'The City of Detroit' is a milestone work on the history of the Michigan metropolis. Burton's work covers more than two hundred years of events and facts and had to be split into four volumes due to its size. There is hardly a more detailed book dealing with Detroit's past. This is volume one, covering the early years and the political and civic history.
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The City of Detroit
1701 – 1922
Volume 2: Industrial & Educational
CLARENCE M. BURTON
The City of Detroit 2, C. M. Burton
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
PART III. INDUSTRIAL.. 1
CHAPTER XXI. AGRICULTURAL PROGRESS. 1
CHAPTER XXII. COMMERCIAL DETROIT.. 10
CHAPTER XXIII. DEVELOPMENT OF MANUFACTURING... 35
CHAPTER XXIV. BANKS—COUNTY AND CITY FINANCES. 106
CHAPTER XXV. EARLY TRANSPORTATION... 152
CHAPTER XXVI. THE RAILROAD ERA.. 164
PART IV. EDUCATIONAL. 181
CHAPTER XXVII. EARLY SCHOOLING IN DETROIT AND PRIMITIVE METHODS OF EDUCATION 181
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM... 203
CHAPTER XXIX. UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES. 231
CHAPTER XXX. PRIVATE AND DENOMINATIONAL SCHOOLS. 245
CHAPTER XXXI. HISTORY OF THE PRESS. 263
CHAPTER XXXII. LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS. 306
The first farming in Wayne County was done by the men who came with Cadillac in the late summer of 1701. The first wheat was sown on the 7th of October of that year. As a large number of the Frenchmen who came at that time were soldiers, and as the fur trade was the principal reason for the establishment of the Detroit post, little attention was paid to agriculture during the early years of the settlement. Game was plentiful, hence the French pioneers had little need of domestic animals for food. Elk, moose, deer, bear, and smaller animals such as squirrels and rabbits abounded and any desired quantity of meat could soon be obtained by a skillful hunter. The lakes and the Detroit River contained an inexhaustible supply of fish, while waterfowl of all kinds were so tame that they could be killed without difficulty. In a letter to one of the Paris officials, dated October 8, 1701, Cadillac said: "The gabbling goose, the duck, the widgeon and the bustard are so abundant that to give an idea of their numbers I must use the expression of a savage whom I asked before arriving if there was much game. 'So much,' said he, 'that they draw up in lines to let the canoes pass through.'"
Wild fruits, too, especially grapes, plums and various kinds of berries, grew in profusion. From the Indians were learned the arts of cultivating Indian corn and making maple sugar, and swarms of wild bees stored their honey in the hollow branches of the trees. In a country where Nature had done so much to provide for the wants of man, it is not surprising that agricultural progress was slow for some years after the founding of the colony. The first farms were small and poorly tilled, chiefly because there was no incentive to greater effort, the only market for the surplus product of the farms being that afforded by the soldiers of the garrison, the few tradesmen and their families.
When Antoine de LaMothe Cadillac received his commission to establish a post on the Detroit River, he was granted a tract of land "fifteen arpents square." As the French arpent and the United States acre are nearly the same, Cadillac's grant contained about two hundred and twenty-five acres.
In 1803 the United States Government instructed Mr. Jouett, the Indian agent at Detroit, "to inquire into and report the situation of the titles and occupation of the lands private and public." His report states: "Of the 225 acres granted to Cadillac in 1701, only four acres were occupied by the town and Fort Lernoult; the remainder, except twenty-four acres added to William Macomb's farm, is a common."
While it may be that the direct grant to Cadillac consisted only of the small tract fifteen arpents square, copies of documents on file in the archives at Quebec show that he claimed all the land on both sides of the Detroit River from Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair (some writers say to Lake Huron). His reasons for this claim were: That he had been at heavy expense in planting the permanent post at Detroit; that the establishment of the fort there would prevent the English from gaining control of the trade with the western Indians; that the treaty of peace negotiated by him with the Iroquoian tribes would result in great benefits to New France; that he had settled friendly Indians at points along the river to assist him in maintaining the French supremacy over the territory; and that for all these services he was entitled to the land as a reward.
Whether or not the title to these lands was every fully vested in Cadillac is an open question, but there is no doubt that, under the instructions given him by Count Pontchartrain on June 14, 1704, and the royal edicts of June, 1706, he was granted authority to dispose of the lands along the river for the general good of the colony. So far as can be learned, the first grants made by Cadillac were made in the spring of 1707. According to the records of Ste. Anne's Church for July 29, 1708, "Francois Clarembault, Sieur d'Aigremont, Navy Commissary in Canada, subdelegate of the Surveyor and King's Deputy for surveying the Military Posts," was then in Detroit. In his official report Aigremont says that he caused the lands at Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit) to be measured and found 350 arpents improved, of which LaMothe had 157 arpents and the French inhabitants forty-six arpents. He does not account for the other 147 arpents in his report. He states, however, that sixty-three of the inhabitants owned lots inside the stockade and twenty-nine had farms outside. Clarence M. Burton, in his "Detroit Under Cadillac", states that he had found the names of thirty-one of Cadillac's grantees. These names, in the order in which the grants were made, are as follows:
Pierre Mallet, Francois Margué, Jacques L'Anglois, Baptiste Gorion, Paul L'Anglois,Jacob de Marsac, Antoine Texier, Francois Fafard de Lorme, Francois Jardis, Pierre Hemard, Pierre Chantelon, Bonnaventure Compien, Jean Richard, André Bombardie, Jerome Marliard, A man named Laloire, Pierre Leger, Estienne Bontron, A man named Lefleur, Antoine Dupuis, Michel Campos (Campo), Pierre Estevé, Joseph Parent, Jean Durant, Michel Dizier (Disier), Blaise Surgere, Francois Bosserou, Francois Massé, Jacob de Marsac, Damoisell de la Mothe, Antoine Dupuis
The last named was a daughter of Cadillac. Her grant extended three leagues down the Detroit River from the mouth of the Ecorse, was five leagues deep and included Grosse He. (In addition to this list of land grants for farms, there is the list of grants within the village and in the "gardens," given in Chapter VI of this work. A full description of all the grants is published in Volume 33, pp. 373-82, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections.) Mr.
Burton states further: "The farm lands, so far as we can now know, were nearly all granted upstream from the fort. One grant, the only one of which we had positive knowledge, up to the discovery of the transfers I have recently unearthed, was to de Lorme.
