PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Archive for the ‘Famous Ypsilantians’ Category

Byron Cutcheon 1836-1908

Posted by ppna on March 31, 2008

Here are a couple of book notes about Byron M. Cutcheon who was one of Ypsilanti’s most distinguished residents. He served 3 terms in Congress and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War. The first is a biography and the 2nd is an interesting retelling of the battle from which he received the Medal of Honor. Byron Cutcheon is buried in Highland Cemetery.

CUTCHEON, Byron M. (1836—1908)

CUTCHEON, Byron M., a Representative from Michigan; born in Pembroke, Merrimack County, N.H., May 11, 1836; attended the common schools and Pembroke Academy; taught school in Pembroke for several years; moved to Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1855; principal of Birmingham Academy, Oakland County, in 1857; attended Ypsilanti Seminary, and was graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1861; professor of ancient languages in the Ypsilanti High School 1861 and 1862; enlisted in the Union Army in 1862 and served in the Twentieth Regiment, Michigan Infantry, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel; commissioned colonel of the Twenty-seventh Regiment, Michigan Infantry November 12, 1864; commanded the Second Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps, from October 16, 1864, until his resignation on March 6, 1865; was graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1866; was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in Ionia, Mich.; moved to Manistee, Mich., in 1867; member of the board of control of railroads of Michigan 1867-1883; city attorney of Manistee, Mich., 1870-1873; prosecuting attorney of Manistee County, Mich., in 1873 and 1874; regent of Michigan University 1875-1881; postmaster of Manistee, Mich., 1877-1883; elected as a Republican to the Forty-eighth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1883-March 3, 1891); chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Fifty-first Congress); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1890 to the Fifty-second Congress; awarded a Medal of Honor by Congress June 29, 1891, “for distinguished gallantry at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Ky., May 10, 1863”; appointed civilian member of the Board of Ordnance and Fortifications by President Harrison in July 1891 and served until March 25, 1895; editorial writer for the Detroit Daily Tribune and Detroit Journal 1895-1897; resumed the practice of law in Grand Rapids, Mich.; died in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, Mich., April 12, 1908; interment in Highland Cemetery.

Byron M. Cutcheon

Major 2th Mich infantry

Highest rank attained: Brevet Brig-Gen U.S.V.

Born at Pembroke, N.H. May 11 1836


The Twentieth Michigan Infantry under the command of Lieutenant W.H. Smith formed part of a provisional brigade which included three regiments of Kentucky cavalry and the Thirteenth Indiana Independent Battery, and was commanded by Colonel Richard T. Jacob. The gallant regiment from Michigan, was sent with this provisional brigade south of the Cumberland River, to hold the Confederate general, John Morgan, in check. How this was accomplished Major Byron M. Cutcheon describes as follows:

“After some skirmishing at Monticello, Ky., we had fallen back to the Cumberland River on May 9, 1863, and were waiting for a scouting party to come in, to recross, when Morgan’s advance attacked our outpost at Horse Shoe Bend, that evening. I hastened back to the Bend to take command of the companies stationed there, while Colonel Smith remained behind to hurry up the rest of the regiment. That night the regiment came up, and on the morning of the 10th we were re-enforced by a small body – a squadron I believe – of the Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry, dismounted, and armed with Henry repeating rifles.

‘Before their arrival, Morgan’s men made a dash and succeeded in seizing the ‘Coffey’ house, a large log house on the east side of the road, so called after its owner. We had occupied it as a picket post through the night. The house, outbuildings, and garden were filled with rebel sharpshooters, who, though they harassed us throughout the day, did not attempt to advance.

