Monroe County Library System,  Monroe, MI 48162


Bygones of Monroe:

The following article was taken from the January 18, 1834 issue of the New York American newspaper. The article is copied exactly as it appeared, including spelling and punctuation.

The village of Monroe, in the county of the same name, from which I now write, is situated on the banks of the River Raisin, and about two miles from its entrance into Lake Erie. It was incorporated two years since, and comprises a part of the old site of Frenchtown, celebrated, as you remember, in the annals of the last war. The place is said to be regularly laid out, but the most business part of it - and it is the fussiest little town in the world - looks as if the buildings had all been chucked from the other side of the river, and left to settle just where they might fall upon this. If the place continues to increase as rapidly, however, as it has during the last year - the inhabitants can afford to burn down the river side of the village and arrange it to more advantage. There are now about 150 houses, of which 20 or 30 are stone; some of them are wholesale establishments, and make a very handsome display of fancy goods. There are also two grist mills immediately in the town, a woolen factory, an iron foundry, several saw mills, a chair factory, a tannery, etc. And yet, notwithstanding the supply of water power affords every facility for the use of machinery, the demand for manall labor is very great, and mechanics of every kind may here, as in Detroit, find constant employment. Indeed, I am told, that the demand for mechanics in every part of Michigan, is excessive; and as for laborers, I have seen them repeatedly advertized for by written notices on tavern doors and elsewhere. The emigrants to the territory, I find, are generally people of a very respectable class, who have both the disposition and the means to employ the services of others around them. The "Bank of the River Raisin" is established at this place, with a capital of $100,000; and though in its infancy, is said to be doing a very flourishing business. The notes are among the handsomest specimens of bank note engraving I have seen. There is also a Land Office established here, at which the sales of public lands since last April amount to upwards of $22,000; the sales at Detroit and White Pigeon together a little exceeding this sum. The government price of land ($100 for 80 acres) being the same in every part of the territory, this will give you some idea of the immigration into the Peninsula.

I must not forget to mention that with a population of only 1600 souls, five religious denominations are represented in their respective clergymen at Monroe, and that three of these, the Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian, have each a neat Church of their own. I ought to add that a newspaper, with a good circulation, is printed here.

The advantageous position of Monroe, situated as it is at the head of Lake Erie, induced the government to make an appropriation for improving the harbor, which, except that of Maumee, is the only one at this part of the Lake. The lamented Major Maurice, of the Engineer Corps, (who, you may remember, fell down and instantly expired in the act of shaking hands with General Gratiot at Washington, last winter,) and whom the inhabitants of this place speak of with the tenderest remembrance-made minute surveys of the harbor and of the different channels of the river; and the bill which has been at various times introduced into Congress for their improvement was based upon his reports. A bill was passed at the last session of Congress appropriating $8,000 for rebuilding the pier at the mouth of the river, and also appropriating the sum of $20,000 for a road from LaPlaisance Bay, through which the Raisin debouches into Lake Erie, to intersect the Chicago road, which traverses the whole Peninsula, at a point about 40 miles from here; an improvement which will open a new market to Southern and Western Michigan, and contribute of course much toe the prosperity of Monroe. A bill was also passed by both houses appropriating $15,000 for a Canal connected the waters of Lake Erie and the River Raisin by a cut across the bar at the mouth of the latter. The money has not been expended, however, in consequence of an oversight in the engrossing clerk, which from his omitting this important item, has prevented the bill as yet becoming a law. The monies appropriated for the pier and road have already been mostly expended, and those public works are now nearly completed under the active and efficient superintendence of Capt Henry Smith; of the Engineer Corps. When all these improvements are completed, Monroe must come in for a large share of the immense trade and commerce which must flow through the three outlets of Eastern Michigan. The mouth of the Maumee can hardly compete with it on account of the extreme unhealthiness of the swampy region; but I am inclined to think that the enterprizing

inhabitants of this thriving little place are somewhat too vivacious in their expectations, when they think of not only rivalling, but outstripping, the ancient city of the Straits on the onward road of prosperity. Detroit, like every other point selected by the French on the Western waters of our country, is as commanding a position, whether for war or trade, as could be chosen.

