Name of the collection: Lyman George Willcox
Inclusive years: 1830-1933
Quantity: 2 linear feet + 1 volume + 1 oversize folder
Acquisition: This collection was donated to the Genesee Historical Collections Center in January, 1993, by donor no. 228.
Access: There are no restrictions on access to this collection.
Photographs: 64 photographs
Processed by: Paul Gifford, March, 1993.


Lyman George Willcox was born April 29, 1831, in Rochester, Michigan, one of four children born to Lyman J. and Hopey (Greene) Willcox. His father had walked through Canada from New York State in 1830 and later ran a mill in Rochester.

Lyman George (known professionally as Lyman G. or L. G. but called "George" by his family) attended the district school and worked on his father's farm until the age of fourteen. He attended the local academy for two years, then worked for two years in his father's mill. He returned to school at the Romeo (Michigan) Academy, and followed it with work in the mill. In the fall of 1851 he travelled through Ohio, to Louisville and St. Louis, wandering through the state of Missouri, but returned home. After teaching school in Rochester for one year, he enrolled at Hamilton College, graduating in 1855 with a degree in law. He later studied elocution in Poughkeepsie, New York.

He went to Kansas in 1856 in order to study the conflict between the pro-slavery and free state factions. In 1857 he went to Omaha, Nebraska, where he practiced law and edited the Omaha Times. On August 22, 1857, he married Azubah Bingham of Detroit. She apparently refused to move to frontier Nebraska, and he lived for the next four years in Detroit, practicing law.

At the beginning of the Civil War, he raised a company of volunteers and, on September 7, 1861, he was commissioned captain of Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry Regiment. After a short stay in Grand Rapids, he and his unit were sent at the end of 1861 to Benton Barracks, in Missouri. In 1862, he was involved in actions at New Madrid, Missouri; the siege of Corinth, Mississippi; at Boonville, Mississippi; Tuscumbia, Alabama; Iuka, Mississippi. On November 18, 1862, he was promoted to the rank of major. In 1863 he was stationed at Jackson, Tennessee, and the following year at DeVall's Bluff, Arkansas. While in Jackson, he addressed a local audience with a remarkable speech, in which he castigated slave owners and the "peculiar institution." He resigned his commission on September 12, 1864, due to illness, and returned to Detroit. However, in December, 1864, he accepted an appointment as major in the U.S. First Army Corps.

Like other Union veteran officers, he sought political office through the Republican Party, following the war. He returned to Detroit, but in 1865 purchased land in Brownstown Township, Antrim County, Michigan, and in the following year was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Antrim County. In 1867, he was appointed Register of the U.S. Land Office in Traverse City, Michigan. He was appointed Prosecuting Attorney of Emmet County in 1868. He opened a law practice in Traverse City in partnership with Edwin Pratt and, from 1868 to 1870, was a partner and editor of the Traverse Bay Eagle. In 1869, he visited California.

Leaving Traverse City in 1870, he went to Chicago, where he was a writer for the Western Rural, an agricultural newspaper. He had developed an interest in fruit farming and, in 1871, moved to Centralia, Illinois, where he purchased an orchard. While there, he practiced law and was in demand as a speaker on political, agricultural, and legal topics. He was a principal organizer of the Centralia Public Library.

He returned to Michigan in 1879, joining his brother Elliott R. Willcox in the practice of law in Pontiac and writing political columns for the Pontiac Gazette. His success in bringing the Oakland County vote to the Republicans led to an appointment in 1882 as Receiver of Public Moneys for the district of Federal lands subject to sale at Detroit, an office which he held for five years. His specialty in real estate law and his experience in journalism resulted in a partnership with Charles B. Howell in the publication of the Western Land Guide and Real Estate Lawyer in 1883.

In 1885 he moved to Bay City, Michigan, where he was editor of the Bay City Tribune. He was appointed in 1886 Assistant Prosecuting Attorney of Bay County. Gaining sufficient local Republican support, he was appointed Postmaster of Bay City in 1889, an office which he held for five years. An attempt in 1902 to capture a second appointment to that office was unsuccessful. He was a presidential elector in 1900. He still remained an important figure in Bay County Republican politics, speaking on behalf of senatorial and gubernatorial candidates.

He moved to Saginaw, Michigan, at the end of 1910, in order to be near his son George. He remained interested in politics and current affairs for the rest of his life and spoke frequently at Decoration Day celebrations and the like. Veterans' organizations, like the Loyal Legion and Grand Army of the Republic, and reunions of the Third Michigan Cavalry occupied his interest. He died on September 19, 1918, in Saginaw.


The papers of Lyman George Willcox reflect his military, journalistic, and political career and, to a lesser extent, his personal life. Certain documents and folders show his career as a lawyer, but, for the most part, the papers lack any files on cases he may have handled. The arrangement of the papers is based largely on the careers he followed at different stages of his life: military (1861-1865, although veterans' organizations with items dating much later are also included here); legal (1856-1885); and political (1866-1915). Personal financial records also form another series. Other items in the collection are divided by form: speeches, essays, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and publications.

The earliest papers consist of five letters from Lyman George Willcox's aunt Harriet, of Oriskany, New York, to her brother Lyman J. Willcox and two letters from the latter's sister Angeline to Lyman; these date from 1830 to 1836 and mostly contain family news. One letter, from Lyman to Harriet, dated 1833, describes his wife's death, the difficulties of raising four children alone, and the best means of travel from New York to Michigan. There is one letter from Polly Gilbert to her sister Hopey (Greene) Willcox, and a eulogy or epitaph to the latter, written about 1833.

The folder of personal correspondence includes a number of letters from his college friend Alexander W. Campbell, nephew of the evangelist Alexander Campbell and a Wheeling businessman. One 1855 letter offers his impressions of Martin Van Buren. Other correspondence concerns veterans' reunions, acknowledgments for speaking, and news of relatives. Although representative correspondence and other papers from his earlier life survives, it was only after he moved to Saginaw in 1911 that all his correspondence and papers were saved. During this period, he returned to Rochester and began to reminisce about his early years, both in the drafts of his outgoing letters and in a draft of an article.

Willcox's papers from his Civil War service form a fairly complete record, although few items from the years 1864 and 1865 appear to have survived. Among the more interesting items are the orders from superior officers, Willcox's reports of various missions, some of his hand-drawn maps of areas which experienced skirmishes, and court martial or disciplinary proceedings against two officers, Lt. Col. John W. Stephens and Lt. Col. Gilbert Moyers. There is also a good record of ordnance and quartermaster stores. Muster rolls of Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry, for 1862 can be found here. Most of the documents concern his company and its actions in Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. The major fight was at Corinth, Mississippi, and also at Iuka, Mississippi, but other skirmishes are vividly documented. Under the Military series are placed folders with items concerning his activity in veterans' organizations and reunions, including the Army of the Potomac reunion in Detroit in 1882 and 3rd Michigan Cavalry reunions.

Willcox's political activities can be found in the papers under the series heading "Political" as well as in the newspaper clippings and scrapbooks containing editorials. When he sought the office of postmaster for Bay City in 1889, he assembled a large number of letters of support from locally influential Republicans. He did much the same in 1902. He took an important roles in getting Oakland County to vote Republican during the election of 1880 and in drawing support for campaign appearances in Bay City by William Alden Smith during his senatorial campaign of 1906. Other important correspondents include Gov. and Sen. Henry P. Baldwin (1814-1892), Sen. Thomas W. Ferry (who in 1882 warns of a plan to buy off voters), and Gov. Chase S. Osborn. These mainly concern elections.

A polished orator, Willcox was in demand as a speaker for traditional Fourth of July celebrations, political rallies, and literary societies. Titles of the speeches in this collection can be seen in the folder list. Among other sentiments, he opposed woman's suffrage, supported the establishment of local libraries, and was suspicious of the Catholic Church. While he lived in Centralia, Illinois, he seems to have spoken often, as most of the speeches were written during that period (1871-1879).

It would appear that most of the editorials he wrote during his tenure as editor of the Omaha Times (1857), Traverse Bay Eagle (1866-1869), as political writer of the Pontiac Gazette (1879-1880), and as editor of theBay City Daily Tribune (1885-1886) can be found here, either pasted in scrapbooks or as clippings. Apparently he had originally saved his writings in the form of clippings and at a later time put some of them in scrapbooks, but never completed the task. The order in the scrapbooks thus is somewhat jumbled. Most of the subjects covered by these editorials are national or state political issues, but local concerns are also included. This is significant, since some of the above titles have apparently not survived.

Most of the photographs are portraits of family members. One photograph likely to be of interest to researchers is one of the U. S. Land Office at Traverse City, taken about 1868.



