Today in Michigan History

January 29, 1919

Michigan ratified the 18th amendment.

The 18th Amendment, prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors in the United States, was ratified by the Michigan legislature. Michigan, which went dry on May 1, 1918, over a year before the 18th Amendment providing for national prohibition became effective, proved to be a battleground for the smuggling of illegal booze into the United Sates. It was estimated that during the years of Prohibition (until 1933), 75 percent of all the booze smuggled into the United States crossed at the Detroit/Windsor border.

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Today in Michigan History

January 28, 1877

Winfield Scott Gerrish opened the Lake George and Muskegon River Railroad in Clare County.

Gerrish was a lumbering entrepreneur in the late 1800s. Following a warm winter that hampered his logging activities, Gerrish moved 20 million board feet of logs to the Muskegon River along a 7.1-mile narrow gauge railroad. The next year he increased his output six-fold. Though Gerrish was not the first to build a Michigan logging railroad, his operation was well-publicized, successful and revolutionized lumbering in Michigan.

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Today in Michigan History

January 27, 1847

Francis Troutman and four other Kentucky slave catchers arrived at the home of the Adam Crosswhite family—Kentucky slaves who had escaped to Marshall.

Troutman, who planned to return the Crosswhites to their former master, was confronted by several hundred Marshall residents who threatened the slaveholders with tar and feathers. While Troutman was being charged with assault and fined $100, the Crosswhites fled to Canada. A Kentucky court assessed the Michiganders with fines equal to the Crosswhites’ value. Despite local tradition that held that the Crosswhite case played a role in Congress’s adoption of a more stringent Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, this was not true.

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Today in Michigan History

January 26, 1837

Michigan became the 26th state.

Without ceremony, President Andrew Jackson signed an act of Congress admitting Michigan into the Union. The president’s action ended a long struggle to make the Michigan Territory a state. Michigan’s effort to enter the Union began in 1835. During the two-year struggle, Michigan’s borders changed considerably when it was forced to give up Toledo at the mouth of the Maumee River in exchange for the western part of the Upper Peninsula. It was a controversial decision at the time, but the rich natural resources in the western Upper Peninsula left Michigan the victor of what was known at the time as the Toledo War.

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Today in Michigan History

January 25, 1945

The Grand Rapids City Commission approved a plan to add fluoride to drinking water supplies to prevent tooth decay.

Michigan was in the forefront of the national controversy over whether to add fluoride to drinking water supplies to prevent tooth decay. In 1944, government agencies selected Grand Rapids and Newburgh, N.Y., as test cities, after dentists had noticed that children in areas with large amounts of naturally occurring fluoride in the water had far fewer cavities. The tests were held, despite warnings that fluoride might actually be harmful to health and that fluoridation was part of a communist plot to undermine America’s well-being. Ten years later, Dr. Henry L. Coburn, president of the Kent County Dental Society, wrote to Governor G. Mennen Williams, “Our experience with fluoridation has been an unqualified success.”

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Today in Michigan History

January 22, 1813

The largest battle fought on Michigan soil occurred near present-day Monroe.

During the early hours of January 22, a larger British force of regulars, Canadian militia and Native Americans attacked a smaller American force stationed along the River Raisin near present-day Monroe. Surprised by the British force, the Americans, led by General James Winchester, resisted until Winchester was captured and surrendered his entire force. The battle left over 500 Americans prisoner. About 80 Americans, too badly injured to move, fell victim to Indian depredations the following day. Their deaths left the Americans with a battle cry, “Remember the River Raisin,” which was heard on battlefields later in the war. The American loss was just one of several along the western frontier during the early months of the War of 1812.

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Today in Michigan History

January 21, 1987

Singer Aretha Franklin became the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942, Aretha Franklin moved with her family to Detroit when she was two. Her father, C. L. Franklin, became pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and an important civil rights leader. As a teenager, Aretha was a star in her father’s traveling gospel show. Franklin struck out on her own at age seventeen to make it in the music business. Some of her early hits include “Respect,” which won two Grammy Awards and an honorary award from Martin Luther King Jr., “Think” and a remake of Carol King’s “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel).” Franklin, who still lives in Detroit, holds the record of most Grammy Awards for a female artist.

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