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Lyman George Willcox (1834-1918)
Civil War veteran and Postmaster at Bay City, MI.

1905 biography. (Added Sept., 2010)

History of Bay County, Michigan - Gansser 1905.


A distinguished member of the bar of Bay County, Michigan, is now retired from active practice. His career has been one of brilliancy both in the military service of his country and in the discharge of the duties of the various offices he has been called upon to fill. He was a native of Michigan, having been born in Avon township, Oakland County, in 1834. He is a son of L. J. and Hopey (Green) Willcox, and a scion of a family which has borne its part in the development of this country from the colonial period to the present date. His ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

L. J. Willcox, father of our subject, was born in Oneida County, New York, in 1803, and in 1824 moved to Oakland County, Michigan, traveling on foot. He settled in Avon township where he became a leading business man. He founded and for many years conducted a flouring mill, furnishing a market for the grain of the entire county from Lapeer County to Ann Arbor. Late in life he sold his mill and retired to his farm of 600 acres in Avon township, where he resided until his death in 1885, aged 82 years. He served as supervisor of Avon township, but never was a seeker of political preferment. His wife died in 1834, at an early age.

The subject of this sketch received his preliminary education in the public schools and in the academy of Romeo. He then took the law course at Hamilton College at Clinton, New York, from which he was graduated with the degree of L. L. B. He then practiced law in Detroit until the war broke out, when he organized a company of 150 men. He was commissioned captain and his company was enlisted at a part of the Third Regiment, Michigan Vol. Cav., being sent to St. Louis for training. They then went to New Madrid, Mississippi, then to Island No. 10, and thence to Pittsburg Landing and Shiloh. He participated in the seige of Corinth and went with his regiment to Alabama, being placed in command at Tuscumbia. He took part in the battles of Iuka and Corinth, and in 1862 was elevated to the rank of major. His command accompanied Grant's army through Mississippi to Granada, and his soldiers occupied Oxford, where he served as provost-marshal at the close of the campaign. They spent the winter of 1862-63 in Tennessee, where they engaged in frequent skirmishes. While encamped near the city of Jackson in March, 1863, occurred an incident which showed the diplomacy of Major Willcox, as well as his ability to view a subject broadly and without bias, and to present his views in a manner to win the regard even of his bitterest enemies. He was called upon by G. D. Penn, who at one time was a captain in the Confederate service; Rev. Mr. Harris, a brother of the Confederate Governor of Tennessee; and J. Hall and Mr. Pinkerton, the two last named meeting their deaths later at the hands of Confederate sympathizers. All were residents of Lexington, Henderson County, Tennessee. After a friendly conversation on general topics relating to local affairs, one of the party remarked: “Major, could our people be made to see the condition of affairs as you do, we think it would lead to a more friendly feeling.” The following correspondence soon took place:

Lexington, Tenn., March 29, 1863.

Major Willcox;

Dear Sir: -- After consulting several citizens in this vicinity, I found it met the approbation of all that you should address them, and, thereupon, Thursday, April 2, 1863, was fixed upon for you to do so, and was so published to have you call and make my house your home while you are among us. The citizens are all anxious for you to be here on that date, and I hope you will make it convenient to be present.

Very respectfully,
G. D. Penn.

Camp Near Jackson, Tenn., March 28, 1863. G.D. Penn, Esq., and others:

Gentlemen: -- It will give me great pleasure to meet the citizens of Henderson County. I accept your invitation, not as a compliment to myself, but as an indication of patriotism and an earnest desire on your part to mitigate the calamity of this terrible war and reconcile citizens who are now in open conflict with each other. I will lend my tongue as readily as my sword for the good of the cause; and I desire all, irrespective of political opinions, to be present and assure you no person conducting himself peacefully at the meeting, whatever may be his sentiment or position, whether he be a Confederate soldier or a Union man, shall be molested, but will be permitted to depart as freely as he comes. Let us have a good old-fashion citizens' meeting, without an element of war about it.

Your fellow-citizen,
L. G. Willcox.

