Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Civil War Series Ends This Weekend!

Capitol Grounds Civil War Monument Tour
Friday, April 24, 6:30 pm
Michigan State Capitol

                Built in the years following the Civil War, the Michigan State Capitol stands as a memorial to the Michigan faithful who answered the call to preserve the Union and end the scourge of slavery.  The architecture of the building, including the early use of a tall cast iron dome, echoes the renovations carried out on the national capitol during the Civil War, and the grounds are dotted with memorials honoring Michigan men and women who sacrificed much during the war years.  This walk will include information about both the Capitol’s exterior architecture and the memorials, including the statue of Austin Blair, Michigan’s Civil War Governor, the First Michigan Sharpshooters Monument, the Grand Army of the Republic monument, and the Women’s Relief Corps Monument.  The walk will also tell the story of the first painting of the Capitol’s dome by a disabled Civil War Veteran, Allen Shattuck.

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Michigan State Capitol Tour Service

Mount Hope Civil War Cemetery Tour
Saturday, April 25, 1:00 pm
1800 E. Mt. Hope Ave.

                Descendants of Civil War soldiers and local historians will present brief biographies of 6 Lansing Civil War veterans buried in Lansing’s Mount Hope Cemetery, including Luther Baker, who led the party that captured John Wilkes Booth, Charles T. Foster, the first men from Lansing to enlist, and an African American soldier who served with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first northern raised regiment made up of entirely African Americans.   

Dr. George E. Ranney, recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, will be honored by fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War veteran Duane Dewey.  Dewey will lay a wreath at Ranney’s grave.  Dewey received his medal for shielding his fellow squad members from a live grenade with his own body, causing him to sustain serious wounds when the grenade exploded. 

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Curtenius Guard Camp #17, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Luther Baker and the Capture of John Wilkes Booth
Saturday, April 25, 4:00 pm
 Dart Auditorium, Lansing Community College
500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing

                Historian Steve Miller of Chicago will give a keynote address on the capture of John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, led by Lansing’s own Luther Baker, cousin of Lafayette Baker, founded of the Secret Service.  The speech will detail Baker’s chase as Booth slid through the shadows away from Washington and into the former Confederacy.  Miller will also examine the men that made up Baker’s party, focusing particularly on Luther and Lafayette Baker, and their return to Lansing. 

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Lansing Community College

Thank you to the Michigan Humanities Council for supporting this program with the gift of a quick grant!  

Civil War Foods of the North and South
Sunday, April 26, 2015, 1:15 pm
Michigan Historical Center Auditorium
702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing

                Food historian and MSU Professor Helen Veit will speak on the first two publications in the American Food in History series, Food in the Civil War Era: The North, and Food in the Civil War Era: The South.  Veit’s presentation will include recipes, historical misunderstandings about food, differences between food in America’s vastly varied landscapes, and will reveal a peak into the food ways common in America 150 years ago.

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Michigan Historical Center

Michigan's Civil War Battle Flags
Sunday, April 26, 2015, 2:30 pm
 Michigan Historical Center
702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing

                Join historian and Save the Flags co-chair Matt VanAcker for a behind the scenes visit the Michigan Civil War Battle Flag Collection.  Approximately 90,000 Michigan soldiers fought in the American Civil War and almost 15,000 made the ultimate sacrifice.  The bullet torn, blood stained battle flags that these men carried and died beneath were their proudest possessions, they stood for the Union, for their loved ones back home and also as the rallying point in combat.

The Michigan Capitol Battle Flag collection, includes 240 battle flags carried by Michigan soldiers in the Civil War, the Spanish American War and World War I.  This visit to the flag storage facility at the State Historical Center in Lansing will focus on the Civil War collection, flag terminology, the importance of flags in battle, some specific regimental histories in connection with the flags and the history of the collection including current conservation efforts. 

Sponsored by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, Save the Flags, and the Michigan Historical Center

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Local Author to Sign Book on Capture of John Wilkes Booth at Antiquarian Book and Paper Show on Sunday, April 19

On April 14, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln was shot by the assassin John Wilkes Booth and would die early the next day.  This singular act would ignite the largest manhunt every seen in the United States.

