Calendar

Feb
22
Thu
1837 : Michigan’s First State Flag Unfurled
Feb 22 all-day

Michigan’s first state flag debuted Feb. 22, 1837.

According to the State of Michigan’s Department of History, Arts and Libraries, it was also known as the Brady Guard flag when it was first presented by Gov. Stevens T. Mason to the Detroit Brady Guard, the earliest incarnation of the Michigan National Guard.

The flag, which was described as “an elegant white silk banner,” bore the state’s coat of arms and was the first of three state flags unfurled during Michigan’s history.

Not long after its introduction, the flag was lost for 50 years. It was rediscovered in the basement of the Capitol – just in time for the celebration of Michigan’s 75th birthday. The flag went missing once again until a remnant was found and displayed in 2003 as part of the state’s Michigan Week festivities.

This Week In Michigan’s History, Detroit Free Press, February 18, 2007, B.4

Also see “The Brady Guard Flag : Michigan’s First State Flag”, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

1875 : George DeBaptiste Dies, Noted Abolitionist and Underground Railroad Conductor
Feb 22 all-day

George DeBaptiste (1814-1875) was a prominent member of Detroit’s pre-Civil War black community and a leading figure in the underground railroad, in addition to being a barber, bakery proprietor, once-owner of the steamer T. Whitney, an organizer of the 102nd U.S. Colored Troops, a Mason, an active abolitionist and even a personal valet for a short time to the President of the United States.  An activist in both local and national affairs, he was also on speaking terms with such famous figures as Frederick Douglass and John Brown.

Although never a slave himself, he felt a deep connection with those who were. DeBaptiste attended a few years of school in his hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia, enough to read and write and perform basic mathematics. After schooling he apprenticed as a barber to learn a trade and eventually became a hired hand for many wealthy whites. One man DeBaptiste assisted was a Southern gambler, and by accompaning him on his poker circuit throughout the south, DeBaptiste undoubtedly witnessed the true face of slavery.

(George DeBaptiste in his early life, Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

(George DeBaptiste in his early life, Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Ready to settle down, DeBaptiste moved to Madison, Indiana in 1838 where he opened a barber shop and started a family. Almost immediately, DeBaptiste started doing what he could to help slaves escape slavery.  Madison was a border town across the Ohio River from Kentucky, a slave state.  According to an obituary in the Detroit Tribune, February 23, 1875:

He used to say that he had often waited on the bank of the Ohio River for half the night, while the rain was pouring down, intently listening to hear the oars of an expected boat, which contained one or more fugitive slaves. It was his custom to pilot these fugitives some ten or twelve miles north to the house of a farmer, who kept them secreted during the day, and on the next night would send them on to another stopping place. This method of travel was kept up until they arrived at Detroit, when they were taken across to Windsor. Mr. De Baptiste would usually perform these journeys on foot, walking sometimes twenty miles during the night, returning to his work the next day, probably to shave the man whose slave he assisted to escape the previous night.

DeBaptiste was soon suspected of helping slaves and was cited under black code laws for helping fugitives. DeBaptiste and his family could have faced expulsion from the state if these charges were upheld. He fought the charges in the Indiana Supreme Court arguing that these laws were unjust and unconstitutional. DeBaptiste won, onvincing the judges to at least to allow him to stay in the state. Shortly thereafter Kentucky announced a $1000 bounty for his arrest. Due to increasing common knowledge about his underground railroad activities and facing increasing harassment, DeBaptiste decided to move his family elsewhere.

DeBaptiste next found employment as a personal valet for Gen. William Henry Harrison in 1840 and in 1841 served as his steward in the White House when he was elected President. Unfortunately President Harrison caught pneumonia during his record long inaugeral address and died about a month later.  ( An obituary of DeBaptiste said that at Harrison’s death, DeBaptiste was at his side and held the president in his arms at his last breath.)  No longer employed as a result of President Harrison’s death, DeBaptiste returned to Madison and resumed his previous lifesstyle, including helping fugitive slaves escape.   However, due to continuing and perhaps increasing harassment, DeBaptiste decided to move North to Detroit, which also had a reputation as a key stop on the Underground Railroad and offered a small but vibrant African American community.

