Judge Epaphroditus RansomJudge Epaphroditus Ransom of Kalamazoo (but born 1797 in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts) became Allegan County’s first Circuit Court judge in 1837.  In those early years of the court, the Judge was assisted by two non-professional, unschooled associates.  On one occasion, a decision rendered by Judge Ransom was overturned by his two farmer-associates, Elisha Ely and John Anderson.[1]

Judge Ransom held the courts in what was then the third circuit, consisting of Branch, St. Joseph, Cass, Berrien, Kalamazoo, Allegan, Calhoun and Kent Counties, with attached territory.[2]  He simultaneously served on the State Supreme Court as an associate Justice as well, by appointment of territorial Governor Stevens T Mason.  He remained on the Supreme Court until 1848, when he was elected Michigan’s 7th Governor.  He served only one term as governor, however, because of his anti-slavery stance costing him the nomination of his party (Democrat) in 1850.  He served in the State Legislature representing Kalamazoo County in 1853-54, and was then appointed by President Buchanan in 1857 to serve as Collector of Monies at Fort Scott in Kansas.[3]

Judge Ransom was initiated into the Free & Accepted Masonic lodge before his arrival in Michigan.  Lodge records for Vermont Central Lodge #47 list his initiation date as 15 August 1826.  In 8 May 1827, he is recorded as “Bro. Epaphroditus Ransom” and indicated as having presenting a formal address to the lodge.[4]  The latest record the present author has been able to locate with regard to lodge affiliation indicates attendance at meetings in Vermont in 1831.[5]  He died at Fort Scott, Kansas on 11 November 1859, with no indication of Masonic funerary rites or honors, but rather an Episcopalian service.[6]

“Governor Ransom was a man of commanding presence; in height, over six feet; in weight, exceeding two hundred pounds; massive head, with a voice of power.”[7]

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  1. Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, volume 3 (Lansing: W. S. George & Co Printers & Binders, 1881), 285.
  2. William W. Williams & James Harrison Kennedy, The National Magazine: A Monthly Journal of American History, vol. 4 (National History Company, 1886)458.
  3. Willah Weddon, Michigan Governors: Their Life Stories (Lansing, Michigan: NOG Press, 1994).
  4. James H Phelps, Collections Relating to the History and Inhabitants of the Town of Townshend, Vermont (G E Selleck, 1877), 188.
  5. William W. Williams & James Harrison Kennedy, The National Magazine: A Monthly Journal of American History, vol. 4 (National History Company, 1886)458.
  6. Records of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Vermont: From 1794 to 1846 Inclusive (Free Press Association, 1879), 360.
  7. Alex Forist, “Epaphroditus Ransom: Michigan Governor,” Kalamazoo Public Library.
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