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Museum News

Newsletter of the Monroe County Historical Museum

Volume 1 Issue 4

November/December 2005

Monroe County

Historical Museum

126 S. Monroe Street

Monroe, MI 48161

(734) 240-7780 Phone

(734) 240-7788 FAX



Ralph Naveaux

Assistant Director

John Gibney


Shirley Keehn


Jim Ryland


Chris Kull

School Tours &

Archives Assistant

Lynn Reaume


Pat Griem


Mike Jondro

Museum Hours

Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat., & Sun.

all year long

10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Archives Hours

Wed., Thurs., Fri., & Sat.

all year long

10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


More on Norman Hall

by John Gibney

Perhaps the greatest delight in publishing our new newsletter has come from the positive reception we have received from so many of our old and new friends of the museum. Nowhere is that more true than in the tightly knitted community of Civil War “Buffs”. Last issue, my article on Norman Hall received great praise and comments from many local historians and re-enactors. And while I enjoyed the response and felt that it was a decent job of tying the scant material I had together, I was deeply touched by an old friend of the Monroe Museum, Norman Hall scholar John Calder, who sent me additional material about Hall’s life.
For those of you who do not know Mr. Calder, he was instrumental in helping the museum acquire the loan of much of the Hall family material. He has been a good friend of the Hall family since 1948 and has researched Norman Hall’s life in minute detail. Knowing that Mr. Calder undoubtedly does know more about Norman Hall than anyone, I was very pleased to be allowed to correspond with him. He suggested several updates (I’ll call them corrections) to my Norman Hall story. A good historian uses the best information at hand at the time but always understands that history is fluid and always open to revision.
At Fort Sumter, the Union soldiers were not made prisoners and exchanged. They simply boarded the steamer Isabel and steamed to Brooklyn, New York, where they received a hero’s welcome. The information I had stated that Hall was placed in Castle Pinckney and exchanged (the source may have been confused with the story of Orlando Wilcox, the commander of the First Michigan Infantry captured at Bull Run).
Although several sources correctly referred to Norman Hall as a Brigade commander, Mr. Calder points out that Hall resigned from the service because before he could be promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He was recommended for promotion in rank by Generals O.O. Howard, John Sedgwick, Joseph Hooker, Ambrose Burnside, John Gibbon, and Edwin Sumner, but the rank was not confirmed..
I had information that Hall was sent back to Monroe to recruit troops that became part of the Seventh Michigan. Despite the fact that Hall was in the Regular Army at the time, it would make sense that he would be assigned such duty following his actions at Sumter. Mr. Calder told me that to his knowledge, Hall “did not return to Monroe. In fact, I can find no proof he ever returned to the city. His family moved east after his father died when he had just started at West Point”.
Sadly, Norman Hall did not leave any formal written memoirs of his experiences in the Civil War. He did leave between 600-800 personal letters that are still owned by the Halls. Mr. Calder is one of the only individuals to ever see this material. Hopefully his dedication will result in the publication of a book. We all wish him well in this endeavor and hope that we will be the first to feature it in our gift shop.
We also invite any of our readers who might have information that can add to any of our articles to please feel free to share that material with us.


Bicentennial Timeline


by Ralph Naveaux

Looking Forward to the Bicentennial of

the Battle of the River Raisin in 2013
Far West, November 7, 1805:

The Lewis and Clark expedition reached Gray’s Bay, about 20 miles short of their goal, the Pacific Ocean. Seeing what looked like the end of the land, however, Clark recorded in his journal, “Ocean in view! O! the joy!”

Unfortunately, at this point, heavy storms, raging seas, and high winds pinned the expedition down, causing Clark to describe the next few weeks as “…the most disagreeable time I have experienced.”

The expedition had traveled over 4,000 miles, from the Mississippi to the Pacific. Acting as the main hunter on this lengthy exploratory journey was George (Pierre) Drouillard, originally from the Windsor area. He had cousins living at Otter Creek and elsewhere in the River Raisin country.(1)

Banks of Otter Creek
River Rouge, Sunday, Dec. 8, 1805:

Tensions growing out of the wars between Great Britain and France were directly affecting relations with the United States. For some time, the British had been hiring Indians to hunt down and return British army deserters who attempted to flee into U. S. territory. A dispute quickly arose as to whether the British had a right to pursue and arrest deserters on American soil.