In 12 days a military search party led by Lt. Luther Baker would capture David Herold, a co-conspirator, and kill Booth.  Baker soon after would move to Lansing, Michigan where he would invest in real estate, work in the Auditor General's office, and go on the lecture circuit to tell his certain of the flight of Booth and his ultimate capture.

Now, for the first time, the Historical Society of Greater Lansing has published the 45 minute lecture in chapbook form accompanied with 19 archival photographs and prints depicting various aspects of the assassination and the death of Booth.  The book also contains the "Horse's Tail", a first horse account by Buckskin, Baker's trusty steed in the capture and later companion at lectures and in Lansing parades.

The book, "Assassination of Abraham Lincoln," is edited by local historian Craig Whitford and will be formally released at the Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show on Sunday, April 19 in the Lansing Center.

Whitford said his research shows that only four copies of the lectures exist, three in archives and one with a Baker family member who has loaned that copy to the Society.  It is on display in the Society's Lansing Goes to War exhibit in Lansing City Hall lobby.

For the book Whitford wrote a foreward which puts the lecture in context.

He writes about the end of the Civil War: "A jubilant atmosphere prevailed throughout much of the North on Monday April 10, 1865, church and school bells rang out and the nation's colors were proudly displayed.  Less than five days later the ringing of the bells took on a somber tone; the national colors would be joined with black mourning cloth, crape, and ribbons."

Whitford has written three other books on Michigan History, "Postmarked: Michigan, Mich. 1847-1848," Craig A. Whitford and David L Mackey, 1987.  Self published, 36pp, ills,: "Airport Kid Learning to Fly," Marion "Babe" Weyant Ruth and Craig A. Whitford, 2003.  Michigan Historical Press.  96pp., illus. and "Lansing City on the Grand, 1836-1939," James MacLean and Craig A. Whitford, 2003, Arcadia, Images of America.  128p., illus.

Whitford has a passion for Lansing's history serving for more than 10 years on the Ingham County Historical Commission as an active member and president.  He is past president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing.  Craig was appointed in 2002 by Governor John Engler to the Michigan Quarter Commission, for the selection of the State's Quarter Dollar released in January 2004.  Craig actively collects, conducts research and provides presentations on various subjects relating to the history of Lansing and Ingham County.  He resides in Holt with his wife, Kathy.

Whitford will be signing the book at the Antiquarian Book and Paper Show.  The book is $5 with all proceeds going to fund Society activities.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Civil War Love Letters

Civil War Love Letters
Saturday, April 11, 2:00 pm
Library of Michigan Auditorium
702 W. Kalamazoo St. - Lansing, MI

On Saturday, April 11 at 2 pm in the Library of Michigan auditorium Erik Nelson, manager of the English Inn, and his spouse Kristin will do a dramatic reading of the Civil War letters sent by Michigan Union Soldier Nathan Adams to Emily Parsons between 1861 and 1865.  The letters are held in the Library of Michigan's Rare Book Room where they will be displayed along with other Civil War era items.

The event, which is cohosted by the Library of Michigan, draws attention to the importance of preserving letters and other family history, said Valerie Marvin, President of the Society.

These Few Lines
by Nathan Adams

(you must excuse all mistakes and bad writing and except these few lines from your absent friend)

O vain the question none can tell
I only know we love to well
Since first we met
When first my hand clasped in thine
When first those conquering eyes met mine
Our heart were laid upon loves shrine
But ah for us now light may shine
Hopes star has set
Our love was sinless free from stain
And should we never meet again
My heart will sing this sweet refrain
Thou lovest me yet.

It was March 12, 1862 when the Union Civil War soldier Nathan Adams, member of the 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry sent this poem to his 'girl' back home.  Adams included the poem in one of his regular letters to Emily Parsons, who was clearly the love of his life.  Life was not always poetry for Adams who faced not only death from Rebel bullets but from serious illness while serving in the 11th Michigan Infantry.  The Regiment was organized in White Pigeon, Michigan and consisted of 950 members.  By the end of the war 112 men were killed in action and another 196 died from disease.

