It is impossible to record all the events and happenings in Ypsilanti during the two decades from 1850 to 1870 even if our space was not limited. However, certain ones must be listed while many deserving mention are left out.
The Ypsilanti Normal Teacher Training School was dedicated October 5 1852 and there were three in the first graduating class: Helen C. Norris, Alzina Horton and J.M.B. Sill. On October 29 1859, the original building burned. It was replaced and classes resumed April 10 1860.
March 29 1857, the Seminary burned and did not reopen until August 17 1858. That building stood until it too burned in 1877. Prior to 1860, Primary Grades were conducted in the brick building on the East side of River Street which had housed the First Methodist Society; a brick structure on East Forest Avenue at River was a Grade School and another was in the building on the SW corner of South Washington and Woodward Street.
By 1857 the First Presbyterian Society which also included the Congregational Society, had outgrown the frane building on Pearson Street, North of the Westside Public Square. A handsome stone and brick structure with a single steeple was built on the NE corner of Washington at Emmet. The dedication that year had Rev. G. L. Foster as distinquished speaker.
The Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1859 with a membership of 16. Mark Norris contributed the lot on which the first Church for Lutherans was built, NE corner of E. Michigan and Grove Street.
The Home Association was organized in 1857.
Charles Griswold Wiard, born June 25 1835, had married a widow, Mrs. Catherine Arnold Ackley in 1858. Later he purchased the Ezra D. Lay farm on East Michigan, which was formerly known as the Colby Stand which was taken up from the Government by Zolva Bowen. Zolva was an early Tavern Keeper at that location.
August 29 1859, the first oil well was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania, causing a greater change in our civilization than that other event in the same year: Charles Darwin published his “Origin of the Species” astonishing only a few scientific minds. Both events went unnoticed in Ypsilanti where citizens were doing very well with the horse and buggy, well water, the outhouse and unpaved streets.
The ‘American Troubador’, Stephen Foster, composed “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Old Folks at Home” and other simple, sentimental appealing melodies; Henry Clay Work published “Carry Me Back to Old Virginie”, the popular temperance song, “Father Dear Father, Come Home With Me Now”, “Year of Jubillo” and many others. September 19 1858 Daniel Decatur Emmett composed the stirring song “Dixie”. Music caused or follows the moods of the people.
October 6, 1859 the most militant of the abolitionists, John Brown, and 21 of his followers, seized the little town of Harper's Ferry, Virginia, and then captured the United States Arsenal there. Under command of Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, the United States Marines, retook the Armory, killing 11 of the raiders including two of John Brown's sons, and five cililians. The Marines lost one man. On December 2nd, John Brown and five of his followers were convicted of Treason and publicly hanged in what is now Charles Town, West Virginia.
March 19 1860, William Jennings Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois. Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City, October 27 1858.
The Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1833 causing serious division of citizens in the United States with violence, bloodshed and death in several of the States.
Slavery was the greatest problem facing the Nation but there were many places where opinions differed on problems having nothing to do with Slavery. During the 1850s local problems led to anger and a division of Ypsilanti. The prominent men on the East side of the River Huron were determined to separate from the city on the west side of the river. It took state legislative pressure to join the two factions and establish the City of Ypsilanti in 1858 with Chauncey Joslyn as Mayor and Arden Ballard graciously retiring as President of the Village of Ypsilanti.
Benjamin Thompson came to Ypsilanti in 1828 as a young millwright and helped install machinery in many sawmills; gristmills and pulp-paper mills on the Huron River. During the next decades the Thompson name was prominent in the business and civic affairs of the City. He established his own business making carriages and wagons.
When Mark Norris sold the triangle of land occupied by his Great Western Hotel-an imposing brick structure, on the NE corner of River and East Cross. Benjamin Thompson moved his wagon and carriage works into that building and was joined by his son Oliver E. Thompson who manufactured farm implements in that location for the next sixty years. The many Thompson properties located between E. Cross and Maple Street, were part of the growing 4th Ward of the city. The first Volunteer Fire Department, the Masonic Lodge in the Norris Block and many other Civic enterprises always found the name Thompson leading the way.
