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Biographies = Mayors of Lansing, Michigan

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Biographies = Mayors of Lansing, Michigan

Timothy Bowman (View posts)
Posted: 13 Sep 2005 5:27PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Smith, Kerr, Chapman, Bartholomew, Haze, Peck, Hewitt, Wright, Robson, Tooker, Buck, Barnes, Warner, Van Buren, Donovan, Schultz, Crotty, Turner, Johnson, Bement, Wilbur, Ostrander, Davis, Hammell, Lyons, Bement, Reutter, Ferle, Kyes, Main, Doughty, ETC.
Copied from The State Journal newspaper; Lansing, Michigan; Thursday, April 28, 1955;
Centennial Issue; C-12 to C-18. .

Biographies = Mayors of Lansing, Michigan

Hiram H. Smith, 1859
A man of considerable wealth and foresight, Hiram H. Smith received the distinction and honor of becoming Lansing's first mayor in 1859, after a bitter campaign between the
Republican and Democratic parties. He was considered a wise choice. Mr. Smith was interested in the banking and real estate business before his election, and was credited with development of property now located in the city's business district. He built numerous stores on S. Washington ave., many of which are still standing, although greatly improved. His one year reign as chief executive of the new capital city gave the community a firm foundation on which its political and economic destiny was built.

John A. Kerr, 1860
A native of England, John A. Kerr migrated from New York to Detroit, and later came to Lansing where he and two partners were state printers and publishers of the old State
Republican newspaper. He was Lansing mayor in 1860. Probably no man in the early life of the city left a more vivid memory than he. Mr. Kerr, a man of considerable means, was the official host for the city and kept "open house" at his palatial residence on E. St. Joseph st. There he entertained virtually every prominent man or celebrity who came to town. His friendliness and personality won him wide friendships throughout the state and nation. His bright career was abrupted halted by death at the age of 45.

Note from Timothy: John Kerr's house on E. St. Joseph st. still stands here, as of September 2005.


William H. Chapman, 1861-62
A shingle mill in Middle Town (Lansing's central business district), was operated by William H. Chapman, a civic leader and ardent promoter of Lansing. The high esteem in which he was held is noted in the fact that he served two terms as mayor of the city in 1861-62. Mr. Chapman also was justice of the peace and was active in local politics. Hoping to provide some cultural advantages for the young city, he and Rev. J. B. Walker of Benzonia financed construction of a three-story brick store, 109-111 S. Washington ave. They dedicated the second floor as "Capitol Hall" which became the meeting and entertainment center of Lansing.

Dr. Ira H. Bartholomew, 1863-65
One of Lansing's early physicians and surgeons, Dr. Ira H. Bartholomew, is credited with organizing health services for the city. He was mayor from 1863 to 1865, inclusive. Prior to and following his administration as mayor, he was municipal health officer. Many new discoveries arising from the Civil War were put in use here by Dr. Bartholomew. In 1915, he promoted establishment of a city health board. He served in the state legislature for one term and was secretary of the U. S. pension examining board for Michigan. An ardent Republican, he was active in politics.

Dr. William H. Haze, 1866
Mayor of the city in 1866, and a Methodist Episcopal minister, Dr. William H. Haze was instrumental in establishment of the Michigan Agricultural college, now Michigan State college. As a member of the state legislature, he fought for creation of the institution, and in 1862 led another fight against a movement, which would have transferred the college to Ann Arbor. A native of Canada, Dr. Haze migrated to Michigan, where he became a circuit rider for the Methodist church, and also taught school in Howell. He was an alderman before becoming mayor and actively participated in civic movements here.

Note from Timothy: Michigan State College in 2005 is now known as Michigan State University.


George W. Peck, 1867
Lansing's first postmaster, George W. Peck, was an ardent Democrat and a powerful orator. He was co-owner of the Michigan State Journal in the earliest days. During the rebellion, he did not agree with Abraham Lincoln's policy and made many speeches against the administration. His popularity won him election as mayor of the city in 1867. Earlier he earned other political glories as a member of the legislature and speaker of the house, and as a congressman from the sixth district. A prominent Mason, he served as grand master of the Michigan Grand Lodge in 1854. A year earlier he organized and became the first master of Capitol Lodge No. 66, F. and A. M., here.