Adams's letters, which are held by the Library of Michigan in the Rare Book room provide a soldier's viewpoint from enlistment through three years of marching, waiting, bravado, fear, and fighting.  The collection holds 63 of Adams's letter to Emily who, when the war started, was still in school.  Emily's letters did not survive battlefield conditions.

The letters reveal not only his growing love for Emily, but a sense of dread that he may not see her again.  He describes in detail horrible conditions and the death of his comrades.  In one letter he describes the execution by hanging of a Union soldier soldier for killing a farmer.

His letters are often witty with a sense of cold irony as he faces death at Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and the Siege of Atlanta.  A few of the letters from the 'soldier boy' reflect a jealous lover as he chastises Emily for going to dances back home.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Mystery of Dr. Samuel Mudd and John Wilkes Booth, Civil War Love Letters

The Mystery of Dr. Samuel Mudd and John Wilkes Booth
Thursday, April 9, 7:00 pm
East Lansing Public Library  
950 Abbott Rd. - East Lansing, MI 

Civil War Love Letters
Saturday, April 11, 2:00 pm
Library of Michigan Auditorium
702 W. Kalamazoo St. - Lansing, MI

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing continues its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln this week with two events highlighting different aspects of the War Between the States.

Thomas Mudd, the great grandson of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of aiding the assassin John Wilkes Booth, will bring his case to the East Lansing Public Library, 7 p.m., Thursday, April 9.  Mr. Mudd will argue that his infamous relative was not complicit with Booth involving the assassination.  The event is co-sponsored by teh Friends of the East Lansing Public Library.

On Saturday, April 11 at 2 pm in the Library of Michigan auditorium Erik Nelson, manager of the English Inn, and his spouse Kristin will do a dramatic reading of the Civil War letters sent by Michigan Union Soldier Nathan Adams to Emily Parsons between 1861 and 1865.  The letters are held in the Library of Michigan's Rare Book Room where they will be displayed along with other Civil War era items.

The event, which is cohosted by the Library of Michigan, draws attention to the importance of preserving letters and other family history, said Valerie Marvin, President of the Society.

In addition, Lansing collector Rick Brown will showcase his Travelling Lincoln Assassination Museum at the East Lansing Public Library, 11 am to 7 pm April 7, 8, and 9.  The exhibit, containing more than 30 rare items relating to the assassination, will then move to the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library for three days, 11 am - 7 pm, April 14, 15, and 16.  (Lincoln died from his wounds on April 15.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baker, Booth, and Lincoln

The assassination of President Lincoln, two madmen, a stuffed horse named Buckskin and the largest manhunt in U.S. history led by a man from Lansing, Michigan will be the focus of April programs hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing.

In April 2015, the Historical Society will sponsor 11 events and programs that commemorate this tragic time in U.S. history, said President Valerie Marvin.

“General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox only five days prior to when the madman assassin John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln,” Marvin said.

“The North went from celebrating their victory with shouts of joy to tears of grief for their slain leader within only days.  Interestingly, Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, elevating the symbolic nature of his death."

The unthinkable act would trigger a 12 day manhunt for the assassin when Col. Lafayette C. Baker, formerly of the Lansing area and head of the fledgling Secret Service, called on his cousin Lieutenant Luther Byron Baker, who later moved to Lansing, to accompany 26 members of the 16th New York Cavalry in pursuit of Booth.

Among the troop was another madman, Sgt. Boston Corbett, who would shoot and kill Booth, explicitly against the orders he had been given, on April 25 in a barn in Virginia ending the search for the assassin.

Luther Baker, along with his horse Buckskin, would move to Lansing where he would settle and buy real estate with his share of the reward money.

Later in his life, Luther Baker would go on a lecture circuit often accompanied by his horse, Buckskin.

On April 26, 150 after the capture and death of Booth, historian and national expert on the manhunt, Steve Miller of the Chicago area will describe the fateful manhunt, the actions of the 16th New York volunteers and the Bakers’ role in the capture and burial of Booth.

