ANN ARBOR—A HISTORY OF ITS EARLY SETTLEMENT - BY J. Q A. SESSIONS.

Michigan Union Building, University of MichiganIn the month of February, 1824, John Allen of Virginia and Elisha Walker Ramsey and wife of Genesee County, State of New York, met by accident in Detroit, and soon formed an acquaintance.

Both were in search of a new home in the forests of Michigan.

They started for the interior of the Territory together, and on arriving in this vicinity located some lands belonging to the United States government, embracing a beautiful burr-oak plain on section 29 in township 2 south, range 6 east, with the Huron river on the north and east and a small stream since known as Allen's creek on the west.

At the foot of a hill on the east side of this creek they pitched a tent and built an arbor, and Mrs. Ann Rumsey became the mistress of the new home.

After the arrival of Mrs. Ann Allen, the wife of John Allen (during the latter part of the same year), this primitive home was called "Ann's Arbor," which finally assisted the early settlers to fix upon an appropriate name for their new and thrifty village.

A log house was also soon erected by Allen and Rumsey in the same locality, and which stood on the south side of Huron street, near what is now known as the southwest corner of Huron and First streets, near Allens creek.

In this house Mr. Rumsey and wife kept for several years a tavern known as ''The Washtenaw Coffee House."

He owned 160 acres of land lying south of Huron street.

Mr. Allen owned 320 acres north of this street, and built in the year 1825 a block-house on the northwest corner of Main and Huron streets, where the Gregory block now stands.

He was a very energetic and intelligent citizen, of fine and commanding appearance, and was the first postmaster and justice of the peace of Ann Arbor.

He was the father of James C. Allen of this city.

In 1849, during the excitement concerning the discovery of gold in California, Mr. Allen visited that region and died there soon after his arrival.

In the month of October, 1824, James Turner Allen, the brother of John Allen, arrived at the new settlement with their aged parents and the family of John Allen.

James T. Allen located a small farm on section 28, on the south side of Huron River and near the eastern limits of this city.

The next spring after the arrival of Allen and Rumsey, Asa L. Smith, with his wife and one child, came to Ann Arbor on foot through the woods, bringing on his back all their property, and having on his arrival here but one shilling in his pocket.

He was a carpenter by trade, and built a house a short distance west of the present Gregory house.

A few years afterwards he built the brick building now occupied by Mr. Lodholz for a bakery and residence, and situated on the corner of Broadway and Canal streets in the fifth ward of this city.

In 1825 there were nine small houses in Ann Arbor, located and occupied as near as can be now ascertained as follows:

Elisha W. Rumsey occupied the "Washtenaw Coffee House," and John Allen the block-house before mentioned.

A log house with a frame addition stood on the northeast corner of Main and Ann streets.

Two small houses stood on the opposite side of Main Street near the spot where Duffy's store now stands, and were occupied by two brothers, James and Geo. W. Noyes.

A frame house stood on Huron street near the "Cook House," and was built and occupied by Cornelius Ousterhout, a carpenter and joiner.

Another log house stood near the northeast corner of Main and Washington streets.

Farther south, on Main Street, up in the woods, was another log house occupied by Alva Brown.

Such was the appearance of Ann Arbor, when one who is still with us, Capt. Charles Thayer, first saw it in 1825.

Two years later (in 1827), Ann Arbor bad become a village of considerable importance and boasted of three stores which were well supplied with a general assortment of merchandise, and three new taverns bad also appeared as rivals of Rumsey's "Coffee House."

Andrew Nowland, the father of John S. Nowland, accommodated the public near the north end of State Street, a short distance above where the railroad crosses the street.

Samuel Camp kept hotel on the southwest corner of Main and Huron streets, and Ira W. Bird on the southeast corner of Main and Huron, directly opposite that of Mr. Camp, while Oliver Whitmore had succeeded Mr. Rumsey at the Coffee House near the creek.

Merchandise and supplies of nearly every kind were procured at Detroit, and brought through the woods and mud in wagons by way of Plymouth, or by boats pushed up the Huron river to Rawsonville (then called Snow's Landing), and conveyed in wagons the remainder of the distance to Ann Arbor.

The population of the village at this time was about 150, and contained between 20 and 30 dwellings: Previous to 1832 there was but one small grist-mill here with one run of stone and built near the present dam on Huron River.

