1853: Epaphroditus Ransom to Henry Wyllys Taylor

Governor Ransom

Governor Ransom

This letter was written by Epaphroditus Ransom (1798-1859) who received his law degree from the Northampton Law School in Massachusetts in 1823 and began his own practice in Townshend, Vermont. He married Almira Cadwell in 1827 and they had four children, yet two would die during infancy. He was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, but after seeing his siblings move to Michigan Territory as well as receiving advice from former Vermonter and Michigan Territorial delegate, Lucius Lyon, decided instead to move his family there in 1834.

After over a month of traveling by wagon and steamboat, the Ransoms arrived in Michigan Territory on November 14, 1834 in the small town of Bronson, which is now Kalamazoo, Michigan. There he gained admittance to the bar and began practicing law. He took up farming and other business ventures and soon became active in politics. He served in the state legislature and became that area’s first circuit court judge, riding horseback through the wilderness to hear cases.

Ransom was appointed by Governor Stevens T. Mason as an associate justice of the state Supreme Court in 1837 and served as chief justice from 1843 to 1848. In one notable issue, he issued a declaration in 1840 that prevented the removal of the Catholic Potawatomi from their lands in southwestern Michigan.

In 1848, Ransom resigned from the court after being elected Governor, and was the first governor to be inaugurated in Lansing, Michigan, after the state capitol moved there from Detroit. During his term as governor, the first telegraph line from New York to Detroit was completed and the first message sent on March 1.

There were two notable immigrations to the state during his administration. A group of Dutch immigrants came to western Michigan, led by Rev. Van Raalte, of the Dutch Reformed Church. They founded the city of Holland, Michigan and later established Hope College. James Jesse Strang led the other immigration, consisting of a faction of Mormon followers. They settled on Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan. Strang founded a kingdom there with a capital, St. James named for himself. Strang was even elected to the state legislature twice, but anti-Mormon sentiment and his totalitarian rule of the island led to his assassination. Because of Ransom’s strong anti-slavery position, the state Democratic Party did not re-nominate him for Governor in 1850. He was elected again to the state legislature in 1853 and 1854.

He was also the first president of the Michigan Agricultural Society, which was instrumental in the creation of both the Michigan State Fair and Michigan State University. He served as regent for the University of Michigan, 1850 to 1852 and was a co-founder of the village of Augusta, Michigan. His private business ventures were ruined by the Panic of 1855, and in 1857, Ransom gratefully accepted appointment from U.S. President James Buchanan as receiver of the public monies for the Osage Land Office in Fort Scott, Kansas.

Ranson wrote the letter to Henry Wyllys Taylor, the son of Rev. John Taylor and Elizabeth Terry. Taylor was an 1816 graduate of Yale College who studied law in Canandaigua, New York and opened a practice there. In 1836, and the three succeeding years, he was elected to the New York State Assembly. In 1840, he removed to Marshall, Michigan, to take charge of a large estate there. In 1846 he was a member of the State Senate, but in 1848 he returned to Canandaigua and resumed his practice. He was appointed by the governor, in March 1850, a justice of the New York Supreme Court. He married Martha C. Masters in 1832. [Source: Yale biographical Record]


Kalamazoo [Michigan]
November 18, 1853

Hon. H. W. Taylor
Dear Sir,

Yours of the 24th nut. is at hand. I was absent on a journey to Minnesota Territory at the time the letter reached here — have just returned — should otherwise have answered you earlier. I now hand you our draft on New York for $253.47 which by my computation is the amount due on the contract of E. Gilston & E. Town.

I paid also the contract held by Mr. Town with his endorsement, thereon. I computed the interest to the 20th inst, & made the computation agreeably to the terms of the contract — inst. being payable annually. Please send me the deed per mail on receipt of this if found all right.

I sympathize with you & Mrs. Taylor in the loss of your daughter. I remember her well as a very amiable & interesting young lady. Please tender my kindest regards to your lady.

Very respectfully yours, — Ep. Ransom


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