Walter B. Hewitt: A Success Story Worthy of Dickens

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2012,
Summer 2012
Original Images:

Author: Jan Anscheutz

Good historical research and writing do not die; they just “fade away.” They may in fact stay hidden in an Ypsilanti Historical Museum archives file until they are rediscovered, read, and republished more than a century later. Such is the case with a fascinating obituary that pays tribute to the life of Walter B. Hewitt, one of Ypsilanti’s most important business, political and cultural pioneers.

Published anonymously in the Ypsilanti Commercial of September 10, 1886, the obituary recounts Hewitt’s life as if he were a character in a novel by Charles Dickens – an immensely popular author at the time of Hewitt’s death. Like David Copperfield, Hewitt rose from poverty and misfortune to riches and glory by remaining true to the virtues of honesty, integrity and hard work.

What follows is the story of the life of Walter Hewitt, exactly as it appeared 126 years ago as an obituary in the Ypsilanti Commercial. It has been transcribed in its entirety from a hand-written version.

“Walter B. Hewitt died in this city Saturday, September 4, 1886. The subject of this sketch was born at Stillwater, Saratoga County, New York, February 4, 1800. His father’s name was Elisa, who emigrated from Connecticut to New York.

The ancestors of Mr. Hewitt came from England and participated in the early struggles of this country. Mr. Hewitt was named after his grandfather, Walter, who was actively engaged in the Revolutionary War, and during the hours of destitution, when Washington’s soldiers were leaving those bloody tracks in the snow, he braved the dangers of Indian and British warfare and carried to the starving army many a load of provisions. His grandfather, Edmund Johnson, was also distinguished for his love of liberty, his powerful strength, and great daring. He was a captain in the Revolutionary War and so agile was he that he could easily leap over a yoke of oxen.

Cynthia Johnson Hewitt (his mother) was left a widow when he was but two years old. The farm was sold and sometime afterward she married George Ardres Downing, a skilled mechanic.

Mr. Hewitt’s early life was spent as were the lives of boys of those early days. He began school at seven, and his extreme bashfulness made it a great event in his life. He attended the village school, taught by a Mr. Brush, and his instruction included a little geography and sums in “Pike’s” arithmetic. At this time most problems were solved in pounds, shillings, and pence, and in this study he became proficient. In the school of his early days, blackboards and globes were unknown. The maps in geography were regarded as useless and the instruction was of the most arbitrary character. Although punishment by force was common, he escaped that disgrace.

His winter days were spent in school. During the summer he helped make quilts or assisted in the general housework. Judged by our standard, the conveniences of his early days were few. There were no shoe or tailor shops, but itinerant shoemakers would spend a day or a week at the various houses supplying the needs of the inhabitants. To him, his first pair of shoes formed a great event in his history (and a real pair of shoes did not come till he was twelve years old) and so careful was he of them that when he came to a dusty place in the road he would take them off and wrap them in his handkerchief.

His mother was a woman of great mental power, and as he was then much in her society, she made a powerful impression on his life. She filled his young heart with stories of Revolutionary days, and while he turned the (spinning) wheel, she inculcated those principles of integrity for which his life has always been distinguished. His mother was a woman of firm religious conviction, and though she lived many miles from the Baptist Church, when Sabbath came she would gather her children together and struggle through the almost impassable woods to the place of worship. The intellectual stimulus which he got from his mother showed itself in his desire for study and improvement. So when his next teacher came, a man by the name of Grosvender, he was a boy active in body and mind. To swim a mile was almost a daily occurrence, and one day he challenged his teacher to a foot race. This was unfortunate, for during the struggle he fell and injured his knee. For months he was confined to his bed, but his energy conquered. He arose finally and determined he would have an education – and for a year he walked two miles to school daily, dragging his useless limb after him. Although it took him two hours to hobble over as many miles, his time in school was well spent. It was a proud moment for him when the teacher gave public testimony to his superiority as a scholar. At this time too, he was a fine penman, and copies from his hand were sought after by the scholars.

When Deacon Munger came from an adjoining district for a teacher, Mr. Grosvender recommended the boy with the best principles, and with the best record as a scholar. He successfully fulfilled the duties of a teacher for several terms, and received $12 a month and ‘board around.’ He had a month of advanced scholars, who were nearly his equal in arithmetic, but they never knew it, for many a fortnight found him by the fireplace pouring over his books by the pitch pine light. The knowledge which he thus obtained was lasting, much of it being as vivid as ever seventy years afterward.

After finishing his school, he went to work in a brickyard and then learned the tanner and currier’s trade of his brother, Edmund J. Hewitt.

In 1825, he married Polina Childs, and then came to his ears stories of the West, an almost unknown land. He resolved to leave the conservative East and face the pioneer struggles of the West. In those needy times he found a strong helpmate in his wife. She had been a school teacher at fourteen, receiving six shillings a week, and for a number of years had charge of a large family of younger children. These struggles had brought out her mental and moral powers. She cheerfully faced many hardships, and when in the solitude of Michigan forests, financial loss, and disease threatened destruction, her spirit rose triumphant and dispelled the fear of failure. Of her, he always loved to speak, and during his last days, when the subject of his early trials was mentioned, and she was referred to as being of undaunted spirit, he said with all the vigor he could use, ‘Yes, to her I owe all that I am.’

The Erie Canal caused a stream of immigration to flow to Michigan and in 1826 he joined the westward pushing emigrants and landed at Detroit when it had a population of but little more than 2000. At this time the people were mainly gathered on Woodward and Jefferson Avenues. The French largely predominated and obtained most of the land in the vicinity of the river. St. Ann’s and a Presbyterian Church were the only ones built. Gristmills were run by oxen and the town had the appearance of a frontier post. He held dear recollections of Larned Cole, A. C. McGraw, Frazer and of Father Richard and the first printing press.

After landing, he obtained an Indian guide and started through the pathless forests to find land upon which to build a house. He finally located at Walled Lake and here underwent all of the privations of pioneer life. For weeks every one of the party was prostrate from fever. There were none to tend the sick, none to provide food, and it was here that he shed the first tears of despair. He crawled from the house, that was filled with the sick and sat down upon a log, almost wished that death would bring them relief, and it was here that Polina Hewitt showed the strength of her character. Half dead herself she encouraged him until the fever abated its fires. Foreseeing that a life here would be intolerable he disposed of what little land he had and returned to Detroit.

Here he went into business, but a good opening presented itself at Ypsilanti, and in 1831, he came to the city that has since been his home. He rented a building on Main St. and soon had a prosperous shoe shop in operation. He, unaided, did the cutting for twenty two men while his wife did all the stitching for the shop besides doing her household duties and boarding twelve men. Such work naturally brought success. He bought farming lands and building lots and soon erected a store on the corner of Congress and Washington Streets. Naturally a man of integrity and business ability would be called upon by his fellows to transact their business and so we find him filling various offices of public trust. He was one of the trustees under the first village ordinance, was town clerk before the village was incorporated, was treasurer in 1839 and president in 1840 and in 1842 was elected to the State Legislature. He was not a public speaker and did not seek political honors. He sought results rather than theory.

