
of the various creeks and rivers of Wayne County, is that prepared under the 
supervision of Dr. Doiiglas Houghton to accompany his report as state geologist 
in 1840. More modern maps show no important changes, except within the city 
limits of Detroit, where some small streams have been fllled in or converted into 
sewers. Foremost among the creeks that have thus been obliterated were 
Knagg's Creek, alread}' mentioned, May's, Parent's and Savoyard creeks. 

May's Creek, so named for James May, one of the early judges of the 
Court of Quarter (Sessions, was known as Campau's River about the middle of 
the Eigliteenth Century and later as Cabacier's Creek, after Joseph Cabacier, 
who lived near it. Jacques Peltier built a grist mill on this creek during the old 
French regime, and the stream furnished water enough to run the mill about 
one-half of each year. The mill stood just north of Fort Street, not far from 
the point where that street was afterward crossed bv the ^Michigan Central 

Parent's Creek was the most historic of all these extinct watercourses. It 
had its source in Private Claim No. 183, in Grosse Pointe Township, flowed in 
a southerly direction, passing through Elmwood Cemetery, and emptied into the 
Detroit River about a mile and a half above the old French fort. The creek was 
doubtless named for Joseph Parent, a gunsmith, whose name appears in the 
records of St. Anne's Church as early as ^lay, 1707. It was on the banks 
of this creek that Captain Dalzell was defeated and killed by the Indians during 
the Poutiac war, after which the stream was kudwu as "Bloody Run." 

The Savoyard Creek had its source in a willow swamp, not far from the 
present intersection of and Riopelle streets and flowed in a westerly 
course. It is said to have derived its name from the fact that one of the early 
settlers near it came from Savoy. Farmer says that the Detroit boys had a 
favorite fishing hole where the creek crossed Woodward Avenue. An old 
map shows that it emptied into the river near the foot of Fourth Street. The 
people living along the creek used it as a receptacle for all sorts of waste matter. 
After Fort Shelby was abandoned, hunber was taken from the fortiticatiiui and 
used to protect the sides from falling in. As population increased aiul the 


quantity of garbage, ett., dumped into the stream grew greater, the stenches 
that arose from the creek rivaled those mentioned by the poet Coleridge in his 
description of the City of Cologne. In 1836 the city authorities declared it a 
nuisance and, at great expense, walled and covered it with stone, converting 
it into a sewer. 

According to the report of the state geologist for 1876, the oldest exposed 
rocks in Wayne County are the limestones of the Helderberg and Water-lime 
groups. The former is found over an area of limited extent in the south- 
eastern corner of the state, including Monroe County, the southeastern part 
of Wayne and the ea.stern part of Lenawee. In Monroe the rock outcrops in 
nearly all the streams, but in Wayne, where the drift deposits are deeper, the 
exposures are less frequent. The upper division of the Helderberg group is 
found at Trenton, where quarries were opened at an early date. Here the 
upper ledges are covered only by a thin layer of loamy drift. They are lime- 
stones of a light color, segregated in beds about six feet in thickness and rich in 
fossils. The stone from these quarries has been used chiefly for lime, yielding 
a white, quick-slaking lime of superior quality. Below these beds is found a 
compact, gray, crystalline limestone in ledges from eight inches to two feet 
thick, an excellent stone for building purposes. 

Gibraltar, on the Detroit River about four miles below Trenton, marks the 
northern exposure of the Water-line group. At this point the lower rock 
series come to the surface in the bed of the creek near its mouth. The stone is 
described as "a somewhat absorbent, crystalline dolomite, of gray color and 
laminated structure, in layei-s, from one to two feet thick." Stone of this quality 
has also been quarried on the lower end of Grosse He. 

Near Flatrock the Huron River runs over ledges of the Water-lime forma- 
tion. Here the stone is a hard, drab-colored dolomite, crystalline in texture, 
with flinty concretions and containing but few fossils. Tlie deposits here are too 
far below the surface to be profitably quarried. 

During the period of French rule, the inhabitants of Detroit obtained stone 
from the deposits about Trenton and Gibraltar for chimneys to their log houses. 
Farmer's "History of Detroit" (p. 367) says that by 1763 limekilns had 
been established and a few .stone buildings had been erected inside the stockade. 
In 1870 some workmen, engaged in digging a trench for a water main on Jefi'er- 
son Avenue, unearthed an old stone fireplace with its iron crane for holding 
kettles still fast in the stone work. It was found about four or five feet below 
the surface and was supposed to have been the fireplace in a cellar kitchen 
of a house within the fort. 

Dr. Douglas Houghton, in his report as state geologist, submitted to 
Govei-nor Mason in 1838, says: "At a distance of six or seven miles northwest 
of Detroit, and in the County of Wayne, bog (iron) ore occui-s at intervals over 
an extent of several hundred acres, but I have not been able to examine it with 
sufficient care to determine its extent ; I think, however, there can be little doubt 
but it exists in sufficient quantities to be turned to practical account." 

Subsequent surveys located the richest of these deposits in Greenfield Town- 
ship and near the southern border of Livonia To^^'nship. By analysis the ore 


was found to contain nearly seventy-four per cent of •peroxide of iron, but it 
does not appear that any attempt was ever made to give tlie deposits a com- 
mercial value. 


Clay suitable for briekmaking has been found at several points in the 
county. The first brickj-ards in the county were established in what is now 
Springwells Township. They were operating on an extensive scale at the time 
Michigan was admitted into the Union in 1837, and are mentioned in the early 
reports of the state geologist as obtaining their supply of raw material "from 
the blue clay beds in the drift." 

Doctor Houghton, in his early reports as state geologist, also speaks of 
two briclij'ards in operation on the South Branch of the River Rouge near 
Schwarzburg, -where clay of a fine quality was found along the river bank in a 
stratum ranging from two to four feet in thickness. 

Just west of Northville, in Ph^nouth Township, is a deposit of clay of fine 
texture that has been utilized for the manufacture of bricks and earthenware. 
In Section 27 of the same township there is a bed of fine clay covering an area 
of eighty acres or more. 

At Flat Rock, on the Huron River, there is an extensive deposit of blue clay, 
but it contains so much lime that all attempts to use it for briclanaking have 
been unsuccessful. Farther up the river both the blue and yellow claj'S are of 
a better character. Fifty years ago or more a brickyard was in successful 
operation near the mouth of Woods' Creek, in the southeast corner of Van 
Buren Township. 

Peat was discovered at a comparatively early date in the marsh lands of 
what are now Brownsto^vn, Ecorse, Greenfield, Hamtramck and Huron town- 
ships, but little or no use has been made of the deposits. The only bed of 
shell marl mentioned in the Michigan Geological Reports is near the center of 
PljTnouth Township (Section 22). Overlying the marl is a bed of peat, which, 
like those above mentioned, has never been used. Gravel and sand, suitable for 
concrete work and building purposes, are found at various places in the 


Far back in the geologic past, about the close of the Tertiary period, came 
the Pleistocene or "Ice Age," during which all the central part of North 
America was covered with a vast sheet of ice, which extended westward to the 
Rocky Mountains. This glacier was formed in the northern part of the con- 
tinent by successive falls of snow. The weight added by each snowfall aided 
in compressing the mass below into a solid body of ice. As the temperature 
rose the entire glacier began to move slowly southward, carrying with it great 
bowlders, cla}^s, soils, etc., to be deposited in regions far distant from the 
places where they were taken. 

As the huge mass of ice moved slowly along, the bowlders and other hard 
sub.stances at the bottom of the glacier left scratches or strife upon the bed 
rocks, and from these scorings the has been able to determine the 
course of the glacier. At various places in the territory once covered by the 
great central glacier the strife have been noted upon the rocks, indicating the 
general direction traveled by the glacier to have been toward the southeast. 


into a latitude where the rays of the sun began to melt the ice. With the 
disappearance of the ice, the solid materials carried by the glacier were 
deposited upon the bed rocks or preglacial soil in the fonn of drift. 

Where the drift was deposited in a ridge at the edge of the glacier, the 
slight elevation is called a "lateral moraine." The ridge formed where two 
glaciers, or two sections of a great glacier moving in slightly different directions, 
came together is Icnown as a "medial moraine." The ridge which marks the 
point where the last of the ice was dissolved is called a "terminal moraine." 
There is no doubt that some of the ridges in Wayne County were formed by 
glacial action. These ridges are either lateral or medial moraines, the terminal 
moraines of the great central glacier being found farther southward, in the 
states of Indiana and Ohio. 

How long the glacial epoch lasted, or how long since it occurred, is largely 
a matter of conjecture. Some geologists estimate the duration of the "Ice Age" 
as half a million years, and that the last of the ice disappeared more than a 
thousand centuries ago. At the close of the glacial period the surface of the 
earth, over which the glacier had passed, was void of either vegetable or 
animal life. Gradually the frost and rains leveled the surface, the heat of the 
sun warmed the chilled earth, the winds carried the seeds of plants and 
deposited them upon the soil and life in its primitive forms made its appearance. 

Wayne County, in common with all the Lower Peninsula, is covered with 
glacial drift. Soil formed of drift material, being composed of a great variety 
of mineral constituents, usually has all the chemical requirements of a fertile 
soil. Exceptions to this rule are seen in places where the assorting of drift 
materials, by floods or atmospheric action, is sometimes carried to such a degree 
as to destroy fertility. A bed of clay, sand or gravel is not a soil, but a mixture 
of all three constitutes a soil that will produce vegetation. 

Originally, about two-thirds of the county were heavily timbered with 
beech, basswood, black walnut, elm, hickory, oak and a few other varieties of 
trees, with some chestnut on the sandy ridges in Dearborn and Van Buren 
townships. The remaining third consisted of small plains called "oak open- 
ings," a fine description of which is found in J. Fennimore Cooper's novel 
of that name. 

In the timbered portions the soil is composed chiefly of clay, sand and loams, 
silex forming an important ingredient, and the clay usually contains a large 
percentage of lime, which adds to the fertility. Soil of this character, through- 
out the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula, is well adapted to horticultvire 
and many fine orchards and vineyards have been planted in this section of 
the state. The soil in the oak openings is generally sandy and less productive, 
but by careful cultivation it can be made to produce fair crops. In recent 
years, by a liberal application of commercial fertilizers, the farmers of Wayne 
County have been able to produce an abundance of vegetables of all sorts and 
of excellent quality. 

Like that of most of the cities in the Great Lake region, the climate of 
Detroit is modified by the adjacent bodies of water. Records of the United 
States Weather Bureau show that the average mean temperature for twenty- 


five years, for the period from May to September, inclusive, never exceeded 
72° Fahrenheit, while the mean winter temperature was 26°, the coldest weather 
occurring' in February. The mean annual temperature therefore varies but 
little from that of other cities in the same latitude. 

Observations have shown that, when the entire year is taken into con- 
sideration, the proportion of clear days to cloudy ones is about two to one, 
though in the summer and autumn months the proportion of clear days to 
cloudy is approximately five to one. The average yearly rainfall at Detroit 
is about forty inches. Usually June is the month of greatest precipitation (aver- 
age nearly four inches) and the least rainfall occurs in the months of Decem- 
ber and February. 

M. de Bougainville, who visited Detroit in 1757, wrote: "The atmosphere 
is of great beauty and serenity. It is a magnificent climate, having almost 
no cold weather and only a little snow. The cattle stay in the fields all winter 
and find their living there." 

No doubt the principal reason why Bougainville and other early travelers 
noticed so little snow is that the open surface of the Great Lakes has a tendency 
to increase the temperature and the snow often melts as fast as it falls. The 
snowfall was probably much heavier than these early visitors realized. The 
winter of 177!*-80 was one of the most severe on record. Snow covered the 
ground practically all winter, the cold was intense and in the spring the bodies 
of horses and cattle were found by scores in the woods, where they had perished 
from exposure and starvation. The winter of 1785-86 was also one of extreme 
cold and deep snow. As late as March 1, 1786, the snow was four feet in places 
where it had not been disturbed. In Lake St. Clair the ice was three feet 
thick a mile from the shore and did not disappear until May. About the middle 
of April, 1821, eight inches of snow fell, and on ]\Iay 1, 1824, the snow was a 
foot deep. 

As the great lumbering interests cut off the pine forests, the destruction of 
the timber wielded an influence upon the climate, which has become more 
variable than formerly, though liea\y snows still occur occasionally. About the 
middle of January, 1877, a snow storm caused the suspension of railway traffic 
for several days. At noon on April 6, 1886, a snow storm commenced and by 
midnight the snow was two feet deep on the level. The high wind blew the 
snow into drifts and all street ears stopped running until late the next day. 

As a rule, the autumns 'in Detroit are the most delightful and enjoyable 
seasons of the year. There is but little rainfall and the "Indian Summer" 
frequently extends into the latter part of November. 


No fewer than six names have been bestowed upon the site of Detroit and 
the white settlement there established. Early Indian tribes called the place Yon- 
do-ti-ga, meaning a "Great Village." Other tribes gave it the name of 
Wa-we-a-tnn-ong, which meant "Crooked Way," or "Circuitous Approach," 
on account of tlie great bend in the river between Lake St. Clair and Fighting 
Island. Anollicr Indian name was Tsych-sa-ron-dia, which also refere to the 
bend in the river. In the Colonial Archives of New York State, this name is 
found spelled in various ways, the most frequent of which is Teuchsa Grondie. 
The Huron Indians called the place Ka-ron-ta-en, "The Coast of the Straits." 

Such were the names conferred by the natives. When Cadillac founded his 


settlement here in 1701, it was at first called Fort Ponteliartrain, in honor of 
Count Pontchartrain, then the French minister of marine. Early French ex- 
plorers and travelers designated all the waters connecting Lake Huron and 
Lake Erie — the St. Clair Eiver, Lake St. Clair ' and the Detroit River — as 
Detroit, that is "the strait." So the settlement at Foi-t Pontchartrain was 
christened Detroit, from which is derived its popular sobriquet of the "City of 
the Straits." 









Before the white mau the Indian; before the Indian, who? The question 
is moi-e easily asked than answered. Owing to various theories advanced, the 
origin of the aboriginal inhabitants of Central North America is veiled in 
obscurity. A number of writers — men who made a special study of the subject 
— among whom were Prescott and Schoolcraft, have asserted their belief that 
the first occupants of the continent were descendants of the lost- tribes of Israel. 
They support their theory with interesting and ingenious arguments to show 
that it was not impossible for them to have come from Asia, either by being 
drifted across the Pacific Ocean or by way of Behring's Strait and thence south- 
ward into what are now the United States and Mexico. Cadillac, the founder of 
Detroit, was an advocate of this theory. An old document found in the French 
Archives, written by him, sets forth the reasons for his belief that the Indians 
were of Hebrew origin. 


The first white settlements along the Atlantic coast were made in the early 
pai't of the Seventeenth Century. Almost a eenturj' and a half elapsed after 
these settlements were founded, before evidences were discovered to show that 
the interior had once been peopled by a peculiar race. Says one of the reports 
of the United States Bureau of Ethnology : 

"During a period beginning some time after the close of the Ice Age and 
ending with the coming of the white man — or only a few generations before — 
the central part of North America was inhabited by a people who had emerged 
to some extent from the darkness of savagery, had acquired certain domestic 
arts, and practiced some well-defined lines of industry. The location and boun- 
daries inhabited by them are fairly well marked by the mounds and earthworks 
they erected." 

The center of this ancient civilization — if such it may be called — appears to 
have been in the present State of Ohio. From the relics left by these early 
people arehffiologists have given them the name of "Mound Builders." ilost 
of the mounds so far discovered are conical in shape and when explored have 
generally been found to contain skeletons. For this reason they have been desig- 



nated as burial mounds. Others are in the form of truncated pj-ramids — that is, 
square or rectangular at the base and flattened on the top. The mounds of this 
class are usually much higher than the burial mounds and are supposed to have 
been lookouts or signal stations. Here and there are to be seen well-defined 
lines of earthworks, indicating that they had been used for defensive purposes 
against invading enemies. In a few instances, the discovery of a large mound, 
surrounded by an embankment, outside of which are a number of smaller 
mounds, has given rise to the theory that such places were centers of religious 
worship or sacrifice. 

Cyrus Thomas, of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, has divided the 
region once inhabited by the Mound Builders into eight districts, in each of 
which there are certain characteristics not common to the others. The location 
of these districts can be fairly well determined by their names, to wit : 1. The 
Dacotah; 2. The Huron-Iroquois ; 3. The Illinois; 4. The Ohio; 5. The Ap- 
palachian; 6. The Tennessee; 7. The Arkansas; 8. The Gulf District. 

The second of these districts — the Huron-Iroquois — embraces the country 
once inhabited by the Huron and Iroquois Indians. It includes the greater 
part of the State of New York, a strip across the northern part of Ohio, the 
Lower Peninsula of Michigan and extends northward into Canada. Through- 
out this district burial mounds are numerous, a few fortifications have been noted 
and "hut rings," or foundations of ancient dwellings, are plentiful. 


A few miles down the Detroit River from the City of Detroit, in Spring- 
wells Township, was once a gi-oup of mounds, circular or oval in fonn, with two 
parallel embankments about four feet high leading eastward, toward the Detroit 
River. Henrj' Gillman, at one time a curator of the Detroit Scientific Society and 
later librarian of the Detroit Public Library, wrote a description of these mounds, 
which was published in the report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1873. He 
says : 

"One of the most interesting works of this region, and which, till a few years 
ago, formed a member of a numerous series of mounds in the immediate vicinity, 
is the tumulus which I have named 'The Great ilound of the River Rouge.' This, 
in many respects, remarkable work is situated on the eastern bank of the River 
Rouge, a tributarj' of the Detroit, and near the point of junction of the fonner 
with the latter river, or about four and a half miles from the City Hall of 

"The size, shape and well-defined outlines of the monument could hardly 
fail to attract the attention of even the superficial observer and impress him as 
to its being the work of man. "With a height of 20 feet, it must originally have 
measured 300 feet in length by 200 in width, but large quantities of sand have 
been removed from time to time, greatly reducing its proportions and scatter- 
ing or destroying relics. The smaller mounds, extending from the Great Mound 
to the eastward, have long since been removed, so has the greater number of 
smaller mounds which one stood immediately below the southern city limits. 
Those which remain are rapidly disappearing, being used for building sand. 

"The relics exhumed from the Great Mound (which has not even yet been 
thoroughly explored) consist of stone implements, such as axes, scrapers, chisels, 
arrow heads and knives; fragments of pottery of a great variety of patterns. 


iueliidiiig the favorite eord pattern ; and the bones of man, generally mueh de- 
cayed and exhibiting other indications of antiquity. 

"About three-fourths of a niile north and eastward of the Great Rouge 
Mound, and a few hundred feet westward of Fort Wayne, being over one-third 
of a mile from the Detroit River, occurs the monument which I have named 
'The Great Circular Mound.' Eleven skeletons were here exhumed, with a large 
number of burial vases; stone implements in great variety and superior work- 
manship, consisting of axes, spears, arrow heads, chisels, drillers and sinkers; 
pipes, ornaments of shell and stone ; also a peculiar implement of unknown use 
formed from an antler, and two articles made of copper, one the remains of a 
necklace, consisting of a number of beads, and the other a needle several inches 
in length." 


Who were the 'Jlound Builders? Various authors have written upon the 
subject and nearly every one has a theory as to their origin. Some maintain that 
they first established their civilization in the Ohio Valley, whence they worked 
their way gradually southward into Mexico and Central America, where the 
white man found their descendants in the Aztec Indians. Others, with argu- 
ments equally logical and plausible, contend that the Mound Builders originated 
in the South and migrated northward to the country about the Great Lakes, 
where their further progress was checked by hostile tribes. Practically all the 
early writers were agreed upon one thing, however, and that was that the Mound 
Builders were a vei*y ancient race. The principal reasons for this view were 
that the Indians had no traditions concerning many of the relics, and upon 
many of the mounds and earthworks, when first discovered, were trees several 
feet in diameter, indicating that the relics were of great antiquity. Regarding 
the antiquity of the mounds in Wayne County, Mr. Gillman, in the article already 
referred to, says: 

"Indian tradition says that the mounds were built in ancient times by a 
people of whom they (the Indians) know nothing, and for whom they have no 
name ; that the mounds were occupied by the Turtle Indians and subsequently 
by the Wyandottes, but were constructed long before their time. * * * That 
these people are identical with the race whose monuments of various descrip- 
tions are found in such remarkable abundance to the westward and southward, 
through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, even to the gulf of Mexico, admits now 
of no question ; a race whose craniological development and evidently advanced 
civilization apparently separate it from the North American Indian and ally it 
to the ancient Brazilian type." 

Among the earliest writers on the sub.ject of the ilound Builders were Squier 
and Davis, who about the middle of the Nineteenth Century published a work 
entitled, "Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley." Between the years 
1845 and 1848 these two investigators opened over two hundred mounds. Fol- 
lowing the lead of Squier and Davis, other investigators supported their theory 
that the ilound Builders, who once inhabited the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, 
were of a different race from the Indians found here by the white man. 

In more recent years archa?ologists, who have made extensive research among 
the mounds, are practicallj' a unit in the conclusion that the Mound Builder was 
nothing iiioi'c than the ancestor, more or less remote, of the Indian. 



When Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the Western Hemis- 
phere in 1492, he believed that he had reached the goal of his long cherished 
ambitions and that the country where he lauded was the eastern shore of Asia. 
Early European explorers in America, entertaining a similar belief, thought 
the eounti-y was India and gave to the race of copper colored people they found 
here the name of "Indians." Later explorations disclosed the fact that Colum- 
bus had really discovered a continent hitherto unknown to the civilized nations 
of the world. The error in geography was corrected, but the name given by the 
first adventurers to the natives still remains. 

Probably more pages have been written relating to the Indian tribes of 
North America than on any other one subject connected with American history. 
To the student of history there is a peculiar fascination in the stoiy of these 
savage tribes — their legends, traditions, wars and customs — that makes the topic 
always one of surpassing interest, and no history of Detroit and its environs 
would be complete without some account of the tribes tliat inhabited the country 
before the advent of the white man. 


The North American Indians are divided into several groups or families, each 
of which is distinguished by certain physical and linguistic characteristics. Each 
of these groups is subdivided into tribes and each tribe is ruled over by a chief. 
At the beginning of the Sixteenth Centuiy, when the first Europeans began 
their explorations in America, they found the various leading Indian families 
distributed over the continent as follows : 

In the far north were the Eskimo, a people that have never played any con- 
spicuous part in history. These Indians still inhabit the country about the Arctic 
Circle, where some of them have been occasionally employed as guides to polar 
expeditious, which has been about their only association with the white race. 

The Algonquian family, the most powerful and numerous of all the Indian 
groups, occupied a great triangle, roughly bounded by the Atlantic coast from 
Labrador to Cape Hatteras and by lines drawn from those two points to the 
western end of Lake Superior. Within this triangle lived the Delaware, Shawnee, 
Miami, Pottawatomi, Chippewa, Ottawa, Sac, Fox, Huron, Winnebago and other 
powerful tribes, which yielded slowly to the advance of the superior race. 

Almost in the very heart of the Algonquian triangle — along the upper 
reaches of the St. Lawrence River and the shores of Lake Ontario — lived the 
Iroquoian group, the principal tribes of which were the Cayuga, Mohawk, 
Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca. 

South of the Algonquian country and extending from the ^Mississippi River 
to the Atlantic coast was the domain of the Muskhogean family. The leading 
tribes of this group were the Chei'okee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek. The 
Indians of this gi-oup were among the most intelligent, as well as the most 
aggressive and warlike, of all the North American tribes. 

Of the groups inliabiting the western part of the present United States, 
the strongest was the Siouan, whose domain was about the headwaters of the 
Mississippi and extending westward to the Jlissouri River. It was composed of 


a number of tribes closely resembling each other in physical appearance and 
dialect, all noted for their warlike tendencies and military prowess. 

South and west of the Siouan country lived the ' ' Plains Indians, ' ' composed 
of tribes of mixed stock, including the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Pawnee (or Pani) 
in the north, and the Apache, Comanche and Kiowa in the south. All these 
tribes were of bold and vindictive disposition, expert horsemen and skilful 
hunters. West of the Plains Indians dwelt the Shoshoneau family, one of the 
smallest on the continent, the principal tribes of which were the Bannock and 
Shoshone, and farther southward, in what are now the states of Arkansas and 
Louisiana, was the Caddoan family, or "hut builders." 

Scattered over other parts of the country were numerous minor tribes, which 
in all probability had separated from some of the great families, but who, at 
the time they first came in contact with the white man, claimed kinship with 
none. These tribes were generally inferior in numbers, often nomadic in their 
habits, and consequently are of little importance historically. 

In a history such as this it is not the design to attempt any extended account 
of the Indian race as a whole, but to notice only those tribes whose history is 
more or less intimately connected with the region about Detroit, to wit : The 
Chippewa, Huron, Iroquois, Mascouten, Miami, Pottawatomi, Sac and Fox, 
Winnebago and some minor tribes that were really only subdi\-isions or offshoots 
of the larger ones. 


This was one of the largest tribes of the Algonquian family. The Indian 
name was "Ojibwa," meaning "to roast till puckered up," a name conferred 
by other tribes on account of the Chipiiewa method of making moccasins with 
a puckered seam around the edge. Morgan divides the Chippewa into twenty- 
four elans or gentes, the principal ones of which were the wolf, bear, beaver, 
bald eagle and sturgeon. 

A Chippewa tradition says that at an early date the tribe was closely allied 
with the other Algonquian subdivisions, especially the Ottawa and Pottawatomi. 
During this period they inhabited both shores of the northern part of Lake 
Michigan and the country about the foot of Lake Superior. The French gave 
them the name of Sauteaux, from the Sault Ste. Marie. At Mackinaw the 
Chippewa withdrew from the alliance and moved westward into what is now 
the State of Minnesota, ultimately extending their domain to the Turtle River 
in North Dakota. 

Although a large tribe numerically, it was not as prominent in history as 
some of the smaller ones. Some of the Chippewa lived near the site of Detroit 
before the coming of Cadillac and became the friends of the French. When the 
post was surrendered to the English in 1760 they transfen-ed their allegiance 
to the new power. After the United States came into control, the tribe con- 
tinued to receive presents from the British until 1820, when a treaty of peace 
was concluded with them by Gov. Lewis Cass. 


The Huron nation was composed of four well organized tribes of Iroquoian 
stock, commonly called the Bear. Cord, Deer and Rock people, and was known 
as the Wendat (Vendat) Confederacy. The name. Huron is derived from the 


French "hure," signifying "bristly," and was given to these Indians on account 
of their coarse, bristly hair. 

In 1615 Champlain found the four confederated tribes living about the 
Georgian Bay and along the eastern coast of Lake Huron. He estimated their 
number at 30,000 and says they had eighteen populous villages, eight of which 
were fortified with palisades. About forty j'ears after Champlain 's visit, they 
became involved in a war with the Five Nations and were driven to take refuge 
with the Erie Indians, whom they persuaded to join them in the war. In 1656 
they were again defeated and many of their warriors killed. The survivors fled 
to Christian Island, in the Georgian Bay, but finding that locality unsafe they 
retired to Michilimackinac, whither they were pursued by their old enemy. The 
Iroquois advance was then checked by the Chippewa, the Hurons retiring to 
the vicinity of Green Bay, where they formed an alliance with some of the 
Ottawa and Pottawatomi. 

According to the Jesuit Relations, a Huron settlement was founded in 1670 
on Mantoulin Island, where the next year Father Marquette established the 
mission of St. Ignace. When Cadillac founded the post at Detroit, he adopted 
the policy of having as many friendly Indians as possible locate near the fort. 
On June 28, 1703, thirty Huron families from the St. Ignace mission arrived 
at Detroit and set up their wigwams. They were soon joined bj' others of the 
tribe and an old French memoir of 1707 says : 

"The Hurons are also near, perhaps the eighth of a league from the French 
fort. This is the most industrious nation that can be seen. They scarcely ever 
dance and are always at work; raise a veiy large amoiuit of Indian corn, peas 
and beans; grow some wheat. They construct their huts entirely of bark, very 
strong and solid ; very lofty and verj' long and arched like arbors. Their fort 
is strongh' encircled with pickets and bastions, well redoubted and has strong 
gates. They are the most faithful nation to the French, and the most expert 
hunters that we have." 

After some years at Detroit, a portion of the tribe went to Sandusky, Ohio. 
In 1745 the French commandant at Detroit provoked the enmity of the chief 
Orontonj^ (or Nicholas), who, with his following, left Detroit and joined those 
at Sandusky. There he began the fonnation of a conspiracy for the destruction 
of the French posts at and above Detroit, but a Huron woman revealed the 
plot to a Jesuit priest, who in turn notified Longueuil, the commandant at 
Detroit. Orontony then destroyed his village near Sandusky and with his 
warriors and their families established a new one on the White River in Indiana, 
where he died in the fall of 1748. 

Upon the death of their chief the Indians returned to Detroit and Sandusky, 
where they took the name of Wyandot instead of Huron. As the Wyandot 
nation they laid claim to the greater part of what is now the State of Ohio. 
During the War of 1812 they supported the English cause and by the peace of 
1815 the tribe was granted a large tract of land in Ohio and Michigan. Most 
of this tract was ceded to the United States in 1819, the Indians accepting two 
reservations, one near Upper Sandusky and the other on the Huron River, not 
far from Detroit. These reservations were sold in 1842 and the occupants re- 
moved to what is now Wyandotte County, Kansas, where they lived for twenty- 
five years, when they were removed to the Indian Territory. The remnant of 
the once great Huron nation now lives on a resei'vation in the northeasft corner 
of Oklahoma. 



Strictly sjieakiim' tliei'i' were no Iroquois Indians;, tliat name being' applied 
in a general way to all the tribes of the same linguistic stock, ethnologically 
known as the Iroquoian family. In 1534 Jacques Cartier found these Indians 
on the sliore of the Gaspe Basin and on both banks of the St. Lawrence River 
between Qneliec and ^Montreal, which was their first acquaintance witli tlie 
white race. 

The word Iroquois means ""We are of the extended lodge,'" and was given 
to the confederac.v formed about 1570 by the Cayuga, ]\Iohawk, Oneida, Onon- 
daga and Seneca tribes, after wars with other tribes led them to unite for 
their common defense. This confederacy was known to the early settlers of 
New York as the "Five Nations." At that time the allied tribes claimed nearly 
all the St. Lawrence Valley, the basins of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the 
eastern sliore of Lake Huron, especially the eountrj^ about the Georgian Bay, 
and all the present State of New York except the lower Hudson Valley. 

In this confederacy each tril)e was an independent political unit, which sent 
delegates to a general council. The Five Nations were second to none north 
of Mexico in political organization, statecraft and military prowess. Their 
chiefs were diplomats of ability and nearl.v always proved a match for tlie 
white men, when the two races met in council for the negotiation of treaties, 
etc. In 1722 the Tuscarora tribe was added to the confederacy, which then 
took the name of the "Six Nations." 

Champlaiii, in one of his early expeditions, joined a party of Canadian 
Indians at war with the Five Nations, who thereby became bitter and lasting 
enemies of the French. Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries tried in vain to 
win them to the Catholic faith and in the French and Indian war they fought 
on the side of the British. 

About 1650 French travelers estimated the Iroquois population at 20.000. 
They were nearly always at war with the neighboring tribes, from New England 
•to Lake Michigan, where their westward advance was checked by the Chippewa. 
These wars depleted their ranks and at the close of the French and Indian war 
they numbered about 10,000, with fifty villages. They sometimes were repre- 
sented in the councils lield at the Huron or ^Vyandot village, near the mouth 
of the Detroit River, Init as a rule they were the enemies of all the Indians 
about Detroit, particularly those on fi-iendly terms with the French. They 
were cruel in war and it is stated on ai^pareutly good authority that they often 
ate the flesli of their enemies killed in battle. 


Some ethnologists classify this tribe as part of the Sac and Fox confederacy 
and others as the "Prairie Band" of tlie Pottawatomi. This is probably due 
to the confused accounts concerning their early history. In 1616 Champlain 
met with a tribe that he designated as the Asi.staguerouon, which inhabited the 
country south and west of Lake Huron. Twenty years later, Sagard stated 
that the Mascouten countiy was nine or ten days' jouniey west of the south 
end of the Georgian Bay. In 1634 Nicolas Perrot found them living on the 
Fox River in Wisconsin, and the Jesuit Relation for 1646 says that up to the 
time of Perrot "s visit no white man had seen them and no missionaries had 
been among them. They called themselves the "little prairie people." 


Marest, writing of this tribe, says that in 1712 he found a number of them 
living on the Ohio River, near the mouth of the Wabash, where they had located 
only a short time before. It was part of this band who, with some of the 
Kickapoo, joined in the Fox attack on Detroit in May, 1712, which may have 
had something to do with the theory tliat the Maseouten were a branch of the 
Fox tribe. 


Among the great tribes of the Algonquian family, the Miami (called Twight- 
wees by the early English settlers) occupied a large territoiy in Southern 
Michigan, Western Ohio and Central Indiana. Some idea of the extent of the 
tribal claims may be gained from the following extract from the speech of 
their great chief, Little Turtle, at the council of Greenville, Ohio, in August, 
1795: "My fathere kindled the first fire at Detroit; thence they extended their 
lines to the headwatei*s of the Scioto ; thence to its mouth ; thence down the 
Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash; thence to Chicago and over Lake Michigan." 

The Miami was one of the first tribes to establish friendly relations with 
the French under Cadillac. As early as 1703 there was a considerable Miami 
colony at Detroit, but their principal settlement at that time was on the shore 
of Lake Michigan, near the present City of St. Joseph. Later the tribal head- 
quarters were established at the head of the Maumee River, wliere the City of 
Fort Wayne, Indiana, now stands. 

Agriculture was practiced in a primitive way, the women, as in other tribes 
doing the work of the field and wigwam, while the men engaged in hunting 
or "went on the war path." They were less treacherous than many of the 
tribes and appear to have had a higher sense of honor. When the peace treaty 
of Greenville was concluded on August 3, 1795, some of the Miami chiefs were 
opposed to certain provisions, but finally yielded to the majority. As Little 
Turtle "touched the goose quill" he said: "I am the last to sign it and I will 
be the last to break it. ' ' He kept his word and remained on terms of peace with 
the white people until his death at Fort Wayne, Indiana, on July 14, 1812. 


The name Ottawa was a term common to a number of Algonquian tribes, 
notably the Cree, Chippewa, Nipissing and Ottawa proper. The first mention 
of these Indians in history was in 1615, when Champlain met about 300 of 
them and gave them the name of "les cheueux releuez. " In his description of 
them he says: 

' ' Their arms consisted only of a bow and arrows, a buckler of boiled leather 
and the club. They wore no breech clouts, their bodies were tattooed in many 
fashions and designs, their faces i5ainted and their noses pierced." 

From their pierced noses an ornament consisting of a small pebble or shell 
was suspended, which doubtless led some of the early writers to conclude that 
the term Ottawa signified "the nation with a hole in the nose." This theory 
is not sustained by the LTnited States Bureau of Ethnology, the "Handbook" 
of which says the name was applied to the Ottawa "because in early traditional 
times and also during the historic period they were noted among their neigh- 
bors as intertribal traders and barterers, dealing chiefly in coi"n meal, sun- 
flower oil, furs and skins, rugs and mats, tobacco, and medicinal roots and 
herbs. ' ' 


The Jesuit Relation for 1667 says that thej' claimed the country along the 
Ottawa River and that no other nation was permitted to navigate that stream 
without their consent. About the same time Claude Allouez, the Jesuit mis- 
sionary, wrote: "They are little disposed toward the faith, for they are too 
much given to idolatry, superstitious, fables, polygamy, looseness of the mar- 
riage tie and to all manner of license, which causes them to drop all native 
decency. ' ' 

Until about 1670 the Ottawa and Huron lived together. Then the latter 
removed to the west side of Lake Huron, part of the tribe locating near the 
present City of Detroit and others going to Jlichilimackinac to escape from 
their old enemy, the Iroquois. A little later it seems that a portion of the 
Ottawa also gained a foothold on the west side of Lake Huron, in the vicinity 
of Saginaw Bay, where the Pottawatomi were probably in close union with 
them. In 1703 Cadillac invited them to settle near Detroit and they established 
a village on the opposite side of the river, where Sandwich now stands. There 
they built a picket fort, similar to that of the Huron stockade. 

For more than half a eentuiy the Ottawa were the steadfast friends of the 
French and on numerous occasions assisted them in repelling the attacks of 
hostile tribes. After Detroit was surrendered to the British in 1760, the tribe 
became dissatisfied mth the new power. The celebrated chief, Pontiac, was a 
meiuber of this tribe, and Pontiac 's war of 1763, an account of which is given 
in another chapter, was a prominent event in Ottawa history. 

The Ottawa were good farmers and experts in handling their canoes. At 
the close of the Revolutionary war a small portion of the tribe refused to submit 
to the authority of the United States and removed to Canada. Subsequently 
they, with some of the Chippewa and Pottawatomi Indians, were settled on 
Walpole Island in Lake St. Clair. All the lands in Michigan claimed by the 
Ottawa were ceded to the United States by various treaties, ending with the 
Chicago treaty of September 26, 1833, when they accepted a reservation near 
Port Leavenworth, Kansas. 


When first met by the white men, this tribe was one of the greatest of the 
Algonquin group. The name Pottawatomi signifies "the people of the place 
of fire," or "nation of fire." The first authentic account of these Indians is 
that given by Jean Nicollet, who found them in 1634 living with the Winnebago 
and some other tribes about the Green Bay. Thirty years later the main body 
of the tribe inhabited the islands about the mouth of the Green Bay. The Jesuit 
Relation for 1671 says: Four nations make their abode here, namely: "Those 
who bear the name of Puaus (Winnebago), who have always lived here as in 
their own country, and who have been reduced to almost nothing from being 
a very flourishing and populous people, having been exterminated by their 
enemies, the Ulini; the Pottawatomi, the Sauk and the Nation of the Fork also 
live here, but as strangers or foreigners, driven by the fear of the Iroquois from 
their own lands which are between the lake of the Hurons and the country of 
the mini." 

This would indicate that the original habitat of the Pottawatomi was some- 
whei'e about the foot of Lake Huron. When the Relation of 1671 was written, 
the tribe was moving toward the south and east. Soon after Cadillac founded 
Detroit a Pottawatomi village was established near the mouth of the little 


stream afterward known as Knagg's Creek and witliin a short distance of the 
fort. An old French colonial memoir of 1707 says: 

"The village of the Pottowatamies adjoins the fort. The women do all the 
work. The men belonging to that nation are well clothed, like onr domiciliated 
Indians at Montreal ; their entire occupation is hunting and dress ; they make 
use of a great deal of vermilion, and in winter wear buffalo robes richly painted 
and in summer either blue or red cloth. They play a good deal at la crosse 
in summer, twenty or more on each side. Their bat is a sort of little racket 
and the ball with which they play is made of very heavy wood, somewhat larger 
than the balls used at tennis; when playing they are entirely naked, except a 
breech cloth and moccasins on their feet. Their bodies are completely painted 
with all sorts of colors. Some, with white clay, trace white lace on their bodies, 
as if on all the seams of a coat, and at a distance it would be apt to be taken 
for silver lace. They play very deep and often. The bets sometimes amount 
to more than eight hundred li\Tes. They set up two poles and commence the 
game from the center; one party propels the ball from one side and the other 
from the opposite, and whichever reaches the goal wins. This is fine recreation 
and worth seeing. * * * The women cultivate Indian corn, beans, peas, 
squashes and melons, which come up very fine." 

The Pottawatomi were the loyal friends of the French, but after the French 
and Indian war they joined Pontiac in his conspiracy for the destruction of 
the English posts. Their burial place at Detroit was on the tract later known 
as the Brevoort farm. In 1771 they granted part of their lands near Detroit 
to Isadore Chene and Robert Navarre, on condition that the two white men 
would keep in order the resting places of their dead. 

In the Revolutionaiy war they fought on the side of the British, with whom 
they had made friends, and at the council of Greenville in 1795 they notified 
the Miami that they intended to move down upon the Wabash River, which 
they did soon aftei-ward, in spite of the protests of the Miami, who claimed 
practically the whole Wabash Valley. At the beginning of the Nineteenth 
Century the Pottawatomi were in possession of the country around the head 
of Lake Michigan from the Milwaukee River to the Grand River in Michigan, 
extending eastward across the Lower Peninsula, southwest over a large part 
of Northern Illinois, and soiithward to the Wabash River. Within this teri-itory 
they had about fifty populous villages. 

In the War of 1812 they again took the side of the British, which was their 
undoing. Between the years 1836 and 1841 they ceded their lands in Indiana, 
Illinois and Michigan to the LTnited States and in 1846 removed to a reservation 
in what is now the State of Kansas. 

Morgan divides the Pottawatomi into fifteen clans or gentes, the most im- 
portant of which were the wolf, bear, beaver, fox and thunder. Early writers 
describe them as "docile and affectionate" in their relations with the white 
people. Polygamy was common among them when the first missionaries Ausited 
the tribe. In their mythology they had two spirits — Kitchemonedo, the Great 
Spirit, and Matchemonedo, the Evil Spirit — and they were sun worshipers to 
some extent. Their principal annual festival was the "Feast of Dreams," at 
which dog meat was served as the leading dish. 


Although these two tribes are nearly always spoken of as one, they were 
originally separate and distinct organizations, both belonging to the Algonquian 


family. After many migrations and vicissitudes they united and became one 
of the powerful Indian nations of the Mississippi Valley. 

The Sac (Indian name Sauk or Osa-ki-wug ) signifies "people of the outlet." 
Their earliest kno\vii habitat was on the western shore of Lake Huron, where 
they were found by missionaries in 1616 associated with other tribes. They 
are first mentioned as an independent tribe in the Jesuit Relation of 1640. In 
1667 Father Claude Allouez found them a populous tribe with no fixed dwelling 
place and describes them as "more savage than all the other tribes I have met. 
* * * If they find a person in an isolated place they will kill him, espe- 
cially if he be a Frenchman, for they cannot endure the sight of the whiskei-s 
of the European." 

The tribe was divided into thirteen gentes, viz : Bass, bear, eagle, elk, fox, 
great lynx, grouse, sea, stiu'geon, swan, thunder, trout and wolf. From the 
country about Saginaw Bay they retreated toward the northwest, by way of 
Mackinaw, and thence southwest to Gi*een Bay, and in 1721 their principal 
village was near the mouth of the Fox River in Wisconsin. 

Concerning the Pox nation, Dr. William Jones of the United States Bureau 
of Ethnology, says that a hunting party of these Indians was met by some 
French, who asked to what tribe they belonged and was told the Mesh-kwa-ki-hug. 
The name being difficult of pronunciation, the French gave them the name of 
Renard, or Fox. The Indian name, Mesh-kwa-ki-hug, means "people of the 
red earth." It was often shortened into Musciuakie. The Chippewa called 
them Utagamig, which the white people corrupted into Outagamie. The Chip- 
pewa name means "people of the other shore," and from this fact Warren, in 
his "History of the Ojibwa Indians," draws the conclusion that the earliest 
known habitat of the Pox was on the southern shore of Lake Superior until 
driven out by the Chippewa. 

There is a striking similarity in the social organization of the Sac and Fox 
nations, in that each had thirteen gentes, the names of which were almost 
■ identical. The Pox clans were the bass, bear, big lynx, buffalo, eagle, elk, fox, 
pheasant, sea, sturgeon, .swan, thunder and potato. The celebrated chief Black 
Hawk was a member of the thunder clan of the Sac tribe, but was recognized 
as chief by the Fox after the two had formed their confederacy. 

Incited by the English, the Fox Indians became the enemies of the French 
and made several attacks upon the French po.sts. In 1733, after one of their 
forays, Sieur de Villiers was sent against them with an anned force from 
Canada. They sought refuge in the Sac village on the Fox River. De Villiers 
demanded the sui-render of the fugitives, but it was refused and in the fight 
that ensued the Indians lost twenty-nine and the French fifteen, De Villiers 
being one of the killed. The Ottawa and Chippewa, allies of the French, lost 
respectively nine and six of their warriors. Marquis de Beauharnois, then 
governor of Canada, sent more troops into the Indian country. It was at this 
time that the Sac and Fox confederacy was formed, the allied tribes retreating 
southward to the Rock River Valley in Illinois. 

The mythology of both the Sac and Pox was full of supei-stition and fable, 
which, like the similarity of their social organization, indicates that they were 
of the same stock. Both had many . festivals and after the confederacy was 
formed both pai'ticipated in the rites of the secret Grand Medicine Society 
known as the Mi-de-wi-win. Also both tribes are described as "stingy, warlike, 
thieving and quarrelsome." 



The first mention of the Winnebago Indians in the white man's history was 
that made by Jean Nicollet, who found them in 1634 living along the shores of 
the Green Bay, where they were associated with other tribes. A Winnebago 
tradition says they were once a powerful nation, living along the shores of 
Lake Superior until they were driven out by the Chippewa. They really 
belonged to the Siouan group, but by long association with Algonquian tribes 
they acquired the speech and habits of that family. 

In their social organization the Winnebago had two phratries called the 
Air Phratrj' and the Earth Phratry. In the former were four elans — eagle, 
pigeon, thunderbird and war people — and in the latter there were eight clans — 
bear, buffalo, deer, elk, fish, snake, water- spirit and wolf. The bear and thunder- 
bird were the leading clans, from which came most of their great chiefs. In 
mari-ying a man always chose a wife from some other clan than his own. 

After the French and Indian war they were slow to transfer their allegiance 
to the English. During the Revolutionary war they took no important part, 
but in the War of 1812 they fought against the United States with the tribes 
that gathered about Detroit. At that time the tribe lived on the Rock River, 
in Illinois, a few miles above the Sac Village. A few years after the Black 
Hawk war they were removed to a reser\'ation in Iowa. 


In addition to the tribes above mentioned there were several which were 
less intimately connected with the history of Detroit. One of these was the 
Menominee tribe, which Jean Nicollet found living with the Winnebago on the 
Green Bay in 1634. The French called these Indians FoUes Avoines, from "wild 
rice," which was one of their chief articles of food. They were friendly to 
the French and assisted Du Buisson, the commandant at Detroit, to repel the 
attack of the Fox and Kickapoo Indians on the fort in May, 1712. In August, 
1831, about twenty of them were killed by a Sac and Fox band near the present 
City of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, the assa.ssins joining Black Hawk im- 
mediately afterward and taking part in the Black Hawk war the following year. 

The Illinois — or Illini, as they were at first known — was, according to their 
traditions, once a powerful nation, consisting of five subordinate tribes, viz. : 
The Kaskaskia, Peoria, Tamaroa, Cahokia and Michigani. They also assisted 
the French to defeat the assaults on Fort Pontchartrain in the spring of 1712. 
Pontiac, who led the uprising against the English posts in 1763, was killed by 
a Kaskaskia Indian in 1769, whereupon the Sac and Fox, allies of Pontiac, 
declared war upon the Illini and in time almost exterminated tlie tribes com- 
posing the confederacy. 

The main dwelling place of the Kickapoo Indians was along the lower Wabash 
River, in southern Indiana and Illinois, though they frequently wandered into 
the Great Lakes countiy. Part of the tribe participated in the attack on the 
French fort at Detroit in May, 1712. As Capt. George Croghan and his escort 
were on the way to the English posts on the Mississippi River early in the year 
1765, he was captured near the mouth of the Wabash by a Kickapoo band that 
had been active in supporting Pontiac, but was soon afterward released. 

All these tribes were of Algonquian stock, as were the Osage and a few 
others that figured to a slight extent in Detroit history. Thev are here classed 


as "minor tribes" merely because of the insignifieant part they played in kjcal 
events. Logan, the Cayuga (or Mingo) chief was an occasional visitor at 
Detroit. Tecumseh (the Shooting Star) and his bi-other Tenskwatawa (the 
Prophet), two of the greatest members of the Shawnee nation, frequently visited 
the post while the English were in control, and the former was an active sup- 
porter of the British in the War of 1812 until killed at the battle of the Thames. 








In giving an account of the early explorers, who may or may not have 
visited the site of the City of Detroit, the writer has ventured to "wander far 
afield" and include explorations that may appear to have no direct bearing 
upon the city's history. Yet the work of each of the explorers mentioned in 
this chapter had its influence in cfeveloping the countrj^ about the Great Lakes, 
and incidentally contributed to the founding of Detroit. 


In all probability the first white men to set foot upon the soil of Michigan 
were" the coureurs de bois, or Canadian woodsmen. When the continent of 
North America was fii'st explored by Europeans, it was found that the country 
lying above 36° north latitude was the richest and most extensive field in the 
world for the collection of fine furs. The Indians used the skins of some of 
the fur-bearing animals for clothing, or in the construction of their wigwams, 
not knowing that such skins were of almost fabulous value in the European 
capitals. The coming of the white man brought to the savage wants hitherto 
unknown — wants which he could more easily satisfy by exchanging furs for 
the white man's goods than in any other way. 

The French were the pioneei-s in the fur trade. Before the dawn of the 
seventeenth century they were trading with the Indians in the valley of the 
St. Lawrence River, and after Montreal was foiuided that city became the 
principal market for their peltries. The fur trade gave rise to that hardy, 
adventurous class of men known as coureurs de bois, who, afraid of nothing, 
wandered into the trackless forests in quest of fui's. Prom the St. Lawrence 
country they worked their way westward, establishing friendly relations with 
the Indian tribes they met around the Great Lakes, then crossed the low portages 
to the Mississippi Valley, and from there by way of the Missouri River finally 
reached the Rocky Mountains. 

The covireur de bois kept no journal of his travels. He had no time for 
such things, his energies all being directed to the acquisition of valuable peltries 
and opening up a trade with new tribes. They had no difSculty, as a rule, in 
maintaining good tenns with the natives and many of them married Indian wives. 
It is quite probable that, in their migrations, their canoes passed through "the 



strait," as the Detroit River was at first known, and it is possible tliat some of 
them may liave landed on the site of the City of Detroit. 


One of the earliest known explorers in the region about the Great Lakes, 
of whose work an authentic record has been preserved, was Samuel Champlain, 
who was born at St. Malo, France, in 1582. He was educated for the priesthood, 
but his love of adventure outweighed his love for the "black gown" and he 
joined the French navy, where he developed into an expert navigator. About 
the time he attained to his majority he became interested in the explorations 
then going on in America. In 1607, when only twenty-five years of age, he was 
commissioned by the French King to fit out an expedition and establish a settle- 
ment somewhere in the countrj' discovered by Jacques Cartier. On July 3, 
1608, he selected the site of Quebec and tJiere founded the third permanent 
settlement in North America. Three yeare later he laid the foundations of 
Montreal and in the same year discovered the lake that bears his name in North- 
eastern New York. 

Some writers claim that Champlain visited the vicinity of Detroit in 1610. 
In the French Colonial Records it is stated that he passed through the strait 
in 1611 or 1612. Marquis de Denonville, who was governor of New France 
from 1685 to 1689, writing some years later of Champlain 's explorations, says: 
"In the years 1611 and 1612 he ascended the Grand River as far as Lake Huron, 
called the fresh sea. He passed by places he has himself described in his book, 
which are no other than Detroit and Lake Erie." 

Even in the face of this positive statement, it is by no means certain that 
Champlain ever visited the site of Deti-oit. In his own narrative of his travels 
and explorations, he says that some Indians described the strait to him in 1603, 
but nowhere in his writings does he assert that he passed through the Detroit 
River, or any stream answering its description. 

From 1612 to 1619 and again from 1633 to 1635 he was governor of New 
France. During the former period he was engaged in exploring Canada and 
Prince de Conde discharged the duties of governor. His description of the 
country was influential in building up the French settlements and, whether he 
visited Detroit or not, his work facilitated the establishment of French posts in 
the Northwest. 


The Seventeenth Century was still in its infancy when Jesuit missionaries 
from the French settlements at Quebec and Montreal were among the Indian 
tribes living upon the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, instructing 
them in the ways of civilization and endeavoring to convert them t<i the Catliolic 
faith. These early priests traveled mainly by water and there is no doubt 
that some of their canoes passed up the Detroit River. Carlisle, in iiis compila- 
tion of the records of tlie Wayne County Historical and Pioneer Society, says 
Jesuit missionaries visited an Ottawa village on Parent Creek, now witliin the 
city limits of Detroit, in 1610. 

Wherevei- these priests went they established amicable relations with the 
native tribes, and tliough the spiritual welfare of the Indian was their first 
consideratidn, tliey ojjened the way for tiie fur traders. It was not until toward 
the middle of the century, liowever. that their labors began to bear fruit. 


Among the Jesuit missionaries who were active about this time was Father 
Claudius (or Claude) Dablon. He was a native of France and came to America 
in 1655, soon after taking his priestly ordere. For three years he was stationed 
at the Onondaga mission, in the Iroquois countrj-, after which he was among the 
Indians of New England for about ten years. In 1668 he was sent to the Great 
Lakes countiy and assisted in founding the mission of Sault Ste. Marie, the 
oldest white settlement within the present State of Michigan. For a number of 
years he was the superior of all the missions of the Northwest. While serving 
as superior he compiled the Jesuit Relations from 1672 to 1679, though they were 
not published until many years afterward. 

One of the fii-st great councils ever held with the Indians of the upper lakes 
was arranged by Father Claude Allouez at the Chippewa Village, on the 
southern shore of Lake Superior, in the fall of 1665. At this council half a 
dozen or more of the leading Indian nations of the Northwest and the Illinois 
country were represented by their chiefs. Allouez and his associates promised 
them the friendship and protection of the French and made inquiries regarding 
the country in which they lived. In the report of Allouez, concerning what 
was accomplished at the council, he says the Sioux and lUini chiefs told him 
of a great river "farther to the westward, called by them the Me-sa-sip-pi, 
which they said no white man had yet seen, and along which fur-bearing animals 

Thirty years before the Allouez council, vague rumoi-s of the great river 
had reached the Canadian authorities through the reports of Jean Nicollet, but 
little attention was paid to them. With the report of Allouez, and other in- 
formation he imparted, came a desire to kno\y more of the river and the rich 
fur country described by the Indians. A delay of several years occurred, 
however, before any systematic effort was made to discover it. 


Jacques Marquette, one of the most active and intelligent of the Jesuit 
fathers, was born at Laon, France, in 1637. At an eai'ly age he joined the 
Jesuit Society and in 1666 was sent to Canada as a missionary. For about 
eighteen months after his arrival in America, he was stationed at the Three 
Rivers mission on the St. Lawrence. He was then transferred to the Lake 
Superior field and in 1668 he assisted Father Dablon in establishing the mission 
of Sault Ste Marie, "at the foot of the rapids." He remained in charge of 
this mission for about a year, when he was sent to the mission known as Point e 
du Esprit. With the Huron poi'tion of his flock, he left Pointe du Esprit in 
1671 and founded the mission of Point St. Ignace. 

In September, 1673, after his discoveiy of the Mississippi, he was ordered to 
the mission of St. Francis Xavier at the head of the Green Bay, where he 
remained luitil October, 1674. He was then sent to the Illinois country. Leav- 
ing St. Francis Xavier on October 25, 1674, he passed down the west shore 
of Lake Michigan until he reached the mouth of the Chicago River, thence up 
that stream to the portage, and down the Illinois River to Kaskaskia, reaching 
that settlement on April 8, 1675. There he founded the imssion of the Immacu- 
late Conception, when failing health caused him to set out on the return to 
St. Ignace. From the mouth of the Chicago River he crossed over to the east 
shore of Lake Michigan. Fpon reaching the mouth of the Marquette River, 
where the Citv of Ludington, ^Michiaan. is now located, he landed and died there 


on May 18, 1675. His companions buried his body upon a little knoll and 
erected a cross to mark the spot, though his remains were afterward removed 
to St. Ignace. 

Louis Joliet was born at Quebec on September 21, 1645, and was educated 
in the Jesuit College in his native city. He took minor orders, but in 1667 
he gave up the idea of the priesthood to engage in the fur trade. After a visit 
to France, he was sent by M. Talon, the intendant at Quebec, to find the copper 
mines on the shore of Lake Superior. Early in 1669, accompanied by Jean Pere, 
he set out on his voyage and it is asserted by some writers that he was the first 
white man to pass through the Detroit River. 

Joliet was at the Sault Ste Marie in June, 1671, when St. Lusson took 
possession of the region for France, and upon his return to Quebec he was 
assigned to accompany Father Marquette on an expedition "to find and ascer- 
tain the direction of the course of the ^Mississippi River and its mouth." Joliet 
died in Canada in May, 1700. 

perrot's council 

The accounts of the region about Lake ilichigan and Lake Superior carried 
back to Quebec by Allouez and other missionaries, led the Canadian authorities 
to send Nicolas Perrot as the accredited agent of the French Government to 
arrange for a grand council with the Indians and negotiate a treaty of peace. 
The council assembled at the mission of St. Marie late in May, 1671, and con- 
tinued in session for about two weeks. According to the Jesuit Relations for 
that year, the tribes represented were the Chippewa, Cree, Fox, Sac, Illini, 
Menominee, Pottawatomi and some of the Sioux. The account of the council 

"Having caused a cross to be erected, to produce there the fruits of Christi- 
anity, and near it a cedar pole, to which we have attached the arms of France, 
saying three times with a loud voice and public proclamation, that in the 


possession of said place, Sainte Marie du Sault, as also of the Lakes Huron and 
Superior," etc. 

This proclamation was signed by Daumont de St. Lusson and a number of 
witnesses, and was dated June 14, 1671. (Some writers give the date as June 4, 
1671.) By this act of De Lusson the territory bordering on Lake Huron became 
officially French domain. 


Among those who were filled with the desire to discover the Mississippi 
River, after the council held at the Chippewa Village in the fall of 1665, was 
Father Marquette. He was deterred from making the attempt until after 
Perrot's council, which assured the friendship of the Indian tribes living along 
the upper portion of the river. In the spring of 1673, having received the 
necessary authority from the Canadian officials, he began his preparations at 
Michilimaekinac for the voyage. 

Early in May he was joined by Louis Joliet, who had been selected by 
M. Talon on account of his knowledge of topography to accompany Marquette 
and prepare a map of the river. It is said that the friendly Indians, who were 
loath to lose Father Marquette, tried to dissuade him from the midertaking 


by telling him the Indians living along the river were cruel and treacherous, 
and that the river itself was the abode of terrible monsters ■which could swallow 
both canoes and men. These stories had no effect upon the intrepid priest, un- 
less to make him more determined, and on Maj' 13, 1673, he and Joliet, accom- 
panied by five voyageurs, with two large canoes, left Michilimaekinac. 

Passing up the Green Bay to the mouth of the Fox River, the little expedi- 
tion ascended that stream to the portage, crossed over to the Wisconsin River, 
down which they floated until June 17, 1673, when their canoes drifted out 
upon the broad bosom of the ilississippi. Turning their course down stream 
they descended the great "Father of Waters," carefully noting the landmarks 
as they passed along. When they reached the mouth of the Arkansas River, 
they found an Indian tribe whose langiiage they could not understand and 
decided to go no farther, deferring the discovery of the mouth of the river for 
a future voyage. 

Instead of returning by way of the Wisconsin River, they ascended the 
Illinois to the portage, about where the City of Joliet now stands, crossed over 
to the Chicago River and in due time reached Lake Michigan, over whose waters 
they passed to Michilimaekinac. There Father Marquette ended his journey, 
but Joliet went on to Quebec to report the results of their voyage. In the 
Laehine Rapids, above Montreal, his canoe was capsized and his notes and charts 
were lost. Joliet barely escaped with his life and upon reaching Quebec he 
prepared a narrative from memory, which agreed in all the essential particulare 
with Marquette's account of the voyage. 

The discovery of the Mississippi by Marquette and Joliet ^vl■ought important 
changes in the affairs of the Canadian settlements. Transportation in those 
days was chiefly by water, and, although the exact location of the mouth of 
the ]\Iississippi was still undetermined, it was certain that the river emptied 
into the Gulf of Mexico. Enough was learned through the voyage of Marquette 
and Joliet to make sure that by easy portages, by way of either the Illinois or 
Wisconsin River, a thoroughfare could be opened between the French settle- 
ments about the Great Lakes and those soon to be established in Louisiana. The 
reports of Marquette and Joliet comaneed the Canadian authorities that the 
great river was not a myth, and it was not long until steps were taken to claim 
the country drained by it for Prance. 


In the year following the voyage of IMarquette and Joliet, Robert Cavelier, 
Sieur de La Salle, was granted the seigneury of Fort Frontenac, where the 
City of Kingston, Ontario, is now situated, and on May 12, 1678, he received 
from Louis XIV, King of France, a commission to continue the explorations 
of Marquette and Joliet, "find a port for the king's ships in the Gulf of Mexico, 
discover the western parts of New France, and find a wsy to penetrate Mexico." 

In the fall of 1678 La Salle sent a party of fifteen men up the lakes to trade 
with the Indians and soon afterward commenced preparations for his first 
attempt to reach and descend the Mississippi. At a place called Black Rock, 
near Niagara, he began the construction of a vessel of sixty tons, which was 
launched in May, 1679, and named the "Griffon." This was the first sailing 
vessel on the Great Lakes. After a few short trial trips, she started on her 
first real voyage early in August, 1679. She was equipped with five small 


cannon and carried La Salle, Louis Hennepin, a Franciscaji priest of the Eecollet 
order, and thirty men. 

About three weeks before the start of the "Griffon," La Salle despatched 
his lieutenant, Henri de Tonty, with tive men, to find the party sent out the 
preceding autumn and bring the men to the lake at some convenient point for 
embarkation. The little vessel made good time and on August 10, 1679, found 
Tonty and tlie others waiting on the Detroit River, at or near the site of the 
City of Detroit. Taking tliem on board the "Griffon," La Salle continued 
his voyage and reached Washington Island, at the entrance of the Green Bay, 
in the early part of September. 

Hennepin's description of the Detroit was one of the first to be published. 
He says: "The islands are the finest in the world. The strait is finer than 
Niagara, being one league broad excepting that part which forms the lake we 
have called Lake Ste. Claire. * * * A large village of Huron Indians 
called Teuchsa Grondie occupied the bank of the river. The ^'illage had been 
visited by the Jesuit missionaries and coureurs de liois, but no settlement had 
been attempted." 

On September 18, 1679, the "Griffon" left AYashington Island on her return 
voyage, but two days later encountered a severe stonu in the northern part, of 
Lake Michigan and was lost. Pieces of the wreck afterward drifted ashore on 
some of the islands at the north end of the lake and were identified. 

La Salle reached the Illinois River, "in the dead of winter," when he 
learned of the loss of the "Griffon" and abandoned the expedition. Near the 
present City of La Salle, Illinois, he built a small stockade, which he called 
Fort Creveeoeur (Broken Heart), where he left part of his men and with the 
others started for Canada. Passing around the head of Lake ^Michigan, he 
arrived at the site of St. Joseph, where he stiiick a due easterly course, crossed 
the Detroit River on a raft and arrived at Niagara about May 1, 1680. 

In the meantime. Father Hennepin, who had been left at Fort Creveeoeur, 
undertook a little exploring expedition of his own. "With a few men he left 
the fort in February, 1680, and went down the Illinois to the Missis,sippi. 
Instead of descending the latter stream, he turned his canoes in the opposite 
direction. On April 11, 1680, he and his party were captured by Sioux Indians 
near the mouth of the Wisconsin River. The captives were taken up the 
Mississippi to St. Anthony's Falls — so named by Hemiepin in honor fif his 
patron saint — where they were rescued by Sienr du Luth and in November they 
were back in Quebec. 

After the failure of his first exi)edition, affairs at his seigneury claimed 
La Salle's attention for nearly three years. th(.ngh he did not relinquish the 
idea of finding aiul exploring* the great river. In December, 1681. he started 
upon his second, and what proved to lie his successful expedition. This time 
he was accompanied by Henri de Tonty; Jaccjues de la Metarie, a notary; Jean 
Michel, surgeon of tlie expedition ; Father Zenobe Membre, a RecolJet mission- 
ary; and a "nnnibcr of Frenchmen bearing arms." It is not necessary to follow 
this little band of explorers through all its vicissitudes and hardships in travers- 
ing a wild, unexplored coiiiitry in the worst season of the year. Suffice it to 
saj' that the river was reached and descended to its mouth. On Api-il 8, 1682, 
La Salle and Tonty pas,sed tlirougli two of the channels connecting with the 
Gulf of Mexico. The next day came together again and La Salle took fornuil 
possession of "all the country drjiined l>y the great river and its tributaries. 


in the name of France, and conferred upon the territory thus claimed the 
name of Louisiana, in honor of the French kin^c. " 

To the casual reader it may seem that La Salle's work as an explorer has 
little or nothing to do with the histoiy of Detroit. But it should be borne in 
mind that the discovery of the Mississippi by Marquette and Joliet opened 
the way for the later voyage of La Salle and his claim to all the country drained 
by the river, which strengthened the French claim to the region about the 
Great Lakes and made easier the establishment of forts and trading posts, one 
of which was planted at Detroit by Cadillac nineteen years later. 


Last to be mentioned, but by no means to be reckoned the least important 
of the early white \nsitors to the vicinity of Detroit, were the two Sulpitian 
priests, Francois Dollier de Casson and Abbe Brehant de Galinee. The former, 
commonly called Dollier, was born about 1620 and before entering the priest- 
hood he had won distinction as a cavalry officer under Turenne. Parkman 
describes him as "a man of great courage, of a tall, commanding person and 
of uncommon bodily strength." 

With three of his brethren he came to Canada in September, 1666, and soon 
after his arrival joined Colonel Tracy in a campaign against the Mohawk 
Indians. Then, for a time, he was chaplain at Fort Ste. Anne, at the outlet 
of Lake Champlain. He passed the winter of 1668-69 in the hunting camp of 
Nitarikijk, a chief of the Nipissing Indians. While in the Nipissing camp he 
met an Indian prisoner from the Lake Superior country, who told him of the 
populous tribes living in that region, and he determined to pay them a visit. 
In the early summer of 1669 he went to Montreal to procure an outfit for his 

At Montreal he met Galinee and enlisted his cooperation. Galinee had come 
to America the year before with Queylus, the superior of the Siilpitian Seminary 
at Montreal. After hearing Dollier 's storj', the superior gave a ready assent 
to the undertaking and assisted the two missionaries in their preparations. 
Governor Coui'celles persuaded them to join La Salle, who was then just about 
ready to start on an expedition to the upper lakes. 

On July 6, 1669, with three canoes and seven men, besides themselves, 
they left Montreal. On September 24, 1669, while waiting at an Indian village 
called Timaouataoua for guides, they met Louis Joliet, who was on his way 
to Lake Superior to locate some copper mines and also to find, if possible, a 
better route to the upper lakes than that by way of the Ottawa River, Lake 
Nipissing and the Georgian Bay. A fever caused La Salle to abandon his 
expedition and Dollier and Galinee linked their fortunes with Joliet. 

On the last day of September Dollier said mass at an altar formed of forked 
sticks di'iven into the ground, connected by other sticks and covered with sails 
from their canoes. Immediately after the mass, La Salle started for Montreal 
and Joliet and the two Sulpitians turned their faces to the Northwest. Accord- 
ing to Coyne's translation of " Galinee 's Narrative," they arrived at Lake Erie 
on October the 13th or 14th, cruised along the northern shore of the lake until 
they reached the bay behind the Long Point, where they went into winter 
quarters. Here, on the shore of Lake Erie, in what is now Norfolk County, 
Ontario, they took possession of the country, according to the French custom, 
by erecting a cross bearing tlie following inscription : 


"In the year of salvation 1669, Clement IX being seated in the cha-ir of 
St. Peter, Louis XIV reigning in Prance, Monsieur Coureelles being Governor 
of New France, and Monsieur Talon being intendant therein for the king, there 
arrived at this place two missionaries (of the Seminary) of Montreal, accom- 
panied by seven other Frenchmen, who, the first of all European people, have 
wintered on this lake, of which they have taken possession in the name of their 
king, as of an unoccupied temtorj', by affixing his arms, which they have 
attached here to the foot of this cross. 

"In testimony whereof we have signed the present certificate. 

"Francois Dollier, 
"Priest of the Diocese of Nantes, Brittany. 
"De Galinee, 
"Deacon of the Diocese of Eennes, Brittany." 

On March 2.3, 1670, which was Passion Sunday, they went to the lake shore 
and noticed that the ice was sufficiently broken up for them to continue their 
voyage. Keturning to camp, they hurried foi-ward the preparations for their 
departure and on "Wednesday, March 26, 1670, their canoes were again afloat 
on Lake Erie. That same evening they encountered a storm in which one of 
their canoes was lost. The nest day five of the men marched along the lake 
shore, with two men in each of the two remaining canoes, the men changing 
places occasionally to rest those who were walking and give those in the canoes 
an opportunity for exercise after sitting for hours in a cramped position. 
Galinee 's Narrative gives this account of their progress: 

"We pursued our journey accordingly toward the west, and after, making 
about one hundred leagues on Lake Erie arrived at the place where the Lake 
of the Hurons, otherwise called the Fresh Water Sea of the Hurons, or Michigan, 
discharges into this lake. This outlet is perhaps half a league in width and 
turns sharp to the northeast, so that we were almost retracing our path. At 
the end of six leagues we discovered a place that is remarkable and held in 
.great veneration by all the Indians of these countries, because of a stone idol 
that nature has formed there. To it they say they owe their good luck in 
sailing on Lake Erie, when they cross it without accident, and they propitiate 
it by sacrifices, presents of skins, provisions, etc., when they wish to embark 
on it. The place was full of camps of those who had come to pay homage to 
tliis stone, which had no other resemblance to the figure of a man than what 
the imagination was pleased to give it. However, it was all painted and a sort 
of face had been formed for it with vermilion. I leave you to imagine whether 
we avenged upon this idol, which the Iroquois had strongly recommended us 
to honor, the loss of our chapel. We attributed to it even the dearth of provi- 
sions from which we had hitherto suffered. In short, there was nobody whose 
hatred it had not incurred. I consecrated one of my axes to break this god of 
stone, and then, having yoked our canoes together, we carried the largest pieces 
to the middle of the river and threw all the rest also into the water, in order 
that it might never be heard of again. God rewarded us immediately for this 
good action, for we killed a roebuck and a bear that very day." 

The outlet of Lake Huron, mentioned by Galinee as being "half a league in 
width," is the mouth of the Detroit River. Six leagues up that stream, where 
they found the stone idol, was not far from where Fort Wayne is now located. 
The breaking of the idol gave rise to an Indian legend, to the effect that, after 
the two Sulpitians had been gone for some time, a company of Indians came 


to the river with gifts for their stone deity and found only small fragments 
of its mutilated remains. There was great wailing among them until their 
medicine man directed each one to take a piece of the stone in his canoe and 
let it guide his course. "With one accord the remnants of the shattered image 
guided the canoes to Belle Isle, where the spirit of the idol had taken up its 
abode. This spirit told the Indians to cast the fragments upon the ground and 
when they obeyed each fragment was turned into a rattlesnake, to guard the 
island against the encroachments of the white man. 

After destroying the idol, the missionaries passsed on up the river for four 
leagues, where they came to a "smaU lake about ten leagues in length and 
almost as many in width, called by M. Sanson 'The Salt Water Lake,' but 
we saw no sign of salt." The small lake was christened Lake St. Clair by 
Father Louis Hennepin nine years later, when he passed through the straits 
with La Salle. 

Galinee was a good topographer for that day and made a map to accompany 
his "Narrative." Although this map would hardly be accepted by geographers 
of the present day, it shows with tolerable accuracy many of the leading features 
of the shores of the lakes. A copy of this map, as well as Galinee 's ' ' Narrative ' ' 
in the original French, and two translations of the same are now in the Burton 
Historical Collection at Detroit. 



Spain's policy toward the Indians — the French policy — the English policy' 





When the first white men came to iliehigan they found the Indians in 
possession of the land. The red men had no system of fixing boundaries or 
recording deeds, yet, except in a few instances, each tribe or confederacy occu- 
pied a certain district as its exclusive hunting grounds, until driven out by a 
more powerful tribe. 

By the treaty of September 3, 1783, which ended the Revolutionary war, 
England acknowledged the independence of the United States, the western 
boundary of which was fixed at the Mississippi River, and the new republic 
inherited all the rights and powei-s of the mother country in dealing with the 
natives. But Great Britain had no power to extinguish the Indian title to the 
lands, leaving that problem to be solved by the Federal Government. Before 
the United States could come into formal and complete possession of the ter- 
ritory, it was necessary that some agreement be made with the natives that 
would permit the white people to occupy and develop the country. In this 
<^'onnection it may be intei'esting to the reader to notice briefly the policies of 
the several European nations claiming territory in America regarding their 
relations with the Indians. 

Spain's policy 

When Coi'tez was commissioned captain-general of New Spain in l.')29, he 
was instructed to "give special attention to the conversion of the Indians: to 
see that no Indians be given to the Spaniards as servants; that they pay such 
tribute to His ]\Ia,iesty as they can easily afford; that there shall be a good 
correspondence between the Spaniards and the natives, and that no wrong 
shall ever be offered the latter either in their goods, families or persons. 

Notwithstanding these instructions of the Spanish Government, during the 
conquest of Mexico the treatment of the Indians was often cruel in the extreme, 
many of them being enslaved and forced to work in the mines to satisfy the 
avarice of their Spanish taskmasters. Don Sebastian Ramirez, bishop and acting 
governor after Cortez, honestly endeavored to carry out the humane instruc- 
tions given to ("oi-ttv., Imt soon found that he was not to be sustained. Antonio 
de Herrera says that under the administi-ation of Ramirez "the country was 
much improved and all things carried on with equity, to the general satisfaction 
of all good men." 

With regard to possession, the Spaniards never accepted the idea that the 

64 • 


Indians owned all the land, but only that portion actually occupied, or that 
might be necessarj' to supplj- their wants. All the rest of the land they con- 
sidered as belonging to Spain "by right of discovery," and was taken without 


It seems that the French had no settled policy concerning the possession 
of or title to the land. When the French Government, in 1712, granted to 
Antoiue Crozat a charter giving him a monopoly of the Louisiana trade, it was 
expressly stipulated that the Indians living in the province were to receive 
religious instruction, but no provision was made for extinguishing the claim 
of the Indians to the land. In the letters patent given by Louis XV to the 
Western Company ( Crozat 's successor) in August, 1717, was the following 
provision : 

"Section IV — The said company shall be free, in the said granted lands, 
to negotiate and make alliance with all the nations of the land, except those 
which are dependent on the other powers of Europe ; she may agree with them 
on such conditions as she may think fit, to settle among them and trade freely 
with them, and in case they insult her she may declare war against them, attack 
them or defend herself by means of arms, and negotiate with them for peace 
or a truce." 

It will be noticed that in this section there is nothing said about the acquisi- 
tion of lands. As a matter of fact, the French cared veiy little for the absolute 
ownership of the lauds, their principal object being the control of the fur 
trade. In the establishment of trading posts only a small tract of land was 
required for each post, and the trader and his retinue usually lived with the 
Indians as "tenants in common." At some of the posts a few acres were 
cleared for the pm-pose of raising a few vegetables, but the great forests were 
rarely disturbed, leaving the himting grounds of the natives unmolested. If 
the trading post was abandoned, the small cultivated tract reverted to its 
Indian o'maers. LTnder such a liberal policy it is not surprising that the French 
traders were nearly always on friendlj^ terms with the Indians. 


Great Britain's method of dealing with the Indians was different from either 
that of Fi-ance or Spain. The English colonists wanted to establish permanent 
homes and cultivate the soil. Consequently, title to the land was the first con- 
sideration. The English Government, however, treated the Indian as a bar- 
barian and in making land grants ignored any claim he might make to the soil. 
The so-called "Great Patent of Kew England," which was granted to the 
Plymouth Company, including all the land from 40° to 48° north latitude and 
"from sea to sea," made not the slightest allusion to the Indian title. 

The charter granted by Charles I to Lord Baltimore gave the grantee 
authority "to collect troops, wage war on the barbarians and other enemies 
who may make incursions into the settlements, and to pursue them even beyond 
the limits of their province, and, if God shall grant it, to vanqviish and cap- 
tivate them; and the captives to put to death, or according to their discretion, 
to save." 

William Penn's charter to Pennsylvania contained a similar provision. After 
the settlements reached a point where the local authorities were called upon 


to deal with tlie question, each eolouy adopted a policy of its own. That of 
Pennsylvania was perhaps the only one whose "foundations were laid deep 
and secure in the principles of everlasting justice." Several of the colonies 
followed Penn's example and bought the land from the tribal chiefs, and in a 
number of instances failure to quit the Indian title by purchase resulted in 
bloody and disastrous wars. 

All the nations of Europe which acquired territory in America, asserted in 
themselves and recognized in others the exclusive right of the discoverer to 
claim and appropriate the lands occupied by the Indians, but France was the 
only nation which exercised that right with a due regard for the original 
occupants. Says Parkman : "Spanish civilization cmshed the Indian; English 
civilization sconied and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cher- 
ished him." 


The people who founded the Government of the United States were either 
from England or descendants, for the most part, of English ancestors, and 
they copied the English policy, with certain modifications. The Articles of 
Confederation, the first organic law of the American Republic, provided that: 
"The United States in Congress assembled shall have the exclusive right and 
power of regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians not 
members of any of the states, provided that the legislative right of any state 
within its own limits be not infringed or violated." 

Under this authority Congress, on September 22, 1783, issued a manifesto 
forbidding all persons to settle upon the Indian lands. Then came the Federal 
Constitution, which superseded the Articles of Confederation, and which vested 
in Congress the power to deal with all matters arising out of the Government's 
relations with the Indians. On March 1, 1793, President Washington approved 
an act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, in which it 
was expressly stipulated: "That no purchase or grant of lands, or any title 
or claim thereto, from any Indians, or nation or tribe of Indians, within the 
bounds of the United States, shall be of any validity, in law or equity, unless 
the same be made by a treaty or convention entered into pursiiant to the 
constitution. ' ' 

The object of the founders of the Government in adopting this policy was 
twofold : First, to prevent adventurers from trespassing upon the Indian lands, 
thereby causing conflicts with the natives; and, second, to establish a system 
by which titles to lands should be assured for all time to come. The penalty 
for violation of any of the provisions of the act was a fine of $1,000 and im- 
prisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months. With amendments this 
law remained the basis of all relations with the Indians of the country until 
1871. Cyrus Thomas, of the United States Bureau of Ethnolog;^', says : 

"By the act of March 3, 1871, the legal fiction of recognizing the tribes as 
independent nations, with which the United States could enter into solemn 
treaty, was, after it had continued nearly one hundred years, finally done away 
with. The effect of this act was to bring under the immediate control of Con- 
gi-ess the transactions with the Indians and reduce to simple agi'eements what 
had before been accomplished by solemn treaties." 

Soon after the Federal Constitution went into effect, the Government began 
making treaties with the Indians. At first tliese treaties were merely expres- 


sions of peace and friendship, but as the white population inci-eased and more 
territory was needed for white settlement, treaties were negotiated with the 
tribes for the relinquishment of their lands. 


In fact, before the adoption of the Constitution, the United States had 
negotiated treaties of peace with some of the eastern tribes. On October 22, 
1784, Oliver Wolcott, Eichard Butler and Arthur Lee, as commissioners of the 
United States, concluded a treaty with the Six Nations at Foi-t Stanwix, New 
York. This treaty is of interest in the history of Detroit only because it fixed 
the western boundary of the domain of the Six Nations. While the Indians 
did not agree to give up any of their lands to the United States for white occu- 
pation, they accepted as their western boundary a line beginning on the shore 
of Lake Ontario, four miles east of Nia-gara, and running thence by cex-tain 
described courses to the "forks of the Ohio," where the City of Pittsburgh 
now stands. Prior to the conclusion of this treaty, the Six Nations were fre- 
quently at war with the tribes that inhabited the country about Detroit, par- 
ticularly the Huron or Wyandot. The establishment of the boundaiy line 
brought peace to the Indians living west of it. 

By the treaty of Fort Harmar, which was concluded on January 9, 1789, 
between Gen. Arthur St. Clair, representing the United States, and the chiefs 
of the Six Nations, the treaty of Fort Stanwix was modified so as to give the 
Indians some additional territorj' in the western part of New York. This 
treaty was proclaimed on June 9, 1789, and remained in force until the Six 
Nations ceded their lands to the United States and accepted reservations. 


Late in July, 1795, a great council of Indians was called at Greenville, 
Ohio, by Gen. Anthony Wayne, acting under the authority of the United States. 
Chiefs of twelve tribes were present at the council, viz. : The Chippewa, Dela- 
ware, Eel River, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa, Piankesha, Pottawatomi, 
Shawnee, Wea and Wyandot. On August 3, 1795, a treaty was concluded 
which established a boundarj- line between the Indian possessions and the white 
settlements in Ohio, to wit: "Beginning at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River 
and up that stream to the portage between the Cuyahoga and the Tuscarawas 
branch of the ^Muskingum River; thence down the Tuscarawas branch to the 
crossing place above Fort Lawrence (Laurens) ; thence westerly to that branch 
of the Great iliami River running into the Ohio, at or near which fork stood 
Loromie's Store, and where commences the portage between the Miami of the 
Ohio and the St. Mai-y's River, which is a branch of the Miami (Maumee) 
which runs into Lake Erie ; thence in a westerly course to Fort Recovery, which 
stands on a branch of the Wabash ; thence southwesterly in a direct line to 
the Ohio River, so as to intersect that river opposite the mouth of the Kentucke 
or Cuttawa River." 

All the counti-y south and east of this line was ceded by the Indians to the 
United States. About a year later, the northern part of this line was defined 
as the boundarv of Wayne County in the proclamation of Winthrop Sargent, 
acting governor of the Northwest Territory. North and west of the line six- 
teen small tracts were ceded by the Indians for military posts, etc. These 
tracts were as follows : 


1. One piece of land six miles square at Loromie's Store, not far from the 
present City of Piqixa, Ohio. 

2. One piece of land two miles scjnare at the head of navigable waters on 
the St. Mary's Kiver, near Girty's To«tl, about twenty miles east of Fort 

3. A tract six miles square at the head of navigation on the Au Glaize 

4. A tract six miles square at the confluence of the Au Glaize and ]\Iaumee 
rivers, where the City of Defiance now stands. 

5. One piece of land six miles square at or near the confluence of the St. 
Mary's and St. Josej^h's rivers, where the City of Fort "Wayne, Indiana, is now 

6. One piece of land on the Wabash River at the end of the portage from 
the iliami (Maumee) of the lake and about eight miles westward from Fort 

7. A jiiece of land six miles square at the Oniatenon, or old Wea towns on 
the Wabash River, a few miles below the present City of Lafayette, Indiana. 

8. One piece of land twelve miles square at the British fort on the ]\Iiami 
(Maumee) of the lake at the foot of the rapids, near the present City of Napo- 
leon, Ohio. 

9. A tract six miles square at the mouth of the ]\Iaumee, where the City 
of Toledo now stands. 

10. A ti'act six miles square on Sandusky Lake, where a fort formerly stood. 

11. One piece of land two miles square at the lower rapids of the San- 
dusky River, not far from the present City of Fremont, Ohio. 

12. "The post of Detroit and all the land to the north, the west and the 
south of it, of which tlie Indian title has been extinguished by gifts or grants 
to the French or English governments; and so much more land to be annexed 
to the District of Detroit as shall be comprehended between the River Rosine 

' on the south. Lake St. Clair on the north, and a line, the general course whereof 
shall be six miles distant from the west end of Lake Erie and the Detroit 
River. ' ' 

13. "The post of IMichilimackinac and all the land on the island on which 
that post stands, and the main land ad.iacent, of which the Indian title has 
been extinguished by gifts or grants to the French or English governments; 
and a piece of land on the main land to the north of the island, to measure 
six miles on Lake Huron, or the streight between Lakes Huron and ilichigan, 
and to extend three miles back from the water of the lake or streight, and also 
the island De Bris Blanc, being an extra and voluntary gift of the Chippewa 

14. A tract six miles square at the mouth of the Chikago River, emptying 
into the southwest end of Lake ^Michigan, where a fort formerly stood. This 
tract is now all within the city limits of Chicago. 

15. A piece of land twelve miles square at or near the mouth of tlie Illinois 
River, whore it empties into the ^Mississippi. This tract included the old post 
of Kaskaskia. 

16. One piece of land six miles sfpiare at the old Peoria fort and village, 
near the south end of Illinois Lake on said Illinois River, where the City of 
Peoria now stands. 

In addition to the above mentioned tracts of land, the Indians gave the 
T'nited States tlie riglit of way for a passage, either by land or water, through 


the Indian ccnntry. The cessions made by the treaty of Greenville were the 
first ever made by the Indians to the Government of the United States. In 
return, the United States agreed to relinquish claim to all other Indian lands 
north of the Ohio Eiver, east of the ]Mississippi and west and south of the 
Great Lakes, except a tract of 150,000 acres near the Falls of the Ohio, granted 
to Gen. George Kogers Clark for the use of himself and his soldiers. 


On November 17, 1807, William Hull, then governor of Michigan Terri- 
tory and superintendent of Indian affairs, held a council at Detroit with the 
chiefs and head men of the Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomi and Wyandot 
tribes at Detroit, which resulted in the conclusion of a treaty, the first article 
of which was as follows: 

"Article I. The sachems, chiefs and warriors of the nations aforesaid, in 
consideration of money and goods, to be paid to the said nations by the United 
States as hereinafter stipulated, cede all the lands contained within the follow- 
ing boundaries: "Beginning at the moiith of the Miami River of the Lakes 
and running thence up the middle thereof to the mouth of the great Avi Glaize 
River; thence running due north until it intersects a parallel of latitude to be 
drawn from the outlet of Lake Huron, which forms the River St. Clair; thence 
running northeast, the course that maj' be found will lead in a direct line to 
the Wliite Rock in Lake Huron ; thence due east until it intersects the boi;n- 
dary line between the United States and Upper Canada in said lake ; thence 
southwardly, following the said boundary line, through the River St. Clair, 
Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River into Lake Erie, to a point due east of 
the said Miami River; thence west to the place of beginning." 

For this tract the United States agreed to pay $10,000 in money, or in 
goods and animals for the improvement of husbandry, at the option of the 
Indians. Of this amoimt, the Chippewa and Ottawa were each to receive 
$3,333.33, the remainder to be divided equally between the Pottawatomi and 
Wyandot tribes. In addition to this initial pa^Tnent, the Indians were to re- 
ceive, "forever," an annuity of $2,400, to be distributed among the tribes as 
follows : $800 to the Chippewa ; $800 to the Ottawa ; $400 to the Pottawatomi, 
and $400 to the Wyandot. The treaty was proclaimed on Januar^^ 27, 1808, 
and the ceded ten-itory was included in Waj-ne County by the proclamation 
of Governor Cass, dated November 15, 1815. (See Chapter XI.) 


About a year after the treaty of Detroit, some of the Wj'andot Indians be- 
came dissatisfied over its terms, which compelled them to give up their old 
Adllages on the Huron River, in what is now Brownstown Tovmship, Wayne 
County. On February 28, 1809, President Jefferson approved an act of Con- 
gress giving the inhabitants of these villages and their descendants the right 
to occupy their old homes for a period of fifty years, unless a new treaty for 
their cession was concluded. 

On September 20, 1818, a treaty was concluded at St. Mary's, Ohio, by 
Gen. Lewis Cass, governor of Michigan Ten-itorj-, with certain Ottawa and 
Wyandot bands, including the one to which the old villages had been granted 
by the act of February 28, 1809. By the treaty of St. Mary's, the band re- 
linquished the lands in Brownstown Township and accepted therefor a reser- 
vation consisting of sections 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 34, 35 and 36, and that part of 


section 22 lying soutli of the Huron River, in township 4 south, range 9 east, 
containing 4,996 acres. The map of WajTie County accompanj-ing Dr. Doug- 
lass Houghton's report as state geologist for 1843, shows this reservation as 
being composed of the nine southeastern sections of Huron Township, thougli 
the reservation had been ceded to the United States the preceding year. 


After the act of February 28, 1809, which gave certain Wyandot bands 
the privilege of occupying their old villages in Michigan, some of the other 
tribes that participated in the negotiation of the treaty of 1807 endeavored to 
set up claims to their old homes in that ten-itory. No attention was paid to 
their claims by the Fedei'al authorities, and after the treaty of St. Mary's the 
grumbling on the part of the Indians practically ceased, though occasionally 
some chief would declare that the United States had cheated the red men in 
the treaty of Detroit. 

On September 26, 1833, George B. Porter, Thomas J. V. Owen and William 
Weatherford, as commissioners of the United States, concluded a treaty at 
Chicago with the confederated nations of Chippewa, Ottawa and Pottawatomi 
Indians. B_y this treaty the tribes mentioned ceded to the United States all 
their lands bordering on the west shore of Lake Michigan and confirmed the 
provisions of the treaties of Detroit and St. ]\Iary's. The Chicago treaty is 
of interest in a History of Detroit only because of this confirmation which gave 
the wliite men an undisputed title to the former Indian lands. 


This was the last Indian treaty affecting the Indian title to lands in Wa.vne 
County. Early in the j-ear 1842, President Tyler appointed John Johnston a 
commissioner to treat with the Wyandot nation for the relinquishment of all 
. their lands in Ohio and Michigan. Mr. Jolniston met the Wyandot chiefs, 
counselors and head men in council at Upper Sanduskj% where on March 17, 
1842, was concluded a treaty by which the Indians ceded to the United States 
"all right and title to the Wyandot reserve on both sides of the River Huron, 
in the State of Michigan, containing 4,996 acres, being all the land claimed or 
set apart for the use of the Wyandot nation within the State of Michigan." 

For the relinquishment of this reservation and the Wyandot lands in Ohio, 
the United States promised the Indians a reservation of 148,000 acres, some- 
where west of the Mississippi River acceptable to them, to pay the expenses 
of removal, give the tribe an annuity of $17,500, allow them $500 annually 
for the maintenance of a school, furnish them a blacksmith and iron for their 
needs, and discharge all debts owed by the tribe to white traders, amounting 
to .$23,860. 

The Huron River reserve was vacated soon after the conclusion of the treat.y, 
the United States paying $500 to defray the expenses of the band's removal 
to Upper Sandusky, where all the Wyandot nation was to rendezvous for their 
removal west of the Mississippi. Some delay occurred in finding a tract of 
148,000 acres that was satisfactory to the chiefs, but in 1844 the whole tribe 
was settled in what is now Wyandotte County, Kansas. 

When Cadillac founded the post of Detroit in 1701, his first object was to 
form friendlv relations with the Indians and have them locate near his fort. 


From. 1760 to 1796 Detroit was under British control. Neitlier the French nor 
the English made any attempts to establish permanent settlements in Michigan 
away from the trading posts. With the Americans it was diiJerent. Thej' 
were not fur traders and they wanted the lands for agi-icultural purposes. 
Through the treaties above described, the white race came into possession and 
the red men were removed from the hunting grounds of their fathere. Such 
names as Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Pontiac, Saginaw, Shiawassee, Tekonsha and 
Washtenaw are all that they left behind them. These names are pathetic re- 
minders of the savage tribes that once roamed through the forests and oak 
openings of Southern Michigan or paddled their canoes over the placid waters 
of the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. 








For a long time little was known of the early life of Antoine Laumet de 
La Mothe Cadillae, the founder of Detroit, even the exact date and place of his 
birth being matters of uncertainty. Early- in the year 1907, Clarence I\I. Bur- 
ton was iu France and learned that the Archseological Society of ]\Iontaubau 
had marked the biithplace of Cadillac by a memorial tablet. Montaubau is 
located on the River Tarn, about thirty miles north of Toiilouse on the Garonne, 
in the Department of Tarn-et-Garonne, which takes its name from the two 

Hoping to find the solution of a long-standing problem, Mr. Burton made 
the journey from Paris to ilontaubau, where he consulted the officers of the 
archffiological society, from whom he learned that Cadillae was born at St. Nico- 
las de la Grave, a village of some two or three thousand inhabitants, about 
twenty-three miles from Montaubau. and that the memorial tablet had been 
placed on November 8, 190-1. 


Continuing his .journey to St. Nicholas de la Grave, Mr. Burton found the 
house in which Cadillac was born to be a small one-story brick dwelling, proba- 
bly five hundred years old. The inscription on the tablet reads : 

A la Memorie 

Antoiuc Laumet de LaMothe Cadillac 

Ne Dans Cette Maismi Le 5 Mars, 1658 

Colonisateaur Du Canada et De La Lonisiane 

Fondatcur de Detroit 

Gouvernevr Dc Castelsarrasin 

Ou II Est Mori in 17S0 

Translation — To the memory of Antoine Laumet de Lailothe Cadillac, born 

in this house, JMarch 5, 1658, colonizer of Canada and Louisiana, founder of 

Detroit, governor of Castelsan-asin, where he died in 1730. 

Cadillac's father was Jean Laumet, "lawj'er, assistant to the justice, royal 
justice, counselor of the king in the Parliament of Toulouse," and his mother 
was Jeanne de Pechagut. His parents were married ou ]\Iarch 16, 1646, and 
Antoine was the fourth child of their union. The family name of Laumet, as 
applied to the founder of Detroit, seems to have become practically lost after 
he came to America, which is no doubt the reason for some of the confusion 


First called Fort Pontchartrain 


that has resulted regarding the history of his early life. That he was liberally 
educated for a j'outh of that period is apparent in his writings, his skill as a 
navigator and the executive ability he displayed in the various positions of 
ti'ust and responsibility to which he was called. He was a cadet in the regi- 
ment of Dampierre-Lorraine and a lieutenant in the regiment of Clairenibault 
in 1677. 


In 1683, when only twenty-five years of age, Cadillac came to America and 
located at Port Royal (now Annapolis), Nova Scotia. There he formed the 
acquaintance of Francois Guyon of Beauport, a merchant and trader (some 
say a privateer), with whom he became associated in the seafaring business. 
Cadillac had previously acquired some knowledge of the art of navigation and 
now learned much of the Atlantic coast of North America, which later was 
destined to bring him into important relations with the French Government. 
In his voj'ages to Quebec he met and fell in love with his partner's niece, 
Therese Guyon, daughter of Denis and Elizabeth (Boucher) Guyon, to whom 
he was married at Quebec on June 25, 1687. In the church record of the mar- 
riage the bridegroom is named "Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, of 
Port Royal in Acadia, aged about twenty-six years, son of Jean de la Mothe, 
Sieur de Cadillac, de Launay et de Semontel, counselor of the Parliament of 
Toulouse, and Jeanne de Malenfant." 

In this record the approximate age of Cadillac, as given, is three years 
younger than he really was, and there is likewise an error in the name of his 
mother. Historians who have depended upon this record, for information con- 
cerning Cadillac's age and parentage, have very naturally been led astray. 
Some time previous to his marriage, his superior officer in the French Army, 
recommending him for promotion, called him LaMothe. This name, a common 
one in France, was adopted by him and he was thereafter known as Antoine 
de LaMothe Cadillac, the name Cadillac being derived from landed possessions. 

Cadillac's children 

To Antoine de LaMothe Cadillac and his wife, Therese, were born thirteen 
children, viz. : 

1. Judith, born at Port Royal in 1689. On November 12, 1711, slie took 
the veil as an Ursuline nun at Quebec, to be a perpetual pensioner, her father 
paying 6,000 livres for her support. 