Oliver E. Thompson was Mayor of Ypsilanti. 1901–02 and it was his personal project which arranged bringing the big Parrot Rifle to Ypsilanti and having it mounted in Prospect Park where it stands after 112 years of lonely silence having never been fired in its lifetime. This unusual cannon was cast in a foundry at West Point, New York and in 1864 it was mounted at Fort McClery, Kittery, Maine, as part of the defense of the Atlantic Coast.
The intention is to make a modest outline of the history of Ypsilanti but it is so easy to expand on certain names and events. Those selected are not the only ones that deserve mention.
Daniel Lace Quirk and Asa Dow his close friend and business associate from Chicago, built handsome brick mansions side by side on North Huron Street with grounds extending down to the Huron River. Quirk, with Mansard roof style at 304 North Huron and Dow at 220. Both had carriage houses to match their hones. Two of the really fine homes in Ypsilanti.
Robert Lambie, who had come as a youth of 14 with his parents, Francis and Mary Lambie, from Strathaven, Scotland in 1839 to Superior Township, built a Greek Revival type house on the NE corner of Hamilton and old Ellis.
The John Gilbert residence, with square tower and other features, at 227 N. Grove Street, became an imposing show place for Washtenaw County when completed in 1860. Spacious grounds provided ample room for tennis courts, outdoor Roman type swiming pool with attractive fountain in the center, fruit orchard, flower gardens and fish pend. The Gilberts entertained graciously thru the years for many social gatherings in their lovely home.
The 350 mile Erie Canal opened in 1825 and several million people and tons of merchandise and household goods passed thru it until the 1850s when the railroads took over.
Toward the end of the 1850s, there was a great amount of building, both brick and frame, in the newly incorporated City of Ypsilanti.
One of the largest and finest brick homes, was that of John S. Jenness at 324 West Forest Avenue. John A. Watling who became a world famous dentist, built his brick residence with handsome square tower, at 121 N. Huron Street. The Jerome Walton brick at 404 N. Huron is an example of how brick was used in building the Greek Revival style.
Edwin J. Mills, successful hardware merchant, built his large Victorian brick house at 130 N. Huron which twenty years later became the home of the John Starkweathers and then the location of the Ladies' Library when Mrs. Starkweather gave the property to that active association of women in 1890.
The Nathan Follett home at 219 North Huron is a combination of cobblestone and brick, a portion of the house having been built in 1845. Much of the Arden Ballard house at 125 North Huron is brick construction and commands attention after 140 years.
The Isaac H. Conklin house at 126 Adams Street is basicly brick, and the Charles King at 103 North Adams is one of the fine homes built by Cecil Millington. Erastus Samson, a drug store owner as early as 1840, built and lived in the sturdy Italiante brick home at 302 West Cross Street. The William H. Deubels built and lived graciously for many years in the handsome brick at 211 North Washington, Street, a site of many social gatherings. The Hiram Batcheldor brick home at 210 North Washington Street was another of note in that block along with the Charles Bassett house at 201 North Washington. The brick house of Mark Horris. dating back to 1834, stands at 213 River Street. George W. Kishlar, an early builder, built the impressive brick house at 221 South Washington Street. There were many more brick houses built during the time of Ypsilanti's expansion, so many gone even though the ravages of time did not destroy them.
The Brick Yards of Charles McCormick and Murray P. Holmes & Co., were classed among the great brick yards of the State.
In 1860 the United States Census listed a population of 3956 for the City of Ypsilantiand 1357 for the Township. There was no distinct division of City and Township except on the maps showing the surveyed boundries of the City. Chickens, cows, pigs and horses, though less in numbers were as common in the City of Ypsilanti as in the Township farms where there were elemant homes equally those in the City. Because of the great forests in Michigan, and the coming of the saw and abundant waterpower to operate the circular saw, the shift from log cabin to the clapboard house was rapid. The axe, hand hewn beams, studs continued as long as labor was cheap and plentiful. Log cabins and farm log structures were in evidence on Hitchingham Road, Willis Road and other parts of Ypsilanti Township even a decade or more after the turn of the Century.