He was very active in Masonic works and was the first secretary of the Lodge of Freemasons. His relations with his fellow men were peculiarly happy. During his last hours, he recalled with pleasure that as far as he knew, he had never wronged a person willfully. He was one of the very few who, amid a variety of business transactions, was never the party to a lawsuit.

With regard to his religious views, he was always reserved. He never scoffed. He never condemned. A conversation with him but a few weeks before his death showed that he stood as high on the mountain that gives the glimpse of immortality as is given most of us to stand. Conscious of his own impending death, he was calm and hopeful of the future, no doubts followed to darken his declining moments. He had been a kind father, a tender husband. He had honored his fellow men and had received their esteem. He had nothing to regret, all to hope for, and, as he looked back over the past, he could say in the language of him who sat at his post in the Legislative hall, ‘This is the last of earth. I am content.’ Reverend T. W. MacLean conducted the funeral exercises Tuesday from the late home.”

Founder of Walled Lake and Ypsilanti Pioneer
Although this is a wonderfully written life story, pieces are missing that made me want to find out more about Hewitt and his life and legacy, misfortune and triumph. Several books, including the History of Oakland County by Samuel Durant, published in 1877, and History of Oakland County Michigan..., written by Thaddeus D. Seeley in 1912, credit Walter Hewitt with being the founder of the community of Walled Lake. Though trained as a teacher, tanner, and shoe and boot maker, at the age of 25, in June, 1825, Hewitt built a log cabin in the wilderness surrounding what came to be called Walled Lake, and attempted to establish a farm in the swamps. However, after several years without much success, he moved with his young family to Detroit, where, it seems, he worked as a shoemaker. There his wife presented him with a son, Edmund, who was born November 14, 1829.

Hewitt worked four years in Detroit in the boot and shoe trade. Then, according to his biography in the History of Washtenaw County (published in 1881), he and his young family decided to seek their fortune in the growing village of Ypsilanti, to which they moved in 1831. Traveling from Detroit to Ypsilanti in those days was an adventure in itself. In The History of Ypsilanti, written by Harvey Colburn in 1923, the author gives us a sense of what was involved: “The road was almost impassable to an ox team and it sometimes took three days to make the thirty-mile trip. For years after its opening, the Detroit road ran through seas of mud and over miles of jolting corduroy; no teamster thought of leaving home without an axe and log chain to cut poles to pry his wagon out of the mud. For a time the road was so impassable that travelers had to come from Detroit by way of Plymouth and Dixboro.”

Unfazed by such challenges, however, Walter, his wife Polina, and their young son Edmund completed the trek to Ypsilanti, where Walter again took up the business of tanning and making shoes and boots.

A Political Pioneer and Champion of Law and Order
In the History of Washtenaw County, Michigan we read: “As early as 1829 the township of Ypsilanti was organized, under authority of a Legislative enactment approved Oct. 1, 1829. Three years later the villagers of Ypsilanti assembled within the shop of John Bryan, to carry out the provisions of another Legislative enactment, which provided for the organization of their village. This meeting was held Sept. 3, 1832, and resulted in the return of John Gilbert as Village President; E. M. Skinner, Village Recorder; Ario Pardee, Village Treasurer; and Abel Millington, Mark Norris, Thomas R. Brown, James Vanderbilt, Walter B. Hewitt, Village Trustees.”

The Trustees’ job was to decide what improvements were needed in the village, such as new roads and operating statutes, and then to make sure these were implemented by committees they appointed. After serving as a village Trustee, Hewitt played an expanding and important role in establishing Ypsilanti. He was made town treasurer in 1839 and elected president of Ypsilanti in 1840. In 1842 he was elected to the State Legislature.

Hewitt’s service to the community went far beyond politics, however. In the early 19th century, Ypsilanti, like America’s Wild West, seemed to attract a criminal element, and Hewitt and other law-abiding citizens sought to make their village safe for women, children, and families. The History of Washtenaw County tells us that “During the year 1838 many malcontents paid visits to the settlement, committed many robberies and depredations, and created a panic of no usual character. To remedy such an evil, the citizens assembled at the house of Abiel Hawkins, considered well a proposition to organize a committee of defense, and at a second meeting held at Mr. Hawkins’s house, Dec. 15, 1838, decided to form a society known as The Ypsilanti Vigilance Committee.”

Hewitt was an active member of the Vigilance Committee. In Past and Present of Washtenaw County, written by Samuel W. Beak in 1906, we learn more about the committee’s efforts to restore law and order in Ypsilanti: “The meetings of this society were of the most secret character and their methods of work were carefully guarded. But they showed results, for before the end of the year 1839, one hundred and twelve men had been convicted, $10,000 worth of stolen property had been recovered, and a number of bad characters had been driven out of the community.”

During this decade the Hewitt family grew rapidly. Edmund was born on November 17, 1832, and was followed by a sister, May. On February 23, 1834, Lois joined the family. Charles was born on October 3, 1836, and Walter Jr., the youngest, on September 29, 1839. Still another child died in infancy.

Hewitt supported his family by tanning leather and making shoes and boots. His business was first located on Congress Street (Michigan Avenue), but, according to reports, was destroyed by a major fire in downtown Ypsilanti in 1851. Polina (sometimes spelled Pauline or Paulina) not only helped her husband by sewing shoes all day, but also ran a boarding house with as many as 12 boarders. The boarding house may possibly have been the Hewitt residence at 201 Pearl Street, in the area of present-day Washington and Pearl Streets.

As the family accumulated money, Hewitt was able to purchase a farm in the area that now bears the family name - Hewitt Road. We read in the History of Washtenaw County that “In 1850 he bought a farm near Ypsilanti which has occupied a share of his attention since. He lost about $4,000 in 1851 by a fire consuming his building and stock which were only partially insured.” That same year, during the great fire that destroyed most of downtown Ypsilanti, his business was also burned down. In the city directory for 1873-74, Walter’s occupation is listed as “farmer.”

A Contributor to Culture and Community
Not to be discouraged by his misfortunes, Hewitt continued to work the farm and built an even grander business and store at the northeast corner of Congress and Washington Street. The address is now 126, 128 and 130 West Michigan Avenue. This was a three-story building that housed not only his shoe and boot factory and store, but an auditorium named Hewitt Hall, which provided a venue for local talent and added much vitality to the growing community. This was the place where Ypsilanti’s Frederic Pease staged concerts and operas, and introduced his operetta “Enoch Arden,” and where plays such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought the audience to tears. It was the place, too, where Ypsilanti men were recruited for the Civil War and where, at the end of the war, the entire community celebrated with speeches, flag waving, and poetry.