On Sunday, Dec. 8, Deputy Marshal Thomas Nowlan was in his boat, about 6 miles south of Detroit, on his way to the River Rouge, when he encountered a boatload of British soldiers. They hailed him and searched Nowlan’s boat, looking for traces of any deserters. Finding none, they let him go.

Nowlan reached Weaver’s house on the Rouge in time for breakfast, where he encountered two British officers, Captain Muir and Lieutenant Lundee, plus a sergeant and a corporal, with a small guard and a number of Indians. While eating, a sentry sighted a couple men rapidly descending the river in a canoe, and a soldier was sent along the shore to intercept them if they tried to land.

The British troops then began to man their boat to go in pursuit, when a man named Morrison arrived at the house. He was immediately arrested and detained by soldiers who had been left behind by their officers.

Nowlan called on nearby citizens to assist him in preventing this illegal application of British jurisdiction on American soil. Several local residents responded, and they overpowered the guards, confiscating their weapons.

About 8pm, Captain Muir and Lt. Lundee went to the home of Richard Smyth in Detroit, where they met Capt. Brevort of the U.S. army, Lt. Hanks, and a Mr. Suttle and asked them if they had seen Morrison. The Americans agreed to help the British locate the man in question.

Accompanied by Captain Brevort, Captain Muir and Lt. Lundee invaded Conrad Seck’s home, armed with pistols and swords, and dragged Morrison out of the house, threatening to shoot any of the family who interfered.

Morrison resisted, and in the scuffle, Muir’s pistol went off, wounding himself. Lt. Lundee’s pistol also discharged as he struggled with Seck.

Lt. Hanks then raised a stick and called on the local citizens to defend Morrison. The locals again rose to the occasion, releasing Morrison and conveying the British officers back to Smyth’s house, where they were arrested by the marshal. A mob soon formed outside the house, but dispersed when Lt. Hanks threatened to bring out a detachment of troops from the fort to drive them away.

Young Mr. Hull, who was inside the house yelled that the mob was just a bunch of rascals and if they didn’t disperse, he would go to the fort, train the artillery on their homes, and blow them all to hell.

The Territorial Court later would release the prisoners on bail. A complaint to Alexander Campbell, commanding His Britannic majesty’s 41st Regiment of Foot at Fort Malden in Amherstburg resulted in a conciliatory letter claiming that the attempt to seize a thief and deserter at the River Rouge resulted from confusion on the part of a single ignorant unarmed soldier, while the officers at Detroit were acting without official sanction. (2)

Europe, Dec. 2, 1805:

Napoleon lured the numerically superior armies of Russia and Austria into a trap at Austerlitz, resulting in the Battle of the 3 Emperors on December 2, 1805. In one of his most masterful victories, Napoleon thoroughly routed his enemies.

As a cause of the defeats at Ulm and Austerlitz, Emperor Francis of Austria signed the Treaty of Pressburg on December 26, withdrawing from the Third Coalition, granting independence to his German principalities, and ceding territories in Italy and Bavaria to France. The Russians withdrew into Poland, continuing their war against Napoleon, until the Czar of Russia finally agreed to sign the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807.

Safe beyond the English Channel, secured by the invincible Royal Navy, the King of England planned to strangle Napoleon’s empire with a blockade by sea. He would issue Orders in Council to restrict the rights of neutral nations to conduct commerce with France. This policy would lead to an eventual war with the United States.


(1) (From the “Discovering Lewis & Clark” web site: This site contains an excerpt from the expedition’s journal, wherein Meriwether Lewis gave a wry description of Charbonneau’s recipe for Boudin Blanc, a French-Canadian & Cajun food popular on the frontier. Charbonneau was the husband of Sacagawea).

