The westward movement from 1803 to 1818 bypassed Michigan while it populated Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and made them states. Then it was Michigan's tum, and surveying started in 1815.1 The surveyors apparently ran into a very cold wet year and probably hit an especially swampy portion of Michigan., for they gave up in disgust. Surveyor Tiffin made a very unflattering report to President Monroe, based on information given him by his subordinates and others. It was a ,low, wet land, swampy, with thick underbrush, he said. The soil between swamps was a poor, barren, sandy loam "with scarcely any vegetation except very small scrubby oaks." The hills were sand, the streams were narrow with "shores and bottoms beyond description." One acre out of a thousand, or maybe one out of a hundred might be worth cultivating. In short, it was not worth surveying. As a result of this report, the President removed Michigan lands from the list of those available for veterans as payment for military services.
But in 1816, Territorial Governor Cass persuaded the surveyors to start surveying areas adjoining existing settlements, to which settlers were more likely to be attracted; and he advertised and propagandized and circularized to overcome Surveyor Tiffin's false report. He cleared the Indian title, made the frontier secure, explored, and finally began to succeed in inducing settlers to come in. Detroit began to expand, and a land office was opened there in 1818. Within five years, settlers were moving to populate the next county west, the "land beyond," or Washtenaw as we know it. First permanent settlements were made at Woodruff's Grove2 in 1823, and the next year John Allen and Elisha Rumsey platted their little village and called it Ann Arbor.
Elisha Rumsey at once built a log house in which he operated a tavern known as the "Washtenaw Coffee House." A short distance away, John Allen built a block house which he painted bright red. It was dubbed "Bloody Corners" and operated as a place of rest and refreshment for the steady stream of settlers coming into the county or passing through to the land even farther "beyond." By 1830 Ann Arbor was a substantial settlement. According to the United States census of that year, taken before the village was incorporated, there were already 965 persons in the whole of Ann Arbor Township and 4,042 in Washtenaw County. At any rate, it was still a very small village in 1829 when its first newspaper appeared.
To the pioneer settler a newspaper was not a gossip sheet. He did not need to be informed in print of the doings of his immediate neighbors, as he knew or could find out about them as much as he cared to know; and often it was wiser not to inquire into a neighbor's previous history, for he (the neighbor) might be trying to make a new start in life and was entitled to do so. A newspaper, rather, was an organ for advertising the new community in order to attract more settlers; a means of contact with the centers of population, both foreign and domestic; a method of expressing political opinion and leadership; and usually the sole opportunity for "literary recreation, mental and moral improvement." It relieved the spiritual loneliness of frontier life, which, with hard physical labor, was one of its chief characteristics.
These early newspapers were no mean examples of their craft. As evidence of it we have the words of Harriet Martineau, who has this to say of an incident of her trip from Detroit to Chicago in 1836:
At Ypsilanti, I picked up an Ann Arbor newspaper. It was badly printed; but its contents were pretty good; and it could happen nowhere out of America, that so raw a settlement as Ann Arbor, where there is difficulty in procuring decent ac
commodations, should have a newspaper.3
This passage is under date of June 15, 1836, and could therefore have applied to either the State Journal or the Michigan Argus, both of which were being published then.
Ann Arbor's first newspaper was the Western Emigrant. Its first number is dated Wednesday, November 18, 1829, and was edited by Thomas Simpson. The prospectus, although dated October 16, 1829, appeared in the first issue of the Detroit Northwestern Journal on November 20, or two days after the Emigrant had come out. The first issue of the Emigrant was as well printed and edited as most of the newspapers of its time. Under the head came a brief article stating the terms of subscription:
Three dollars a year, in advance -or three dollars and fifty cents at the end of the year.
Mail subscribers, if out of the Territory, payment always in advance.
For advertising -One dollar and twenty-five cents for each square, for the first three weeks, and twenty-five cents for each subsequent insertion.
Subscribers receiving their papers by mail, to pay the postage.
Advertisements, not accompanied by directions, will be continued until ordered out, and charged accordingly.
All communications directed to the editor, must be post paid.
Country produce, taken in payment for the Emigrant, if delivered.
Characteristic of the "paste and scissors" journalism of that period is the rest of the material on the first page and on most of the other three. Under the terms of subscription was a complete copy of the Declaration of Independence; there followed a long article on hemp copied from the Western Tiller and another on tobacco from Niles Weekly Register, and a short filler on how to make cement for mending broken glass. The rest of the paper was made up of the laws of Michigan, a proclamation of Governor Cass, foreign and domestic news, all clipped from Eastern papers, a number of "preachments" under the heading "Moral and Religious," about three columns of material praising Ann Arbor and Michigan to the skies, and slightly over a column of advertising.
The ads were those of L. Hawley, Nash, and Company for their new distillery to be in operation by December 1; John Allen & Company's New Store on the corner of Main and Huron streets; the administrator's notice in the estate of Nathaniel Brundage;
T. W. and Moses Merrill's "Select School, for young Gentlemen and Ladies in Ann Arbor village"; Israel Branch's apple trees for sale; and Castle Southerland's new gun-smith factory in the village. There was also the advertisement of "General" Edward Clark, a prominent citizen then and later, for a lad to work in his store. Clark also wanted a "few thousand bushels of grain, for which a fair price will be paid in goods or whiskey." When Chapman and Company published their History of Washtenaw County in 1881 and included a summary of the contents of this first issue and its advertisements, it was felt necessary to explain this apologetically:
To those who know the General's strong temperance principles, this will seem strange, but it must be remembered that in the good old days whisky was regarded as a necessity which no one could do without.4
Page two of the Western Emigrant contained the editor's statement of policy:
It shall be the constant aim of the Editor to promote correct principles, and exhibit impartial information relative to the merit and qualifications for candidates for important public offices. Whenever the public good requires it, public men and measures shall be freely and fearlessly canvassed. He will espouse constitutional principles -advocate and enforce a plain system of common sense.