Cyrus Hewitt, 1868-69
Mayor in 1868-69, Cyrus Hewitt was a native of New York state and prominently identified in local banking and milling activities. As a civil engineer, Mr. Hewitt became United States surveyor for Michigan and was credited with platting many towns and cities now found along the Michigan Central railroad. Settling here, he engaged in the milling business and later became a banker of wealth and prominence. He was one of the leaders in local Republican party affairs, and was a leader in Odd Fellow fraternal orders here and in the state.

Dr. Solomon W. Wright
An easterner who came west to seek his fortune as a physician, Dr. Solomon W. Wright served as mayor in 1870. His career, although colorful, was marked by tragedy and hardship. Orphaned while in his teens, Mr. Wright fell ill and shipped aboard a whaling vessel for two years as a cabin boy, visiting ports in the far east. He labored outside of school hours to gain an education and became an outstanding physician. He abandoned medicine and entered the mercantile and insurance field here, and became a leader in the local prohibition movement. His father-in-law was I. H. Bartholomew, another local mayor.

John Robson, 1871 and 1881
A wealthy merchant and society fixture, John Robson served as Lansing's chief executive in 1871 and again in 1881. During his administrations he was instrumental in getting the city's first iron bridge constructed on E. Michigan ave. across the Grand river, and purchasing the city's first steam fire engine. His rise from a farm boy to clerk and then president of the city's largest furniture store is recorded in history. He grew wealthy, and was elected to the state senate from this district, and his home was the scene of foremost social functions in the capital city. Mr. Robson's enthusiasm was credited with bringing a gas company here in 1871, which served the cooking and lighting needs of the city.

John S. Tooker, 1872-73, 76
Lansing's mayor in 1872-73 and 1876, John S. Tooker, received the largest majority of votes ever cast for a mayoral candidate up to that time. A staunch Republican and shrewd political, Mr. Tooker's popularity was largely responsible for carrying his fellow candidates to victory in election. He bowed out of local politics to accept an appointment from Pres. Chester Allen Arthur in the early '80's as territorial governor of Montana, where he distinguished himself as the federal government's representative.

Daniel W. Buck, 1874-75, 86
A robust man of Scotch-Irish descent, Daniel W. Buck was Lansing's 11th mayor, from 1874 to 1875, and in 1886, and one of the community's foremost civic leaders of his time. A native of Lansing, N. Y., he came to Lansing at the age of 20 and opened a small cabinet-making shop. Eight years later he added a furniture line and opened a store at the northwest corner of Ionia st. and Washington ave. The building still stands. Public spirited and interested in the growth of the city, he spearheaded erection of the city's first great opera house, furnishing most of the money. The building rose on the present site of the Gladmer theater, and became the cultural center of central Michigan.

Note from Timothy: The Gladmer theater no longer exists.


Orlando Mack Barnes, 1877
One of the most fabulous pioneer figures in central Michigan who made and lost several fortunes in his lifetime, Orlando Mack Barnes was the city's mayor in 1877. He ruled one of the greatest railroad and lumber empires in Michigan. An outstanding attorney, he served as Ingham county prosecutor, and in the state legislature he fought for and obtained improvements in state penal institutions. Mr. Barnes, a commanding personality, toured Europe on many occasions, and erected the largest and most beautiful mansions in the midwest at the south end of Capitol ave. He was an ardent promoter of anything which would aid advancement of Lansing.

Joseph E. Warner, 1878
Widely-known throughout various countries of the world as a trader and agent for the P. T. Barnum and James A. Bailey circus, Joseph E. Warner was mayor here in 1878. His was a
colorful career that revolved around the world of showmanship. Besides owning and traveling with his own circus, which wintered here every year before he joined the famous P. T. Barnum, he traveled to far places of the world in search of oddities for the Barnum circus. His greatest achievement was the purchase and transporting of the great elephant "Jumbo" from England to New York city, where it was exploited as the largest animal in captivity, Mr. Warner was city clerk, alderman and police commissioner before becoming mayor here.

William Van Buren, 1879-80
When William Van Buren was mayor here in 1879-80, he started a movement for the city to purchase property at the southwest corner of Allegan st. and S. Washington ave. for use as a city hall, but the proposal was defeated at the polls. The aggressive executive campaigned throughout the four corners of the city for the proposition, but did not reckon with voters in North Lansing who managed to beat the measure by a narrow margin, claiming the location was too far removed from their part of the city. Despite this defeat, Mr. Van Buren was credited with instilling positive thinking on the need for a permanent city hall building, which was realized a few years later.

