Michigan Social History Books and Articles

The nonfiction books and articles below are on topics in Michigan social history.

Progress of Michigan Women

Detroit: 1912?
Arthur, Clara B.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … A brief record of the effort and achievement of women of Michigan in the struggle for equality before the law.”

Women, Feminism, Michigan

“The Vermontville Colony: Its Genesis and History, with Personal Sketches of the Colonists”

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 28, 1900, 197-287

Lansing: Michigan Historical Commission
Barber, Edward W. Go to Article

“This is a detailed history of the founding and development of Vermontville, Michigan. Under the leadership of a Congregational minister named Sylvester Cochrane, a group of men from Bennington, Poultney, Benson, Orwell and other Vermont communities signed a compact pledging to honor the Gospel and the Sabbath, to provide jointly for certain community services, and to pool their money to purchase land “in the western country.” Arriving in Michigan’s Thornapple River Valley in 1836, the colony gave each member a farm lot of 160 acres and a village lot of ten acres to develop with his family. A church, a school and an academy were also part of the master plan from the outset. Vermontville’s economic growth exemplified that of many small Michigan towns. At first, the settlers were heavily dependent on the Indians for food. In time, they produced enough to feed themselves and to exchange for the other goods and services they needed. A doctor arrived; a store opened; eventually Vermontville had its own weekly newspaper.

Attracted initially by the projected Clinton and Kalamazoo canal, the residents found themselves fully integrated with other Michigan communities as railroad routes proliferated throughout the region. Besides its account of major local events, this work offers thumbnail sketches of Vermontville’s founding citizens.”
-Description from U.S. Library of Congress ‘American Memory‘ website

Vermontville MI, pioneers, migration from Vermont, religious community, biography, Sylvester Cochrane, online history

“Battle Creek as a Station on the Underground Railway”

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 38 (1919) pp 279-285

Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society
Barnes, Charles E. Go to Article

According to the article, there were two underground railway routes through Michigan toward the Canadian border in SE Michigan. One ran from Indiana through Battle Creek to Marshall and then Jackson, and the other from Ohio through Adrian or Tecumseh. The author states that all the ‘station masters’ were Quakers.

For books on the issue of slavery in Indiana and Illinois, see: Anti-Slavery before the Civil War

For biographies of people in the American abolition movement, see:
Swift, Lindsay, William Lloyd Garrison in Century Past Biographies: G & H
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Coffin, Levi, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad in Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Washington, Booker Taliaferro, Frederick Douglass in Century Past Biographies: D, E & F; and
Haviland, Laura S. , A Woman’s Life-Work in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History

Battle Creek MI, underground railway, anti-slavery, Society of Friends, Quakers, American history

“Amusements in Detroit in Colonial Days”

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 38. (1912) pp 324-342

Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society
Burton, Clarence M.Go to Article

I can’t imagine why the title refers only to “Amusements”. The article is in fact a wide-ranging description of life in Detroit throughout the 18th century.

Detroit history, French Detroit, Fort Detroit, frontier recreation, social customs, 18th century history, pioneer life, U.S. history

Michigan Social History

In Detroit Courage was the Fashion. The Contribution of Women to the Development of Detroit from 1701 to 1951

Detroit: Wayne University 1953
Crathern, Alice TarbellGo to Book

In 1951 the City of Detroit celebrated its 250th year. Business and professional women of Detroit set up a committee to gather material on the contribution of women to Detroit life, and they asked Professor Alice Crathern to produce this history. She organized it into the following chapters, showing how women, individually and through their organizations, contributed to the welfare of Detroit’s population, and to civic life.