Thursday, May 9, 1805

Capt C. killed 2 bucks and 2 buffaloe, I also killed one buffaloe which proved to be the best meat, it was in tolerable order; we saved the best of the meat, and from the cow I killed we saved the necessary materials for making what our wrighthand cook Charbono calls the boudin blanc, and immediately set him about preparing them for supper; this white pudding we all esteem one of the greatest delacies of the forrest, it may not be amiss therefore to give it a place.

About 6 feet of the lower extremity of the large gut of the Buffaloe is the first mosel that the cook makes love to, this he holds fast at one end with the right hand, while with the forefinger and thumb of the left he gently compresses it, and discharges what he says is not good to eat, but of which in the squel we get a moderate portion; the mustle lying underneath the shoulder blade next to the back, and fillets are next saught, these are needed up very fine with a good portion of kidney suit [suet]; to this composition is then added a just proportion of pepper and salt and a small quantity of flour; thus far advanced, our skilfull opporater C--o seizes his recepticle, which has never once touched the water, for that would intirely distroy the regular order of the whole procedure; you will not forget that the side you now see is that covered with a good coat of fat provided the anamal be in good order; the operator sceizes the recepticle I say, and tying it fast at one end turns it inwards and begins now with repeated evolutions of the hand and arm, and a brisk motion of the finger and thumb to put in what he says is bon pour manger' thus by stuffing and compressing he soon distends the recepticle to the utmost limmits of it's power of expansion, and in the course of its longtudinal progress it drives from the other end of the recepticle a much larger portion of the [blank] than was previously discharged by the fingers and thumb of the left hand in a former part of the operation; thus when the sides of the recepticle are skilfully exchanged the outer for the iner, and all is completely filled with something good to eat, it is tyed at the other end, but not any cut off, for that would make the pattern too scant; it is then baptised in the missouri with two dips and a flirt, and bobbed into the kettle; from whence after it be well boiled it is taken and fryed with bears oil untill it becomes brown, when it is ready to esswage the pangs of a keen appetite or such as travelers in the wilderness are seldom at a loss for.
(2) Territorial Government in Michigan, letters & reports, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. 31. Lansing: Wynkoop, Hallenbeck & Crawford, 1902, p 546-556.



by Jim Ryland


One of the Finest and Most Elegant Residences in this Part of the State.

“The residence of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Waters, a luxurious new home situated on the corner of Washington and Fourth Streets, was built by Contractors Thomas Keegan & Sons. A large gray frame house, with numberless windows, wide porch and broad low steps set on a foundation of rough faced stone, this building impresses one with permanency of structure and conspires with a wisely planned arrangement of interior fitted with all imaginable conveniences to form one of the most luxurious and habitable homes in the city. From a vestibule with heavy oak door, tiled floor and decorated with crimson wainscoting in an Egyptian design, with a ceiling and frieze in cream, one enters a reception hall with circular wall, hard wood floor and a magnificent oak staircase. A unique feature belonging to this hall is a dome, which built out from the landing on this stairway overlooks both upper and lower story and throws light from a stained glass windows through the entire house, harmonizing with the warm tints of decoration and giving an air of comfort and hospitality as well as elegance. In this hall, beneath the dome, is a niche for a piano and a window facing the south….”

Monroe Democrat, 29 December 1905


Our Red River Ox Cart is here!

by John Gibney

On a bleak and snowy day back in February, Ralph stared longingly out his window and remarked that he really would like an ox cart as part of our interpretive exhibits. He stated that it had a long history as the primary means of transportation on the frontier both in Europe and North America, and would have been a common fixture of the people of the River Raisin area. It has been on our wish list for many years
Since I was fairly new and wanted to try my hand at museum related grant writing, I spent many late nights and weekends researching and documenting ox-cart designs for a possible grant application. The Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries featured a perfect grant possibility and we applied for their funding for our ox-cart project.
We were very pleased to learn that we had received approval for the project and spent several weeks trying to put the project together. When Ralph got sick in July, we had to scramble a bit but with the help and guidance of former director Matt Switlik and Loomis’ Battery, the work went on. Matt redesigned the project using more authentic materials and his daughter, Colleen, used a CAD program to design the blue prints from drawings taken from Diderot’s Encyclopedia of 1762-1777.
Matt worked extremely hard to complete the project in time for our biggest event of the year, the fall lantern tours. Those of you who saw the completed project know the incredible detail and workmanship that Matt put into the cart and we all hope to enjoy the cart for many years to come. Thanks once again to Matt, Colleen, Loomis’ Battery, and the Michigan State and Local Historical Societies Grant Program for making our winter daydreams come true!

