Pontiac Village and City 1830s



1830 W. C. Palmer, Nelson Reynolds, Joseph R. Bowman, Joseph Hunt, Eli Welch
1831 Hugh Kelly, James Henry, George Hopkinson, G. W. Gray, Levi Dewey
1832 Alonzo Barbour, James Loop
1833 George Reeves, Charles Torrey, Harrison Voorheis
1834 David Cummings, E. E. Sherwood, Joseph Voorheis
1835 W. B. Frederick, D. C. Dean, Ithamar Smith
1836 Deacon A. P. Frost, W. H. McConnell, H. C. Linabury, John Springer
1837 Thomas Looney, from the Isle of Man; T. O. Jones
1838 Jonathan Chandler
no date John Clark, Dr. Chipman, Mr. Spalding, C. C. Hascall


Solomon Frost kept a house called the "Pontiac Hotel" as early as 1830-31.

We give the following notes from the Oakland Chronicle and other early papers:

BUSINESS IN 1830. By the United States census of 1830, taken by Amos Mead, the county of Oakland had a total population of 4910, and Pontiac and Auburn were the most important business places in the county.

At that date Solomon Close kept the Pontiac inn. E. & S. Beach & Co., Darrow & Le Roy, H. N. Howard, and B. Phelps & Co. were extensive general merchants. A. A. Wells had recently opened a manufactory of hats and caps, Alfred Judson was in the tailoring business, W. Barnum was selling boots and shoes. R. L. Sheldon was running a saddler-shop, and Wesson & Barber were blacksmithing.

In 1835 political excitement seems to have been in a flourishing condition, and mass-meetings were held at Pontiac, Rochester, Bloomfield, and other places. A rousing political meeting was held at the court-house, on the 9th of February, 1835, to choose delegates to attend the convention called to frame a State constitution, of which Amos Mead was chairman and Joseph Morrison and E. W. Peck secretaries.

The temperance question was also as thoroughly agitated then as now, and there was warm work throughout the county.

BUSINESS OF 1835. Among the prominent merchants and business men of 1835, according to the advertising columns of the Oakland Whig, were Schuyler Hodges, who kept a general stock, dry goods, groceries, hardware, crockery, stoves, flour, whisky, lumber, shingles, and bricks.

S. Beach, also a general stock and cash store, which was a nine days' wonder in those times; R. Keeler, groceries; R. Le Roy, dry goods, etc.; O. Chamberlin, dry goods; A. Judson, tailor; E. M. Andrews & Co. and Silas Matson, groceries and provisions; H. Frederick, gunsmith.

The papers of that year were full of discussions touching citizenship, the rights of aliens, etc.

There were also occasionally people in those days who were fast enough for even this age of steam. For instance, the Whig chronicles an item touching a certain couple who were "cried" at ten A.M., married at four P.M., and presented with an heir at ten P.M., weighing twenty-one pounds. "Past ten o'clock, and all is well!"

NEW CONSTITUTION. The Whig published the new State constitution in full in its issue of July 8, 1835, soon after the convention adjourned.

It is curious to read in these days of telegraphy the displayed headings in the old papers: "FIFTEEN DAYS LATER FROM EUROPE!" "SEVEN DAYS LATER!"

In July of this year the new firm of Chamberlin & Whittemore opened a general stock of merchandise, and S. Chaffee was in the hatting business.

MAILS IN 1836. In January of the above year the mail facilities of Pontiac were as follows: Detroit, twice per week, Mondays and Thursdays; Auburn, Troy, etc., once per week; Lapeer, once per week; Saginaw, once per week; and Plymouth, once per week. Special route, from Lake Elizabeth, Salome, and Commerce, once per week.

BLACK HAWK. As a matter of general history, the Courier copies an item from the Galena (Illinois) Gazette, stating that the celebrated Sac chief Black-Hawk was drowned in the Iowa river in December, 1835, while on his return from the treaty of Rock Island.

PONTIAC FURNACE. In March, 1836, George Allen & Co. advertised plows and various kinds of castings at the above establishment.