“About 4 o’clock PM – It was Sunday – Colonel Jacob having been re-enforced by a piece of Captain Sims’ battery, resolved to take the aggressive, and to drive the rebels out of the house and grounds. To me was assigned the command of four companies, A and D, on the left of the road in the field, and C and K, in the road and to the right. At the signal we went forward at our very best pace. I was then just six feet two inches tall, one half of the length in legs, and an expert runner from practice in college. I took a course directly down the road to the south in front of the companies, – one could hardly say ‘line’, for there was no line; it was a ‘go as you please’ foot race – with Captain George C. Barnes, an old fireman from Battle Creek, Mich., a good second, a rod (17ft) behind me. The distance was about 150 yards, and we made it on the jump. There were three steps up to the porch, but I made only one of them. With my sword in my right hand, and a big Colt’s navy revolver in my left, I threw myself against the weather-beaten door. A moment later, Captain Barnes came to my side, and the door yielded.

“Why we were not both shot down then and there, I have never been able to understand. The rebels certainly missed their opportunity. Instead, we saw the Johnnies going out of the back doors and windows, and making for the woods, while the companies coming up right and left of the house, poured volleys into the retreating foe.

“The charge was a complete success, but Lieutenant William Green and two enlisted me were killed, and quite a number wounded.”*

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Watch this Ypsilanti Native

Posted by ppna on February 15, 2008

Here is an Ypsilanti Native to follow in the years to come.

Story taken from mgoblue.com

CHARLTON, Mass. — Junior co-captain Tiffany Ofili (Ypsilanti, Mich./Ypsilanti) of the University of Michigan women’s track and field team was named TrackShark.com women’s Performer of the Week earlier this week.

Ofili broke her own 60-meter hurdles school record and matched the 2008 season’s fastest collegiate time with her first-place, NCAA automatic qualifying time of 8.04 seconds Saturday (Feb. 9) at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind. Ofili had twice run 8.05, setting the previous record at the 2007 the Meyo Invitational (Feb. 3, 2007) and matching it in the 2008 season opener Jan. 12 at the Kentucky Invitational.

Ofili is tied for the nation’s top time with Georgia Tech’s Fatmata Fofanah, who ran 8.04 to edge Ofili for first place at the Kentucky Invitational.

Michigan will compete at two events this coming weekend, sending a group to the Tyson Invitational Friday and Saturday (Feb. 15-16) at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville while others travel across Washtenaw County to the Eastern Michigan University Classic on Saturday (Feb. 16) in Ypsilanti.

Contact: Stacey Schwartz (734) 647-4423

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Our little Girl is all Grown Up

Posted by ppna on February 6, 2008

I thought some of you would like to know that one of our Daja Vu strippers, Erin Markey, has moved to NewYork City and started her own one woman show. Amongst other reviews she has ‘Puppy Love: A strippers tale’

Puppy Love: A Stripper’s Tail is an experimental solo musical, a depraved avant-cabaret-chronicle of locker-room romance. After being turned down for a furry position at Chuck E. Cheese, Bridget pursues stripping at Déjà vu Showgirls and Love Boutique in Ypsianti, MI. While learning the ropes, she falls for a big-eyed, precocious co-stripper. Come for the G-String. Stay for the torch songs, pole-dancing, and toxic amounts of Midwestern-backyard-barbecue-on-the-gril l-Dad-drag (link here — Contains Nudity)

Of course Erin is not just a stripper she is an entertainer. She is also appearing in The Sex Workers Art Show.

“The Show is an eye-popping evening of visual and performance art performed by people who work in the sex industry to dispell the myth that they are anything short of artists, innovators and geniuses.’ The SWAS will have a stop in Ann Arbor on February 20th in the UM Michigan League Ballroom.

Here is an article on the show.

This might be the best thing to happen to Ann Arbor since Bat Boy the Musical.

I noticed they had nothing scheduled on February 19th — I sure hope the Riverside Arts Center picks this up. Wouldn’t it be great for Erin to return to a stage right down the street from the birthplace of her story.

