MICHIGAN PIONEER AND HISTORY COLLECTION
Annual Meeting 1890
NEW ENGLAND INFLUENCE IN MICHIGAN
by Rev. Wolcott B. Williams
It would appear to be a very easy matter to prepare a paper setting forth adequately the influence of New England in Michigan, but it has proved to be a very laborious and unsatisfactory task. It these New England people had all come at once, and settled in the same locality, and pursued the same kind of business, it would have been comparatively easy to have measured approximately their influence upon the civilization of the State. Had those who came been bound together by any bond, as were the children of Israel in Egypt, or as one of our great political parties, it would have been easy to estimate their influence.
But they have been coming one by one for a hundred years. They settled in all parts of the State; they have been in every profession and calling. They have been arrayed on all sides of every political and moral question. So I see no other way to trace the influence of New England upon the civilization of the State but to study the history of each individual who has come to the State, and see what he has done, and see if we can group these workers in any way so as to appreciate their influence. Here again a difficulty arises. As I read the early history of the State I find names of man very prominent in public affairs. Their nativity is not given, and I must gather this from some other source. I may hunt up the history of a half dozen men only to find that they were not born in New England. Of many prominent men no biographical sketch has been found. Then again many who took a prominent place in public affairs 50 or 75 years ago have long since passed away, so that their names are not familiar to any but historians and the oldest of our citizens. This State is a very large one, 470 miles long, and at an early day traveling facilities were so limited that very able men and well known in their own vicinity were almost wholly unknown in parts more remote. Time is too short to hunt up the written record of every settler, and how can we number or estimate the influence of the great mass of rank and file, who have one by one hewn down the trees, cleared the fields, turn-piked the roads, constructed the railroads and built the houses. None of them men of great influence, but who can sum up and give in the aggregate the work of these laborers in the humbler walks of life.
I merely call attention to these things in passing that you may see how much labor is involved in the fulfillment of your request, and also to account for the omission of so much that will seem important to many of you, and the insertion of so much that to others will seem to be of so little consequence.
Perhaps a more skillful annalist would have discovered a much shorter and easier way of obtaining the needed information.
New England influence was felt in the State as soon as this peninsula passed under the control of the United States, about the beginning of the present century, and that influence has not been altogether of such a character as to add any luster to the fame of the states from which the settlers came.
In 1795, two shrewd Yankees from Vermont, Ebenezer Allen and Charles Whitney, proposed to buy of the U. S. Government the whole of this Lower Peninsula, for which they were willing to pay $500,000, or rather than lose a good bargain would even go as high as a million dollars. They did not propose to be small about it. In order to carry out this nice little scheme it was necessary to secure the sanction of Congress, and they proposed to make it for the interest of several congressmen to support the bill by giving them a share of the profits. To this end they approached one of the congressmen from South Carolina. He waited until the bill came up for action and then rose in his place and exposed the whole scheme. The result was that these unprincipled Yankees were arrested, tried, and one served time in prison, thus affording another illustration of the truth of the old adage, “The best laid plans of men and mice aft gang agley.” By the patriotism of a Carolinian, our fair heritage was saved from being gobbled up by rapacious men.
Winthrop Sargent became governor of this territory in 1795. So far as I can learn he was the first governor and was a native of Gloucester, Massachusetts.
In 1805, Wm. Hull, a native of Connecticut, became governor and held the office eight years. He was said to have been a gallant soldier and officer in the revolutionary war, and gained great distinction by his services and also in the suppression of the Shay’s rebellion, but he surrendered the fortifications at Detroit, to an English army outside, numerically no larger than his own. He was court-marshaled for cowardice and sentenced to be shot, but was finally pardoned on account of the valuable services he had previously rendered the government.
Johnson’s cyclopaedia says he has, in these latter days, been fully vindicated by Maria Campbell and James Freeman Clarke.
Gov. Hull was followed soon by Lewis Cass of New Hampshire, a young officer, who was so indignant at the base surrender of Hull that when ordered to give up his sword to a British officer, he broke it in despair and indignation. I must confess that until I began the preparation of this paper, I was not aware of the great services rendered to this State and country by Gen. Cass. For 16 years he was governor of this territory and was remarkably successful in negotiating important treaties with the Indians. While still governor of the territory Gen. Jackson gave him a seat in his cabinet as Secretary of War. In 1836 he was sent as minister to France. He became U. S. Senator in ‘44 and re-elected in ‘50 and was afterward Secretary of State under Buchanan.