The Greek Revival style of Architecture, conspicuous because of its simple balance, was brought to Ypsilanti from New York State and New England and used extensively.
The Timothy Showermans built a home at 206. North Huron using this style as did Dr. Francis Rexford at 111 North Huron, on the West side of the Street. At the south end of old Cemetery Street, now Prospect Street, where it joins South Grove Street, Addison Fletcher built a Greek Revival house, side to be the finest example in Ypsilanti of that style. The lot on which it was built was part of the site of Woodruff's Grove, now lost as well as the house, to antiquity except for the Marker placed by the Ypsilanti Chapter of the DAR in 1923 to commemorate the location of Woodruff's Grove.
Charles Sherman Woodard, a Civil Engineer who came with the new railroad to Ypsilanti in 1838 made his home in Ypsilanti and his fine residence was at 301 North Grove Street. The Greek Revival structure at 218 North Washington Street has the name of Arden Ballard linked to it and became the home of Elijah Grant. It hss been restored recently by the Ladies' Literary Club, the owner for sixty-two years, and is a very lovely structure of which Ypsilanti is proud.
Joseph Estabrook, an early influence in Education and Religion in the State of Michigan, built a fine frame house at the NW corner of West Forest and Lowell Street. Joseph Kitchen, a well known merchant, built an elegant home at 116 North Adams Street in which many beautiful stained glass windows were used. In Ypsilanti Township, an example of Greek Reviral Architecture can be seen at 1276 North Huron River Drive. built in 1842 by John Starkweathar.
The Ezra Lay home, an impressive Greek Revival example with corner pilasters, was built at 1701 East Michigan (the Chicago Road) in 1834. It was saved from destruction and oblivion in 1966 by the Charles Haglers who moved it to 3401 Berry Road in Superior Township, restoring it, perhaps, even beyond its former elegance.
East of the Lay residence a quarter mile or more was the large handsome home of the Spencers, Grove and Edward with templelike pillars in front. The George Wiards, the Lyman Wiards, the Burrells and many others were on the East edge of the Township. There was a Tollgate on the Northside of East Michigan at Holmes Road. Following the Huron River south, we find Edward King whose land in the riverbottom was known as ‘Kings Flats’, Charles Crane, Ben Emerick, Alvim Cross, Adam Yeckley, Isaac Bumpus and many names long forgotten. South, along the Monroe Road, as Whittaker Road was known, Seth Arnold, Hiram Seaver, George Moorman, A. R. and Lyman Graves …along Stoney Creek Road was George Elliott, N.E. Crittenden, with David Gardner, Watson Barr and Robert Campbell in Augusta Township.
As the Monroe Road turns southeast, there was the Joseph McIntyre farm and that of Edward Gorton with the Paint Creek Post Office on Willis Road in Augusta Township. Others of note were Asa Darling and Aaron Childs.
Going toward the west on the Sauk Trail, (Chicago Road, now Michigan Avenue), there is the Gothic Victorian house, the former farm home or Edwin C. Warner. 1024 Michigan Avenue. The Evan Begole home was just beyond the West edge of French Claim #690. Fountain Watling and George Sherwood, south of the Trail at the West edge of Ypsilanti Township, with excellent farm and well kept buildings; Philo Parsons, west of Evan Begole with a white frame house, a modified Victorian style; a mile farther West at the corner of Ellsworth and Carpenter Road, was the impressive home of H.H. Ellsworth, with balanced pilasters at the two front corners, a structure that only neglect could destroy with indifference. H.B. Hewitt's farm was in the NW corner of French Claim #691, on the eastside of Hewitt Road.
The Victorian frame house began to outnumber the Greek style, which had lasted with variations for thirty years in popularity. The home of Randall Ross, 5138 West Michigan. was a splendid example of the Victorian style. Today it is preserved and kept in excellent condition by the Joseph Schmidts. The Grove Sanders house at 4980 W. Michigan is another example of that style and giving evidence that the old builders produced sturdy, handsome houses.