2. Magdalene, date and place of birth uncertain. She was probably born 
at Quebec or Mount Desert Island and upon arriving at womanhood also be- 
came an Ursuline nun. 

3. Antoine de LaMothe Cadillac, fils, liorn at Quebec on April 26, 1692, 
accompanied his father to Detroit in 1701, and was made an ensign in 1707. 
He died about 1730. 

4. Jacques, born at Quebec on March 16, 1695, and was brought to Detroit 
by his mother in 1702. 

5. Pierre Denis, born at Quebec on June 13, 1699, and died there when 
about one year old. He was buried on July 4, 1700. 

6. Marianne, born at Quebec on June 7, 1701, and was buried there two 
days later. 

7. A child bom at Detroit in the latter part of 1702, or early in 1703, 


meutioiied in one of Cadillac's letters. The baptismal reeoi'd of this child 
was probably destroyed in the fire of 1703. 

8. ilarie Therese, bom at Detroit on February 2, 1704. She was married 
at Castelsarrasin on Febiiiary 16, 1729, to Noble Francois de Pouzargues, and 
died there in Februarj^, 1753. 

9. Jean Autoiue, born at Detroit on January 19, 1707, and was buried 
there on April 9, 1709. 

10. Marie Agathe, born at Detroit on December 28, 1707. No further 
record of this daughter is obtainable. 

11. Francois, born at Detroit on March 27, 1709, and was still living at 
the time of his father's death. 

12. Rene Louis, born at Detroit on ilarch 17, 1710, and was buried at 
Quebec in October, 1714. 

13. Joseph, a son mentioned in the records relating to the settlement of 
his father's estate. The date and place of his birth could not be ascertained. 

Of these tliirteen children, only thi'ee were living at the time of Cadillac's 
death. They were Marie Therese, Francois and Joseph, whose names are found 
in the records of Castelsarrasin in connection with the division of Cadillac's 


Immediately after his marriage, Cadillac took his young wife (she was only 
a little more than sixteen years of age) to Port Royal. The next year he peti- 
tioned the I\Iarquis de Denonville, then governor of New France, for a grant 
of land "two leagues on the sea shore, by two leagues in depth, within the land, 
at a place called Donaquec, near Mageis (Port ilachias), the Donaquee River 
to divide the said two leagues in depth, one league to be taken on the west 
side and one league on the east side of said river, with the islands which are 
on the fore part of tlie said two front leagues, to hold in fief and lordship 
with high, mean and low jurisdiction, being desirous to promote an establish- 
ment there." 

The petition was gi'anted by Governor Denonville on July 23, 1688, and was 
confirmed by Louis XIV on May 24. 1689. The grant was recorded at Quebec 
on April 20, 1691. It embraced the Island of ilount Desert and a tract of 
the mainland opposite, including all of Bar Harbor on the coast of Maine. At 
the time the grant was made, the lands lay in what was known as Acadia. After 
the Revolution, the tract formed a part of the Territory of Penobscot, in the 
State of Massachusetts, Maine not being admitted to the Union as a state until 
1820. This grant indicates that Cadillac, at this time, was considered a man 
of importance and held in high esteem. 

In May, 1761, Marie Therese, daughter of Joseph and granddaughter of 
Antoine de LalMothe Cadillac, married her cousin, Bartholomey de Gi-egoire, at 
Castelsarrasin. On June 15, 1785, the French consul at Boston, on behalf of 
Marie Therese Gregoire and her husband, made application to the State of 
Massachusetts for the restoration to them of the lands. His petition was re- 
ferred to a committee on unappropriated lands, where it rested until the fall 
of 1786, when the Gregoires arrived to prosecute their claim in person. Their 
second petition was presented on November 6, 1786, and set forth the facts 
concerning the manner in which the lands were acquired by Cadillac, who was 
styled as "Lord of Donaquec and ]\Iount Desert." After some delay, the ilassa- 


ehusetts Legislature granted the petition on July 5, 1787, and on October 29, 
1787, the Gregoires and their three children — Pierre, Nicolas and ilarie — 
became naturalized citizens of the United States of America. 

Says Farmer: "'The lands were actually within the limits claimed by Massa- 
chusetts at the time Louis XIV made the concession. * * * The conceding 
of the claim of the Gregoires was really a graceful act, but the good feeling 
then entertained toward the French nation, on account of services rendered in 
the Kevolutionary war, undoubtedly had much to do with the favor with which 
the claim was received." 


"While making his preparations to settle a colony on the Donaquec River 
or IMount Desert Island, Cadillac continued to live at Port Royal. In 1689 
Louis XIV declared war against England. This conflict is commonly known 
as King Williams' war. Cadillac was summoned to Paris in 1689, to consult 
with the king as to the best means of prosecuting the war. During his absence 
Port Roj'al was captured by the English expedition under Sir William Phipps 
on May 10, 1690, and Madame Cadillac, with her infant daughter, went to 
her mother's home in Quebec. There she was found by her husband upon his 
return from France, soon after the defeat of Sir William Phipps by the French 
troops under Count Frontenac, who had succeeded the ]\Iarquis de Denonville 
as governor of New Prance. 

Cadillac proved to be of great assistance to Governor Frontenac in planning 
his campaigns for the defense of New France. In February, 1692, Count Pont- 
chartrain, the French minister of marine, wrote to Frontenac to send "Antoine 
de LaJIothe Cadillac to Paris by the first ship, that he may give minute in- 
formation to aid in the proposed attack on New York and New England, as 
he is considered to be the best instructed on plans, soundings and all observa- 
tions. " 

Pursuant to this request, Cadillac again went to France. On this occasion 
he presented his plan for the defense of the rivers and lakes of Canada by 
using vessels of light draft, which plan was approved by the king. He returned 
to Canada and toward the close of the war was made a second lieutenant in 
the French navy. At that time the French colonies were imder the control 
of the naval department, hence the soldiers of New France were classed as 
marines, although much of their service was upon the land. On October 25, 
1694, Governor Frontenac wrote to Count Pontchartrain : "Lieutenant Cad- 
illac is a man of rank, full of capability and valor; and I have just sent him 
to Missilimakinae to command all those posts of the iipper country and to fill 
the place of the Sieur de Louvigny de Laporte. ' ' 

Cadillac remained the commandant at Michilimackinac until after the death 
of Governor Frontenac in 1698. During that time his wife and children lived 
in Quebec. On his visits to his f amity, and from the reports of earlj' French 
explorers, he became imbued with the advantages of the country along the 
Detroit River as a desirable location for a post. Soon after the death of Count 
Frontenac he went to France to present the matter to the king. The history 
of the post of Detroit under Cadillac, his controversy with the Company of 
the Colony of Canada, his disputes with the Jesuits, his financial losses, etc., 
is given in the next chapter. 



Men of positive natures invariably make enemies. Cadillac's enemies accused 
him of being- "opinionated and quarrelsome," and through their influence and 
that of their friends he was finally removed from the position of commandant 
at Detroit. To soften the blow of the removal, he was appointed governor of 
the French Province of Louisiana. This appointment was made on ]\Iay 6. 
1710, but he remained at Detroit until some time in the summer of the follow- 
ing year. 

In September, 1712, Antoine Crozat, a wealthy merchant of Paris, wa^ 
granted a charter giving him the exclusive right to trade in Louisiana, as well 
as the proceeds of any mines he might discover and develop. Crozat continued 
Cadillac in the office of governor and, it is said, promised him a liberal per- 
centage of the profits derived from commercial transactions and mining opera- 
tions in the province. Cadillac's whereabouts at this time are somewhat un- 
certain. He was probably in France, as the Louisiana records show that on 
May 17, 1713, he aii-ived at Dauphin Island, at the entrance to Mobile Bay, on 
the French frigate "Baron de la Fosse." He was accompanied by his family 
and servants, and brought a large quantity of provisions and munitions of 
war for the colony there. 

At that time the settlement was near the head of IMobile Bay, but in 1713 
Cadillac caused it to be removed to the site of the present City of Mobile, where 
a number of houses were built during the summer and autumn. In order to 
obtain supplies for the infant colony, he sent out expeditions in various direc- 
tions to ascertain the resources of the country, and endeavored to open a trade 
with the Spanish settlements in Mexico. In the summer of 1715 he visited 
the Illinois eoimtry and examined the lead mines near the present City of 
Dubuque, Iowa. Eetuming to Llobile, he embarked for France in November, 
1715. to report the result of his explorations and make further arrangements 
for the support of the settlements in Louisiana. 


Cadillac's reports from Louisiana indicate that he was not altogether sat- 
isfied with the country. Possibly his removal from Detroit and the blasting 
of his hopes still rankled in his mind. His strong will and somewhat arbitrary 
methods at times ai'oused opposition among his associate officers, and early 
in 1717 iL de la Epinay wa.s appointed to succeed him as governor. Epinay 
arrived at ^Mobile on I\Iarch 9, 1717, and in June following, Cadillac bade good-by 
to America. Before the close of that year Crozat surrendered bis charter. 

John Law. an English adventurer, organized the Mississippi Company, as 
a branch of the Bank of France, which company succeeded to "all the rights, 
pi-ivileges and emohiments foi-merly enjoyed by Crozat." In 1718 Law sent 
some eight hundred colonists to Louisiana and the next year Philipe Renault 
brought over about two hundred more. Renault's idea was to go up the 
^Mississippi River, establish posts in the Illinois coimtry, and open a trade with 
the Indians. A few years of the wildest speculation and inflation followed, but 
in 1720 Law's whole scheme collapsed. It is known in history as "The Miss- 
issippi Bubble." 

Cadillac arrived in France about the time the ^Mississippi Company was 
launched. His knowledge of the country Law proposed to develop, the general 


plau advertised by the company, and the extravagant promises made to in- 
vestors, all told him that the project was built npon an insecure foundation 
and doomed to failure. He frankly expressed his opinion that the whole scheme 
was a swindle, unwoiihy of patronage, and did all he could to warn the French 
people against investing their money in such a problematical venture. Popular 
sentiment was in favor of Law, however, and Cadillac was arrested. For several 
months he was confined in the celebrated Bastile in Paris, when he was released 
and was never brought to trial. A year or so later the people learned by experi- 
ence that his judgment of Law was well founded, and manj^ of those who lost 
money by investing in the company regretted they did not heed his warning. 


Shortly after the collapse of the Mississippi Company, Cadillac applied for 
the governorship of Castelsarrasin, in the department where he was born. 
His application was granted in August, 1722. The appointment was made 
by Louis XIV, who in 1721, issued an edict taking away from the people of 
municipalities the I'ight to select their own officers. On December 11. 1722, 
Cadillac was regularly commissioned goveimor and mayor. Thus, after having 
spent the best part of his life amid the turmoil and strife of the New World, 
and having wandered all over America, he returned to the neighborhood of 
his birth, there to spend his declining years in peace. 

Castelsarrasin, now a town of some eight or ten thousand inhabitants, and 
perhaps quite as large in Cadillac's day, is located about twelve miles from 
Montaubau. In 1722 it contained a castle, in which Cadillac established his 
official residence. How long he retained the office of governor is not definitely 
known. In 1724 the king revoked his edict of 1721, and some writers assert 
that Cadillac was then retired. It is quite likely, however, that he continued 
to hold the office for some time after the revocation of the edict, as it is well 
known that he remained a resident of Castelsarrasin until his death on October 
16, 1730. His remains were buried in the cemetery adjoining the Cannelite 
monastery in the town. At the time of the French Revolution the monastery 
was confiscated and converted into a prison. Some j-ears later the remains 
of the few persons of consequence buried in the cemetery were exhumed and 
carefully reinterred beneath the stone flagging in the rear of the building. 
Here rest the bones of Antoine Laumet, de LaMothe Cadillac, soldier, chevalier. 
Knight of the Royal and IMilitary Order of St. Louis, navigator and diplomat. 
During his long and active career he was successively a merchant and trader 
at Port Royal, seigneur of Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor, an officer 
in the French navy, commandant at Michilimackinac, founder and first com- 
mandant at Detroit, governor of -Louisiana, a prisoner in the Bastile in Paris 
because he dared to give wise counsel to the people of his native land, and 
governor of Castelsarrasin. 


On Wednesday morning, July 24, 1901, at the opening of the Bi-Centenaiy 
exercises in Detroit, a fitting tribute was paid to this soldier, scholar and 
pioneer by the unveiling of a large stone chair at the western end of Cadillac 
Square. This is known as the "Cadillac Chair." The inscription on the back 
of the chair is as follows: 


"This chair, erected July 24, 1901, is located on the site of the City Hall 
built in 1S35 and occupied until 1871 as the seat of Civic Authority. 

"It is sjTnbolic of the Seigneurial Rule of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, 
Knight of St. Louis, who, with his company of colonists, arrived at Detroit, 
July 24, 1701. 

"On that day, under the patronage of Louis XIV, and protected by the 
Flag of France, the City of Detroit, then called Fort Pontchartrain, was 










While Cadillac was commandant at Michilimackinac, he learned through 
the reports of Dollier and Galinee and Father Louis Hennepin of the beauties 
and advantages of the region along the Detroit River and bent himself to the 
task of securing the establishment of a post in that part of the country. Sieur 
Du L'hut (Du Luth) had selected the site of Port St. Joseph, near the present 
City of Port Huron, only a short time before Cadillac went to Michilimackinac. 
Wliile he recognized the importance of Du Luth's post, as well as the one he 
had the honor to command, Cadillac was so favorably impressed with the De- 
troit River that he wrote to Count Frontenac, then governor of New France : 

"However well chosen was the position of Du L 'hut's trading fort at St. 
Joseph, I have in mind a better site. Dollier and Galinee, and later La 
Salle, followed up this connecting chain of waters from Fort Frontenac. They 
found it as richly set with islands as is a queen's necklace with jewels and 
the beautifully verdant shores of the mainland served to complete the picture 
of a veritable paradise. Especially attractive was the region that lies south 
of the pearl-like lake to which they gave the name of Ste. Clair, and the counti-y 
bordering upon that deep, clear river, a quarter of a lea^ie broad, known as 
Le Detroit. I have had from the Indians and the coureurs de bois glowing de- 
scriptions of this fair locality, and, while affecting to treat their accounts with 
indifference, I made a note of it in my mind. 

"On both sides of this strait lie fine, open plains where the deer roam in 
graceful herds, where bears, by no means fierce and exceedingly good to eat, 
are to be found, as are also the savoury ponies d'Indies (wild duck) and other 
varieties of game. The islands are covered with trees; chestnuts, walnuts, ap- 
ples and plums abound; and, in season, the wild vines are heavy with grapes, 
of wliicli the forest rangers say they have made a wine that, considering its 
newness, was not at aU bad. The Hurons have a village on Le Detroit; they 
see, according to their needs, its advantages. Michilimackinac is an important 
post, but the climate will ever be against it ; the place will never become a great 
settlement. Le Detroit is the real center of the lake country — the gateway 
to the "West. It is from there that we can best hold the English in check. I 
would make it a permanent post, not sub.ject to changes as are so many of the 
others. To do this it is but necessarv to have a sood number of French soldiers 


and traders, and to draw around it the tribes of friendly Indians, in order 
to conquer the Iroquois, who, from the beginning, have harassed ns and pre- 
vented the advance of civilization. The French live too far apart. ^Ye must 
bring them closer together, that, when necessary, thej- may be able to oppose 
a large force of savages and thus defeat them. Moreover, the waters of the 
Great Lakes pass through this strait, and it is the only path whereby the English 
can carry on their trade with the savage nations who have to do with the French. 
If we establish ourselves at Le Detroit, they can no longer hoj^e to deprive us 
of the benefits of the fur trade." 


Governor Frontenac was inclined to favor Cadillac's plans, but he died in 
1698, before definite arrangements for tlie establisliment of the jDost had been 
completed. He was succeeded bj^ Chevalier de Callieres, who apparently had 
little faith in Cadillac's suggestions and refused to aid his project. Failing to 
interest the new governor in his cherished ambition, Cadillac resolved to go 
to France and lay the whole matter before the king. He was cordially wel- 
comed by Louis XIV, then the occupant of the French throne, and returned 
to America anned with authority to establish a post at such point as he might 
select. His commission was signed by Count Pontchartrain, the minister of 
marine, and was approved by the king. He was allowed the sum of 1,500 livres 
(a livre was about twenty cents) for the pur^Dose of building a fort, and was 
granted subsistence for himself, wife and two children, and two servants. He 
was likewise granted a tract of land "fifteen arpents square." 

Having accomplished the object of his mission, Cadillac returned to Amer- 
ica, arriving at Quebec on March 8, 1701. After a brief stay there, he went 
on to Montreal to make arrangements for the establishment of his post. LTnder 
the authority given him by Count Pontchartrain, he enrolled 100 Frenchmen 
and a similar number of friendly Indians. Cadillac's officers were: Capt. 
Alphonse do Tonty ; Lieutenants Chaeoniacle and Dugue ; Sergeant Jacoli de 
Marac, Sieur de L'Ommesprou; Chaplains Father Constantine de L 'Halle, 
a Eecollet, and Father Francois Yalliant, a Jesuit. Francois and Jean Fafard 
also accompanied the expedition as Indian interpreters. 


"With this outfit, Cadillac left Jlontrcal on June 2, 1701, for the Detroit 
River. The scene of the embarkation is thus described by Mary Catherine 
Crowley in her "Daughter of New France," as she obtained it from old docu- 
ments in the archives at Quebec: "There in the sunshine were the soldiers in 
tlioir lilue coats with white facing; the artisans in their blouses; the coureurs 
de bois, with leathern jerkins brightly embroidered witli porcupine quills, red 
caps set jauntily on their dark heads, and upon their swift feet gaudy Indian 
moccasins; the black robed Jesuit and the gray f rocked RecoUet missionaries, 
holding aloft the cross beside the banner of St. Louis; the officers resplendent 
in their gorgeous uniforms and white plumed cavalier hats. Cadillac was the 
last one to embark. Stepping into his canoe he stood erect — an imposing figure 
in his azure habit with its crimson sash, a scarlet mantle thrown back from 
his broad shoulders, his sword by his side, and the breeze stirring the long, 
thick locks of his blnclc hair, as he waved a last adieu to his friends upon the 


In writing her storj', Miss Crowley doubtless exercised the privilege of the 
novelist and di'ew largely upon her imagination. The "gorgeous uniforms" 
and "white plumed cavalier hats" of the officers, Cadillac's "azure habit with 
its crimson sash" and his "scarlet mantle" would all have been appropriate 
were they going to visit the court of some foreign monarch. But they were 
going into a wilderness where they would meet none except savage Indians, 
and it is far more likely that Cadillac and his men all wore the rough costume 
of the voyageur — a costume that would stand hard knocks. 

Among the soldiers was one Robert Chevalier, called De Beauchene, whose 
adventures were written by Le Sage, author of Gil Bias, and published in 1745. 
This is said to be the first printed book to mention Cadillac. From the copy 
in the Burton Collection De Beauchene 's story, as told by himself, is taken. 
Says he: 

"An affair that I had in that City (Montreal), in the middle of the year 
1701, attached me whoU.y to my Algonquins. The Fact was this: We, that is, 
myself and about a hundred Canadians, undertook to escort Monsieur de la 
Mothe de Cadillac, who waa sent with two Subaltern Officers, near two hundred , 
Leagues from Montreal, to command at the Streight. When we were at the 
Place, which is named the Fall of China, because there is a Water-fall there, 
upon the River of St. Lawrence, where they are obliged to unload their Goods, 
Monsieur de Cadillac undertook to search the canoes, to see if we had not 
brought more Brandy than was allowed. He discover 'd more than was lieenc'd 
in several of the Canoes, and immediately raising his voice, demand 'd with a 
magisterial Air, whose it was ; one of my Brothers was near him, who answered 
him in the same Tone, that it belonged to us and that he had no Authority 
to find FaiTlt with it. 

"Cadillac was a Gascon, and consequently hot; he affronted my Brother, 
who drew upon him immediately; Cadillac received him like a Man of Courage 
and making him retreat, he was going to disarm him, when throwing myself 
between them, I push'd aside my Brother and took his Place, and repuls'd my 
Enemy so briskly that he had no Occasion to be soi'iy that we were parted. He 
is, I believe, still alive — if he dares, let him contradict me." 

He then goes on to tell how Cadillac returned to Montreal to make his com- 
plaints. De Beauchene followed him and the intendant, Champigny, gave him 
a short term in prison (three daj^s), and his brother, ashamed of having been 
defeated by Cadillac, spent the rest of his life among the Indians. 

To avoid giving offense to the tribes of the Five Nations, who were inclined 
to resent any exploration or occiipation of the Indian country, the route se- 
lected was up the Ottawa River, thence by way of Lake Nipissing and the 
French and Pickei-el rivers to the Georgian Bay. Regarding the route fol- 
lowed by Cadillac, C. M. Burton says in his "Early Detroit": "In the sum- 
mer of 1904, I went to the eastern end of Lake Nipissing and spent several 
weeks in going over the pathway of Cadillac in this, his first trip to Detroit. 
Passing through the eastern end of this lake, we reached the outlet knowm as 
French River. With an Indian guide and birch bark canoes, we paddled the 
entire length of French and Pickerel rivers to French River village, the head 
of navigation. The country today is as wild and barren as it was in Cadillac's 
time, and if he could again \'isit this scene, there is no doubt that the old land- 
marks that guided him then would again serve to show him his way through 
this vast wilderness of water and of rocks. The country is a great desert of 


rocks — rocks for miles and miles — no trees of any size, and underbrush only 
in the crevices of the rocks, where the accumulation of the dust of ages has 
been sufficient to sustain a little vegetable life. The river is not a river, hut 
a continuation of the lake. It has very little current, though it occasionally 
contracts into a narrower channel with a waterfall, around which our boats 
had to be carried. The scenery is perfecth' wild and the route we took is doubt- 
less the one used by all travelers for the past two hundred and tifty years." 

Upon reaching the Georgian Bay, Cadillac's twent.v-five canoes crossed that 
body of water to the strait connecting it with Lake Huron, then followed the 
easterly coast of that lake to the St. Clair River, down which they passed, 
through Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River to the site of Detroit. Late on 
the afternoon of July 23, 1701, the canoes passed the place where the city now 
stands and that night Cadillac encamped on Grosse He, sixteen miles down the 
river. Early the next morning he slowly ascended the stream, carefully noting 
the character of the shores, until he reached a point now about the foot of 
Shelby Street, where the high bank seemed to offer strategic advantages for a 
post. There he landed and planted the French standard at the top of the bluff, 
taking possession of the country in the name of Louis XIV. 


Almost immediately after the ceremony of taking possession of the terri- 
tory, the work of building a storehouse and stockade was commenced. A piece 
of ground one arpent square (the Canadian arpent of that day was 192.75 
feet) was laid off for the fort. While some cleared the gi-ound others cut trees 
from six to eight inches in diameter for the pickets to form the stockade. These 
pickets were about fifteen feet long and were sunk in the ground to a depth of 
three feet. The.y stood close together, thi;s forming a palisade twelve feet high. 
Still others, under the direction of Father de L 'Halle, began the building of 
a church, which was named Ste. Anne, because it was commenced on July 26th 
— Ste. Anne's day. It was 241/4 by 35 feet, ten feet high to the eaves, and was 
provided with a door and windows, though the windows were without glass. 
The door had a lock and the windows were provided with shutters. This church 
was the first building in Detroit to be completed. 

Other buildings (belonging to Cadillac) inside the stockade were seven in 
number, to wit : 1. A warehouse 22 by 371/2 feet, 8 feet high, constructed of 
thick oak planks split from trees and smoothed with an adz. Inside this ware- 
house were a counter and a press for baling skins, and the door was fitted with 
a lock and key. 2. A building 19 by SSi/o feet, built, like all the others, by 
placing posts in the ground. This building was also provided with a lock. 3. A 
•smaller building 12i/o by 18 feet, 6% feet high. 4. A barn 27 by 50 feet, 11 
feet high. This was evidently for storing crops, though Cadillac later brought 
three horses, only one of which (Colon) lived. 5. A building 21 by 33 feet, 
formed of split stakes and without a door. 6. An ice house 15 feet square, 
6 feet high above ground and extending 15 feet below the surface. 7. An in- 
ferior building 12 by 16 feet and only 5 feet high. Other buildings were owned 
by members of the colony, all built of logs set on end. Several years elapsed 
before cabins were built with the logs laid horizontally. Concerning this work 
Cadillac wrote: "All this is no easy task, as everything has to be carried on 
the shoulders, for we have no oxen or horse-s yet to draw loads, nor to plough, 
and to accomplish it, it is necessary to be very active." 



Scarcely had Cadillac laid the foundations of Michigan's future metropolis, 
■ — and while he was encouraged and buoyed up by the bright prospects for the 
future, — when a cloud appeared above the horizon. For some years the mer- 
chants of Quebec and Montreal had been engaged in the fur trade in a limited 
way. Their method was to employ voyageurs to fit out expeditions and trans- 
port in canoes, to the Indian eountrj^ about the upper lakes, goods to exchange 
for peltries. About the close of the Seventeenth Century a company was formed 
to conduct this trade on a larger scale. Authentic information relative to this 
company is so scarce that it is difSeult to ascertain just what rights it was 
granted, or who composed it. Enough has been learned, however, to state with 
certainty that on October 3, 1699, some of the leading citizens of Quebec 
(among whom was Cadillac) sent a deputation composed of Anteuil, Juchereau 
and Pacaud to Versailles to solicit from the king the privilege of organizing a 
company to have general charge of the beaver trade of Canada. (The beaver 
trade included aU furs.) 

That some effort to organize a company at that time was made is borne out 
by a letter written some j-ears later (October 21, 1726), by Claude Thomas 
Dupuy, then intendant of Canada, in which he says: "M. de la Mothe was 
placed at Detroit as commandant in the year 1700, when this post was estab- 
lished. The old Beaver Companj-, which had established the post, gave it up 
to the new company, which was unable to keep it up, and Sieur de la Mothe 
asked for it with the monopoly of the trade and the other conditions the com- 
pany had." 

Not long after Cadillac left Quebec on June 2, 1701, for the Detroit River, 
a treaty of peace was made with the Iroquois, which opened a more direct 
route between Fort Frontenac and Detroit by way of Lake Erie. It is quite 
probable that this treaty revived the idea of organizing a company, as goods 
could now be transported without encountering the troublesome portages of 
the Ottawa River I'oute. But Cadillac had been granted the exclusive right 
to trade with the Indians at Detroit and was taking steps to settle them near 
the post, where they would be under his domination. To break his power, a 
company called the "Company of the Colony of Canada" was formed and 
influences set to work to undermine his standing with King Louis XIV. If 
this hj'pothesis a.s to the formation of the new company is correct, it follows 
that at the time Cadillac founded the post there was no company in charge 
of the new colony, and he was justified in considering himself the exclusive 
owner of the post and of its trade. 

It seems that Governor-General Callieres had conceived a personal dislike 
for Cadillac and, as the representative of the French Government in Canada, 
encourage the formation of the company, with the exclusive right to trade at 
Fort Frontenac and Detroit, taking from Cadillac the powers given him by 
the king's commission. By intrigue the consent of Louis XIV was gained and 
the contract with the company was concluded at Quebec on October 31, 1701. 
On the same day the intendant wrote to Count Pontchartrain : 

"You will see from the agreement I have made with the Companj- of the 
Colony, on putting it in possession of the forts of Frontenac and Detroit, that 
I have been obliged to advance large sums without being able to obtain pay- 
ment until next year, in letters of exchange and furs, which will have to be 
sent to France to be sold, and this will delay the repayment for two years. 


Therefore I most hnmlily hog yon, My Lord, to take this into aeoonnt to some 
extent, by granting ns sneh increase in fnuds as you may think fit, having 
regard to tlie extraordinary disbursements we have been obliged to make both 
for the ratification of peace with tlie Iroquois and for the enterprise at Detroit, 
and for the fortification at Quebec, as you know from the statements which 1 
have sent to you. 

' ' CiiAMPiGxv, Intendant. ' ' 

As the Company of the Colony was destined to play a conspicuous part in 
the discomfiture of Cadillac, the principal features of the contract entered into 
by its directors and the Canadian officials are here given, taken from Leake's 
History of Detroit (p. 13) : 

"The following articles of agreement have been made between the governor- 
general and intendant on the one part, and Messrs. d'Auteuil, iDrocureur-general 
of the King in the sovereign council of this country, Lotbiniere, lieutenant- 
general of this City of Quebec, Irazeur, Gobin, Macart and Pierese, gentlemen, 
merchants of this City of Quebec, all directors-general of the said company, on 
the other part. 

"1. Be it known, that the governor-general and intendant, in consequence 
of the express orders which they have this year received from the King, do, 
by these j^resents and acceptances, in the name of His Majesty, cede and convey 
to the directors of said Company of the Colony the posts of Detroit and Fort 
Froutenac, giving into the possession of said Company of the Colony, from this 
day forth, the said posts in the state in which they now are for their use, to 
traffic in furs, to the exchision of all other inhabitants of said country, so long 
as it shall please His Majesty. 

"2. It shall be the duty of said Company to complete the construction of 
said fort at Detroit, and the buildings properly belonging thereto; and the 
Company shall in future keep said buildings and fort in good repair, that they 
may be rendered in the same state they are now, and better, if possible, when- 
ever His Majesty shall judge proper to receive them, if in the course of time 
he so order. 

"3. The Company of the Colony is also to take charge of the goods which 
have been sent to said place, obeying the conditions that have been agreed 
upon — Messrs. Radisson and Arnault to be overseers of the storehouse of said 
goods which the intendant has placed in the hands of the directors of the Com- 
pany. They are also to have charge of the other advances made by the King 
for this establishment, and to make pajTuent for said goods and advances to 
the intendant from the first bills which shall be returned from Detroit, and in 
case said bills should not be sufficient, on the first of October, 1702, the said 
overseers shall give bills of exchange for the remainder, which shall be drawn 
upon the directors and commissionei's of said Company in Paris, payable to 
the sureties and overseers of the storehouse, for the piirpose of liquidating the 
claims against said Company, conformably to the agreement made with the 
said Lord-Lieutenant. 

"4. It is also agreed that the King shall support, at his expense, the gar- 
rison which the governor shall order for the protection of said fort of Detroit, 
and that the commandant and one other officer only, shall be maintained by 
the Company, 

"5. The said commandant and soldiers shall not make any trade for furs 


with the savages nor French, directh- nor indirectly, on any pretext whatever, 
under pain of confiscation of the said furs, and other piinishment prescrilied 
by the King." 

Cadillac knew nothing of all this nutil July IS, 1702, when Arnault and 
Radisson arrived at Detroit to take charge of affairs. They presented him with 
a copy of the contract and showed their credentials as overseers. The informa- 
tion came like the proverbial clap of thunder from a clear sky-. On July 21, 
1702, Cadillac left Detroit for Quebec, hoping to secure some modification of 
the contract with the company, or, failing in that, to make terms with the 
directors that would give him partial control of the post, at least. Under date 
of September 25, 1702, he wrote from Quebec to Count Pontchartrain, giving 
the following account of what had been accomplished at Detroit : 

"After the fort was built, and the dwellings, I had the land cleared there 
and some French wheat sown on the 7th of October, not having had time to 
prepare it well. This wheat, although sown hastily, came up very fine and was 
cut on the 21st of July. I also had some sown in the spring, as is done in 
Canada; it came up well enough, but not like that of the autiunn. The land 
having thus shown its quality, and taught me that the French tillage must be 
followed, I left orders with il. de Tonty to take care to begin the sowing about 
the 20th of September and I left him twenty arpents of land prepared. I have 
no doubt he has increased it somewhat since my departure. I also had twelve 
arpents or more sown this spi-ing, in the month of May, with Indian corn which 
came up eight feet high ; it will have been harvested about the 20th of August 
and I hope there will be a good deal of it. All the soldiers have their own 
dwellings. ' ' 

Then, after giving a detailed account of his building a boat, establishing a 
vineyard for the cultivation of wild gi-ape vines, and some other matters, he 
continues: "All that I have had the honor to state to you has been done in 
one year, without it having cost the King a sou, and without costing the com- 
pany a double ; and in twelve months we have put ourselves in a position to do 
without provisions from Canada forever ; and all this undertaking was carried 
out with three months' provisions, which I took when I set out from Montreal, 
and which were consumed in the course of the journey. This proves whether 
Detroit is a desirable or an undesirable country. Besides this, nearly six thou- 
sands mouths of different tribes wintered there, as every one knows. All these 
proofs, convincing as they are, cannot silence the enemies of my scheme ; but 
they do begin to grow feeble and to diminish in violence. It may be said that 
nothing more remains to them, good or bad, but their tongues. 

"There are at Detroit a good fort, good dwellings and the means of living 
and subsisting. There are three villages of the savages; the rest will very soon 
come there. They are waiting to see whether what was promised them is being 
carried out. It is for you to push this matter about the inhabitants (that de- 
serves our attention on account of the war) and to consider whether you will 
allow the inhabitants of Canada to settle there; to form a seminary to begin 
to instruct the savage children in piety and in the French languag:e ; to allow 
the Recollets to settle there in order to discharge their functions." 

Unable to have the agreement with the company altered to any appreciable 
extent, Cadillac returned to Detroit. Upon his arrival there on November 6, 
1702, he found that the overseers had conducted matters in such a manner as 
to incur the displeasure of the Indians. It had been Cadillac's custom to treat 


his red brethren as though he had implicit confidenee in their honesty, allowing 
them the freedom of the fort during the day. As soon as he left for Quebec 
in July, Radisson and Arnault ordered the warehouse, in which the goods were 
stored, to be kept locked, and in other ways (particularly in the distribution of 
brandy) treated the Indians with so much insolence that many of them were 
about ready to desert the post. Cadillac did all he could to pacify his Indian 
friends, who liked him pei*sonally, but his influence among them was weakened 
when they saw he was subordinate to the despised overseers. 


While the company was in charge of the post, Cadillac remained as com- 
mandant on a salarj^ of 2,000 livres per year, and was not recjuired to bear 
any part of the expense of maintaining the garrison. Under this arrangement 
he was not shorn of his powers, always went about in military costume, with his 
sword by his side, soldiers saluting him and ci^^lians removing their hats as he 
passed. But he was almost constantly involved in quarrels with the representa- 
tives and employees of the company. On one occasion a clerk named Desnoyers 
became rather saucy and Cadillac ordered him to be imprisoned for two hours. 
Upon being released, he immediately began making preparations to desert his 
post and return to Montreal, when he was again thrown into prison by the 
commandant's orders. In his defense before Count Pontchartrain, when asked 
why Desnoj'crs had been so treated, Cadillac said : 

"I did so because it is laid down in my orders that nobody, officer or 
otherwise, is to set out from Detroit without my permission ; yet the clerk, 
Desnoyers, to continue his disobedience, had his boat put in the water and 
loaded for Montreal (as he says) without speaking of it to me or sa.ying 
anything to me about it, claiming always that he was not subordinate to 
me. * * * 

"As to my powers, thej' are very ample, being to punish according to cir- 
cumstances, by reprimands, by arrests, by imprisonment or by deprivation of 
civil rights; and in case of distinct disobedience, to run my sword through any 
one who has offended against me." 

Although it was stipulated in the articles of agreement with the company 
that the king would support the garrison, in the fall of 1703 the soldiers were 
so poorly paid that nine of them deserted. They returned after a short absence 
and were pardoned by Cadillac. About the same time Cadillac learned that 
his captain, Tontj', had entered into a plot with the Jesuits of Michilimackinac 
to cripple Detroit by encouraging the establishment of a new post at St. Joseph 
on Lake Michigan. When confronted w-ith the evidence of the conspiracy, 
Tonty, it is said, admitted the truth and was likewise pardoned, on promise of 
good behavior. These pardons indicate that Cadillac was not always unduly 
severe in his administration of affairs. 

Notwithstanding Tonty 's promise of good behavior, he was soon engaged in 
another scheme. Cadillac detected him and one of the company's commis- 
sioners in the embezzlement of goods belonging to the company, for the pur- 
pose of cari-ying on an illicit trade in furs. The furs they had collected were con- 
fiscated and charges against the offenders were forwarded to the Marquis de 
Vaudreuil, the governor-general. The commissioner was a relative of Vaudreuil 
and an intimate friend of some of the directors of the company, who preferred 
countercharges against Cadillac, and in the fall of 1704 he was summoned to 


appear before the governor and intendant for trial. He was acquitted, but was 
not allowed to retuni to Detroit. Cadillac then appealed to the colonial min- 
ister at Paris and received instructions while still at Quebec to present his 
ease to Count Pontchartrain. Vaudreuil then gave him permission to return 
to Detroit, but Cadillac wanted a complete vindication. After a patient hear- 
ing. Count Pontchartrain annovmced himself as satisfied that Cadillac had done 
"all that could be expected of a faithful ofScer and an honest man," and 
promised that the annoyances to which he had been subjected .should be stopped. 

On June 14, 1705, the company executed an agreement to restore to Cadillac 
the post of Detroit and all its appurtenances. In accordance with this agree- 
ment, the property was to be invoiced in the presence of M. de Tonty, Father 
de L 'Halle and the company's clerks, Cadillac to pay for the merchandise in 
money or bills of exchange; that Coimt Pontchartrain was to decide whether 
Cadillac should pay for the buildings erected by the company; that the new 
proprietor was to supply the company with beaver skins not amounting in 
value to more than twenty thousand livres per year; that he was not to trade 
at any point on the lakes outside of Detroit; and that the company should have 
the privilege of sending an inspector to see if that feature of the agreement 
was being infringed. In addition, CadiUae was to defray the entire expense 
of maintaining the post, except a portion of the priest's salary, which was to 
be paid by the inhabitants. 

Cadillac's victory was only temporary. Count Pontchartrain was unable 
to keep his promise that the annoyances should be brought to an end and the 
intriguing went on. The company did not want Detroit to be colonized, while 
Cadillac's ambition was to build \ip a permanent colony. To this end he had 
caused a number of Indian bands to locate near the fort. The Huron village 
was a short distance down the river, in the opposite direction were four bands 
of the Ottawa and a Miami settlement, and the Wolf Indians occupied the land 
known as the "King's Commons." He also offered inducements to Canadians 
to settle near the post and encouraged unmarried soldiers to take Indian wives. 
Under his liberal policy, it is said that within eight months after he landed at 
Detroit, his settlement promised to become a rival of Montreal or Quebec. 
After more than four years of bickerings, his enemies succeeded in having him 
removed. In the spring of 1710 he was appointed governor of Louisiana. So 
many of his friends left at the same time that the town was practicallj- de- 
serted, though the original stockade had been previoasly enlarged to accom- 
modate the gi-owing population. To make matters worse for Cadillac, his suc- 
cessor took all his property and refused to account for it. The value of this 
property, as shown by an inventory taken in April, 1720, was as follows : 

400 arpents of land at 100 francs 40,000.00 

Loss of same for ten years at 6 francs per year 24,000.00 

1 warehouse 3,000.00 

House of M. de LaMothe 2.500.00 

2 other houses 1,500.00 

1 barn, etc 1,200.00 

1 stable 500.00 

1 dove cot 400.00 

1 ice house 300.00 

Chapel and house of almoner 3.000.00 


1 mill 8,000.00 

29 horned cattle and 1 horse 9.000.00 

Loss of mill at 1,000 francs per year 10.000.00 

For 29 horned cattle which shonld have been tired dur- 
ing- the 10 years 9,000.00 

Furniture, grain, tiour, tools, etc 7,000.00 

Premium on same at 4 per cent 2,800.00 

Due for King's service & care of sick 4.331.73 

Total 126,531.73 

The loss of this property, valued at 126,531 francs (or livres), 7 sous and 
3 deniers, -nas a .severe one to a man who had spent ten of the best years of his 
life in building up a colony in the wilderness of North America, hoping thereby 
to uphoM the honor of his king and enrich himself, 


Cadillac was reared a Catholic and in his religious faith and practices was 
decidedly partial to the Franciscan order. "While commandant at Michilimack- 
inae, he became embroiled with the Jesuit missionaries over the sale of brandy 
to the Indians. The competition between the French and English for the con- 
trol of the fur trade was then at its height. As the English traders were per- 
mitted to sell intoxicating liquors to the natives iu unlimited cjuantities, the 
French claimed that it was necessary for them to pursue the same policy, in 
order to prevent their rivals from obtaining a monopoly of the trade. The 
Jesuits protested against the custom, and, knowing the commandant to be iu 
sympathy with the Franciscans, tried to place all the blame on him, hoping to 
have him removed and a commandant more friendly to their order appointed. 
Cadillac had been at ilichiliraackinac but a few month.? when the Jesuits scored 
a victory by having the transportation of brandy to the post prohibited. 

On ilarch 21, 1795, a deputation of Indians and French traders called on 
■ Cadillac to remonstrate against the prohibition. One of the chiefs reminded 
him that former commandants had not been so severe upon them, and said: 
"If we are your friends, give us the liberty of drinking. Our beaver is worth 
your brandy and the Great Spirit gave us both to make us happy. If you wish 
to treat us as your enemies, or as slaves, do not be angiy if we carry our beaver 
to Orange or Cortland (English trading posts), where they will give us rum; 
as much of it as we want." 

After this incident, Cadillac wrote to a friend in Quebec that the Jesuits 
had acted in bad faith and made misrepresentations to secure the order pro- 
hibiting the shipment of brandy to the post. With him the interests of the 
king and the French traders were paramount and he refused to obey the order. 
By doing so he made a bitter and lasting enemy of Father Etienne de Carhcil, 
the Jesuit priest at the post. 

Cadillac's idea, in establishing the post of Detroit, was to make it sufficiently 
powerful to cheek the aggi-es.sive campaign of the English for the trade of the 
Indians of the upper lake country. His plan was to induce the Indians to 
settle near the post, teach them the French language, and thus make it possible 
to bring about an alliance for their mutual protection. To accomplish this he 
made the right to supply the Indiams with liquor one of the principal pro- 
visions of his commission. He well knew that the adoption of such a policy, 


and liis open preference for the Recollet priests, -n-oiJcl still further alienate 
the Jesuits, especially when they should learn that it was his determination 
not to permit them to control the religious affairs of the post. He anticipated, 
but did not fear, the opposition of Father Carheil, the ^Montreal traders and 
Governor Callieres, who was an ardent supporter of the Jesuits, all of whom 
realized that the settlement of the Indians near Fort Pontchartrain, where 
they could easily obtain liquor, would draw a large part of the trade away from 

Although a stanch friend of the Franciscan order, Cadillac was not in- 
tolerant. As already stated, when he left Montreal on June 2, 1701, Father 
Valliant, a Jesuit priest, was one of his company. On the way to the Detroit 
River, Cadillac noticed a discontent among the men and traced it to rumors 
that they woidd not be paid for their services, that they would not be per- 
mitted to bring their wives to Detroit, or to visit their families in Montreal, etc. 
It had been settled before starting that Father Valliant was to go as a mis- 
sionary to the Indians, and that his colleague. Father de L 'Halle, was to be 
the priest and almoner of the post. Cadillac knew that Father Valliant wanted 
to be superior to Father de L 'Halle, and suspected him with being the author 
of the rumors. Soon after landing at Detroit, he called the men together, told 
them frankly that he had observed their discontent and inquired the cause. 
Father Valliant, seeing that a day of reckoning was at hand, and that he was 
likely to be placed on record, hastily departed, without waiting for permission 
or an escort, and went to Michilimackinac. After his departure no Jesuit offi- 
ciated at Detroit for several years. 

The absence of the Jesuits did not prevent them from engaging in intrigues 
and doing many things to harass Cadillac and retard the growth of Detroit. 
Under date of August 31, 1703, Cadillac wrote to Count Pontchartrain as 
follows : 

"You were good enough to write to me that the King wishes the missions 
of Detroit to be administered by the Jesuit fathers, and that their Superior at 
Quebec would grant me some who would be more in sympathy with me than 
Father Valliant had been. It would appear that j'our orders were sufficient 
to induce this Superior to provide for that mission promptly, especially after 
the special favor you have done him by approving of Father Valliant remain- 
ing in this country, after having opposed the will of His Majesty as he has done. 

"The arrangement made by M. de Callieres also seemed to compel him, 
absolutely, to have the mission provided for, as is clearly explained therein. 
Yet you will see that, up to the present, the Jesuits have done nothing to carry 
out His Majesty's intentions, which you explained clearly both to M. de Callieres 
and to their Superior at Quebec, with which you were pleased to acquaint me. 

"I do not know whether they have sent you word that it was agreed, in 
consequence of the arrangement which had been made, that the Company of 
the Colony should pay to each missionary of Detroit the sum of 800 livres a 
year ; that it would haye the things they would want for their food and cloth- 
ing necessary for their use, brought for them at its cost and expense ; and that 
it would get dwellings for them in the villages of the savages until there was 
time to build them more conveniently. I have carried out, for my part, the ar- 
rangements which have been made; the Company has carried them out on its 
side, having this spring (in accordance with the agreement) sent a boat on 
purpose for Father Marest, Superior of ilissilimakinak, who feigned important 


reasons for not coming here, so the Company has incurred that expense in vain, 
as it had already done regarding Father Valliant. 

"You wish me to be friendly with the Jesuits and not to pain them. Having 
thought it well over, I have only found three ways of succeeding in that. The 
first is to let them do as they like ; the second to do evein-thiug they wish ; the 
third, to say nothing about what they do. By letting them do as they like, 
the savages would not settle at Detroit and would not be settled there; to do 
as they wish, it is neces.sary to cause the downfall of this post; and to say 
nothing about what they do, it is necessary to do what I am doing; and (yet) 
in spite of this last essential point, I still cannot induce them to be my friends." 

To just what extent the antipathy of the Jesuit fathers was responsible for 
the iiltimate defeat of Cadillac's plans at Detroit would be difficult to deter- 
mine. Persons who engage in conspiracy or factional intrigue do not keep an 
open record of their deeds. That they connived with the merchants of Mon- 
treal and others for his downfall is certain, though it took them nearly ten 
years to accomplish their purpose. It is equally certain that none rejoiced 
more upon his final removal, to which they had contributed. 


On June 14, 1704, Count Pontchartrain wrote to Cadillac, advising him of 
a decree giving him authority to make conveyances of the lands in and around 
the village, though some of the lots and lands had been taken prior to that 
time by some sort of an agreement, the exact nature of which is not known. 
The lots inside the fort were small — about 20 by 25 feet, — though a few were 
larger. The houses occupied by the soldiers belonged to the commandant, but 
the civilians owned their homes. At the time the authority was granted by 
the king to make conveyances, Cadillac was in the midst of his litigation with 
the Company of the Colonj- and no lots were conveyed to indi\'iduals until in 
March, 1707. Between that time and June 28, 1710, sixty-eight lots in the 
village were granted to private citizens. He also granted a number of tracts 
for agricultural purposes, which are known as the "French Farms" or "Private 
Claims," and which are further described in Chapter XX of this work. The 
complete description of all of Cadillac's grants in the village, along the river 
and in the "gardens" is published in Volume 33, pp. 373-82, of the Michigan 
Pioneer and Historical Society Collections. The follo^x-ing list gives the num- 
ber of each lot granted within the village and the name of the person receiving 
it from Cadillac: 

1. Pierre Chesne 13. Pierre Hemard 

2. Andre Chouet 14. Antoine Dupuis dit Beauregard 

3. Pierre Faverau (lit LeGrandeur 15. Jacques L'Anglois 

4. Joscpli Despre 16. Guillaume Bovet (lit Deliard 

5. Salomon Joseph Du Vestiu 17. Michael Masse 

6. Pierre Leger (lit Parisien 18. IMichel Campo 

7. Bonnaventure Compien (lit 19. Louis Xoj'mand 

L'Esperance 20. Francois Tesee 

8. Jacob de IMai-sac (lit Desrocher 21. Pierre Chant elon 

9. 31. D'Argenteuil 22. Francois Bienvenu dit de L'Isle 

10. Jean Richard 23. Pierre Esteve 

11. Jean Labatier dit Champagne 24. Blaise Surgere 

12. Estienne Bontran 25. Pierre Poirier 




Aiitoine Ferron 

Pierre Tacet 

Francois Fafard de Lorme 

Michel Dizier (Disier) 

Jacob de Marsac 

• Rencontre 



Jacques Du Moulin 
Guilleaume Aguet 
Louis Gastineau 
Joseph Parent 
Martin Sirier 


M. Derance 

Du Figuier 

La Montagne 

Pierre Mallet 
Antoine Dufresne 
Jean Baptiste Chomic 
Jean Casse 
Paul L'Anglois 

48. Jerome ilarliard 

49. Andre Bombardie 

50. Pierre Du Roy 

51. Pierre Roy 

52. Francois Margue 

53. Antoine Magnant 

54. Francois Bonne 

55. Touissaints Dardennes 

56. Pierre Bassinet 

57. Francois Brunct 

58. Antoine Beauregard 

59. Marie Le Page 

60. Jacques Campo 

61. Jean Serond 

62. Pierre Robert 

63. L'Arramee 

64. Rene Le Moine 

65. Jacques Le Moine 

66. Paul Guillet 

67. Joseph Rinaud 

68. Antoine Tuffe dit du Fresne 

Lot No. 59, conveyed to Marie Le Page, is the only record of a conveyance 
to a woman in early Detroit. As an example of how Louis XIV conducted 
colonial affairs, in 1716, after Cadillac had left to become governor of Louisiana, 
all grants were annulled by royal edict and the titles reverted to the king. 


In September, 1701, Madame Cadillac and Madame de Tonty left Quebec 
for Fort Frontenac, intending to join their husbands at Detroit the following 
spring, as soon as it was considered safe to undertake the journey. The treaty 
with the Iroquois had just been concluded and the_y made their an-angements 
to go by way of Lake Erie. When impoi-tuned by friends in Quebec to refrain 
from such a toilsome and dangerous journey, especially as the comitry to which 
she contemplated going was wild and barbarous, where she would be without 
congenial company and attractions, Madame Cadillac replied: "Do not waste 
your pity upon me, dear friends. I know the hardships, the perils of the 
journey, the isolation of the life to which I am going; yet I am eager to go. 
For a woman who truly loves her husband has no stronger attraction than his 
company, wherever he may be." 

Although the two women were accompanied only bj- Indians and rough 
canoe men, they were treated with the utmost i-espect and arrived at Detroit 
without accident or adventure. The following description of their landing is 
taken from Mary Catherine Crowley's address at the Bi-Centenary celebra- 
tion in 1901 : 

"One day toward the end of May (1702) the sentry whose pleasant task 
it is to watch the i-iver, beholds down toward the lake of the Eries a dark 
object, just at the line where the blue-gi-ay clouds and the silver waters meet; 
so far off that it might almost be mistaken for a wild duck, which as it flies 
dips its wings to the surface of the stream, a fog stealing up from the lake, 


or the smoke of an ludiau fire from the laud. As it draws nearer, however, 
it is seen to be a canoe ; another appears in its wake. Tlie seutiy calls the news 
in a loud voice and every civilian in the little town hurries to the strand; the 
occupants of the canoes maj^ be a partj^ of redskins returning from the lower 
lakes, or perhaps even a band of Iroquois come with treacherous offerings of 
peace belts, as they did at Michilimackinac. 

"Monsieur de Cadillac orders the garrison under anus. The bateaux come 
nearer; now a white banner waves from the prow of the foremost canoe as it 
glides up the shining path made by the sunlight. A sunbeam kisses the flag, 
and at the same moment the spectators on the shore catch sight of its golden 
fleurs de lis. A glad shout goes up from a hundred throats: 'This is verily 
the convoy from Fort Front enac 1 ' * * * Now we distinguish the figures 
in the canoes ; the Indian rowers, the sturdy forms of the Canadians who foitn 
the escort of the women, the happy wives of the soldiers. In the stern of the 
ladies' flagship we see Madame de Tonty, buxom and comely, a charmmg pic- 
ture of a young matron of New France ; jMadame Cadillac, handsome and gi-a- 
ciously dignified as the wife of the seigneur should be, yet with a bright, glad 
smile. Against her knee leans little Jacques, her six year old son, who calls 
out cheerily at the sight of his father and of his older brother Antoine, who 
came with Cadillac." 


At noon on IMay 30, 1903, a tablet commemorative of the arrival of these 
fii-st white M'omen in Detroit was unveiled with appropriate ceremonies. It is 
located on the Detroit Art Museum, at the corner of Hastings Street and Jef- 
ferson Avenue, and shows in bas-relief Madame Cadillac landing from the 
canoe, greeted by her husband, while Indians are seen peering from behind 
the trees farther back from the river. 

The idea of the tablet originated with ^Irs. ^Marguerite Beaubien. by whom 
it was unveiled. It was presented to the city and the Detroit ^Museum of Art 
by Mi-s. Bertram C. Wliitney, president of the Women's Bi-Centenary Com- 
mittee: was accepted for the city by Mayor "William C. Maybui'y, and for the 
iluseum of Art by Theodore C. Buhl, custodian of the museum. The memorial 
address was delivered by Alfred Russell. 


A few events, each the first of its kind, that occurred in old Detroit, be- 
tween the time it was founded and the departure of Cadillac in 1711, were : 

The first white child born in the village was a daughter of Alphonse de 
Tonty and his wife. She was named Therese. in honor of ^ladame Cadillac. 
The exact date of birth is not known. 

The first recorded baptism was that of ^Marle Therese, daughter of Antoine 
de LalMothe and Therese Cadillac. Farmer gives the date of this baptism as 
February 2. 1704. 

The first known death was that of Father Constantine de L 'Halle, who was 
killed by an Indian in the summer of 1706. 

The first wheat ever .sown in I\Iichigan was so^vn at Detroit on October 7, 
1701, bv direction of Cadillac. 








The principal events in the history of Detroit from 1701 to 1710 — while 
Cadillac was commandant — have been chronicled in the preceding chapter. 
During that period Cadillac sent frequent reports to the govei-nor-general of 
New France, and to Paris, concerning the condition of the post. None of his 
successors was so enterprising in this respect, and many events that occurred 
between 1710 and 1760 are left, to a considerable degree, in obscurity. The 
purpose of this chapter is to give a list of the commandants that followed 
Cadillae, in the order in which they served, together with such information 
regarding the occurrences under each as could be gleaned from .sources con- 
sidered reliable. The fii-st commandajit after Cadillac was 


Pierre Alphouse de Tont.v, Baron de Paludy, a son of Laurent and Angelique 
(de Liette) de Tonty, was born in 1659. His father is credited with having 
been the inventor of Tontine insurance. An older brother, Henry de Tonty, 
was La Salle "s lieutenant in the efforts to discover the mouth of the Mississippi 
River. He wore an artificial hand and was called by the Indians "The man 
with the iron hand." 

Alphonse de Tonty was an associate and confidant of Cadillac and accom- 
panied him to the Detroit River in 1701 as second in command. Wlien Cadillac 
was called to Montreal in 170-4, and placed under ai-rest upon his arrival, Tonty 
was left in charge of the post. Soon after Cadillac's departure, Tonty began 
selling powder to the Indians and also became involved in the embezzlement of 
furs belonging to the Company of the Colony. This caused Cadillae to lose 
confidence in a man whom he had trusted implicitly, and at his solicitation 
Tonty was removed. M. de la Forest was made temporary commandant on 
September 25, 1705, but was succeeded in the following Jannaiy by Sieur de 
Bourgmont, of whom more will be said later. 

It appears that when Cadillac returned to Detroit in 1706, he pardoned 
Tonty, who remained at the post and secretly worked to destroy the influence 
of his superior officer among the Indians. It is reported that he received a 

Vol. 1—7 



pension of 6,000 francs a rear for tliis service. In July, 1717, he was made 
commaiiclant, though four others had preceded him in that position after the 
removal of Cadillac. At that time the commandant was required to pay all 
the expenses of the post, a missionaiy, an interpreter, presents for the Indians, 
clothing-, subsistence and a surgeon for the soldiers of the garrison, all out of 
the profits derived from his trade. Tonty borrowed 26,246 livres, 18 sous and 
4 deniers from Francois Bouat to invest in goods for trade with the Indians. 
He did not succeed as well as he anticipated, his debt to Bouat was a source 
of constant anxiety, and he turned the trade over to Francois La llarque and 
Louis Gastineau for an annuity. They took in three other partners — Thierry, 
Nolan and Gouin — and these five controlled the trade, paying Tonty every j'ear 
a sum sufficient for the maintenance of the post. 

During Cadillac's time, and for some years after he left, it was the custom 
to hold a sort of fair every year, usually lasting three da.ys. On these occa- 
sions the Indians came to the post and bought such goods as they wanted, pay- 
ing for them with their fui*s. There were at first twenty or more stores, from 
which the natives could purchase. Under the Tonty administration they found 
but two stores, both owned by the same persons, with no competition in prices, 
which were higher than ever before. This created great dissatisfaction among 
the Indians, and also among the French or Canadians, causing trade to decrease 
to an alarming extent. Manj"- left the post. Others appealed to Tonty for 
relief, but he could do nothing, having disposed of his trading rights under an 
agi-eement that could not be broken. 

Complaints were lodged against him, by both the leading citizens and the 
Indians, and early in the winter of 1721-22 Tonty went to Qi^ebec to answer 
the charges. During his absence Sieur de Belestre discharged the duties of 
commandant. In 1724 Tonty was again summoned to Quebec to answer charges 
made against him by Francois La Marque, who had purchased from Cadillac 
certain rights at Detroit, but was forbidden by Tontj' to visit the post for the 
purpose of looking after his interests. When the Marquis de Beauharnois be- 
came governor of New France eai-ly in 1727, Tonty went to Quebec to welcome 
him and to make certain recommendations for the improvement of the post. He 
failed to make a favorable impression on the new governor. To make matters 
worse for him, the Huron Indians were threatening to abandon their village 
near Detroit and remove to the Maumee River, unless they were given a new 
commandant. This threat outweighed anything Tontj' could bring to bear, as 
it was plain that if the Indians went to the Maumee (now Toledo, Ohio), their 
trade would go to the English, which would ruin Detroit. Beauharnois told 
the Indians that Tonty 's term would expire the following spring, when they 
should have a new commandant. He was therefore relieved of the command 
in the spring of 1728. 

Tonty was twice married. His first wife, to whom he was married on Feb- 
ruary 17, 1689, was IMarianne, daughter of Picote de Belestre, afterward second 
in command and acting commandant of Detroit. His .second wife was Marianne, 
a daughter of Francois La Marque. Her first husband was J. B. Nolan, to 
whom she was married on May 3, 1669, and after his death she became the wife 
of Antoine de Fresnel (or Fruel) de Pipadiere. Tonty was therefore her third 
matrimonial venture. Madame de Tonty did not accompany her husband to 
Detroit in 1701, but came the following spring with Madame Cadillac. Tonty 
died at Detroit on November 10, 1727. 



The name of Etienne Venyard, Sieiir de Bourgmont, fii-st appears in the 
post records as commandant on January 29, 1706, when he succeeded La Forest 
as temporary commandant during- Cadillac's absence. He had been described 
as a "big blustering coward," and some of his acts while at Detroit bear out 
the description. The several Indian bands located near the village were not 
always on amicable terms with each other, quarrels among them were of fre- 
quent occurrence and the citizens were in constant fear of an uprising. The 
post needed a commandant who understood the Indian character better than 
Bourgmont to preserve the peace, but instead of adopting a policy to keep the 
savages quiet, he acted in such a manner that they became more restless than 
before his coming. In June, 1706, a dog belonging to an Indian of one band 
bit an Indian of another. The enraged Indian kicked the dog, which started 
trouble inside the fort. Bourgmont rushed out of his quarters, fell upon the 
Indian who had been bitten, and beat him severely. All the Indians were 
aroused over the incident, but by the exercise of diplomacy on the part of the 
citizens in whom the Indians had confidence, serious trouble was averted. 

Before the return of Cadillac, Bourgmont deserted the post, taking with 
him several soldiers of the garrison and a woman named Tichenet, with whom 
he had maintained relations that caused a scandal in the village. The deserters 
established a camp on the shores of Lake Erie. As soon as Cadillac returaed 
he sent a detachment of soldiers to arrest them. Bourgmont and all the de- 
serters except one succeeded in making their escape. The one captured was 
brought back to Detroit, tried by a court martial and shot. For some time 
Bourgmont was hunted by French soldiers, but he managed to avoid them and 
in time his offense was apparently forgotten. 

In 1718 a letter from him reached the French court, stating that for several 
years he had been living among the Indians on the Missouri River, and asking 
for 2,000 livres to be used in purchasing presents for them. He also stated 
that he had heard of a people four or five hundred lea^ies from where he wrote 
— a people who were small, very numerous, deformed, with large eyes and flat 
noses, and who wore clothing like that worn by Europeans, their boots being 
covered with spangles of shining metal. He also stated that these people were 
always occupied in good work, possessed an abundance of gold and fine .jewels, 
and were believed to be related to the Chinese. 

On August 12, 1720, he was commissioned to lead an expedition to make 
peace with the Indians of New Mexico and to establish a post on the Missouri 
River. ]\[argry, in Volume VI of his works, gives a detailed account of Bourg- 
mont 's wanderings through the wilds west of the Mississippi River. He suc- 
ceeded in his mission and established a post on the Missouri, which he called 
the Port of Orleans, but two years later it was abandoned. 


The fourth man to occupy the position of conunandant at Detroit was 
Charles Regnault, Sieur Dubuisson. When Cadillac was removed in 1710, 
Francois de la Forest was appointed as his successor. He had previously served 
a brief term as temporary commandant, and being old and infimi he requested 
that Dubuisson be sent to take charge of the post for a time. By La Forest's 
direction Dubuisson took all of Cadillac's property, real and personal, and 


would not permit liim to sell or remove it. This action was not approved by 
the governor-general, but no reparation was ever made. 

Many of the people living at Detroit, especiall_y those who were personal 
friends of Cadillac and unmarried, packed up their effects and went back to 
Montreal and Quebec. This so reduced the population that Dubuisson decided 
to decrease the size of the village inclosure, which in previous j^ears had been 
enlarged to accommodate the growing pojiulation. Originally, the village in- 
cluded the land measured along the line of the present Jefferson Avenue from 
Griswold to "Wayne streets, with lots on both sides of St. Anne Street, which 
almost coincided with the present north line of Jefferson Avenue. Dubuisson 
divided the village into two nearly equal parts and built a new palisade in 
such a manner as to exclude about half of the old village from the protection 
of the garrison. This did not please the people, particularly those left outside 
of the new palisade. A meeting was called, at which a remonstrance was drawn 
up and signed by many of the leading men of the village. This was sent to 
Cadillac, but the old commandant could do nothing for them. In Maj^ 1712, 
the village was attacked by the Fox Indians and those outside the garrison 
were the greatest sufferers. An account of this attack is given in Chapter 
XXXIII. Soon after this event La Forest arrived and Dubuisson continued 
at the post as second in command. 

After the death of La Forest, Dubuisson served as commandant until the 
arrival of Sabrevois. From 1723 to 1727 he was in command at the Miamis, 
a post on the ]\Iaumee River a short distance above the present City of Toledo. 
In 1729 he was in command at Michilimackinac with the rank of captain, after 
which he seems to have dropped out of sight. 


Technically speaking, Francois de la Forest (sometimes written La Foret) 
was the second actual commandant, having been appointed to succeed Cadillac. 
He was born in the City of Paris in 1648 and soon after attaining to his ma- 
jority was commissioned a captain in the marine sei-vice. In 1679 he accom- 
panied La Salle to Fort Froutenac and to the Illinois countiy the following 
year. In 1682 he was in command at Fort Froutenac and assisted the goveraor 
in negotiating a treaty with the Iroquois Indians, accompanjdng them to Mont- 
real. Shortly after this Count Froutenac was removed from the office of gov- 
ernor and his successor seized Fort Froutenac (belonging to La SaUe). La 
Barre, the new governor, who had thus seized the property, would not permit 
La Forest to return there and he went to France to enter his protest against 
the confiscation of La Salle's property in this high-handed manner, though he 
did the same thing to Cadillac a few years later. In the spring of 1684 he 
returned to Canada, with orders to La Barre to restore Fort Froutenac to him 
as the agent of La Salle. The orders also directed the governor to assist La 
Forest in maintaining the establishment which La Salle had made at the Fort. 
From the summer of 1685 to 1687 he was in command at Fort St. Louis, which 
had been established by La Salle in the Illinois country. 

On September 11, 1691, La Forest left Quebec with 110 men for Michili- 
mackinac, with Tonty as second in command. After some time at that post, 
he returned to Quebec, where on November 11, 1702, he married Charlotte 
Francoise Juchereau, a wealthy widow. The one child born to this union died 
in infancy^ On September 25, 1705, he was appointed commandant at Detroit 


iu the absence of Cadillac. The appointment was only temporary and lasted 
but a few weeks. Upon Cadillac's return a difference of opinion arose between 
him and La Forest, and the latter went back to Quebec. In 1710 he was ap- 
pointed as Cadillac's successor, but sent Dubuisson to administer the affairs of 
the post until the summer of 1712. It was at this time that he appropriated all 
of Cadillac's property, amounting in value to more than one hundred and 
twenty-five thousand livres, and never accounted for any of it. La Forest died 
at Quebec on October 16, 1714. 


Succeeding La Forest came Jacques Charles Sabrevois, Sieur de Bleury, a 
son of Henry and Gabrielle (Martin) Sabrevois, who was born in 1667. He 
came to America in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century and in 1695-96 
held a commission as lieutenant in the war with the Ii'oquois. Little can be 
learned regarding his career during the next quarter of a century. A decree 
of the royal council in 1720, cites the fact that Sabrevois was appointed com- 
mandant at Detroit in 1712, two years before the death of La Forest. Ramezay 
used his influence to prevent him from going to Detroit and he was not pennit- 
ted to go there until the latter part of 1714 or the early part of 1715. 

Acting upon the belief that he was to be given the exclusive right of trade 
at Detroit, Sabrevois expended a considerable sum of money. He paid an in- 
terpreter 800 livres a year, an almoner 600, a surgeon 150, and was liberal in 
other ways. In 1717 he was removed and was succeeded by Alphonse de Tonty. 
Just before his departure, Sabrevois called the citizens of Detroit together and 
pointed out to them the condition of the fort. One curtain of the fort and one 
line of pickets he pronounced as worthless and asked the people to assist him in 
rebuilding it for the general welfare of the village. All except three men — 
Baby, Dusable and Neven — agreed to bear a portion of the expense. These 
three subsequently persuaded the others to withdraw their support. Sabrevois 
then undertook the work at his own expense, but did not finish it before he left. 
He then applied to the court for financial relief, asking to be reimbursed for 
all his expenses, because he had not been given the trade of the post, but his 
petition was denied. The rebuilding of the fort was completed by Tonty in 1718. 

Sabrevois ' management of the post was evidently satisfactory to his superioi'S, 
as in 1718 he was created a Chevalier of the Militaiy Order of St. Louis. From 
1721 to 1724 he was commandant at Fort Chambly. He then returned to 
Montreal and was made ma.ior of that eit.v. where he died while holding that 
office on June 19, 1727. On November 16, 1695, he married Jean Boucher and 
to them were born six children. 

An incident in the earlj- life of Sabrevois shows that he was acquainted with 
Cadillac. On the evening of May 2, 1686, when he was only about nineteen 
years of age, he met Cadillac at the boarding house of Louise Mousseau, in the 
lower town of Quebec. Sabrevois mentioned that he was going to the upper 
town to call on a lady and in the conversation Cadillac characterized him 
as a "sharper." This was resented bj' the youngster, angry words followed 
and both started to draw their swords when they were separated by the by- 
standers. Cadillac then picked up a heavy brass candlestick and hurled it 
at his opponent, knocking him down. The candle was extinguished, leaving 
the room in darkness, and Cadillac made a hasty exit, supposing that he had 
killed Sabrevois, who, in fact, was only slightly injured. Governor Denonville 


learned of the affair and ordered an investigation. Tlie testimony was reduced 
to writing, but the records do not show that either of the contestants was 


Some authorities give the name of Louis de la Porte, Sieur de Louvign.y, 
as commandant at Detroit, succeeding Tonty in 1728, but the records do not 
corroborate the statement. If he was ever commandant it must have been only 
in a temporary capacity at some period subsequent to the appointment of Tonty 
in 1717 and during the abseuee of that otificer from the post. 

Louvigny was a native of France, but was in Canada as early as 1682. 
From 1690 to 1694 he wa.s commandant at Miehilimackinac, immediately pre- 
ceding Cadillac, and in 1700 his name appears as commandant at Fort Fron- 
tenac. The laws of New France prohibited the commandant of that post from 
trading with the Indians. A party of Iroquoi.s visited the fort with a large 
quantity of furs and told Louvigny that they were on their way to Albany 
to sell the skins to the English, but would sell to him if he desired to buy. 
He purchased the peltries, for which he paid 60,000 livres, and sent them to 
Quebec. The Jesuits learned of the transaction and informed the governor, 
who removed Louvigny and caused the fui-s to be confiscated. 

Louvigny was appointed major of Three Eivers, Canada, in 1701 and held 
that office for about two years, when he became ma.ior of Quebec. In 1703 he 
came to Detroit as an officer in the gan-ison under Cadillac, but did not remain 
long at the post. In 1716 he led an expedition against the Fox Indians. On 
that occasion he passed through Detroit and reported the post there as one of 
the best fortified in the eountiy. While on this expedition he was appointed 
lieutenant-governor of Canada, assuming the duties of the position upon his 
return to Quebec. He lost his life in a shipwreck near Louisburg on August 
27, 1725. 


The full name of this officer was Francois ilarie Picote de Belestre. It is 
questionable whether he was ever really appointed commandant at Detroit, 
though he may have served as such at various times between 1718 and 1727, 
during the absences of Tonty. Belestre was born in 1677 and was twice mar- 
ried. His first wife was Anne Bouthier, who died in 1710, and his second 
wife was Marie Catherine Trotier, a widow. By his second marriage he had 
two children, one of whom afterward became commandant at Detroit. He died 
at Detroit on October 9, 1729. 


Upon the death of Tonty in 1727, Jean Baptist de St. Ours, Sieur Deschail- 
lons was appointed to fill the vacancy. He was about fifty-eight years of age 
at the time he received the appointment, having been born in 1670. On Novem- 
ber 25, 1705, he married ilarguerite La Guardeur and to this marriage were 
born nine children. In July, 1708, France and England being at war, he led 
a force of about one hundred British troops and some Indians against the New 
England settlements. In the assault on Haverhill, Massachusetts, it is said he en- 
eoiiraged the savages to massacre the inhabitants. The next year Governor 


Vaudreuil sent him to Lake Champlain, and later he was ordered to march 
■against the Fox Indians about Detroit and Mackinaw. 

In 1719 Deschaillons was appointed commandant of the post at Michili- 
maekinac, but held the position for onlj' about one year. His record during 
the next few years seems to have been lost, as nothing more can be learned about 
him until he was appointed commandant at Detroit in the early part of 1728. 
He remained at Detroit until the spring of 1729. It is said his short sta.y there 
was due to his desire not to forfeit his opportunity for promotion in the army 
by settling down a.s commandant of a frontier post. He died at Quebec on 
June 9, 1747. 


Following Deschaillons came Louis Henry Deschamps, Sieur de Boishebert, 
a son of Jean Baptiste Deschamps and his wife, Catherine Gertrude Macard. 
He was born at Quebec on February 8, 1679. When about two years old, his 
mother died and his father removed to Riviere Quelle, where he founded an 
establishment and married Jeanne Marguerite Chevalier in 1701. His death 
occurred about two .years after his second marriage. 

Louis entered the army almost as soon as he was old enough to be accepted 
by the militarj^ authorities. In 1699 he was engaged in the war with the Iro- 
quois Indians, under the command of the Marquis de Vaudreuil. In 1701 
he was sent by Governor Callieres to hold a council with the Indians at Michili- 
mackinac. While he was absent on his mission, Callieres died and Boishebert 
received no remuneration for his services. During Queen Anne's war, he was 
sent to guard the harbors of Newfoundland. Near Boston he assisted in the 
capture of three English vessels loaded with powder — a prize of great im- 
portance to the Canadians, whose supply of powder was very low. 

Boishebert made his home in Acadia during this period. In 1709 he went 
overland to Quebec to solicit aid for the Arcadians, who were in great want. 
On this journey he dislocated his foot, which rendered him a cripple for the 
remainder of his life. He was employed as assistant engineer on the forti- 
fications of Quebec in 1711-12, and the next year made a map of the Labrador 
coast for the naval council. He was then appointed adjutant of Quebec and 
held that position for about eighteen years. On December 10, 1721, he mar- 
ried at Quebec Genevieve de Ramezay, daughter of Claude de Ramezay, who 
was afterward governor of Montreal. 

The exact date of his appointment to the command of Detroit is uncei-tain, 
but it was probably in the spring of 1730. He started for Detroit in the early 
summer of that year and held the position of commandant for about three 
years. During his term of office there was an improvement in the conditions at 
Detroit. He returned to Montreal in 1733 and died there on June 6, 1736. 


Soon after Boishebert left for ^Montreal, Ives Jacques Hugues Pean, Sieur 
de Livandiere, came to Detroit as commandant. He was born in Paris in 
1682 and was a son of Jean Pierre Pean and his wife, Anne de Corbarboineau. 
That he held a commission of some sort in the army is almost certain, though 
the records do not show his rank. His career after he came to America was 
of a military nature. On June 25, 1722, he was united in marriage with Marie 
Francoise Pecody, daughter of Antoine Pecody and his wife, Jeanne de St. 


Ours, of ^Montreal. Three sons and a daughter were born to this union. In 
1724 he was appointed commandant of Fort Frontenac and three years later 
lie occupied a similar position at Fort Chambly. 

When he came to Detroit in 1733, the garrison consisted of only seventeen 
soldiers, though there were in the village eighty men capable of bearing arms. 
Pean was a man of good .judgment and executive ability and the improvement 
that began under Boishebert continued throughout his term of three years. 
In 1734 the population and importance of the village had grown to such pro- 
portions as to justify the appointment of a royal notary. Eobert Navarre was 
chosen for the position. He was a son of that Robert Navarre who came to 
Detroit in 1728, and a lineal descendant of Antoine Navarre, Duke de Vendome, 
a half-brother of Henry IV, King of France and Navarre. The notary was 
born at Detroit in 1739 and married Louise de ^Marsac, a granddaughter of 
Jacob de ilarsac, who came as a sergeant with Cadillac to Detroit in 1701. 
Before his appointment the only records kept at the post were those of St. 
Anne's Church. He began the public records, among which were the mai-riage 
contracts, which always preceded the church wedding. He was a man of high 
character and served as .justiee, notary, surveyor and collector until the sur- 
render of the post to the Englisli in 1760. The British commandants continued 
him in office for many years. His death occurred on November 21, 1791. 

In his report for 1735 Pean stated that the wheat crop of that year was 
between thirteen and fourteen hundred minots, that it had been safely har- 
vested, and that the price had fallen to three livres a minot. As the minot at 
Detroit was equivalent to a bushel, the price of wheat was therefore sixty cents 
per bushel. Prior to this time the chief exports were furs and maple sugar, 
but in this year some wheat was exported. 

While at Detroit, Pean was gi-anted "a tract of land called Livandiere, 
or Riviere Chazy, two leagues or two and half leagues in width by three leagues 
in depth along the River Chambly and Lake Champlain, with the River Chazy 
in the midst, also the Isle LaMothe. " This grant was confinned on February 
8, 1735, but in 1744 it was discovered that a portion of it had previously been 
granted to other parties, so that Pean's concession was cut in two. He was 
again confirmed in the possession of a tract one and a half leagues wide by 
three deep, and, as a sort of indemnity, was granted another parcel three- 
fourths of a league wide on Lake Champlain. In the documents relating to 
these land grants he is designated as "a Chevalier of the Military Order of St. 
Louis, late captain and now major of Quebec, and commandant at Detroit." 

Through the reports and letters of Pean, the Quebec government was 
awakened to the importance of Detroit and a change of sentiment became 
noticeable. A few months after tlie expiration of Pean's term in 1736, Hoc- 
quart, the intendant at Quebec, recommended the increase of the gaiTison to 
sixty men, with the proper officers, and other measures were taken to strengthen 
the post. Pean retained the oifice of major of Quebec until his death on Janu- 
ary 26, 1747. Says Mr. Burton : 

"An injustice has been done to Pean by the late Judge Campbell and some 
others who have written about him, in confounding the commandant Pean 
with his son who bore the same name. It is i-elated that the son, Michael Jean 
Hugnes Pean, became powerful in Canadian affairs and infamous through the 
i-elatious existing between his wife and the Intendant Bigot : that he counte- 
nanced the intrigue and reaped a financial benefit from it. He formed one of 

OLD "MORAN" Hoi si;. l;l ll.T Al;(il i' 1734 
Was located on -what was later ■Woodbridge Street, between St. Antoine and Hastings 


a number of conspiratoi's who ruined French Canada and finally gave it up 
to the British in 1760. Young Pean was taken to Paris and confined for some 
years in the Bastile, tried for his misdemeanors, convicted and sentenced to 
pay a fine of 600,000 livres. It is onlj' necessary to examine the dates at which 
these transactions are recorded to prove that the commandant Pean is not the 
notorious Pean who helped to ruin Canada. Commandant Pean died on January 
26, 1747, and the imprisonment of the son in the Bastile began on November 
13, 1761. His trial commenced a little later and was protracted three years." 


The last name of this commandant is sometimes written "Noyelle" or 
" Desnoyelle. " He was born in France in 1694 and was the son of Col. Joseph 
Desnoyelles, of Crecy. He came to America in his .youth, entered the army 
and in 1736 held a commission as captain in the marine department, having 
arrived at that distinction by successive promotions. Six years prior to that 
time he was in command at the Miamis, a post on the Maumee River a few 
miles above the present Citj^ of Toledo. According to Ferland's "Historic 
du Canada," Desnoyelles left Montreal in August, 1734, with eighty French 
troops and about one hundred thirty Indians, in a campaign against the Sac 
and Fox Indians. He passed through Detroit, where he received reinforce- 
ments of Huron and Pottawatomi Indians, and after a march of seven months 
found the Sac and Fox warriors to the number of 250 on the Des Moines River. 
After a skirmish the enemy w^ithdrew to a fort built by the women and children. 
Part of the Indians who had accompanied Desnoyelles had returned to their 
villages, leaving him only 240 men. With this force he deemed it imprudent 
to attack. A parley was held, in which the Sac and Fox promised to separate 
and the latter tribe was sent north to the bay. 

Governor Beauharnois appointed Desnoyelles commandant at Detroit in 1736 
to succeed Pean, but the appointment was not approved by the government at 
Paris. Unaware of the king's veto, he left Montreal on May 6, 1736, and in 
due time arrived at Detroit. The king appointed Pierre Jacques Paj'an de 
Noyan, but he did not go at once to Detroit, and Governor Beauharnois did not 
remove Desnoyelles, reporting that he was "universally beloved by all the 
French and savages and that he was disinterested in his work for the service.". 
It is said that he served the entire term of three years without being apprised of 
the king's refusal to confirm his appointment. After retiring from the office 
of commandant, he joined the explorer Verendrye in one of his expeditions 
to the westward in an effort to discover a passage by water to the Pacific Ocean. 
The date of his death could not be ascertained. 


Under date of October 5, 1738, Pierre Jacques Payan de Noyan, Sieur de 
Charvis (or Chavois), wrote to the French colonial minister from Montreal: 
' ' My Lord : — I have received with all the respect and gratitude of which I 
am capable, the new proofs of the kindness with whicli your highness honors 
me, in having been pleased to select me to command at Detroit. I know, my 
Lord, how gi-eatly the honor of that confidence ought to spur me on to seek 
means of justifying it to your highness, despite my humble capacity. I feel 
to deserve their marked favor will result in the fulfillment of what is required 
of me. I do not feel able, my Lord, to make any proposal as to the settlement 


of this post. I am, as yet. unaware what means you wish to be employed and 
the methods you prescribe for me, the ^Marquis de Beauharnois not having 
done me the honor to inform me of them. ' ' 

It seems that the writer of this letter had been appointed commandant 
of Detroit in the place of Desnoyelles, but his acceptance of the position was 
delayed on account of a surgical operation, as the intendant wrote to the Paris 
government in the fall of 1738 that "he has recovered from the operation that 
wa.s performed last spring on his left breast and he counts on being able to 
take up his appointment at Detroit next spring. M. de Beauharnois will give 
him ordei-s to do so. He will therefore then be installed as commandant." 

Payan was born at ]Moutreal on November 3, 1695. His father was Pierre 
Payan, Sieur de Noyan, and his mother was Catherine Jeanne Le Moine (or 
Le Moyne), a member of the celebrated family of that name that furnished 
so many men prominent in the annals of Canada and Louisiana. Pre^dous to 
his appointment as commandant of Detroit, he served as captain of a company 
in the marine department and later as major. In 1726, while serving with 
his uncle. Sieur de Bienville, then governor of Louisiana, the latter was removed 
from his office as governor and summoned to Paris to explain his oflScial conduct. 
Payan accompanied his uncle, but their explanations were not satisfactory to 
the court, which was already prejudiced against Bienville. They returned to 
America and on November 17, 1731, Payan married Catherine Daillebout. Of 
their four children, Pierre Louis was born in Detroit. 

Payan assumed his duties as commandant in th* spring of 1739 and rendered 
himself unpopular with certain elements on account of his efforts to check the 
sale of liquor to the Indians. In 1740 he went to Montreal to obtain an order 
to that effect, but returned to Detroit in 1742 to finish the remainder of his term 
- — only a few weeks. In 1749 he was made major and governor of Montreal, 
which was probably his last public service. 


Pierre Joseph Celorou, Sieur de Blainville, the fifth child and eldest son of 
Jean Baptiste Celoron and his wife, Helene Picote de Belestre, was one of the 
most noted of Detroit's commandants. Following the example of so many young 
men of that period, he chose a military career and in 1734 was commandant 
at Michilimackinae with the rank of lieutenant. He was sent to New Orleans 
to assist the French settlers of Louisiana in their war with the Chickasaw 
Indians. He was appointed commandant at Detroit on July 6, 1742. He sei-^-ed 
there until in June, 1744, when he was sent to Niagara. During the next six 
years he was employed on several important missions for the Canadian Gov- 
ernment. In 1747 he convoyed a quantity of provisions from Quebec to De- 
troit, and in 1749 he led an expedition down the Ohio River to plant the leaden 
plates setting forth France's claims to the country. This work he performed 
so well that in 1750 he was again appointed commandant at Detroit. Bi;rton's 
"Earlj^ Detroit" says: 

"During Celoron 's second term, the governor of Canada offered, as an in- 
ducement to people to settle at Detroit, to assist them with articles necessary 
to sustain them for two or three years. Each head of a family was given a 
farm, of the usual size, rations for the members from the militarj- stores, tools 
and implements of husbandry. Many families came up and settled here 
under tliese inducements, and yet the plan was not very popular. The materials 


furnished these farmei-s in the way of tools and stock were not gifts but loans, 
and were expected to be repaid when the people became permanently settled. 
A full list of these emigrants has been preserved, containing the names of fifty- 
four heads of families. Many of the newcomers were young men without wives 
and young women were so scarce that Celoron wrote to ask for girls to become 
wives to the young farmers." 

Celoron served as commandant until the beginning of the French and 
Indian war. In 1755 he was in command of the Canadian militia that attacked 
the British at Lake George. He was appointed major of Montreal while 
the war was in progress and died there on April 12, 1759. Celoron Island, 
at the mouth of the Detroit River, bears his name. 

On December 30, 1724, Celoron married Marie Madeleine Blondeau, who 
bore him three children. After her death he married Catherine Eury de La 
Parelle at Montreal on October 13, 1743. Of the nine children of this union, 
three were born at Detroit. His widow survived him and in 1777 became a 
member of the Grey Nuns of Montreal, under the name of Sister Mai-ie Cather- 
ine Eury La Parelle. A daughter, Marie Madeleine, was also a member of the 
same order. 


In 1743, a few months before the conclusion of Celoron 's first term as com- 
mandant, Paul Joseph Le Moine (or Le Moyne), Chevalier de Longueil, was 
appointed as his successor. He was a son of Charles Le Moine, Baron de Longue- 
ville, and was born at Longueville on September 19, 1701, when the settlement 
at Detroit was not quite two months old. The Le Moine family was one of the 
most illustrious in the annals of Canada and Louisiana. Says Parkman: 
"Charles Le Moyne, son of an inn keeper of Dieppe and founder of a family 
the most truly eminent in Canada, was a man of sterling qualities, who had been 
long enough in the colonies to learn to live there. He had ten sons who made 
themselves famous in the history of their times." 

The ten sons were : Charles, Baron de Longueville ; Jacques, Sieur de Ste. 
Helene; Pierre, Sieur d 'Iberville; Paul, Sieur de Maricourt; Francois, Sieur 
de Bienville; Joseph, Sieur de Serigny; Louis, Sieur de Chateauguay; Jean 
Baptiste, Sieur de Bienville ; Gabriel, who died at sea while serving in the ma- 
rine guard ; Antoine, governor of Cayenne. A daughter, Catherine Jeanne, 
married Pierre Payan, Sieur de Noyan, as previously mentioned. 

On October 19, 1728, Paul Joseph Le Moine and Marie Genevieve de Joy- 
bert were united in marriage at Quebec. They became the parents of eleven 
children, none of whom was born during their residence in Detroit. Between 
the time of his mai-riage and his appointment as commandant at Detroit, Le 
Moine was employed in various positions of responsibility in connection with 
Canadian affairs. At the expiration of his term at Detroit in 1748, he was 
made second in command at that post. He took an active part in the French 
and Indian war and in 1757 was sent as an emissaiy to the Six Nations of Indians 
to enlist their cooperation in the war the English. Soon after the close 
of that war he went to France and died in Tours on May 12, 1778. 


The date of the appointment of Jacques Pierre Daneau, Sieur de Muy, as 
commandant of Detroit is not certain, but he probably succeeded to the office 


upon the retirement of Celoron in the spring of 1754. Little ean be learned 
of his life, farther than that he was a son of Nicolas Daneau, Sieiir de Muy, 
a Chevalier of the Militaiy Order of St. Louis, at one time governor of Louisi- 
ana, who died at Havana, Cuba, on January 25, 1708. 

Jacques was born in 1695 and married Louise Genevieve Dauteuil at Montreal 
on January 30, 1725. Six children were born to them. He held the office of 
commandant at Detroit until his death on May 18, 1758. Events during his 
term were of a rather tempestuous nature, owing to the French and Indian war, 
the history of which is given in another chapter. Sieur de Muy was more of a 
student and diplomat than a soldier, and during these stirring times depended 
largely upon the officers of his garrison to carry out the plans and wishes 
of his superiors. 


Prior to the death of Sieur de Muy, Beranger had occupied the pasition of 
second in command at the post of Detroit. A few days after the funeral, his 
name appears in the records as "lieutenant in the troops of His Majesty and 
commandant for the king in this village." He remained in that position until 
the arrival of the regularly appointed commandant chosen to succeed de Muy, 
after which he again took up his old place as second in command until the sur- 
render of Detroit to the British on November 29, 1760. 

Beranger was a native of France and a son of Guillaume Beranger, Sieur 
de Rougemont. He came to America while still a young man and on Ma.y 21, 
1750, married Catherine Madeleine Fafard dit Laframbois at Three Rivers, 
where she was born on August 23, 1723. A daughter of this marriage, Marie 
Magdeleine, was born at Detroit on February 9, 1760. 


The last French commandant at Detroit was Francois Marie Pieote, Sieur 
de Belestre, a son of the man of the same name, who was acting commandant 
at times during the term of Pierre Alphonse de Tonty, when his superior was 
absent. His mother was the widow of Jean Cuillerier. The name is sometimes 
written " Bellestre, ' ' but the last commandant always signed his name with 
one "1." 

In some respects Belestre was the most conspicuous of the French com- 
mandants. He was an efficient and energetic officer, fully enjoying the con- 
fidence of his superiors, and was frequently entrusted with important missions. 
In 1739 he was engaged in the war with the Indians ; was with Celoron in 1747 
to convoy provisions to Detroit ; was an active participant in some of the early 
engagements of the French and Indian war, commanding a body of British 
and Indians at the time of General Braddock's defeat on July 9, 1755. Previous 
to his coming to Detroit he had served as commandant at St. Joseph. At the 
time of his appointment to the Detroit post he held the rank of lieutenant. The 
same year he was promoted to captain. After the transfer of Canada to Eng- 
land he occupied several important positions under the new government. His 
death occurred at Quebec in May, 1793. For many of the events that occurred 
at Detroit while he was in command, including the surrender to the English, 
see the chapter on the "French and Indian War." 

Bele-stre was born in Montreal, where on July 28, 1738, he was united in 
marriage with ^larie Anne Nivard. At the time of this marriage lie was about 


twenty years of age, having been born in 1719. Six children were born to this 
union. His second wife, to whom he was naarried on January 29, 1753, was 
Marie Anne Magnan. 


When Cadillac came in 1701, the country about Detroit was uninhabited, 
being a sort of neutral zone between the Five Nations and the western tribes. 
The soil was first cultivated by the French, whose methods were so superficial 
that only moderate crops were raised. There was no incentive to raise more 
than they did, because their market was limited to the villagers and Indians, 
and most of the former had gardens of their own. Voyageurs convoying goods 
to the upper posts were occasional customers. Wheat and Indian corn were 
the principal crops. The price of wheat varied from three to twenty-five livres 
(60c to $5.00) per minot or bushel, as the crop was abundant or scarce. Bread 
was usually baked by the public baker. 

Until about 1727 the commandant controlled the trade of the post. This 
system gave rise to so much dis.satisfaetion that, about the time Deschaillons 
became commandant, trade was made free. At that time there were only about 
thirty families in the village and its environs. In fact, the post had fallen so 
low that it was ofHcially proposed to abandon Detroit, if the owners of the 
trading licenses would surrender them for 500 livres. A report on conditions 
at that time says: "We shall have a post, abandoned, 300 leagues from 
Montreal, with no provision made for the garrison, the maintenance of which 
will fall on the king again, contrary to his will." 

Under the free trade policy an improvement was soon noticeable. The first 
records, those of St. Anne's Church, were destroyed by fire in 1703. Later 
vital statistics were kept by the notary, Robert Navarre. From these two 
sources it is learned that between the years 1701 and 1730 there were 143 
baptisms, 26 marriages and 72 deaths. The next decade showed 156 baptisms, 
27 marriages and 73 deaths, more of each than during the first twenty-nine 
years of the town's existence. During the entire period of the Fi-ench regime 
there were 998 baptisms, 147 marriages and 475 deaths. 









The period of British domination over the post of Detroit, as well as the 
other western posts, begrins with the siege of Quebee by General Wolfe, fol- 
lowed by the battle of the Plains of Abraham, where "Wolfe and Montcalm 
met their deaths, the surrender of Montreal and the moving westward of British 
troops to take possession of the garrisons like Detroit which had come to them, 
the victors, as the spoils of war. Detroit was occupied by ]\Iaj. Robert Rogers, 
the "New England Ranger," and a detachment of English soldiers, on No- 
vember 29, 1760, in pursuance of the articles of capitulation of September, 
1760, though the final treaty of peace between England and France was not 
concluded until February 10, 1763. Ma.jor Rogers came directly to Detroit 
from Niagara, some of his men arriving in bateaux by the river route, while 
another portion of the force marched along the southern shore of Lake Erie, 
driving a herd of cattle with them. This force of men which accompanied 
Rogers to Detroit was composed of a portion of the Royal American Regiment, 
made up of British colonists, and part of the Eightieth Regiment. 

Thus, Detroit changed from a French colony to a British trading-post. The 
French had always been amicable with the Indians, but the English came in 
with the intention of driving out the Indian, also those of the French who 
were not amenable to their customs and rule. This was followed naturally by 
the uprising of the Indians under Pontiac, the siege of Detroit, the battle 
of Bloody Run and other historical incidents before an era of tranquillity and 
peace was to settle dowai over Detroit under British government. 

When the English took possession they found in storage furs worth ap- 
proximately half a million dollars. For many years there had been an intense 
rivalry between the French and English for the control of the fur trade about 
the upper lakes. With the surrender of the French posts, the English took 
steps to increase the trade and within a few years about two hundred thousand 
skins were marketed annually. During those days the Detroit River was a great 
channel of commerce, even as now, but in the place of the lengthy freighters 
one sees now, there were numerous, gaudily-decorated canoes, manned by the 
red men and white traders. These canoes came down the river to Detroit loaded 
with valuable skins, which were bartered at the post. At night these canoes 
were pulled upon the shore, turned upside down, and under them the red or 


3 ^ & ?- *> ^ i 


white owner repcsed. The English trader, it may be mentioned in this con- 
nection, was the source of the greater part of the trouble which arose between 
the English and the Indians. He was an unscrupulous fellow, utterly without 
principle, and his methods in business practice soon aroused the hatred and ire 
of the savages. 

This condition, with the military despotism, usurpation of authority by 
civil officers, and the general imrest under the British domineering influence, 
caused many a year of turmoil before prosperity succeeded poverty. These 
features, military and official, are narrated at length in other chapters of this 


Maj. Robert Rogers was born at Dunbarton, New Hampshire^ in 1727. His 
father, James Rogers, Avas an Irishman and one of the first settlers of Dunbarton. 
From boyhood Robert was inured to the hardships of frontier life and assisted 
in protecting the New England settlements against Indian depredations. In 
1755 he was commissioned a captain by Sir "William Johnson, superintendent 
of Indian affairs, to drill a companj- of men as rangers. The company was 
formed of volunteers from the regulars to the number of thirty-five, also fifteen 
Royal Americans and six men selected by Rogers. Under the leadership of 
their dashing commander, "Rogers' Rangers" played an important part in the 
military operations in eastern New York, particularly about Crown Point and 
Ticonderoga. They performed many reckless feats, yet so skilfully were their 
movements conducted that they suffered few casualties. Rogers won the con- 
fidence of his superior officers and was promoted to major. A few days after 
the surrender of New France to the British, Gen. Jei?rey Amlierst, commander 
of the English forces at Quebec, ordered him to take a force of some two hun- 
dred men and occupy Detroit. (See chapter on the French and Indian War.) 

Major Rogers remained in Detroit but a short time, leaving on December 
23, 1760, for Port Pitt. He then joined General Grant's expedition against 
the Cherokee Indians, after which he went to London. He was a man of some 
education and while in England arranged for the publication of his " Journals," 
one edition of which was published in London and another in Dublin. He 
returned to America and on July 29, 1763, while Detroit was besieged by the 
Indians under Pontiac, he came to the relief of the, bringing supplies and 
reinforcements for the garrison. While in Detroit on this occasion he took part 
in the Battle of Bloody Run. 

On January 10, 1766, he was appointed commandant at Miehilimackinac. 
It seems that Gen. Thomas Gage wrote to Sir William Johnson about this time 
to learn something of Major Rogers' character. Sir William replied, telling 
how he had made Rogers an officer in the army, and added : 

"He soon became puffed up with pride and folly, from the extravagant 
encomiums and notices of some of the provinces. This spoiled a good Ranger, 
for he was fit for nothing else. * * * He has neither understanding nor 
principles, as I could sufficiently show." 

