Sunday, November 19, 2017

ETCHED IN OLD STONE: Obituary of Titus Dort 1806-1879

Smith/Post-DORT 3rd GGF

OBITUARY – Titus Dort Detroit Free Press Oct. 9, 1879  [138 years ago]

Another Pioneer Gone—Death of Hon. Titus Dort.
            Last Tuesday Titus Dort passed to rest after a well-spent life of 78 years.  “Squire Dort,” as he was familiarly called, was one of the pioneers contemporary with the Hon. Jonathan Shearer [see letter below], of Plymouth.  He was born in the State of Vermont, County of Addison, and Town of Bridgeport, on the 17th day of June, 1806.  His father emigrated to Ohio in the fall of 1811 and settled in Franklinton, the county seat of Franklin County, on the west side of the Sciota River, opposite where the City of Columbus now stands.  It was then Woodland.  In less than a year after he had taken up his residence there war was declared against Great Britain, and Franklinton was made the headquarters of the Northwestern army.  In 1815, the war being over, his father moved twenty miles north-west, on the Big Darby.  In 1821Titus Dort came to Detroit with a drove of cattle, driving them on the Gen. Hull Road through the Black Swamp.
            In 1826 he came to Detroit to reside and commenced making brick on the Dequindre farm, about one mile east of Woodward avenue (this was probably where Dequindre street now is).  In 1820 he began brick-making on the Rouge.  On the 30th day of November, 1829, he married Deidamia Thomas, a daughter of Alanson Thomas, an early settler of Dearborn, who has already preceded him to the “better land.”  In 1833 he entered into a contract with the War Department of the United States, represented here by Lieut. Joshua Howard, to furnish the brick for the government buildings to be erected at Dearborn, excepting 100,00 in the basement of the arsenal.
            In 1835 Gov. Mason and the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan appointed him a Justice of the Peace.
            Eighteen hundred and thirty-six found him a delegate from Wayne County to the Convention at Ann Arbor, in September of that year, to accept or reject the proposition of Congress, that our Territory should be admitted into the Union of the States.
            Elected by the Township of Dearborn Justice of the Peace in 1836, and having served so satisfactorily and uprightly for a term of three years, he was re-elected for a term of four years.  It was during the year 1836 that several wards in the City of Detroit neglected to elect such officers and on the 15th of June Congress acknowledged and accepted our State Constitution, except the boundary, and then our State laws were accepted by all.  Many of the townships and wards had no legal officers so “Squire Dort” had several law cases from Detroit.
            He was elected three different times to the House of Representatives, in 1838, 1844 and 1864; also twice to the State Senate –in 1843 and 1850, and took a seat at each succeeding session.  At the session of the Senate of 1849 he was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture.
            After receiving from Prof. Holmes several communications on the formation of a State Agricultural Society, he presented the matter to the Senate and House and they, with a few exceptions, united in forming such a society.  He was also one of the Executive Committee for five years.  Always held in high esteem by his fellow townsmen, he was often placed in positions of trust and responsibility, being made for several years Supervisor of the Township of Dearborn.  He was frequently appointed Superintendent of Wayne County poor, and personally looked after the erection of the first and third brick buildings on the county farms for their accommodation.  Much of his time in the later years of his life was spent in the settlement of the estates of deceased persons, and in 1860 he was a candidate for the office of Judge of Probate, but was defeated with the candidates of the Democratic party generally.
            Thus closed his civil and political record.  He was what was called a Jackson Democrat and prided himself in doing everything in business with accuracy and honesty, and not a slur or stain has ever fallen on his character.

Detroit Free Press Oct. 31, 1879  [three weeks after Titus’ obituary was published]