North of Ypsilanti there is an unusual brick house, the Jeremiah Newton farm at 830 W. Clark Road in Superior Township, built in 1847 by Charles Francis Newton, son of Jeremiah, and now owned by Mr. & Mrs. Herbert H. Cornish.
Other handsome homes on the North and in Superior Township: James W. Voorhees, SE corner of LeForge and Geddes a splendid Greek style home with attractive innovations; the homes of J.L. Strang and William Mulholland on Cherry Hill road; O.A. Sober and I.M. Loverridge on Geddes Road East of Prospect; L.L. Kimmel, Harris road and the sturdy brick of John Rooke on the west side of Gotfredson road.
Many of the roads were given their present names by the Detroit Edison Company after 1900.
As land was cleared to raise crops, crops for live stock, the crops and live stock were often housed better than the farmer's family.
During the 1860s, the name Worden was very prominent in Ypsilanti. Alva Worden, an inventor with several patents to his credit; Charles Worden, a drygoods merchant; William H. Worden with a gun shop upstairs in the building of the NE corner of North Huron and old Congress Street with John S. Worden in the same building on the first floor with a popular saloon. 105 North Huron was once a Worden home. Three Wordens built handsome brick structures, mansard style, one at twenty East Michigan, another at 24 East Michigan and one on the NW corner of River and Congress Street. Such elegant homes and now all gone, the last one in 1974 to make more parking space.
Ypsilanti had a Distillery as early as 1827, only two years after the Village was platted and named. A Temperance Society was formed in 1829.
For the first Independence Day Celebration in the County, July 4 1824 and in Woodruff's Grove, Clark Sills, walked to Detroit to procure two gallons of whiskey which he brought back on his back…perhaps lightening the load a little by taking a swig now and then to reduce the weight. That first Distillery was located on the south side of Congress not far from the west end of the old bridge. Nearby was the Tannery of Isaac Crane. Another early Tannery was that of John Howland located on the north side of Forest Avenue at the west end of that bridge. Across the road, was the Jacob Grob home and icehouse, also the first established Brewery. Breweries make Beer and Distilleries make Whiskey and both used to make money.
April 3, 1860 the Pony Express began service between Sacremento, California and St Joseph, Missouri-80 riders, 40 saddle horses and 190 relay stations.
Thirteen months later the Pony Express gave up, even though one of the riders was William Frederick Cody, later attaining dime-novel fame as ‘Buffalo Bill’. ‘Buffalo Bill’ was in an Ypsilanti parade in the summer of 1899.
In May of that year, one George W. Washburne, a local butcher, was accused of killing his wife, Ypsilanti's first murder.
May 18, 1860 Abraham Lincoln was nominated as Republican Candidate for President.
Evidence of homor is found for those days in the 1860 City Directory for Ypsilanti where the following is found:
J.M. Howard, principal business is courting what few ladies there are that are willing to be bored with him, boards east side Huron between Emmet and Ellis (Washtenaw).
1860-Edgar and F.B. Bogardus opened a private Bank in a frame building on the south side of Congress Street near the SE corner of Washington Street. ‘The Barton Hotel’ was built on the NW corner of Pearl and Washington.
The State Legislature denied Michigan State Normal School money for a Gymnasium. The Normal School now had 255 students.
Nov. 6-Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, with a salary of $25,000. In ten of the thirty-three States he did not receive a single vote.
Dec. 4-President Buchanan's Annual Message to Congress is read to that body. Buchanan holds that no State has a right to secede from the Union.
Dec 6.-A Committee of thirty-three is appointed by the Speaker of the House, one from each State, to consider and try to resolve the issues between the South and the North.
Dec. 20.-The South Carolina Convention passes an Ordinance of Secession from the United States.
Dec. 31.-Judah Benjamin, in a dramatic scene in the Senate, declares “The North Can never subjugate the South-Never-Never!”.
The ‘War Between the States’ was about to begin. There is no record of War ever being declared.
January 9.-Mississippi voted to seceed followed by nine other States.
The first shot fired in the ‘War Between the States’. A cannon was fired at the unarmed merchant steamer, “Star of the West”, as it entered the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina with supplies for the troops in Fort Sumpter.
January 29.-Kansas admitted to the Union.