In Detroit DeBaptiste was an instantaneous business success. He became a co-owner of a popular barber shop and worked as a sales clerk in a downtown clothing store. Soon DeBaptiste has enough money to purchase a bakery in 1850. George used his business success to try to influence politics and promote emancipation through legal channels, with limited impact.  No wonder DeBaptiste continued to pursue more gratifying but illegal means of emancipation.

DeBaptiste sold his bakery and with the money bought co-ownership of a steam boat named the T.Whitney. Despite being a co-owner of the ship, DeBaptiste could not captain it since captain licenses were reserved for whites. DeBaptiste used this boat for business as well as to illegally transport slaves across the US border into Canada.  To transport slaves DeBaptiste would take his “broken” wagon to a repair shop with a pro-emancipation owner. He would leave his wagon there while in the dead of night the slaves would move from DeBaptiste’s home or the 2nd Baptist Church into the wagon. The wagon was then covered in straw and horse manure. George would cover his horse’s hooves with carpeting to muffle their sound and transport the slaves to the T.Whitney where they were loaded on and marked on the international trade manifest as “Black wool”. DeBaptiste did this for years and it is unknown how many slaves he had helped escape to freedom. The Detroit Historical Museum estimates over 5000 slaves passed through the 2nd Baptist Church in Detroit.

In addition to being a busy conductor in the Underground Railroad, DeBaptiste was also involved in many more visible activism groups such as The Colored Vigilance Committee and The Negro Union League, often funding these groups from his own money gained through his businesses.  He was also a member of multiple secret societies dedicated to anti-slavery activism and activity. DeBaptiste formed an organization that went by multiple names such as “The Order of the Men of Oppression”, “The African American Mysteries”, and “The Order of Emigration” .  And he was a Mason.

Through these activities DeBaptiste came into contact with famous abolitionist figures such as John Brown and Frederick Douglass. John Brown and DeBaptiste were in close contact with another and developed an intricate cypher for communication via telegraph. Messages sent regarding activities of the underground railroad were hidden behind common language. John Brown met with both George DeBaptiste and William Lampert in Detroit to discuss his plans for emancipation (there is a historical marker to that effect). John Brown believed that he could spark a rebellion in the south and that all free black men of the north would join his cause. His target was Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and he was determined to conduct a raid to muster support for rebellion. Both Frederick Douglass had misgivings about the plan, offerred alternatives such as bombing white churches, but failed to convince John Brown of its shortcomings. In October of 1859 John Brown carried out his raid but his small force was quickly overrun resulting in Brown’s execution. However, the raid proved one of the catalysts for the Civil War breaking out soon thereafter.

A supporter of President Abraham Lincoln, DeBaptiste did his best to put together a Black regiment but was stymied by Michigan recruiting practices (no colored recruits, either African or Native American, until much later in the war when losses of life mounted and the white establishment became more practical.  In 1863 he did help organize the 102nd U.S. Colored Troops which enlisted over 1400 volunteers. The regiment left Detroit for service in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and elsewhere. DeBaptiste accompanied the regiment as a sutler rather than as a soldier, supplying essential foodstuffs and supplies, and serving as an unofficial figurehead.

(George DeBaptiste in his later life, Detroit Public Library)

(George DeBaptiste in his later life, Detroit Public Library)

After the war George returned to Detroit and continued managing his thriving businesses, including catering. DeBaptiste won first prize for his wedding cakes in the 1873 Michigan State Fair!

He also continued supporting multiple efforts to improving the lots of Blacks in general through politics and other efforts. DeBaptiste advocated for the right of black students to attend Detroit Public Schools.   In 1870, he was the first black to be elected delegate to the state Republican nominating convention.  The 13th amendment to the constitution was written but was not fully enforced in the south. DeBaptiste felt it his duty to continue helping former slaves flee north.  On April 7th 1870 a few weeks after the 15th amendment to the United States Constitution was written giving African Americans the right to vote, George DeBaptiste put a final notice on his office building reading “Notice to Stockholders — Office of the Underground Railway: This office is permanently closed.”

George DeBaptiste died of cancer in 1875 and was survived by his second wife, a son and daughter.  Prominent obituaries appeared in Detroit papers on February 23, 1875.

Sources:

Matthew Ericksson, “Michigan Abolitionist George DeBaptiste“, Military History of the Upper Great Lakes, October 21, 2017; citing both primary and secondary sources.

