The anecdote below is drawn from an address delivered in 1848, fairly well along in retirement by the Michigan Whig William Woodbridge–second governor of Michigan, friend to Lewis Cass, son-in-law to the Revolutionary poet John Trumbull–to the Detroit Young Men’s Society, a speech (per the front wrapper of the pamphlet in which it was published) “Relative to the Customs and Institutions of the early Colonists of New England”–though given Woodbridge’s thesis that the peculiar New England character had much to do with the various boons of American civilization (the local school district and township governance, to name two), it it little surprise that there is much here on Michigan as well–including that promised anecdote, on the arrival of steam in Detroit:
Very early in the same morning, and long before my ordinary time of rising, I was startled by a violent and continued knocking at my door. Dressing myself very hastily, I went to see what terrible thing had happened. It was my old and polite acquaintance, Mons. Tremblé, living somewhere along the mouth of Huron, now ‘Clinton’ river. Scarcely allowing himself time for that courteous salutation which Frenchmen, (God bless them!) never forget; and in a condition of undisguised agitation, he burst into an exclamation that ‘the world was coming to an end!’ I thought he spoke distinctly: I thought I heard him clearly: but I could not comprehend him! ‘Plait il Monsieur?’ I said to him; and he repeated his affirmation–‘Voila la fin du monde’–he said, ‘que s’approche; et bien tot tout sera detruit!’ He was not drunk, I thought; he did not appear like a crazy man. I could not believe that I was either the one or the other; and feeling that it was my turn to be astonished, I again asked him what he said? what he meant? A third time he repeated his assertion, but in conclusion he went on the remark, that ‘now you and I see vessels driven with violence by fire through the water. Soon they will be hurled through the air also by fire. You and I may probably both live to see these things; and then all things will melt with fervent heat, and the world will be burnt up! The priests told him so–the Holy Bible says it!’ The mystery was solved, he had seen the steamboat!