This farm is still called the de Lorme farm, from its original proprietor, and is situate in the Township of Grosse Pointe, a short distance east of the present water-works. * * * "Every farm had a narrow frontage on the river. Only a few acres were cultivated, but a log house was built and an orchard planted. There was a road along the front as close to the river as possible. During the wet seasons of the year this road was impassable and the neighbors communicated by boats on the river; for every family had a canoe. The people had cattle, sheep and horses. The latter were originally brought from France. There is no evidence that the Indians, in this part of the country, had any ponies before the coming of the Europeans. Mention is made of one horse, Colon, which Cadillac had in the village at the time of his command, as the only equine in the country. "The farms were all very narrow and each fronted on the river. There was a two-fold reason for this way of dividing the country. Every farm had its own water right and the dryest season never prevented a supply of water for necessary purposes. The farms were so narrow, and the houses on them so near to each other, that in case of danger, each house could signal to the next one without much delay or trouble. * * * The lands in the country in the rear of these river farms were never granted, either by the French or British governments. The first grant of any considerable size was that made by the United States to Michigan Territory in 1806 of the ten thousand acre tract, now partly in the City of Detroit."
The list of those who had contracts for gardens around the fort follows: M. D'Argenteuil, Pierre Mallett, Jacob De Marsac, Jacques L'Anglois, Louis Normand, Pierre Estevé, Jerome Marliar, Michel Disier, Estienne Bontron, Bonnaventure Compien, Chantelon, Pierre Porrier and Pierre Leger. All of these claims were of one half arpent, except that of D'Argenteuil, which was of one arpent.
Although the terms on which the first land grants were made were so onerous as to discourage intelligent efforts at farming, when the grantees were assured of their tenure of possession, agricultural conditions were greatly improved.
After 1707 there was usually a good crop of wheat every year, and it is said that 2,400 bushels were exported in 1714. Besides wheat, Indian corn and a variety of vegetables were cultivated, enough produce being raised to supply the needs of the garrison and the villagers. There are but few recorded instances of food scarcity between the year 1710 and the surrender of Detroit to the English in 1760. In 1747, when the rivalry between the French and English for control of the fur trade became so intense that war was imminent, a large number of Indians collected at Detroit and they were supplied with food in order to hold their allegiance. This caused a shortage so serious that Le Moine, the commandant, appealed to the authorities at Montreal for aid. On September 22, 1747, Captain Celoron arrived with several bateaux loaded with provisions and about one hundred and fifty men, among whom were a number of traders and their servants.
Two years later Comte de la Gallissoniere, governor-general of New France, decided to encourage immigration to Detroit and on May 24, 1749, issued the following proclamation: "Every man who will go to settle in Detroit shall receive gratuitously, one spade, one axe, one ploughshare, one large and one small wagon. We will make an advance of other tools to be paid for in two years only. He will be given a cow, of which he shall return the increase, also a sow. Seed will be advanced the first year, to be returned at the third harvest. The women and children will be supported one year. Those will be deprived of the liberality of the King, who shall give themselves up to trade in place of agriculture."
Under this liberal offer more than one hundred men came to Detroit during the next two years, several of them bringing their families. A census taken in 1750 showed a resident population of 483, who owned 160 horses, 682 cattle and a large number of domestic fowls. More immigrants came in 1751 and 1752, but in the latter year the crops were almost an utter failure and immigration practically ceased. Prosperity evidently returned to the colonists, for Bougainville, who visited Detroit in 1757, wrote: "There are two hundred habitations abundantly supplied with cattle, grains and flour. The farmers can raise as many cattle as they want, as there is abundant pasture. They gather, in ordinary years, 2,500 measures of wheat and much oats and corn. * * * It would be well for the authorities to encourage the inhabitants of Detroit in the cultivation of their land and afford them facilities for selling their produce. It would be a great advantage to procure from them all the provisions needed in the garrisons of the forts Presque He, Marchand, Riviere-de-Boeuf and Duquesne, as the expenses of transportation from Montreal are excessively high, and there is such great difficulty in getting the provisions that the garrisons are often in danger of being in need."
UNDER THE BRITISH
After the surrender of Detroit to the English in 1760, agriculture languished.
This was due to several reasons. In the first place there were the unsettled conditions which naturally came with a change of government. Then, about the time the English authority was firmly established, came the Pontiac War.
A few years later the industries of the community were greatly disarranged by the English policy of banishing those suspected of entertaining disloyal sentiments. The farms were all owned by Canadians, many of whom fell under the ban of suspicion. Some writers have asserted that the French farmers were slothful and negligent. Perhaps this is true, but it should be remembered that there was no inducement for them to be more industrious and frugal. If they raised a large crop the surplus had to be sold in a restricted market at unremunerative prices; and if any one dared to utter a sentence unfavorable to the British he was liable to be arrested and sent into exile. The fur trade was the only business that brought an income from abroad. Within a very few years this trade was monopolized by the English. The farmers then began to raise merely enough to supply themselves and families, spending much of their time in hunting and fishing.
The result of all this was that there were more famines during the thirty-six years of British rule than there had been during the fifty-nine years while the French were in control. In 1768 there were over five hundred acres under cultivation and nearly ten thousand bushels of corn were harvested, yet only two years later food was so scarce that a famine was threatened. The worst conditions occurred early in the year and were caused by the late opening of navigation. Several boats which tried to cross Lake Erie early in the season were frozen in the ice, some of them within forty miles of Detroit, and a number belonging to traders were destroyed by storms.
After the beginning of the Revolutionary War local farmers were still further discouraged. Great quantities of provisions were shipped from Montreal, to feed the large parties of Indians almost constantly gathered at the post, and the resident farmers were rarely depended upon for supplies. If a shipment was delayed a scarcity was certain to result. On March 10, 1780, Colonel De Peyster, then commandant, wrote to Col. Mason Bolton at Niagara, urging him to forward a consignment of provisions with haste, because "The distress of the inhabitants here is very great for want of bread; not an ounce of flour or a grain of corn to be purchased."
Two days later he wrote to Lieut.-Gov. Patrick Sinclair at Michilimackinac: "Everything here is in the greatest tranquility except the cry for bread, the inhabitants being so much in want that without the assistance of the King's stores many must starve."
According to David Zeisberger, the Moravian missionary, flour was so scarce in Detroit in June, 1784, that it sold for £7, 13s. per hundred pounds, and mention is made of one instance where a man offered a baker a Spanish dollar for a single loaf of bread. In his diary for July 17, 1789, Mr. Zeisberger wrote: "From Detroit two white people came here on their way to Pittsburgh, who told us there was such a famine there that most of the French were living upon grass; that neither corn, flour nor bread was to be had in the city for money, and that five children in the settlement had starved to death. There is a common famine in the whole country and what was this year planted has been eaten by worms, so that the fields stand bald and bare."