Notwithstanding this advei^se report, Rogers assumed command at Miehili- 
mackinac in August, 1766. The Indians were not friendly to the English and 
at that time the post was almost deserted by white men. It was not long until 
Rogers got into trouble by incurring expenses without authority, drawing orders 
upon the government which afterwards went to protest, etc. He was also 


charged with a desigii to plunder the post and desert to the French at New 
Orleans. He was arrested and sent to ilontreal for trial, the principal witness 
against him being a Colonel Hopkins, whose own loj-alty was not above suspicion. 
Rogers was aecjuitted of the charge of treason and soon afterward went again 
to London. 

In 1775 he returned to America and wrote a letter to General Washington, 
offering his services to the cause of the colonists in the war with Great Britain. 
His offer was not accepted and many thought he was really a British spy. He 
then accepted a commission as lieutenant-colonel in the Queen's Rangers and 
became active in the English cause. On October 21, 1776, most of his command 
was captured at ilamoranec. Long Island Sound, and Rogers barely escaped. 
In 1778 the New Hampshire Legislature passed an act banishing him from the 
colony, but hjs estate was not confiscated. After his defeat at ]Mamoranec, 
Rogers again went to London and died there in 1800. 

About the time Rogers entered the army he married ]Miss Elizabeth Bro^viie, 
of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After his arrest at ^Miehilimackinac she ob- 
tained a divorce and married John Roche. She died May 11, 1811. 

Says Parkman: "An engraved portrait of Major Rogers was published in 
London in 1776. He is represented as a tall, strong man, dressed in the costume 
of a Ranger, with a powder horn slung at his side, a gun resting in the hollow 
of his arm, and a countenance by no means pi-epossessing. " 


The territory embracing the post at Detroit was at this time under the 
control of Sir William Johnson and Gen. Thomas Gage, who were lieutenants 
of Sir Jeffrey Amherst, governor-general of the British colonies. Although 
Major Rogers and Colonel Croghan, who led the British troops to Detroit, were 
his superior officers, Capt. Donald Campbell was the first appointed com- 
mandant at this post pending the settlement of peace. He was a "canny Scot," 
who had seen militarj- service in His ^Majestj^'s army for several years before 
coming to Detroit. He succeeded !Major Rogers on December 23, 1760, and 
soon afterw-ards was promoted to major. At the time the British took posses- 
sion, the fort occupied about four blocks of the present city, such as might be 
bounded on the north bj' Larned Street, east by Griswold, south by Wood- 
bridge, and on the west bj- a line near Wayne Street. Early in the year 1761 
Captain Campbell wrote to General Amherst as follows: 

' ' The fort is very large and in good repair ; there are two bastions toward 
the water and a large bastion toward the inland. The point of the bastion is 
a cavalier of wood, on which there are mounted the three-pounders and the 
three small mortars or coehorns. The palisades are in good repair. There is 
scaffolding around the whole, which is floored only toward the land for want 
of plank ; it is by way of a banquette. There are seventy or eighty houses 
in the fort, laid out in regular sti'eets. The country is inhabited ten miles on 
each side of the river and is a most beautiful country. The river is here about 
nine hundred yards over and very deep. Around the whole village, just 
witliin the palisades, was a road which was called the 'Chemin de Ronde. ' " 

Campbell was instructed to reconcile the Indians to the change in gov- 
ernment, and presents were sent to him for distribution among them. He 
was also directed to disarm the French inhabitants, but as many of them 
were hunters or trappers, to have disarmed them would have been to deprive 


them of their means of earning a living. The order was then modified so as 
to apply only to those whose loj-altj' to the English order of things was sus- 

This was the first step toward the monopolization of the fur trade. "Within 
a few years the English completely controlled the trade in furs, and the Ca- 
nadians, as the French were termed, were driven either to live on their farms 
or to join the Indians in the chase. They did both. During the spring and 
summer months they cultivated a small patch of ground, but when the hunting 
season opened they left their little crops to be taken care of by the women and 
children. Even in the summer, a large part of the farm work was performed 
by the women, the men spending their time in fishing, or in associating with 
the Indians, with whom most of them were on intimate terms. 

About two weeks before he became commandant. Captain Campbell wrote 
to Col. Henry Boquet, commandant at Fort Pitt: "The inhabitants seem very 
happy at the change of government, but they are in great want of everj-thing." 
Boquet undertook to supply the means of providing for this want by giving a 
permit to Thomas Colhoon to take a stock of goods to Detroit and open a trading 
establishment. Colhoon embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm, but before 
he was ready to start the weather grew so severe that he gave up the enterprise. 
Hamback and Van Der Velder, two Dutch traders, were then licensed b.y Boquet 
and they arrived in Detroit in January, 1761, with six horses and the first stock 
of goods brought to the post after the beginning of British rule. 

Major Campbell was superseded as commandant by Maj. Henry Gladwin 
in July, 1762, but remained at Detroit as second in command. He was cruelly 
murdered by the Indians in Julj^ 1763, an account of which is given in the 
chapter on Pontiac's Conspiracy. He was universallj- respected by both the 
Indians and the white men and the settlement at Detroit prospered while he 
was commandant. 


The Gladwin family traces its descent back to Thomas Gladwin, who was 
born in Derbyshire, England, about 1605. Maj. Henry Gladwin was born 
in that shire in 1730, entered the army at an early age, and in 1753 was com- 
missioned as a lieutenant in Colonel Dunbar's regiment, with which he took 
part in the campaign that ended in the defeat of General Braddock at Little 
Meadows in July, 1755. He was then made a captain in the Eightieth Regi- 
ment of foot, in which he served until June 22, 1761, when he was promoted 
to major by General Amherst. Captain Gladwin was sent to relieve Niagara 
in 1760. 

In September, 1761, he came to Detroit but remained only a short time, 
during which, however, he suffered from fever and ague. In the fall he was 
granted a leave of absence and permission to return to England. On March 
30, 1762, he married in England, Miss Frances, daughter of Rev. John Beridge, 
and immediately returned to Detroit. In the latter part of July, 1762, he was 
made commandant. The greater part of his term as commandant was taken 
up in defending the post against the Indians under Pontiac, the story of which 
is told elsewhere. In the fall of 1764 he again obtained a leave of absence and 
retm-ned to England. It is doubtful whether he ever came back to America. 
If he did he took no conspicuous part in affairs. The inscription on his monu- 
ment in the Wingerworth Churchyard in Derby is as follows : 


"Here lieth the remaius of General Heury Gladwin. He departed this life 
on the 22nd day of Jiine, 1794, in the sixty-second year of his age. He was 
distinguished by all those private and social duties which constitute the man 
and the Christian. Early trained to arms and martial deeds, he sought fame 
amidst the toils of hostile war, with that ardour which animates the heart of 
the brave soldier. On the plains of Xorth America he reaped laurels at the 
battles of Niagara and Ticonderoga, where he was wounded. His courage was 
conspicuous and his memorable defense of Fort Detroit against the attacks 
of the Indians will long be recorded in the annals of a gi-ateful country. 

"Also Mary and Henry, sou and daughter of the aforesaid General Henry 
Gladwin and his wife, who died in infancy ; Martha Gladwin, their daughter, 
died October 17, 1817, aged thirty -two. 

"Also Frances, sister of the late John Beridge, of Derby, il. D., and widow 
of the above General Gladwin, died October 16, 1817, aged seventy-four years." 

In this inscription there are several statements which do not agree with 
those in the "Gladwin Papers," published in the "Michigan Historical and 
Pioneer Collections." In the latter Gladwin's date of birth is given as 1730, 
and the date of his death as June 22, 1791, which corresponds more nearly with 
the statement on his tombstone that he was "in the sixty-second year of his age." 
His wife is mentioned in the Gladwin Papers as the daughter of Eev. John 
Beridge, while the epitaph saj's she wa.s the sister of John Beridge, M. D. That 
the monument was erected several j-ears after his death is evidenced by the 
fact that the inscription includes two persons who died as late as 1817, though 
it might have been erected earlier and that part of the inscription added. It 
is quite likely that his death occurred in 1791. 


On August 26, 1761, Col. John Bradstreet arrived in Detroit with a large 
supply of provisions and a considerable military force for strengthening the 
garrison. He presented his credentials to Major Gladwin and on the last day of 
the month assumed command. He has been described as "a man of little 
principle, who beguiled the Indians into treaties they did not understand, and 
granted lands fraudulent!}- obtained, which caused much trouble in later years." 

One of Bradstreet 's first acts was the consummation of a deal with the 
Indians by which they ceded for the use of white settlers a strip of land be- 
ginning just west of the fort and extending to Lake St. Clair. This brought 
on a conflict of schemes for private interest which retarded the growth of the 
town. The fur traders antagonized anj- attempt at settlement, because the 
farmers would drive away the beaver and other animals, and thus injure their 
business. Others took a broader view of the matter. They foresaw that, if 
the population could be increased to a point to justify the establishment of local 
manufactories, the people could be supplied M-ith many of the necessities of 
life without having to depend upon the long canoe voyages from Montreal or 
Niagara, and at the same time be relieved from paying the high prices charged 
hy the English tradesmen. Bi-adstreet's poLicj- was of such a vacillating natui-e 
that neither side to the controversy received much encouragement. The traders 
hesitated to enlarge their stock of goods and the title to the land was so un- 
certain there were but few purchasers. 

One important change that came under Bradstreet 's administration was the 
reduction of taxes and the manner of their collection. Under the old French 


regime, the inhabitants paid, as a rent to the crown, an annual tax of from 
one to two sols per front foot of their holdings. The early English conunaudants 
required the farmers to pay a tax for the support of the garrison and to furnish 
one cord of wood for each acre of frontage on the river. In 1762 the tax on 
the inhabitants amounted to £184, 13s. 4d. This was paid in skins or farm 
products. The same year the wood tax was increased to two cords per acre. 
In 1764 the tax was reduced by Bradstreet to £158. The next year, the first 
money, known as "New York Currency," began to circulate in Detroit. After 
that the payment of taxes in skins and produce was gradualh' discontinued. 

On September 14, 1764, Colonel Bradstreet left seven companies of his 
command as reinforcement for the garrison, with Maj. Robert Bayard as 
temporary commandant, and set out for Sandusky. He remained at SandiLskj- 
until the 18th of October, when he embarked his men and supplies in bateaux 
for Niagara. Near Cleveland a severe storm suddenly came on, in which twenty- 
five of the bateaux, nearly all the baggage and ammimitiou and a few of the 
men were The rest of the journey was made by land, but upon the march 
through the wilderness the men became separated and the last of them did 
not reach Niagara until late in December. There is no record to show that 
Colonel Bradstreet ever returned to Detroit. 


Bradstreet 's successor was Lieut. -Col. John Campbell, of the Seventh Regi- 
ment. He was appointed in the fall of 1764, but did not arrive in Detroit until 
early in the following year. Under British domination, the mild rule of the 
French was succeeded by a sort of petty, the commandants exercis- 
ing both military and civil authority. The citizens were relieved to some extent 
from oppressive taxation by Colonel Bradstreet, but under Campbell taxes 
were higher than ever before. On August 7, 1766, the following protest against 
his policy, in the matter of supporting the garrison and making repairs on 
the fort, was presented to him by a group of the civilians. 

■'Detroit, August 7, 1766. 
"To John Campbell, Esq., Lieut. -Col. and Commandant at Detroit and its de- 

"Sir — "We have taken j-our order of the 3d inst., respecting the furnish- 
ing of materials by us for repairing this fort, into consideration and find 
it absolutely impos-sible to comply with it. The requisition made of us few 
individuals would amount to at least £4,000, New York Currency — a sum 
by far too great for the whole settlement and all the trading people from dif- 
ferent places now residing here to pay. However, that we may not be looked 
upon to be actuated by a spirit of opposition, we have taken all the pains in 
our power to obtain the fullest information we could in regard to the obliga- 
tions we are supposed to lay under for keeping up the repairs of this fort upon 
its present plan. We find, sir, that till the year 1750 the fort was about half 
the extent it now is. The inhabitants till then were obliged to furnish one 
picket for each foot of ground they possessed in front within the fort and pay 
annually two sols per foot to the Crown by way of quit rent. It was with 
difficulty that the circumstance of this place could accomplish the paj'ment 
of their dues to the French King; of which he proved his sensibility by easing 
the inhabitants of the heavy burden of furnishing pickets ; for from that time 
the fort was enlarged upon an entire new plan at the sole expense of the Crown. 


The annual tax of two sols per foot in front was continued till the surrender 
of the country to the English, since which the service has required such taxes 
of us that they have been almost unsupportable. Permit lis, sir, to mention 
them, and you will see that we stand in greater need of assistance than to be 
obliged to pay any new demands. 

"Captain (Donald) Campbell, the first English commandant at Detroit, 
on his arrival here levied a tax on the proprietors in the fort, for lodging the 
troops, which amounted to a very considerable sum ; besides, each of the farmers 
was obliged to pay a cord of wood per acre in front. The second year the pro- 
prietors again paid for quartering the troops and the farmers furnished double 
the quantity of wood they did the year before. 

"The third year Colonel Gladwin continued the same taxes, and in 1762 the 
tax within the fort alone amounted to £184, 13s. 4d. In the year 1764 the 
taxes came to £158, New York Currency. In the year 1765 you said to Messrs. 
Babee (Baby) and Shapperton (Chapoton) that the taxes for the future should 
be the same as in the French government, which as we have pointed out, was 
two sols per foot for the lots within the fort. The farmers were subject to a 
quit rent of two shillings and eight pence New York Currency, and one-fourth 
bushel of wheat per acre in front, which was accordingly paid to Mr. Shapper- 
ton, who was appointed to receive the same. After this we could not help being 
surprised at the tax for the current year, viz., one shilling per foot in front 
for lots within the fort and ten sliillings per acre for the farmers in the country. 
The heaviness of this tax is most severely felt, as you may judge by the delay 
and difficulty the people had in paj'ing it." 

Campbell left Detroit soon after this protest was submitted and was ap- 
pointed superintendent of Indian affairs, which position he held until the close 
of the Revolutionary war. In General Haldimand's correspondence frequent 
mention is made of orders to Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell to send supplies to 
various posts. In Campbell's report of supplies sent to Detroit, Michilimackinac 
and Niagara during the year ending June 30, 1781, he states that Detroit re- 
ceived 10,254 gallons of rum — more than was sent to both of the other posts. 


Just when Capt. George Turnbull, of the Second Battalion, Sixtieth Regi- 
ment, became commandant at Detroit is not certain, but it was undoubtedly in 
the autumn of 1766, after the departure of Campbell. A letter to Turnbull 
from Gen. Thomas Gage, dated October 6, 1766, acknowledges the receipt of 
the former's return of stores, etc., sent by Major Bayard, who was Campbell's 
assistant. The following extracts from General Gage's letter throw some light 
upon conditions in Detroit at that time : 

""With respect to the inhabitants, you will take care that no taxes what- 
ever are laid upon them. * * * As for the King's rights, I can by no 
means give them up, agreeable to the desire of some of the inhabitants in a 
memorial brought me by Major Bayard. - It is not in my power to do it. * * * 
After ]Mr. Van Schaack's proposal about the cattle, I can make no bargain 
about it. A contract is made at home to supply the troops and I must keep 
up to it and take provision from the contractor. But I shall be very glad that 
the soldiers have an opportunity to exchange their salt meat for fresh. * * * 
I don't hear that the works ordered were finished when Lieutenant-Colonel 
Campbell and Major Bayard left Detroit." 


"When Detroit was surrendered by the French in 1760 no provision was 
made by the English for the establishment of courts of law in the surrendered 
territory west of Quebec. On April 24, 1767, Captain Turnbull appointed 
Philippe Dejean to hold courts, hear evidence and settle disputes. His ofSce " 
really combined the duties of chief justice, notar\' and sheriff. More of the 
insincere Dejean and his checkered career is written in the chapters entitled 
"Law and Order in Early Detroit." 

Dejean 's conduct did not meet with the approval of the citizens, however, 
and a committee of investigation made a report. May 21, 1768, after having 
been appointed for the purpose by Commandant Turnbull, exonerating the 
notary. This report follows : 

"The committee, to whom was referred the question of fees collected by 
Philip Dejean, find : 

"First, That the fees established by the committee appointed by Maj. 
Robert Bayard, on the establishment of the Court of Justice at Detroit, are 
just and reasonable and ought not to be less. 

"Second, That every prisoner confined in the guard house, whether for debt 
or misdemeanor, shall on being set at libert.y pay one dollar, and eveiy batteau 
or canoe arriving here loaded with merchandise belonging to any person or 
pei-sons not possessing in property any lot or building within this fort, shall 
pay two dollars ; the moneys accruing therefrom to be applied, as in time of 
the French government, to keep in good and sufficient repair the fortifications 
around this town. 

"Third, No person having appeared before us to make any complaints 
against said Philip Dejean, with respect to his public office, we are of the opinion 
that they were ill-founded and without cause." 

This report was signed by ten of the committee members and on JuJie 14, 
1768, Dejean was reappointed notary. 


On May 4, 1768, King George III and his Council gave to Lieut. George 
McDougall, of the Detroit garrison, permission to occupy the He aux Cochons 
(Hog Island), so long as Detroit remained a military post, or so long as he 
was there stationed. This permission was given on condition that the consent 
of the Indian claimants of the island should be obtained, and that any improve- 
ments made by McDougall should be of such nature that they could be utilized 
for the needs of the garrison. Nothing was said, however, about the rights 
of the Detroit citizens to the island as a public commons, where they could 
harbor their cattle and other domestic animals. That the citizens had a legiti- 
mate right through a royal grant years before, during the French regime, has 
been proved, but the English authorities willfully ignored the claim, which 
brought about much bitterness and litigation. 

On June 5, 1769, the Chippewa and Ottawa Indians sold the island to 
McDougall for five barrels of rum, three rolls of tobacco, three pounds of 
Vermillion and a belt of wampum at that time, and three barrels of rum and 
three pounds of vermillion when the purchaser took possession. 

The inhabitants, through a committee composed of Jacques Campau, J. Bte. 
Chapoton, Eustache Gamelin and Pierre Reaume, addressed a letter on May 
18, 1769, to Captain Turnbull, requesting that their rights to the island be 
recognized, and that he communicate with General Gage and Governor Carle- 


ton regarding: the matter. Turubull refused to do as the citizens requested, 
and on the 24th following they wrote to the "Gentlemen of Trade" at ilontreal, 
also to Carleton and Gage, outlining their grievances, their inalienable rights 
to the island, as a "commons," and imploring a restitution of their rights. 
These letters are printed in full in the history of Belle Isle upon another page. 
Nothing came of them, however, and on October 13, 1769, the authorities of 
Detroit held a meeting with the citizens and the question was debated. The 
tide turned in favor of McDougall eventually and he came into full possession 
of the island in the spring of 1771. 

Capt. George TurnbuU held the post of commandant at Detroit until the 
latter part of 1769, and was probably succeeded for a few months by Maj. 
Thomas Bruce. Farmer states that the latter officer was in office from June 2d 
to September, 1770. 


In September, 1770, Capt. James Stephenson, an oiBcer in the Second Bat- 
talion, Sixtieth Regiment, was appointed commandant, and he remained the 
incumbent until January 8, 1772, -when he was succeeded by Captain George 
Etherington. Captain Etherington held the past but a few months. 

Etheringtou had been one of the officers at the fort in Detroit when Major 
Gladwin became commandant in 1762. Soon after taking charge Gladwin sent 
Etherington to Michilimackinac, where he arrived about the middle of Sep- 

June 2, 1763, was the day set by the Indians cooperating with Pontiac for 
the capture of the fort at Michilimackinac. On that daj' a large number of 
Indians appeared before the fort and engaged in a game of ball. This was 
no unusual occurrence and Captain Etherington and Lieutenant Leslie stood 
watching the game, not knowing it was but a part of the plot for the reduction 
of the fort. Soon the ball was knocked inside the fort, apparently by accident. 
Both sides rushed to recover it and in this way the savages gained entrance. 
The massacre immediately began and only thirteen of the gai'rison escaped 
death. Captain Etherington and Lieutenant Leslie were carried into captivity 
and about the middle of July they were taken to Montreal by a party of Ottawa 
Indians. Etherington was censured for not taking greater precautions against 
a surprise and for a time was assigned to duty in positions where there was 
not much responsibility. 


Of all the English commandants at Detroit, perhaps none was more ener- 
getic in trying to improve conditions than Ma.ior Bassett, who came into the 
position in the fall of 1772. His efforts in this direction ran chiefly toward 
the adjustment of disputes over land titles and in endeavoring to prevent the 
sale of intoxicating liquors to the Indians. 

Soon after he became commandant, Jacques Campau applied to him for 
a grant of twelve arpents of land fronting on the river. In support of his 
application, Mr. Campaii filed a statement to the effect that on the day of the 
battle of Bloody Run (July 31, 1763), some two hundred and fifty British 
soldiers found refuge at his place and robbed him of property worth about 
sixty pounds. Major Bassett interested himself in Campau 's behalf, but as is 


usual with claims against a government, there was considerable delay before 
he received the land. 

Major Bassett, in the fall of 1772, fenced in a small area of the King's Com- 
mon for a place to keep his horse. This caused a complaint from the inhab- 
itants and on April 29, 1773, the commandant wrote to Governor Haldimand 
as follows : 

"The King's domain joining the fort is about twelve acres. It will soon be 
claimed as a common if your Excellency does not order the front to be picketed. 
I made a small field, which met with such opposition that I had to remove the 
fence. I have a copy out of the Archives of Canada where it is called the 
'King's Domain,' and the French commanding officers proved it and did as 
they thought proper. Since the English settled here, no officer that commanded 
(Colonel Campbell excepted) has ever given themselves much concern about it. 
The traders were veiy much displeased at the Colonel for taking in a field 
just where I have done. If your Excellency will allow me to picket the front 
of the domain I'll do it in the most frugal manner and oversee it myself, or 
if your Excellency will allow me £250 Sterling, I'll take it in and put up 
handsome, large gates. I'm very sure it will cost more, but for the convenience 
of the officers of the garrison I'll pay the rest out of my own pocket. It will 
be the saving of a fine tract of land and if this should be made a government 
it will be veiy valuable." 

When it became known to the people of Detroit that the major was seeking 
authority to inclose the tract, about forty-two acres in all, they sent a remon- 
strance to Quebec, saying Ba.ssett was trying to get possession of the land for 
his own use, thus defeating his project. 

In the autumn of 1773 a trader from Pittsburgh named McDowell was 
occupj-ing a house near the fort. He refused to sell liquor to an Indian, who 
became enraged at the refusal and a little while later pushed his gun through 
the window and shot McDowell dead. Major Bassett wrote to the governor, 
giving an account of the tragedy, and added : 

'"Trading will never be safe while the sale of rum continues; the leading 
chiefs complain that the English are killing their young men with spirits. They 
purchase poison instead of blankets and the necessaries of life. They say they 
lose more young men by rum than they lose by war. It is not in the power 
of the commandant at this post to prevent, for the traders land it down the 
river and have a thousand tricks to deceive the commandant and cheat the 
poor savages." 

This was not the fii-st complaint Major Bassett had made against the traffic 
in rum and its efJect upon the Indians. But those engaged in the fur trade 
considered it an important factor in their business and, as rum aided them in 
coining the Indian character into pounds, shillings and pence, their influence 
with the higher authorities was greater than that of the commandant. 

One of Major Bassett 's last acts as commandant was to cause a survey of 
lands to be made. In his report of April 21, 1774, he says: 

"In consequence of repeated complaints made by several of the inhabitants 
that their neighbors have encroached on their farms, and that they do not 
actually possess the quantity specified in the primitive grants, and for which 
they pay rents to His Majesty; therefore, Mr. James Sterling being an ex- 
perienced and approved surveyor, I have appointed him King's Surveyor at 


Detroit; and for the future his surveys only shall be looked upon as valid and 
decisive; and all whom it may concern are hereby ordered to conform thereto." 


On June 22, 1774, the British Parliament passed what is known as "The 
Quebec Act," for the government of all the Eng-lish colonies west of New York 
and northwest of the Ohio Eiver to the Mississippi. Then, for the firet time, 
the post at Detroit came under the civil administration of England. Hitherto, 
the control over the town had been pureh- military, although the military often 
usurped civil authority. When Detroit was surrendered to the English in 
1760, the Indians claimed all the present province of Ontario except a few 
small seigneuries, and the Quebec Act, as stated, was the first to provide for 
the civil government. It has been described as "An act which established a 
regime something between a feudal system and a despotism. Its object was to 
deprive settlers of the benefits and protection of English law, so that life in 
the West would be such as to discourage settlers. In substance it placed set- 
tlers under the old French law of the province in civil matters and under the 
English law in criminal cases. The Quebec Act was one of the offenses of 
Parliament that led to the Revolution." 

The act was one of those referred to in the Declaration of Independence, 
where the King and Parliament are charged with endeavoring "to prevent the 
population of these states" and "for abolishing the free system of English 
laws in a neighboring province." By its provisions the legislative power was 
vested in a governor, a lieutenant-governor, who was also commander-in-chief 
of the military forces, and a council of not fewer than seventeen nor more than 
twenty-three persons, to be appointed by the King. In April, 1775, Detroit 
was annexed to Quebec, but none of the governors-general ever exercised any 
civil authority over this region, the post commandant combining the functions 
of militai'y officer and civil magistrate. 


John Connolly, that turbulent Tory of Revolutionarj- days, once had a 
virtual appointment as commandant over the past at Detroit, where he intended 
to effect a union of the British forces and the Indians, but he never filled the 
position. Connolly, a friend of Washington's and a relative of Colonel Croghan 
and Alexander McKee, was nevertheless one of the most troublesome charac- 
ters produced in that class of men known as Tories. Connolly was born at 
Wright's FeiTy, York County, Pennsylvania, the son of John and Susanna 
Howard (Ewing) Connolly. In his younger days Connolly obtained considerable 
militarj' experience and spent much time among the Indian tribes, studying their 
customs and ingi-atiating himself with the chiefs. He fii*st settled in Augusta 
County, Virginia, but in 1770 he was in Pittsbm-gli, practicing medicine, a pro- 
fession which he had studied. 

In 1772 Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, gave to Connolly 4,000 acres 
of land covering part of the site of the present Louisville, Kentucky, which was 
then a part of Fineastle County, Virginia. The possession of this land gave to 
Connolly the ambition in later years to set up an independent goveniraent of 
Kentucky, which desire, however, failed of materialization. 

Connolly held various military offices in the Virginia militia in 1773-75 
and took active part in the boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Vir- 

House built about 1811 


ginia. He usurped power over the country in and around Pittsburgh and was 
a practical dictator, his rule drawing forth many complaints on account of 
unnecessary cruelty and high-handedness. 

At the outbreak of the Revolution, Connolly naturally allied himself with 
the British and the latter used him as a missionary, so to speak, among the 
Indians. He accepted this commission on several conditions, one of them being 
that he was given the position of major-commandant, to hold forth at the post 
of Detroit, where he would accomplish a conjunction of the British troops and 
the friendly Indians. Before he had proceeded far, though, he was captured 
at Frederick Town, identified, his papers discovered, and he was thrown into 
jail at Philadelphia. He remained in captivity until October 25, 1780, when 
he was exchanged for an American ofScer. 

He immediately became active again with the English and consequently 
was recaptured. He was paroled some time later on the condition that he go 
to England. This was in 1782. 

Connolly then put in claim for the property he owned in Fincastle Comity 
and other places, also for the loss of personal effects during the war. In the 
winter of 1787-8 he came to Detroit from Quebec, and then went to Louisville, 
ostensibly to see about his confiscated estate, but really to form Kentucky into 
an independent government, with the assistance of Spanish interests. In this 
undertaking, however, he was very unsuccessful and he returned to British 
territoi-y, dj'ing at Montreal on January 30, 1813. In religious matters Con- 
nolly professed the Roman Catholic faith. (The detailed story of this in- 
teresting character of the Revolution is given in the pamphlet "John Connolly, 
a Tory of the Revolution," by Clarence M. Burton, published in 1909.) 


Upon the retirement of Major Bassett in 1774, Capt. Richard Beringer 
Lernoult came to the post as commandant. The Revolutionai-y "War began with 
the battle of Lexington in April, 1775, and early in June, Sir Guy Carleton, 
governor-general of Canada, issued his proclamation establishing martial law 
in the country around the upper lakes. In November of that year Capt. Henry 
Hamilton, of the Fifteenth Regiment, arrived in Detroit with a commission as 
lieutenant-governor and became the virtual commandant, though Captain Ler- 
noult retained the title. Detroit then became the active base for fitting out 
Indian war parties. (See chapter on the Revolutionarj' War.) 

When Hamilton ordered the execution of Jean Baptiste Conteneineau and 
a negro woman in 1776, Captain Lernoult refused to act as hangman. Whether 
this had anything to do with his removal as commandant is not positively 
known, but he was ordered to Niagara. Some writers have stated that he was 
succeeded by Major De Peyster, but if so the latter occupied the position for 
a very short time, as the name of Captain Lord appears as commandant in the 
latter part of 1776. The name of Captain Montpasant has also been mentioned 
as commandant for a shoi't period about this time. 

Captain Lernoult stood high in the estimation of his superiors. When 
Hamilton's overbearing disposition got him into a controversy with some of 
the officers of the garrison, Governor Carleton wrote on September 24, 1777, 
to Lieut. -Col. Mason Bolton, commandant at Niagara, as follows: 

"I understand that a disagreement has happened at Detroit between the 
officer who has commanded there in the absence of Captain Lernoult and the 


Lieiitenaut-Govenior, which must lie attended with bad consequences to the 
King's service. I am to desire you will order Captain Lernoult to return and 
take command of the post, on whose judgment and discretion I can thoroughly 
rely to put an end to these animosities. I make no doubt he will be aiding 
and assisting Mr. Hamilton in all things in his department, and in forwarding 
everything else which may tend to the public good." 

The commandant referred to in Governor Carleton's letter was the Captain 
Lord already mentioned. He was an officer in the Eighteenth Regiment and 
had been commandant at one of the posts in the Illinois country before coming 
to Detroit. According to John Dodge, the disagreement was caused by Hamil- 
ton's treatment of Jonas Schindler. a silvei-smith, who had been tried for some 
offense and acquitted by a jury. Notwithstanding the verdict of acquittal, 
Hamilton oi-dered Mr. Schindler to be drummed out of town. "When the drums 
entered the citadel, in order to reach the west gate. Captain Lord ordered them 
to be silenced, saying: "Mr. Hamilton may exercise what acts of cruelt.y and 
oppression he pleases in the town, but I shall sutfer none in the citadel ; and I 
shall take care to make such proceedings known to some of the iirst men in 

Captain Lernoult returned to Detroit in December, 1171, and during the 
winter he assisted Hamilton materially in organizing an expedition to move 
against Fort Pitt as soon as the weather would permit in the spring of 1778. 
When Hamilton left for Vincennes in October, 1778, Lernoult began the con- 
struction of the new fort which bore his name when it was completed. As 
Philip Dejean accompanied Hamilton to Vincennes, Detroit was left without 
a justice of the peace. Captain Lernoult appointed Thomas Williams, father 
of John R. Williams, Detroit's first mayor in 1824. Lernoult had no authority 
to make such an appointment, but he promptly notified the Quebec authorities 
of what he had done and in 1779 Mr. Williams was regularly commissioned 
by Governor Haldimand, who had succeeded Sir Guy Carleton. 

On August 28, 1779, Captain Lernoult was promoted to major, by order 
of Governor Haldimand, who in the preceding April had expres.sed his pleasure 
"to hear of the good dispositions Captaiu Lernoult has made at Detroit." On 
the day after this promotion Haldimand ordered Lernoult to deliver the post 
at Detroit to Col. Arent Schuyler De Peyster and proceed to Niagara. 


This Detroit commandant was born in New York City on June 27, 1736, 
and was the gi'andson of Col. Abraham Schuyler. When nineteen years of 
age he entered the army as a member of the Eighth Regiment and served in 
various parts of North America under his uncle. Col. Peter Schuyler. Before 
assuming command at Detroit in October, 1779, he had been commandant at 
]\Iichilimackinac and other posts. At the time he came to Detroit he held the 
rank of colonel, which he had won by honorable promotions through his valor 
as a soldier and ability as a commander. He was a man of pleasant disposi- 
tion, fond of congenial companionship, and he and his wife took an active part 
in the social life of Detroit during their stay at the By his tact and the 
adoption of conciliatory measures he kept the Indians loyal to the English 
cause, at the same time undertaking to keep on good terms with the Freacli 

In 1lic smiimer of 1780, in ordei' tn irrpnve the co.v.di'iim at flic j-ost. 


De Peyster resolved to encourage the cultivation of ground. On the 13th of 
July he wrote to Governor Haldimand, asking him to reclaim the "ground 
commonly known as Hog Island and appropriate it to the above mentioned 
purpose." This island, it will be remembered, had been sold by the Indians 
to Lieutenant McDougall in 1769, and De Peyster wrote: "As I wish to make 
Mrs. McDougall a reasonable compensation for what houses, etc., may be found 
upon the island, you will please appoint proper persons to appraise them and 
transmit to me their report." Mrs. McDougall was the daughter of Navarre, 
the royal notary of Detroit. 

The buildings were appraised in September by Nathan Williams and J. B. 
Craite and were reported to be worth £334. Immediately after the appraise- 
ment De Peyster wrote to Haldimand that he proposed to settle a Mr. Riddle 
and his family upon the island, reserving a part of the meadow for the grazing 
of the King's cattle. The island wa.s later restored to the McDougall heirs. 

De Peyster often expressed his displeasure at the cruelties practiced by 
the Indians, and after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October, 1781, he 
urged them to bring in more prisoners and fewer scalps. In a communication 
to the Delaware Indians he said: "I am pleased when I see what you call live 
meat, because I can speak to it and get information. Scalps serve to show 
that you have seen the enemy, but they are of no use to me. I cannot speak 
with them." 

Upon coming to Detroit, De Peyster followed the example of Lieutenant- 
Governor Hamilton and appropriated a portion of the rents received for the 
use of lands belonging to the crown, though subsequently he was called upon 
to account for the money thus taken for his private benefit. On November 
21, 1782, he wrote a letter of protest, claiming that he had saved the govern- 
ment at least ten thousand pounds, and if he should be required to refund the 
rents it would be quite a burden upon him, as he had "lived up to them in 
support of the dignity of a British commandant." He was not acciLsed of 
dishonesty, having merely followed a precedent, but the government insisted 
that the rents should be refunded. 

Colonel De Peyster was something of a poet and while in Detroit he wrote 
a number of rhymes relating to local customs, amusements, etc. His wife was 
a native of Dumfries, Scotland, and after the Revolutionaiy War they went 
there to live. He then collected his verses and other writings and published 
them under the title of "Miscellanies of an Officer." At the time of the French 
Revolution, he took an active part in organizing and drilling the "Gentlemen 
Volunteers" of Dumfries, of which organization Robert Burns was a member. 
Burns wrote the following stanza, which was published in the Dumfries Journal: 

"Who will not sing 'God save the King' 
' ' Shall hang as high 's the steeple ; 
"But while we sing 'God save the King,' 
"We'll ne'er forget the people." 

To this De Peyster replied and for some time the two carried on a poetic 
correspondence in the columns of the Journal. This resulted in a lasting friend- 
ship between them. A day or two before Burns' death, De Peyster sent a 
messenger to inciuire after the poet's health and Burns wrote the poem be- 
ginning : 


"My honour 'd colonel, deep I feel 
"Your interest in tlie poet's weel; 
"Ah! now sma' heart hae I to speel 

"The steep Parnassus, 
"Surrounded thus by bolus pill 

"And potion glasses." 

This was the last poem Burns wrote. He died shortly afterward and was 
buried with militarj- honors. Colonel De Peyster died at Dumfries on Novem- 
ber 2, 1832, in the ninety-seventh year of his age, and was buried in the same 
churchyard as Robert Bums. Although more of De Peyster 's activities is 
written in the chapters dealing with the militaiy history of Detroit, the fol- 
lowing poem of his composition is here given to illustrate the light-hearted 
style of the verse which flowed from his pen: 

"To a Beautiful Young Lady, who had on One of those Abominable 
Straw Caps or Bonnets in the Form of a Bee-Hive. 

"While you persist that cap to wear, 

"Miss, let a friend contrive, 
"So that the bees, when swarming near, 

"Sha'n't take it for a hive. 

"For, lest j'ou some precaution take, 
"I'll be in constant dread 
, "That, through a mouth so sweet, they'd make 
"A lodgment in your head. 

"Where such loud buzzing they would keep, 

"And so distract your brain, 
"That you'd not get one wink of sleep 

"Till they buzzed out again. 

"Wlierefore, to disappoint the bees, 

"What I'd advise is this: 
"Close j'our sweet lips, when, if you please, 

"I'll seal them with a kiss." 


Jehu Hay, the last lieutenant-governor of Detroit, was born in Chester, 
Pennsylvania, and in 1758 he enlisted in the Sixtieth American Regiment. In 
1762 he was a lieutenant at Detroit and served here during the siege of the town 
by Pontiac the following year. In 1774 he was selected by General Haldimand 
to visit the Illinois country and report upon the conditions there. Two years 
later he was made deputy Indian agent and major of the Detroit militia. He 
accompanied Hamilton to Vincennes in 1778, was captured there and taken to 
Virginia as a prisoner of war. On October 10, 1780, he was paroled to go to 
New York, and the following year he was exchanged. 

In 1782 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Detroit, but did not as- 
sume the duties of the position until more than a year later on account of 
objections on the part of Colonel De Peyster, who wrote to Governor Haldi- 
mand that he "did not wish to have anything to do with Mr. Hay." Later, 
in October, 1783, Colonel De Peyster was ordered to Niagara, but it was so 
late in the season that his departure was delayed until the next spring, and 


Hay did not arrive in Detroit until July 12, 1784. When he did arrive he 
found the powei-s of the office much restricted. By Governor Haldimand's 
orders, Sir "William Johnson, before his death in 1774, had made the distribu- 
tion of goods to the Indians and his methods were now followed, although Hay 
protested that it was a usui-pation of his functions. It has been stated that 
Hay paid a large sum of money for the appointment and was naturally dis- 
appointed when some of his perquisites were taken away from him. Hay was 
of disagreeable disposition and had few friends, his bearing being caused in 
part, however, by ill health. His death occurred at Detroit on August 2, 1785. 
His widow, whose maiden name was Marie Reaume, and to whom he was mar- 
ried January 22, 1748, died at Detroit, March 23, 1795. 

In the su mm er of 1911 workmen employed in the excavation of a sewer 
on Jefferson Avenue unearthed a black walnut coffin containing a human skel- 
eton. C. M. Burton, city historiographer, made a careful investigation of the 
discovery and reached the conclusion that the skeleton was that of Jehu Hay. 
The fact that a black walnut coffin indicated a person of importance, as the 
common people upon interment were seldom given the luxury of even a pine 
coffin, also that the body was found at the site of the "governor's gardens," 
wherein history records that Hay was buried, led to the almost certain identifi- 
cation of the remains. 


After the departure of Colonel De Peyster in the spring of 1784, Maj. 
William Anerum came to Detroit as military commandant. The Revolutionary 
War was over and the duties Major Anerum was required to perform were 
much less onerous than those of his immediate predecessors. Soon after his 
arrival the Moravian Chippewa Indians removed from the Clinton (Huron) 
River to the Cuyahoga in Ohio. Major Anerum and John Askin purchased 
their improvements for $450 and some of the cabins were occupied by tenants 
for several years. 

The one subject in which the British were at that time deeply interested 
was how to retain the friendship of the Indians. Major Anerum exerted him- 
self in this direction and on May 8, 1786, wrote to Lieut. -Gov. Henry Hope as 
follows : 

"The Indians, from everything I can learn, are veiy much attached to our 
interest, and very much incensed against the Americans, particularly against 
Clark and the other commissioners joined with him to treat with them, and 
thej' have been for that purpose at the mouth of the Great Miamis ever since 
the 1st of October last until very lately. Clark himself is gone, I understand, 
towards Post St. Vincent to treat with the Wabache Indians, and the other 
commissioners are returned home. 

"I have lately heard that several parties of Indians of different nations 
have gone out to war against the frontiers of the American States. I do not 
think that the Indians will ever suffer the Americans to draw their boundary 
lines, survey or settle any part of their country." 

Several of the British commandants were in the habit of subjecting the 
French inhabitants to all sorts of petty tyranny. Major Anerum was one of 
these and the following storj', as told bj* the late Judge Henry H. Riley, shows 
how he fared on one occasion: 

"About sunrise one morning Jacques Peltier was bringing a bucket of 


water from the river, wlien Major Ancrum, the British otfieer commanding at 
the post, met him and in mere wantonness kicked the bucket over. Peltier's 
French blood arose at the insult and with a 'sacrege' he told him that if it 
were not for his red coat he would give him a flogging. The major was a boxer ; 
off went the red coat and there, all alone, at it they went. The square-built, 
muscular Frenchman was too much for John Bull. Ancrum got a sound 
thrashing, but as he put his coat on again he said good-naturedly, 'Well, damn 
it, don't say anything about it,' and went away." 


On July 6, 1779, Colonel De Peyster. then commandant at Miehilimackinac, 
wrote to Lieut.-Col. Mason Bolton : 

"On the 3rd inst. I received intelligence that the rebels were forming an 
expedition against Detroit from the Illinois, composed of 700 men, by the Wa- 
bash and Miami Indians, and 200 Horse to pass by St. Joseph. One Linetot, 
a Canadian trader, commands the Horse. On receiving these accounts I im- 
mediately dispatched Lieutenant Bennett with 1 sergeant, 2 corporals, 1 drum- 
mer and 14 privates, with about 60 traders and canoe men and 200 Indians 
to take post at St. Joseph's to watch Mr. Liuctot's motions and intercept him." 

This is the first mention to be found of Lieutenant Bennett, who was later 
to become commandant at Detroit. On August 3, 1779, he held a council with 
the Pottawatomi Indians at St. Joseph's and on the 15th of the same month 
wrote to Major Lernoult that he was ordered to return to Miehilimackinac and 
would be unable to render any assistance at Detroit. The following December 
he was promoted to the rank of captain and about two years later he attended 
two Indian councils at Detroit — one on December 10, 1781, and the other on 
the 26th of that month. 

On September 22, 1784, he wrote to Colonel De Peyster, requesting him to 
use his influence to secure for him the appointment as commandant at Detroit, 
but he did not come to the post until 1786 and then held the position for only 
a few weeks. 


Captain Matthews was an officer in the Eighth (or King's) Regiment during 
the gi'eater part of the Revolutionary war. He is first mentioned in the reports 
from Niagara in November, 1778, as having built a log house at that post for 
the use of the garrison. On Ma,y 20, 1779, Lieut.-Col. Mason Bolton wrote to 
General Haldimand from Niagara: 

"I have received an express from Detroit with several letters and other 
papers, which I am forwarding by Captain Matthews, who is well acquainted 
with all of our ti'ansactions here, has a thorough knowledge of these posts, and 
is very capable of furnishing your Excellency wilh many particulars necessary 
for your information." 

It seems that Captain Matthews made such a good imjjression upon General 
Haldimand thaf he became the governor's private secretary. He is mentioned 
in a letter written by Adam Mabane to Haldimand Januarv 5, 1786, as "Lieu- 
tenant-Governor of Detroit," but he had not yet received his appointment. 
Early in the spring of 1787 he left ^Montreal to take conunand at Detroit and 
his first letter to General Haldimand after taking charge of the post was dated 
August 3, 1787. Captain ilatthews remained at Detroit a little over a year. A 


Major Wiseman is mentioned by Silas Farmer as a commandant in 1787, but 
if he held the position it was but for a very short interval. 


On Julj' 24, 1788, the Canadian Council created several court and land dis- 
tricts, one of which was the District of Hesse, on the east side of the Detroit 
Eiver. The land board for this district was composed of Maj. Patrick Murray, 
William Dummer Powell, Alexander McKee, William Robertson and Alexander 
Grant. The minutes of the first meeting of the land board are signed : "Patrick 
Murray, Major in the Sixtieth Regiment, commanding Detroit, and first member 
of the land board." 

Major Murray is mentioned by Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton in a com- 
munication dated April 26, 1778, as then being barrack master at Quebec. A 
change was made in the land board in 1790, when Murray was succeeded by 
Major Smith. 


At a meeting of the land board of Hesse held on July 30, 1790, Maj. John 
Smith was chairman and his son, David William Smith, afterward Sir David 
Smith, was secretary. The former was a major in the Fifth Regiment and the 
son was an ensign in the same. Early in the year 1792 both were transferred to 
Niagara, leaving the post temporarily in the hands of Maj. William Glaus until 
the arrival of the new commandant. Major Smith died at Fort Niagara in 1794. 


The last English commandant at Detroit was Col. Richard England, com- 
mander of the Twenty-fourth Regiment, who came in the early summer of 1792. 
Colonel England was an unusually large man and John A. McClung, in his 
"Sketches of Western Adventure," says: 

"After his return to England, the waggish Prince of Wales, who was him- 
self no pigmy, became desirous of seeing him. Colonel England was one day 
pointed out to him by Sheridan, as he was in the act of dismounting from his 
horse. The prince regarded him with marked attention for a few minutes and 
then, turning to Sheridan, said with a laugh, 'Colonel England! You should 
have said Great Britain.' " 

Colonel England came to Detroit a few months after the defeat of General 
St. Clair, and the Indians were in a state of unrest, fearing another American 
invasion. For a year Detroit was visited by parties of Indians begging assist- 
ance from their English father. When Fort Miami was built at the foot of 
the Maumee Rapids in the spring of 1794, Colonel England sent nearly all 
his force and the greater part of his ordnance to check the advance of General 
WajTie. After the battle of Fallen Timbers the troops returned to Detroit. 
On September 1, 1794, Colonel England made a return of all the ordnance 
stores at Detroit ; showing the condition of the post. 

On June 6, 1796, when it was understood that Detroit was soon to be turned 
over to the United States, the commandant wrote that certain papers had not 
been turned over to him by his predecessor, and asked if Major Smith had 
sent them to headquarters. About the same time Capt. George Salmon, of the 
Royal Artillery, made a requisition for 200 ammunition boxes, three laboratory 
chests and six packing cases, preparatory to the removal of the stores to the 


new post at Amherstburg. An estimate made by Colonel England for repaire 
to the fort, etc., amounted to £90, 10 s. 4d., but the repairs were not made. Just 
before evacuating the post, he ordered a board of survey to report on the condi- 
tion of the barrack furniture, which was later reported "for the most part 
not worth removing to the new post across the river." These reports may 
give the reader an inkling of the condition of the post of Detroit when British 
domination came to an end on July 11, 1796, the details of which are given 
in the next chapter. 

During this period the laws of Canada governed the village. Courts were 
established and at least one election to parliament was held here. The first 
and only Canadian judge appointed by the Canadian Government for Detroit 
was William Dummer Powell, and, although he continued to be a Canadian 
justice during his life and filled that position with great honor, he was an 
American, having been born in Boston before the Revolution. There were 
three members of parliament from Detroit — D. W. Smith, who lived at Niagara, 
but was elected in Detroit and who was subsequently surveyor-general of Canada ; 
Alexander Grant, who was commonly called the commodore of the lakes, from 
his having charge of the British armed vessels on the upper lakes, and who 
lived at Grosse Pointe ; and William Macomb, the ancestor of one branch of 
the Macomb familv in Detroit and the uncle of Gen. Alexander Macomb. 








At the close of the French and Indian war, Great Britain came into posses- 
sion of all that part of the present United States east of the Mississippi River, 
except Florida and a small part of Louisiana. She was still in possession of all 
this territory at the beginning of the Revolution, but the capture of the British 
posts in the Illinois country by Gen. George Rogers Clark gave the American 
colonists a basis for claiming all the country tributary to the captured posts. 
Accounts of these events are given in other chapters of this history. 


In all of the history of the United States there is no subject more interesting 
than that of the treaty which concluded the Revolutionary war and the manner 
in which it was negotiated. By this treaty Great Britain acknowledged the inde- 
pendence of her American colonies and the western boundary of the new republic 
was fixed at the Mississippi River. Channing's History of the United States 

"Already, in the winter of 1781-82; English emissaries had appeared at Paris 
and at The Hague, seeking the conditions upon which the war in America might 
be ended. No more than this could be done then because the ministers could not 
advise the king to acknowledge the independence of the United States until an 
enabling act for that purpose had been passed by Parliament. A bill giving this 
authorization was introduced into the House of Commons, but politics and not 
patriotism being uppermost, its passage took time. Franklin at Paris and 
Adams at The Hague had little faith in Lord North's professions of peace; but 
the former thought it worth while to write a friendly letter to Shelburne (princi- 
pal secretary of state) with whom he had been intimate before the war." 

Franklin's letter to Shelburne was dated March 22, 1782. On March 27, 
1782, Shelburne sent an agent to Paris to sound Franklin. This agent was 
Richard Oswald, a Scotch merchant of London, whom Shelburne described as 
"a pacifical man and conversant in those negotiations wliicli are most interesting 
to mankind." Franklin received him kindlj^ took him to see Count de Vergennes 
(the French secretary of state for foreign affairs), and suggested that the United 
States, France and other belligerents could better negotiate separately with 
Great Britain. "When everything was arranged, he added, there would only 



remain "to consolidate those several settlements into one general and eonehisive 
Treaty of Pacification. ' ' 

John Adams, John Jay and Henry Laurens were named by the Continental 
Congress to assist Franklin in the negotiations of the treat.v. On April 15, 
1782, Adams and Laurens had an intervieyr at Haerlem. Laurens was then a 
British prisoner on parole. The day following this interview Adams wrote to 
Franklin and in his letter gave an account of his meeting with Laurens. "If 
you agree to it," he said, "I will never see another person who is not a plenipo- 
tentiary," and advised Franklin to do the same. 

On the 20th of the same month Franklin wrote to Adams : "I like your 
idea of seeing no more messengers that are not plenipotentiaries; but I cannot 
refuse to see Mr. Oswald, as the minister here considered the letter to me from 
Lord Shelburne as a kind of authentication given that messenger, and expects 
his return with some explicit propositions. I shall keep you advised of whatever 

On ilay 8, 1782, Franklin again wrote to Adams regarding the negotiations, 
and a little later he received a letter from Laui-ens, dated at Ostend, May 17, 
1782, declining to accept the appointment as commissioner. Jay arrived in Paris 
on June 23, 1782 and immediately called upon Franklin at Passy, a little village 
now within the city limits of Paris. Two days later Franklin wrote to Robert R. 
Li\'ingston : "I hoped for the assi.stance of Mr. Adams and Mr. Laurens. The 
first is too miich engaged in Holland: and the other declines serving." 

To quote from Channing: "On Rockingham's death in Jul}', his followers 
retired from the government and Shelburne became prime minister. Toward 
the end of that month, the passage of the enabling act authorized him to issue 
a commission to Oswald and to give him definite instructions as to the negotiation 
with the Americans. Unfortunately, the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney- 
General and other officials had betaken themselves to the country the moment 
Parliament was prorogued. The commission, therefore, that Oswald exhibited 
to the Americans was not under the great seal, and, indeed, was only a copy or 
exemplification of the original." 

Sirs. Mercy Warren, in her "History of the Revolution," says: "When Sir. 
Oswald, who had been appointed to act as commissioner of peace in behalf of 
Great Britain, and to arrange the provisional articles for th,at purpose, arrived 
in Paris, in the autumn of 1782, it appeared that his instructions were not suf- 
ficiently explicit. They did not satisfy the American agents deputed by Con- 
gress to negociate the terms of reconciliation among the contending powers. 
These were Doctor Franklin, John Jay and John Adams, esquires. Sir. Adams 
was still at The Hague; but he had been directed by Congress to repair to France 
to assist his colleagues in the negociations for peace. 

"The ambiguity of Mr. Oswald's commission occasioned much altercation 
between the Count de Yergennes and Mr. Jay on the subject of the provisional 
articles. Their disputes were easily adjusted; and the Spanish minister, the 
Count de Arauda, rather inclined to be acquiescent in the proposals of the British 
commissioner. Sir. Jay, however, resisted with firmness ; and was supported 
in his opinions by Sir. Adams, who soon arrived in Paris." 

While this controversy was going on. Count de Reyneval went to London to 
lay the matter before Lord Shelburne. The result of his visit was that Sir. 
Oswald received a new commission and definite instructions. All was now smooth 
sailing and the commissioners began their deliberations in earnest. 








— au_^j 





Erected in 1813, torn down in March, 1880 



The first result of their labors, which was made public ou October 8, 1782, 
fixed the northern boundaiy of the United States as the forty-fifth parallel of 
north latitude from the Atlantic coast to the St. Lawrence River ; thence to 
the southern end of the Lake Nipissing, and by a straight line from that point 
to the source of the Mississippi. The uncertainty as to the exact location of 
the head of the Llississippi was the cause of some delay in the conclusion of the 
treaty, but on November 30, 1782, preliminary articles of peace were signed 
by the commissioners. The preliminary treaty was confirmed by the definitive 
treaty of Paris ou September 3, 1783. 

Regarding the boundary lines of the United States under this treaty, Mr. C. 
M. Burton in an address before the Society of Colonial "Wars, in 1907, said as 
follows : 

"I think it is not necessary to tell you that the foundation for the history 
of the Northwest Territory lies largely in the unpublished documents in the 
British Museum and the Public Record ofiice in London. The American papers 
on the subject of the Treaty of 1782 at the close of the Revolutionary war, 
have been collected and printed by Mr. Sparks in twelve volumes of the diplo- 
matic correspondence of the Revolution. They have recently, within the last 
few years, been reprinted and added to, in the Wharton collection. But the 
papers on the British side, with few exceptions, are still unpublished and it 
is among those papers that I spent a good portion of my vacation while in the 
City of London. A few of them are in the British Museum, but nearly all are 
in the Public Record ofiice. I had some trouble in getting in there, but suc- 
ceeded through the kindness of IMr. Carter, who represents our government in 
London, and made as many extracts as I could pertaining exclusively to De- 
troit and the Northwest. While the collection there extends to eveiy part 
of the United States, I was particularly^ interested in our own state, in our own 
part of the country. I refer to a few of these papers for the purpose of show- 
ing how it came about that Michigan became a part of the United States. 
That at first sight might seem very simple to be determined, and yet I find it 
veiy difficult to answer, and I do not know now that I have found much that 
would lead to a complete determination of the reason for this form of our 

"The fii-st papers that attracted m.y attention I found in the British 
Museum. They consisted of some correspondence in French between the British 
government and the French government relating to the troubles that had 
arisen along the Ohio River, and in that matter Detroit took a very active in- 
terest about the j'ear 1754. These papers finally ended in a proposition on 
the part of Great Britain to accept as the north boundary line the river that 
we call the Maumee, on which Toledo is situated. The country immediately 
south of this was to be neutral ground. This was in 1754. If that boundary 
line had been established ; if that agreement had been accepted by the two coun- 
tries, Michigan would have remained French territory, and perhaps the war 
which immediately succeeded would not have taken place, and in all proba- 
bility Canada would still have been a French possession. In the midst of 
these negotiations, they were terminated. I did not know at the time why, 
but I found in my searches a little book which I now have, evidently written 
by some member of the Privy Council, telling the reasons for breaking off the 
negotiations, and for causing the war which terminated in 1763. This book is 


entitled 'Tlie Conduct of the ^Ministry Impartially Examined,' and was pub- 
lished in London in 1756. 

"At the end of the war, the treaty of Paris gave to Great Britain all of 
Canada, and Canada at that time was supposed to include all of Ohio, Indiana 
and Illinois, all of the land north and west of the Ohio River. The same rear 
that this treaty was entered into, Great Britain established the Province of 
Quebec. One of the peculiar matters connected with this establishment of the 
Province of Quebec I shall refer to hereafter. Quebec was established in 1763 
and was nearly a triangle. The south boundary line of the province extended 
from Lake Nipissing to the St. Lawrence River near Lake St. Fraiicis. Mich- 
igan and all of the lower part of Canada, and all of the Ohio district, were 
entirely omitted ; so that by the proclamation of 1763, no portion of that countiy 
was under any form of government whatever. This was likely to lead to trouble 
with Great Britain and with the people in Detroit, for Detroit was the most 
prominent and important place in the whole of that district. Within a few 
j-ears after the establishment of the Province of Quebec, a man by the name 
of Isenhart was murdered in Detroit by ^Michael Due, a Frenchman. Due 
was arrested, testimony was taken here before Philip Dejean, our justice, and 
after his guilt was established, Due was sent to Quebec for trial and execution. 
After he was convicted they sent him back to Montreal, so that he could be 
executed among his friends. The matter was brought before the Pri^'y' Council 
to determine luider what law and by what right Due was tried at all. They 
executed the poor fellow, and then made the inquiry afterwards. It was 
finally decided that they could trj' him under a special provision in the Mutiny 
Act, but they had to acknowledge that at that time they absolutely had no 
control, by law, over our portion of the Northwest Territory, and that the land 
where we are was subject to the king exclusively, and was not under any mili- 
tary authority except as he directed it. 

"In 1774 the Quebec Act was passed, and by that act the boundary lines of 
the Province of Quebec were so enlarged as to include all of the Ohio countrj' 
and all the land noi'th of the Ohio River: so that from 1774 until the close of 
the Revolutionaiy war, Canada and the Province of Quebec included all the 
land on which we are situated as well as the present Canada, Ohio, Illinois, 
Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

"Xow, when we come to the treaty of peace, or the preliminary ti'eaty of 
peace in 1782, the first thing that I found of interest was the fact that Franklin, 
who was then in Paris, was ciuite anxious that some effort should be made to 
close up the war. There never had been a moment from the time the war 
first started that efforts were not being made along some line to bring it to a 
conclusion, but it was the efforts of Mr. Franklin in the spring of 1782 that 
finally brought the parties together. The man who acted at that time for the 
British government was Richard Oswald. He was sent from London to Paris 
to represent his government, and to see if something could not be done with 
Mr. Franklin to negotiate a treaty. Those of you who have been in Paris will 
recollect that the house in w-hich Mr. Franklin lived while there was not then 
within the city limits. It was in, a little village some three or four 
miles distant, but now within the city limits. The place is now marked by a 
tablet a little above the heads of the passersby, on Singer Street, indicating 
that Franklin lived there during the time of which I am speaking, 1782, and 
sometime later. He was sick. He was unable at various times to leave his 


apartments at all, and much of the negotiations took place in his private rooms 
on Singer Street in Passy. 

"The proceedings on the part of the American commissioners liave all been 
published, but Mr. Oswald kept minutes of his own, and these, with a few 
exceptions, have not been printed. These and the papers that are connected 
with them, I had the pleasure of examining and abstracting, if I may use 
that term, during the past winter. I find that on April 25, 1782, Mr. Richard 
Oswald returned to Paris, and that place was named as the city for settling 
up the affairs of the Revolutionary war, if it was possible, with Doctor Franklin. 
The principal point was the allowance of the independence of the United States, 
upon the restoration of Great Britain to the situation in which she was placed 
before the Treaty of 1763. The question that came before the commissioners 
at once was what constituted Canada or what constituted the Province of Quebec. 
I think that Great Britain made a blunder, and a serious blunder for herself, 
in establishing the Province of Quebec within the restricted lines of Lake 
NipLssing, and the reason of her making this line I believe was this. She had 
once before taken Canada from the French, and then restored it. She did not 
know but what she might again be called upon to restore Canada to France. 
But if she had to restore it, she proposed to restore only that portion of it that 
she considered to be Canada, that is the land lying north and east of the line 
from Lake Nipissing to the St. Lawrence River. She would maintain, if the 
time again came to sun-ender Canada to France, that all the land lying below 
that line was her own possession, and not a part of the land she had taken 
from France. Now she found that in order to be restored to the situation she 
occupied before 1763, she must abandon the land lying below that line, and 
thereafter it would become part of the United States. So that one of the 
principal features of this new treaty wa.s to be the restoration of Great Britain 
to the situation that was occupied by her before the Treaty of 1763. 

"The peculiar formation of the lines that marked the Pi-ovince of Quebec 
in the proclamation of 1763 attracted my attention, and I undertook to study 
out the reason for so shaping the province, and some years ago wrote out the 
reason that I have outlined tonight. I did not know then that there were docu- 
ments in existence to prove the truth of my theory. 

"In July, 1763, Lord Egremont, Secretary of State, reported to the Lord 
of Trade that the King approved of the formation of the new government 
of Canada, but that the limits had not been defined. The King thought that 
great inconvenience might arise if a large tract of land was left without being 
subject to the jurisdiction of some Governor and that it would be difficult to 
bring criminals and fugitives, who might take refuge in this country, to justice. 
He therefore thought it best to include in the commission for the Governor 
of Canada, jurisdiction of all the great lakes, Ontario, Erie, Huron, iMichigan 
and Superior, with all of the country as far north and west as the limits of 
the Hudson's Bay Company and the Mississippi, and all lands ceded by the 
late treaty, unless the Lords of Trade should suggest a better distribution. 

"On the 5th of August the Lords of Trade submitted their plan for the 
Government of Quebec, a portion of which was as follows : 

" 'We are apprehensive that, should this country be annexed to the Gov- 
ernment of Canada, a colour might be taken on some future occasion, for 
supposing that your Majesty's title to it had taken its rise singly from the 
cessions made bv France in the late treaty, whereas your Majesty's titles to 


the lakes and circumjacent territory, as well as sovereignty over the Indian 
tribes, particularly of the Six Nations, rests on a more solid and even a more 
equitable foundation ; and perhaps nothing is more necessary than that just 
impressions of this subject should be carefully preserved in the minds of the 
savages, -whose ideas might be blended and confounded if they should be 
brought to consider themselves under the government of Canada.' 

"Conformable to the report of the Lords of Trade, the King on September 
19th, said that he was pleased to lay aside the idea of including within the 
government of Canada, or anj' established colony, the lands that were reserved 
for the use of the Indians. 

"He directed that the commission to be issued to James ^Murray comprehend 
that part of Canada lying on the north side of the St. Lawrence River which 
was included within the Province of Quebec. 

"The commission to James Murray as Captain-General and Governor of 
the Province of Quebec, which was issued November 14, 1763, bounded the 
province on the south by a line drawn from the south end of Lake Nipissing 
to a point where the forty-fifth degree of north latitude crosses the St. Lawrence 
River — the westerly end of Lake St. Francis. 

"In settling the line of the United States in 1782, it was very convenient 
for our commissioners to claim that the Lake Nipissing line was the northern 
boundanr of the new government, for it gave to England all the lauds she 
claimed to have won by the contest with France, and this line Great Britain 
could not well dispute. 

"I found here a letter from Governor Haldimand, and it is interesting just 
at this point, because it gives an idea of the American army. 

" 'It is not the number of troops that Mr. Washington can spare from his 
ai-my that is to be apprehended ; it is their multitude of militia and men in 
arms ready to turn out at an hour's notice upon the show of a single regiment 
of Continental troops that will oppose the attempt, the facilit.y of which has 
been fatally experienced.' So Haldimand was writing to the home ofSce that 
•they must have peace because they could not contend against the militia of the 
United States. 

"In the various interviews that ilr. Oswald reports, he says that Franklin 
and Laurens maintained that Canada, Nova Scotia, East Florida, Newfound- 
land and tlie West India Islands should still remain British colonies in the 
event of peace, ilr. Oswald reported that in all the conversations on this sub- 
ject, no inclination was ever shown by the Americans to dispute the right of 
Great Britain to these colonies, and he adds, 'Which, I owti, I was very much 
surprised at, and had I been an American, acting in the same character as 
those commissioners, I should have held a different language to those of Great 
Britain, and would have plainly told them that for the sake of future peace 
of America, they must entirely quit possession of every part of that continent, 
so as the whole might be brought under the cover of one and the same political 
constitution, and so must include under the head of independence, to make it 
real and complete, all Nova Scotia, Canada, Newfoundland and East Florida. 
That this must have been granted if insisted upon, I think is past all doubt, 
considering the present unhappy situation of things.' 

"Well, he did not understand Mr. Franklin, because Franklin was sitting 
there day after da.v, doing a great deal of thinking and letting Mr. Oswald 
do the talking, and when it came to the time for ]\Ir. Franklin to give forth 


his own ideas, the.y were very different from what Mr. Oswald thought they 
were. Franklin told Oswald on July 8th that there could be no solid peace 
while Canada remained an English possession. That was the first statement 
that Franklin made regarding his ideas of where the boundary line ought to be. 
A few daj'S after this, the first draft of the treaty was made, and it was sent 
to London on July 10, 1782. The third article requires that the boundaries 
of Canada be confined to the lines given in the Quebec Act of 1774, 'or even to 
a more contracted state.' An additional number of articles were to be con- 
sidered as advisable, the fourth one being the giving up by Great Britain of 
every part of Canada. Oswald had formerly suggested that the back lands of 
Canada — that is the Ohio lands — be set apart and sold for the benefit of the 
loyal sufferers; but now Franklin insisted that these back lands be ceded to 
the United States without any stipulation whatever as to their disposal. Many 
of the states had confiscated the lands and property of the loyalists, and there 
was an effort on the part of Oswald to get our new government to recognize 
these confiscations and repay them, or to sell the lands in the Ohio country and 
pay the loyalists from the sale. A set of instructions was made to Oswald on 
July 31st and sent over, but the article referring to this matter was afterwards 
stricken out, so that it does not appear in any of the printed proceedings. The 
portion that was stricken out reads as follows: 'You will endeavor to make 
use of our reserve title to those ungranted lands which lie to the westward of 
the boundaries of the provinces as defined in the proclamations before men- 
tioned in 1763, and to stipulate for the annexation of a portion of them in each 
province in lieu of what they shall restore to the refugees and loyalists, whose 
estates they have seized or confiscated.' 

"But Franklin refused to acknowledge any of these debts. He said that if 
any loyalists had suffered, they had suffered because they had been the ones 
who had instigated the war, and they must not be repaid, and he would not 
permit them to be repaid out of any lands that belonged to the United States; 
that if Great Britain herself wanted to repay them, he had no objection. In 
a conversation John Jay, who came from Spain and took part in these negotia- 
tions, told the British commissioner that England had taken gi-eat advantage 
of France in 1763 in taking Canada from her and he did not propose that 
England should serve the United States in the same manner, and he. Jay, was 
not as favorable to peace as was Franklin. 

"On the 18th of August, a few days later, Oswald wrote: 'The Commis- 
sioners here insist on their independence, and consequently on a cession of the 
whole territory, and the misfortune is that their demand must be complied 
with in order to avoid the worst consequences, either respecting them in par- 
ticular, or the ob.ject of general pacification with the foreign states, as to which 
nothing can be done until the American independence is effected.' He recites 
the situation in America; the garrisons of British troops at the mercy of the 
Americans, the situation of the loyalists, and the evacuations then taking place. 
In all these negotiations, there was a constant determination taken by Franklin 
to hold the territory in the west and on the north. 

"In the last of August, 1782, the commissioners set about determining the 
boundary lines for the new government, which they fixed in the draft of the 
treaty so as to include in the United States that part of Canada which was 
added to it by act of parliament of 1774. 'If this is not granted there will be 
a good deal of difficulty in settling these boundaries between Canada and several 


of the states, especially on the western frontier, as the addition sweeps around 
behind them, and I make no doubt that a refusal would occasion a particular 
grudge, as "a deprivation of an extent of valuable territory the several prov- 
inces have always counted upon a.s their own, and onh' waiting to be settled 
and taken into their respective governments, according as their population in- 
creased and encouraged a further extension westward. I therefore suppose 
this demand will be gi-anted, upon certain conditions.' It seems that in the 
preceding April, Franklin had proposed that the back lands of Canada should 
be entirely given up to the United States, and that Great Britain should grant 
a sum of money to repay the losses of the sufferers in the war. He had also 
proposed that certain unsold lands in America should be disposed of for the 
benefit of the sufferers on both sides. (These unsold lands were those claimed 
as Crown lands in New York and elsewhere, considered as the private property 
of the Crown.) Franklin had withdrawn this proposal and now refused to 
consent to it, although strongly urged by Oswald, who wrote. 'I am afraid it 
will not be possible to bring him back to the proposition made in April last, 
though I shall trj-.' 

"The preliminary articles of peace were agreed upon bv Oswald and 
Franklin and Jay, October 7, 1782, and the northern boundary line of the 
United States extended from the east, westerly on the 45th degree of north 
latitude until the St. Lawrence River was reached, then to the easterlj- end 
of Lake Nipissing, and then straight to the source of the Mississippi. If 
you will remember that Lake Nipissing is opposite the northern end of Georgian 
Bay, you will see that the line as laid down in this draft of the treaty would 
include within the LTnited States all the territor.y that is across the river from 
Detroit, all of the soiitherly portion of what formerly constituted Upper Canada, 
ilr. Franklin at this time wrote : ' They want to bring their boundaries down 
to the Ohio, and to settle their loyalists in the Illinois country. We did not 
choose .such neighbors.' 

'"ilr. Franklin at this time was seventy-eight years of age, a very old man 
to put into such a responsible place. In October, Henrj- Strachey was sent over 
to assist Mr. Oswald, and in some ways I think Mr. Strachey was a sharper, 
brighter man than Mr. Oswald was, although Mr. Oswald was probably a very 
good man for the position. I think, however, that diplomatically, the repre- 
sentatives of the United States were the gi-eater men. Henry Strachey was 
sent over to assist Oswald and particularly to aid him in fixing the boundary 
lines. The matter was thought to be of too great importance for one man and 
Lord Townshend, in introducing Strachey to Oswald, told him that Strachey 
would share the responsibility of fixing the boundaries, which was great, with 

"If any of you have ever had occasion to read the treaties of 1782 and 
1783 carefully, you will find that in outlining the boundary line, one line was 
omitted. The draft that I found of this treaty is in the handwriting of John Jay, 
and certainly Mr. Jay as a lawyer ought to have been sufficiently conversant 
with real estate transfers to have drawn a proper deed : but one line is omitted, 
and that is the line extending from the south end of the St. ilary's River to 
Lake Superior, and that omission has been copied in every copy of the treaty 
that has since been made, so far as I have been able to ascertain. The map 
that was used on the occasion was a lai'ge wall map of Mitchell, printed some 
years previous to 1783. I got the original map that was used on that occasion. 

^^^^n^- mr 




and on that I found a large, heavy red line drawn straight across the country 
from Lake Nipissing to the Mississippi. That was one line. The other line 
running as we now know the boundary, through the center of the lakes. This 
map I hunted for several days, but finally found it in the public record office 
in Chancery Lane. 

"On November 5, 1782, the commissioners nearly broke off all negotiations 
from quarreling about the boundarj^ lines, and were about to quit when they 
concluded to try it once more, and went at it. A new draft of the treaty was 
made November 8th, on which the boundary line was fixed at the forty-fifth 
degree of north latitude. That would run straight across the countrj- through 
Alpena. If that line had been accepted, and it came very nearly being ac- 
cepted at one time, the entire northern peninsula of Michigan, and all the land 
in the southern peninsula north of Alpena, would have been British, 
while the land across the river from us here at Detroit would have been part 
of the United States. When this draft was sent over to England, an alternative 
line was the line that we know as the boundary line, along the lakes. In sending 
over this proposition, Strachey said that the draft of the treaty must be pre- 
pared in London, and the expressions contained in the treaty made as tight 
as possible 'for these Americans are the greatest quibblers I ever knew.' The 
above draft of the treaty was handed to Richard Jackson, and he remarked on 
its margin, that it looked more- like an ultimatum than a treaty, and in a letter 
of November 12, 1782, he wrote : ' I am, however, free to say that so far as 
my judgment goes and ought to weigh, I am of opinion in the cruel, almost 
hopeless, situation of this country, a treaty of peace ought to be made on the 
terms offered.' 

"On November 11, 1782, at 11 o'clock at night, Strachey writes that the 
terms of the treaty of peace have finally been agi-eed upon. 'Now we are 
to be hanged or applauded for thus rescuing you from the American war. I 
am half dead with perpetual anxiety, and shall not be at ease till I see how 
the great men receive me. If this is not as good a peace as was expected, I am 
confident that it is the best that could have been made.' A few days later he 
writes, 'The treaty is signed and sealed, and is now sent. God forbid that I 
should ever have a hand in another treat}^' The final treaty of peace was 
signed at that time, and a few days later, on the 30th of January, 1783, the 
treaty of peace on which it depended, that is, the treaty between the other 
governments of Europe and England, was signed and the war was at an end." 

By the definitive treat}', signed September 3, 1783, the ten-itory now com- 
prising the State of Michigan became part of the public domain of the United 
States, though England retained possession of Detroit and the other north- 
western posts for more than a decade after the conclusion of the treaty. An 
interesting bit of history regarding this retention of the territory in the face 
of the treaty was given by Dr. James B. Angell, former president of the Uni- 
versity of Michigan, in his address at the centennial celebration of American 
occupation of Detroit, in July, 1896. Doctor Angell said: 

"The speakers who have preceded me have suggested that one of the reasons 
why Great Britain retained this and other frontier posts for thirteen years . 
after the treaty of independence, was their doubt whether we were really 
going to be able to retain our independence. Under the weakness of our old 
federation this doubt on the part of the English was perhaps not unreason- 
able. But may I call yovir attention to the surprising fact that long after the 


establishment of our stronger government under the constitution the English 
seemed to cherish the same doubt. 

"In 1814, at the opening of the negotiations for the Treaty of Ghent, the 
very fii-st proposition made by the British commissionei-s to ours, and made as a 
sine qua non of the treat}', was that we should set apart for Indians the vast 
territory now comprising the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and a 
considerable portion of the states of Indiana and Ohio, and that we should 
never purchase it from them. A sort of Indian sovereigntj- under British 
guaranty was to be established in our domain. Coupled with this was a demand 
that we should have no armed force on the lakes. There were other demands 
scarcely less preposterous. (There was, however, a counter proposal to annex 
Canada to the United States.) Think of making such 'cheeky' demands as 
these to John Quiney Adams, Heniy Clay, James A. Bayard, Albert Gallatin 
and Jonathan Russell. It did not take these spirited men many minutes to 
send back answer in effect that, until the United States had lost all sense of 
independence, they would not even listen to such propositions. They threatened 
to go home. Castlereagh, the prime minister, happening to reach Ghent on his 
way to Vienna, ordered an abatement of the British demands and an honor- 
able peace was made. But the same idea of a 'buffer state' of Indians under 
British influence, to be used as a means of regaining power here, was cherished 
at the outset as was entertained in 1790." 


Possibly the English attitude toward the United States at the close of the 
Revolution received some support from the conflicting claims of the colonies. 
Connecticut, Massaehusetts, New York and Viriginia all claimed territory 
northwest of the Ohio River and their claims so overlapped each other that 
all was confusion. If these disputes should result in serious conflict. Great 
Britain, by retaining possession, would be in a position to regain much of the 
territory she had lost by the Revolution. 

In October, 1778, about three months after the captui-e of the British gar- 
risons of Kaskaskia, Saint Vincent and Cahokia by Col. George Rogers Clark, 
the Virginia legislature passed an act that "all citizens of the Commonwealth 
of Vii-ginia, who are already settled there, or shall hereafter be settled on the 
west side of the Ohio, shall be included in the district of Kentucky, which 
shall be called Illinois Count}-." Col. John Todd was appointed county lieu- 
tenant, or militar}' commandant, and it appears that under his administration 
a court was established at Vincennes and none of the other colonies questioned 
the jurisdiction or acts of this tribunal. In negotiating the treaty in 1783, the 
British insisted on the Ohio River as the northwest boundary of the United 
States, but the American claims for the Lakes and Mississippi was that Clark 
had conquered that country and that Virginia was in possession. 

The contention among the four colonie's, over their respective claims and 
boundaries, was a great handicap to Congress, whose desire was to form a strong 
and permanent union of states. About two years after the erection of Illinois 
County, and almost three years before the final treaty of peace that ended 
the Revolutionary war. Congress adopted the role of peacemaker. An act 
was passed providing for the relinquishment of all colonial claims to the terri- 
tory northwest of the River Ohio, and that the territory so relinquished, when 
a sufficient population had settled therein, should be divided into states, each 


of which should be admitted into the Union, with all the rights, privileges and 
immunities of the original thirteen states. Under the provisions of this act, 
New York relinquished her claim on March 1, 1781; Virginia, March 1, 1784; 
Massachusetts, April 19, 1785 ; and Connecticut, except the tract known as 
the Western Eeserve, September 14, 1786. These several cessions placed about 
three hundred thousand square miles of domain in the hands of Congress, to 
be erected into states for the common welfare of the nation. This vast terri- 
tory now comprises the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and "Wis- 
consin, and that part of ^Minnesota east of the Mississippi River and a line 
drawn from the source of that stream due north to the boundary line between 
the United States and the British possessions. 


The Articles of Confederation, the first organic law of the United States, 
possessed serious defects and was not a success as a basis of government. At 
the. close of the Revolution, many of those who had served in the colonial army 
grew dissatisfied with the failure of the government to make what thej' con- 
sidered suitable reward for their services and sacrifices. As early as December, 
1782, a number of army officers petitioned Congress, in behalf of the soldiers, 
but Congress was then unable to do anj-thing in the way of relief, chiefly for 
want of funds. In April, 1783, in anticipation of the relinquishment of claims 
by the colonies, some of the leading generals proposed to reward the soldiers 
by giving them grants of land in the Ohio country. This was known as the 
"Army Plan." 

Closely allied to the Army Plan was one proposed about the same time 
by Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Bland. It provided that lands should 
be substituted for commutation of half -pay and arrearages due the army; 
that a tract for this purpose be set apart in the country northwest of the Ohio ; 
that the lands so set apart should be divided into districts, each of which might 
become a state when the inhabitants numbered twenty thousand or more; and 
that ten per cent of the land be reserved by the Government as a public domain, 
the rents and profits of which should be used for the erection of forts, founding 
seminaries, etc. This was known as the "Financiers' Plan." 

On ilarch 1, 1784, the same day Virginia ceded her title to the United States, 
a committee, of which Thomas Jefferson was chairman, reported to Congress 
a plan "for a temporary government of the territoiy northwest of the River 
Ohio." It provided: 1. For the division of the territory into states. 2. That 
each state should be eligible for admission into the Union when the number 
of inhabitants reached twenty thousand. 3. That each state so admitted 
should be liable for its share of the Federal debt. 4. That the government of 
the .states thus created should be republican in form. 5. That after the year 
1800 neither slavery nor invohmtary sei-vitude should be tolerated in any of 
the districts or states. A second report of the same committee late in March, 
1784, made some changes in the boundaries of the districts and extended the 
time for the abolition of slavery to 1801. These committee reports were debated 
at length, but no act or ordinance embodying their recommendations was passed. 


On January 9, 1786, Gen. Rufus Putnam and Gen. Benjamin Tupper, 
two of the colonial generals during the Revolution, formulated a plan for set- 


tling soldiers in tlie coiiutry beyond the Ohio River and issued a call for a 
meeting to be held in Boston, March 1, 1786, to consider their plan and take 
the necessary steps to carrj^ it into effect. At the Boston meeting was organized 
the "Ohio Company," with General Putnam, General Tupper, James Mitchell 
Varnum, Samuel Holdeu Parsons and Return Jonathan Meigs as its most active 
members. A large tract of land near the confluence of the Ohio and ^lusk- 
ingum rivers was purchased, a land office under the management of General 
Putnam was established at the mouth of the iluskingum, where the Citj' of 
Marietta now stands, and inducements were offered to immigrants, particularly 
veterans of the Revolution. 


The energy displa.yed by the Ohio Company stirred Congi-ess to action, to 
provide some adequate form of government for the population which was soon 
to come. At the next session the reports of the Jefferson committee were again 
called up, debated, amended, and on July 13, 1787, was passed the ordinance 
"for the government of the tei'ritorv- of the United States northwest of the 
River Ohio." The ordinance -provided that the territory- should constitute 
one district, subject to division by Congi-ess. It conferred on Congress the 
power to appoint a governor, secretaiy and three judges for the execution of 
the laws and administration of affairs in the Northwest Territory'. 

The governor was to be appointed for three j-ears and the secretary for four 
years, unless sooner removed by Congress. Both were required to reside in 
the territory. The governor was also required to have a freehold of 1,000 acres 
of land and the secretary of 500 acres. The commissions of the three judges 
were to continue in force "during good behavior" and each judge was required 
to have a freehold of 500 acres. Other provisions of the ordinance were as 
follows : That where there were 5,000 free male inhabitants of full age in 
the district, they should be authorized to elect members of a General Assembly, 
to be composed of the governor and a house of representatives ; that the in- 
habitants of the ten-itory should be entitled to trial by jurj- and the benefits 
of the writ of habeas corpus; that the territory might be divided by Congi-ess 
into not fewer than three nor more than five states, each of which should be 
admitted into the UniGn when the population numbered sixty thousand or 
more; that "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, otherwise 
than in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly con- 
victed," though any slave escaping into the territory might be reclaimed by 
the owner. 

Gen. Arthur St. Clair, then president of Congress, was appointed governor; 
Winthrop Sargent, of Massachusetts, secretary; Samuel Holdeu Parsons, of 
Connecticut, James ^Mitchell Varnum, of Rhode Island, and Jolin Armstrong, 
judges. Armstrong declined the appointment and John Cleves Symmes was 
chosen in his place, February 19, 1788. Governor St. Clair was removed by 
President Jefferson in November, 1802, after Ohio was admitted as a state. 
On June 28, 1798, Winthrop Sargent was succeeded by "William Heniy Harri- 
son, who sel■^'ed until the erection of Indiana Territoiy in May, 1800, when he 
was succeeded by Charles W. Byrd. 


All this time the post at Detroit remained in the hands of the British, 
though repeated efforts had been made by the United States authorities to get 


possession of the territory conceded bj* the treaty of September 3, 1783. In 
fact, one such effort was made before that treaty was concluded. On July 12, 
1783, President Washington, acting upon the assumption that the British would 
be governed by the terms of the preliminarj' treaty of November 30, 1782, 
sent Baron Steuben to Canada to secure the delivery of Detroit. Armed with 
the proper credentials, the baron set out upon his mission.' On August 3, 1783, 
he arrived at Chambly and wrote to Gen. Frederick Haldimand, lieutenant- 
governor of Canada, that he would aiTive in Quebec in three or four days, and 
outlining the object of his visit. Upon his arrival there General Haldimand 
received him with courtesy, but instead of furnishing him with the desired 
order for the evacuation of the post and the necessary passports, sent him 
back with a letter to Washington, dated April 11, 1783, in which it was stated 
that the treaty was "only pro\'isionar ' and that no orders had been received 
from London for the surrender of the posts on the upper lakes. There was 
therefore nothing left for Steuben to do except retiim and make his report. 

The second effort was made after the definitive treaty had been ratified by 
the two governments. On May 24, 1784, Col. William Hull, afterward the first 
governor of Michigan Territory, set out for Quebec, where he arrived on the 
12th of July. General Haldimand 's excuse of a "provisional treaty" was no 
longer valid and he was now reduced to the extremity of making a peremptory 
refusal to deliver any portion of the territory, in accordance with the terms 
of the treaty. This he did without assigning any reason therefor. 

About two years later John Adams, United States minister to England, 
wrote to Congress that he had made a formal demand for the relinquishment 
of the western posts and had been refused, the British prime minister giving 
as a reason for the refusal that several of the states had violated treaty obliga- 
tions regarding the payment of debts. 

Negotiations went on and other demands were made, but they were refused 
upon one pretext or another. Meantime such unprincipled English agents as 
Alexander McKee, Matthew Elliott and Simon Girty were laboring among the 
Indians to induce them to stand by the British interests and inciting them to 
attack the American settlements. There is no doubt that the object of all this 
intrigue was to bring on a serious clash between the United States and the 
Indians, which would enable England to hold control of the valuable fur trade 
indefinitely, and perhaps force the American republic into a new treaty re- 
storing to Great Britain the sovereignty over the territory. 


Then followed the Indian wars which ended with General Wayne's sweep- 
ing victory at the battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. The defeat 
suffered by the Indians in this engagement so disheartened them that they re- 
fused to listen further to English blandishments and the next demand for the 
evacuation of Detroit met with more consideration. Early in the year 1794 
John Jay was sent to London as a special minister, to negotiate a new treaty 
defining the boundary lines and adjusting other disputes between the United 
States and Great Britain. On June 23, 1794, Jay wrote from London that the 
British government positively refused to surrender the posts of Detroit and 
Michilimackinac. When news of Wayne's brilliant achievement reached London, 
coupled as it was with discouraging reports from English officials in America, 
the miuLstry was more willing to listen to Mr. Jay's presentation of the case. 


The result was the couolusiou of a treaty on November 19. 179-1:. which settled 
a long-stauding dispute. It provided for the ad.justmeut of the boundan- line 
between the United States and the British possessions: for the payment of 
claims g-rowing out of illegal captures during the Revolution : and for the 
evacuation of the western posts on or before June 1, 1796. 

The order for the evacuation of Detroit was dated at Quebec, June 2, 1796, 
and was signed "George Beckwith, Adjt. Gen." Evidently the British com- 
mandant at Detroit did not receive the order for some time, as the actual evacua- 
tion was delayed for more than a month. The order directed the withdrawal 
of all troops and supplies belonging to the British, "except a captain and fifty 
of the Queen's Rangers, sent to Detroit and Fort Miami in April of the j^resent 
year, who shall remain as a guard for the protection of the works and public 
buildings until the troops of the United States are at hand to occupy the same, 
when they will embark." 

On July 7, 1796, Col. John F. Hanitramck, commanding at Fort Miami, 
dispatched Capt. Moses Porter and sixty-five men (artillery and infantry) 
on two small sloops, to receive the surrender of Detroit. Colonel Hamtramck 
followed a few days later and on the 17th wi'ote to General James Wilkinson, 
commanding the troops at Greenville in the absence of General Wayne, as fol- 

"Detroit, July 17, 1796. 

"I have the pleasure to inform you of the safe arrival of the troops under 
my command at this place, which was evacuated on the 11th instant and taken 
possession of by a detachment of sixty-five men, commanded by Capt. Moses 
Porter, whom I had detached from the foot of the Rapids for that purpose. 
Myself and troops arrived on the 13th instant. 

"J. F. Hamtramck." 

The British flag was lowered exactly at noon on July 11, 1796, and the 
Stars and Stripes hoisted in its place. Lanmaji's "Red Book of ^Michigan" 
says: "The retiring garrison of English troops, to show their spite against the 
Americans, locked the gates of the fort, broke the windows in the barracks, 
and filled the wells with stones." A rumor also says that they destroyed the 
windmills and left the key of the fort with a negro. 


On ^lay 7, 1800, President John Adams approved an act of Congress erect- 
ing the Territorj^ of Indiana, which embraced all the Northwest Territory 
west of a line drawn due north from the mouth of the Big ]\Iiami River. This 
left Detroit in the Northwest Territory. Gen. William Henry Harrison was 
appointed governor of Indiana Territory and John Gibson, secretary. 

By the act of April 30, 1802, Congress authorized the people residing in 
what is now the State of Ohio to form and adopt a constitution, and when ad- 
mitted into the Union the region including Detroit should become a part of 
Indiana Territory. The constitutional convention met at Chillicothe on No- 
vember 1, 1802, and remained in session until the 29th. The constitution was 
not submitted to a vote of the people, but it was accepted by Congress and on 
February. 19, 1803, Ohio became the seventeenth state in the American Union. 
The eastern half of what is now the State of Michigan was thus automatically 


added to the Territory of Indiana, which then included the present states of 
Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the eastern part of Minnesota. 

Governor Harrison's capital was at Vincennes, four hundred miles from 
Detroit, through a wild region in which the only roads were the dim Indian 
trails. The most available method of communication was by canoe, over the 
"Wabash, Maumee and Detroit rivers and Lake Erie. This route included the 
somewhat difficidt portage between the Maumee and the Wabash at Port Wajnie 
and few undertook the journey unless it was absolutely necessary. Under these 
conditions the territorial officials paid but little attention to the northern part 
of the territory. They realized that the rapid settlement of the country would 
necessitate a division of the territoi-y within a short time and left the people 
of Detroit largely to themselves. 

It is true that Governor Harrison issued a proclamation on January 14, 
1803, defining the boundaries of Wayne County, with Detroit as the county 
seat. At an election held on September 11, 1804, a majority of 138 voted in 
favor of a general assembly. Governor Harrison then issued his proclamation 
calling an election for the first Thursday in January, 1805, for members of 
the general assembly. The proclamation failed to reach Detroit in time and 
no election was held in Wayne Count}'. Representatives from other parts of 
the territory met at Vincennes on Friday, February 1, 1805, and on the 7th 
selected the names of ten persons to be sent to the president, who was to choose 
five of the ten to constitute an upper house, or council. Among the ten names 
sent to the President were those of James Henry and James May, of Detroit. 


In the meantime the people of Detroit grew restive over being so far re- 
moved from their seat of government and receiving so little consideration from 
the territorial officials. They felt that some attention was due them on account 
of the sinister attitude of the English, who were still working among the 
Indians, striving to keep alive their hatred for the tinited States. Large num- 
bers of savages were frequently gathered at Maiden and the trustees of the 
Town of Detroit kept sentries posted day and night to spread the alarm in 
case of danger. 

On Saturday, October 13, 1804, a mass meeting was held, at which a resolu- 
tion was adopted to petition Congress for the erection of a new territory. James 
May and Robert Abbott were appointed to prepare the petition, which was 
presented to Congress on December 4, 1804. On January 11, 1805, President 
Jefferson approved the act creating the Territory of Michigan, to include that 
part of Indiana Territory "north of a line dra\vn due east from the most 
southern point of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie, and east of a line passing 
through the center of Lake Michigan." 

It was provided that the act should take effect on June 30, 1805, and on 
the first of March the President appointed the following officers for the new 
territory : Governor, William Hull, of Connecticut ; Secretary, Stanley Gris- 
wold ; Judges, Augustus B. Woodward, of Washington, D. C. ; Frederick Bates, 
of Michigan, and Samuel Huntington, of Ohio. Mr. Huntington declined the 
appointment and John Griffin, of Indiana, was chosen to fill the vacancy. Judge 
Bates was designated as the territorial treasurer. No provision was made for 
a general assembly, the governor and judges to constitute the legislative, ex- 


ecntive and judicial departments of the territorial government. The interest- 
ing story of the all-powerful governor and judges is told in another chapter. 

But the American republic was young in 1805 and the early territorial 
governments were largely in the nature of an experiment. The futility of at- 
tempting to obtain an impartial and efSeient government by this method is 
illustrated by the following incident: During the winter of 1808-9, Judge 
Woodward was in "Washington most of the time. Under the supei-vision of 
Judge Witherell a number of important changes were made in the laws of the 
tei-ritory and forty-four new acts were passed. When Judge Woodward re- 
turned he refu-sed to recognize the laws passed in his absence and the business 
of the courts was reduced to a state bordering on chaos. On August 24, 1810, 
Judge Witherell, who stood sponsor for the new acts, introduced the following: 

"Whereas, by the most extraordinary and unwarrantable stretch of power 
ever attempted to be exercised by the Judiciary over the Legislature and a free 
government, two of the judges of the Supreme Court of this Territory, at the 
September term of said court in 1809, did declare and decide on the bench of 
said court, in their judicial capacity, that the laws adopted and published the 
preceding winter, by the Governor and two of the Judges of said Territory, 
were unconstitutional and not binding on the people of the said Territory, 
under the frivolous pretext that they were signed only by the Governor as pre- 
siding officer; and 

"Whereas, by the said declaration and decision of the .said judges, the peace 
and happiness, the rights and interests, of the good people of this Territory 
have been and are still very much disturbed and put in jeopardy ; and 

"Whereas, the good people of this Territory, after nearly one year and a 
half acquaintance with the said laws, have manifested strong wishes that the 
same, with a few exceptions, should be continued in operation in the said terri- 
tory, in order to effect which and remove all doubt on the subject; 

"Resolved, that the Governor and Judges, or a majority of them, do pro- 
ceed immediately to sign such laws." 

Judge Woodward managed to defeat the resolution and during the next 
twelve months there was almost constant bickering. Sometimes the Woodward 
adherents were temporarily victorious and sometimes the Witherell supporters 
would triumph for a brief period. 

The governor and judges arrived in Detroit soon after the great fire of 
June 11, 1805, and devoted the greater part of their energies to the rebuilding 
of the town, as told in another chapter. 


Lewis Cass succeeded General Hull as governor on October 29, 1813, and on 
February 16, 1818, the people voted upon the question of adopting w-hat was 
called the "second grade of government" — that is, the establishment of a legisla- 
tive assembl}'. The proposition was defeated and the rule of the governor and 
judges continued. 

On March 11, 1822, a meeting was held at the council house and a petition 
to Congress was adopted, asking for the enactment of a law "to separate the 
judicial and legislative power and to vest the latter in a certain number of 
oiir citizens." The petition was forwarded to Congress, but nothing was done 
to relieve the situation. On October 26, 1822, another meeting was held. By 
this time the people had grown so thoroughly tired of being governed by four 


men, who much of the time could not agree among themselves, that they were 
more positive in the expression of their views. A "Statement of Facts" was 
drawn up and sent to Congress. This statement was as follows: 

"The legislative board do not meet to do business at the time fixed by their 
own statutes for that pui-pose, and thej' have no known place of meeting; and 
when they do meet, no public notice of the time or place is given ; and when 
that can be ascertained, by inquiry, they are found sometimes at private rooms 
or offices, where none has a right, and few except those immediately interested 
in the passage of the laws have the assurance to intrude themselves, or can 
find seats if they should. Laws are frequently passed and others repealed, 
which take effect from date, and \dtally affect the rights of the citizens, and 
are not promulgated or made known to the community for many months." 

This produced the desired effect, for on March 3, 1823, President Monroe 
approved an act authorizing the people of Michigan to elect eighteen persons, 
from whom the President should select nine to form a territorial council. On 
June 7, 1824, the first legislative eoimcil met in Detroit. By the act of January 
29, 1827, the council was increased to thirteen members, to be elected by the 
people. Thus the territorial govei-ument gi-adually developed into a more re- 
publican foi-m. Much of this progress was due to the efforts of "William Wood- 
bridge, who was the first territorial delegate to Congress, and his successor, 
Solomon Sibley. Under the ordinance of 1787 no territory was entitled to rep- 
resentation in Congress until a territorial legislature was established. Although 
the people of Michigan voted against the second grade in 1818, Congress re- 
moved the disability so far as the territory was concerned, and by the act of 
February 16, 1819, authorized the election of a delegate. Mr. Woodbridge was 
at that time secretarj^ of the territory. At the election he defeated Judge 
Woodward, Henry Jackson Hunt, James McCloskey and John R. Williams, 
but owing to a popular* prejudice against his holding two offices at the same 
time he resigned, and Solomon Sibley was elected for the unexpired term. 


In April, 1816, Congress took a strip ten miles wide across the southern 
part of Michigan and added it to Indiana, which was then knocking at the 
door of the Union for admission and wanted enough of the shore of Lake Mich- 
igan for the establishment of a port. The loss of this ten-mile strip was more 
than offset by the act of April 18, 1818, which added to Michigan Territory 
the western half of the Upper Peninsula, all the State of Wisconsin and that 
part of Minnesota east of the Mississippi River. 

