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Charles Christopher Trowbridge

charles christopher trowbridge
Charles Christopher Trowbridge December 29, 1800 – April 3, 18831 was an explorer, politician, businessman, and ethnographer of Native American cultures who lived in Detroit during the 19th century2 He was one of the very first businessmen who emigrated to what was then the Michigan Territory1


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Early career in Detroit
  • 3 Later career
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References

Early lifeedit

Charles Trowbridge was born on December 29, 1800 in Albany, New York; the youngest of six children born to Luther Trowbridge and Elizabeth Tillman Trowbridge1 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 merchant1 In 1818, economic troubles bankrupted Ross, and Trowbridge, then not quite eighteen, was charged with closing up the business1 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 Court1

Early career in Detroitedit

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 census2 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 secretary1

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 interpreter1

Around this time, Trowbridge was made secretary of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan1

In 1823, Trowbridge was tasked with determining the relationships among the languages and customs of the indigenous tribes in the Northwest Territories1 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 Michigan1

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 Avenue2 on what was then farmland far from the heart of the city1 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 Detroit2 Trowbridge lived in the house until his death in 18831

Later careeredit

In 1831, Lewis Cass was appointed Secretary of War, and invited Trowbridge to accompany him to Washington, DC 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 platterscitation 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 after2 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 alsoedit

  • Charles Trowbridge House


  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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