Among the performers who entertained Ypsilanti at Hewitt Hall were Tom Thumb and his wife, and the poet Will Carleton. Frederick Douglas spoke there three times, in 1866, 1867, and 1888. People came from far away to attend various events, and were able to stay overnight down the street at the Hawkins House Hotel. In 1893, after the building of the Ypsilanti Opera House, Hewitt Hall was rented by the Ypsilanti Light Guard. In 1914, it became a roller rink, which was much damaged by a fire that year. By 1937, both Hewitt Hall and the entire third floor of the commercial building were razed, possibly due to deterioration.

Perhaps the exposure to musicians and performers at Hewitt Hall were the basis for the love of music and talent pursued throughout his life by Hewitt’s son, Walter, Jr. The latter became a published composer, a celebrated organist, and a professor of music at the Normal College.

Walter B. Hewitt’s efforts to uplift the community with entertainment and enlightenment at Hewitt Hall were not his only contributions to Ypsilanti culture. Playing an instrumental role, he joined with others in his church congregation in 1856 to build the beautiful First Presbyterian Church on Washington Street. According to Samuel W. Beck, author of Past and Present of Washtenaw County, Michigan, the building committee of which Hewitt was a part was responsible not only for helping to plan the building with the architect George S. Green, but for raising the entire cost of $16,000 and making sure the new building met all specified standards.

By the time the church was built, Hewitt and his family were living just a few blocks away from both the church and his booming store and factory, at 442 North Huron Street. There, the hard-working, good-spirited Polina Childs Hewitt, who was the sixth child of Mark Anthony and Hannah Childs, died on February 1, 1873, at the age of 71. Walter lived on as a widower for 13 years and died in his home in 1886.

Here this narrative comes full circle, back to Walter B. Hewitt’s obituary. Perhaps, as you drive down Hewitt Road, you can now better appreciate how much all of us owe to the brave young men, such as Walter Bernard Hewitt, who, with fortitude, courage and faith, helped not only to build Ypsilanti, but to give it shape as a vital community.

(Janice Anschuetz is a local historian who is a regular contributor to the GLEANINGS.)

Like David Copperfield, Hewitt rose from poverty and misfortune to riches and glory...

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Walter Hewitt & Polinda Childs Hewitt

[Photo caption from original print edition]: A Christmas trading card with the inscription: “Presented by Hewitt & Champion, Fine Boots and Shoes. Ypsilanti, Mich.”

[Photo caption from original print edition]: An Easter trading card: “Presented by Hewitt & Champion, manufacturers and dealers in Boots, Shoes and Rubbers, fine work a spe- cialty, Ypsilanti, Mich. (Patent applied for)”

[Photo caption from original print edition]: The three story building at 126, 128 and 130 West Michigan Avenue (the current address) housed Hewitt’s shoe and boot factory and store, and also an auditorium named Hewitt Hall

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Hewitt played an instrumental role in 1856 in the planning and building of the First Presbyterian Church on Washington Street

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Walter & Polina’s son Edmund with his granddaughter Gladys taken in 1912

The Days Before Godfrey

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2012,
Summer 2012
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Just about every history of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County states that the first permanent building in the region was Gabriel Godfroy’s fur trading post at present day Ypsilanti. These histories further state that the post was established in 1809. These histories are in error. The fact is, a trading post was founded at Ypsilanti long before 1809, and was here as early as 1790.

A trading post at present day Ypsilanti would, in the 1700s, make perfect sense. This was where the Sauk Trail crossed the Huron River and intersected the Pottawatomie Trail. Native-Americans had come to this site for generations to trade and conduct ceremonies. This site was a neutral zone for the tribes, a safe place to conduct their business. For this reason, the French fur traders would have seen the site as the logical place for a trading post.

“The first reference to the Ypsilanti location is a report of the route from Detroit to western Michigan and the Mississippi River by way of the Sauk Trail written in c1772 by an English officer,” wrote Karl Williams in Gabriel Godfrey Wasn’t the First, which appeared in the Summer 2008 GLEANINGS. Mr. Williams also notes: “In the report it is stated that 40 miles west of Detroit was the Huron River, Indian name Nandewine Sippy, at which six large cabins of ‘Puttawateamees’ were located. The river is described as being about fifty feet wide and the water generally from one and a half to two feet deep, ‘the road being very bad in this place.”

A French fur trading post was established at present day Ypsilanti by 1790, when Hugh Heward tried to find a water route across Lower Michigan by way of the Huron and Grand Rivers. In his journal, Heward wrote he arrived at Sanscrainte’s village on April 1. He noted the post “seems to furnish good small peltries.” He failed to find the right stream, and returned to Sanscrainte’s village on April 15, and “by the assistance of Mr. Godfroy, who seamed very obliging, engaged an Indian with two horses.” According to a number of sources, Jean Baptiste Sanscrainte had traveled from Quebec to this area in 1765 when he was 11 years old.

Some time during the 1790s––certainly before July 1, 1796––Gabriel Godfroy acquired the site from Sanscrainte. This was the date the United States assumed jurisdiction over this section of the Old Northwest. Before that date, what is now the State of Michigan, was under the control of the British.

Then why do all the histories of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County state that Godfroy founded his trading post in 1809? The answer to this is: because this was the date, 1809, when the United States Government, granted land claims to Godfroy and his partners. “Gabriel Godfroy and his associates, Francis Pepin and Louis LaChambre, registered their claims with the American Government in 1808, following the Act of Congress on March 3, 1807, by which all titles to land acquired under the previous French or British rule, prior to July 1, 1796, would be honored if filed with the government and duly authenticated,” wrote Sister Marie Hayda in her dissertation The Urban Dimension and the Midwestern Frontier, A Study of Democracy at Ypsilanti, Michi- gan: 1825-1858. A copy of this dissertation is in the YHS Archives.

“The famous ‘French Claims’ of Ypsilanti Township were based on ‘possession, occupancy and improvements’ prior to 1796.”

Godfroy filed a claim for a tract of land on with the Land Office at Detroit for his children on December 31, 1808. This for “a tract of land, situated on River Huron, of Lake Erie; containing ten acres in front by sixty in depth, bounded in front by lands of Francois Pepin, and below by unconceded lands. I claim by virtue of possession, occupancy, and improvements made thereon.”

The board met to consider the claim on Saturday, February 17 1810. “Whereupon,” records The American State Papers, Public Lands, “Francis Regis was brought forward as a witness in behalf of the claimants, who, being duly sworn, deposed and said, that previous to the 1st of July, 1796, Gabriel Godfroy was in possession and occupancy of the premises, and had caused part of the said premises to be cultivated every year to this day; that a large orchard is planted thereon, and about ten arpens (formerly a measure of land in France) are under cultivation.”

In April of that year the commission considered the claims of Godfroy and Louis LaChambre. This time a Charles Chovin came forward as a witness to state each claim was in the possession and occupancy of Godfroy or LaChambre. For the claim of Godfroy, Chovin swore, “that he has always kept a tenant on the same, and has caused part of this tract to be cultivated every year. A house is erected on the premises, an orchard planted, and about fifteen arpens under cultivation.”