On June 28, 1834, President Jackson approved an act of Congress which 
added to Michigan all the territory of the United States north of the State 
of Missouri and east of the Missouri and White Earth Rivers. By this act 
Detroit became the c-apital of a vast expanse of country, comprising the present 
states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, and a large part of North 
and South Dakota. The Territoiy of Wisconsin was erected by the act of 
April 20, 1836, which took from Michigan all the country west of Lake Mich- 
igan, except the. Upper Peninsula. 


General Hull, the first territorial governor, served from March 1, 1805, to 
August 16, 1812, when he surrendered Detroit to the British under Gen. Isaac 


Brock, who left Col. Heniy Procter in charge as commandant of the post and 
military governor of Michigan. Hull was nominally governor until October 
29, 1813, when he was succeeded by Gen. Lewis Cass, who served until August 
6, 1831. George B. Porter was then governor until July 6, 1834; Stevens T. 
]\Iason, secretary and acting governor from July 6, 1834, to September 10, 

1835, when he was removed for his activity in the Toledo War ; John S. Homer, 
territorial secretary, then acted as governor until November 1, 1835, when 
Mason was reinstated as governor of the state. He held the office until Michigan 
was admitted into the Union and was the first state governor. 


On January 26, 1835, acting-Governor j\Iason approved an act of the legis- 
lative council authorizing the people of ^Michigan Territory to hold an election 
on the first Saturday in April for delegates to a con-stitutional convention, to 
meet in Detroit on the second Monday in May. Of the eighty-nine delegates, 
seventeen were apportioned to Wayne County, viz : Louis Beaufait, John Bid- 
die, Ammon Brown, J. D. Davis, George W. Ferrington, Caleb Harrington, 
Charles F. Irwin, John McDonnell, John Norvell, Asa H. Otis, Amos Stevens, 
Theophilus E. Tallman, Conrad Ten Eyck, Peter Van Every, Alpheus White, 
John R. Williams and William Woodbridge. 

The convention met on May 11, 1835, and completed a constitution on the 
24th of June. It was submitted to the people at an election held on the 5th 
of the following October and was adopted by a substantial majority. 

The same year the constitution was framed and adopted occurred the con- 
troversy between Michigan and Ohio over the boundary line, both claiming a 
parcel of land containing about four hundred and seventy square miles. This 
controversy is described as the "Toledo War." Notwithstanding Michigan's 
vigorous protests against the surrender of the disputed territoiy. Congress 
passed an act, which was approved on June 15, 1836, providing for the admis- 
sion of Michigan on condition the state would accept a boundary line giving 
it to Ohio. Another act, approved by President Jackson on June 23, 1836, 
accepted all the propositions of the Michigan Constitutional Convention except 
the one relating to the boundaiy line. 

]\Iany people in Michigan were so bitterly opposed to the proposition sub- 
mitted by Congress, that they expressed themselves in favor of continuing as 
a territory, rather than accept such terms of admission. To settle the question, 
the Michigan Legislature was assembled and on July 20, 1836, passed an act 
calling an election for delegates to a convention to act upon the subject. Dele- 
gates were elected on the 12tli of September and tlie convention met at Ann 
Arbor on the 26th of the month. Wa.yne County was represented by Louis 
Beaufait, Eli Bradshaw, Ammon Brown, Titus Dort, Benjamin B. Kercheval, 
John ^McDonnell, David C. McKinstry and II. A. Noyes. 

The convention decided accepting admission under the conditions 
imposed by Congress, and after a brief session adjourned. On November 14, 

1836, the democratic central committee of Wayne County issued an address to 
the people of ^Michigan, urging them to elect delegates to another convention, 
to assemble at Ann Arbor on December 14. 1836. The circular set forth that 
in the September convention the decision to refuse admission was due to the 
vote of the Washtenaw County delegates; that the people of that county had 
since elected delegates to the Legislature who were in favor of accepting the 


propositions of Congress ; that prompt action was necessary if Michigan was 
to participate in the distribution of the surplus revenue, which Congi-ess was 
preparing to divide among the states; and that, as a state, Michigan would 
receive fi'om her percentage of the proceeds derived from the sales of public 
lands more than enough to compensate her for the loss of the disputed territory. 

Governor ]\Iason favored the convention and gave it his official sanction. 
"Wayne County elected the following delegates: Marshall J. Bacon, Eli Brad- 
shaw, James Bucklin, Reynold Gillett, Daniel Goodwin, Charles F. Irwin, Josiah 
Mason, Charles Moran, Elihu Morse, A. Y. Murray, H. A. Noyes, John E. 
Schwartz, Warner Tuttle, Ross Wilkins, John R. Williams and Benjamin F. H. 

The convention met at Ann Arbor on the appointed day and without a dis- 
senting vote accepted the conditions of admission as prescribed by the act of 
June 23, 1836. There was some question as to the legality of this convention, 
but Congress recognized its action as a valid expression of the people's views 
and on January 26, 1837, President Jackson signed the act admitting Michigan 
as the twenty-sixth state of the Union, with its boundaries as they are at the 
present time. 

By the constitution adopted in 1835, it was provided that Detroit should 
be the capital of the state iintil 1847, when a permanent seat of government 
should be determined by the legislature. On March 16, 1847, Governor Felch 
approved the act locating the capital at Lansing and the state offices were re- 
moved to that city in the following December. At the time the state was ad- 
mitted, the population of Detroit was about six thousand. Including Ham- 
tramck and Highland Park, which lie ■wholly within the city limits of Detroit, 
the population in 1920 was over one million, making Detroit the fourth city 
of the Union. 



By Clarence M. Burton 

character of people the military commandant — priest as arbitrator — 

Cadillac's autocratic rule — incendiarism — criminal assault — military 











No one has ever undertaken to write that part of the early history of Detroit 
that pertains to its pubhc records, its courts, judges, lawyers and lawsuits. Such 
a history could not well be denominated the bench and bar of Detroit, for its 
commencement antedates the idea of judges and lawyers and begins when the 
legal history of the place was in the chaotic state that finds a parallel only in 
those more modern localities of the West where the might of a majority of the 
populace is the law of the land. There is probably not an instance in the history 
of Detroit, in those early days, where the people took affairs into their own 
hands and by brute force taught culprits that it was dangerous to violate the 
unwritten code of morals of the community; and the reason why mob law was 
not resorted to was because the people themselves were, by association, tem- 
perament and early education, accustomed to walk in a path that never varied 
much from that followed by law-abiding citizens of other civilized communities. 
These people were very different from the rough element that filled the mining 
camps and newly erected villages of the West a few years since. Every man 
who came here at first came under his own name. He was not a fugitive from 
justice of some other state or county; he came here to make a home and to 
trade with the natives; his willingness to abide by the laws and customs of the 
place was neces.sary to his success and he conformed his life to that of his neigh- 
bors without question. 







While from the very commencement of the French settlement in Detroit 
it is probable that there were quarrels over property and personal differences 
between neighbors and fellow colonists and traders that must of necessity have 
been settled by authority outside of the parties in direct interest, there is no 
evidence that there were courts or trials by jury or before a judge, of such a 
nature as we find at the present day or, indeed, of anything approaching it in 

The military commandant, under the French rule, was very powerful here, 
so far as we know, and his decision in matters of controversy was generally 
final. He was attended by his soldiers who, on all occasions, carried out his 
orders and directions. If at any time he exceeded what the citizens considered 
his proper prerogatives, they could complain to the governor-general, but the 
complaints were generally unheeded, as the governor-general must have con- 
sidered that almost absolute authority was necessary to be vested in the local 
commandant, in order to keep in proper subjection the rough and unruly element 
he was compelled to dwell among and with whom he had to contend. 


In the beginning the village priest was the arbitrator between most dis- 
putants, but it soon came to be noticed that he had allied himself with a certain 
clique, and thereafter his influence was greatly lessened or entirely spent, for 
he held no official position as arbitrator and those who did not belong to the 
same party as himself lacked confidence in his opinion and did not accept his 
decisions. Father Francois de Gueslis Vaillant, Jesuit, and Nicolas Bernadin 
Constantin de I'Halle came to Detroit with Cadillac in 1701. Vaillant did not 
remain, but left immediately for Mackinac. L'Halle was killed by the Indians 
June 1, 1706. He was succeeded by Father Dominque de la Marche the same 

Cadillac's autocratic rule 

The next step, and a step that was very early taken, was the enforced 
obedience to the will of the first commandant, Cadillac. The troubles he had 
with the Company of the Colony of Canada forced him to be arbitrary with 
the servants of that company, and he was arrested and sent to Montreal for 
putting one of these disobedient servants in prison. This was an attack on 
the government itself, and could not be overlooked by the governor-general. 
Cadillac kept away from Detroit for a long time, but eventually returned with 
his powers confirmed by the king. During his absence his little village came 
near being sacked and destroyed by turbulent Indians, and it was partly on 
this account that the home government looked with favor upon his attempt 
at arbitrary rule. 

In 1711 Cadillac left Detroit for good and his successor got into trouble with 
the village priest and with manj' of the foremost citizens without unnecessary 
delay. Although the commandant was always very powerful, there were some 
matters that appeared to be beyond his authority to trJ^ He could not try 
any cases in which he was personally interested. He could not try any capital 
cases or cases in which the life or liberty of the defendant was involved. He 
could not try these cases, but yet we find that Cadillac asserted that his authority 
reached to the taking of the life of any person who refused to submit to his orders. 
Cadillac himself was defendant in a civil suit in 1694, which was protracted 


until 1703, arising out of the seizure of the goods of a trader of Michilimackinac, 
when Cadillac was commandant there. 

The goods were seized for infraction of the laws which prohibited the sale 
of brandy to the Indians. The suit was for the recovery of the value of these 
goods, which were destroyed. The trial was held at Montreal and was decided 
in favor of Cadillac. 


In 1703 some one set fire to the buildings in the village of Detroit and the 
church was burned, as well as a large warehouse filled with furs, and several 
other buildings. Cadillac himself was severely burned in attempting to stem 
the conflagration. There was much speculation as to who set the fire. Cadillac 
accused the Jesuits of instigating the work. There were no Jes.uits in Detroit, 
but he accused them of sending an Indian from Mackinac to do the work for 
them. There were some very bitter letters written on the subject between 
Cadillac and the Jesuit priests at Mackinac and Montreal, but the matter, with 
them, ended with the letter writing. This did not disclose the incendiary and 
others were suspected or accused of setting the fire. Shortly after this, in 1706, 
Jacques Campau accused Pierre Roquant dit la Ville of the crime. Canadian 
or French justice was administered in the manner that appears odd at this 
distance. In this case La Ville was arrested and taken to Quebec and lodged 
in prison. Campau was also summoned to attend the investigation as the 
complaining witness and most important person. The trial, or investigation, 
was held at Quebec December 2, 1706 before le conseil extraordinairment and 
resulted in an apparently extraordinary verdict, for not only was the defendant 
acquitted, but the complaining witness, Campau, was compelled to paj^ five 
hundred livres for the trouble and expense he had caused. 


In 1705 Pierre Berge (or Boucher) dit La Tulipe, a drummer (tambour) 
in the company of Cadillac, committed a criminal assault upon Susanne Capelle, 
a little girl twelve years of age. He was convicted before the conseil superieitr 
of Quebec and was sentenced to make a public confession of his crime and on 
his knees in the church he was compelled to ask pardon for his sins — he was 
then to be executed. It was almost impossible to carry out the last part of 
the sentence, for no one appeared willing to act as executioner. In the jail at 
Quebec was a man named Jacques Elie, who had been condemned to death 
for some offense committed at the siege of Port Royal in Acadia. Elie was 
promised a pardon for his crime if he would act as executioner of Tulipe and the 
latter was thus duly hanged on November 26, 1705. These were some of the 
cases the commandants were unable to deal with at home and sent to the higher 
courts at Montreal and Quebec for trial and disposition. 


Another class of cases, those involving the militaiy laws — disobedience to 
military orders, desertions and that class of cases, were attended to by the 
soldiers themselves and came before the commandant in his capacity of military 
officer and not as a civilian. 

There is a record of one of these early trials by court-martial. During the 
absence of Cadillac from the village in 1705, Bourgmont had charge of the post 
for a time. He misbehaved himself in various ways to such an extent that the 


citizens nearly rose in rebellion and the public indignation was so great that 
Bourgmont sought safety in flight. After Cadillac's return, he set about inves- 
tigating the matter and in 1707 sent an officer named Desane, with fifteen men, 
to hunt up and capture Bourgmont, Jolicoeur, and Bartellemy Pichon dit La 
Roze, all of whom were deserters, and who were then leading an abandoned life 
on the shores of Lake Erie. They were also commanded to bring with them 
a woman named Tichenet, who was then living a scandalous life with Bourgmont 
and who was, in part, the cause of Bourgmont's desertion. 

Apparently La Roze was the only deserter who was captured and he was 
tried by a court consisting of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Francois LeGautier, 
Sieur de la Vallee Derasie, Pierre D'Argenteuil, Guignolet Lafleudor and Fran- 
couer Brindamour. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced "a avoir la 
teste cassee jusque a se que mort sensuive," meaning that he should have his neck 
stretched until he was dead. The word "teste" in old French, for modern 
"tete," meaning the head, was applied in this case to the neck. This sentence 
was duly carried out in the garrison of the Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit 
November 7, 1707. No appeal was taken, nor was it possible that any could 
be. This was the first capital case in Detroit, but not the last one, for there 
were several others in later years. 


As there are no evidences of suits for small sums of money in the records 
of Montreal or Quebec, it is to be inferred that such cases were attended to 
at Detroit and by the commandant or some one deputed by him to attend to 
such matters. Occasionally some action of the commandant would be con- 
sidered so arbitrary and unjust that a complaint would be made to the Conseil 
Superieur for redress, as in the case of Louis Gastineau. 

This man had purchased a lot within the village enclosure of Cadillac in 
1707, but he did not improve it for some time. All the lots within the village were 
sold upon the understanding that a house would be erected upon them, and 
refusal or neglect to make the improvements worked a forfeiture of the title. 
Cadillac notified Gastineau of the breach of contract and posted a notice to 
that effect upon the church door, as was customary in cases of public notices. 
As Gastineau paid no attention to the notice, Cadillac attempted to take 
possession of the land. Gastineau appealed to the authorities at Quebec. An 
investigation was made and the council passed judgment in favor of Gastineau. 


In 1730, or about that time, Robert Navarre came to Detroit as sub-intendant 
and royal notary. He was a man of good education and soon attained to great 
importance in the village. He was church and village treasurer, surveyor, 
school teacher and general scrivener. 

Although there were no courts in Detroit under the French rule, the people 
never bowed abjectly to the rule of their superiors, but were always tenacious 
of their rights. Judge Campbell says, in his history: 

"The powers of La Mothe Cadillac could not have been less than those 
belonging to the highest feudal lordships of France. He asserted plenary power 
of justice, uncontradicted. But it was not necessary to establish tribunals of 
any kind as long as the settlers were confined to the fort and necessarily subject 
to the commanding officer's governance. There was usually in every post which 
was proprietary and not purely military, that indispensable official in a French 


settlement, a puljlic notary. Every public as well as private transaction was 
made in his presence as a solemn witness and recorded. The absence of any 
evidence that Detroit had such an officer in La Mothe's time shows that affairs 
were rudimentary. ' ' 

The appointment of Navarre to the post of Detroit would mark an era in 
legal i^roceedings if it were possible to obtain all the records that the officer 
kept. Not until recent years was even a part of these records discovered, but 
now a portion of them has been found, also there has been brought to light 
the public registry kept by Cadillac up to the time of his departure in 1711. 
The authority usually granted a notary permitted Navarre to act in the capacitj' 
of a judge or justice in certain cases; possessed of many well-known qualities 
in addition to the office of sub-intendant it is more certain that he acted in 
the capacity of judge during the entire period of French occupation from 1734 
until 1760. 

The complete absence of records in the two eastern Canadian capitals, 
^Montreal and Quebec, of Detroit's judicial affairs, supplies evidence that all 
of these matters were attended to locally, and that Navarre and the different 
commandants governed Detroit, in these particulars, without outside assistance. 
No matter of local importance was taken up and discussed without the approval 
of Navarre. He saw that the taxes were levied and collected. He collected 
the tithes and church du'es. He listened to the complaints of citizens against 
the increase of taxes or the unjust treatment of citizens by the officers. He 
was the judge between quarreling citizens and it was by his judgment that 
delinquents were forced to pay their just debts or become bankrupt. He was 
so universally liked and considered so just in his decisions that upon the sur- 
render of Detroit to the British in 1760 the latter concluded to retain Navarre 
in his office of notary. 

It was absolutely necessary to have all marriages performed by the village 
priest, and it appears almost as necessary that the ante-nuptial contract which 
was uniformly entered into bj' the parties should be drawn up by and executed 
before the notary and sub-intendant, Navarre. It might be stated that the 
Navarre family in later years supplied another judge, a direct descendant of 
the old notary in the person of Henry Navarre Brevoort, judge of the circuit 
court for Waj'ne County. 

The old French commandants, justices and other officers were originally 
buried in the old Ste. Anne cemetery, but were reinterred in later years intheMt. 
Elliott cemetery, where the graves have been practically obliterated. 

In 1760 Detroit was turned over by the French to the British. Judge Cooley 
says that the conquest of Canada was far from being either beneficial or agree- 
able to the conquered people. The French rule had l)ccn arbitrary and irre- 
sponsible and the English rule was not less so. 

"The British commander at once assumed supreme authority and for the 
purposes of the administration of justice created a series of military courts to 
which was given jurisdiction of all controversies, with no appeal in case of 
dissatisfaction, except to other military authorities, or to the commander him- 

In making this statement the historian is only partly correct. Almost the 
first act of Major Robert Rogers on his taking possession of Detroit in 1760 
was to retain Navarre in the position he had held so long. It is not, however, 
to be uiiderstdod that Navarre retained all the powei-s he had possessed under 


the French rule. He was employed more for political pm-poses and as an inter- 
mediary between the incoming English and the discontented French. 


The first judge, under English ride, was Philippe Dejean. It has been stated 
that Dejean was a bankrupt merchant from Montreal and that he came west 
to better his fortune by leaving his debts and creditors behind and starting a 
new life in an unknown country. Apparently he was a man well versed in 
forms of legal procedure, but it appears, also, that he was subservient to those 
in power and much inclined to do what was right or wrong without question, 
as requested by his superiors. 

Such actions made him a convenient tool, but not a respected citizen. The 
date of his appointment as notary and justice is not known, but it was several 
years after the coming of the English Philippe Dejean was a native of Toulouse, 
son of Philippe Dejean, who was counsellor of the king's presdial and seneschal 
court (an inferior court), and of Jeanne Bogue de Carberie, his wife. Philippe 
Dejean's (our judge) first wife was Marie Louisa Augier. His second wife was 
Theotiste St. Cosme, daughter of Pierre St. Cosme and Catherine Barrois, his 
wife. At the time of the second marriage (about July 25, 1778) Dejean had a 
son, Philip or Phillippe, aged four years, by the first marriage. From an article 
in the Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings it appears that Dejean 
was a friend of La Fayette. 


The public records of Detroit begin with this officer. It cannot now be 
determined whether these records appertained to the office of justice or notary, 
though they probablj* belong to the latter office. Dejean being both justice and 
notary, the records were in his possession and kept by him. The first few pages 
are filled with French documents that were evidently in possession of Navarre 
and antedated the British occupation. Then about 1767 commence the current 
records of the place. Deeds, notes of hand, contracts of various kinds, wills, 
marriage agreements and miscellaneous papers of all kinds were recorded. It 
was not a court docket, nor are there any evidences of law cases being carried on 
as we understand that kind of work. No judgments were rendered. There was 
no court for the probate of wills and it is difficult to tell just what effect the 
recording of a will among these records would have. 

In the record is the will of Peter Mclntyre of Toronto, April 21, 1768. He 
gives to George McBeath, merchant, a tract of land on the North River, above 
Albanj', two miles above Stillwater on the east side of the river, joining on a small 
river or creek now in charge of Archibald Campbell, Esq., containing two 
hundred and fifty acres, as will appear by the deed recorded by John Smith, 
notary public in New York. This will was witnessed by Obidiah Robins, Edward 
Chichester and P. Dejean, justice of the peace. 

Following this will is a deed of the same land by Mclntyre to McBeath for 
two hundred and thirty pounds. New York currency. There are several instances 
of where the notary dishonored commercial paper. These records contain many 
odd matters that may be of sufficient interest to be mentioned. A full descrip- 
tion would be out of place, but an occasional reference will give some idea of 
their contents. At this time Detroit was but a village, composed mostly of 
French habitants who were natives of the country, and a garrison of British 


soldiers. The Pontiac War, which broke out in 1763, ended the following year 
but confidence on the part of the English was not restored, for there was no love 
lost between the Indians and the English. The Scotch, Irish and English 
traders were rapidly supplanting the French, and the latter were moving out 
of the village to the adjacent farms which they owned. The tide of immigration 
that had set in at the coming of Rogers in 1760 was nearly suspended in 1764 
on account of the Indian troubles, but it gradually increased in the following 
years. The soldiers in the garrison were sufficient in number to protect the 
place and were paid by the government. The village was surrounded by a 
picket line that served as a protection against the Indians. This picket line 
was continuallj' in need of repairs and the burden of performing this work 
was the cause of levying taxes on citizens and farmers. Even the small amount 
necessary to be raised for this purpose seemed a heavy burden to bear, and 
both those living within and those living without the palisades grumbled at 
the cost and complained of the amount of the taxes. There was no fire depart- 
ment to support, no policemen to pay, no schools to be maintained. Such things 
were unheard of at that time. There was no Protestant church and no minister 
in the place, and if the Catholics were oppressed by the collection of tithes for 
their church, their remonstrances were never heard of outside the walls of 
Ste. Anne. There was no bank in the village and the larger trading houses 
issued and accepted drafts on the mercantile houses of Montreal as a means 
of transacting the business of exchange. These drafts were not always promptly 
paid and when dishonored the notary was called upon to protest the paper. 
One of these protested documents appears in the public records under the 
date of April 22, 1768. The order is drawn by Thomas Gale, of Sandusky, on 
Francis Stone, merchant, in favor of Obidiah Robins & Company for one hun- 
dred and twelve beavers in peltrj', one buck and one lot merchantable does and 
beavers, or in good merchantable beaver, it being for value received for a quan- 
tity of rum bought of them. Not being paid, Philip Dejean, notary and tabillion 
public, "protested the paper and recorded the protest with a footnote to the 
effect that the original of the bill was stolen from his office on April 21, at about 
9 o'clock in the nioi'ning." 


The next paper of interest is a deed from the great Indian warrior, Pontiac, 
to George Christian Anthon, of a parcel of land on the south side of the Detroit 
River, "for the good will which I bear and which is borne bj^ the whole of the 
Ottawa Nation unto the said Doctor George Christian Anthon". The interest 
of this deed centers on the parties to the conveyance. Pontiac was the great 
chief of the Ottawas, a determined enemy of the English, and one of the most 
important and enterprising Indians known to history. His name will always be 
connected with the story of the siege of Detroit and will appear on the pages of 
history with those of Brant, Tecumseh and Black Hawk. It is hard to under- 
stand how he could have come to like Doctor Anthon sufficiently to present him 
with a large tract of land eight hundred feet wide on the river, but probably the 
doctor had rendered some assistance to the Indian for which he was grateful. 

The name of Dr. George Christian Anthon is familiar to the generation of 
students who are now past middle age. He was a surgeon and plwsician in the 
British Armj' and was employed for some years in the garrison at Detroit. He 
was born in Germany, August 25, 1734 and came to New York as a British 


prisoner of war in 1757. His first visit to Detroit was with Major Rogers in 
1760. In 1761 he was appointed surgeon-mate in the Sixtieth Regiment of 
Royal Americans. He remained in Detroit until the retirement of Colonel 
Gladwin in 1764 and with the colonel he went to New York. He was again in 
Detroit in 1765, for the deed above mentioned is dated September Sth of that 
year. He did not remain long, but came again in 1767 and stayed until the close 
of the Revolutionary war. He was twice married, both times in Detroit and 
both times to members of the family of Na\'arre. 

His first wife was Mariana Navarre, who ched in 1773, leaving no children. 
His second wife was Genevieve Jadot, who was fifteen years of age at the time 
of her marriage to the Doctor in 1778. Of the issue of this marriage, three of 
his sons became prominent in after life. They were: John Anthon, a promin- 
ent lawyer in New York; Rev. Henry Anthon, rector of "St. Mark's in the 
Bowery"; and lastly the lexicographer. Prof. Charles Anthon, one of the most 
eminent Greek and Latin scholars that America has produced. 


Turning again to the old records we find the additional names of J. Bte. 
Campau and Gabriel LeGrand as notaries, and the latter also as judge ond jus- 
tice of the peace. It would seem that while the two offices might be combined 
in the same individual, their uniting was not a necessity and their powers and 
duties were dissimilar. Campau was a member of the old family by that name 
and had endeared himself to the Americans by furnishing the protection of his 
house to the soldiers who were surprised and stunned by the attack of the Indians 
at the battle of Bloody Run in 1763. He did not have much work to do as a 
notary, and the little he did was exclusively among the French citizens. Le- 
Grand was also emplo3'ed almost exclusively among the French people. He 
seems to have been incompetent for some reason and, not finding sufficient em- 
ployment in Detroit, he wandered off to Kaskaskia to reside, and there succeeded 
in getting the land titles so badly mixed up that the land commissioners made 
loud complaint of his inefficiencj-. These notaries drop out of sight in the village 
history, but the name of Dejean is carried along for manj' years. 


There is some evidence that prior to 1768 a court was appointed for the trial 
of pet tj' causes, for on page thirtj'-two of Volume "A" of these old records is 
a document reading as follows: 

"Detroit, May 23, 1768. 

"By order of George Turnbull, Esq., captain in the Second Battalion of His 
Majesty's Sixtieth Regiment, commandant of Detroit, of Phillipe Dejean, Esq., 
justice of the peace, in consequence of sundry complaints made against him, we, 
the undersigned subscribers, having duly heard and carefully examined into the 
grievances set forth by the said PhilHpe Dejean, Esq., are of opinion; 

"That the fees established by the committee appointed by Major Robert 
Bayard on the establishment of the court of justice at Detroit, are just and 
reasonable and ought not to be less. That every prisoner confined in the guard- 
house whether for debt or misdemeanor, shall, on his being set at liberty, pay 
one dollar, and everj- batteau or canoe arriving here loaded with merchandise 
belonging to any person or persons not possessing property, any lot, or building 
within the fort, shall pay two dollars, and the moneys ensuing from thence to 


be applied as in the time of the French government, to help keep in good and 
sufficient repair the fortifications around tliis town as will more fully appear on 
our former petition to Captain Turnbull for that purpose. 

"No person having appeared before us to make any complaint against said 
Phillipe Dejean with respect to his public office we are of the opinion that they 
are ill-founded and without cause." 

This document is signed by James Sterling, Colin Andrews, T. Williams, 
William Edgar, and John Robinson, all bearing English names, and Eustache 
Gamelin, St. Cosme, J. Cabasie, Cicot, F. Mollere and A. Barthe, representing 
the French population. Of the above names, James Sterling was a well-known 
trader and interpreter and the hero of the romance, "The Heroine of the Straits." 
Thomas Williams was the father of John R. Williams, the first elected mayor of 
Detroit. He was, in later years, a justice of the peace, and there is frequent 
mention of him later on. William Edgar was an extensive trader and for some 
time a member of the firm of ]Macomb, Edgar and IMacomb, the largest trading 
house in Detroit. He left Detroit during the Revolution, "sent down" as he 
was suspected of adherence to the United States. He afterwards returned to the 
West and settled in Illinois, where Edgar County is named after him. 

As Bayard was in command of the post in 1766, it is probable the court re- 
ferretl to as established by him was begun in that year. 


The first election of Detroit was held in 1768 and the public record of that 
event is as follows: 

"May 26, 1768. 

"We, the undersigned subscribers do vote for and unanimously approve of 
Phillipe Dejean to be judge and justice of the district of Detroit and its de- 

"Sam Tymes, John Steadman, David Edgar, Reaume, Hugh ^Mitchell, John 
Vicegerier, William Edgar, Isidore Chene, James Abbott, Colin Andrews, John 
Robinson, George McBeath, George Knaggs, Edward Pollard, James Casety, 
Benjamin James, Allan McDougall, John Farrell, Thomas Barber, H. Van 
Schaack, Thomas Williams, Richard McNeal, Thuner Vessecher, Jacob Lansing, 
Hugh Boyle, Samuel Kennedy, La Bute, Alex. Mercier, George Meldrum, 
Robert McWilliams, Louis Prigian." 

The qualifications necessary for the privilege of voting on the occasion 
are not given, nor does it appear that any questions were asked of the proposed 
voters. Everyone voted who wished to and was able to sign his name, and 
some voted who could not write. 

Some of the electors were prominently connected with Detroit in later 
years, such as James Abbott, who was the father of that James Abbott who 
lived on the site of the present Hammond Building, and was one of the early 
postmasters of Detroit; George Knaggs, the Indian fighter; James Casety, who 
in later years was a "rebel sympathizer" and was sent down to Quebec as 
a prisoner for that reason; Thomas Williams, referred to above, and George 
Meldrum, the owner of the Meldrum farm east of Meldrum Avenue and the 
ancestor of the Eberts family of the present Detroit. 

Citizens were apparently ignorant of our modern method of voting by 
secret ballot, and it would seem that the paper of which the above is a cop.v 
was drawn up and carried around for the signatures, and that the system of 


viva voce voting, which prevailed toward the end of the Eighteenth Century, 
was not in vogue in 1768. 

To make the election still more secure, a petition in French was also drawn 
up and sent to General Gage, to indicate the joy and satisfaction of all the people, 
both French and English, on the choice of Dejean as justice. This petition 
bears the names of Pierre Cosme, Stephen Lynch, Richard McNeal, Lachlan 
Mcintosh, Medard Gamclin, Dominique Labrosse, J. Poupard, Lafleur, J. M. 
Legare, E. Gamelin, Claude Campau, Joseph Rouget, Isadore J. Gagnier, Charles 
Moran, Barthe, Alarantet, Godet, Simon Campau, Antoine Gamelin and 

The names of petitioners and electors are given herein for the purpose of 
identifying the people of early Detroit with their descendants who are still 
here. Scarcely a name appears in these lists that cannot be traced to some 
family of the Detroit of the Twentieth Century. All of these papers, as well 
as the final approval of Major Baj-ard and the commission by Captain Turnbull, 
became the propertj' of Dejean and were preserved by him in the records he kept. 


The commission by Captain Turnbull is of interest to show the powers 
and duties of the justice, and is as follows: 

"By George Turnbull, Esqr. captain in Second battalion of his majesty's 
Sixtieth Regiment or Royal American Regiment, commandant of Detroit and 
its dependencies: To Phille Dejean, merchant at Detroit: 

"I do nominate and appoint you justice of the peace to enquire into com- 
plaints that shall come before you, for which purpose you are hereby authorized 
to examine by oath such evidence as shall be necessary that the truth of the 
matter may be known. 

"Provided always that you give no judgment or final award, but at their 
joint request, and which bj^ bond they agree between themselves to abide by, 
but settle the determination by arbitration, which they are likewise to give 
their bond to abide by each, and if they cannot agree and have named two 
only, you are a third, and if four, a fifth, and their determination to be approved 
by me before put into execution. 

"I further authorize and empower you to act as chief and sole notary and 
tabillion by drawing all wills, deeds, etc., proper for the department, the same 
to be done in English only, and I also appoint you sole vendue master as may 
happen here in the accustomed and usual manner. 

"Given under my hand and seal at Detroit this 24th day of April, 1767. 


It will be seen that the powers of the justice were very limited and con- 
sisted of little more than the ability to administer oaths to witnesses and to 
appoint the odd member of a court of arbitration. Seemingly there was no- 
where vested any authority to carry an award into effect unless the military 
arm of the commandant was used for that purpose. Attached to the foregoing 
commission is an authorization from Major Bayard which explains duties of 
the justice and the object in appointing him. It is as follows: 

"Whereas, it had been represented to me by the trading people and others 
residing at Detroit, that some temporary form of justice for the recovery of 
debts has become absolutely necessary, and having taken this matter into con- 
sideration and finding the utility of such an establishment, I have accordingly 


granted them a temporary court of justice to be held twice in everj' month at 
Detroit, to decide all actions of debt, bonds, bills, contracts, and trespasses 
above the sum of five pounds, New York currency, and confiding in Phillippe 
Dejean for his uprightness and integrity, I do hereby nominate and appoint him 
the second judge of the said court of justice at Detroit. 

"Given under my hand and seal at Detroit this 20th day of July, 1767. 

"Robert Baj'ard, 
"Major-Commander of Detroit." 

There has been some speculation as to the meaning of the term "second 
judge" and Judge James V. Campbell, in his political history, is inclined to 
think that the commandant considered himself, on all occasions, as the first 
judge, and that consequently Dejean was inferior judicially to that officer, 
whoever he might be. 

The instructions to Judge Dejean to keep his records in English were totally 
disregarded. He was qualified to record in both French and English, and he 
employed the language he was requested to use by the parties to the convey- 
ances. The records soon came to include transfers of real estate almost ex- 
clusively, and by the year 1769 the recording of personal transactions nearly 
ceased. Occasionally, however, miscellaneous papers and other documents 
of a more general historical nature reached the hands of the judge and were 
entered in his records. 


An instance of this nature occurs in the records for 1769. In order to under- 
stand this entry it will be necessary to return to the year 1763, at the outbreak 
of the Pontiac War. One of the very first depreciations committed by the Indians 
was the destruction of the houses on Belle Isle and the murder of the family 
of Mr. James Fisher, who was residing there. After the war was over one Jean 
Myer accused Alexis Cuillerier of drowning the child of Mr. Fisher on that 
occasion. At the time these accusations were made there was no civil or criminal 
court organized at Detroit capable of trying such a case, and moreover the 
evidence was not very conclusive; and then Cuillerier was the brother of 
Angelique Cuillerier, who had divulged Pontiac's conspiracy to Major Gladwin, 
and she was the wife of James Sterling, an influential trader in the post and 
military storekeeper. 

All of these things served to assist Cuillerier in escaping a severe puni.shment 
for his crime and, instead of sending him to Montreal for trial or trying him in 
Detroit by a militarjr tribunal, the commandant expelled him from the village 
and banished him from the community. AfTairs -afterward took on a different 
aspect for Cuillerier. Several witnesses appeared and testified in his behalf, 
and from the testmony of some of the inhabitants "concerning the infamous 
character of that perjured villain, Jn. Myer, who has since given himself a 
very glaring and but too strong proof of said testimony bj^ premeditatedly 
murdering James Hill Clark, trader at the Maumee River," Cuillerier was 
declared to be found innocent of the crime charged to him and was recalled 
from banishment by Captain George Turnbull, June 4, 1769. Captain Turnbull 
did not act in this affair until the entire facts had been laid before General 
Gage and the consent of the latter had been obtained. If Myer was accused 
of murder, he must have l:)ccn taken to Montreal for trial, for no note of 
his arrest or trial occurs in connection with thes(> records. 



An entry made March 13, 1773, but dated January 22, 1772, shows one of 
the prerogatives retained by the commandant. It has been stated that there was 
no court of probate at Detroit, nor does it appear that the probate com't at Mon- 
treal had jurisdiction over this territory at that date. Of course, people left 
estates to be disposed of, and the proper application of the assets of a decedent 
was a matter of interest, not only to creditors and heirs, but to officials who had 
the welfare of the people in their charge. 

In the estate of M. and Madam Chabert, both deceased, the commandant 
appointed Messrs. Navarre, Cicot, Lieutenant Abbott and Mr. Macomb ap- 
praisers to make an inventory of the estate for the benefit of the creditors. 
The warrant is in French and the appraisers apparently understood that lang- 
uage. Every citizen of that day must have been able to talk with the natives 
in order to carry on business. The appraisers were all well-known citizens. 
Navarre, the notary, and Cicot, the trader, were too well known to necessitate 
the introduction of their first name. Lieutenant Abbott was the Edward Abbott 
who, at a later date, was appointed lieutenant-governor of Vincennes, one of the 
three lieutenant-governors appointed by the British during the Revolution, the 
two othiers being Pat. Sinclair at Mackinac and Henry Hamilton at Detroit. 
There were three men bearing the name of Macomb; John Macomb and his two 
sons, Wlliam and Alexander. The one mentioned here is Alexander Macomb. 
The inventory was a very long one and included every object of value about the 

The want of courts and of a proper custodian to care for the property induced 
the creditors to petition the commandant to take the matter into his hands for 
their protection. Their petition reads as follows; 

"Detroit, 24th Jany., 1773. 
"We, the subscribers, being the principal creditors at this place of the late 
Mr. and Mrs. Chabert, on finding the above effects exposed to accidents of fire, 
thieves, etc., and there being no person to take care of the same, most humbly 
beg that you will be pleased to order them to be vendued as soon as possible, and 
have the moneys arising therefrom lodged in safety until you may judge proper 
to order a distribution to be made thereof, and with much respect. 

"Sir, your most obedient and humble servants. 
"William Edgar, 
"James Sterling, 
"George Meldrum, 
"Andrews and Meldrum, 
"For Campbell and Elice and Porteous, 
"P. Dejean. 
"To Major Henry Basset, Commandant at Detroit." 
In connection with the matter of the probate of wills, there were two wills 
brought to light b.y the late Mr. John V. Moran, who came across them in the 
family papers belonging to his father, the late Judge Charles Moran. 

The first is the will of Joseph Chapoton, a youth who had reached an age 
when he was dependent upon his own exertions for a living {garcon emancipe 
d'age). It is dated March 7, 1761 and begins with the statement that it is made 
before the royal notary at Detroit and witnesses. It is not signed. It was not 
probated and bears the approval of comparisons several years later, 1776, of P. 


Dcjcan, notary. The testator was a brother-in-law of Gabriel Lcgrand, and the 
brother of Magdelaine Chapoton, Legrand's wife. 

The other will is that of Magdelaine Chapoton, wife of Gabriel Legrand, who 
is here described as a surgeon {Chirurgien). This will is not dated. The testa- 
trix declared she was unable to sign her name and that the declaration is made 
under the ordinance of 1762. This will is signed by two notaries, Navarre and 
J. Bte. Campau, and is subsequently, February 1, 1776, compared or approved 
by Dejean. The will is not otherwise proved or probated. 

The notary, Navarre, in this and in many other cases neglects to attach his ' 
first name, laboring under the impression, perhaps, that he was too important to 
be mistaken for any other individual. 

Magdelaine Chapoton was married to Gabriel Christoph Legrand, sieur de 
Sintre, about 1758 and died January 5, 1763. There is a deed dated September 
2, 1772, by James Abbott and James Rankin, executors of William Graham, de- 
ceased, to Gregor McGregor, conveying a lot on Ste. Anne Street, in the fort of 
Detroit, on the corner of St. Peter Street. The deed is also executed by Eliza- 
beth Graham, the widow of the deceased, and is in the form of modern deeds, 
except that it is not acknowledged. 

On page twenty-three of volume B of the old records is an evidence of the 
attempt of Dejean to usurp the office of probate judge. It seems that in 1769 
Alexis Chapoton made his will, in the presence of the judge and of Nicolas 
Lorain and Nicolas Perot; that subsequentl.v Chapoton went to New Orleans, 
which is "situated on the river more than 10 leagues below Natches", and there 
died. His will was opened in the presence of Pierre St. Cosme and Jean Bte. 
Campau, and was admitted as a valid will by Judge Dejean at the request of 
Jean Bte. Chapoton, January 29, 1777. 

The form of French conveyances is somewhat different. Under the French 
custom, the parties all appeared before the notary and he wrote out the agree- 
ment at their request and those who could write, attached their signatures. An 
explanation was made by the notarj' in case of illiteracy of any one or more of 
the parties. There were no witnesses other than the notary, and no acknowledg- 
ment was taken as in modern conveyances. 


The instructions to the justice in his appointment specified that, before he 
should proceed to the trial of any cause, there should be arbitrators appointed 
to decide the points in dispute and the contestants should agree to abide bj- the 
decision of the arbitrators and should enter into a bond containing these condi- 
tions. No instance has been found where a case was disposed of, or a dispute 
settled, without this arbitration, but in the case of Cabassier vs. Laferte, in 1773, 
the records disclose that Laferte refused to sign the bond that had been drawn 
up as preliminary to the arbitration. 


It has been mentioned above that before a marriage took place between mem- 
bers of the old French families a marriage contract was usually entered into 
between the contracting parties. This was a civil contract, wholly aside from 
the marriage itself, and related to the property which the parties had at the time 
of the marriage, and which they might thereafter accumulate. It was somewhat 
like the provisions of the coutume de Paris. The property that belonged to the 


husband and wife, both that which was theirs before marriage and that whicia 
was subsequently accumulated, should, upon the death of either, go to the sur- 
vivor upon the payment of the debts of the deceased. The survivor took in it 
only an estate for life. At the death of the survivor this property passed on to 
the children equally. It was, however, always the privilege of the survivor to 
refuse to take under this provision and then the survivor could take only such 
propertj' as he or she had brought into the community at the time of the mar- 
riage. The justice of this provision is quite apparent. The husband might be 
so heavily in debt at the time of his decease as to quite strip the wife of all of her 
property, and it would be no more than equitable that if she gave up all the 
property that her husband had before marriage, as well as what they had ac- 
cumulated jointly after marriage, she could claim and hold all that which she 
brought with her at the marriage. It was a marriage contract of this nature 
that Laferte had entered into and undertook to repudiate. Laferte and Cabas- 
sier were near neighbors. 

They both lived on St. Louis Street in the village and their farms adjoined 
each other on the Detroit River at the present Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets. 
Cabassier told his troubles to the commandant and the proper bond was drawn 
up and two of the arbitrators were chosen, Medard Gamelin and A. Barthe. 
When it was ascertained that Laferte refused to sign the bond and proceed with 
the arbitration, the arbitrators drew up a formal notice of the fact, signed it 
themselves and had it witnessed by a number of prominent citizens — J. M. 
Legras, John Porteous, St. Martin, J. A. Portier, Pierre Gamelin, George 
McDougal, Z. Veauchers and B. Chapoton, and put it upon the public records 
as an evidence of bad faith on the part of Laferte, and as a warning to others 
to beware of dealing with a man who repudiated his agreements and then refused 
to arbitrate the matters in dispute. At this long distance it is impossible to tell 
what the result of this protest was, but apparently it brought the delinquent 
to time, for the matter does not again appear in the records. 

The marriage contract is too long to be given here, but in substance it is 
as follows: It is dated September 21, 1771; the contracting parties were Louis 
Veziere dit Laferte, son of Pierre Veziere and of Marie Ann Leclaire, his wife, 
of the one part, and Catherine L'Esprit, daughter of the late Claude L'Esprit 
dit Champagne, and of Angelique Bienvenue, his wife, of the other part. The 
father of the bride being dead, her stepfather, Joseph Cabassier, represented 
her on this occasion. All the relatives and friends of both parties joined in the 
agreement in evidence of the good faith of the proceedings. Louis agreed to 
take Catherine for his wife as soon as possible, and at the request of either 
party. All the property they possessed should be held in common, according 
to the couteime de Paris. Neither party was holden for the debts of the other 
contracted befoi-e marriage. The property of Louis, at that time, was estimated 
at ten thousand livres (a livre was worth from twenty to twenty-five cents of 
American money, though it must be understood that more could be purchased 
with money at that time than at present). He gave his expectant wife three 
thousand livres as a "prefix dower." This sum was to be hers if she survived 
her husband and had children living at that time. If there were no children, 
she was to have fifteen thousand livres. If, at the date of her husband's death, 
she desired to renounce the community of property, she was to take all the 
property she brought to the marriage, as well as all estate that might come 
to her by inheritance. 

Vol. 1—12 


The property of Catherine consisted of a farm two and a half arpents wide, 
on the north side of the Detroit River, on which was a new house and an orchard, 
and one half of certain sites in the village. After the marriage had taken place, 
some question arose as to the terms of the settlement, and Laferte and his 
wife demanded a settlement of the accounts of Cabassier, as guardian for Cath- 
erine. Cabassier refused, or neglected, to make the accounting and without 
delay appealed his case to the commandant, Major Basset. 

The entire family was now broken into factions and a great quarrel ensued 
The witnesses to the marriage contract were summoned to testify to the circum- 
stances connected with the signing of the agreement and to the fraud that 
Laferte claimed was played upon him on that occasion by Cabassier. Major 
Basset finally directed Cabassier to make an inventory of all property he held 
Iselonging to his ward and he was compelled to account for the entire amount. 

The renunciation of the community of goods by a widow was not uncommon. 
One such instance is shown in the record on August 12, 1774, where Agathe 
Laselle, widow of the late Hyacinthe Reaume, finding the acceptance of the 
community more onerous than profitable, refused to take it. The refusal was 
duly drawn up in the pi-esence of the notary and witnessed by William Edgar 
and Jehu Hay. 


In a country inhabitated by peace loving citizens who are without laws 
other than of their own making the method of arbitration is the only means by 
which substantial justice can be done to all parties. It is the primitive form of 
administering justice where all people are equal and mean to be honest. 

Another instance of this method of settling disputes occurred in November 
of this same year, 1773. John Steadman, who lived at the carrying place at 
Niagara, was the owner of a lot situated in the barrack yard, called the citadel, 
in Detroit. He sold the lot to Alexander and William Macomb for five hundred 
and fifty pounds. He described his land, in his deed, as containing eighty feet 
front and rear by one hundred feet in depth, bounded on the east northeast 
by the stockade and on the west southwest by a lot belonging to Duperon Baby. 
After the sale was made the purchasers ascertained that the commandant, 
Captain George Turnbull, had taken some ten feet from the parcel in the citadel 
for the purpose of opening a public alley. Steadman was called upon to pay 
for the parcel taken for the alley, or the resultant damages. Without waiting 
for the appointment of the tribunal of formal arbitrators, Steadman himself 
appointed "James Sterling, John Porteous and George McDougall, or anj^ 
other thi'ee impartial persons, to examine what loss the said Macombs may have 
sustained by the want of that piece of ground." He agreed to pay whatever 
the land was found to be worth. 


While upon the subject of the stockade and baiTacks, an interesting circum- 
stance is disclosed by a paper on file in the Dominion archives at Ottawa. It 
relates to William Forsyth, who was a tavern-keeper at the time noted. His 
wife's name was Ann. She had been married twice before becoming the wife of 
Forsyth. Her first husband was a Mr. Haliburton, chaplain in the first regiment, 
and her daughter, Alice, the only child of the marriage, married first to Sampson 
Fleming and secondly to Nicholas Low of New York. Ann's second husband 


was a Mr. Kinzie, or McKinzie, and the only issue of this marriage was John 
Kinzie, the first white man in Chicago. By her third marriage, with William 
Forsyth, she had six sons, who became heads of families important in the annals 
of Detroit and in militarj' affairs of our government. The paper referred to 
reads as follows: 

"The Humble Petition and Memorial of William Forsj^th, Tavern Keeper 
at Detroit. 


"That your petitioner has served his Majesty fourteen years in the Sixtyeth 
Regiment of Foot, and in several campaigns along with your Excellency until 
the Reduction of Canada took place, where he was wounded in thi'ee places, 
which rendered him unfit for future service^ but was long confined bj' sickness, 
and a great expense in his recovery of the said wounds, and being unable to 
gain his livelihood by hard labor, he built a Ball Alley in this town, in the year 
One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-six, with the sanction and permLssion 
of Major Averum, then commandant of this post, which cost three hundred 
and eighty-one pounds of New York currency. 

"That when Captain Mann arrived here it was thought to obstruct the 
fortifications and was of consequence ordered to be pulled clown without allow- 
ing any consideration and the loss it became to your petitioner, who has now a 
large family to support and which reduces his circumstances. 

"Wherefore, your petitioner humbly prays that your excellency taking the 
merits of his service, his loss and the situation of his family unto consideration, 
will be pleased to order that your petitioner may in some manner be reimbursed 
for the said loss of Three Hundred and Eighty-one pounds or such part as to 
your Excellency may seem meet. 

"And your petitioner will ever pray, 


"Detroit, 2nd August, 1789." 

The citadel referred to, and for the enlargement of which the ball alley was 
pulled down, was erected just to the west of the old picket line of the post. 
The first portion of it was built by Israel Putnam in 1764. It extended from 
the present Jefferson Avenue in a northerly direction a considerable distance. 
It was nearly triangular in shape, surrounded by high pickets and the easterly 
side was the picket line of the village. It held all the troops until after Fort 
Lernoult was completed in 1779. During the Revolution it was used as a prison- 
or detention room for prisoners of war brought here from the Ohio region. 


The boundary lines of the farms were a source of many disputes and com- 
plaints became so common that the commandant made an appointment which 
read as follows: 

"By Henry Basset, Esqr. Major of His Majesty's Tenth Regiment, Com- 
mandant of Detroit and its Dependencies: 

"In consequence of the repeated complaints made by several of the inhalj- 
itants that their neighbors have encroached on their farms, and that they do 
not actually possess the quantity specified in the primitive grants, and for 
which they pay the quit rents to His Majesty, Mr. James Sterling, being an ex- 
perienced and approved surveyor, I have appointed him king's surveyor at 


Detroit, and for the future his surveys only shall be looked upon as valid and 
decisive, and all whom it maj' concern are hereby ordered to conform thereto. 

"Given under my hand and seal at Detroit, 21st, April, 1774. 

"Major and Commandant." 

While this commission does not, in itself, give the surveyor any judicial 
authority, it probably was received by the people as conferring it. Sterling 
was a prominent citizen in the place. He had come to Detroit as early as 1763 
and perhaps even before that date. He had married Angelique Cuillerier, a 
daughter of Antoine Cuillerier, one of the oldest French citizens, and his con- 
stant association with the Canadians had won for him their respect and con- 
fidence. He not onl3' understood their language, but he was an interpreter 
between the English and the Indians. He was a trader, sm-veyor, collector 
of public revenues, and military store-keeper. 


Toward the end of 1767, Sir Guy Carleton sent a memorial to Lord Shelburne 
concerning the legal situation of Canada. The memorial is quite long and a 
short summary of its contents onl.y shall be given here. The people of Canada, 
he wrote, are not Britons, but Frenchmen who were brought up under laws very 
different from those followed in England; that on the mutation of lands by 
sale they established fines to the king instead of quit rents. Fines and dues 
w'ent to the seigneur and he was obliged to grant his lands at a very low rental. 
This system established subordination from the first to the lowest and preserved 
internal harmony until the British arrived. All this was changed in an hour 
and overturned by the ordinance of 1764. The laws introduced in this ordinance 
were unpublished and unsuited to these people, and the ordinance ought to be 
repealed at once. The greatest complaint arises from the delaj' in hearing 
causes and the heavy expense of the trials. Formerly the king's com-t sat once 
a week at Quebec, Montreal and Three Rivers. From these courts an appeal 
could be taken to the council that sat once a week. Fees were very small and 
decisions immediate. Now the council sits three times a year at Montreal 
and has introduced all the chicanery of Westminster hall into this improverished 

Carleton suggested the adoption of the old Canadian laws with such alter- 
ations as time might render advisable. A judge should reside at each of the 
places above named, with a Canadian assistant, to sit at least once a month. 
None of the judges or other officers of court should receive an.y fee, reward 
or present from the people, but should depend soleh- on a salary. Officers 
should be versed in the French language. Sir Guy, to expedite matters, proposed 
not to await the action of parliament, but to pass an ordinance of the council 
of Canada which would put into force the old French laws so far as the tenures 
and inheritance of land, the making of deeds, mortgages and wills, but the 
ordinance proposed by him was never enacted and indeed there is no evidence 
that it was ever submitted to the council for action. This was the political 
situation of Detroit and of all Canada (for Detroit was first included in Canada 
at this time) in the year 1774. 

General James Murray was appointed governor over the province of Quebec 
December 7, 1763. The governor was empowered to appoint courts of judicature 
and justice with the advice and consent of the assemblv or council. The historj' 


of Canada does not indicate that Murray or his successor, Carleton, ever under- 
took to establish a system of judiciary in Detroit or over the western country. 
Sir Guy Carleton (afterwards Lord Dorchester) was the governor until 
after the outbreak of the Revolution, and during the period from 1760 until 1774 
Detroit was omitted from the country supposed to be governed by any legal 
authority. It is very hard to determine just how the country was looked upon 
by the British. The village was under militarj' authority always, and the troops 
stationed in the garrison were subject to the military authorities of Canada. 


In 1774 there was introduced and passed in parliament the act commonly 
known as the "Quebeck act." During the passage of this act Carletoii was 
summoned before a committee of the house of parliament to testify regarding 
affairs in the province of Quebec, and from his testimony it may be ascertained 
how little was known in England of the geography of America. Carleton said 
that the officers of justice should proceed farther into the interior of the govern- 
ment than they had and that he did not understand that the country as far as 
the Ohio was ever under the government of Quebec. He was then asked to in- 
form the committee whether Detroit and Michigan were under the govern- 
ment. He replied, "Detroit is not under the government; Michigan is under 
it. There is very little inconvenience in governing them, for this reason — there 
are very few Europeans settled there. I do not know the settlement of Detroit 
verj' accurately. It has been established for some time. The intendant had 
delegates up there, but there was very little business." 

Detroit, he stated, was not under civil government, and Lord North, in 
the debates on the same subject, stated that the distant military posts were 
without any government other than that of the respective commanding officers. 
It is possible that this ignorance of the geography of the country was the reason 
that Detroit was excluded from the boundaries of the province of Quebec in 
the proclamation of 1763 and was consequently omitted from civil government. 

The Quebec Act extended the boundaries of Quebec southward to the banks 
of the Ohio and northward to the boundary of the Hudson's Bay Company, so 
that Detroit, for the first time, now came within the limits of the civil courts of 
Great Britain. The right of trial by jury in civil cases was not provided in the 
Act, but the ancient civil laws of France were to be followed. The criminal law 
of England was adopted. 


In 1773 there was laid before parliament a draft of an act for the government 
of Quebec which recited a law enacted in 1745, under the French regime, designed 
to prevent the division of farms into small parcels by allotment between the 
children of a decedent land owner. This act provided that no dwelling house or 
stable of stone or wood should be built upon any parcel of land of less extent 
than an arpent and a half in front bj' thirty arpents in depth or containing less 
than forty-five French arpents (or English acres). If any building was erected 
upon any smaller parcel, the owner should pay a fine of one hundred livres, equal 
to four pounds ten shillings, and the building should be destroyed. The English 
act, to attain the same ends, provided that the oldest son or daughter should 
inherit to the exclusion of all the other children. 

The object of these provisions was to leave the ancestral home undivided and 


compel every other nieinber of the family to ?eek a new parcel of land and thus 
bring more land under cultivation and prevent the people from living in a " mean, 
scanty and wretched manner upon small pieces of land which are hardly suffi- 
cient to maintain them." The plan thus presented was not adopted or enacted 
for the government of Canada, but, practically, at the death of an ancestor his 
property was divided equally between his children. 

The ancient Freijch law was carried out in another way. Upon the death of 
a land owner, the ancestral home, if .small, was taken by some one of the children, 
who paid to his brothers or sisters a sum equal to the share of each in the home 
propertj', and thus the ownership of that parcel was retained in the hands of one 
person without division. Numerous instances of this nature could be cited, but 
only one, that of Jean Baptiste Beaubien, will be given here. 

In this case the ancestor, Jean Baptiste Beaubien, held a large tract of land 
on what are now Beaubien and St. Antoine Streets. Upon his death it was con- 
cluded that the farm was too large to be owned by one son, and so it was divided 
liy a line running northerly from the river the entire length of the farm, three 
miles, and one portion allotted to Lambert Beaubien and the other to Antoine 
Beaubien, two of the sons. 

There were many other children in the family and to each of these was given 
a sum of money or other property by Antoine and Lambert, in satisfaction of 
their interests in this farm. 

Another and quite usual method of preventing a division of the home at the 
death of the ancestor was for one of the .sons or sons-in-law to enter into an agree- 
ment W'ith the parents or ancestors to maintain and keep them for life upon con- 
dition that at their death the property would belong to the ones giving the sup- 
port. There are many of these agreements on record, but the one best known 
is that of Gabriel Chene farm. 

This farm was owned by Jean Baptiste Campau and when he became aged 
he entered into a contract with his son-in-law, Gabriel Chene, to care for him for 
life, and upon his death Chene \vas to have the farm. This land is located at t he 
present Chene Street. There was some dispute betw-een Chene and the children 
of Campau as to whether Chene had carried out his agreement, and the courts 
were appealed to, with the result that Chene's rights were fully confirmed and 
the complete title vested in him. 


Sir Guy Carleton was the first governor under the Quebec act and in the letter 
of instructions to him, January 3, 1775, he was directed to establish a court of 
king's bench, for the trial of criminal cases, and in order that more speedy justice 
might be administered he was directed to divide the province into two districts, 
to be named Quebec and Montreal, and in each of the said districts there should 
l3e a court of common pleas to determine all civil suits. In each of said courts 
there should be three judges, two of whom should be natural born subjects of 
Great Britain and one Canadian, also one sheriff in each district. There should 
also be inferior coiu'ts of criminal and civil jurisdiction "in each of the districts 
of the Illinois, St. Vincenne, Detroit, IMissillimackinac and Gaspee, by the name 
of the king's bench for such district." 

The judge of this court was to be an English-born subject, but he was to have 
a Canadian as an assistant to give advice when necessary. Tiiev liad authority 
in civil and criminal cases, as the judges of the common pleas iiad in othrr places. 


"excepting only that in cases of treason, murder or other capital felonies the said 
judges shall have no other authority than that of arrest and commitment to the 
gaols of Quebec, or of Montreal, where alone offenders in such cases shall be tried 
before our chief justice." 

It was many years before any judge was appointed at Detroit as directed by 
these instructions. This delay was doubtlessly due to the outbreak of the Revo- 
lution and the consequent disarrangement of British plans. Carleton was di- 
rected to appoint a superintendent at Detroit and some of the other western 
posts, but not to permit other settlements to be established, as they excited the 
enmity of the savages. As an annual budget the governor was permitted to pay 
the lieutenant-governor or superintendent at Detroit two hundred pounds per 
year, but this sum was saved for some time, for the first lieutenant-governor of 
Detroit was not appointed until several years after this, and before such appoint- 
ment the salary was increased to five hundred pounds. Purchases of land from 
the Indians were forbidden, except in cases where the entire Indian nation made 
the grant at a general meeting and consent to the transfer was given by the entire 


It has already been noted that there was no bank at Detroit and that the 
more extensive traders performed the work of bankers for their customers, but 
this work did not supply the place of banks of issue. There was alwa3's a dearth 
of bills, paper money, specie and fractional currency. Hard money could not 
be obtained in sufficient quantities to carry on business properly and some of the 
the merchants issued personal bills to aid the storekeepers. The commandant, 
on one occasion at least, issued a number of these bills, which passed for money 
for some time. When these bills came in from their use thej' were redeemed and 
destroyed. There are several items in old account books of this and of later 
periods, showing that these bills were taken care of in this manner. In the ar- 
chives at Washington some of their paper money can be found, which was pre- 
pared but never actually issued. During the Revolution and under an earlier 
date, September 17, 1774, the following entry is made in the records. 

"Received from James Sterling, Esq., 43 pounds 8 shillings, New York cur- 
rency in Major Henry Bassett's current bills, which I have burnt in presence of 
the said James Sterling, conformable to Major Henry Bassett's instructions. 

"Bills, one at 112 £5 12 

"Bills, two at 100 10 12 

"Bills, six at 60 IS 

"Bills, nine at 20 9 

"Bills, two at 8 16 

£43 8 

"R. B. Lernoult, 
"Capt. comman't at the Detroit." 


It was long difficult to determine how, in the absence of courts, of lawyers, 
and of civil officers, debts secured by mortgages could be collected. Two cases 
of this kind occurred in the year 1774, which indicates the method employed 
at that time. Perhaps the plan was not legal, but if it was not, it was certainly 
practicable in these instances. 


The first case was that of a mortgage made by Charles Aiuh'e Barthe to 
Rankin and Edgar, on a piece of land on the border of Lake St. Clair, in Grosse 
Point e. 

The second case was another mortgage made by Charles Andre Barthe to 
Daniel Campbell, a merchant of Schenectady, and to Messrs. Rankin and 
Edgar, merchants of Detroit, on a farm known in recent j'ears as the Brush 
farm, then described as being two arpents front by eighty arpents deep, bounded 
on the east by the lands of Jean Baptiste Beaubien and on the west bj^ the 
"Domaine du Roy." 

Default having been made in the payment of these mortgages, Phillipe 
Dejean, justice of the peace, sold both parcels at public auction to Jean Askin 
the first parcel bringing one hundred pounds. New York currency, and the 
latter two hundred and fifty-five pounds. As an evidence that the sales were 
considered perfectly legal and valid, one only needs to know that the last 
described parcel of land has, since the date of that sale, remained in the posses- 
sion and ownership of said Askin and his descendants. A daughter of John 
Askin became the wife of Elijah Brush, who was the father of Edmund A. 
Brush, and his grand-daughter is Mrs. Frelinghausen, of New York. As Mr. 
Barthe was the father of Mrs. John Askin, we have a parcel of land the title to 
which has remained in one family for six successive generations. 


An earlier case, under the French regime, of a proceeding .similar to a fore- 
closure, occurred in 1748. Hyacinth Reaume and Agatha La Salle, his wife, 
were the owners of a farm of eighty arpents, which was mortgaged to Robert 
Leserre. Reaume also owed various other debts which he was unable to pay. 
He petitioned the French commandant, Joseph Lemoine, sieur de Longueuil, 
for permission to sell the property, and the latter ordered the notarj^, Navarre, 
to proceed with a sale and devote the proceeds to paying first, the mortgage, 
and then the other del)ts of Reaume. The proclamation of sale was made 
during four different days, in all the streets of the fort, by St. Sauveur, the 
drummer of the garrison. The first proclamation was made on Monday after 
Pentecost, June 3, 1748; the second on Tuesday, the second feast of Pentacost, 
June 4, 1748, and continued on Wednesday, the fifth day of the same month, 
and put off until Sunday, June 9th, on which day the farm was sold by order 
of the commandant to Claude L'Esprit dit Champagne, for one thousand and 
six livres. This sale cannot be deemed a foreclosure, for it was made at the 
request of the owners and not at the instance of the mortgagee. The deed of 
conveyance is sign d l)y the royal notary, Navarre, and is approved by the 
commandant, l)ut it is not signed Ijy the Rcaumcs, nor is it witnessed. 


The articles of capitulation — indeed, every official paper of the period — 
concedes the fact that the citizens were all French, and all Catholic, that they 
were entitled to their property and to maintain their religion. With the intro- 
duction of the new English citizens, it was hoped that the time would shortly 
come when English laws might be introduced and steps were constantly taken 
with this ol)ject in view. 

There were no pul^lic schools, so that the Canadians could not be instructed 
in tile new language through this medium. There were public records to be 


kept and we have alreadj' seen that the register of Detroit, Dejean, was directed 
to keep them in the EngHsh language. The directions to Dejean to use Enghsh 
in his records were given by a military commandant. The use of the English 
language was not required by any statute. 

For many years, even as late as 1820, it was no unusual matter in Detroit 
to call juries composed in half of English-speaking jurors and half of French- 

The most important subj ect of discussion in parliament concerning the govern- 
ment of Canada was how to treat the new subjects fairly, and yet proceed to 
make Englishmen of them without letting them know of the change. By 
Detroit is not meant the present city, but the surrounding country, which at 
that time was quite thickly settled and had a population, on both sides of the 
river, of several hundred Canadian farmers and traders. Although Detroit 
was the most important settlement in the new portion of the province, very 
little information can be derived from the printed histories regarding the place 
or of the methods used in governing it. The population of the Detroit district 
in 1773 was 1,367 and in 1782 was 2,191, as will be detailed later. 

According to the treaty of 1763 and Bell's map of that date, the territory 
around Detroit was not located in any of the provinces or colonies known at 
that date. The Colony of Virginia extended westerly in a straight line to the 
Mississippi. The territory west of Pennsylvania, and north of Virginia, includ- 
ing all of the Great Lakes, and extending northerh^ to Lake Nipissing, was 

We know that the English people in general were ignorant of the geography 
of this part of the country and we have seen that Lord Dorchester, though 
governor of the Canadian possessions, did not know of the location of Detroit 
and Michigan, though he certainly knew of the existence of Detroit, for soldiers 
had been sent both here and to Michilimackinac. and these places were then 
occupied bj^ British garrisons. 


The articles of capitulation of Quebec are dated September 18, 1759. One 
of the provisions of these articles was that citizens were not to be disturbed in 
their property rights until a definite treaty was signed between England and 
France. It was nearly a year before Montreal capitulated and the articles 
there entered into were dated September 8, 1760. It was in pursuance of the 
terms of the agreement then entered into that Maj. Robert Rogers took possession 
of Detroit a few weeks later. 

It was provided in the Montreal agreement that if Canada, by the definite 
treaty of peace, should be restored to France, all officers should be returned to 
their respective places and the capitulation should be null and void. If Canada 
should remain to Great Britain, the French people who decided to remain in 
Canada should become British subjects and should retain their own property- 
and be permitted to exercise their own religion, but be governed in their property 
rights by the laws, customs and usages theretofore established in Quebec. 


The final treaty was concluded at Paris February 10, 1763 and France ceded 
to Great Britain all of her possessions in Canada. In pursuance of this treaty- 


a proclamation was issued October 7, 1763, establishing the Province of Quebec, 
having a governor, council, and assembly, with authority to pass laws and 
ordinances agreeable to the laws of England. Considerable confusion and 
difficulty arose and the proclamation became only partly operative. The main 
thing in which we aie now interested, however, is the territorial lines of this 
new province. 

The southern line of the Province of Quebec, under the proclamation of 
1763, ran along the St. Lawrence River nearly to Lake Ontario and then, turning 
to the northwest, extended to Lake Nipissing. The northern boundary extended 
northeasterly from Lake Nipissing, so that Quebec was nearly in the shape of 
a triangle and did not cover a great area of western territorj\ None of the 
extreme northwest was included within its boundaries and no land south of 
Lake Nipissing was in the province. All of the Great Lakes and all of the 
adjacent territory remained outside of the province and in what was then termed 
the "Indian country." 

It is probable that the principal reason Great Britain had for making Quebec 
cover so small an area was that, if she should be required to return the province 
to France, she could insist that the land captured from France only included 
this comparatively small tract and that the English possessions in North America 
included all of the remaining portions, and had included them for all previous 
time. She could refer to this proclamation of 1763 as proof and also to the long 
list of complaints that the French at Detroit were adventurers in possession 
of British territory. This claim was made as long ago as when the post of 
Detroit was situated on the site of the present Port Huron, where it w^as aban- 
doned and destroyed by Baron La Hontan in 1689 and where the two English 
officers, McGregor and Rosebloom, were captured by the French the same year. 

A further reason for this act was that given by Edmund Burke in the debate 
on the Quebec bill in the House of Commons in 1774. He said that the govern- 
ment of France was good, but that as compared with the English government, 
that of France was slavery. The object then of fixing the boundary line of 
Canada and of Quebec so far north, in the proclamation of 1763, was for the 
purpose of confining the operation of the French laws to as small space as po.s- 
sible and yet to carry out the terms of the treaty of that year. 

As time elapsed and the French became accustomed to their new masters, 
the laws of New York, or of some of the other colonies, would be extended over 
the newlj'-acquired territory that was south of the southerly boundary of 
Canada. Burke objected to the method of procedure. He proposed that the 
southern line of Canada should be the northern line of the colony of New York, 
the western line of Pennsylvania and the Ohio River to the Mississippi, and it 
was at his urgent request that this line was inserted in the Quebec Act of 1774, 
and became the legal southerly boundary of Canada. 

Then, for the first time, did Detroit come under the civil government of 
England. Before that time it was under the military government of the king 
personally, over which parliament exercised no control. The old colonies never 
accepted the terms of the Quebec Act as fixing this line and when the Revolution 
ended in 1783, they claimed all the territory south of the Great Lakes as a part 
of their original colonial grants. The colony, or state, of Connecticut actually 
took possession of and sold for its own benefit a large tract in the northern part 
of Ohio and the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia only ceded their claims to 
this territory upon receiving satisfaction in some other waj'. 



It would be interesting to know the reasons whj^ a public apologj' should 
become necessary from one of Detroit's foremost citizens to the notary, Dejean. 
Such was made in October, 1774. Perhaps a showing of disrespect to the 
"judge" was considered a contempt of court that was only to be condoned bj'^ a 
fine or an apology. No matter what the cause, or reason, the public records 
contain the interesting item; 

"Detroit, 21st October, 1774. 

"Sir: — I confess to have used you verj' ill in presence of the. committee and 
several other merchants on the night of the nineteenth instant by several rash 
and unbecoming aspersions for which I am very sorrj', and which I hope you 
will be so good as to forgive, as it was entirely the effect of liquor, whereof I had 
drank too freely. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant. 

"George Meldrum. 
"To Philip Dejean, Esqr." 

One of the interesting items contained in these old records is to be found in 
the following entry in Volume A, on page 262. 

"This day personally appeared before me, Henry Bassett, major in the Tenth 
Regiment, commanding Detroit, etc., Philip Dejean (acting) as justice of the 
peace for said place, who made oath on the holy evangelist of Almighty God, 
that one Basile Favro declared before him that he had himself murdered one 
St. Amour, his bourgeois,, he farther declared that he did not use any violence 
or torture to get that confession from said Basile Favro. Sworn before me this 
21st day of December 1773. 

"P. Dejean. 
"Henry Bassett, major commandant." 

The details of this crime cannot be determined, nor can it be ascertained 
whether any trial was had, nor where it was conducted if one was granted. 
The most important item of information to be obtained from the record is that 
torture of some kind was resorted to in order to obtain confessions in some 
instances, and that this method was unlawful. The name of Favro does not 
occur in the list of Detroit citizens, but that of St. Amour is found frequently. 
Apparently, in this case, the examination of the culprit was taken before the 
commandant and the result put into the form of an affidavit for use in some 
higher court, but recorded in this office for safekeeping on the 6th of July, 1774. 

It will be noticed that the crime was committed while Detroit was in the 
Indian country, so that the trial should have taken place at Quebec, under the 
Mutiny Act. 


If crimes and misdemeanors could not be punished legally by the court at 
Detroit, they could be prevented if opportunity for legal interference was given. 
An instance of this kind occurred in August, 1774. Thomas Dagg was accused 
by John Shipboy of threatening to commit an assault upon him, and thereupon 
had a proceeding similar to the present "bond to keep the peace." Shipboy 
appeared before Dejean and made oath to the threat of Dagg and on the succeed- 
ing day, August 21, 1774, Dagg was summoned before the justice to give his 
version of the affair. There was no trial. Dagg denied that he ever made the 
threats and made an oath that he would never commit an assault upon Shipboy 


ill the future. Dagg had been a member of the Tenth Regiment, but had 
terminated his service, so that he was no longer amenable to military orders. 

A few other very similar cases can be ^iven in connection. Francois Mille- 
homnie and John Peck (or Pieke) had a quarrel in which the latter was injured. 
Upon seeking the assistance of the justice, arbitrators were chosen to settle the 
differences and award damages, as required by the terms of Dej can's appoint- 
ment. The result, entered in the old records at page 300, is as follows: 

"Whereas, Messrs. Sterling, Baby, Porteous and Chapoton were nominated 
and appointed arbitrators to determine between John Peck and Francois 
iNIillehomme, for the said Millehomme having stabbed the said Peck with a knife 
in the stomach, and said arbitrators not agreeing in their award, William Edgar 
being chosen umpire, is of the following opinion, to which the aforesaid Sterling, 
Baby, Porteous and Chapoton have agreed, that Francois ^Millehomme do pay 
unto the said John Peck sixty pounds (New York currency) and give such 
security for his future behavior as the commandant may think proper. 

"William Edgar, 
"James Sterling, 
"D. Baby, 
"John Porteous, 
"B. Chapoton. 

"Detroit, 25th March, 1775, 
P. Dejean, J. P." 

In order to carry out the award and to be released from jail, Millehomme 
gave a bond for good behavior in the future. His bondsman was Antoine ]\Iini, 
and the amount of the bond was one hundred pounds sterling. The condition 
was that MOlehomme should not, for a year and a day from date, make any 
attack on the said Peck or on any of the subjects of his majesty, CJeorge III, 
king of Great Britain. The witnesses to the bond were Joseph Pouget and 
William Brown. 

A similar bond was exacted from Etienne Livernois for having committed 
an assault upon Gregor McGregor. The bondsman was Joseph Pouget. Pierre 
Delorrier and Charles Levert gave such a bond in behalf of a man named Bertrand 
for an assault upon Mr. Hanin. This bond, unlike the others, is not signed and 
is more in the nature of a recognizance. 

No courts were established at Detroit and all kinds of schemes were devised 
to avoid the complications which might arise from their absence. 

In 1775 one Francois Millehomme, a minor, had a farm at Grosse Pointe, 
which had come to him by inheritance. His father, Francois Petit dit ]\Iille- 
homme, his mother Catherine Miny being dead, wished to dispose of the farm 
for the good of the son. He found a purchaser in William Brown, and the 
father executed a deed of the place to Brown. In order to insure the validity 
of the transaction an approval of the sale was drawn up and signed by all the 
relatives of the young man, and the approval was recorded with the deed. The 
names of those signing the approval were: Antoine Mini, Gatezan Seguin ilit 
La Deroute, Joseph Miny, an uncle, Jean Baptiste Cuillerier Beaubien, a cousin, 
Pierre St. Cosme, cousin, Claude Gouin, a friend, Augustin La Foye, a cousin 
German, Antoine Miny, an uncle. It would seem that the relatives and friends 
thus became guarantors of the transaction and thus, possibly, were obliged to 
see tliat the avails of the sale were used for the benefit of the minor. No authority 


of any court, nor approval of the commandant, is attached to the deed referred 
to here. 

Violations of rules of the commanding officer could be punished by that 
officer after military court-martial, if the culprit was a soldier, but in case he 
was a civilian it is possible that other means had to be used. It is likely that an 
Englishman would desire to be tried by a jury, even if the punishment, if one 
was meted out to him, was directed by the commandant. There is a case of 
disobedience of the rules and regulations of the commanding officer by one 
Jacob Adams (the register spells the name Adhams) in 1775. 

Adams, on being brought before the justice, either pleaded guilty to the 
charge or was convicted; the record does not indicate which was the case; and 
gave a bond for future good behavior in the sum of one hundred pounds, with 
James Rankin and Colin Andrews as sureties. 


One of the oddest business agreements ever seen in connection with the 
colonial history of Detroit was entered into by the merchants in 1774. There 
had been continual complaints of the injuries resulting from the sale of liquor 
to the Indians. The complaints had been of long standing, both under French 
and British rule, and attempts to curb or prevent the traffic were continually 
being made with little success. The effort was new, so far as the people were 
concerned, but the idea had been promulgated three quarters of a century earlier 
by Cadillac. The effort at this time was the result of a feeling on the part of the 
traders that this traffic was injurious to their business interests, and not 
of anything immoral in the sale of rum. The agreement is self-explanatory and 
so interesting that it will be given entire. 

"Whereas, we, the subscribers, find the selling of rum or other spiritous 
liquors among the Indians at their settlements detrimental to trade and dangerous 
to the subjects, do hereby oblige ourselves to conform to the following regulations: 

"1st. In order the better to regulate the sale of rum to the savages, and to 
confine it entirely to the fort, we herebj^ agree to establish a general rum store 
in this fort, for which purpose we promise to deliver into said store an equal 
proportion of rums and keggs necessary for that purpose, which store shall be 
regulated by the committee hereinafter named and appointed for that intent. 

"2nd. None of us, the concerned in this agreement, shall, under any pretence 
whatsoever, sell, vend, or barter with any Indians or Indian, male or female, 
any rum or other spiritous liquors for any commodity whatsoever, which shall 
be brought for sale by said Indians, but every kind of skins, furs, trinkets, 
sugar, grease, or tallow, in short everything the savages may bring to market 
to dispose of for rum, the same shall be bought at the general store only, it 
being our true intent and meaning that no Indian or squaw shall receive directly 
or indirectly, either by present or otherwise, in any of our houses, more than 
one small glass of rum at any time during the continuance of our said general 
store, and that no skins or furs whatsoever shall be exchanged with Indians on 
any pretense. 

"3d. That we will not vend or sell an_y spiritous liquors whatsoever to any 
person or persons intending to retail or otherwise disposed of the same to savages 
of any nation whatsoever, neither will we on our own proper account send or 
caiTy any rum or spiritous liquors among any tribe or nations of Indians, with 
an intent to vend the same to said Indians. 


"4th. We further obhge ourselves not to vend or dispose of rum or spiritous 
liquors to any person or persons residing or sojourning among the savages, or 
to an}' person concerned in traffic with them in any wise whatsoever, unless the 
persons who purchase those liquors shall first bind him or themselves under 
oath properly taken before the commanding officer, or some magistrate, not to 
dispose of, vend, or sell by retail or otherwise, the said liquors to savages, or 
to an}' person intending to sell the same to savages. 

"5th. And to prevent strangers or others not immediately bound by this 
agreement from reaping advantages to the detriment of the subscribers or con- 
vej-ing rum or spiritous liquors among the savages, in order there to sell the same, 
we do hereby agree that should it so happen that any person or persons shall 
sell rum to trade among the savages, that we will send immediately to the place 
sufficient cargo on om' joint account that the concerned in this agreement may 
reap equal benefit with those who may not join them in their good intention of 
confining the trade of rum to the fort. 

"That James Sterling, James Abbott, Alexander Macomb, and John Porteous 
be herebj' constituted and appointed a committee to regulate and transact all 
affairs for the mutual concerns of the subscribers, having hereby full authority 
to act as such and to assemble and advise with all the members upon receiving 
notice of any material regarding the concerned, who shall likewise regulate the 
accounts, sales, transactions and rotation of serving or attending the general store. 

"We also hereby bind ourselves and our heirs and executors severallj' to the 
whole subscribers in the penal sum of three hundred pounds lawful money of 
the province of New York, which penal sum of three hundred pounds aforesaid 
we bind and oblige ourselves, our heirs and executors, to pay or cause to be 
paid to the said subscribers for every offence or break of the aforesaid or subse- 
quent articles, and for the better and more steady execution of this article we 
likewise bind and oblige ourselves to have all differences that may arise decided 
by the award of four indifferent arbitrators mutually chosen, who, upon their 
disagreeing, are hereby empowered to choose a fifth person as an umpire, whose 
award we oblige ourselves to abide by. We also hereby give and grant full 
power and authority to the committee immediately to seize or distrain the 
property of offenders in execution of the said award that no unnecessary delays 
may be caused thereby, hereby warranting and defending them for such pro- 
ceedings against our heirs and a.ssigns for any consequences therefrom arising. 
We further agree that the above articles shall be equally binding in every respect ■ 
as if drawn up agreeable to all forms of law necessary in such cases. 

"We further agree that the above mentioned articles and obligations shall 
take place and commence from and after the first day of May next ensuing 
the date hereof and shall continue of full force so long as may be thought proper 
to be kept up by the majority of the subscribers, not to exceed the term of two 
years from the commencement hereof unless mutually agreed upon. We also 
hereby oblige ourselves to give every information we can possibly procure at 
all times to the committee of every occurrence respecting the general concern. 

"In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals at Detroit 
this fourteenth daj' of April in the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign 
Lord George the third of Great Britain, France and Ireland, king etc. etc. in 
the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-four. 

"Booty Graves. 
"Signed and sealed in presence of "Wm. Forsyth, 


"McWilliams & Co., 
"Collin Andrews, 
: "John Porteous, for self & Co. 

"Gregor McGregor, 
"Jas. Sterling, 
"Simon McTavish, 
"A. Macomb, 
"Jas. Thompson, 
"Abbott & Finchly, 
"Robinson & Martin, 
"William Edgar, 
"James Rankin, 
"Gerrit Graverat, 
"F. Visgar, 
"Geo. McBeath, 
"Jos. Cochran, 
"Norman McLeod, 
"Wra. Allen." 
The agreement, which was understood to hold for two years, was not found 
to be profitable and was dissolved in the following year (June 12, 1775) when 
the parties acknowledged receipt of their shares of the communitj- property and 
divided it among them. 


The firm of Abbott & Finchly carried on one of the largest trading establish- 
ments in the place. One of their employes was a Frenchman named Jean 
Baptiste Contencineau. A negro slave belonging to James Abbott was named 
Ann (or Nancy) Wyley. The Frenchman and the slave formed a plan to rob 
the storehouse of the firm and then to set fire to it in order to avoid detection. 
The only property they wanted was the content of the box usually kept in the 
storehouse, but the house was, at the time, filled with valuable furs and com- 
modities that entailed a great loss on the firm, entirely out of proportion in value 
to the articles coveted by the thieves. All the testimony taken in the case was 
transcribed by Dejean into the old records, but it is too voluminous to be repro- 
duced here. On June 24, 1774 the Frenchman, at the request of the woman, 
set fire to the building and carried away from it, as the plunder he wanted, a 
small box containing six dollars (piastres) of which four dollars were silver and 
two dollars were paper. There was some evidence that the Frenchman had, at 
other times, stolen some beaver skins and some small knives from his employers. 
The prisoners confessed their guilt, but each attempted to lay the blame upon 
the other. 

Some of the subsequent transactions connected with this affair have not been 
unearthed, but the result of the case was of far-reaching and national importance. 

At this time Hemy Hamilton was lieutenant-governor and Philip Dejean 
was the justice of the peace. Dejean had long been considered the tool of 
Hamilton and was willing in this, as in other cases, to do the bidding of the 
governor. Public opinion was aroused against the Frenchman and the slave and 
there was a determined effort to get rid of them from the communitj^ but it 
was thought best to do this with a seeming compliance with legal forms. 

The prisoners were tried before Dejean, the justice, possibly with a iurv, and 

Vol. 1—13 


certainly with tiie approlDation of Hamilton. They wore found guilt.y and 
Dejean sentenced them to be hanged. Without unnecessary delay, the day 
of execution was set, but public sentiment had so changed that it was found 
impossible to get an executioner. Hamilton then agreed to free the woman 
from the penalty about to be inflicted upon her, if she would act as executioner 
on the Frenchman. Of course, she agreed and the Frenchman was accordingly 
swung off. 

The execution of Contencineau was the final act that drove the people of 
Detroit to a lebcllion against the illegal acts of the justice, for no matter how 
much the people thought the Frenchman should be punished, they wanted it 
done in a legal manner. 


In 1778 a grand jury was called at Montreal and the facts of this and other 
cases were laid before the jury. Both Hamilton and Dejean were indicted for 
the murder of the Frenchman. The jury was composed largely of ]\Iontreal 
citizens, but there are a few Detroit names in the list, such as Richard Pollard, 
J. Grant and Ahdemar. The foreman was James McGill, a man closely allied 
with Detroit in business affairs and the founder of McGill University. The 
witnesses were, some of them, Detroit people, as William Macomli, George 
McBeath and Jonas Schindler. 

The indictment of Dejean was a voluminous affair, covering nine closely 
written pages. It charged him with illegally and under color of legal authority 
and the administration of justice, in December, 1775, trying a man named Filers, 
who was accused of murdering Charles Morin. When Filers was found guilty 
of the charge, Dejean passed sentence of death upon him. Filers was executed 
for this crime at Detroit in December, 1775. Then, in February, 1776, came 
the Contencineau case described above, for which Dejean was indicted for 
criminal misuse of his authority. 

In June, 1776, Jonas Schindler, a silversmith, was illegally imprisoned at 
the instance of Dejean, and tried for issuing base metal as pure silver. He was 
acquitted, but he was nevertheless kept in prison by Dejean for some time and 
then led through the garrison of Detroit as a felon and as some heinous offender, 
attended with a drum and guard and drummed out of the garrison for some 
supposed crime, to-wit, that he had used the trade of silversmith without having 
served an apprenticeship thereto. 

In August, 1777, Dejean rendered judgment and issued execution against 
Louis Prejean in the sum of ten pounds sterling. In February or ]\Iarch of the 
same year Dejean seized the goods of one Elliot under color of justice and sold 
the same. In the winter of 1777 Dejean fined Montague Tremble ten pounds 
for misdemeanors committed by Tremble's servants. 

The above are the specifications in the indictment of Dejean, and the grand 
jury found in them "the great unfitness and inaliility as well as the illegal, unjust 
and oppressive conduct of the said Philip Dejean, acting as a magistrate and 
judge of criminal offenses at Detroit, is matter of great moment and concern, 
as well to his majesty's liege sulijects as to the just and due administration of 
the laws and government." 

At the same time the grand jury presented a true bill against Henry Hamil- 
ton, lieutanant-governor of Detroit, for aiding Dejean in his illegal acts and 


suffering and permitting them to be carried out. Warrants were directed to be 
issued for the apprehension of both Hamilton and Dejean. 


The date of these findings of the grand jury, September 8, 1778, was at 
the most trying time of the Revolutionary War. Rumors of an attempt on the 
part of the colonial troops to take Detroit were constantly heard in the British 
camps and in the garrison at Detroit. Gen. George Rogers Clark, with a few 
soldiers, had taken Vincennes, then an important place in the Indian country, 
and had passed on westward to take Kaskaskia. If he could retain these places 
as a base he could proceed to Detroit with his army and capture that place also. 

Governor Hamilton was a civil officer and ought not to have undertaken 
anything in the military line further than protecting Detroit. He learned of 
the actions of the grand jury and was afraid that a warrant was out for his 
arrest. He hoped to do something to win the favor of the British government 
in order to escape punishment for his crime. Utterly without authority and 
even against the expressed wishes of Governor Haldimand, he gathered all the 
provisions and soldiers that he could at Detroit and set off for the Indian coun- 
try, not notifying Haldimand of his plans until he had started and it was too late 
to recall him. In a few days he reached and took Vincennes which was pro- 
tected by only one officer, Capt. Moses Henry, and one soldier. 

Those who wish to read the circumstances of the return of General Clark 
and the recapture of Vincennes and of General Hamilton, the "hair-buyer 
general," and of Dejean, will find a full account in Maurice Thompson's "Alice 
of Old Vincennes." 

The consequences of this capture were that Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois 
and Wisconsin became a part of the new United States in the treaty of 1783, 
claimed by the old colonies by right of conquest in the capture of Hamilton. 

Thus it seems that to the blood of Jean Contencineau we owe, in part at least, 
the fact that we are citizens of Michigan in the great sisterhood of states. 

The privy council of Great Britain directed that neither Hamilton nor Dejean 
be punished, because in the tumult of war no trial could be had where all the 
witnesses could be summoned. Hamilton and Dejean remained a long time 
in prison at Williamsburg, Virginia. The former, on his exchange, returned to 
England, but subsequently came back to Canada and later became governor 
of the Bermudas, where the city of Hamilton was founded and, it is sometimes 
said, named in his honor. This statement is probably erroneous, as the entire 
island was originally granted to the Hamilton family, more than one hundred 
years before Henr_v Hamilton visited it, and it is likely that this ancient owner- 
ship led to the naming of the city. 

Dejean took the oath of neutrality and was permitted to return to Detroit, 
but he never afterward officiated as justice there. 

In order to make a connected story of the indictments against Hamilton and 
Dejean, we have passed over a considerable time, for it was not until October 7, 
1778, that Hamilton left Detroit, and it was some days later that Dejean followed 


At the outbreak of the Revolution there were many of the royalists who 
hastened from the east and south to take up their residence in Detroit, in order 


to be under the protection of the Enghsh soldiers. There were also many 
others who came here to avoid the war, but who were secretly in favor of the 
new government. A strict watch had to be maintained to prevent the Vir- 
ginians, as the colonial forces in the west were called, from becoming established 
amidst the citizenry of Detroit. Charles Moran, a citizen of Detroit and the 
father of the late Judge Charles Moran, was a captain in the local militia and one 
of the military orders given to him by Governor Hamilton, and now in the 
possession of the family of Mr. John V. Moran, directs that all strangers who 
arrive in the place must immediately report their place of residence to the cap- 
tain of militia, and the latter must report the fact to the governor within twelve 
hours. Every stranger and every suspected citizen was watched and his actions 
and sayings were reported to the governor. If the suspicions seemed to be 
well-founded, the suspect was brought before Hamilton and he was put under 
bonds to behave himself as a British citizen. 

It was no uncommon circumstance that persons were unjustly suspected. 
On the 29th day of December, 1775, Garrett Graverat was brought before Hamil- 
ton and compelled to enter into a bond in the sum of four hundred pounds sterling, 
conditioned that he would not correspond with, carry intelligence to, or supply 
any of his majesty's enemies, nor do anything detrimental to this settlement 
in particular, or against any of his majesty's good subjects, for one year and 
one day. The sureties on the bond were William Edgar, George McBeath, 
James Rankin, and Simon McTavish. No list of better names could be selected 
from the business directory of Detroit of that daj\ It seems very probable 
that Graverat was entirely misjudged at that time, for he remained a British 
subject at Detroit so long as it was under British control. Philip Boyle was 
compelled to give a similar bond on March 6, 1777. 


John Simon bound himself to work for Obediah Robins for one year from 
October 31, 1776, for twenty-four pounds. New York currency (about sixty 
dollars). Simon was to work as a hired man, and was to behave himself and 
was honestly to obey every lawful command, and was to go with said Obediah 
Robins wherever he should direct him, or wherever his business required. 

An entry dated October 27, 1772, is recorded on the 26th of the following 
July, whereby Israel Ruland (it is spelled Rouland in this place) bound himself 
to Garret Graverat until Ruland became of age. Ruland was born on Long 
Island and was to be sixteen years of age on the 2d of the following May. He 
agreed to serve Graverat until he became of age, and was then to receive forty 
pounds, New York currency, and one suit of clothes "fit for a servant of his 


Slavery existed at Detroit even later than the year 1800, but it existed legally 
only until the surrender of the post in 1796. There were two kinds of slaves, 
negro and panis. The latter were Indians originally captured by Indian tribes 
in their wars, the captives being reduced to servitude. There exists a bill of sale 
or deed, of two slaves, male and female, for two thousand livres, equal to one 
hundred twenty-three pounds, six shillings and eight pence. New York currency. 
The sale was made in 1777 by Charles Langlade, interpreter for the king, to 
Pierre Lalieille. Langlade will be remembered as one of the Canadians who took 
an active part in protecting the English soldiers at Mackinac in 1768. 



Arbitrators could be resorted to in order to settle pending differences, without 
the aid of the justice. Such a case occurred in 1777, between James Cassety, a 
farmer, and Edward Abbott, lieutenant-governor of Post Vincennes. Cassety 
was a well-known character in later years, but at this time he had but recently 
come to Detroit and settled upon a farm at Grosse Pointe. He was the owner 
of a lot in the village, which he sold to Abbott. 

Upon examining the title to this lot, Abbott ascertained Cassety had pur- 
chased it from John Witherhead and Henry Van Schaak and had received 
warranty deeds, but that Mrs. Bainbouts claimed a dower interest in the lot. 
Thomas Williams, James Sterling, Gregor McGregor and D. Baby were chosen 
arbitrators, without the approval of Dejean. The arbitrators decided that 
Abbott should retain thirty pounds in his hand until the title to the land was 

This is the first claim for dower in real estate in the post and search of the 
records discloses very few instances in which the wife joined in the conveyance 
of lands by the husband. This is not the first time mention is made of Thomas 
Williams. Mr. Williams was a citizen of Albany, N. Y., whose feelings led him 
to seek Detroit as a home during the war, either because he sided with the 
British or because he wished to avoid participation in the conflict. He remained 
at Detroit many years and became a prominent citizen. His property at 
Albany was confiscated by the state of New York, but was finally restored to 
him or his family. He married Cecelia, a sister of Joseph Canipau, the first 
millionaire of Michigan. He had three children. The only son, the one of 
the children best known to citizens of Detroit, was John R. Williams, who in 
1824 became the first elected mayor of the city. Gregor McGregor was also 
a prominent citizen and was appointed sheriff towards the end of the British rule. 


In 1778 a question was raised regarding the title to one of the parcels of 
land within the fortifications and in the course of the investigations the history 
of the lot was gone into quite fully. It appeared that one lot on St. Jacques 
Street, thirty feet front by sixty-five feet deep, bounded on one side by Laurent 
Parent and on the other by St. Germain Street, and in the rear by St. Joseph 
Street, was sold by Nicolas LaSalle, representing Jacques LaSalle, Jr., October 
20, 1754, to Nicolas Vernet dit Bourguignon, and that another parcel on Ste. 
Anne Street, thirty feet front by fifty-four deep, bounded on the northeast side 
by the guardhouse, and on the west by a new street called St. Germain Street, 
and extending to St. Jacques Street, was sold by Mr. Dequindre to said Vernet 
on the same day. On each of said lots were buildings erected — log houses 
built "log on log" — as the deed describes them. From the earliest founding 
of the village the log houses were built of logs set on end in the ground, placed 
closely together, and the interstices filled with mud or clay. The newer build- 
ings were built of logs placed upon each other lengthwise, as in the pioneer 
log houses of a later day. 

It became appropriate for the conveyancer, Navarre, to indicate that class 
of building as "une maison de piece sur piece." 

The two parcels were sold by Vernet, October 19, 1760, to Francois Picote 
de Belestre for thirty thousand livres. Belestre was the last French com- 


mandant and upon the surrender of Detroit to Maj. Robert Rogers in I7G0, he 
was hurried off to Presque isle with the French soldiers as a prisoner of war, and 
the property he left was taken possession of by the British. 

When the title of these parcels of land was questioned in 1767, the then 
commandant, Capt. George Turnbull, appointed a court of inquiry to examine 
the title. The members of the court were: Lieut. Daniel McAlpine, of the 
Sixty-eighth regiment (president) and Lieut. John Christy of the Sixtieth 
regiment, and John Amiel, ensign in the Sixtieth regiment (member). Belestre 
claimed to own the property under the deed to him, and the commandant 
claimed that Belestre took the conveyance for the benefit of his government, 
and that with the fall of New France all government property passed to the 
British. Belestre testified that he l>ought both parcels of land for himself and 
that he paid taxes on them, and the king's dues, amounting to six hundred 
and sixty-six livres, six soldats, on the purchase of the property. One of these 
lots was taken by the soldiers and sold; the other lot had been in possession of 
his Britannic majesty for sojne years. The court was apparently prejudiced 
in favor of the king, and it is small wonder that Belestre, the poor Frenchman, 
got little satisfaction out of his suit. 


An entry dated May 6, 1778, signed by Henry Hamilton, lieutenant-governor 
and superintendent, reads, translated, as follows: 

"On the representations which have been made by the mulatto woman, who 
belonged to the late Louis Verrat, and on the verbal depositions of difTerent 
persons concerning the liberty of the said mulatto woman, I have judged proper 
to stop the sale of the woman, and have directed that she be sent back to Kas- 
kaskia, in the Illinois country, consigned to Mr. Rochblave, commandant for 
the king at that place, for further information." 

This was, apparently, either a case of abduction of a slave and an attempt 
to sell her at Detroit or the return of a fugitive slave. It is the first recorded 
instance of a fugitive from slavery, to be followed by the thousands of others, 
increasing each year in nvunber until the civil war ended the slaverj' curse. 