February 4.-First meeting of the Confederate Congress.
February 5.-Moving picture Peep-show machine patented by S. D. Goodale.
February 9.-Jefferson Davis elected President of the newly formed Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama.
February 11.-Abraham Lincoln and family say farewell to Springfield, Illinois and the only home they ever owned.
March 4.-Abraham Lincoln inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States.
April 2.-Dakota Territory created.
April 9.-Meanwhile, in Ypsilanti, Ralph W. Van Fossen was appointed Postmaster. Parmenio Davis elected Mayor of Ypsilanti and served for the next two years.
April 9.-Sixty-seven year old Edmund Ruffin fired on Fort Sumpter.
April 17.-President Lincoln sent out a call for 75,000 men.
April 20-Col. Robert E. Lee resigned from the Army of the United States after having been offered Com= mand of the Arny of the North by General Winfield Scott.
April 23-Robert E. Lee became Commander of the Army of Virginia the “Old Dominion State”.
When the United States became a Nation after the Revolution, the Armed Forces were reduced to a small number. Every man was supposed to answer a call to Arms if necessary. Each State was to supply their own quota and recruit the needed men.
The Congress made the demand for men from the States in the time of the Civil War and after the first burst of Patriotism, the response was small. A Draft Law was put in operation, but aain it was the problem of each State to enforce it. Bounties as much as $300 caused forceful recruiting by Bounty Hunters and there was wide spread corruption by families able to pay for a substitute. The Draft Law included all men from twenty-one to forty-five and did not exempt anyone for occupation or married with a family to care for. Riots were frequent in the big cities, New York City having the largest and most destructive, 1000 or more being killed in the riots.
In 1861, Ypsilanti responded immediately to President Lincoln's call for 75,000 men. The names of Ypsilanti's first recruits are listed here followed by the old newspaper story telling of those spirited exciting times.
First enlistment roll at Ypsilanti for Civil War “The undersigned, citizens of the State of Michigan, do hereby by enlist and consent to be mustered into the Military Service of the State of Michigan, pursuant to an Act entitled “An Act to provide a Military Force”, first approved March 16, 1861, and to hold ourselves subject to all liabilites and obligations, created by said Act, and for the period and purposes therein set forth”
Name, age, residence
J. S. Whittlesey, 34, Ypsilanti
David A. Wise, 35, "
M.A. Parks, 35, "
George R. Anderson, 21, Canton
Smith Babcock, 22, "
George W. Baker, 23, "
Murray Baker, 21, "
Thomas Baker, 27, "
James W. Bingham, 20, Green Oak
Hiram S. Boutell , 25, Ypsilanti
Decatur Brundage, 21, Augusta
J.M. Carr, 23, Belleville
Edward J. Carson, 21, "
Phillip Chivers, 24, Ypsilanti
Peter Clark, 22, Milan
Addison Curtis, 21, Belleville
Joseph Davis, 21, "
Thomas Davis, 21, York
F. Eaton, 21, Saline
Norman Ellis, 37, Belleville
Truman W. Elton, 21, Ypsilanti
Alonzo Ford, 21, "
Benjamin W. Fuller, 40, Van Buren
L. Haight, 21, Saline
Wm. Herdman, 18, Ypsilanti
Edwin A. Herrick, 19, "
Jas H. Hodgkin, 18, "
A. D. Hoffman, 28, Belleville
Fred C. Joslin, 18, Ypsilanti
Michael Kean, 25 Ypsilanti
Wm. B.Kelly, 21, Canton
Orin King, 27, Ypsilanti
Rufus Lawrence, 28, "
Clark Macomber, 21, Augusta
George Marshall, 24, Belleville
James McCoy, 19, Ypsilanti
Geo. W. Monroe , 21, Dundee
Cicero Newell, 20, Ypsilanti
John Norton, 21, "
Wm. H. Parker, 25, "
R. J. Parkhurst, 20, "
C.P. Perry, 29, "
G.S. Phillips, 20, "
Henry Post, 25, "
David Punches, 41, Belleville
Nathan Putnam, 21, Milan
Lewis C. Randall, 34, Pittsfield
Wm. H. Randall, 20, Ypsilanti
J. L. Ransom, 28, "
Henry Reed, 21, Belleville
Robert Reynolds, 26, Ypsilanti
W. W. A. Russell, 20, Green Oak
H.R. Scovill, 19, Ypsilanti
J.E. Schafer, 23, "
G.H. Simmons, 18, York
W. D. Simmons, 22, "
Alvah Smith, Jr., 25, Clinton
Charles Smith, 21, Livonia
Fenton W. Smith, 23, Augusta
John Smith, 21, Belleville
Lewis Spawn, 41, "
Clinton Spencer, 21, Ypsilanti
J. StClair, 21, "
