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History of Oakland County, Michigan, A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People, and its Principal Interests Compiled from the official records of the County, the newspapers and data of personal interviews, under the editorial supervision of THADDEUS D. SEELEY
VOLUME I, ILLUSTRATED, THE LEWIS PUBLISHING COMPANY, CHICAGO AND NEW YORK
By Thaddeus De Witt Seeley
Thomas J. Drake
At the same February term of the county court, 1825, Thomas J. Drake was allowed to act as attorney for such parties as had given him powers of attorney for that purpose. Mr. Drake first came to Pontiac in 1822, when there were scarcely half a dozen houses in the township. He was a leading and prominent advocate for nearly two generations. Hon. A. C. Baldwin, judge of the sixth circuit, says of him: "He was connected as counsel with most of the leading cases in northern Michigan during a long term of years, and was always in his element when advocating the cause of the people." He was a member of the third legislative in 1828, and, with S. V. R. Trowbridge, represented the whole northern portion of the territory. Mr. Drake was the accredited author of the liberal exemption laws of Michigan, introducing them into the legislative at a time when they were so unpopular not a single member, save himself, dared to vote for them. From 1828 1845 he was prominent in political matters, being a Whig in party affiliation and policy. He was elected in 1834 to the state senate to represent a district which extended from the base-line of the state to the head of Lake Superior, embracing two-thirds of the area of the state. He was president of that body. In 1840 he was one of the Whig presidential electors for Michigan at her first participation in the choice of a president and vice president of the republic. In 1828 he was register of probate for the county, and in 1827 prosecuting attorney, being also the first prosecuting attorney elected in the county, and held the position from 1850 to 1852. In 1864 President Lincoln appointed Mr. Drake chief justice of the United States courts in Utah, which position he held for several years, discharging the duties thereof with signal ability and fidelity, and thereby provoking the bitter hostility of Brigham Young and his cohorts. "The Mormons hated him as cordially as he hated their customs and practice." Judge Drake's associate justice in Utah said: "When once the judge made up his mind that he was right, no power under heaven could swerve him from the path of duty." He died in Pontiac, April 20, 1875. Judge Drake, in 1842 or thereabouts, conducted the publication of a Whig newspaper in Flint, which in the winter of 1843-44 was removed to Pontiac and there established as the Gazette. He also built the Genesee House in Flint, and resided there for some years, doing much for the prosperity of the village.
"The succeeding attorneys who settled in Oakland county were Thomas J. Drake and Origen D. Richardson. They came into the county as early as 1825 or 1826, the precise date at this time being very difficult to determine.
"Mr. Drake was born April 18, 1797, in Scipio, Cayuga county, New York, and was educated in the schools of that vicinity. From the records I should judge he came to Oakland county in 1824, and at that time was not admitted to practice law here, but in March following he entered a plea in a case for the defendant by previously filing letters of attorney, authorizing him to appear. From this time on Mr. Drake took a very active part in legal and civic affairs in Oakland county until near the time of his death.
"Prior to the admission of Michigan to statehood he was a member of the territorial ; was register of probate; captain and lieutenant colonel of the militia, and one of the commissioners to locate the county seat of Saginaw county. After the admission of the state, Mr. Drake was elected to the senate, and was made president pro tem of that body. He was elected prosecuting attorney for Oakland county, holding that office two years. About 1837 Mr. Drake removed from Pontiac to Flint, where he resided a few years, when he returned to his prior home, and there continued to live until his death. He was appointed by President Lincoln as one of the associate justices of Utah, which office he continued to hold for many years. He had an intense prejudice against Mormon- ism, and his nature would not permit him to conceal his views; consequently his judicial life was not as pleasant as it would have been if he had possessed a more yielding nature. His health became somewhat impaired and he resigned his judgeship two months prior to the expiration of the term. He was an unyielding lawyer, indefatigably zealous in the interest of his clients. He possessed strong personal traits, and during his earlier days had many devoted friends and followers. Mr. Drake died in Pontiac on the 2Oth of April, 1875.
SETTLERS OF 1822-1836
1824—E. B. Comstock, Francis J. Smith, Merritt Ferry, Henry W. Thomas, Deacon Jacob N. Voorheis, John Powell and Hon. Thomas J. Drake.