Tuesday, September 1, 2015

MICHIGAN FEVER: Five Family Stories

Tandem Fit Surculus Arbor
A shoot at length becomes a tree”

Michigan Territory in 1822
Michigan was carved out of the larger Northwest Territory in 1805 but did not gain full statehood until 1837 after a boundary dispute with Ohio.  In exchange for a narrow ribbon of land on the northern Ohio border, the 'Toledo Strip,' Michigan gained the entire Upper Peninsula and became the twenty-sixth state in the Union.*   

In the 1620's and '30's many of our British-born ancestors joined in the first Great Migration to the Americas.  Two hundred years later, members of those founding families were again branching out westward, pushing the frontier back along the Great Lakes in the quest for land in the Michigan Territory.  It was a new era of growth for that vast region of dense forests and poor roads as native land treaties opened the way for safer settlement and travel was improved with major (yet still primitive) roadways linking regional hubs such as Detroit and Chicago.  The Erie Canal, opened in 1825, provided a valuable water route that spurred further growth to the region.  Michigan was, for the most part, still wilderness as our ancestral families set up pioneer homesteads in a region that radiated out from its heart, Detroit.  In the decade between 1820-1830, Michigan's population had more than tripled to 31,639 (of which the 'town' of Detroit numbered only 2,222 in 1830).

This was the start of "Michigan Fever" as the territory's population jumped to over 212,000 between 1830-1840.  The majority of the pioneers to this region came from New York and New England.  And this is where our Michigan-transplanted family 'shoots' began to take root as newly emerging communities cropped up between Detroit and Grand Rapids.

In the next series of posts, we will explore the lives and legacy of five families from that era -and even earlier- that provided 'a shoot that, at length, became our Michigan family tree'.  These are the families of my great-great grandparents:  

Andrew Jackson Dort and his wife, Lydia Secord Winsor.  
The surnames below no longer appear in our contemporary family tree simply because they 'died out' as the maiden names of female ancestors, the last being my great-grandmother Mae Louise Dort.  The stories behind these names, however, should not be lost to our future generations since it was through each family that most of our early Michigan roots were formed. 
Michigan Territory 1805-1837
#2:  DORT

*Titus Dort (father of Andrew Jackson Dort) served as a Wayne County delegate for the First Convention of Assent of the Territory of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Sept. 26-30, 1836.

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