Michigan Biographies & Memoirs – Free Online Books & Articles

Albert Kahn: Builder of Detroit

Matuz, Roger
Wayne State University 2002

Albert Kahn was an architect at the dawn of the automobile age, when the Motor City came into its own. This biography tells young readers how he overcame numerous disadvantages to make an indelible mark across the skyline of Detroit with skyscrapers, factories, hospitals and theatres.

Kahn, Albert (1869-1942)

Michigan vacation ideas

Between the Dying and the Dead: Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Life and the Battle to Legalize Euthanasia

Nicol, Neal and Wylie, Harry
University of Wisconsin 2006

Dr. Jack Kevorkian the enigmatic and intrepid physician dubbed Dr. Death has for years declined public interviews about his life and the events that led him to be a vehement advocate of doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. But here, finally, is his own life story, as told to Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie. Dr. Kevorkian gained international notoriety in the 1990s for his passionate advocacy of choice for terminal patients, who have increasingly won the right to decide the time, place, and method of their own death in several western countries.
In 1998, he assisted Thomas Youk, a terminally ill patient suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, with a lethal injection that was broadcast on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Immediately thereafter, Kevorkian was arrested, charged with second-degree murder, tried, and sentenced to 10-25 years in Michigan’s maximum-security prison system. Today, Dr. Kevorkian is in his late seventies and in failing health himself. He shares an eight-by-twelve-foot cell with another inmate in the Thumb Correctional Facility at Lapeer, Michigan. The unique story Prisoner Number 284797 shares far exceeds the battle to legalize euthanasia and end human suffering for terminal patients.

Kevorkian, Jacob (1928-2011)

Ring Lardner: A Biography

Elder, Donald
NY: Doubleday 1956

This is more than a biography of the great humorist from Niles, Michigan. In a penetrating full-length portrait, Donald Elder has explored Ring Lardner’s whole world—the vibrant and inventive times in which he lived, the unforgettable people who surrounded him, and the impudent words that came from his typewriter.
At the height of Lardner’s fame in the middle twenties he was known simultaneously as a baseball reporter unlike any the world had ever seen; a newspaper columnist part gadfly and part reporting etymologist; a writer of short stories as rich in native, idiom as they were polished in execution; and as a humorist who deplored the telling of “stories” as such. Whenever anyone said. “Stop me if you’ve heard this one, “Ring would never hesitate to say, “Stop.”
Mr. Elder, who grew up in Ring Lardner’s hometown, has included liberal selections from Lardner’s writing all through the book, and there is a complete listing of all his published work at the end. Four years of meticulous research went into the writing of this valuable and entertaining appreciation of Ring Lardner’s career.

Lardner, Ringgold “Ring” Wilmer (1885-1933)

Joe Louis: Heavyweight Champion

Jakoubek, Robert E.
Chelsea House 1990

A biography of Joe Louis describing his youth in a Detroit ghetto, his rise to heavyweight champion and major sports hero, and his role in destroying the myth of racial inferiority. (Real name: Joseph Louis Barrow)

Louis, Joseph (1914-1981)

Joe Maddy of Interlochen

Browning, Norma Lee
Chicago: Regnery 1963

“In 1924 Maddy was invited to Ann Arbor to be the supervisor of music in public schools and the Music Department head for the University of Michigan, where he developed one of the few conducting courses in the country… In 1928 Maddy formed the National High School Orchestra and Band Camp, incorporated as the National High School Orchestra Camp on July 6, 1927. The camp exists today as the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and has spawned several complementary entities including Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen College of the Creative Arts and Interlochen Public Radio in Interlochen, Michigan”. -Wikipedia entry for Joseph E. Maddy

Maddy, Joseph Edgar (1891-1966)

Madonna: An Intimate Biography

Taraborrelli, J. Randy
Simon & Schuster 2001

In Madonna: An Intimate Biography, author J. Randy Taraborrelli’s scrupulously researched and completely balanced unauthorized biography of one of the world’s most celebrated entertainers, the reader is allowed to draw his or her own conclusions. Indeed, the portrait bestselling author Taraborrelli paints here is of a truly complex woman, one who is driven and determined to succeed at any cost, yet who displays remarkable vulnerability when it comes to matters of the heart.
Madonna: An Intimate Biography is a truly explosive and definitive account of the life of an entertainer who is undoubtedly one of the most popular, trendsetting figures of our time. Full of amazing disclosures about her private life and public career, New York Times bestselling author J. Randy Taraborrelli’s latest work reveals Madonna in a new — and surprisingly inspiring — way. Not only a feast for fans, this book is great entertainment for anyone who enjoys a remarkable story, stirringly told.

