THE CITY OF ANN ARBOR AND THE UNIVERSITY
WHEN the Regents of the University held their first meeting in Ann Arbor on March 6, 1837, the little town in which they met was thirteen years old. In most respects it was still a pioneer settlement, and, for a time, had marked the farthest advance of civilization across the southern peninsula of Michigan. This doubtful distinction, however, was quickly ended by a great wave of immigration which turned toward the Territory after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and brought Michigan's admission as a state within twelve years.
The settlers who established Ann Arbor were young and enterprising, impatient with the conservatism of the East and its lack of opportunities, intent upon building another settled society in the hills and plains where they had chosen to make their homes. The industry and enterprise of the little community, as well as its economic importance to the surrounding country, is indicated by the fact that when the University was established it boasted some two thousand inhabitants, and had four churches, two newspapers, two banks, seventeen drygoods stores, eleven lawyers, nine doctors, and eight mills and manufacturing plants, including a good-sized plow factory. A few Indians on the streets, survivors of the Potawatomi and Chippewa whose title to this land had been extinguished in the treaty of Detroit negotiated by General Hull in 1807, served to recall the days when Washtenaw was a wilderness. In fact, it has been supposed that the name Washtenaw came from an Indian word-combination meaning "the farther district," or "the land beyond." Ethnohistorians of Indian life in the University Museums, however, now believe that the county acquired its name directly from the well-known Indian name of the Grand River system, and more particularly, because that name was applied Page 177to the land around the headwaters. Those streams, one of which is the Portage River, are in the present Jackson and Washtenaw counties, and before Jackson County was organized Washtenaw County extended farther westward and covered the greater part of this headwater district. The Algonquian word for the Grand River was Wa-wa-ii-te-nong — literally, the place of the crooked channel, or of the whirling stream.
Transportation was still in the era of the stagecoach, saddle, and ox-team, although the first railroad was on its way and reached Ann Arbor in 1839. The delay in the settlement of Michigan in comparison to the neighboring states of Ohio and Indiana may be ascribed to the fact that the American title to the land was not definitely assured until the final occupation of Detroit by the United States after the War of 1812. Early surveyors, moreover, probably misled by the low, swampy character of the alluvial lands which bordered the Great Lakes, had reported that the land was unfit for habitation. Reports had begun to spread, however, of the fine qualities of the uplands in the interior, and a young Virginian of Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley, named John Allen, was inspired to investigate these rumors.
He came to the site of his future home on the Huron River on February 6, 1824, accompanied by Ann Arbor's other first settlers whom he had met in Cleveland, Elisha Walker Rumsey and his wife Mary Ann. The little party made their camp under their overturned wagon-box somewhere near the present Huron Street on the banks of a little stream, afterward known as Allen's Creek, flowing northward into the Huron. The two men immediately set about to locate farms and by February 12 had confirmed their title in the United States Land Office in Detroit.
There is some uncertainty as to how Ann Arbor came to receive its distinctive name. The generally accepted story, which has some documentary evidence in the records of early settlers, is that near the spot where Allen and the Rumseys settled was an opening in the forest where a wild plum covered with grapevines formed a natural arbor. This was at first called "Ann's Arbor," in honor of Mrs. Rumsey and possibly of Allen's wife, whose name also was Ann. Mrs. Allen did not make her appearance, however, until October 16, some five months after the name had been officially registered in Detroit. There is also some dispute as to the site of the original arbor. A monument on the south side of Huron Street now commemorates the traditional spot, although some early settlers have maintained that the arbor stood further inland, on Division Street near the site of the present St. Andrew's Church. But the logic of the situation, as well as the preponderance of early records, would seem to indicate that the accepted site is probably the correct one (Stephenson, pp. 37, 76).*
John Allen was a man of foresight and energy, and one of the first things he did was to lay out a town. There is still in existence the plat of the city as he conceived it, showing that the original plan consisted of 640 acres, of which he owned 480 and Rumsey the rest. The north-and-south streets were named numerically, First, Second, and Third, of which the last eventually became Main, while Division Street was so named to mark the boundary between the two holdings. William Street was named for William S. Page 178Maynard, Ann and Catherine streets represented members of John Allen's family, and Washington and Jefferson streets evidenced his patriotism, as, at a somewhat later date, did Liberty, Madison, and Monroe.