But this was nat all. In answer to a nate fram Samuel W. Dexter requesting the newspaper's views an Freemasonry, Editor Simpsan wrote:
I have only to say, that the columns of the Emigrant, shall, so long as under my directian, be open to a full investigatian af Free Masonry and Anti-Masonry - that the press shall be free and untrameled - that the accused shall be heard and an opportunity of defence [offered].
Nothing is known of the press on which the Emigrant was printed or haw it arrived in Ann Arbor. It is safe to guess that it was an old press sold by some printer in the East who had prospered enough to purchase a newer and better one, that it came to Detroit by ship over Lake Erie, and from there was brought to Ann Arbor in one of two ways, either by wagan directly west or by boat down the Detroit River to the mauth af the Huron River and then up to Snow's Landing, now under the water at Ford's Pond, and by land the rest of the way. Those were the two routes by which merchandise was at first sent from Detroit to the settlements west of it. At any rate, the establishment of a newspaper was an accomplishment very much to the credit of its enterprising publisher as well as to the settlers who supparted it.
The first editor of the Emigrant, Thomas Simpson, known also to contempararies as "Elixir Boga," was typical of a certain type af frontier character. He was able, restless, impulsive, and of strong convictions. He is described as
a man of talent, though addicted to the excessive use of whiskey, and when under its influence his belligerent propensities were greatly increased. The peculiar sobriquet was given him on account of a phrase used by him when threatening an assault: "I will give him the Elixir Boga."
intensely Democratic in his politics, and during an election in Lower Saginaw, in 1836, while acting as clerk, his morning's libatians having taken effect, he struck George W. Bullock, one of the Whig delegation, a stunning blow in the face. Apparently this was because he thought Mr. Bullock was about to say something unfavorable to the Democratic Party!5
Not much is known about Simpson before he appears as editor and proprietor of the Emigrant. He was born in November or December 1786, which means that he was about forty-three years of age when he started his paper. He had a wife, Margaret, also born in 1786, and one son, John, born in 181l.6 Whether they were with him in Ann Arbor is uncertain, for they do not appear until after he had moved to Saginaw.
Simpson brought out only five issues of the Emigrant. In Number 5, of Wednesday, December 23, 1829, a change of ownership was announced. Samuel W. Dexter, Esq., and John Allen became the new proprietors beginning with the next issue, December 30. Simpson moved to Pontiac and organized the company that published the Oakland Chronicle, the prospectus of which appeared in the Detroit Northwestern Journal on April 28, 1830, with a policy statement:
The Chronicle will be conducted on principles derived from the Jeffersonian school of politics, in which the editor was taught, and in consonance with which he has uniformly acted.7
It is difficult to understand why Simpson, a staunch Democrat then and later, had concealed his principles when he started the
The Oakland Chronicle was published for only eleven months, between May 31, 1830, and April 22, 1831, after which it apparently failed. The press was transferred to Joseph Campau and Company of Detroit. Simpson took up land from the government in Bridgewater Township, Saginaw County, under a land grant dated June 22, 183l. If he went to farming, and he was remembered later in Saginaw as a farmer, he did not continue for long. We are told that in 1832 he took up residence in a small log house within the fort in Saginaw. He was postmaster of Saginaw from 1832 to 1834, justice of the peace of Saginaw Township from 1832 to 1836, later keeper of the lighthouse at the mouth of the Saginaw River (1847) - he was one of the signers of a petition for its erection in 1836 - and treasurer of Saginaw Township in 1850.8 He committed suicide in 1853.
It has been erroneously stated that he was a witness to the Treaty of Saginaw of 1819. The error arose from the fact that he was a witness to "a certificate or statement made by Chippewa chiefs, signers of the Treaty of 1819," made on January 22, 1835. This was a conference of signatory Indians making a deposition about the claims of the heirs of a certain Jacob Smith. The meeting "was presided over by Thomas Simpson, esq., who was residing among the Chippewas to instruct them in agriculture at the expense of the government," and he notarized the resulting document.9
The purchase of the Western Emigrant by Dexter and Allen was the fulfillment of a desire on their part that went back as far as the early months of 1829. The earliest known attempt to establish a newspaper in Ann Arbor dates from the latter part of March of that year. Edward D. Ellis of the Monroe Sentinel was approached by Allen relative to removing his printing establishment to Ann Arbor. In a letter from Ellis to Allen, we learn of the former's refusal to move from Monroe:
I find it impossible to remove to your place, owing to the situation of my pecuniary concerns, with out a great personal sacrifice, and which you yourself would not wish me to make, were you acquainted with the circumstances fully. By remaining, however, I anticipate being able to extricate myself, with out serious difficulty.
Besides, the citizens of Detroit, since I saw you, have lent their aid to maintain the press here. Knowing its importance in a political point of view; and the inhabitants here, who have stuck by me, in the darkest times, would view it as a shameful desertion of their interests, were I to leave them. I hope you will be satisfied with this -and be able to have a press in due time; and by the by, if you could obtain the Herald, and thus stop the mouthpiece of the opposition, it would be a very important measure.10
It seems that the suggestion was followed, for Allen is next found negotiating with Timothy Luckett over the purchase of Henry Chipman's Detroit Michigan Herald. From a letter of Luckett's to Allen, we learn that when in Ann Arbor he had promised Allen to start a paper there and had expressed the certainty of purchasing Mr. Chipman's printing establishment. However, on his return to Detroit, Luckett had discovered that the men who were 'backing him financially would sell him the establishment only if he would stay in Detroit to print the paper.11 This would not help Dexter to establish a paper in Ann Arbor.