Ciccone, Madonna Louise (1958-)

Father Marquette

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
NY: Appleton 1902

Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) was a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan’s first European settlement, Sault Ste. Marie, and later founded St. Ignace, Michigan. In 1673 Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to explore and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River.

Reuben Gold Thwaites was a noted historian and a director of the Wisconsin Historical Society. He carried out extensive research on Father Marquette as well as other French Jesuits in North America, compiling a 71-volume collection of Jesuit documents called The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. See the link to that collection, which is available online in translation, on the Explorers and Travelers in Great Lakes History page of this website.

Marquette, Jacques (1637-1675)

Life and Times of Stevens Thomson Mason, the Boy Governor of Michigan

Hemans, Lawton Thomas
Lansing: Michigan Historical Commission 1920

Stephens T. Mason was appointed acting Territorial Secretary (of Michigan Territory) at age 19 and acting Territorial Governor in 1834 at age 22. He was elected Governor of the newly-established state in 1835 and served until 1840. Mason died of pneumonia in New York in 1843, where he had started building a law practice after leaving Michigan politics. Mason’s sister was still alive when the author was researching this book, and she provided most of the details about Mason’s family origins in Kentucky, his boyhood, and his personal life. The political history in the book, which is almost entirely limited to the 1830s, was the product of years of research by the author. The volume contains about 70 illustrations, including portraits of many people prominent during that era.

Some of the chapter headings are:

-The Boundary Dispute with Ohio
-The Constitution of 1835
-Organizing the State Government
-Financial Difficulties and the Election of 1837
-Governor Mason’s Second Term
-The Patriot War
-Banks and Banking
-Internal Improvements and the Five Million Dollar Loan
-“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”

See also related works on this site: political history of Michigan on Michigan History: Politics & Government

Mason, Stevens T. (1811-1843)

One Woman’s Work for Farm Women; the Story of Mary A. Mayo’s Part in Rural Social Movements

Buell, Jennie
Boston: Whitcomb & Barrows 1908

“Mary Anne Mayo was a pioneer woman born in a log cabin in Calhoun County, Michigan. She believed
passionately in the need for education for farm women. Becoming active in the Patrons of Husbandry, more commonly known as the Grange, she used this organization as a forum from which she voiced her concerns about education for women in a time when women did not speak in public. She traveled widely, conveying the importance of education for women, and especially rural women. She worked to improve the facilities for women’s education at institutions of higher learning… Her concern for the well-being of women and children led to the idea of the “Fresh Air Outing Program,” designed to give poor children from the city, working women, and mothers with babies, a two-week outing in the country in the summer. More than 1000 people participated in the program from 1895 to 1900.” – “Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame” website.

See also: Paine, Arthur Elijah, The Granger Movement in Illinois in Illinois Economic History

Mayo, Mary Anne Bryant (1845-1903)

Alfred Street

McLauchlin, Russell
Detroit: Conjure House 1946

Nostalgic reflections about boyhood on a quiet neighborhood in Detroit at turn of the 20th century. The articles first appeared in the Detroit News, apparently in the early 1940s.

McLauchlin, Russell Jaehne(1894-1975)

Pioneer Recollections; Semi-Historic Side Lights on the Early Days of Lansing

Mevis, Daniel S.
Lansing: Smith 1911.

The author’s recollections of his youth in Lansing as it was becoming the state capital. The volume is made up entirely of lively and unusual anecdotes. The book contains a photo of Chief Okemos at the age of 119(!).

