1829 : Pre-Independence Day Celebration At Future Site of Jackson, Michigan
Jul 4 all-day

Jackson’s history began on the banks of the Grand River, at present-day Trail Street. Three men — Capt. Alex Laverty, Horace Blackman and their Indian guide Pee-wy-tum — arrived there in time to celebrate America’s Independence Day in 1829.

In his 1903 “History of Jackson County, Michigan,” Charles V. DeLand told of that celebration, which led to the settlement at Jacksonburg. It highlights the presence of the Indians:

“Captain Alex Laverty made an oration in English and Potawatomi, toasts were drank in pure ‘wauboo’ from the ‘sepe,’ at the close of which the crack of Pee-wy-tum’s rifle sounded the applause. The celebration lasted for an hour.

“The reports from the rifle were heard by some Indians not far away who soon appeared upon the scene, and who joined in the applause at the close of Capt. Laverty’s oratorical effort in the Indian dialect. Then a dinner was served. The Indians brought green corn and potatoes from their field, and with fish and game, the party were soon enjoying a banquet.”

Source : Ken Wyatt, “Peek Through Time: A look back at Jackson County settlers’ relationships with Indians”, Jackson Citizen Patriot, June 25, 2011.

1829 : The City of Jackson Officially Begins
Jul 4 all-day

The city of Jackson officially began July 4, 1829. Through the efforts of several men, Horace Blackman was able to stake his claim of 160 acres as was allowed by territorial law. Although Blackman was not the first to settle in the area he is credited with the first official claim, paying only $2 per acre. On January 16, 1830, the area settlement agreed on the name of ‘Jacksonburgh’ in honor or President Andrew Jackson.

By the spring of 1831, Jacksonburgh was a busy little village with several people in business. In summer of the same year the first school officially opened. Later in 1831, Jacksonburgh was declared the County Seat by Governor Lewis Cass bringing government to the area and the name was changed to ‘Jacksonopolis.’ And finally, in 1838, the city became known as simply ‘Jackson.’

For more information, see History of Jackson, Michigan

1834 : Grand Rapids Celebrates July 4th for First Time
Jul 4 all-day

A year after the first settlers arrived, the residents of Grand Rapids marched up and down the Indian trail, singing and shouting, fiddling and hurrahing. According to Charles Baxter, even the local Indians joined in.

Three years later, excitement was upgraded to include steamboat rides down to Grandville and back.

Source : Gordon G. Beld, The Early Days of Aviation in Grand Rapids. Charleston, S.C. : History Press, 2012.

1843 : Villages in Royal Oak and Birmingham Salute New Train
Jul 4 all-day

On the “glorious fourth”, the Governor, accompanied by several members of his cabinet and staff, together with a number of private citizens, took a ride on the new Detroit and Pontiac Railroad by the invitation of the proprietors. The party left Detroit at half past eight in the morning, and after a pleasant ride arrived in Pontiac at half past ten. Royal Oak and Birmingham greeted the guests with salutes of artillery, and all seemed highly gratified at the success of the enterprise.

“Detroit and Pontiac Rail Road”, Detroit Free Press, July 6, 1843, column 1.

1847 : James A. McGinnis (James A. Bailey) of Barnum & Bailey Circus Fame Born in Detroit
Jul 4 all-day

A Detroit native, James A. McGinnis took the surname Bailey at the age of 14 when he joined the circus. Developing a striking talent for advertising and management, he bought the Cooper & Bailey Shows, which toured under canvas the world over. Further success came in 1880, with the purchase of Little America, the first elephant born in this country. Bailey would later join forces with Phineas T. Barnum in 1887, creating the Greatest Show on Earth. Barnum dies in 1891, and Bailey ran the mammoth three-ring show until his death in 1906.

For more information, see Michigan History, September/October 2008.