These attempts having come to nothing, Allen was forced to advertise in the Detroit Gazette, his ad first appearing in the issue of July 16:
There is an excellent opportunity, for the establishment of an Antimasonic Press in the village of Ann Arbour in the county of Washtenaw; three hundred subscribers have been obtained, and about two hundred more may be had, and considerable advertising patronage. Any person desirous of establishing a Press of the above description, would do well to address a line to Abel Millington, of Ypsilanti, John Allen, of Ann Arbor, or Sam'l W. Dexter, of Dexter.
Washtenaw co., July 8, 1829.
The advertisement brought at least two replies to Allen. The first was from Edwin Scranton of Rochester, New York. Scranton stated that he had been in Rochester since 1812 and had built up a good business there, starting with no capital. At the time of writing he was engaged in a contract for printing 100,000 copies of an anti-Masonic almanac. When the job was done, he might consider coming to Ann Arbor, bringing his wife and family after he had established himself. His requirements were not specific:
It is necessary, in order to sustain a press, that a certain sum of money be had by the proprietor in the beginning. N ow this money ought in a great measure to be furnished to the Editor by his friends. This engenders a double interest, and a paper is much more likely to stand.l2
The other extant answer to the advertisement was that of Hull and Newcomb of Westfield, New York, dated October 1, 1829, making a specific offer. They stated that they had a font of secondhand type which would print a respectable paper, could furnish a printer and perhaps an editor, but a subscription list of five hundred would have to be guaranteed and a sum of five hundred dollars in cash. They suggested raising the money by selling shares of stock at ten dollars each, which would be liquidated as the income of the paper increased.13 This deal also seems to have fallen through.
From Simpson's independent attitude toward the anti-Masonic question and his strong Democratic principles, we must conclude that his establishment of the Western Emigrant in Ann Arbor was unconnected with the Dexter and Allen interest. There is no doubt that negotiations were under way at once, and the Dexter and Allen offer must have been very tempting to induce Editor Simpson to sell his paper to the opposition. On December 15, 1829, John Biddle, territorial delegate to Congress, wrote to Allen from Washington to say that he thought his petition for printing the laws of the United States in the Western Emigrant would probably be complied with.14 Since it took about ten days for mail between Washington and Detroit,I5 Allen could not have written to Biddle later than December 5, or two weeks after the first issue of the Western Emigrant. There is also a letter from Erastus Ingersoll dated December 24, congratulating Allen on the establishment of a newspaper.16
In the first issue under Dexter and Allen, December 30, there was a long leading editorial signed by both editors, stating that the newspaper platform was to be vigorous opposition to Freemasonry.17 The result of this is told by the editors themselves: eighty subscribers cancelled.18 But this had no effect whatever upon the policy of the paper.
Anti-Masonry was a strong political movement, a temporary and brief phenomenon of the late 1820's and early '30's. A certain William Morgan of New York state was about to publish an inconsequential rehash of material exposing the supposed secrets and iniquities of Freemasonry. A corpse not certainly identified as his was found, with death apparently caused by violence, and several men were accused, tried, and convicted of the crime. They were supposed to have been Masons protecting their secrets. This caused the greatest excitement in western New York, and a political movement resulted that even entered the national stage for a short time. The movement spread to Michigan and, as we have seen, John Allen and Samuel W. Dexter were ardent antiMasonites and local leaders of the movement.
The Western Emigrant's Washington correspondent was Ebenezer Reed. He and John P. Knight had established the Detroit Gazette in 1817, but about 1828 Reed sold his interest and went to Washington to work on General Duff Green's Telegraph. Reed sent the Washington gossip to Allen by letter, and the Emigrant would use the information as it saw fit under such phrases as "our Washington correspondent says," "we are informed on reliable authority that," and so on. Reed's first letter is dated March 4, 1830. Two days later he wrote again to Allen, having apparently seen the Emigrant in the meantime. His advice to the editors was entirely sensible:
As to the appearance of your paper, I like it well - the only fault I find is, that it has too much Anti-masonry - one column a week is enough in all conscience. Too much of any one thing is sure to beget satiety, whether exhibited to the mental or physical appetite.19
These letters from Washington are full of national affairs and gossip and are pretty much the same type of thing done by syndicated columnists today, although much less restrained. Also, they were openly partisan instead of trying to make their prejudices palatable under the guise of a lofty impartiality.
The troubles of an early editor were not limited to the task of printing the paper. Getting it to the subscriber was of no small concern. Several letters in the Allen Papers give evidence of the difficulty. It was the custom for an editor to send the papers through the post in a bundle or bundles to a certain agent in a locality who would distribute them. Mark Norris, postmaster of Ypsilanti, wrote that three packages of papers with the postage not paid had been directed to Chester Perry. He had permitted his boy to deliver them that time, but henceforth the postage was to be paid in advance. The postmaster at Borodino,20 R. Root, reported that a package of Emigrants had come to the post office there consigned to a William Packard. They had not been called for, and the postmaster knew of no person in his locality by that name. Arnold Whipple, a subscriber in Plymouth, wrote that he would pay his subscription in grain as he promised, but only if his paper was delivered. He had not yet received it and gave the address to which it should be sent. The postmaster of Pontiac, O. Chamberlin, sent John Allen a list of those who called for their papers and those who did not.21
When the Emigrant changed hands, it became strongly temperance in tone, for both Dexter and Allen were zealous temperance men, promoting and attending all kinds of meetings and societies for that purpose. The paper, nevertheless, carried Anthony Doolittle's advertisement of the discovery of a new distilling process:
Letters patent have been obtained by Anthony Doolittle, for a recent improvement in the art of distilling the meal of maize, or Indian corn; by which a quantity of beautiful and valuable oil is procured, the whiskey greatly increased in quantity and improved in its quality. Those who wish to avail themselves of the discovery, by purchasing an individual right or for a township, or county, can apply to Anthony Doolittle or Walter H. Everest of Ypsilanti, or Dr. Samuel Denton of Ann Arbour; where the right may be purchased and the discovery made known.
Several letters from prominent men testified to its excellence.