Orlando F. Barnes, 1882-83
Orlando F. Barnes, a prominent business and public-spirited individual, and son of Orlando M. Barnes, a former mayor, was Lansing's youngest mayor, taking office at the age of 25 years and serving two terms, in 1882 and 1883. A leader in local and state Democratic party circles, Mr. Barnes engaged in manufacturing and banking interests here. When his holdings were wiped out by depression, he migrated to northern Michigan where he recouped his fortunes in the lumber industry. During his career, he was chairman of the state board of tax commissioners, and chairman of state Democratic party conventions on numerous occasions.

William Donovan, 1884-85
A man who refused to spend "a single dollar" to "buy votes" in his campaign, William "Bill" Donovan was elected mayor of the city in 1884 and again in 1885. One of a family of seven
brothers, Mr. Donovan became a civil engineer and was assigned as assistant in charge of the United States lake survey in Michigan. Later he helped the Lansing-Jackson and Owosso-Lansing railroads and became an official of the Lansing-Saginaw railroad. Before settling down in the city he was resident engineer for the Great Western railroad of Canada. He served on the local school board before election as mayor.

Jacob F. Schultz, 1887
Pioneer Lansing manufacturer and immigrant from Germany, Jacob F. Schultz was a popular figure here and mayor in 1887. Fleeing from oppression of Prussian tyranny, he and his parents migrated to the free world, and came to Lansing where old friends had settled earlier. Mr. Schultz was reported to be the first manufacturer here to venture employment of a large force of men. He brought many new residents to the city, mostly of German and Polish origin. He employed 75 men in his factory here, and was known as one of central Michigan's outstanding humanitarians.

John Crotty, 1888
A learned scholar, and Lansing's only bachelor mayor, John Crotty was chief executive of the city in 1888. He is still remembered by older residents here as a man of broad knowledge and probably one of the best known personalities of his time locally, he and a brother operated a book store in the 200 block of N. Washington ave., which was a mecca for book lovers throughout central Michigan. Mr. Crotty was reported to have read every book sold through his store. Mr. Crotty's command of the English language and his store of knowledge deeply impressed many great personalities who visited the city.

James M. Turner, 1889 and 1895
Merchant, lumberman and banker, James M. Turner was another local mayor, serving one-year terms in 1889 and 1895. Prominent as well as influential in local and state politics, Mr. Turner, a staunch Republican, made a strong bid as candidate for governor of Michigan, but was defeated in 1890. He engaged in the mercantile business, founded by his father in 1847, later becoming identified in the plank road movement. He was a builder of railroads, and conducted a vast lumbering operation during his early years.

Frank B. Johnson, 1890-91
Head of city government here in 1890-91, Frank B. Johnson was a native of Lansing township, and a strong-willed man whose prime purpose was promotion and development of Lansing. Starting on a farm near the city, he became financially successful in marketing his crops. Seeking an outlet of his own, Mr. Johnson opened a grocery store here which grew to be one of the leading establishments of its kind in central Michigan. Mr. Johnson was a graduate of Michigan Agriculture college, and served four years as a member of city council before becoming mayor.

A. O. Bement, 1892-93
A prominent local industrialist, A. O. Bement was mayor here in 1892-93 and a respected civic leader. Arriving here in 1869, he and his father, E. E. Bement, set up a small shop on River st., near Kalamazoo st., where they started a foundry business. As the years passed they moved to larger quarters in the 200 block of N. Grand ave., where the firm started what was probably the first mass production of carriages, heating stoves, and numerous farm implements. They included a Bement plow invented by the firm, which became nationally sought after by farmers.

Note from Timothy: A. O. is Arthur O. Bement.


A. A. Wilbur, 1894
One of the leading furniture dealers of his time. A. A. Wilbur was mayor in 1894, and previously had been a councilman here for six years. He founded his furniture and undertaking business here in 1878. He operated a store in North Lansing, then one of the largest mercantile establishments in the city. Born in the Genesee county in 1848, he came to this city when seven years old. He learned the cabinet maker's trade and worked eight years before going into business for himself.

Note from Timothy: A. A. is Alroy A. Wilbur.


Russell C. Ostrander, 1896
Chief executive of Lansing in 1896, Russell C. Ostrander, later became chief justice of the state supreme court. His love for politics made him a leader in local and state Republican circles, and gained him wide recognition and respect. His early years were marked by poverty, forcing him to work days and obtain his education at night. Through self-education he obtained necessary learning, admitting him to the University of Michigan, where he obtained a law degree. Before becoming mayor, he was a circuit court commissioner and prosecuting attorney of Ingham county.

