||HUGH MOFFAT, late Mayor of Detroit, was born at Coldstream, Scotland, in the year 1810. Early in life he migrated to the United States, settling first in the City of Albany, New York. In the year 1837 he sought to better his fortune by moving to the City of the Straits. Commencing business here as a carpenter, he soon achieved eminence in his employment through the erection -of many of the prominent buildings of other days. Some of these structures still stand as monuments of his honest skill. In later years he was the architect and superintendent of the elegant and substantial building that bears his name.|
From the building business he, in 1852, drifted naturally into the lumber trade, purchasing large tracts of pine land and in his own mill transforming the rough logs into lumber, continuing alone in the business in 1878, when he formed a copartnership with his son Addison, and Florance D. Eatherly, the latter having been, for many years previous, a confidential employee and faithful friend. In connection with his business, one of his last enterprises was the erection of a very extensive and complete saw-mill, one of the best in the State. It occupies the same site as his two previous mills, the first of which was burned, and the second removed to make room for the new structure.
In the lumber traffic Mr. Moffat was even more successful than in his previous occupation, and year by year he saw his wealth increase. This, however, did not have the effect of making him either haughty or vain. He always retained a profound sense of a common brotherhood with all sons of toil. Connected with this feeling was an abhorrence of all sham or pretense. If a man was really willing to work and could prove his willingness, he could always depend on fair treatment and honest compensation; but if there seemed a disposition to shirk a duty or conceal indifference, it was sure to be reproved in words that would scorch and wither.
He was an early and active member of the old Fire Department Society, and influential in the Mechanics' Society when it was in its best estate. He was also a leading member of and served as president of St. Andrew's Society.
A typical Scotchman, he was as sturdy and strong as one of the oaks in his native land. He had little sympathy with the weak and vacillating, but once convince him that a person or a cause was worthy or deserving and his sympathies were warm and active. Always acting upon the idea that what was worth doing was worth doing well, all who did business with him found that his part was honestly performed — that his word was as good as his bond.
He possessed unbending courage, high intelligence and marked firmness of purpose. Enjoying his privileges as a responsible citizen, he acted with the Republican party, but he was in no sense a politician, and his party fealty never interfered with or hindered him in the discharge of any public duty. These characteristics specially fitted him for the position he was destined to occupy.
In 1871 his fellow-citizens elected him Mayor, because they thought his firmness and integrity were then particularly needed. It certainly seemed as though he came “to the kingdom for such a time.” A crisis was at hand in municipal affairs, and it is certain that no Mayor, before or since, had so good an opportunity to serve the taxpayers of the city, and also to serve the best and purest of all faiths, and no one could have more fully and perfectly met the responsibility than did Mr. Moffat.
During the first year of his service as Mayor he undoubtedly saved hundreds of thousands of dollars to the citizens by reason of his numerous vetoes of resolutions for paving the streets, the resolutions vetoed being clearly drawn in the interest of those who would have made large fortunes by foisting upon the public a score of new-fangled and untried methods of paving.
A second occasion in which he demonstrated his fitness for the position of Mayor occurred in connection with a proposal and effort to compel the city to purchase grounds in Hamtramck for a park. It seemed clearly evident that a majority of the citizens did not approve of the proposed purchase; and although a majority of the Common Council favored the proposition and ordered the issue of bonds to make the purchase, Mayor Moffat, with true Scotch grit, refused to sign the bonds, declared that the Council could not compel him to do so, and when legal process was invoked to compel him to sign them, he, at his own expense, carried the case Supreme Court, and a decision was rendered which clearly stated that the Legislature had no power to direct that the city issue bonds for a purpose not necessarily connected with the government or good management of the city, and that the Council were in error in assuming that the issue of the bonds was mandatory. Mayor Moffat was thus triumphant and unjustifiable legislation was very properly rebuked.
The question of Sunday observance and a decent respect for the proprieties of American civilization was also a leading issue during his mayoralty. The subject came up in the form of a resolution passed by the Common Council authorizing the saloons to keep open on Sunday afternoons. Although repeatedly passed, Mayor Moffat did not dodge the issue, but each time vetoed the resolution which authorized and attempted to legalize the business of selling liquors on Sunday. For his action on this question he merits grateful remembrance from all who have at heart the best interests of the city.
After having served two terms as Mayor, Mr. Moffat's characteristic traits became so well known that citizens generally spoke of him as “Honest Hugh Moffat,” and this cognomen is one of the noblest legacies that he left.
He died August 6, 1884. Several of the courts immediately adjourned as a mark of respect and various associations passed resolutions testifying to his worthy life.
Mr. Moffat was married three times. His first wife, whose maiden name was Margery McLachlan, was of Scotch descent, and her parents came from Callander, Stirlingshire. They were married at Albany, November 23, 1836. She died June 16, 1856. His second wife, a cousin of the first, was Miss Isabella McLachlan. They were married on July 14, 1859, at New York. Ten years later, in August, 1869, she passed away. Her remains were taken to Greenwood, Long Island. On January 21, 1879, he married Mrs. Julia E. Hubbard, sister of Thomas W. Palmer. She died November 20, 1880.
His son, Addison Moffat, died about two months before his father, leaving as his widow Mrs. Grace Buhl Moffat.
Hugh Moffat left three daughters and one son, viz., Mrs. George McMillan, Mrs. Edward W. Bissell, Miss Alice E. Moffat and William Moffat, all of them residents of Detroit.