Ann Arbor and the Civil War

Memories of Civil War times in Ann Arbor are contained in records which, according to Ann Arbor historian Lela Duff, "fairly vibrate with the shock, the frantic activity, the frustrations and heartbreak of the period." Following the firing upon Fort Sumter in April 1861, the city was alive with war preparations and rumors of conspiracy. At a mass meeting held in the courthouse on April 15, Ann Arbor rallied to the Union. Local businessman George D. Hill offered a resolution asking that the people of Ann Arbor "stand by the President of the United States in the proper and continued performance of his duties in executing the laws of the United States." He further requested that Ann Arbor's citizens be organized into military companies "to be ready to meet a draft upon the State of Michigan." Both motions carried unanimously.

These gestures were largely ceremonial. In 1859 some of the city's German residents formed the Steuben Guards. With news of war, this unit offered itself for military duty as part of the First Michigan Infantry. Proudly decked out in their uniforms, they received the cheers and good wishes of an expectant citizenry and departed the train station for Detroit and regimental headquarters on April 29. Throughout this day of celebration and farewell the official escort for the Steuben Guards consisted of Relief Fire Company No. 2 and the newly formed Barry Guard. Commanded by ex-Mayor Robert J. Barry, this unit in June 1861 was reorganized as part of the Fourth Michigan Infantry. The students of the University formed a third unit, the University Battalion, while a fourth unit formed in May 1861 was christened the Ann Arbor Silver Greys.

The Silver Greys, or the Ann Arbor Home Guard, was an assemblage of men forty-five years of age or older. Supposedly too old for active combat, the Greys included the town's most illustrious citizens. University President Henry P. Tappan and local businessmen Elijah Q. Morgan, Daniel E. Wines, and William S. Maynard were among those who agreed to drill on the second Saturday of every month (weather permitting). Failure to appear, their bylaws warned, would result in the fine of one dime. The war, fortunately, never moved close enough to permit a test of the Home Guard's military competence.

Local Government and Economic Growth

Those left on the home front could do little but swallow their anxiety and force themselves back into the routine of daily life. Local government responded in great part to the needs of the moment. The charter was amendedState Street, ca. 1877 in 1861 to extend the limits of the city, and in 1867 an entirely new charter was adopted, dividing the city into six wards. The work of the council was prosaic: approving the extension of wooden plank walks into new areas of the city; authorizing the construction of wooden crosswalks to bridge the streets of Ann Arbor which in inclement weather became a "sea of mud"; or prohibiting the slaughter of animals within the city limits. Pupils and teachers of the fifth ward school house were reportedly "overpowered by the stench."

Council's actions reflected the city's concern for the moral welfare of both its own citizens and the student population of the University. In 1871, it moved to close the city's gambling halls; while in 1879, it passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale, circulation, and printing of "obscene, immoral, indecent and scandalous books, papers or prints." The same year, following a riot of 700 students outside a "house of ill fame," council received a petition from local townspeople urging the suppression of similar establishments. "Houses of prostitution," the newspaper warned, "are a great source of evil, not only to the youth of our own city but to the large number of young men who are yearly entrusted to our care."

Ann Arbor was ill-equipped in these years to handle problems of municipal law enforcement. In 1860 it had a population of 4,447 residents, or over 5,000 if University enrollment is included. The city continued to grow even during the Civil War. It reached a level of 5,731 in 1864 and advanced to a height of 7,363 in 1870. The city marshall and his deputies could handle minor disturbances and instances of inebriation, but in the later part of the 1860's the city required more. In1867 the Peninsular Courier and Family Visitant pointed out the need for an "efficient night police." After due deliberation, council in 1871 voted to establish a six-member police force. The city at long last had around-the-clock protection.

Charles Binder's saloonThe need for a police force was tied to the city's rapid commercial growth. In 1860, Ann Arbor had five hotels, including Cook's, the American, and the Washtenaw House. By 1872 the city had a total of eight hotel establishments, including the Gregory House which had been erected in 1862 on the site of the American. In 1860 Ann Arbor had one retail druggist, C. (Christian) Eberbach & Co. Twelve years later, five additional druggists had established businesses. Five billiard halls existed in 1872, while in 1860 there had been only Daniel Perry's Billiard Saloon. And, most significant of all, Ann Arbor had forty-nine saloons in 1872, while in 1860 there were but ten.

Religion and Social Life

The city's growth was not limited to hotels or saloons. Some of Ann Arbor's proudest buildings were erected in this period. Hangsterfer's,Hill's Opera House advertisement with a ground floor confectionery shop and a dance hall and auditorium upstairs, was completed in 1860. Most of the major musical and theatrical presentations which came to Ann Arbor in the 1860's appeared here. Its reputation diminished with the openingCounty courthouse of George D. Hill's Opera House in 1871, which thereafter became the center of the city's cultural life. And, in 1878, the construction of the new courthouse capped the municipal building program.