The records show that the hilarious individuals who make the night ]iid(H)us 
with their "warhoops" were not unknown to Detroit in 1778. Jean Bte. Mont- 
reuil and Joseph Cerre dit St. Jean were arrested, tried and convicted of "breaking 
the peace of our sovereign lord, by disturbing, in the night, the repose and 
tranquillity of the public," and they were put under bonds of one hundred 
pounds each for their good behavior for a year and a day. Pierre Desnoyers 
became the bondsman for Montreuil and Joseph Pouget was surety for Cerre. 
(Continued in the next chapter) 



By Clarence M. Burton 














In an old letter-book which was kept at Mackinac during the Revolutionary 
war are several interesting items. An extract from one of these letters, which 
is dated June 4, 1778, and written by John Askin to John (Jehu) Hay, who 
was the last British governor of Detroit, will b^ given. n reading the letter 
one may see how uncertain and unreliable the news was which proceeded from 
the seat of war at that time. The news received would equal some of the tele- 
graph items of today. Another matter of interest in the letter is that news of 
all kinds from the East reached Mackinac before it did Detroit. The letter 
is as follows: 

"The two vessels, the first canoes from Montreal and the Ottawa Indians 
going to war, all arrived yesterdaj', the latter is now dancing at my door, my 
things coming on shore in the greatest confusion and the Angelica preparing 
to sail. 

"All this shall not deprive me of the writing you a ew lines in answer to 
your obliging letter by Robertson. The news is that General Clinton, below 
Albany, fought and beat General Gates, in which 7,000 of the enemy and their 
general fell. 

"Before this reaches you perhaps you'll have the account, more full}' by 



Niagara, great numbers of canoes are on their way here from Montreal. Lieut- 
enant Bennett left this a few days ago for the grand portage." 

dejean's successor 

When Dejean left Detroit to follow Governor Hamilton to Vincennes, 
and subsequently to Williamsburg as a prisoner, Detroit was left without a 
justic or record-keeper. Thomas Williams was given a qualified appoint- 
ment as notary and justice by the military commandant, Capt. Richard B. 
Lernoult, and it was expected that a proper appointment would be granted 
to Williams as soon as possible. 

Lernoult was succeeded by Maj. Arent Schuyler De Peyster and it was 
to the major that Williams' commission was sent in the fall of 1779. All the 
records in the interval were kept by Williams, so that he may be considered 
as the immediate successor to Dejean. 

Almost the last act of Hamilton before he left Detroit was to forward to 
Lieutenant-Governor Cramahe such legal papers as he had in his possession, 
to be delivered to the proper officers. These papers consisted of the following 
items : 

1. Depositions taken at Mackinac before Major De Peyster. 

2. Depositions taken in Detroit before Dejean and twenty-four jurors. 
3-4. Deposition in favor of Nicholas Thibault, of Detroit, who was charged 

with murdering a Panis. The witness was Jean Baptiste Dumet or Dumay. 

5. Examination of Michael O'Neil, a volunteer in LaMothe's company. 
The witnesses were Pierre LeMay and Patrick McKinley, of the same com- 

The governor adds to his report that the law proceedings here were vague, 
and perhaps as irregular as can be, l)ut the situation must excuse and account 
for it. 

The troul)les that had overtaken Hamilton and Dejean by reason of their 
illegal actions specified in the findings of the jury led Major De Peyster and 
Thomas Williams to exercise more caution in the village affairs. De Peyster 
wrote to Haldimand that he had lately heard that justices of the peace had no 
power to meddle in money matters, though it had been understood formerly 
that they could try causes where the amount involved was less than ten pounds. 

"Now, if some power and for a granted sum, too," he writes, "is not given, 
this place will go into confusion, as it will hardly do to summon people to ap- 
pear at Montreal for such trifling affairs, and if tlioy are not there will be no 
recovering small debts." 

The laws, however, were not changed, and Detroit was left without power 
to protect its citizens against dishonest deljtors. 


It was at this time, commencing about 1780, that the land fever struck 
Detroit. There had been for some time an earnest desire to have the war ended, 
and nearly everyone felt that it could be terminated only with the acknowl- 
edgement of the independence of the United States. There was also a feeling 
that a large part of Canada, certainly all that portion lying south of the Great 
Lakes, would become part of the new government. This feeling was shared 
in alike by the military officers and by the civilians. If the new government 
was to have control soon, each one felt that he would like to be possessed of some 


fertile farm lands about the post before the change of government took place. 
The British government had never favored buying lands from the Indians, 
but the people — speculators, traders, everyone, in fact — now set about buying 
large tracts from the Indian tribes. It became the duty of Williams, as reg- 
ister, to accept and record these Indian conveyances and there are hundreds 
of them in these records. 

The consideration generally expressed is the love borne by the Indian chief 
to his white friend, to whom the deed was made, but the real consideration was 
a little money, some trinkets, vermillion, powder, lead and a good deal of rum. 
If all other inducements failed, a liberal quantity of rum would serve to supply 
the deficiency. 

All the farm lands up and down the river and on both sides, which were not 
already occupied by the whites, were sold by Indians and some parcels 
were sold several times over. 

Major De Peyster purchased a large tract in what is now St. Clair County, 
and the two Schiefflins bought the entire parcel upon which Amherstburg is 
located, as well as many square miles of land around it. De Pej^ster's grant 
was never accepted as valid by the government, and the deed to the Schiefflins 
was set aside by the British government as having been obtained by fraud. 
De Peyster left Canada after the war and went to live in Scotland, the home 
of his wife. He died at Dumfries, Scotland, November 26, 1822. The Schief- 
flins, Jonathan and Jacob, moved to New York, and some of the family went 
into the drug trade, becoming very wealthy. Their descendants still live in 
New York City, and are considered of the aristocracy. Some of them have 
tried to forget their Detroit ancestors, while others of the family are "every 
day" sort of people and are generally liked. 

William Forsyth, the step-father of John Kinzie of Chicago, obtained a 
deed to 2,000 acres on the St. Clair River September 20, 1780. 


To show how thoroughly the country here was under the control of the 
military officers, the following is the substance of a petition of inhabitants 
living at Petite Cote, on the south side of the river. 

The petition is dated July 1, 1780, and sets forth that, for the public good, 
it will be necessary to have a water mill built at that place to grind the grain 
of the locality. They ask that Simon Drouillard be granted permission to build 
a stone mill on the public domain. The petition is signed by John Bondy, 
J. Pouget, Charles Reaumc, Rene Cloutier, Theophile LeMay, Joseph Belle- 
perche, Antoine Lafontaine, Baptiste Dufor, Antoine Cloutier, Jean Baptiste 
LeBeau, Pierre Meloch, Pierre Pranez, J. B. Drouillard, J. B. Petre, George 
Knaggs, Charles Renot, Charles Fontaine, J. B. Bonparre, J. B. Faignant, 
August Peuparre, Francois Lesperance, Francois Proux, and Louis Rebeau. 
Upon filing the above petition, the commandant, De Peyster, granted license 
to Simon Drouillard to build a water mill on la riviere aux Dindes (Turkey 


The following entry in Volume C, on page 99, explains itself: 

"I hereby certify to have joined Thomas Williams, Esq., of Detroit, and 


Miss Cecelia Campcau, daughter of Mr. Jacques Campeau, of Detroit, in the 
holy bonds of Matrimony, conformable to the rule of the Church of England. 

"Given under my hand at Detroit, this seventh day of May, in the year 
of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-one. 

"A. S. De Peyster, 

"Major King's Regt. 

Commanding Detroit and Its Dependencies. 

"Alex Grant, 

"D. Mercier, Lt. King's Rgt." 

The peculiarity of this marriage certificate is that the ceremony was per- 
formed by the military commandant. There was no minister or chaplain in the 
garrison. Perhaps the justice of the peace was authorized to perform the mar- 
riage ceremony, for there are several signed by Dejean. Whenever persons 
did not wish to go before the Catholic priest, they went before the commandant, 
and he generally officiated. Possibly a full record of the marriages performed 
by him may sometime be found, but all search for such a list in every place 
where public records of that date are to be found has so far been in vain. We 
know that many marriages took place at this time, but there are no records to 
prove them. This one was preserved only because the husband, Thomas Wil- 
liams, was the keeper of the records and so recorded his own marriage cer- 

The village priest desired to keep all of his people within the church, but 
he was not always able to do so. The church records were carefully kept, and 
whenever we know of a marriage that is not of record in Ste. Anne's or in the 
Church of the Assumption, we conclude that the commandant or the justice 
performed it. We know that James Sterling and Angelique Cuillerier were 
married, but there is no record extant in either of the above churches. When- 
ever there was doubt in the mind of the priest. Father Simplicus Bouquet, as 
to the propriety of a proposed marriage, he refused to perform it. Then the 
bride and groom had to go to the commandant or wait until the obstacles were 
removed. In 1775 Francois Gouin wished to marry Angelique Godet, but the 
priest objected because of the youth of the young lady, and also because her 
grandmother did not want the marriage to take place. The uncle and aunt 
of the bride appealed to Capt. Richard Beranger Lernoult, the commandant, 
and by his order the priest performed the ceremony, but he added to the rec- 
ord a note that if he has deferred to the decision of the commandant, it was 
because he feared the couple would be married in English fashion, and the 
scandal thus occasioned would be followed by other luinatural children. 


In 1782 Williams was employed by De Peyster to take the census of De- 
troit and its surroundings. Such a census had been taken by Dejean in 1773, 
and the two, for comparison, give the population as follows: 

1773 1782 

Men 298 321 

Women 225 254 

Young :\Ien 84 336 

Boys 284 526 

Girls 240 503 


Young Women 58 1 _„ 

Servants 93 J 

Male Slaves 46 78 

Female Slaves 39 101 

Total 1,367 2,191 

This is exclusive of the garrison and Indian=. The increase was due largely 
to the influx of persons desiring to avoid the war. Governor Hamilton had 
constantlj' urged the loyalists to flee from the states and come to Detroit, or 
to locate in some place where they could be protected b}^ British soldiers. Ham- 
ilton had won for himself the title of the "hairbuyer general" from his offer 
of reward for scalps of the white people in the Ohio country, but if he wanted 
scalps of the "rebels," he was equally anxious for the safety of all who were 
loj'al to King George. A proclamation of reward for scalps issued by him was 
found pinned to a man murdered and scalped, lying in the woods of the Ohio 
district and accompanying the proclamation was a letter of authority given 
by him to Edward Hazel, offering protection to all who would assemble at 
Detroit, the Miamis (near Toledo), Sandusky, and Vincennes, stating that 
they should receive such protection as the British arms afford to refugees. 
These papers have found their way into the government archives. 

The result of these efforts was the assembling at Detroit of five hundred 
or more people who were detained as refugees and prisoners of war. Adding 
this number to the garrison, the total population must have exceeded three 
thousand persons. Not all of these people were loyal citizens and the intract- 
able ones were sent down to Montreal for confinement for a time, but the num- 
bers there became so great that Governor Haldimand refused to receive more, 
and those at Detroit were kept and set to work on the new fortifications — 
Fort Lernoult, afterwards Fort Shelby. 

The number of refugees at Detroit became so great that Haldimantl warned 
the commandant to watch them carefully and imprison them if he thought 
best. He was afraid they might become numerous enough to overpower the 
garrison and turn the post over to the Americans. 


The end of the war practically came in 1782, though the final treaty of 
peace was not signed until a year later. Detroit was included in the new ter- 
ritory o' the United States and Congi-ess set about governing the land. All 
of the land south of the Miami of Lake Erie soon came into the actual posses- 
sion of the new government, but the territory north of that river was con- 
structively part of the United States and really part of Canada, for the British 
troops still occupied and controlled it. All the lands north of the Ohio River 
formed what soon came to be called the "Northwest Territory," and the east- 
ern states soon (with the exception of Connecticut) released their claims, so 
that it fell under the direct control of the federal government. Some acts 
were passed by Congress before the close of the war for the division of this land 
into states, but the earliest move of general interest to us was Jefferson's 
ordinance of 1784. 

The ordinance was drafted by Jefferson, but it was superseded by the ord- 
inance of 1787, and the earlier one had lost its legal importance. It is rarely 
found in printed form. A copy is in the American Historical Leaflets No. 32. 


The original is in the arciiives at Washington and a photograph of it is in the 
Burton Historical Collection. This paper is very interesting to us historically, 
as showing the proposed geographical divisions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Mich- 
igan and Wisconsin, comprising the Northwest Territory, into ten states pro-' 
vided by that ordinance. 

An atlas published by William McMurray, shortly after the date of this 
ordinance, contained a map of the new territory divided into ten states, as 
mentioned in Jefferson's draft, by the names of Sylvania, Michigania, Cher- 
ronesis, Assenisipta, Metropotaia, Illinoia, Saratoga, Washington, Polypo- 
tamia and Pelisipia. There were other maps of the country engraved at that 
time, the one made by John Fitch, the inventor of the steamboat, being the 
most unique: this was engraved by himself, printed in a cider press and sold 
for six shillings a copy, to raise money to carry on his steamboat inventions. 

Had this ordinance remained in force, the present address of our citizens 
would be the City of Detroit in the State of Cherronesis. The State of Michi- 
gania was located on the west side of Lake Michigan. To anticipate for some 
years the history of our peninsula, when Congress was searching for a name 
for this territory in 1805 it was proposed to call this land Huron Territory, and 
the present State of Wisconsin was to be called Michigan Territory, so that 
on two occasions Wisconsin has barely missed being christened Michigan. 

king's ownership of DETROIT PROPERTY 

It is not often that we find the King of England as the purchaser of a piece 
of property in this country, but there is a deed on record conveying a house 
and lot in the village of Detroit, bounded in front by St. James Street, in the 
rear by St. Joseph Street, sixty-nine feet wide, to "our sovereign lord, George 
the Third, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, king, defender of the faith, 
etc." The house occupied by the lieutenant-governor was located nearly on 
the site of the present Michigan Mutual Life Insurance Company building, 
and the lot above described is nearly a block towards the west and a little to 
the north. It was probably intended to have been used for a jail, for there 
was no jail in Detroit at this time. Governor Haldimand did not approve of 
the purchase of the property, and it was returned to its former proprietors, 
William and Alexander Macomb. 


To show to what extent the military department exercised authority to aid 
in the collection of debts, there is a statement made by Gerrit Graverat which 
is very interesting. Graverat and John Visgar were partners in trade under 
the name of Graverat & Visgar. Abraham C. Cuyler, a trader from Albany, 
came to Detroit to collect an old debt due him from Graverat personally. 
Graverat refused to pay the old account, alleging that he had no property 
other than that belonging to the firm and that he could not take such prop- 
erty until the firm's creditors were first satisfied. Cujder appealed to the mili- 
tary commandant. Major De Peyster, and laid the matter before him. De 
Peyster summoned Graverat to his house. Upon his arrival "De Peyster, 
in the presence of Alexander Macomb, William Edgar and John Askin, declared, 
and confirmed the same with an oath of seeming resolution, that if Graverat 
did not pay his account to Cuyler at once, that he would send Graverat down 
the country (to Montreal) on the vessel that was just then ready to sail." 


Graverat was so thoroughly frightened by the threat that he turned over all 
the partnership property he had, in order to satisfy Cuyler's claim. He then 
entered a protest to the high-handed proceedings in September, 1783. 


The traveler along the River St. Clair today would hardly believe that a 
few years ago' the borders of that river were thicklj^ studded with pine trees, 
but that was the fact. Patt Sinclair, who was lieutenant-governor of Mack- 
inac, had purchased at Pine River, the site of the present city of St. Clair, a 
laige tract of land from the Indians. This purchase was connived by the Brit- 
ish officers, though contrary to orders of government. At the end of the Revo- 
lution. Sinclair went to the island of Orleans, and from that place gave directions 
for the care of his possessions, and from these writings, now a matter of record, 
one derives the best information obtainable regarding the improvements made 
on the river. 

He directed Nicolas Boulvin to take possession of his farm on Pine River, 
which was his property bj- Indian conveyance made in the presence of the 
commanding officer of Fort Detroit and of his majesty's Indian agent; also by 
letter from General Gage, then commander-in-chief, as well as by the assent 
of government to his rights therein since that time. Boulvin was to take charge 
of the stock, houses, barns, orchards, gardens and timber on said lands. No 
person was permitted to cut timber except for the use of the king. In later 
times a village called Palmer, after the father of the late Sen. Thomas W. 
Palmer, was located on this land. The name of the village was subsequently 
changed to St. Clair. 

Sinclair was prominent in the affairs of the village as early as 1767 and in 
that year the citizens presented him with a silver loving-cup, suitably inscribed. 
He afterward became lieutenant-governor of Mackinac, and built Mackinac 
on the island. On his return to England, after the Revolution, he carried this 
silver cup with him and it is now in the possession of his great granddaughtoi-, 
Miss H. H. Sinclair Laing. 


The board of health of Detroit was somewhat inefficient or nearly power- 
less in 1782, and in order to protect the health of the people in the village, 
Major De Peyster made them a proposition to clean up the river front, as 
follows : 

"Gentlemen: As the vacant spaces of ground lying between each of your 
lots and the water side is now occupied with all sorts of filth and become a 
nuisance which should be removed, if you will go to the expense of filling up 
the whole of them with good earth and render it an even surface, at the same 
time extending jour lot with fences so as to leave only a passage for carts be- 
tween them and the water's edge, you shall have such spaces of ground in lieu 
of the expenses you may be at, but if you do not choose to occupy them on 
these conditions, let me know and I will give them to others, for I can no longer 
suffer them to remain as they now are." 

Until the date of this offer, June 1, 1782, the picket line of the post was in 
the shallow water a little south of Woodbridge Street, extending from Gris- 
wold Street to Wayne, or perhaps to Cass Street. The filling in extended the 
solid bank nearly to Atwater Street. The offer was taken advantage of by the 


adjoining landowners immediately, and constituted one of the charges made 
by Jehu Hay against De Peyster, a year or two later, when the latter indi- 
vidual came to Detroit as its governor. 


Williams resigned his office a» keeper of the records in July, 1784, and 
Guillaume ]\Ionforton received a conditional and temporary appointment in 
his place. There is an entry in the public records showing the whereabouts 
of these records from this date until their retui'n to Detroit in 1790. It is as 
follows : 

"This record was sent down to Quebec bj^ order of the commander-in- 
chief in the year 1784, where it remained until the year 1790, when it was 
brought up from thence by William Dummer Powell, Esq., first judge of his 
majesty's court of common pleas for the district of Hesse, and afterwards 
deposited in my office in the year 1790, in the month of May, and is now con- 
tinued. During the interval the records of the district were in the hands of 
William Alonforton, who acted as notary public, to which reference must 
be had. 

"T. Smith, 

"C. C. Pleas. District of Hesse. 
"24th May 1790." 

The three volumes which contain these old records were sent by the Can- 
adian government to Detroit some years ago. When the records were sent down 
to Quebec in 1784, the people attempted to enter a protest against the act, 
and governor (John Hay) represented to Haldimand the concern of the people 
over the sending out of the records, but the protest was in vain. It was at 
the end of the war. All work on the fortifications was stopped and the sol- 
diers were getting ready to leave. Everything in the form of government 
property was taken away or was being prepared for shipment. It was not 
until some months after this that Haldimand was notified that it was the 
intention of the British government to retain possession of the western posts. 

The fourth volume of these old records is now in Ottawa. The volume 
contains this statement: "This book belongs to C. F. Labadie and he has the 
right to it whenever he wants it, wherever he finds it" and "John Stuart of 
Windsor purchased this book of C. F. Labadie." It further appears that Guil- 
laume Monforton, the notary and register, carried off the old record and upon 
his death left it to his son by the same name and that it next came by inherit- 
ance to a grandson by the same name. In 1858 the third Guillaume Monforton 
gave the book to Charles F. Labadie. It covers the period from 1786 to 1792 
and contains 350 pages. There must be at least one other volume still missing, 
to carry the record to 179(1. The first Guillaume Monforton became distressed 
in his old age and at one time was in prison for ilebt. 


By his proclamation of July 24, 1788, Lord Dorchester added a few more 
districts to the Province of Quebec. The district of Nassau as then organ- 
ized was bounded on the west by a north and south line interesecting the ex- 
treme projection of Long Point in Lake Erie, and the district of Hesse com- 
prised all of the residue in the province in the western or inland parts thereof, 
of the entire breadth thereof, from the southern to the northern boundary 


of the same. The uncertainty in fixing this western limit of the district of Hesse 
was so planned as to include Detroit and the lands lying west of the Great Lakes 
without mentioning them by name. These western lands formed a part of the 
new United States and any open assertion of ownership by Great Britain would 
have irritated the people of the country, and probably have reopened the war 
just closed. 


In 1780 Governor Haldimand directed a commission to be made out for 
a person to act as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas at Detroit and another 
commission for some Cana'iian to act there as an assessor. He appointed 
Arent Schuj'ler De Peyster and Thomas Williams justices of the peace. The 
attorney-general, J. Monk, while wishing to comply with the order of the gov- 
ernor, did not purpose to do so without investigating the matter. He writes: 

"The appointment of some Canadian to act as assessor at Detroit puts 
me to the difficultj' and necessity of requesting you will please to obtain the 
governor's directions and signify to me what powers this officer is to be vested 
with by such commission, as it is an office new and undefined by any com- 
mission heretofore made in this government. Are the powers of the judge of 
common pleas at Detroit limited to any district, town or tract of any country, 
and what? It may be proper to express this clearly in his commission to avoid 
any doubt or difficulty hereafter." 

In answer to the above questions the governor replied that at all posts where 
lieutenant-governors were stationed, provision was made for a judge and as- 
sistant or assessor. According to the instructions, the latter is to give his 
advice to the judge in any matter where necessary, but to have no authority 
or power to attest or issue any process, or to gi\-e vote or judgment in any case 
whatsoever. All that is meant by the general at present is to afford a tem- 
porary relief in the case of small debts at the settlement of Detroit until the 
legislature has leisure to take the matter up, when, undoubtedly, the limits 
of its jurisdiction will be assigned. Of course, appeals in all cases above the 
value of ten pounds sterling nuist be allowed. 


Two old documents written in Detroit have lately been found and they 
contain interesting information. The first is from the governor, Jehu Hay, 
to General Haldimand, dated at Detroit, October 9, 1784. Mr. Hay was not 
particularly well-liked either by the citizens or by his superior officers. He had 
been in Detroit many years as a subordinate officer in the army and in the 
Indian department. He was a follower of Governor Hamilton and had been 
made a prisoner at the surrender of Post Vincennes to Gen. George Rogers 
Clark. Coming back to Canada he received the appointment of lieutenant- 
governor of Detroit, but did not at once return there. Arent Schuyler De 
Peyster, the military commandant, stated that Hay was a military officer 
subordinate to himself and he refused to remain in command of the mihtary 
department if the civil department was turned over to Hay. Hay was there- 
fore detained at Montreal, Carleton Island and Niagara until a new place was 
found for De Peyster as commandant at Niagara. Hay was ill and died shortly 
after returning to Detroit and was buried on the site of Michigan Mutual Life 
Insurance Company, at Jefferson Avenue and Griswold Street. 


His protracted illness made him fretful and petulant with ever.yone he 
met. They reciprocated by disliking him. When he was requested to send the 
records, he sent them with a letter of protest. In his letter he said that he had 
delivered the village records to Lieutenant Smyth of the Thirty-first Regiment; 
that the people expressed some concern at their being sent away from the 
place and said that many must suffer in their private affairs for want of ref- 
erence to them. In obedience to instructions from Haldimand, Hay had pub- 
lished permission to all persons who chose to leave Detroit to do so, and or- 
dered those who did not intend to reside permanently to depart at once. His 
proclamation was torn down and another put up in its place. A reward of 
twenty pounds was offered for the discovery of the person who tore down the 

"I cannot conceive why anybody should do a thing of the sort, except some 
insolent fellow who chose to show how little he or others think of my authority 
here," wrote Hay, "but if the person is found and I have sufficient proof, 
I shall send him or her to Montreal to be dealt with as your excellency shall 
please to direct." 

He further said that there were many persons at Detroit, who were still 
designated as prisoners of war, through the war had terminated more than a 
year before. These persons were always at libei'ty to leave the place, but some 
remained in hopes of getting their children and relatives who were detained 
by the Indians, and some could not go, such as orphans and women, and these 
still obtained provisions from the military department. 


In another paper is a report dated August 3, 1787, made by Maj. R. Mat- 
thews to General Haldimand. Major Matthews was sent to examine the 
western posts and this letter is in the line of the official reports he made as the 
.result of his investigations. He arrived in Detroit June 9, 1787. The time 
taken to arrange the militia and examine titles to lands delayed his departure 
so much that he feared he would have to return with snowshoes. In reading 
these letters one is forced to see American progress through British eyes, and 
the prospect is strange and very often untrue, or visionary. Detroit belonged 
to the United States, but English troops were in possession of it in a time of 
peace, and Great Britain refused to vacate and carry out the solemn agreement 
she had made in the treaty of Paris in 1783. It was very evident that she wanted 
to avoid carrying out the treaty which Oswald had thus made for her and would 
have taken advantage of any excuse. Major Matthews reports as follows: 

"There are lately arrived at Post Vincennes 500 continental troops under 
Colonel Harmar, a very clever man, who had been long destined for the direc- 
tion of affairs upon the Wabash — and it is confidentlj' asserted that there are 
two other armies to co-operate from Wheeling and Muskingum upon the Ohio. 
The object, it is said, is to establish posts at the Miamis town (the great center 
and channel of the trade of this quarter), the Glaze, Sandusky and Roche- 
dcbout. Mingo they have sometime occupied as a post and built a fort. 

i "Presqu' Isle (now Erie, Pa.) they are also to occupy as a post. Though the 
Indians insist upon it, I have not a conception that the Americans will attempt 
this post (Detroit), nor do I think it would be worth our while to dispute it with 
them if they succeed in establishing the above posts, though I believe we have 
not been in better situation to do it for some years, Fort Lernoult being in 


perfect repair and having six companies nearly complete; we have six com- 
panies of militia consisting of nearly 800. 

"Had Mr. Oswald or even Lord Landsdown seen this delightful settle- 
ment, they surely could never have signed away the right of the nation to it. 
In point of climate, soil, situation and the beauties of nature, nothing can 
exceed it, and yet for want of good order and legal protection (which would 
bring respectable settlers) the trade and even cultivation are at the last gasp. 
Individuals possess immense tracts of land upon general grants, sell out in 
detail to poor wretches for £100 for three acres in front by forty deep for which 
the farm is at the same time mortgaged. The settler labors for a few years 
with only half his vigor, paying and starving all the time and, ultimately, from 
debts on every hand, is obliged to give up his land. 

"In trade the lowest of all the professions resort to these obscure places, 
they are without education or sentiment and many of them without common 
honesty. They are perpetually overreaching one another, knowing that they 
are too distant for the immediate effects of the law to overtake them. The 
only recourse in all matters in dispute is the commanding officer, for our jus- 
tices of the peace, it seems, are not authorized to take cognizance of matters 
relating to property, on which almost every diffei'ence arises, so that if the com- 
manding officer is indolent or indifferent he will not hear them at all, or if he 
does hear and decide, his judgment, though perhaps equitable, may be very 
contrary to law, and hereafter involve him in very unpleasant consequences. 
Besides that, acting in the capacity of a judge, his whole time is so employed 
that he cannot pay the necessary attention to his professional duties. It is 
much to be wished that some mode for the prompt and effectual administra- 
tion of justice were established, for the want of it is a temptation to many to 
take advantages and commit little chicaneries disgraceful to society and dis- 
tressing to trade and individuals. In all matters where I cannot clearly de- 
dide, I make the parties refer to arbitration, binding themselves by bond to 
submit to the decision." 


Affairs had come to such a pass for want of laws and courts at Detroit that 
the council at Quebec took up the matter and appointed a committee of mer- 
chants at Montreal to investigate the matter and report a system of procedure. 
This committee, in its report, stated that Detroit and the upper posts were 
indebted to Montreal more than three hundred thousand pounds sterling, 
and that these posts should be kept in possession by the government, for if 
they were given up, a very great proportion of that large sum would be lost, 
to the hurt of the nation and the ruin of numberless individuals. 

They proposed that Detroit and Mackinac should be erected into a sepa- 
rate district and that a court of civil jurisdiction should be established, to 
be called the court of common pleas. There should be one judge, whose de- 
cision should be final for all matters in dispute under fifty pounds, but in all 
other matters an appeal should lie to the court at Montreal. Appeals should 
be in the form of a new trial. Depositions of witnesses at a distance could 
be taken to be used at such trial. The judge should reside at Detroit, but 
he should go once a year, say in May, to Mackinac, and should there remain 
until July 25th, to hear all cases brought before him, where the amount involved 
did not exceed one hundred pounds. The property of fraudulent debtors could 

Vol. 1—14 


be seized on attachment, and only released upon security being given to abide 
the final decision of the court. 

As a further reason for the establishment of Detroit as a separate district, 
the committee stated that : 

"Detroit is become a settlement, both of great extent and great conse- 
quence. It annually fits out a vast trade to the interior posts circumjacent to 
it, at which, in the course of carrying on, disputes and differences invariably 
arise, to determine which, for want of a judicial power on the spot, they are 
obliged to have resort to the courts of Montreal." 

They estimated that between the date of sending for a summons from 
Detroit, as the commencement of a suit, fully six months would elapse be- 
fore the defendant could be served properly, and in this time he could dispose 
of his property and leave the settlement. Not less than forty suits a year, 
all above ten pounds were instituted by persons residing at Detroit against 
others of the same place, and not above one-fourth of that number were suc- 
cessfully carried forward, owing to the great delay in serving processes. 

"We believe a judge there would have not less than 300 or 400 causes a 
j'ear to determine. For their present state, they have no means to enforce 
payment from their debtors, it is on their honor and honesty they must rely — 
a sorry dependence in a country where there is neither a power to check or re- 
strain the most dissolute and licentious morals." 

It was in response to this report that the council authorized the forma- 
tion of a new judicial district, to include Detroit, which was established by 
Lord Dorchester July 24, 1788, and called Hesse. On the same daj^ he ap- 
pointed the following as justices of the Court of Common Pleas: Duperon 
Baby, Alexander McKee and William Robertson. He at the same time 
appointed eight justices of the peace, namely: Alexander Grant, Guillaume 
LaMotte, St. Martin Adhemar, William Macomb, Joncaire de Chabert, Alex- 
ander Maisonville, William Caldwell, and Mathew Elliott. The appointed 
sheriff was Gregor McGregor. The clerk was Thomas Smith and the coroner 
George Meldrum. 

Every one of these names is familiar to all who have read Detroit's earlj' 
history. The list is about equallj' divided between the Canadians and the 
English. Of the list, Joncaire de Chabert and George Meldrum only remained 
on the American side during their lives, after the British occupation ceased. 
St. Martin moved to Vincennes. Smith remained here many years; he be- 
came a surveyor and acted in that capacity in planning the city after 1805, 
but he eventually went to Canada and died in Windsor. Macomb lived in 
Detroit and died a short time before the evacuation in 1796. All of the others 
left Michigan and most of them lived along the south shore of the Detroit River 
in Canada. 


No sooner had the news of the appointments reached Detroit than there 
was a popular uprising in opposition to the government. A public indigna- 
tion meeting was called and a long protest drawn up, signed In' the English 
residents. The opposition was not because of the individuals named as judges, 
but because they were not understood to be qualified to fill the office properly. 
Two of the judges-elect, Robertson and Baby, personally accompanied the 
protest to Quebec, and Robertson read it in the council chamber in that city 


on October 24, 1788. Some of the important points in this protest were as 

Canadians, with the exception of ^Nlr. Baby, were not concerned in trade 
and were, consequently, very little concerned in the courts of law. Mr. Baby 
did not think it proper that he should sign the protest as he was named as one 
of the judges. He explained the method of arbitration in common use at De- 
troit by saying that a general arbitration bond was entered into and every 
person who signed it bound himself to abide by the decisions of the arbitrators. 
(They sat in rotation). Those who submitted their differences to the arbi- 
trators could not be compelled to abide by their decisions, yet the dread of the 
consequences of refusing to submit to those determinations gave force to their 
awards, for those who would not obey could not recover debts and the com- 
manding officer refused to grant them passes for their canoes to the Indian 
country. Yet still there were people who refused to abide by their decisions, 
not from unreasonableness nor the injustice of their awards, but from a want 
of inclination to pay their debts. It was agreed by those who signed the gen- 
eral arbitration bond to pay each ah equal portion of the expenses of any suit 
of law which might be carried on against any of them in consequence of their 
decision in this arbitration court. People who lived in Detroit were com- 
pelled to submit or live there as outlawed. Robertson said further that some 
of the persons who were named as justices of the peace were ignorant and il- 
literate. Maisonville and Elliott could mechanically sign their names, but they 
could neither read nor write. Caldwell had not a good education. 

There were four thousand people in and about and dependent upon Detroit. 
The remedy advised by Mr. Robertson was the establishment of a Court of 
Common Pleas with a judge who lived in Detroit and who might visit Mackinac 
once a year to hear causes there. The judge ought to be versed in the law and 
receive a salary and devote his entire time to his official duties. 

In reply to a question as to the public buildings in Detroit or Mackinac, 
Mr. Robertson said that there were none at Mackinac, but at Detroit there 
were two French churches (one on each side of the river) but no English church, 
for the English never had a church in the upper countrJ^ There were no bar- 
racks. Fort Lernoult, the government house where the commanding officer 
usually resided, the council house, where the Indians assembled and delivered 
their speeches, the block-houses at the different angles of Detroit within the 
pickets and the water side, the naval dockyard and the necessary buildings 
belonging to it without the pickets, on the east side of the town. These were 
the public buildings of Detroit. 

It was deemed necessary for the English Government to retain possession 
of Detroit if it wished to hold the fur trade. As a conclusion to the investigation, 
it was sought to ascertain how, in the past, laws had been administered in 
Detroit, and in answer to the question Robertson said: 

"Before the conquest (1760) if any laws were followed or administered, 
they necessarily must have been those of France or what prevailed in the rest 
of the province; from the conquest to the passing of the Quebec Act (1774) 
I have understood from the people there, it was the English law that had been 
considered as the rule of decision, but I believe there have been few instances 
since the conquest to the present time of any law whatever having been ad- 
ministered there." 

At the conclusion of the investigation a draft of a report was drawn up by 


the council and submitted to Lord Dorchester. It was the opinion of the 
council that a competent person for judge could not be found in the district, 
and that when the proper person was found and appointed, he should receive 
a salary of five hundred pounds, without fees. They reported against the 
project of arbitration as formerly carried on. 

As two of the judges who had been appointed had resigned, it became neces- 
sary to select another person to fill the vacancy and the purpose this time was 
to select one judge instead of the three who had been appointed, but who had 
never acted. Lord Dorchester, in discussing the cjualifications necessary for 
the position in a letter to Lord Sydney, said: 

"At Detroit, where much property is circulated in commercial transactions 
in the Indian trade, cases are more complicated and increased by the mixture 
of Canadian and British settlers and the diversity of these customs. The 
administration of justice in that district will, therefore, require talents which 
may be difficult to find without a more ample encouragement than what may 
be sufficient in the other parts of the province. The commandant at Detroit 
had hitherto ordinarily been imder the necessity of interfering for the preserva- 
tion of order in the settlement." 


Early in 1789, Lord Dorchester appointed William Dummer Powell the 
first justice of the common pleas in the district of Hesse, and directed him to 
proceed to Detroit as soon as the season would permit, to make that place his 
home. He also appointed a land board to consist of Major Clere, or the officer 
commanding at Detroit, AVilliam Dummer Powell and an\' one of the following 
named justices of the peace, Duperon Baby, Alexander McKee, William Robert- 
son, Alexander Grant, and St. Martin Adhemar. Concerning the choice of 
Judge Powell, Dorchester said that the appointment did not take place until 
the persons originalh' appointed among the principal inhabitants of the district 
had declined the trust, nor until the necessity of a professional man to preside 
in the court had been fully ascertained. He said that Mr. Powell was of the 
Middle Temple in 1776 and had borne arms under General Gage at Boston, 
that he was a considerable sufferer b}' his loyalty and cut off from the prospect 
of a valuable family inheritance, that he came to Canada in 1779, recommended 
by the Secretaiy of State. In conclusion Dorchester said: 

"A man of confidence and abilities is very desirable for that distant part 
of the province, and I know of no character at the bar here (Quebec) better 
qualified or more likely than he is to do justice to the trust reposed in him." 


It was proposed in 1789 to divide the Canadian possessions into two provinces 
to be termed Upper and Lower Canada. Each province was to have a legis- 
lature to be composed of a council, of which the members were chosen for life, 
and a house of assembly, to be elected. In Upper Canada there were to be not 
less than seven members of the council, to be appointed bj- the king. The 
lower house was to contain not less than sixteen members to be returned by 
districts, the limits of which were to he fixed by the governor. Members were 
to be elected by citizens who were landowners or lent payers. They were to 
hold office for four years unless the assembly or parliament should be sooner 
prorogued by the governor. 


The legal division of the two provinces took place on December 26, 1791, 
but the parliamentar.v elections did not take place until the following j'ear. 
In the meantime Lord Dorchester had left Canada for England and the direc- 
tion of government was left with the lieutenant-governor, Alfred Clarke. 

One of the important points under discussion in the formation of the two 
new provinces was the description of the territories embraced in each province. 
This matter was one of great interest to the English government at this date. 
Mr. Grenville stated that "if the line of demarcation was that mentioned in the 
treaty of 1783, Detroit, which the infraction of the treaty on the part of 
America has induced his majesty to retain, would be excluded from the upper 
province, while if it was included, by express terms, by an act of the British 
parliament, it would probably excite a considerable degree of resentment among 
the inhabitants of the United States and might provoke them to measures 
detrimental to our commercial interests. The proper solution of this difficulty 
would be to describe the upper district by general terms as — all the territories 
possessed by and subject to his majesty west of the boundary line of Lower 

Between the date of the appointment of Powell and the division of the 
province, the affairs of the upper countrj- were conducted under the act which 
gave the governor the appointment. The act for the division of the province 
omitted to make any provision for the management of affairs during the interval 
between the passage of that act and the first meeting of the legislative council. 
John Graves Simcoe was appointed lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, and 
he issued a proclamation, dated Julj^ 9, 1792, for the care of the province in 
this interval. He directed that the "judges, justices and all other of our civil 
officers, who, on the 26th day of December last (,1791) held offices or employ- 
ments, judicial or ministerial, within that part of our late province of Quebec, 
which now constitutes the province of Upper Canada, should continue in their 
respective offices and employment.?." The proclamation, of which the fore- 
going is an excerpt, was sent up to Detroit by D. W. Smith, enclosed in a letter 
which will be copied in full. 


The letter relates to one of the most interesting incidents that ever took 
place in Detroit, the election of a member of parliament. This is the only 
excuse for including so long a document. David William Smith, the writer 
of this letter, was born September 4, 1764, and was the only son of John Smith 
and Anne, daughter of WiUiam Waylen of Rowde Hill, Wiltshire, England. 
The elder Smith was commandant at Niagara, Canada, and died there in 179.5. 
David was an ensign and subsequently captain, in the Fifth Foot. He was an 
attorney, or barrister, in Upper Canada and was also surveyor-general. He 
was a member of the first three Canadian parliaments and speaker of the house. 
He was created a baronet in 1821. The letter is as follows: 

"Niagara 26 July, 1792. 

"Mj' Dear Sir: The governor's proclamations are arrived dividing the 
upper country. The N. county is called Essex, and is bounded on the east by 
the carrying place from Point au Pins to the River La Tranche (Thames) 
bounded on the south by Lake Erie and on the west by the River Detroit to 
Maisonville's mill, from thence by a line running parallel to the River Detroit 
and Lake St. Clair, at the distance of four miles until it reaches the River La 


Tranche, thence up the said river to where the carrying place from Point an 
Pins strikes that river. This said county of Essex, with the adjoining county 
of Suffolk (in which there arc no inhabitants) sends one member. Those who 
have certificates (for lands) only, I understand, can vote. This tract compre- 
hends the new settlers on Lake Erie (Amherstburg) who have generally certifi- 
cates, Monforton's company, who have none except they have recorded them 
since my departure, and Maisonville's company to the mill, in this place 
there are inhabitants on twelve acres front just above the church, who will vote 
by reason of their having French deeds 'en roture' and those settled on the South 
side of River La Tranche, a few of whom have certificates and where I myself 
am a freeholder. This damned election business seems to bind me to the county, 
for you know I am not fond of deserting any cause I undertake, and that of the 
public is most dear to me. Should I be returned without an undue election or 
the appearance of party or bribery, I shall be most happy, and in that case I beg 
an ox be roasted whole on the common and a barrel of rum be given to the mob, 
to wash down the beef. You will draw on me for the amount. I .shovdd have 
great pleasure in helping to frame laws for lands which I have had so much 
pleasure in laying out. Mr. Pollard who is appointed sheriff, is returning officer. 
The writs are issued this day and returnable the 12th Sept. I depend a good 
deal on j^our goodness, favor and affection in this business and hope I need not 
make any apologies on that score. As I have begun the canvas I am determined 
to go through with it, and should I succeed I hope to support my character after- 
wards. We shall not certainly have the province there four years, so that where- 
ever the seat of government may be, or whatever may be the destination of the 
regiment, I make no doubt that I shall be able to attend the council and assembly 
yearl}'. My having done the settlers' business without emoluments from any 
cjuarter, should he some inducement to them, on the score of gratitude, to return 
me. I rather think that it is intended that the people who have French grants 
on the garrison side should vote, as the description of the county of Kent com- 
prehends a great deal and sends two members. It is said to contain all the 
country (not being territories of the Indians, and not already included in E-sex 
and the several other counties described) extending northward to the boundary 
line of Hud.son's Bay — including all the territory to the westward and southward 
of the said line to the utmost extent of the county commonly called or known by 
the name of Canada. 

"Should candidates to represent this count}' go a begging and you find I have 
no chance for Essex, I shall be proud to be returned for this county, but as the 
French people know little of me I have not any hopes on that score. I am very 
ill at present, myself, or I would certainly go up to Detroit, but if the people are 
sincere, that is unnecessary and this will give it a fair trial. You will do me a 
service by delivering to Mr. Pollard the names of those capable to vote, which 
you can get from a small register in the land office, marked or rather indorsed, 
'Certificates granted' and another indorsed 'French grants en roture.' 

"If any Monforton's or Maisonville's company have received certificates 
since my departvne, I will 1)(> thankful to you to use your influence with them. 
Col. McKec has promised me his interest, so has the commodore (Alexander 
Grant) and I think I may depend upon Capt. Elliot, George Leith and a few 
others. When I wrote j'ou last it was expected that Grosse He, River Raisin 
and Rouge woulil have voted with the new settlers, but that is not the case. 

"Jacques Parent, Lourent Parent, Claude Rheaum, Bapt. Le Due and John 


Bapt. Hortelle, just above the Huron church (Sandwich) may probably ask for 
an explanation of my letters to them. They had lands 'en roture' formerly 
granted to Mons. Longuell and they, of course, have indisputalily votes. I have 
therefore addressed them separately. 

"These are the only French deeds acknowledged tiy the 'Tableau des Terres 
en roture' on that side of the water. 

"I am sure you will forgive me for sending so large a pacquet to you. The 
most of them are for the freeholders on Lake Erie, all whose names I could recol- 
lect. The others you will have great goodness by putting in train for their 
destination. The governor arrived this day. 

"God assist you, prays, 


The old Cjuestion of the boundary lines of the British possessions is brought 
up by this letter. It was not certainly known whether Detroit was in the new 
county of Essex or Kent, but in whichever county it might be located, Smith was 
willing to sacrifice himself for the public good. This letter, as were several others 
on the same subject, was written to one of the most influential men at Detroit, 
John Askin. There can be no doubt that Mr. Askin exerted himself to the ut- 
most in favor of his friend, but Mr. Smith was not exceedingly sanguine of suc- 
cess in the coming election. A few daj-s later there was another letter in which 
he wrote: 

"This is the situation for a disappointed candidate who is fed up with hopes 
from those who wish him well. As I am a little better nothing prevents my 
setting off for Detroit immediately, but the coming of the prince. He is to be 
here about the 25th. My fate is to be determined the 28th. 

"Leith tells me you have written to me, but the opposite party have got 
hold of the letter because they guessed its contents. Have proper booths erected 
for my friends at the hustings, employ Forsyth to make large plum cakes, with 
plenty of fruit, etc., and be sure let the wine be good and plenty. Let the 
peasants have a fiddle, some beverage and beef. If my absence merely should 
be mentioned as a bar to my election, you may assure the world that if there is 
time between the returns being made and the meeting of the assembly, I will 
come up to take the sentiments of the county, and I will annually pay Detroit 
a visit before I go to meet the assembly'." 

Truly, a century has not greatly changed the character of the politician. 
Mr. Patrick McNiff, a surveyor residing at Detroit, told Smith there was little 
hope of his success, but other friends gave him more encouragement and Smith 
wrote, on August 8th: 

"Evervthing must now be left to fate and providence will naturally direct 
for the best. I am so pestered with a fever, headache, want of appetite and 
withal so weak that nothing else prevents me from setting out for Detroit express. 
I would kick up such a dust in Essex as never was there before — and I would 
scrutinize every vote nor allow of any but such as were permitted by the act of 
parliament — that is if the people on Lake Erie and on the south side of the river 
La Tranche were unanimous for my election. What with crossing the water 
and half a dozen masters to serve exclusive of God and ^lammon, ill health and 
all together I am completelj' fagged." 

Smith was still doubtful of the result and sent Lieut. S. Selby up from Niagara 
to assist in the election. A few days before the election the latter wrote to Askin: 

"In case Mr. Smith is likelv to be hard run, I have some votes to bring for- 


ward at short notice, but I would rather avoid their appearing, unless it was 
absolutely necessary, of this you will be able to judge in sufBcient time to send 
me information." 

The election took place at the appointed time and Mr. Smith and William 
Macomb were chosen to represent this district. The assembly, or parliament, 
met at Newark (subsequently called Niagara) on the 17th of September and the 
house of representatives consisted of the following fifteen members: John ]Mc- 
Donell (speaker), John Booth, Mr. Bab}-, Alexander Campbell, Peter Van Al- 
stine, Jeremiah French, Ephraim Jones, William INIacomb, Hugh McDonell, 
Benjamin Rawlin, Nathaniel Pettit, David AA'illiam Smith, Isaac Swaj-zj', Mr. 
Young and John White. Philip Dorland was also elected, but being a Quaker, 
he refused to take the oath of office and hence was not given his seat and Peter 
"\'an Alstine was elected in his place. 


In order to make a continuous narrative of the first, and only, parliamentary 
election in Detroit, we have passed over a period that developed other interesting 
local legal matters. 

An unrecorded deed of laud made by Gregor McGregor, sheriff, of the district 
of Hesse, dated March 25, 1791, running to John Askin, of a parcel of land situ- 
ated on the River Raisin, was a sale bj' virtue of a levy on an execution against 
Etien Laviolet. The tract of land contained one hundred and sixty acres and 
with a house and barn sold for fifteen pounds twelve shillings six pence. The 
object in referring to this deed is to show that the boundaries of the district were 
supposed to include the River Raisin, and other documents show that the Miami 
country, northern Ohio, was also claimed to be in the district of Hesse. 

Among other minor suits and trials of this period are a few of interest. On 
July 29, 1791 John Chase (gunner), John ]McEvoy, IVIichael ISIorisey, Thomas 
Flavell and William Straight deserted from the Snow Chippewa, intending to go 
to the colonies. On Monday, August 1st, William Fleming, with a party of 
soldiers of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, captm'ed the deserters, and they were 
tried in Detroit a few days later and committed to jail. The prisoners were all 
discharged from the navy and tm-ned over to the civil authorities to be tried. 
The punishment could not have been greater than imprisonment, for they had 
committed no capital crime at civil law. 

George Schelsted, tanner, complained that the notorious Simon Girty, on 
Sunday, August 21, 1791, assaulted him as he was riding on horseback near Cap- 
tain Lamothe's on the King's Highway (now Atwater Street, at the foot of 
Randolph Street). Schelsted managed to escape, when Girty threw stones at 
him and struck him in the head, wounding him severely. A warrant for Girty's 
arrest was sworn out by Schelsted and placed in the hands of Joseph Elim, con- 
stable. Girtj- was arrested and brought before the justice for trial, but no trial 
ever took place as there is indorsed on the back of the warrant "settled by the 


The village authorities had some powers of passing rules and regulations for 
the government of the village, though it is not certain what these rules were, 
whence derived or how enforced. Among the unpublished documents of that 
period is the following: 


"Report to the commissioners of persons presented to me as having tres- 
passed against the regulations of the poUce, Detroit, August 23, 1791. 

"Mr. WilHam Scott, two of his cows found in the street by Lieutenant 

"Mr. J. Welch, two of his cows found in the street by Lieutenant Allison. 

"Mr. Cotie, two of his cows found in the street bj- Liteuenant Allison. 

"Mr. Girardin, one of his cows found in the street by Lieutenant Allison. 

"Mr. Dolson, one of his cows found in the street by Lieutenant Allison. 

"Mr. Smith, T. K., one of his cows found in the street by Lieutenant Allison. 

"Mr. Hands, one of his cows found in the street by Lieutenant Allison. 

"Mr. Whitten, one of his cows found in the street by Lieutenant Allison. 

"Mr. G. McDougal, leaving his cart in the street at night. 

"Mr. Fraro, prentice boy, galloping through the streets. 

"Mr. Baby, no ladders provided for Mr. Ross Lewen nor his own house. 

"N. B. — A number of hogs are dayl.v running in the streets to the great detri- 
ment of the public. 

"James May, 0. P. 

Possibly police regulations were those instituted by the garrison, though 
James May was not in the army. He was a prominent character in Detroit for 
many years. A brief sketch of his life is copied here from the family bible of 
the late Alexander D. Frazer: 

"Judge James May died Monday, January 19, 1829, aged 73 years. A native 
of Birmingham, England, he emigrated to Montreal during the revolution, was 
present at the capture of Ethan Allen, and in 1778 removed to Detroit. Ever 
after the surrender of Detroit to the Federal Government, Mr. May continued 
to hold civil and military offices. He was the first chief justice of the court of 
common pleas, marshal of the territory, justice of the peace, colonel of militia, 
etc. His body is buried in A. D. Frazer's lot in Elmwood cemetery, Detroit. 
He was married to Margaret Labadie, September 30, 1797, she being then 18 
years of age. Their eighth child Augusta Caroline, was married to Alexander 
D. Frazer, by the Rev. Gabriel Richard of the Roman Catholic church at Ste. 
Anne's church January 3, 1829, she being then 15 years and 2 month old. Alex- 
ander D. Frazer was born at Dochgarroch, parish of Inverness, Scotland, January 
20, 1796, and died in Detroit in 1877." 


Another instance of pohce control is shown by a document entitled "List of 
inhabitants' names whose chimneys are condemned, and such as are in a danger- 
ous condition — agreeable to the survey made September 14, 1791." The de- 
linquents are as follows: 

"Mr. Burbank, house of William Macomb, chimney in a dangerous state. 

"Joseph Edge, house of Mrs. Baby, chimney, new, condemned. 

"Thomas Smith, T. Keeper, his own house chimney in a dangerous state. 

"Dr. Holmes, house of William Macomb. The hearth in the upper room 

"J. Whitehead, house of James Donaldson, chimney comdemned. 

"J. Welch, his«wn house, chimney condemned by himself. 

"William Scott, his own house, chimney and stovepipe dangerous. 

"John Cornwall, house of Mr. Douler, chimney condemned. 

"Lieutenant Hill, government house, chimney in kitchen dangerous. 


"Rol)oi1 Goiiie, house of William Macomb, fireplacp in room dangerous. 

"Rev. J. Fritchet, public house, chimney dangerous. 

"Carsen, soldier, house of N. Williams, chimney condemned. 

"Fife major, house of D. Robertson, chimney condemned. 

"John Martin, his own house, hearth in upper room dangerous. 

"House in back street occupied by a' soldier and owned by Joseph F. Jean, 
chimney condemned. 

"Two houses in back street occupied by soldiers and owned by government, 
chimney condemned. 

"James May, 0. P." 

One would think from the above that nearly all the chimneys in town were 
defective. The village consisted onh' of four or five streets running east and 
west, located between the present southerly line of Jefferson Avenue and the 
northerly line of Larned Street and from Griswold Street on the east to Wayne 
Street on the west. The picket line had been extended on both the easterly and 
westerly sides northwardly to include the fort, which was situated nearly on the 
site of the postofRce building, but the land between the fort and Larned Street 
was low, the little creek running through it, and not fit for residences. Nearly 
all the buildings were one story in height and built of logs. There were, however, 
some two-story buildings as will appear by the above list of condemnations. 

The houses were very closely huddled together and there were very few vacant 
lots. There were no brick or stone buildings in the village. There was an en- 
gine house, but if there was a fire apparatus it must have been of the most simple 
kind. There was no fire department and if a building should catch on fire the 
almost inevitable result would be the destruction of the entire village, a calamity 
that actually occurred in 1805. We cannot wonder, then, that a great deal of 
attention was paid by the police powers to the matter of chimneys. Stoves, as 
we know the term, were not in use at that time. They had been invented but a 
few years before this, and it is very doubtful if one was ever brought to Detroit 
before the coming of the Americans in 1796. Every house had its fireplace and 
sometimes there were fireplaces in different rooms of the same house. Wood 
was exclusively used for fuel, as coal was unknown at that date. On the reverse 
of the above quoted documents is the following indorsement : 

"We acknowledge to have seen the enclosed list concerning our chimnies and 
the circular letter from the magistrate concerning them. 

"Detroit, Sept. 20, 1791. 

"William Macomb. 

"James Donaldson. 

"William Scott. 

"John Martin. 

"William and David Robertson. 

"Thomas Smith. 


The notice referred to was drawn up by a committee of prominent citizens, 
but whether at the request of some public gathering, or of the military depart- 
ment, or of their own motion, cannot now be determined. The notice is as 

"To the occupiers of those houses in the town of Detroit whose chimnies, 
according to the late survey, stand in need of repair. 

"Gentlemen — You will see ])y the enclosed rejjort that thi? cliimnies of your 


respective houses have been examined in conformity to the regulations of the 
police and that many, though not dangerously bad, are yet in want of repairs. 
You will tlierefore please order that the repairs necessary to render them sound 
and sufficient be accomplished betwixt - — and 10th October next, other- 
wise you will be liable to the penalties annexed to the regulations in that behalf 

"We are, gentlemen, your humble servants, 

"John Askin, J. P. 
"George Meldrum. 
"Alex. Grant. 
"Geo. Leith. 
"Geo. Sharp. 
" Wm. Macomb. 

"Detroit, 19th Sept. 1791." 

The list referred to is among these old records. It contains a numlier of 
names of householders of that day not found in other places, and as the list is 
interesting it will be given in full. In the original the owners and tenants are 
distinguished by a numeral; those numbered one (1) being proprietors, and those 
numbered two (2) being tenants. The list follows: 

"Report of the chimneys in the Town of Detroit, agreeable to the survey 
made September 14, 1791, by Perot, Wheaton, Fraro and Cocillj'ard, by pro- 
ffession, masons and carpenters. 

"Black Dinah (2) kitchen fireplace, wants repairs. 

"Mrs. Bourbank (2) chimne.y in dangerous condition. 

"Joseph Edge (2) chimney condemned as being unfit for use. 

"Couteaur, the cooper, (2) chimney wants repairs. 

"Jacques Pilquey (l) kitchen fireplace wants repairs. 

"Thomas Smith (1) kitchen chimney very dangerous, unfit for use. 

"Doctor Holmes (2) kitchen wants repairs, one harth in the upper room in a 
very dangerous condition. 

"Provencal, blk smith (1) chimney wants repairs. 

"Joiui Whitehead (2) chimney condemned. 

"John Welch (1) chimney condemned. 

"William Scott (1) kitchen chimney very bad, the pipe of the stove only iy2 
inches from the woodwork. 

"John Cornwell (2) chimney in bad order, mason work done with clay, con- 

"Mathew Dolsen (1) kitchen chimney wants repairs. 

"Francois Roucour (]) kitchen chimney wants repairs. 

"Augustin Lafoy (1) kitchen chimney wants repairs. 

"Lieut. Hill (2) kitchen chimne}' in a dangerous condition. 

"William Hands (2) the top of his chimney in bad order. 

"Walter Roe Esq. (1) kitchen fireplace wants repairs. 

"George Leith Esq. (1) kitchen fireplace wants repairs. 

" Robert Gouie (2) fireplace in the room very dangerous. 

"George Sharp, Esq. (1) kitchen fireplace wants repairs. 

"James Allen (2) kitchen fireplace wants repairs. 

"Rev. Mr. Fritchet (1) kitchen fireplace in a very dangerous condition. 

" Carscn, soldier (2) brick chimney in kitchen condemned. 

"Jacque Baby, bake house chimney wants repair. 


"Geo. MacDouoall (2) kitchen chimney wants repair. 
"Mr. Baby (1) kitchen chimnej' wants repair. 
"WiUiam Forsyth (1) kitchen fireplace wants repair. 
"Thomas Reynolds (1) kitchen fireplace wants repair. 
"Mrs. Ford (2) ditto ditto 

"Lieut. R. Lewen (2) ditto ditto 

"John Askin Esq. (1) ditto ditto 

"Fife Major (2) chimnej^ condemned. 
"William Park Esq. (1) kitchen chimney wants repairs. 

"John Martin (1) the harth in the upper room fronting the street in a dan- 
gerous condition. 

"Three houses opposite Doctor Holmes, occupied by soldiers, the chimneys 
all in bad condition. 

"We, the subscribers, having duly inspected the chimneys in the Town of 
Detroit, have found and do declare the before mentioned chimneys to be excep- 
tionable as herein stated. 
"Detroit Sept. 15, 1791. 

"Louis Perault. 
"Francois Frero. 
"Alexis Cerait. 
"Jno. Wheaton. 
"James May 0. P." 

There was no printing press, nor any method Ijy which the above report 
could be readily reproduced, and the making of a copy of it for each delinquent 
was quite a task — too much of a task, in fact, to be undertaken unless it became 
necessary. In order to avoid such a work, the original notice and report was 
taken to each of the persons named above, and each signed a statement that he 
had seen the original. The paper was then sent to Lieutenant Smith by the 
magistrates and the entire matter certified to by Walter Roe. 

Mr. Roe was a lawyer who resided at that time in Detroit and became of 
considerable local importance. After 1796 he removed to the Canadian side of 
the river and ended his days there. 

There was no law applicable to Detroit which would permit the enforce- 
ment of penalties necessary to protect the place against fires. The examination 
and report of the magistrates made it manifest that such a law was a necessity, 
for a fire, once started, would destroy the village in short order. A public meet- 
ing was called, the state of affairs laid before the citizens and a memorial addressed 
to the legislature to pass laws applicalile to the situation. This memorial was 
forwarded to Mr. Smith, who presented it to the governor at Niagara. 

Governor Simcoe assembled the first provincial parliament of Upper Canada 
at Newark (Niagara) September 17, 1792, and a few days later the petition of 
the citizens of Detroit was laid before the lower house. The first information we 
have on the subject is derived from a letter of Mr. Smith's, dated September 
24, 1792. He writes: 

"Your petition from the merchants has been handed to the governor. Mr. 
Macomb and I cannot yet answer the merchants' letter formally. When we are 
certain as to the result you shall hear. I fear, however, from the silence observed 
on the occasion of the memorial that it does not augur well. I am working day 
and night to effect a police Ijill for you in such a manner as to prevent and obviate 
all your difficulties and my struggles shall not be wanting to bring it to maturity." 


The chief difficulty was to so word the text of the law that while it would be 
applied to Detroit, it should not mention that place by name. The old trouble 
of passing laws for the government of the territory they were wrongfully in pos- 
session of stOl bothered the Canadians, and came to the surface on this occasion. 
While the police bill was being discussed, other matters of general importance 
came before the assembly. On the 24th Smith wrote. 

"We have done little as yet; one grand bill for the general settlement of the 
laws of the land will, I expect, pass, and we have passed a jury bill in general 
terms through one house, with some difficulty — a bill to enable two justices to 
try 40s without appeal, is in great forwardness — ways and means seem the great 
difficulty. One or two committees for that purpose have proved nearly abortive. 
I proposed that every land holder should pay one farthing per acre per annum 
for all lands above 200 acres, which I conceive would not burden the settler, but 
the court party and the popular party were both against me, and I stood alone 
in the house. However, I am still of opinion that a land tax, whether it goes 
by that name or not, must eventually take place. I act from principle, altho' 
I value the world's opinion somewhat. I cannot conceive that one farthing 
raised by the house of assembly can be deemed onerous, when the magistrates 
in quarter session will probably have power to raise much greater sums." 


On the 15th of October parliament was prorogued. The acts passed at this 
session are contained in eight chapters comprising five pages of printed matter. 
Each chapter would be considered a separate act as our laws are published. The 
acts were as follows: 

First, repealing the ancient law of the Dominion which rcciuired the use of 
Canadian or French laws for the government of the province. 

Second, establishing trial by jury. 

Third, establishing a system of weights and measures. 

Fourth, abolishing summary proceedings in court actions under ten pounds. 

Fifth, an act to prevent accidents by fire. 

Sixth, an act for the speedy recovery of small debts. 

Seventh, an act to regulate tolls in mills. 

Eighth, an act for building a court house and jail in every district. 

There is no doubt that some of these laws were passed at the instance of 
Detroit persons and were applicable to Detroit more than any other place. 

The first chapter sets forth that the old Canadian laws were adapted to the 
French, but that since the Dominion was divided and Upper Canada formed, the 
number of Englishmen exceeded the number of Frenchmen and the laws should 
be altered to meet the new condition. This change in nationality certainly had 
not taken place in Upper Canada if Detroit was excluded, for that place was the 
most important above Montreal and the great influx of English people had been 
at that place. It may be noted that chapter five, "an act to prevent accidents 
by fire in this province," was passed at the request of Detroit citizens. The 
substance of this act was that — 

"It shall be lawful for the magistrates of each and every district in this pro- 
vince, in quarter sessions assembled, to make such orders and regulations for the 
prevention of accidental fires within the same, as to them shall seem meet and 
necessary, and to appoint firemen or other officers for the prevention of accidental 
fires, or for the purpose of extinguishing the same, when such may happen, and 


to make such orders and regulations as to them may seem fit or necessary, in 
any town or towns, or other place or places in each district within this province, 
where they may be 40 storehouses and dwelling houses within the space of half 
a mile square." 

The assembly might as well have mentioned Detroit by name in this bi 1, for 
there was no other place to which the law could be applied, but here again it 
became necessary to pass a general law in order to avoid openly claiming; Det oit 
as a British possession. 

The act to regulate the toll to be taken at mills was prepared in the interest 
of the millowners of Detroit. It permitted the taking of one-twelfth of the grain 
as toll for the grinding, thus regulating the amount for the province. 

Chapter Eight changed the name of the district of Hesse to the Western Dis- 
trict, and provided that "a gaol and court house" should be built "as near the 
present court house as conveniently may be." This phrase is somewhat uncer- 
tain, because there was, at this time, no court house in Detroit and the jail was 
located near the corner of Wayne and Larned streets. It was not the intention 
to erect public buildings in Detroit and under this act the court house and jail 
were subsequently erected in Sandwich. 

What parliament did not do at its first session is quite as interesting to learn 
as what it did do. A few days before the adjournment Mr. Smith wrote: 

"I have had several confabs with the chief about the continuation of the 
court of common pleas (in Detroit) but I find the law will admit of it, for reasons 
hereafter to be explained to you." 

It would appear from this that there was doubt as to the propriety of main- 
taining this court on the North side of the river. It certainly was continued in 
Detroit for a period somewhat later than this. He continues: 

"The bill for 40s which I brought into the house will, I hope, obviate the 
difficulty you mention of debtors under £10 not being subject to imprisonment." 

It will be remembered that for many years later than this, imprisonment for 
debt was the proper way of collecting accounts and that the first process in an 
action for debt was the capias. 


Already were preparations being made for the meeting of the second session. 
These preparations consisted in formulating bills which were rejected at the first 
session, to be introduced in the second session, that would suit Smith's constit- 
uents. His letter of October 2, 1792 contains the following: 

" I proposed a bill to enable the magistrates in quarter sessions to levy county 
rates, but it has been thrown out. I have been of opinion also that the magis- ' 
trates in quarter sessions should choose the different county, town and parish 
officers, but that, it seems, "cannot succeed either, most of the members being for 
a town meeting and that these officers should be elective. However, as I con- 
ceive these meetings to have been the cause of the late unhappy rebellion fthe 
Revolutionary warj and must always be attended with riot and confusion, it does 
not meet my ideas. I think the majesty of the people should never be called 
together, but to choose their representatives for the house of assembly, and per- 
haps to assemble them without an instrument from the governor may be illegal, 
and to force that instrument from him liy law may be an infringement of his 

Here is shown the "spirit of '7(5" cropping out in the Canadian settlements. 


Tne town meeting was the cause of all the trouble that arose between the colonies 
and Great Britain, and if it was once introduced into Canada, that colony, like 
the others, would soon be lost to the mother country. He continues: 

"I have been working a hundred ways to get your fire bill passed, and this 
day I have brought something into the house which, I think, will succeed and 
answer the purpose. It is that whenever there shall be found in any space of 
half a mile square 40 houses therein, it shall be lawful, for the magistrate in 
quarter sessions to make regulations for the prevention of fire in that place. The 
great difficulty started in mentioning the name of the Town of Detroit: however, 
as the proclamation unquestionably, in my opinion, puts you in the county of 
Kent, I trust you will find no difficulty, as the bill is framed merely to secure 

On other occasions the independence of members of this first parliament an- 
noyed the court party and, of course, Mr. Smith, who represented the party. 
He writes on October 2d: 

"Our house of assembly for the most part have violent leveling principles, 
which are totally different from the ideas I have been educated with. The 
neighboring states are too often brought in as patterns and models, which I 
neither approve or countenance — I think modesty should be the characteristic 
of our first assembly. I conceive it prudent, political and grateful and I am con- 
fident the contrary behavior won't succeed to do the country any good. What- 
ever may be the future prospects of designing men, we cannot, at present, exist 
without the assistance of Great Britain. She has ever shown herself a foster 
mother to her colonies and any procedure which I conceive tends to divide the 
interests of the parent kingdom and all her colonies, I will oppose with all my 

Most of Mr. Smith's constituents lived on the American side of the Detroit 
River and it is possible that if this letter had been made public at the time, a 
number of his adherents would have been displeased with his expressions, but in 
the absence of newspapers and reporters he was safe for the time being. As 
there was never a second parliamentary election in Detroit, Mr. Smith lost no 
votes here on account of this letter, or of others that he wrote on political topics. 
He had persistently argued in favor of a land tax, even against his own material 
interests, for he was a large landowner. On this subject of the proposed land 
tax, he wrote in his letter of October 20, 1792: 

"I will certainly be acquitted for having proposed a land tax having at the 
very time a petition before the governor and council in the name of my father 
and myself for 6400 acres, which is since secured, or rather ordered in council. 
This circumstance will be the strongest proof that I have acted from principle 
and should malicious reports be spread, I beg you will promulgate my sentiments, 
situation and concern relative to the said land business. As to news here, we 
have none, not even a scandalous story. I expect you will be well prepared with 
memoranda for me in the spring, relative to what amendments you want in the 
present laws." 

The Canadians felt themselves insecure in the possession of Detroit and the 
feeling of insecurity was growing day by day, as the States were complaining of 
the injustice of its retention. To be sure, Harmar and St. Clair had advanced 
against the Indians with two armies, apparently well equipped to combat with 
savages, and both armies had been routed and defeated, but the defeat was not 
a sign that the government was vanquished. It was apparent to the English 


government and to the Canadian and to the Indians themselves that the United 
States troops would be victorious in the end and that Detroit must, sooner or 
later, be turned over to the States. The military commandant at Detroit com- 
plained again and again that the fortifications could not stand the attack of even 
a small army and that if the Americans advanced beyond the ]\Iiami (Maumee) 
the British troops might as well evacuate the town, for they would be unalile to 
hold it. 

It is with Detroit alone that we are dealing now, and the formation of Wayne's 
army, the attempt of our government to negotiate a treaty with the Indians, the 
failure to effect the treaty, the advance of Wayne through the wilderness, the 
attempt of the British to stay his advance by building a fort on the ^Vlaumee and 
by aiding the Indians, the battle of Fallen Timbers and the rout and destruction 
of the Indians, will be narrated in another chapter. 


At this time there was an embassy in England negotiating with that country 
to make a new treaty which should carry into effect the treaty of 1783, and which 
would result in the evacuation of the United States posts by British soldiers. 
This new treaty was not perfected until 1794 and in the meantime everything 
at Detroit which indicated the leaning of any citizen towards American interests 
was looked upon with suspicion and was likely to be followed with imprisonment. 

The American envoys to the Indians, who sought to bring about a peace with 
them before Wayne began his march through the woods, were not permitted to 
visit Detroit, nor were they permitted to cross the Detroit River at its mouth, 
and not being able to effect a meeting with the Indians on the Canadian side, 
they were compelled to return to Congress fruitless. 

Strangers at Detroit were watched and their actions commented upon. On 
April 2, 1793 one of the justices was approached by a citizen, John Miller, who 
asked permission to lay a complaint before him. The complaint was substan- 
tialh' as follows: Willam Erwin, "a man who lately came from the American 
states," formed the acquaintance of ]\Iiller and tried to persuade him to leave 
Detroit for the States, where he would make a gentleman of him. He asked 
Miller to go around the works (fortifications) with him and, as Miller refused, 
Erwin left the home at night and spent four or five nights in making investiga- 
tions. He told Miller a large army would soon come against the place. Appar- 
ently the story, however preposterous it was, was believed by the magistrate and 
a warrant was issued for the apprehension of Erwin. The acquaintanceship 
between Miller and Erwin commenced on the 10:h of March and as the complaint 
was not made until the 3rd of April, Erwin had an abundance of time to make a 
detailed plan of the village and fortifications and leave for the States before the 
warrant for his detention was issued. 


An event of considerable local importance occurred at this time. This was a 
visit to Detroit of Gov. John Graves Simcoe. The threats of certain hotheads 
among the Americans to attack Niagara and Detroit, induced Governor Simcoe 
to visit the place in order to ascertain the best means of opening an uninter- 
rupted coinmunication between the two posts named. Governor Simcoe and 
suite left Niagara in February, 1793, accompanied by Capt. Joseph Brant, the 
great chief of the Six Nations, and a liody of Indians. On the 18th of Februar}- 


he reached Dolson's on the River Tranche (Thames) and was received by the 
entire settlement. Upon their departure they followed this river to Lake St. 
Clair, and thence down the lake and Detroit River to a point opposite Detroit. 
Crossing the river, the party was received by the garrison and citizens of Detroit. 
Simcoe examined the fortifications and reviewed the troops, the Twenty-fourth 
Regiment, and remained in the place until February 2oth, when he set out upon 
his return to Niagara. It is said that on his return he stopped an entire day on 
the site of the present city of London, Ontario, examining the place and sur- 
roundings with the idea of making it the seat of government, or capital, of Upper 


The second session of parliament met at Newark (Niagara) May 31, 1793, 
and continued until July 9th of the same 3-ear. The acts passed at this session 
were as follows: 

1. An act for the regulation of the militia. 

2. An act for the election of parish and town officers. 

3. An act for laying and collecting assessments and rates. 

4. An act for laying out and keeping in repair highways and roads. 

5. An act to confirm and make valid certain marriages heretofore contracted 
in the country now comprised within the Province of Upper Canada, and to pro- 
vide for the future solemnization of marriages within the same. 

6. An act to fix the times and places for holding courts of quarter sessions 
of the peace. 

7. An act to prevent the further introduction of slaves. 

8. An act to establish a court of probate, and also a surrogate court in every 

9. An act to authorize the lieutenant-governor to appoint commissioners. 

10. An act to establish a fund for salaries of the legislative council members. 

11. Providing bounty for destroying wolves. 

12. Appointment of returning officers. 

13. Payment of salaries of members of the house of assembly. 

Only a few of these acts were in any way interesting to the people of Detroit. 

The first act adopted by parliament in its second session at Newark (Niagara) 
in 1793 was relative to the militia. While by its terms applicable to the entire 
district, it was probably confined, in its operations, to the country South of the 
Detroit River. Lists of militia living on that side of the river occasionally appear, 
but if any persons were enrolled on the Detroit side, the lists have yet to be un- 

The second act is of more, local importance. Bj' the terms of this act, a pop- 
ular election was to be held on the first Monday of March in every year, at which 
time there were to be chosen a town clerk, two assessors, one collector, from two 
to six overseers of highways, a poundkeeper and two wardens. This election 
was to be called by any two justices of the peace in the district. The passage of 
this act clearly indicates that the New England idea of self government was in- 
stilled in the Canadians and that the court party represented by Mr. Smith, was 
unable to control the other members of the assembly. This bill, or one similarly 
worded, had been introduced in the first session and had failed of passage, being 
violently opposed by Mr. Smith, as indicated in his letter written on that oc- 


By the terms of this act, if any person elected to an office refused to accept 
the same for seven days after being notified, he should pay forty shillings as a 
fine for his refusal. The law for the collection of taxes was not a land tax, as we 
understand the term, but each individual was taxed in proportion to the amount 
of property he had. The entire list of inhabitants was to be divided, by the 
assessors, into eight groups, the lowest group including only those whose propertj^ 
amounted to fifty pounds or less, and each group in the scale including citizens 
who?e property exceeded the next lower group by fifty pounds, so that the eighth 
group included all having property over four hundred pounds. A flat tax of 
two shillings six pence was levied on each one in the first class, and the amount 
increased in each class to twenty shillings in the eighth class. 

The justices of the peace in quarter sessions were directed to appoint a treas- 
urer to hold and disburse the taxes collected. This act also provided that mem- 
bers of the assembly should each receive as wages the sum of ten shillings for 
each day that they were engaged in attendance in the house. 

Every freeholder was compelled to work at least twelve days in each year in 
maintaining and repairing roads, and eight hours of labor was fixed as a day's 


The fifth act, relative to marriages, was of the utmost importance to Detroit, 
and the measure was introduced and urged through the assembly at the request 
of Detroit citizens. 

There was no minister of the Church of England in Detroit at this time. On 
some occasions a chaplain would be, for a short time, attached to the garrison, 
but except on these occasions, no valid marriages had ever been solemnized by 
the protestants at Detroit. The marriage ceremony was constantly being per- 
formed bj' the commanding officer of the garrison. If he declined to act, it was 
performed by the adjutant. Sometimes the lieutenant-governor acted. All of 
these marriages were clearly illegal, and an attempt was made to pass a law that 
should legalize the past marriages and provide for future marriages. On the 
occasion of this act. Governor Simcoe wrote: 

"The general cry of persons of all conditions for the passing of the marriage 
bill was such that I could no longer withhold, under the pretense of consulting 
any opinion at home, having already availed myself of that excuse for delay." 

The act legalized all marriages performed "before any magistrate, or com- 
manding officer of a fort, or adjutant, or surgeon of a regiment, acting as chajj- 
lain, or any person in any public office or employment, before the passage of this 
act." To take advantage of this act, it was necessary for the husband and wife 
to make oath of their marriage, giving the date of tJie same, and the dates of the 
birth of their children, if any, and this statement was to be recorded by the clerk 
of the peace. That such a record was made, we are certain, for there exist copies 
of one or two of the certificates, but a diligent search has failed to disclose the 
record itself. 

Justices of the peace were authorized to perform the marriage ceremonj' in 
case no protestant minister resided within eighteen miles of the residence of the 
persons, and the justice was directed to keep a record of such marriages. 

Chapter Six fixed the time of holding quarter sessions of the peace for the 
Western District in the town of Detroit, on the second Tuesday of Jul}', October, 
Jaiuiary, and April in each year, and a court of .special sessions of the peace was 


to be held yearly, on the second Tuesday of July, at Mackinac. The court of 
quarter sessions was a court composed of all the justices of the district, sitting 
en banc. 


An act to prevent the further introduction of slaves was passed as Chapter 
Seven. The law permitting the importation of negro slaves was repealed. 
Slavery was not abolished, but in order to prevent a continuation of the system, 
it was provided that children born of slave mothers should abide with the master 
of the mother until the child was twenty-five j^ears of age, and should then be free. 

There were a large number of slaves in and about Detroit, and the agitation 
of freeing them excited their owners. It was necessary to make some satisfac- 
tory explanation of the proposed law to quiet the fears of the slaveholders of 
Detroit, and Mr. Smith explained in a letter of June 25, 1793: 

"We have made no law to free the slaves. All those who have been brought 
into the province, or purchased under any authority legally exercised, are slaves 
to all intents and purposes, and are secured as property by a certain act of par- 
liament. They are determined, however, to have a bill about slaves, part of 
which, I think, is well enough, part most iniquitous. I wash my hands of it. 
A free man who is married to a slave — his heir is declared by this act to be a 
slave. Fye! Fye! The laws of man and God cannot authorize it. 

"A marriage bill — a wolf bill — a parish officer bill — a probate bill — a com- 
mon pleas bill — and some others have gone through the house." 

It is well to note that the terms of the emancipation bill as here outlined. The 
ordinance of 1787 provided that there should be no slavery in the Northwest 
Territory. As soon as Detroit was separated from Canada and was placed under 
the government of the United States, the Canadian slaves began to cross the 
river in the hope of reaching freedom. This law of Canada and Jay's treaty of 
1794 were brought into play to force a return of these fugitive slaves, and both 
acts ran counter to the ordinance of 1787. It will be some time before we reach 
the period of Judge Augustus Brevoort Woodward, Michigan's first great chief 
justice, to whom these fugitive slave questions were submitted, and just such a 
man was needed to define clearly the meaning of these laws, and to construe 
them in conformity with each otlier. 

On the occasion of the passage of this act, Governor Siracoe wrote: 

"The greatest resistance was to the slave bill, many plausible arguments of 
the dearness of labor and the difficulty of obtaining servants to cultivate lands 
was brought forward. Some possessing negroes, knowing that it was very ques- 
tionable whether any subsisting law did not authorize slavery, and having piu-- 
chased several taken in war by the Indians, at small prices, wished to reject the 
bill entirely. Others were desirous to supply themselves by allowing the im- 
portation for two years. The matter was finally settled by undertaking to secure 
the property already obtained upon condition that an immediate stop should be 
put to the importation, and that slavery should be gradually abolished." 

The census of 1782 shows that there were then 179 slaves in Detroit and that 
they had nearly doubled in number since the census of 1773 — nine years. It is 
safe to conclude that in 1793 there were more than three hundred slaves in the 
Detroit district and there was great reason to dislike any law which would set 
them free and thus deprive their owners of so much property. An inventory of 


the property of John Askin, made January 1, 17S7, includes the following list of 

slaves owned by him: 

Jupiter, a negro man £150 

Tom, a negro man 140 

George, a negro boy 90 

Sam, a Panis — blacksmith 150 

Susannah, a wench, and two children 130 

Mary, a wench 100 

Total £760 


A court of probate for the province of Upper Canada was authorized by 
Chapter Eight and over this court the governor, or lieutenant-governor, was to 
preside, but the governor was authorized to appoint "an official principal of said 
court" and a register and other officers to carry it on. This court could probate 
wills and grant administration on estates of intestates. 

In addition to tne provisions in Chapter Eight of the act for a court of pro- 
bate, provision was also made for the organization of a surrogate court in each of 
the four districts of the province and for the appointment of a surrogate to preside 
as judge in each district. This court, also, could probate wills and issue letters 
of administration. When a deceased person left property in any district other 
than that in which he resided, the estate was to be probated in the court of probate 
only and not in any surrogate court. 

The judge and register were to receive fees for services in connection with the 
probate of estates, as follows: for seal to probate of will where the estate was 
three hundred pounds or under, sixteen shillings; if under one thousand pounds 
it should be one pound; and if over two thousand pounds it should be two pounds. 
Seal to any other instrument, thirteen shillings four pence; caveat, six shillings 
eight pence; inventory, the same, and citation, three shillings four pence. 

The fees of the register in the same cases were as follows: seal to probate of 
will in all cases, six shillings eight pence; seal to any other instrument, three 
shillings four pence; filing caveat and inventory, same fee; citation, one shilling; 
collating will, six shillings eight pence; drawing bond, same amount; searching 
register, one shilling each year; for copj'ing each page of eighteen lines, six words 
in each, one shiUing. 

The fee system was carried on in our own court of probate for many j-ears, 
under somewhat the same form as above mentioned. 

Chapter Eleven, which provided for the destruction of wolves and the pay- 
ment of a bounty for the same, contains a provision that was applicable to Detroit, 
and which was possibly inserted only because Detroit was in the Western district 
and consequently should have been excluded from the effect of all Canadian laws. 

The act, after providing for bounties for the killing of wolves in the province, 
contains the following: "Provided always, that this act shall not extend, nor 
be construed to extend, to the Western district of this province, nor have any 
force or operation whatever therein." 


The last of the thirteen acts or chapters pertains to the establishment of a 
fund for the payment of salaries to the members of the legislature. This fund 


was to be raised by means of a license to sell liquors. Every person keeping a 
house of entertainment or selling liquors, was compelled to take out a license and 
pay therefor two pounds sixteen shillings, and to have written or printed over 
the door of his house the words " Licensed to sell wine and other spiritous liquors." 
He should also enter into a bond to keep a decent and orderly house. A failure 
to comply with these conditions was punishable with a fine of five shillings, "to be 
recovered before any justice of the peace," one half of the fine to be paid to the 

It was not long before this act was called into operation in Detroit. The fol- 
lowing correspondence will fully explain itself, except that the complaining 
witness was Antoine Dequindre, to whom had been given the cognomen of Dag- 
niaux, as it appears here and in other places. 

"Detroit, 31st December, 1794. 
"Sir: I am directed by the magistrates for the Western District to forward 
the subjoined case, with a request that you will favor them with your opinion 
thereon, as the issue awaits your determination. I have the honor to be, 
"Sir " 

"Your most obedient and very humble servant, 
"W. Roe, 
"Clk. Peace, 
"Western District. 
"John White E^sq. 
"Atty-Gen., Etc., Etc. 



"On information against deft, for retailing and selling one quart of rum on 
20th. inst., and another on 21st. inst. without license. 
"The fact proved on oath of Dagniaux. 

"Query. Is the defendant punishable for so doing? If so, under what act, 
and to what amount? 

"W. R., C. P." 
The reply of the attorney-general was as follows: 

Niagara, Jany. 19, 1794. 
(Evidently misdated for 1795). 
"The attorney-general laments that he is not able to give the magistrates the 
information they desire. Notwithstanding he was the framer of the Act, he has 
scarcely a vestige of it in his recollection, owing to the multiplicity of business 
that he had to engage his attention during the session. And the Acts being 
taken to Lower Canada for the signature of the late Chief Justice (as speaker of 
the L. Council), whose immediate departure after the prorogation occasioned 
that omission, he cannot refer to the Act in question to enable him to answer 
the cases. The basis upon which he drew it was the 26th. of G. 2 c. 31, which 
regulates the manner of licensing public houses in England (and was to amend 
and inlarge the G. 2d. C. 28, probably to be found in Burns' J.) by which any 
magistrate is enabled to summon upon suspicion — and is enabled to convict on 
the oath of one creditable witness. The A. G. conceives that (because the natm-e 
of the offence demands a summary conviction) he adopted the rule of the English 
law — if it is otherwise it must have been altered by the wisdom of the Houses^ 


Wliile writing this lie recollects that ]\Ir. Macomb is possessed of the act, and he 
presumes (by receiving this case) tliere is no mode of conviction expressed in it. 
Two principles will arise on that — if the latter law is not in the negative, the 
summary mode of conviction in the former is not abrogated. If the last act is 
in the negative, and yet does not point out a mode of conviction, it becomes a 
misdemeanor, and of com'se cognizable at the session by the way of indictment. 
But this is advising in the dark, and the magistrates wiU perceive that the want 
of the act precludes a definite opinion. He would therefore wish that the Clerk 
of the Peace would transcribe the part of the Winter express for as the Acts 
have not yet been returned, as expected, he fears they will not arrive till the 
Spring. The information may be taken on oath — which will save the limitation, 
if any in the Act. He begs to inform the magistrates that there must be the oath 
of one credible witness besides the information of the informant. 

"J. White, 

"A. G. 
"To the Worshipful, the Chairman and Magistrate of the Western District 
in Quarter Session Assembled. 

••J. W." 


A few more items appear in the old records and files during the years 1793 
and 179-1:. John Haydek, a sailor, belonging to the sloop "Beaver," absented 
himself from that vessel without leave of the owner or master from the 2Sth to 
the 31st of July, 1793. He was arrested, tried before John Askin, justice of the 
peace, convicted and sentenced to the keeper of the common gaol, "to be safeh' 
kept in said gaol for the space of 28 days" from August 7, 1793. The master of 
the "Beaver" was John Drake. 

It seems difiicult, at this time, to tell when the court of common pleas ceased 
_to exist, as no successor was appointed. In the summer of 1793. Mr. D. W. 
Smith, I\I. P. wrote from Niagara: 

"Your common pleas, I understand, is reestablished and the bench, I am 
told, is to be filled by the Hon. Col. McKee and W. Macomb." 

It is probable that Smith was in error, for there is no available evidence that 
Powell ever had a successor in Detroit. It is almost certain that Detroit 
had no other judge until the coming of Wayne in 1796. To prove the con- 
tinued existence of the court of common pleas during this period, there is an 
advertisement, hand written and probably placed on some convenient post or 
tree, notifj'ing the public that by virtue of a writ of execution issued out by the 
court of common pleas, the sheriff, Richard Pollard, would sell the property of 
the defendant, Joseph Mainville, "at the church door of the Parish L'Assump- 
tion le vingt deuxeime day of September next," thus mixing his French and 
English to suit the natives. Attached to this notice was another that possibly 
had some legal significance at the time, but would scarcely be complied with 
under our law. It was as follows: 

"All and every person having any prior claims by mortgage or other rights, 
are hereby required to give notice thereof in writing to the said sheriff before the 
day of sale." 

At the present time the purchaser takes his own risk of outstanding prior 
claims when he purchases at such a sale. 

Roliert Forsyth, acting for George Sharp, complained that John Bowers, an 


engage of Sharp, had, September 26, 179-i, refused to go to work as requested 
and stated that "he would prefer going to jail to obey his orders on that head." 
On this complaint. Bowers was arrested and brought before the justice. He 
answered that by his engagement he was not required to do farm work, such as 
he had been requested to do. He entered a counter complaint against Forsyth 
for assault, and for using abusive language. The justice' decision was: "Ad- 
judged that Bowers return to his duty to serve out his time agreeable to his 
engagement, but not obliged to go to work at farmer's work, and that Forsyth 
gives in bail to appear at the next quarter sessions of the peace to answer for 
having struck said Bowers." 

The postscript to the decision settled the entire matter: "The parties have 
come before me and made up their disputes. 

"John Askin J. P." 

Two suits of John Askin and Jonathan Schieffelin, co-partners, against John 
Askin, were tried at the court of common pleas March 31, 1794, and a verdict 
rendered for the plaintiff. These suits were settled by the payment of two hun- 
dred and fourteen pounds three shillings seven pence, October 11, 1794. 

This letter indicates the existence of this court in March, 1794, but before 
October of that year, Judge Powell had left Detroit, for his letter dated October 
13, of that year, is written from Mount Dorchester. Mount Dorchester does 
not appear on any modern map. It is situated on the Niagara River, a short 
distance below the falls. "The ridge of land running along the border of the 
Niagara district called the mountain, was, in Governor Simcoe's time, by 
royal proclamation named Mount Dorchester." In this letter the judge stated 
that he had twice been to Newark to open the court of K. B. (King's Bench). 
The following is an extract from Judge Powell's letter of November 14, which 
was in reply to an inquiry from a justice of the peace at Detroit: 

"Your favor of the 21st. ulto. covering a note of costs on a penal judgment 
and stating a question upon the demand, I rec'd. this da}^ As the case is 
stated as a magistrate for future guidance I am less scrupulous in offering mj- 
opinion than if the reference was merely individual. 

"I am unacquainted with the terms of your pohce regulations since I was 
in Detroit. I cannot speak for the letter of them, but I know of no general 
law which gives you power to create offences and levy the penalties. The ordi- 
nance of Quebec, under which your former regulations were made, subjected 
the recovery of all penalties to suit in the common pleas, where, of course, costs 
were given in an action of debt. But I fear on a summary conviction, before 
a single justice out of session, no costs were recoverable bj- any statute prior 
to the 14th. of the King, which is the epoch of our criminal code, altho, I think, 
by a subsequent statute, the 18th, Geo. 3d, some provision is made for costs 
in such cases, but it has not force of law here. 

"It is a general rule of law that the jurisdiction of justices without the 
intervention of a jury, being contrary to the provisions of Magna Carta, must 
be derived from some statute, and on the same principle that the statute which 
gives the authority must be rigidly pursued. Therefore, in your case,, if the 
Act, or Ordinance, makes no special provision for costs, none can be adjudged. 
In hazarding this statement of the law I am probably committing an impro- 
priety should I have misconstrued your letter and you prove a party, in lieu of 
the justice in the business, for the appeal, in all cases, gives to the K. B., so 


that, in justice to me, if you are yourself partj-, j'ou will pay the costs and let 
the business sleep. 

"Your very obedt. and humble servant, 

"William Dummer Powell." 

third session of first parliament 

The third session of the first parliament met at Newark (Niagara) June 2, 
1794, and was yrorogued on the 9th of the following July. Only twelve acts 
were passed. 

Through these acts and those of preceding sessions, we find the continued 
addition of the names of officers and offices that are not described in the acts, 
nor are there any provisions made for the election or choice of such officers. 
Their duties are not defined. We are left to suppose that the names and du- 
ties are taken from England and English laws and that the Canadians under- 
stood who they were, and did not need an act of parliament to provide for 
their introduction in Canada. 

In the first act, relative to juries, are mentioned a clerk of the peace, bailiff, 
assize, nisi prius, district court, judge of assize or nisi prius and other offices 
and officers that are nowhere described in the Canadian laws. We know, from 
common usage, who these officers are, and the duty they have to perform, but 
it seems strange that the duties are not laid down in their early statutes. 

No person was allowed to serve on more than one jury in any j'ear. 


The second act provided for the establishment of a superior court of civil 
and criminal jurisdiction, and to regulate the court of appeals. This was called 
ti e court of King's Bench, and was a court of record of original jurisdiction, 
to be presided over by a chief justice and two puisne justices. Court was to 
be held at Newark, and the four sessions were to be known as Hilary, Easter, 
Trinity, and Michaelmas terms. Proceedings were, of course, in the English 
language, but a summons in the French was to be served where the defendant 
was a Frenchman or French-Canadian. 

The court of common pleas was abolished and the cases pending therein 
were transferred to the court of King's Bench. The governor, lieutenant- 
governor or the chief justice, together with any two or more members of the 
executive council of the province, were to compose a court of appestls. Appeal 
could be taken from the court of King's Bench to the court of appeals in all 
cases where the subject matter in controversy exceeded one hundred pounds. 
A fee biU for the attorney-general, clerk, marshal, crier and sheriff was pro- 
vided by this act. 

The next act provided for a district court in each district, with a judge to 
be appointed by commission. Tliis court was to be held in the town where 
the court house was built, "excepting in the western district, where the court 
shall be holden in the town of Detroit." A fee bill for the attorney, sheriff, 
clerk, crier and judge was given in the act. 

The code of procedure was supposed to be very simple and probabh- was 
simple until the learned lawyers began to copy the prolix forms of the old coun- 
try in their pleadings. 

Chapter Four provided that the governor might license not exceeding six- 


teen persons to act as advocates and attorneys in Upper Canada. The roll of 
advocates should be kept among the records of the court of King's Bench. 


The fourth session of the first parliament met at Newark Julj^ 6, 1795, 
and was prorogued August 10, 1795. There were only five acts passed at this 
session. The first act appointed a board of surgeons who had powers to grant 
licenses to practice "physic, surgery and midwifery" in the province. Per- 
sons attempting to practice without a license were fined ten pounds. 

The second act was aimed at persons who had been citizens of Canada or 
England and who had resided in the United States as citizens and had returned 
to Canada and again become citizens of that country. All such persons were 
ineligible to either house of parliament. 

The fourth act amended the law establishing the court of King's Bench by 
providing that this court should hear all actions brought for smuggling. 

The fifth chapter established the office of register of deeds, thus preceding, 
by one year, a nearly similar law put in force in Detroit upon the evacuation 
of the place by British troops. 

The laws of the two countries are verj^ similar in many of the provisions, 
but there are some matters of difTerence. The office hours of the register were 
fixed at from 9 o'clock in the morning till 1 o'clock in the afternoon; a separate 
record book should be kept for each township; the register's fee should be one 
shilling for each folio of one hundred words. Conveyances were not recorded 
at full length, as in modern records, but an abstract only of the paper was 
entered by the register. In this particular, our own laws, at a later date, fol- 
lowed the provisions of the Canadian statutes, though, as a matter of fact, 
no such abstract or extract was ever recorded in Wayne County subsequent 
to 1796. No matter what the terms of the statute were, every conveyance 
was recorded at full length under our territorial and state laws. Thus ended 
the first parliament of Upper Canada. 

The members of the legislative council of the first parliament were: Will- 
i m Osgoode, James Baby, Alexander Grant, Peter Russell, members of the 
e e utive council, and Robert Hamilton, Richard Cartwright and John Munro, 
members of the legislative council. The members of the lower house have al- 
ready been given. 

William Osgoode was born in England in 1754 and graduated from Ox- 
ford in 1777. He studied for the law and was called to the bar. He came to 
Upper Canada as chief justice in 1792. He returned to England in 1801 and 
died in 1824, never having married. Osgoode Hall in Toronto was named in 
his honor. 

James Baby was born in Detroit August 25, 1763, his father, James Duperon 
Baby, being one of the men who rendered great assistance to the garrison at 
the place during the siege by Pontiac in 1763. James was an extensive trader 
in Detroit during the term of British occupation, and his name is frequently 
found in the preceding pages. He took a prominent part in the War of 1812 
in the British cause, and suffered great losses in those trying times. After 
the war was over he was appointed inspector-general and removed to York 
(Toronto), where he continued to reside until his death on February 19, 1833. 

Alexander Grant was another Detroit citizen. Judge R. S. Woods, of 
Chatham, Ontario, a grandson of Alexander Grant, says in his "Harrison Hall 


and Its Associations" that Grant was tlie fourth son of the seventh laird of 
Grant of Glenmoriston, Inverness, Scotland. He came to America with General 
Amherst in 1757 and was appointed to the command of a vessel on Lake Cham- 
plain. He came to Detroit at a later time, and in 1774 married Therese Barthe. 
John Askin married a sister of Therese (Archange) and the two families were 
always intimate. Grant owned a farm in Grosse Pointe, Wayne County. He 
was given the command of the Canadian or British naval department on Lake 
Erie and was commonly called the "Commodore of the Lakes." He died in 
1813, leaving eleven children. His only son, Alexander, died unmarried, so that 
the family name has become extinct, or rather the family line. John Grant was 
an adopted son, but reared in the family of Commodore Grant. Judge Woods 
says that James Baby and Alexander Grant were associates of Judge Powell 
in 1792, but there existed no Canadian law which provided for side judges. 

