Thomas W. Ferry

Thomas W. Ferry

Thomas White Ferry, (1827-1896)

Born in the old mission house of the Astor Fur Co. on Mackinac Island, Michigan on June 10, 1827. His parents Rev. William and Armanda Ferry moved to Grand Haven when Thomas was 8 years of age. He attended the public schools and then engaged in mercantile pursuits. Ferry could speak Ottawa, Chippewa, and French. He and his brother William platted Ferrysburg – then at the age of 21 he was elected the Clerk of Ottawa County.

Just a few years later he was elected to Michigan’s House and Senate, and later served as Collector of Customs for the port of New Haven. In 1860 Ferry was named a delegate to the Republican National Convention held in Chicago. Michigan at first supported Seward – yet Ferry later campaigned for Lincoln.

Ferry was elected to the US Congress (39th, 40th, 41st), then resigned after his 42nd election to serve in the Senate. Ferry, as a congressman, was Michigan’s Congressional delegate on the Lincoln funeral train. Ferry would be one of the delegates to sit on the platform stage at the Lincoln funeral in Columbus, Ohio.

Ferry’s career in politics continued with some interesting incidents. Ferry was one of the 7 persons who surrounded Secretary of War Stanton when he refused to leave his office after being dismissed from service by President Johnson. Ferry would have witnessed the affair between Stanton and General Lorenzo Thomas.

Ferry would be elected President of the Senate during the famous Hayes-Tilden electoral count dispute of 1876-1877. When Vice President Henry Wilson died, Ferry became acting Vice President. History trivia sometimes mentions Ferry being president for a day – as Grant’s term expired at noon on March 3, 1877, which was a Sunday and the newly elected president, Rutherford B. Hayes, was formally inaugurated on Monday, March 5. Ferry never knew, and neither did the public, that Hayes had taken the oath in a private ceremony the day before.

It was Ferry who laid the government groundwork that led to the nation’s second national park – Mackinac Island. After being defeated for re-election to the Senate, Ferry was appointed President of the Mackinac Park Commission. Thomas White Ferry never married, but for many years he shared his home with his aunt, Mary Amanda White. Ferry died of cerebral apoplexy on October 14, 1896 at his home on the corner of First and Columbus Streets in Grand Haven – and was buried in Lake Forest Cemetery.

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