The census of 1880 gives the entire population of the State as 1,636,937. Of these 803,306 were born in this State, 229,657 in New York, 77,053 in Ohio, 36,064 in Pennsylvania, 9,699 in Illinois, 10, 775 in Wisconsin and 37, 865 were of New England birth, or one forty-third part of our entire population. Emigration to Michigan seems to have been more popular in Vermont than in any other of the New England states, as 12,588 of our citizens were born in that State. Massachusetts comes next with 9,591. Connecticut furnishes us 6,333 citizens. Maine 5,079, while New Hampshire with a smaller area and a larger population than Vermont sent us only 3,300 citizens, or about one quarter as many as came from Vermont, and we had 974 from Rhode Island.
It is interesting to note what parts of the State were specially attractive to these Yankee immigrants. Kent county was the most attractive to Vermonters and 724 of them settled there, 648 settled in Wayne, 563 in Kalamazoo, 540 in Calhoun, 482 in Allegan, 462 in Jackson and 443 in Eaton county.
In 1880 Detroit had in her population 936 natives of Massachusetts, 436 natives of Vermont, 377 from Connecticut, 308 from Maine, 190 from New Hampshire and 78 from Rhode Island.
But what sort of people were these 37,865 natives of New England? In 1878 a large volume was published entitled “Representative Men of Michigan.” It contains biographical sketches of 1,158 of the more prominent men in the State. I am well aware of some prominent men are not noticed in this volume, and that some very ordinary men were eulogized in it, but 288 of those noticed were natives of New England, and 182 others are sons of parents born in New England, and very many more belong to this class, but they are not counted because the birthplace of their parents is not given, but it must needs be that many of them were born in New England.
So that in 1880, while New England had furnished one forty-third part of the whole population of the State, she had furnished a fourth part of our representative men.
Every New England state has furnished a governor for Michigan. Maine gave us Alpheus Felch, who also served as a senator, Auditor General and judge of our supreme court. New Hampshire sent us Gen. Cass; Vermont was represented here by John S. Barry. Massachusetts seems to have been in haste to get in the first governor and so hustled off to us Gen. Hull, a citizen of Mass., though born in Conn., and as though not quite satisfied with his record, after second thought, tried to retrieve her reputation by giving us Epaphroditus Ransom and H. H. Crapo. Connecticut was willing to stake her reputation on Wm. Woodbridge. Last of all Rhode Island, dear little Rhody, determined to have a finger in the pie and concluded to spare us H. P. Baldwin. Michigan has been governed by men of New England birth for 38 years, and with the exception of Gen. Hull, I believe the administration of every one has been a credit to the State.
Our war governor, Austin Blair is of New England parentage, so also J. J. Bagley.
Men of New England birth have filled the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for 28 years, and every New England state but Conn., has furnished us a superintendent. First came Rev. John D. Pierce of New Hampshire, who did more than any other man to organize the University, and to fashion our system of public schools, which is deemed one of the best in the Union. Olivet College deems itself peculiarly favored in securing the only full length life size portrait of him that is in existence.
In 1843 Oliver C. Comstock of Rhode Island, was chosen Superintendent of Public Instruction. He seems to have been a man of remarkable versatility of talent, for at different periods of his life he was physician, clergyman and member of congress, and achieved a fair measure of success in every sphere of action. Next in order of New England birth comes Oramel Hosford of Vermont who held the office eight years - nearly twice as long as any other man. Then came Daniel B. Briggs and Horace S. Tarbell, both of Massachusetts. Some records state Mr. Tarbell was from Vermont.
These are followed by Cornelius A. Grower of Maine, who was soon transferred to the office of superintendent of the Reform School, a position which he highly honors, being one of the few men born to command, gentle and abounding in cheerfulness though very firm in exacting obedience. Last but not least comes our present Superintendent Joseph Estabrook of New Hampshire.
And here we must not omit the name of Cortland B. Stebbins of Vermont, who acted as deputy superintendent for twenty years.
Among the other educators who have done good service, we may name Rev. David Bacon of Connecticut, father of Dr. Leonard Bacon. David Bacon in 1802 taught school in Detroit. In 1808, we read of a school taught by Miss Elizabeth Williams, daughter of Thomas Williams. From 1812 to 1818, a classical school was kept up by Mr. Payne and Rev. John Montieth, and in 1816 we are told that a common school on the New England plan, was opened under Mr. Danforth. Now I do not find any definite reocrd of the birth place of the last named teachers. The names are very familiar in New England, and the fact that a school was to be opened on the New England plan, leads me to conclude that the teachers were Yankees.
Of college presidents John Montieth was the first president of the University while it was still located in Detroit. I suppose he was from New England. Pres. E. O. Haven was from Massachusetts and President Angel from Rhode Island.