 “The Late Titus Dort.” -a memorial tribute-
            The following is extracted from a letter from Hon. Jonathan Shearer to Andrew J. Dort, son of the late Hon. Titus Dort:
“My Dear Respected Friend, Andrew J. Dort:
            I feel heartily to sympathize with you in the bereavement of a loving father, who has gone to rest from his earthly labors, which were for a long number of years faithfully devoted for the good of his fellow men, and especially for the welfare of his brother pioneers in opening the way for organizing a new State.  He was a kind, benevolent husband and father and neighbor in his domestic relations; and loved and respected by all, and in his public relations an honest, considerate lover of exact and impartial justice in the various capacities of public trust.  I became acquainted with him in the Territory of Michigan, and was intimately acquainted with him and his acts publicly during many years , as he, as well as myself, had the honor of a seat twice in the State Senate, and in two sessions in the House of Representatives, and while as a member of the Senate of 1849 I wrote the bill for the establishment of county agricultural societies of Michigan, great opposition was manifested by the professional men of the Senate on account of the newness of the State, and your honored father came to the aid of the passage of the bill, and it became a law, and in 1849, while he was struggling to establish the State Agricultural Society, my humble abilities were devoted to aid in the passage of that law; and before this, when Father Pierce was organizing the High School at Ann Arbor we gave him our united support in the establishment of the Normal School at Ypsilanti and also aided Gov. Felch in passing the Central Railway into the hands of a company, as while the State owned it, it did not prove successful, for individuals who had an interest in it could look after it much better than the State.  We also took a deep interest in the establishment of the free common or primary schools, being on a special committee to draft the school laws, and to raise the mill ta to make the people interested in the schools; this, with the sales of the school lands, had a good deal to do in aiding the free school system.  We contended long and strenuously that the property of the State should educate the rising generation, the poor as well as the rich, as intelligence would protect the State and the free school has become the law of Michigan, and great benefit is a lasting result of those weary labors.
            I had the pleasure of taking rooms two sessions with your dear father, and after long and complex sessions, listening to tedious debates and thousands of motions sometimes to no profit, we would retire to our rooms and look over the laws of their States and compare notes on subjects of importance to the State and people, and freely burn the midnight oil in posting ourselves for the coming day's labor, and often your dear father would say to me that our votes were a matter of record, and we were willing to be judged by them, and if we committed errors it was of the head, not of the heart.  People not acquainted with legislation have but a faint idea of the thoughtful labor imposed upon the mind; as the old saying is, “much study is wearisome to the flesh;” and we found it so in aiding in the organizing a new State to make the statue agreeable to a toiling, industrious people, who were leveling the forest and changing it into fruitful fields of plenty, and your honored father labored long and patiently for the good of our beloved State and its noble institutions.  Coming from State affairs to township and county business, your father held many offices of trust, and for a long time was almost constantly employed to the satisfaction of upright men; his decisions were made with care and equal justice to all concerned, and the pioneers of Michigan highly appreciate his able service, and all who survive him feel deeply to mourn the great loss of a good and faithful brother pioneer; and all the people at large, when they understand his true history, will cherish his memory in respectful and lively remembrance.  In his political faith he was a Democrat of the Jefferson and Jackson school. 
Truly yours, J. SHEARER. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

ETCHED IN OLD STONE: Take Down that Street Sign!

“A good name is as a thread tyed around the finger,

to make us mindful of the errand we came into the world to do for our master.”
(William Jenkins, Puritan minister, Christ Church, London. 1654)

TITUS DORT, JR., Michigan Statesman
It's difficult to know to what extent any of us might go in our efforts to uphold and honor the good name of a highly respected and beloved ancestor.  In the case of my third great-grandfather, Titus Dort, Jr., evidence suggests that efforts to preserve the family name sometimes meant removing it.  Literally.
The recent discovery of a small, yellowed newspaper clipping safely pressed between the pages of my mother's 92-year old baby book revealed a deeply personal, yet boldly public stand Titus' grandson took on an issue for which we will only know half of the story.
William Ten Eych Dort was born in 1870 and raised in the Dearborn home of his grandfather Titus. He knew of his grandfather's many accomplishments as one of Michigan's first brick makers and politicians, whose lifetime of meritorious public service to the state and community earned him widespread respect.  (You can read more about Titus Dort, Jr. here.)  My mother, William's great niece, still remembers visiting her "Uncle Billy" on Dragoon Street in Detroit where he lived and worked as an electrician.  And that is where this story begins.
Dort Street originally located at red dot by Ambassador Bridge
Approximately two miles east of Dragoon, just off W. Fort, was a short street located between Eighteenth Street and Twentieth Street, bounded by Fort and Jefferson.  You might rightly assume that it would be called "Nineteenth Street" but was, instead, named Dort Street in honor of William's grandfather, Titus.  William would have passed this street often on his way into the city of Detroit.  And he would have undoubtedly witnessed the changes to that part of the city as the Ambassador Bridge was opened in 1929, spanning the Detroit River to Windsor, Canada -a very busy port of entry through which at least 25 percent of this nation's imported goods from Canada were being transported.  Dort Street, today called St. Anne Street, was less than two-tenths of a mile from that heavily traveled, noisy bridge.  Close proximity to the bridge and its related industry, atmosphere, and increased population would have dramatically changed the neighborhoods located nearby, including Dort Street.  In the following undated news clipping, we can only guess at the contributing factors that lead William to insist on changes that he felt necessary to uphold the "good name" of Dort... by taking down the street signs.  Uncle Billy even paid to have the signs replaced!


William T. Dort, of 1020 Dragoon ave., believes that Dort street should be changed to Nineteenth street, even though it was named after his grandfather, he told the Common Council Tuesday.

His grandfather, Titus Mortimer Dort, he said, was a justice of the peace in Detroit and the first to make bricks in Detroit. He also served as a State representative.

‘In view of the historical memory attached to my grandfather’s name, it would appear more fitting to discontinue the name,’ Dort added.

The street is a half block long, between W. Jefferson avenue and W. Fort street. Dort said that he was even willing to pay for changing the names on the street’s two signs. The Council granted his request.”