Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 9, 2004 pg. 4
Coming up in early July is the 150th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Republican Party. On July 6, 1854 the Republican Party was officially formed “under the Oaks” in nearby Jackson. Did you know however that Albion had a lot to do with the founding of the “Grand Old Party?” In fact, its name may have originated here.
Following the sound defeat of the Whigs in the 1852 Presidential election, a new political movement was accelerated in early 1854 with the goal to unite Free Soil Party members, Whigs, and dissident Democrats into a united political party with a strong anti-slavery platform. Various meetings were held, including here in Calhoun County.
Here in Albion, such a meeting was held in early 1854 (township nominations were made in February) to nominate a set of local anti-slavery candidates on a new independent ticket to tackle the Democrats. The meeting was held in the livery barn of Marcus H. Crane (1819-1905), a prominent citizen who was married to Julia Peabody, daughter of Albion’s first settler Tenney Peabody. Marcus served several terms as a deputy sheriff, and two terms as Calhoun County Sheriff. Although he later resided for more than 40 years at 107 W. Erie St. in the former house of his father-in-law Tenney Peabody following his death (1856), Crane is listed elsewhere in Albion in the 1850 Census. At this time it is not ascertained where his livery barn was then located.
A dozen men were present at that meeting, mostly Whigs and Free Soil party members. It included the brothers Martin (1823-1907) and Moses (1821-1905) Haven, (1783-1871), William Britton (1816-1856) who was a Democrat, and the Hon. Ebenezer O. Grosvernor, Sr. (1783-1871). The latter had come to Albion in 1838 and was one of the original founders of the local Presbyterian Church. Mr. Grosvenor was very conscientious and voted in every Presidential election since age 21.
As the senior member of the committee, Mr. Grosvenor was given the honor for naming the new party. He stated he would prefer that it be called the Republican Party. That name was adopted unanimously by the committee. Benjamin Baxter Bissell, an editor of Albion’s post-Civil War Republican-oriented newspapers, the Albion Recorder, and Albion Republican wrote in 1904: “Thus it would appear that there is good ground for claiming that the Republican Party had its birth, and was christened not only in Calhoun County, but right here in Albion, in Marcus H. Crane’s livery barn.”
The committee nominated an independent list of names (individually listed under their old party names) for township offices and were largely victorious in the Monday, April 3, 1854 Albion Township election. (Note: The Village of Albion was then governed under Albion Township jurisdiction). Most prominent was the election of Charles D. Holmes as supervisor. Holmes (1814-1894) was a prominent South Albion farmer and Whig who had been defeated in the 1852 Democratic landslide. Holmes was the first Republican elected as Albion Township supervisor. Martin Haven was also elected treasurer.
Following that triumph, a county-wide mass Convention was held in Marshall on May 30, 1854 whereby representatives from each township united on an anti-slavery platform and passed several resolutions. Resolution five stated: “Resolved, that waving all previous party preferences, we are willing to unite and co-operate with all the friends of freedom, in eternal war against the further extension of slavery in the United States.”
Committees were appointed with the purpose of organizing the new political movement in their respective townships. Appointed from Albion were: Marcus H. Crane, Charles D. Holmes, and Marcus H. Tuttle (1806-1863). This Convention also gave its wholehearted support for the new independent ticket in Jackson. Another subsequent convention was held in Kalamazoo on June 21st, which included state-wide leaders. Similar resolutions were passed there also.
The call for a “Mass Convention” at Jackson on July 6, 1854 was given, and the Marshall Statesman editorialized, “We hope this county [Calhoun] will be fully represented by men of all parties: Whig, Democrat, and Free Soil.” It was. There were many persons from Calhoun County (over 100 names were pre-registered) and particularly from Albion who were “under the Oaks” (including Marcus H. Crane) to help found the Republican Party, which was so-officially named at that convention. We now wonder if it was E. O. Grosvenor’s suggestion from earlier in the year was the impetus for that name?
As an interesting sidelight concerning the 1856 presidential election, Albion residents were very active in supporting the new Republican Party, including providing arousing political musical chants. Lucius F. Ashley was a local marble dealer and an accomplished musician and singer. B.B. Bissell reported, “Lucius Ashley led the Albion Glee Club: “Vote for John C. Fremont, and Let Old Buchanan slide,” with chorus, “Free Press, Free States, Freedom, Fremont and Victory.” Another, “Down with Pierce, Down with Shannon; Down with Slavery and Buchanan.”
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Ebenezer Oliver Grosvenor Sr., who first suggested the name Republican Party here in Albion in early 1854. Because of the historical significance of these tidbits of information. I have left a copies of the documentation for this article at the Albion Chamber of Commerce where they may be copied by interested persons. Are you registered to vote?
The Hon. Ebenezer O. Grosvernor, Sr. (1783-1871)
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic