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COLUMN: How Lansing (Michigan) got its name

Lou Parrotta
Sentinel columnist
Posted 12/3/22

On January 26, 1837, the United States admitted Michigan to the union as its 26th state. Eleven years later, the incorporation of the city of Lansing occurred.

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COLUMN: How Lansing (Michigan) got its name


On January 26, 1837, the United States admitted Michigan to the union as its 26th state.

Eleven years later, the incorporation of the city of Lansing occurred. How Lansing got its name is relevant to the citizens of Utica as it was because Richard Ray Lansing, a former Utican, was in the right place at the right time.

Lansing, known as an industrious man, was born in July 1789 to Revolutionary War veteran Col. Gerrit G. and Manette (Maria) Antill Edwardsee. He graduated from Union College in 1809 and studied the law under Utica Judge Jonas Platt, a former United States Congressman and New York State politician.

Lansing fell in love with Platt’s daughter Susana and married her on June 14, 1813. The couple had thirteen children.

Appointed as the clerk for the District Court of Northern District of New York set in Utica, Lansing served in that capacity for 17 years, in 1815, Lansing became a law partner with Judge Morris S. Miller in his local law practice.

While serving in his role as clerk in Utica, Lansing officially recorded the copyright of Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon, the foundation of the Church of Latter Day Saints, on June 11, 1829.

In Utica, Lansing first lived on Broad Street before relocating to a home he built in 1829 on Chancellor Square. Lansing was a skilled sportsman that loved to fish and hunt. He outlived his means, however, and struggled to provide adequately for his rather large family. In 1830, he relocated to New York City and involved himself in the importing of wine and liquor.

Lansing’s economic situation stabilized, albeit for a short period of about five years. After a large fire wiped out the business leaving Lansing in ruins, he uplifted his family and moved to Michigan in December 1835.

In Michigan, Lansing worked at different times in land sales and copper mining on Lake Superior (one of the first prospectors to do so). His wife passed away in 1843 and Lansing subsequently married her cousin, Eliza Livingston Thompson, the daughter of Henry Beekman Livingston, Jr., who descendants claim is the uncredited author of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly knowns as The Night Before Christmas.

She was also the widow of United States Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. They had no children.

In Michigan, Lansing served as the president of the Michigan Coal Company in 1846, and in 1850 he served as the president of the Detroit City Gas Company. He also wrote a book titled Mineral Coal of Michigan.

Lansing was out fishing one afternoon and ambled in to a local tavern, which technically was half-store and half-tavern. At the bar that day, some local Michiganders were in deep debate about what to call their “four corners” area of the state. One patron looked over to Lansing as he walked in and said, “Here’s Dick Lansing, the cleverest fellow that ever came to these corners, let’s call it after him.”

The town did just that.

In 1847, Michigan relocated in capital city from Detroit to the more centrally located Lansing. Richard Ray Lansing died on September 29, 1855 in Detroit and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Wayne County, Mich.


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