Albion Interactive History / People / William Brockway

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / People

William H. Brockway, 1813
Methodist Minister and Businessman

    Died October 21, 1891

Builder +
9 brick stores, S. Superior, East Side, from Cass south

  • 101-113 S. Superior, c.1868
    30 dwellings throughout the city

    Historical records show us that many early pioneers were very active in the development of Albion, and their names occur repeatedly, in various village activities. A man whose life was spent in helping others, from the time of his arrival in Albion, 1848, until his death, 1891, a period of forty-three years, and who contributed a deathless service to Albion, was William H. Brockway. He was a trustee on the first village board, later a villagemayor. Born in Morristown, Vermont, Feb. 24, 1813 and died in Albion, Oct. 21, 1891, aged 78 years. His life has been written about repeatedly, like this passage from Washington Gardner’s History of Calhoun County.

    “The services of William H. Brockway for Albion College covered a period of nearly forty years as agent, member and president of the board of trustees, treasurer, and chairman of the executive committee. Born inVermont in 1813, he came to Michigan in 1831, and very soon was licensed to preach the gospel. He is said to have been the first Methodist preacher licensed in the state, He was first appointed to the Huron mission, including Ypsilanti, Detroit, and Monroe; next to Mt. Clemens, then the Saginaw mission, back to theYpsilanti circuit; and finally to lake Superior mission for ten years, serving during most of this time as chaplain at Fort Brady, Sault St. Marie.”

    “He came to Albion in 1848 and began his service as presiding elder of the Indian missions for lower Michigan, aspastor at South Albion, and at the same time as agent for the college. He wasalso an active business man who “built” numerous houses and stores in Albion, andsuperintended the grading of the branch of the Lake Shore railroad fromJonesville to Lansing. He was active in public affairs, member of the state house of representatives, state senator, a trusteeand president of the village. During the Civil War he was commissioned by Gov. Austin Blair as chaplain of the Sixteen Michigan Infantry. He was later one of the founders of Bay View.”

    “Such a man of action was W. H. Brockway; one who knew the hardships of pioneer life, and by a self-reliant andcourageous spirit conquered all the difficulties he was called upon to face. And it is safe to say that of all the interests which engaged the service of this rugged character, the one all absorbing ambition of his heart was to contribute to the prosperity of the school at Albion. All his life long he was devoted to its service. His enthusiasm andloyalty were communicated to others, and so the good work goes on.”

    His only daughter, Mary became the wife of Dr. SamuelDickie, connected actively with Albion College for over 40 years, 20 of which were spent in distinguished service as its president.

    In his “Pioneer Sketches,” editor William B. Gildart remembered Brockway’s accomplishments:

    But as a citizen of Albion, Mr. Brockway was a conspicuous figure and had important influence. His thought was always for a better Albion. For more than twenty years he was a member of the village and city councils and his voice and vote were always on the right side of situations affecting the moral welfare of the place

    It was largely through his influence and labor that the Lake Shore Railroad was secured for Albion. He has left an important substantial monument of nine brick stores erected by him on the east side of Superior Street and extending south from Cass Street. In addition to this, thirty dwellings in various parts of the city were built by him and many are now enjoyed as homes by our citizens. All of these enterprises bear testimony to the constructive genius of our subject. (Dr. Elmore Palmer. “Biographical Sketches.” Albion Mirror July 10, 1908.)

    Brockway’s home was located at 616 E. Erie Street; he owned the land that is now Victory Park, the Albion College Field, and the “Brockway Addition” area. Brockway Place is named in his memory. P93

    Source: Miriam Krenerick. Albion’s Milestones and Memories. Albion, MI: Art Craft Press. 1932.

    Source: Frank Passic. Homestead Savings and Loan and the Builders of Albion: One Hundred Years of Service, 1889-1989. Albion, MI: Homestead Savings and Loan Association. 1988.

    Brockway was a businessman, politician, clergyman, but his education was much less formal. In fact, available information concerning him does not show that he attended college at all.

    He was born in Vermont on February 24, 1813, but went with his parents to New York state when he was seven to live on a farm. When old enough he worked on the far and attended grade school, In the summer months, he learned to be a blacksmith.

    It was when he was 16 that he became converted to Methodism while attending camp meetings of that church. The next year, 1830, he appeared in Dexter, Michigan, as a class leader of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Somewhat later he wasordained a Methodist minister by the church, but in 1834 he joined the Ohio Conference and was assigned a territory which extended from the Ohio River northward to Lake Superior.

    He became involved in Methodist work among the Indians from 1838 to 1845 at the church’smission at Sault St. Marie, and during 1846 and 1847 he was presiding elder of an Indian Mission district.

    His first association with the institution at Albion started in 1848 when he became the agent of the Wesleyan Seminary. He held this position for seven years. It is believed that North Hall was erected under his supervision and that South Hall was at least begun with him in charge of construction.

    He returned to ministry among the Indians in 1855 and later was a Methodist pastor with charges in various parts of Michigan until September 16, 1861, when he began work as a chaplain of the Sixteenth Michigan Infantry, a unit in which his son Porter, held the rank of captain.

    It was on November 17, 1862, that he resigned his commission as an army chaplain after becoming known as the “fighting chaplain of the Army of the Potomac.”

    About three years later he resumed his association with the educational institution at Albion to become again the college’s agent. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees for almost 40 years.

    Politics for W.H. Brockway began on the local level with membership on the village council. He was a councilman for more than 20 years. He was a member of the State Senate starting in 1855 and a representative in the state legislature after returning from service in the Army.

    His work for the college resulted in the naming of the mathematics chair in his honor. His son-in-law, Samuel Dickie, who was to become an Albion College president, held that chair for a number of years.

    Mr. Brockway’s business affairs took him into real estate and building. He owned a farm as well as other property. It is reported that he built nine brick store buildings on Superior Street in Albion as well as about 30 residences. His death occured October 21, 1891, when he was 78. (p.144)

    Source: Gildart, Robert. Albion College, 1835-1960, A History. Chicago: Donnelley Lakeside Press, 1961.

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