UNITED STATES SURVEYS
On March 26, 1804, President Jefferson approved an act of Congress establishing a land office at Detroit. Frederick Bates was appointed receiver and George Hoffman register. This office was opened about ten months before the Territory of Michigan was created, and only a small part of the public domain in the vicinity of Detroit had been surveyed preparatory to settlement.
Under the act of May 16, 1812, Aaron Greeley was employed by the United States Government to survey the private claims in Michigan and the register and receiver of the Detroit land office were appointed commissioners to "examine and report on all claims under French and English grants." After much delay and subsequent legislation on the subject by Congress, the titles to 733 private claims were confirmed by the United States Government.
Early in the year 1815 Congress passed an act providing for the appointment of a surveyor-general for the unsurveyed lands in the State of Ohio and the territories of Indiana and Michigan. Edward Tiffin was appointed surveyor general and located his office at Chillicothe, Ohio. The first public surveys in Michigan, under a general law, were made under Mr. Tiffin's direction. On November 30, 1815, after a casual examination of the country around Detroit, he wrote to the commissioner of the general land office at Washington: "There is not one acre in a hundred, if there is in a thousand, that will in any case admit of cultivation. It is all swampy and sandy."
About two weeks later he made another report, in which he said: "Subsequent investigations confirm my previous statements and make the country out worse, if possible, than I had represented it to be. * * * Detroit and the private claims nearby are somewhat better, without so many swamps and lakes, but the region as a whole is extremely sterile and barren."
The effect of these reports was to discourage immigration to Michigan for a time and, outside of the immediate vicinity of Detroit and along the Detroit River, but few farms were opened in Wayne County until about 1820. The first auction sale of public lands in Michigan took place at the old council house in Detroit on July 6, 1818, pursuant to a proclamation of President James Monroe, issued on May 1, 1818. Not many bidders presented themselves and the average price per acre paid for lands at that sale was $4, a few choice parcels near the city bringing as much as $40.
Persons who purchased lands at the auction sale and began farming were soon convinced of the inaccuracy of the surveyor-general's reports. On December 13, 1825, the following item appeared in the Detroit Gazette: "We mention as a singular fact, and entirely new to this territory, that a wagon-load of flour arrived in town last week from the interior. It was made at Colonel Mack's Mills at Pontiac, and we understand that there are several hundred barrels there which will be brought in soon."
Such news as this, with letters written by the pioneers to their friends, started a steady stream of immigration that continued for several years after Michigan was admitted to statehood. Between the years 1830 and 1840, according to the United States census reports, the population of Wayne County increased from 6,781 to 24,173 and over ten thousand of the newcomers settled in the rural districts. During this decade the survey of the county was finished, most of the public lands was taken up and farming became a permanent and well established industry.
RECLAIMING THE SWAMPS
Originally much of the land in the county was too wet for cultivation. On March 15, 1861, Governor Blair approved an act of the legislature authorizing county boards of supervisors, in counties where there were swamp lands, to appoint three drain commissioners to superintend the work of reclaiming such lands by proper drainage. Some attempts to reclaim the swampy tracts had been made prior to the enactment of this law, but for lack of intelligent direction and concerted action on the part of the land owners, these efforts had been only partially successful. L. J. Ford, T. P. Martin, and Franklin M. Wing were appointed drain commissioners in Wayne County and they inaugurated a system of drainage that in the end reclaimed many acres of the county's wet lands, hitherto regarded as worthless.
At first the drain commissioners met with some opposition, some farmers objecting to the cost of ditches, but after the first swamp lands were drained and found to be the most productive in the county these objections vanished.
By the act of March 22, 1869, the drainage law was amended, so that only one drain commissioner was allotted to a county, and he was to be elected by the voters on the first Monday in April annually. The amended law of April 13, 1871 provided for the election of a drain commissioner in each township, "to locate and construct ditches for drainage purposes," all ditches to be made under his direction. By this township system many small drains were constructed, connecting with the larger ditches made by the county drain commissioners.
A few years later, the swamp lands having been drained, the office of drain commissioner was abolished. It was revived, however, in 1910, when it was found that someone with authority was necessary to keep the ditches open and in good working order.
Apple, cherry and pear trees were planted by the early French settlers and many of them were still bearing when the Americans came into possession in 1796. Concerning the old French orchards, Bela Hubbard, in a paper read before the Detroit Pioneer Society on May 2, 1872, said: "Though many of the farms so closely crowded along the river banks had orchards comprising several hundred of these fruit trees, and few were entirely destitute, it is singular that little is known of their history. In answer to inquiries, old people will tell that their ancestors obtained the trees from Montreal, to which place they were brought at a still earlier day from Normandy or Provence; but they have no knowledge when or from whence. The prevailing opinion is that the seeds were brought from France and planted as soon as the first permanent settlements were made on the Straits, about a century and a half ago."
Then, after describing some of the varieties of apples, including the Colville, Pomme Caille, Snow, Detroit Red, the russets, pearmains, etc., Mr. Hubbard continued: "But the crowning glory of the French orchard was the pear tree. Nearly every homestead possessed one, some two or three, few exceeded a half-dozen.
Such was its wonderful size and productiveness that one specimen usually amply satisfied the wants of a family. These pear trees were and still are conspicuous objects in the river scenery, and for size, vigor and productiveness are truly remarkable. A bole six feet in girth and height of sixty feet are only common attainments. Many show a circumference of trunk of eight or nine feet and rear their lofty heads seventy and sometimes eighty feet from the earth.
They bear uniform crops; thirty to fifty bushels being often the annual product of a single tree. The fruit is of medium size, ripening about the end of August and, though as a table fruit superseded by many sorts which an improved horticulture has introduced, it still holds a fair rank, in some respects not surpassed, if equaled, by any. The flesh is crisp, juicy, sweet and spicy. For stewing and preserving it is quite unrivaled."
The "improved horticulture" mentioned by Mr. Hubbard, introduced numerous varieties of small fruits, berries, etc., and as the City of Detroit grew in population many of the adjacent farmers turned their attention to "truck raising," the city affording a profitable and convenient market. Dairy farming has also received considerable attention in recent years, the number of milch cows has greatly increased and creameries have been established in several of the larger villages of the county.
On April 24, 1837, a meeting was held at the city hall in Detroit for the purpose of organizing a county agricultural and horticultural society. David C. McKinstry presided and Henry G. Hubbard acted as secretary. The meeting was well attended by the farmers residing within easy reach of the city and the result was the organization of the Wayne County Agricultural and Horticultural Society. At this meeting was made the first proposition to organize a state agricultural society, which culminated successfully a few years later. The Wayne County organization continued in existence for several years, when it was succeeded by the Detroit Horticultural Society, which held annual exhibitions for a number of years.