Ann Arbor speedily became one of the leading communities in the Territory and one of the principal stopping places for immigrants on their way to the new lands in the West. On the old Indian trail which ran along the Huron, Rumsey had built a log cabin widely known as the Washtenaw Coffee House. A second tavern, erected by Allen on the corner of what are now Huron and Main streets, was painted a bright red and for a time went by the name of "Bloody Corners."
Not long after John Allen laid out his plan the citizens began to erect substantial business buildings and dwellings, of which some still remain as landmarks of the older Ann Arbor. A second business center also developed across the Huron River, and though for some time it remained a separate community it grew so rapidly that for a period it threatened to become the main section of the city. Some of the old business buildings which were built in that section before 1830 still stand.
Among family names intimately associated with the establishment of Ann Arbor, other than those mentioned, were such good old patronymics as Brown, Maynard, Goodrich, Mills, Kingsley, Clark, and White. From this it will be seen that practically all of the first settlers were of Yankee stock, families who brought with them traditions of civic order, religion, and education derived from New England forebears.
But it was not long before another sturdy element which has become characteristic of Ann Arbor began to drift in. These were the German settlers who followed the arrival of Conrad Bissinger, a baker, September 1, 1825. He did not settle in the town, however, until 1831, so the first German settlers were Jonathan Henry Mann, Daniel F. Allmendinger, and Philip Shilling, who came in 1829. This German wave of immigration gradually grew, particularly during the revolutionary period of 1848, which brought so many distinguished citizens to America. Ann Arbor has always been characterized by this thrifty and industrious section of its population and a survey of the business names along Main Street will show how vitally it has entered into the city's civic and industrial life (Stephenson, pp. 72, 80 ff.).
When the Territory of Michigan was organized as a state in 1835 Ann Arbor was one of the principal communities of the commonwealth. Its citizens were enterprising and energetic, and upon the admission of Michigan to the Union in 1837, a group of citizens resolved to make a strong bid for the University which had been authorized in one of the first acts of the legislature. A land company was formed which undertook to donate forty acres for the University. This inducement proved effective, and the Rumsey farm, lying on the top of a gentle rise southeast of the town, was chosen. A Regents' committee had originally approved the farm of Andrew Nowland, on the heights overlooking the Huron Valley just east of State Street, but for some reason the Regents finally selected the present site. Only a few dwellings and farmhouses then stood in the neighborhood, and the campus for many years remained, what it was originally, essentially a farm lot, marked by a wheat field and the remains of an old orchard (see Part I: Early History).
This early effort on the part of the community to bring the University to Ann Arbor was only a beginning of a policy of cordial co-operation, for the most part, between town and gown, which has existed from that time. The citizens were Page 179proud of the University and took an active interest in its affairs. Although in early days most of the students lived in the first University building, they obtained their meals in the homes of the townspeople, and thus began that long and intimate association between the students and the people of Ann Arbor which has been one of the significant elements in the relationship between the city and the University. Moreover, the members of the faculty were active in the affairs of the different churches, while faculty men and distinguished speakers, including such varied forensic lights as Emerson, Bayard Taylor, Wendell Phillips, Horace Greeley, P. T. Barnum, Mark Twain, and Matthew Arnold were on the programs of the Lyceum, which was patronized by both the students and the townspeople and formed the forerunner of the present Oratorical Association lectures (see also Part II: University Extension Service).
Most of the students were regular attendants at the various churches and entered into the social life of the town through church socials and other activities. Moreover, the first faculty was composed largely of clergymen, although no denomination was allowed to obtain control. They did, however, take a prominent part in the community's religious life, active almost from the beginning. It was only two years after John Allen came that the first church was founded through the formation of a Presbyterian Society.