Pres. Joscelyn of Albion, was from Connecticut, Kendall Brooks of Kalamazoo was from Massachusetts; Pres. Durgin of Hillsdale was from New Hampshire; Pres. Mosher, from Maine; Pres’s Morrison and Butterfield of Olivet, were from New Hampshire and Maine respectively; Pres. Abbott of Agricultural college, was from Maine. The parents of Pres. L. R. Fisk were from New England. Among the New England professors in the University we may name C. K. Adams, Dunster Friese, Moses Coit Tyler, Geo. P. Williams, Wm. P. Phelps and others. In Olivet we have had Profs. Hosford, Daniels, Goodwin, Chase and Bumpus.
In the Normal School there have been Profs. Bellows and Putnam. Hillsdale has had Profs. Dunn and Butler. These are only a part of the college professors we have had from New England. Professors Louis McLouth, Edward Olney, Austin George, and I know not how many others, are of New England parentage. Then there is the great host of Yankee school maams [as written] whom no man can number, that in the log school-houses on the four corners have been for many years patiently developing and fashioning the boys who are now guiding the affairs of State. Who can measure their influence?
Among our United States senators have been the following New Englanders: Lucius Lyon, H. P. Baldwin, Alpheus Felch, F. B. Stockbridge, Lewis Cass, Zachariah Chandler and Jacob M. Howard. Surely a noble array of men and talent. Some of them had served in the lower house. In that house we have been represented by Isaac E. Crary, Jacob M. Howard, Lucius Lyon, David A. Noble, Wm. A. Howard, F. C. Beaman, Chas. Upson, F. B. Bradley, George Willard, Alpheus Williams, C. C. Ellswroth, R. G. Horr, O. L. Spaulding, C. C. Comstock, Byron M. Cutcheon and James O’Donnell, all of New England birth, and John S. Newberry whose parents were from New England. Among judges of the supreme coutr we note the names of James Witherell, Henry Chipman, Wm. Woodbridge, Geo. Morell, Wm. A. Fletcher, Epaphroditus Ransom and Alpheus Felch. Then Judges T. M. Cooley and B. F. Grant were sons of New England parents.
Among lawyers we note we have in Detroit, Alfred Russell and S. M. Cutcheon, both of New Hampshire. From Vermont we have col. Thomas S. Sprague, who was editor, printer and railroad man, B. F. H. Witherell, Chandler Richards, Cyrus Lovell and Albert Williams.
From Massachusetts we have Wm. Jennison, Charles Larned, Levi Bishop, Charles Noble, John M. Edwards, Thomas B. Church and Charles S. May. From Connecticut we have had Isaac E. Crary, G. V. N. Lothrop, Geo. E. Hand, Marsh Giddings and James Miller. Of New England parentage we have E. C. And C. I. Walker, C. C. Trowbridge, Witter J. Baxter, A. L. Millard, Charles P. Dibble, Don M. Dickinson and Eugene Pringle.
Of Congregational clergymen we have had Revs. John Monteith, Orson Parker, H. N. Bissell, David Bacon, Moses Smith, James Ballard, J. Morgan Smith, James S. Hoyt, Philo Hurd, A. H. Ross, H. D. Kitchell, Addison Ballard, O. C. Thompson, W. H. Davis, H. P. DeForest and A. R. Merriam.
The Presbyterians have had Rev. Wm. M. Ferry, who came to Michigan in 1821, and Rev. Calvin Clark for many years a most devoted and faithful laborer in the smaller churches of the State. Dr. Ambrose Wight for a score of years pastor of the Presbyterian church in Bay City, was the son of New England parents.
The Methodists have had Rev. E. O. Haven, for a time president of the University, and W. H. Brockway, who was blacksmith, clergyman and railroad builder, and I do not know in which line of work he succeeds best; Marcus Swift and Allen Tibbitts were also of New England parents.
The Adventist have Revs. Uriah Smith and James White.
The Baptists have had Revs. Samuel Graves and James Hill, also Robert Powell, one of the original board of trustees of Madison University. Henry J. Hall and Rev. Oziel Scott who spent 39 years in work in this State. Jeremiah Hall, a native of New Hampshire, came to this State in 1835, and aided in the founding of the Kalamazoo Institute, which has since become Kalamazoo Collage. He was subsequently president of Dennison University, Ohio. James R. Stone of Massachusetts, was a minister of great ability, who died in Lansing after a ministry of less than two years. Pres. J. A. B. Stone, born in New Hampshire, was president of Kalamazoo Institute, and then of Kalamazoo College, which grew rapidly under his administration. Henry C. Beale of Vermont, came to Michigan in 1864, was a very successful pastor and for thirteen years an efficient general missionary.