The Monroeites are, however, a driving people in their way. They are now building a steamboat of the largest class, which will cost not less than $15,000, to ply directly between here and Buffalo, and this morning I saw launched a beautiful schooner, for the lake navigation. It was the first launch that had ever taken place at Monroe, and the occasion caused a general turn out of the inhabitants, who hurried to the spot a mile or two off upon horses of every variety of appearance. There was the bull-necked French pony and his scraggy looking Indian cousin, the sleek spongy looking Ohio horse and the clean-limbed quickly-gathering Kentuckian, galloping between the swift but schuffling Illinois pacer and the high-actioned- New York trotter. Every one rode as if for a wager, and when we drew our reins the talk about horse-flesh superseding almost the interest in the schooner, showed that the Monroeites, like Cataline and N. Purdy, deserve to be celebrated for their judgment in these matters. A very good and full band of amateur musicians composed of respectable private individuals of the village, came at last upon the ground, and changed the subject to the name of the new vessel which several wanted to alter before launching from the hacknied one of Diana to the more characteristic sound of Tecumseh, the spot being so celebrated in the memory of that great chief. "You know Tecumseh then sir," said I to an old gentleman, who I was informed, had been field officer during the late war, and engaged in several battles. "I did sir, and he was as thorough a gentleman and as high toned an officer as any in the British Service." The chief, you know, actually held his commission as a general officer immediately from the king. "What do you think then, sir, of his massacre upon this spot," I rejoined, "The barbarity of that act, sir, was only in accordance with Indian ideas of warfare. The disgrace of it attaches entirely to the English officer (Proctor) who permitted, perhaps sanctioned, the atrocity." The old officer's blood seemed to kindle anew as he dwelt upon that horrible slaughter of a force which had capitulated on honorable terms with a full reliance on the foe for protection. I asked him about the sick and wounded, who were burnt up in the hospital or shot to death as they ran shrieking through the flames. "I saw their bones," he replied, "when the ruins were still recent, --- I came on with the corps of the Kentuckians which advanced soon after into this country and subsequently so eagerly avenged their countrymen at the battle of the Thames. I walked to the spot where the wounded met their fate, with several others. Richard M. Johnson was one of the number. We looked into the pit, and could see the charred bones and dismembered limbs and sometimes half burnt bodies, plainly below. The men muttered the deepest curses. Col. J. spoke not a word, but the tears rained from his eyes like water, and turning away, he exclaimed, 'There lies the best blood in Kentucky, poured out like water'." I have given as nearly as I can the very words of the veteran Colonel in describing this sad spectacle. Of the 700 young men murdered here, the greater part were students at law, young physicians, and merchants, and sons of opulent farmers, and in short the very flower of the youth of Kentucky. The event threw the whole of that State into mourning. Speaking of the troops who were concerned in the early operations of the regions, I have heard a number of interesting accounts from different persons of the formation of the several corps. One of these, though I may very probably in trying to recall the particulars, confound them with the incidents of another, I will venture to repeat. A graduate of Williams' College, Massachusetts, who had been recently admitted to the bar, was riding through the state of Kentucky, perhaps with the design of finding some favorable point at which to fix his abode and commence the practice of his profession, when he was accosted near a village by a mounted traveler, who mentioning that he was a planter of the country, invited the young advocate with all the freedom of Western hospitality to dine at his house the following day. The invitation was accepted; and the Eastern gentleman arriving at the mansion of the unknown host; found a large party collected, the majority of which were well acquainted with each other, while many were strangers, like himself, and invited appartently in the same manner. The dinner, however, was got through sociably enough; and by the time the glass began to circulate freely, all felt that easy confidence in the fellowship and good feeling of each other which is the soul of good society. The host, then rising, described briefly the state of the Northwestern frontier, and produced a commission from his pocket to raise a corps and march at once thither. They enlisted to a man; their entertainer provided them on the spot with the necessary stores and munitions, and the band of volunteers started in a few hours on their march to the border.

The name of the noble host was not mentioned, but the Eastern adventurer, who was elected a Lieutentant upon the spot, and soon after became a Captain, was said to have been better know since as Colonel, General, Governor, and lastly Mr. Secretary Cass.

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