Throughout the month of April there will be events featuring authors, historians, walking tours, a Medal of Honor recipient and a look at the State’s Civil War flags.

Marvin said more than 90,000 men from Michigan went off to fight in the Civil War; serving with distinction in some of the most important battles of the war.

“The toll was incredible with 14,753 men making the ultimate sacrifice,” she said.

“And a Michigan man, Luther Baker, would lead the final act, ultimately becoming a national hero along the way,” Marvin said.

She said after the war, Luther Baker and his horse Buckskin often led Decoration (Memorial) Day parades and later Buckskin was stuffed and displayed at MSU where he became a favorite with local children until he disintegrated. 

Author Scott Martelle will describe why Corbett was a madman at a discussion and signing of his book “A Look at Boston Corbett, the Man Who Killed Booth,” Friday, April 3, 7 p.m. at Schuler Books in Okemos.

Then on Thursday, April 9, 7 p.m. at the East Lansing Public Library Thomas Mudd, a descendant of the enigmatic Dr. Samuel Mudd, will detail his ancestor’s relationship with John Wilkes Booth.  (Dr. Mudd tended Booth as he fled from Ford's Theatre, treating injuries sustained during the assassination.)  

On Saturday, April 11, 2 p.m. the Library of Michigan and the Historical Society of Greater Lansing will present a dramatic reading of the love letters sent by Union soldier Nathan Adams to his wife-to-be, Emily Parsons. Erik Nelson, owner of the English Inn and Kristin Nelson, his spouse, will bring these letters of battle and love to life more than 150 years after they were written. The Library of Michigan will showcase other rare Civil War items in its Rare Book Room and the Michigan Historical Museum’s Civil War exhibit will be open.

Lansing resident and Lincoln assassination expert Rick Brown will present a special program, “Michigan’s Connection to the Aftermath of the Lincoln Assassination” Thursday, April 16, 7 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library.

Brown has been collecting material related to the Lincoln assassination since he was in junior high school in 1965 when he bought an April 28, 1865 newspaper detailing the capture of Booth.

“The reason I selected the newspaper was it was exactly 100 years old. Little did I know at the time that this one small incident would turn to a lifetime avocation,” Brown said.

Brown, who has become a national expert on the assassination, has collected thousands of items directly relating to the assassination including diaries, broadsides, engravings, wanted posters, original souvenirs, photographs and more than 200 original newspapers, both Union and Confederate, about the assassination and its aftermath.

In addition to his presentation Brown will showcase his Travelling Lincoln Assassination Museum at the East Lansing Library, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., April 7, 8 and 9. The exhibit, containing more than 30 rare items, will then move to the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library for three days, April 14, 15 and 16. (Lincoln died from his wounds on April 15).

The weekend of April 24, 25 and 26 there will be five events recognizing one of the most important times in American history. On Friday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. the first-ever walking tour of the Michigan State Capitol grounds will be conducted focusing on Civil War era memorials. 

On Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m. will be a tour and talk of Mount Hope Cemetery featuring the graves of Civil War veterans including Luther Byron Baker, Charles Foster, the first man from Lansing to volunteer for the Civil War, one African American member of the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment (of the movie “Glory” fame) and a special recognition of Lansing’s only Civil War era Medal of Honor recipient Dr. George E. Ranney.

Marvin said “We are so honored to have Duane Dewey, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, who will lay a wreath at the grave of Ranney. ”

Dewey, one of two living Michigan Medal of Honor recipients, will be escorted by the Seventh Michigan Volunteer Infantry Co. reenactors and the Sons of Union Veteran of the Civil War. On the evening of Saturday, April 26 at Dart Auditorium Steven Miller will present his signature lecture on the manhunt at 4 p.m.

The month’s activities will culminate with two programs on Sunday, April 26 at the State Historical Museum in downtown Lansing. At 1:15 pm, Dr. Helen Veit, noted food author and MSU Professor of History, will speak on the food of the Civil War. Veit has written two books on food in the Civil War era (North and South) and her books will be for sale at the event.