Then the commission considered the claim of LaChambre, and again Chovin came forward as a witness to state LaChambre had possession and occupancy of the claim. “Several buildings are erected on the premises, and part of the premises have been cultivated every year. About six or seven arpens are under cultivation,” added Chovin.

In each case the board decided the claimants were entitled to the property. The board ruled in each claim: "Thereupon it doth appear to the commissioners that the claimant is entitled to the above described tract of land, and that he have a certificate thereof, which certificate shall be (land claim number); and that he cause the same to be surveyed, and a plot of the survey, with the quantity of land there in contained, to be returned to the register of the land office at Detroit.”

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a regular contributor to the GLEANINGS, and a volunteer in the YHS Archives.)

...why do all the histories of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County state that Godfroy founded his trading post in 1809?

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Don’t believe everything you read. Those signs should really say “Established 1790” Right: Godfroy established his trading post where the Sauk Trail crossed the Huron River and intersected the Pottawatomie Trail in the 1790s

[Photo caption from original print edition]: The French Claims of Ypsilanti Township were based on “possession, occupancy and improvements” made prior to 1796

An Invitation to Contribute to Gleanings

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2012,
Spring 2012
Original Images:

Author: Peg Porter

Our Historical Society’s quarterly publication, GLEANINGS, is old enough to have its own history. Back in the 1970s when the Society was organizing, the founders saw a need to have an ongoing mechanism to capture our community’s history and make it widely available. In the past there were several people who functioned as a “City Historian.” These people, such as Harvey Colburn, Foster Fletcher and Doris Milliman, spent hours writing both from personal experience and research. Because of their dedication we have much to draw upon.

The interesting thing about history is that it never ends. With the evolution of GLEANINGS the work of these earlier historians has been expanded. All of the current and former residents of Ypsilanti are potential contributors to the GLEANINGS. The more voices we have telling our stories the richer our publication will

There are some key concepts to keep in mind when writing local history. As a writer, you are either writing a first-hand account or you are using sources. If you are writing a first-hand account, you have been a witness to the main events in your story. If not, you may use interviews and/or research documents from the relevant period. When you use sources it is important that you acknowledge them by name. You want to give credit where credit is due. In addition you are providing the reader with information should they want to further pursue the topic being covered.

A second concept is that as historians we are writing the truth. That is the truth as we have been able to document or in the case of a first-person account, the truth as we perceived it. We are not writing fiction nor are we writing fictionalized history. We may want to illustrate with hypothetical examples such as, “in the 1930s the typical housewife spent x percent of her time on laundry...” We also want to keep fact separate from opinion. Writers sometimes use terminology such as “some people believe...” to delineate between the two.

Most historians will say that the purposes of a written history are to inform and enlighten. Not everything that has happened in the past merits a written record. However, history is not restricted to “significant” events. Sometimes seemingly minor happenings can inform and enlighten the reader. It is the story that determines its place in an historical journal; the author’s insight and understanding interprets the story in a way that makes it meaningful.

GLEANINGS articles focus on local history, what is now Ypsilanti and the surrounding area. In some stories the area may be expanded to include all of Washtenaw County. While there certainly may be links to other cities and even other countries, the event, person, etc. has a significant local connection or meaning and that is central to the story. Because we are a local publication, we have a responsibility to our fellow citizens, either living or deceased. They deserve respect. Two items in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics speak clearly to this: “Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy;” and “Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”

In 2010 the GLEANINGS received an award from the Michigan Historical Society for being the best local history newsletter. In addition to direct mail distribution to our members, past issues are available on the Ann Arbor District Library’s website and on the Ypsilanti Historical Society website. Articles from our journal have been posted on the State of Michigan website. Al Rudisill, our GLEANINGS Editor and Society President, estimates a readership of over 1,000 for each issue.

Settler's Family Still a Presence

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2012,
Spring 2012
Original Images:

Author: Harwood, Davis-Brown & Dodd

1. William Webb Harwood b. 20 Mar 1785, Massachusetts Farmer & businessman d. 8 Nov 1860, Ypsilanti Married, 20 Mar 1814, Sally Aldrich, d. 2 Dec 1824, Ypsilanti • Rosina, b. 7 April 1821 • William, b. 14 May 1824 • Isiah • Sarah • Mable • Hannah Came to Michigan in 1824 and brought his family. Went back to New York to get more supplies. When he came back, they told him his wife had died. Second wife: Abigail Albro, 2 March 1825, NY, d. 1828, Ypsilanti, lived only a few months. No children. Third wife: Alma Coe, b. 1803, NY m. 3 Feb 1831, NY, d. 25 July 1836, MI • William Webb, Jr. 1833 • Joel, 1834 • Alma Coe, 1836 Fourth wife: Polly Holden Norris, b. 25 December 1808, m. 14 Mar 1839, Yates, NY, d. 17 Sept 1894, Washtenaw County, MI • Harrison, b. 6 August 1840 • Henry, b. 6 Dec 1841, d. 30 Sept 1843 • Franklin, b. 1 Mar 1844, d. 1 Apr 1872 • Martin Luther, b. 16 Aug 1846, d. 13 Oct 1848 • Sidney, b. 15 May 1848 (see Janice) • John, b. 3 October 1853, d. 29 Dec 1928

2. John Harwood (son of William Webb & Polly Norris Harwood) b. 2 Oct 1853, Washtenaw County, MI, d. 29 Dec 1929, Washtenaw County, MI. Buried in Harwood Cemetery Married: Jane E. Forsythe, 4 Mar 1873, d. 20 July 1892 • Lois Polly, 13 January 1874 • Frank H., 2 October 1876 • John, Jr., 18 June 1879 • Delia, 20 February 1882 • Carlton, 8 January 1887 • George Holden, 8 January 1887 Second wife: Martha Elizabeth Stevens, June 1893/1894, Pittsfield Twp, MI, b. 18 Mar 1859, August Twp, MI, d. 6 Nov. 1919.

(son of John & Jane) b. 2 October 1876, d. 13 March 1953, buried in Saline Cemetery. Married: 14 October 1897, Windsor, Canada, Ruth Anna Watling, daughter of Fountain & Harriet Thompson Watling b. 6 December 1879, Ypsilanti; d. 27 February 1956, buried at Highland Cemetery Divorced. Second wife: Luella Kyte, Daughter of Joseph & Sarah Kyte, b. 1892, d. 19?? Buried at Saline Cemetery • Dorothy, b. 19 October 1917, died very young, buried at Highland Cemetery • Carl Eugene, b. 21 February 1919 • Frank H. Jr., b. 29 December 1897; d. 24 October 1963. Frank H. Harwood was a carpenter most of his life.