Keeping you informed as best I can,


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Ypsilanti’s Superbowl Connection

Posted by ppna on January 30, 2008

mikebass2covinsde.jpgIf you attended East Middle school and had Mrs. Bass as a teacher than you know about her son Mike.   Mrs. Bass would talk about Mike and show video of her son’s Touchdown in Superbowl VII against the Miami Dolphins (a play that is known as one of the strangest plays in Superbowl history). Mike Bass was an Ypsilanti native and a star athlete at Ypsilanti High School.  Mike went on to play college ball at the University of Michigan and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers where he made it to the last cut.   Coach Vince Lombardi encouraged him to continue with professional football so he went to the Detroit Lions and played on the teams taxi squad.   Of course the Lions are the Lions and they only activated Mike Bass for 2 games.  Coach Lombardi had moved to Washington and upon a request from Bass he brought Bass to Washington.  

Where, according to extremeskins.com (a 2005 article) I advise you to read the article its very good. During his career with the Redskins Bass intercepted 30 passes. That makes him fourth all time in interceptions in the team’s history. He gave up only five touchdown receptions. He led the National Football Conference in interceptions with eight in 1972 and was selected first team All-NFC in 1974. And, again, he is one of the 70 Greatest Redskins of all time.

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Did You see an Adams School Grad on NBC on Sunday?

Posted by ppna on January 30, 2008

If you watched the show, “Top 100 Guiness World Records Countdown,” which aired Sunday the 27th of January on NBC then you did.   The stunt coordinator for the grand finally stunt of a motorcycle being driving through the longest fire tube ever was a graduate of Adams School.  

 His name is Mark Chadwick and he has an impressive resume as both a stuntman and stunt coordinator.  Chances are if you have seen an action film,commercial or TV Show he was part of it. 

Watch a video of some of his work Here It’s entertaining stuff.

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Justus McKinstry — The Man behind ‘Pork Barrel Politics’

Posted by ppna on December 24, 2007

Justus McKinstryJustus McKinstry’s Grave
Ypsilanti was home to a lot of interesting people during their lives but there are also some people whose stay in Ypsilanti Came after their death Justus McKinstry is one of them. Justus McKinstry was U.S. Army Quartermaster at St. Louis during the short but lively Fremont era (July-November 1861), McKinstry was arrested by military authorities in November of 1861 and dismissed from the army by President Lincoln in January of 1863. It was said that McKinstry used his position as quartermaster to better his own situation with bribes and payoffs but history it seems has cleared him of these charges.

There is a lot of information on Justus McKinstry probably the best being the website civilwarstlouis.com which the following quote was taken ….. “And then there was the literal pork barrel. A letter from President Lincoln sweetly suggesting that a fellow Illinoisan was a fine fellow, a loyal Unionist, and that McKinstry should buy as much pork from him as he could. ”

Justus was such a character that there is a book, Rouge, dedicated to his military career.

Take some time and read up on Justus then visit him at Highland Cemetery.

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John Challis Harpsichord Maker

Posted by ppna on December 19, 2007

There is a lot of information on John Challis on the internet but I’m only going to give a brief summary of a Time Magazine article from Jan 24, 1944.

John Challis was considered the maker of the finest U.S. harpsichords. He was born and raised in Ypsilanti and as of 1944 he built his harpsichords in a two-floor studio above an Ypsilanti dress shop where he produced 8 a year. The Challis harpsichords were designed differently than the traditional harpsichords Challis used bakelite, aluminum and nylon along with traditional materials to create a harpsichord powerful enough to be heard in large U.S. concert halls.

There are Challis harpsichords available on the internet for around $2000. I suggest we pick one of these up for the new PPN community center. Does anyone know what happened to John Challis? Is there anyone playing a Challis harpsichord here in Ypsilanti?