Under the marriage laws of Upper Canada, as- above related, it became 
necessary for persons who were not married by the Catholic priest, to make 
a sworn statement of their marriage and file a copy with the clerk of the peace. 
There exists the original affidavit made by Therese Barthe, of her marriage with 
Alexander Grant. They were married September 30, 1774. Their eldest daugh- 
ter, Therese, was born Februarj- 13, 1776, and their other children living at the 
date of the statement, February 27, 1798, were: Archange, Phillis, Arabella, 
Anne, Elizabeth, Nelly, Alexander and Maria. 


Seven acts were passed at the session of the second parliament. 

First, an act regulating coins. This fixed the value of coins of other coun- 
tries and provided a punishment for counterfeiting, but did not provide for 
any native coining. 

The .second act regulated the manner of drawing juries. 

The act for licensing public houses was amended, in order to permit licenses 
to be obtained at any season of the year, and providing a punishment for those 
who sold liquor without a license. 

The fourth act was the only one of interest to Detroit. This act repealed 
the former act providing for the holding of the court of quarter sessions in De- 
troit and Mackinac, and provided that these courts in the western district should 
be held in the parish of Assumption (Sandwich) until such time as it should 
seem expedient to the magistrates to remove and hold the same nearer to the 
island, called the Isle of Bois Blanc, being near the entrance of the Detroit 
River. "As it seems not to be any longer expedient to hold the said court in 
the town of Detroit aforesaid, be it enacted that the district court shall be 
holden" in tlie same place the courts of quarter sessions are held. This act was 
passed in contemplation of the treaty of 1794, which, although already adopted, 
did not take effect until the summer of 1796. 

It may not be generally known that Bois Blanc Island was, at one time, 
a part of the territory of the United States. In the first treaty fixing the bound- 
ary line between the L^nited States and Canada, it was provided that the line 
of navigation should be the dividing line. The line of navigation was between 
Bois Blanc Island and the Canadian shore, and this was accepted, but subse- 
quently — June 18, 1822 — ccmmissioners who were appointed to run the bound- 
ary line anew, concluded that the island was too near the mainland to be pos- 
sessed properly by another nation, and they conceded the claim that it ought 


to belong to Canada. It was given to her, but it v/as at the same time provided 
that the waters on both sides of the island should be equally free to both nations. 

The law providing for bounties for killing wolves and other wild animals 
was repealed by the fifth act. 

The sixth act provided for the regulation of commerce between Upper 
and Lower Canada, and the seventh and last act provided for the paj'ment 
of wages to the members of the house of assembly. This ends the legislative 
connection between Detroit and Canada. Parliament was prorogued liut a 
few days before the British army evacuated Detroit and the post passed under 
the control of the laws of the Northwest Territory. 

The election of the second parliament did not take place until August, 1796, 
a short time after Detroit passed under the government of the Northwest 
Territory, and hence no member of that assembly came from Detroit. Our 
village, however, maj- make some claim to representation in this parliament, 
for one of its members was Thomas Smith, who, before and after the election, 
resided in Detroit. He was a surveyor and mapmaker of some note and a citi- 
zen of considerable importance. His daughter was the wife of John McDonell, 
who lived at the northwest corner of Shelby and Fort Streets, where after- 
wards stood the Whitney Opera House and where now stands the U. S. post- 

We have now reached the time when Detroit ceased to be under the control 
of Canadian laws, and passed under the government and laws of the territory 
northwest of the Ohio River. 

(Continued in next chapter) 




By Clarence M. Burton 
organization of northwest territory territorial laws and courts 


















The "Territory of the United States North West of the Ohio River," gener- 
ally known as the Northwest Territory, was organized under the oi'dinance of 
1787. The legislative authority was vested in a governor and three judges, 
and the judicial affairs were presided over by the same three judges. The three 
first appointed October 16, 1787, were: Samuel Holden Parsons, James Mitchell 
Varnum and John Armstrong. Armstrong declined the appointment and John 
Cleves Symmes was chosen in his place February 19, 1788. General Varnum 
had sought the Ohio climate for his health, which had been undermined by his 
soldier's life in the Revolution, but he soon died and William Barton was 
appointed to succeed him. Barton declined and George Turner took his place 
by appointment September 11, 1789. General Parsons met his death by 
drowning and on March 31, 1790, Rufus Putnam succeeded him and he in turn 
was succeeded by Joseph Oilman. Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr., was appointed 
in place of George Turner, who resigned February 12, 179S. 

The governor and judges could not enact laws, but they could adopt laws 
from any of the original thirteen states to meet their requirements. Whatever 



laws they thus adopted had to be submitted to Congress and the acts were 
to remain in force unless and until disapproved by the national body. The 
governor and judges did not comply strictly with the provisions of the ordinance, 
but enacted many new laws, and they undertook to defend their actions on the 
ground of necessity, as they claimed they could not find laws already enacted 
in the thirteen states, which were adapted to all of their needs. Trial by jury 
was provided by the ordinance of 1787, in all cases where demanded. 


A code of laws was established in 1788 which practically covered the needs 
of the territory. Only a few of these adopted laws will be referred to here. 

The governor was authorized to appoint all necessary justices of the peace, 
and from these appointments he was directed to select not less than three nor 
more than five in each county to form the quorum for the court of quarter 
sessions of the peace. The justices of the county, or any three of them, at 
least one of whom must be of the quorum, could hold court. 

Misdemeanors were to be tried before the justices. All other criminal 
trials, less than capital cases and criminal cases where imprisonment for more 
than one year was the penaltj^, were to be tried before the quarter sessions. 

The County Court of Common Pleas was established in each countj' to hear 
all civil cases. The governor was to appoint not less than three nor more than 
five judges in each county to preside over this court, which should be a court of 
record. A single judge of the court of common pleas could hear and determine 
cases where the amount involved did not exceed five dollars. 

A judge of a court of probate was to be appointed for each county, to have 
charge of estates, probate wills and appoint guardians to minors. The probate 
judge could call to his assistance two of the justices of the court of common 
pleas, and the three judges constituted the probate court and could render final 
decrees. The probate judge should record all wills. A clerk was provided for 
the probate court to keep the records of the office. 

The general court for the territory should be presided over by the judges 
appointed by the President. This court was termed the supreme court. Mar- 
riages could be performed by the judges of the general court (supreme court) or 
of the court of common pleas, minister of any denomination, or by the Society 
of Quakers in their public meetings. It was not until August 1, 1792, that 
justices of the peace could perform marriages. A certificate of the marriage 
was to be sent to the register of the county and entered on his records within 
three months after the marriage. 

Every county should have a courthouse, jail and pillory, whipping-post and 
stocks. In the jail there should be separate compartments for confining debtors 
and criminals. 

A schedule of fees fixed the compensation of public officers. One of the 
provisions of this act permitted the person to whom a fee was to be paid to 
demand a quart of Indian meal as an equivalent for each cent of the fee; thus, 
if the fee was one dollar the officer could demand one hundred quarts of Indian 
meal in lieu of the monej^, but he could not be compelled to accept anything 
except specie. 

The justices at the court of quarter sessions were authorized to divide the 
county in which they were located into townships and to appoint a constable 
in each township. The justices were presumed to have their clerk enter their 


proceedings on the docket of tlie court. The justices of the court of quarter 
sessions were to appoint overseers of highways and township clerks. 

The common law of England was declared to be in force except as modified 
or changed by statute. 

The general court and circuit court had the exclusive right to grant divorces, 
and there were Init two grounds for absolute divorce; these were adultery and 

One of the judges of the supreme court was to hold court in each of the 
counties of the Territory and this court was termed the circuit court. 

The court presided over by the judges of the supreme court was called the 
general court, and an appeal would lie from the courts of quarter sessions and 
from any other court to this body. 

Imprisonment for debt was permitted, but was limited luilcss the debt was 
fraudulent, or the debtor concealed his property. 

These, in brief, were the laws that related to the formation of the courts 
which were in force at the time of the admission of Detroit to the government 
of the Northwest Territory. 

jay's treaty 

Detroit was in the territory which was conceded to belong to the United 
States under the treaty of 1783, but the British continued to hold possession 
of it in contravention.of our treaty rights. This was a constant source of annoy- 
ance to both governments, and a subject of heated discussion which occasionally 
1(^1 the nations to the verge of war. 

In 179-1 John Jay was sent to England in order to bring about a satisfactory 
adjustment of the differences between the nations and the surrender of the post 
still held by Great Britain. Jay's treaty was signed November 19, 1794, and 
was conditionally ratified by Congress June 24, 1795. England agreed to with- 
draw all of her troops within the boundaries of the United States by June 1, 
1796. All settlers and traders within the United States could retain their 
property unmolested and were at liberty to remain, or remove, from the country 
at their pleasure. The provisions of the treaty relating to citizenship read 
as follows: 

"And they shall make and declare their election within one year after the 
evacuation. And all persons who shall continue there after the expiration of 
the said year without declaring their intention of remaining subjects of his 
Britannic majesty, shall be considered as having elected to become citizens 
of the United States." (In this connection see the several cases of Crane vs. 
Reeder in Michigan Supreme Court Reports.) 

Jay's treaty did not take effect until the formal surrender of the posts, which, 
in Detroit, was on June 11, 1796. The American troops took possession at 
once and the rule of our federal government commenced. 


Winthrop Sargent, secretary of the Northwest Territory (and claiming to 
be acting governor), came to Detroit and on the 15th of August, 1796, organized 
the County of Wajme. Sargent was authorized to act as governor only in the 
event of the absence of the governor from the territory. Arthur St. Clair, the 
governor, was not absent from the territory on the daj^ that Sargent proclaimed 
the organization of the new county. An extract from a letter of Governor St. 


Clair, dated at Pittsburg, August 13, 1796, fully explains the illegalitj' of Sar- 
gent's action in this case. In this letter to Secretary Sargent, he writes: 

"Yesterday I met with Capt. Pierce, from Fort Washington, and by him 
I learned that you were gone to Detroit. Should the object of that journey 
be of a public nature, I have to wish that it had not been undertaken, for tomor- 
row I shall be in the territory, and then the powers of the governor, which devolve 
upon the secretary in his absence, will cease as to you, yet it may happen that 
both you and me are discharging the duties of that office at the same time and, 
of course, the acts of one must be void." 

From the above letter it appears that St. Clair was in the Territorj' before 
August 15th and that consequently the organization of Wayne County by 
Winthrop Sargent, as acting governor, was illegal. However, General St. Clair 
afterwards recognized the county formation and appointed officers in it. The 
new county was named after Gen. Anthony Wayne, and Detroit was selected 
as the county seat. It was the largest county in existence in the United States. 
It included the northern parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, all of Michigan 
and all of Wisconsin bordering upon the streams which emptied into Lake 
Michigan. Its eastern boundarj- was the Cuyahoga River, which runs through 
the present City of Cleveland. 

As already stated, the legislative bodj' of the Northwest Territory of 179G 
consisted of Governor St. Clair and Judges Symmes, Turner and Putnam. In 
that year Putnam resigned to become surveyor-general, and Joseph Gilman 
was appointed in his place December 22, 1796. The next year Judge Turner 
resigned and he was succeeded by Return Jonathan Meigs, who was appointed 
February 12, 1798. It is said that Symmes and Meigs held court in Detroit, 
but there was never a general court held here, that is, a court where all three 
judges were present at the same time. There was no further change in the 
office of these judges until after the admission of Ohio in 1803. Governor St. 
Clair remained in office until his removal in 1802, and from that date Charles 
Willing Bj-rd, secretary, acted as governor until the Territory of Indiana was 


The only laws published by the governor and judges after Michigan became 
de facto a part of the Northwest Territory, are included in a little volume of 
thirty pages, printed at the time, and are ten in number. They are as follows: 

1. Providing for the formation of corporations. 

2. Punishment for maiming. 

3. Vesting powers in justices of the peace in criminal cases. 

4. Distributing estates of deceased persons. 
.5. Improving breed of horses. 

6. ]Mode of procedure in civil cases. 

7. Fixing fees of officers. 

8. Taxing unimproved real estate. 

9. Acknowledgement of deeds. 
"10. Establishing a land office. 

The above are all the laws published, but in Chase's statutes is another act, 
repealing a former act of the same legislative body. The above acts were of 
doubtful validity and were not enforced until they were reenacted by the first 
legislative council. None of the above acts are of any great importance to De- 


troit, save, perhaps, number three, which gave justices of the peace the right to 
punish by fine all persons found guilty of assault and battery, and to arrest and 
hold to the higher court affrayers, rioters and disturl^ers of the peace. 


The names, formation and jurisdiction of the various courts in Detroit were 
necessarily the same as in the other parts of the Northwest Territory. There 
were the supreme court, the circuit court, the court of common pleas, probate 
court, justice court, and court of quarter sessions of the peace. A few days 
after the organization of the county, the court of quarter sessions and the 
probate court were organized (September 29, 1796). The first court of quarter 
sessions was held October 8, 1796, and the clerk was directed to notify the 
justices of the peace that such a court would be held, the first Tuesday in Decem- 
ber. This court was to divide the county into districts and name commissioners 
and constables. The historian, Lanman, says that court was opened by procla- 
mation December 10, 1796, and the commission appointing the judges and civil 
officers read, appointing Louis Beaufait senior justice, and Janjes May, Charles 
Francois Girardin, Patrick McNiff and Nathaniel Williams as associate justices, 
and George McDougall, sheriff. It is certain that Mr. Lanman is in error as 
to the date of the appointment of some of the officers. Nearly all of the earlier 
records have been so carelessly used that they have disappeared; only a few 

The earliest remaining file in the court of common pleas is David Acheron 
vs. John Bowyer, lieutenant in the armj', and the case was begun October 10, 
1796, showing that the judges must have been appointed before that date. 
The business of the court of common pleas soon fell into the hands of two of the 
justices, Louis Beaufait, "president of the court of common pleas," and James 
May, associate justice. 

Among the appointments made at this time were Herman Eberts, coroner, 
and Peter Audrain, prothonotary, clerk and judge of probate. 

On the 23d of December, 1796, George McDougall, sheriff, and Herman 
Eberts, coroner, entered into an agreement by which Eberts agreed to perform, 
for one year, all the duties of sheriff and to relieve McDougall. Eberts was to 
receive, as compensation for his work, two-thirds of the fees of the office, viz.: 
the taxable costs of each suit, and he was further to save IVIcDougall harmless 
from damages for escapes of prisoners in his custody and for all moneys he might 
receive as sheriff. To secure McDougall for thus relinquishing his office, Eberts 
gave him a bond of four thousand dollars, with Robert Gouie and Charles F. 
Girardin as sureties. 

During the year above mentioned, Eberts signs himself as "acting sheriff," 
but at the end of that time he signs "High Sheriff of Wayne County." It is 
probable that he received the appointment of sheriff in 1797. Lewis Bond was 
named sheriff by Governor St. Clair August 20, 1798. 


The most important official of this time was Peter Audrain. He was born 
in France in 1725, and came to Pennsylvania, where he became a citizen of the 
United States October 2, 1781. He lived for a time in Pittsburg. It is not 
known when or where he learned to read and write the English language, but prob- 
ably some years before he came to Detroit, for upon his arrival here he was 


appointed prothonotary and judge of probate, and the early records of the settle- 
ment, which are nearly all in his handwriting, show a great familiarity with the 
English language for a foreigner, and his handwriting is a wonder to the student 
who reads it todaj-. His peculiar, small penmanship is never forgotten when 
once seen, and the many pages of the records kept by him are as clear as print, 
and nearly as perfect in formation as copper plate. The wonder is how a person 
with a quill pen, such as was in use in that time, could write so beautifully. 
Mr. Audrain's wife was Margaret Moore. They were married before coming 
to Detroit. There is a fragment of the journal of Audrain, printed in the 
"Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections," in Volume Eight, which indi- 
cates that he was in Pittsburg in July, 1796, and must have, a few days later, 
accompanied General Wayne's army on the march to Detroit. Wherever he 
journeyed he was received as a guest, which indicates that he occupied some 
place of importance with the army corps, though not an official position. 

On the 27th of July, 1796, General Wayne met Secretary Winthrop Sargent 
at Greenville, and together they proceeded to Detroit, and there established, 
as we have seen, Wayne County and the county courts. The office of prothon- 
otary was of more real importance than any other in the new county. At 
least, Mr. Audrain made the office of importance, for he kept all the records, 
was register of deeds, judge of probate, clerk of the courts, and general scrivener 
of the community. He retained offices of importance nearlj- all his life, but 
in his old age, when he was ninety-four years old, the lawyers complained that 
the records of the supreme court were in great disorder through his neglect, and 
he was removed in 1819. He died the following year, October 6, 1820, and 
his remains were buried in the cemeterj^ of Ste. Anne's Church. 

orphan's court 

The orphans' court, occasionally referred to in the early territorial records, 
was established by the act of June 16, 1795. Apparently nearly all of the 
records have been lost or destroyed, and very little information can be obtained 
regarding it. The justices of the court of quarter sessions of the peace were 
empowered to hold this court, the duties of which were to oversee and have 
control of estates in general. The judge of probate was to submit copies of the 
records of his office to the orphans' court for examination. The court had 
supervision over minors and their estates. It had authority to bind a minor 
out to learn a trade. It could probate wills, and grant letters of administration. 
Its powers were very large, but in practice it was nearly useless, as very 1 ez 
work was done under it. The judges of this court in 1800 were Joseph Voy . ' 
Jean Marie Beaubien and George McDougall. The court was abolished ^^ 

The recorder's office was established under an act of June 18, 1795 and the 
official in charge was called the "recorder." The office was opened for business 
in Detroit on the 10th day of September, 1796, and the first deed recorded 
was from Marie Petit, widow of Hiacinthe Deaitre, to Laurent Maure, conveying 
a farm on the Huron River of Lake St. Clair, now called the Clinton River. 
Audrain was the prothonotary or recorder or clerk who recorded this deed and 
all other conveyances for some years. 

The court of common pleas was first held in Detroit under British rule. 
There was no provision under the treaty of 1794 for the continuing of the 
courts, but as the new American court bore the same name, there was an incli- 

Vol. 1—16 


nation, on the part of some of the parties, to continue the old cases in the new 
establishment. There are certainly some cases that were begun under the 
British rule that were completed after the Americans came in. 

There were no statutes of limitation for the recovery of debts, and obliga- 
tions of many years standing, some twenty or more years old, were sued in 
the territorial courts. 

The lawyers whose names are found in these old records were Ezra Fitz 
Freeman, John S. Wiles, Solomon Sibley, Elijah Brush, and Walter Roe. 


The transfer of allegiance in pursuance of the terms of Jay's treaty created 
a peculiar state of affairs at Detroit, which is difficult to understand and still 
more difficult to explain. The treaty had provided a method by which persons 
might become citizens of the United States, but no mode was pointed out by 
which they could stay in Detroit and remain British subjects. 

Only one person, so far as the records show, took the oath of allegiance. 
This was William McClure, gentleman, who took his oath "as a residenter 
of Detroit" in conformity to the provisions of Jaj''s treaty. It was not, however, 
at this time supposed to be necessary to take anj' formal action whatever in 
order to become naturalized. It was decided by our state supreme court, in 
the case of Crane vs. Reeder, that if a person resided in Detroit at the time 
this treaty took effect and did not file a remonstrance against becoming a 
citizen, he became naturalized by virtue of the treaty. 


There was considerable discussion over the proper method to be followed 
l\v those who w'ished to remain British subjects. As the year passed bj^, this 
subject was more and more discussed. A faction was rapidly growing that 
hesitated to become naturalized. The leader in this faction was John Askin, 
whose name has been frequenth' mentioned in the preceding pages. Askin 
drew up a statement or notice to the effect that the signers did not wish to 
become citizens of the United States, but desired to remain subjects of Great 
Britain, and he took this paper around to the people living in the neighborhood 
of Detroit and succeeded in getting many of them to sign it. He then sent 
a copj' of this list to Peter Russell, who was administrator of Upper Canada in 
the absence of the governor, and gave the original to Peter Audrain to be 
recorded in his office. Four of these notices were recorded in the registry office. 

The actions of Askin in procuring the notices above mentioned had made him 
an object of suspicion to the authorities. He was a man of great influence, 
a trader on a large scale, an officer in the Canadian militia, and to some extent 
the "Warwick" of the west, for if he did not hold important offices, he dictated 
who should hold them. 

The peace w'hich wa.s declared b.v the treaty to exist between the United 
States and England, was more a peace of the mouth than of the heart, for each 
countiy was suspicious of the other. War existed between France and England, 
and the French government had sent emissaries through the United States to 
sound the French residing there or in Upper Canada on their feelings towards 
England. It was thought that an effort would be made to rouse the French- 
Canadians to a rebellion. Both the United States and Canada were excited 
over this affair. Francis Babj', deputy lieutenant for the County of Essex, 


then residing at Sandwich, was called hastily to Niagara, the seat of govern- 
ment, and from that place he issued the following secret circular: 

"Niagara, October 23, 1796. 
"Intelligence of a very serious nature having reached me from lower Canada, 
which may require the exertion of his majesty's faithful subjects in this province, 
I am to request that you will recommend it to the officers and soldiers of militia 
battalions and independent companies under your command to provide them- 
selves with proper arms and a sufficiency of ammunition forthwith and you will 
be pleased to make a report to me without loss of time of the number of muskets 
and quantity of ammunition which you may want, to supply those who are 
absolutely incapable from poverty, or other causes, to supply themselves. 

"Francis Baby, 
"Dep. Lt. C. E." 

Mr. Askin, then living in Detroit, was lieutenant-colonel of the Canadian 
militia, and to him one of these orders was directed. He undertook the collec- 
tion of the details of the militia as requested and sent out orders to all captains 
and other militia officers to report to him at once the state of the companies. 
Many of these officers reported as requested and copies of their reports were 
forwarded to Niagara. The conduct of Askin would have been subject to censure 
on the part of the government if it had ever been discovered. It is even possible 
that it might have been considered treasonable. It is certain that suspicion 
rested upon him, but it is very probable that most of his actions were concealed 
from the authorities. 


It was at this time also that the papers prepared by Askin for those who did 
not wish to become citizens of the United States were given to Audrain to be 
recorded. These petitions, or certificates, caused a counter petition to be 
drawn up and forwarded to Secretary Winthrop Sargent, of which the follow- 
ing is a copy: 

"Detroit, 12 July, 1797. 

"Sir: — We, the undersigned, magistrates and sheriff of Wayne County, in 
the territory of United States of America, impressed with every degree of at- 
tachment to the government of the United States and most sincere wishes for 
the safety of this country and its inhabitants, have sincerely to regret its present 
situation, and for its safety disagreeable apprehensions from the dangers that 
at present menace its tranquility from an approaching enemy as well as from 
internal and increasing factions. 

"Twelve months ago we knew of no more than ten of the inhabitants that 
were avowed British subjects, they remaining here for one year after the evacua- 
tion of the place by the British, during that period they, with some other emis- 
saries, found means by indirect insinuations and circulating papers, to corrupt 
the minds of the inhabitants and alienated their affections from the government 
of the States to such a degree that it was with difficulty that the sheriff could 
procure a jury of real citizens to attend the last sessions, or bailiffs to do their 
duty. Some scores (it is said some hundreds) of the inhabitants having signed 
the said circulating papers declaring themselves British subjects, which gives 
us reason to fear that little or no dependence can be put on the militia of the 
country if called upon. This being truly the state of the country we feel the 

"Esqrs. " 


greatest anxiety for its safety. We therefore conceive it our duty to transmit 
you every part of our apprehension and the causes exciting them, hoping 
that j'ou will see the propriety of vesting sufficient power in the commander- 
in-chief here or the commanding officer for the time being, to take such steps 
as may check the progress of the present prevailing faction and prevent a 
further complaint of the inhabitants, we, by experience, finding it out of the power 
of the civil authority at present, to do it. 

"James Abbott, Jr., 
"James May, 
"Nathan WilHams, 
"Charles F. Girardin, 
"Joseph Voyer, 
"Patrick McNiff, 
"Herman Eberts, 
"John Dodemead 
"Joncaire Chabert, 
"Antoine Beaubien, 
"Robert Abbott, 
"Daniel Sawyer." 

These were exciting times in Detroit. A newspaper in the place would have 
been filled with interesting reading matter concerning local events. But no 
such paper existed, and the history of the times must be collected from a variet}' 
of sources and pieced together to make a storj' of the times. It cannot be 
wondered if some of the important events are omitted, because we do not know 
where to search for the information. 

The French government, through General Collot, was striving to create dis- 
sensions among the French of Canada, had visited the Ohio countrj- and planned 
to visit Detroit. He had the surrounding country mapped, also the Detroit 
River mapped and sounded for his use for military purposes. 

An attempt was made to obtain the entire northern part of Ohio west of Cuya- 
hoga River (Cleveland) for John Askin and others who claimed ownership 
under deeds from the Indian tribes. They likewise set up claim under similar 
conveyances to the lands along the Miami (Maumee) River, and were urging 
their claims before members of Congress and others of influence in the East. 

The same John Askin, with Ebenezer Allen and others, had prepared a peti- 
tion to be allowed to purchase the entire lower peninsula of Michigan, and 
believing that they could obtain their desires by corrupting Congi'ess, they 
undertook to bribe some of the members. In this they were detected, theii- plans 
disclosed, and failure followed as a matter of course. 


The feelings between the American and British soldiers stationed along the 
borders of the Detroit River were not the most cordial and deserters were passing 
from one side to the other to the annoyance of the authorities of both sides. 
All of these affairs were coming together to make up a period of excitement never 
exceeded in the historj^ of the village before that time. 

In the orderly- books kept at the post bj- General James Wilkinson are evi- 
dences of disaffection among the troops, promoted possibly by Askin's petition. 
Under date of July 12th is the following general order: 


"The desertion of the troops may be ascribed chiefly to the scenes of drunk- 
edness produced by the unrestrained sales of liquor which have been permitted, 
and to the seductive arts of persons ill disposed to the government of the United 
States. To remedy evils replete with consequences so destructive to the natm-al 
interests and so subversive of subordination and discipline, all persons are hereby 
prohibited selHng liquor of any kind to the troops, except under the written 
permission of Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Strong." 

It was also stated that "any person detected in attempting to inveigle a 
soldier from his duty, or in advising him to desert, shall receive 50 lashes and 
be drummed out of the fortifications." 

The continued desertions from the American and British troops occasioned 
an additional order on the same subject on July 15th, as follows: 

"The soldier who deserts his colors, of whatever country or nation, forfeits 
the protection of all good men. To discourage so foul an offense the com- 
mander-in-chief orders all deserters from the corps of his Britannic majesty to 
depart the town in 24 hours. He forbids positively the enlisting of deserters 
from the troops of any nation, and he assures all persons of this character that 
they will find no asylum within the sphere of his authority. But as it has been 
represented to him that several privates seduced from the service of the United 
States when in the state of intoxication by designing, vicious persons, have re- 
pented of the foul transgression, and are deterred from returning to duty by 
the fear of punishment only — now to give to all absentees a fair opportunity 
of testifying their contrition, and to make atonement for their crimes, he hereby 
offers full pardon to all such as may surrender themselves to some oflficer of the 
troops of the United States within 30 days from these presents." 

General Wilkinson, on the 16th of July, sent a long letter to the magistrates 
of the western district of Canada, requesting them to prevent desertions from 
the American Army as far as possible and to assist him in maintaining the 
standing of his army, as well as of their own, in opposition to their common 
foe — the French — and to preserve order along the border. The Canadian 
magistrates, in their reply, offered a hearty cooperation with General Wilkinson 
as far as their powers would permit, and stated that the general's communication 
should at once l)e laid before the administrator of the province. 


Public sentiment was running strongly against Mr. Askin and his party. 
He was arrested, or was served with a summons as the commencement of a 
suit against him. Unfortunately, the files of this suit have been lost, or have 
not yet come to light. A letter from Mr. Askin to David W. Smith gives as 
much information upon the subject as can be ascertained at present. It is as 

"Detroit August 26, 1797. 

"My dear Sir: Since writing to you I have been served with a summons, 
the copy of which I enclose, and beg you will make it known to his honor, the 
administrator, so that I may be furnished with advice how to act before the 
general court is held here, which I learn is to be soon. The paper alluded to 
— I sent you a copy of it — contained the names of a number of people who made 
their election to continue British subjects and carried it to the recorder to 
have it enregistered, for which much trouble and interruption is given to me. 
I have never before been called before the court about this matter and asked 


if I did so or not. So clear do I feel that I had not only a right to do so, but 
also even advise subjects to continue under the British government (which 
I, however, did not meddle in) had I been so disposed that I must certainly 
acknowledge not only my doing so but that I was perfectly right, and that 
it was in conformity to the treaty." 

Askin's letter was given to the Honorable Peter Russell, who at the time 
was performing the duties of governor of Upper Canada in the absence of the 
governor, and his reply was as follows: 

"West Niagara 5th Sept. 1797. 

"Sir: Mr. Smith has just sent to me your letter of the 26th ult. and the 
copy of the summons for your appearance before the General Quarter Sessions 
of the County of Wayne and a copy of the letter from the British inhabitants 
of Detroit to Peter Audrain Esq. 

"I am extremely sorry that I do not feel myself competent to give you 
the advice you desire, as your place, or residence, is without the power of my 
jurisiliction, nor do I see any possibility of even the British minister's interfei-ence 
until you are able to state to his excellency the nature of the offense you have 
given to the government of the United States and the sort of notice which has 
been taken of it. This I presume to advise you to do without loss of time 
immediately from Detroit as the quickest mode of communicating with his 

"I am Sir, 
Your most obedient 
Humble servant, 
Peter Russell. 
"John Askin, Esq. 
"British Merchant at 
. Detroit." 

Apparently Askin intended at this time to remove to Canada, for he ob- 
tained permission from Mr. Selby and Colonel McKee to remove his goods into 
a house belonging to Colonel McKee at Sandwich, which was then partly occu- 
pied by a Mr. Wheaton. However, the change in the aspect of affairs at Detroit 
induced him to remain in that place and face the storm, and it was not until 
several years later that he finally removed to the home where he died, a short 
distance above the modern Walkerville, at a place called by him Strabanc. 

The summons served on Askin was returnable before the court of quarter 
sessions, but a case of so much importance woidd ultimately find its waj- to 
the circuit court or the general com't. The two latter courts were presided over 
by the territorial judges appointed by the President. One of the judges was 
required to hold court in Detroit once each year, and the court presided over 
by the single judge was called the circuit court and when the three judges set 
.671 banc it was termed the general court. 

Outside of the local attorneys above named, the lawyer most famous through 
the Northwest was Jacob Burnet, of Cincinnati. Judge Burnet came to Detroit 
at every session of the circuit court held here before the admission of Ohio 
to statehood in 1803. The governor's son, Arthur St. Clair, Jr., was also an 
attorncy-at-law. Askin now sought to enlist both of these men in his interest 
by employing them. He sent a confidential clerk, Robert Nichol, to Cincinnati 
with a retainer for both St. Clair and Burnet. Burnet was not at home and 


consequently was not. seen by Nichol, but a retainer for him was left with the 
governor and to the latter a full statement of the situation was made by Nichol. 
A letter from young St. Clair was borne by Nichol to Mr. Askin, that assisted 
him getting out of his difficulty. He was also greatly assisted by Mr. Elijah 
Brush, who subsequently married Askin's daughter, Adelaide. Arthur St. 
Clair's letter was as follows: 

Cincinnati Sept. 23, 1797. 
"Dear Sir: I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 29th. ultimo, by 
Mr. Nichol. I am extremely sorry for the want of harmony which is but too 
evident amongst you, but I flatter myself that all will yet be right. I have re- 
fused your retainer, fearful that the business to which it relates may oblige me 
to act in my official capacity, at the same time I would observe that I think you 
need not give yourself any uneasiness about the affair. Mr. Nichol had instruc- 
tions to retain Mr. Burnett. He has accordingly left a fee with me for that 
purpose, as he is not at present here. If I shall be able, and there is any necessity 
I will assist him with pleasure, though the paper alluded to as containing the 
declaration of your intention of remaining British subjects (as at present ad- 
vised) there will be little occasion of trouble. 

"I am dear Sir 
Yours respectfully, 
A. St. Clair." 

A short time after this Mr. Askin's name was placed upon the United Empire 
list as one of the Canadian patriots of the Revolution, and at a still later date 
(February, 1798) he was granted a license by Winthrop Sargent, acting governor, 
to maintain a ferrj' across the river at Detroit, thus showing that he retained 
the good will of the authorities on both sides of the river. 


The troubles General Wilkinson encountered at this time forced him to put 
the settlement under martial law. He issued the following proclamation for 
that purpose. The proclamation follows the "general order" of the same date, 
with some additional directions. 

"By James Wilkinson, Brigadier General and Commander in Chief of the 
Troops of the United States. 


"To guard the National Interests against the Machinations of its enemies, 
secret or covert, Foreign or Domestic, — to baffle the Arts of Seduction which 
have led to numberless desertions from the Public Service and to restrain licen- 
tiousness, and the infamous habits of drunkeness encouraged among the Troops 
by the disorderly conduct of the venders of Ardent Spirits. 

"The Commander in Chief thinks it a duty appurtenant to the high trust 
reposed in him, a duty of indispensable obligation to declare Martial Law within 
the line of the Guards and limits of the Fortifications of the place, and he hereby 
in virtue of his legitimate authority, in conformity to the customs of armies, 
and to the established principles and precedents declares that all persons resort- 
ing to or residing within the limits aforesaid from and after the date of these 
presents shall be considered followers of the army and treated accordingly 
without respect to persons or Allegiance. It is at the same time declared that 


no hindrance will be opposed to the functions of the civil magistrates and the 
due process of the Law of the Territory. — 

"Given at Head Quarters 
Detroit 12 July 1797 
"By Command (Signed) James Wilkinson. 

(Signed) Lt. Lovell— 
Major Brigade." 

The issuance of this proclamation at once aroused the British element in 
the village and the following protest was sent to General Wilkinson a few days 

"The Petition of sundry British Magis- 
trates, Merchants and others holding 
property residing in and resorting to the 
Town of Detroit. To His Excellency 
James Wilkinson Esquire General and 
Commander in Chief of the Armies of 
the United States of America & & & & 
"Humbly Sheweth 

"That your Petitioners having great Confidence in the Faith, Justice and 
Humanity of the American Government, and sensible to the Zealous Attach- 
ment of its Citizens to the Civil and Political rights, as Established by Law 
could not behold with indifference your Excellencys Proclamation (bearing date 
Detroit 12 Julj' 1797) abridging them and j'our Petitioners of many invaluable 
priviledges flowing as well from the principles of the free Government as from 
the sacred sources of the public and solemn Treaty. 

"That under the influence of these impressions your Petitioners indulged 
the pleasing hope that the public virtue of the Magistracy would have made 
such applications to your Excellency as might have produced some Mitigation 
of the Proclamation in question, disappointed however in their hopes and urged 
by the duty which they owe to themselves and to their Correspondents, and 
encouraged by the liberality and Candor of your Character, your Petitioners 
have ventured notwithstanding the peculiarity of their situation as Foreigners 
to submit to your Excellency the following Statements. 

"1st — That the Town of Detroit ever since the first establishment has been 
generally governed by the Civil Laws of the Society to which it belonged, that 
Martial Law as a System has never been established therein even during the 
periods of Hostilities, the Acts of the Legislature of Canada prove the foi-mcr, 
and living testimonies are not wanting to prove the latter, it becomes therefore a 
fair inference that the Town of Detroit enjoys at least a prescriptive Charter 
of rights incompatible with the Idea of Military Garrison. 

"2nd — That the Laws of the United States having in great measure pi'o- 
vided and its Constitution possessing energy sufficient 'for guarding the Nation's 
Interests' and it follows that whatever measures Suspend or Abrogate those 
legal established and inherent principles of the Constitution, such Measures 
must so far innovate on the common rights of the Citizens, but it appears to 
your Petitioners that the Proclamation in Question abolishes in many important 
cases the free operation of these Maxims, so far therefore your Petitioners 
humbly conceive that the Proclamation assumes a dispensing Power. 

",3rd — That by the Treaty between Great Britain and America it is provided 
])}' the 11th Article that generally the Merchants and Traders on both sides 


shall enjoy the most complete protection and security for their Commerce, 
but subject always to the Laws and statutes of the two Countries respectively 
so says the Treaty, but the Proclamation declares that we are subject to Martial 
Law, that we are considered as followers of the Army and shall be treated accord- 
ingly without respect to persons or allegiance. Your Petitioners believing 
that under existing circumstances no implication favorable to the Proclamation 
can flow from the Laws or Statutes of the United States conclude that it of 
course tallys neither with the true spirit or letter of the Treaty. 

"4th — That under the pressure of great public Calamity such as intestine 
or foreign war, natural and Civil rights are often suspended by the Legislative 
authority and under such circumstances, the Energy of Individuals and of 
constituted Authorities may be laudable and necessary. — these Acts are pard- 
onable only from necessity, not defended upon principle; but in the moment of 
peace and in the vicinity of a friendl.v Nation, your Petitioners are sorry that 
they cannot divine on what principles of expediency a suspension of such rights 
can be justified. 

"5th — That Fort Lernault, and the Citadel being the only two spots where 
the Military Government has generally been exercised, that your Petitioners, 
possessing perhaps three-fourths of all the property either of a fixed or movable 
nature within the Town of Detroit residing there for the purposes of their Trade 
under the protection and condition of a public Treaty having not injured or 
wished to injure the United States, cannot but contemplate their present sit- 
uation in a light as repugnant to the feelings and Dignity of human nature 
as to the mutual harmony and friendship so strongly to be cultivated between 
Great Britain and America. 

"Yet this Proclamation has been acted on, some have been tried by Courts 
Martial, some punished and others are said to be flying from their homes and 
property to avoid the Malice and Machinations of the vilest of mankind, Spies 
and Informers. 

"Your Petitioners however aware of the danger arising from the General 
and indiscriminate permission to vend Spiritous liquors, do not consider the 
Garrison order ascertaining the mode of selling ardent Spirits to Soldiers in- 
jurious to their interests. 

"From a review of the foregoing Statements your Petitioners indulge a 
hope that j^our Excellency will be pleased to modify and relinquish as much 
of the present System of Martial Law as is consistent with your prudence, 
wisdom and authority. They wish at the same time to be perfectly understood 
that nothing herein contained is meant to reflect on your Excellencys Com- 
mand, or on the Government of the United States. They also have a pleasure 
in assuring your Excellency that nothing is nearer their hearts than respect 
and obedience to the Laws of the LTnited States, and also to the cultivation 
of every Act of Friendship and good Will towards its Citizens and they have 
the Honor to be with great respect and Esteem, 

"Your most obedient 
Oblidged and Humble Servants 

"John Askin, 
"George Sharp, 
"George Leith, 
"James Leith, 
"Angus Mcintosh, 


"Alexr. Duff, 
"John McGregor, 
"Richd. Pattinson, 
"Robt. Innis, 
"George Meldrum, 
"William Park, 
"John Reid, 
"James Fraser, 
"William Hands, 
"J. Borrel, 
"James McDonell, 
"Detroit "James Mcintosh." 

24 July 1797" 
The reply of the commandant has not yet been found, but the second letter 
of John Askin followed at once. It read: 

"Detroit 31 July 1797. 

"We are duly honored with your answer to our Petition of 24 Current; 
and have to thank you for your remarks and observations thereon, its trans- 
mission to the President of the United States is a circumstance which we con- 
template with the utmost complacency and satisfaction. 

"Improper as it may be for us to intrude upon your time, yet we cannot 
but observe on an important Article; That the fifth paragraph of your answer 
contains matter which we are ready to do away by fair argument and proof 

"Unwilling however to shew a wide difference of opinion on almost every 
point of the present subject of discussion, it perhaps would better become us 
not to have already' presumed so much but rather acquiesce in the present 
.unpropitious sj'stem with the calm resignation of men as emulous to maintain 
the Tranquility and safety of the State, as ardent in the Love of all the natural, 
indefeasible, and defined liberties of the people with whom they live. 
"We have the Honor to be with great respect 



"John Askin, 
"George Sharp, 
" William Harfy, 
"George Leith, 
"Alexr. Duff, 
"James Leith, 
"To His Excellency "John McGregor, 

James Wilkinson Esquire General ' "Richard Pattinson, 

Commanding the Armies of the " William Park, 

United States." "James Fraser, 

"James McDonell, 
"Angus Mcintosh, 
"James Mcintosh, 
" Wm. Hands, 
A petition was then made directly to the War Department and after con- 
siderable delay the following reply was made to the petitioners, Louis Beaufait, 
James I\Iay. Jo.seph Voyer and Charles F. Girardin. 

Early merchant and trader 


"War Department, 8 August, 1799. 

"I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your representation relative 
to the conduct of the Military Commandant at Detroit. 

"I can assm-e you it is the wish of the Government to preserve to the Civil 
Authority its rights everywhere throughout the Territory of the United States 
and in no instance to countenance encroachments upon those rights by the 

"That the conduct of the Commandant at Detroit may undergo a regular 
and due investigation, I shall refer your remonstrance to Major General Alex- 
ander Hamilton, who I have no doubt will take proper measures to insure in 
future a perfect propriety of conduct in the Military. 

"I have however to observe that a Military Commandant has not only 
authority, but that it is particularly enjoined upon him to restrain the Soldiery 
in whatever may lead to Insubordination, endanger a Garrison or prove injurious 
to themselves, that with these views he may prevent a too frequent intercourse 
with the Citizens inhabiting at or near his post, which by affording oppor- 
tunities of intemperance would produce the worst of consequences, and that 
generally he has a right to give and enforce on his men under his command 
such orders as are necessary to their well being and the good of the service. 

"I enclose a copy of the rules and articles for the better government of the 
troops of the United States, to which is annexed several military laws, among 
these 'An Act for the better organizing the troops of the United States and for 
other purposes' passed 3rd of March last. 

"The 4th section of this Act, you will observe provides an exemption from 
personal arrests for any debt or contract— for all non-commissioned officers 
privates and musicians who are and shall be inlisted, and extends the same 
provisions to the militia or other corps who may at any time be in the actual 
service of the United States. 

"To prevent this law from operating injuriously to the citizens it will be 
incumbent upon them to avoid credit to the soldiers. 

"I am & 

"James McHemy. 

"To Louis Boufet (Beaufait) 
"James May, 

"Joseph Voyer, • Esquires. 

"Charles Eras Gerardin (Girardin)." 


I have found some evidences of another interesting episode in the local 
history early in the year 1797. Not being able to explain fully the affair at 
present, I can give only the substance of the papers that have come into my 
possession relating to James May, one of the judges. A hoUday ball had been 
given on the 2Sth of December, 1796, which was attended by some of the judges 
and on account of which some of the judiciary attendants had been ridiculed. 
It appears that some one had posted up a notice or proclamation which was 
considered a libel on the court or on the members who attended the ball. As 
there was no printing press in Detroit or in its neighborhood, this notice must 
have been in writing and only a few copies could have been circulated. 


Judge May acfuseil William Smith and Robert Forsyth of publishing the 
libel, or of having a hand in it. Both of these men signed the declaration which 
John Askin passed around, declining to become citizens of the United States. 
Both men asserted their innocence of the libel and resolved to make Judge 
May prove his charge or answer for it. Each wrote a letter to the judge, and 
as thoy are nearly alike, one only need be given. It is as follows: 

"Detroit Jany. 7, 1797. 

"I have been informed that you have taken the liberty of publickly accusing 
me as an accomplice in a libel lately published at this place. I insist immediately 
to know your reasons for that presumption, otherwise I must take measures 
to clear my character in the eyes of those you were pleased to prejudice in it. 

"Robert Forsyth. 
"James May Esqr. 


In addition. Smith requested the judge to meet him at Mr. Dodcmead's 
in the evening to settle the matter, and ended his letter with a statement that 
he would wait at Dodemead's till eight o'clock in the evening. 

Dodemead's was a famous resort, inn or boarding-house, whatever it might 
be termed, located on St. Ann Street, near the southeast corner of the present 
Jefferson Avenue and Shelby Street. St. Ann Street was very narrow at this 
point, not more than fifteen feet, and the house of John Dodemead was located 
within the limits of the present Jefferson Avenue. It was here that the courts 
were held in later times and was the rendezvous for all the citizens who wished 
to spend the evening in convivial company. At this time the courts were held 
in the house of Thomas Cox. 

Judge May was a large, heavy man, weighing more than three hundred 
pounds. His avoirdupois was not in excess of his dignity as a judge, and he 
•considered it beneath his official position to reply to either Forsyth or Smith. 
If he was in the habit of visiting Dodemead's, he abstained at this time, even 
at the risk of displeasing Mr. Smith. The latter was on hand at the appointed 
hour and, not finding the judge, he thought the matter over for a night and the 
next morning sent the following note: 

"I was not a little surprised at your non-appearance last night at Mr. Dode- 
mead's per my request to clear up the aspersion you have unjustly said against 
me, that I was the writer of the libel taking off characters at the ball of 28th 
ult., which unjust assertion of yours I beg to have done away between this and 
12 o'clock, as my character is hurt by it. Any place you will appoint between 
the hours before mentioned (excepting your own house) I shall repair to, with 
a couple of friends. As I would be sorry to doubt your being a gentleman, I 
hope you will pay attention to this letter, if not I shall take the liberty of ex- 
posing this and former letter to public sight, that your character may be seen 
into, my situation at present not permitting me to take any further action. 

"William Smith. 
"Saturday morning, 10 o'clock. 

"James May, Esqr." 

This might have been accepted as a challenge to the field of honor, not 
by any means the last of such challenges that were .sent and accepted in Detroit. 


It was not, however, accepted by Judge May, and both persons lived in Detroit 
many years after this event had become only a memory. 


As an evidence that there was no exemption from levj^ and sale on execution, 
there is a paper of some interest signed by twelve men who might have been 
chosen as appraisers or as a jury. Mathew Dolson, whose name has been men- 
tioned above, sued out an execution against the property of his debtor, John 
Embrow or Hembrow. The report of this jury of inquiry is as follows: 

"Detroit February 16, 1799. 
"We, the undersigned jury, are of the opinion that the house of John Hem- 
brow is worth the sum of twenty-seven pounds, four shillings and eight pence, 
equal to sixtj'-eight dollars and eight cents, which will be more than sufiicienct 
to pay the execution of Mathew Dolson against the said Hembrow, agreeable 
to law. 

"William Winslow, 
"Matthew Donavan, 
"Charles Curry, 
"Israel Ruland, 
"F. D. Bcllecour." 


The probate court for the Western District (Canada) went into operation 
before "evacuation" in 1796. The records of that court, now in Windsor, 
Ontario, show that but two estates were opened before June 11, 1796. The 
first was that of Collin Andrews and the second William Macomb. Both of 
these men lived and died in Detroit. As Macomb left a large estate in Michigan, 
his estate was subsequently probated on the American side of the river. 

In a paper recorded in the Registry Office, dated July 12, 1797, are the 
following named as magistrates at that time: James Abbott, Jr., James May, 
Nathan AVilliams, Charles Francois Girardin, Joseph Voyer, and Patrick McNiff. 


There was a quarrel between members of the court of common pleas in 1798 
and some of the justices refused to sit with the others in court. One of the 
papers served on Justice McNiff reads as follows: 

"Prothonotary's Office, Detroit 22nd (?) 1798. 
"Sir: I am sorry to have to inform you, by the direction of Louis Beaufait, 
James May and Ch. fr. Girardin, Esquires, Justices of the Court of Common 
Pleas, that they are determined not to set with you on the bench next term, for 
reasons which you may know by applying to any of them. I have the honor 
to be. Sir, 

"Your very humble and most obedient Ser't. 

"Peter Audrain, Clerk. 
"Patrick McNiff, Esq." 

The governor and judges of the Northwest Territory passed ten or eleven 
acts in 1797 after Wayne County was established. These were their final acts 
in that capacity. Act number three of this series was an act "vesting powers 
in justices of the peace in criminal cases." It would seem that the duties of 


justices were confined to criminal cases and they had no jurisdiction in civil 


In 1798 Governor St. Clair ordered the taking of a census in the territory, 
to ascertain whether there were more than five thousand inhabitants. As 
pi'ovided in the ordinance of 1787, the territory could assume the second grade 
of government by electing an assembly and choosing a council to compose the 
Legislative Council, as soon as it contained tliat number of people. The census 
was taken in Detroit in November (St. Clair Papers Vol. 2, page 435) and the 
requisite number was found in the territory. Wayne County was entitled to 
three members in the assembly, one for each five hundred inhabitants. 

Election for one member only was held in Detroit on the third Monday in 
December, 1798. The contestants were James May and Solomon Sibley. The 
contest was spirited and very earnest. Mr. Sibley was declared elected and 
stai'ted early in January for the seat of government at Cincinnati. This election 
was contested bj' Judge May, as will be noted later. 

The election for the other two members was held in Detroit on January 
15, 1799. The letters of Oliver Wiswell give some of the details of the election. 
The result was that Joncaire received sixty-eight votes. Visger got sixty-three. 
Beaufait got thirty and Wiswell thirty-seven. Oliver Wiswell and Jacob Visger 
were declared elected, but they did not go to Cincinnati at this time. 

The letter of Lewis Bond of January 23, 1799 will explain why the election 
was awarded to Wiswell and not to Charles Francois Chabert de Joncaire, who 
had received more votes at the election. 

When the representatives convened at Cincinnati February 4, 1799, they 
chose ten citizens of the territorj^ whose names were to be sent to the President. 
From this list the President was required to select the names of five persons 
who, with the approval of the Senate, were to constitute the council, or upper 
house, of the assembly'. 

The ordinance of 1787 provided for the selection of the members of the 
council by "the Congress," but with the adoption of the Federal Constitution 
"the Congress" ceased to exist and the legislative rights became vested in a 
President, Senate and House of Representatives. To meet this change in 
situation an act of Congress was passed August 7, 1789 entitled "An Act to 
provide for the government of the territory Northwest of the River Ohio," 
which directed that "the President shall nominate, and by and with the consent 
of the Senate, shall appoint all officers which by the said ordinance were to 
have been appointed by the United States in Congress assembled; and all 
officers so appointed shall be commissioned by him." 

For the council President Adams selected Robert Oliver, Jacob Burnet, 
James Findlay, Henry Vanderburgh, and David Vance. 

The first meeting of the house of assembly on February 4, 1799 had been 
adjourned immediately after it had chosen the ten names for the council. No 
members of the council could be appointed for some time, as communication 
was very slow, and the assembly could not proceed to actual legislative business 
until the President's appointments were known and the members collected 
at Cincinnati. 

The adjourned meeting of the assembly was called for September 16, 1799, 
but on that day there were not sufficient members on hand to form a quorum 


and it was not until September 23d that the session opened. No members 
from Detroit were present at the opening session. Solomon Sibley appeared on 
September 28th and Jacob Visger first voted on November ISth, but Wiswell 
did not appear at all. 

One of the laws enacted by this body on December 2, 1799 authorized justices 
of the peace to try cases brought for the collection of small debts. This is the 
only act of interest to us at this time. The council adjourned on the 19th of 

Some of the papers connected with the election of Solomon Sibley, several 
being personal letters, the contest of James May, also the papers connected with 
this session of the assembly and the instructions to the members from Detroit, 
and the return of the grand jury of March 9, 1797, are very interesting and 
without further comment are here copied in full. 

"a statement of facts for the committee to whom was referred the 
petition of james may esq. 

"1st. Undue and corrupt measures were taken by the friends of Mr. Sibley 
to promote his election. To establish this charge Mr. May expects to prove 
that spirituous liquors were provided by the friends of Mr. Sibley at different 
places in Detroit which were given out liberally to all those who could vote, or 
procure votes for Mr. Sibley. That several persons were taken to the houses 
where these liquors were provided, and induced to drink till they became in- 
toxicated, and in that state were taken to the poll and their votes received for 
Mr. Siblej^, and that some of these persons have since declared that had they 
known what they were doing at the time they would have voted for Mr. May. 
He expects also to prove that evident partiality was used in the mode of receiving 
the votes, by admitting all those who declared in favor of Mr. Sibley to give in 
their votes with but little and in some cases with no examination and bj' exercis- 
ing an improper rigor in scrutinizing the qualifications of all those who offered 
in favor of Mr. IMay. In support of the same charge he expects also to prove 
that a number of discharged soldiers, some of them armed with clubs, resorted 
to the place where the election was held and behaved with such insolence that it 
became disagreeable and even dangerous for his friends to attend the election. 

"2nd. There was a greater number of illegal votes taken for Mr. Sibley 
than the majoritj* returned in his favor. 

"3rd. Several persons possessing the legal qualifications of voters were 
denied the pri\'ilege of voting after having declared themselves in favor of Mr. 

"4th. Mr. May has been informed that Mr. Sibley does not possess a free- 
hold estate sufficient to qualify liim for a seat in the House of Representatives, 
but as a negative cannot be proved he requests that Mr. Sibley may be called 
on to show his qualifications in this respect. " 

"Detroit, 2.3rd Jan., 1799. 
"No. 1. 
"Solomon Sible.v Esq., 

"I have to inform you that the second election and of which you had knowl- 
edge before you left this place, ended considerably different from what I expected. 
You will recollect that a meeting was held, by a few of the Citizens of this Town 
the night before you left this place, in which it was thought proper to support Col. 


Shibeit (Chabert) and Jacob Visger, as Candidates in the then approaching 
election. This premature meeting gave universal offense to the English people. 

"The inhabitants of River Rouge, on whom solely depended the Count of the 
election (the other settlements not being able to attend) thought it unjust that 
they should be bound by the Act of a very few, to support Candidates by no 
means agreeable to their wishes. They therefore held a meeting at said River, 
and firmly resolved that unless they could vote for one person of their liking, 
they would not vote at all. — Their reasons were these: 

"They said they had already chosen one person who was agreeable to their 
wishes, and in whose integrity they had the fullest confidence; that if they could 
elect another person of their wishes, they would be content, and also join with 
almost any party in electing a third, trusting that the exertions of two would 
always be able to counteract those of only one. 

"The next morning after their meeting I was consulted by a committee from 
said meeting to know if I would serve if I was chosen, as I was the person in whom 
they were, to a man, united. 

"I gave them for answer that, notwithstanding there appeared the greatest 
inconsistency in supporting Col. Shibert, (he labouring under the same difficulty 
as Mr. ]\Iay) I did not wish to put myself in opposition to so good a man; nor 
would I do it, but told them that they were at perfect liberty to do as they pleased 
respecting me, and that if I was elected by the free suffrage of the people I would 
serve them to the best of my abilities. The first day of the election but 25 votes 
were given to all the candidates, who were Col. Shibert, Mr. Visger, Bofait Jun'r 
(Beaufait) and myself. The R. Rouge did not vote the first day. 

"The second morning of the election I wrote the Judges of Election the follow- 
ing words verbatim 'Gentlemen, Notwithstanding the gross absurdity in sup- 
porting Col. Shibert, the subscriber has no inclination, nor is it his wish, to be 
considered a candidate in the present election, but is entirely willing that the 
Election, as respects one member, should (as he sincerely believes will) fall to 
'the ground. ' Signed, Wiswell. 

"However the people of R. Rouge were determined to persevere, and to carry 
their point with greater certainty, agreed with Bofait 's friends to support him if 
in return thej- would support me and as a proof of such agreement, two or three 
of the R. Rouge did actually vote for me and Bofait. Visger finding that the 
votes were going against him, requested of several of the principal persons of R. 
Rouge to give their votes to him and not to Bofait and that in return he would 
give all his influence to me, deeming it useless to vote for Col. Shibert, as he 
would not be eligible if elected. This being known C. Clemens and mj-self, with 
much difficulty prevailed upon them to give the other vote to Visger, which they 
did with reluctance, by which means he got his election, whereas had they thrown 
their votes away on some other person, I should undoubtedly led him in votes, and 
he would have had to contest either Bofait or Shibert. In return from Mr. 
Visger, we are certain that he did everything in his power against me in favour 
of Shibert, and altho' he voted for me himself, it was purely necessit.v, decency 
forbidding him to vote for himself. I will throw no reflections upon Mr. Visger 
any farther than request you to suspend your Judgment for the present on what- 
ever insinuations may fall from that gentleman, and that I am warranted in 
telling you that Jacob Visger 's conduct has been such in the Election as that he 
never will be able to obtain the suffrages of the English people in the County of 
Wayne at anv future election. 


"Before the election was closed Col. Shibert came forward and openly de- 
clined being a candidate, and at the close of the election Jacob Visger and myself 
were declared duly elected, certificates of which I have gotten. 

"0. Wiswell." 

"Detroit, 23rd Jan., 1799. 
"No. 2. 
"Sol. Sibley, Esq., 


" In my other letter of same date with this, I gave you a full and I trust, a true 
statement of the proceedings and event of the election. I likewise informed you 
that I had gotten the Sheriff's certificate of being duly elected; but from several 
existing circumstances I have thought it not prudent to come in at present. 

"First, it is pretty generally believed that the Session will be compleated 
before the Representatives can possibly arrive owing to the badness of roads and 
the long delay before starting. 

"Secondly, I conceive the object when obtained a mere burden rather than 
office of profit. 

"Thirdly, There yet is some doubt whether Shibert is not eligible, and until it 
is ascertained I think I may as well waive the matter. 

"But notwithstanding the indifference with which I view it, I am, in duty 
bound to my friends, bound to claim all the privileges that are derived to a free 
people from that part of the Ordinance of Congress which respects the qual- 
ifications of members of Assembly. But my greatest dependence, and on which 
I most rely, is that the point, upon the decision of which I must stand or fall, 
will be tried before the present members arrive. 

"In the present case it is not a contest of votes, character, abilities or acquire- 
ments; it is a contest of eligibility only. That Colonel Shibert has a considerable 
majority of votes, that he is a Gentleman, and a man of integrity, and every 
other way completely qualified, to sustain the important trust with honour 
to himself and justice to his Country and constituents is given up on all hands. 

"I contend that the House of Assembly can no more deviate from the 
positive order of his General, and furthermore, whether there is or is not oppo- 
sition to a member, I conceive the House of Assembly are bound to take the 
Ordinance and religiously pursue it, whether it effect friend or foe. This much 
respecting the Election. 

"I have only to request that you give us the earliest information respecting 
the business and also your advice on the same. If it so happens that Shibert 
should not be deemed eligible I wish you to write whether it will be necessary 
for me to come in immediately or not, as it will be very bad traveling at that 
time in all probability. 

"I wish to observe that the English people are much dissatisfied with the 
nomination of magistrates that was handed you, and think that the remedy 
contemplated by the nomination will prove worse than the disease. 

"I enclose to you a petition handed me by the people of River Rouge, the 
object of which you will take into consideration and if consistent, you will 
undoubtedly support it. I only observe that I think Mr. Cisne an honest man. 
Mr. Powers has signified to me that he would deign to accept of the appoint- 
ment of Chief Justice of Court of C. C. Pleas and Quarter Sessions provided 
he could have some other appointment which would make him a handsome 


support. At his request I signify the above to you, as I suppose it will be sig- 
nified some other way. I will observe that it is my opinion that if justice cannot 
be had only at the hands of Blackguards and men of the most corrupt and 
depraved principles, I am for having no Justice at all. 

"Yours with professions of respect, 

"OHver Wiswell." 

"Private— "Detroit, 24th January, 1799. 

"My dear Sir, 

"I have only time to tell you that I'm in the land of the living, and hope 
soon to hear from you, and of your welfare and how the business stands between 
you, and that Beast who went to endeavour to deprive you of your just rights, 
etc., etc. — Colonel Shebert (Chabert), Visger and Wisewell (Wiswell) were 
candidates at the last election. If Shebert is not eligible, of course Wisewell 
takes the seat. He has thought proper not to go on, and I think he is right, 
for this reason, if the Colonel don't take the seat, of course he comes in, and 
can go forward the next Session. The Devil to pay, and no pitch hot, since 
j^ou took your departure from hence. 

"I found it necessary to put a stop to the Inhabitants selling liquor to the 
Soldiery without permission. I issued an order and made it known to the 
people within the chain of my sentinels, that any person whatever, without 
respect to persons, should be tried by a General Court Martial, etc., etc. Dode- 
mead and others who have often been guilty of violating similar orders, are 
with the assistance of that dam'd Ptr. A-d-n, endeavouring to sour the minds 
of the people, and I am told that they are writing to the Governor, etc. I 
only wish you to let the old gentleman know what my wishes are in regard to 
my taking measures to put a stop to drunkenness, which has been the cause 
of the desertions which has so frequently taken place, owing entirely to those 
evil-minded persons who are constantly selling liquors to the men, — however, I 
have had no drunken men since the orders were published. 

"Pray write me, and tell me all that is going at Cincinnati, and what j^ou 
may get from other parts of the World. Mrs. S. wishes to be remembered to 
you. You have the Compliments of all the Gentlemen of the Garrison and 

"God bless you, etc., etc., 
"I am, Dear Sir, 

With the greatest esteem. 

Your humble servant, 
David Strong." 

"Detroit, 23rd Feb., 1799. 
"Dear Sir: — 

"Since you left this place there has but few political events taken place 
worth relating to you, but perhaps a statement of a few of the transactions in 
conducting the late election may be of service. The friends to good order had 
a meeting soon after you left town at Mr. Dodemead's for the purpose of nom- 
inating two candidates. Mr. Ernest, Esq., in the chair and your friend B. H., 
clerk, Messrs. Chebert, Visgar, Wiswell and Brush were proposed as suitable 
persons and the meeting agreed to support the two former and Wiswell and 
Brush pledged themselves that they would abide by the nomination of our 


meeting, Chebert and Visgar were accordingly elected. It was suggested on the 
last day of election that the Judges could not give Colonel Chebert a certificate 
because he was not elligible and when the business was made known to him he 
came forward and declined accepting the office. Since the business was settled 
in this way the Prothonotary assisted by the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, Judge 
of Probate, etc., etc., persons in office have been busy in persuading Colonel 
Chebert to go to Cincinnati and claim a seat and have drawn up a petition 
to the House that is signed by the French inhabitants to give him a seat. I 
am told that the French are to petition the House of Assembly to establish 
French laws in this County the same code that was in use some twenty years 
past. All these things will undoubtedly be laid before you and treated with 
the attention they deserve. 

"I calculate to leave town about the 15th February for New York and 
should be glad to receive a letter from you when in that City. If you write 
to me the 1st March and direct your letter to the care of Messrs. Church & 
Havens, it will be received. 

"I continue with sentiments of esteem. 

Your humble obedient servant, 

Ben Huntington." 


"In the course of your attendance on the Legislative Body for the Terri- 
tory, I wish to recommend to your particular attention three interesting objects. 

"1st. To see that no person in trade either directly or indirectly be ap- 
pointed a magistrate or Justice of the Common Pleas or Quarter Sessions, the 
enormous frauds and abuses of public justice that have been committed by 
persons in trade when vested with the authority of a magistrate have been 
the ruin of many families; this I know by experience to have been the case 
as well in Lower Canada as here, the measure of injustice caused the Canadians 
to murmur much and show opposition to the Government; things being truly 
stated to Lord Dorchester he ordered that every person being either directly 
or indirectly in trade, if a magistrate, should immediately be cashiered from 
his office, this measure has ultimately restored tranquillity in the Provinces 
of Upper and Lower Canada. 

"2nd. That as all the public sales at auction in the Town of Detroit are 
at present confined or secured to one person (namely James May) Mr. Audrain 
having the granting of Licenses for that pm-pose, has already refused two others 
who had applied with necessary security, this partial piece of conduct is mater- 
ially injurious to the interest of the Government. 

"3rd. That the public Monies 'of the County be removed out of the hands 
they are now in and put into the hands of some other person appointed by 
His Excellency. Wishing you a pleasant journey, an agreeable reception and 
safe return, 

"I am most sincerely yours, 

Patrick McNiff, 
"To Detroit, 6th Jan., 1799." 

Solomon Sibley, Esq. 

"I would further recommend your attention to any application that may 
be made from hence for having the Town of Detroit incorporated into a free 


borough; which if granted would have a tendance to reduce the authority of 
the Military at this Post, and would be extremely injurious to the inhabitants, 
and to the interest of the United States, it being a Principal Barrier Post, whose 
safet}^ depends upon the militar_v having the chief command here at least for 
many years to come. Therefore if a proposal of the kind should come forward 
to His Excellency the Governor, wish you to use your influence against that 
privilege being granted for the foregoing reasons. 

"I being the person in the late Committee who moved, that all the present 
judges and justices be removed from their present offices as magistrates, myself 
among the number, and such others as the Committee have recommended in 
ova- place be appointed. In that case have no objection to act with the new 
appointed magistrates, provided His Excellency thinks proper to reappoint 
me of the Quarter Sessions and Common Pleas, but with the former magistrates 
I cannot Act until I perceive they have banished partiality from their breasts 
when in office. I wish His Excellency to have I'eference to the statement I gave 
Oilman when here in Maj- last. 
"Detroit, 7th Jan., 1799. 

"Patrick McNiff." 

"Detroit, January 23rd, 1799. 

"This will be handed you by Mr. Visger whom I return as one of our Repre- 
sentatives, and Oliver Wiswell I return as the other. Colonel Shabert Joncaire 
had the highest number of votes, but it was the opinion of the Judges that 
he was not eligible, he however goes on to contest the Election. Mr. Wiswell 
I presume has written you on the subject, it is however the general wish that 
he may be chosen a member of the Governor's Council. Mr. May's name was 
again introduced as a candidate, but rejected as he had gone forward to contest 
the former election. I think it but justice that I should receive an adequate 
compensation for my services in holding the elections, as well as the clerks, etc. 
The fees of a sheriff are so trifling in this County that they would not support 
a single person — you are well acquainted with the nature and situation of this 
County, and as well know the difficulties the Sheriff has to encounter. Witness 
the trip I had last Fall to Sandusky for nothing and attended with a heavy 
expense a few such jaunts would cost more than all I could make in a year, 
in the Spring, I shall be obliged to go or send to Mackinaw, in which if I should 
not succeed, will be a very heavy job and make me sick of the Office. I beg 
your friendly assistance in this business, and that you will be pleased to inform 
the Governor of my situation as well as the expensive living in this place. Per- 
haps the Governor can annex some other office. 

"Mr. Powers and Major Winston are talked of as Judges, Powers says he 
will accept of the first seat on the bench if he can get some other office to help 
support his family. It is my opinion that there will be no Court at March Term, 
if new Judges are not appointed. George McDougall would be a very suitable 
person for one of the bench. I have no news but what Mr. McNiff has com- 
municated to you. Wishing you a happy Session, I remain with much respect, 


"Lewis Bond. 
"S. Sibley, Esq. 

"P. S. Write me first opportunity. 


"I would beg leave to mention Air. Donovan for some office, his education 
and respectability entitle him to notice." 

"To the Citizens Electors of the County of Wayne. 
"Gentlemen: — 

"Having accepted the appointment of Representative for the County of 
Wayne in General Assembly of this Territory, conferred upon me by your free 
and independent suffrages. Beg leave in this public manner to suggest, that it 
is customary in our republican government and I conceive proper and laudable, 
that the citizens convene, to consult upon subjects that materially concern their 
interest and welfare, and that of the public at large, in order to give to their 
representative instructions — as it is the duty of everj^ person, who accepts 
the suffrages of the people, faithfully to attend to the interest of his constituents. 
I hope the citizens of the County of Wayne will at all times feel themselves 
ready and disposed to give every needful information, so as to enable me to 
discharge my duty to their satisfaction. 

"As the General Assembly of this Territory convenes on the 22nd of January 
next, I shall set out for Cincinnati within ten or twelve days. Trust the citizens 
will not delay giving me their sentiments within that time. 

"The public's very humble servant, 
"Sol. Sibley." 

"Detroit, Jan., 1799. 

"Permit me to congratulate you on your being appointed Secretary of Govern- 
ment for the Northwest Territorj^, and to introduce to your acquaintance my 
friend James May, Esquire, one of the Justices of our Court of Common Pleas 
and of the General Quarter of the Peace, and also Sen'r Cap't of our Mihtia. My 
official letter to his Excellency, the Governor, will inform you of the cause of Mr. 
May's journey to Cincinnati, and himself will give you any further explanation 
you may wish for. It is an unfortunate circumstance for the inhabitants of this 
County that either the Governor or yourself have not visited Detroit before our 
election — matters would have been conducted differently, our people would have 
understood their rights better and corruption would have been avoided, and 
faction silenced; if you ever visit this place, I will put it in your power to form a 
just opinion of our situation. 

" Please to pres't etc., 

"Your very humble and most obedient 

"Peter Audrain, Proth'y. " 
Letter delivered to the Hon. William Harrison, Esq., Secretary of the Terri- 
tory, etc., etc., Cincinnati. 

"Detroit, 20th January, 1799. 
"Messrs. Visgar and Wiswell. 


"In conjunction with your colleague who precedes you on this business, I 
wish yoiu" attention to the instructions already given him prior to his departure 
from hence. 


"Next would request your united attention to tlie Six following particular 
objects in which are involved the happiness of the County in general f and the 
interest and safety of its individuals. 

" 1st. That when a general Tax becomes to be levied on the Territory the 
Infant State of this County to be duly taken into consideration and as small a 
proportion of that sum as may be to be allotted to its share; the poverty of its 
inhabitants to be considered. People commencing to clear and improve new 
lands cannot be supposed to be wealthy. 

"2nd. The Militia Law of the Territory as it now stands does not seem to 
answer the intended purpose, or the disposition of the inhabitants of this County, 
they are almost to a man refractory nor will they turn out either to a muster or 
exercise when called upon; the fine or punishment inflicted by that Law being so 
easy and inconsiderable that they would much sooner bear the consequence than 
obey the orders or call of their officers. The safety and indeed the prosperity of 
the County in a great measure depends upon the good order and discipline of the 
inhabitants; a thoughtful person cannot labour with any degree of courage when 
he finds that he cannot derive from the joint effort of his neighbours that protec- 
tion and safety which ought ever to exist in every civilized societJ^ The in- 
habitants of this place have lived for many years past in a state of licentious 
freedom nor can they now bear to be checked; nothing but a more severe law can 
bring them to order. 

"3rd. The situation of the County with respect to public roads to be taken 
into consideration; the present seat of Justice is at Detroit; the settlements ex- 
tending thence northerly to upper end of River St. Clair nearly sixty miles; and 
also from Detroit southwesterly to foot of Rapids of the Miami River nearly 
sixty miles. To those extreme parts of the settlements, there are but two periods 
in the year that persons from the seat of Justice can have access to them without 
the help of a water craft, viz: in the month of September by land, and in the 
winter when the waters are sufficiently frozen that the ice will bear; otherwise no 
access to those places but by water. 

"The County thus situated it is clear that the Sheriff and other officers in the 
service, cannot go to those distant places the greater part of the year without go- 
ing to the expense of hiring a boat and hands, which would cost four times the 
mileage they are now allowed by law; should no provision by law be made to give 
relief to the Civil Officers of the County in such cases, I am apprehensive we shall 
not long have any to fill them offices. 

"4th. Hitherto it has been a matter of public altercation and private 
investigation whether or not British Subjects now residing amongst us and 
possessed of fast taxable property within the Territory, were entitled to the 
privilege of voting in common with others for a person to represent their prop- 
erty within the County, they having been refused that privilege on a late occa- 
sion has created some murmurs amongst them. I do not find in any of the 
Ordinances of the United States or in any part of the Law of Nations referring 
to Aliens, that aliens have a right to any such privilege. In future to prevent 
contentions of this nature, there would be a propriety in the Legislature taldng 
up the business, how far they are or are not entitled to any such privilege. 

"5th. The improper use of the public monies by its having been applied to 
the use of a few individuals and the enormous and unjustifiable charges brought 
forward by sueli individuals as a pretext for retaining such monies in their hands — 


however it is to be remarked that at the Last term (December) of Common Pleas, 
that Judge Bufait (Beaufait), one of the persons who had drawn largely out of the 
Nominal Treasurer's hands, had promised that he would ere long replace what he 
had drawn from the Nominal Treasurer. 

"6th. Another species of Grievance which the County universally labours 
under and as universally complained of and which mostly affects the poorer class 
of people, and requires the immediate attention of the Legislature: That is, the 
great abuses arising from unjust weights and measures throughout the County. 
The people in Trade purchasing of the inhabitants grain by the French bushel of 
40 Winchester quarts and sell out again grain and salt by the Winchester bushel 
of 32 quarts. 

"Similar abuses are carried on in the sale of bread by the Bakers, when flour is 
'sold at 32 per ct. the three pound loaf is sold by them for 1-6 and that loaf when 
weighed often times falls short sometimes three and sometimes four ounces of its 
proper weight. I have often made the experiment by weighing the loaves. It is 
in the power of the Legislature to say what the legal measure shall be throughout 
the County ; it also rests with the Legislature to vest in the Justices of the Quarter 
Sessions power to regulate the price of bread in proportion to the price of flour; 
this is the case in all well regulated Towns, a similar regulation has hitherto been 
attempted to be carried into effect here, but for want of sufficient authority vested 
in the Justices of the Sessions the attempt proved fruitless, two of the Magistrates 
being themselves Bakers and two others of them Shopkeepers. 

"Wishing you good weather in your journey, an agreeable reception at Cincin- 
nati, and a safe and speedy return to this place, 

" I remain most sincerely yours, 

"Patrick McNifT. 

"If an opportunity should ofTer from Cincinnati for this place, immediately 
after some business having been done by the Assembly, I shall hope for your 
friendly communication stating proceedings. I have to request that you will 
be pleased in all your deliberations and measures respecting yom- mission to the 
Assembly to consult Mr. Sibley and pay attention to his opinion. 

"P. McNiff. 

"That the Justices of the Quarter Sessions be impowered to remove nuisances 
placed in the public streets of Detroit, by many of the inhabitants placing gal- 
leries before their doors, which galleries project out into the streets a great 
distance to the great annoyance and injury of the public, the streets of Detroit 
being so very narrow as not to admit of any such encroachments. 

"P. McNiff. 

"The disorderly conduct of the inhabitants by the profanation of the Sabbath 
day, by horse racing, dancing and a thing too common on that day (drunkenness). 
These vices require the attention of the Legislature to pass a law to suppress 


"The Grand Jury for the County of Wayne upon their oath present — viz — • 
That they recommend the particular attention of the Bench to the presentation 
delivered by the Grand Jury at the last Sessions — 


"That many of the Gentlemen of the Jury, had declared themselves before 
the Court to he British Subjects, before they have taken the oath as Jurors, 
and that notwithstanding they had the mortification to hear reflections thrown 
against that Government, in the charge from the Bench, which very naturally 
hurt the feelings of many of the Jurors, and could only tend to disturb the 
harmony now existing between the respective Governments. 

"That a complaint from William Smith was delivered to the Jury at the 
door of the Jury Room, which the foreman immediately laid before the Court 
for their opinion how to proceed; that the Court ordered the foreman to give 
the opinion of the Jury in writing upon the back of the said complaint. 

"The opinion of the Jury was that a bill of indictment should be made out 
against the persons mentioned in the said complaint, which the Court refused, 
and gave as their reason that the Jury had acted improperly in receiving, or 
giving their opinion upon any complaints which did not come through the 
medium of the Court; although it had been laid before them previous to any 
opinion being given. 

"That the Grand Jury as representing the Jjody of the County; (although 
not versed in law), conceive it their duty to represent every grievance that 
comes to their knowledge, from whatever channel they may derive their infor- 
mation; and that upon requesting the Court for a perusal of the charge delivered 
to the Jury from the Bench, as a regulation of their conduct, it was refused them. 
"That it is the opinion of the Jury, that the ofBce of Coroner and Sheriff 
cannot be held by the same person, as the duty of the one frequently interferes 
with the other. 

"That all nuisances should be speedily removed, particularly the offensive 
smell arising from the Slaughter Houses, and the quantity of dead Carcasses 
which are found in every corner of the Town and which must injure the health 
of the Citizens as the warm weather is fast approaching. 

"That the Grand Jury earnestly recommend that this and the former pre- 
sentation should be speedily transmitted to His Excellency the Governor, and 
request the attention of the bench to this circumstance. 
"Jury Room Detroit 9th March '97 

"John McGregor, Foreman, "Israel Ruland, 

"John Reed, "D. labrosse, 

" Ant Baubiene, "R. Pattinson, 

"John Fearson, "Simon Campau, 

"Joseph Thibault, "Wm. Groesbeck, 

"Alexr. Duff, "Robert Gouie, 

"J. B. Barthe, "Francois Gamehn, 

"Jas. Fraser, "Joseph Bond, 

"Chabert Joncaire, "John Dodemead." 

"Louis Barthy, 


The following is a statement of the court fees for the March term of 1797. 
This shows that six judges were in attendance; that the session lasted three 
days, and the total expense was $6,373^. There were seven justices at this 
time, but Louis Beaufait's name is not on the list. 




Clerk writing precept to the 

Sheriff 28 

advertising court in french & engHsh 25 

Tuesday — Cryer calhng Grand Jury .... 

Clk. empannehing & swearing J 25 

Clk. caUing Sheriff &c. & Coroner 12 

Clk. calling C. Magistrates & their 

returns 36 

Cryer calling 8 constables .... 

Clk receiving & swearing on their 

returns 48 

Crj^er calhng Peter Loope 3 times .... 

Clk entering deffault 12}/^ 

Court passing order thereon 15 .... 

Clk entering order 123--^ 

Clk swearing Jacques Campau, collector .... 6 

Wednesday — Calling Grand Jury 123'-2 

Clk swearing Joseph Bourdeau, constable .... 6 

Court fining Ante. Pellier for 

refusing to serve as a constable 15 .... 

Clerk entering order & fine 15 

Clk reading in french & english 

Petition of Wm. Smith 30 

Court passing order thereon 15 .... 

Clk reading in french & english 

Petition of Herman Eberts, acting 

sheriff 30 

Court passing order thereon 15 .... 

Court appointing Jno. Loveless 

constable in lieu of Pre. 

Belair excused 37^^^ .... 

Clk entering appointment 9 

Court passing order on Pierre Montour 

on compaint of L. Ribidou 15 .... 

Clk entg. order 123/^ 

Thursday — calling Grand Jury 123^2 

Court passing order respecting the 

price of ferries 15 .... 

Clk entg. order 12}^ 

Clk receiving and filing presentment 

of the Grand Jury 6 

Clk reading same in english & french 12 

Court passing order thereon 15 .... 

Clk entg. order 12i^ 

Clk transmitting to the Governor a 

certified Copy with seal affixed 50 



3 days attendance for 6 Justices. 

$1-42}^ §4-253-2 S .69>^ 



A bill introduced in Congress for the division of the Northwest Territory into 
two territories became a law on the 7th of May, 1800. This established the 
Territory of Indiana, the eastern line of which was the eastern line of the present 
State of Indiana projected .to the national boundary line on the north. Thus, the 
present State of Michigan was divided nearly in halves and the western portion 
was included in the new territory. The eastern portion, including Detroit, was 
left in the old territory which did not change its name from the "territory north- 
west of the Ohio River. " 

The members of the Assembly who came from Indiana Territory ceased to 
hold office. Henry Vanderburgh, president of the council, was the only member 
of the house who was thus legislated out of office. 

The act of May 7, 1800 also provided that whenever the eastern territory 
should be erected into a state, the eastern boundary of the Territory of Indiana as 
specified herein should be the permanent boundary between Ohio and Indiana. 
It further provided that Chillicothe should be the seat of government for the 
eastern territory and Saint Vincent (Vincennes) should be the seat of government 
of Indiana Territory, until otherwise ordered by the respective legislatures. 

The second session of the first assembly met at Chillicothe November 5, 1800. 
The members at first from Detroit were Solomon Sibley, Oliver Wiswell and Jacob 
Visger. Again Wiswell did not appear, being afraid that his election was not 

One of the first acts was to choose a successor to Henry Vanderburgh, who was 
in the new Territory of Indiana and consequently could no longer act with the 
council. President Adams awarded the appointment to the legislative council 
to Solomon Sibley on December 3, 1800. His term of office was to last for five 
years from the date of Vanderburgh's appointment. The assembly was pro- 
rogued on the 9th of December, 1800, so that it is probable that Sibley did not 
take his seat in the council. 


The election for members of the second assembly for Waj'ne County took place 
in Detroit October 14, 15 and 16, 1800. An account of this election is con- 
tained in a letter from Peter Audrain printed in the St. Clair Papers, Vol. 2, 
page 498. The report of the election is in Vol. VIII of the Michigan Pioneer 
Collection, on page 517. The limits of Wayne County had been greatly curtailed 
b}' the erection of Indiana Territory, which took more than half of the county, 
but the electors lived, for the most part, in Detroit and on the River Raisin 
(French Town). 

The contestants for the election were: George ^IcDougall, who received one 
hundred and ten votes; Col. Charles F. Chabert de Joncaire; Jonathan Schief- 
felin; Benjamin Huntington; Joseph Cissne; James May, who received twenty- 
two votes; and Jacob Visger, who also got twenty-two votes. Sibley did not enter 
the list, as he expected an appointment to the council. The election was awarded 
to Chabert, Schieffelin, and McDougall. Cissne and Huntington contested the 
election of IMcDougall and Schieffelin, respectivel}'. 


The protest of Joseph Cissne against the election of McDougall was on the 
groimd that McDougall did not own two hundred acres of land in his own right. 


as required by the ordinance of Congress, and that he was of a pernicious dispo- 
sition, disquiet mind and conversation, and contriving, practicing and falsely 
turbulenting and seditiously intending the peace and common tranquillity of the 
government of the United States and of this territory, to disquiet, molest and 
disturb. At this time McDougall was one of the judges of the com-t of common 
pleas and the protest of Cissne was to come before the court of enquiry, which 
would consist of at least two judges of the common pleas. The other judges. 
May and Visger, had been McDougall's contestants at the election and very 
naturallj^ McDougall objected to their sitting as judges in the case. He filed a 
protest against the proposed action of the two judges and objected vigorously to 
the claims of "that poor wretch, Cissne, who had been made a tool of on this 
occasion," that he did not have two hundred acres of land. In fact he was "land 
poor." Notwithstanding McDougall's protest the two judges proceeded with 
the investigation. On the investigation it was shown that McDougall was anx- 
ious to have the taxes of the entire county paid in kind, as the poor farmers had 
no money with which to pay them. A letter written by McDougall was pro- 
duced, written a few days before the election, stating that there would be trouble 
if the sheriff undertook to enforce the collection of taxes by levying on the prop- 
erty of the poor farmers. He proposed the calling of a special session of the 
justices "at this alarming crisis" to make some arrangements to relieve them. 
It was also shown that McDougall had stated publicly that the tax law was 
unjust and oppressive and if the sheriff undertook to enforce it, he would be 
resisted. These were the charges brought to disqualify McDougall. Most of 
the matters have been printed in the Michigan Historical Society, Vol. 8, but 
the sequel is not referred to there. The testimony taken by the judges was 
certified to the legislature to be passed upon by them. The contest was decided 
in favor of McDougall and Schieffelin on December 1, 1802. 

McDougall, after a time, began a suit against Joseph Cissne for slander in the 
utterances made by him in the charges, and claimed damages amounting to two 
thousand dollars. Cissne defended upon the ground that the charges were true, 
and were uttered only in connection with the legal proceedings and with no mali- 
cious intent. Solomon Sibley represented the plaintiff and Elijah Brush appeared 
for Cissne. A commission to take testimony was issued September 1, 1801. The 
testimony of Benjamin Huntington was taken October 9, 1801 and was to the 
same effect as that taken before the court of enquiry, which is already in print as 
mentioned above. The case never came to a trial, as Cissne died and the suit 
abated in consequence, but McDougall served in the legislature. 


The second assembly met at Chillicothe November 26, 1801. The provision in 
the act of Congress of May 7, 1800, fixing Chillicothe as the seat of government, 
raised discussion and created much bitterness. Many of the members thought 
the provision was brought about by the action of men who were interested in 
Chillicothe and that these people acted selfishly and without regard to the con- 
venience or the requirements of the territory. There was also a growing dislike 
to the governor (St. Clair) which disturbed the tranquillity of the assembly. On 
December 25, 1801 these disturbances had so affected the town people of Chilli- 
cothe that they proposed to burn the governor in effigy. The plan would have 
succeeded except for the interference of one of the members of the council. The 
next night a number of boisterous citizens undertook to create a disturbance in 


the house in which the governor was a boarder. Fortunately, the rioters at- 
tacked Mr. SchieffeHn, who was living in the same house. Mr. Schieffelin drew 
a dirk in self-defense and by his tlireats drove the rioters from the house. The ac- 
count is found in the St. Clair Papers, Vol. 2, page 556. Some others assert that 
Shieffelin drew a brace of pistols and thus drove out the rioters. 

The immediate provocation of the riot was a bill to change the location 
of the seat of government from Chillicothe to Cincinnati. This bill passed 
and became a law on the first day of January, 1802. 


There was another bill which passed and was approved December 21, 1801, 
which gave the consent of the territory to alter the boundary lines of the states 
to be formed in the Northwest Territory as provided in the ordinance of 1787. 
There was a great amount of discussion over this bill and many hard feelings 
engendered. Governor St. Clair and his friends were opposed to the formation 
of the new state and thought they could prevent it, for a time at least, by the 
passage of the act of December 21st. The people of Detroit were greatly inter- 
ested in the formation of a state in the eastern district. Protests, numerously 
signed, were sent to Congress and an effort made to prevent the establishment 
of the new state. 


The bill, as originally introduced, included the eastern portion of Michigan 
in the proposed new state, but the serious and strenuous opposition of the citizens 
of Detroit to the measure, led to an amendment of the bill, so that the northern 
line of the state should be a line drawn due east from the southern extremity 
of Lake Michigan. It was in this form that the bill became a law Apiil 30, 1802. 

The amendment was, in some ways, an unfortunate thing for Detroit. If the 
amendment had not been made, Detroit would have formed a part of the new 
State of Ohio and the people would have, at once, been given the rights of citizens 
in that state. The amendment placed Detroit in the Territory of Indiana. Thus, 
the citizens were first in a country organized under the first grade of government; 
that is, managed by a governor and judges appointed by the Federal Govern- 
ment. Next they passed to the second grade, in which there was a governor, 
an elected assembly and appointed council. Instead of being promoted now to 
the third grade, or the grade of statehood, thej' were degraded to the rule of the 
governor and judges. There was considerable bitterness in Detroit, and many 
complaints were made, but no alteration or improvement was affected. Not 
being within the lines of a state, the people had no vote. Being relegated to the 
first grade, there were no members of the assembly to be voted for, and no 
delegate to Congress to be elected. It was many years before there was a 
delegate to Congress. The first delegate was chosen in 1819 and the first legis- 
lative council took office in 1824. 


The legislative council which met at Chillicothe in 1801 completed its labors 
and adjourned January 23, 1802. On the 18th of January, a few days before 
the adjournment, there was passed an act incorporating the town of Detroit. 
The passing of this act was largely the work of Solomon Sibley and upon his 
return to Detroit a public celebration was held and at the meeting of the citizens 


the "freedom of the town" was voted to him. A petition for the incorporation 
of "the Corporation of Detroit" is printed in the Michigan Pioneer Collections, 
Vol. 8, page 507. This session, ending January 23, 1802, was the final meeting 
of the legislative council of the Northwest Territorj^ and from this time Detroit 
was in the Territory of Indiana. 

The above named act for the incorporation of the town of Detroit was passed 
by the assembly January 18, 1802. The village was composed of parts of the 
townships of Detroit and Hamtramck, bounded in front by the river, on the 
east by the line between the farms of John Askin (Brush) and Antoine Bcaubien, 
on the west by the line between the farms of the heirs of William Macomb (Cass) 
and Pierre Chesne (Jones) and extending back from the river two miles. The 
town was to be governed by five trustees, a secretary, an assessor, a collector, 
and a town marshal. The trustees formed a body politic by the name of "the 
board of trustees of the town of Detroit." An annual election was to be held 
on the first Monday in May of each year, and the electors were all freeholders 
paying an annual rent of at least forty dollars, and such other persons as might 
be admitted to the freedom of the corporation by the electors at an annual 
election. All of the above named officers were to be elected and hold office for 
one year. The board of trustees had power to pass all needful rules and regula- 
tions for the government of the town, such rules to be in force until "they shall 
be disapproved of and rejected by a majority of the voters present" at the next 
annual election. 


The first set of officers, appointed by the legislature, and named in the 
incorporating act, were: John Askin, Sr., John Dodemead, James Henry, Charles 
Francois Girardin, and Joseph Campau, trustees; Peter Audrain, secretary; 
Robert Abbott, assessor; Jacob Clemens, collector; and Elias Wallen, marshal. 
The act took effect February 1, 1802. 

Askin, who was named as one of the original trustees, was not an American 
citizen, and never intended to become one. It is probable that Elijah Brush, 
then one of the leading lawyers in Detroit, procured the insertion of his name in 
the charter from motives of friendship. At this time Brush was with the assem- 
bly, although not a member of it. He married Askin's daughter, Adelaide. 
Askin removed from Detroit in the spring of 1802 and never assumed the office 
of village trustee. 

Recognition of other offices is contained in an act of January 10, 1802, pro- 
viding for the giving of official bonds by clerks in judicial offices. These clerks 
were of the general (supreme) court, of the circuit court, prothonotaries of the 
court of common pleas, clerks of the courts of quarter sessions of the peace and 
clerks of the orphans' court. Judges of the probate courts acted as their own 

The justices whose names appear in 1801 were: Joseph Voyez, Jean Marie 
Beaubien, Francois Navarre, James Henry and Jacob Visger. Three of these 
men were French, one (James Henry) an American from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 
and one (Jacob Visger) of Holland Dutch descent from Schenectady. 


Wilham Henry Harrison was the first delegate to Congress from the North- 
west Territory. Upon the organization of Indiana Territory, Mr. Harrison 


became its first governor and William MclNIillan was chosen delegate to Congress 
in his place. Paul Fearing was elected the next and last delegate. The council, 
in its instructions to Mr. Fearing, directed him to endeavor to have commissioners 
appointed by Congress to settle the titles to lands at Detroit; to procure a dona- 
tion of lands for education and religion and to obtain a grant from the general 
government to the town of Detroit of the "commons." The "commons" was 
the designation of the land lying between the old town of Detroit (above Gris- 
wold Street) and the present Randolph Street. This land had always, even 
during the French regime, been considered as belonging to the public. 

Mr. Fearing presented these matters before Congress in March, 1802, and 
they were referred to committees, but it was near the end of the session and 
nothing was done with them at this time. Of the Territory of Indiana, of which 
Detroit now formed a part, William Henry Harrison was governor and John 
Gibson was secretary. 

The judges were William Clarke, Henry Vanderburgh and John Griffin. 
The general court did not have any equity powers, nor could an appeal be taken 
from its decisions. Both of these defects were sought to be remedied by Congress 
in 1803 (House Journals 1803, pp. 490 and 505), but the efforts were not suc- 
cessful. Little attention was paid to Detroit. 

The County of Wayne was proclaimed by Governor Harrison January 14, 
1803 (Michigan Historical Society, VHI, p. 542). Sessions of the governor and 
judges were held and laws enacted January 30, 1802, February 16, 1803 and 
September 20, 1803. In September, 1804, a general election was held, at which 
time it was decided that the territory should pass to the second grade of govern- 
ment; that is, it should have a governor and a legislative assembly, instead of 
the governor and three judges as the legislative body. This election was called 
bj' proclamation of Governor Harrison, August 4, 1804, to be held on the 11th 
day of the following September. The time was so short that no notice of the 
proposed election reached Detroit and no votes were cast there. This circum- 
stance was one of the leading arguments for the partition of the territory and 
the formation of Aliclrigan Territory in 1805. 

Only four hundred votes were cast at the election and the majority of one 
hundred and thirty-eight was in favor of passing to the second grade of govern- 

An election of representatives was called for on the 3rd of January, 1805, and 
Wayne County was authorized to elect three members. The members elected 
were to meet at Vincennes on Februarj' 3, 1805 to select ten men from whom' 
the President was to choose five as members of the council. Again no election 
was held in Detroit or in Wayne County. 


Application had been made bj- Joseph Harrison and others in 1803 to organize 
Micliigan into a separate territory. Tlris effort failed, but in 1804 another peti- 
tion for the same purpose was filed by James May and others. The result was 
that an act was passed January 11, 1805, for the organization of Michigan 
Territory on June 30th following. This put an end to all desire on the part of 
the citizens of the new territory to take any part in the management of Indiana 
Territory. The first assembly of Indiana Territorj- met July 30, 1805, just a 
month after Micliigan Territorj- was organized. 

Detroit was in Indiana but a short time, from the organization of Wayne 


County in January, 1803, until January, or June, 1805. The governor's procla- 
mation of January 14, 1803 stated that all civil and military offices appointed in 
Wayne County under the old Northwest Territory should continue to hold their 
offices until otherwise directed. 


In May, 1803, the governor made the following appointments to civil offices 
in Wayne County: James May, James Henry, Antoine Dequindre, Mathias 
Henry, Francis Navarre, Jacob Visger, John Dodemead, Jean Marie Bobiene 
(Beaubien), Chabert Joncaire, William McDowell Scott, justices of the court 
of general quarter sessions of the peace; James May, Chabert Joncaire, James 
Henry, Jacob Visger, William McDowell Scott, judges of the court of common 
pleas; Peter Audrain, prothonotary, clerk of the court of general quarter sessions 
of the peace, recorder and judge of probate; Thomas McCrea, sheriff; Joseph 
Harrison, coroner; and Francis Desreusseau Belcour, notary public. 

On July 15, 1804 Joseph Wilkison (Wilkinson) was appointed coroner of 
Wayne County, and on the same day David Duncan and John Anderson were 
appointed justices of the court of general quarter sessions of the peace. On July 
18th Richard Smith was appointed sheriff and on the 19th Jacob Visger was 
given a license to keep a ferry from his land near Detroit across the Detroit River. 

It is noted in the executive journal of Indiana Territory that an election was 
held September 11, 1804, except in Wayne County, where "no election was held 
in consequence of the proclamation not arriving in time." 