George DeBaptiste wikivividly entry, also citing many sources.

1888: Benjamin Harrison Declares His Presidential Candidacy
Feb 22 all-day
Image result for president benjamin harrison

Benjamin Harrison declared his Candidacy for President at the Michigan Club in Detroit while giving a speech on Washington’s Birthday.

Benjamin Harrison Fun Facts and Trivia

1973 : Hermus Millsaps of Taylor Wins First Michigan Lottery Million Dollar Prize
Feb 22 all-day

Gus Harrison, the Michigan lottery’s first commissioner, fondly recalled the first winner — Hermus Millsaps of Taylor — who walked away with $1 million on Feb. 22, 1973.

“He was 53 years old, a native of Tennessee and he worked at the Chrysler plant… He just hung around after the drawing, and we didn’t understand it,” Harrison said.

Well, it turns out, the winner and his wife came to Lansing earlier in the day and spent all of their bus money. They didn’t have the bus fare to get home. So, Harrison had a lottery agent drive the couple home.

“It’s ironic, here he is with most of a million dollars in his pocket and he didn’t have the bus fare to get home,” he said.

For the full article, see John Gonzalez, “Michigan Lottery celebrates its 40th anniversary; announces online sales in 2013”, MLive, November 15, 2012.

Highballs with Hermus

Hermus Millsaps, a factory worker from Taylor, became the Lottery’s first million-dollar winner on February 22, 1973.

Some suggested the Lottery PR people had invented a character, because the back story was almost too good to be true. His car was on the fritz the day of the drawing, so he and his Russian-born wife hopped a Greyhound bus to Lansing. They carried a brown paper-bag lunch to save money. Hermus did invest 57 cents on a chartreuse rabbit’s foot for luck.

After he won he led a group of journalists across the street to a watering hole, where the bartender explained that he couldn’t cash Hermus’s $50,000, first-installment check. The scribes bought the drinks.

Hermus immediately quit his job. He later grew weary of the media attention and quit giving interviews.

This reporter was writing a package of stories about the 5th anniversary of the Michigan Lottery and Hermus’s big win. I decided to take a chance and pay a cold-call visit on a Saturday afternoon. His wife answered the door and said her husband didn’t want to be bothered. As I made my case on the front steps, Hermus peeked out his head.

He swung open the door of their small Taylor home, which featured a heated driveway to melt the snow, five televisions and old newspapers stacked on every chair and couch in the house.

In the basement he brought out his guitar and amp, pulled out his dental plate and with great enthusiasm sang the “Wabash Cannonball,” complete with howls imitating the horn of a train. He fixed us both a “highball” — followed by multiple others.

As I was leaving after a couple-hour visit, Hermus insisted I not go away empty handed. He retrieved a glass container of pickled pig’s feet from his fridge and a cheap, tin ashtray stamped with “Iowa” and in the shape of the Hawkeye State from a cupboard and handed them to me.

I couldn’t help chuckling as I walked down his sidewalk, half in the bag, carrying gifts from the unlikeliest of millionaires.

Addendum:

Millsaps died virtually penniless in 2002.

Source : Reporter’s Notes : Charlie Cain Unedited, July 16, 2009.

Michigan Lottery Page

2006 : Michigan Shorelines Remain Open to Walkers
Feb 22 all-day

The U.S. Supreme Court has sidestepped a dispute over the time-honored tradition of walking along Michigan’s Great Lakes beaches, declining to hear an appeal.

The court on Tuesday let stand the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling last July that declared open to walkers the area between the waters edge and the ordinary high water mark onshore – even if the shoreline is privately owned.

The public right to walk the beaches does not cover inland lakes, where lakeside owners land rights extend to the middle of the lake. Under the Michigan Supreme Court ruling, beach walking is allowed along the shoreline up to the so-called ordinary high-water mark, loosely defined as the point on the bank or the shore up to which the presence and action of the water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark.

Robert LaBrant, general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce who filed a brief on behalf of the property owners, said that definition is confusing and bound to lead to more litigation.

For most property owners, this ruling won’t mean any dramatic changes. But some will abuse this ability to stroll the lakefront, LaBrant said. They’ll build campfires and lug beer and ice with them and you’ll have a lot of people traipsing through.