A. L. Hays of Ypsilanti, proprietor of a drug store, stated that it yielded
fourteen to sixteen quarts of good proof whiskey from one bushel of sound corn and of a much superior quality ... than any other new whiskey .... About three pints of oil is taken from a tub of four bushels of good corn. The slop being of clear corn, is better for fattening hogs, than when mixed with rye or wheat.
Dr. Benjamin H. Packard, a prominent local physician, also recommended it highly:
This is to certify that I have made use of the oil of maize or Indian com in the practice of medicine, and am convinced that it is as good as the olive-oil generally, and in some instances better; that it is equal for cathartics to caster oil. I have also tried it as a lamp oil, and consider it superior to any in use.22
The editorial comment was as follows:
The certificates and notices that appear in our paper on the subject of the late improvement in the art of distilling com alone, by which a quantity of valuable oil may be obtained, deserves, in our estimation, the favourable notice of the community.
We are decidedly opposed to the practice of converting com, or any other kind of grain, into the liquid poison (called whiskey), yet, so far as this discovery tends to the advancement of the arts and sciences, we wish it success.23
In the issue of May 19, 1830, the name of a new editor was announced:
We are happy to inform our readers, that Mr. George Corselius, will be associated with us in the Editorial direction of the Western Emigrant. Indeed he has acted in that capacity for some time; and we should have given formal notice of it, before this, had it not been uncertain how long he would have continued with us.
The Editorial department will be principally under his direction, and we shall assist occasionally ....
The "we" at this time still meant Dexter and Allen, but not for long, as Allen seems to have turned over all his interest to Dexter
according to the following notice in the issue of June 23: Samuel W. Dexter, is hereby authorized to receive the amount of all demands due the Western Emigrant. John Allen. June 21, 1830.
John Allen's name, nevertheless, remained on the newspaper head until late in 1831,24 and he seems to have maintained some kind of an interest in it.
About Allen and his connection with the Emigrant, we know very little, but Julia Dexter Stannard has left us a brief glimpse of her father going about his business. Judge Dexter -for he was also the first "chief justice" of the Washtenaw County courtlived in Dexter, the village which he founded and named and of which he was postmaster.
My revered and good father, besides being judge of the court, was editor and proprietor of "The Emigrant," our first paper. It was printed in Ann Arbor .... Once a week my father rode to Ann Arbor on his fine white horse, with saddle bags strapped to the saddle behind him, filled with letters, to edit and print his paper and bring back the mail for our neighbors far and near. 25
The Emigrant must have grown constantly and must soon have covered a wide territory. In August 1830, it listed its agents at Plymouth, Farmington, Oakland (Pontiac), Bloomfield, Tecumseh, and Adrian. Later, agents were given for Monroe and Ypsilanti. In August, Dexter was in Buffalo purchasing a supply of paper and a font of Brevier and "Bergeois" type.26 In November 1830, plans were announced for the enlargement of the paper, but a statement from the proprietor with a pitiful letter from the contractor who was to furnish the new press explained why that hope could not be fulfilled.
We are sorry to inform our subscribers, that it will not be in our power, to enlarge the Emigrant, until the opening of navigation in the spring. The following letter is from the person, who contracted to make our press -it was to have been forwarded about the 20th of October last. It will be seen that neither he nor we are to blame, but that one of those unavoidable accidents to which we are all subject, has interfered with our plan. -New type has been obtained, and paper of the proper size, and we had every reason to expect the press. It is a serious disappointment to us and we would willingly incur any reasonable expense, to remedy the difficulty: but it is impossible.
New York, December 11, 1830
Mr. Samuel W. Dexter,
Dear Sir, - Your press has been delayed in consequence of my falling about six or seven weeks since from the second to the lower story of the shop, on my head through the trap door where we let down presses, and was so hurt as to be senseless for some weeks could not be turned over in my bed, even by the help of others, without the greatest pain; part of which time my life was despaired of. Providence has since enabled me to get up and in a degree attend to my business -but cannot scarcely sleep of nights in consequence of pain and distress -though I think I am getting better. The press is done, and in attempting to ship it I am infonned to my unexpected and serious disappointment, that there is no chance of getting it to you this season, but will be willing to make a deduction on it next spring. Please let me hear from you by return of mail, as I am willing to go to any reasonable expense in my own part to send it on, if possible by land if it will make any very material difference to you about enlarging your paper before next spring which probably under circumstances may not. I am yours,
Whether this particular press ever came is not known definitely, but the Emigrant shortly after this did enlarge to six columns and
began to use new type. Three times the Emigrant advertised for an apprentice.27 There was at least one applicant, but we do not know whether he was hired.
Logan, Sept 6th 1830
John Allen esq.
Joseph Comstock the bearer a nephew of mine is desirous of going into the printing office as an apprentis and is the lad Braunch spoke to thee about some time since - any assistance thee can consistently give him in getting in will be duly appreciated by me. Respectfully thine
Whether the advertisements brought in other applicants is not known, but if there were any, the position did not tempt them to remain. Three months after the last advertisement, we learn that Mark Howard, the Emigrant's apprentice, lost the sight of one eye in a Fourth of July accident. In all probability, his claim to be ,the first man to learn the printer's trade in Ann Arbor is undisputed.29
Mark Howard's connection with the Emigrant must have been long, for he preserved a fairly complete file of it, and in 1874 he received the thanks of the Pioneer Society of Washtenaw County for donating his file to them.30 With the original pioneers gone, the Society withered and died. Their books and papers were turned over to the University of Michigan General Library, and it was undoubtedly from Mark Howard's file that I obtained the information used here.
There were other apprentices, but Samuel W. Dexter's daughter has unfortunately denied us the names of all but one:
From that printing office several green and awkward boys were started on life's journey to become notable men. The Rev. Louis Noble was one of them.31
We are fortunate in having a description of the work of an apprentice by a man who was one, S. B. McCracken. Writing in 1891, he mentioned Thomas Simpson's Oakland Chronicle:
As a boy living with my father's family in the woods near Pontiac at the time, I remember his paper very well. It was the first newspaper I ever saw .... My own immediate connection with printing dates from the year 1837, as an apprentice in Pontiac at the age of thirteen.