During 1836 was the flood-tide of immigration to Michigan, and it was stated in the papers of that year that the number of immigrant wagons passing through Pontiac daily averaged fifty. The town grew very rapidly, and its citizens indulged in "great expectations."

In an issue of the Whig of that year the editor indulges in a sort of eulogy of his flourishing town, and proudly compares it with Chicago, which at that time was importing flour for the sustenance of its people, while Pontiac was already a heavy exporting point.

To-day the grain trade of Chicago reaches the enormous amount of from seventy to one hundred million bushels.

In June of 1836 the country was flooded by heavy rains.

Among the building improvements during the season of 1836 was a fine three-story brick block, erected by Darrow and Peck.

ABOLITION. In August, 1836 there was a meeting of the "Oakland County Free Discussion and Anti-Slavery Society," in Pontiac, to choose delegates to attend the State anti-slavery convention at Ann Arbor.

PONTIAC AND THE QUESTION OF ADMISSION. The vote on the proposition of Congress for the admission of Michigan into the Union stood: for admission upon the terms proposed, 37; against,: 203.

A BIG CROP. The Pontiac Courier of January 23, 1837, to show the wonderful fertility of the soil of Oakland County, mentions a farmer who raised 6000 bushels of wheat from twenty acres of land in one season! No doubt the "typo" set in about one cipher too many, for 600 bushels would be a good yield.

ANOTHER ABOLITION MEETING. In February, 1837, Professor Cowles, of the Oberlin (Ohio) Institute, lectured on the subject of American slavery in Pontiac, and the affair ended in quite a riot, which was hotly discussed by the newspapers and citizens for some time afterwards.

ROADS.  In 1837 there was much discussion upon the subject of building a permanent road of some description from Pontiac to Detroit. Some advocated a "corduroy" road made of poles and rails; some wanted a turnpike, and others worked hard for a plank-road. A few were in favor of putting down sections of solid logs, endwise, after the manner of the Nicholson. A bill incorporating the "Detroit and Pontiac Turnpike Company" was passed by the legislature in March, 1837.

VILLAGE OF PONTIAC INCORPORATED. The village of Pontiac was incorporated by an act of the legislature approved March 20, 1837.

The original limits were one and a half miles square, including all of section 29, the north half of section 32, the west half of section 28, and the northwest quarter of section 33, comprising an area of fourteen hundred and forty acres.

The charter was amended in 1838, March 9, to enable the president and trustees to establish a public market.

It was amended again in 1842, February 27, at which time several offices were made elective by the people, and the title was changed from "president and trustees" to "common council," and the same created a board of health. Amended again in 1848, March 15, and again March 29, 1850. (The amendatory act of 1848 took away the power to open streets or build bridges, and gave it to the township officers. It also deprived the village officers of the power to establish a pound and a market-house, and to collect any tax except to pay previous indebtedness, to keep up a fire department, and to. fence the burying-ground.)

Under the original act of incorporation the qualified voters were authorized to elect annually, by a plurality vote, seven trustees, who were empowered to choose one of their number president, who, together with the trustees, was to constitute a body politic under the name of "The president and trustees of the village of Pontiac." The clerk, treasurer, and marshal were appointed by the president and trustees.

We give the following extracts from the village records:

FIRST ELECTION OF TRUSTEES. The first regular election for the village was held at the court-house on the first day of May, 1837. The meeting elected, viva voce, Origen D. Richardson and Amasa Bagley as judges of election, and James A. Weeks clerk. O. D. Richardson was duly sworn by John P. Le Roy, Esq., a justice of the peace, and Amasa Bagley and James A. Weeks were sworn by O. D. Richardson, after which the meeting proceeded to the regular business of the day.

Seven trustees were elected, as follows: Schuyler Hodges received 105 votes, Randolph Manning received 103 votes, George W. Williams received 103 votes, Gideon O. Whittemore received 106 votes, Orison Allen received 103 votes, Benjamin Davis received 100 votes, Daniel Le Roy received 105 votes.

