George Henry Cannon papers: 1833-1915
Summary Information
Title: George Henry Cannon papers
Creator: Cannon, George Henry, 1826-
Dates: 1833-1915
Extent: 1 linear foot, 1 microfilms
Surveyor of lands in northern Michigan and in the Upper Peninsula; Macomb County land speculator; journal of his surveying expedition along the shores of Lake Superior, letters received, historical essays, family materials.
Call number: 8592 Aa 2; AA microcopy
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid created by Thomas E. Powers, April 2011

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was the gift of Leah Atwater (donor no. 6278)

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder, box, George Henry Cannon papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


George Cannon was born on December 30, 1826, in Day, New York, to Pearl and Mary Cannon. In 1833, the family moved to Michigan, first to Saline, in Washtenaw County, and then to Bruce, in Macomb County. As a young man, Cannon worked mornings and nights for his board, and, at the end of school-terms, for his teachers, to pay tuition. During the summer of 1846, he was part of an exploring party searching for minerals (primarily copper) in the Lake Superior region of the Upper Peninsula. In the summer of 1847 he explored the Ontonagon Range. After he returned from the Upper Peninsula in 1847, he attended the Academy at Rochester, in Oakland County, for two years, after which he spent four years teaching in the area.

Cannon had developed an interest in exploration, and especially surveying while in the mineral region, and it continued throughout his life. In the spring of 1849, he was employed by Judge W.A. Burt, who had been Dr. Douglass Houghton's assistant, and later took over the task of completing Houghton's survey of the State. During 1849, Cannon surveyed the sub-divisional lines of ten townships. In August of 1849, he was appointed U.S. Deputy Surveyor, and completed nine contracts in that capacity, including the Grand Traverse region, many towns in the Cheboygan area, and the islands of Saginaw Bay. He also worked in the Upper Peninsula, and was appointed to examine the surveys in the relatively unexplored territory between Lakes Superior and Michigan, and the area between the Pictured Rocks and the meridian line. He also surveyed the township lines on the north shore of Lake Superior, near Pigeon River, in Minnesota. In 1852, he made surveys in the Grand Traverse region between Higgins Lake and Elk Rapids. During the winter of 1852-53 he surveyed the islands of Saginaw Bay. He then began a survey of public lands of the Upper Peninsula from the meridian at the "Soo" to the west for 108 miles.

His final survey, in 1856, was the laying out of an extensive Indian reservation in Minnesota. Public survey work was discontinued the following year, and Cannon began his work examining and selecting pine and farmlands in Michigan and Wisconsin. He resided in Macomb County in the city of Washington, and held extensive lands in several areas of the State.

In the 1890s, Cannon was active in both the Macomb County Historical Society and the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society. One of his interests was the history of the disputed boundary line between Michigan and Wisconsin because of a surveying error.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The George Cannon collection consists of letters, a journal, historical essays written for the Macomb County Historical Society, and various land records, including some surveying notes. Most of the letters were received by Cannon or other members of his family. There is in these letters much documentation relating to the Upper Peninsula and to the history of the settlement of Macomb County. Of especial interest are those letters and documents relating to the border dispute between Wisconsin and Michigan (particularly in the period of the first decade of the 20th Century) arising out of a surveying error in the 1830s. Many of the letters are from Upper Peninsula businessman and University of Michigan Regent Peter White.

Other items of interest are essays and lectures of the students who attended the Stony Creek Lyceum Rochester School where Cannon taught in the 1840s, a few Civil War letters from his brother Levi Cannon who served with Co. B of the 22nd Michigan Infantry, and essays Cannon wrote on his surveying mentor William A. Burt and on the early settlement of Macomb County.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Indians of North America -- Michigan.
  • Macomb County (Mich.) -- History.
  • Michigan -- Boundaries -- Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin -- Boundaries -- Michigan.
  • Upper Peninsula (Mich.)
  • Superior, Lake.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • Surveyors -- Michigan.
  • Diaries.
  • Burt, William Austin, 1792-1858.
  • United States. Army. Michigan Infantry Regiment, 22nd (1862-1865). Company B.
  • Cannon, Levi H., 1830-
  • Crapo, Henry Howland, 1830-1920.
  • White, Peter, 1830-1908.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Journal [series]
Roll   1  
Account of surveying expedition of the Lake Superior shoreline 1846 (1 microfilms)

(The journal was entitled, "A Narrative of one year in the Wilderness," including discussion of Upper Peninsula settlements, rivers, landmarks, and Indians.)

Box   1  
Published transcript of "A Narrative of one year in the Wilderness" 1982
Correspondence and other papers [series]
Box   1  
Biographical sketch of George H. Cannon (written for Historical and Pioneer Society of Michigan)
Box   1  
GHC's notebook: surveying notes; estimates of value of hardwoods in Michigan and Ontario
Box   1  
Warranty deed 1833
Box   1  
Letters received 1836, 1846-1849
Box   1  
Essays and addresses of members of the Stony Creek Lyceum Rochester School circa 1845-1852
Box   1  
Essays, lectures, miscellaneous 1840s
Box   1  
Manuscript literary journal entitled "The Students Repository" edited by George H. Cannon 1848
Box   1  
Letters received and other materials 1850s (4 folders)
Box   1  
Letters received 1860s

(include letters from Henry H. Crapo, June 30, 1866, and from brother Levi Cannon while serving with Co. B, 22nd Michigan Infantry during the Civil War)

Box   1  
Survey records entitled "Meanders on Lake Superior Reservation from point on Rock thence along the Shore"
Box   1  
Letters received 1870s
Box   1  
Letters received 1880s (3 folders)
Box   1  
Letters received 1890s
Box   1  
Letters received 1901-1915
William A. Burt
Box   1  
Newspaper article and government document about
Box   1  
Essay: "The Death of Hon. William A. Burt" [August 1858]; also notebook containing GHC's memories of Burt and research about him
Box   1  
Macomb County Historical Society (document addressed to the Society)
Box   1  
Essay: "Incident in the Life of One Pioneer" probably read before the Macomb County Historical Society and recounting the memories of an early settler
Box   1  
Autobiographical essay written about Nathaniel Carter, early Macomb County settler
Box   1  
Meeting of early pioneers of Macomb County May 26, 1881
Michigan-Wisconsin boundary dispute
Box   1  
Letters 1903-1908

(include numerous letters from Peter White)

Box   1  
Other documents
Box   1  
Macomb County Historical Society / Historical and Pioneer Society of Michigan: letters, programs, essays, etc.
Box   1  
Postal cards with brief messages
Box   1  
Miscellaneous: warranty deed, land contract
Box   1  
Photoprint of George and Lucy Cannon 1870s