The first annual fair given by the Michigan State Agricultural Society was opened on September 25, 1849, and continued for three days. The fair grounds at that time were on Woodward Avenue, about four blocks north of Grand Circus Park between Columbia and High streets. State fairs were afterward held in other cities, but of later years they have been held at the State Fair Grounds north of Palmer Park. The State Agricultural Society has given way to the Michigan State Board of Agriculture, under whose auspices the fairs are now held annually.
Work formerly undertaken by the county and local agricultural societies is now carried on much more intelligently and systematically by the county agricultural agent and farmers' institutes, assisted by the State Agricultural College.
The Wayne County Farmers' Institute is held every year at one of the county towns, and here several hundred of the farmers meet for a three or four days' session. In addition to the county institute, district institutes are held in other towns of the county, such as Belleville, Canton, Eureka, Flat Rock, Inkster, Redford, Romulus, Northville, Plymouth, West Sumpter, and Willow. Each of these district institutes consists of a forenoon and afternoon session, at which a state speaker or instructor presides. By this medium the work of the Agricultural College has been brought to the farmers' very doorstep, by giving them instruction in the various subjects in which they are directly interested, such as rotation of crops, fertilization of the soil, spraying of fruit trees, etc.
As an example of what this work has done for the farmers of the county, observations conducted at Plymouth have disclosed the fact that the latest killing frost in the spring, since the observations commenced, occurred on the 28th of May, and the earliest killing frost in the autumn on the 2nd of September.
The average dates in spring and fall are shown to be May 7th and October 3rd.
With this knowledge, the farmer understands that his average season is one hundred and forty-nine days for planting, cultivating and harvesting his crops, hence he is not likely to plant too soon in the spring or delay the gathering of his crops until they are injured by frost.
Naturally, in a county like Wayne, where there is a city of a million or more inhabitants, less publicity is given to the agricultural interests than in a county that has no large metropolitan center. Yet, according to the United States census report for 1920, the population of Wayne County is 1,177,706, of which it is safe to say more than 50,000 consists of those engaged in agricultural pursuits. And a tour through the county will convince the most casual observer that the farmers of Wayne are as progressive in their ideas as any in the State of Michigan.
One of the important factors in successful agriculture and horticulture is good seed for planting. Detroit for years has been noted for the quantity and quality of seeds supplied to farmers and gardeners in all parts of the Union.
As early as 1820, James Abbott, then postmaster, conceived the idea of raising seeds for the post gardeners and scattered frontier farmers in Michigan. His "farm" was a portion of the block bounded now by Woodward Avenue, Atwater, Griswold and Woodbridge Streets. From the tough paper wrappers that came around mail packages, he made a number of small bags for his crop of seeds.
The following spring, as soon as navigation opened, a few dozen bags were sent to Saginaw, Michilimackinac, and Green Bay, to be sold to the post gardeners and the few farmers near the posts. The seeds grew well and the next year there was a demand for more, but Mr. Abbott was not in a position to supply that demand and finally gave up the business entirely.
In 1852 Dexter M. Ferry, then not quite twenty years of age, came to Detroit from New York State and obtained a position as clerk in the book store of Elwood and Company. Four years later he formed a partnership with M. T. Gardner and began the seed business. The business prospered and a farm of 300 acres in Greenfield Township was purchased. After several changes in the personnel of the firm, the business was incorporated in 1879 under the name of the D. M. Ferry & Company, with a capital stock of $750,000. The first headquarters of this concern was in a small store-room on Monroe Avenue, which was destroyed by fire in January, 1886. Mr. Ferry died November 10, 1907, but the business he established survives and annually millions of dollars' worth of seeds are shipped to every state of the Union and to several foreign countries.
The seeds supplied by this firm are intended principally for truck farmers and gardeners, while other firms, such as that of Caughey & Jossman, meet the want of the farmer of field crops.
The early commercial transactions of Detroit were confined almost exclusively to the fur trade, the Indians being the principal customers. In 1703, Detroit was only two years old, yet it was one of the most important trading posts in the Great Lakes region. The greater portion of the stocks of goods carried by the traders of that period consisted of bright-colored cloths, gewgaws, etc., intended for the Indian trade, though a small quantity of staples was kept for the accommodation of the few white settlers. Spirituous liquors were also an important part of the traders' stocks, as the savage was never so amenable to a profitable trade as when under the persuasive influence of rum, or with a barrel of it in prospect.
Between Cadillac, the founder of the post, and the Company of the Colony of Canada, there arose a controversy over the control of the trade, which had a tendency to retard the growth of the village. An account of this controversy is given in one of the earlier chapters of this history.
Before many years the French put into operation the custom of issuing licenses, or selling traders' permits, became general. The number of traders or merchants increased and they soon discovered they had to pay tribute, not only to the commandant of the post, but also to the minor officials, including the chaplain. The cost of these permits to engage in trade so handicapped the merchants that their profits frequently were on the debit side.
UNDER ENGLISH RULE
Detroit was surrendered to the English on November 29, 1760, and on September 3, 1761 Sir William Johnson, who had been appointed superintendent of the Indian tribes, arrived. He expressed his desire to regulate trade and put the commerce of the colony on a firmer basis. To this end he notified the traders that they would be required to obtain a license from him or his deputy, Capt. George Croghan, and that only one fee would be exacted. Despite Sir William's promises and precautions, frauds occasionally were reported and in the spring of 1766 he appointed Jehu Hay as resident commissioner of trade, with power "to supervise the dealings of the merchants and redress grievances between the whites and Indians." Under his administration as commissioner there was more uniformity of prices, goods of better quality were brought in and the commerce of Detroit took on a healthier tone.
Jehu Hay remained in Detroit until the Revolutionary war, was promoted to the rank of major, accompanied Hamilton to Vincennes, where he was captured and after being exchanged was appointed lieutenant-governor of Detroit, and here died. He was the only commissioner of trade of which there is any record.
Even with the improvements he introduced, the intense rivalry between the merchants continued. On June 8, 1772, Capt. James Stephenson, a former commandant, wrote to Sir William Johnson: "Two-thirds of the traders will acknowledge that I have been the most indulgent commanding officer they ever had. They are a sad set, for they would cut each others' throats for a raccoon skin."
Within a few years after the English took possession, Detroit was recognized as the center of the Indian trade in the Northwest. Dutch merchants of the Mohawk Valley in New York made frequent trips to the trading post.
William Edgar was at Detroit in 1763. Chapman Abraham was caught by the Indians shortly after the war began in 1763, held prisoner and plundered of all his goods. He escaped and carried on a successful business in the village.
His goods were restored in part by the French, who had recovered them from the Indians. Benjamin James and Edmund Pollard formed a partnership for the general Indian trade in June, 1765. Nearly all of the French were traders to some extent, but some were of more importance than others. The names of Baby, Campau, Labadie and Marsac are familiar ones of the time in this trade.