On the ticket opposed to the above were the following gentlemen: David Paddock received 57 votes, William Draper received 54 votes, Seth Beach received 56 votes, Alonzo Barber received 54 votes, John P. Le Roy received 58 votes, Elkanah B. Comstock received 57 votes, Abel H. Peck received 57 votes. And there were four scattering votes.

The trustees-elect met at the court house May 8 following, and organized by calling Schuyler Hodges to the chair and choosing Francis Darrow to act as secretary of the meeting pro tern. A permanent organization was effected by choosing Daniel Le Roy president and James A. Weeks clerk.

Messrs. Manning, Whittemore, and Davis were appointed a committee to draft by-laws, rules, and regulations, to be reported at the next meeting.

At a meeting held on the 15th of May following the committee reported. The report was accepted and adopted, and a resolution was passed that the same be published in the Democratic Balance and Pontiac Advertiser for three successive weeks.

At this meeting Francis Darrow was elected treasurer, Theron W. Barber marshal, and O. D. Richardson, Olmstead Chamberlin, and Asahel Fuller assessors.

Five standing committees were appointed, as follows: On streets and alleys, Messrs. Whittemore and Hodges; on accounts, Messrs. Manning and Williams; on taxation, Messrs. Davis and Williams; on stoves, chimneys, and fires, Messrs. Manning and Hodges; on nuisances, Messrs. Allen and Davis. (A full list of village and city officers is given in another section.)

Messrs. Manning and Williams were appointed a committee to draft rules for the board.

LEGISLATION BY THE VILLAGE FATHERS. From time immemorial the wise men of all countries have been chosen from among the people to legislate for the community, --representative men, who have modestly borne the mantle of dignity wherewith the Solons and Solomons of every age are popularly believed to be clothed. The Pharaohs of Egypt, the sages of Greece and Rome, the caliphs of the Saracen empire, and the sagas of the mystic Northland, have been celebrated in ponderous tomes, in high-sounding lyrics, and Homeric verse; and even the red men of the American continent had their prophets and mighty counselors, who met around the council-fire and wisely and solemnly debated the great questions of state which concerned their welfare.

The embryo germ of the great Republic first sprang to life in the "town-meetings" of Massachusetts bay, and when the pioneers of Michigan sought a new home in the wilderness they brought their nomenclature, their traditions, and usages along with them, and their first business, after the erection of the primitive log cabin, was to collect together and lay the foundation for that unequaled system of popular government which is the pride and boast of the American citizen wherever the "starry banner" waves its graceful folds in the sunlight of heaven.

Pontiac has had her wise men, and it is meet that an abstract of their recorded doings should be given here. A condensed statement of the village legislation from 1837 until the ambitious town put on metropolitan airs, and some of the subsequent acts of the "city fathers," are reproduced for the benefit of coming generations.

At a meeting of the president and trustees, held on the 5th of June, 1837, it was " resolved that each member of this board who shall fail to attend at any regular meeting, without a reasonable excuse, shall pay one dollar to the village clerk."  What the clerk subsequently did with this accumulation of wealth is not so clear.

A poll-tax of one dollar per head was levied on each voter, and a property-tax of one per cent. on the valuation to defray the current expenses of the village.

Daniel Le Roy and Orison Allen were appointed a committee to make arrangements for a village map.

A FIRE DEPARTMENT.  The attention of the rulers of Pontiac was early called to the subject of preparations to meet the fire fiend, that gentle and valuable servant, but merciless tyrant when once he obtains the mastery, -- the insatiate monster before whose terrible advance great cities are swallowed up and human life is as straw in the furnace. (See also History of Fire Department in another section.)

At a meeting held on the 17th of July, 1837, an ordinance relating to an embryo fire department, in the shape of "fire-buckets, and to guard against fires," was referred for examination to the proper committee.

At a meeting held on the 17th of July, 1837, an ordinance relating to an embryo fire department, in the shape of "fire-buckets, and to guard against fires," was referred for examination to the proper committee.