-For the Children
-For the Sick
-Club Women
-Women in Business, the Professions, and Industry
-Women in Public Affairs

Also see: Johnson, Helen Kendrick, Woman and the Republic; a Survey of the Woman-suffrage Movement in the United States and a Discussion of the Claims and Arguments of its Foremost Advocates in Section 324 The political process in Political Science, Economics, Labor

For works about leading American women of the 19th century, see:
– Adams, Elmer Cleveland and Foster, Warren Dunham, Heroines of modern progress in Century Past Collective Biography A – F
Parkman, Mary Rosetta, Heroines of service in Century Past Collective Biography G – P;
Worthington & Co. , Our Famous Women in Century Past Collective Biography Q – Z

Detroit history, women’s history, biography, education history, Detroit institutions, online free books

Report of the Great Conspiracy Case. The People of the State of Michigan, versus Abel F. Fitch and others …

Detroit Advertiser and Free Press 1851
Go to Book

(title continued) “…, commonly called the Rail Road Conspirators: tried before His Honor Warner Wing, presiding judge of the Circuit court for the county of Wayne, at the May term, 1851, in the city of Detroit. Containing the evidence, arguments of counsel, charge of the court and the verdict of the jury”

This trial was the result of a conflict between the Michigan Central Railroad, who refused to pay full value of farmers’ cattle killed by its trains, and farmers in Jackson county who were accused of having sabotaged the railroad in retaliation. There were initially 50 defendants in southern Jackson county, led by Abel Fitch of Michigan Center. Fitch and a couple of others died in prison during the trial.

See the companion piece “Argument of William H. Seward…” on this webpage. Incidentally, An article about the Underground Railroad in Battle Creek on the “Michigan-Social History” page of this site identified Abel Fitch as the original Jackson ‘station master’.

Railroad Conspirators, Jackson MI, Michigan Central Railroad, Abel Fitch, People of the State of Michigan vs Abel F. Fitch, online free books

“The Dutch Pioneers of Michigan”

Historical Collections Vol 38, 1912, 204-211

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
D’ooge, Martin L.Go to Article

A schism in the National Reformed Church in the Netherlands in the early 19th century led to creation of the “Christian Reformed Church”, later known as the “Seceded Reformed Church”. Members of the new church were persecuted by the government as well as by the established church. In the 1840s some congregations began thinking of emigrating to Java or the U.S. Dr. Albertus Christian Van Raalte and a few followers arrived in NY in 1846, looking for a place to settle his congregation. He selected a site called Hope Haven on the borders of Black Lake, now occupied by Holland, and in 1847 the immigrants from his congregation began arriving. Nearby Zeeland was also started as a colony by another Dutch congregation in 1848, under Rev. C. Van der Meulen.

For works about immigration of various ethnic groups, see:
Ohio Social History
(Scotch-Irish and Welsh);
Indiana Social History (Germans);
Illinois Ohio Social History (Norwegians);
Wisconsin Social History (Czechs, Danish, Cornish, Germans, Norwegians, Dutch, Swiss, Belgians, Greeks and Icelanders)

immigrants, Dutch settlers, Zeeland MI, Holland MI, Christian Reformed Church, Albertus Christian Van Raalte, public domain

“The Shanty Boy”, or Life in a Lumber Camp …

Cheboygan, MI: Democrat Steam 1889
Fitzmaurice, John W.Go to Book

(title continued) “… Being Pictures of the Pine Woods in descriptions, tales, songs and adventures in the lumbering shanties of Michigan and Wisconsin”

Fitzmaurice was a minister and temperance lecturer who became a journalist in Saginaw Valley in 1870. He spent a winter in the woods to recover from poor health, and in this volume he drew upon his experiences there.

Loggers, lumbermen, woodsmen, living conditions, personal account, 19th century, 1800s, free online library

Michigan Social History

Early Michigan Settlements

Ann Arbor: Herold 1941
Florer, Warren WahburnGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2|Go to Vol 3

German settlements in Michigan is the theme of all three volumes. Volume 1 covers Washtenaw, Westphalia, Frankenmuth, and the revolutionists of 1848 in Detroit, as well as Saginaw and several German societies in Michigan. Volume 2 appears to contain a lot of material on the Frankenmuth community, and has reprints of many German-language documents and articles. Volume 3 is about German Indian Missions in Michigan.

German Americans

“War Times in the Copper Mines”

Historical Collections Vol 18, y1892, 375-382

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Forster, John HarrisGo to Article

The author, a mine manager, describes life in the fledgling mining towns of Houghton and Hancock in the Keweenaw Peninsula throughout the early years of the Civil War. The area was totally isolated for nearly six months each winter. The small community of middle-class Americans – managers, merchants and artisans – coped with the isolation through a very active social life. However, the early years of the war brought financial distress for the miners, who were foreign-born and were often there without families. They engaged normally in a great deal of drinking and fighting among themselves, but when they weren’t paid during much of the first year of the war, they became especially dangerous.

