Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection

Vol 7


Tuscola County





     The settlement of Tuscola county commenced in 1836.  Among the first settlers, if not the first, were Ebenezer Davis and Edwin Ellis.  Mr. Ellis had lived at Saginaw, where I became acquainted with him; he came to my house one Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1839 and desired me to go with him to his father’s house (which was situated on the bank of the Cass river opposite where the village of Bridgeport is now located) and perform a marriage ceremony.  I then lived on the Tittabawassee; there were no roads, and we had three rivers to cross, but such tramps for a distance of sever on eight miles had no terrors for me then, and when I arrived a the house I found I had a double duty to perform, in the marriage of Edwin Ellis to Miss Cynthia Davis, daughter of Ebenezer Davis, and Mr. Richard Andrews to Miss Ellis, a sister of Edwin.   The newly married couples did not take a wedding tour, but the justice of the peace who performed the marriage ceremony traveled on foot seven miles to reach his home after dark.  Among the other early setters were Mr. Harrison, father of Wm. H. Harrison, Martin Miller, Lovira Hart and John Miller.  E.W. Perry and a man named Hurd, in the fall of 1836, commenced building a saw-mill on Perry’s creek.  The work was prosecuted and completed under great difficulties, and when the little settlement was supplied with lumber, it was found that the Cass river, which was the only highway for the transportation of lumber to a market, was obstructed by a heavy drift-wood, filling the channel for half a mile or more; so Mr. Perry, with his great energy and perseverance, went to work and cleared the river at his own expense, since which time it has been a thoroughfare for the passage of millions of dollars’ worth of the staple commodity of the Saginaw Valley.  Mr. Perry’s labor deserved a greater compensation than he received from the profits on the lumber he sold, for the profits realized by pioneer lumbermen were very small.  I mention these circumstances because at the time of which I am writing all the settlers of the Saginaw Valley were considered neighbors, and were much better acquainted with each other than the inhabitants of the same township or city are at the present day.   The territory comprising Tuscola county was organized into the township of Tuscola, in Saginaw county, in 1840.  I remember the date, for at the general election held in November 1840, there were 13 votes cast in the township, nearly all Whig.  At the meeting of the Legislature in January 1841, Jeremiah Riggs (Democrat) contested the seat of his Whig Opponent, who received a certificate of election to that body as representative from Saginaw county.  The ground upon which the contest was based was the alleged illegality of the vote of Tuscola township on account of its imperfect organization.  The balance of the county gave a Democratic majority.  At the organization of the House of Representatives in 1841 Judge Riggs was present with documents sufficient (as he supposed) to oust his opponent and install himself in a seat as the representative from Saginaw county.  But, unfortunately for him, that was the session held first after the destruction of the Hamtramck ballot box, which prevented the votes which had been polled in that township from being counted.  The township of Hamtramck gave a Democratic majority sufficient to overcome the Whig majorities of the other portions of the county, but the votes were not before the board of canvassers to be counted, so the certificates of election to House of Representatives were given to the Whig candidates; that gave a majority of the Legislature to the Whigs, and gave that party control of the State government for the first time after it was instituted.

     The circumstances attending the destruction of the Hamtramck ballot box were something as related below:

     Louis Moran, who in an early day had been an Indian trader at Saginaw, where he learned, on all festive and important occasions, to imbibe freely of the “ardent,” was township clerk, and had charge of the ballot boxes.  It is not to be supposed that on election day he would refrain from his customary habit of taking a drink, especially when they were gathering in such a large Democratic vote.  After closing the polls the board adjourned for the canvas on the next day, and it was thought by some that Louis was rather oblivious that night when he started for home, riding in a French cart without a tailboard, with the ballot boxes placed in the bottom of the cart; the result was that the ballot box containing the votes for representative in the Legislature was found the next morning in a rut in the road, broken open, with the ballots scattered to the four winds.  After that the trouble was taken to swear every voter in the township as to whom he voted for for representative, but in the organization of the House that testimony was not heeded; the Wig candidates for Wayne county being in their seats and voting on every question that arose pertaining to them.

     When Judge Riggs presented his claim for a seat in the House it was not heeded, and the question as to the legality of the organization of Tuscola township was never afterwards raised.

     At that election the battle cry was, “Woodbridge and Reform.” Well, we had Woodbridge, and when his message was sent to the Legislature a certain number of copies were ordered printed in the French language; some pedagogue solicited and obtained the appointment to translate the message into that language.  When the French version was issued there arose a question as to the correctness of the translation, a committee was raised. Of which John J. Adam was chairman, to examine the report upon the subject.  I remember but one or two items in Mr. Adam’s report.  One was that the members of the Legislature were addressed as “Gentlemen of the Bear Garden,” and where the Governor said that “no tax, provided it was justly and equally laid, would be more cheerfully paid by the people than that for the hallowed purposes of education,” he was made to say in the French version, “any tax, provided it was justly and equally laid, would be more cheerfully paid by the people than that for the damned designs of education.”  The French translation may have suited some of the old French settlers of that period as well as the correct version.


                                      MEMORIAL REORT

                                      BY JOHN BAKER


    The following is a list of names of pioneers of Tuscola county that have died with the past years:


Ezra Tripp.                                                          Joseph Hall

Mrs. Delos Mead.                                               Anson G. Miller

John Aikens.                                              Wm. Fenner.

J. D. Smith.                                                          Henry S. Russell.

Mrs. Henry Goff.                                       Mrs. Walter Richardson.
Rev. John O. Bancroft.                             Dr. Wm. Johnson.

Thomas Sawyer.                                        Matthew Hiller
James Hammont.                                       Mrs. E. White

Mrs. Jason Root                                        Mr. Darby.

Andrew Bratt.


© 2006  of  transcription and digital photographs by Carol Szelogowski

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