David H. Jerome, governor of from Jan. 1, 1881, to Jan. 1, 1883, was born at Detroit, Mich., Nov. 17, 1829. His parents emigrated to Michigan from Trumansburg, Tompkins Co., N. Y., in 1828, locating at Detroit. His father died march 30, 1831, leaving nine children. He had been twice married, and four of his children living at the time of his death were grown up sons, the offspring of his first union. Of the five children by his second marriage, David H. was the youngest. Shortly after Mr. Jerome’s death, his widow moved back to New York and settled in Onondaga County near Syracuse, where they remained until the fall of 1834, the four sons by the first wife continuing their residence in Michigan. In the fall of 1834, Mrs. Jerome came once more to Michigan, locating on a farm in St. Clair county. Here the Governor formed those habits of industry and sterling integrity that have been so characteristic of the man in the active duties of life. He was sent to the district school, and in the acquisition of the fundamental branches of learning he displayed a precocity and an application which won for him the admiration of his teachers, and always placed him at the head of his classes. In the meantime, he did chores on the farm, and was always ready with a cheerful heart and willing hand to assist his widowed mother. The heavy labor of the farm was carried on by his two older brothers, timothy and george, and when 13 years of age, David received his mother’s permission to attend school at the St. Clair Academy. While attending there he lived with Marcus H. Miles, now deceased, doing chores for his board, and the following winter performed the same service for James Ogden, also deceased. The next summer Mrs. Jerome moved into the village of St. Clair, for the purpose of continuing her son in school. While attending said academy one of his associate students was Senator Thomas W. Palmer, of Detroit; a rival candidate before the gubernatorial convention in 1880. He completed his education in the fall of his 16th year, and the following winter assisted his brother Timothy in hauling logs in the pine woods. The next summer he rafted logs down the St, Clair River to Algonac.
In 1847, M. H. Miles being Clerk in St. Clair County, and Volney A. Ripley, Register of Deeds, David H. Jerome was appointed Deputy to each, remaining a such during 1848-49, and receiving much praise from his employers and the people in general for the ability displayed in the discharge of his duties. He spent his summer vacation at clerical work on board the lake vessels.
In 1849-50, he abandoned office work, and for the proper development of his physical system spent several months hauling logs. In the spring of 1850 his brother, “Tiff” and himself chartered the steamer “Chautauqua” and “Young Dave” became her master. A portion of the season the boat was engaged in the passenger and freight traffic between Port Huron and Detroit, but during the latter part was used as a tow boat. At that time, there was a serious obstruction to navigation known as the “St. Clair Flats” between Lakes Huron and Erie, over which vessels could carry only about 10,000 bushels of grain. Mr. Jerome conceived the idea of towing vessels from one lake to the other, and put his plan into operation. Through the influence of practical men,–among them the subject of this sketch,–congress removed the obstruction above referred to, and now vessels can pass them laden with 60,000 or 80,000 bushels of grain.
During the season, the two brothers succeeded in making a neat little sum of money by the summer’s work, but subsequently lost it all on a contract to raise the “Gen. Scott,” a vessel that had sunk in Lake St. Clair. In the spring of 1851, he was clerk and acting master of the steamers “Franklin Moore” and “Ruby,” plying between Detroit and Port Huron and Goderich. The following year he was clerk of the propeller “Princeton” running between Detroit and Buffalo.
In January, 1853, Mr. Jerome went to California, by way of the Isthmus, and enjoyed extraordinary success in selling goods in a new place of his selection, among the mountains near Marysville. He remained there during the summer, and located the Live Yankee Tunnel Mine, which has since yielded millions to its owners, and is still a playing investment. He planned and put a tunnel 600 feet into the mine, but when the water supply began to fail with the dry season, sold out his interest. He left in the fall of 1853, and in December sailed from San Francisco for New York, arriving at his home in St. Clair County, about a year after his departure. During his absence his brother “Tiff” had located at Saginaw, and in 1754 Mr. Jerome joined him in his lumber operations in the valley. In 1855 the brothers bought Blackmer & Eaton’s hardware and general supply store, at Saginaw, and David H. assumed the management of the business. From 1855 to 1873 he was also extensively engaged in lumbering operations.
Soon, after locating at Saginaw, he was nominated for Alderman against Stewart B. Williams, a rising young man, of strong Democratic principles. The ward was largely Democratic, but Mr. Jerome was elected by a handsome majority. When the Republican party was born in Jackson, Mich., David H. Jerome was, though not a delegate to the convention, one of its “charter members.” In 1862, he was commissioned by Governor, Austin Blair to raise one of the six regiments apportioned to the State of Michigan. Mr. Jerome immediately went to work and held meetings at various points. The zeal and enthusiasm displayed by this advocate of the Union awakened a feeling of patriotic interest in the breasts of many brave men,, and in a short space of time the 23d Regiment of Michgian Volunteer infantry was placed in the field, and subsequently gained for itself a brilliant record.
In the fall of 1862, Mr. Jerome was nominated by the Republican party for State Senator from the 26th district, Appleton Stevens, of Bay city, being his opponent. The contest was very exciting, and resulted in the triumphant election of Mr. Jerome. He was twice re-nominated and elected both times by increased majorities, defeating George Lord, of Bay city, and Dr. Cheseman, of Gratiot county. On taking his seat in the Senate, he was appointed Chairman of the Committee on State Affairs, and was active in raising means and troops to carry on the war. He held the same position during his three terms of service, and introduced the bill creating the Soldiers’ Home at Harper Hospital, Detroit.
He was selected by Governor Crapo as a military aid, and in 1865 was appointed a member of the State Military Board, and served as its President for eight consecutive years. In 1873, he was appointed by Governor Barley a member of the convention to prepare a new State Constitution, and was Chairman of the Committee on Finance.
In 1875, Mr. Jerome was appointed a member of the board of Indian commissioners. In 1876 he was Chairman of a commission to visit Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce Indian, to arrange an amicable settlement of all existing difficulties. The commission went to Portland, Oregon, thence to the Blue Hills, in Idaho, a distance of 600 miles up the Columbia River.
At the Republican State Convention, convened at Jackson in August, 1880, Mr. Jerome was placed in the field for nomination, and on the 5th day of the month received the highest honor the convention could confer on anyone. His opponent was Frederick H. Holloway of Hillsdale County, who was supported by the Democratic and Greenback parties. The State was thoroughly canvassed by both parties, and when the polls were closed on the evening of election day, it was found that David H. Jerome had been selected by the voters of the Wolverine State to occupy the highest position with their gift.
Source: Chapman Brothers. Portrait and biographical record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1892.