Similar efforts on the part of the other denominations soon followed, and it was not long before several church buildings were erected. The first building used by the Presbyterians was an unpainted log structure erected in 1829. The Methodists followed suit in 1836, while the Episcopalians erected their first church in 1839 and the first Catholic church was built in 1843. The Baptist church was not completed until 1849. The first German pastor, Henry Schmid, arrived in Ann Arbor from Germany in 1843 and immediately organized a German Evangelical Society, which undertook the erection of a small church building in Scio Township, just outside the present confines of the city — the first German church in Michigan.
At the present time all the leading denominations have large and beautiful churches. The Presbyterians removed from the old site on Huron Street to a new church and church house on Washtenaw Avenue, dedicated in 1937, while the Methodists completed a new church in 1940 on a site adjoining that of the old one on State Street, whose tall steeple was long a landmark on Ann Arbor's sky line. The Episcopalians also carried out extensive improvements and alterations in their church property in 1939.
The denominational bodies have recognized the desirability of special emphasis on church work among the students and have assisted in some cases in the provision of special buildings to serve as centers for student programs with the churches.
One of the first undertakings after the organization of the little settlement was the establishment of schools. It may well be that one of the group of nine log cabins which comprised the town in 1825 housed a primary school. Although some years elapsed before secondary schools appeared, there is record of the establishment as early as 1829 of an academy where Greek and Latin and the higher branches were taught. This particular enterprise had a brief career, but it proved the further need of such schools. It was succeeded by an academy in the cabin which served the Presbyterian Church, and, among others, by a Manual Labor School, on what was then known as the Ypsilanti Road, now Packard Street, unique in that the pupils paid for their tuition by three hours of farm work Page 180a day. There are also records of a number of other schools and academies; these included an Ann Arbor Female Seminary maintained by the Misses Page, and a school, kept for many years by the Clark sisters, which had more than a local reputation.
The University also established a college-preparatory department, or branch, in Ann Arbor at the same time that it formally opened its doors in 1841, but this part of its program was abandoned when support to the branches was discontinued (see Part I: Branches). Meanwhile, the town had been encouraging the growth of public schools, and eventually, in 1856, the public schools which had been maintained in different wards of the city were consolidated in the Union School, which stood on State Street on the site of the present Ann Arbor High School. Many of the officers of the University were active in the promotion of the city's educational program and insisted upon the high standards which for many years have made the Ann Arbor High School in effect a preparatory school for the University.
When the old high school was burned, in 1904, most of the early records were lost, and the present building was built upon the same site. In 1940 the Ann Arbor schools enrolled 1,220 pupils in the high school and 3,057 in ten branch schools. In addition to this public-school system, a University High School, enrolling about 300 pupils, is maintained by the School of Education.
Less than six years after the arrival of the first settlers a newspaper appeared, the Western Emigrant, which began publication on October 18, 1829. As with most journals of that time, national and even international news was apt to crowd out local affairs, so that even so important an event as the first meeting of the Regents is dismissed with only a brief paragraph. Eventually this slender sheet became the State Journal, and in 1835 a Democratic contemporary, the Argus, was established. Soon other papers appeared; in 1869 the Courier, begun in 1861 and purchased in 1866 by A. W. Chase, of receipt-book fame, was bought by Rice A. Beal. For the twenty years 1882-1902 this paper, consolidated in 1899 with the Register, to form the Courier-Register, was edited by Junius E. Beal. The present Ann Arbor News was formed by the consolidation of the Times, established in 1889, and the News, which first appeared in 1905.
Ann Arbor's physical growth has been in many ways modified and controlled by the presence of the University. The two separate communities on either side of the Huron which formed the original Ann Arbor were the nucleus from which the present city has grown. In the rivalry between the two sections the University was doubtless one of the deciding factors leading to the expansion of the city towards the campus and beyond, so that now the city extends for more than a mile to the east and south along what was once a country road and is now Washtenaw Avenue, arched with elms and lined with beautiful homes.
