Michigan Transportation History

Shadrach Gillett

Public Person Detroit Business Whig Shipping

Shadrach Gillett (1801-1876) was a Detroit businessman and city clerkAdministrator.

Business Career

Gillett was born in Lyme, Connecticut, on January 22, 1801. He migrated to Detroit in 1815 and found work at John Roby?'s general store near Shelby street. After the War of 1812?, Gillett and Roby built the first private wharf on the Detroit River front which served as the first dock for the Walk-in-the-Water. Gillett later bought out Roby's interests, including Roby's warehouse and business property. From this, Gillett got involved in the freight forwarding and commission business. Gillett partnered with Charles Desnoyers? as Gillett & Desnoyers? and later as Gillett & Son? when Thomas Desnoyers? inherited his father's interest. Gillett also invested with his older brother, Reynolds?, with George S. Lester?, and with Elon W. Hudson?. And lastly, with John P. Clark? and George Clark?, Gillett owned a share in their lake and river fisheries and the steamer General Scott. They also owned other lake vessels and mills.

Gillett was elected, as Whig, to the state legislature in 1840State Representative. He served one term.

In 1858, Gillett retired from active management of his businesses, and may have sold his interests, and moved to Portage Lake, Lake Superior. In 1861, he was elected treasurer to the newly formed town of Hancock.[U.P. History, 287]

Detroit City Offices & Legacy

In 1865, Gillett returned to Detroit and entered city service in the Clerk's office B. G. Stimson? (City Controller). He was employed there when he died.

Gillett "was recognized as one of the solid men of the West" and "one of the best accountants in the country, a man of wonderful memory, and thoroughly familiar with the history of Detroit." He was well-known in business circles and "was everywhere and justly regarded as a man of strict integrity." He died on February 15, 1876, of unknown causes. [Obituary]


Shadrach Gillett's brother was Reynolds Gillett?. Shadrach and his family lived at the south-east corner of Fort and Third Streets. Subsequently the Fort Street Presbyterian Church bought the property for its church. His wife died in 1873. His children were Mrs. Henry W. Lord, of Pontiac; Mrs. F. C. Howard?, an attache of the Post Office; Mrs. Jacob Houghton? and Mrs. Ambrose C. Smith?, of Detroit; and one son, Mr. Thomas S. Gillett, of St. Joseph, Mo.


This article is a summary of information from the following sources. I was initially interested in only summarizing the information presented in the MPHS Collections 2 article, but additional research expanded it. I made some effort to identify discreet information, but most sources repeat much of the same story.

"Obituary: Shadrach Gillett Died February 15, 1876." Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Collections 2 (1880): 62-63.

The Detroit News Tribune, January 12, 1896, p.14. Excerpted here.

History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Chicago: Western Historical Co., 1883), 286-291.

Bingham, S. D. Early History of Michigan, with biographies of state officers, members of Congress, judges and legislators (Lansing: Thorp & Godfrey, 1888), p. 297.

Michigan Historical Commission, s.v. "Shadrach Gillet," Michigan Biographies (Lansing: by the commission, 1924), I-329.

Additional Sources

There is an extensive biography at the Family Tree Maker relative to the descendants of Gordon Peters.

Descendants of Jonathan Gillet, Jr., Family Tree Maker.


Citation: When referencing this page please use the following citation:

R. D. Jones, "Shadrach Gillett," Michigan Transportation History (Ypsilanti, MI: 2020), www.michtranshist.info/.

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Page last modified on March 29, 2020, at 10:37 AM EST

Page last modified on March 29, 2020, at 10:37 AM EST