Cyrus Gray Luce, Governor of Michigan, combines in his character the substantial traits of the New England ancestry of his father, and the chivalrous and hospitable elements peculiar to the southerners, which came to him from his mother’s side of the house. The New Englanders, active in the cause of American Liberty, after this desired result was accomplished, turned their attention to the growth and development of the country which their noble daring had constituted independent of foreign rule. The privations they endured and the struggles from which they had achieved victory built up in them those qualities which in the very nature of events could not be otherwise than transmitted to their posterity, and this posterity comprises a large number of the men who today, like the subject of this history, are making a record of which their descendants will be equally proud.
Cyrus Gray Luce was born in Windsor, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, July 2, 1824. His father was a native of Tolland, Conn., served as a soldier in the War of 1812, and soon after its close emigrated from New England and settled on the Western Reserve in Northern Ohio. His mother, who in her girlhood was Miss Mary Gray, was born in Winchester, Va. Her father, tinctured with Abolitionism, found his home in the Old Dominion becoming uncomfortable as an abiding-place at that time, and accordingly, with his wife and family of young children, he also migrated, in 1815, to the wilds of Northern Ohio. there the parents of our subject, in 1819, were united in marriage, and continued residents of Ashtabula county until 1835. There also were born to them six sons, Cyrus G., of this sketch being the second.
The incidents in the early life of Governor Luce were not materially different from those of other boys living on the farms in that new country. He was taught to work at anything necessary for him to do and to make himself useful around the pioneer homestead. When twelve years of age his parents removed further West, this time locating in Steuben county, Ind. This section of country was still newer and more thinly settled, and without recounting the particular hardships and privations which the family experienced, it is sufficient to say that but few enjoyed or suffered a greater variety. Markets were distant and difficult of access, the comforts of life scarce, and sickness universal. Young Luce, in common with other boys, attended school winters in the stereotypical log school-house, and in summer assisted in clearing away the forests, fencing the fields and raising crops after the land was improved. He attended three terms an academy located at Ontario, Ind., and his habit of reading and observations added essentially to his limited school privileges.
When seventeen years of age the father of our subject erected a cloth-dressing and wool-carding establishment, where Cyrus G. acquired a full knowledge of this business and subsequently had charge of the factory for a period of seven years. In the meantime he had become interested in local politics, in which he displayed rare judgment and sound common sense, and on account of which, in 1848, he was manumitted by the Whigs in a district composed of the counties of DeKalb and Steuben for representative in the State Legislature. He made a vigorous canvass but was defeated by eleven majority. This incident was but a transient bubble on the stream of his life, and that same year Mr. Luce purchased eighty acres of wild land near Gilead, Branch Co., Mich., the improvement of which he at once entered upon, clearing away the trees and otherwise making arrangements for the establishment of a homestead. In August, 1819, he was united in marriage with Miss Julia A. Dickinson, of Gilead, and the young people immediately commenced housekeeping in a modest dwelling on the new farm. Her they resided until the death of the wife, which took place in August, 1882. Mrs. Luce was the daughter of Obed and Experience Dickinson, well-to-do and highly respected residents of Gilead. Of her union with our subject there were born five children, one now deceased.
In November, 1883, Governor Luce contracted a second marriage, with Mrs. Mary Thompson, of Bronson, this state. He continued on the same farm, which, however, by subsequent purchase had been considerably extended, until after his election to the office of which he is now the incumbent. In the meantime he has had a wide and varied experience in public life. In 1852 he was elected to represent his township in the County Board of Supervisors, and two years later, in 1853, was elected Representative to the first republican Legislature convened in the State of Michigan. He served his township, altogether eleven years as a member of the Board of Supervisors. In 1853 he was elected county Treasurer of Branch County and re-elected in 1860. In 1864 he was given a seat in the State Senate and re-elected in 1866. In the spring of 1867 he was made a member of the constitutional Convention to revise the Constitution of the State of Michigan, and in all of the position to which he has been called has evidenced a realization of the sober responsibilities committed to his care. to the duties of each he gave the most conscientious care, and has great reason to feel pride and satisfaction in the fact that during his service in both Houses of the Legislature, his name appears upon every toll-call, he never laving been absent from his post a day.
In July, 1879, Mr. Luce was appointed State Oil Inspector by Governor Croswell, and re-appointed by Governor Jerome, in 1881, serving in this capacity three and one-half years. in the management of the duties of this office, he is entitled to great credit. The office was not sought by him, but the governor urged him to accept it. Claiming that the office was the most difficult he had to fill, and was one which required first-class executive ability. He organized the State into districts, appointed an adequate force of deputies and no more, secured a reduction of the fees by nearly one-half, and in every way managed the affairs of the office so efficiently and satisfactorily that above all expenses he was enabled to pay into the State Treasury during his management $32,000.49.
In august of the year 1886 Mr. Luce was nominated by the republicans in convention assembled at Grand Rapids, for the office of governor of Michigan by acclamation, and on the 2d of November following was elected by a majority of 7,432 over his chief competitor, George L. Yaple. In 1874 he became an active member of the farmers’ organization, known as the Grange. Believing as he does that agriculture furnishes the basis of national prosperity, he was anxious to contribute to the education and elevation of the farming community, and thus availed himself of the opportunity offered by this organization to aid in accomplishing this result. For a period of seven years he was Master of the State Grange, but resigned the position last November. Fidelity to convictions, close application to business, whether agricultural or affairs of State, coupled with untiring industry, are his chief characteristics. As a farmer, legislator, executive officer, and manager of county as well as State affairs, as a private as well as a public citizen his career has all along been marked with success. No one can point to a spot reflecting discredit in his public career or private life. He is a man of the people, and self-made in the strictest sense. His whole life has been among the people, in full sympathy with them, and in their special confidences and esteem.
Personally, Governor Cyrus G. Luce, is high-minded, intellectual and affable, the object of many and warm friendships, and a man in all respects above reproach. to the duties of his his position he has brought a fitting dignity, and in all the relations of life that conscientious regard to duty of which we often read but which is to seldom seen, especially among those having within their hands the interests of State and Nation.
Source: Chapman Brothers. Portrait and biographical record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1892.