Charles J. Davis, 1897-99
A native of Canada who migrated to Ingham county as a young man, Charles J. Davis rose to prominence and became mayor of Lansing for three terms from 1897 to 1899. Mr. Davis was a popular figure of his time, and a leader in local social circles. He amassed a fortune in the gravel and timber business, and built a home on E. Michigan ave., east of Holmes st., which was a showplace. His property covered a wide section of land, which he kept fenced. He maintained a menagerie, which included live deer, otter, beaver and rare albino raccoons. His library featured one of the largest collections of mounted wild animals native to this part of Michigan.

James F. Hammell, 1900-03
Cigar manufacturer and prominent Democratic leader, James F. Hammell led his party to victory in 1900, cinching the mayor's job, which he held for four years. Mr. Hammell's election ended an eight-year reign by Republicans, and was an occasion for a vast celebration by his party. Under his leadership, the city started replacing board sidewalks with crushed stone and gravel bases, while piling up a substantial surplus of funds in the treasury. A great personality, Mr. Hammell persuaded Adm. George Dewey to visit the city and played host to numerous other notables who stopped here.

Hugh Lyons, 1904-07
A native of Canada, soldier of fortune, and successful businessman, Hugh Lyons became mayor of the city in 1904 and served through 1907. A man of action, Mr. Lyons joined the 90th New York Infantry in 1864 and participated in the battle of Cedar Creek and numerous other skirmishes before settling down in Lansing. After working as a salesman, he formed the Hugh Lyons company. He manufactured nickel and brass fixtures and displays which won a wide market. A consistent Republican, he was always active in city and county politics. Mr. Lyons was a leader in civic affairs and widely respected.

John S. Bennett, 1908-11
Ingham county's first coroner, John S. Bennett was mayor of Lansing from 1908 to 1912. Mr. Bennett, a native of England, migrated here as a young man in 1879 and opened a retail drug store. His career was marked by public service to the city and county. Prior to becoming mayor he served as the first coroner of the county, then became city assessor for four years, treasurer for three years, councilman for six, and treasurer of the school board several years.

J. Gottlieb Reutter, 1912-17
A man who rose from a friendless immigrant boy to one of the city's most respected business and government officials, J. Gottlieb Reutter guided Lansing as mayor through the dark years of World War 1. His death in 1954 brought to a close a long and colorful career, which marked 48 years as a member of municipal government, boards, and commissions. A native of Germany, Mr. Reutter served three terms as mayor, starting in 1912, and served in various capacities in other elective offices through the years. He was honored by the city as it’s most outstanding citizen. Probably his most distinguished service came during the first World War, when he guided the city through a period of sacrifice and unrest.

Note from Timothy: Reutter Park in downtown Lansing, on Capitol avenue is named in his honor.


Jacob W. Ferle, 1918-19 and 1922
A powerful voice in local political circles, Jacob W. Ferle advocated home rule for Municipalities, was mayor of Lansing in 1918 and again in 1922. Death prevented him from
completing his last term, after he wrested the mayoralty from Benjamin A. Kyes, who had defeated him two years previously. He collapsed during a session of city council. Mr. Ferle was widely known for his fights before the legislature in behalf of home rule for cities. As mayor he was opposed to commission form of government, and was given a vote of confidence by residents in a move to recall him during his first term.

Benjamin F. Kyes, 1920-21
A successful building contractor for many years, Benjamin F. Kyes retired to enter politics, and became mayor by a solid majority in the first election in which local women were allowed to vote. He became mayor in 1920 and served through 1921. His first election on April 5, 1920, was marked by a heavy turnout of feminine voters exerting their franchise for the first time. Their support was largely credited for his victory. Prior to entering the executive office, he served four years as a member of the city council, and previously had served 16 years as a member of the Barry county school board.

Silas S. Main, 1922-23
Acting mayor here following Mayor Ferle's death, from Nov. 23, 1922, until April 1923, Silas S. Main had a distinguished career of public service in municipal government here. He resigned from the city council in 1924 to become superintendent of county welfare, and prior to that time had been a member of the board of education. His last important post in city government was a member of the board of water and light. Throughout his years of public service, he commanded the attention and respect of the community and government officials, serving under numerous mayors of different political leanings in the non-partisan municipal government.