By 1860 the religious life of Ann Arbor was already well established. The city had ten churches: First Congregational, Episcopal, German Lutheran, Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, First and Second Presbyterian, Quaker, St. Thomas' Catholic Church, and the Universalist Church. By 1872 the Quaker and Universalist churches had disbanded. Two African-American congregations had been formed: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, located on present-day Fourth Avenue; and the African Baptist Church, situated on the south side of High Street. Throughout the '1860's several of the established churches outgrew their facilities and moved into splendid new quarters. The First Presbyterian Church was completed in 1860; the Presbyterian Church, 1865Methodist Episcopal Church in 1867; and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in 1869. Construction continued into the '1870's with the erection of the First Congregational Church and the beginning of the First Baptist Church which was dedicated in 1881.

In addition to the activities of the city's churches, citizens could participate in a great variety of other cultural organizations. In 1866 some prominent women of the town organized the Ladies Library Association. Funded by a system of fees and dues, the library was open to all subscribing Ann Arbor residents. By 1881 it boasted a collection of 200 volumes. Other organizations were tailored to the city's growing numbers of German immigrants: The German Laboring Men's Society; the Turn Verein; and the Schuetzenbund. A number of reform organizations sought to curb the influence of the saloon: the Ann Arbor Temperance Society; the Father Mathew Temperance Society; the Ladies Temperance Union; St. Thomas Benevolent Temperance Society; the Ann Arbor Reform Club; and the Juvenile Temperance Union.

A few organizations defied classification. Of these, the Independent Six was the most baffling. Organized in 1875, the members of this society devoted themselves to the study of Japanese sciences. Its chain of command included, at the top, the Mikado, followed by 1st and 2nd Tycoon, the Daimio, Hattamoto, and chaplain. In 1876 the Independent Six presented its production of Hamlet at Hill's Opera House. The newspaper account failed to make clear the relevance of Hamlet to Japanese studies.

Entertainment and Recreation

The decades of the '1860's and '1870's saw the introduction and flowering of other forms of diversion. Some of these were traditional, such as the circus and the visiting lecturer, and some were new, like baseball and the beginning of what would be the bicycling craze. Presbyterian Church, 1865 Nearly every year the arrival of summer marked the beginning of the circus season. Beginning in late May and continuing through the early fall, Ann Arbor played host to as many as three separate circus companies. For weeks in advance, the newspapers trumpeted the pending arrival of some of the greatest circuses in nineteenth-century America. P. T. Barnum, Adam Forepaugh's Great Eastern Menagerie, the R. Sands Grand Multiserial Combination Circus and Homohipodeal Amphitheatre, and Van Amburgh's New Great Golden Menagerie Circus & Colosseum all appeared in Ann Arbor.

On at least five separate occasions throughout the 1860's the newspapers heralded Dan Rice's Great Show and School of Educated Animals. A master clown, cocky and pugnacious, Rice enthralled Ann Arbor audiences with his coarse humor and lively songs and jigs. He and his troop, upon arrival at the Michigan Central Railroad Station, would parade in costume through town before their first big show later in the afternoon and evening. Rice's entourage offered "moral" attractions such as "Excelsior," the blind, talking horse; the comic mules, "Pete and Barney"; and the not-to-be-forgotten herd of sacred cattle. Many of the acts came right out of the barnyard, yet townspeople seemed unmindful of the failure of the performances to live up to their advance publicity. For them the circus broke the monotony of small-town life.

While the circus was a summer attraction, theatrical performances appearedCircus advertisement, 1873 year-round at Hangsterfer's Hall and Hill's Opera House. General Tom Thumb, the midget discovered and made famous by P. T. Barnum, made at least three appearances at Hangsterfer's. Humorists Josh Billings and Artemus Ward also performed. Minstrel shows were a popular form of entertainment. In addition to such touring companies as the George Christy Minstrels and Ben Cotton's California Minstrels and Brass Band, Ann Arbor had its own amateur minstrels. Dramatic presentations included Edwin Booth in his role as "Hamlet," and Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack in their production of the "Scouts of the Plains."

The University's Student Lecture Association brought many prominent lecturers and social reformers to town. Speakers included Louis Agassiz, Wendell Phillips, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Charles Sumner, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lucy Stone blackwell, Henry Ward Beecher, former Vice-President Schuyler Colfax, and Robert G. Ingersoll. Their subjects ranged from evolution and reconstruction politics to women's rights and literature. P. T. Barnum, in town without his circus, lectured appropriately on "Money Getting."

