Felch, Alpheus, 1804-1896

Alternative names
Birth 1804-09-28
Death 1896-06-13

Biographical notes:

Resident of Houlton, Maine, later Monroe and Ann Arbor, Michigan; Michigan state supreme court justice, 1842-1845, Democratic governor, 1846-1847, and United States senator, 1847-1853.

From the description of Alpheus Felch papers, 1817-1896. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34419272

Lawyer, Governor of Michigan, and U. S. Senator from Michigan.

Born in Limerick, Me., Sept. 28, 1804; graduated from Bowdoin,1827; studied law, was admitted to bar and practiced in Houlton, Me.,1830-1833; moved to Monroe, Mich., 1833; member of state legislature, 1835-1837; State bank commissioner,1838-1839; rendered great service in stamping out the so-called "wildcat" banks; State auditor general 1842; associate justice of Mich. Supreme Court,1842-45; moved to Ann Arbor, 1843; Governor of Michigan,1846-1847; U.S. Senator, 1847-1853; President of commission to settle Spanish and Mexican war claims,1853-1856; died in Ann Arbor, June 13, 1896. (From Dict. Cong. Dir. ; Dict. Amer. Biog) (blue index cards)

From the description of Alpheus Felch papers, 1823-1897. (Detroit Public Library). WorldCat record id: 430083822

Alpheus Felch was born in Limmerick, York County, Maine, on September 23, 1804. He died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on June 13, 1896. Felch's career as a lawyer and politician crisscrossed the United States, although the majority of his life was devoted to service in his adopted state of Michigan.

Orphaned at the age of three, Alpheus Felch was raised by his paternal grandfather, and later a family friend, Edmund Hayes. In 1821 Felch entered Phillips Exeter Academy, at Exeter, New Hampshire. Financial problems led Felch to become a school teacher and to finish his initial schooling at the academy in Fryeburg, Maine. In 1823 Alpheus Felch was admitted to the freshman class at Bowdoin College, where he continued to supplement his income with teaching assignments. He graduated from Bowdoin in 1827.

In pursuit of a legal career, Felch entered the offices of Bradley and Barrow in Fryeburg and later continued his training in Bangor, Maine. Alpheus Felch was admitted to the bar in 1830, and almost immediately was commissioned to recover a law library in Houlton, Maine. He remained there in the practice of law until 1833, when he undertook a journey to the South for reasons of health. A combination of factors, including the contraction of Cholera, led Felch to Monroe, Michigan. He settled in Monroe until 1843, when Ann Arbor became his permanent residence.

Alpheus Felch's first political position was that of Monroe County representative in the State legislature, 1835-1837. He then served as State Bank Commissioner in 1838 and 1839, and is credited with exposing much of the corruption associated with "wild cat" banking. In 1842 Felch was made Auditor General of the state, but was appointed to the State Supreme Court only a few weeks later, upon the resignation of Judge William A. Fletcher. Felch served in this position until 1845, when he was elected governor.

Alpheus Felch served as governor of Michigan from January 5, 1846, to March 3, 1847, when he resigned this office upon his election to the United States Senate. Felch served in the Senate from March 4, 1847, to March 3, 1853. He was an active member on the Committee on Public Lands, and during his final four years in office was its chairman.

In 1853 Felch was appointed president of the commission to settle land claims in California. This commission acted upon Spanish, Mexican, and American claims to lands in California from 1853 to 1856. In June of 1856, with the commission's work complete, Felch returned to Ann Arbor and the practice of law. In the spring of 1879 he was appointed Tappan law professor at the University of Michigan, a position from which Felch resigned in 1883. Alpheus Felch remained an active figure in his later years, serving as president of the Michigan State Historical Society from 1888 to 1894.

Alpheus Felch married Lucretia Williams Lawrence of Monroe, Michigan, on September 14, 1837. They had eight children, five sons and three daughters. Mrs. Felch died on July 30, 1882.

From the guide to the Alpheus Felch Papers, 1817-1896, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)


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