Red River Ox Cart



by Chris Kull

Known as Frenchtown because of the many French-Canadians living here, Monroe was first settled in 1785. Most of the original inhabitants lived on the north side of the River Raisin until the War of 1812, which resulted in a great massacre and the settlement was pretty much abandoned until about 1815, when many of the earlier settlers returned and Yankees from the eastern United States began migrating here.
The City of Monroe and Monroe County were established in 1817, named in honor of our 5th U. S. President, James Monroe. That same year, Joseph Loranger sold part of his farm to the County of Monroe for the location of the County seat, courthouse and jail for $1.

This was to become the town center of Monroe.

The intersection of Washington and East First Streets has been the meeting place of presidents, international dignitaries, a local Miss America, great statues and gatherings of people from all around the world. Loranger Square is truly the heart of Monroe and Monroe County.

The center of the intersection was the original site of Michigan’s tribute to General George Armstrong Custer. A large bronze equestrian statue of Custer was dedicated by President William Taft in 1910. However it became a traffic hazard and was moved in 1923.

Originally it was called Court House Square and later Washington Square. In 1957, Monroe County Historical Society President Martha Barker suggested the name Loranger Square in honor of the original land owner. In 1958, the Monroe County Board of Supervisors made that the official name of the square.

The northwest corner of the square was the site of the Park Hotel. Soon our new Heritage Park Pavilion will be built there.

On the southwest side are two historic buildings.. The First Presbyterian Church, built in 1849, is on the site of our first courthouse building. Famous as the location of the wedding of General George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth Bacon, this church has been enlarged several times since then into the structure we see today.

Directly west of the church is the historic Dorsch Memorial Library. This Italianate structure was the home of Dr. Eduard Dorsch. A locally well-known physician of the 19th century, he gained national respect during the Civil War for his battle wound research. He was also a scholar, author, botanist and naturalist. He had a great love of books and his home and collection of books were left to City of Monroe to be maintained as a city library.

Between the library and the church is a statue of Little Brown Bear. Erected in 2002, the statue honors Monroe author Elizabeth Upham McWebb. Well known and loved by the Monroe community, Aunt Bett wrote poetry and many children’s books. Her best known stories were about Little Brown Bear and his friends.

On the southwest corner of the square is the Monroe County Courthouse. This is the 3rd courthouse building built on the square. The first, a log structure, stood on the site of the First Presbyterian Church. The second courthouse was constructed where the present courthouse sits in 1839. However, that building was destroyed in 1879 by a fire.

This limestone faced building was constructed in 1880 and is the second oldest occupied courthouse building in Michigan.

The cannon is a relic of the War of 1812, being a British naval piece.

On the northeast corner of the square stands the Detroit Edison building. Built in 1928, this example of classic style of early American architecture honors Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The Lotus Fountain on the front lawn of the Edison building was built in 1987. It is a symbol of our connection to the great water resources around the county.

Loranger Square is truly a historical site of Monroe County.



By Lynn Reaume

The main Museum’s CHRISTMAS TREE FESTIVAL held during the month of December is taking reservations from participants in November. These are due to the education office by Friday the 11th. Artificial trees and wreaths decorated in any holiday theme will be put up throughout the Museum during the last two weeks of the month. (Closed Thanksgiving Day). If you know of a group, club, or organization that would like to help us celebrate the holiday spirit, contact Lynn Reaume at 240-7784 for registration and further details. It’s free, fun and a good project for all ages and interests. Visit us from December 1st through the 31st (closed Christmas Day) to view everyone’s creations large and small- and remember, there is no cost for admission!