Mevis, Daniel Stafford (1837-?)

Find old newspaper archives free online at our newspapers page

The Bark Covered House or, Back in the Woods Again

Being a graphic and thrilling description of real pioneer life in the wilderness of Michigan. (illustrated)

Nowlin, William
Chicago: Donnelley & Sons 1937

This memoir was originally written in 1876, and vividly describes the struggle of Nowlin’s parents to carve a living out of the wilderness in Michigan after their arrival in 1834 in the place that would later be within the city limits of Dearborn. The narrative begins with the family’s trip from New York on the Erie canal and then a harrowing cruise on a steamboat from Buffalo to Detroit. Historian Milo Quaife supplemented the narrative with footnotes providing additional background information of interest.

Nowlin, William (1821-1884)

The Iron Hunter

Osborn, Chase S.
NY: Macmillan 1919

“Originally published in 1919, The Iron Hunter is the autobiography of one of Michigan’s most influential and flamboyant historical figures: the reporter, publisher, explorer, politician, and twenty-seventh governor of Michigan, Chase Salmon Osborn (1860-1949). Making unprecedented use of the automobile in his 1910 campaign, Osborn ran a memorable campaign that was followed by an even more remarkable term as governor. In two years he eliminated Michigan’s deficit, ended corruption, and produced the state’s first workmen’s compensation law and a reform of the electoral process. His autobiography reflects the energy and enthusiasm of a reformer inspired by the Progressive Movement, but it also reveals the poetic spirit of an adventurer who fell in love with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after traveling the world.” -Publisher

Osborn, Chase Salmon (1860-1949)

Google Speaks: Secrets of the World’s Greatest Billionaire Entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page

Lowe, Janet
John Wiley & Sons 2009

Written by bestselling author Janet Lowe, this book offers an engaging look at how Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, transformed their vision of a better Internet search engine into a business colossus. Lowe discusses the values that drive Brin and Page—for example, how they both live fairly modest lives, —and details how they have created a culture that fosters fun while, at the same time, keeping Google at the forefront of technology through relentless R&D investments and imaginative partnerships with organizations such as NASA.
In addition to examining Google’s breakthrough business strategies and new business models—which have transformed online advertising and changed the way we look at corporate responsibility and employee relations—Lowe explains why Google may be a harbinger of where corporate America is headed. She also addresses controversies surrounding Google, such as copyright infringement, antitrust concerns, and personal privacy and poses the question almost every successful company must face: as Google grows, can it hold on to its entrepreneurial spirit as well as its informal motto, “Don’t do evil”?
What started out as a university research project conducted by Sergey Brin and Larry Page has ended up revolutionizing the world we live in. Google Speaks puts these incredible entrepreneurs in perspective and shows you how their drive and determination have allowed them to create one of today’s most powerful companies.

Page, Lawrence Edward (1973 – )

C. W. Post; The Hour and the Man. A Biography with Genealogical Supplement

Major, Nettie Leitch
Washington: Judd & Detweiler 1963

The man who founded Post cereals after visiting John Harvey Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium for treatment for stomach problems. His first cereal was “Grape-nuts” and his second was “Post Toasties”; similar to the nearby Kellogg’s company’s “Corn Flakes”. When Post died in 1914 he left his 27-year-old daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post, the company and one of the largest fortunes of the early 20th century.

Post, Charles William (1854-1914)

American Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather Post

Rubin, Nancy
Villard 1995

American Empress is a sweeping history of the dramatic life of heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, daughter of breakfast-cereal magnate C. W. Post. As a young girl growing up in the Midwest, Marjorie Post helped glue cereal boxes in her father’s barn, later became a board member of his company, wed a diplomat and by late middle age was widely acknowledged as the unofficial “Queen of Washington, D.C.” The glamorous and warm-hearted Mrs. Post was also mother to actress Dina Merrill. Throughout her life, she gave generously to hundreds of civic, artistic and philanthropic causes, among which were the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Ballet and the Kennedy Center. By virtue of her brains, beauty and great wealth, Mrs. Post was a woman well ahead of her era, whose natural business acumen created the frozen foods industry and transformed the Postum Cereal Company into the General Foods Corporation.

