1847 : Lansing Designated State Capitol

March 16, 2022 all-day

On March 16, 1847, Lansing — a hard-to-reach, malaria-infested swamp — became the state Capitol over other established cities like Jackson, Marshall or Kalamazoo, thanks to the arguments of Ingham County’s charismatic representative, Joseph Kilbourne.  According to the Detroit Free Press archives, Lansing was referred to at the time as a “mud hole” in the “howling wilderness”, having only  two log cabins and a sawmill.

Kilbourne agreed with a common sentiment at the time that Michigan’s Capitol could not remain in Detroit because it was too close to Windsor and vulnerable to attack. He said Lansing was in the geographic center of the Lower Peninsula and that early Lansing settler James Seymour would give the state the land on which to build the Capitol building.

When Kilbourne first suggested Lansing, originally called “Michigan,” legislators laughed. But after more talking, Kilbourne won over a majority to his point of view.

Source: Michigan Every Day

Lt. Gov. Charles Bush, best known for casting the deciding vote to move the state capital from Detroit to Lansing, was born on March 18, 1809.

The Ithaca, N.Y., native moved to Michigan in 1836 and got involved in state politics four years later, when he was elected to the state House of Representatives. He went on to have two stints as a state senator and to serve as a delegate to Michigan’s 1850 constitutional convention and to the 1852 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore.

In 1847, Bush, then president pro tem of the state Senate, became lieutenant governor after Gov. Alpheus Felch was elected a U.S. senator and his lieutenant governor, William Greenly, became governor.

Michigan’s 1835 constitution required a decision by 1847 about where the state’s permanent capital would be, according to Willis Dunbar and George May’s book “Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State.” Among the contenders were Jackson, Ann Arbor, Marshall, Battle Creek, Albion, Dexter, Byron and Lyons, though Detroiters fought to keep it where it had been since the Michigan Territory was established in 1805. A donation of 20 acres of land and Lansing’s central location made it strong competition.

One reason cited for moving the capital from Detroit was the fear of an attack by Canada if the U.S. and Britain went to war again.

Another source : Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: Politician who pushed state capital to Lansing is born”, Detroit Free Press, March 16, 2014.

Another source : Frank Hand, “Lansing’s Name No Easy Choice“, Lansing State Journal, February 17, 1984.  A plat for Lansing was filed with the County Register of Deeds on June 23, 1847.  The town was incorporated on February 15, 1859 by an act of the Legislature.  By then, the town had grown to about 3000 people.

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