February 25, 2011 by Amy Elliott Bragg
Having a party, with the Pontiac Company
There’s probably a lot to say about the Pontiac Company, formed in 1818 by Colonel Stephen Mack and a cabal of influential Detroiters. The land grab platted the city of Pontiac, established the seat of Oakland County, probably made a lot of dudes a lot of money and set a precedent for northward expansion from Detroit.
But it’s Friday, and all I really want to share with you is this (from City of Destiny, by George Washington Stark): a massive party celebrated by some of the most remarkable, powerful and celebrated members of Detroit’s founding fellas, including Governor Lewis Cass, August B. Woodward, General Alexander Macomb, Solomon Sibley, Colonel David McKinstry and William Woodbridge:
These First Citizens of Detroit treated themselves to quite a party out there in sequestered Pontiac. Indeed, as time and distance went in those days, there were far from home. They had a big dinner and the menu included plenty of liquid refreshment. There were the usual toasts and then a most hilarious afterglow, in which the members of the party, one after another, were put through the hopper of the gristmill, which had been elevated on stanchions. It was the job of the duly appointed miller to declare the quality of the flour. Thus some were characterized as bran, some as middlings. But when Gen. Cass’s portly frame came hurtling through, the miller was quick to pronounce him superfine flour.
Stark writes that the party encountered a lone French settler on their journey home. They offered him something to drink, but he refused, on which ground they pretended to arrest him and sentence him to death.
The sentence was about to be executed, all in good fun of course, when the Frenchman fainted. He was revived later and the celebrants, thoroughly frightened and sobered by now, showered their victim with gifts. He solemnly declared that he would be willing to be hanged again at the same price.
On that note, I hope you have a really great weekend.