Today, the Michigan State Quarter Coin remembers when the people of Detroit celebrated the new railroad connecting them to points east.
One historical excerpt explains the events behind the celebration and the second excerpt describes the happy festivities.
From Historic Michigan Land of the Great Lakes edited by George N. Fuller published by National Historical Association, Inc., Dayton, Ohio:
The next important achievement of the Michigan Central is found in the establishing of rail connection between Buffalo and Detroit, between which points the road’s freight was transported by lake vessels for several years after it was incorporated.
The Great Western and the Detroit & Niagara River railroads, Canadian concerns, had started building lines across Ontario between the falls and Detroit, but so slow was their progress that the officials of the Michigan Central cast about for a way to expedite the matter.
To this end they enlisted the aid of the New York Central railroad and took over the project of the Great Western railroad.
On November 10, 1853, the line was opened from Niagara Falls to Hamilton, Ontario, and on January 17, 1854, the first train reached Detroit, an occasion that was attended by a great celebration.
From the Programs of the London and Middlesex Historical Society published by the Society in 1908:
The Opening of the G.W.R. at Detroit, January, 1854.
The completion of the Great Western Railroad was celebrated at all points of the line during the second week of January, 1854.
It had taken seven years in building it from Niagara Falls to Windsor. The completion of the Eastern Division had been celebrated at Niagara Falls and of the center at London.
The people of Hamilton and Detroit had the honor of uniting in the final ceremonies.
The Detroit Jubilee took place on Tuesday, 17th January, 1854.
Long before daylight on Tuesday, the guests from the state of New York, to the number of four hundred, arrived from the Falls.
So numerous had been the invitations in Hamilton and Toronto, that a second train was found absolutely necessary.
Shortly after 7 a.m., the entire party, mustering nearly seven hundred, were on their way; more came on board at Dundas.
The hills of Dundas were crowded with people, including old Mr. Klotz, of Preston Springs, to see the trains pass on their way to Windsor.
At Paris, Woodstock and London more came on board, and on leaving the last-named place, twenty-four cars were densely packed. The day was fine, and the track in excellent order.
The first train reached Windsor before 5 pm. and was greeted with an artillery salute from the Detroit shore.
A deputation from the city was in waiting at Windsor, and all crossed in the ferry to the Dominions of Brother Jonathan.
The reception was most cordial, and thousands of people greeted their guests on landing with hearty cheers.
Militia Companies, both Cavalry and Foot, in splendid uniforms, formed a guard Of honor; and also the Fire Companies with their engines.
Every place was illuminated, as well as the immense freight shed of the Michigan Central Railroad Company, in which the dinner was served.
This immense room was fitted up in a truly magnificent manner, and seated two thousand people. The dinner was prepared by our Old friend, Cole Biddle, of the Biddle House.
Two thousand half-famished guests did full justice to it; hardly one of the party had seen food or drink for twelve hours, and the way that the knives and forks were made to move, and the plates cleaned, and the champagne corks fly, must have been perfectly astonishing.
The steamer Dart and the ferry boats were constantly plying between Detroit and Windsor, carrying over hundreds to the Canadian shore to welcome the guests that arrived by the two trains.
The two trains of twelve cars each came in one after the other at Windsor, between 5 and 6 pm, amid the cheers of the mass of people, mingled with the roar of cannon on both sides, and the waving of flags.
The boats on the river were decorated with flags. which gave the whole scene a gay appearance. The new ferry boat, accommodating about a thousand people, brought over the guests, and it was crowded to the utmost capacity.
They were greeted by the immense multitude at the foot of Woodward Avenue.
On board were the Recorder. Alderman Ladue and U. Tracy Howe.
The Waverly House. the Exchange, the Larned House and Johnston Hotel were particularly noticeable, each being a blaze of light from cellar to garret. British and American flags waved together.
At 7 pm. the guests were admitted to the dinner without any disorder, though it took an hour to seat them all.
An imitation of a bridge and a locomotive was at the head of the center table; and in front of the chairman was a temple. They were objects of admiration.
After dinner, the first toast was for the President of the United States, responded to by Hon. Ross Wilkins, the band playing “ Hail, Columbia!”
He said : Heretofore we have been ice-bound and marsh bound. If we wish to visit our friends in the east, we must start before the close of navigation; now we can go in winter as well as in summer.
Many toasts and sentiments were offered. The company separated about 1 o’clock.
The next day, shortly before 12 o’clock, the last ferry crossed to Windsor-the guests exchanging parting cheers as the cars moved eastward.
Everyone was pleased with the hospitality of the people of Detroit.
Just fancy having to provide two thousand beds for the people in Detroit in 1854! They must have had a bed in every nook and corner.
The Michigan State Quarter Coin shows with an image of a Great Western Railway locomotive and tender, circa 1859.