Post, Marjorie Merriweather (1887-1973)

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

Scahill, Jeremy
Nation 2007

Meet Blackwater USA, the private army that the US government has quietly hired to operate in international war zones and on American soil. Its contacts run from military and intelligence agencies to the upper echelons of the White House; it has a military base, a fleet of aircraft and 20,000 troops, but since September 2007 the firm has been hit by a series of scandals that, far from damaging the company, have led to an unprecedented period of expansion.
Erik Prince, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blackwater, was born and raised in Holland, MI, graduating from Holland Christian High School and earning a B.A. from Hillsdale College. His father had founded and managed an auto parts manufacturing company in Holland.

Prince, Erik (1969- )

Between the Iron and the Pine. A Biography of a Pioneer Family and a Pioneer Town

Reimann, Lewis C.
Ann Arbor: Reimann 1951

Lewis Reimann was the son of German immigrants who ran a boarding-house for miners and loggers in the Iron River district of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This book consists of the author’s recollections with anecdotes and historical commentary about the region. Reimann conveys a sense of the occupational lifestyles and multiple ethnicities of Iron River’s inhabitants and deals in some detail with its folklore, material culture, foodways, and memorable local characters. He devotes a special chapter to Carrie Jacobs Bond, the genteel doctor’s wife who left the area after her husband died and became a noted composer of songs.
– Library of Congress American Memory website

Reimann, Lewis Charles (1890-1961)

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor

Lichtenstein, Nelson
Basic 1995

Walter Reuther, the most imaginative and powerful trade union leader of the past half-century, confronted the same problems facing millions of working Americans today: how to use the spectacular productivity of our economy to sustain and improve the standard of living and security of ordinary Americans. As Nelson Lichtenstein observes, Reuther, the president of the United Automobile Workers from 1946 to 1970, may not have had all the answers, but at least he was asking the right questions.
The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit vividly recounts Reuther’s remarkable ascent: his days as a skilled worker at Henry Ford’s great River Rouge complex, his two-year odyssey in the Soviet Union’s infant auto industry in the early 1930s, and his immersion in the violent labor upheavals of the late 1930s that gave rise to the CIO. Under Reuther, the autoworkers’ standard of living doubled.

Reuther, Walter Philip(1907-1970)

Journal of Major Robert Rogers

Rogers, Robert. Clements, William L., ed.
Worcester: The Society 1918

Robert Rogers was a frontiersman in New Hampshire at the beginning of the French and Indian War, when he began recruiting volunteers to serve as soldiers in new military companies that were soon being called “Rogers’ Rangers”, as he commanded them. Rogers and his rangers went on to fame in a number of actions against the French, and also led an attack against Pontiac at Detroit in 1763 to relieve the siege of Detroit.

In 1766 Rogers was given command of Fort Michilimackinac, at the northern tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan. In that position Rogers tried to put into play his own plan for establishing improved relations with the Indians in the region, but he had strong opposition from other British commanders. In 1767 Rogers was arrested and charged with treason. Although eventually acquitted, that essentially ended his military career. This journal covers the period of his command at Fort Michilimackinac.

Rogers, Robert (1731-1795)

The View from the Dugout: The Journals of Red Rolfe

Anderson, William M.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 2006

Baseball players as a rule aren’t known for documenting their experiences on the diamond. Red Rolfe, however, during his time as manager of the Detroit Tigers from 1949 to 1952, recorded daily accounts of each game, including candid observations about his team’s performance. He used these observations to coach his players and to gain an advantage by recording strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of opposing players and managers. Rolfe’s journals carry added value considering his own career as an All-Star Yankee third baseman on numerous world champion teams, where he was a teammate of Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.
Today, in the era of televised broadcasts, networks often wire a manager so that viewers can listen to his spontaneous comments throughout the game. Red Rolfe’s journals offer an opportunity to find out what a manager is thinking when no one is around to hear.