At 2:30 p.m. Matt VanAcker, Director of the Michigan Capitol Tour and Information Service and co-chair of the Capitol's Save the Flags project will take visitors for a behind the scenes look at Michigan Civil War flags.

Marvin said the flag program is a fitting final tribute to the end of the Society’s tribute to the 2, 000 Ingham County men who fought in the Civil War.

“Flags stirred emotion, patriotism, and loyalty in the men like no other symbols.  Countless men sacrificed their lives so that the colors might stand."

“By the end of the war, the flags were sacred relics to the men who served under them, physical proof of their heroism and bloodshed.  One of the reasons our current Capitol was built was to serve as a proper home to our Michigan Civil War battle flags."

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is also publishing for the first time in print the actual lecture that Luther Byron Baker used on his speaking tours. Local historian Craig Whitford has written an introduction explaining the importance of the lecture and provided a variety of photographs and lithographs which illustrate the 48 page book.  The book will be for sale at the Civil War events, at Schulers and at Historical Society events throughout the year.

In addition, the Historical Society’s new exhibit Lansing Goes to War featuring more than 150 iconic objects from the Civil War to the First Gulf War will be open 8 am-5 pm during the week and at 5 pm- 6:30 pm the evening of Friday, April 24.

The Michigan Historical Museum’s exhibit “Conceived in Liberty” on the end of the Civil War featuring several items relating to Luther Byron Baker will be open during normal museum hours.

For a more complete listing of events, please click on the When Johnny Comes Marching Home tab at the top of this page.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Letters From my Father, A World War I Mechanic

Letters From My Father, A World War I Mechanic
by Mary Jane McClintock Wilson
Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 7:00 pm 
Lansing City Hall - 124 W. Michigan Ave.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a program on the "Letters from My Father: A World War I Mechanic" at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 26 in the lobby of Lansing City Hall.  Mary Jane Wilson, the daughter of Freeman "Mac" McClintock, will discuss and read from the letters her father sent home during World War I.  McClintock was hand-picked for his skills as an auto mechanic; especially the repair and maintenance of WWI ambulances.

He was one of dozens of mechanics recruited mostly in the Detroit area where the burgeoning auto industry was running full tilt.  By the end of the war he was assigned the prestigious position as auto mechanic in Paris and given the responsibility of keeping the cars of President Wilson and General Pershing running while they were attending the Versailles Peace Treaty talks.

At the end of the war he returned to Michigan and at various times owned Packard and Cadillac dealerships in Lansing.  His McClintock Cadillac, now Capitol Cadillac, was located for many years at 2400 East Michigan Ave.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lansing Goes to War Exhibit

Lansing Goes to War Exhibit 
Lansing City Hall - 124 W. Michigan Ave.
Monday - Friday, Thru June 30
7:30 am - 6:00 pm, Daily

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing's newest popup exhibit "Lansing Goes to War", a collection of more than 150 artifacts and ephemera from the Civil War to the Spanish American War and from World War I to World War II and to the First Gulf War, is now open and available for viewing at Lansing City Hall.

 "The current exhibit showcases how war changes all aspects of our life, forever," she said.  "We wanted to express the concept that, once a generation, people in Lansing have sent family members off to war.  The exhibit looks at the time when women worked in factories or were sent overseas as nurses and families received sober telegrams starting with "We regret to inform you...."'

The exhibit includes uniforms, medals for bravery and other mementos from Lansing families, she said.  "We wanted to focus on the things they carried and the things they wore," Marvin said. 

The exhibit also contains items from the home front including the first tank shell manufactured by Oldsmobile.  Numerous items from the Civil War including the Grand Army of the Republic Medals also will be on display.   

Another highlight includes items and letters from Freeman 'Mac' McClintock who was an auto mechanic in World War I and would service ambulances across the French countryside.  At the end of the war he ended up in Paris servicing the cars of General Pershing and President Wilson.  He later returned to Lansing and owned several car dealerships including McClintock Cadillac.  His daughter, Mary Jane Wilson, will present a program at 7 pm, Thursday March 26 based on her father's letters from the front.  Following the presentation guests are encouraged to bring their own or relative's letters and read snippets of them which will be recorded.