Henry Welch was also among the more prominent of the earliest settlers of Ann Arbor.

He came here in 1826 with his family from the vicinity of Harrisonburg, Virginia.

He was for several years one of the most prominent and successful merchants in the village, and occupied a store on the southwest corner of Main and Huron streets.

He was a gentleman of the Virginia school, and possessed excellent business qualities.

His two daughters are still living here, one the widow of Dr. Samuel Denton and the other the widow of Olney Hawkins.

It should be stated here that Cyrus Beckwith was the first merchant who brought a stock of goods to Ann Arbor, and the first register of deeds after the organization of Washtenaw County.

In August, 1827, Elisha W. Rumsey died in the house built by Mr. Ousterhaut, and the tavern was occupied about this time by Oliver Whitmore.

(Since the above was written, I have learned from Mr. J. W. Maynard that John Harford opened the first store in Ann Arbor.

This store was in Allen's block-house.

Mr. Maynard Is probably the oldest resident of Ann Arbor now living.

He came here Sept 10th, 1824, and John Harford was then keeping store.

This was several months previous to the arrival of Mr. Beckwith.)

Mr. Ramsey was captain of the first militia company organized in this county, and the first training by the militia was in 1825.

One small company then comprised the entire militia of this county.

His brother, Judge Henry Rumsey, located in 1826, 80 acres of land, including the grounds of the University of Michigan.

The plat of the village of Ann Arbor was recorded May 25th, 1824, in the Register's office at Detroit.

The village became the county seat in 1824, on condition that a block of the village plat should be donated, on which the court house should be erected, and also a block for a jail.

John Allen gave the required land for the court house (where it now stands), and Mr. Rumsey gave a block for a jail.

This block is now occupied for a lumber yard on Liberty Street.

A small building for a jail was built there with funds contributed by the citizens and Israel Branch was the first jailer.

This building burned down several years after.

Previous to January 1st, 1827, Washtenaw County had been attached to Wayne County for judicial purposes.

The public records were kept at Detroit.

But in 1827 a county court for this county was organized with Judge Samuel W. Dexter, of Dexter, as first judge.

  • Anthony Case and Oliver Whitmore were associate judges.
  • David E. Lord was county clerk;
  • Benjamin J. Woodruff, sheriff;
  • Cyrus Beckwith, register of deeds,
  • Bethuel Farrand, judge of probate.

In May, 1827, Edward Clark, Esq., who is still with us, came to Ann Arbor and opened a store of general merchandise, occupying a building on the east side of Main Street near Washington Street.

The following year he built and occupied a frame store on the opposite side of the street where now the store owned by Mr. Vandewalker stands, and known as the Farmers' store.

The old two story building torn down a few years since to give place to the new one, was the same building erected by Clark in 1828.

David and Jonathan Ely were also merchants here when Clark arrived.

Hethcot Mowey opened a store here in 1830, and Judge Edward Mundy and O. H. Thompson opened stores in 1831.

William S. Maynard soon after opened a tavern in John Allen's block house, and a store in the frame building adjoining the block-house.

In the summer of 1827 several hundred Indians arrived at Ann Arbor and occupied three camps, nearly surrounding the village.

Rumors had preceded them to the effect that they were on the war-path and intended to burn the village and scalp the inhabitants.

But the Indians proved to be peaceful and quietly left the next day.

It was, however, an anxious night for some of our early settlers.

It was afterwards explained that some of these Indians had been to Malden to draw their annual presents from the British Government for services in the war of 1812, while other bands were on their way thither, and accidentally met at Ann Arbor those returning.

Small bands of Indians frequently visited the village to trade with the settlers and exchange berries, venison, furs, and maple sugar for dry goods, and "scuta waboo" or fire-water.

In 1829 Anson Brown purchased of Andrew Nowland the land now comprising a portion of the fifth ward, and soon after built the dam across the river and a grist mill where now stands the large flooring mill of Swift & Co.

He also built the brick block opposite the mill, and occupied the center building for a store.

In 1832 he with Edward L. Fuller platted what is known as Brown & Fuller's addition to Ann Arbor.

Brown came to Ann Arbor in 1827 and was a merchant and occupied a general retail store on Main Street at or near the location of Wines & Worden's store.

He was one of the most energetic and thorough business men of the village, and if his life had been spared the development and history of Ann Arbor would probably have been different in some respects from what it actually has been.