FIRST ACCOUNTS AUDITED. August 7, 1837 the following accounts were presented and allowed:

Barber Eggleston, for plank, three dollars; Chamberlin & Whittemore, for sundries, ten dollars, reduced one dollar and fifty cents, and allowed.

On the same day the committee on streets and highways was authorized to sell the oxen belonging to the corporation, and to give a credit thereon not exceeding ninety days.

At the next regular time for the meeting of the board none of the members were present, and yet, in the face of this unblushing delinquency, the record is silent as to the satisfaction rendered a shamefully violated law and a defrauded clerk.

At the meeting held October 23, 1837, the following accounts were audited:

H. C. Thurber, shovel, $1.50; A. B. Matthews, spade and square, $1.57; McConnell & Whittemore, spades and shovels, $5.75; Win. Barbour, blacksmithing, $10.71; John Davis & Foster, job on road, $91; Ralph Bellows, labor, $28; Daniel Sadler, labor, $15; Abel Stafford, labor, $40; Henry Parkhurst, labor, $44; D. B. Clark, labor, $31; J. Church, one yoke of oxen, $85; Bagg, Barnes & Co., blank books, $30; Schuyler Hodges, labor, $15; Chamberlin & Whittemore, sundries, $11.10; total, $409.63.

Warrants were directed to be drawn, signed by the president and countersigned by the clerk, for the several amounts.

On the 30th of October the committee reported a sale of one yoke of oxen at one hundred and thirteen dollars and fifty-three cents. A great amount of trouble was experienced by the marshal in the collection of taxes, and his time was repeatedly extended from time to time; and this state of things continued for years.

THE CANADIAN REBELLION OF 1837-38. The proximity of Michigan to the theatre of the "Patriot War" necessarily involved the sympathies of the people to a greater or less extent on the side of one or the other of the belligerents, and many individuals even went so far as to enter the conflict. In December, 1837, the papers were filled with reports and rumors from the scene of hostilities, and February, 1838, the Courier gives an account of the march of a body of two hundred armed volunteers through Pontiac, on their way to the seat of war, via Mount Clemens.

In January, 1838, two poetical advertisements of the rival mercantile houses of C. W. Myrick and Newcomb, Beers & Co. appeared in the Courier.

RAILWAY. The people of Pontiac appear to have been very anxious for the completion of the Detroit and Pontiac railway, which had been a long time under way, for in February, 1838, a petition was circulated praying the legislature to loan the credit of the State for the completion of the road.

HARD TIMES. The Courier complains of hard times in 1838, and says the farmers owe the merchants of Pontiac and others in the county fully three hundred thousand dollars. With true political predilection it charges the hard times upon the Van Buren administration, and yet, at the same time, it says, "in spite of Democratic rule" and the consequent hard times, Pontiac is growing and prospering, and as a proof cites the fact that every place of business and dwelling in the town are full; for instance, the building in which the Courier is printed, thirty-eight by forty feet in size, contains a printing-office, a carpenter-shop, a school-room, and four family dwellings, all occupied within its walls.

The commencement of work on the improvement of the Clinton river by the "Clinton River Navigation Company," at Mount Clemens, was the cause of much dissatisfaction to the people of Pontiac, who were exceedingly anxious to have it 'begun at Pontiac, and worked thence westward. Of course the charge of political corruption was brought forward to explain the action, and both parties were firing " hot shot" at each other without stint.

INDEPENDENCE DAY, 1838. There was a grand old-fashioned celebration this year in Pontiac, and political parties, at least for a day, forgot their customary and foolish bickerings. The committee of arrangements consisted of the following prominent citizens: Wm. Draper, O. D. Richardson, Dr. O. Chamberlin, Francis Darrow, S. Beach, E. B. Comstock, A. B. Newcomb, David Paddack, Schuyler Hodges, T. W. Barber, S. C. Munson, G. H. Brodhead.

There was a grand procession headed by a band of twenty-six of the most prominent and beautiful young ladies of the place, representing the States, with an elegant silk banner borne before them. A band also graced the occasion with their presence, and two old soldiers of the Revolution were given the post of honor; these were Ithamir Smith and a Mr. Beach. The Declaration of Independence was read by Rev. Lemuel P. Bates.

