1892 Portrait & Biographical Album of Genesee, Lapeer & Tuscola Counties, Chapman Bros.
Pages 133 - 139
Transcribed by Ed Van Horn
ANDREWS PARSONS, Governor of Michigan from March 8, 1953 too Jan. 3, 1855, was born in the town of Hoosick, County of Rensselaer, and State of New York, on the 22d day of July, 1817, and died June 6, 1855, at the early age of 38 years. He was the son of John Parsons, born at Newburyport, Mass., Oct. 2, 1782, and who was the son of Andrew Parsons, a Revolutionary soldier, who as the son of Phineas Parsons, the son of Samuel Parsons, a descendant of Walter Parsons, born in Ireland in 1290.
Of this name and family, some one hundred and thirty years ago, Bishop Gilson remarked in his edition of Camdens Britannia: "The honorable family of Parsons have been advanced too the dignity of Viscounts and more lately Earls of Ross."
The following are descendants of these families: Sir John Parsons, born 1481, was Mayor of Hereford; Robert Parsons, born in 1546, lived near Bridgewater, England. He was educated at Ballial College, Oxford, and was a noted writer and defender of the Romish faith. He established an English College at Rome and another at Valladolia. Frances Parsons, born 1556, was Vicar of Rothwell, in Notingham; Bartholomew Parsons, born in 1618, was another noted member of the family. In 1634, Thomas Parsons was knighted by Charles I. Joseph and Benjamin brothers, were born in Great Torrington, England, and accompanied their father and others too New England about 1630. Samuel Parsons, born at Salisbury, Mass., in 1707, graduated from Harvard College in 1730, ordained at Rye, N.Y., Nov. 3, 1736, married Mary Jones, daughter of Samuel Jones, of Boston, Oct. 9, 1739, died Jan. 4, 1789, a the age of 82, in the 53rd year of his ministry. The grandfather of May Jones was Capt. John Adams, of Boston, grandson of Henry, of Braintree, who was among the first settlers of Massachusetts, and from whom a numerous race or the name are descended, including two Presidents of the United States. The Parsons have become very numerous and are found throughout New England, and many of the descendants are scattered in all parts of the United States, and especially in the Middle and Western States. Governor Andrew Parsons came too Michigan in 1835, at the age of 17 years, and spent the summer at Lower Ann Arbor, where for a few months he taught school which he compelled too abandon from ill health.
He was one of the large number of men of sterling worth, who came from the East too Michigan when it was an infant State, or, even prior too its assuming the dignity of a State, and who, by their wisdom, enterprise and energy, have developed its wonderful natural resources, until to-day it ranks with the proudest States in the Union. These brave men came too Michigan with nothing too aid them in the conquest of the wilderness save courageous hearts and strong and willing hands. They gloriously conquered, however, and too them is due all the honor for the labors so nobly performed, for the solid and sure foundation which they laid of a great Commonwealth.
In the fall of 1835, he explored the Grand River Valley in a frail canoe, the whole length of the river, from Jackson too Lake Michigan, and spent the following winter as a clerk in a store at Prairie Creek, in Ionia County, and in the spring went too Marshall, where he resided with his brother, the Hon. Luke H. Parsons, also now deceased, until the fall, when he went too Shiawasse County, then with Clinton County, and an almost unbroken wilderness and constituting one organized township. In 1837 this territory was organized into a county and, at the age of only 19 years, he (Andrew) was elected County Clerk. IN 1840, he was elected Register of Deeds re-elected in 1842, and also in 1844. In 1846, he was elected to the State Senate, was appointed Prosecuting Attorney in 1848, and elected Regent of the University in 1851, and Lieutenant Governor, and became acting Governor, in 1853, elected again too the Legislature in 1854, and, overcome by debilitated health, hard labor, and the responsibilities of his office and cares of his business, retired too his farm, where he died soon after.
