July 27, 2010 by Amy Elliott Bragg
Tuesdays with General Friend Palmer: The court crier Isaac Day
I wish I could draw, JUST so I could draw this guy:
[He] was an eccentric individual, tall and thin, and an old-timer, inasmuch as he clung to knee breeches, ample coat skirts and waistcoat. He wore his hair long, brushed straight back from his head and tied in a queue.
Isaac Day held a number of jobs in early Detroit, including Master of the House of Corrections (strikes me as a pretty fancy name for an old stone blockhouse in a frontier town. Oh, and it doubled as the public weigh house, with Isaac Day its weighmaster), chimney sweep and auctioneer. But his final job was as the Crier for the Wayne County Court. He carried a big silver-headed cane and his primary job seems to have been yelling at people to be quiet. Contemporary accounts allude to his love of whiskey.
He died in 1835, which saddened the court so much that several members of the bar wrote pun-bedecked elegies to his memory. This one is my favorite, by Judge Charles Cleland:
Step light! The light of Day’s expired.
Silent is he who silence oft required.
That stentor’s voice and that majestic staff
That raised the bearer and suppressed the laugh
Are heard by Day no more — nor yet by night;
Yet when the evening came, Day still was bright.
But Day today no more shall utter speech,
Since Day’s in darkness far beyond our reach.
Alas! Our Day has gone! No ray of light
Bespeak the Day — no morning radiance bright
Shall ever restore to this dark court, its Day.
Darkly they are left to feel this crooked way
Since, as we are told, in Day’s report,
Day hath no more Day in court.
None cry for Day, who oft have cried
To please the court, when men were tried.
Yet now that Day’s eclipsed, we say,
Peace to his names! Poor Isaac Day.
The other poems are heavier on the he-was-such-a-drunk jokes, which just seem mean-spirited.