Other districts in the city have enjoyed a growth more in keeping with Ann Arbor's place as a county seat and modest manufacturing center. The plan of its outlying streets has been largely modified by the fact that country roads — Packard Street, Liberty Street, Miller Avenue, Huron Street, Dexter Road, Pontiac Street, and Broadway — all represent the converging of highways from the surrounding countryside. This has given Ann Arbor street-planning an irregularity puzzling to many strangers, although it provides a picturesque individuality often emphasized by the glimpses of country vistas at the ends of these streets.
From the time the first students enrolled, Page 181in 1841, the University has continued to constitute an increasingly important part of the city's population. The tiny faculty and student body of the first decade formed numerically a very small part of Ann Arbor's body politic, although from the very beginning they took an important part in the civic, religious, and social life of the community. With a gradual growth in attendance and consequent additions to the faculty, the influence of the University element in Ann Arbor increased continually until at the present time students, faculty families, and employees represent almost half the population of the city. The census of 1940 gave the population of Ann Arbor as 29,721, exclusive of the 13,011 students in attendance during the college year.
In the government of the city, the University has always played an important, although not ordinarily a conspicuous, part. From time to time there have arisen jealousies and criticism between the representatives of town and gown, but these have always settled themselves, largely through the fact that the services of the faculty men were disinterested and nonpolitical. Almost always some members of the faculty have been members of the city council and have served the city on the various boards which make up its administrative system. Occasionally, also, members of the faculty have occupied the position of mayor. The following members of the University's faculty or staff have served as the city's chief executive:
|Silas H. Douglass||1871-73|
|Bradley M. Thompson||1893-94|
|Dr. Cyrenus G. Darling||1894-95|
|Dr. Royal S. Copeland||1901- 3|
|Robert A. Campbell||1925-27, 1933-37|
|WceWalter C. Sadler||1937-|
It is probable, however, that the most important contribution the University has made to the city government has been through membership of its staff on such bodies as the Board of Public Works, the Water Commission, and the Park Commission, where their experience and technical knowledge have contributed to the effective governmental administration of the city, as well as to its beauty.
Ann Arbor is particularly noted for its unusual park system, originally laid out by George P. Burns, Professor of Botany and Director of the Botanical Gardens from 1906 to 1912 (see Part III: Department of Botany and Botanical Gardens). Following the newer ideas in city planning and park development in Europe he inaugurated a plan for surrounding the city with parks and boulevards. This enlightened policy has given Ann Arbor greater park area for its size than almost any other city in the United States, and these open spaces, together with the tree-lined streets and beautiful University buildings and homes, have given Ann Arbor unique individuality and charm.
When the first University building, now Mason Hall, was completed in 1841, provision was made for the students to live there, and this practice was continued when the second building, the "South College," was completed in 1848. The growth of the University, however, was so rapid and its resources so limited that after President Tappan came the University dormitory system was gradually discontinued, and the students, following the accepted European plan, were obliged to find rooms with the townspeople of Ann Arbor. This practice, as has been pointed out, tended to give the individual householders of the city an intimate interest in the University which has formed one of the strong ties between the University and the city (see Part VIII: First Buildings).
In more recent years student numbers have grown so rapidly that the resources of the city have proved too limited for Page 182adequate care of the student population and the dormitory system has been introduced, first for the women and more recently for the men. This has come about not without opposition on the part of householders and landladies who long derived their support from student roomers, but so many buildings have been recently destroyed to make way for University buildings that the problem has been less acute than it might otherwise have proved. Even with the new dormitories more than one-half of the students in the University still live in private homes.
A concrete evidence of the co-operative interest of the citizens of Ann Arbor is shown by the various contributions made by the city to the University, most of them at a time when the amounts represented a much larger proportion of the University's income than they would today. Aside from the original gift of the forty acres comprising the original campus, the first gift was the sum of $1,565 for the purchase of 1,200 books for the Library in 1854. In 1865 the city contributed $10,000 toward an enlargement of the Medical Building and three years later joined with citizens of Detroit in contributing $3,000 for the enlargement of the Observatory. When the question of a hospital was raised in 1875 the city contributed $4,000. Again, in 1889, the city gave $25,000 for the same purpose, followed by $17,500 ten years later and $25,000 in 1913 for a contagious-disease hospital. At various times also the city contributed parcels of land and authorized the closing of streets for University purposes, representing substantial gifts to the University. In all, the city has given the University over $100,000 (see Part I: Gifts).