James Rivington was a trader in 1766.
John Macomb came to Detroit as a merchant at a very early day and his son, Alexander, is noticed in the public records as early as 1766. John Macomb's two sons, Alexander and William, were among the most prominent of the local merchants and with John Edgar formed the great firm of Macomb, Edgar & Macomb, which carried on an extensive business.
In 1767 the licensed merchants and traders were: Baby & Chapoton, Peter Baron, William Bruce, James Cassity, Charles Curtoise, William Edgar, Benjamin James, Samuel Lyons, Richard McNeall, Edmund Pollard, Obediah Robbins.
John Robinson, Henry Van Schaack, Isaac Todd, and Thomas Williams. George Knaggs, David Meldrum, John Stedman, James Rankin and Richard Van Allen were others. During the next five years James Abbott entered into partnership with William Edgar, William Macomb & Company, John Porteous, and James Sterling entered the field. In 1775 the firms of Edgar & Abbott and Macomb & Company were the leading mercantile concerns in Detroit.
The primitive method of transportation was a serious drawback to the development of the commercial interests. Goods had to be brought to Detroit in canoes or bateaux and rarely arrived within less than eight or nine months from the time they were ordered. Through the winter season a brisk trade was carried on, exchanging merchandise for furs, which were in turn sent to the London and Paris markets, consequently it required about three years— sometimes more—for the merchants to "turn over" their capital and count the profits.
The "store" of that day did not present the orderly arrangement of the Twentieth Century establishment. The building in which the business was conducted was usually a log structure, with a low ceiling, and every inch of space was utilized. Upon the arrival of a consignment of goods, the original packages were taken to the store and piled around promiscuously, to be opened as their contents were needed. Snow shoes, large and small steel traps, strings of wampum, rifles profusely ornamented with silver, copper kettles, frying pans, etc., were suspended from the ceiling; bales of skins occupied one corner, casks of rum and boxes of tobacco another; cheap jewelry, small mirrors, colored beads, brilliant calico and gaily colored cloths were displayed to advantage to arouse the Indians' interest; pewter plates, tinware, queensware, moccasins, high-topped hats, vermillion and other pigments, hardware, belts, blankets, ammunition and hundreds of other articles were carried by every trader.
THE FIRST BOOM
Detroit experienced its first boom in 1779-80, following the enlargement of the fort as a protection against a possible invasion by the American forces under Gen. George Rogers Clark, and to serve as a place of confinement for prisoners from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Ohio country. The entire village was brought within the palisades, the fort occupying the site of the present post office, at the intersection of Fort and Shelby Streets, and the citadel was near the present junction of Cass and Jefferson Avenues. The garrison was increased, the British sent large quantities of goods for the Indians, and Detroit became one of the liveliest of the frontier posts. A reaction came after the close of the Revolutionary war, but under American rule, which began in July, 1796, the growth of Detroit and its commercial interests was along lines which promised greater permanency, though the fur trade continued to be an important factor until about 1830, or even later.
Under the French regime accounts were kept in French currency. When the English came in 1760 they quickly substituted pounds, shillings and pence for the livre, sou and denier. The American merchants were not satisfied with either system and introduced the currency of the United States. It is worthy of note that this change was made without disturbing the business interests, and without objection on the part of the inhabitants.
About the time of the American occupation in 1796, Thomas Emerson came from Vermont and soon after his arrival formed a partnership with Stephen Mack, which lasted until 1817, when Mr. Emerson returned to Vermont. Shubael Conant then became a partner of Mr. Mack and the firm of Mack & Conant was for many years one of the leading mercantile concerns of Detroit. Emerson, who has been described as an eccentric Yankee, did not leave Detroit because of a lack of faith in the city's future. After he returned East he loaned money to Detroit merchants, and his son, Curtis Emerson, subsequently became a resident of Michigan.
By 1820 practically all of the Detroit trade was in the hands of Americans.
Among the leading merchants of that time were: James Abbott, who was the agent of the American Fur Company and postmaster, William Brewster, Abram C. Caniff, M. Chapin & Company, Levi Cook, Abraham Edwards, Henry J. Hunt, DeGarmo Jones, Benjamin B. Kercheval, Mack & Conant, Palmer Brothers, a firm composed of Thomas and Friend Palmer, O. Penniman, Tunis S. Wendell & Company, John L. Whiting, and John R. Williams. All of these early merchants were men of character and integrity, and took a commendable interest in the affairs of the municipality. James Abbott, Abraham Edwards, Henry J. Hunt, DeGarmo Jones, Stephen Mack, and John R. Williams were among the organizers of the Bank of Michigan in 1818; Dr. Marshall Chapin, Levi Cook, Henry J. Hunt, DeGarmo Jones, and John R. Williams all served as mayor of Detroit, and Thomas W. Palmer, a son of Thomas Palmer, represented Michigan in the United States Senate and was minister to Spain.
Prior to 1826, goods bought in New York were sent up the Hudson River in boats to Albany, where they were transferred to wagons for the trip to Buffalo.
At Buffalo they were again loaded on boats bound for Detroit. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 obviated the long haul across the state of New York in wagons and this gave the Detroit trade a new impetus.
There was at that time no wholesale trade worthy of mention. Most of the retail stores were then located on Jefferson Avenue or at the foot of the streets running to the river. Currency was scarce and many small debts, wages of employees, etc., were often paid in orders on the stores. Farmers would drive in for miles, their wagons loaded with produce, which was gladly accepted by the merchants in exchange for goods.
In 1828 Jacob S. Farrand, afterward the head of the wholesale house of Farrand, Williams & Company, became a clerk in the drug store of Rice & Bingham.
Much of the business was then done on credit and Mr. Farrand enjoyed relating Levi Cook's method of collecting outstanding accounts. When the time came for him to make his annual trip to New York to buy goods, he would make out bills against his customers who were in arrears and place them in the hands of a trustworthy clerk, with instructions to "sue every mother's son of them if necessary while I am away." A trip to New York was then a matter of several weeks.
If the clerk followed instructions, most of the accounts would be collected, or at least compromised, during Mr. Cook's absence. Upon his return he would find many irate customers, but he would apologize for the clerk, call attention to the fine line of new goods he had added to his stock, and the people would soon forget the humiliation of a lawsuit in the pleasure of examining and buying the new goods.