The printer's apprentice usually boarded with his master and slept in a bunk in the office. He was required to do the office chores, to cut and carry up the wood for the use of the office, and to carry the papers in town, and in many cases he was required to cut the wood and do other chores at the house also. If in addition to this he did what was expected of him in the way of legitimate office work, he underwent a discipline not without its results in the formation of character. The mental discipline necessarily connected with his calling, and the opportunities for reading, if improved, were supposed to fit him for the editor's chair.
Possibly his description of the early Michigan editor was also a matter of personal experience:
The editor was therefore, the embodiment of every requirement from the editor down and the devil up. He was type setter, job printer, foreman, business manager and pressman, as well as editor, and did not shrink from the duties of roller boy upon occasion. In some parts of the country, although I believe the system was never introduced in Michigan, when the weekly issue was out, the editor mounted a horse and distributed the papers to his subscribers through the country. 32
In addition to getting out a newspaper, the Emigrant office also sold blank legal papers, maps, prints, writing paper, anti-Masonic books and almanacs, and did job printing. George Corselius later ran a bookstore and circulating library in connection with the paper.
Ann Arbor in the early thirties probably had few gathering places as attractive as the Emigrant office, for the editor was forced to protect his time by inserting the following notice in the issue of February 15, 1832:
Our friends are informed that we are busy on Fridays. They are requested not to call on that day unless on business absolutely necessary.
Editor Corselius was born in Sussex County, New Jersey, on January 17, 1806, so he was well under thirty years of age when hired by Judge Dexter. Mr. Beakes, quoting "one who knew him well," has left us a description of him:
In days when partisan literature carried a keen edge, Mr. Corselius knew how to wield it but if he ever wounded any person he was himself the greater sufferer. He was a man of most gentle and benevolent disposition. He was of a somewhat ungainly figure but of a spiritual symmetry that is attained by few. He could feel injury most keenly but was incapable of resentment or malice. He lived so scrupulously by the golden rule that he had no gold in his purse.33
Corselius became editor of the Detroit Journal and Advertiser with the issue of January 28, 1834, and apparently remained in that capacity until August 14, 1835, the date of the last issue of the paper. Since he was still editor of the Emigrant, or Michigan Whig as its new title ran, he must have held both editorial jobs concurrently. From June 11, 1836, until July 16, 1837, he was editor of George L. Whitney's Detroit Daily Advertiser.34
One difficulty of the pioneer newspaper office, as of all trade at that time, was the shortage of ready cash. An extensive barter system was in use. The Emigrant was willing to take saleable or usable commodities, especially wood and candles. In the issue of October 9, 1834, the editor advertised for a quantity of wood on account. On February 12, 1835, the following notice was printed:
Subscribers who have engaged to furnish us with Fire Wood are informed that we are freezing.
These difficulties are confirmed by the words of Mr. McCracken, whose career in the newspaper business began not long after this:
A standing advertisement at the head of many papers read like this: "Wood, and all kinds of country produce wanted on subscription at this office." Notwithstanding which the printer was usually short, both of wood and produce. It was a rare thing to see a man come into the office and pay his subscription in cash. So that the country printer's path was not a flowery one, and was made none the more s0' by being told, on presenting his bill to the man who was three or four years in arrears, and who insisted on a deduction, that he "only subscribed for the paper in the first place to help it along."35
The income from a newspaper was derived mainly from subscriptions and from advertisements, with considerably more emphasis on the former than there is today. When first printed, the Emigrant cost $3.00 a year in advance or $3.50 at the end of the year. Advertising was $1.25 a square for the first three weeks' insertion and twenty-five cents for each subsequent insertion. Later the newspaper subscription was reduced to $2.00, with $1.00 a square for advertising. Usually ads ran for a long time, sometimes as long as two years, but they were left to fill space. "Advertisements, not accompanied by directions, will be continued until ordered out, and charged accordingly," said the heading. A wise advertiser protected himself from the possibility of running up a large bill by ordering cancellations when the ad had run long enough.36
Legal ads were much more important than private ones. At present, the person paying for private legal ads customarily indicates which newspaper is to receive the advertisement, but a century ago it was different. Newspaper advertising was part of the political spoil. A county officer sent all the advertising from his office to his party's paper. The organ of a party out of power fell on lean times. The Emigrant did not have to worry about this at first, for it was Washtenaw County's only newspaper until the establishment of the Michigan Argus in February 1835, and the Emigrant had all the county advertising until then.
In addition to the legal advertisements of township and county offices, there was also that of the federal government for unclaimed letters. In a frontier community, the settlers often lived miles from a post office and therefore did not call very often for mail. Emigrants leaving the East would sometimes give the name of a frontier post office to which letters were to be forwarded and held for them until they arrived. It is interesting to speculate on the change of plans or the tragedies of accident and death on the way which are now hidden behind some of the names on the list. Also, letters were supposed to be prepaid, but occasionally they were not. An addressee could refuse to accept and pay postage on letters which he knew to be bills or other obnoxious matter. Hence it was customary for the local postmaster to publish every three months a list of persons for whom there was uncalled-for mail. The first of such advertisements appeared in the issue of January 27, 1830. It was for the Ann Arbor post office, and John Allen was the postmaster. The list contained fourteen names. At the height of this system, Ann Arbor's list contained over two hundred names. This type of advertising disappeared in the area about 1841.
The Western Emigrant completed one year under that title; with the beginning of volume II on November 24, 1830, the title was shortened to The Emigrant. The paper continued its violent anti-Masonry until after the election of July 11, 1831, when it practically subsided; but the cause of temperance was supported with unflagging zeal. The editor also sympathized with the Irish in Ireland, and a short paragraph in the issue of March 23, 1831, is characteristic:
O'Connell the Irish patriot has been arrested for speaking the truth. It is high time for Ireland to kick the English Government and Church out of doors.