Rolfe, Robert Abial “Red” (1908-1969)

Romney’s Way: A Man and an Idea

Harris, T. George
Prentice Hall 1968

George Romney built an unconventional political career that inspired and moved many, including his son Willard Mitt Romney. Romney’s Way: A Man and An Idea is George Romney’s story, from his Mormon upbringing, through his journey as a maverick industrialist to his place in Republican leadership in Democratic Michigan. In 1966, T. George Harris took a five-month leave as senior editor at Look magazine to study Romney, his successes and failures and his innovations. Moving freely through Romney’s past and present, Romney’s Way explores the dominant theme of his life: With workers, executives, consumers, parents, taxpayers, party members and the poor, he sought to give people control of the forces that impinged upon their lives. He believed he lived in an age that assumed that all citizens must be part of an inert if affluent mass. Romney instead had a practical vision of how participatory democracy can work for everyone.

Romney, George Wilcken (1907-1995)

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: the Story of Diana Ross

Haskins, James
Dial 1980

A portrait of Ross’s rise to fame describes her Detroit girlhood and adolescence, her success with the Supremes, and her development as a solo performer and reveals her struggle to balance personal and professional commitments.

Ross, Diana (1944- )

Wah Sash Kah Moqua, or, Thirty-three years among the Indians

Sagatoo, Mary
Boston: White: 1897

The author was born and raised in Boston, where she met and married a man who was half-Chippewa. He died soon after they returned to his home near Bay City, Michigan, but she stayed on and married another Chippewa from his tribe two years later.

Sagatoo, Mary (Henderson) (1837-1914)

Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers

with brief notices of passing events, facts, and opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842

Schoolcraft, Henry R.
Philadelphia, Lippincott. 1851

“This is the autobiographical account of an explorer, government administrator, and scholar whose researches into the language and customs of the Chippewa and other Native American peoples of the Great Lakes region are considered milestones in nineteenth-century ethnography”. – American Memory Project.

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864) left the family glass-making business in New York at the age of 25 to explore the western frontier. In 1818 he and a companion traveled into frontier Missouri, where he employed his interest in geology and mineralogy to write A View of the Lead Mines of Missouri. The expedition and publication brought him to the attention of Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who recommended him to Michigan Territorial Governor Lewis Cass, who in turn invited Schoolcraft along on the 1820 Cass Expedition. That expedition traveled nearly 2,000 miles along Lake Huron and Lake Superior, down the Mississippi River, and back to Detroit. Schoolcraft chronicled the expedition in a book, which can be found on the Michigan-Explorers & Travelers page of this website.

Schoolcraft was a prolific writer on a number of subjects, and also participated in more expeditions. In 1822 he was appointed the first U.S. Indian Agent, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He married the daughter of an Ojibwa chief there, who helped teach him the Ojibwa language and assisted him in his ethnological studies of Native Americans. The couple moved to Mackinac Island in 1833 and remained there until 1840. Among his numerous accomplishments, he named many of Michigan’s counties. He created Indian-sounding county names by combining syllables from Native American languages.
– Wikipedia was used as a source for this note.

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe (1793-1864)

Lucinda Hinsdale Stone; Her Life Story and Reminiscences

Perry, Belle McArthur
Detroit: Blinn 1902

This is a collection of reminiscences of and about Lucinda Hinsdale Stone (1814-1900), one of Michigan’s foremost spokespersons for coeducation and equal educational rights for women during the late nineteenth century. Born in Hinesburg, Vermont, she received a classical education as the first female graduate of Hinesburg Academy. After teaching at Burlington Seminary and, later, as a private tutor on a Mississippi plantation, she married James Andrus Blinn Stone, a Baptist minister. In 1843, Lucinda Stone took over a fledgling branch of the University of Michigan in Kalamazoo. There she began to teach women through a separate female department until she resigned in 1863 in a controversy over exposing students to literature considered inappropriate for ladies. She continued to teach most of her students out of her own home and eventually escorted women on guided study tours of Europe. As part of her efforts to educate women, she helped found the Ladies Library Association of Kalamazoo. In 1873, influenced by various New England women’s clubs, she organized the first full-fledged women’s club in Michigan. There are few details here about her later life, but there are abundant testimonials about her importance as a public speaker, journalist, and charter member of the Michigan Woman’s Press Association. The book also includes abundant excerpts from Stone’s writings about eminent people she encountered abroad and at home.
– Library of Congress American Memory website