THE WHOLESALE TRADE
Between the years 1820 and 1830, a few of the larger Detroit merchants accommodated country dealers by selling them small quantities of goods occasionally, and from this modest beginning a wholesale trade gradually developed. One of the oldest wholesale firms, that of Hinchman & Sons, began business in 1819, under the firm name of M. Chapin & Company, Dr. Marshall Chapin and Hiram Pratt being the partners. In 1829 John Owen acquired Mr. Pratt's interest and the firm became Chapin & Owen. In 1842 Theodore H. Hinchman, who had been in the employ of the house for several years, came in as a partner and in 1853 the firm of Owen & Company was succeeded by T. H. & J. Hinchman.
This old house, after several more changes in its personnel, is still in existence in 1921 under the name of Williams, Davis, Brooks & Hinchman Sons. During its century of existence it has sold millions of dollars' worth of goods in Michigan, Northern Ohio and Indiana, and even to merchants in more distant territory.
Almost contemporary with M. Chapin & Company, O. Penniman began selling drugs and groceries in Detroit. A little later Dr. Justin Rice purchased an interest and after about two years became sole proprietor. Then Edward Bingham brought some new capital to the business, the stock of goods was enlarged and the firm of Rice & Bingham was formed. Doctor Rice retired in the spring of 1830 and in May, 1836, Jacob S. Farrand, who had entered the store as a clerk in 1828, acquired a partnership, the firm becoming E. Bingham & Company.
The store was destroyed by the big fire of January 1, 1842, but the business was reestablished by Mr. Farrand. William W. Wheaton became a partner in 1856, when the firm of Farrand & Wheaton was formed. Mr. Wheaton retired on January 1, 1858, and a few weeks later Alanson Sheley took his place, the firm then adopting the name of Farrand & Sheley. William C. Williams entered the firm as a partner in 1861. He had been with the house since boyhood and upon his becoming a partner the firm name was altered to Farrand, Sheley & Company.
Harvey Clark, also an old employee, was admitted to partnership in 1871, and four years later James C. Davis became a partner, the firm then taking the name of Farrand, Williams & Company. For one hundred years this house has been one of the wholesale landmarks of Detroit. Since the reorganization of the business by Mr. Farrand, no groceries have been handled, the firm devoting its entire attention to drugs.
About 1832 Zachariah Chandler (familiarly called "Zach") came to Detroit and opened a drygoods store in the brick addition to the old brick residence erected by General Hull in 1806, on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street. Soon afterward he embarked in the jobbing trade in a small way. Mr.
Chandler was one of the youngest merchants in the city. He was also one of the first traveling salesmen, making his trips on horseback to solicit orders, and his customers would employ teamsters to transport their goods. A little later the firm of Chandler & Dwight was formed and occupied the building on the corner of Jefferson and Woodward Avenues. Here Mr. Chandler laid one of the first sidewalks in the city. When Mr. Chandler was elected to the United States Senate in 1857 his firm was succeeded by Allan Sheldon & Company. This house retired from business at the close of the year 1890, after a successful career of fifty-seven years.
The heavy tide of immigration to Michigan between the years 1830 and 1840 increased the demand for goods and a number of new wholesale merchants entered the field. Among the concerns that began business in Detroit in this period were: The grocery house of John J. Garrison (afterward Garrison & Depew), which was established in 1829; the hardware house of Alexander W. Newbould (later Buhl & Son), 1835; Moore, Foote & Company, wholesale grocers, 1838; T. B. Clarke, wholesale grocer, and the drug house of Theodore H. Eaton & Son, 1838.
The rapid growth in population led to an era of speculation, especially in real estate. This boom was rudely checked by the financial panic of 1837, which resulted in many failures all over the country. After the depression real estate values were greatly depreciated and business of all kinds was adjusted upon a firmer foundation. Between that time and the close of the Civil war in 1865, more than a score of wholesale houses were established in Detroit. In the grocery line, Johnson & Wheeler began business in 1845; Thomas A. Parker, 1846; John Stephens & Company, and L. W. Tinker & Company, 1849; Fitzsimons & Company, 1852; Phelps Brothers, 1856; Joseph B. H. Bratshaw and C. W. Inslee & Company, 1863; Gould & Fellers, 1864, and William and Robert Millar, 1865.
Other wholesale houses opened during this period included the queensware business of Robert W. King, which was started in 1848; the hardware house of C. B. James & Company, Freedman Brothers, millinery, and Richmond & Backus, wholesale paper dealers, 1850; Heineman & Butzel, clothing, 1852; Schloss Brothers, in the same line, 1854; the Detroit Paper Company, 1854; Hoffman & Mayes and Dunlap, Donaldson & Company, ship chandlers, 1856; Charles Root & Company, dry goods, 1860; Ducharme, Prentiss & Company, hardware, 1863; M. C. Higgins, fancy goods and notions, 1864; the crockery business of Fiske & Jenness and the boot and shoe house of W. D. Robinson & Company, 1865.
During the quarter of a century following the Civil war, the jobbing trade of Detroit enjoyed an era of uninterrupted prosperity, except for a few years immediately after the panic of 1873. Commenting upon the general trade conditions, the "Detroit Tribune" of January 15, 1891, stated: "A tour of the jobbing houses of Detroit, and an inquiry into their history, give at once the impression that they are eminently sound and prosperous. Many of them are of long standing, houses that have grown with the growth of the city and state, have made one generation of proprietors rich and are contributing materially to the wealth of a second and third. Their credit is good, their manner of dealing is honorable and their reputation in every way first class. Their trade extends all over Michigan and considerable portions of Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, and even of states farther west. Their sales aggregate many millions yearly and the quantity of goods they handle would surprise anyone who has not visited their warehouses or seen the immense shipments by lake and rail. And yet the trade of the city has not, on one account, grown as rapidly as it ought.
The merchants of Detroit, though enterprising and active in their own branches of business, have not given the same encouragement to railroad enterprises that the solid men of some other cities have, nor looked as sharply as might be after new railroad connections, and the merchants of Chicago and Toledo have not been slow to take advantage of this, and to divert a portion of the trade which would naturally have sought this city."
The neglect of Detroit business men regarding transportation facilities mentioned by the "Tribune" has been corrected in a great measure, and the wholesale trade of the city has been correspondingly expanded. When Chandler & Dwight announced that their sales for 1850 reached $50,000, it was considered a wonderful achievement and many thought the zenith of Detroit as a jobbing center had been reached. Now there are close to five hundred wholesale houses i n the city, having annual sales of many millions of dollars.
During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the streets such as lower Woodward, Woodbridge and Atwater were busy trade centers and the amount of trading done was large for the size of the town.
In 1819 there were twenty-four retail dry goods and grocery stores, and sixteen which were classed as "grocery and provision stores and ale houses."