“The Great Conspiracy …”

Historical Collections Vol 31, 1902, 232-238

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Gilbert, JohnGo to Article

(title continued) ” … A Chapter from the Early History of Michigan Railroading, Showing the Desperate and Destructive Opposition to the Michigan Central”

This history of the “Great Railway Conspiracy Case” was authored in 1892 by a former employee of Michigan Central Railroad. He explains how opposition to the railway arose in southern Michigan beginning about 1849 among farmers, and the types of actions they took against the railroad. The most frequent attacks occurred in Jackson county, at Michigan Center and Leoni, and these culminated in the burning of a newly constructed depot. In 1851 the railroad’s employees, assisted by a sheriff in Jackson, arrested 36 men, including leader Abel Fitch, and imprisoned them in Detroit. The ensuing trial was followed nation-wide. Other publications about this case can be found on this website.

The People of Michigan

Lansing: State Library Services 1974
Graff, George P.Go to Book

A collection of articles about Michigan settlers from nearly 50 countries, with bibliographies and articles for each topic.

Minorities, Population, Michigan

“Old French Traditions”

Historical Collections Vol 4, 1881, 70-78

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Hamlin, M. Carrie W.Go to Article

A long-time resident of Detroit collected some of the traditions of the French people there. The article is sub-divided under these headings:

“National Pride”
“New Year’s Day”
“Mardi Gras”
“The Christening of the Bell”
“Des Pains Benits, or Blessed Bread”
“The Home”
“The Wedding Feast”

Also included are copies (in English) of a wedding contract and a deed to a farm.

Jewish Beginnings in Michigan before 1850

Baltimore: 1905
Heineman, David E.Go to Book

Subtitle: “Being some notes on residents of the very early days, several biographical notices of more notable citizens between 1840 and 1850, and an account of the beginnings of the immigration of about that time”.

The Great Railroad Conspiracy; The Social History of a Railroad War

Michigan State College 1953
Hirschfeld, CharlesGo to Book

Railroads, Michigan Central Railroad Company

“The Armenians and Their Grand Rapids Colony”

Publications of the Historical Society of Grand Rapids No. 7, Vol 1, part 7, pp 97-117

Grand Rapids: 1912
Kassabian, N. H., Dr.Go to Article

Detroit and the Great Migration, 1916-1929

Ann Arbor: Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan 1993
Martin, Elizabeth AnneGo to Book

The story of the swelling migration of African-Americans from the rural south to industrial Detroit.

Internal migration, Detroit, Social conditions, African Americans, Race relations

Argument of William H. Seward in Defence of Abel F. Fitch and Others Under an Indictment for Arson, delivered at Detroit, on the 12th, 13th and 15th days of September, 1851.

Auburn: Derby & Miller 1851
Seward, William H. Go to Book

See the companion piece “Report of the Great Conspiracy Case” above on this webpage. Seward, who would later serve as Lincoln’s Secretary of State, represented the defendants.

Railroad Conspirators, Jackson MI, Michigan Central Railroad, Abel Fitch, William H. Seward, People of the State of Michigan vs Abel F. Fitch, U.S. History

“Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of a Merchant Voyageur in the Savage Territories of Northern America …

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 37 (1909-10) pp 508-619

Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society
Perrault, Jean BaptisteGo to Article

(title continued) “…Leaving Montreal the 28th of May 1783 (to 1820)” edited with introduction and notes by John Sharpless Fox, PhD”

Henry Schoolcraft met Perrault in Sault Ste Marie in about 1830 and asked him to write a memoir of his life in the woods in the fur business. He was employed by the Northwest Company for many years, eventually leaving it for the Hudson Bay company. The narrative contains description of the life of a woodsman in the late 19th century and much about the fur trading business and the extreme practices of the big firms of the day.

