Monday, July 10, 2017

Clinton LeForge--Grandson Of An Ypsilanti Pioneer


To the Reader: The documentation for this post was collected by the late George Ridenour and Lyle McDermott of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.

One of the most colorful and controversial residents of Ypsilanti was Clinton Isaac LeFurge. He was born in Superior Township on June, 1885, to Insley B. LeFurge and Mary Ette Gale. In his mid-thirties, Clinton changed the spelling of his last name to LeForge. While looking through an heirloom family Bible, he found the names of twenty-two Leforge (sic) ancestors recorded on the flyleaf dating back to January 12, 1723.

Almost 200 hundred years later, Clinton chose to adopt that spelling and capitalize the letter F. LeForge is how his name appears in most public documents. The David LeForge family Bible is in the collection of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, contributed by Mrs. Dwight A. (Cora) Peck, Clinton LeForge's sister.

Young Clinton grew up a farm boy on his parent's 160 acre farm which ran along what was locally known as Paper Mill Road leading to the Huron River. He attended Bennett--a one-room schoolhouse on Geddes Road about a mile from his house. He showed promise as a student, so his parents sent him to Ypsilanti High School--a two mile walk.

The LeFurges: Insley/Mary and Clinton/Cora--1903.
It was common at the turn of the twentieth century for farm kids to drop out of school in the eighth grade to work the family farm. Many young women received little formal education beyond the domestic chores they learned at home. Graduating from high school was a significant achievement, but Clinton was not satisfied with that. He went on to earn a law degree in 1908 at Detroit College of Law, but it would be twenty-three years before he would practice law.

The following year, Clinton married Edith Grace Crippen and wasted no time starting a family. Soon they had two daughters and two sons. Earning a living to support his growing family through farming prevented Clinton from pursing his legal career. To compound matters, his father Insley died May 5, 1915, leaving him his mother's only means of support.

On November 12, 1920, Mary Ette transferred ownership of the family farm--160 acres of prime farmland--to her son Clinton in exchange for her "full use and possession of" the farmhouse until her death. For Clinton's part, he agreed to "keep up repairs and pay taxes during that time" as well as work the farm. The transfer was not recorded in the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds until January 30, 1924.

Sometime during the 1930s, Detroit Edison was stringing electrical lines in Superior Township and officially renamed Paper Mill Road, changing it to LeForge Road. In those days, it was customary to name county roads after the name of the predominate land owner. The same can be said for Gale, Vreeland, Geddes, Wiard, and Whittaker roads, among many others throughout Washtenaw County.

Clinton LeForge was a well-known figure in Ypsilanti as a self-taught Native American expert and collector of local Indian artifacts. For five years, he maintained a law office on South Huron Street before things started going wrong for him. More on that in my next post: "Clinton LeForge Runs Amuck In Ypsilanti."

How Ypsi Got Its Name: http://fornology.blogspot.com/2015/08/ypsilanti-michigan-history-whats-in-name.html