Gabriel Richard was born at Saintes, France on October 15, 1767. He received a thorough classical and theological education and in 1791 became a priest of the Sulpitians, a society devoted to the care of young men for the sanctuary.
He came to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1792 and accepted the charge of Catholics in Illinois for six years. In 1798 he came to Detroit, Michigan, as a permanent pastor.
In Detroit, Fr. Richard was soon respected by both Protestants and Catholics for his actions promoting education and religion. He opened a school for young men in 1804 and one for ladies in 1805. Fr. Richard brought a printing press overland from Baltimore and, in August 1809, published the first newspaper west of the Allegheny Mountains. In the same year, he published the first prayer book for the same region. Also, Fr. Richard had the first organ in Michigan, for which he composed music.
Fr. Richard was taken captive at Sandwich (Essex County, Ontario, Canada), across the river from Detroit, in 1812 and he saved many prisoners from Indian tortures with his eloquence and influence.
In 1823 he was elected as a delegate to Congress, receiving large support from Protestants. Fr. Richard fought for grants to create Fort Gratiot, Pontiac, Grand River, and Chicago Roads. He was politically defeated in 1825.
In 1817 he helped co-founded the University of Michigan.
Fr. Richard was also instrumental in helping Detroit’s cholera victims during a massive epidemic. Sadly, he became of a victim of the disease himself and died on September 13, 1832. (This information is from Michigan Biographies, v. II.)