The reception which Ann Arbor accorded these speakers varied considerably. In the heated period prior to the inauguration of Lincoln in 1861, the fiery abolitionist Parker Pillsbury of Boston was forced to flee the Free Church when attacked by a mob of disgruntled townspeople. At this meeting the local newspaper reported, "some bones, as well as windows, doors, seats &c., were broken." Contrasted with this was the solemn reception Emerson received in January 1863. The Michigan State News compared him to "one of the puritanic fathers of the last century..."

The Civil War was partially responsible for the introduction of new forms of entertainment into town. Baseball began as a form of recreation among soldiers in army camps. Its popularity quickly spread throughout the nation. Many towns organized clubs to compete against neighboring communities.Dexter baseball team, ca. 1865 As early as 1862, Ann Arbor organized the Monitor Baseball Club. Baseball then was not like today's defensive game. Against the team from Ypsilanti in 1867, Ann Arbor squeaked by 52 to 48. Two weeks later in the match game of a three-game series Ann Arbor again triumphed. This time the score was 66 to 27.

The coming to Ann Arbor of "velocipedes"--or bicycles--was a fad, a diversion reserved for a very few. The real flowering of bicycling did not occur until the 1880's. But for a brief moment in 1869, the velocipede captured the attention of the town. Similar to a bicycle, the machine was propelled by turning the front wheel. This wheel, though slightly larger than the back, was not as big as the high-wheeled bicycles of the 1880's and '90's. In February 1869 an out-of-town manufacturer demonstrated the use of the velocipede. "The 'animiles' are now stabled at the hall over Besimers' Saloon," the Michigan Argus reported, "where the sporting gentry can have an opportunity to try their metal and their speed...we expect to see a street race at no distant day." In April two riders made the trip to Ypsilanti in two hours, no mean feat in that day of primitive, rutted, and mud-swamped roads. After some complaints, the city passed an ordinance forbidding the riding of velocipedes on the city's sidewalks.

Medicine, Public Health, and Business

The circus, the theatre, and the excitement of baseball and cycling were for most the only respite in an otherwise harsh and tedious existence. Public health was still in its infancy. Of the fifty-one reported deaths in 1862, twelve persons were under five years of age and twenty-one were twenty years old or less. The primary causes of death were the dreaded scarlet fever, consumption, and lung congestion and inflammation. In 1878 scarlet fever and consumption accounted for nearly fifty per cent of the 123 deaths reported in the city.

Ann Arbor was famous for its medical facilities. The city's reputation derived partly from its association with the University's Department of Medicine and Surgery. But by far the greatest part of its medical acclaim rested upon the showmanship of unorthodox practitioners who expounded all-inclusive remedies for the ills of mankind, and promised their patients restoration of health with a minimum of personal discomfort.

Daniel B. Kellogg claimed the Dr. Kellogg's Medical Works ability, during hypnotic sleep, to discern remedies for illnesses. While in this state, Kellogg wrote in his autobiography, "I seemed to be a sort of connecting link between the patient's disease and nature's remedy." Kellogg's resulting popularity was not without its drawbacks. Before becoming a professional healer, Kellogg wrote: "The sick came from all directions...My house was filled to excess; and such was the demand upon my time that I was forced to neglect my legitimate occupation; and my external life was mainly spent in unconscious slumber."

Kellogg's techniques contrasted with the methods of Ann Arbor's most famous doctor. Ambitious and self-assured, Dr. Alvin Chase parlayed an extraordinary talent as a peddler of patent medicines and groceries into an enormously successful publishing business. While working the DetroitDr. Chase's Steam Printing House and Toledo circuit, Chase began collecting recipes for all types of medicines, as well as instructions for the preparation of common household items like vinegar, soap, paint, and cloth coloring. Recognizing the need for a compilation of such useful information, Chase brought his recipes together in a pamphlet entitled, Information for Everybody. The eighth edition of this work, brought out in 1860, became something of a publishing phenomenon. Within its covers the housewife on the farm or the tradesman in the city had at hand over 600 recipes for such luxuries as oyster soup and tomato wine, and for herbal remedies to cure everything from "old sores" and deafness to the relief of ingrown toenails.

The grandiose practices and theories of the Drs. Kellogg and Chase were indicative of fundamental changes through which medical science was passing. In reaction to traditional methods, which included the bleeding and purging of sick people, doctors in the '1860's and '1870's began experimenting with the use of mild vegetable remedies for illness. Mineral baths, too, were in vogue during this period. In 1866, a Doctor Hale opened the "Mineral Springs House" in Ann Arbor. Located on present-day Bath Street, this building accommodated up to 80 people.

The "Mineral Springs House" was one of many business enterprises toKnowlton's Bathing Apparatus appear after the Civil War. In this period, E. J. Knowlton began the manufacture of his Universal Bath. Supported like a hammock between two pieces of household furniture, Knowlton's Bath could then be filled with water to bathe all or only parts of the human body. The pliable sides, Knowlton's advertising read, "confirm[sic] to the irregularities of the person, and leave very little space to fill up with water..." Metal bathtubs were still a rarity. Knowlton's genius was to manufacture an inexpensive, pliable, and portable bathing apparatus.