Posted in Famous Ypsilantians, Heritage Fest idea | Tagged: , | 21 Comments »

Charlie Freeman — Champion of the World

Posted by ppna on December 18, 2007

Charlie Freeman —  Champion of the World

Charles Freeman was a citizen of Ypsilanti who became known as the pugilist (no glove boxing) champion of the world.  The start of his tale begins in the 1830s when he was first seen working among a gang of laborers on the Flat Rock and Gibraltar Canal.  According to the Ypsilanti Sentinel; 

“He moved among ordinary men like a son of Anak  He looked eight feet high, at least, and three feet across the shoulders.  His arms sprang from his chest as large as any middle-sized man’s body, and tapered down to a hand three inches thick and when doubled into a fist, as big and hard as a rail-splitter’s maul.  He gave out his age as seventeen, and he was growing.  He hired for the wages and work of an ordinary hand, but when he seized a shovel it went through the clay like a breaking-up plow, and the handle soon came off if the blade held.  An ordinary ax was but a feather in his hand.  It sank to the eye in the wood, and the helve splintered.  He dealt out strength by the wholesale, and he could not weigh out his force in the measure of ordinary men.”

After the Canal was built Charlie went on to work the flat boats up the Huron River.   In the time before the railroad and dams the Huron River was navigable all the way to Ypsilanti by smaller flat-boats while the larger boats had to unload at Rawsonville.   Charlie’s feats working these boats were again described by the Ypsilanti Sentinel; 

“He appeared again on the boats that plied along the Huron River, Michigan.  He was engine and tackle to handle heavy freight.  What others could not shove or roll, he could pick up and carry or toss.  When the heavily freighted boat stuck on the ripples he just stepped out of the stern and boosted her over.  Nobody would have felt surprised if he had taken the whole boat and cargo right under his arms, as a woman carries a dough tray, and marched across by land, when they came to long bends in the river. Nobody ever said he did this, because they never wanted to exaggerate his feats, any more than we do now.”


Shortly after the inception of commercial shipping on the Huron River the Michigan Central Railroad came through town from Detroit and ended the need for river shipping.   For Charlie this meant another change in profession.  Although his overall size was exaggerated by the Ypsilanti Sentinel, Charlie was the largest man many had ever seen. Charlie stood 6ft 101/2 inches tall and weighted 320lbs.    His feats of strength had been noticed and Charles Freeman was brought out East by the Barnum Company where he was presented to the public as a strong man.  During his strength exhibitions Charlie was able to lift 2000lbs 

In 1941 the English Pugilist Champion, Benjamin Caunt, had come to America to hold exhibition matches.  Caunt saw Charlie during a performance and decided to bring Charlie to England and hold a series of exhibitions against him.  It was Caunt who gave Charlie the title of “World Champion.”   This title was unearned as it was said that Charlie was too nice to fight but people showed up just to see his great size.     During these exhibitions Caunt and Freeman would challenge all comers as a promotion.  One fighter, William ‘the Tipton Slasher’ Perry,  met the challenge and posted his money to fight, “The American Giant.” 

            On December 6th, 1842 Charlie, “The American Giant,” Freeman had his first and only prize fight.   The accounts of the fight tell the tale of a boring match.  The rules of pugilism differ than boxing in that a round ends when one fighter goes to the mat.  William Perry used this rule to his advantage.  Perry would move in with body blows against Charlie, often hitting his arms,  then retreat to the mat.  When Perry would try to tie up Charlie, Charlie would throw him to the mat.   After 70rounds and 84 minutes the fight was called due to darkness.  The two men continued the fight on December 20th and after 39minutes the fight was stopped.  I have read reports that it was stopped due to a disqualification of Perry for his purposeful falling but I have also read it was stopped due to damage to Perry’s ear.  Both reports show Freeman as the winner of his first and only fight.  It should be noted that the reports of the Freeman v. Perry fight are very similar to the fight between Rocky and Thunderlips in the Sylvester Stalone movie Rocky III.

            On Oct 18, 1845 Charles Freeman died of Tuberculosis in Winchester England where he was buried. It was said of Charlie that he was a friendly giant who had the mentality of a child.  It was also said that he was taken advantage of by everyone he knew but lets hope he enjoyed his life as he visited the world stage and became Charlie “The American Giant Freeman – Champion of the World.”

Tipton Slasher and Charlie Freeman

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