Western Tennessee was at that time overrun by both Union and Confederate soldiers and such an undertaking as the one proposed involved no small risk. But after receiving permission from the department commander, Major Willcox accepted the invitation. General Kimball then in command advised him to take a large force with him, but he went the distance of 28 miles escorted by only eight men, and addressed a large meeting composed of Southern citizens, some of whom wore the Confederate uniform. As a result of the meeting, an earnest Union feeling was developed in that section and a Union force was organized in Western Tennessee. Twenty-four days later, on April 26th, Lieutenant Bingham, brother-in-law of our subject, was killed on the road a few miles from Lexington. From Jackson the regiment made regular cavalry expeditions through Mississippi. When the term of service expired, the members returned home and reorganized and then returned to the field of battle. In the fall of 1864, Major Willcox's health failed and he resigned his commission and returned to Detroit, where he resumed the practice of his profession. He was soon appointed register of the land office at Traverse City, Michigan, a position he filled until 1870. Then because of ill health in his family, they made a trip to California. In the meantime, in connection with E. L. Sprague, he had established and edited the Traverse Bay Eagle. He served one term as prosecuting attorney and circuit court commissioner for Antrim County, and later was appointed prosecuting attorney for Emmet County. For several years he was correspondent for the Western Rural and Chicago Tribune and other publications, and has always been a strong, versatile and forceful writer. After his return from California, he practiced at Pontiac until appointed receiver of public monies at Detroit. In the summer of 1885 he became editor of the Bay City Tribune, removing to this city at that time. After a little more than a year, he was appointed assistant prosecuting attorney for Bay County, in which position he served two years, and next became postmaster of Bay City. His popularity is shown by the fact that the committee appointed by the then Congressman from this district to designate the choice of the people, voted unanimously for him among 13 applicants. He assumed charge of the office in May, 1889, receiving a commission for a full term dating from January 8, 1890, and served five years in all.

Major Willcox married Azubah Bingham, who was born in Watertown, New York, and is a daughter of Rosell Bingham, a native of New Hampshire. They had three children: George, a mechanical engineer and patent attorney of Bay City; Minnie B., deceased; and Mabel, who died in infancy. Religiously, the members of the Willcox family are Presbyterians. The Major is past commander of Dick Richardson Post, No. 147, G. A. R., of Pontiac, Michigan; past commander of H. P. Merrill Post, No. 419, G. A. R., of Bay City; adjutant of U. S. Grant Post, No. 67, G. A. R., of Bay City; and a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States; of the National League of Veterans and Sons; and of Bay City Lodge No. 129, F. & A. M. He has been a member of the Board of Education some years, and was presidential elector-at-large when McKinley was reelected in 1900. He is fine orator and one of the best after-dinner speakers in the State. He is a Republican in politics, but believes in clean politics, and will support no candidate whose methods and character are not above reproach. His portrait accompanies this sketch.

Additional Notes.

    1880 - Census: Pontiac, Oakland Co., Mich.

  • Wilcox, Lyman G. - age 48, b. Mich., lawyer.
  • Azubah, wife - age 43, b. NY.
  • Minnie B., daughter - age 13, b. Mich.
  • George B., son - age 8, b. Mich.

    1893 - Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Willcox, Lyman G. - postmaster, government, res 302 N. Farragut.

    1902 - Michigan Deaths: Saginaw Co., Mich.

  • Willcox, Minnie Bell, died Feb. 2, 1902, age 35, music teacher and daughter of Lyman G. Willcox.

    Historical documents and images related to Lyman G. Willcox are housed at the University of Michigan Flint. [View]

Related Pages/Notes

Lyman G. Willcox

Major L. G. Willcox

Related Pages:
Bay Co. Civil War
People Referenced
Bingham, Azubah (wife)
Bingham, Leut.
Bingham, Rosell (F-inlaw)
Grant, Gen.
Green, Hopey (mother)
Harris, Rev.
Kimball, Gen.
McKinley, Pres.
Merrill, H.P.
Penn, G.D.
Pinkerton, Mr.
Richardson, Dick
Willcox, George (son)
Willcox, Lyman G.
Willcox, Mabel (dau)
Willcox, Minnie (dau)
Willcox, Lyman L. (father)
Subjects Referenced
3d Reg, MI Cav. Alabama
Ann Arbor, MI
Antrim Co., MI
Bay City, MI
Bay City Tribune
Bay Co., MI
Avon twp., MI
Chicago Tribune
Clinton, NY
Detroit, MI
Dick Richardson Post 147
Emmet Co., MI
Henderson Co., TN
H P Merrill Post 419
Lapeer Co., MI
Lexington, TN
New Hampshire
Oakland Co., MI
Oneida Co., NY
Pontiac, MI
New Madrid, MS
Revolutionary War
Traverse City, MI
U S Grant Post 67
War of 1812
Watertown, NY
Western Rural paper
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.