He was determined the future city of Ann Arbor should be on the north side of the Huron River, and at one time he seemed likely to succeed.

In 1832 he obtained the appointment of postmaster and removed the post office to the lower village. This movement caused great excitement among the upper villagers.

He brought up the mail in his hat to the upper village and distributed the mail to the people on the streets.

A meeting of the citizens of the upper village was held in 1834 for the purpose of recommending to the Postmaster General the appointment of another postmaster, not because there was any personal objection to Brown, but in order to secure its return to the upper village.

That meeting recommended Charles Thayer, who still resides with us on Huron street.

The petition was sent to Washington for his appointment and it was received September 30, 1834.

A short time previous to this Mr. Brown had died of cholera, and Thayer took possession of the post office, and soon after removed it to the upper village.

By the death of Brown and the loss of the post office the growth of the lower village was permanently crippled.

"Huron block," on the southeast side of Broadway, was built in 1834 by Brown & Fuller, about the time Brown died.

In 1832 Justice Gooding built the Washtenaw House, and in 1834 Mr. Kellogg's building was built by Chester Ingalls.

In 1832 the Indian chief Black Hawk declared war against the white people, and the soldiers commanded by Gen. Scott brought the cholera to Michigan.

These two calamities, an Indian war and the cholera, impeded the growth of the early settlements of Michigan for several years.

But few immigrants came into the Territory and in fact were prevented from coming to Washtenaw County by armed men stationed on the road leading into Ypsilanti from the east.

This precautionary measure was ridiculed at the time, but as there were no cases of cholera at Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor it was claimed this action of the authorities alone prevented its spread among the settlers of these towns.

Other places which did not take such measures were visited by the cholera and many of the settlers fell victims to this fatal disease.

In 1834 the cholera again made its appearance in Michigan.

No stringent measures were at this time taken by the authorities of the village and it soon appeared in Ann Arbor, and several persons became its victims.

Among them was Anson Brown, the hero of the lower village above mentioned.

It should be stated here that Mr. Brown was greatly assisted in his enterprises by his partner in real estate transactions, Mr. Edward L. Fuller.

He was one of the most energetic, persevering, and persistent business men of the village.

When the California "gold fever" broke out among the people of Ann Arbor in 1846, Mr. Fuller went to California and died soon after he arrived there.

The first newspaper published in Ann Arbor was called "The Emigrant" and first appeared in 1829.

It was published by Mr. Simpson and it soon passed into the hands of Judge Dexter and became the organ of the Anti-Masonic party, and was then called "The Western Emigrant."

In 1831 Loren Mills built the first brick house in Ann Arbor.

This old landmark is still standing on the southwest corner of Main and Liberty Streets, near the store of Mack & Schmid.

The first school was taught by Harriet Parsons, who afterwards became the wife of Loren Mills.

A Miss Monroe, however, first opened the school and taught a few weeks, when she died and Miss Parsons succeeded her as teacher.

Rev. John A. Baughman was the first Methodist minister, who preached in Ann Arbor and it has been supposed he was the first minister who preached the gospel within the limits of the village; but it is now conceded that a Baptist minister named Moses Clark first preached here.

He came to Ann Arbor in 1825 and located 160 acres of land with Amos Hicks, on section 26, in the township of Ann Arbor, where he died a few years after he settled there.

He preached here in the summer of 1825.

Mr. Baughman preached his first sermon in the fall of the same year.

The Presbyterian Church was the first church organized in Ann Arbor, and it was organized August 21, 1826, in a log school house standing near the northwest corner of Main and Ann streets.

Rev. William Page was the first minister of this church, and he remained here several years and returned to the State of New York.

Among the first members of the legal profession who settled in Ann Arbor were James Kingsley, Marcus Lane, and Elisha W. Belcher, who came here about the year 1826.

Gideon Wilcoxson followed in 1827, and E. W. Morgan in 1829.

Olney Hawkins located here in 1832, and Judge E. Lawrence soon after this.

Mr. Lane afterwards removed to Ypsilanti, and Belcher to the western part of the State.

Previous to 1830, Mr. Wilcoxson held the office of justice of the peace and prosecuting attorney by appointment from General Cass, then Governor of the Territory.

He died August 30, 1830 and Mr. Hawkins died in 1875.