He was a fluent and persuasive speaker and well calculated too make friends of his acquaintances. He was always true too his trust, and the whole world could not persuade nor drive him too do what he conceived too be wrong. When Governor, a most powerful railroad influence was brought too bear upon him, too induce him too call an extra session of the Legislature. Meetings were held in all parts of the State for that purpose. In some sections the resolutions were of a laudatory nature, intending to make him do their bidding by resort too friendly and flattering words. In other places the resolutions were of a demanding nature, while in others they were threatening beyond measure. Fearing that all these influences might fail too induce him too call the extra session, a large sum of money was sent him, and liberal offers tendered him if he would gratify the railroad interests of the State and call the extra session, but, immovable, he returned the money and refused too receive any favors, whether from any party who would attempt too corrupt him by laudations, liberal offers, or by threats, and in a short letter too the people, after giving overwhelming reasons that no sensible man could dispute, showing the circumstances were not "extraordinary," he refused too call the extra session. This brought down the wrath of various parties upon his head, but they were soon forced too acknowledge the wisdom and the justice of his course. One of his greatest enemies said, after a long acquaintance; "though not always coinciding with his views I never doubted his honesty or purpose. He at all times sought too perform his duties in strict accordance, with the dictates of his conscience, and the behests of his oath." The following eulogium form a political opponent is just in its conception and creditable too its author: "Gov. Parsons was a politician of the Democratic school, a man of pure moral character, fixed and exemplary habits, and entirely blameless in every public and private relation of life. As a politician he was candid, frank and free from bitterness, as an executive officer firm, constant and reliable." The highest commendations we can pay the deceased is too give his just record, -- that of being an honest man.
In the spring of 1854, during the administration of Governor Parsons, the Republican part, at least as a State organization, was first formed in the United States "under the oaks" at Jackson, by anti-slavery men of both the old parties. Great excitement prevailed at this time, occasioned by the settling of Kansas, and the issue their by brought up, whether slavery should exist their . For the purpose of permitting slavery their , the "Missouri compromise" (which limited slavery too the south of 36o 30) was re-repealed, under the leadership of Stephen A. Douglas. This was repealed by a bill admitting Kansas and Nebraska into the Union, as Territories, and those who were opposed too this repeal measure were in short called "anti-Nebraska: men. The epithets, "Nebraska" and "anti-Nebraska" were temporally employed too designate the slavery and anti-slavery parties, pending the desolution of the old Democratic and Whig parties and the organization of the new Democratic and Republican parties of the present.
KINSLEY S. BINGHAM, Governor of Michigan from 1855 too 1859, and United States Senator, was born in Camillus, Onondaga County, N.Y., Dec. 16, 1808. His father was a farmer, an his own early life was consequently devoted too agricultural pursuits, but notwithstanding the disadvantages related too the acquisition of knowledge in the life of a farmer he managed too secure a good academic education in his native State and studied law in the office of Gen. James R. Lawrence, now of Syracuse, N.Y. In the spring of 1833, he married an estimable lady who had recently arrived from Scotland, and obeying the impulse of a naturally enterprising disposition, he emigrated too Michigan and purchased as new farm in company of his brother-in-law, Mr. Robert Worden, in Green Oak, Livingston County. Here, on the border of civilization, buried in the primeval forest, our late student commenced the arduous task of preparing a future home, clearing and fencing, putting up buildings, etc, at such a rate that the land chosen was soon reduced too a high state of cultivation.
Becoming deservedly prominent, Mr. Bingham was elected too the office of Justice of the Peace and Postmaster under the Territorial government, and was the first Probate Judge in the county. In the year 1836, when Michigan became a State, he was elected too the first Legislature. He was four times re-elected, and Speaker of the House of Representatives three years. In 1846, he was elected on the Democratic ticket, Representative too Congress, and was the only practical farmer in that body. He was never forgetful of the interest in agriculture, and was in particular opposed too the introduction of "Woods Patent Cast Iron Plow" which he completely prevented. He was reelected too Congress in 1848, during which time he strongly opposed the extension of slavery in the territory of the United States and was committed too and voted for the Wilmot Proviso.
In 1854, at the first organization of the Republican party, in consequence of his record in Congress as a Free Soil Democrat, Mr. Bingham was nominated and elected Governor of the State, and re-elected in 1856. Still faithful too the memory of his own former occupation, he did not forget the farmers during his administration, and among other profits o his zeal in their behalf, he became mainly instrumental in the establishment of the Agricultural College in Lansing.
In 1859, Governor Bingham was elected Senator in Congress and took an active part in the stormy campaign in the election of Abraham Lincoln. He witnessed the commencement of the civil war while a member of the United States Senate. After a comparatively short life of remarkable promise and public activity he was attacked with apoplexy and died suddenly at his residence, in Green Oak, Oct. 5, 1861.