For works about leading American women of the 19th century, see:
– Adams, Elmer Cleveland and Foster, Warren Dunham, Heroines of modern progress in Century Past Collective Biography A – F
Parkman, Mary Rosetta, Heroines of service in Century Past Collective Biography G – P;
Worthington & Co. , Our Famous Women in Century Past Collective Biography Q – Z

Stone, Lucinda Hinsdale (1814-1900)

Some Notes of Her Personal Recollections

Tripler, Eunice H.
NY: Grafton Press 1910

This book was written by Eunice H. Tripler’s (1822-1910) son-in-law, Louis A. Arthur, from his notes of conversations with her. The story begins with her father as a young soldier being taken prisoner when Fort Detroit was surrendered to the British in the War of 1812. Eunice was born in Washington DC, while her officer father was stationed at the War Department. During the chapters covering Washington, as throughout the entire book, there are many remarks and anecdotes about prominent people, and also numerous random observations of the details of ordinary life in an upper-class household. In 1836 the family returned to Detroit, and in 1841 she married an army doctor, Charles S. Tripler. They lived in Detroit for many years, with Eunice remaining there when the doctor was deployed during the Mexican War and the Civil War.

Tripler, Eunice H. (1822-1910)

Soujourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend

Mabee, Carleton
New York University 1993

Sojourner Truth was born a slave near the Hudson River in Ulster County, New York, in the late 1700s. Called merely Isabella as a slave, once freed she adopted the name of Sojourner Truth and became a national figure in the struggle for the emancipation of both blacks and women in Civil War America.
Despite the discrimination she suffered as both a black and a woman, Truth significantly shaped both her own life and the struggle for human rights in America. Through her fierce intelligence, her resourcefulness, and her eloquence, she became widely acknowledged as a remarkable figure during her life, and she has become one of the most heavily mythologized figures in American history.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning biographer Carleton Mabee unearths heretofore-neglected sources and offers valuable new insights into the life of a woman who, against all odds, became a central figure in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves and women in Civil War America.

Truth, Sojourner (c. 1797-1883)

Petticoat Surgeon

Van Hoosen, Bertha
Chicago: Peoples Book Club 1947

Autobiography. The author graduated from the University of Michigan Medical school in 1892 and spent her medical career in Chicago. She gradually became an outspoken feminist who opposed the medical establishment’s discriminatory treatment of women, becoming in 1915 the first president of the American Medical Women’s Association.

Van Hoosen, Bertha (1863-1952)

Albertus C. Van Raalte, and His Dutch Settlements in the United States

Hyma, Albert
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1947

“Albertus Christiaan Van Raalte is the unquestioned leader of mid-nineteenth century Dutch immigration to Western Michigan, as well as the founder of what eventually became the City of Holland, Michigan….Van Raalte was a minister in the Dutch Reformed church in the Netherlands prior to his emigration to America. The Dutch Reformed Church [DRC] was essentially the national church in the Netherlands during the early nineteenth century…. Within three years of the arrival of [Van Raalte and] the first group of 53 Dutch immigrants, the Dutch population in Western Michigan expanded to 5000.” – New Netherland Institute website

Van Raalte, Albertus Christiaan (1811-1876)

Mary Austin Wallace: Her Diary, 1862: A Michigan Soldier’s Wife Runs Their Farm

McCune, Julia, ed.
Lansing: Michigan Civil War Centennial Commission 1963

This 20-page booklet consists of daily extracts from 24-year-old Mary Wallace’s diary after her husband enlisted. Interesting for the wide diversity of problems and tasks she mentions.

