the making of modern michigan

Browse Collections
Browse by subject
Browse by institution
participating libraries project background
Ferry, Thomas White

Loutit District Library

Ferry, Thomas White, 1826-1896

Legislators -- United States -- Michigan

Lumbermen -- Michigan -- Grand Haven

Item Number




Thomas was the son of Rev. William and Amanda Ferry and was born on Mackinac Island. He spoke Ottawa, Chippewa [Ojibwa], and French. He and his brother William platted the Village of Ferrysburg on January 26, 1857. At the age of 21 he was elected Clerk of Ottawa County. Three years later he was elected to the state legislature, where he served from 1851 to 1852. In 1852 he was appointed Deputy Collector of Customs for the Port of Grand Haven, and in 1856 he was elected State Senator, serving from 1857 to 1858 and again from 1865 to 1883. He went into the lumbering business with his brother, Edward Payson Ferry. Before the Civil War he served on the Republican State Central Committee for eight years and was delegate-at-large and one of the Vice Presidents of the national convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln. In 1864 he was elected to the 39th US Congress and first and forty-second assemblies. Upon President Lincoln’s death, he was appointed one of a committee by the U.S. Senate to accompany Lincoln ’s body to Springfield. In January, 1871 he was elected by the Michigan Legislature to the U.S. Senate [the legal procedure at that time] and was elected President of the Senate pro tempore during the famous Hayes-Tilden electoral count dispute of 1876-77. When Vice President Henry Wilson died in November, 1875, Ferry became acting Vice President. Because the inauguration would have fallen on a Sunday in 1877, it was delayed a day, allowing Thomas to carry the weight of the office Grant’s term expiring on Saturday and Hayes’s swearing-in on Monday. For that reason, locally Thomas was called “President for a day” [Sunday, March 4, 1877], until Hayes was sworn in publicly on Monday, March 5. Another theory claimed that since Thomas was never sworn in, he couldn’t have been President, and yet a third view was that Hayes was sworn in secretly right after the favorable vote on Saturday, and that his inauguration on Monday was a mere formality. In 1883 Thomas was defeated for a third term as Senator by Thomas W. Palmer of Detroit. Governor Rich, of Michigan, appointed him President of the Mackinac Park Commission and it was through Thomas’s endeavors that the beauties of the island were preserved. -- Wallace K. Ewing, PhD. from A Directory of People in Northwest Ottawa County, Copyright 1999

Ferry, Thomas White

The Making of Modern Michigan was funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency that supports the nation's museums and libraries. Through agreement, this site is hosted by the MSU Libraries and therefore is subject to its privacy statement. Please feel free to send any comments regarding this site to