The exhibit also explores the role women played in the war as nurses and medical professionals, but also gaining their independence by working in wartime factories making everything from bombs to airplane parts.  A banner from the Willow Run Bomber Plant, once owned by the Lansing aviatrix Babe Ruth, a WWII trainer for the Army Air Force, is on display for the first time.

You will also see how the war was integrally involved in every aspect of the home front including ration stamps, MIA bracelets, and the blue stars which families hung in windows to designate a soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine overseas.

One collection showcases how families and warriors kept in touch through Vmail and how they were able to vote from overseas.  There are also items that feature souvenirs set home to family members, especially mothers and wives.  An extensive scrapbook compiled by Joyce Hammond is an endearing record of her sweetheart fighting overseas.  Ron Springer who served in Vietnam loaned what he calls 'the rucksack letter' which he sent home to his parents detailing what he carried into the field on a mission.

Local attorney Eugene 'Gil' Wanger has provided several items from his magic act which he took on the road with an entertainment troupe of college students assembled by Fred Warner.  Amazingly, he kept the rabbit from the 'flat rabbit trick'.

A truly unusual piece of ephemera is one of the original manuscripts used by Luther Baker in speaking engagements describing his role in leading the group which captured John Wilkes Booth.  Following the end of the Civil War Baker moved to Lansing and used the award money to invest in local real estate.  Baker and his horse Buckskin were often seen in parades and at local speaking engagements.

The HSGL will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the capture and death of Booth in a month-long series of lectures and events in April called When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

All items in the exhibit are from local families or collectors of military items.  Special thanks goes to Scott Shattuck of Mason, Ron Springer of Lansing and Craig Whitford of Holt.  Jana Nichols, Carl Kenter, Eaton County Courthouse Square, Tom Plasman, the Baker Family, Jacob McCormick, and the Logan Family, also provided items for the exhibit.

The exhibit will be open through June during normal City Hall hours and it will also be opened on special days and weekends.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Michigan's War of 1812

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will host Adam Franti of Ypsilanti who will speak on “Michigan’s War of 1812” 7 p.m., Thursday, February 19 at Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol.

 Franti, who is working on his Masters Degree in History at Eastern Michigan University with a focus on the War of 1812, was a historical interpreter at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island for four years where his interest in the unusual war was piqued.

He will not only discuss how the War of 1812 started, but also will focus on the capture of Fort Mackinac and Fort Detroit by the British and the complex relationships between the British, Indians and Americans.

“The British soldiers assigned to capture Fort Mackinac were, at best, reservists, as Britain’s best troops were fighting Napoleon’s army at the time in Europe.  Their officer, Captain Charles Roberts, reported to his commander that the men 'were so debilitated and worn down by unconquerable drunkenness that neither the fear of punishment, love of fame, or the honor of their country could animate them to extraordinary exertions.'  Yet they still managed to capture the fort, which doesn't say much for the Americans!".  

He said the capture of Fort Detroit was the most embarrassing battle of the War for the American since it was taken not by absolute force, but through skullduggery and deception.  William Hull, the commander at the fort, wrote to the Secretary of War, William Eustis, begging for reinforcements and notifying Eustis that ‘the Northern hive of Indians has been loosed upon the frontier.’  Ironically, the letter was captured in a baggage train by Tecumseh, the most prominent Indian leader during the war, who turned it over to the British authorities.  The letter convinced the British that, though outnumbered, they could force Hull into surrendering.  Encouraged, the British took Detroit easily, shaming Hull.

Following the War Hull was court-martialed, found guilty and sentenced to die, but the sentence was commuted by President James Madison.

“Ironically, Detroit’s misfortune during the War of 1812 and capture actually benefitted Lansing.  Many writers of the first Michigan State Constitution remembered the disgraceful defeat and, due to concern that the British might return to Detroit again someday, mandated in the document that the capital city be relocated by 1847.  Thus the founding of Lansing for the purpose of being the new capital,” Historical Society of Greater Lansing President Valerie Marvin stated.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Upcoming Events

Chief Okemos, Man & Myth
By Jim Lalone
Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 7:00pm
Downtown Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting genealogist and amateur historian James LaLone for a program on “Chief Okemos: the Man and the Myth”, 7 p.m., Thursday, February 5 at the Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave, in downtown Lansing.