1859 : First Hot Air Balloon Ascension in Grand Rapids
Jul 4 all-day

Professor William D. Bannister is credited with the birth of flight in Grand Rapids, ascending in the hot air balloon Pride of America at 5 p.m. on July 4th, 1859. On the day before the Grand Rapids Eagle warned the public not to shoot off fireworks near the balloon or burn any other combustibles near the launch site site since it was to be inflated with gas and fire or sparks could have disastrous consequences. Many city residents found purchases on roofs in the town to follow the balloon’s flight of 3 miles to the west.

Balloon ascensions proved to be quite popular throughout the end of the nineteenth century, but were often risky, with a number of deaths noted.

For more information about early balloon flights see Gordon G. Beld, The Early Days of Aviation in Grand Rapids. Charleston, S.C. : History Press, 2012. Available through MelCat.

1863 : 5000 Gather at the Dearbornville Arsenal to Celebrate Union Victory at Gettysburg
Jul 4 all-day

Just a day after the Union victory at Gettysburg, a large celebration was held. Nearly 5,000 people gathered at the Arsenal parade grounds for a day of festivities. The Declaration of Independence was read by Cpt. Levan C. Rhines of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters and Col. Charles V. DeLand, also of the Sharpshooters, made a short speech. Records show that the day of the celebration was so hot, thirty barrels of ice water was consumed within fifteen minutes.

Source : Arsenal at War

1863 : Battle of Monterey Pass (PA)
Jul 4 all-day

July 4-5, 1963 follow-up to Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Monterey Pass

Michigan Historical Marker, Battle of Monterey Pass

During a torrential rainstorm on the night of July 4-5, 1863, the Michigan Cavalry Brigade moved to intercept the retreating Army of Northern Virginia by attacking the miles-long wagon train of the Second Corps and its cavalry escort at this location. The opposing troops collided in hand-to-hand combat in the narrow pass. The 5th Michigan Calvary, led by Colonel Russell A. Alger, future Secretary of War and Michigan Governor, charged up the eastern slope and across Red Run Creek Bridge. Although nothing was discernible a half dozen paces ahead, Union forces triumphed. By 3:00 A.M. they had taken many supplies and captured thirteen hundred Confederate prisoners.

Source : MichMarkers (Civil War)


1863 : Michigan’s 25th Infantry Earns Grudging Respect of Confederates at Battle of Tebbs Bend
Jul 4 all-day

On July 4, 1863, about 250 men of Michigan’s 25th Infantry were about 90 miles South of Louisville, Ky. It was halfway through the American Civil War.

Under the command of Orlando Moore, from Schoolcraft, the Michigan troops were approached by a Confederate army 10 times its size in the number of troops, said Michigan State University history professor Roger Rosentreter.

Knowing his advantage, Confederate commander John Hunt Morgan sent a query to Moore: the Union troops from Michigan might as well surrender, there’s no way they can survive, they are outnumbered.

Moore, a West Point graduate, would not consider surrender. “I’m an American. On the Fourth of July is no day for me to entertain such a proposition,” Moore said. “I must therefore decline.”

Moore knew he had a strong position and could ward off some of the rebel troops. In the course of the short battle, 35 Confederate troops were killed, compared to six Union men.

The confederate commander became frustrated: Moore wouldn’t surrender and couldn’t easily be captured. So they decided to move on. However, he didn’t leave without letting Moore know how he appreciated his bravery and “promoted” him to the rank of Brigadier General.

While Morgan couldn’t actually promote a man in a different army, the act showed how the Confederate commander admired Moore’s resolve, Rosentreter said.

Known as the Battle of Tebbs Bend, it took place the day after Gettysburg ended and the same day as the Siege of Vicksburg ended.

For the full article, see Fritz Klug, “150 years ago today, outnumbered Michigan commander said ‘Fourth of July is no day’ to surrender”, MLive, July 8, 2013.

1866 : Civil War Soldiers March in Detroit for Last Time
Jul 4 all-day

Civil War soldiers from Michigan rallied in Detroit for one last march. They presented their flags to Governor Henry Crapo.

Source : This Day in Michigan History, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.