Albert Stuck, 23, "
Charles Twist, 23, "
Ira B. Tuttle, 25, "
Oscar VanValkenburg , 21, York
Marcus Vining, 19, Ypsilanti
James N. Wallace, 21, Ionia
Harman Wise, 18, Ypsilanti
Wm. H. Worden, 27, "
From the front page of THE YPSILANTI COMMERCIAL, published every Saturday morning at the corner of Huron and Cross Streets, Ypsilanti, Michigan, by C.R. Pattison, January 6, 1877:
Prior to the Civil War, there was a Militia Company existing in Ypsilanti, one of the best drilled in the State. J.W. Whittlesey was Captain of the Company; F.P. Bogardus, 1st Lieutenant. When news reached Ypsilanti of the fire on Fort Sumpter the Company disbanded. A public meeting was called at Hewitt Hall (3rd fl. of the building NE corner Michigan and Washington), the 22nd day of April 1861. The most intense enthusiasm pervaded the meeting, and before noon of that day the persons whose names are given were inscribed upon the roll of honor. Mr. F.P. Bogardus was anong the most influential in organizing the Company, though his name does not appear on the Roll, on account of the necessity of his abiding by the bank of which he is now cashier. Mr. B. preserved the enlistment roll, each member signing his own name. We are indebted, however, to David A. Wise for the manuscript, having it in his possession. We requested it for publication. The next Sunday, April 28, 1861, was one of the most thrilling ever seen in this City. The Company, in the afternoon, were drawn up in the Public Square (The Public Square was open space on W. Congress between Adams and Hamilton) and religious services were held, participated by all the Clergymen of the City. The officers of the Company, as far as we can ascertain, were: Captain-J.W. Whittlesey; First Lieutenant-David A. Wise; Second Lieutenant-M.A. Parks. Sergeants-C.P. Perry, Cicero Newell, H.R.Scovill, Fred C. Joslin. The Company went to Fort Wayne, Detroit, and then to Washington, forming Co. H. of the First Regiment, Col. Wilcox commanding. July 21, 1861, the Company was in the Battle of Bull Run, and acquitted itself nobly. The enlistmen was for three months, and during that time it did splendid service. Not a single company was so favored in furnishing Officers for special duty as Co.H. At the end of three months it disbanded and coming home a large number united with the First Infantry Regiment organized at Ann Arbor. We are able to give a brief record and present whereabouts of a few members of this Company. Captain Whittlesey, after the captrure of Alexandria was made Provost Marshal of that City, and though in a trying position received high enconium from his Superior Officers. He served as a Major at the Battle of Bull Run. Grand Rapids is his present place of residence. Lieutenant Wise, at Alexandria was appointed Quarter master of the Regiment and placed in charge of the Marshal House. M.A. Parks was promoted to the Captaincy of the Company and at Bull Run was taken prisoner. He lay in that hell of doom the remainder of the year and came out a wreck. He is dead. (Parks was given an Honorable Medical Discharge and returned to Ypsilanti where he established a jewelry store in part of the Samson Drug Store on West Michigan). Fred Joslin is now in California. James W. Bingham was the son of Senator Bingham and died during the war. Captain Wallace, W.A. Russell and Bingham were students at the Normal Collere. Captain Wallace served for four years and at the close of the War was a Major. Captain Clinton Spencer, our Postmaster, was a brave soldier and left a leg at the battle of Gettysburg which was not as agreeable as his three months experience. Lewis Spawn was wounded at Bull Run. Captain Newell at the expiration of his enlistment entered the Cavalry and served during the War with high honor. Harmon Wise, age 18 when he enlisted was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness, Phillip Chivers disappeared at the battle of Bull Run and has never been heard from. L. Haight from Saline was killed at the Battle of Chancellors-ville. H.R. Scovill at the end of his enlistment drove a lumber wagon to California, returning after the War to become a partner, with Follmore in the Sash and Blind business on Frog Island.
