1805 Hull


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.

See Also:

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.