4.Frank H. Jr., (son of Frank & Ruth). 29 December 1897; d. 24 October 1963, Ypsilanti; buried at Highland Cemetery Married: 8 August 1923, Ypsilanti, Helen Alice Collins, b. 28 June 1903, Ypsilanti; d. 6 February 1961, Washtenaw County, MI, buried at Highland Cemetery • virginia, 13 June 1925 • Harrison b. 15 October 1927; d. 6 October 2000, buried Highland Cemetery • Earl, b. 9 November 1931, Stoney Creek Road, Ypsilanti • James, b. 20 December 1933, Willis, MI • Shirley, b. 24 November 1935, Allen Park, MI (All Frank Jr’s children were born in Ypsilanti) Frank Harwood, Jr. worked for Henry Ford remodeling his little plants around southern Michigan that made parts for the plant in Dearborn. Then he was in charge of the carpenters at the Ford Farms where soybeans were grown looking for a substitute for rubber. When the farms were removed to create the Willow Run bomber plant he went to work at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. He worked as a carpenter at Greenfield Village and was head of maintenance. He brought two buildings to Greenfield Village from their original location: The Heinz Plant from Pennsylvania, and Howard's Office from Michigan.

5.Virginia Davis-Brown, daughter of Frank Jr. & Helen, is a Trustee of the Ypsilanti Historical Society and serves on the Museum Advisory Board

5th Anniversary of Moving Archives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2012,
Spring 2012
Original Images:

Author: Gerry Pety

Happy 5th Anniversary... to Us!
Reflections on the old YHS Archives: 7/26/2007-7/26/2012

As most people in the YHS community know, we have a new Archive which is absolutely first rate and a blend of the old and new that makes it very efficient and yet evokes a positive feeling on Ypsilanti history. What the walls of this 150-year-old house could tell! The best part of moving to this well-planned 'Phoenix' of the old YHS Archives is that everything works on a consistent basis which again makes this an ideal place to do research or just converse about the history or the area. Moreover, we are now fully capable of finding anything in the archives pertaining to Ypsilanti - which is something we could not always do at the old place, due to its interior configuration.

It is still hard to believe that it has been five years since we moved the Fletcher-White Archives from the, then city-owned, carriage house to our new present facilities in the lower level of the YHS Museum. What a move it was too! Everyone within the YHS family and others, it seemed, came to help us move. It was a real job and it involved a great deal of preparation on everyone's part, but my volunteers and I pulled it off. Phew!

People seem to remember different aspects of that place than I do, and although I still remember the good times we had over there, there were many other things which made the place absolutely 'unique'. Many have asked me what I feel about the old Archives and then they would wax nostalgically about how charming the old place was or the great view we had of Riverside Park from our windows. During the summer, there were lots of annual events within our view. All of this free! Also, some of our guests and members remember the coziness of the place which engendered a a spirit of camaraderie among the patrons with everyone helping one another; whether it was to do research or just simple explanations of Ypsilanti's fascinating history. Yeah, it was a wonderful experience to be sure, to everyone including myself.

Yep, I really liked the place but there was a side to the old Archives not everyone knows about. I will spin that story for you now as I remember the old place.

Sometime in 2002 the Archives were in the Ypsilanti Room in the YHS Museum where I was a volunteer and during my first week we moved the Archives over to what was known as the carriage house. Wow, what a move it was! James Mann was the first Archivist at the new digs and I worked for him the first year. In 2003 James left this position and I was finally hired to run the 'exiled' Archives at the carriage house. This was after the short-lived tenure of an archivist who was allergic to dust and mold. Two ambulance rides to the hospital later they hired me to take her place. It seems it was on June 25th, 2003, a date that General Custer made famous some 127 years earlier.

The part of the story most people find hard to believe was that totality of the problems we would encounter there and I do mean WE! Every day we came to the Archives I never knew, until I entered, what would or could possibly go wrong that day or what my guests and helpers would encounter. Many times during the next five years we would welcome patrons and helpers without any heat, light, phones, computer, water, or even with a plugged toilet! This happened all the time! We even had a flood in the bathroom one day and a bathtub that was backed-up with some really, slimy goo---shades of 'slime' in the movie "Ghost Busters"! We some how always found a way to stay open though. Oh, we might get really cold, but we remained open.

Our final August in 2006 at the old Archive, we even had a real fire! The power line leading to the building was literally knocked off by a direct lightning strike; it was just hanging there on the side of the building when DTE arrived to fix it. No air conditioning, light or computer that day! Luckily, the actual strike was so short-lived, probably only took a nano second. The electrical lead-in wire was probably due to fail anyway due to its advanced age and lack of maintenance, so it was time to replace it anyway. This place was originally converted to apartments in 1929 and that was probably the original lead wire from then. The only evidence left was a scorched and melted carpet under the desk in the living room and a completely destroyed surge protector. The good news was that the computer survived and somehow the place didn't burn to the ground like the building almost did in 1968 when there was a boiler fire in the basement!

When we did finally move to the new Archive, renovations started. What was revealed was a very antiquated wiring system and confusing fuse panel, and a plumbing system that even the ancient Romans would regard as sub-standard. (YHS President Al Rudisill and Jerry Jennings would remedy all of this over the course of the next nine months to make this place into a deluxe apartment). Besides the physical problems with the old Archives, we had all kinds of visitors- invasions of all kinds of some really ugly creatures that came to visit: a rodent or two, numerous House Centipedes, (I swear one was size of a 75-cent Tootsie Roll) and other 'things' I never knew existed or haven't seen since my student days at Hover Labs at EMU, when we studied bugs. If you believe there is not enough bio-diversity on this planet, is wasn't missing, it was just hiding right here in the Archives!

We also had a squirrel that went absolutely beserk in 2005 and ran 'hill and dale' leaving paw prints on everrrrrryything! He left paw prints on every vertical surfaces too. This little fellow went everywhere and only the ceiling was spared this 'super-tracker'. Seems he came down the chimney and could not back up so he decided to show his immense displeasure with the whole joint by leaving his 'calling cards' along with numerous tracks.

But this is not a 'hit piece' about a place that never would have made 'code' if it had been owned by a private landlord, this was a city owned building at the time. Ypsilanti over the years had taken a minimalist approach to repairs and human safety issues - and all of the 'regulars' and visitors who came in knew it instinctively. One of the first items of interest upon entry was to survey where the exits were and how far it was to jump out a window in case of an emergency. The walls were uniformly rough from faulty plastering, the doors stuck, nothing worked properly. I got to know Stan, the leader of the city maintenance crew that came to fix things on an almost weekly schedule. Heck, even when everything appeared to be working well, you knew that this was just a setup or prelude to some new difficulty---lady luck was nowhere to be found during our tenancy.

When I think back to those days of five years ago, I still remember all the things that went on and wonder if this was not some sort of immense cosmic joke. Maybe, in some perverse way the place was so trouble prone that it challenged the laws of possibilities. How could so many negative things happen all at once and all of the time! Maybe it was some escaped gremlins from the Ford/Consolidated bomber plant of World War II. Nah!

Then I think of the people and made 'IT' the special place that it was. It was a great place to do research and a lot of fun to boot - the full spectrum of positive human personalities were present there every day we were open. Many of those people that came to the old Archives are now gone but the special memories of these people are accentuated by an equally special place we all shared. I will never forget the old Fletcher-White Archives, it was a special time, in a very special place. There will never be a place like this again.