Among the merchants at this time appear the familiar names of Henry J. Hunt, Mack & Conant, John L. Whiting, J. and A. Wendell, DeGarmo Jones, Oliver Newberry, and John R. Williams. Business slowly crept up Woodward Avenue, and after the rush in immigration reached its peak in 1836 all available Jefferson Avenue fronts were occupied as stores. Among the prominent retailers who were pioneers on lower Woodward Avenue were Zachariah Chandler, dry goods, and Henry P. Baldwin, boots and shoes. Mr. Chandler afterwards became the largest wholesale dry goods dealer in the city and Governor Baldwin continued business as a manufacturer and jobber.
In 1852-53, according to the city directory published at that time, the population of Detroit was 26,648. There were in the city seven stone buildings, 601 brick buildings, and 4,077 of wood. The retail business of the city was summarized by the following table of establishments: grocery, provision and liquor stores, 286; boot and shoe stores, fifty-four; warehouses, thirty; bakeries, thirteen; blacksmiths, thirty-seven; harness and saddlery shops, nine; steam flour mills, two; pork and sausage stores, six; clothing stores, fifteen; cabinet shops, seven; jewelers and watch makers, fourteen; hat, cap and fur stores, four; dry goods stores, twenty-nine; auction and commission stores, five; leather stores, four; confectionery and toy stores, nine; drug stores, thirteen; hardware stores, sixteen; and variety stores, three.
In the Detroit City Directory written by Julius P. Bolivar Maccabe in 1837 and printed by William Harsha of Detroit, the following is stated: "There are three markets—the city market, on the first floor of the City Hall, the Berthelet at the corner of Randolph and Woodbridge streets, and the Washington Market at the corner of Wayne and Larned streets. These are kept in good order by the inspector of provisions, and well supplied with everything that can be desired at similar places. There is a great variety of vegetables, and also of fish, of which there are an abundance in the river of a most delicious flavor, and wild fowls, geese, ducks, brant, etc., abound in the neighborhood. Pork and mutton in great plenty, equal in quality to any in the Eastern states. Venison, veal, poultry, including turkies, wild and tame, rabbits, squirrels, etc., are common; in fine, although not quite equal to that of Philadelphia, it contains all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of a good market."
The first attention given to a market was on March 20, 1802, when the trustees of the village passed an ordinance that the market should "be without the pickets and next to the river, between the old bake-house and the east line of pickets." Tuesdays and Fridays, from daylight to noon, were set apart as market days. At one time no less a person than James May was fined for selling diseased beef at this market. No further record of markets is found until 1816, when a building was started by B. Woodworth and completed the following year and was located in the center of Woodward Avenue just below Jefferson; this building was 30 by 70 feet, one story in height, and was known as the Woodward Avenue Market. It was demolished in 1835.
On August 5, 1825, Peter Berthelet was given wharf rights at the foot of Randolph Street on consideration that he give the city a lot, 50 by 90 feet, at the northwest corner of Atwater and Randolph streets, upon which to erect a market. Further negotiations resulted in Berthelet constructing a building for market purposes, and which was purchased by the city August 31, 1834.
Subsequently, the city met difficulties because the lot had not been deeded, but the building was used as a market until it burned in the fire of May 9, 1848.
The vegetable market in the rear of the old city hall was completed in November, 1843. The entire market occupied the central part of Cadillac Square from the Campus Martius to Randolph Street. The front portion, including the city hall, was taken down and removed in the fall of 1872. The other part was not burned, as has been stated, but was also removed. The iron shed was taken to Belle Isle and is now the shelter at the head of the island.
The larger vegetable market, extending from Bates to Randolph Street, was built in 1860. Several attempts to finance the construction of a more pretentious market building fell through, until finally on April 22, 1879, the city council requested the board of estimates to consider an appropriation of $50,000 for a central market building. This movement went along successfully and on August 23, 1880, the contractors turned over the completed building to the city, and it was opened for business on September 11th.
The Washington Market was located on the northeast corner of Larned and Wayne streets, and was erected by order of the council in 1835. It was not a success as a market, however, and after years of service for school, fire department and private purposes, was torn down in 1870.
The Cass Market, a one-story brick, 30 by 40 feet, on the south side of Adams Avenue at its intersection with Grand River Avenue, was first opened as a market August 17, 1866, but was never a success and has now disappeared.
The G. A. R. memorial hall occupies this site now.
In the Detroit of the present day the needs of a public market, wherein farmers and growers market their produce during the season, is supplied by the Eastern and Western Markets, located respectively on Gratiot and Michigan avenues. Others, such as the Broadway Market, at the corner of Broadway and Gratiot, are large retail marketing centers devoted to the sale of every kind of food commodity.
RETAIL PROGRESS IN THE '70s
In the early '70s retail business had moved up Woodward Avenue as far as the Campus Martius and for some time had stopped there. One of the most showy stores on the avenue was M. S. Smith's jewelry store, northwest corner of Woodward and Jefferson. The Merrill Block extended halfway across the block on the east side of Woodward, north of Jefferson. Frederick Stearn's drug store and laboratory was built on the southwest corner of Woodward and Larned. Stephen Smith's shoe store was on the northwest corner. Into the Stephen Smith building Tom Swan moved from his Griswold Street "cobweb corner" sometime later and opened the most pretentious restaurant in town.
St. Andrew's Hall, built for a Methodist church, and which was the scene of many festivities as well as dramatic and literary events, was where the Siegel Store now stands. Many were the regrets when the old hall was removed to give place to business.
The Finney House was on the southeast corner of Woodward and Gratiot, and Alanson Sheley, who for many years lived in the next block north, had, with other old residents, recently moved up town. Sheley's old home was moved to Stimson Place, a short distance east of Cass Avenue, and is there now. The Finney Hotel Barn was where the Chamber of Commerce Building, now Detroit Savings Bank, is located. The third building of the First Presbyterian Church or, strictly speaking, the First Protestant Society, was at the northwest corner of Farmer and Gratiot. When Joseph L. Hudson bought that property, years afterward, some people predicted his failure because he was exchanging a place on the avenue for a remote and obscure corner.
J. W. Week's & Company's city directory for 1873 contains the names of a few firms that are still in existence, and of many others that were familiar down to recent times. H. D. Edwards & Company and G. & R. McMillan occupied the same sites then that they do now. Newcomb & Endicott were in the Opera House Block and have made only one removal since. Wright, Kay & Company were in the Coyl Block, next to the Opera House. Richard H. Fyfe was at 101 Woodward. A. Krolik & Company were at 158 Woodward, but afterward went over to Jefferson. Traub Brothers were at 212, and Louis Black, optician, was at 194 Woodward.
