|Chapter 4 The remarkable life of Stephen Mack. Young Revolutionary War soldier; successful businessman of Tunbridge, Vermont; pioneer developer of Detroit and Pontiac, Michigan. June 15, 1766 to November 14, 1826 My brother Stephen, who was next in age to Jason, was born in the town of Marlow, June 15, 1766.I shall pass his childhood in silence and say nothing about him until he attained the age of fourteen, at which time he enlisted in the army, the circumstances of which were as follows:
A recruiting officer came into the neighborhood to draft soldiers for the Revolutionary War, and he called out a company of militia to which my brother belonged in order to take therefrom such as were best qualified to do military duty. My brother, being very anxious to go into the army at this time, was so fearful that he would be passed by on account of his age that the sweat stood in large drops on his face and he shook like an aspen leaf. Fortunately the officer made choice of him among others, and he entered the army and continued in the service of his country until he was seventeen. During this time he was in many battles, both on land and sea, traveling through cold, hunger, and fatigue and enduring every species of hardship that human nature could endure. Several times he narrowly escaped death by famine; but, according to his own account, whenever he was brought into a situation to fully realize his entire dependence upon God, the hand of Providence was always manifested in his deliverance.
Not long ago I met with an intimate acquaintance of my brother Stephen, and requested him to furnish me such facts as were in his possession in relation to him; and he wrote the following brief yet comprehensive account for the gratification of my readers:
“I, Horace Stanly, was born in Tunbridge, Orange County, Vermont, August 21, 1798. I have been personally acquainted with Major Mack and his family ever since I can remember, as I lived in the same township, within one mile and a half of the Major’s farm, and two miles from his store, and eight miles from Chelsea, the county seat of Orange County, where he conducted the mercantile and tinning business.
“My eldest brother went to learn the tinning business of the Major’s workmen. The Major, being a man of great enterprise, energetic in business, and possessed of a high degree of patriotism, launched forth on the frontiers of Detroit in the year 1800 (if I recollect rightly), where he immediately commenced trading with the Indians.
“He left his family in Tunbridge, on his farm, and while he was engaged in business at Detroit he visited them-sometimes once in a year, in eighteen months, or in two years, just as it happened.
“I visited Detroit, November 1, 1820, where I found the Major merchandising upon quite an extensive scale, having six clerks in one store; besides this, he had many other stores in the territory of Michigan, as well as in various parts of Ohio.
“His business at Pontiac was principally farming and building, but in order to facilitate these two branches of business, he set in operation a saw and flour mill, and afterwards added different branches of mechanism. He made the turnpike road from Detroit to Pontiac at his own expense. He also did considerable other public work, for the purpose of giving employment to the poor.
“He never encouraged idleness, or the man above his business. In 1828, having been absent from Detroit a short time, I returned. The Major was then a member of the council of the territory, and had acted a very conspicuous part in enhancing its prosperity and enlarging its settlement; and it was a common saying, that he had done much more for the territory than any other individual.
“In short, the Major was a man of talents of the first order. He was energetic and untiring. He always encouraged industry, and was very cautious how he applied his acts of charity.”
My brother was in the city of Detroit in 1812, the year in which Hull surrendered the territory to the British crown. My brother, being somewhat celebrated for his prowess, was selected by General Hull to take the command of a company as captain. After a short service in this office, he was ordered to surrender. At this his indignation was roused to the highest pitch. He broke his sword across his knee and, throwing it into the lake, exclaimed that he would never submit to such a disgraceful compromise while the blood of an American continued to run through his veins.
This drew the especial vengeance of the army upon his head; and his property doubtless would have been sacrificed to their resentment had they known the situation of his affairs. But this they did not know, as his housekeeper deceived them by a stratagem related by Mr. Stanly as follows:
“At the surrender of Detroit, not having as yet moved his family hither, Major Mack had an elderly lady, by the name of Trotwine, keeping house for him. The old lady took in some of the most distinguished British officers as boarders. She justified them in their course of conduct towards the Yankees, and, by her shrewdness and tact, she gained the esteem of the officers, and thus secured through them the goodwill of the soldiery, so far as to prevent their burning (what they supposed to be) her store and dwelling, both of which were splendid buildings.
“The Major never forgot this service done him by the old lady, for he ever afterwards supported her handsomely.”
Thus was a great amount of goods and money saved from the hands of his enemies. But this is not all: the news came to her ears that they were about to burn another trading establishment belonging to the Major, and without waiting to consult him, she went immediately to the store and took from the counting room several thousand dollars, which she secreted until the British left the city. The building and goods were burned.
As soon as the English left the territory, he recommenced business and removed his family from Tunbridge to Detroit. Here they remained but a short time, when he took them to Pontiac; and as soon as they were well established or settled in this place, he himself went to the city of Rochester, where he built a sawmill.
But in the midst of his prosperity, he was called away to experience another state of existence with barely a moment’s warning, for he was sick only four days from the time he was first taken ill until he died, and even on the fourth day, and in the last hour of his illness, it was not supposed to be at all dangerous until his son, who sat by his bedside, discovered he was dying.
He left his family with an estate of fifty thousand dollars, clear of encumbrance. He was a moral man, a man of business, and a man of the most intrepid courage, which last was shown in the defense of his country which was ever the interest that lay nearest to his heart.
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