Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Railroad Depot of a Different Sort

Sometimes you have history sitting right under your nose and you don't realize it.  This house is a perfect example of that.

Besides pictures of ships, trains and planes, I do like to take pictures of historical buildings or places.  Although it seems like that gets drowned out by all of the ships and trains here.  Anyway,  I found out about this building not too long ago and decided to go check it out.  The pictures aren't the greatest but this was more about the history.
In 1839, John Starkweather married Mary Ann Newberry in Detroit, Michigan.  Two years later, he was appointed Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction of Michigan by Governor Mason.  In that same year, he bought some land south of the Huron River and near the land that would house Eastern Michigan University.  In 1844, construction was completed on the Greek Revival Home pictured above and the couple moved into it.  By 1846, the land around the house was cleared and Starkweather started to plant orchards here.  And by 1868, he was recognized as having the best orchard in the state.  In 1875, he retired from farming and moved into the city on Huron Street (I think I've shown that house before).  John would die in 1883.
Mary Ann would end up donating the land to what would be the University.  She also made several other contributions to both the city of Ypsilanti and the University.  She donated Starkweather Hall to the University and her home on North Huron would become the Ladies Library.
However, none of that is the reason for the title of this post.  The Starkweather Farm would end up employing Elijah McCoy.  He was born in Canada but his family decided to move to the United States and settle in the Ypsilanti area.  At the age of 15, he would go to Scotland in order to become a Mechanical Engineer.  After being certified as a mechanical engineer, he returned to Michigan but found it difficult getting job in that field as he was black.  He did get a job as a fireman and oiler on the Michigan Central Railroad.  At this time, he invented a device that would distribute oil evenly over the moving parts of the engine.  He patented almost 60 items in his lifetime.  He died in 1829 as a result of an auto accident.
That still isn't the reason for the title of this post.  Elijah McCoy served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and this house would serve as a stop.  This was the network of people that would help slaves escape to Canada.
In 2007, a local builder decided to try to restore it to its original beauty.

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