The Emigrant used that heading until the end of 1832 or the beginning of 1833, when the title Michigan Emigrant was adopted.37 Why this change was made is unknown, for the paper was the same as before. Samuel W. Dexter's name disappeared from the paper, and that of George Corselius appeared alone as publisher. The Emigrant from any angle was a vigorous paper, and not the least of its credits is the claim to be the first newspaper to advocate a transcontinental railroad. In the issue of February 8, 1832, under the caption "Something New," there is a two column article in favor of that visionary project. That the author knew it would be regarded as such is clear from the caution with which he broached the subject. Fully a column was used in introductory remarks to lead the reader gradually to the main idea. The article was undoubtedly written by Samuel W. Dexter.38
Another interesting item from the Emigrant is about the first bridge over the Huron at Ann Arbot.-At an early date there were settlements on both banks of the river, which must have been crossed by fording or ferrying. It could hardly have been much of an obstacle except during the spring thaw and the autumn rains, for at present the Huron at this point has relatively little water in it. However, as Hinsdale points out, the water table has been lowered about five and a half feet since then,39 and there was consequently more water and a steadier flow in all the streams. In 1832, the highway commissioners of Ann Arbor Township busied themselves with erecting a bridge over the stream. On June 13, 1832, bids were advertised for the construction:
Sealed proposals will be received by the commissioners of highways of the township of Ann Arbour for the erection of a framed bridge over the Huron River where the Pontiac road crosses it. A plan of the bridge may be seen at Sutton & Goodwin's store and proposals may be left there until the 16th inst. Dated June 13, 1832. Chauncey S. Goodrich and Moses McCollum, commissioner.
The bridge was built by Rufus Mathews.40 Thus the Huron had its first bridge on this spot, probably not the picturesque covered type so typical of New England, but a substantial wooden bridge that has long since given way to more modem ones. It was eventually replaced by a reinforced concrete structure. To the west of it is the Detroit Edison Company dam and power station for which water is supplied from a flume fed from the waters of Argo Pond.
The conditions and manners of the frontier and the solutions to its problems are reflected in the newspaper. Personal difficulties that would not be likely to get in the newspapers today were then put into cold print. For example, the following notice in the issue of February 14, 1833:
LOOK OUT FOR THE KNAVE
Ranaway (no I mistake for he was too lazy to run, but walked away) at 10 o'clock at night, from this Village, or in other words eloped from his bed and board, which bye the bye was not paid for, a tall illiterate scoundrel of a dandy, by the name of William J. Heath, leaving nothing to pay his washerwoman, tailor, & other numerous creditors but an old chest containing articles of cast off clothing, and an affidavit and warrant against said Heath for taking a "strayed or stolen" horse at New Haven, Oswego County, N. Y. the place from which he absconded when he came to Michigan. By order of the Vigilant Committee of the Merchants and Mechanics Protection Society.
Another matter, even more interesting, concerned George Corselius and Governor Stevens T. Mason. Exactly what happened is not clear, but it seems that Corselius wrote something in the Emigrant which Mason did not like, and when Corselius was in Detroit, Mason got into an argument with him. A frontier brawl resulted in which Corselius came off second best. Shortly after this, an attack on Governor Mason appeared in the Emigrant over the name "Vindex." Although there is no proof of it, it sounds like the work of Judge Dexter, judging from the style of his extant letters. The text has been mutilated by the clipping of an article on the reverse side of the sheet, and hence only part of this interesting letter survives. There is barely enough of it left to give the drift of the affair.41
But the roughness of frontier manners was balanced by the extent of classical knowledge. Education at that time was still heavily based on the Latin and Greek classics; modern languages and the sciences had not yet pushed them into oblivion. We may have improved our manners, but as far as knowledge of the classics is concerned, our ignorance is abysmal. Reverend Silas C. Freeman, one of Ann Arbor's pioneers of the Episcopal faith, was not joking when he penned the following advertisement:
Lost, some six or eight weeks since, from a load between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, or Dexter, a folio volume of 600 or
800 pages, the works of St. Augustine in Latin. Whoever will hand it over to the Editor of the Michigan Emigrant or give notice where it may be had shall receive the thanks of the subscriber, or (if he chooses) have the pleasure of reading the same. Silas C. Freeman, Dexter, Nov 8th 1833.42
Towards the end of 1834, Corselius made a change in his paper. It became the Michigan Whig, and a new series was started, volume I, number 1 being issued in December. It was printed by James R. Adams. In its policy statement, the paper upheld the basic Whig approach to political problems:
In its political principles, the Whig will be strictly Republican. It will maintain the right of individual judgment in the election of men to fill our public offices. It will advocate the free, unbiased; expression of their views of men and measures, by the people in their primary assemblies. It will oppose a standing system of party organization, as a machinery contrived to discipline the people into a surrender of their independence, of their judgments, and their wills to irresponsible cabals. It will proceed on the principle that the people have intelligence and virtue enough to judge rightly of their own public interests and duties, without the assistance of such doubtful machinery.
It will maintain the principles and policy of WASHINGTON'S administration, as the true policy of the national government. It will adhere to the constructions of the constitution settled by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the precedents established by the sages who framed the constitution, in opposition to new constructions and rash experiments ....
The publication of a Whig newspaper preceded the establishment of a Democratic paper by only a few weeks. On January 29,
1835, the Whig was forced to take notice of a rival.
A new paper is soon to be issued in this village, called the Michigan Argus, by Mr. E. P. Gardiner. The publisher proposes to follow "the great landmarks of the Republican party laid down by the immortal Jefferson and practiced on by our present Chief Magistrate [Andrew Jackson]." - the which, we opine, friend Gardiner will find to be rather tough work. People would smile to hear of an English Press advocating "the principles of Democracy as laid down in the 'Commonwealth' of the immortal Milton, and practiced by his Grace the Duke of Wellington."