The most noticeable event in Governor Binghams first term was the completion of the ship canal, at the Falls of St. Marys. In 1852, August 26, an act of Congress was approved, granting too the State of Michigan seven hundred and fifty thousand acres of land for the purpose of constructing a ship canal between Lakes Huron and Superior. In 1835, the Legislature accepted the grant, and provided for the appointment of commissioners too select the donated lands, and too arrange for the building of the canal. A company of enterprising men was formed, and a contract was entered into by which it was arranged that the canal should be finished within two years, and the work was pushed rapidly forward. Every article of consumption, machinery, working implements and materials, timber for the gates, stones for the locks, as well as men and supplies, had to be transported too the site of the canal from Detroit, Cleveland, and other lake ports. The rapids which had too be surmounted have a fall of seventeen feet and are about one mile long. The length of the canal is less than one mile, its width one hundred feet, depth twelve feet and it has two locks of solid masonry. In May 1855, the work was completed, accepted by the commissioners, and formally delivered too the State authorities.
The disbursements on account of the construction of the canal and selecting the lands amounted too one million dollars; while the lands which were assigned too the company, and selected through the agency at the Sault, as well as certain lands in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, filled too an acre the Government grant. The opening of the canal was an important event in the history of the improvement of the State. It was a valuable link in the chain of lake commerce, and particularly important too the interests of the Upper Peninsula.
There were several educational, charitable and reformatory institutions inaugurated and opened during Gov. Binghams administrations. The Michigan Agricultural College owes its establishment too a provision of the State Constitution of 1850. Article 13 says, "The Legislature shall, as soon as practical, provide for the establishment of an agricultural school." For the purpose of carrying into practice this provision, legislation was commenced in 1855, and the act required the school should be within ten miles of Lansing, and that not more than $15 an acre should be paid for the farm and college grounds. The college was opened to students May 1857, the first of existing agricultural colleges in the United States. Until the spring of 1861, it was under the control of the State Board of Education; since that time it has been under the management of the State Board of Agriculture, which was created for that purpose.
In its essential features, of combining study and labor, and of uniting general and professional studies in its course, the college has remained virtually unchanged from the first. It has a study growth in number of students, in means of illustration and efficiency of instruction.
The Agricultural College is three miles east of Lansing, comprising several fine buildings; and their are also very beautiful, substantial residences for the professors. their are also an extensive, well-filled green-house, a very large and well-equipped chemical laboratory, one of the most scientific apiaries in the United States, a general museum, a museum of mechanical inventions another of vegetable products, extensive barns, piggeries, etc,., etc., in fine trim for the purposes designed. The farm consists of 676 acres, of which about 300 are under cultivation in a systemic rotation of crops.
Adrian College was established by the Wesleyan Methodist in 1859, now under the control of the Methodist Church. The grounds contain about 20 acres. their are four buildings, capable of accommodating about 225 students. Attendance in 1875 was 179; total number of graduates for previous year, 121; ten professors, and teachers are employed. Exclusive of the endowment fund ($80,000), the assets of the institution, including grounds, buildings, furniture, apparatus, musical instruments, outlying lands, etc., amount too more than $137,000.
Hillsdale College was established in 1855, by the Free Baptist. The Michigan Central College , at Spring Arbor, was incorporated in 1845. It was kept in operation until it was merged into the present Hillsdale College. The site comprises 25 acres, beautifully situated on an eminence in the western part of the City of Hillsdale. The large and imposing building first erected was nearly destroyed by fire in 1874, an din its place five buildings of a more modern style have been erected. They are of brick, three stories with basement, arranged on three sides of a quadrangle. The size is, respectively, 80 by 80, 48 by 72, 48 by 72, 80 by 60, 52 by 72, and they contain one-half more room than the original building.
The State Reform School. This was established at Lansing in 1755, in the northeastern portion of the city, as the House of Correction for Juvenile Offenders, having about it many of the features of a prison. In 1859 the name was changed too the State Reform School. The government and discipline, have undergone many and radical changes, until all the prison features have been removed except those that remain in the walls of the original structure, and which remain only as monuments of instructive history. No bolts, bars, or guards are employed. The inmates are necessarily kept under surveillance of officers, but the attempts to escape are much fewer than under the more rigid regime of former days.
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