The question of the maintenance of order in a community with so large a proportion of young people of exuberant spirits has always been a matter of intimate co-operation between the University and the city authorities. From the days of President Tappan and President Angell the University officers have acted with the city administration in controlling student riots, which on certain occasions threatened to become serious, although these occasions have become less frequent in recent years. In earlier days the student habit of tearing up the old wooden sidewalks to which they objected, ringing up extra fares on the streetcars, interfering with circus parades, and gathering for "rushes" were strongly resented by the townspeople, and made disturbing problems for the authorities which called for common sense, reason, and forbearance on the part of both town and gown. Somewhat different was a serious riot in 1894, which took place about the old post office, when the local military company was called out and one of the soldiers shot a bystander. Only the prompt action of President Angell in quelling student indignation averted serious trouble (see Part IX: Students and Town).
Student drinking has always been a matter of serious concern for University and town authorities. Prohibition has been traditionally favored in Ann Arbor from the very beginning, though the German families, as was natural, always continued to have their beer and wine both in their homes and at certain well-known "downtown" resorts. The campus, however, has always been kept free from student drinking places, with Division Street the boundary beyond which no liquor can be sold over the counter. While in the era before prohibition such places as Joe Parker's, celebrated in college songs, were popular, they were relatively innocuous and decent centers for student conviviality, as their student sales were confined, for the most part, to beer and the lighter beverages. At present the sale of distilled liquor by glass Page 183over the counter is prohibited everywhere in Ann Arbor, and by city ordinance beer and light wines may be served only in a restricted area in the Main Street district.
As has been suggested, the relationship between the people of Ann Arbor and the University has remained cordial and, on the whole, co-operative. It has become a tradition that one of the members of the Board of Regents should be an Ann Arbor resident, and the tradition has remained unbroken almost from the first. The list of local Regents has included:
|Dr. Samuel Denton||1837-40|
|William A. Fletcher||1837-46|
|Judge James Kingsley||1852-58|
|Joseph Estabrook (Ypsilanti)||1870-78|
|Claudius B. Grant||1872-80|
|Charles R. Whitman||1886-94|
|Henry S. Dean||1894-1908|
|Junius E. Beal||1908-40|
There have been times when the people of Ann Arbor have taken an active stand in regard to certain policies of the University. One of the first of these actions took place in 1848-49, when the citizens, by mass meetings and memorials to the legislature, opposed the abolition of fraternities advocated by the faculty (see Part IX: Fraternities). Similarly, many citizens were intimately involved in the Douglas-Rose controversy in the late seventies, with opinion sharply divided between the adherents of the two churches which were concerned (see Part I: Douglas-Rose Controversy). There has been, at times, of course, active criticism by the citizens, and sometimes by the officers of the city, of certain policies of the University, but these disagreements have all been amicably settled. The fact that the University is by far the largest single factor in the life of Ann Arbor and has contributed, no one can say how much, to its prosperity, is very generally recognized by the people of the community. There have arisen from time to time, it is true, critics who have objected to the tax-free status of the institution, while others have resented the development of dormitories in recent years and the growth of such services for the students as are comprised in the Union and the League. The constitutional position of the University and the practical aspects of the problems involved have, however, tended to minimize this opposition.
Stephenson, Orlando W.Ann Arbor, the First Hundred Years. Ann Arbor: Chamber of Commerce, 1927.
Shaw, Wilfred B.The University of Michigan. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920.
Ten Brook, Andrew. MS, "The Story of Our City and Its School." Univ. Mich. (Manuscript copy of articles by Ten Brook in the Ann Arbor Register, Oct., 1893 — Nov., 1894.)