BANK TROUBLES. In September, 1838, all the banks in Pontiac were reported as being completely prostrated.

A terrible drought prevailed in the latter part of the season of 1838.

BANKS. At a special meeting of the president and trustees, held on the 8th of May, 1838, a matter concerning the taxation of the Bank of Pontiac, which corporation had complained of an unjust assessment. Upon due consideration the tax was reduced from one hundred and twenty-five dollars to eighteen dollars and eighty-two cents.

At this meeting the second yoke of oxen belonging to the corporation was reported sold for eighty-five dollars.

FIRST YEAR'S RECEIPTS AND EXPENDITURES. The receipts and expenditures for the first current year of the corporation were:

Receipts, $863.77; expenditures, $697.47; leaving a balance in the treasury of $166.30.

Theron W. Barber was allowed ninety dollars for his services as marshal during the year 1837.

In June, 1838, certain appropriations were made for roads, as follows: Lapeer road, $100; Andrews street and the Beach road, $150; Paddock road, $60; Saginaw street and turnpike, $150; Church road, $50; Huron street, $20.

The poll-tax for 1838 was fixed at one dollar and twenty-five cents, and the assessment on property for village purposes one-fourth of one per cent. on the valuation.

A circus and menagerie visited Pontiac on the 10th of July, 1838, the council charging them a license of ten dollars therefor.

On the 22d of October the clerk was authorized to procure a book in which to record the deaths occurring in the village.

The receipts and expenditures for 1838, according to the treasurer's report, May 7, 1839, were, receipts, $1784.17; expenditures, $1726.16.

A great amount of trouble seems to have been experienced by the marshal in the collection of taxes. In the spring of 1839 he reported seventy poll-taxes uncollected, together with those of the four banks located in the place, as follows: Bank of Pontiac, taxes unpaid, $247.50; Bank of Oakland, taxes unpaid, $37.50; Clinton Canal bank, taxes unpaid, $37.50; Oakland County bank, taxes unpaid, $37.50.

At a meeting of the council held May 29, 1839, the lots belonging to the corporation were ordered to be offered for sale, according to the following schedule: Lots 1, 2, and 3 at $175 each; lots 4 and 5 at $125 each; lot 6 at $140; lot 7 at $145; lots 8 and 9 at $175 each; lot 10 at $150; lot 12 at $135. Lot 4 was afterwards sold to school district No. 6 for $100.

The public printing for the corporation was given to the Jacksonian for the current year.

The public opinion of 1839 was in some respects different from that of to-day, for we find the council in August of that year Resolving, "That a certain nine- or ten-pin alley, kept by one Asher Buckland, be declared a public nuisance, and the marshal be directed to request said Buckland to abate it forthwith under penalty."

CURIOUS LEGISLATION. Under date of August 29, 1839, the following appears of record:

"Resolved, That the tolling of the bell in cases of death and at funerals be considered by the board of health as a public nuisance, inasmuch as it disturbs the public peace, and is considered by the physicians as injurious to those who may be sick; and the marshal is hereby directed to prohibit every person from tolling the same under penalty of the ordinance against nuisances."

About the same time two mill-ponds in the village created a vast amount of discussion, and were finally declared nuisances, and the marshal was authorized "to remove all dams and obstructions in the Clinton river within the limits of the corporation within two months from date," -- September 30, 1839.

This matter was agitated for years, and similar action taken by the council, but it does not appear of record that either of the dams were removed. As late as the year 1840, it appears that the channel of the Clinton river was badly obstructed with dead and fallen timber and brush, and we find the council, in September of that year, ordering the same cleared out, from H. N. Howard's dam to the "yellow mill," the job to be let to the lowest bidder. The work, however, seems to have "hung fire," for in June, 1841, petitions were circulated and presented to the council, praying that the Clinton river and Pontiac creek might be cleared of rubbish, and the marshal was instructed to remove dead carcasses from the river, at fifty cents each.


Source:  History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.

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