The efforts that were made for the erection of Michigan Territory originated 
in Congress by the presentation of two petitions, one in 1803 and the other in 
1804, as noted above. The first petition was signed by Joseph Harrison and a 
number of other Detroit citizens. The petition was presented in the Senate by 
Mr. Worthington, October 21, 1803 and was at once referred to a committee 
composed of Senators Worthington, Breckenridge and Franklin. In their report 
on November 1st, they stated that census of the district taken in 1800 showed 
there were 3972 free white inhabitants, and the committee recommended the 
granting of the petition, the new tenitory to be governed as provided in the 
ordinance of 1787. The committee was directed to bring in a bill. The bill 
being introduced, it passed through the usual forms of reading and debates. 
On December 6th the title was determined to be "An act to divide Indiana 
Territory into two separate governments." The bill passed the Senate, was 
sent to the House, and on December 8th was referred to a committee composed 
of Congressmen Lucas, Morrow, Chittenden, Lj^on and Claggett. The prin- 
cipal argument against the bill was that the people of Detroit were too few in 
number to warrant the expense of maintaining a separate government. The 
extra expense could not have been very great. The general government would 
have to pay the salaries of a governor, secretary, three judges and civil and 
court officers. This entire cost would not exceed $10,000 per j^ear and was 
probably nearer $5,000. The committee reported adversely to the bill, but 
the House rejected their report and after amending it and providing that the 
name of the new territory should be "Michigan," postponed final action until 
the succeeding day. The last vote was taken February 21, 1804, when the 
bill was rejected by a single vote. There were fifty-eight in favor of the bill 

Vol. 1—18 


and fifty-nine opposed to it. In looking over the list of members one finds 
several names of persons who were then and in after years interested in Detroit. 
Several of these voted against the measure. One vote only would have changed 
the entire plan and have made Michigan a territory. Among those who opposed 
the measure and voted against it was Seth Hastings, a personal friend of Solomon 
Sibley and a representative from Worcester, Massachusetts; he was the father 
of Eurotas P. Hastings, a prominent citizen in later times. 

The friends of the territorial organization proceeded with a second petition. 
The first signer of the petition was James May, but many prominent people 
signed it, and it was presented to the Senate December 5, 1804. It was referred 
to Senators Worthington, Breckenridge and Giles. A bill was introduced by 
Mr. Worthington on December 14th and was debated, amended and passed on 
the 24th of that month. Upon reaching the house it was further amended, but 
was finally passed, the Senate concurring in the amendment. It was approved 
by the President on January 11, 1805. 

Thus Michigan became a territory. 

Solomon Sibley took a great part in the work at Detroit and among the 
citizens. The original petitions were sent by him to Senator Worthington to 
be introduced in the Senate. A joint letter by himself and Jonathan Schieffelin 
accompanied the second petition and, at a later time, he added further instruc- 
tions and new advice to the petitions and documents already in the hands of 


One of the troubles of the district of Detroit as it was emerging from British 
control, was the matter of land titles. Under the French regime, comparatively 
few people had any paper title to the farm lands they occupied and claimed to 
own. The farms were located along the Detroit River and the tributary streams 
such as the Huron River of Lake Erie, the Ecorse, Rouge and the Huron River 
(now called Clinton River) of Lake St. Clair. No lands were occupied or cul- 
tivated in the country back and away from these water courses. Every farm 
had a frontage on a stream, with a width of from one to three arpents, with an 
original depth of from fortj' to sixty arpents. (An arpent is a French acre, 
having 192.75 feet on a side.) There were no roads through the country and 
the travel for all persons was by boat along the front of these ribbon farms. 
Occasionally farms or possessions of larger tracts of land were to be found, but 
the above quantities of forty, eighty and one hundred and twenty arpents were 
of the customary size. 

Conveyances of such farms from the French governor and intendant are 
occasionally found. The English government made very few grants and passed 
laws to prohibit the people from buying lands of the Indians. Towards the end 
of the Revolutionary war, about the j-ear 1780, the people of Detroit began the 
purchase of farms from the various Indian tribes. Sometimes these purchases 
would consist only of an ordinary farm, but as time proceeded and the speculators 
got reckless, larger tracts were bought. Some conveyances included 20,000 
acres, and then we find 200,000, 500,000 and 3,000,000 acres in a single con- 
veyance, and an attempt was made in 1795 to purchase the entire lower peninsula 
of Michigan, or 20,000,000 acres at one time. Titles to legitimate farms in the 
neighborhood of Detroit were complicated and uncertain and early efforts were 
made to bring the matter before Congress for relief. 



The first selected officials for the new Territory of Michigan were: William 
Hull, governor; Stanlej' Griswold, secretary; Augustus Brevoort Woodward, 
Frederick Bates and John Griffin, judges. 

The town of Detroit was fire-swept on June 11, 1805. Judge Bates resided 
in Detroit, but the other two judges and the governor did not arrive in Detroit 
until after the fire. They then appeared to witness a scene of desolation, for 
every dwelling and building in the place, save one, was destroyed. 

The first act passed by the legislative body is dated July 9, 1805 and provided 
for the territorial seal. It was provided that paper, instead of parchment, 
should be used in all court records. ' 


We now reach the point where there was a change of government and where 
all local affairs were brought more closely under our observation. As we have 
already seen, the United States had no actual control over the Detroit district 
until July, 1796. It was reported that the village of Detroit contained about 
.five hundred people. They were mostly French, and the number of English, 
Irish and Scotch was quite limited. The declarations of the inhabitants to 
remain British subjects, made in 1796-7, already referred to, contain many 
names in addition to those of French derivation. These are as follows: 
D. McCrea, Louis Moore, James Mcintosh, 

William Fleming, Thomas Green, Jonathan Nelson, 

James Condon, Angus Mackintosh, Robert Gouie, 

Alexander Duff, John Askin, R. McDonnell, 

William Smith, William Mickle, Richard Pattinson, 

John McKoigan, Robert Innes, Hugh He ward, 

John Clark, John Martin, John Grant, 

Robert Grant, Redmond Condon, James Cartwright, 

James Donaldson, John Fearson, Richard Donovan, 

John Little (Lytle), Conrad Showles, James Leith, 

Robert Forsyth, George Sharp, Mathew Dolson, 

Samuel Eddy, Robert Nichol, William Hands, 

George Meldrum, Thomas Smith, John McDonnell, 

Robert McDougall, William Baker, John McGregor, 

Richard Mooney, William Park, John Anderson, 

James Vincent, James McGregor, John Whitehead, 

James Anderson, Joseph Mason, William Thorn, 

James Eraser, William Harffy, John Wheaton, 

William Mills, John Cain, Samuel Edge. 

A. Iredell, WiUiam Forsyth, 

Jonathan Schieffelin, Alexander Harrow, 

Of these, some moved to the Canadian side of the river, some moved away 
altogether, and many repented of their action in signing the declaration and 
remained as loyal citizens. 


There was another class, quite as large, that remained in Detroit and accepted 
the citizenship conferred by Jay's treaty. Among these were: 
James Abbott and his three sons, James, Samuel and Robert. 
James May and his brother, Joseph. 



John Macomb and his son, Alexander. William Macomb, the other son of 
John, died in the spring of 1796, just before the coming of General Wayne. 
His three sons, John, William and David, were all minors at the time of the 
father's death. 

Patrick McNiff, the sm'veyor. 

Nathan Williams. 

Herman Eberts, physician. 

John Dodemead. 

Daniel Saw.yer. 

Jacob Harsen. 

Barnabas Harsen. 

Jacob Visger. 

John Shaw. 

William Walker. 

Israel Ruland, here in 1786. 

Godfroy Corbus. 

Francis Jones. 

Daniel Pursley. 

Joseph Hurt. 

Zachariah Hurt. 

Nathan Hurt. 

John Yax (a German). 

James Conner. 

Henry Conner. 

Richard Conner. 

William Conner. 

John Conner. 

Edward Hezell. 

Jacob Thomas. 

Jacob Hill. 


George Knaggs. 

William Thorn, Jr. 

Peter Curry. 

William Knaggs. 

Michael Yax. 

Robert Forsyth. 

Ronald McDonald, clerk for Leith & 

Andrew Baker. 
John Kinzie. 
Thomas Cox. 
Albert Ringeard. 
Joseph Cissne (His wife, Rebecca, after 

his death, married Hugh McVay). 

John Cissne, came to River Rouge in 

William Cissne. 
John Messimore. 
Jacob Dicks. 
Edward McCarty, came to River 

Rouge in April, 1796. 
John Dicks. 
John Carrol (his widow married Daniel 

Pursley) . 
John Reynolds, here in 1787, moved to 

River Thames before 1799. 
James Havard, here in 178.5. 
Adam Brown, a Wyandotte Indian 

chief in 1785. 
John Wright. 
William Thorn. 
Gregor McGregor. 
Jacob Baker. 
Andrew Baker. 
Christian Clemens. 
John Tucker. 
William Tucker. 
Edward Tucker. 
Jacob Tucker. 
Charles Tucker. 
George Cotterall. 
John Anderson. (There were two 

bearing this name.) 
William Hill. 
James Hobbs. 
James Cartwright. 
Patrick Fitzpatrick. 
Henry Saunders. 
Simon Yax. 

Jacob Young (colored). 
Thomas Edwards. 
Alexander McCormick. 
Whitmore Knaggs. 
David McCrea. 
Joseph Chamberlain. 


Detroit was taken possession of on July 11, 1796, by Capt. Moses Porter, 
with a detachment of sixty-five men. At present we have not the names of 
the men who constituted this company, but as they were soldiers in the reg- 


ular army, it is not probable that they became residents of Detroit or that 
many of them remained here after their term of service had expired. 

It was not until the following month that Gen. Anthony Wayne came with 
a larger number of troops to form the new garrison. It is said that there were 
five hundred troops in that garrison in the fall of 1796. Secretary Winthrop 
Sargent was with General Wayne, and there was a number of civilians, some 
of whom remained at the place. 

The people living in Detroit knew very little about the party politics which 
disturbed the states in 1796. Washington was still President and was termed 
a federalist, though his opponents called him a monarchist. The political 
party opposed to liim was called the republican, or democrat, and believed 
in the states' rights doctrine and was afraid, or at least pretended to fear, that 
the federalists would ultimately deprive the states of their individuality and 
would enlarge the federal powers and so pave the way to the establishment of 
a monarchy. 

Before any great number of people had come to Detroit, Washington's 
second term had ended and he was followed by John Adams. Adams also 
was a federalist and was likewise incUned, as many believed, to monarchical 
ideas. The republican part}' was fast increasing its strength in the states, 
particularly in the southern states, and its influence began to be felt in many 

Most of the people who first came to the Ohio region were Revolutionary 
soldiers and were allied by party feelings with the federalists. The names 
given to their earh* settlements, such as Forts Hamilton and Washington of the 
counties of Washington, Hamilton, St. Clair and Knox, all attest their federalist 
attachment. St. Clair and Wayne, both friends of Washington, were federalists. 

Solomon Siblej^ came to Detroit in 1798 and very quickly took a leading 
part in the affairs of the village. Before the end of the first year of his resi- 
dence, on the third Monday of December, 1798, he was elected to the lower 
house of the legislative council of the Northwest Territory. He also was a 
federalist. His competitor at the election was James May, who, as we have 
already noted, was an Englishman by birth, never lived in the states, and 
knew nothing about American political questions. 

When Sibley attended the legislative council at Cincinnati, he met the 
best men in the entire northwest. Burnet, in his Notes, says that "In choosing 
members to the first territorial legislature, the people, in almost every instance, 
selected the strongest and best men in their respective counties. Part}' in- 
fluence was scarcely felt." 

Detroit was entitled to three representatives in tliis council, but only two, 
Sibley and Jacob Visger, took their seats. Sibley took an active and leading 
part in the assembly. Judge Burnet says of him, "Mr. Sibley was a lawyer 
of high standing, and considered one of the most talented men of the House. 
He possessed a sound mind, improved by liberal education, and a stability and 
firmness of character which commanded a general respect and secured to him 
the confidence and esteem of his fellow members." 

Jacob Visger, or perhaps the name was originally spelled Vishiere, was 
of Dutch ancestry and came to Detroit during the Revolutionary war from 
Schenectady, New York. He was fairly well educated and had studied law 
a little. He was a business man and acted occasionally as a judge or justice. 


He was decided in his character, and somewhat opinionated. His action of 
the case of the will of George Hoffman indicates his character somewhat. 

The matter of land titles and land possession was of the greatest import- 
ance at this time. The government possessed millions of acres of uncultivated 
land and the land speculators were after big tracts of this wild land, out of 
which they expected to make fortunes. A great "land grab" in Georgia in 
1795, in wliich members of Congress were supposed to have been interested, 
was followed in tire same year by an attempt to buy the entire lower peninsula 
of Michigan. Both schemes failed of success, but many purchases of smaller 
quantities of land succeeded. It was the desire of the Federal Government 
to furnish homes and farms for the people. It was the effort of speculators to 
purchase these large tracts and colonize them. 

Indiana Territory was organized in May, ISOO. This left Detroit in the 
Ohio district and still a part of the old Northwest Territory. In September 
of this year a petition of the citizens of Detroit was presented to Congress, 
asking that their land titles be confirmed. They said that the people were 
"generally poor and needy, with large and numerous families." They did not 
mean by this that polygamy was practiced, but that their situation was not 
favorable when the titles to their homes were unsettled. They said, "Your 
petitioners feel exceedingly anxious that their rights, titles and claims to their 
lands may be speedily settled and confirmed in them and their heirs." They 
asked that the government assist them in establishing schools and that one 
or more townships of land be set aside for the purpose of endowing an academy 
or college. They wanted a post office established. This petition was, in 1801, 
referred to a committee of the house, of which Mr. Pinckney was the chair- 
man. Little attention was paid to it, for affairs of more political importance 
were occupying the attention of the house, and our interests were disregarded 
for the time being. 

One of the most important political incidents that ever occupied the atten- 
tion of America took place at this time. It was on February 11, 1801, that 
the contest began in the House for the election of President. The vote in the 
Electoral College stood seventy-three for each of the candidates, Thomas Jef- 
ferson and Aaron Burr. This was a tie and the election was thus thrown into 
the House, where for thirty-five consecutive ballots, occupying the time until 
February 17, the votes were vmiform and undecided. It required the vote 
of nine states to decide the contest, but through all of this exciting time, 
Jefferson could only muster eight states and Burr but six. In the afternoon 
of Tuesday, February 17, 1801, the thirty-sixth ballot showed that Jefferson 
had the votes of ten states and was elected. 

America has probably never passed through a more critical time. It was 
the crisis of political power for the two great parties, federals and democrats. 
Burr was the representative of the federalist party, while Jefferson was an 
.avowed democrat. It was here that the two parties changed positions and from 
this time forward the democrats were in control. It was a bloodless revolu- 
tion; the parting of the ways forever in America between a republican and 
:a monarchical form of government. Small wonder that in such exciting times 
the interests of Detroit were temporarily forgotten. 

In 1798, when Mr. Sibley came to Detroit, there was but one lawyer here, 
but by 1799 the number had increased. Ezra Fitz Freeman, who was here 
before 1799, had left, and the lawyers then remaining were Solomon Sibley, 

SOLOMON SIBLEY, 1756-1830 
First Chief Justice, Common Pleas Court 


Elijah Brush and David Powers. J. WiUis also appeared as an attorney in 
many cases in 1797. 

The settlement was practically isolated from civilization. Although the 
census of 1800 disclosed that there were 3,757 people in Wayne County, most 
of whom were in Detroit and along the shore lines of the Detroit and St. Clair 
Rivers, there were no adequate schools to supply any kind of educational 
training. There was a school house on the St. Clair River in 1797 and the 
names of two or three teachers are met with in the Detroit settlement. Even 
the meager schooling which was afforded was not free or compulsory and only 
those who had the desire to attend and the money to pay for tuition were 
accommodated. David Bacon, the father of Leonard Bacon, president of 
Yale University, kept a school in Detroit in 1801 and 1802, and Leonard Bacon 
was born here in the latter year. 

JOUETT's description of DETROIT 

Charles Jouett in his report in 1803, which will be referred to again, said that 
the lands along the entire river, where cultivated, were good, with some excep- 
tions, but that the people were poor and their work in cultivation not good. They 
were nearly all of French descent. Some had comfortable dwellings built of 
hewn logs and most generally the necessary out-buildings, barns, etc. They had 
numerous apple orchards and made quantities of cider. Although Jouett men- 
tions few distilleries, there are many evidences that stills were numerous through- 
out the country and whisky was very cheap and abundant. On the St. Clair 
River there were at least two sawmills, and some lumber there from the pinery 
was sent to Detroit, though lumber was not produced in sufficient quantity 
to be used in making frame buildings. In many places the country was beau- 
tiful. In one place Mr. Jouett writes: "No lands are superior to those along 
the Huron River. They consist of extensive prairies covered so closely with 
hazel and other shrubberies as to afford a pleasant shade to the delighted 
traveler, who cannot but take an agreeable interest in the beautiful sceneries 
by which he is surrounded." 

Nowithstanding all that nature had done for them, many of the farms were al- 
ready exhausted by cultivation; many of the houses old, dilapidated and unfit for 
habitation and "scarcely sufficient to shut out the inclemencies of the weather. " 
Along the Ecorse River "the grass and wheat are astonishingly luxuriant; and 
nature requires to be but aided to produce, in abundance, all the necessaries of 
life; yet the peoples are poor beyond conception; and no description could give an 
adequate idea of their servile and degraded situation. " 

Of the town of Detroit, Jouett wrote: " A stockade encloses the town, fort 
and citadel. The pickets, as well as the public houses, are in a state of gradual 
decay and, in a few years, without repairs, must fall to the ground. The streets 
are narrow, straight, regular and intersect each other at right angles. The houses 
are, for the most part, low and inelegant. " 

mcniff's writings 

Another writer of the period was Patrick McNiff. McNiff was a surveyor and 
had lived in Detroit for manj^ years. In later years he was a justice of the peace 
and of the court of quarter sessions. In 1799, just after Mr. Sibley had been 
elected to the assembly, McNiff sent him some "instructions" as to the matters 
Mr. Sibley was to work for in the council. Regarding the militia law McNiff 


said, "The militia law of the territory as it now stands, does not seem to answer 
the intended purpose, or the disposition of the inhabitants of this county. They 
are, almost to a man, refractory, nor will they turn out either to a muster or exer- 
cise when called upon; the fine or punishment inflicted by that law being so easy 
and inconsiderable that they would much sooner bear the consequences than 
obej' the order or call of their officers. The safety, and indeed the prosperity, of 
the county in a great measure depends upon the good order and discipline of the 
inhabitants. A thoughtful person cannot labor with anj' degree of courage when 
he finds that he cannot derive from the joint efforts of his neighbors that protec- 
tion and safety which ought ever to exist in every civilized society. The inhabi- 
tants of this place have lived for many years past in a state of licentious freedom, 
nor can they now bear to be checked. Nothing but a more severe law can bring 
them to order. " 

There were no roads through the country and here again we refer to the 
writings of Mr. McNiff: "The situation of the country in respect to public roads 
should be taken into consideration. The present seat of justice is at Detroit. The 
settlements extending thence northerly to the upper end of the river St. Clair, 
nearly sixty miles, and also from Detroit southwesterly to the foot of the rapids 
of the Miami (Maumee) River, nearly sixty miles. To those extreme parts of the 
settlements there are but two periods in the year that persons from the seat of 
justice can have access to them without the help of a water craft, viz: in the month 
of September by land, and in the winter when the waters are sufficiently frozen 
that the ice will bear them; otherwise no access to these places but by water. " 


While nearly all of the people of Detroit were somewhat religiously inclined, it 
is very certain that the Protestant portion of the community did not let their 
religion seriously interfere with their secular work. The Moravian teachers had 
been forcibly brought to the place in 1782 and had located at their settlement 
near the present city of ]\It. Clemens. They had left that place and sold out 
their holdings before the Americans came. There was no Protestant church 
organization in 1796, nor for many months later. 

Rev. George Mitchell of the Episcopal Church attempted an organization in 
1786 and obtained a fairly good subscription list. He preached and lived pre- 
cariously for more than two years, but became discouraged and left, unable to 
collect the pittances which were promised him. Richard Pollard, minister, and 
sheriff of the western district, preached occasionally in 1792 and later, but he 
always lived on the Canadian side of the river. 

The Catholic Church had existed for nearly a century and was then in its 
usual condition. The priest managed to live from donations o his parishioners 
and tithes which were collected, but the church building was in a dilapidated 
condition and waited only to fall in some wind storm. Fortunately for the 
society, the building was destroyed by the fire of 1805. 

In 1796 and in the subsequent years the people of the parish were more intent 
on attending religious services than they were in paying their church dues. In 
respect to letting their worldly affairs take precedence of their material church 
obligations they did not differ much from the Protestants. The Catholic priest 
in 1797 was Gabriel Richard, then a newcomer. He was well educated and had a 
spirit of progressiveness along the line of popular education that was far ahead of 
his times. He was not appreciated by his own church people and they made life 


a burden to him in many ways. However, he constantly worked for his people 
and for the Indians, whom he considered as his special wards. Burnet, in his 
Notes, page 282, relates that on one occasion Judge Symmes, in his charge to the 
grand jury, endeavored to convince the French Catholics that they were unduly 
attentive to their religious duties. The interference of the judge with their 
personal acts gave great offense in the town. 


The morals of the community were not above par in any way. There was a 
large garrison composed of soldiers who had volunteered for Indian and frontier 
service and who were, as usual, a rather reckless lot. In the court records are 
many cases of rioting and of other evidences of debauchery and low life. Whisky 
was a common and cheap commodity and there is scarcely an account to be 
found in the many account books which have been preserved, that does not 
present many items of whisky and rum. Total abstinence was apparently un- 
known. With such a wholesale use of liquor it is not to be wondered that there 
was much privation, want and squalor, even in this land of plenty. McNifif 
writes: "The disorderly conduct of the inhabitants by the profanation of the 
Sabbath Day, by horse racing, dancing and a thing too common on that day, 
drunkenness; these vices require the attention of the legislature to pass a law to 
suppress them. " 

There were several taverns in the village. As there was very little travel, it 
must be understood that the greatest uses to which a tavern could be put was 
to take in boarders and sell rum. They were rum holes of the worst kind. 
William Forsyth was among the tavern keepers and he probably had the largest 
place in town, located upon the site where the Michigan Exchange was after- 
wards built. Then there were Thomas Cox, James Donaldson, — Cornwall and 
others. John Dodemead kept a place where liquor was sold, as noted in a pre- 
ceding page. These places were not called saloons, but they were places of 
lounging and drinking and sometimes there were games and billiard tables in 
connection. Warham Strong is put down as a tavern keeper in the very earliest 
of the American record. A license to keep a tavern was issued to Robert Kean 
in 1797. He had purchased the tavern formerly kept by Mathew Dolson. 


There was a strong feeling in Detroit, and it was probably universal in 
America, that the military department was unfriendly to a democratic form of 
government and was not to be endured in perpetuity. The soldiers in the 
garrison were considered a constant menace to the enforcement of civil law, and 
conflicts between the two departments, civil and military, were frequently 
arising. In 1797 Lieut. -Col. David Strong was in command of the garrison. 
Many of his soldiers would come into the village from the fort, and after drinking 
sufficient to make themselves uncontrollable, engage in rioting and making dis- 
turbances in the streets. All of the better class of people wanted the disturbance 
stopped. A fuller account of this affair will be found elsewhere and in this place 
we will give merely the outlines of the subsequent trouble. Colonel Strong 
found that a great amount of the drinking was done at Dodemead's and it was in 
the second story of this house that the courts were held. After warning the 
garrison to desist from drinking and carousing, the colonel ordered a sentry 
stationed at the entrance to Dodemead's place to prevent the soldiers from enter- 
ing. Immediately all of the citizens were out with protests against the attempt 


of the militaiy department to interfere with civihans' rights. An appeal was 
made to the court on the ground that the " eentinal" coerced the court. Then an 
appeal was made to Governor St. Clair and the matter became so serious that 
Colonel Strong was removed and sent to Ft. Wayne. He was succeeded by 
Col. John Francis Hamtramck. 

On another occasion two soldiers got into a quarrel in a drinking place and 
one of them was killed. Solomon Sibley was requested to prosecute the murderer 
and he was in great doubt about his right to proceed when the culprit was a 

It frequently happened that the defendants, in a civil suit, pleaded that the 
debt sued on was incurred while the defendant was a soldier and the defense was 
always sustained. 

There were several instances in later years where soldiers were objects of 
complaint for violating the rules and ordinances of the city and they took refuge 
under the military cloak. It was contrary to a city ordinance to fish on Sundays 
from the public wharf. The soldiers seemed to delight in using this day of all 
days for that purpose. The protests of the citizens were in vain and it was im- 
possible to resort to the courts. This over-riding of civil law was not confined 
to Detroit, but was prevalent in all garrisoned towns and led the people to fear 
and to dislike that branch of government. 


The law establishing the Territory of Michigan was enacted early in the year 
1805, but the territory was not organized until July ] st of that year. 

As before stated the governor was William Hull and the judges were Augustus 
Brevoort Woodward, Frederick Bates and John Griffin. They had the powers 
which had been conferred upon the governor and judges of the Northwest 
Territory of adopting laws from the state. Stanley Griswold was appointed 
secretary. Almost immediately after they assembled in Detroit they began the 
'adoption of laws necessary for the territory. 

Bj' proclamation of the governor of Julj' 3, 1805, the territory was divided into 
four districts, called Detroit, Erie, Huron and Michilimackinac. The district 
of Detroit was bounded in front by the Detroit River and on the remaining sides 
by a line commencing at the Detroit River five miles above the center of the 
citadel in the village of Detroit, and extending westerly from that point to the 
line of Indian title as established by treatj^ thence south on that line ten miles 
and thence due east to the Detroit River. The territory south of this district 
was called Erie and that to the north was called Huron, extending to Saginaw 
Bay. The territory north of Huron was called the district of Michilimackinac. 
These were the judicial districts of Michigan. 

The clerks appointed for the district courts were: Peter Audrain, for the 
supreme court and for the district court of the districts of Detroit and Huron, the 
same to be held in Detroit; George McDougall, for the district of Erie, the court 
to be held at Frenchtown (Monroe) ; Samuel Abbott, for the district of Michili- 
mackinac, court to be held at Mackinac. Samuel Abbott, David Duncan and 
Josiah Dunham were appointed justices of the peace at Mackinac. John Ander- 
son, Francois Navarre, Israel Ruland, Francois Lasselle and Hubert Lacroix were 
appointed to the same office for the district of Erie, and Robert Abbott, James 
Henry, Janiies Abbott, James May, William McDowell Scott and Matthew 
Ernest received similar appointments for Detroit. Elisha Avery was first ap- 


pointed marshal of the territory, but he declined the appointment and it was given 
to James May. There was no settlement of importance in the district of Huron, 
consequently it was attached to Detroit for judicial purposes. 


The supreme court was first convened at a court room arranged for that pur- 
pose in the house of Judge May on July 29, 1805. At the first session there were 
no cases for trial and court adjourned after appointing Peter Audrain clerk. 

On the following day Solomon Sibley and Elijah Brush were admitted to 
practice at the bar. The only judges present at these two sessions were Wood- 
ward and Bates. 

Court was not again convened until September 16, 1805. In the meantime a 
good deal of building had been done in the burned district of the village and the 
house of John Dodemead had been erected upon the same lot before occupied 
by him, at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Shelby Street, and here court was 
now opened bj- the marshal with the following words, "Attention! The supreme 
court of the Territory of Michigan is now sitting. Silence is commanded on 
pain of imprisonment." A grand jury was called and three of this bodj^ Jacob 
Visger, Antoine Beaubien and Joseph Campau, who failed to answer the sum- 
mons, were each fined one hundred dollars. 

The first case called was an action against certain goods supposed to have been 
smuggled into the territory in order to avoid payment of duty. The owners of 
the goods were Isaac Bissell, Jr., and Henry Fitch. The attorney for the United 
States in this action was Solomon Sibley and Elijah Brush represented the de- 
fendants. The first judgment was obtained the same day, September 16, 1805, 
in favor of George Meldrum and William Park against Adam Brown for 


George Hoffman was the third attorney admitted to practice and Abraham 
Fuller Hull was the fourth. 

The first act, regarding a temporary seal for the territory, was adopted July 9, 
1805, and other acts followed rapidly. The office of territorial marshal was 
created by the act adopted July 10, 1805. An act of July 24, 1805 provided that 
the three judges appointed by the president should constitute the supreme court 
of the territory and that the judge first chosen should be the chief justice. The 
court should have exclusive jurisdiction in all cases involving the title to land; 
concurrent jurisdiction in all cases involving two hundred dollars or more; and 
appellate jurisdiction in all cases. It had exclusive jurisdiction in all capital 
criminal cases and all cases of divorce and alimony. The court was directed to 
appoint a clerk to keep its records, admit attorneys to practice, and appoint a 
prosecuting attorney. Suits in equity were not permitted if there was an 
adequate remedy at law. In equity trials, witnesses should be heard in open 
court. Paper, instead of parchment, should be used in all court records. 

A district court should be held in each district at least once each year. The 
judges of the general or supreme court were, individually, to be judges in the 
district courts, which were courts of record. The court had jurisdiction in all 
cases where the amount involved exceeded twenty dollars, excepting in cases 
especially reserved for other courts. Cases were to be tried by jury if demanded. 
The clerk of the district court was the appointee of the supreme court. In this 
act, which was passed July 25, 1805, nothing is said about equity cases. Ap- 
pointments for the district court are listed upon a preceding page. 


By the act of August 1, 1805 justices of the peace had jurisdiction in cases 
where the amount involved did not exceed twenty dollars. Suits were begun by 
capias. Executions were to be levied upon the property of the defendant and if 
not satisfied by this process the bod_y of the defendant was to be taken. Suits 
involving real estate titles could not be tried before a justice. 

By the act of August 2, 1805 marriages could be performed by justices of the 
peace, ministers of the Gospel and by religious societies according to their rules. 
The marriage certificate was required to be filed with the clerk of the district 

Grand juries, with twenty-four members, could be summoned by either the 
supreme or the district court. 

By act of August 14, 1805, trials by jury were permitted in both the supreme 
and district courts, and juries de medietate linguae could be directed in either 
court. That is, the jury was composed one-half of English-speaking men and the 
other half of Canadians or Frenchmen. This was a very common way of calling 
a jury where either litigant was a Frenchman or Canadian. Appeals could be 
had from the justice court to the district court and from the district court to the 
supreme court. 

Conveyances of land were to be recorded bj' the clerk of every court. 

The courts of the several districts of the territory, any judge in the territory, 
and the clerk of the court of the district had the power to take the proof of a will 
and grant a certificate of probate. The original will was to be recorded in the of- 
fice of the clerk of the district. 

An appropriation of twenty dollars was made October 7, 1805 "for the special 
services of James May, marshal of the Territory of Michigan, to-wit: for sum- 
moning three grand juries, for summoning a petit jury in a criminal trial and for 
superintending the ei'ection of a bower for the holding of a court. " The "bower" 
was necessary because the entire town of Detroit had been burned and there was 
. no house in which to hold the court. 

Alexander D. Eraser, one of the foremost of the old time law^'ers of Detroit, 
in an article on the early territorial courts, writes as follows concerning the 
transfer of government from Great Britain to America in 1796: 

"But what became of the laws which had hitherto been in force in Michigan, 
and by what process were those of the Northwest Territory extended over the 
country of which possession had just been obtained? It is a principle of universal 
jurisdiction that the laws, whether in writing or evidenced by the usage and 
customs of a conquered or ceded country, continue in force till altered by the 
new sovereign." 

None of the courts or procedures of Canada were continued by the Americans 
after July 1, 1796. This was probably owing to the claim that Michigan was 
never a part of Canada, but that it formed portions of the colonial grants to 
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia, whose jurisdiction and rights were 
surrendered to the general government upon the passage of the ordinance of 
1787. As soon as Wayne County was organized the territory became subject to 
the same laws as the other parts of the Northwest Territory. As mentioned 
before, when Indiana Territory was organized Detroit still remained in the old 
Northwest Territory, but when Ohio became a state, Detroit was transferred to 
the Territory of Indiana. The court of common pleas, the orphans' court and 
the court of quarter sessions were continued by the proclamation of Governor 
Harrison in the organization of the new Wayne County. Practically, these 


matters are of little importance for it was only a very short time before Michigan 
Territory was organized and a new life begun. 

We have no evidence at this time that any change whatever took place. The 
same justices held office and the same courts proceeded as if nothing unusual had 
taken place. When Michigan Territory was organized in 1805 considerable 
changes took place, as outlined before. 

Not a word was said, at first, about the recorder's office or the office of the 
register of deeds, but an act was passed in 18C5, requiring the clerk of any court 
to record deeds and conveyances. These records, in Detroit, were all entered in 
the same books that were begun under the act of the Northwest Territory. The 
office of judge of probate seems to have continued, but no new law was passed 
on the subject of that office. There was, however, an act authorizing the dis- 
trict courts or any judge of the district or the clerk of the district court to probate 

In 1806 the office of city register was created for the purpose of keeping a 
record of the conveyances of land within the city of Detroit, and the first entry 
was made by Joseph Watson, city register, November 11, 1806. 

The first paper on record was a survey of the banking lot of the Bank of 
Detroit, made by Abijah Hull, surveyor of Michigan. 

Affairs in territorial matters did not run smoothly from the very start, for 
there was continual quarreling between Hull and Woodward, and the other two 
judges were necessarily involved in the discussions. Hull tried to control 
matters, but Woodward was imperious, domineering and fault-finding. He 
bullied Hull and Griffin and pestered the life out of the governor. Griffin usually 
sided with Woodward and got along fairly well with him for twenty years. He 
was not considered a judge of much ability, but was generally successful in keep- 
ing out of the quarrels of his associates. Bates also succeeded in getting along 
with the others, but for a short time only, when he retired and moved to the 
Territory of Missouri, and James Witherell became his successor. 

The record of the early laws passed by the governor and judges shows that 
on every occasion the governor and at least two of the judges were present at the 
legislative sessions and signed each act in approval of it. During the absence of 
Judge Woodward, who was in Washington in the fall of 1808, the governor and 
two judges passed an act on November 9th, making it no longer necessary that 
each act should be signed by the members present. This act provided that of 
the four members of the legislative board, three should constitute a quorum and 
that when three only were present, two should be a majority and that it was 
necessary only that the presiding officer should sign the act and the secretary 
attest it, to give it validity. This act was stated to have been adopted from the 
State of Vermont. There were forty-five laws thus adopted and certified be- 
tween November 9, 1808 and May 11, 1809. 

The act passed July 25, 1805, for the establishment of district courts to be 
be presided over by one of the judges of the supreme court, was amended in 1807, 
so that judges of the supreme court were no longer eligible for the district court 

A new provision was adopted April 2, 1807, for the establishment of district 
courts to be presided over by a chief judge and two associates to be appointed by 
the governor. Jacob Visger was chief judge of the new court and his associates 
were John Whipple and James Abbott. Abbott resigned March 4, 1809, having 
become involved in a quarrel with Abijah Hull, the governor's nephew, and had 


been challenged to fight a duel. He neglected to accept the challenge, but the 
governor took the part of his nephew and inflicted upon Abbott all the punish- 
ment he could. He removed him from all the offices he held and recalled his 
appointments as a justice of the peace, associate judge of the district court and 
his office in the militia. 


The probate court was established in the Northwest Territory by the act of 
August 30, 1788, but, of course, was not established in Wayne County until 1796. 
The first estate probated in Detroit was that of Amos Weston, a blacksmith. 
John Askin was appointed administrator of the Weston estate and of the estate 
of George Knaggs, August 23, 1797. These are the oldest papers in that court. 
Weston was a Canadian and died at Amberstburgh, and his estate was first 
probated in Sandwich. 

The probate court was, in some respects, a singular institution. The judge, 
Peter Audrain, was an appointee of either Arthur St. Clair, as governor, or of 
Winthrop Sargent, as governor pro tem. Audrain continued to hold the office of 
judge of this court under the Northwest Territory, Indiana Territory and 
Michigan Territory. He had no new appointment, but acted always under the 
original and first. There are only a few files of estates in the probate office 
between 1796 and 1807, about sixty in all, and an examination of them shows that 
Audrain claimed to be probate judge and took bonds from executors to himself as 
judge, until sometime after the full organization of Michigan Territory. In the 
estate of Jacob Dicks, the will was filed with "Peter Audrain Clerk of the dis- 
trict court for Huron and Detroit 21 October 1805" and the bond was given to 
"The United States of America." From this time on there were no papers 
signed by any probate judge nor is that court mentioned until 1807. 

The papers in the com't were in a scattered and unsatisfactory condition 
dm-ing the remainder of the time that Audrain possessed them. On many of 
them is the endorsement "Delivered over by Mr. Audrain 18 July 1809, Geo. 
McDougall, judge of probate. " 

Dm'ing the time that the district com't was presided over by the judges of the 
supreme court, wills were presented to that court. Shortly after the change in 
the form of the court and the appointment of Jacob Visger as chief judge, the will 
of George Hoffman was presented to the court for allowance. Visger refused to 
admit the will to probate. The supreme court issued a mandamus to compel him 
to take and probate the will, but he refused to obey the comt and offered to suffer 
death rather than to change his own rulings. The case is a very interesting one 
and is quite extensively explained in Vol. 37 of the Michigan Pioneer Collections 
on page 32. In this case is discussed the legality of the forty-five laws passed by 
Governor Hull and the two judges during the absence of Judge Woodward in 
1808. Mr. Visger's objection, however, was that the legislature had no power to 
repeal a law that they had once adopted. He said that there was already a 
probate court in existence and that the attorney and executor named in the will, 
Solomon Sibley, should have presented the will to that court. His absolute 
refusal to obey the order of the supreme court and probate the will necessitated 
the production of the will before the supreme court, which was the only other 
court in the territory. The will was allowed in the supreme court. It is 
barely possible that there was another reason for refusing to probate this will, 
which never appeared on the surface. George Hoffman, the decedent, had 



married Margaret Audrain, daughter of Peter Audrain. Hoffman had been 
appointed collector at Mackinac (Michilimackinac) and was Hving there at 
the time of his death. They had one child, George Worthington Hoffman, 
who was about seven months old at the time of his father's death. George 
Hoffman, by his will, gave all of his property to his father and mother, provid- 
ing that neither his wife nor his then unborn son should take any part of his 
estate. It is possible that the injustice done the infant son was one of the 
causes the district court had in refusing to probate this will. 

An act was passed February 24, 1809, providing that all laws of the North- 
west Territory and of Indiana Territory should no longer operate in Michigan. 
This abolished the probate court as operated bj- Peter Audrain. 

District courts were abolished September 16, 1810. This was done for the 
purpose of punishing Visger and Whipple for refusing to obey the mandate of the 
supreme court. The history of this court is very short and full of pathos. It 
was established as the first court of record in which citizens of Detroit officiated, 
April 2, 1807. There were three judges in the court, James Abbott, whose fate 
has been narrated, Jacob Visger and John Whipple, who were turned out of office 
because they refused to be coerced, as they said, to do an illegal act. The 
abolition of this court left only the supreme court as a court of record. 

There was an act adopted and published January 31, 1809, entitled "An act 
for the probate of wills and the settlement of testate and intestate estates. " 
The act is very long, containing ninety-seven sections. Throughout the act, in 
many places, are references to a "court of probate" and "judge of probate," 
but it contains no provision for the establishment of the one or the appointment 
of the other. The basis of the act rests upon the supposition that a law alreadj- 
existed for the creation of such a court and the appointment or election of a 
judge. No such previous act seems to exist. So, in another act, adopted Febru- 
ary 26, 1808, entitled "an act regulating fees" there is a provision for fees for 
the "judge of probate. " 

The laws that were from time to time adopted by the governor and judges, 
were written in book form and signed by the officials. It is known that one book 
containing most of the acts of 1806 and 1809 was lost and when the official com- 
pilation was published in 1874 the titles onlj' of these missing laws were given. 
Subsequently and about the j'ear 1883 the writer hereof found a volume of the 
missing laws, which was printed the next j'ear (1884) and now constitutes part 
of Vol. 4 of the Territorial Laws. It is quite possible that there is another volume 
of these acts that may sometime be discovered. As previously stated there are a 
number of the old files in the probate court that are endorsed "Delivered over 
by Mr. Audrain 18 July 1809. Geo. McDougall, Judge of Probate." We would 
conclude from this that Mr. McDougall had been appointed judge of probate 
shortly before July 18, 1809, but no record of such an appointment has been found. 
In file 58J^, estate of Isaac Jones, hatter, McDougall accepted the bonds of 
Peter Desnoyers and Henry Berthelet as administrators running to "George 
McDougall, judge of the court of Probate of Wills for the districts of Huron, 
Detroit and Erie, 7 Dec. 1809." The last section, No. 97, of the act of January 
31, 1809 provided that "every judge of probate shall have a seal for said court, 
and shall appoint a clerk or register." The first case in which a register is men- 
tioned is No. 69, estate of Aaron Truax, a brother of Abraham C. Truax. The 
administrator's bond is dated April 24, 1810 and runs to George McDougall, 
judge of probate. It is witnessed by Robert McDougall, Sr., register. 


Harris Hampden Hickman appears as register July 22, 1811. 

During the time of the British occupation of Detroit, from August 16, 1812 
to September 29, 1813, there were no estates probated. The estate of John 
Whistler, Jr. (19th U. S. Infantr}-) who died at the house of James Abbott, his 
brother-in-law, December 1, 1813, was the first probated after the war. Admin- 
istration was granted to James Abbott by George ^IcDougall, "register of wills." 

Although the act of January 31, 1809 provided for the appointment of a 
register of probate by the judge of probate, there was no provision for the ap- 
pointment or selection of a judge of probate nor for the establishment of a probate 
court. An act was passed November 4, 1815 for the appointment bj' the governor 
of a register of probate in each district in the territory. The register should 
receive proof of and record all wills and all deeds and other writings. He practi- 
ally combined the offices of register of deeds, judge of probate and clerk of the 
probate courts. In addition to these various offices, he could "celebrate the 
rites of matrimony. '' 

The first IVIichigan act for the establishment of a probate coui't was passed 
July 27, 1818. A court was established in each county and a judge for each 
was appointed. There was a register for each court, but his powers were those 
of a clerk only. Both the judge and the register were paid by fees. This act, 
establishing the probate court, was reenacted in 1827. 


The count}' court was to consist of one chief and two associate justices, to 
have original and exclusive jm'isdiction in civil cases, both of law and equity, 
where the amount involved exceeded the jurisdiction of a justice of the peace and 
did not exceed one thousand dollars. It had no jurisdiction in cases of eject- 
ment. It had exclusive cognizance of all offenses not capital. Appeals could be 
taken from the justice com't to the county court (October 24, 1815). Justices of 
• the county court could issue writs of habeas corpus (November 8, 1815). The 
governor could appoint a master commissioner to take testimony, either in or out 
of court, in each com't having a chancery jmisdiction (June 13, 1818). At the 
time the first count}' com't was provided (1815) there was but one county in the 
territory. The provision was reenacted December 21, 1820 and the provision 
inserted that there should be a county com't in each county. The county court 
of Wayne County had no jm'isdiction in criminal matters. Such cases were to be 
taken to the circuit court (March 4, 1831; act repealed November 25, 1834). In 
Wayne County the county court could not hear any jury cases, nor call any jury 
(December 30, 1834.) 

CK.\XE VS. eeeder: a notable law case 

There is probably no member of the Detroit bar, and few among the older 
citizens of Detroit, who have not heard of the Crane and Reeder controversy-, 
which involved the title to a large and valuable tract of land on the Detroit 
River, near the fort, officially designated as "private claim 39." The history of 
this farm and of the dispute which grew out of the presumably defective title is 
as follows : 

Some time prior to the year 1800 John Askin owned the land. Askin was an 
extensive trader and merchant in the village and was largely indebted to eastern 
houses from whom he pm'chased goods. Among his other creditors were Isaac 
Todd, a wealthy Irish gentleman temporarily living in Montreal, and James 


Magill (McGill), founder of McGill University, also of Montreal. In the financial 
depression which occurred in 1800, Askin was afraid he would fail in business, and 
in order to secure his creditors he turned over this farm to Todd and McGill. 
They had perfect confidence — well placed, too — in Askin's honesty and ability 
and gave him a power of attorney authorizing him to sell this land, and a number 
of other parcels in which they were interested. 

In the spring of 1801 there was a baker in Detroit named John Harve}'. It 
was subsequently claimed that Harvey came to Detroit before the year 1797, but 
it does not matter to us when he came. He was certainly here early in 1801 and 
kept a bake shop near the southeast corner of Shelby Street and Jefferson Avenue, 
on Ste. Anne and Ste. Honore Streets, as located in the village as it then existed. 
It was in his bake shop that the fire started which destroyed the entire village in 

In the testimony produced in the case of Crane vs. Reeder, it was shown that 
Harvey was born in Birmingham, England, about May 17, 1751. He married 
Mary Penrice in 1782, and they had three daughters, Mary Penrice Harvey, Ann 
Reynolds Harvey and Maria Yorke Harvey, all of whom lived until maturity, 
and a son, John Harvej', who died in infancy. Mary was christened October 10, 
1783, Ann was christened in January, 1786, and Maria was believed to have been 
born in 1792. The wife, Mary Penrice, died in 1809. The daughter, Mary 
Penrice, married Benjamin Pierce and died in 1852. Ann Reynolds married 
William Hart July 14, 1805 and was buried August 18, 1863. Maria Yorke 
Harvey left England October 23, 1822 to join her father at Jeffersonville, Indiana, 
and there resided with him until his death on December 5, 1825. When she came 
to America on the ship "London," December 13, 1822, she gave her age as 
twenty-six years, from which it would follow that she was born in 1796, and 
probably her father left England not far from that date. 

After the fire of 1805, an act of Congress was passed, giving the governor and 
judges permission to lay out a new village plat, and authorizing them to give each 
resident of the old village a lot in the new one. Under this law, Harvey obtained 
three lots, one as a donation and two others as purchaser of the rights of Mrs. 
Thibault and Mrs. Provencal. There was some evidence produced at one of the 
trials to show that Harvej' was living with a woman, who claimed to be, but was 
not, his wife. It is certain that on December 19, 1808, a donation lot was granted 
to "Sally Harvey, wife of John Harvey. " This woman's name was Sally Wilson 
and she was generally considered to be the wife of Harvey, and was such by 
common law rights, for she lived with him until her death in the year 1822. 

One of the witnesses in Detroit in the Crane vs. Reeder trial, James Thebaud, 
who lived at L'Anse Creuse (or as our learned brother-in-law, Henry Plass, who 
as circuit court commissioner, took the testimony, has it, he lived at "Long 
Screws") stated that Harvey's wife was "Tall Kitty" and that she was part 
Indian and part French, that because of her living with Harvey the priest would 
not admit here to communion. It is certain that her name was Sally, for the 
records and conveyances from her all give that name. 

Harvey and his wife, Sally, sold part of their property in Detroit in 1809, and 
left for New York for the purpose of going to England. This was probably after 
the death of the rightful Mrs. Harvey in England, and Sally would have been 
received by the Harvey family as the legal successor to the name of wife. It is 
said that when the couple reached the city of New York, Mrs. Harvey refused to 
cross the ocean, and after a visit of a few days at that city they returned westward 


together, but not to Detroit. Thej' took up a residence in Jeffersonville, 
Indiana, and lived there the remainder of their hvos. No children were born of 
this marriage. Harvey sold the rest of his lands in the village of Detroit to John 
R. Williams in 1816, but did not dispose of his farm. He appointed Benjamin 
Stead his local agent and the farm was looked after, rented and taxes kept paid 
by the agent. Sally Harvey died in 1822 and on April 25, 182-3 John Harvey 
made a deed of his farm to his daughter, Maria Yorke Harvey, who had come 
from England to live with him in the previous December. This deed was not 
witnessed and was not admitted as evidence in the subsequent suits in Michigan. 
John Harvey died December 5, 1825, leaving no other children than those born in 
England, all of whom were at that time in England excepting the one daughter, 
Maria. The latter married Edwin Reeder May 18, 1825 and died after April 12, 
1828, leaving no children. 

Edwin Reeder was appointed administrator of the estate of John Harvey 
July 13, 1826. Shortly after the death of his wife, Reeder came to the farm near 
Detroit, erected a house and lived there the remainder of his life. He left a will, 
which was probated in Wayne County, by which he devised the larger portion of 
his farm to relatives, giving one-tenth to the Unitarian Church of Detroit. As 
this land was afterwards claimed by the state to have escheated for want of heirs 
capable of inheriting real estate it will be well to see what the laws relating to 
real estate were. 

It was provided, as we have seen, that all persons who were in Detroit in 1794 
and who remained here one year after Jay's treaty became effective in 1796 were 
naturalized by reason of that treaty. It seems now that Harvey did not come to 
this country until after 1795, and could not take advantage of the provisions of 
that treaty. 

It will be necessary here to enter into all the laws and repealing acts that 
affected property in the years between 1796 and 1828. A naturalization law 
was passed in 1802 by Congress. Two laws were passed in 1805 permitting 
aliens to hold, buy, sell and inherit real estate, but both laws were repealed 
before 1821. The entire laws of the parliament of Great Britain were repealed- 
so far as concerned Michigan in 1810. 

When the suit of Crane vs. Reeder came to be tried it was claimed that the 
act repealing the alien law, which repealing act was passed in 1821, was enacted 
by mistake and that the governor and judges intended to reenact the original 
law at once. There is some authority to be found in the Detroit papers of 1828 
to bear out this supposition. 

On March 31, 1827 the alien law was again enacted. 

Having thus hastily passed over the land laws of that period let us return to 
more modern times. Walter Crane gave his version of his connection with this 
land somewhat as follows: He was an army paymaster stationed at Louisville, 
which is across the river from Jeffersonville. One day a man whom he had 
befriended told him that John Harvey formerly lived in Jeffersonville and that 
upon his death the property owned by him there had escheated to the state 
because he was not a citizen. He also told Crane that there was land in Detroit 
in the same situation. 

When Crane returned to Detroit, he commenced an investigation of the title 
and came to the conclusion that Harvey was an alien and that his property had 
escheated to the state. He applied to the state board of escheats and after some 
delay obtained a deed from the state for five thousand dollars. 


There were other circumstances connected with the purchase of the land of no 
great concern, except that they are interesting. One of these stories is as follows: 

Just before the time the escheat was discovered, the government was seeking 
to purchase a site for Fort Wayne and among the parcels of land offered for that 
purpose was this tract. The official examiner for the government rejected the 
land because of the defective title, but he admitted some one into his confidence 
and that person made an application to the state board of escheats for a deed 
of the land. He was outbid by Crane. At the same time another person, or 
committee of citizens of Detroit, composed of Moses W. Field, Henry P. Bald- 
win and others, attempted to purchase the rights of the state and agreed, if 
they were successful in obtaining the land, they would convey it to Detroit 
for a public park. Thej' also were outbid by Crane. When Crane had obtained 
the deed from the state, a cry of fraud was raised, that the state board of escheats 
had not convej-ed the land to the proper applicant, and an investigation was 
had, but nothing ever resulted from it. 

Crane, having obtained the deed from the state, set about recovering posses- 
sion of the land by commencing suits in ejectment against the persons who were 
in possession under Reeder. He sought to show that Harvey was an alien, and 
had never become naturalized. In order to make this showing and produce the 
proper records. Crane visited England three times, in 1869, 1873 and 1876. He 
inspected every parish record, over eight hundred in number, in Worcestershire, 
and also a number in Warickshire and other places. He examined all the customs 
house records in New York to ascertain when Harvey and his daughter came to 
America. In order to do this he inspected more than 10,000 large volumes and 
closely examined some 800 that were selected from the larger number. He was 
not contented with showing negatively that Harvey was a British citizen, but he 
desirfid to show affirmatively that he could not have been naturalized. 

In the great lawsuits which grew out of this contest — and there were more 
than a score of them — nearly all of the prominent attorneys of the city took a 
part. Messrs. S. T. Douglass, Sidney D. Miller, WiUiam P. Wells, George E. 
Hand and Herbert Bowen at one time or another represented Mr. Crane, while 
D. B. and H. M. Duffield, George V. N. Lothrop, Alexander D. Eraser, Henry M. 
Cheever and Theodore Romeyn represented the Reedcrs. The legal battle be- 
gan in 1868 and was continued in the circuit and supreme courts of Michigan and 
in the United States courts for ten j-ears. 

In the lower state court the cases were tried before a jury and were uniformly 
decided in Reeder's favor, while in ever^' instance on the appeal to the supreme 
court, the decisions of the lower court were reversed. The attorneys and persons 
on both sides were tired of their long fight, their patience and their means were 
alike exhausted, and they agreed to divide the property between them and cease 
their litigation. 

In the settlement the entire property was conveyed to Crane and he re- 
conveyed to the Reeder interests the east 354 feet in width of the farm, nearly 

The judges before whom these cases were tried, Jared Patchin of the circuit 
court, and Judges Cooley, Campbell and Christiancy, have all passed away. 
Nearly all of the lawyers and persons connected with the case have gone also. 

The first case that reached the supreme court is reported in Vol. 21, page 70 
Michigan Reports. The decision of the judge is based upon the supposition, 
first, that John Harvey was an alien and his children could not inherit his prop- 


erty; second, if he was a citizen, that the statute of 1827 did not talce effect till 
January 1, 1828, which was several months after Mrs. Reeder died, and con- 
sequently she could not inherit from her father, for there was no law in force 
permitting aliens to inherit until the law of 1827 became operative. 

At this trial all of the testimony which was subsequently produced was not 
put in evidence, but from later developments it appears that the law of 1827 
became operative on the day of its passage, March 31, 1827, and that Mrs. 
Reeder did not die until nearly a year afterward. In all other trials of the case it 
was contended that if Harvey ever became a citizen it was by virtue of the treaty 
of 1794. 

In searching through these old papers and records that have been the founda- 
tion of this series of articles, I have happened upon some documents of exceeding 
interest and importance in the Crane and Reeder controversy, being nothing less 
than the letters of naturalization of Jolm Harvey. The first of these papers is as 
follows : 

"At a session of the supreme court of Michigan began and holden on Monday, 
the twenty-first day of September, one thousand eight hundred and seven, at 
twelve of the clock, noon, at the council house provided by the marshal for that 
purpose at Detroit, the seat of the government of Michigan, was present Augustus 
Brevoort Woodward, chief justice of Michigan. 

"John Harvey, of the city and district of Detroit, applied to be made a citizen 
of the United States, the court ordered said application to be docketted and 
postponed the same for further consideration. " 

On Thursday, September 24th following, is an order as follows: 

"In the case of the application of John Harvey to be made a citizen of the 
United States of America, the applicant having satisfied the court by four 
witnesses of the time of his residence in the' United States, and of his moral 
character and attachment to the principles of the constitution of the United 
States of America and of his being disposed to the good order and happiness of the 
same, he was admitted to take the oath of naturalization and the oath to support 
the constitution of the United States and he was sworn accordingly in open 

If these records had been known to the contestants before the cases were 
tried, the result might have lieen different. 


MUNICIPAL govern:\iext 




OF 1857 citizens' meetings board OF ESTIMATES — THE NEW CHARTER 



The first municipal government of Detroit was established by the Legislature 
of the Northwest Territory. .In the session of that body which was convened 
at Chillicothe on November 23, 1801, Solomon Sibley represented Wayne County 
in the legislative council, or upper house. He presented a petition from the 
citizens of Detroit in January, 1802, asking for the incorporation of the town, 
ajid followed the presentation of the petition with the introduction of a bill 
for that pui-pose. The measure, bearing the signatures of Robert Oliver, pres- 
ident of the council, and Edward TiiSu, speaker of the house, was approved 
by Gov. Arthur St. Clair on January 18, 1802, just five days prior to the ad- 
journment of the Legislature. The progress of this bill was not unimpeded and 
had it not been for the efforts of Solomon Sibley there might have been a dif- 
ferent outcome. The council proposed various amendments to the original draft 
of the bill, but the assembly failed to agree. Finally, a committee of confei-- 
ence was appointed and after their discussion the bill was passed. At Detroit 
a public celebration was held and the "freedom of the town" was voted to 


The charter granted by the act of the Legislature existed in force until 
the organization of ^Michigan Territory in 1805, when the newlj' appointed 
governor and judges assumed the right to legislate for the affairs of the city 
as well as for the territory; their action, in effect, abrogated the charter. This 
charter of 1802 is here copied in full : 
"An Act to incorporate the town of Detroit: 

"Section 1. Be it enacted by the legislative council and house of repre- 
sentatives in general assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of 
the same, That such parts of the townships of Detroit and Hamtramck, in the 
County of Wayne, as are contained in the following boundaries and limits, to 
wit : bounded in front by the river or streight of Detroit ; eastwardly by the 
division line of John Askin, Esquire (Brush fann) and Antoine Bobien (Bean- 
bien) ; westwardly by the division line between the farm belonging to the heirs 
of the late William ilcComb (Cass farm), deceased, and Pierre Chesne (Jones), 
and extending back from the said river two miles at an equal width in rear 



as in front, and including all wharves and buildings in front of the said town, 
be, and the same are erected into a town corporate, which shall henceforth be 
known and distinguished by the name of 'The Town of Detroit.' 

"Section 2. And be it fui-ther enacted. That for the better ordering and 
regulating the police of the said Town of Detroit and the inhabitants thereof, 
there shall henceforth be in the said Town five trustees, a secretary, an assessor, 
a collector, and a town marshal, who shall be inhabitants of the said town, and 
who shall be chosen as hereinafter mentioned. 

"The trustees shall be a body politic in law, by the name of 'The board 
of trustees of the tovm of Detroit,' one of whom shall act as chairman of the 
said board, and one as treasurer, to be appointed by the said trustees. Any 
three (3) of the said trustees shall constitute a board for business, the secre- 
tary being present. 

"Section 3. And be it further enacted. That the said trustees and their 
successors in otifice, shall be able, in their corporate capacity, and for the use 
of the said corporation, to receive, acquire, hold and convey any estate, real 
or personal, and shall also be capable in law, by their corporate name afore- 
said, of suing and being sued, of pleading and being impleaded, in any action 
or suit, real or personal, in any court of record whatever ; and they are hereby 
authorized to have and use one common seal for the purposes of the said cor- 
poration, and the same to alter, break or renew at their discretion. 

"Section 4. And be it further enacted, That the inhabitants of the said 
Town of Detroit who are freeholders, or householders, paying an annual rent 
of forty dollars, and such other persons residing within the said town who 
shall be admitted to the freedom of the said corporation by a majority of the 
electors at their annual meetings, shall and may assemble at such place within 
the said town, as shall be appointed by a majority of the said trustees, on the 
first (1st) Monday of May, yearly and every year, and then and there elect 
by the highest number of votes of the electors present, five discreet and suitable 
persons, resident within the said corporation, to serve as trustees of the said 
town for one year next ensuing, and until other trustees are chosen and quali- 
fied; also a secretary, one assessor, a collector and a town marshal, who shall 
serve for a like term of time. 

"Tlie trustees and all other officers of the said corporation shall, within 
ten days after notice of their respective appointments, take an oath or affir- 
mation faithfully and impartially to execute and discharge the duties of their 
said offices, before some person in the said county authorized to administer 
oaths; a certificate whereof shall be given to the person taking the oath and 
by him filed with the secretaiy of the said board. 

"Section 5. And be it further enacted, That the said trustees, when con- 
vened for business, shall be called 'The board of trustees of the town of De- 
troit,' and they, or any three of them, shall have full power and authority, 
from time to time, and at any time, to hold a meeting in the said town, at such 
place as the chairman, or in his absence, the secretary, shall point out, and to 
make, ordain and establish, in writing, such laws and ordinances, and the same, 
from time to time, to alter or repeal, as to them shall seem necessary and pi-oper 
for the health, safetj-, cleanliness, convenience and good government of the said 
Town of Detroit and the inhabitants thereof; to appoint a treasurer of their 
own body ; to administer all necessary oaths ; to impose reasonable fines, pen- 
alties and forfeitures, upon all persons who shall offend against the laws and 



ordinances that shall be so made as aforesaid ; and to levy and cause to be col- 
lected all such fines and forfeitures, by warrant of the chaii-man, with the seal 
of the said corporation, directed to the marshal, who is hereby authorized and 
directed to collect the same, by distress and sale of the goods and chattels of 
the offender, and the same to pay to the treasurer, to and for the use of the 
said corporation, and it shall be the further and particular duty of the said 
board of trustees to make, adopt and establish regulations for securing the said 
town against injuries from fires; to cause the streets, lanes and alleys of the 
said town and the public commons to be kept open and in repair, and free 
from every kind of nuisances; to regulate markets, and if necessary, to appoint 
a clerk of the market ; to regulate the assize of bread, both as to weight and 
price, having due regard at all times in establishing the same to market price 
and value of flour in the said Town ; and to prevent swine and other animals 
from running at large in the streets, lanes and alleys, and on the public com- 
mons of the said Town, if in their opinion the interest or convenience of the 
said Town shall require such prohibition ; all such laws and ordinances and 
regulations so to be made, shall be in force and binding from thenceforth until 
the next annual meeting for the election of corporate officers, when all laws, 
regulations and ordinances made, adopted and in force under the authority 
of this act, shall be, bj' the secretary of the said board, laid before the electors 
of said Town, for their consideration ; and if any of the said laws, rules or 
regulations, made or adopted by the said board of trustees, for the good govern- 
ment and well-being of the said corporation, shall be disapproved of or rejected 
by a majority of the voters present, the said laws, ordinances and regulations 
so disapproved of, shall thenceforth become null or void, and of no effect ; Pro- 
vided, That the laws and ordinances so to be made by the board of trustees as 
aforesaid, shall be consistent with the laws and ordinances of the territory. 

"Section 6. And be it further enacted, That freeholders, householders and 
residents aforesaid of the said Town shall, at their annual meeting, have the 
power and authority to vote such sum or sums of money as a majority of such 
votes present may think proper, to be raised for the use of the said Town for 
the ensuing year, which sum or sums of money so voted shall be assessed by 
the assessor in such manner, upon such objects and in such propoi-tion as shall 
be agreed upon by a majority of such meeting and shall be collected by the 
collector at such times, and be paid and disposed of in such manner as the 
board of trustees shall direct ; and the said collector shall have the same power 
to compel payment as is or shall be given to county collectors for the collection 
of county rates and levies. 

"Section 7. And be it further enacted. That the board of trustees shall 
have the power of filling all vacancies that may happen in any of the offices 
herein established and made elective, and the appointment so made shall con- 
tinue valid until the next annual meeting and no longer ; and it shaU be lawful 
for the board of trustees to appoint such other subordinate officers as they maj^ 
think necessary, and who are not hereinbefore mentioned, and to fix and estab- 
lish from time to time such fees to the assessor, collector, marshal and other 
subordinate officers of the corporation, and to impose such fines for the refusing 
to accept such offices, and for neglect and misconduct in the same, as to them 
shall seem necessary and proper. 

"And it shall be lawful for the chairman, with the advice and consent of 
any three of the trustees, at anv time, to call a meeting of the inhabitants of 


the said Town, for the purpose of obtaining a vote for the raising of any sum 
or Slims of money that may be deemed necessary to be raised for the use of 
the said Town ; and the said board of trustees shall have the sole right of 
licensing and regulating taverns, ale-houses, and other public houses of enter- 
tainment within the said Town. Provided, That all fees established or to be 
established, and which shall arise from licenses aforesaid, shall be established 
by the court of general quarter sessions and paid into the county treasury, to 
and for the use of said county, and the treasurer of the said board of trustees 
shall receive, account for and pay over the same, within thirty days after re- 
cei-ving the same, into the county treasury. 

"Section 8. And be it further enacted. That if any person shall think him 
or herself aggrieved by an officer or individual of said board, it shall be lawful 
for such person to appeal to the court of general quarter sessions of the peace, 
who are hereby authorized to hear and examine into such complaint, and to 
grant such relief therein as to them shall be thought proper. 

"Section 9. And be it further enacted, That the seci-etary of the said board 
shall keep a book wherein he shall enter in a fair hand and at length, all and 
singular laws, regulations, and ordinances, rules and other business which shall 
be made, done and transacted by the board of trustees, and shall carefully 
preserve the same with all other papers belonging to the said corporation, and 
the same deliver over, whole and undefaeed, to his successor in office ; which 
books and papers shall at all times be opened for the inspection of the members 
of the said corporation, and it shall be his further duty to give copies and ex- 
tracts when required by a member, for which he shall be entitled to take and 
receive reasonable fees, to be established by the said board. 

"Section 10. And be it further enacted, That the said corporation be 
allowed the privilege and benefit of the common prison of the said county for 
the imprisonment of delinquents and offenders against the laws, ordinances, 
rules and regulations that shall be made and adopted in pursiiance of the 
authority given by this act to the board of trustees for the good government 
of the said town. Provided, that no person shall be imprisoned under the 
authority of this act for a longer time than forty daj^s. 

"Section 11. And be it further enacted. That John Askin, senior, John 
Dodemead, James Heury, Charles P^rancis Girardin, and Joseph Campau be, 
and they are hereby appointed trustees, Peter Audrain, secretary, Eobert Ab- 
bott, assessor, Jacob Clemens, collector, and Elias Wallen, marshal, to hold their 
respective offices and to perform and execute the duties thereunto appertaining 
until the first stated meeting of the inhabitants of the said town, as herein- 
before directed, and imtil their successors shall have taken the oaths prescribed 
and no longer. And the said officers shall respectively take the oath herein- 
before prescribed before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices. 

"Section 12. And be it further enacted, That nothing in this act contained 
shall be so construed as to prevent any further legislature of this territoiy 
from making any alteration, amendments, or from reijealing this act, in whole 
or in part, at their pleasure. This act to take effect and be in force from and 
after the first day of Felirnary next. 

"Edward Tiffin, 

Speaker of the House of Representatives. 
"Rol)ert Oliver, 

President of the Council. 

'^1 ^ Ji 


pffi^ H=RtrTTi rml lilD Qli^ii-^ n— i- 





"Approved the eighteenth day of January, in the j-ear of our Lord one 
thousand eight hundred and two (1802). 

"Arthur St. Clair, 

Governor of the Territorj- of the United 
States Northwest of the Ohio." 

The first meeting of the board of trustees was held on Tuesday, February 
9, 1802, at which time James Henry was chosen as chairman of the board and 
John Dodemead was elected treasurer. Mr. Askin was not an American citizen 
and did not ser\'e. Girardin and Wallen were absent from home at the time; 
James Peltier was made messenger for the trustees. 

On February 15, 1802, a public meeting of the householders was held at 
the courthouse. The organic act was read, first in English and then in French, 
and addresses were made by .some of the leading citizens, explaining the duty 
of the residents toward the new town government. 

At a meeting of the trustees on Februarj- 23, 1802, the first ordinance was 
introduced. It prescribed "Regulations for securing Detroit from injuries by 
fires," and was passed at another meeting two days later. On April 17, 1802, 
the first town tax was levied by vote of the trustees and at the same meeting 
an ordinance was pas,sed regulating the size and price of loaves of bread. 


At the first municipal election on May 3, 1802, all the officers named in 
the act of incorporation were elected except John Askin, who was succeeded 
on the board of trustees by George Meldrum, and Jacob Clemens, collector, 
who was succeeded by William Smith. Smith immediately resigned, however, 
and Conrad Seek was appointed in his place by the tru.stees. At the first 
meeting of the trustees after the election, James Henry and John Dodemead 
were continued in their offices of ehainnan and treasurer. 

The second annual election, held May 3, 1803, resulted in the choice of 
Robert Abbott, Elijah Brush, Charles Curry, James May and Dr. William 
Scott as trustees ; Peter Audrain, secretaiy ; Thomas McCrae, asses.sor ; John 
Bentley, collector ; and Richard Smj'the, marshal. James May was named as 
chairman of the board and Robert Abbott, treasurer. 

The election of May 7, 1804, resulted in the selection of the following named 
officers : James Abbott, Frederick Bates, Heniy Berthelet, Solomon Sibley and 
Joseph Wilkinson, trustees ; Peter Audrain, secretary ; John Watson, asses.sor ; 
Peter Dcsnoyers, collector; Thomas ]\IcCrae, marshal. Solomon Sibley was 
chosen chairman of the board and Robert Abbott was continued as treasurer. 
On August 6, 1804, Jean Baptiste Piquette was appointed to fill a vacancy 
caused by the absence of Robert Abbott and on December 3, 1804, John Connor 
was appointed marshal in place of Thomas MeCrae, "who has left the country." 

The last officers elected under the act of 1802 w-ere chosen on May 6, 1805, 
and were as follows: James Abbott, Frederick Bates, Dr. William Brown, 
Joseph Wilkinson and John Williams, trustees ; Peter Audrain, secretary ; John 
Watson, assessor: Jean Baptiste Piquette, collector; John Connor, marshal. 
The new board met on ]\Iay 11th and organized by electing Joseph Wilkinson 
as chairman and James Abbott as treasurer. Louis Peltier was appointed 
messenger and John Connor clerk of the market and police officer. 

The sessions of the town board of trustees were held continuously from 
1802 until :\Iay, 1805. At this last meeting, after the transaction of business. 


tliey adjourned until June 3d. There is no evidence of any meeting of that 
date, but the board never met again. From the time of the fire until the City 
of Detroit was organized in 1806 the only governing power was that of the 
governor and judges, more of which is narrated later. 

FIRE OF 1805 

On June 11. 1805, occurred the great fire which completely destroyed the 
Village of Detroit, a disaster so complete as utterly to change the political aspect 
of the community as well as the physical appearance. At the risk of destroy- 
ing the continuity of this chapter, the general description of the fire is given 

The fire was started by a careless laborer in the employ of John Harvey, 
a baker; this individual, while harnessing the horses in a small stable located 
on Ste. Anne Street, dropped sparks from his pipe into the loose hay, which 
soon was in flames. This was shortly before nine o'clock in the morning and 
by mid-afternoon the entire village was consumed, with the exception of a ware- 
house outside the pickets and a few old buildings in what was known as the 
"shipyard," located on the river front at about the foot of the present Wood- 
ward Avenue. Some of the written descriptions of the fire at the time are 
interesting and are here copied. The first is an article from the Intelligencer of 
August 7, 1805, which was unsigned : 

"The distress and confusion we have experienced for these two days past 
has deranged every species of business. The town of Detroit exists no longer. 
It was reduced to ashes on the 11th inst. The fire broke out in a stable, in the 
western part of the town, about half past 9 in the morning and raged to that 
degree that not one dwelling house was standing within the pickets by one 
o'clock P. M., notwithstanding the wind was light and blew from the west, 
and ilr. Mcintosh and May's house was to the windward, they could not be 
saved. The loss is immense and I fear from the want of resources, irreparable. 
I am among the few who for our situation were able to save our memorable 
effects. Xo lives were lost. I believe history does not furnish so complete a 
ruin, happening by accident, and in so short a space of time. All is amazement 
and confusion." 

Rev. John Dilhet, a Roman Catholic clergyman, wrote tlie following account 
of the fire : 

"I was occupied with I\Ir. Richard when a messenger came to inform us 
that three houses had already been consumed, and that there was no hope 
of saving the rest. I exhorted the faithful who were present to help each other, 
and immediately commenced the celebration of low mass, after which we had 
barely time to remove the vestments and furniture of the church, with the effects 
of the adjoining presbj-tery, when both buildings were enveloped in the flames. 

"In the course of three hours, from 9 o'clock till noon, nothing was to be 
seen of the city except a mass of burning coals, and chimney tops stretching 
like pyramids in the air. Fortunately there was no wind during the conflagra- 
tion : this allowed the flames and smoke to ascend to a prodigious height, giving 
the city the appearance of an immense funeral pile. It was the most majestic, 
and at the same time the most frightful spectacle I ever witnessed. The city 
contained, at least one hundred and fifty houses, mostly frame, which caused 
the fire to spread with the utmost rapidity. The number of people in the town 
being unusually large, there was ample force for removing the merchandise and 


furniture of the mhabitants, which were iu a great measure saved. No personal 
injury was sustained during the fire." 

The last statement of Dilhet is iu error, as shown by an item iu the appro- 
priation bill of December 8, 1806, that not over $20.25 was to be paid Catherine 
Lasselle for "nursing a child crippled by the conflagi-ation of the 11th of June." 
Other injuries and items of interest are contained in the following letter written 
by Robert Munro : 

"Detroit, June 14, 1805. 

"I have the painful task to inform you of the entire conflagration of the 
Town of Detroit. About 10 o'clock on Tuesday last a stable, immediately 
opposite the factory, was discovered on fire. The first intimation I had of it 
was the flames bursting through the doors and windows of the house ; I im- 
mediately gave the alarm, and with great exertion saved my papers, and about 
two-thirds of the goods of the factory; my private property was entirely con- 

"In less than two hours the whole town was in flames, and before 3 o'clock 
not a vestige of a house (except the chimneys) visible within the limits of De- 
troit. The citadel and military stores were entirely consumed, and the furniture 
belonging to the estate of Colonel Hamtramck shared nearly the same fate; the 
china is the only thing I can mention to be the contrary. 

"I have removed the factory goods to the shipyard, and am now fixing a 
place to arrange them for disposal, agreeable to the original intention of the 
establishment, and I will speedily forward a statement of the loss that has been 
sustained. The situation of the inhabitants is deplorable beyond description; 
dependence, want, and misery is the situation of the former inhabitants of the 
Town of Detroit. Provisions are furnished by contributions, but houses cannot 
be obtained. 

"Mr. Dodemead lives in a corner of the public storehouse at the shipyard; 
Mr. Donavan with his family have gone to Sandwich; and Mr. Audrain, with 
many others, occupy the small house below Mr. May's. A number of families 
are scattered over the commons without any protection or shelter. 

"I have been very much bruised and hurt by my exertion to save the prop- 
erty. My right arm particularly is so swelled that I can hardly hold the pen 
to write these few lines, and my mind is equally affected with the distressing 
scenes I have witnessed for the last three days." 

In the Intelligencer of September 6, 1805, appeared an article under the 
caption of "The Conflagi-ation of Detroit." This description follows: 

"This event happened on the 11th of June last. The flames commenced 
about 9 o'clock in the morning and within four hours the whole town was laid 
in ashes. Only two or three buildings, of little value, situated in the borders, 
were preserved. About three hundred edifices, of all kinds, were consumed, 
among which were nearly an hundred dwelling houses, the church, several stores, 
the citadel, with officers' and soldiers' barracks, contractors' stores. United 
States store, etc. The new fort and barracks, called Fort Lernault, a little back 
of the town, were not greatly endangered, and the old Block house, at the south 
end, escaped. In a word, all the space enclosed within picquets, and denomi- 
nated the town, presents nothing but a heap of ruins, consisting of naked ehim- 
nies and cinders. 

"The rapidity- of the destruction was perhaps unprecedented, but will not 


appear surprising to anyone previously acquainted witli the place. The buildings 
were mostly old, all of wood, and dry as tinder — extremely crowded together 
on an area of about three acres — the streets very narrow (the widest not ex- 
ceeding twenty feet), intersecting rectangularly at small distances — and every 
square completely covered with combustibles. This mode of building the town 
originated, not merely for want of taste in the ancient settlers, but from the 
nece.ssitj' of defense in war. as this settlement has for a long time been a frontier 
peculiarly exposed to danger from the natives, and far removed from the means 
of external succour. It has been found necessary, till very lately, to keep the 
picquets enclosing the town in repair, besides being under the protection of the 
common of an adjoining fort and block house. 

"The town was furnished with but one fire engine, which, with the prompt 
assistance of the troops formerly stationed here, has been sufficient to extinguish 
occasional fires upon their first appearance ; but at present the troops at this 
station are few and the want of aid from that source was severely felt on the 
late occasion. 

"By what means the fire was kindled, whether by accident or design, is un- 
certain — there are various conjectures, but no decided opinion. 

"It began in a stable near the United States store, on the southwest quarter, 
a light breeze blowing from the south. Its progi'ess against and athwart the 
wind was astonishing, but in the direction of it the blaze darted with nearly 
the celerity of lightning, and reached the opposite extremit.y of the town in a 
very few moments. The fire in no part had diminished till the whole was in a 
blaze, and one immense mass of flame was presented to the eye, having the 
appearance of proceeding from one building of vast extent. The streets became 
impassable as the fire progres,sed, being filled from side to side with an im- 
penetrable column of smoke and flame, which, wafted by the current of air 
through the north and south streets, streamed to a great distance beyond the 
limits of the houses. To the di.stant spectator, and to the wretched inhabitants, 
'who after a short lapse of time could be no more than .spectators, the scene was 
at once sublime and painful, exceeding in awful grandeur perhaps almost any 
spectacle of the kind which has happened since the world began. It was fort- 
unate that the catastrophe did not take place in the night, as there must have 
been a gi-eater destruction of goods and effects and unquestionably of some 
lives. No lives were lost, but one person (a poor woman) was badlj- injured. 
Means have been taken to ascertain correctly the amount of losses in property, 
and progi-ess has been made so far as to place it beyond a doubt that they ex- 
ceed one hundred and thirty thousand dollars, probably reaching near one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand dollars. 

"The conflagration took place at a time of day that the inhabitants were 
generally near their homes, and were enabled to save more of their movable 
effects than could have been expected in so short a time as was allowed them; 
great quantities, however, fell a sacrifice, and individuals whose estates con- 
sisted in buildings, were in one day reduced from eligible circumstances to 
poverty. There is no citizen but who has suffered more or less. 

"At present the people are scattered up and down the settlement, crowding 
the houses even to overflowing, occupying hovels and everything having the 
shape of an edifice, and several families are encamped in booths upon the public 
common and the highways. The sufferings of the people in the ensuing winter 
must inevitably be great. "We tremble to anticipate them. Hemmed in on every 




side by the wilderness, in some directions interminable, and in others extending 
too great a distance to admit of being passed by an impoverished people, they 
are restricted to the settlement, narrow in its extent, with indifferent cultiva- 
tions, and the houses in bad repair. Not a farm is cultivated one mile from 
the river bank, nor a building erected. There the wilderness commences and 
extends to the western ocean. The settlement up and down the bank of the 
river is but a few miles in extent, and taken up by farmers, who have no room 
to spare in their dwellings and raise barely a sufSciency for the supply of their 
own wants. The houseless sufferers have little time, and still less means, to 
provide new accommodations for themselves before the approach of the cold 

"Provisions of every kind are at an excessively high price. Thus circi^m- 
stanced, what can be before these miserable people but a winter of rigorous 
suffering! If credit and charitj^ should furnish them with food, yet there can- 
not be shelter and covering sufficient for their comfort. Applications for relief 
are sent and are sending to various parts of the United States and Canada, 
which it is hoped and believed will not be sent in vain." 

In a letter to James Madison, secretary of state, dated August 3, 1805, Gov- 
ernor Hull wrote : 

"On my arrival (July 1st) every house was crowded, and it was more 
than a week before I could obtain the least accommodation. I am now in small 
farmer's house about a mile above the ruins, and must satisfy myself to remain 
in this situation during the next winter, at least." 

Food was scarce and the country was scoured to supply the sufferers. Ap- 
peals for aid were sent in every direction and one of the most liberal donors 
was the sister city of Montreal. In order to provide houses for the coming 
winter great efforts were made to increase the supply of lumber from Black 
River at the present Port Huron. The lumber supply came from that place and 
indeed it was rumored that the persons who were interested in lumbering were 
the ones who .started the fire that consumed the village. Governor Hull, in a 
letter to James Madison dated August 3, 1805, states his sound belief in this 
theory. There were no large sawmills, such as were built in later days, and 
the sawing was done by hand. But there were other timbers cut and hewn that 
were floated down the river to build a new city on a more extensive scale. 

It was a fortunate thing for the future great city that the little village was 
so completely destroyed on that June day in 1805. The former village was 
now a ruin and the old picket line was leveled. The fire made it possible to 
enlarge the boimdaries and rebuild on a larger scale, with wider streets and 
public squares and parks. 


At this juncture, through a strange combination of circumstances, there came 
into existence a form of government over the Town of Detroit which closely 
approached an autocracy, a type of ruling power unlike that of any other in 
the history of municipalities in the United States. This was the rale of the 
governor and judges. 

The governor and judges came into being with the creation of the Ten-i- 
tory of Michigan by the act of January 11, 1805. On March 1st following, 
President Jefferson appointed the following officers for the new territory: 
"William Hull, governor ; Stanley Griswold, secretary ; Augustus Brevoort Wood- 


ward, Frederii-k Bates and Samuel Huntington, judges. The latter declined, 
and John Griffin was appointed in his plaee. 

It so happened tliat on the day following the fire. June 12, 1805. some of 
these territorial officials arrived in Detroit and found everything in a state of 
chaos. Despite tlie fact that these territorial officials had no legal governing 
power over the village, they immediately assumed an authority which totally 
disregarded the village board of trustees. This usurpation of power continued 
unhindered under the conditions. The actual records of the governor and judges 
do not begin until September, 1806, a year later, and the history of the events 
which transpired in the inteiwal is somewhat indefinite. 

Immediately after the fire, the inhabitants set about preparing a plan for 
the rehabilitation of the village, the repossession of their home lots and the 
acquisition of lots on the public commons. A public meeting was held on the 
commons, July 1, 1805, and the citizens adopted a tentative plan for a new 
town modeled after the one destroyed, in addition to which a portion of the 
commons was to be subdivided into lots. Judges "Woodward and Bates, who 
were present, sensing the undesirable features of this scheme, pei-snaded the 
people to defer the final approval of such a plan until the arrival of the gov- 
ernor, Hull. The governor arrived on the evening of the same day. A letter 
written by him August 3rd states : 

"After a conversation with the judges, it was determined to attempt to con- 
vince the proprietors of the impropriety of their proceedings. * * * They 
veiy readily agreed to relinquish their plan and wait for our arrangements. 
"We immediately fixed upon a plan, and employed the best surveyor we could 
find in the country to lay out the streets, squares and lots." 

Judge "Woodward and the surveyor, Thomas Smith, who had been brought 
over from Upper Canada, then began the task of preparing a survey and plat 
of the new town. The people, who had acceded to the suggestion of the gov- 
ernor and judges regarding the matter, thought that it would be just a matter 
of a few weeks until the new town was platted and the lots assigned or sold. 
So, when the undertaking stretched into weeks, then into months, they became 
clamorous and insisted upon some settlement. In this manner, with constant 
ciuarreling, delays and litigation from both sides, the situation bore along. 

In November, 1805, Governor Hull and Judge Woodward went to "Wash- 
ington, having M'ith them a plan for the relief of the Detroit people. They 
labored all winter on the project and were successful in seeing the bill enacted 
into a law on April 21, 1806. This act authorized the governor and judges to 
lay out a new town, to include the site of the old one and 10.000 acres adjacent, 
excepting the military reservation. As all the lot owners in the former village 
claimed an ownership to certain parts of the town and as it was impossible 
to give them their original holdings unless the old town with its narrow streets 
and small lots was retained, the citizens concluded to lay out a new town and 
give lands there to the old lot owners in exchanage for their former posses- 
sions. The judges were to adjust claims for these lots. A lot, not exceeding 
50 by 100 feet in size, was to be conveyed "to every pei-son above the age of 
seventeen years who owned or inhabited a house in Detroit at the time of the 
fire, and who does not profess or owe allegiance to any foreign power." The 
lands remaining were to be sold and the proceeds used for building a court house 
and a jail. 

Governor Hull. Judges "Woodward and Bates, met at the governor's house. 


September 6, 1806, and appointed Judge Woodward as a committee to take the 
proper steps to carry into effect tlie act of Congress of that year. On the fol- 
lowing Monday, September 8th, it was resolved to at once lay out a town. The 
basis of the town was to be an equilateral triangle, each side to be 4,000 feet 
and "having every angle bisected by a perpendicular line upon the opposite 
side, such parts being excepted as from the approximation to the river, or other 
unavoidable circumstances, may require partial variation." Titles to lands 
were to be ascertained and established and new lots were to be granted to the 
lot owners in the old town, in such manner as appeared to the judges to be just. 
The following description of the plan as originally contemplated is taken 
from a map made by J. 0. Lewis and reproduced in Volume V, Public Land 
Series, American State Papers. At the intersection of Adams and Woodward 
avenues was a circle called the "Grand Circus." It was the intention to locate 
the court house in this circle and on the first plat of the town Woodward Avenue 
appears as Court House Avenue. From the Grand Circus avenues radiated 
like the spokes of a wheel. Of these avenues, Washington ran due south. Be- 
tween Washington and Adams on the west was Macomb (now Bagley) Avenue. 
East of Washington the avenues were Court House, Miami and Madison. The 
name of Miami Avenue has been changed to Broadway. At the two cornel's of 
the plat nearest the river were two semicircular reservations connected by 
Jefferson Avenue. Michigan Avenue started from the upper reservation and 
ran almost due west. Monroe began at the lower reservation and ran in a north- 
easterly direction. At the point where these two avenues crossed Woodward 
was left the square known as the Campus Martins. Between the avenues rad- 
iating from the Grand Circus, and about two blocks from it, were triangular 
tracts reserved for public iise. On the one between JMiami and Woodward stood 
the penitentiary and on that between Woodward and Washington was the old 
capitol building. Two similar triangles lay north of Jefferson Avenue. Upon 
the one east of Woodward Avenue was the Catholic church. Near the center 
of the triangle bounded by Michigan, Monroe and Washington avenues was Fort 
Shelby. The military reservation of Fort Shelby, objections on the part of 
some of the property holders to surrendering their original holdings, and other 
causes, prevented a strict adherence to. the original survey. The half of the 
Grand Circus north of Adams Avenue was never laid out. The semicirciilar 
reservations, at the upper and lower ends of Jefferson Avenue, and the tri- 
angular reservations around the Grand Circus were never established, or have 

They now had a plan for a city to work upon, but no surveys, and on Sep- 
tember 30th they directed that twenty lots be sui-veyed on Court House (Wood- 
ward) Avenue, between the Circus and the little square, that is between the 
Grand Circus and the Campus ^Martins, and that they be sold at auction. These 
lots were all to be 60 feet wide by 100 feet deep. It was also resolved that no 
more lots on either side of Main Street (Jefferson Avenue) or between that 
street and the river should be granted as donation lots. (Further reference to 
the donation lots is contained in a succeeding paragTaph). It was also resolved 
not to give any lots on Court House Avenue east of the Court, nor an.y of the 
corner lots on the Military Square (Campus Martiiis), as donation lots. This 
resolution implies that there was a building on Woodward Avenue which was 
used for holding court and that it was between Jefferson Avenue and the 


On the 12tli day of December, 1806, the govei'nor and judges made the fol- 
lowing report to Congress : 

"We have the honor to report to the Senate and House of Representatives 
of the United States of America, in obedience to the act entitled 'An act to 
provide for the adjustment of titles of land in the Town of Detroit and Terri- 
tory of Michigan, and for other purposes,' that we have laid out a town or city, 
of which a plan accompanies this report, and have made progi-ess in the adjust- 
ment of titles and the distribution of the donations contemplated by the said 
act, and expect shortly to complete the same." 

The map or plan which accompanied this report was made by Abijah Hull 
and is dated February 1, 1807. The report accompanying it was presented to 
Congress about February 9, 1807. The report and plan were both mislaid and 
remained undiscovered until April, 1909, when a copy was obtained by j\Ir. 
Clarence M. Burton. 

Mr. Thomas Smith, who was a surveyor on both sides of the river, made 
a report in 1821, in which he stated that there was a plan of the city made in 
1805 which was taken to Boston and to Washington and was then deposited 
with the legislative board of -Michigan Territor.y, "but unfortunately the nec- 
essary precaution was not taken and the plan fell into the hands of Mr. Hull, 
surveyor, who drew from it several other plans differing from the original and 
also differing from each other." The original plan at a later date, fell into the 
hands of Aaron Greeley, surveyor, "in whose house it was seen in a broken 
window, keeping out the weather and in whose hands it disappeared." 

The plan of 1807 included the farms owned by private individuals on both 
sides of the city proper for a considerable distance and it was expected that 
in future additions to the city the proprietors would conform to the general 
and original design. 

The streets running noi"th and south and east and west were all 200 feet 
))road and the other principal streets were 120 feet wide while the cross streets 
were sixty feet in width. The lands owned by the public (that is the governor 
and judges plan) were limited. This plan was originated, as stated before, by 
Judge Woodward. There have been frequent statements that it was laid out 
on the form of the City of Washington, but it is so materially different from 
the plan of that city, as to warrant the statement that they are in no sense 
similar. Its counterpart does not exist in any city in the world. 

Imagine the present city, with a river frontage of eleven miles, constructed 
on this plan. A Grand Circus park every 4,000 feet of that distance and twice 
as many semi-circular parks and hundreds of triangular parks like Capitol 
Square and the downtown public library. There would be as many squares 
like the Campus ]\Iartius as there were Grand Circus parks. Even the natives 
would get bewildered in tliis labyrinth. 


As the legislative body was now fully organized, Peter Audrain was ap- 
pointed secretary, and Asa Jones, sergeant-at-arms at $25 per month. Joseph 
Watson was authorized to prepare all deeds and mortgages for the board and 
was iHTuiitted to charge one dollar for drawing a deed or mortgage and twenty- 
live cents for a l)ond or other writing. 

On September 13, 1806, the governor and judges, sitting as a legislature, 



ABOUT 1885 


passed an act incorporating "the City of Detroit." Tlie text of this act fol- 

"An Act eoncei-ning the City of Detroit. — 

"Be it enacted by the Governor and the Judges of Michigan, That the Town 
of Detroit, that is to say, the section laid off, surveyed and numbered from 
time to time, under the act entitled 'An Act concerning the Town of Detroit,' 
shall be a city, and the government thereof as such shall be vested in a Mayor, 
to hold his office for one year, and to be appointed and commissioned by the 
Governor; and in a city coimcil, which shall consist of two chambers, the first 
of which shall be composed of three (3) members, to be elected annually by 
ballot, on the last Monday in September, by the inhabitants above the age of 
twenty-one (21) years, and having resided within the same one year and paid 
their public taxes ; and the second chamber of which shall be composed of three 
(3) members, to be elected annually by ballot on the last ^Monday in March, 
by the inhabitants similarly qualified : Provided, That the first election of the 
second chamber shall be held on the first Monday in October next, and the 
members shall continue in ofiice until the next annual election in March : And, 
Provided, That the number of members in the respective chambers, and the 
manner of electing them, shall afterwards be as prescribed by the city council 
by law. A majority of each chamber shall be a quorum for the transaction 
of business, but a small number may ad.iouni from time to time and compel 
the attendance of absent members and issue warrants to supply any vacancy 
in their respective chambers. Each chamber shall elect its own president and 
other officers, and judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of their own 
members, and may, with the concurrence of two-thirds (2-3) of the whole, 
expel any member for disorderly behavior or mal-conduct in office, but not a 
second time for the same offence. Each chamber shall keep a journal of their 
proceedings, and the names of those voting in the affirmative and of those 
voting in the negative on any question, at the request of any member, shall be 
entered on the journal. Elections shall be held by the mayor between the rising 
and setting of the sun, and the ballots shall be opened and counted on the 
day succeeding the election in the presence of the two chambers, and the mem- 
bers elected shall be notified by the mayor of their election, and shall com- 
mence their functions on the first Monday in October, and the first Monday in 
April respectively after their election; Provided, That at the first election the 
presence of the two chambers shall not be required at the opening and counting 
of the votes, and the members of the second chamber shall commence their 
functions immediately after their notification of their election by the mayor; 
the same being adopted from the laws of one of the original states, to wit, the 
State of Maryland, as far as necessary and suitable to the circumstances of the 
Territory of Michigan. 

"And be it enacted. That every bill or act having passed by a majority 
of both chambers, before it becomes a law, shall be presented to the mayor, 
and if not approved by him, shall not take effect or become law, but shall be 
returned with his objections to the chamber which it last passed, within ten 
days after its presentation to him, and if not so returned, it shall become a law. 
nnless the city council b}' adjournment prevent its return. The mayor may 
at any time convene the city council if the public good require their deliberations. 
The mayor shall appoint and commission all officers created by the laws of the 


city, the same being adopted from the laws of one of the original states, to wit, 
the State of Jlarjiand, as far as necessary and suitable to the circumstances 
of Michigan. 

"And be it enacted. That the city council shall have power to make and 
iise a common seal, alterable at their pleasure, to be deposited with the mayor, 
and affixed by him where necessary ; and shall be capable, in the name of the 
mayor of Detroit, to sue and be sued in the courts of law and equity, and in 
the same name shall have succession, and shall be capable to acquire, and hold 
alien property, real or personal ; and the same being adopted from the laws 
of one of the original states, to wit, the State of ]\Iaryland, as far as necessary 
and suitable to the circumstances of Michigan. 

"And be it enacted. That the city council of Detroit shall have power by 
law to provide the manner of compelling the attendance of absent members, to 
prevent and remove nuisances, to provide for the health of the city, to establish 
watch and patrols, and erect lamps, to regulate the stationing, anchorage and 
mooring of vessels and the discharge and laying of ballast from ships and 
vessels; to provide for licensing and regulating hackney carriages, wagons, carts 
and drays, and theatrical and other public amusements, to establish and regu- 
late markets, to erect and repair bridges, to make, name and keep in repair all 
streets, lanes, avenues and public spaces of ground in conformity to the plan of 
the city; to make regulations for landing and laying materials for building 
of said city ; for disposing and laying earth which may be dug out of the wells, 
cellars and foi;ndations, and for the ascei-taining of the thickness of the walls 
of houses; to erect and keep in repair drains and sewers and to make regula- 
tions necessary for the preservation of the same ; to regulate weights and 
measures in conformity to the constitution and laws of the United States and 
of Michigan ; to regulate the cleaning of chimneys ; to provide for the preven- 
tion and extinction of fires and to establish and regulate the size of bricks made 
or used in the said city ; to provide for the regulating the measui-ing of boards, 
■planks, scantling, timber and lumber of every kind ; to regulate the measuring 
of coals and fire-wood and the weighing of hay; to sink wells and erect and 
repair pumps; to impose and appropriate fines and forfeitures for breach of 
their laws recoverable before justices, where not exceeding twenty dollars, and 
before courts when exceeding that sum : to establish and regulate the inspection 
of flour, tobacco, potash and salted provisions; to regulate the gauging of casks 
and liquors, the storage of gunpowder not the property of the United States 
or of ]Miehigan ; to regulate the weight and quality of bread, not affecting the 
price; to preserve the navigation of the River Detroit, adjacent to the city; to 
erect, repair and regulate public wharves and to deepen docks and basins; 
to pro\'ide for the education of youths ; to lay and collect taxes and to pass 
all laws necessary to give effect and operation to their powers; the same being 
adopted from the laws of one of the original states, to wit, the State of Marj'- 
land, as far as necessary and suitable to the circumstances of Michigan. 

"And be it enacted. That all lauds belonging to minors, persons absent out 
of the territory, married women, or persons non compotes mentis, shall be sub- 
jected to the same terms and conditions as other proprietors. In every case 
vrhere the proprietor is an infant or married woman, insane, absent out of the 
territory, or shall not attend on three months' notice, the governor and the 
judges, or any three of them, may allot and assign the portion or share of such 
proprietor, as near the old situation as may be, and to the full value of what 


Corner building still standing 


the party might claim under the general terms and conditions of other pro- 
prietors, provided, in the case of coverture and infancy, if the husband, guardian 
or next friend will agree with the public, then an effectual di\asion and allot- 
ment may be made, by consent, and in the case of contrary claims, if the claim- 
ants wiU not jointlj- agi-ee, the proceedings shall be the same as if the proprietor 
was absent, and all persons to whom allotments and assignments shall be made, 
on consent and agreement or pursuant to this act without consent, shall hold 
the same in their former state and interest in lieu of their former quantity. 
In all cases where the proprietor or possessor is tenant in right of dower, or 
by the courtesy, the annual value of the lands, and the gross value of such 
estate therein shall be ascertained as in other cases, and upon paying such 
gross value, or securing to the possessor the pajTuent of the annual valuation, 
at the option of the proprietor or possessor, the public shall be vested with the 
whole estate of such tenant for squares, avenues, streets, lanes and other public 
uses. Certificates granted by allotments, assignments or purchases, with ac- 
knowledgements of the payment of all purchase money and interest being re- 
corded, shall be sufScient to vest a legal estate without anj- more formal 
conveyance ; the same being adopted from the laws of one of the original states, 
to wit, the State of iMarjiand, as far as necessarv and suitable to the circum- 
stances of Michigan. 