LaLone who has been researching Chief Okemos for several years will explore the many myths that surround the life of Chief Okemos including where he was born; was he a descendant of Chief Pontiac; his wartime experiences, how old Chief Okemos was when he died and where he is buried.

“No other Lansing figure has inspired such a mythology as Chief Okemos,” Historical Society President Valerie Marvin said.  “Lansing residents are proud to call him one of our own, yet most of us really don’t know too much about him.”

LaLone who has been doing genealogy for more than 40 years became interested in Okemos when he began doing Michigan and Canadian Indian genealogy. He now has more than 42,000 Michigan Indians in a data base.

“I was an anthropology major in college and naturally gravitated toward Indian genealogy,” Lalone said.

He said he reviewed “everything and anything” he could find that has been written about Chief Okemos and able to more carefully construct a history of the Indian Chief. The village of Okemos is named after him.

“I think people will be surprised about what they think they know about this warrior chief,” he said.
Also local historian and collector Craig Whitford of Holt will display and discuss his tin type photograph of Chief Okemos which he bought on E-bay several years ago. Only two other photographs of Chief Okemos are known to exist and one, an ambrotype, is in the State Archives; the other is in private hands. It is likely the photographs, with slight differences, were shot at the same time in about 1857.

There several works of art which have been executed of Okemos including a  painting in the State Archives; a painting in the Nokomis Museum in Okemos, a painting in the Ingham County Courthouse and a painting in the Clark Archives at Central Michigan University. Several other lesser art pieces including a Lansing City Pulse cover have also been done.

LaLone also will explore Okemos’ war time experience and discuss Chief Okemos’ descendants. It is known that Okemos, likely a mixed Ottawa and Chippewa, fought under the British flag at Fort Meigs near Sandusky during the War of 1812 and was seriously wounded in the battle with Mad Dog Anthony’s troops. Upon his death the Chief was written about in the London Illustrated News.

Also coming soon:

Michigan & the War of 1812
By Adam Franti
Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Downtown Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing

Monday, January 5, 2015

1847 - Year of Beginnings

1847 - Year of Beginnings
by Professor Emeritus Ann Harrison
Thursday, January 15th, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Downtown CADL, 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting former Michigan State University Professor Ann Harrison who will present “1847: Year of Beginnings” 7 p.m., Thursday, January 15 at the downtown branch of the Capital District Library, 401 S. Capitol. Harrison chose 1847 since it was the year Lansing was selected as the State Capital.

She said it was only one of many unlikely events that would occur that year.

“It was very strange for Lansing to be chosen, but it turned out quite well,” Harrison said.

“No one expected Lansing to become the Capitol in 1847,” Historical Society President Valerie Marvin agreed.  “Lansing didn’t even officially exist at the time.  The entire township was then home to exactly eight registered voters, and the total population likely was less than 100.  It was a bit of an odd choice.”

Harrison who is a life-long Lansing resident said began lecturing with a focus on one-year in world history after retiring from teaching French for 34 years.

“It’s an interesting way to explore history and it’s always quite surprising what occurred during a specific year,” she said.

“Lansing as the Capital may have been unlikely, but certainly not more unlikely than Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis both in Congress,” Harrison said.

Harrison also will delve into famous individuals who were born; the outstanding books published; the formation of social movements and other significant events.

For example, she said Thomas Edison, Jesse James and Graham Bell all were born in 1847 and the Communist Party was founded that year. 1847 was the year of the first U.S. postage stamp and the books “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre” were both published.\

“When you pick a year you don’t know what you are going to find,” she said.

Harrison said she decided to go in a totally different direction after retirement and began teaching history by-the-year in MSU’s Evening College until it was eliminated. Since then, she has been exploring the years for the residents of Burcham Hills in East Lansing.