But the political complection of an ordinary paper is of less consequence than some, especially Editors, are apt to suppose. As a medium of general information, moral, miscellaneous etc. the Newspaper Press performs a more important part in society, than in the grave trifling - such is the greatest part of it - of partisan discussion.
Washtenaw county can support two papers. The money paid for ardent spirits would support a dozen. We advise every Jacksonman to throwaway his cups, (we mean all who are distinguished by a bibent propensity) and take Mr. Gardiner's paper.
On April 9, 1835, the Michigan Whig became the Michigan Whig and Washtenaw Democrat. As it continued the numbering and policy of the Michigan Whig, the change was in fact only one of title, the reason for which was given in a communication signed by S. W. Dexter in the first issue under the new title:
The readers of the Whig will observe the addition to the caption of the paper. I was at Boston when the name 'Whig' was chosen by Mr. Corselius. It was done without my knowledge. Upon my return I expressed my dissatisfaction to several of my friends. I have concluded to let the old caption remain, but as we are Democrats in principle, I see no good reason for not calling ourselves so. The present name will designate the county where the paper is published. I proposed this addition several weeks since, but it was thought best to wait until after election that it might not be said to be for electioneering purposes.
The political terminology of that time had not yet congealed into the hard and fast designations of today, which is the cause of so much confusion to the beginning student of American history. The words "Democrat" and "Republican" were claimed by all because they designated a method of governmental operation opposed to monarchy. S. W. Dexter claimed to be a Democrat as did the Jacksonians. The Whigs and conservative Democrats called the Jacksonians "Tories" because the strong party organization of the Jacksonian Democrats smacked to them of autocratic and hence Tory rule. The J acksonians called the Whigs by the same opprobrious title because they considered the ideas of the Whigs to be old fashioned, upper class, and out of date.
About this time a tone of hostility to the Irish began to appear in the paper. In this respect the Whigs were the direct heirs of the Federalist attitude toward alien immigrants. They favored lengthening the period of residence required before granting citizenship; they feared the importation of "undesirable people" and the contemporary "isms" and "ists" of Europe.
The Michigan Whig and its successor, the Michigan Whig and Washtenaw Democrat, together lasted less than a year. Issue number 40 was probably the last, for it was dated September 3, 1835, and it was succeeded by the State Journal which began publication one week later.
The State Journal appeared under the editorship of George W. Wood and Company, and it differed little from its predecessor. Volume I, number 1 carried the date September 10, 1835. The paper had a career of about twelve years under various owners. Wood edited only the first twenty-nine or thirty issues. Number 30, March 31, 1836, is missing, so it is not possible to tell whether Wood or his successor edited it.43 Number 31 was edited by Dr. Flemon Drake, who published the rest of the first volume and the first twenty-six numbers of the next.
Nothing is known of Dr. Drake. He did not have the paper very long, possibly because he was not an adept at political billingsgate. Besides, this was a period of strong Democracy and weak Whiggery. Very likely the following letter from Charles Cleland of Spring Wells to William Woodbridge refers to Dr. Drake:
Detroit, July 26, 1836
It was not until a few moments since that I rec'd your note left on my table. The manuscript you desire, I obtained from Mr. Corselius several weeks ago - aware that it was not a paper to be left in doubtful hands - and I regret that I should have occasioned you so much trouble by thoughtlessly retaining it in my possession.
The Journal editor has most certainly discovered strong symptoms of a derelection from manly duty and wholesome principles - so far however as his inclination may affect either party, I think it not very material to which side he attaches himself. It may be that he has arrived at the conclusion that there exists but one party in Detroit: - and indeed he may be correct in his estimate, however else we may view him. He has never buckled on the armour of an editor with the fearless determination to defend the cause of truth of his country, since he took charge of the Journal - and yet, who are his supporters? - In censuring him, do we not condemn ourselves? Where are the Whigs!
And Mr. Cleland goes on to say that he himself is ashamed of one party and disgusted with the other.44
Beginning with volume II, number 27, Edwin Lawrence assumed the editorship of the State Journal. He published the last twenty-five issues of volume II, all of volume III, and the first thirty issues of volume IV, covering the period from March 9, 1837, to April 11, 1839.
Ann Arborites first learned of the accession of the new queen of England from the issue of August 3, 1837. As the date of Queen Victoria's accession was June 20, it is interesting to note how long it took major European news to reach the Michigan frontier settlements in the days before telegraph, telephone, radio, and television.
The two years of Lawrence's editorship were years of tremendous growth and business activity in the community, although this was somewhat checked and disrupted by the severe depression that began in 1837 with President Jackson's Specie Circular. The Michigan Central Railroad was being pushed west from Detroit, first to Ypsilanti, then to Ann Arbor and slowly further west. Judge Dexter was advocating a canal across the state to connect the Huron River at Dexter with the Kalamazoo River at Spring Arbor. A prison was being built at Jacksonsburg, and the University buildings were being started in Ann Arbor. All this was reflected in the newspaper.
During its first year, the State Journal mentioned two other publications. On January 21, 1836, and in the issue immediately succeeding were printed proposals for a periodical to be known as the Western Union Missionary and another to be known as the Botanic Luminary.
The Botanic Luminary was a sixteen-page monthly devoted to the Thomsonian system of medicine, a method depending entirely on the use of herbs and excluding the use of surgery. It seems to have foreshadowed the later homoeopathic system. The first issue of the Luminary is dated June 1, 1836, published at Saline by H. Wright & Co., although printed on the Argus press. H. Wright & Co. consisted of Hiram Wright and E. Thayer. The August issue announced the dissolution of the firm, with Thayer taking the Thomsonian agency for Ohio and Wright for Michigan.