"And be it enacted, That the governor of iliehigan shall appoint and com- 
mission a register for recording deeds and other writings within the said city, 
and all divisions and allotments of lands and lots made in pursuance of this 
act, and the register shall receive the same compensation as are or may be 
allowed to the clerk of the supreme court in similar cases, and the governor 
may make a seal of office of the said register, which shall be kept by him ; the 
same being adopted from the laws of one of the original states, to wit, the State 
of Maryland, as far as necessary and suitable to the circumstances of Michigan. 

"And be it enacted, That on sales of lots in the said city under terms or 
conditions of pajTnent being made therefor at any day or days after said con- 
tract entered into, if any sum of the purchase money or interest shall not be 
paid for the space of thirty daj^s after same ought to be paid, the same lots 
may be resold at vendue at any time after sixty days' notice of such sale; the 
principal and interest due in the first contract, together with expenses of ad- 
vertisements and sale, shall be retained, and the balance paid to the original 
purchaser, or his heirs and assigns, and all lots so sold shall be freed and ac- 
quitted of all claims legal and equitable of the first purchaser, his heirs and 
assigns; the same being adopted from the laws of one of the original states, 
to wit, the State of Maryland, as far as necessaiy or suitable to the circum- 
stances of Michigan. 

"Adopted and provided at Detroit the thirteenth (13) day of September, 
one thousand eight hundred and six (1806). 
"Attest: Peter Audrain, Secretai-y of the 
Governor and Judges in their 

Legislative Department. 

"William Hull, 

Governor of i'lichigan. 
"Augustus B. "Woodward, 

Chief Justice of Michigan. 
"Frederick Bates, 

Senior Associate Judge of Michigan. ' ' 


The plan for the city was drawn np before this date, for on September 11th 
an order was entered for the sale of "five lots on Court House Avenue, opposite 
to Scott's, "Wilkinson's, Abbott's, Abbott and Smith's and Godfrey, Jr." Al- 
though the plan for the city was laid out, the details and surveys were not 
made and it was some years before that portion of the city south of Adams 
Avenue was full.y planned. There were changes made in the streets from time 
to time and the plans were somewhat altered as new conditions arose. 

The governor of the territory appointed Solomon Sibley as the first mayor 
under the new charter, and the latter ordered an election to be held on Mon- 
day, September 29, 1806, to choose the eouncilmen. At this election Stanley 
Griswold, John Harvey and Peter Desnoyers were named as members of the 
first council, or upper chamber, and John Dodemead, John Gentle and Isaac 
Jones, members of the second council, or lower chamber. A few days after the 
election Solomon Sibley relinquished the office of mayor, and Elijah Brush was 
appointed by the governor in his place. 

That the incorporating act as framed by the governor and judges was simply 
designed to give them autocratic power, was proved soon after it became oper- 
ative. John Gentle, one of the elected eouncilmen, wrote in the Pittsburgh 
Commonwealth : 

"Sometime in the month of December following, the Governor and Judges 
were committing some depredations upon the streets of the new town, entirely 
blocking up one, laying it out in lots, and disposing of them at an enormous 
price, to the great damage of the adjoining settlers; and removing another 
street about fifty feet, on purpose to make the bank fonu the corner of the two 
streets, and enlarge the avenue to the Governor's mansion, to the great damage 
of the principal range of houses in the new town. These flagrant infractions 
on the rights and privileges of the citizens did not fail to attract the attention 
of the city council. They assembled to examine, for the first time, the cor- 
poration law, and to ascertain the extent of their jurisdiction. But how great 
was their astonishment when they discovered that the whole of the corporation 
powers centered in the maj'or alone." 

It was the fact that iinder the corporation law the election of the council 
was a mere mockery, as the governor and judges had seen to it that the mayor 
was given the power of absolute veto, and, as the mayor was to be of their 
choosing alone, it had the effect of continuing the governor and judges in auto- 
cratic control of municipal matters. Such a condition was bound to be elim- 
inated. The affair reached a crisis and on February 24, 1809, the act establish- 
ing this form of government was repealed. Next, on September 16, 1810, all 
the laws pertaining to Michigan that had been adopted by the Northwest Terri- 
tory Legislature were repealed. This gave the legal finish to the act of 1802 
and the governor and judges remained in absolute control over the affairs o^ 
the town. 

THE king's commons 

The public ground known as the commons came into existence at the time 
of the French occupation of Detroit. The commons was nothing more or less 
than a comrdon pasturing field, in which the citizens shared alike. However, 
the rights of the latter in this respect were at various times encroached upon 
and brought forth vigorous protests to the authorities. Farmer's History of 


Detroit quotes a letter wi-itten by John Wilkins, Jr., quartermaster general, to 
James McHenry, secretary of war, under date of Febiiiary 17, 1797, as follows : 

"The United States have succeeded to a great deal of property at Detroit. 
The whole ground on which the Town of Detroit is situated seems, originallj', 
to have been reserved by the British for the use of the fort, but the merchants 
and tradesmen, preferring to live under the protection of the garrison, grants 
of lots have been given to them, which, in time, have foi'med a regular town. 
But there yet remains around the town a quantity of vacant ground, which, 
of course, becomes the property of the United States. This, from its situation, 
is valuable. But in order to preserve it, there will be a necessity of preventing 
any persons from building on it, or the United States should have it laid out 
in lots and sold. 

"The vacant ground I allude to is without the pickets; within the pickets, 
exclusive of the fort and barracks, there are a number of houses and lots of 
ground, which the United States have succeeded to, such as the council house, 
store houses, wharf, etc., a shipyard consisting of a ni;mber of work-shops. 
I was informed, when at Detroit, that there were a number of other buildings 
than those we got possession of, which had belonged to the British Government, 
but that, since their removal, were claimed by people living in them. These 
claims ought to be inquired into." 

The vacant ground referred to by Mr. "Wilkins was the tract known as the 
"King's commons," lying between the Brush farm on the east and the Oass 
farm on the west, and extending back from the town line to a distance of nearly 
three miles from the river. Following the American occupation in 1796, several 
memorials were presented to Congi-ess, asking for the enactment of a law which 
would confirm to the citizens of the town the right to continue the use of the 
land as a public commons. The memorial of January 17, 1805, states in part: 

"We state as a fact generallj' believed in this country and confirmed by 
many aged persons now living in this district, that a grant was made by the 
French Government at the time the town was laid out, vesting and conferring 
in the then inhabitants, their heirs and successors, both the ground plat of said 
town and the commons, which have ever since been held, used and enjoyed as 
such by the inhabitants, to the exception of some unwarrantable encroachments 
by individuals upon the same. * * * But unfortunately for the citizens 
of the said town, neither the grant itself nor the record thereof can now be 
found, the grant being either lost or wrongfully withheld, and the record 
removed to places without the district and wholly unknown to your memorial- 
ists. " 

Congress requested the governor and judges to investigate the matter and 
on October 10, 1805, they reported : 

"The circumjacent ground, the bank of the river alone excepted, was a 
wide commons ; and though assertions are made respecting the existence, among 
the records of Quebec, of a charter from the King of France conferring this 
commons as an appui-tenance to the town, it was either the property of the 
United States, or, at least, such as individual claims did not pretend to cover." 

Letters from a number of Detroit citizens to the "Gentlemen of Trade" of 
Montreal, to Governor Carleton and General Gage, written in 1769, and recently 
discovered in the archives of the St. Sulpice Seminary at Montreal and trans- 
lated from the original French, refer to the right of the citizens to the public 


commons, as a part of the "bnn-lieue. " As these letters refer mostly to the 
common ownership of the Isle anx Cochons (Belle Isle) at that time as a com- 
mons, the letters are quoted in their entirety in the history of that island in 
another chapter. 

The last memorial on the subject, of which any record can be found, was 
presented to Congress, February 10, 1808. It asked that "the title to a certain 
parcel of land, amounting to about two thousand acres adjoining the city of 
Detroit, ma.y be granted, in fee simple, to the corporation thereof, for the free 
use in common of all the memorialists, under such reservations as to the wisdom 
of Congi-ess shall seem meet." 

This memorial was referred to the committee on public lands, and was 
never returned for action. The governor and judges thus retained control of 
the commons, a vast tract in length a distance of three miles from the river 
front and in width the distance between the Cass and Brush farms. The ille- 
gality of their control is unquestioned, but the power of authority was theirs, 
and claiming the right under the act of April 21, 1806, they laid out the com- 
mons north of Adams Avenue into what was known as "Pai'k Lots," including 
the ground on both sides of Woodward Avenue and extending northward nearly 
to the present boulevard. On March 6, 1809, fortj'-one of them were sold at 
auction. This sale was opposed by the people and a petition was presented to 
the governor and judges, praj-ing them to annul the sale and to return the 
lots to the people for use as a piablic commons forever. This petition was not 
granted. The laying out of the commons south of Adams Avenue was also 
protested against. 

The Park Lots constituted a part of the 10,000-acre tract donated by Con- 
gress in 1806. The Park Lots themselves were surveyed by James McCloskey 
in December, 1808, but the remainder of the tract was not surveyed until 1816, 
when it was divided by Joseph Fletcher into twelve lots of eighty acres each, 
and forty-eight lots of 160 acres each. 


In distributing the "donation lots" that is, the lots awarded to those who 
had lost their homes in the fire — the governor and judges experienced con- 
siderable difficulty. Through the delay in the adoption of a plan for the town, 
the people were compelled to live in such abodes as they could improvise. In 
this manner they lived through the hard winter of 1803-6, very dissatisfied 
witli their lot and impatient with the ruling powers. 

The first meeting of the governor and judges as a land board occurred 
September 6, 1806, nearly fifteen months after the fire. At that meeting and 
subsequent meetings the same mouth, the plan was adopted providing for the 
sale of all corner lots, and certain others, those less valuable to be given to the 
fire sufferers. 

A public meeting was held October 6, 1806, to protest against this method 
of distribution and a few days later the people were requested to present a 
plan as they would approve, and this they did on October 16th. This plan 
was substantially adopted one month later. Under its provisions, the in- 
habitants of the town at the time of the fire were divided into three classes: 
(1) Those who owned lots at the time of the fire; (2) Those who owned or 


occupied houses; (3) Those who resided in the town, but were neither lot 
owners nor householders. 

Persons in the first class who had improved their lots subsequent to the 
fire were allowed to retain their holdings; some of them having lots in excess 
of size were asked to pay a few cents per square foot for the surplus. By the 
end of the year the governor had decided the rights of all the claimants, and 
every person in town, male or female, and whom were judged eligible, to the 
number of 251, were awarded donation lots. But another difficulty arose. 
Some three weeks after, the question arose as to the eligibility of those who 
had come to Detroit since the occupation by the British and who had not 
taken the oath of allegiance. The decision was against this class, consequently 
about two-thirds of those who had drawn donation lots were deprived of them. 
However, the act of 1806 was given a liberal interpretation and everyone re- 
ceived donation lots, whether entitled to them or not. These donation lots 
were given with many strings attached and they were traded about and trans- 
ferred by many owners. The donation files in the city records disclose the 
fact that there were only 158 receipts given for donation lots. 

The governor and judges were required, by the original act of Congress, 
to report their proceedings, but they failed to do so until Congress, by the act 
of May 30, 1830, required them to transmit a plat of the city. They made no 
report to Congi-ess upon their management of the Park Lots and 10,000-acre 
tract, even to the disposal of a single lot or the receipt of a single dollar re- 
ceived from the sale of lots. Great quantities of land were at their disposal 
and they were unhindered in manipulating it to their own satisfaction, which 
they did, if we are to believe the frequent memorials and official protests from 
the indignant citizens. Farmer writes in his History' of Detroit : 

"That no account was rendered is made apparent by the fact that the 
memorial of .a committee of citizens to Congress, in January, 1823, printed 
in the Detroit Gazette, says that no statement of the receipts or expenses of 
the Territory had ever been made public, and that even the appropriation laws 
had not been published, except in one or two instances. The article also sets 
forth 'That the Governor and Judges, as trustees of the Detroit Fund, had 
already been in the management of that trust for sixteen years, and no court- 
house is as yet built, or any steps taken towards building one ; no account has 
ever been rendered of their proceedings in the management of said fund, either 
for the information of the people for whose benefit the grant was made, or to 
Congi-ess who made the grant. That one of the judges is directly and volun- 
tarily interested to a very large extent in the funds of that trust ; and we have 
interest has a direct infiuence on the management of the concerns of that 
reason to believe, from his conduct as a member of the Land Board, that that 
trust.' " 

The last session of the governor and judges as a land board was held July 
1, 1836. It was a singular thing that for over two decades after the establish- 
ment of a regular city government the governor and judges had maintained 
control over the property committed to them originally and that not for several 
years after their authority ceased were their affairs closed up. 


On October 24, 1815, Gov. Lewis Cass approved an act of the Territorial 
Legislature granting a new charter to Detroit and restoring the control of local 


affairs to the people, witli the exception of the distribution of lots as mentioned 
in the preceding paragTaph. The form of the charter of 1815 was somewhat 
similar to the one of 1802. The act defined the city limits, increasing the area 
of the incorporated district to 1.36 square miles, and authorized the election 
of five trustees on the last Monday in October, to serve until the first Monday 
in May, 1816, after which date officers were to be elected annually. 

Solomon Sibley was the first chairman of the board of trustees and asso- 
ciated with him was James Abbott. The trustees elected at the regular annual 
election May 6, 1816, were: Peter Desnoyers, Abraham Edwards, George Mc- 
Dougall, Stephen Mack and Oliver W. Miller. McDougall was elected chairman, 
but resigned about two months before the expiration of his term and Oliver 
Williams was chosen to fill the vacancy. 

The last board of trustees inidcr the act of 1815 was elected in 1823 and 
was composed of James Abbott, Calvin Baker, Louis Dequindre, Henry J. Hunt 
and John P. Sheldon. Mr. Abbott was named as chairman and was the last 
man to liold that office. Before the expiration of the year for which this board 
of trustees was elected, the Legislature passed an act providing for a new form 
of government for Detroit. 


B.y the act of August 5, 1824, the city government was vested in a mayor, 
recorder and a common council of five members. The act provided that a 
special election should be held on the first Monday in September, the officials 
then elected to serve until the first regular annual election on the first Monday 
in April, 1825. It also defined the city boundaries and authorized the mayor 
and two aldermen to act as a court in the trial of eases for violation of the 
city laws and ordinances. The mayor was also to preside at all meetings of 
the council. 

At the election on September 6, 1824, John R. Williams was chosen mayor; 
Andrew G. Whitney, recorder, which office was appointive by the council until 
1849, then elective; Shubael Conant, Orville Cook, Peter J. Desnoyers, Melvin 
Dorr and David C. McKinstry, aldermen. The first regular election was held 
on April 5, 1825. Mayor Williams was reelected and Recorder Whitney was 
reappointed, and the following were chosen aldermen: Orville Cook, Robert 
A. Forsyth, David C. McKinstry, Thomas Rowland and William Woodbridge. 

The first session of the common council was held on September 21, 1824, 
Mayor Williams presiding. Just where this meeting was held is not certain, 
but it must have been some place where the light was insufficient, as at the 
next meeting, four evenings later, the marshal was instructed to "purchase for 
the use of the council and mayor's court four brass candlesticks, two pairs of 
snuffers, ten pounds of sperm candles and a box for the safe keeping of the 

As the city at that time owned no building in which council meetings could 
be held, the aldermen sometimes met in an office belonging to one of the mem- 
bers; a few meetings were held at Woodworth's Steamboat Hotel, on the north- 
west corner of Randolph and Woodbridge streets; and a few others in the old 
council house, on the corner of Randolph Street and Jefferson Avenue. After 
the city came into possession of the military reservation in 1826, one of the 
fort buildings known as Military Hall was moved from the reservation and 
fitted up as a meeting place for the common council. ^Meetings were held therein 


until 1834. Prom November 19, 1834, until the completion of the city hall 
the next year, meetings were held in the old council house or in a room in the 
"Williams Block, on the corner of Bates Street and Jefferson Avenue. The 
small room assigned to the council in the city hall was not satisfactory and 
only a few sessions were held there in 1835. Quarters were then secured in 
the old Firemen's Hall, on the northwest corner of Bates and Larned streets. 
The first session was held here December 24, 1839, in an upper room. This 
remained the meeting place until July 18, 1871, when all branches of the 
municipal government were moved to the new city hall, which had just been 


In the meantime a number of amendments had been made to the city charter 
by action of the legislative council or the Legislature. By the act of April 4, 

1827, the municipality was reorganized under the name of "The Mayor, Re- 
corder, Aldermen and Freemen of the City of Detroit." New boundaries were 
defined, increasing the area of the city to 2.56 square miles. The act provided 
for the annual election, on the first Monday in April, of a maj'or, recorder 
(appointed by council), five aldermen, clerk, marshal, treasurer, supervisor, 
assessor, collector and three constables. Another act, approved eight days later, 
increased the number of aldermen to seven and the same day the city was 
erected into a civil township. 

The first election under the new charter amendments was held April 7, 

1828. The resultant ofSeers were: John Biddle, mayor; Benjamin F. H. With- 
erell, recorder; John J. Deming, clerk; Henry S. Cole, treasurer; Samuel 
Sherwood, supervisor; Jeremiah Moors, assessor; Abram C. Caniff, collector; 
Jedediah Hunt, marshal ; Henry M. Campbell, Levi Cook, Jeremiah Dean, John 
Farrar, Charles Jackson, John MuUett and John P. Sheldon, aldermen ; Thomas 
Knowlton, Elias S. Swan and James M. Wilson, constables. 

Under the new act the common council was given power to construct sewers ; 
to alter the plan of the city between the Brush and Cass farms north of Larned 
Street ; to lay out lots anew, and to exchange lots with owners or compensate 
them in money; and to exercise jurisdiction over the Detroit River for half a 
mile above the city limits, to prevent the pollution of the water. 


According to the United States census of 1820, the population of Detroit 
was 1,442. Ten years later it was 2,222. By the census of 1836, taken pre- 
paratory to the admission of Michigan into the Union, the number of inhabitants 
had increased to 6,927. The annexations of 1827, 1832 and 1836 had increased 
the incorporated area to 5.26 square miles and the government established in 
1827 was inadequate in many respects to the needs of the rapidly growing city. 
Michigan was admitted to statehood January 26, 1837, and the third session 
of the State Legislature passed an act providing a new charter for Detroit. 
This act, which was approved by Governor Mason, March 27, 1839, divided 
the city into six wards; provided for the election of two aldermen and an 
assessor for each ward; changed the time of the annual election to the first 
Monday in March, beginning in 1840 ; and enlarged the powers of the city 
council in the matter of taxes and public improvements. 

The first election under the new act was held April 1, 1839. De Garmo 


Joues was elected mayor; Alexander D. Fraser, recorder (appointive) ; George 
Byrd, clerk ; John C. "Williams, treasurer ; Shubael Couant, supervisor ; Abram 
C. Caniff, collector; Albert Marsh, marshal. At this election, for the first time 
in the history of the citj', aldermen, assessors and constables were elected by 
wards. The result was as follows : 

First Ward^ — George C. Bates and' Henry H. Leroy, aldermen; Thomas J. 
Owen, assessor; David B. Wilcox, constable. 

Second Ward — Chauncey Huiibut and John Palmer, aldermen; David 
Cooper, assessor ; George Miller, constable. 

Third Ward — John J. Garrison and Andrew T. McReynolds, aldermen ; Atla 
E. ^Mather, assessor; William W. Johnson, constable. 

Fourth Ward — Peter Desnoyers and Charles Sloran, aldermen ; Noah Sut- 
ton, assessor; John Reno, constable. 

Fifth Ward — Charles M. Bull and Alexander H. Stowell, aldermen ; David 
W. Fiske, assessor; Robert Niehol, constable. 

Sixth Ward — James Stewart and William F. Chittenden, aldermen ; William 
Barclay, assessor; John Daly, constable. 

By the act of the Legislature of April 13, 1841, the council was given power 
to regulate the construction of drains and sewers; to pass ordinances for the 
prevention of fires; to control the erection of buildings; to prohibit the im- 
portation of paupers; to require a residence of thirty days in a ward pre- 
ceding elections, instead of ten daj-s; to regulate the building of sidewalks. 
and defining more specifically the jurisdiction of the mayor's court. 

In 1848 another ward was created from the old fourth ward and the act 
provided that the mayor, recorder and a majority of the aldermen should be 
necessary to form a quorum for the transaction of business. The following 
year the city limits were extended and the eighth ward was formed, which 
increased the number of aldermen to sixteen. 


Between the years 1849 and 1857 a few changes of minor character were 
made in the cit.y's fundamental law. By an act of the Legislature, approved 
by Governor Bingham on February 5, 1857, the corporate name of the city 
was designated as "The City of Detroit"; the incorporated area was con- 
siderably enlarged; the time of holding city elections was changed to the "first 
Tuesday after the first Monday in November"; provision was made that the 
aldermen then in ofiice should continue as such until January, 1858, and that 
at the November election in 1857 two aldermen should be elected from each of 
the ten wards, one to serve for one j^ear and one for two years, after which 
one alderman should be elected from each ward annually. The new charter 
also provided for a board of sewer commissioners; established a recorder's 
court; fixed the mayor's salary at $1,200 per annum (which was afterwards 
reduced) ; defined a voter's place of residence as "the place where he takes 
his meals"; empowered the council to drain lands within three miles of the 
city limits; to number the houses and to license various kinds of business; 
authorized the assessor and aldermen to attend the annual meeting of the 
board of supervisors as representatives of the city's interest; and limited the 
rate of city tax to one per cent of the assessed valuation of property. It also 
provided for only one assessor instead of one from each ward as formerly, the 
assessor to have two assistants. Prior to this time the mayor or, in his absence. 



the recorder, presided over the council, but the new charter authorized the 
council to elect its own president. 

At the election on November 3, 1857, the following officers were elected, to 
take office on the first Monday in Januarj', 1858: Oliver M. Hyde, mayor; 
Henry A. Morrow, recorder ; Francis W. Hughes, clerk ; John Campbell, treas- 
urer; Winslow "W. Wilcox, assessor. Under the new law a collector was elected 
in each ward. Those elected in November, 1857, from wards No. 1 to No. 10 
respectively were: John Collins, Jeremiah Calnon, James Sherlock, Charles 
Lotz, Thomas J. Barry, Earl F. Plantz, Joliu Reno, Thomas Holley, George "W. 
Burchell and James Dubois. 

In the following list of aldermen elected in 1857, the first named was chosen 
for one year and the second for two years: first ward, "William C. Duncan 
and Gurclon 0. Williams; second ward, George Niles and William H. Craig; 
third ward, Edward V. Cieotte and Henry Miller; fourth ward, Edward N. 
Lacroix and Solomon Wesley; fifth ward, William Gibbings and A. Smith 
Bagg; sixth ward, John D. Fairbanks and ilark Flanigan; seventh ward, 
Edward Doyle and George Miller; eighth ward, Henry Gordon and Patrick 
Gallagher ; ninth ward, William L. Woodbridge and Henry Wilson ; tenth ward, 
Henry Zender and Theodore L. Campau. 

citizens' meetings 

With the incorporation of Detroit in 1802, the New England custom of 
submitting all questions of public expenditure, the amount to be expended and 
the manner of raising the money to an annual town or citizens' meeting was 
adopted. At these meetings every taxpayer had the right to be heard, marked 
differences of opinion were frequently manifested, propositions to appropriate 
money for really beneficial purposes were often defeated, and at other times 
carried by a very close vote. Nevertheless, the custom prevailed until the 
voting population of the city became so large that the citizens' meetings grew 

The last meeting of this nature was held in the spring of 1872. By an act 
of the Legislature, approved by Governor Baldwin on April 15, 1871, pro- 
visions were made for the appointment of a board of park commissioners and 
the purchase of land for a public park. A. Smith Bagg, John J. Bagley, 
William A. Butler, George V. N. Lothrop, Merrill I. Mills, Robert P. Toms, 
Charles C. Trowbridge and Charles I. Walker were appointed commissioners, 
and they selected a tract of ground, with a half-mile river frontage, in Ham- 
tramck Township for the park. This selection of a park site was unsatisfactory 
to a large number of the citizens, though it was approved by the council, which 
passed a resolution on November 21, 1S71, authorizing a bond issue of $200,000 
for park purposes. 

The storm of protest refused to subside and the mayor called a citizens' 
meeting, to be held in the circuit court room in the new city hall on Wednesday, 
December 27, 1871, to vote on the question of issuing the bonds. The room 
was packed and there was so much confusion that the vote was in doubt. This 
led to another meeting on May 1, 1872, at the Griswold Street entrance to the 
city hall. Again there was a large attendance, but perfect order in an out- 
door meeting was impossible, so again no decision was reached. This was the 
last citizens' meeting. It was so genei-ally unsatisfactory that thoughtful men 
agreed that some better sy.stem of approving tax estimates and appropriations 


should be adopted. In answer to this popular demand, the Legislature passed 
an act creating the 


The law establishing the board of estimates was approved on March 28, 
1873. It provided for the election on the first Monday in April of five members 
from the city at large, to serve for two years, and two from each ward, one to 
serve for one year and one for two years. After the first election one member 
was elected annually from each ward and five were elected biennially from the 
city at large. The city controller, city counselor, president of the common 
council, chairman of the committee on ways and means, presidents of the vari- 
ous boards and commissions, and the senior inspector of the House of Correc- 
tion were members ex-oificio, with the privilege of taking part in the discussions, 
but without the right to vote. The council was required to submit all estimates 
to the board between the first Monday in March and the 15th of April. The 
board had power to reduce the estimates thus submitted, but not to increase 

At the election on April 7, 1873, Henry P. Bridge, "William C. Duncan, 
Peter Henkel, Thomas "W. Palmer and Eber B. Ward were elected members 
at large ; Francis Adams and William Foxen, from the first ward ; Benjamin 
P. Mumford and Hiram Walker, from the second ward; William R. Candler 
and William G. Thompson, from the third ward; William N. Carpenter and 
Joseph Kuhn, from the fourth ward; Robert W. King and Albert Ives, from 
the fifth ward; William Duncan and Nicholas Senninger, from the sixth ward; 
James M. Miller and Edward Eecard, from the seventh ward; Daniel Guiney 
and Thomas Griffith, from the eighth ward; David M. Richardson and Michael 
Haller, from the ninth ward; and Charles Byram and ]Milton Frost, from the 
tenth ward. 

Another change was made in the city government bj' the act of April 12, 
1881, when the Legislature abolished the board of estimates and conferred all 
the powers exercised by that body upon a board of councilmen, to consist of 
twelve members elected at large. The first twelve members, elected November 
8, 1881, were : Henry D. Barnard, Thomas Berry, Samuel G. Caskey, Stephen 
B. Grummond, Albert M. Henry, Joseph T. Lowiy, John McGregor, Henry 
R. Newberry, Samiiel A. Plummer, Albert H. Raynor, Frederick W. Swift and 
Samuel C. Watson. 

The regular term of ofSce was four years, but at the first election the twelve 
members were elected in groups of three, for one, two, three and four years, 
respectively. After the first election three members were elected annually. 
All measures for raising revenue and expenditure of public funds, especially 
in cases where bond issues were necessary, were required to have the approval 
of this board of councilmen, which sat as a sort of senate, or upper house, to 
pass upon the acts of the board of aldermen. 

By the act of the Legislature, approved June 5, 1883, so many amendments 
were made to Detroit's charter that it became practically a new organic law. 
Among the more important changes was that giving the aldermen and council- 
men equal power over legislation and estimates, though the upper house alone 
was given the power to confirm the nominations of the mayor for appointive 
officers. The upper house was abolished by the legislative act of June 12, 1887, 
and the board of estimates was reestablished. 


At the genei'al election of November 3, 1914, the question of abolishing the 
board of estimates was submitted to the voters of the city. The vote stood 
18,042 "for" to 15,892 "against" the proposition, which was defeated because 
a three-fifths vote was required for its adoption. The question was again pre- 
sented to the voters at an election held August 29, 1916, when it was stated 
in different form, to wit: "Shall the Board of Estimates as at present pro- 
vided be abolished and a Board of Estimates created, consisting of the Mayor, 
City Clerk, City Treasurer, City Controller and Corporation Counsel?" 

This time the proposition was carried by a vote of 28,493 to 15,456 and a 
new board of estimates was brought into existence, composed of the city officials 
above named. This arrangement was again changed with the adoption of the 
new city charter, mentioned in a subsequent paragraph. 


Under the old charter and supplementary acts, the addition of territory 
meant the formation of new wards, from each of which two aldermen were 
elected to the city council. The tendency of modern municipal government 
is to concentrate responsibility and the administration of affairs into as few 
hands as possible. By 1910 the common coiincil of Detroit numbered thirty- 
six members, and the diversity of opinion, which is always to be found where 
numbers are concerned, frequently prevented the enactment of important 

In the spring of 1911 the proposition to revise the city charter was sub- 
mitted to the voters and was carried by a vote of 17,056 to 7,677. A charter 
commission was appointed and the result of its labors was submitted to the 
voters at an election held on February 10, 1914. That charter was rejected 
by the electors, the vote standing 24,983 "against" and 16,151 in favor of its 
adoption. During the year 1914 eleven amendments were framed and sub- 
mitted to the voters at the general election on November 3, 1914. Only a few 
were ratified by the popular vote. Ten amendments were submitted to the 
voters at the election on April 5, 1915, most of them being defeated. 

At the general election on November 6, 1917, the question of revising the 
charter was again submitted to the electors and was carried by a larger ma- 
jority than in 1911. The vote was 27,756 in favor of revision and 9,945 against 
it. The charter framed in accordance with tliis popular expression was sub- 
mitted to the voters at the election of June 25, 1918, and was approved by a 
vote of 32,297 to 4,539, or more than seven to one. 

Under the new charter, ward lines are eliminated, except for assessment, 
selection of jurors and voting precinct purposes, and the city council made to 
consist of nine members elected at large. It provides for the initiative and 
referendum on ordinances, and all elective officers are subject to recall. The 
controller, corporation counsel, commissioners of the departments of public 
works, police, parks and boulevards, buildings and safety engineering, pur- 
chases and supplies, as well as the assessors, members of the various boards, 
commissions, etc., are appointed by the maj-or. The mayor also originates the 
budget, or program for the city finances, which is submitted to the city council. 
That body has the power to revise the mayor's estimates, and to pass the revised 
budget over the major's veto. Provision is made for the city to bid on pave- 
ment and sewer construction, in competition with private firms or corpora- 
tions, and to build and operate plants for the manufacture of brick and other 


paving- materials. All supplies for the city are purchased b.y one agent upon 
standard specifications, and a bureau of complaints ordered to be established 
in connection with the city clerk's office receives and investigates all com- 
plaints as to the public service. 


The first election under the new charter was held on Tuesday, November 
5, 1918. The otficers then elected assumed their respective duties on January 
14, 1919, to hold office for three years. After the expiration of their terms, 
the charter provides that elections shall be held biennially in the odd numbered 
years, thus separating them from the state and federal elections, the first regu- 
lar city election occurring November 8, 1921. 

The charter also provides for spring elections for recorder, .judge of the 
recorder's court, justices of the peace and members of the board of education. 
Candidates for all city offices are to be nominated at a non-partisan primary 
election, no party name or device appearing on the ballot. The first "Wednesday 
in March prior to the spring elections and the fourth Tuesday prior to the 
November election are designated as primary election daj's. 

At the eleT:-tion on November 5, 1918, James Couzens was elected mayor ; 
Richard Lindsay, city clerk ; Guy L. Ingalls, city treasurer ; Charles F. Biel- 
man, "William P. Bradley, Fred "W. Castator, John A. Kronk, Sherman Little- 
field, John C. Lodge, John C. Nagel, Da%-id "W. Simons and James Vernor, 
councilmen. The common council meets as a committee of the whole every 
day except Saturday and Sunday, and regular sessions are held every Tuesday 
evening. A list of the principal city officers from 1824 to 1921 will be found 
in the chapter entitled "Statistical Review" near the close of this volume. 


It has already been stated that by the act of January 18, 1802, of the 
legislative council and the house of i-epresentatives of the Northwestern Terri- 
tory, the City of Detroit was bounded easterly by the division line between 
the Brush and Beaubien farms, westerly by the line between the Jones and 
Cass farms, and extended northei'ly from the river two miles. 


Also, it has been stated that the plan of September 8, 1806, provided that 
the basis of the town should be an equilateral triangle, each side of which 
should be 4,000 feet. The act of Congress of September 13th, followed this 
form and provided that measurements should begin 84 feet, lOi/i inches from 
the northwest corner of the house of Charles Curry; thence north 60° east 
2,000 feet; thence west 2,309 feet; thence south 30° east l,154yo feet to the 
place of beginning. This should be section one of the new city. This measure- 
ment included lands belonging to private parties who did not want to plat 
their lands in this form, so that the lines were forced to stop at the Brush and 
Cass farms. 

The park lots, or lands lying north of Adams Avenue, were sold at auction 
ilarch 6, 1809. The purchaser paid a small part at the time of the purchase 


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and gave his notes for the remainder to be paid in yearly installments. The 
deed contained the terms of i^ayment and was not to operate as a complete 
conveyance until the entire purchase price was paid. It was not delivered 
until the last note was taken up. 

The prices seem now to be very low. Park lot 8, lying between Winder 
and Adelaide streets, extending from Woodward Avenue nearly to Brush Street, 
sold for $115 in 1809. It contained ten acres of land. This land was divided 
into small dwelling lots years ago. This land would now command a price of 
several thousand dollars per front foot. 


The boundary lines of the city as laid down in the act of 1802 were rein- 
stated or revived by the act of October 20, 1815. 


The first legislative council of the Territorj' of Michigan met in Detroit in 
June, 1824, and on August 5th following they passed an act enlarging the 
city limits. Thus the city was extended to include all the land between the 
west line of the Jones farm, the east line of the Brush farm and a line three 
miles from the river, being nearly the line of the railroad crossing on Wood- 
ward Avenue. 


In 1827 a legislative act provided that "all freemen of said city from time 
to time being inhabitants thereof, shall be and continue to be a body corporate 
and politic by the name of 'The Mayor, Recorder, Aldennen and Freemen of 
the City of Detroit,' and by that name they and their successors shall be known 
in law." 

In 1830 Congress passed an act reqiiiring the governor and council to trans- 
mit a plan of the town, and John Farmer was emplo.yed to draw up the proper 
documents. At about the same time John Mullett prepared, and J. 0. Lewis 
engraved, a plan of the city. These plans are nearly alike in form and were 
made up of such papers and surveys as could be found. In their report ac- 
companying the Farmer map, the governor and .iudges say that the original 
plan of the city "fell into the hands of the enemy" in 1812. 

A petition to Congress by Joseph Campau and some other citizens, dated 
January 1, 1831, makes some other statements regarding the old plans. This 
petition states that there were several plans prepared at different times; two 
or three plans were prepared by Thomas Smith, one by Aaron Greeley, one by 
Abijah Hull, one by John ilullett and the last "probably the most excep- 
tionable was recently drafted by John Farmer." 

The Mullett and Farmer plans included the land known as the governor 
and judges plan, but did not include the Military Reservation. That reserva- 
tion embraced nearly all the land north of Larned Street and west of Gris- 
wold Street, extending northerly to Michigan Avenue and westerly to the Cass 
farm. This tract was owned by the Federal Government and was given to the 
City of Detroit in 1826. The fort was razed and the dirt used to fill the Campus 
Martins and the old creek through Congress Street. The land was then platted 
and placed on the market for sale about 1830. 



In 1832 the city was again enlarged by taking in the Lambert Beaubien, 
Antoine Beaubien, Charles Moran, Louis Moran, Rivard and Riopelle farms, 
all situated on the easterly side of the city. The limits now extended, on that 
side, to Riopelle Street. 


In 1835 the expansion of the city began by the arrival of thousands of 
newcomers moving westward from New England and New York. Governor 
Cass placed the first plat of his farm on- record in July and a month later a 
portion of the Brush farm was platted and placed on the market. The next 
year (1836) the city line was moved eastward to include the Witherell farm. 
By the act of February 15, 1842, the limits were contracted by placing the 
easterly line at Dequindre Street, thereby excluding the Witherell farm from 
the city. 


The year 1836 was one of the most prosperous in the annals of Detroit. 
The territory had been looking towards statehood for some years. The census 
of 1830 had shown a population in Detroit of 2,222, which had increased to 
6,927 at the taking of the census in the year 1836. 

In 1835 the state constitution was adopted and the state officers elected, so 
that in 1836 we were a state de facto if not de .jure. It was only in conse- 
quence of factional fights and opposition, without reason, in Congress, that the 
state had not been admitted in December of the preceding year. 

Lines of steamboats and sailboats on Lake Erie began pouring in their 
loads of emigrants as soon as navigation opened, and the city was filled to 
overflowing with those who came from the East to settle. Most of these pioneers 
came to locate on farm lands throughout the state, but many of them remained 
in the city permanently. More than one thousand persons landed in Detroit 
eacli day during the season of navigation in 1836. Hotels and private houses 
were filled to overflowing. New buildings, both for dwellings and for business 
purposes, were going up all over the town. The real estate in the interior of 
the town, the governor and judges plan, was changing hands rapidly at ever- 
increasing prices. The owners of the farms adjacent to the old plan soon 
platted portions into dwelling lots and these were put on the market and 
sold rapidly. 

The newspapers contained many items of real estate sales illustrating the 
tendency of the times. The Free Press of February 18, 1836, had this to say 
on the subject: "It is not our purpose or intention to bolster up, by exag- 
gerated accounts predicted upon rumor alone, the legitimate advances of real 
estate in Detroit. As a proof of the rapidly increasing prosperity of our city 
we would instance a sale of ten acres of land situated upwards of one mile 
from the Detroit River, on the Pontiac Road, without any buildings upon it, 
for one thousand dollars per acre." 

Noah Sutton was employed by the city to take a census of its inhabitants. 
He also ascertained other matters of interest which he reported. There were 
in the city fifty-five brick stores, of wliich twenty-two were four stories in height. 




There were also 140 frame stores, 774 frame dwellings and thirtj--nine brick 
dwellings. There were 1,008 buildings in the city. There were fourteen schools 
with 600 scholars. 

One of the largest real estate entei-prises that flourished at that period was 
what was known as the Cass Farm Company. This organization was similar 
to the corporations of our time, though in fact it was a copartnership. It was 
organized June 18, 1835. The organizers were the foremost business men of 
the city, ten in number: Edmund A. Brush, Charles C. Trowbridge, Eurotas 
P. Hastings, DeGarmo Jones, Shubael Conant, Elon Farnsworth, Oliver New- 
Henry S. Cole died. (The former died November 14, 1846, and the latter June 
10, 1836.) Catherine H. Jones, widow and devisee of DeGarmo Jones, took 
his place in the enterprise and the estate of Henry S. Cole fell into the hands 
of the executors of his will, one of whom was his widow, Victoire Cole. 

The company at first purchased all of the Cass farm south of Larned Street 
from Gov. Lewis Cass for $100,000 and they gave him a mortgage for the full 
amount. The additional security was the obligation of the purchasers and the 
moneys they expended in improving the property. Before we go further into 
the history of this compam- we will ascertain what the Cass fai-m was. It was 
a large farm of more than five hundred acres, reaching from Cass Avenue to 
Third Avenue of the present city and extending from the Detroit River three 
miles in depth to the railroads on the north. It had originally consisted of 
three farms and the origin of record title reaches back to the time when this 
country was under the French Dominion. 

The King of France granted one parcel to Jacques Godet, April 1, 1750. 
Jean Bte. Des Butes dit St. Martin got two deeds, April 1, 1750 and March 15, 
1759. The other parcel was granted to Francois Barrios April 1, 1752. The 
next owners were Charles Courtois, Francois Berthelet and Charles Beaubien. 
About the time the American Revolution came to an end in 1783, the firm of 
Macomb, Edgar and Macomb, merchants (composed of "William and Alexander 
Macomb and William Edgar), purchased all three parcels. ]\Ioney was ap- 
parently very plentiful at that time for the consideration in the deeds indicate 
that they paid about 5,060 pounds in Quebec currency, equal to about $12,650 
of American money. The property subsequentlj' came to be owned by the 
estate of William Macomb and by the terms of his will passed to his three sons, 
David, William and John. Lewis Cass purchased the property fi-om these 
heirs at various times about the j^ear 1816 for $12,000. It was practically un- 
productive, for aside from the small portion he wanted for the use of himself 
and family it was leased for farm purposes at a small rental. But the times 
changed so completely between 1830 and 1835 that the front portion of the 
farm was now needed for business and dwelling purposes. The front, below 
Lamed Street, was mostly covered with the waters of the Detroit River and 
this had to be all filled in in order to make it of any use. The work of filling 
in was begun in 1835. A contract was given to Abraham Smolk to do this 
work for the company. The entire tract was convej'ed by the owners to Augus- 
tus S. Porter, August 17, 1835. Mr. Porter was to act as trustee for the com- 
pany and make conveyances of the property as it was sold in parcels. Porter 
appointed Charles C. Trowbridge his successor to act in case of his death or 
disability. The formation of this company and the enterprise it demonstrated 
is thus referred to in the Free Press of March 23, 1836 : 


"City Improvements: "We are highly gratified to Icani from authentic 
sources that our enterprising fellow citizens, Messrs. Newberry, Conant, Jones 
and others, proprietors of the Cass front, are making preparations for erection 
of a splendid hotel on the site of Governor Cass' old residence. It is a subject 
of congratulation that our citizens are becoming alive to the importance of an 
immediate addition to the comforts and convenience of travelers. It is true 
that we have two commodious and excellent hotels and a host of othei-s good 
enough in their way but it is a subject of public notoriety that himdreds of 
passengers were compelled last season to remain over night on board the steam- 
boats, or leave the city, for want of lodgings and even now at this inclement 
season when navigation is closed, applicants are daily dismissed from public 
houses for want of accommodations. 

"Facts warrant us in saying that the emigration to Michigan this season 
will be such as to astonish even the most sanguine ; and we predict that the 
month of May will flood Detroit with persons seeking a temporary or per- 
manent abode. The rapid growth of this city, its situation on the great chain 
of lakes at the very center of Michigan and the important public improvements 
by railroads now being constructed, have attracted the attention of foreign 
capitalists and thousands of men will seek an abiding place among us. The con- 
struction of the Cass Hotel on the liberal scale intended, will remedy many of 
those evils of which complaints have justly been made, and its beautiful situa- 
tion, commanding a lofty view up and down the river, cannot fail to secure to 
it a large share of public patronage." 

It was at this time also that the National Hotel, subsequently called the 
Russell House, was erected where the Hotel Pontchartrain afterward stood, and 
now the Fii-st National Bank Building. On May 18th the following appeared 
in the paper : 

"Detroit — The increasing prosperity of Detroit exceeds the warmest an- 
ticipations of our citizens. This fact is evinced by the increasing demand for 
stores and the increa.sed and increasing value of rents. Every tenement on 
Jefferson Avenue from the American Hotel to the Exchange that can possibly 
be obtained for a store has been rented for that purpose. Some occupants of 
stores in the most business part of the city have sold out their leases for the 
year at an advance of 100 per cent of what they were taken in the winter. 
"We know of one individual who hired a store for one year from the fii'st of 
March, who has sold out his lease for the remainder of the term at an advance 
of nearly 120 per cent. At the present rate of rents real propert.y on Jefferson 
Avenue occupied for stores must yield a profit of an average of 25 per cent on 
the estimated value of the fee simple." 

A year of work in filling in, building wharves and selling took place 
hefore we find any report of their sales. The demand for lots had been good 
and there were plenty of sales and many buildings were erected. On October 
20, 1836, the trustee reported that thej^ had expended $53,388.27 in improve- 
ments and had sold lots on contract and for cash to the amount of $191,936.37. 
Of these sales $113,552.90 was considered good. Not enough money had been 
received to warrant any payments either to Cass on his mortgage or to the 
members of the company. Before this sale took place the following notice of 
it appeared in the daily press: 


"great sale of the front op the CASS FARM, DETROIT 

"The owners of this splendid property, comprising from 15 to 20 acres, 
having a front of wharfing on the ship channel of the Detroit River of 1,400 
feet in length, well laid out in lots to suit the purpose of warehousing and com- 
merce, will be offered for sale at public auction at the ilichigan Exchange in 
the City of Detroit on Tuesda}' the 20th day of September next. The improve- 
ments made by the proprietors in wharfing this front and in reducing the 
high bank on which the Mansion House of Governor Cass stood, to an easy 
and convenient grade from Larned Street to the channel of the river, is one 
of the most important and extensive that has been undertaken by individuals 
in the west. The grade of Jefferson Avenue is made to conform to this im- 
provement and this is the only point where this important street descends to 
the water lots. The proprietoi-s have been engaged in this work for about a 
year and are rapidlj' completing it, having from 60 to 100 men constantly em- 
ployed. The property in rear was brought into market last year where the 
lots are fast filling up with buildings." 

The great financial depression that swept over the entire country in 1837 
was not felt at once in Detroit and the sale of the Cass front went on at high 
speed. Messrs. Porter and Conant made an inventory of the property of the 
company on October 12, 1837, and found that they had in unsold lots $307,- 
307.50 and in good contracts $113,552.90, making a total of $420,860.40. The 
times of depression had come, however, and it was not only impossible to sell 
more lots, but the contracts already made were being forfeited and the lands 
were falling back upon the company. The matter was a failure and it only 
remained now to make the best of it and get out with as little loss as possible. 
Nothing whatever on the principal had been paid to General Cass on his mort- 
gage and the interest was paid only until January 1, 1837. 

In 1839 Mr. Brush visited Cass in Paris, where he was living as the min- 
ister to France, and in the interest of the company made a proposition to him 
which was accepted. Bj- this agi'eement the remaining lots were divided into 
ten portions and one portion allotted to each member of the compam*. The 
mortgage to Cass was discharged and in 1840 he took a new mortgage from 
each member for $10,000, covering the share of each. The ten members gave 
Cass their unsecured bond for $17,500, the interest unpaid on the original 
mortgage. In November, 1840, Trowbridge gave up his interest to Henry R. 
Schoolcraft, John Hulbert and the Rev. William McMurraj-. These men had 
purchased interests under Mr. Trowbridge some time before this, but now he 
stepped out of the company completelj- and turned over his share to his suc- 
cessors withoiit further compensation. Affairs remained in this way for some 
years. The times were getting harder and harder and as no sales could be 
made the partners could not pay their mortgages. Their money was gone and 
to force payment of the mortgages would have compelled them to seek the 
court of bankruptcy. Farnsworth, Porter, the executors of the Cole estate. 
Whiting, Hastings, Brush and Conant all surrendered their interests to Cass 
in 1843. Oliver Newberry and Mrs. Catherine H. Jones only retained their 
interests in the estate. 

Thus ended in disaster one of the greatest real estate transactions that ever 
took place in Detroit. It started out on the wave of prosperity that swept over 
the country in 1835, and ended in the gulf of disaster and despair that fol- 


lowed in the wake of the financial crisis brought about by rotten wild cat banks 
and the depreciated currency of 1837. 


The Forsyth, LaBrosse and Baker farms were annexed on the westerly side 
in 1849 and the western boundary line was fixed at the easterly line of the 
"Woodbridge farm. 


The boundary lines of the city as enlarged by the act of February 5, 1857, 
ran as follows : beginning at the intersection of the National boundary line 
with the line between the Alexis Campau farm (private claim 78) and the 
Porter farm (private claim 21), and running thence northerly to the Detroit, 
Monroe & Toledo Railroad, thence along the line of that railroad to the rear 
end of the Woodbridge farm; thence easterly to the northeast comer of the 
St. Aubin farm; thence southerly to Leland Street; thence easterly to the 
westerly line of the B. Chapoton farm (private claims 9 and 454) ; thence 
southerly to Gratiot Avenue; thence easterly to j\It. Elliott Avenue; thence 
southerly to the river and thence westerly to the place of beginning. 

This made a gi-eat addition to the size of the city. 


By an act of April 12, 1873, the city limits were extended easterly to Con- 
nor's Creek. The northerly line of this extension was Jefferson Avenue in 
that part lying easterly of the line between Grosse Pointe and Hamtramck 
(the east line of the present Henry Gladwin park). Between Pennsylvania 
Avenue and Mt. Elliott Avenue the line ran along Fremont Street. Another 
act for the same purpose was passed April 29, 1873. Belle Isle was not included 
in the annexed district. 

The new addition was called the twelfth ward and city officers were elected 
■ to represent it. They were : James Holihan, alderman, long tenn ; Richard 
S. Dillon, alderman, short term; Henry Russel, school inspector, long term; 
James Dwj-er, school inspector, short term; James A. Visger, estimator, long 
term; Peter Desnoyer, estimator, short term; William C. Mahoney, collector; 
Michael Maloney, constable. 

A suit was begun to test the constitutionality of the acts of annexation and 
they were declared illegal by the Supreme Court. It was proposed to establish 
a great park on the river front in this ward, but the decision of the Supreme 
Court relegated the lands to farm purposes and it was some years before any 
other effort of annexation was passed. 

By the act of May 3, 1875, a tract of more than two square miles was taken 
from Greenfield, Hamtramck and Spring^vells townships and annexed to De- 
troit, bringing the incorporated area up to fifteen square miles. Belle Isle was 
purchased by the city in 1879. 

In 1885 the limits were extended eastwardly to Baldwin Avenue, northerly 
to Mack Avenue on the annexed district and then following the Boulevard to 
St. Aubin Avenue, northerly along that avenue to Pallister Road, westerly to 
Woodward Avenue. West of Woodward Avenue the line followed the Boule- 
vard and extended to the westerly line of private claim 266 ; thence southerly 
to Toledo Avenue ; thence easterly to private claim 39 and thence to the river. 
Belle Isle was included in the city boundaries by this act. 


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Large additions were made in 1891 and Palmer Park was added in 1894. 
Since then the growth of the city has been almost phenomenal. A small tract 
was annexed in 1905. The next year the area was increased by nearly seven 
square miles and the city was divided into eighteen wards. In 1907 the suburb 
of Fairview and portions of Greenfield and Hamtramck townships were taken 
into the city. Another tract in Greenfield Township was annexed in November, 
1912. During the next three years about seven square miles were added and 
twent}--four square miles were annexed in November, 1916. Two years later 
St. Clair Heights became a part of the City of Detroit. 

Something of the marvelous growth of the city may be learned from the 
following table: 


Total area in ] 806 0.33 

Total area in 1815 1.36 

Total area in 1827 2.56 

Total area in 1832 4.17 

Total area in 1836 5.26 

Total area in 1849 5.85 

Total area in 1857 12.75 

Total area in 1875 15.00 

Total area in 1879 16.09 

Total area in 1885 22.19 

Total area in 1891 28.14 

Total area in 1894 28.35 

Total area in 1905 28.75 

Total area in 1907 39.93 

Total area in 1920 75.62 






In the annals of Detroit, reference is made to three different council houses 
which existed before the town came to have a building of public character. 

The first of these council houses, a wooden building, was in the old town 
near the river and was burned in the great fire of 1805. 

The second council house was on the southwest corner of Jefferson Avenue 
and Randolph Street and served as a meeting place for a great variety of unofficial 
as well as official bodies until it was destroj-ed b}^ fire in the year 1848. The 
building was originalh' one story in height, constructed of stone, but about 1827 
a second story was added by the Masons, who used wood instead of stone. 
Numerous documents and letters indicate that the council house, as -well as the 
lot upon which it stood, was considered as government property, both under 
the British and American control. The exact date of the building of this house 
is not known, but it was within two years after the fire of 1805, as the district 
court for Huron and Detroit met there May 4, 1807. 

The third council house was first a militarj- hall located on Fort Street, but 
passed from government to city hands in 1827. In that year Fort Street was 
opened from Woodward to the Cass farm and the building was moved to the 
rear of the First Protestant Society Church on the northeast corner of Woodward 
Avenue and Larned Street. In 1833 the First Protestant Society sold their 
building on the corner of Woodward and Larned to the Catholics, who wanted 
to build a new church on this lot. This necessitated the removal or destruction 
of the council house and it was removed to the rear of the JMethodist Church 
on the northeast corner of Woodward and Larned. Six years later the colored 
Methodist Episcopal Church received the building from the council and once 
again it was moved, this time to the north side of Fort between Brush and 
Beaubien streets. After this removal it was utilized for church services until 
1848, when it was demolished. 


As early as 1806, the governor and judges received authority to build a 
court house and jail from the proceeds of the sale of town lots not needed in 
satisfying the claims of the inhabitants who lost property in the 1805 fire, and 
also from the proceeds of the sale of the land in the ten thousand acre tract. 
The governor and judges immediately decided to locate the courthouse on 
Grand Circus Park, but it was seventeen years afterward before the officials 





progressed as far as letting the contract, July 25, 1823, to David C. McKinstry, 
Thomas Palmer and DeGarmo Jones, for $21,000, and then the building was 
located at the head of Griswold Street. The corner stone of the building was 
laid by members of Masonic lodges on September 22, 1823, but not until May 5, 
1828, was the structure first occupied, then by the legislative council. The 
building was 60 by 90 feet in dimensions, with a tower 140 feet high, and was 
for many years the most conspicuous building in the settlement. The con- 
tractors took in paj'ment for their work 6,500 acres of land in the 10,000-acre 
tract north of the town at §2.12 an acre, and 144 city lots at S50.00 a lot. There 
was some criticism of the deal at the time, because the location for the building 
was "so far out of town." The building was first occupied, as stated, by the 
territorial or legislative council, then by the state legislature and officials. 
It served as the capitol when Michigan was admitted as a state and so continued 
until the capitol was moved to Lansing in 1847. It afterward became the 
property of the Board of Education afe the Capitol Union School. Within its 
walls were organized the first high school classes and here also for a time was 
housed the first public Iibrarj\ In 1875 a three-story front was erected for the 
sole use of the high school and the whole went the way of the old council houses 
in the fire of 1893. The site is now known as Capitol Square, and is very appro- 
priately adorned with a statue of Stevens Thomson Mason, the first governor 
of the state. 


It was a long time after the court for this judicial district was organized 
before it and the accompanying count3' officers had a comfortable home of their 
own. The court itself passed through a number of transformations, and the 
county was exceedingl}^ flexible in respect to its boundaries. From 1796 to 
1805, Northern Ohio, the northern portions of Indiana and Illinois, all of Mich- 
igan and the eastern part of Wisconsin were included in the County of Waj-ne. 
The judicial sj'stem of the Northwest Territory was operative over the whole 
area, and included the supreme court, common pleas, probate and orphan 
courts, and quarter sessions. Sessions of the supreme court were held in Detroit 
by the territorial judges. In 1805, the Territorj^ of ^Michigan was organized 
under the anomalous rule of the governor and judges, the whole territory having 
been included at first in the County of Wayne. In the governor and territorial 
judges all the legislative powers were centered, while the three judges con- 
stituted the supreme court, thus having the unique power of passing upon the 
validity of laws which they had shared in adopting. There were various changes 
in the stjde and functions of the intermediate courts until 1825, when the circuit 
courts were established by name, but they were still held by judges of the supreme 
court. Under the constitution of 1835, separate circuit courts and courts of 
chancery were established, but it was not until after the constitution of 1850 
was adopted that the present form of circuit court was adopted, with judges 
elected for terms of six years and with chancery powers. 

Meantime the court in its various forms had been a movable body. Under 
territorial rule, it met in the council house, wherever at the time that chanced 
to be, then in the old capitol building, then for one year in a privately owned 
block at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Bates Street, and for eight j'ears 
(1836-44) in the old city hall on Cadillac Square. In 1845 it moved into the 
newly-completed, two-storj^ brick county building, at the southeast corner of 


Congress and Griswold streets. On the first day of that occupation a resoUition 
of thanks was given by the bar to the contractors and builders "for its tasteful 
and commodious arrangement, neatness and simplicity of style, and its per- 
manent and substantial character as a public and fire-proof building." This 
was very high praise considering the size and appearance of the structure. 
It was 32 by 80 feet in dimensions, two stories in height and might have been 
dumped bodily into the corridor of the present county building. County offices 
occupied the lower floor and the court and judges' room the floor above. The 
court room was not, according to modern ideas, either elegant, commodious or 
comfortable, but for twenty-six years it witnessed the trials and triumphs of 
members of the bar considered among the ablest and most brilliant in the West, 
including such men as H. H. Emmons, James A. Van Dyke, Theodore Romeyn, 
James F. Jo.y, George V. N. Lothrop, Alfred Russell, William Gray, Charles I. 
Walker and others equally prominent. The last bar meeting in the old building 
was held there May 31, 1871. In that j'ear the court and county offices moved 
into the new city hall, where they remained, paying an annual rent of $12,000, 
until the present county building was completed in 1902. 


When the city hall was built it was expected that it would supply ample 
accommodations for both city and county for many years. However, as the 
number of judges increased, the large court room was divided into three and 
finally a fourth was made out of the judge and jury rooms. When a fifth and 
sixth were added, they had to go outside for court rooms. A number of propo- 
sitions were made for relief, among them one to put a fourth story on the city 
hall, another to put an addition on the Woodward Avenue front, and still another 
to tear it down and put up a new building to cover the whole. Finally the 
difficulty of securing harmonious action with two such large bodies as the common 
council and the board of supervisors was recognized, and the latter body wisely 
decided to go its own gait. Consideration of site, plans and kind of stone to be 
used each took considerable time and progress was slow. The site for the new 
county building was purchased in 1895. Ground was broken for the excava- 
tion in September, 1896. The contract for the building was let in the Spring of 
1897 to R. Robertson & Companj', with the agreement that it should be ready 
in two years. However, labor troubles and changes of plan lengthened the 
time. The corner stone of the building was laid October 20, 1897; the exterior 
was not completed until the Fall of 1900. A portion of the building was occupied 
in July, 1902, by the general county offices, and the courts moved in later. 
The buOding was not ready for the dedication until October 11, 1902. The cost 
of the site was $550,000 and of the building and furnishings $1,635,000, making 
a total investment of $2,185,000. 

The county building, as it is commonly called, was, at the time of its com- 
pletion, not only the most imposing public structure in the city, but the most 
ornate in its interior finish and furnishings of any public building in the state. 
There is in the interior an abundance of tasteful and varied ornamentation. 
In the woods used for finishing and furniture are mahogany, oak, birch, maple 
and sycamore, the first named predominating. The marbles are in great variety 
of color and texture, including Sienna, English vein. White Italian, Alps green, 
Verona, and red and yellow Numidian. Of the domestic marbles, there are 
dark and light brown, pink and green Tennessee, and five colors of Vermont. 



The use of ornamental woods and marbles in the circuit court rooms is especially 
noteworthy, and Room No. 6, occupied by the presiding judge, is a marvel of 
rich decoration. When the courts and county offices were first moved to the 
new building, there were many vacant rooms, but it is now crowded, and the 
addition of another story is contemplated to relieve the congestion. 


The first city hall long antedated the first county building. It stood where 
the westerly end of what was then Michigan Grand Avenue, now Cadillac 
Square, now meets Woodward, was 50 by 100 feet in size and cost approximately 
$15,000. John Scott was the name of the contractor. This building was first 
occupied November 18, 1835. Payment was made by the proceeds of lots sold 
by the city on the military reserve. The lower story of this building, which 
was half basement, was cut up into stalls and rented as a meat market. In- 
cidentally, it became a center of political wiles and guile, for the butchers were 
active in politics in those daj^s. Silas Farmer, in his "History of Detroit," 
states that the second story was occupied only by the city clerk and collector, 
while the mayor, sewer commissioners, surveyor, and assessor, in 1857, were in 
the old female seminary building on the site of the present city hall, and that 
from 1866 until 1871 some of the city offices such as surveyor and sewer com- 
missioners were located in the Williams Block on Monroe Avenue. The upper 
floor of the old city hall was mainly taken up with the council chamber, which 
was also used for citizens' meetings, as a theatre, as a church and for other 
miscellaneous gatherings. The building was vacated by the city in July, 1872, 
and in the following November was torn down. A three-story structure for a 
public hall and markets, called the Central Market Building, was erected on 
the same site and opened in August, 1880. The second story of this building 
was occupied b}^ the board of health, also the poor and park commission, in 
1881, and the third story was used by the Superior court in 1883 and for a few 
years thereafter. 


The site upon which the present city hall stands has had a checkered history. 
When the military reservation was platted in 1830, there was a large lot left 
between Griswold and Fort streets, Michigan Avenue and the Campus Martius. 
It was the only part of the military reservation which was east of Griswold 
Street. This lot was 283 feet long on the Griswold Street side, twenty feet 
front on Lafayette Avenue and twelve feet on Fort Street; the easterly side was 
the Campus Martius of 245 feet, and the lot had a Michigan Avenue frontage 
of 144 feet. 

The Association for the Promotion of Female Education requested the city 
authorities to give them this lot and the}' erected on it a large three-story brick 
building fronting on Griswold Street, and in it maintained a school or seminary 
for young ladies for some years. The deed to the association is dated March 
29, 1830. The school was not a success and the association leased the building 
and lot to the University of Michigan for 999 years. The formal lease was 
executed March 30, 1843. At this time there was an engine house, No. 2, 
erected in 1836, belonging to the fire department, on the south end of the lot 
on the Fort Street corner. In the lease to the university, it was provided that 
the city could retain the engine house site as long as it desired. 


Theip was a time in the histoiy of the city when the people and the news- 
papers encouraged the introduction and extension of raih-oads as of benefit to 
the town. The Detroit & St. Joseph Raih-oad, now called the Michigan Central, 
wanted a central location for depot grounds, and the western portion of the 
Campus Martins was selected as the proper place to locate the buildings. 

On August 4, 1836, Edmund A. Brush, in behalf of the railroad, wanted to 
lay the track down Michigan Avenue and also asked permission "to occup.y so 
much of the public ground adjacent to the female seminary as might be necessarj- 
for a terminating depot." Permission was granted to lay the track on the south 
side of Michigan Avenue. The road was also allowed to use all that it needed 
of that part of the Campus lying west of Woodward Avenue. At this time the 
railroad was owned by a private company, but in the early part of 1837 the 
legislature provided for the organization of a state commission of internal im- 
provements and in May of that year the commission acquired the railroad, and 
thenceforth it was known as the Central Railroad. Justus Burdick was the 
first president of the commission and David C. McKinstry was the acting 
commissioner of the Central road. 

The first track was laid down Michigan Avenue and around the west side of 
Woodward Avenue to Fort Street. A petition of the citizens was presented to 
the common council in January, 1838, asking that the track be continued down 
Woodward Avenue to the public wharf at the foot of the street. The petition 
was referred to a committee consisting of the mayor, Henry Howard; recorder, 
Ross Wilkins, and aldermen John McDonell and Thomas Chase. A plan was 
prepared which was submitted to the council with the report of the committee 
favorable to the project. The resolution, which was adopted February 5, 1838, 
outlined the plan for this work as follows : 

"Resolved, That permission be, and it is hereby given to the state or others 
to make, in accordance with the plan on record, a cut in the center of Woodward 
Avenue, fourteen feet wide and as deep as may be found necessary, commencing 
as near the crossing of Congress Street and terminating at or below the crossing 
of Atwater Street, as shall be found practicable, but so as in no wise to interfere 
with or injure the grand sewer, for the purpose of laying down a railway track 
from the depot at the Campus Martius to the water at the foot of Woodward 
Avenue. Provided, however, that the state or parties constructing the same 
shall secure the sides of said cut with a stone wall or with timber, and shall 
cover over in the same waj' all of said cut that can be so covered without ob- 
structing the passage of the cars which may be emploj-ed in transporting goods 
on said track, preserving through the whole line the grades of the several streets 
and so constructing the crossings as not to present any obstructions or impedi- 
ment to the free passage of said streets, or of the water course thereof. And to 
construct a good and sufficient rail on both sides of said cut as shall not be 
covered, and at the crossings of the same, except at the commencement and 
termination of said cut, and to put lamps at convenient distances and to keep 
them lit during the night, and to make the whole of said work safe and secure 
and also to keep the same always in repair. 

"Provided, also. That none of the expense of constructing said work, nor 
for keeping the same in repair shall be paid by said corporation (the city). 

"Resolved, That the use of steam engines or locomotives is expressly for- 
liidden on the track, the construction of which is authorized b}' these resolu- 




The plan was accepted by the state with the provision that the lighting of 
the subway would not be insisted upon. A profile of the grade was submitted 
and accepted in June following. This did not include much of a cut, for the 
grade was made to correspond with Bates Street. The track was laid to Atwater 
Street and consent was given to extend it on either side to the city limits, but 
as the state did not want to bear this expense, private land owners were permitted 
to lay tracks along Atwater Street to connect with the road. Advantage was 
not taken of this permission and the road was but little used. The commissioner 
of internal improvements in 1840 reported that the work had been completed, 
"but no use had been made of it, and the apathy manifested by those for whose 
convenience it had been constructed, seems strongly to indicate the fact that as 
a public thoroughfare, it is perfectly useless." The track was then taken up 
and that part of the route abandoned March 26, 1S44. 

The city leased to the state for 999 years, from August 19, 1837, all of the 
campus lying west of the line of Woodward Avenue and east of the lot occupied 
by the seminary. The provision in the lease was that the land should be "used 
for a depot and the general stopping place for cars carrying passengers on the 
Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad and for no other purpose." The lease was to 
cease when the premises were abandoned as depot grounds. At the same time 
the city gave to the railroad a lease of the central portion of Cadillac Square, 
extending westwardly from Bates Street to the old city hall and market, which 
was in the center of the street fronting on the Campus. The lease permitted 
the railroad to run a track across Woodward Avenue to connect with the tracks 
at Bates Street. The Cadillac Avenue grounds were intended for freight yards. 
Two of the residents on Cadillac Square (then called Michigan Grand Avenue) 
were David Cooper and Charles Jackson. Upon their petition, the court 
enjoined the railroad from proceeding with their work, and the supreme court 
decided that the city should not lease or dispose of a street in the manner at- 
tempted. The result was that the railroad established its freight yard and 
buildings on the south side of Michigan Avenue, a short distance west of Gris- 
wold Street. 

After the railroad passed into the hands of the Michigan Central Railroad 
Company in 1847, the depot was established at the foot of Third Street. The 
Campus depot ceased to be used for that purpose in 1848, but the state con- 
tinued in the ownership of a portion of the buildings for some years. The 
university conveyed the seminary Iniilding to the state in 1854 and some of the 
state offices were maintained in the building. In 1853 a portion of the old 
depot building on Griswold Street was leased to Andrew^ Ladue and Francis E. 
Eldred. This building is referred to in the deed from the university to the state 
as "the main structure of the large wooden building originally erected for a 
warehouse of the Central Railroad." The seminary building is here referred to 
as "The Yellow State Building." The state sold everything — lease, lot and 
buildings, to the city January 23, 1856, for $18,816.66. 

Agitation for a new city hall had begun before this time, but now, as the 
city was sole owner of the property, it was proposed to proceed with the new 

Proceedings were begun in 1859 to vacate so much of the Campus as lies 
west of Woodward Avenue in order that the land might become the cit.y hall 
site. Guy F. Hinchman and Sarah Abbott, executors of the will of James 
Abbott, whose home was on the site of the present Hammond Building, at- 


tempted to restrain the city from excavating; the Campus and from erecting the 
city hall at that place. It was stated that those connected with this movement 
wanted the city hall built on the Grand Circus. Mr. Hinehman's suit was 
begun May 31, 1860. Although he failed in the suit, the institution of it delayed 
the work of building for that j'ear, and in the succeeding year, 1861, the War of 
the Rebellion coming on, prevented further work for some years. The suit 
begun by Mr. Hinchman in the court of chancery is numbered 1750. 

In 1850, John Palmer and others residing near the square petitioned the 
council to have the Campus graded, fenced and ornamented with shade trees. 
The committee of the council made a report July 9, 1850, recommending that 
the prayer be granted. The city had leased this corner to a circus company for 
one day in 1849 and had received .$100 for the use of the ground and the license. 
The money was now authorized to be expended in leveling the ground and 
there was added to it a like sum subscribed by John Palmer and other neighbors 
and another hundred dollars taken from the road fund. The transformation 
must have been startling, for the "Free Press" of August 2, 1851, said regarding 
it: "The Campus Martins makes quite an appearance with its young trees and 
its oat crop springing up fresh and green among the bricks and mortar sur- 
roundings. A similar disposition of the area on the opposite side of the street 
towards the city hall would be a good idea. It would make Woodward Avenue 
one of the pleasantest, as it is now one of the busiest and most important thorough- 
fares of the city." 

The property was not cared for and the council, in 1851, found that "but 
one chain had been placed through the posts around the Campus Martius, and 
the same is now left exposed, so that the cattle and other animals are destroying 
the improvements made by the citj' approi^riation." 

The trees and grass were short-lived among the bricks and mortar and in 
1853 the "Advertiser" said: "The Campus Martius looks very forlorn. The 
supposed shade trees are onl.y poles, and the only green thing on the square is a 
big clock weed," so the city leased the corner to the railroad circus for an exhibi- 
tion in September of that year. In June, 1854, the same circus company paid 
the city $250 for a three days' lease of the lot. 

The present city hall itself was a long time in contemplation. As early as 
1857, committees on almshouse and public buildings jointly reported in favor of 
so amending the charter "that the bonds of the city may be issued for such a sum 
of money as must be required to build such public buildings for said purpose, as 
this council shall deem expedient, for. the purpose of constituting a funil, to be 
used for the purpose of erecting public buildings in the city; namely, an alms- 
house, a city jail, a city hall and such other public buildings as may be deemed 
necessary." The recommendation was adopted and the amendment to the 
charter was made by the legislature. Two years later the subject of a city hall 
was taken up as a separate proposition and at the last of a series of meetings the 
controller, James M. Edmunds, submitted a definite plan for a building upon 
the following basis: "The basement will contain heating apparatus, coal rooms, 
store rooms, water closets, etc. The first floor will contain eight offices, two 
rooms and a vault, each office containing 448 square feet floor surface; one 
oflfice with a floor surface of 525 square feet, two halls each twenty feet wide, 
crossing at right angles in the center, making a public entrance on each of the 
four fronts. 

"The second floor will contain four offices, two rooms and vault, each office 

01,11 AND M.W I rrV HAl,],: 



having a floor space of 821 or more feet; three offices, two rooms and a vault, 
one committee room, one council chamber 60 x 90 feet, the halls of the same 
width as on the first floor. 

"The third floor will contain one circuit court room, with 5,400 square feet 
of surface; one supreme court room, with 2,400 square feet of surface, two 
judges' consultation rooms, two attorne.vs' consultation rooms, one library, two 
jury rooms, one sheriff's room. 

''The building to be constructed of hewn stone and fire proof. The elevation 
to be massive and attractive, and on whatever location it may be placed, the 
building and entire grounds to occupy one entire block, that it may present 
four fronts, and a public entrance on each front." 

This plan was strikingly similar to the one that was actually adopted a 
dozen years later. The estimated cost of the building was $250,000, and the 
common council authorized the issue of bonds for that amount. The proposed 
site was then a part of the Campus Martius. The steps necessary to vacate it 
for the purpose of the building, the competitive submission and examination of 
plans and other preliminaries filled up the time until the spring of 1861, when 
the Civil war commenced and building operations of this kind were suspended. 
The subject was taken up again in the summer of 1865, but it was not until the 
fall of 1866 that a contract for the excavation was let. The final plans for the 
structure were drawn by the architect, James Anderson, and in 1867 the contract 
for the building was let to N. Osborn & Company of Rochester, New York, for 
$379,578. Their contract called for the completion of the building July 1, 1871, 
and they fulfilled it and had two months to spare. The city gave them a bonus 
of $3,000 for the privilege of occupying the building earlier than the time called 
for. This was done as a measure of economy and for the convenience of the 
county, which was required to vacate other quarters. Of the result one of the 
local papers said at the time: "The contractors, Messrs. Osborn & Company, 
are entitled to great praise, not only for the promptness with which they have 
done their work, but for the manner in which they have done it. It is conceded 
on all hands, that every stone and brick has been laid in a conscientious and 
faithful manner. Those who have watched the building closely pronounce it a 
first-class piece of work, and really the structure speaks for itself, both to the 
credit of the taste of the designer and the skill and honesty of the builder." 
The building is 204 feet long and 90 feet wide. The height of the building to 
the cornice is 66 feet and to the top of the flagstaff 200 feet. The walls are 
constructed of Amherst sandstone, quarried near Cleveland, Ohio. Some re- 
modeling was done upon the city hall in 1906. 

It was also matter of comment that not only was the building completed 
within the specified time, but within the stipulated cost, and that without a 
suspicion of fraud or graft. This constructive work was going on at the same 
time as that on the New York City courthouse, made infamous by the frauds 
of Tweed, Sweeney & Ingersoll, and the contrast between the two records was 
matter of bitter comment in the New York press. The estimated value of the 
land upon which the building stood was $195,000. The total cost of the build- 
ing, including the plans, excavation, structure, heating apparatus, clock and bell 
was $519,949. Furniture, ornamenting the grounds, interest on bonds, printing 
and other incidentals added $82,181 to this, making a total cost, exclusive of 
grounds, of $602,130. The corner stone was laid August 6, 1868, with an address 
by Charles I. Walker. The building was dedicated July 4, 1871, the council 


held their first meeting therein on the 18th, and for the half century since then it 
has been one of the busiest and most useful structures in the city. 

Other items of interest concerning the city hall follow. The four stone 
figures on the first section of the tower are each 14 feet in height and represent 
Justice, Industry, Art, and Commerce. In 1884, Bela Hubbard commissioned 
the sculptor, Julius Melchers, to make four statues, of Cadillac, La Salle, Father 
Marquette and Rev. Fr. Gabriel Richard, which he presented to the city and 
they were placed in niches on the east and west fronts of the city hall. The 
bell in the tower, weighing 7,670 pounds, cost .12,782. The clock cost $2,850, 
has four dials each 8 feet 3 inches in diameter, and the mechanism was first 
started July 4, 1871. The two cannon on each side of the front steps on the 
east were captured from the British at the battle of Lake Erie, when Perry 
routed the English fleet under Barclay. These pieces were brought here from 
Erie, Pennsylvania, placed on the old government wharf between Waj'ne and 
Cass, then served as posts to which to tie vessels, but were later secured for 
the city by private subscription and gift in April, 1872, the larger b.y the citizens, 
on the 12th, and the other by Moore, Foote.& Company, on the 17th, and on 
July 4, 1874, they were placed in their present position. 

Built originally to accommodate both city and county, the building has now 
become inadequate to the needs of the city alone. The city courts and many 
of the county ofRces are accommodated in the five-story Municipal Courts 
Building, corner of St. Antoine and Macomb, which was completed and occupied 
in 1917 and which cost -1845,000. The board of health and public welfare com- 
mission occupy a separate building at St. Antoine and Clinton Streets. The 
department of l)uildings and safety engineering has the larger part of a re- 
modeled old court building erected in 1889 at Clinton and Raynor Streets, and 
there are several other officials and commissions scattered throughout the city. 


The co-partnership existing between the Government of the L^nited States 
and the people of the City of Detroit is a firm which does business that, in actual 
dollars and cents, is far greater than anj' of the members of this unique firm 
would conceive in his own judgment. The exports and imports which appear 
on the books of the customs office; the tonnage registers and the inspections 
and examinations which are connected with the lake marine; the marine hospital, 
the river and harbor improvements and the lighthouse service which are directed 
from this port; the internal revenue collections for the district of which Detroit 
is the center, and to which it is the main contributor; the postoffice business, 
which comes in direct touch with almost every resident; the military service 
connected with the establishment at Fort Wayne; the United States courts 
which adjudicate, not onh- the ordinary court cases for the eastern district of 
Michigan, but some of the most important admiralty cases that ever come up 
on the lakes; all these represent business that touches the citizen at many points. 
All of this business has to be housed, but it is a 'noticeable fact that the housing 
accommodations have almost always been short of the requirements. The 
transportation of mail, from the day of the lone messenger footing it overland 
to the day of the fast train and airplane, has scarcely kept pace with the needs 
of the service. 

Prior to January 1, 1803, no postoffice existed in Detroit. The mail, both 
going and coming, was an intermittent affair, dejjending upon the overland 


carrier, the weather and seasons and many other conditions. Letter writing 
was not a common practice in the old days: in fact, to be able to read and write 
was an unmistakable sign that one was wealthy and educated. We note in 
other chapters of this work the lack of schools and the customary procedure 
of the common people in signing wills, deeds and other documents by a cross- 
mark. The post commandant, and some of the officers, the leading merchants, 
and better social class were the only ones who indulged in the luxury of letters, 
and they found the service very tardy and exasperating. At the time of the 
Pontiac siege (1763), mail ordinarily required from two to three weeks between 
Detroit and Niagara. Indians were very often employed as mail runners, going 
in pairs, sometimes with an interpreter, and their speed depended in great 
measure upon the amount of rum promised them at their destination. 

During De Peyster's term as commandant under the British rule, and after 
the Revolutionary War, some semblance of an orderly mail service was operated. 
Three months was the ordinary time for a letter to reach Detroit from Quebec. 

The first post road in Michigan, part of a line from Detroit to Cincinnati, 
was opened in March, 1801, but discontinued three years later, when a road 
from Cleveland to Detroit was established. A mail service with Washington 
was inaugurated in 1802 and ten years later the mail required forty days to 
reach the Capital City from Detroit. During the early years of the Nineteenth 
Century, the maUs were very poorly operated. Excerpts from letters written by 
Governor Lewis Cass to the postal authorities at Washington give some hints 
of the condition of affairs at this time. In December, 1815, he wrote: 

"At all times since our arrival at this place in 1813, the mail has been carried 
with singular irregularity — an irregularity for which the state of the roads 
will furnish no excuse. I passed the mail carrier last summer between the 
mouth of the Raisin and Mansfield. He was on foot, and I should say not fit 
to be trusted with sixpence." 

On December 30, 1815, Cass again wrote: 

"The post-rider has just arrived without a letter or paper. Our last National 
Intelligencer is November 7. The last mail brought me a letter from the War 
Department, of October 30 * * * The misconduct is with the postmaster 
at Cleveland. Mr. Abbott ipforms me that this postmaster, if the mail from 
Pittsburgh arrives five minutes after he has closed the mail for this place, will 
not forward, but retains it until the next week * * * q^^^ off as we are 
from the world and from other means of information than the mail, we look 
with eagerness for its arrival, and nine times out of ten we find ourselves dis- 

Cass continued to report the inefficiency of the mails to Washington. Little 
improvement was noted, however, although some attempt was made to move 
official mail with a bit of regularity. 

By 1817 an important innovation was introduced into the postal service. 
The post-boy was equipped with a horn. The inhabitants listened for the 
sound of this horn on mail days and its first note -was the signal for a general 
scurrying to meet the post-rider. 

The second post-road in the territory was established in May, 1820, running 
between Detroit and Mt. Clemens via Pontiac. A road to Saginaw was opened 
in 1823 and to Ann Arbor and Fort Gratiot five j-ears later. In 1827 the first 
mail stages began running to Ohio, and in 1830 a daily southern and eastern 
mail, by way of Pittsburgh, started. Mail was yet slow, however, as a letter 


required two weeks to reach New York from this place. Ten years later this 
time had been shortened to about nine days. Postal rates varied according to 
distance during the early days. A letter traveling thirty miles was carried for 
six or eight cents at different times, and the price varied until for a distance 
of 450 or 500 miles the rate was twenty-five cents. Postage stamps did not 
come into use until 1847 and the Free Press of August 16, 1847, carried an item 
as follows: 

"Post office stamps have been received at the office in this city from the 
Department, for the prepayment of postage. They are of two denominations, 
five and ten cents, and will be a great accommodation to the public. All that 
has to be done is to prefix one of the little appendages, and the letter goes direct." 

These stamps in 1861, dvu'ing the silver shortage, were freely used as cur- 
rency. Postal cards were not used in Detroit until 1873. Envelopes were first 
used in 1839. Before their advent, the letter paper was folded together and 
sealed. Money orders were first issued from the Detroit office November 1, 
1864. and the system of registering letters began in 1855. Free mail deliver.v by 
carriers ■was started in Detroit in October, 1864. 

The postmasters of the Detroit office, and the year of their appointment, 
follow: Charles Curry was the first postmaster at Detroit, but the date of his 
appointment is indefinite. There exists in the Burton Historical Collection a 
letter to Curry from the postmaster-general, acknowledging receipt of $56.25, 
his account for the quarter ending June 30, 1803; Frederick Bates, 1803; George 
Hoffman, 1806; James Abbott, 1806; John Norvell, 1831; Sheldon McKnight, 
1836; Thomas Rowland, 1842; John S. Bagg, 1845; Alpheus S. Williams, 1849; 
Thornton F. Brodhead, 1853; CorneHus O'Flynn, 1857; Henry N. Walker, 1859; 
Alexander W. Buel, 1860; William A. Howard, 1861; Henry Barns, 1866; Fred- 
erick W. Swift, 1867; John H. Kaple, 1875; George C. Codd, 1879; Alexander 
W. Copland, 1886; George R. Woolfenden (acting); Elwood T. Hance, 1889; 
.John J. Enright, 1893; Freeman B. Dickerson, 1897; Homer Warren, 1906; 
William J. Nagel, 1913—. 

The postoffice itself was a movable institution, located at the place which 
was most convenient to the postmaster for the time being. The locations of 
the office have been numerous. According to Farmer's History of Detroit the 
first known location was under Abbott, when it was housed in a log building 
on the southwest corner of Woodward Avenue and Woodbridge Street, and in 
1831 moved to a brick building on the south side of Jefferson Avenue below 
W^ayne Street; following this it was, in 1831, again located at the northeast corner 
of Jefferson and Shelby; in 1834 at another location in the same block; in 1836 
was moved to 157 Jefferson, near Randolph; later in the year moved to north- 
east corner of Jefferson and Shelby; in 1837 moved to 105 Jefferson; in 1840 
located in a brick building farther west in the same block; in 1§43 established 
in the basement of a stone building on the southwest corner of Jefferson and 
Griswold; and in 1849 was opened on the first floor of the Mariners' Church, 
northwest corner of Woodward and Woodbridge. Here it remained until the 
first postoffice building was constructed. Part of the time the postoffice was 
in one building, the customs office in another and the United States courts 
in a third. They were never brought together in a Government owned structure 
until 1860, when the Iniilding at the northwest corner of (Jriswold and Larned 
was opened. 

The suliject of building a postoffice in Detroit for the use of the department 



This is one of the oldest Detroit photographs extant, 
taken in 1857. 


and for holding courts was agitated for some j'ears, but the first appropriation 
of monej' was made August 4, 1S54. The property was sold to the Government 
on November 13, 1855, by Mrs. Henry Barnard for $24,000. Ground was 
broken for the new building in August, 1857, and the corner stone was laid May 
18, 1858 by ex-Governor William M. Fenton, grand master of grand lodge, 
F. & A. M. The roof was put on in May, 1859, and the building was first opened 
for business at noon, January 30, 1860. The Government was nearly six years 
in buying the site and erecting the building. Henry N. Walker was the post- 
master at this time. The building cost .1162,800, in addition to the cost of the 
site. A. H. Jordan was the architect. This building served its original purpose 
for over thirty years and still houses a number of Government offices. 

The story of the site of this old postoffice building is an interesting one. 
The military reservation was that part of the old town lying between Jefferson 
and Michigan Avenues, Griswold and Cass Streets. It was reserved for the 
use of the military department in 1809 and was donated to the city by the 
war department in 1826. The fort was at that time destroyed and the lands 
turned over to the city government. 

The first plat of the military reservation designated the lots on the northwest 
corner of Larned and Griswold Streets by the numbers, 18, 19 and 20, each 
lot fronting fifty feet on the north side of Larned Street. At this time Griswold 
Street was only fifty feet wide. When it was decided to make the street ninety 
feet W'ide, as it is at present, a new plan was made and the lots faced Griswold 
Street and were numbered 1, 2 and 3. These are the lots on which the old 
postoffice building is located. This land was at one time designated as a site 
for the city hall, but the plan to build here was not carried out and the city, 
being the owner of the land, offered it to the Methodist Church Society in 
exchange for their Farrar Street property. The proposal to make the trade was 
submitted by the mayor, John Biddle, and Aldermen Peter J. Desnoyers and 
Jerry Dean, as a committee of the common council, but no trade could be 

The lots were sold after this failure to trade to Francis P. Brow-ning in 1832. 
Mr. Browning was a very prominent merchant of his time and engaged in many 
enterprises. Perhaps the most important was that of carrj'ing on an extensive 
sawmill at the foot of Woodward Avenue. It was the time when log houses, 
in the city, were going out of vogue and the making of lumber for frame houses 
was a very important occupation. Mr. Browning and his associates were exten- 
sively engaged in cutting pine timber at the "pinery" on the Black River and 
on the St. Clair River in the vicinity of the present Citj^ of Port Huron, and 
floating it down the river to Detroit to be made over into more valuable building 
material. Mr. Browning was considered a man of large means for his time 
and it w-as quite proper that he should become the owner of the land above 
described, that he might erect a fine residence suitable alike to the location, 
the finest residence district of the city, and to himself as one of the foremost 
citizens. A two-story brick residence was soon erected on the land, but Mr. 
Browning occupied it only a little more than a year, when he sold to Peter J. 
Desnoyers, March 14, 1834, for $8,000. A few months later the city was visited 
by the Asiatic cholera and one of the victims of the pestilence was Frances P. 

Mr. Desnoyers occupied the property with his family until his sudden death 
in 1846. In the partition of his estate, August 31, 1847, the property passed 


to his daughter, Josephine S. Desnoyers. Miss Desnoyers married Henry 
Barnard, who was a prominent educator and for some years superintendent of 
education in Massachusetts. As stated before, the Government received the 
property from Mrs. Barnard. 

The present ornate and imposing Federal Building was more than three 
decades in the making. The first appropriation for it was voted by Congress 
in May, 1882, $600,000, if a new site was purchased and $500,000 if the old 
site was used. Six months later a government commission reported in favor 
of utilizing the old site. This calamity was happily averted, though it took long 
discussion and vigorous protests to accomplish that. The old site was in the 
lowest ground in that section, close by the bed of the old Savoyard Creek, and 
entirely inadequate for the uses for which it was intended. A second commission 
selected the south half of the block bounded by Fort, Wayne, Lafayette, and 
Shelb,y Streets. Then came another long controversy over the question whether 
half the block was sufficient. The chief promoter of that location was at con- 
siderable expense in gathering facts from other cities to prove that the half 
block would be ample for the needs of the city for a lifetime. Wiser counsels 
finally prevailed and the whole block was purchased in 1885 and 1887 at a cost 
of $400,000. The whole appropriation was increased to $1,100,000. Additional 
appropriations were made from time to time and the final cost of the main 
structure, with land and furnishings, was about $1,550,000. Excavation was 
begun June 29, 1890. The work of construction was slow. The first floor was 
occupied by the postoffice in November, 1897, and it was many months after 
that before the whole building was completed. This portion of the building 
is 200 by 152 feet in dimensions, four stories in height with basement and loft. 
The height of the tower is 243 feet. The exterior is of the so-called American 
style of arthitecture and the interior is Romanesque. 

The cit.v had grown so fast during the period of construction that the building 
was not fully occupied before its capacity was outgrown. Some of the offices 
■ went back to the old building on Griswold Street and agitation was begun for 
the enlargement of the new. This ultimately resulted in an addition of three 
stories with the basement and loft on the north half of the lot. This was so 
skillfully handled architecturally that the completed structure stands as a 
symmetrical whole. The basement, the groimd floor and part of the second 
floor of the building are occupied by the postal force. The customs and internal 
revenue offices take up the rest of the second floor. On the third floor are the 
district court rooms and the offices of the clerk, district attorney, marshal, etc. 
In the basement and on the fourth floor there is a variety of other governmental 
offices. The building is uncomfortably crowded and the next move contemplated 
is another million dollar plant for mail distribution near the Michigan Central 
depot, leaving the present structure mainly for office uses. 











For a century after Cadillac founded the settlement of Detroit, the question 
of securing clean, fresh water was one which did not puzzle the inhabitants. 
It flowed past their doors in abundant quantity and all that was necessary was a 
bucket. No contamination existed to spoil the water and imperil the health of 
the community, nor were there any restrictions upon the amount each person 
might use. Sometime later, when barrels were placed upon the wharf, the 
village authorities levied a tax of one dollar upon those who took water from this 
supply. The pubUc wells did not come in until after the fire of 1805. These 
wells were dug and pumps installed at advantageous points in the village and 
were of great convenience, although some opposition was encountered regard- 
ing those upon the Campus Martins as so many people and cattle fell into them. 
The old two-wheeled French cart, with its water barrels, and the yoke by which 
a person might carry a bucket upon each end, were common sights in the streets 
of Detroit during the early days. From 1820 until 1822 the question of public 
" water works" was discussed by the officials, but nothing ever came of it. 

The first attempt toward an improvement in the method of securing water 
was made by the governor and council, when, in 1824, they passed an act authoriz- 
ing Peter Berthelet "to erect a wharf on the Detroit River in continuation of 
Randolph Street, and running to the ship channel of said river, provided the 
said Peter Berthelet, his heirs and assigns, shall, at all times during the existence 
of the grant, at his own, or their own, expense, erect, make and repair, at some 
convenient place at or near the end of said wharf, next the channel of the river, a 
good and sufficient pump, at which all persons who may reside within the city 
of Detroit, shall be, at all times, free of wharfage or other expenses, entitled to 
take and draw water for their use and convenience; and for that purpose a free 
use of said wharf shall be given for carts, wagons, sleighs or other machinery 
to be used in drawing and carrying away the water." The dock and pump were 
built and remained until 183.5, when the city councQ removed the property. 

In 1825 Bethuel Farrand, father of Jacob S. Farrand, submitted to the council 
a plan for a water works system, and the official body authorized him to put his 
scheme into execution. He, with Rufus Wells, cut tamarac logs from the banks of 



the Clinton River in the summer of 1825, with which to construct pipes, but 
within a short time after the work was begun, Wells thought out Farrand's in- 
terest and in March, 1827 the council passed an ordinance granting to Rufus 
Wells "the sole and exclusive right of watering the city of Detroit." Mr. 
Wells erected on the Berthelet wharf at the foot of Randolph Street a pump 
house twenty feet square, with a cupola forty feet high, in which was a large cask, 
to which the water was raised by two pumps of five-inch bore each, operated 
b.v horse power. From this the water was conveyed in tamarac logs to a reser- 
voir which stood where the present water works office is, corner Jefferson Avenue 
and Randolph Street. The reservoir was sixteen feet square and six feet deep, 
with a capacity of 9, .580 gallons. 

The original act of the council was repealed in 1829 and a new one was passed 
granting to Mr. Wells and three associates, known collectively as the Hy- 
draulic Company, the exclusive right of supplying the city with water until 
1850, and this was afterward extended to 1865. During this ownership, the 
purity of the water from the river was questioned and w-ith the view of finding a 
purer supply, the boring of a well was undertaken. It was extended to a depth 
of 2(30 feet and then abandoned. 

In 1830 the companj^ constructed a new reservoir, near the southeast corner 
of Waj^ne and Fort Streets, with a capacity of 21,870 gallons. Water pipes, 
made of wood with a three-inch bore, were laid from the river to Jefferson Avenue, 
and the new works went into service August 21, 1830. The water was pumped by 
means of a small engine located on the southwest corner of Jefferson and Cass 
Avenues. A year later a second reservoir, holding about 120,000 gallons, was 
l)uilt. The first reservoir remained in use until 1839, and the second one per- 
formed intermittent duty until as late as 1842. This company continued its 
operations in spite of the fact that the enterprise was carried on at a financial 
loss. But there w^ere still complaints of an inadequate supply of water, and in 
1836 a committee reported to the common council that the company had for- 
feited its rights and privileges, and that the grant had become null and void 
and reverted to the corporation. The city then took possession and paid the 
old company $20,500 for its visible property. 


The city then for fifteen years ran the works, through committees of the com- 
mon council, amidst complaints of mismanagement, inadequate supply, and an 
annual deficit in the treasury amounting for the period to $85,125. At last, in 
1852, the works were turned over to a board of five trustees and one year later, 
by legislative act, this board was renamed the board of water commissioners, 
was appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the common council. For nearly 
sixty years this board had charge of the water works. Under the city charter 
adopted in 1918 the appointment and removal of commissioners has rested with 
the mayor, without reference to the common council. The city has been fortun- 
ate in securing for membership upon this board eminent citizens who have served 
with zeal and good judgment and without compensation. During the forty- 
seven years after the board was created, it had only four presidents: Edmund 
A. Brush, who served twenty-six years; Alexander D. Fraser, three years; 
Chauncey Hurlbut, twelve years; and Jacob S. Farrand, six years. Mr. Hurlbut 
not only gave to the city unstinted and memorable service, but left to the board 
a fonsidcraltle legacy, the income from which is expended in beautifying the 


present water works grounds. Since the conclusion of Mr. Farrand's term as 
president in 1890, tliat office has generally gone from year to year to the com- 
missioner whose term was the next to expire. Under the old system of control 
and management, there was constant complaint of an inadequate supplj^ of 
water. But the new board, with wise foresight, generally kept ahead of demands 
and even ahead of popular appreciation of what the demand was likely to be. 
For only a short time in the last decade, then on account of the rapid growth of 
the city, has the capacity of the works and mains been short of the requirements. 
There could hardly be a more striking illustration of the growth of Detroit 
than that furnished by a little exhibition of iron pipe at the north end of the water 
works building. In 1830 a pipe three inches in diameter carried the city's 
supply, and this served for ten years. In 1840, a ten-inch main was laid and this 
was sufficient for fourteen .years. In 1854, a twenty-four-inch main was laid 
from the works on Orleans Street to Clinton, and in 1856 it was extended to the 
reservoir at Wilkins and Orleans Streets, a mile and half from the river. In 
1875 the first forty-two-inch main was laid and the maximum of forty-eight 
inches was reached a few years later. The first iron pipes were laid in 1838, 
along Jefferson Avenue from Randolph to Woodward Avenue. 

When the city first took over the water works system, purchase was made of 
"Antoine Dequindre of three water lots in front of the Dequindre farm, with 
a front of 350 feet on the river for .|5,500," and the work of building started im- 
mediately. In 1837, a year later, the building of the reservoir at the foot of 
Orleans Street was begun. This reservoir, or "round house" as it was called, 
was circular, fifty feet high in brick, with an additional twenty feet in wood. 
The iron tank inside was twenty feet high and sixty feet in diameter, and was in 
the upper part of the building; it had a capacity of 422,979 gallons. This 
reservoir was used until 1857, and then after three years' partial use was aban- 
doned, and torn down in 1866. It is .said that this old round house was copied 
by Noah Sutton from the old Manhattan Works of New York City. 

Property upon the Mullett farm was purchased in 1851 as a site for an ad-