The old hand written list of these young men who were the first volunteers in April 1861, was given to the Ypsilanti Historical Society by H.R.Scovill's daughter, Mrs. Genevieve Scovill Bisbee Moon and it is in the Archives. After the sobering disaster of the Battle of Bull Run, it was quiet along the Potomac for ten months.
January 12-Timothy Showerman died, an old prominent pioneer in the area. Showerman built a fine home in the mid 1850s on the large double lot at 206 N. Huron which later became the home of the William Deubles and then was bought and rebuilt by D.L.Quirk, Jr.
February 1-The Fowler Schoolhouse in Superior Township burned. The Fowler School was on the south side of Geddes Road 1/4 mile West of Ridge Road. James N. Wallace was the first teacher in that one room School which had 45 ungraded pupils.
February 5-“The Atlantic Monthly” printed “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe.
February 15-Fort Donelson of the Cumberland surrendered to General Grant.
Rev. G.L. Foster resigned as Pastor of the Presbyterian Church.
April 11-Charles Lvans Hughes born.
April 16-Slavery abolished in District of Columbia.
Thirteen members of the Presbyterian Church took letters of Mombership Severance to from a Congregational Churoh and erect a building on the East side of the Huron River. The plan did not work out and people returned to the Presbyterian Church.
Benjamin Follett formed a Bank with R.W. Hemphill and located in the Follett block on E. Cross Street.
Mark Norris died, a remarkable man who did much in guiding the growth of Ypsilanti.
May 6-Henry David Thoreau died.
May 29-The 17th Regiment of Infantry was authorized.
July 1-President Lincoln called for 300,000 men-Governor Blair issued orders for 7 more Regiments of Infantry and 4 of Calvary.
The Ypsilanti Normal School was still in session. A Normal Company was planned but the Summer Session closed before it was organized and students had scattered to their homes.
Austin George was born June 15, 1841, on a farm near Litchfield, Michigan. At the ape of 12 he lost his right arm in the machinery of a flouring mill in Jonesville, Mich.
Austin became a student in the Michigan State Normal School in Ypsilanti and was living in Ypsilanti when that July 1st call came in 1862 for more troops. Because of his disability, he was unable to enlist in the Army but being endowed with an excellent mind, unusual energy and engaging personality, he began recruiting for the Normal Company “E”. of the 17th Infantry, writing the scattered young students and urging their enlistment.
He opened a Recruiting office in the Smith & Kinne Book and Drug Store on the North side of old Congress Street near Huron. The Normal boys responded to his letters and many came to Ypsilanti to enlist. Some replied but could not join the Normal Company as they had already enlisted in their home community. Every morning Austin assumed the responsibility of hanging out the flag at the Recruiting Office. The Normal Company was soon full.
When the 17th Michigan Infantry went to the front, he went as Company Clerk, later serving as Regimental Postmaster and Clerk for Brigade and Division Headquarters but never being too busy to keep track of his Normal Company with sympathy and encouragement for every homesick youth.
Austin George became Superintendent of Ypsilanti Public Schools in 1896 and he and his family lived out his lifetime in the handsome mansard roof style house at 111 N. Normal Street. A man who contributed so much to Ypsilanti and now the family name is gone except in our history.
Gebriel Campbell had graduated from Michigan State Normal School in 1861 and was a student at the University of Michigan the following academic year. Gabriel is credited with getting thirty of his former classmates to enlist and at the organization meeting was elected Captain; Thomas Mathews, First Lt., James T. Morgan, 2nd Lt., This Company was not entirely young Normal men but it originated there and the three Commissioned Officers, four of the five Sergeants, four of the eight Corporals and nearly one third of the men were Normal Students.
