Charles Christopher Trowbridge

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Charles Christopher Trowbridge
Mayor of Detroit
In office
Preceded by Marshall Chapin
Succeeded by Andrew Mack
Personal details
Born December 29, 1800 (1800-12-29)
Albany, New York
Died April 3, 1883 (1883-04-04) (aged 82)
Detroit, Michigan
Spouse(s) Catherine Whipple Sibley

Charles Christopher Trowbridge (December 29, 1800 – April 3, 1883)[1] was an explorer, politician, businessman, and ethnographer of Native American cultures who lived in Detroit during the 19th century.[2] He was one of the very first businessmen who emigrated to what was then the Michigan Territory.[1]

Early life

Charles Trowbridge was born on December 29, 1800 in Albany, New York; the youngest of six children born to Luther Trowbridge and Elizabeth Tillman Trowbridge.[1] His father was a Revolutionary War veteran who had fought at the battles of Lexington and Saratoga, among others. Luther Trowbridge died in 1802, and Charles grew up with his mother. In 1813, Charles apprenticed to the businessman Horatio Ross of Owego, New York, who trained him as a merchant.[1] In 1818, economic troubles bankrupted Ross, and Trowbridge, then not quite eighteen, was charged with closing up the business.[1] Trowbridge continued independently in the merchant trade, but quickly decided to move west. In 1819, he secured a position with Major Thomas Rowland of Detroit as Deputy United States Marshal and deputy Clerk of the Court.[1]

Early career in Detroit

Historic Charles Trowbridge House (1826), Detroit's oldest known structure.

Rowland encouraged Trowbridge to study law, and the young man quickly picked up a great deal of legal knowledge, and assisted in recording the 1820 census.[2] In 1820, Trowbridge served on the Lewis Cass expedition, led by Lewis Cass, that officially explored the section of the Northwest Territory between the Great Lakes and the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Cass was impressed by Trowbridge, and made him his private secretary.[1]

In 1821, Trowbridge helped negotiate a treaty between the US government and the Winnebago and Menominee Indians. With this experience, and his knowledge of the Cherokee language, Trowbridge was appointed assistant secretary in the local Indian department, and soon after was also made interpreter.[1]

Around this time, Trowbridge was made secretary of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan.[1]

In 1823, Trowbridge was tasked with determining the relationships among the languages and customs of the indigenous tribes in the Northwest Territories.[1] He worked at this, as well as his interpreter duties, through 1825, when he resigned his post in favor of becoming cashier of the newly established Bank of Michigan.[1]

In 1826, Trowbridge married Miss Catherine Whipple Sibley, oldest daughter of Solomon Sibley. That same year, he built his own home, the Charles Trowbridge House, on Jefferson Avenue[2] on what was then farmland far from the heart of the city.[1] At the time, it was considered to be the finest frame house in the Michigan territory. Trowbridge lived in this house for over 50 years, and it currently still stands as likely the oldest existing home in the city of Detroit.[2] Trowbridge lived in the house until his death in 1883.[1]

Later career

In 1831, Lewis Cass was appointed Secretary of War, and invited Trowbridge to accompany him to Washington, D.C.. After much soul-searching, Trowbridge declined, preferring to stay in the private sector. He engaged in other enterprises over the next few years, including extensive land purchases. He was one of the original platters[citation needed] of the village of Allegan, Michigan.

In 1833, Trowbridge became an alderman of the city of Detroit,[1] and briefly served as Mayor during the cholera epidemic of 1834, resigning his position soon after.[2] In 1837, he ran as the Whig candidate for governor of Michigan, and was defeated by Stevens T. Mason. Thereafter, he did not seek public office again.

In 1844, he became president of the Michigan State Bank, leading that institution until its dissolution in 1853. He became secretary-treasurer, and later president, of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railway Company and was one of the directors of the Detroit and St. Joseph Railway Company.

Trowbridge also served on the boards of several charitable institutions,[2] including as president of the Board of Public Charities, various bible and missionary societies, and the Historical and Algic Societies.

Political offices
Preceded by
Levi Cook
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
Andrew Mack

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n James V. Cambell, "Biographical Sketch of Charles C. Trowbridge," read June 3, 1883, published in Pioneer Collections: Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, 1907, pp. 478 - 491
  2. ^ a b c d e f Charles Trowbridge House Archived 2007-10-11 at the Wayback Machine from the city of Detroit
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