James A. Van Dyke

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James A. Van Dyke
Mayor of Detroit
In office
Preceded by John R. Williams
Succeeded by Frederick Buhl
Personal details
Born December 1813
Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Died May 7, 1855
Detroit, Michigan
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Desnoyers
Alma mater Madison College

James Adams Van Dyke (December 1813 – May 7, 1855) was a lawyer, fireman and the 21st mayor of Detroit, Michigan. He was elected in 1847.

Early Biography[edit]

James Adams Van Dyke was born in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania in December, 1813, the son of William and Nancy Duncan VanDyke.[1] He graduated from Madison College in Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1832, then studied law in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and Hagerstown, Maryland before moving to Baltimore.[1] In 1834, he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but was unhappy with his situation there[2] and moved on to Detroit, where six months later was admitted to the bar. He began a practice with future Michigan Supreme Court justice Charles W. Whipple in 1835, later partnering with, in turn, E. B. Harrington and H. H. Emmons, before leaving private practice in 1852 to become the attorney for the Michigan Central Railroad.[1]

In 1837, he married Elizabeth Desnoyers; the couple had eleven children.[1]

Public service[edit]

In 1835, VanDyke was appointed City Attorney for Detroit; he also served in that capacity in 1839, and as Wayne County prosecuting attorney in 1840.[1] He was a city alderman in 1843 and 1844, and was elected mayor in 1847.[1] He was president of the Detroit Fire Department from 1847-1851, and a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Detroit Water Works from 1853 until his death in 1855.[1]

Politically, Van Dyke was a Whig, and he was described as a brilliant and eloquent orator.[3]

James A. VanDyke died on May 7, 1855.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Silas Farmer (1889), THE HISTORY OF DETROIT AND MICHIGAN, pp. 1038–1039 
  2. ^ Paul Leake (1912), History of Detroit, a chronicle of its progress, its industries, its institutions, and the people of the fair City of the straits, Volume 3, The Lewis Publishing Company, pp. 879–884 
  3. ^ Robert B. Ross (1907), The early bench and bar of Detroit from 1805 to the end of 1850; "Winder's memories", Richard P. Joy and Clarence M. Burton, pp. 205–206 

Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John R. Williams
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
Frederick Buhl