1815 : Eliza Seaman Leggett Born
May 9 all-day

Image result for Eliza Seaman Leggett

Eliza Seaman Leggett (Born May 9, 1915; Died February 8, 1900) dedicated her life to securing the rights of others, improving the human condition, and enlightening the minds of her family, friends, and neighbors. Although born in New York City, Eliza Seaman Leggett made her home is southeast Michigan.

The abolition of slavery was one of Eliza’s greatest concerns, and she was an active participant in the Underground Railroad. In fact, her Waterford Township home in Oakland County was a stop on the legendary Underground Railroad. When Leggett moved to Detroit, she opened her home to fellow abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth and lecturer Wendell Phillips. She also worked with other noted abolitionists including Mrs. Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Theodore Parker, Lyman Beecher, Laura Smith Haviland, and Elizabeth Comstock.

Upon the end of slavery, Leggett turned her attention towards the suffrage movement and to helping women in need. She wrote frequent articles and gave many lectures on women’s suffrage. During the 1870s she devised, co-founded, and implemented the Young Woman’s Home Association for the young working women of Detroit.

Eliza Leggett was also very civic minded. She was instrumental in making Belle Isle a public park for the people of Detroit; she worked to see that all public places, including schools, flew the American flag, and she helped to create a holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus. She also ensured that public drinking fountains and horse watering troughs were placed throughout the city of Detroit.

Leggett had a great love for literature, and was a frequent correspondent with such literary figures a Louisa May Alcott, Bronson Alcott, Walt Whitman, and William Cullen Bryant. Her enthusiasm for literature led to her hosting literary meetings which led to the idea of a literary club which later became the Detroit Women’s Club.

Eliza Seaman Leggett passed on to her eleven children her enthusiasm for the arts and humanities as well as her great belief in helping those in need and fighting for virtuous causes. Eliza’s memory and her contributions to society were recognized when a Waterford Township elementary school was named in her honor. She was made the Historic Citizen of the Month by the Detroit Historical Society Guild in May 1955, and she is further honored with her induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.


Eliza Seaman Leggett – Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame

Eliza Seaman Leggett wikipedia entry

1864 : Company K Faces Action at Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
May 9 all-day

Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters, made up of Michigan Indians, faced its first baptism of fire in the Battle of the Wilderness, as part of Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomoc. Here is a graphic account of some of the action:

The Federal line, advancing with a cheer met the charging enemy in a dense thicket of pines, and in the hand to hand struggle that followed, the Union forces were slowly driven back. On a little rise of ground the Fourteenth New York battery supported by the Second and Twenty-Seventh Michigan Infantry and the First Michigan Sharpshooters, was doing its best to hold the ground. Every now and then the Confederates would fight their way up to the battery and lay hold of the cannon to turn them upon the Union forces. But to touch one of those guns meant instant death at the hands of the sharpshooters. In this desperate encounter, the little band of Indians was commanded by Lieutenant Graveraet…. Under a perfect storm of lead their number seemed to melt away, but there was no sign of faltering. Sheltering behind trees, they poured volley after volley at the zealous foe, and above the din of battle their war-whoop rang out with every volley. At dusk the ammunition gave out, but with the others the Indians ran forward at the shout of “Give them steel boys!” from the twice wounded but still plucky Colonel Deland. When darkness came to end the bloody day, Lieutenant Graverat was among the one hundred and seventeen wounded sharpshooters, and a few months later he died of his wounds.

Source: Historical Collections Vol. XXVIII– Annual Meeting 1898 By Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Michigan State Historical Society, Michigan Historical Commission Published 1900 Starting page 446

For more information about Company K, see January 12, 1863, mustered into the army, and July 30, 1864, Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia. Source: Twice Told Tales of Michigan and Her Soldiers in the Civil War, Michigan Civil War Centennial Observance Commission, 1966, p.46-47.

A beaded headband made by the Native American soldiers of Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters as a gift for their commanding officer, part of the Michigan Historical Museum Civil War collections in Lansing, Michigan.

Many of the Native Americans who formed Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters had tried to enlist at the beginning of the war, but they were rejected, along with black volunteers. When the United States began allowing Indians to serve in 1863, they joined Company K, and served honorably to the conclusion of the war.

“Company K made important contributions to the war effort, especially in the fighting around Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center. “We appreciate the loan of this significant artifact, which gives visitors a tangible connection to these soldiers who saw their service as part of their commitment to defend their homeland.”