There must have been a lapse of time between the end of volume I and the beginning of volume II, as the latter is dated December 1837. Dr. S. W. King was editor, although the firm for handling Thomsonian medicines now consisted of King and
T. F. Dodge in place of Wright. The second number of volume II was published in Adrian. It was printed on R. W. Ingals' press at the Watch Tower office, and J. G. McBain was left as Washtenaw County agent for the Thomsonian medicines; the Argus remained county agent for the Luminary. The editors gave the reason for removal as the lack of accommodation at Saline for the contemplated "Thomsonian Infirmary." Following the death of Dr. Wright at his home in Ohio on May 27, 1838, the June issue of the Luminary appeared with deep black mourning lines. The same issue stated that Dodge and King were "fearful of being under the necessity of suspending" the Luminary due to financial difficulties, and this no doubt happened not many months later.45
The Western Union Missionary was announced as an interdenominational organ "to oppose infidelity, skepticism, and popery." The prospectus was as far as the paper ever got, for on June 30, 1836, an announcement appeared stating that circumstances made it inadvisable to start publication, and the idea was undoubtedly given up.
On August 16, 1838, the prospectus of another periodical was published in the Journal. The Michigan Temperance Herald was to be a semi-monthly "to disseminate ... light and truth on the all important subject of temperance." G. W. Clark signed the prospectus. No copies of the periodical are known to be in existence, but a notice in the Daily Michigan Argus of November 15, 1838, refers to it again, so it must have had some kind of a career in print, if only a short one. George Washington Clark died in the Battle Creek Sanitarium on January 14, 1899, at the age of 86 years. His obituary notice stated that he published the Michigan Temperance Herald in Ann Arbor in 1838.46
The last issue of the Journal edited by Mr. Lawrence was volume IV, number 30, April 11, 1839. Six weeks later number 31 came out under the supervision of Franklin Sawyer, Jr., and was called the Michigan State Journal. Sawyer continued to publish it until April 13, 1841, when he resigned to become State Superintendent of Public Instruction. His successor was Thomas W. Ladd.
Mr. Ladd began with volume VI, number 27, April 20, 1841, and continued to own and edit the paper until volume VII, number 24, March 30, 1842. At that date Lawrence resumed the editorship of the paper, although Ladd apparently continued to own it. How long this arrangement lasted is not known, but when the paper changed hands, it was Ladd who sold it. The paper remained Whig in politics, and contained a few editorial comments and local items. Mostly, however, it consisted of clippings from exchanges, as did all the other newspapers of the time.
If Charles Dickens had chanced to read the Michigan State Journal of August 17, 1842, he would have found out what at least one American editor thought about him. Dickens had finished his tour of this country, and was writing a series of letters very unflattering to the United States.
"BOZ." -Charles Dickens, who was treated with so many attentions by the people of the East, has returned to England,
and in true John Bull style complains of those very attentions, as being forced upon him and many times to his serious inconvenience. He abuses the American people without mercy. We are glad of it. He deserves no attentions, and those that flattered him are now getting their just dues.
The death of former Governor Mason was noted on January 18, 1843, and the meetings of Ann Arbor's Irish Repeal Society were duly chronicled throughout the year.
The Journal supported the candidacy of Harrison and Tyler in the Log Cabin campaign of 1840. A special political pamphlet for campaign purposes, undoubtedly published under the auspices of the Journal, was called the Old Hero, an epithet usually applied to Jackson. The Whigs in 1840 were trying to capture its magic appeal for Harrison's benefit. Three issues of this paper have been presenred. In 1844 the Journal supported Henry' Clay and got out the Mill Boy of the Slashes from August to November, of which only a single copy exists. This was a small political paper, rather dreary reading today. The section of Virginia where Clay was born is generally known as "the slashes," and although there is no evidence that Clay ever worked as a mill hand, there was a tradition, and it was useful for campaign purposes.
On September 4, 1845, Thomas Ladd's connection with the Journal ceased, for he sold his interest in it to George Corselius and S. B. McCracken. How this came about is told by the latter:
The hard times that existed at that time, together with the fact that all the offices which afforded any patronage to a paper were filled by political opponents, rendered the publication of the paper by nO' means lucrative, and an old claim on the office coming into the hands of R. S. Wilson, whom in his political character the paper had violently opposed, the press and a major part of the printing materials were taken away and sold to a company in Lima, Indiana.47
This means that Corselius and McCracken bought only what little was left of the property.
Samuel B. McCracken, who now appears in the Ann Arbor newspaper world for the first time, had a long career in that profession, and to him we are indebted for a considerable amount of interesting information. He was born in 1824 in Oakland County, started his career there as an apprentice in 1837, and worked up to the editorship and ownership of newspapers in a fashion described by himself. In 1857 he published in his own newspaper, the News and Advertiser, an interesting and invaluable article which he called "The Press of Washtenaw County." In 1891 he wrote a most interesting article for the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society called "The Press of Michigan. -A Fifty Year View" in which he gave intimate glimpses of newspaper life, some of which have been quoted here.
The first extant issue of the State Journal published by the new owners, Corselius and McCracken, is dated September 10, 1845, on the front page and September 17 on the inside page. The later date is probably the correct one. These owners published the issues of September 24, October 1, and October 8. The issues from then until February 4, 1846, are missing. At this date L. C. Goodale and S. B. McCracken were listed as editors, and the title was shortened to the State Journal. Under their direction the paper took a hostile attitude to the Native American Party, an exponent of "one hundred per cent Americanism." On April 22, 1846, McCracken's name disappeared from the paper as co-editor. Mr. Goodale died on April 15, 1847, and it is said that the paper survived him only a short time. At the time of its demise it was printed on the Argus press.48 The last extant issue is that of June 2, 1847, with the name of George Corselius given as editor.
This seems to have been his last venture in the newspaper business, for he decided to travel to the gold fields of California, and he died on board the steamer Crescent City on May 10, 1849, and was buried at sea.49