Memoir, Jean Baptiste Perrault, fur trade, Hudson Bay company, frontier life, living conditions, personal account, free online history, history journal

Michigan Social History

“The Young Men’s Society (of Detroit)”

Historical Collections Vol 10, 1887, 361-375

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Raymond, FrancisGo to Article

(title continued) ” … Its Foundation and Early Rise; Rise and Progress of the Society; Lists of its Officers; Interesting Reminiscences”

This history and three attached letters describes the circumstances of the society’s foundation in 1832 and its growth through about 1860. Several young clerks who found very little to do in Detroit, particularly in the winter, conceived of the society as a way to collectively buy books to share and to come together to discuss and debate the serious issues of the day. It gradually grew to a membership of hundreds, and fostered the development of some of Michigan’s most influential citizens.

The Germanic Influence in the Making of Michigan

Detroit: University of Detroit 1927
Russell, John Andrew Go to Book

German Americans

“Lights and Shadows from Pioneer Life”

Michigan Historical Collections vol 35 (1907) pp. 184-198

Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society
Schettler, Mrs. Eliza M. ScottGo to Article

Stories from the author’s childhood while her father worked for the Hudson Bay company on Mackinac Island. Most of the incidents involve the Indians whom they lived among.

For memoirs and biographies of life on the frontier in the Old Northwest, see:
Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History
Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History

memoir, fur trade, Mackinac Island, Hudson Bay company, frontier life, childhood, public domain

“The Fever and Ague, Michigan Rash, Mosquitoes: The Old Pioneers’ Foes”

Historical Collections Vol 5, 1884, 300-304

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Van Buren, A. D. P.Go to Article

The authors describe the symptoms of the fever and ague, which he believed afflicted every early Michigan settler, and discusses various remedies that were used. The Michigan rash was nearly as common, although less serious. Current Michigan residents don’t need to rely on their historical imagination to understand how annoying mosquitoes were.

“Raisings and Bees among the Early Settlers”

Historical Collections Vol 5, 1884, 296-300

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Van Buren, A. D. P.Go to Article

The author says the word “bee” was used to ” … indicate the gathering of the settlers to render gratuitous aids to some neighbor in need” and that it ” … originated in, and was confined to new settlements. It was merely the voluntary union of the individual aid and strength of an entire community, to assist a settler in doing what he was unable to accomplish alone.” He goes on to describe how log houses were built, and a typical community house-raising. He also covers logging bees, rail-splitting, “breaking up” land for plowing, and husking bees.

“What the Pioneers Ate, and How They Fared: Michigan Food and Cookery in the Early Days”

Historical Collections Vol 5, 1884, 293-296

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Van Buren, A. D. P.Go to Article

The Negro in Detroit: A Survey of the Conditions of a Negro Group in a Northern Industrial Center during the War Prosperity Period

Detroit: Research Bureau, Associated Charities of Detroit 1920
Washington, Forrester B.Go to Book

Detroit, African Americans, Race relations, Population

“The Old Log House”

Historical Collections Vol 26, 1896, 644-646

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Watkins, L. D.Go to Article

A concise description of the construction, interior and furnishings of a typical log house used by early Michigan settlers, and how it functioned for its occupants.

“Dog Teams and Sledges in Michigan”

Stories of the Great Lakes 157-172

NY: Century 1907
Watrous, Edward F.Go to Article

“Yankee Lewis’s Famous Hostelry in the Wilderness”

Historical Collections Vol 26, 1896, 302-307

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
White, George H.Go to Article

William Lewis arrived in Michigan from western New York in 1836, settling at Yankee Springs, 14 miles west of Hastings, where his brother had been developing a farm. Although there were no roads in the area, the site was on a heavily used trail, and the inn that he built had sometimes as many as 100 people overnight. The author describes Lewis’s unique skills as an innkeeper, the features of the inn that made it among the most famous in western Michigan, and the many services Lewis did for travelers in the region. The location of the inn was apparently on S. Yankee Springs Road just south of Gun Lake Rd, in western Barry county.

You can find more works like these at our other ‘Social History’ pages.

Great Lakes Social History

Ohio Social History

Indiana Social History

Illinois Social History

Wisconsin Social History

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