The Company went to Detroit and mustered in on August 19th, 1862. They were assigned to the 17th Infantry as Company “E” and left for Washington August 27th.
The Confederates had crossed the Potomac below Washington into Maryland and marched north around the Capitol. The Union Regiment was soon sent into Maryland and marched forty miles north, passing thru Frederick the home of Betsey Ross, while crowds gathered and cheered as the Normal Co. sang in beautiful harmony as they marched.
Company “E” was in the battle of South Mountain, less than three weeks after the ovation given their departure from Ypsilanti. Four in that Company were killed, two of them Normal Students-David S. Howard and Lucian Jones-and many badly wounded. Alexander McKinnor, well known in Ypsilanti was one of those killed. The holiday spirit of adventure had vanished.
William H. Brearly in later years wrote the following poignant account to Daniel Putnam:
When I was at the Normal in 1861, I had as my seatnate Alexander McKinnor. My age was then 14 and he was two years older. He tried to enlist with us but could not be taken as our number was complete. Although the Company was full, he went with us to the Darracks in Detroit, tried to get in and would not leave us; and he finally got accepted as a substitute for Stiles who was taken sick and discharged. We walked and talked and slept together on the way all along from Washington to South Mountain. He said he didn't expect to live but thought it was his duty to give his life to his country. You must know all about this and yet you didn't know him personally to such an extent as I did, nor know how sweet and patriotic a spirit he had. He was at my side at South Mountain, and when he fell, I stopped for a moment beside him to see if he was dead, and then went on. No loftier or purer life wnt out that day on the slope of South Mountain than that of dear McKinnor. His name and memory cannot be too highly honored by the Normal today. When the Regiment moved on, I was left in charge of the burial party and I saw McKinnon's body placed with the other Michigan dead in a long grave, and marked the spot with a head board for each.
It was in the battle of South Mountain that Captain Gabriel Campbell lost the handsome sword that was presented to him before the Company left Ypsilanti. (The Gabriel Campbell sword in the Ypsilanti Eistorical Archives is the splendid sword given as a replacement after the war ended).
On September 17 1862 was fought the great battle of Antietam in which the 17th lost 18 killed and 87 wounded. The loss to Company “E” was four killed including the Normal boys John H. Marvin, Webster Ruckman and Fred S. Webb. Antietam is now a small village on the north side of the Potomac and the battlefield National Historic Marker is on the south side of the river, nearly forty miles south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
A placque was made by the Michigan State Normal School “In Memory of the Students who Died at the Front in the ‘War of the Rebellion’”. Thirty names were placed on this plaque and room left at the bottom where more names when known could be added.
(The information given on Comapy “E” is from A HISTORY OF THE MICHIGAN STATE NORMAL SCHOOL at Ypsilanti, Michigan, 1649–1899 by Daniel Putnam, A.M.,L.L.D., Professor of Psychology and Pedagogy. For more information and interesting reading it is suggested you read Chapter X LV “The Normal School in the Civil War”.
The original hand-written list of the men of Company “E” was given to the Ypsilanti Historical Society Archives by the local Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
KEY-(to Street names & geographical locations)
THE MONROE ROAD-South Huron from City limits-becoming Whittaker Road.
CHICAGO POAD, (Chicago Avenue)-West Michigan Avenue from Ballard Street intersection
CONGRESS STREET-Ypsilanti's Main Street, Michigan Avenue, which was named ‘Michigan Avenue’ in 1914 when an attempt was made to have the Detroit to Chicago Road called ‘Michigan Avenue’. Ypsilanti already had a ‘Michigan Street’ which in 1914 became ‘Ferris Street’, honoring Woodbridge N. Ferris, Michigan Governor 1913–1916.
SAUK TRAIL-The Indian name for the Detroit to Chicago trail which became the route of the United States Servey for Michigan Avenue and US 12
ELLIS STREET-Namad for Elijah Ellis, prominent pioneer and changed in 1926 to Washtenaw when the road was paved making a direct road to Ann Arbor.This article continues in the November 1976 issue.