Story: Central Railroad Celebration - Reaching Ann Arbor - 1839

From the Detroit Free Press, October 19, 1836 [DFP-1839-1019

The completion of the Central Railroad to Ann Arbor was celebrated with great demonstrations of rejoicing by our citizens. Not less than 800 citizens took passage in the cars at the depot in this city (Detroit). The Brady Guards, with their full band, occupied the cars which composed the first train. Three other trains, drawn by three of the powerful locomotives belonging to the road, and laden with the "democracy of numbers" followed. At 9 o'clock they were off. The snorting of the engines, mingled with the shouts of the multitude, as we flew ahead, together with the novelty of so many cars moving en masse, presented a most sublime spectable, and excited the admiration of all who held it.

The progress of the cars was rapid, We flew, as it were "upon the wings of the wind." Woods, fields and cottages appeared and receded with lightening rapidity; and in a half hour, the beautiful Arsenal Buildings of Dearbornville we have in sight. In a moment we were upon them; and before we could do more than admire the rural beauty of their location, and the exceeding neatness which was apparent all around them, they were past, and new scenes developed.

Passing through a tract of country which has within it the elements of wealth, and which will one day blossom in richness, in less than an hour from Dearborn we were at Ypsilanti. A few moments stay, enabled us to take a bird's eye view of this thriving and pretty village, its base is washed by the river Huron, a beautifully transparent stream, whose waters furnish no inconsiderable power lo the town. Here we recogaized the result of the successful industry of our old friend Maj. Gilbert.

Starting on, we crossed the Huron, upon the permanent bridge which has been erected unon the substantial plan of the most substantial of the bridges ot the eastern roads. On we flew, through the beautiful valley of the Huron, admiring, as we passed, the opening richness of the country around us; which, though just recovered from its wilderness state, already presents much of the perfection of the most admired portions of the Empire State. The gently rising hills in the distance -  the beautiful undulating character of the country over which we were passing - the winding course of the Huron, whose pelucid waters wash the base of the road most of the distance between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor together with the general excitement and interest of the scene was really enchanting. There were few who did not feel proud of living in an age in which the triumphs of industry, genius and steam, were so nobly and so triumphantly developed.

Upon the arrival of the cars at Ann Arbor, they were met by a vast concourse of the citizens of that village and its vicinity, who received them with loud and enthusiastic cheers, which were most cordially returned by the company. The invited guests and citizens from abroad were then formally received by the citizens of Ann Arbor, through Col. Jewett, the chairman of the committee of arrangements. A procession of citizens was then formed, under the direction of the Marshal of the day, and escorted by the Washtenaw and Brady Guards, moved through the principal streets of the village to the beautiful courthouse square, where a feu joie was fired by the military. The company, to the number of several hundreds, then sat down to an excellent and bountiful repast prepared in the open square by Messrs. Clark & Petty of the Ann Arbor Exchange. Lieut. Gov. Mundy presided at the table, assisted by Col. O. White, Dr. P. Brigham and Wm. S. Maynard, Esq., as Vice Presidents. After dinner the following regular toasts were drank with warm and enthusiastic cheers by the company:

1. This day Long delayed, long to he remembered.

2. The first train from the city of Detroit brings with it a long train of pleasing reflections.

3. The State of Michigan Internal Improvements necessary to the developement of her abundant natural resources.

4. The memory of Dewitt Clinton.

5. Railroads and Canals. The business of months is now done in a day; if they do not lengthen our years, they enable us to live more in the same time.

6. The Central Rail Road - The Michigan link in the great chain from the seaboard lo Ihe Mississippi.

7. Rail Roads and Steam power. A yankee's notion of the Utile cum dulce.

8. The city of Detroit and the village of Ann Arbor - next door neighbors.

9. The Common Council of the city of Detroit.

10. The University of Michigan - Genius aided by science, the true source of all practical good.

11. The West - The great West an empire in itself.

12. The valley of the Huron - Beautiful by nature, a fit path for a beautiful track.

13. Woman --- Cupid's Locomotive.

After the standing toasts were drunk, Lieut. Gov. Mundy, President of the day, made a short address, appropriate to the day, which he concluded by offering the following sentiment:

The City of Detroit - The Commercial Emporium of Michigan ; its prosperity is identified with the general interests of the State.

After the applause which followed the annunciation of this toast had subsided, George C. Bates, Esq., in behalf of the authorities of the city, arose, and after a brief and pertinent reply, offered the following sentiment, which was drunk with great enthusiasm:

The Village of Ann Arbor - Appropriately selected as the literary emporium of this beautiful peninsula. May the streams of learning and science gush from the surrounding hills, as from the seven hills of the imperial City, refreshing and purifying the whole land.

Mr. Woodbridge offered the following toast, prefaced with a few remarks:

McAdam roads, railroads and canals - The best sources of prosperity in peace and of safety in war.

After the proceedings at the dinner were over, the company repaired again to the vicinity of the depot, while the citizens of Detroit embarked for their return. At 3 o'clock the cars left, amid the cheers of the multitude assembled to witness their departure, and they arrived in Detroit at half past five o'clock, being but two hours and thirty minutes, including stoppages, in going the forty miles between the two places. We rejoice in being able to say, that the day passed off without the slightest accident to mar its festivities.

In conclusion, we cannot withhold the meed of approbation to justly due and so generally conceded, to Col. Wm. R. Thompson, Acting Commissioner on the Central Railroad, for his perseverance in pushing the road to Ann Arbor, amid the discouragment. Nor can we ornit to speak of the praise so properly awarded to Col. Berrien, the Chief Engineer, for the substantial way in which the work has been performed. It was remarked by several who have travelled over the principal railroads in the United States, that they had never been upon one, over which the cars run smoother and easier. The permanent character of the numerous bridges on the route, was particularly observed.


The following sources are utilized in this website. [SOURCE-YEAR-MMDD-PG]:

  • [AAB| = All Aboard!, by Willis Dunbar, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids ©1969.
  • [AAN] = Alpena Argus newspaper.
  • [AARQJ] = American Association of Railroads Quiz Jr. pamphlet. © 1956
  • [AATHA] = Ann Arbor Railroad Technical and Historical Association newsletter "The Double A"
  • [AB] = Information provided at Michigan History Conference from Andrew Bailey, Port Huron, MI

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