Henry Stanwood was one of the first class who graduated from the theological department of Colby University and labored for twenty-eight years in the Baptist churches of this State. Rev. S. Haskell of Maine has had a total pastorate of forty years in the churches of Detroit, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor. James R. Boise was for several years a professor in the University of Michigan. Of course, these are very incomplete lists of New England clergymen who have done grand service in Michigan.
Among editors we have had John S. Bagg for a time sole editor of the Free Press, Jacob Barnes, who edited the Grand Rapids Enquirer and also Detroit Free Press; Jacob Baxter of the Grand Rapids Eagle, also William s. George of the Detroit Advertiser and Lansing Republican. Volney Hascall of the Kalamazoo Gazette, was son of Connecticut parents.
Among railroad men we have James F. Joy, R. M. Steel, A. W. Wright, Col. Joseph Fisk, Freeman Godfrey and John L. Shaw. I notice that several millions of New England capital went into the Michigan Central and its branches, but I have been unable to learn how far it has been concerned in the building of other railroads.
How much New England capital has come to aid in developing our agricultural, mercantile, lumbering and mining interests I am unable to say, yet it is certain it has contributed largely to advance these interests. Early in 1806, Russell Sturgis and other Boston capitalists made arrangements to organize a bank in Detroit with a capital of $400,000. I think however that the plan fell through.
Among lumbermen from New England we have A. W. Wright, Newell Avery, N. Gerrish, Dwight Cutler, David Whitney, George F. Cross, David Ward and many others.
The work of physicians is not so much in public as in the seclusion of our homes, and few of them enjoy a state-wide reputation. Among the great multitude of them we can only name Henry B. Baker, Homer O. Hitchcock, Edward S. Dunster, Daniel K. Underwood and Joseph Bagg. Of New England parentage were Drs. John L. Whitney, John H. Beach of Coldwater, Foster Pratt, Z. E. Bliss, C. C. Turner, Alonzo Cressey, A. B. Palmer, A. F. Whelan and Lyman Brewer.
Among the legion of business men we name Luther Beecher, Franklin Moore, W. W. Wheaton, William L. Smith, B. O. Williams, E. W. Giddings, James W. And John P. Sanborn, Luther Westover, Henry and William Chamberlain, Ezra Convis, Charles Dickey, Charles T. Gorham, B. F. Hinsdale, William Hovey, Ezra and James Nelson, Hampton Rich, Levi Baxter, J. Webster Childs, John K. Boise, W. A. Burt the inventor of the solar compass, John J. Jenness, Samuel S. Lacey and Henry W. Lord.
Among the sons of New Englanders we have in Lansing, O. M. Barnes and James M. Turner; in Detroit, D. M. Ferry, Fred Wetmore, Gen. G. S. Wormer and Philo Parsons; in Marshall we have S. J. Burpee and Preston Mitchell; in Jackson we have Alonzo Bennett and H. H. Hayden; in Jonesville, there are E. O. Grosvenor and Gen. Henry Baxter.
There is John P. Cook in Hillsdale, J. G. Parkhurst of Coldwater, J. G. Waite of Sturgis, William Bogue of Portland and E. I. Judd of Saginaw, Auditor General Ralph Ely from Ithaca, and L. P. Allen superintendent of the school for dependent children, Coldwater. But neither my time nor your patience will allow me to continue the lists.
The great tide of westward emigration from New England set toward Michigan between the years ‘30 and ‘37, abut the time of our organization as a State. Since that time is has flowed on to the regions beyond. There appear to have been 1,191 more natives of Vermont in the State in 1860 than there were in 1880. A few colonies and New England settlements were formed in the State. One at Vermontville, another at Three Oakes, one at Romeo, and one at Somerset. There may be other similar settlements of which I have not heard. Along about those days New England influence was for more potent in Michigan, relatively, than it is today. In the last Legislature there were only two senators of New England birth, and in the House of Representatives only 10 out of 100 members were born east of the Hudson.
I know that many names will occur to you of Yankees who have been far more potent factors in the development of the resources of this State than those I have named. And I have found the names of many persons of whom I never heard before, who, if their biographies have been truthfully written, have been extremely valuable workers.
But the task you have assigned me would require the labor of a life-time, and then it would be impossible to gather up and trace out every golden thread of New England influence that has been woven into all the warp and woof of our State life.
I have confined myself in this paper chiefly to the influence of men who were born in New England, but western New York and the western reserve in Ohio, were settled largely by immigrants from New England, and their sons came to Michigan. In this class are such men as Sibley, from Marietta, Ohio; Judge Cooley and Gov. Blair. If we reckon the influence of the sons of native New Englanders as New England influence, then New England must surely be held largely responsible for whatever is good or bad in the civilization and civil institutions of Michigan.
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