The men of Company K came from Michigan tribal communities that had just spent 30 years fighting against removal to western lands in Kansas and Oklahoma. Individual Anishnaabek communities had negotiated a series of treaties to keep their lands and rights in Michigan. Their commanding officer was Colonel Charles V. Deland. Editor of the Jackson Citizen newspaper before the war, Deland formed the 1st Sharpshooters in 1862, after serving with the 9th Michigan Infantry. The loan to the museum also includes the telegram Deland sent home after he was injured at Petersburg.

When the fighting in the trenches surrounding Petersburg reached a stalemate, Union engineers exploded a large mine under Confederate lines on July 20, 1864. Union troops attacked across the crater left by the explosion and were decimated by fire from above. Private Antoine Scott of Company K was cited for a Medal of Honor for his actions that day and later during the attack on General Robert E. Lee’s retreat from Petersburg. He never was officially recognized for his repeated acts of bravery. He died at the age of 37.

When Petersburg finally fell to northern forces, the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters were among the men who first raised the Union flag at the Petersburg Courthouse. It is not known if men from Company K helped hoist the flag.

Source : Gladwin County Record and Beaverton Clarion, January 20, 2015.

1969 : The Who Open N. American Tour in Detroit
May 9 all-day

Back in 1969, the Who Opened Their North American Tour at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit on May 9-11. They returned again on October 11-12 that year. The surviving Who members visited the Joe on November 24, 2012 and mentioned that they shared the Rock Opera Tommy the first time at the Grande Ballroom.

Louder Than Love : The Grande Ballroom Story

Hopefully the owners did not have to consult the following government document:

Medical care at large gatherings : a manual based on experiences in rock concert medicine / by Gerald H. Dubin. [Washington] : U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration : for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1976. U.S. Government Documents Collection (3 West) HE 20.8208:M 46 Also available online from the Hathitrust

1970 : Walter Reuther Dies In Plane Crash
May 9 all-day

On May 9, 1970, United Auto Workers President Walter P. Reuther, his wife and four others were killed in a plane crash near the Pellston, Michigan airport. He was 62 and had been president of the UAW since 1946.

Source : Detroit Historical Society Facebook page

For more information, see Walter Reuther wikipedia entry

1803 : William H. Harrison, Future President, Visits Detroit
May 10 all-day

On May 10, 1803, William H. Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory and the first future president to visit Michigan arrived in Detroit. Harrison came to Michigan three more times before becoming president in 1841.

—Source: Mich-Again’s Day.

1865 : 4th Michigan Calvary Capture Confederate President Jefferson Davis
May 10 all-day

On this day in 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, dressed as an old woman, was captured in Georgia by the 4th Michigan Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. Benjamin Pritchard of Allegan.

Courtesy of WAKV (Plainwell, MI), The Memory Station

On the 48th anniversary of the event, Caspar Knobal, a member of the 4th Michigan Calvary during the Civil War and eye-witness, says that Confederate President Davis wasn’t disguised as a woman when captured. Due to the cold, he had merely put on a woman’s shawl around his shoulders for extra warmth on the chilly night.

VET CELEBRATES DAVIS’S CAPTURE: Caspar Knobel, of Philadelphia, Observes Anniversary of Arrest of Jeff Davis. Detroit Free Press, May 11, 1912, p. 1.

Note : The Main Library now provides the MSU community online access to the historical Detroit Free Press from 1858 through 1922.

1933 : First Legal Glass of Beer Poured After Prohibition
May 10 all-day


On May 10, 1933, Julius Stroh of the Stroh Brewing Company poured the first legal glass of beer after the repeal of Prohibition at an American Legion convention in Detroit.

An update on the Stroh Family:

AS WITH MANY OF AMERICA’S GREAT FORTUNES, the Stroh family’s story starts with an immigrant: Bernhard Stroh, who arrived in Detroit from Germany in 1850 with $150 and a coveted family recipe for beer. He sold his brews door-to-door in a wheelbarrow. By 1890 his sons, Julius and Bernhard Jr., were shipping beer around the Great Lakes. Julius got the family through Prohibition by switching the brewery to ice cream and malt syrup production. And in the 1980s Stroh’s surged, emerging as one of America’s fastest-growing companies and the country’s third-largest brewing empire, behind only public behemoths Anheuser-Busch and Miller. The Stroh family owned it all, a fortune that FORBES then calculated was worth at least $700 million. Just by matching the S&P 500, the family would currently be worth about $9 billion.

Yet today the Strohs, as a family business or even a collective financial entity, have essentially ceased to exist. The company has been sold for parts. The Stroh Companies has doled out its last dividends to shareholders. The last remaining family entity owns a half-empty office building in Detroit. While there was enough cash flowing for enough years that the fifth generation Strohs still seem pretty comfortable, the family looks destined to go shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves in six.

