History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Book 2, Page 1

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Hon. Willard Stearns, deceased, was one of the conspicuous members of the legal fraternity of Lenawee county, and throughout a period of twenty-seven years he was connected with the news-paper circles of Adrian as the editor of the Adrian Press. He achieved distinction in both professions, and especially as an editor did he gain more than a state-wide reputation, being recognized as a profound and able writer, and every issue of his paper bore a -message- from his vigorous brain to his many expectant readers. Mr. Stearns came to Lenawee county in 1851, from Cherry Valley, N. Y., where he was born Oct. 3, 1838, the second son of Willard and Lucinda Stearns. His father had died in the July preceding his birth, leaving the young wife to battle alone along life's journey, and to a loving mother's devoted care and training was due the son's education and much of his success in after life. In 1851 the mother married Henry Bowen, Sr., and at once came with her husband to his home in Franklin township, Lenawee county. There Willard Stearns passed his youthful days upon a farm until he was eighteen years old, when he taught his first school in the Sebring district in Ogden township. Up to this time his education had been secured by attendance at the district schools three months in the year, but after -he commenced his career as a teacher the way was opened for further advancement in scholastic lines. In the spring of 1858 he entered the State Normal School, and after diligently pursuing the prescribed course of study he graduated, in that institution with the class of 1862. The Civil war was then in progress, and the patriotic feelings of Mr. Stearns being aroused, he entered the army in July, 1863. He enlisted in Company H, of the Eleventh Michigan cavalry, was mustered in as first lieutenant of the company, and in December left the state with his command for Kentucky, where the regiment was engaged in scouting during February and March. Lieutenant Stearns remained in the service until -the winter of 1884, when he resigned, and shortly after his return from the front he was secured to teach the district school in the Payne district, two miles north of Rome Center. He had decided upon the profession of law for his future career, and after due preparation he matriculated at the University of Michigan, in the law department of which he _was graduated with the class of 1867. That same year he located in the city of. Adrian, where he ever afterward resided, and he at once formed a partnership with Ex-Gov. W. L. Greenly, which association -was continued until the death of the latter. In 1871 Mr. 'Stearns became the candidate of the Democratic party for the office of superintendent of schools of Lenawee county, and after a most vigorous canvass he was elected over his Republican competitor by a majority of ten votes in a total of over 8,ooo. The result of this election becomes all the more significant when the fact is stated that this was the first time in twenty years that a Democrat had been elected to a county office inLenawee county. In 1872 Mr. Stearns received the Democratic nomination for the office of state superintendent of public instruction, and in 1876 he was on the ticket as a candidate for secretary of state, but his party being greatly in the minority in Michigan he went down in defeat with the remainder of the ticket on both occasions. He was elected justice of the peace in 1875, and the served twelve years on the city council of Adrian. When his party secured the ascendancy in the nation in 1885, President Cleveland appointed hint postmaster at Adrian, a position which he honored for a period of five years, surrendering the position only when it was given to another in obedience to the edict, "To the victors belong the spoils."

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History of Lenawee County
published by The Western Historical Society in 1909. Book 1
Book 2

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