As to our present Archives, I am sure, that 45 years from now someone will write an equally satisfying account of all of the great happenings and people here and now and about our panoply of friendly ghosts that habituate the place. I sure hope so!

So long live the YHS Archives and Happy 5th Anniversary!

[Gerry Pety is Archivist for the Fletcher-White Archives and a boon to all who seek professional research there.]

Unique Grave Markers

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2011,
Winter 2011
Original Images:

Author: Mann, Ridenour, Rudisill, et al

Highland Cemetery has a large number of unique grave markers including animals, trees, flowers, and items related to the lives of the people buried there. This article will focus on a number of these unique markers.

There are several “tree stump” tombstones carved out of limestone or marble. These tombstones first appeared in cemeteries in the late 1800s and continued to be popular through the 1920s. This design sometimes symbolizes that the individual was cut down in the prime of life. Other sources indicated that, if there are branches cut off close to the stump, it means that other members of the family also died before their time. Sometimes the initials of the family members are carved into the cut- off branches. Inscriptions on the stumps are often cut into the wood of the tree where the bark has been cut away or a scroll is nailed to the stump or hung from a rope hanger. Items such as a cross, bible, anchor, or flowers are often seen carved on the top of the stump or arranged around the base.

One example of this type of “tree stump” tombstone in Highland Cemetery is that of Ettie G. Reed, born in 1910 and died in 1917. The tombstone includes a scroll with information on it that is attached to a rope hung over a cut off branch. Other items carved into the stump include flowers and vines.

The Laura L. (Murray) Kelly and children tombstone is another example of the “tree stump” tombstone. This is unique in that it lists the information for the mother and her two children who died shortly after birth. In the center of the “tree” is the information about the mother:

On the cut-off branches on each side of the main stump are inscriptions for each of the babies:

Herbert Murray
Son of W. W. & L. Kelly
Born March 13, 1866
Died March 18, 1867
Aged 1 year and 5 days

Sara Abby
Daughter of W. W. & L. Kelly
Born September 3, 1864
Died September 21, 1864
Aged 18 days

On the top of the Laura Kelly tombstone is the word “LAURA” and a sheaf of wheat. Wheat often is used to denote immortality and resurrection. Next to the Laura Kelly tombstone is the tombstone of her husband which is also a “tree stump” but of much simpler design.

Another source for the “tree stump” tombstones was a fraternal organization called “Woodmen of the World.” The organization was founded in 1890 and was based in Omaha, Nebraska. This large privately-held insurance company was established for members who were provided with a death and monument benefit. Early in the program gravestones were furnished to members free of charge. Some of the gravestones resembled a stack of cut wood while others resembled a tree trunk. A tree trunk was part of the organization’s logo.

Throughout history symbols and figures have been used on tombstones to represent trades and professions. One of the unique tombstones in Highland Cemetery that reflects the trade of the individual is that of Thomas Vivian. On the top of the tombstone is an anvil, hammer, horseshoe, vines and other items. According to cemetery records, Thomas Vivian was born in 1828 and died in 1898. The 1860 Ypsilanti Street Directory indicates the Vivian’s business was “...blacksmithing, horse shoeing and repairing of all kinds.” His shop was on the river near the Follett House.

Statues of animals have also been used as grave markers to represent pets or the interests of the interred. One recent addition to Highland Cemetery in 2002 was the tombstone of Michael J. Ellinger. The tombstone includes a statue of a dog and the inscription on the stone includes the words “Dog is my Co-Pilot.” Ellinger’s obituary begins as follows, “Beloved husband, brother, son and renowned lover of dogs.” In addition, the obituary indicates that in addition to his wife and family members, that Ellinger “ survived by two of his best canine friends, Jack and Chelsea.”

Another marker in Highland Cemetery that includes the statue of a dog is in the Starkweather plot. The dog statue is located a few feet from the large marker that includes the names of several family members. The dog statue is that of “Watch,” John Starkweather’s favorite dog, however, Watch is not buried in the cemetery. The virtues of fidelity, loyalty, vigilance, and watchfulness have long been symbolized in cemeteries by statues of man’s best friend.

A statue of a lamb often marks the graves of children, particularly infants, symbolizing innocence. Christian markers in particular use lamb statues as Christ is often referred to as the Lamb of God or as a shepherd. One of many lamb statues in Highland Cemetery using the statue of a lamb is that of “John Elmer Johnson, Jr. – July 25, 1941.”

Corn has often been used as a symbol on grave markers and represents fertility and rebirth. In American Indian culture the seeds of an ear of corn represented all the people as well as all the things in the universe. There are many markers in Highland Cemetery with an ear of corn as part of the grave marker. The one illustrated in this article is part of a “tree stump” marker.

Photo captions:

Photo 1: The unique Laura Kelly and infant children “tree stump” tombstone with cut off branches signifying the children died before their time

Photo 2: The Ettie G. Reed “tree stump” tombstone with a scroll hung over a cut-off branch

Photo 3: Herbert Murray, Son of W. W. & L. Kelly, Born March 13, 1866, Died March 18, 1867, Aged 1 year and 5 days

Photo 4: Sara Abby, Daughter of W. W. & L. Kelly, Born September 3, 1864, Died September 21, 1864, Aged 18 days

Photo 5: The Starkweather plot guarded by a statue of man's best friend

Photo 6: The Michael J. Ellinger tombstone with the words “Dog is my Co-Pilot” and the statue of a dog

Photo 7: The Thomas Vivian tombstone with anvil and other symbols representing his occupation of “blacksmithing, horse shoeing and repairing of all kinds”

Photo 8: The John Elmer Johnson, Jr. marker with a lamb that is often used on the graves of children, particularly infants, to symbolize innocence

1929 Train Wreck

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2011,
Winter 2011
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

The first four paragraphs of this article previously appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of GLEANINGS. In this follow-up, the author relates what happened following the train wreck. The original eyewitness account appeared in the Ypsilanti Press issues in January 1929.

On Monday, January 21, 1929 a freight train was passing through Depot Town in Ypsilanti. Michigan Central baggage man Fred Beck saw that a wheel truck of a freight car was off the track. It was number 12 of 85 cars. Before the train could be stopped, the car broke loose of its coupling, crossed the street lurching and crashing into the building that was then known as the Cadwell Building. You know it today as the patrio right by the tracks at the Sidetrack Bar and Grill. Now you know the reason for the odd right angle that sets it apart from every other building in the Depot Town area.

"Mrs. Louis Cadwell, the owner, who lived on the second floor, and left the building only a few minutes before and was going to her garage in back of the stores when she heard the crash. She rushed to the street to find the entire east wall caved in, her household effects strewn in the street, and the roof of the building sagging precariously. It fell in after the accident, leaving only the Cross Street wall standing and it was torn down soon after." Scott Sturtevant, a local auto dealer, was sitting in his car reading his mail. He was at the gate near River Street. "He saw, coming out of a large cloud of dust, a box car moving in his direction. Sturtevant quickly backed his car out of the way and was not hurt."