Another of Ann Arbor's burgeoning manufacturing businesses was the Mozart Watch Company. Patented by Donald J. Mozart, the watch was touted as a mechanical marvel. With its "self-compensating level," the watch had no stopping place, thus "once wound up, it is bound to run until it runs down...Screw the same (watch) to the side of a locomotive, and it will run with the most perfect regularity." In February 1869 the company moved into the south side of Dr. Chase's block and began producing its watches.

Ann Arbor at the Crossroads: Railroads, Growth and Controversy

"The future of Ann Arbor never looked so bright as now," the Courier gloated in 1871. "From present appearances it is safe to say that the population of Ann Arbor will double in the next five years." The paper came to regret this statement. The successful Mozart Watch Company earlier in 1870 had deserted Ann Arbor for the more congenial environs of Milwaukee. The business prosperity of the post-Civil War years peaked, and in its wake came the depression of 1873. The newspapers began filling up with mortgage sales and notices of houses for sale. E. J. Johnson, hat, cap, and fur dealer, was just one of many business failures. Population figures told the story. From a peak of 7,300 people in 1870, the city dropped to 6,700 in 1874.

"Watchman, what of the hour?" the Peninsular Courier editorial asked in December 1874. Ann Arbor was at a turning point in its history. "Soon, very soon, the question is to be settled, and settled forever, whether Ann Arbor is to dwindle into a mere boardinghouse town, or whether it is to become a city of no mean proportions for an inland town, say twenty thousand inhabitants...We have allowed golden opportunities to pass. While we, Rip Van Winkle like, have slept, railroads have been built north and south of us, along the lines of which small towns are springing up, creating a market for produce which formerly came to us. This...we are willing to confess, does not tend to make the future of Ann Arbor to us a pleasing theme for contemplation...We are in a transitory state, a generation is now passing away. Shall we take the tide at its flood, or omit it?"

The greatest of these "golden opportunities" which the city had missed was the construction of a second railroad, linking Ann Arbor markets to the south. The dream of an Ann Arbor-Toledo Railroad went back to the 1840's. Interest waned during the Civil War, but beginning in 1865, local capitalists began drumming up support for the railroad. In 1866 the Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Saginaw Railroad Company was formed; and in 1870 the people of Ann Arbor voted a loan of $100,000 for the completion of the road, now christened the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Railroad. This company floundered in the depression of 1873. The city waited until 1878 for the dream of a north-south railway to become a reality.

The difficulty of getting the railroad to Ann Arbor had a profound effect on the community's spirit. Without an additional railroad aspiring businessmen had only the Michigan Central to transport their goods to market. When it looked as if the railroad would never come, the Courier rationalized: "Every town cannot be a manufacturing place. Our city is a literary city, and as such we are proud of it...should we attempt to carry on all kinds of enterprises we should fail. Everything for our educational interests and nothing for outside wild speculators, is our motto."

The editorial implied that the future of Ann Arbor was forever linked to the success of the University. Ann Arbor's citizens became increasingly conscious and justifiably proud of the accomplishments of the University and its faculty. They gloated over the favorable comments of out-of-town visitors drawn to the city because of the University. Ann Arbor, one traveler wrote, "is a popular resort for the wealthy, refined and intellectual from different parts of the world"

Such compliments reflected favorably upon the leadership of the University in the 1870's. In 1871 James B. Angell commenced his thirty-eight-yearJames B. Angell tenure as president of the University. Under his direction, the University broadened the scope of its curriculum, thereby attracting a larger student enrollment. From a level of 1,100 students in 1870, the number slowly increased to 1,534 in 1880. In the first decade of his administration, Angell worked to establish a Department of Dentistry and a School of Mines; and after several years of debate, the University finally established a Homeopathic College. The University's history was not without blemish. A case of presumed misappropriation of student fees in the Chemical Laboratory in 1875 ballooned into a statewide scandal involving Angell, the Regents, Courier publisher Rice Beal, and the two central figures, Silas Douglas and Preston Rose. The matter of the responsibility for the missing funds was never really resolved and the question continued to be debated for many years to come.

The Douglas-Rose Controversy brought a bitter conclusion to the score of years which had begun with the Civil War. Although not affected as badly as some cities by the Depression of '73, Ann Arbor was slow to shake off the doldrums of economic decline. A combination of factors--depression, the snail-like development of the north-south railroad to Ann Arbor, and the bitterness engendered by the Douglas-Rose Controversy--shook Ann Arbor's faith in its future. Still a fundamentally healthy community, the city was uncertain of its direction as the 1880's dawned.