Christopher R. Mabley had the biggest store in Detroit, adjoining the Russell House. The site of the Majestic Building, to which he afterward moved, was then occupied in part by the little frame building which for a generation housed Farnsworth's shoe store. The Majestic Building was not finished until after Christopher R. Mabley's death. This building was to have been called the "Mabley Building," but was changed to "Majestic." Just beyond this was the Weber Building, which is still standing, the first five-story building constructed north of the Campus Martius. This ambitious structure seems to have been ahead of its time, for the furniture business of Henry Weber therein located became encumbered financially, and the building itself did not make a good return on the investment for some years. Two other business failures, those of James W. Frisbie and Company, dry goods, and Freedman Brothers, dry goods and millinery, also occurred in this building.
Woodward Avenue was well lined with dry goods stores. They included James W. Frisbie, Burns & Smith, C. K. Gunn and C. H. Locke, (Gunn & Locke), Colin Campbell & Sons who conducted the "Scotch Store," Linn & Stansbury, James Lowrie & Sons, James Nail, Jr. & Company, George Peck & Company, and S. Simon & Company. Abbott & Ketchum specialized in carpets, and Freedman Brothers, 147-151 Woodward, carried millinery as one of their chief lines. The predecessor of all one-price stores was Hiram Gay's "dollar store" at 94 Woodward.
Among grocers loomed Hull Brothers' big store on the Campus, next to the Opera House, while John Blessed of the firm of Blessed & Campbell, and J. S. Smith & Company had ventured far afield, both having gone above the Grand Circus. The principal retail hardware dealers were M. Limbach, William A. Morhaus, and Fisher & Stoddard. The Singer, Weed, Wilson, Domestic, and Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine companies were all represented on the avenue, and the following are a few of the well-known names in other lines: W. G. Penfield, agricultural warehouse; Elliott Brothers, Richard R. and James R., merchant tailors; Tunis and Parker, J. M. Arnold, books, and E. B. Smith & Company, books; John P. Weiss, pianos; Frederick Wetmore, glassware; A. W. Copland, baker, under the Russell House; Edward Orr, auctioneer; Walter Buhl & Company, hats, and James S. Conklin, jeweler. Small grocery, notion and general stores had extended out Gratiot and Michigan avenues, but the great central district that is now given over to trade was then almost entirely in residence.
The tremendous growth of the retail trade of Detroit during the last five decades requires little comment. The pretentious store of yesterday would be insignificant beside the immense retail business corporations of 1921. Values in downtown properties have risen to great heights, as shown by the subsequent account of the development of prominent sites.
A noteworthy example of the striking increase of value in business property is that of the site of the David Whitney Building. This site originally comprised three lots, adjoining what was then considered a country road, when Henry H. LeRoy, a building contractor, purchased one of them (Lot 22) from Mrs. Eustache Chapoton for $1,000 about a century ago. LeRoy later acquired the other two lots and three frame buildings were erected on the corner. These buildings were there in 1885, when David Whitney, Jr. purchased the land for $90,000, then thought to be an enormous price for the corner. Mr. Whitney erected an eight-story office building and for some time this ranged as one of the city's finest office structures. It was demolished in 1915 to give place to the skyscraper now known as the David Whitney Building, and occupied in greater part by the medical profession. In the intervening years the value of the land has enhanced until it is now assessed at more than $1,150,000, exclusive of the building, which is valued at another million.
On the same side of Woodward Avenue and only two blocks south of the David Whitney Building is another piece of property, the possession of which would have created a fortune in the last one hundred years. Originally described as lot No. 33 of section No. 8 of the governor and judges' plan, this property, with a frontage of sixty feet on the west side of Woodward and one hundred feet on the south side of Grand River Avenue, was sold in 1823 by the governor and judges to Judge John L. Leib for about $1.50 a foot front.
In 1834 it was purchased by John B. Piquette for $300. Mr. Piquette occupied part of it with his jewelry shop for several years. In 1859 the corner was purchased from Edward Shepherd by Alexander Chapoton, building contractor, for $12,000. The frame building that had been constructed on the corner in 1849 was removed by Chapoton in 1867 to another location and the four-story brick building now on the corner was erected. In 1917 the heirs of the Chapoton estate, through Homer Warren, sold the corner to Edward J. Hickey, clothier, at a valuation of $20,000 a front foot, or $1,200,000.
On West Grand Circus Park is another lot, with a frontage of 105 feet on the west side of Woodward Avenue and 48 feet on the north side of West Adams Avenue, now occupied by the twelve-story Fyfe Building. This lot formed part of a tract of five acres which Dr. William Brown, a retired physician, purchased from the governor and judges in 1812. In 1827 Doctor Brown offered to sell the five acres to the city for $800, proposing that it be used as a cemetery, replacing one at Woodward and Larned. The aldermen rejected the offer. In 1834 a syndicate of ten prominent business men acquired fifteen acres, including three acres of Doctor Brown's holdings, and a year later subdivided the tract, which had cost them $6,000. The corner lot, on which the Fyfe Building stands, was sold to Cullen Brown for $50. In 1842 it was transferred to Robert Stuart, and in 1850 was purchased in bankruptcy proceedings by John Humphreys for $500. A frame hotel was built on the corner and after the destruction of this building by fire in 1865, a two-story frame house was built there. This house was later occupied by the Bates Restaurant for several years. Mr. Richard H. Fyfe bought the corner in 1892 for $60,000 and about a year later sold his business partner, Mark B. Stevens, a one-third interest for $20,000. The corner lot now is worth close to $1,000,000.
The southeast corner of Griswold Street and West Fort Street, on which stands the city's first skyscraper, the ten-story Hammond Building, also presents a story of great growth in value. The land was formerly lots Nos. 51 and 52 of section No. 2 of the governor and judges' plan. The former was purchased by Catherine Godfrey in 1809 for a nominal price and was sold by her in 1829 to Joseph W. Torrey for $200. Three years later Torrey sold the lot to Judge James Abbott for $1,000. Margaret McNeal acquired lot No. 52 in 1808. Following her death, the heirs, in 1815, sold the lot to Jacob Smith, who in 1818 sold the property to Judge Abbott and Robert Smart for a small amount. In 1836 Judge Abbott acquired full ownership for $1,500 and proceeded to erect a home on the two lots. Following his death in 1858 his widow and daughter continued to occupy the home until 1877, when the property was sold to Levi L. Barbour, Elijah Smith and Eliza Jane Chandler. Mr. Barbour constructed a one-story brick building nearly surrounding the Abbott home.
Afterward George H. Hammond acquired a long-time lease of the premises. He died shortly after starting construction on the Hammond Building, and in 1889 his estate purchased the site for $350,000 and completed the building.
The land value is now more than $1,000,000.
These are but a few instances to show the development of downtown property.
THE CUSTOM HOUSE
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