"Laura Kelsey, was standing on River Street waiting for the train to pass when the crash occurred. She was apparently hit by the truck after it was torn from the train and knocked unconscious." (Ypsilanti Press, January 21, 1929.)

The car crashed into the restaurant that was operated by Bert Ollett and his wife Cestia. Both were alone in the restaurant at the time. They were worried when the crash occurred that their young son might have been inside the building and killed or injured in the wreckage. However, he was later found safe at school.

Alonzo H. Miller, the Ypsilanti Fire Department Chief at the time, was at the scene as it occurred and took charge of the situation. He continued a career with the Ypsilanti Department.

So what happened to Bert Ollett and his wife Cestia who were inside the restaurant? Bert suffered minor bruises from the crash and "nervous shock." He was a member of the Knights of Pythias Lodge and a deputy sheriff of Washtenaw County for eitght years until his health failed. He lived in Ypsilanti for thirty-three years until the age of 67. He died in November of 1946. Cestia wuffered serious scalp wounds and "nervous shock" from the crash. later diagnosis would show she had a fractured skull, broken arm, and her left side was partially paralyzed. She lived to age 80 and passed away on February 7, 1972 at a convalescent home. She was a member of Cross Street Church of Christ, the Washtenaw Rebekah Lodge 270, the Home League of the Salvation Army, the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, and the Women's Relief Corps. She was survived by one daughter, two sons, five grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter.

The cash register that was inside the restaurant was found but, when it was opened, there was no money inside. Also, Cestia's purse was never located which contained some checks and money.

What of Laura Kelsey who was hit by the train car? Her diagnosis was a broken right collar bone, lacerated right leg, badly torn muscles and scalp wounds. She and the others were taken to and treated at Beyer Hospital which was near the scene of the accident. Filed in the Ypsilanti Press of 1 February 1929, some eight days later, is the following notice in the Ypsilanti Briefs section: "Mrs. Laura Kelsey who was injured when a Michigan Central freight train crashed into the Cadwell building is getting along satisfactorily at Beyer Memorial Hospital. Wounds to her scalp and face have healed and a broken collar bone is healing. An injury to one leg is to be closed with stitches next week. She is still suffering from shock." She faded into history and nothing could be found of her past or her life after the trauma.

Another survivor was "Bobby" the canary owned by Mrs. Cadwell. He was feared dead when his battered cage was found in the wreckage. By the grace of God he was found about severn hours later, bedraggled, and laying in a heap of the rubbish! Funny he never got his photo taken, told his own story, nor is known by most of you as a "survivor of 29." Maybe someday!

The photo of the damage to the Cadwell building is rare and was never published. I discovered it on Facebook and was able to contact Mr. Richard Colegrove who led me on an adventure through photos and diaries of his grandfather, Charles Ray Utter. Charles was a conductor on the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Interurban Railroad and later worked as a barber in Ypsilanti. I deeply thank Richard and his family for giving me permission to publish in the GLEANINGS this rare photo of an event in Ypsilanti history that was not even published in the newspapers at the time of the crash.

(George Ridenour is a member of the YHS Archives Advisory Board, a regular volunteer in the Archives and a regular contributor to the GLEANINGS.)

Photo captions:

A rare photo of the damage to the Cadwell Building (now Sidetrack Bar and Grill) from the train wreck on January 21, 1929.

A highly romanticized drawing of the event was published in Italian newspapers. The artist worked from descriptions found in other news accounts.

It's a Test! Answers

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2011,
Fall 2011
Original Images:

(Answers for the test)

1. He sold fur coats and also provided storage for them in the summer.

2. The east side of South Huron at I-94, the west side of the 300 block of South Grove and some vacant land on the north side of East Forest east of the railroad.

3. The Gaudy family.

4. No. It is named after a former Michigan Governor, Woodbridge N. Ferris.

5. Most bodies had enough uniforms on them to allow identifying the home area of the unknown.

6. The Signal Corps.

7. President Theodore Roosevelt.

8. J.J. Woods, Harold DeBarss, David Robb, Henry Scovill and Lyle Frost.

9. The Scottish tune “The Campbells Are Coming” and the words began
America’s cheering the ‘Henry J,’
The car that saves money in every way,
It’s smart and it’s tough and so little to pay,
You ought to start driving a ‘Henry J.’

10. They were put on display at circus side shows.

11. Wood, coal, oil and natural gas.

12. Gasoline: five gallons for $1.00. Bread: 10 cents a loaf. Adult movie tickets: Adults - 50 cents each and children 10 cents each.

13. The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, Lum and Abner, The Shadow, Our Gal Sunday, Lorenzo Jones and His Wife Belle.

14. Tie on extra Baggage.

15. Louie Chevrolet, Chief Pontiac, Ransom Olds, David Buick, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Hernando DeSoto and Horace Dodge.

16. Robert Ballard was a personal friend of Jerry Roe of the Michigan Historical Society so the first films of the wreck were shown to the public in Lansing, Michigan.

17. So many tried to use the telephone, the phone system collapsed.

18. America offered to relocate these people to mid America and find them jobs.

19. Bombers, tanks, guns, jeeps and command autos.

20. This was the method used to designate party lines, i.e., multiple users on the same line.

21. The Civil War Monument in Highland Cemetery has our National Shield with E Pluribus Unum on it. (Out of many, one.)

The Ypsilantis: Constantine, Alexander, and Demetrius

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2011,
Fall 2011
Original Images:

Author: Peg Porter

Recent issues of GLEANINGS have contained articles on identifying an accurate representation of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Various artists have tried their hand at producing such a representation. Since the Greek Revolution occurred early in the 19th century before the advent of photography, the portraits of Ypsilanti vary significantly. One obvious cause is that there were two Generals Ypsilanti, Alexander (1792-1828), and his younger brother Demetrius (1793–1832). Their father Constantine (1760–1816) took part in the early plots against the ruling Ottoman Empire. Constantine also developed close ties with the Russians and eventually sought refuge in Russia where he died. As a result, there were at least three Ypsilantis associated with the Greek War of Independence. Younger brother Nicholas, also accompanied his brother Alexander to Greece on a mission.

Alexander became a general in the Russian army as did his younger brother Demetrius. He fought with distinction in the Napoleonic Wars, losing an arm at the Battle of Dresden. Alexander took leadership of a secret organization that advocated for Greek independence. Alexander was on his way to major success in leading revolts in Walachia and Moldavia when the Austrian Foreign Minister Metternich convinced Tsar Alexander to withdraw his support, leaving Alexander stranded. He would seek refuge in Vienna.

His brother, Demetrius, was less well known than his older brother. He also fought for the Russian army. Once the Greek Revolution was underway, he became a leader in the fledgling government. His involvement in the capture of Tripoli and his resistance to the Turkish forces in 1825, brought him to the attention of the larger world.It is for these actions that community leaders in Michigan named their growing settlement Ypsilanti.

