Who is that mystery man commemorated with a sculpture in Capitol Park at the intersection of Griswold and State streets in downtown Detroit? It’s Stevens T. Mason, Michigan’s first governor and the man responsible for helping Michigan transform from a territory to a state.
The statue also marks the gravesite of the late governor, who died in his 30s of pneumonia.
President Andrew Jackson in 1830 appointed Mason Secretary of Michigan Territory. Though still young, Mason came from a family of politicians and immediately became an influential figure.
Mason was instrumental in helping Michigan transition from territory to state. When his first petition for statehood was ignored, he undertook a statewide census, finding that the territory’s population of 86,000 was more than sufficient to meet the threshold of 60,000 people needed to be considered for statehood.
After the dispute between Ohio and Michigan over the “Toledo Strip,” Mason was removed from his position, but he remained popular with residents. In 1835, after a state constitution was drawn up, Mason was elected the first governor.
Mason died in 1843 and was initially buried in New York, where he lived toward the end of his life. However, in 1905, his remains were brought back to Michigan and interred in Detroit at the site of Michigan’s first state capitol on the 100th anniversary of Michigan’s being named a territory.
The monument was erected over his grave in 1908. The bronze statue was created by sculptor Albert Weinert and Mason standing on a pedestal with a carved bundle of sticks bound with a double-headed axe, called fasces, which represented the power of judges and magistrates in Roman iconography.
In 2010, Capitol Park was renovated and the remains were temporarily removed but then were returned to their resting place underneath the monument’s current location.
To learn more about the statue and the governor who inspired it, visit http://historicdetroit.org/building/stevens-t-mason-monument.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.