    Correspondence, 1830-1836
    Legal documents, 1834-1850
    Letter and eulogy, [183-?]
    Letters to Azubah (Bingham) Willcox
        1857, 1861
Letters from Oscar H. Bingham to Azubah (Bingham) Willcox, 1862-1863
    Letters from relatives, 1871-1888
    Postcards and greeting cards, 1911-1917
    Reminiscences of Rochester and Grand Traverse Bay, 1916, 1918
    Pencil sketch of Hamilton College, [undated]
    Masonic certificate, 1863
    Genealogical notes, [undated], 1915, 1933
    Captain's and major's commissions, 1861-1862
    Resignation, 1864
    Muster-in and muster-out rolls of Lyman G. Willcox, 1861-1862
    Correspondence, 1862-1884
    Orders and dispatches from other officers, 1862-1864
    Reports from Willcox to other officers, 1862-1864
    Reports to Willcox, 1862-1863
    Special orders, 1862-1864
    General orders, 1862-1863
    Circulars, 1862-1863
    Muster rolls of Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry, 1862
    Courts martial
        General, 1863     
    Charges against John W. Stephens, Lt. Col., 11th Cavalry, Missouri Volunteers, [1864?]
    Arrest of Lt. Col. Gilbert Moyers, 1862-1863
    Quartermaster stores
        Pertaining to Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry, 1861-1862
        Pertaining to other companies, 1862-1863
    Ordnance returns pertaining to Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry
        Stores in charge - 3rd quarter, 1862
        Invoices and receipts
            3rd quarter, 1862
            4th quarter, 1862
        Various returns, 1862-1865
        Miscellaneous, 1862-1865
        Receipts for ordnance, 1862-1863
    Dispute over horse, 1862
    Horse claim, 1863-1872
    Letters of recommendation for T. B. Wier, 1861
    First Army Corps, 1864
    Passes, 1863-1864
    Confederate letters, orders, and miscellaneous, 1862-1863
    Army of the Potomac reunion, Detroit, 1882
    Reunions of Third Michigan Cavalry, 1890-1925
    Pension, 1909-1918
    Military Order of the Loyal Legion, 1900-1926
    Grand Army of the Republic, 1887-1912
    Nebraska property, 1856-1874
    Property in Brownstown Township, Antrim County, Michigan, 1859-1865
    Newell land in Antrim County, Michigan, 1864-1867
    Property in Grand Traverse County, Michigan, 1868
    Partnership in Traverse Bay Eagle, 1868-1870
    Law partnership agreement, 1868
    Accounts, 1889-1890, 1892
    Miscellaneous, 1884, 1910
    Certificate of admission to various bars and courts, 1856-1876
    Notary Public commissions, 1856-1885
    Issue of Western Land Guide and Real Estate Lawyer, Nov. 1883
        General, 1868-1915
        William Alden Smith, 1903-1912
    Letter of introduction, 1866
    Republican county convention, 1866
    Notification of election as Prosecuting Attorney of Antrim County, 1866, 1868
    General Land Office Register
        Appointment, 1867-1869
        Receipts from Morgan Bates, 1867-1869
    Receiver of Public Moneys commissions, 1882-1887
        Letters of support, 1889
        Commission, 1889
        Petition of support, 1902
        Letters of support, 1902-1903
    Fillibustering, 1858
    Mexico, 1859
    Individual and National Character, 1867, 1868


    Woman's Right to Vote, 1873
    Progress of Thought, 1874
    Philosophy, 1874
    The Development of Religious Ideas, 1875
    Fourth of July oration, 1876
    Memorial Day address, 1915
    Veterans reunion, 1918
    Miscellaneous, 1863-1918
    Untitled, [1850s?] (missing the first several pages)
    Addresses, 1863, 1884; Reminiscences
    Traverse Bay Eagle, 1867-1869     
    Personal, 1882-1918
    General, 1863-1888
    Lithographic portrait
    Research notes
    Pamphlets by Samuel Harris
    Correspondence concerning Lyman G. Willcox, 1918-1933
    Essay, undated
    Scrapbook containing newspaper editorials and articles about his postmastership, 1866-1902, transcripts of family correspondence, 1871-1896, and copies of two speeches, 1872
    Scrapbook containing newspaper editorials from the Bay City Daily Tribune, 1885
    Scrapbook containing mostly political commentaries in the Pontiac Gazette, 1879-1880; editorials in the Traverse Bay Eagle, 1866-1867; miscellaneous articles about Willcox's interests and activities, 1885-1903
    Scrapbook containing editorials from the Omaha Times, 1857; Civil War articles; miscellaneous
    Scrapbook kept by Minnie Willcox, 1899
    Scrapbook containing Civil War-era clippings, Pontiac Gazette, writings, miscellaneous
    Small scrapbook with clippings about Willcox's activities, 1862-1914
(single volume):
    Scrapbook containing mainly editorials from the Bay City Daily Tribune, 1885-1886
(in large folder):
    Diploma from Hamilton College, 1855
    Certificate of admission to practice before the Illinois Supreme Court, 1872
    Copy of the Ulster County Gazette (issue of Jan. 4, 1800, a famous fake), with letter giving its provenance
    Poster for Fourth of July 1877 celebration, Kinmundy, Ill.
    Poster of proclamation by mayor of Centralia, Ill., ordering citizens to arrest a gang of robbers, 1878
    Poster announcing Hayes campaign oration by L. G. Willcox, Salem, Ill., 1876
    Poster announcing Blaine campaign rally with oration by L. G. Willcox, Allegan, Mich., 1884