The Greek revolt inspired widespread sympathy in Europe and the United States who viewed Greece as the cradle of western civilization. The religious differences between the two parties (Greek Orthodox) and the Muslim Ottoman Empire brought not only the support of individuals but that of governments of France and Great Britain.

There is, however, another issue contributing to the difficulty of identifying an accurate image of Demetrius. The brothers bore a strong resemblance as young men; as they grew older their looks began to differ. Alexander had a form of muscular dystrophy affecting the facial muscles. This caused his muscles to sometimes freeze turning a smile into a grimace.His sharp features became even sharper. Demetrius, on the other hand, had softer, rounder features. It also appears that Demetrius had a lighter complexion with reddish hair while Alexander was dark-haired. Some portraits of General Ypsilanti appear to be pictures of Alexander, not Demetrius. This is true of the picture in the foyer of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum!

SOURCES: South African Greeks: Greek War of Independence; the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia; personal communication with Jeff Stross, M.D., University of Michigan.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A longer and more detailed discussion of the events leading to the Greek War of Independence was prepared by Doris Miliman, late City Historian, and can be found in the GLEANINGS Archives.

Photo 1: Constantine Ypsilantis

Photo 2: Alexander Ypsilantis/Ypsilanti in Filiki Eteria attire, National Historical Museum of Greece

Photo 3: Demitrios/Demetrius Ypsilantis/Ypsilanti


Have we conflated the brothers?

Constantine Ypsilantis
1760, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Died: 24 June 1816, Kiev, Russia
Nationality: Moldavian
Ethnicity: Greek
Known for: Prince of Moldavia
Title: Prince
Term: 1799-1801 and 1802-1806
Predecessor: Alexandru Callimachi
Religion: Orthodox Christian
Spouse: Ralu Callimachi
Alexander Ypsilantis 1792-1828
Demetrios Ypsilantis 1793-1832
Plus three more sons
Parents: Alexander Ypsilantis 1725-1805
Alexandru Callimachi, father-in-law

#1. Alexander Ypsilantis
Place of birth:
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Place of death:
Vienna, Austrian Empire, 1702
Death: 1828
Russian Empire, Greek revolutionaries
Years of service: 1805–1821
Rank: Major General
Napoleonic Wars - Battle of Dresden
Greek War of Independence

#2. Demitrios Ypsilantis
Place of birth:
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, 1793
Place of death:
Nafplion, Greece, 16 August 1832
Allegiance: Russia, Greece
Years of service: 1814-1832
Commands held
Moldavia and eastern Greece
Greek War of Independence
-Battle of Dervenakia
-Battle of Petra

Oh, Dimi, we hardly knew ye!
The search continues beyond our Museum walls

No sooner was Peg Porter’s story (page 9) filed, than editors and compositors began to look anew at the visage of D. Ypsilanti to see if he was the guy we had always thought. Readers are encouraged to do the same––and see if we really recognized our local hero after all....

NOTE: According to Jeffrey Stross, M.D., University of Michigan, Ypsilanti had Myotonic Dystrophy, a genetic condition affecting the face and head. It is characterized by premature baldness, cataracts, and rigidity of the facial muscles. The condition sometimes causes the muscles of the face to “freeze.” Actually, it was Demetrius’ brother, Alexander, who is mentioned in medical literature. However, Demetrius appears to have had the same condition. It is possible that Alexander was the subject of some portraits since both brothers were viewed as heroes of the Greek Revolution and strongly resembled each other. These factors could influence portraiture and determining the “best likeness.”

SOURCES: Personal communication; the National Library of Medicine.

Ypsilanti History in Photographs: An Update on the Digital Photo Archive Project

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2011,
Fall 2011
Original Images:

Author: Debi Hoos-Lemke

The Digital Photo Archives Project, the collaborative project between the Ypsilanti Historical Society and the University of Michigan Library’s Digital Library Production Service, has grown again. Over the last year, 150 additional photographs have been added to the database.

How the Project Works: The Ypsilanti Historical Society selects photographs from its archives collection of historical photographs, researches the photographs, enters them in the database and scans a copy. The database and the scanned photographs are then transferred to CDs and delivered to the Digital Library Production Service at the University of Michigan. The DLPS uploads everything to the website, which makes the photographs and information accessible to everyone free of charge. To view the photographs, go to our website,, click on publications, then Photo Archives. Alternatively, you can go to the University of Michigan Library’s website and access the database directly at

The Photo Archives project is a diverse collection covering all aspects of Ypsilanti history. The earliest photographs in the collection are from the 1850s. Subjects covered range from people, automobiles, trains, planes, events, buildings, school and colleges, organizations, cemeteries and much more. This article highlights six of the photographs in the collection and the Winter GLEANINGS will highlight another six photographs.


Photo 1: In 1938 the American Legion sponsored a Fourth of July parade in Ypsilanti, featuring the Washtenaw County Drum Corps. This photograph was donated by Laura Catherine (Oakes) Newcomb who was a local resident and amateur photographer.

Photo 2: The July 1923 Ypsilanti Centennial celebrating the city of Ypsilanti’s 100th anniversary. John S. Miller took this photograph of the Rotary and Kiwanis officers arriving by stage coach from Detroit. The stage coach was driven from Detroit City Hall to Ypsilanti on the old territorial road, now Michigan Avenue. As they passed through Dearborn they were high-jacked and forced to attend a banquet in their honor before continuing on to Ypsilanti. The Photo Archives collection also contains more than 50 photographs of the Centennial Celebration.

Photo 3: This photograph, taken by G.E. Waterman, dates back to 1893 when the city of Ypsilanti was hit by a cyclone. The cyclone did significant damage, including the damage shown in this photograph to the west side of Huron North to Pearl Street. The collection has more than 50 photographs of this significant event in Ypsilanti history.

Photo 4: A B24 comes home to Willow Run Airport in February 1946, following completion of its World War II duties. The crew of #139 is welcomed by the members of the Edsel Ford American Legion

Photo 5: This photograph of the James Gass Family was taken in 1835. Standing: Cynthia, East, Lydia, Rebecca, North; Seated: James Gass, South West, Kittie and Velora, (Mrs. Gass).

Photo 6: A studio photograph of the Class of 1892 of the Michigan State Normal Conservatory in Ypsilanti. The young women are identified as follows: Mary A. Dickinson (piano); Minnie Wilber (pipe organ); Nora C. Babbitt (voice); Oriska M. Worden (voice); Avonia Dawson (piano); Abba Owen (violin); Bertha Day and Georgia M. Cheshire (piano).(Mrs. Gass).

(Debi Hoos-Lemke is a student in the Archival Administration Program in the School of Library and Information Science at Wayne State University. She is serving an Internship in the YHS Archives.)


If you have photographs you would like to donate to the Ypsilanti Historical Society Archives or have questions about the digitization project, please contact Al Rudisill at

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