Mr. Kingsley, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Lawrence are so well known nothing more need be said of them - They are still able to speak for themselves.

Dr. David E. Lord and Dr. Samuel Denton were the first physicians who settled in Ann Arbor - they came here in 1826.

Among the other pioneer physicians were Seth Markham, Philip Brigham, Robert P. Chase, Charles Jefferies, Martin Cowles, and Charles Backus.

The population of Ann Arbor village in 1834 was 830;

Ypsilanti contained 500 inhabitants;

Detroit 4,910, and Washtenaw county 4,042.

At the general election in 1831 Judge Samuel W. Dexter, Austin E. Wing, and Gen. John R. Williams were candidates for the office of Delegate to Congress from the Territory of Michigan.

Mr. Wing was the Democratic candidate, Williams was an Independent candidate, while Judge Dexter was the candidate of the Anti-Masons.

The vote in this county was as follows:

  • Wing 227,
  • Dexter 389,
  • Williams 5,
  • Making a total vote of 621 in the county.

The vote each received in the Territory was as follows:

  • Wing, 2.100;
  • Dexter, 1.388;
  • Williams. 1,100.
  • Total vote, 4,588.

Another of the early settlers who will be remembered by the people of this county as long as any of them shall be permitted to live was Mr. Solon Cook, the proprietor of the home of the traveler, known far and wide as "Cook's Hotel." Mr. Cook came to Ann Arbor in August, 1830.

His wife came the November following.

They came from Auburn, State of New York.

He was a harness-maker by trade, and opened a harness shop in a small building where now the store of J. Donnelly stands.

He soon afterwards moved into the tavern built by Ira W. Bird on the southeast corner of Main and Huron Streets, where the savings bank now stands.

Here he kept a temperance house until he purchased the premises on the southwest corner of Huron and Fourth streets, which has been one of the noted landmarks of the city ever since.

When he purchased these premises there was a frame house built thereon, and occupied by our fellow-townsman, Charles Thayer.

Mr. Cook built a large addition to this building, and opened the house for the accommodation of the public.

He afterwards, at different times, built additions to his hotel until it became a large and commodious mansion and one of the principal places of resort by the public till it was moved off the grounds, in 1871, to make room for the present brick block known as the "Cook House."

Mr. Cook remained at his post as proprietor of his hotel over 37 years.

During all this time he kept a temperance house.

There was no bar for the sale of liquors in his hotel at any time.

The last years of Mr. Cook were spent at his private residence on Huron street where he died on November 9th, 1875.

Another of the landmarks of our city is known as the Goodrich building, erected by one of the early settlers of Ann Arbor, Mr. Chauncey S. Goodrich.

He came to Ann Arbor in 1830.

He resided in the township of Lima three years previous, having located a section of land in that township in 1827.

In 1829 he purchased of James Abbott, of Detroit, the block on the east side of the grounds owned by the county and known as the public square, paying $1,000 therefor, including a frame building, which has within a few years past been repaired and changed into the present residence of his son, Merchant H. Goodrich.

In 1831 Mr. Goodrich built a frame building on this block, and occupied it as the proprietor of the "Goodrich House" until 1842.

This building is still standing and occupied for business purposes.

He died April 2nd, 1860.

During the early settlement of Ann Arbor the village could justly feel proud of its good society.

Many of the early settlers came with their families from the old and cultivated portions of the east and south, and Ann Arbor society comprised several refined, educated, and enterprising gentlemen, and beautiful and accomplished ladies.

Among the more prominent ladies and gentlemen who assisted in making the social gatherings attractive and entertaining were John Allen and his father James Allen, James Kingsley, Marcus Lane, Dr. Samuel Denton, David and Jonathan Ely, Gideon Wilcoxson and wife, Charles Thayer and wife, James Turner Allen and wife, Henry Welch and family, Edward Clark, John and Robert Geddes, Miss Harriet Parsons, and the Misses Maynard and others.

But it is impossible to do justice to such a subject in the brief time I have been able to give to it.

This narrative is only intended as a beginning of the history of Ann Arbor, and it is hoped, now that a beginning has been made, that some older settler than I will take up the subject and complete it.

Since the organization of the Washtenaw County Pioneer Society no one has been found who would volunteer to write the history of the village and city of Ann Arbor, when I concluded to make a beginning, and again urge others to assist in the work.

Waterman Gymnasium, University of Michigan 1907