Wallace, Mary Austin (1841-1921)

The Autobiography of David Ward

Ward, David
NY. 1912

A literate life story apparently written for Ward’s children. Ward arrived in Michigan as a teenager in 1836 with his family. For nearly 10 years he taught school and worked at other odd jobs while pursuing a medical degree. Instead of becoming a doctor he emerged as a very successful lumberman. He describes his career in detail and doesn’t hold back in expressing his views of certain relatives and business acquaintances.

Ward, David (1822-1900)

A Child of the Sea; and Life among the Mormons

Williams, Elizabeth Whitney
Brooklyn: Jewett 1905

“This is the vivid memoir of a mid-nineteenth-century girlhood spent mostly on the islands of Lake Michigan and the onshore communities of Manistique, Charlevoix, Traverse City, and Little Traverse (now Harbor Springs), written by a woman who grew up to be a lighthouse keeper on Beaver Island and in Little Traverse. Williams was brought up Catholic by a French-speaking mother and an English-speaking father who was a ship’s carpenter for entrepreneurs engaged in the mercantile trade to and from these rapidly developing settlements. Williams depicts cordial, even intimate, relationships between her family and the Indians who lived nearby, and describes the courtship and arranged marriage of an Ottawa chief’s daughter who lived with her family for an extended period. The major portion of the book, however, is devoted to her eye-witness recollections of James Jesse Strang’s short-lived dissident Mormon monarchy on Beaver Island, amplified by stories she heard from disillusioned followers. Strang was expelled from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints after disputing Brigham Young’s right to succeed Joseph Smith. Eventually he and his own loyal followers settled on Beaver Island and attracted a stream of new converts; at their demographic peak, the “Strangites” numbered 5,000 strong. Strang saw himself as a prophet and believed the rules he tried to establish were in accord with divine revelations. Williams describes the mounting tensions between Strang’s followers and the “gentile” residents who fled the island as Strang’s influence grew; incidents connected with Strang’s assassination by two former followers; and the ensuing exodus of most Strangites from Beaver Island. She later moved back there with her family, as did many of the earlier inhabitants.”
– Description from the U.S. Library of Congress American Memory website.

Williams, Elizabeth Whitney (1844-1938)

“Personal Reminiscences” Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Historical Collections Vol 8, 1886, 233-59; Vol 9, 1886, 166-72; Vol 10, 1888, 137-42; Vol 10, 1888, 142-47

Williams, Ephraim S.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

Ephraim Williams (born 1802) of Flint, MI relates the family’s history in Michigan, beginning with the arrival of his father, Major Oliver Williams, in Detroit in 1808, where he established a mercantile business. Major Williams brought his family, including young Ephraim, from Massachusetts in 1815. In 1819 he bought land near Saginaw and they became pioneer farmers in that area. In addition to farming, the father and sons began trading with the Indians, and over the years established trading posts. These memoirs include many details about their contacts with the Indians as well as anecdotes about travel, hunting, recreation etc. in Michigan in the early years.

Williams, Ephraim S. (1802-1890)

Soapy: A Biography of G. Mennen Williams

Noer, Thomas J.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 2006

In this first complete biography of G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, author Thomas Noer brings to life the story of one of the most controversial and colorful politicians in twentieth-century American politics and a giant in the Michigan Democratic Party.
In 1948, winning a stunning upset, Williams became Michigan’s second Democratic governor since the Civil War and was reelected five times. He served under Kennedy and Johnson as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, briefly held the post of U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, and was a member of the Michigan Supreme Court from 1970 to 1986, serving as Chief Justice in his last term.
Sporting his instantly recognizable trademark green and white polka-dot bow tie, Williams was a flamboyant character. He was also known for his energetic campaign style: he could say “hello” in seventeen languages, would shake hands with as many as five thousand factory workers a day, and made seemingly endless diplomatic trips to Africa. All of this captured the attention of the media and the public and made Williams into a celebrity.
The fascinating story of a complex and complicated man, Soapy will introduce one of the great American political figures of the twentieth century to a new generation of readers.