For the full article, see Charlie Cain and Mark Hornbeck , “It’s OK to walk on the beach; U.S. high court lets stand Michigan ruling allowing strolls along Lakes shorelines, Detroit News, February 22, 2006.

For another article, see “Top court refuses state case; shorelines remain open to walkers, Lansing State Journal, February 22, 2006.

2015 : Detroit Native and Actor J. K. Simmons Wins Oscar
Feb 22 all-day

Photo of J. K. Simmons, courtesy of Wikipedia

The Detroit native (born in Detroit on January 9, 1955) and veteran character actor J. K. Simmons ended his brilliant award season with the ultimate prize, a best supporting actor Oscar for “Whiplash.” Then the man who played the nastiest jazz instructor in history proved he’s a sweetheart in real life by telling global viewers to phone their mothers. “Call your mom, everybody,” he said. “I’m told there’s like a billion people or so (watching). Call you mom, call your dad, if you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet. Don’t text. Don’t email. Call ’em on the phone. Tell them you love them, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”

Many Americans are most familiar with Simmons as a recurring character in the Farmers Insurance ads, but he has appeared in numerous tv shows and movies.

Sources:

J. K. Simmons wikipedia entry

Julie Hinds, “Oscars: 10 huge moments from Hollywood’s biggest night”, Detroit Free Press, February 23, 2015.

Julie Hinds, “Detroit native J.K. Simmons wins an Oscar”, Detroit Free Press, February 23, 2015.

Julie Hinds, “J.K. Simmons lit up Oscars with simple message”, Detroit Free Press, February 24, 2015.

2019 : Detroit Tigers Practice Games Start in Leland, Florida
Feb 22 all-day

Tiger Fans Visit Lakeland, Florida (2017)

Tiger Fans Visit Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida

The Detroit Tigers will begin their 2019 season on February 22 with its annual exhibition game against the Southeastern University Fire at the renovated Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Southeastern went 59-7 last season, going 8-0 in the NAIA postseason to claim the first NAIA national championship in any sport in school history.

The Tigers open their Grapefruit League schedule Feb. 23 against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., before their home opener Feb. 24 against the Philadelphia Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium’s Publix Field in Lakeland. The Tigers and Lakeland boast the longest-standing relationship between a team and a spring training host city in the majors.

The Feb. 24 games against the Phillies is one of 16 Grapefruit League contests to be played in Lakeland.

For details on tickets, contact the Lakeland ticket office at (863) 686-8075, or visit tigers.com/springtraining.

It will be the Tigers’ 55th season warming up in Tiger Town and its 83nd in Lakeland, Fla., which is the longest-serving spring training host city for a Major League Baseball club.

Joker Marchant Stadium 2017

PUBLIX FIELD AT JOKER MARCHANT STADIUM, Lakeland, Florida

Feb
23
Fri
1802: Detroit Adopts Fire Regulations
Feb 23 all-day

On February 23, 1802, adoption of fire regulations marked the beginnings of the City Of Detroit Fire Department.

Sources:

Detroit Historical Society

Detroit Fire Department Legacy.com

1870: Michigan Agricultural College Opens Its Doors to Women for the First Time
Feb 23 all-day

On February 23, 1870, what was then known as State Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) opened its doors to 10 female students. These women, ranging in age from 16 to 23 – studied subjects including chemistry, botany, horticulture, floriculture, trigonometry, surveying, and entomology. No special courses for women were offered at that time, so they took the same classes as men and participated in the daily fieldwork alongside male students.

Source : Michigan State University Diversity and Inclusion Page

A few weeks earlier, according to Michigan History, Elizabeth Stockwell from Kalamazoo was the first female to attend the University of Michigan on February 2, 1870.

Source : Michigan History

1882 : St. Ignace, Michigan’s Second-Oldest Continuous Settlement, Incorporated
Feb 23 all-day
Image result for st. ignace michigan

The Village of St. Ignace in Mackinac County was incorporated. The village is Michigan’s second-oldest continuous settlement and remains the county seat of Makinac County until this day.

Source : Michigan Historical Calendar, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

For more information, see History of St. Ignace : St. Ignace was among the largest settlements in New France for the last decade of the 15th century until the establishment of Detroit in 1701.