William Hull (1753-1825) was appointed Governor of Michigan
Territory in 1805. He and Woodward arrived to begin their new duties in
Detroit after the fire which had destroyed the town. The official report
to the President shows the extent of the damage.
Detroit, October 10, 1805.
The governor of the territory of Michigan and the presiding
judge thereof; in complaince with the wishes of the government and the
people of the territory, have the honor to make the following report
relative to the affairs of the territory.
By the act of the congress of the United States establishing
the territory, the government thereof was to commence from and after
the thirtieth day of June, one thousand eight hundred five. The
presiding judge arrived at Detroit, the seat of the government, on
Saturday the 29th day of June, and the governor on Monday the
first day of July. The associate judge who was previously a resident of
the territory, was already there. On Tuesday the 2d July, the governor,
in pursuance of the ordinance of congress, administered to the several
officers their respective oaths of office, and on the same day the
operations of the government commenced.
It was the unfortunate fate of the new government to
commence its operations in a scene of deepest public and private
calamity. By the conflagration of Detroit, which took place on the
morning of the 11th of June, all the buildings of that place,
both public and private, were entirely consumed; and the most valuable
part of the personal property of the inhabitants, was lost. On the
arrival of the new government, a part of the people were found encamped
on the public grounds, in the vicinity of the town, and the remainder
were dispersed through the neighboring settlements of the country; both
on the British and the American side of the boundary.
The place which bore the appellation of the town of Detroit,
was the spot of about 2 acres of ground, completely covered with
buildings, and combustible materials, the narrow intervals of fourteen
or fifteen feet, used as streets or lanes, only excepted; and the whole
was environed with a very strong and secure defence of tall and solid
picquets. The circumjacent ground, the bank of the river alone excepted,
was a wide commons; and though assertions are made respecting the
existence, among the records of Quebec, of a charter from the king of
France, confirming this commons as an appurtenance to the town, it was
either the property of the United States, or at least such as individual
claims did not pretend to cover. The folly of attempting to rebuild the
town in the original mode was obvious to every mind; yet there existed
no authority, either in the country, or in the officers of the new
government, to dispose of the adjacent ground. Hence had already arisen a
state of dissention which urgently required the interposition of some
authority to quiet. Some of the inhabitants, destitute of shelter, and
hopeless of any prompt arrangements of government, had reoccupied their
former ground, and a few buildings had already been erected in the midst
of the old ruins. Another portion of the inhabitants had determined to
take possession of the adjacent public ground, and to throw themselves
on the liberality of the government of the United States, either to make
them a donation of the ground as compensation for their sufferings, or
to accept of a very moderate price for it. . . .
A town was accordingly surveyed and laid out, and the want
of authority to impart any regular title, without the subsequent
sanction of congress, being first impressed, and clearly understood, the
lots were exposed to sale under that reservation. Where the purchaser
of a lot was a proprietor in the old town, he was at liberty to
extinguish his former property in his new acquisition, foot for foot,
and was expected to pay only for the surplus, at the rate expressed in
his bid. . . . .
Strongly impressed with a sense of the worth of the people,
and deeply commiserating their sufferings, of a great part of which they
were eye witnesses, the officers of their local government cannot
refrain from adding their warmest degree of recommendation to forward
the liberality the congress of the United States will unquestionably be
inclined to exercise towards them; and the disposition which will
doubtless prevail towards attaching their affections, promoting their
interests and relieving their distress. . . .
(Signed) William Hull, Governor of the Territory of Michigan
(Signed) A.B. Woodward, Presiding Judge of the Territory of Michigan.
From: MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,
TRANSMITTING A REPORT FROM THE GOVERNOR, AND PRESIDING JUDGE, OF THE
TERRITORY OF MICHIGAN, RELATIVE TO THE STATE OF THAT TERRITORY. City of Washington, A & G. Way, Printers, 1805: 5-8.
Jenks, William L. The Creation of the Territory of Michigan. Michigan History Magazine 1918 2 (2): 270 - 288.
Campbell, Maria Hull. Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull; Prepared from his Manuscripts, by his Daughter, Mrs. Maria Campbell. NY: D. Appleton, 1848.