When Virginian John Allen and New Yorker Elisha Walker Rumsey met in Detroit in February 1824, they shared a strong sense of adventure as well as a history of questionable financial deals. Seeking to improve their fortunes, the two men set out to found a new town. Their timing was good--Michigan Territory was just opening up, and government land was selling for $1.25 an acre.
Following Indian trails west along the Huron River, Allen and Rumsey chose a large hill covered with big oaks and not much underbrush. A creek nearby would furnish power for their new community's saw and flour mills. They laid out a village and hurried back to Detroit to register their claim, naming it in honor of Allen's wife, Ann. Territorial Governor Lewis Cass told Allen and Rumsey if they built a courthouse, a jail, and a bridge over the river, their town would become the seat of government for the newly formed Washtenaw County. When Allen's wife and family arrived from Virginia that fall, the village had several log houses. Settlers often gathered at the Rumsey's home near the creek, where Mary Ann Rumsey's good cooking and pleasant personality made her popular. The village government was organized with Allen as president and Rumsey in charge of the jail and militia.
That's a Fact! In 1824, John Allen bought 480 acres for $600, and Elisha Walker Rumsey bought 160 acres for $200.
Caption 1: Governor Lewis Cass, Michigan Territory's strongest promoter.
Caption 2 Elisha Rumsey died of a fever in 1827; his grave is in Forest Hill Cemetery. Rumsey is the only town founder buried in Ann Arbor. His widow remarried and moved away. Ann Allen left her husband and moved back to Virginia in the 1840s. John Allen followed the "49ers" west and died in San Francisco in 1851.
Caption 3: The original plan of the "Village of Annarbour," registered May 26, 1824, included the land bordered by Division, Ashley, Kingsley and Jefferson Streets.