Charles M. Croswell, Governor

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Charles Miller Croswell

Birthplace: Newburgh, NY, USA
Death: Died in Adrian, MI, USA
Immediate Family:

Husband of Lucy Maria Croswell
Father of Harriet Croswell; Elsie Emma Croswell; George Hicks Croswell; Charles Morton Croswell and Lucy Elizabeth Croswell

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About Charles M. Croswell, Governor

Charles Miller Croswell (October 31, 1825 – December 13, 1886) was the 17th Governor of the US state of Michigan from 1877 to 1881.

Early life in New York

Croswell was born in Newburgh, New York, the only son of John and Sallie (née Hicks) Croswell. His father, who was of Scots-Irish extraction, was a paper maker, and carried on business in New York City. His ancestors on his mother's side were of Knickerbocker descent. Some members of the Croswell family were connected with notable events in New York and Connecticut, including Harry Croswell, a pro-Federalist newspaper editor, convicted of libel against President Thomas Jefferson in a landmark case in New York.

When Croswell was seven years old his mother and younger sister died of fever. A few months later his father accidentally drowned in the Hudson River. Charles was taken in to live with the family of his mother's brother, Daniel Hicks.

Early life in Michigan

In 1837, the family moved to Adrian, Michigan when Croswell was age twelve. He learned the carpenter's trade and also studied law. In 1846 he was appointed as Deputy Clerk of Lenawee County. His uncle, Daniel, had been the first Register of Deeds for Lenawee County. In 1847, Hicks went to fight in the Mexican-American War. After returning from the war, Hicks went to Sault Ste. Marie to be a collector of the port there and soon after died from the Yellow Fever, which he had contracted in Mexico. After this, Charles bought the house in Adrian that he had helped to build from his aunt for amount of $1700.00.


In 1848, Croswell ran on the Whig ticket for the position of County Clerk, but was defeated. In 1850, he was elected as a Whig to be Register of Deeds for the county in 1850 and was re-elected in 1852. Croswell was married in February 1852, to Miss Lucy M. Eddy, daughter of Morton and Wealthy Eddy, pioneers of Adrian. In 1854, he took part in the formation of the Republican Party, where he was a member and Secretary of the convention held at Jackson, Michigan.

In 1855 he formed a law partnership with Thomas M. Cooley, who later became Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. This partnership continued until 1859, when Cooley moved to Ann Arbor. In 1862, Croswell was appointed the City Attorney of Adrian, and in the same year was elected mayor. In the general election in the fall of 1862, he was elected from the 10th District to the Michigan Senate. He was re-elected from the 10th District in 1864 and from the 8th District in 1866. During this whole period he was President pro tempore and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

In 1867, Croswell was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention to revise the Michigan Constitution, and selected as the presiding officer. His wife, Lucy, died March 9, 1868, leaving one son and two daughters: Charles Morton, Hattie, and Lucy Elizabeth. In 1868, he was chosen an elector on the Republican Presidential ticket, casting, with his associates, the vote of the State of Michigan for Grant and Colfax. In 1872 he was elected from the Lenawee County 4th District to the Michigan House of Representatives, and made Speaker of the House. He also, for several years, served as Secretary of the State Board of Corrections and Charities, repeatedly visiting nearly all the poor-houses and jails of the state.


In 1876 he was nominated by the Republican Party, for Governor of Michigan, and was elected by a majority of 23,434 over his Democratic competitor. He was re-nominated in 1878, and succeeded by a majority of 47,777 over his highest opponent. During his administration the public debt was greatly reduced; a policy adopted requiring the state institutions to keep within the limit of appropriations; laws enacted to provide more effectually for the punishment of corruption and bribery in elections; the State House of Correction at Ionia and the Eastern Asylum for the Insane at Pontiac were opened, and the new capitol building at Lansing was completed and occupied. During his second term, he presided at the dedication of the capitol building and helped prevent great destruction of a riot in Jackson.

In 1880, Croswell married his second wife, Elizabeth Musgrave, who was twenty-five years his junior.

Retirement and death

Croswell died at the age of 61 in Adrian, almost six years after leaving office and three months before the birth of a daughter, who was named Sallie Hicks Croswell, after Croswell's mother. He is interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Adrian.

Elizabeth later remarried to become Elizabeth Merrill and donated the Croswell home in Adrian to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The home serves as the chapter offices.

The house in Adrian, Michigan where he lived before his governorship was listed as a Michigan State Historic Site in 1958 and later listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Governor Charles Croswell House in 1972.

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Charles M. Croswell, Governor's Timeline

October 31, 1825
Newburgh, NY, USA
May 14, 1854
Age 28
Adrian, MI, USA
April 1, 1866
Age 40
Adrian, MI, USA
December 13, 1886
Age 61
Adrian, MI, USA
Adrian, MI, USA
Adrian, MI, USA
Adrian, MI, USA