Original Highland Township Landowner
Thomas Emerson was an early and colorful businessman who, while he never lived in Michigan, often visited Detroit where he had extensive dealings. He was a partner with Stephen Mack in the firm of Mack & Emerson, trading in furs, lumber and other goods. After retiring from the firm in 1816, Emerson became a banker and merchant at Windsor, Vermont. One account describes him as "... an eccentric man, with many good traits, and with an irascible temper and ungovernable prejudices, which sometimes led him to commit objectionable actions, but honest in purpose and deed, and kind at heart," Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. 28 (1900), p. 612. Another recalls that "His personal appearance and address was the duplicate of old Mr. Pickwick, blue coat, brass buttons and gold headed cane, while he himself, was the most testy, phthisicky, nervous, excitable old gentleman, that ever lived, and when his 'red ribbon' was off, as was very often the case, the wealthy old banker would dance and rave like a madman at any losses or delays in business," Id, 372.
Emerson "got religion" late in life, but his new-found faith did not prevent him from keeping track of those who owed him money! During Detroit's cholera epidemic of 1834 he wrote to attorney Henry E. Cole, noting that:
"By the by, Mr. Palmer has not paid his interest on that bond for nearly two years; now I learn that 'the pestilence is stalking at noon-day' among you, and we know not how soon you may go. Mr. Palmer ought to settle that bond. You, and he too, ought to prepare for death, and he ought certainly to settle that bond at once. Oh, Hal, if God would open your eyes; and Mr. Palmer, surely he will pay the interest on that bond now. I pray nightly and daily for you and Mr. Palmer; and trust he will pay the interest on this bond. That the Lord will guard and keep you, dear Hal, and my friend Palmer, is our constant prayer; but do make him pay the interest on the bond. I will take furs, shingles, lumber, apples, fish, or anything he has. God bless and preserve you both, but please do not let Mr. Palmer forget to pay the interest on the bond. Your devoted friend, Thomas Emerson."
Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. 28 (1900), p. 374.
It is said that Palmer survived the cholera epidemic and eventually repaid the bond.
Emerson's purchase of land in Highland Township, Oakland County, was clearly made as an investment. The same patent also includes additional parcels in White Lake Township, Oakland County, i.e., the NE 1/4 of the NW 1/4 of Section 26, and the W 1/2 of the SE 1/4 and E 1/2 of the SW 1/4 of Section 28. The total acreage in both townships was 360.