This celebration of the holidays is in it’s 27th year at the Museum, and has seen everything from the most elaborate to the most humble of displays, including a “talking Christmas tree”. Participants have included elementary school students from public, parochial and home school classes to church groups, 4-H clubs, patriotic organizations, and women’s groups. Wreaths can be as small as 16 inches, to trees as tall as 7 feet. Lights may or may not be used- whatever you can come up with! Bring in your family and friends when you are between errands during the season and wish to see a concentration of seasonal good wishes!
EDUCATION WISH LIST for Christmas: Dear Santa, I wish that more teachers and educators would use our kits, programs and services in 2006!, or school class that would use our kits, programs and services in 2006!
And an end of the year THANK YOU to my Education Volunteers:
Jeanne Micka

Alisha Cooley

Bonnie Finzel-Doster

Nancy Hochradel

Phyllis Kurtz

Laurel Heyman

Bev Heck

Gerri Dvronch

Mary L. May
These volunteers gave generously of their busy schedule to help give tours, host our sites during the year, Michigan Week and Fair Week, greet visitors and be there when I needed them. Without our volunteers there would be a great reduction in our offerings to teachers and educators, and some sites like the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post and Martha Barker Country Store, would not be open at all due to staff shortages. So, THANK YOU to these people who care.
With that said, Education needs more volunteers- to give occasional Museum tours to school children and to greet visitors during Michigan Week and Fair Week at the Trading Post and Country Store. If you have free time during the day when contacted in advance, and would like to do something different with your time, please give me a call at Education 240-7784.
* * * * * * * * *
Christmas Jottings from the Monroe Democrat newspaper, December 4, 1890:
Theo Kirchmaier has his show window nicely arranged for a Xmas scene. He has a full sized Santa Claus covered with trinkets standing by the side of an old fashioned fire place. The display attracts many youthful admirers, who sometimes perform some very funny pranks.
One little girl stepped up as near to the window as she could get and tried to tell Santa Claus what she wanted and when she found he paid no attention to her, she screamed to him at the top of her voice, but he never moved.
* * * * * * * * *
Old News from the Monroe Democrat newspaper, November 6, 1890:
Muskrats are building large houses in the marshes this year. Old prognosticators would say that it was a sure sign of a hard winter.


by Ralph Naveaux

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped make our 2005 lantern tours a success. About 60 people contributed in one way or another in taking some 300 visitors back to 1806, the year Michigan became a Territory and Detroit burned to the ground. John Gibney did the majority of the work in

preparing the script, backed by the rest of the staff. The fourth (and final) night of the tours was capped off with a huge bonfire.



If you would like to volunteer at the Monroe County Historical Museum, please call:

Ralph Naveaux

John Gibney

Lynn Reaume

Monroe County

Historical Museum

126 S. Monroe St

Monroe, MI 48161

(734) 240-7780 Phone

We need greeters, tour guides, interpreters, craftspeople, demonstrators, gardeners, and more.


Articles for the Museum News
The Monroe County Historical Museum Staff would like to invite anyone who is interested in the history of the Monroe area to submit articles for possible publication in the Museum News.
Send articles to:

Ralph Naveaux

Monroe County Historical Museum

126 S. Monroe St

Monroe, MI 48161

(734) 240-7780 Phone
Articles to be included in the January/February 2006 museum News should be submitted to Ralph Naveaux for his review by December 1, 2005.




Nov. 2 Historical Commission meeting 7pm.

Nov. 5 Traders’ Rendezvous at the Battlefield, 1-3pm.
Nov. 5 1812 Roundtable at the Battlefield, 7-9pm.
Nov. 9 Archaeology program at the Main Museum, 7:30pm.
Nov. 20 Friends of River Raisin Battlefield Meeting at the Battlefield, 1:30pm.

Dec. 1-31 Christmas Tree Festival at Main Museum, Wed.-Sun., 10-5.

Dec. 3 Old Time Holidays at the Battlefield, 1-3pm.
Dec. 7 Historical Commission meeting, 7pm.

Dec. 14 Archaeology Christmas party at the Sawyer

Homestead, 7:30pm.

Dec. 18 Friends of River Raisin Battlefield Meeting at the

Battlefield, 1:30pm.

Jan. 21 Annual Commemoration of the Battle of the

River Raisin.


Feb. 21 Algonquin Club Muskrat Dinner.



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