Alfred H. Doughty, 1923-26
One of the city's most controversial mayors, Alfred H. Doughty's administration extended from 1923 through 1926. His attention, turned upon the board of water and light, led to
replacement of a board president and into the courts, where Mayor Doughty was upheld. He opposed extension of lighting services beyond city limits, and uncovered alleged shortages in the board's accounts. He headed the Reo Motors truck division where the first bus and Speedwagon of the concern were built under his supervision. His earlier years were spent
representing manufacturers throughout the county as a saleman.

Laird S. Troyer, 1927-30
School teacher, merchant and public servant, Laird S. Troyer was mayor from 1927 through 1930. It was under his leadership that municipal business found ways and means to continue in the face of the great stock market crash of 1929, and the growing depression that followed. A native of Indiana, Mr. Troyer came to Michigan to teach school, later operated his own business at Fairview. His popularity won him election as county clerk and register of deeds in Oscoda county. Mr. Troyer served as councilman, health commissioner and friend of the court here before his death.

Peter F. Gray, 1931-32
A staunch Democratic leader who was mayor from 1931 to 1933, Peter F. Gray resigned his post to become warden of Jackson prison. A native of Canada, Mr. Gray arrived here in 1892, and became active in local politics, early winning election as city clerk in 1909, a position he held for five consecutive years. In years that followed, he distinguished himself as an arbiter when bitter printers' strike developed in the city, and settled the deadlock between employers and printers after all means had failed. He continued a successful printing business of his own, and became a leader in the Elks fraternal order here.

Max A. Templeton, 1933-41
Taking over the reins of the city as acting mayor when Mayor Gray resigned, Max A. Templeton easily won election to the office, which he held from 1933 to 1941. He left a deep impact upon the city government, which he served for two decades, part of time as councilman. Mayor Templeton followed a conservative course and instituted a pay-as-you-go program here which was both jeered and cheered. His policies were regarded as playing an important part in maintaining Lansing's exceptionally high credit rating among municipalities of the nation.

Arthur E. Stoppel, 1941
Acting mayor of Lansing in 1941 following the death of Mayor-Elect Thomas T. O'Brien, who died before taking the office after defeating Mayor Templeton, Arthur E. Stoppel was a lifelong resident of the city. He served several months as the city's chief executive, and prior to and following that time was a councilman for eight years. He was a salesman, insurance and real estate broker, associated with former Mayor Reutter in business here for several years prior to Mr. Stoppel's unexpected death in 1951. He was active in the First Church of Christ, Scientist, where he was a leader.

Sam Street Hughes, 1941-43
Mayor here from 1941 to 1943, when he resigned to become a navy officer in World War 2, Sam Street Hughes was a versatile official. Active in Republican politics, Mr. Hughes was municipal judge for many years, and has taken a long, active part in local, civic and municipal affairs. Under his leadership, local government agencies were streamlined and consolidated, and plans were laid for new municipal improvements, some of which have or are now taking place. He was a commanding officer of military government during War 2. He still conducts his law practice here, and is active in local affairs.

Ralph W. Crego, 1943-
Lansing's present chief executive, Ralph W. Crego, has held office longer than any other mayor, and has been acclaimed as one of the most progressive. He took office in 1943 to fill the vacancy created by Mayor Hughes' resignation and has been elected to six full two-year terms during his career. Under his leadership, the city has constructed and has under
construction millions of dollars in public improvements. The city's new Civic center, nearing completion this year, the new city hall and police buildings, now under construction, are but a few of the improvements realized through his administration. Prior to entering non-partisan politics, he was engaged in the grocery business 25 years. He served three years in city
council before becoming mayor.

Note from Timothy: Crego Park on Mt. Hope ave. in Lansing's east side is named in his honor.


Copied word for word from The State Journal newspaper; Lansing, Michigan; Thursday, April 28, 1955; Centennial Issue; pages C-12 to C-18.
There were photos of 35 of the 38 different mayors in this article.

Notes from Timothy: Ralph W. Crego served as a mayor until 1961. Below is a list of the other mayors of Lansing since this was published 50 years ago.
1961-65, Willard I. Bowerman Jr.
1965-69, Max E. Murningham
1969-81, Gerald W. Graves
1981-92, Terry John McKane
1992-93, Jim Crawford
1993-2003, David C. Hollister
2003-present, Tony Benavides.

Also, Tony Benavides is now running for re-election against Virg Bernero, a state senator of Michigan. The election day is November 8th.

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