Sources :

Detroit Historical Society Facebook page

Kerry A. Dolan, “How To Blow $9 Billion: The Fallen Stroh Family“, Forbes, July 8, 2014.

1978 : Rep. Monte Geralds Expelled from Michigan Legislature
May 10 all-day

Rep. Monte Geralds (D-Madison Heights) was expelled from the Michigan Legislature on May 10, 1978. An attorney, he had been convicted of embezzling $24,000 from a wealthy Bloomfield Hills heiress he had represented before being elected to office.

His case was on appeal, but fellow lawmakers didn’t like serving alongside a convicted felon.

Geralds refused to resign.

Geralds, who chain smoked throughout the historic debate, finally got up to speak. Rocking back and forth on his heels, he said: “I was innocent. I am innocent and I always will be innocent of those charges.”

Moments before the 84-20 vote to expel Geralds, House Speaker Bobby Crim had his say.

“Monte, this is not easy for me because I’m asking for your expulsion…I pray no future legislature will again be faced with this decision.”

It was the second time in political history that Michigan had expelled a legislator.

Sources :

Charlie Cain, “Reporters Notes”, Dome, July 16, 2009.

Michael Arkush, “Geralds Expelled for Embezzling“, Michigan Daily, May 11, 1978.

Emily Lawler, “Deaths, drugs and skullduggery: A brief history of Michigan political scandals“, MLive, August 21, 2015; Updated August 24, 2015.

Check April 28, 1887 entry for Milo H. Dakin, the first person expelled from the Michigan Legislature.

1980 : Chrysler Receives Loan Guarantee from U.S. Government
May 10 all-day

U.S. Treasury Secretary G. William Miller announced on May 10, 1980, that Chrysler would receive a $1.5-billion loan guarantee from the U.S. government. The federally backed loans, which still had to be approved by Congress, were expected to ensure that the carmaker would survive for another year.

For the full article, see Zlati Meyer, “U.S. offers Chrysler a $1.5B loan guarantee”, Detroit Free Press, May 6, 2012.

2005: Helen Claytor, Civil Rights Activist, YWCA National President, Dies
May 10 all-day

Mrs. Helen Jackson Wilkins Claytor made it her life’s work to break down racial barriers, before the term “civil rights” became part of the country’s lexicon.

She was born in Minneapolis on April 12, 1907 and was a 1928 cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she was one of the few black students. In one of her early jobs, she was a caseworker supervisor for the federal Emergency Relief Administration in Jackson County, Mo.

She had been a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association since grade school and by the late 1930s, she was working for the organization — then racially segregated — in Trenton, N.J., and Kansas City,

She first traveled to Grand Rapids to speak at a convention in 1942 as secretary for interracial education for the national YWCA. She was a widow and mother at the time. Her first husband, journalist Earl Wilkins, died in 1941.

She met Robert Claytor, a Grand Rapids doctor, and they married a year later. She moved to the western Michigan city.

She could not get a job teaching in Grand Rapids in the early 1940s, which she attributed to racism.

Meanwhile, her husband became the first black doctor on staff at St. Mary’s Hospital. When his wife resigned her national YWCA post, joined the Grand Rapids YWCA board and became president in 1949, three white board members resigned in protest, saying the city was not ready for a black YWCA president.

In the early 1950s, she led the Grand Rapids Human Relations Study Commission to look at race relations. She led a study on de facto segregation in Grand Rapids public schools in the early 1960s and made recommendations on integration.

The elimination of racism was a key goal of Mrs. Claytor’s tenure as president of the national YWCA, and one of her proudest achievements was to get the organization to support that principle at the 1970 convention.

Mrs. Claytor received many awards during her life.  The Grand Rapids YWCA established the Helen J. Claytor Merit of Distinction Award, making her the first recipient in 1983; she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984; the Helen Jackson Claytor Civil Rights Award was created by the city of Grand Rapids; and Helen was named a “Woman of Courage” by Michigan Women’s Foundation in 1994.  And of course, the city of Grand Rapids erected a statue of her as part of the Grand Rapids Community Legends project.

Sources :

Michigan History, March/April 2015

Helen Claytor: Activist in Civil Rights, YWCA“, Washington Post, May 14, 2005.

Helen Claytor Statue Dedication“, MLive, July 23; updated July 24, 2014.

Helen Claytor Biography

Cindy Lang, “Dr. Robert W. and Helen J. Claytor“,, April 13, 2010.