Concept

Solomon Sibley

Summary
Solomon Sibley (October 7, 1769 – April 4, 1846) was an American politician and jurist in the Michigan Territory who became the first mayor of Detroit. Sibley was born in Sutton, Massachusetts, the son of Ruth and Reuben Sibley. After completing preparatory studies, he graduated from the College of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (now Brown University) at Providence in 1794. He studied law, was admitted to the Bar in 1795 and began a practice in Marietta, Ohio, which was then part of the Northwest Territory. He soon moved to Cincinnati and then moved again to Detroit, Michigan, in 1797, shortly after the British handed over the fort in 1796. When he arrived, Sibley was one of only two lawyers in Detroit. Being a pioneer lawyer was a physically challenging profession, often requiring long travel by horseback through wilderness over Indian trails in all types of weather to attend the territorial courts in Cincinnati, Marietta, or Chillicothe, Ohio. In December 1798, Detroit elected a delegate to the legislature of the Northwest Territory. This, the first election in Michigan under United States control, was held in a Detroit tavern. Although Sibley was elected, his opponent, James May, claimed he had won by providing liquor for the voters. Despite the protestation, Sibley represented Wayne County in the first legislature of the Northwest Territory, commencing his term in January 1799. Sibley was instrumental in passing the legislation in 1802 by which Detroit was incorporated as a town. Sibley was elected first as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and then under the first city charter of 1806 as the first mayor of Detroit. During the War of 1812, Sibley commanded a company of riflemen in defense of Detroit, though the British attack was successful and William Hull surrendered the fort. After the war, Sibley served as Auditor of Public Accounts for the Michigan Territory from 1814 to 1817. Sibley was appointed as the first United States Attorney for the Michigan Territory by U.S. President James Madison, serving from 1815 to 1823.
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