Williams, Gerhard Mennen “Soapy”(1911-1988)

“Hurry Up” Yost in Story and Song

Lawton, J. Fred
Ann Arbor: Edwards 1947

“Fond reminiscences of the almost legendary football coach at Ann Arbor.” Yost was the football coach at U of M from 1901-1923 and 1925-1926. While he was coach, Michigan won six national championships, ten Big Ten titles, and amassed a record of 165-29-10.

Yost, Fielding Harris (1871-1946)

Michigan Collective Biographies

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940

Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress

This collection of life histories consists of approximately 2,900 documents, compiled and transcribed by more than 300 writers from 24 states, working on the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents vary in form from narratives to dialogues to reports to case histories. They chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century and include tales of meeting Billy the Kid, surviving the 1871 Chicago fire, pioneer journeys out West, grueling factory work, and the immigrant experience.
– From the Collection’s Website.

American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men: Michigan Volume

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Barnard, F. A.
Cincinnati: Western Biographical 1878

These contain quite detailed biographies – often more than 500 words – of prominent people living in Michigan at the time of publication in the late 1870s. There are full indexes in the back of each volume.
Vol 1 – First Congressional District
Vol 2 – Second Congressional District
Vol 3 – Fourth & Sixth Congressional District
Vol 4 – Fifth Congressional District
Vol 5 – Seventh & Ninth Congressional Districts

See the list of resources on this website for: Genealogy & Local History Research

Cyclopedia of Michigan: Historical and Biographical

Comprising a synopsis of General History of the State, and Biographical Sketches of Men who have, in their various spheres, contributed toward its development. Illustrated with steel-plate portraits

NY: Western Publishing 1900

A 22-page history of Michigan is followed by a chapter entitled “Material Development” providing information about economic activity at the end of the 19th century, and containing many demographic and economic tables and statistics. The biographies begin on page 69, in alphabetical order.

See also related works on this site: histories of Michigan on Michigan General History

“Detroit Rulers: French Commandants in the [Michigan] region from 1701 to 1760”

Historical Collections Vol 34, 1905, 303-340

Burton, Clarence M.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

This paper contains brief biographical sketches of each of the 19 French commandants at Detroit. The first was Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who founded a colony at Detroit in 1701. The last was Sieur de Bellestre, who, shortly after the defeat of the French at Quebec in September 1759, was replaced by the first British commander at Detroit, Sir Jeffrey Amherst.

See also related works on this site: histories of Michigan on Michigan General History

In Memoriam, Founders and Makers of Michigan : a Memorial History of the State’s Honored Men and Women

Memorial Society of Michigan
Detroit: Clarke 193?

No Table of Contents; see the index at the back of the volume.

Men of Michigan: A Collection of the Portraits of Men Prominent in Business and Professional Life in Michigan

Michigan Art Company
Detroit: Michigan Art Co. 1904

The volume consists entirely of photo portraits, usually with no biographical details beyond, name, city and professional title. About 1,500 men are included. There is a 2-part index; the first arranged by name, and the second by town.

Collection of Local Histories and Atlases

Michigan County Histories and Atlases

The Michigan County Histories and Atlases Digitization Project is comprised of nearly 500 titles published before 1925. You can search, or browse by title, author or subject. The collection contains:

-County and town histories.
-Biographies. Many of the county histories contain large biographical sections, and there are also individual biographical volumes.
-Business directories.
-Multi-volume photo collection sets entitled “Art Work” for the Lake Superior region, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties, published in the 1890s.
-Atlases or plat books for many counties, often with directories. There are 131 atlases, nearly all post-1870.

But Men are More Interesting than Rivers

Michigan State Library
Lansing: Michigan State Library 1968

Annotated bibliography of 110 Michigan biographies.

Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame Website – Inductees by Name

Michigan Women’s Historical Center

This website contains one-page biographies of numerous Michigan women of note.

Historic Women of Michigan: A Sesquicentennial Celebration

Troester, Rosalie Riegle, ed.
Michigan Women’s Studies Association 1987

First Ladies of Michigan

Weddon, Willah
NOG 1994

Michigan Governors: Their Life Stories

Weddon, Willah
NOG 1994
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