Author: Tom Dodd
“Ypsilantians...threw stones at the Governor as he entered the City. Rotten eggs and horse
manure were also offered as welcoming gifts to the state’s second oldest municipality.”
Political maneuvering is nothing new. Presi- dent Andrew Jackson removed Stevens (Tom) Mason
from his position as acting governor of the Michigan Territory on August 20, 1835, after
Pennsylvanian Charles Shaler turned down the opportunity to oversee the Michigan Territory just
before it became a state. Jackson then appointed Virginian John Scott Horner to the job. Even
though Mason was the Democratic Party nominee for governor and was destined to rise to that
position, he suffered the blows of national politics in the process.
Horner came to assume his duties by boat from Cleveland to Detroit where he ran aground in the
Detroit River at the very mo- ment Michiganders ratified their new state’s constitution and
elected Mason to be their governor. The loyal opposition Whig party held that Mason was not really
governor until the state was admitted to the union and the people of the territory did not take
kindly to Horner’s visit for the interim period. Ypsilanti was no exception to the mood of the
Ypsilantians, unhappy with Horner’s policy of pardoning Ohio “Buckeyes” who had been
captured in the first and only skirmish of the Toledo War, threw stones at the Governor as he
entered the City. Rotten eggs and horse manure were also offered as welcoming gifts to the
state’s second oldest municipality (See Don Faber’s The Toledo War: The First Michigan-Ohio
Horner wrote of his experience in Monroe, Tecumseh, and Ypsilanti on October 19, 1835 in a
letter to Secretary of State John Forsyth. His letter can be seen in the Lucas County Public
Library, in Toledo and in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections. “My con- dition was
this; at Monroe, the seat of strife, amidst a wild and dangerous population, without any aid, a
friend, servant or bed to sleep in, in the midst of a mob excited by the enemies of the
administration, and bad men, I could not enlist a friend, or an officer of the Territory. Under
the most disadvantageous and embarrassing circumstances which anar- chy could present, the wishes
and instructions of Government have been constitutionally fulfilled and complied with.
“On Saturday at noon, Judge Swayne and myself left Tecumseh for Detroit, and on our arrival
that evening at Ypsilanti, were mobbed, the horse somewhat injured; no bones how- ever, were
broken, and not a word was said by me on the subject.
“My labors, both mental and bodily have been very arduous, almost unsupportable. It was not
until this morning that I could procure a clerk or private secretary, such was the state of the
public mind, from some cause or other. I mention mobs and details only to exhibit the true state
of things; personally, I care nothing for them. Doctrines are afloat here monstrous and dangerous.
There never was a govern- ment in Christendom with such officers, civil and military, and a field
with such doctrines as Michigan. One of the judges at Monroe expressed publicly his desire to
become a martyr to the cause. I have used my utmost exertions in executing the duties of my office
at the sacrifice of my own health. P.S. There are no funds here within my control, and, to
discharge my duties, I have exhausted my own pecuniary recourse.”
With that denigrating reception, Michigan Governor John Scott Horner was nicknamed “Little
Jack Horner” by his constituents in Michigan. In March, Horner was appointed secretary of the
Wisconsin Territory and was happy to leave his post in Michigan. Stevens T. Mason was duly
elected by the people of Michigan on October 5 and his official governance of the state began on
November 1, 1835.
Photo 1: Ypsilantians were unhappy with the
appointment of Virginian John Scott Horner to the position of Acting Governor of the Michigan
Photo 2: Stevens T. Mason was the first duly
elected governor of the state of Michigan (1935).
(Tom Dodd is the Editor of the Depot Town Rag and a regular contributor to the