Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Alger, Russell

Michigan governor Russell A. Alger was born in Medina County, Ohio on February 27, 1836. Alger was orphaned at the age of eleven and was forced to support himself, his younger brother and his younger sister. He worked on a farm to make ends meet, and he also attended school at Richfield Academy. Alger studied law and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in March of 1859. Alger moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan in December of that same year, just before the Civil War.

In Grand Rapids, Alger met his future wife, Annette H. Henry. They married on April 2, 1861. On September 1, 1861 Alger enlisted in the Union Army as a private. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a major general by the time of his retirement in 1864.

After the war, Alger moved to Detroit where he started a successful business within the logging industry. He became head of R.A. Alger & Co., president of Manistique Lumbering Company and a director/stockholder of the Peninsular Car Company and the Detroit National Bank.

Alger successfully ran for governor on the Republican ticket in 1884. His election ended the two-year reign of the Greenback Party in Michigan. During his time in office, Alger formed a soldiers home, a pardon board and a state mining school along with passing legislation to help regulate the Lake Superior ship canal.

In 1897 Alger was appointed to President William McKinley’s cabinet as Secretary of War. In this role, he oversaw the U.S. military operations during the Spanish-American War, a job for which he received much criticism. Alger ultimately resigned from the post and returned to Michigan. Russell A. Alger was not yet done with politics. When U.S. Senator James McMillan died in 1902, the governor of Michigan appointed Alger to complete his term. He remained a senator until he died on January 24, 1907.



Postcard of Alger residence, 1905

View all items related to Russell Alger