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John Chassell, founder of Chassell, Chassell
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CHASSELL MICHIGAN IS NAMED IN HONOR OF JOHN CHASSELL
Before coming to the Copper Country, John Chassell (1814-1883) taught at the
Fairfield Academy in Fairfield, NY along with two of his brothers and his
father who was the Principal there. He left the Academy in 1839, at the age
of 25, and went into business in New York, he later moved to Houghton County
where he went into banking.
John Chassell's mother was Lucinda Elkins Chassell (1790-1820); she is
buried in Cambridge, NY. She was the daughter of Colonel Jonathan Elkins of
Peacham, Vermont. "Jonathan Elkins was probably the most important citizen
of Peacham, including serving as representative to the state legislature."
John was the third child of David and Lucinda Chassell; although they had
five children, they have no living descendants today.
John Chassell's father was the Rev. Dr. David Chassell (1787-1870) who was
born in Glasgow, Scotland and died in Holland Patent, NY. This David
Chassell came to America when he was 8 years old with his Scottish parents.
He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1810, Phi Beta Kappa.
He was the Principal of several prestigious
Academy's and studied theology in Cambridge, he was ordained in 1820 after
which he was Principal in other famous Academy's. Although he was never
installed as a pastor, he preached a great deal over the years as supply
pastor in the local Presbyterian churches. David Chassell was recognized for
his accomplishments when in 1840, Union College conferred upon him the
degree of Doctor of Divinity. Dr. Chassell was also a dairy farmer for 25
years and a cheese maker. He was married three times (his first two wives
died young) and had ten children. Of these ten children, only two have
living descendants, so the name Chassell may be quite rare in the U.S.
John Chassell built the first dwelling in Chassell, it later became the home
of the influential Orrin Robinson family. The grounds are now occupied by the more
recent home at 101 Lakeshore Drive. A part of the original grounds is
owned by the Sigma Rho Fraternity from nearby Michigan Technological
University. John Chassell had purchased the town site in 1867 for farmland from the St. Mary's Canal and Land Company who had acquired the property from the State of Michigan in 1855. In 1881, just 2 years before his death, John Chassell sold his property here to the Sturgeon River Lumber Company owned by Mr. Orrin Robinson, who operated locally for about fourteen years cutting the pine in its holdings. When the pine was cut, the company sold its holdings to the Worchester Lumber Company in 1902. Worchester logged the hemlock and hardwoods which lasted until 1928 when they shut down. Much of the logged over land was sold to the workers and settlers for farmland.
Mr. Chassell was the first cashier of the First National Bank of Houghton
(still open in 2001). He was also active on the Board of Directors of the
"Historical Society and Mining Institute" in Houghton County. As recorded
during their annual meeting January 1867 held in Houghton: "This society has
its rooms over the post office on Shelden street, and is largely indebted to
Mr. John Chassell, a gentleman of scholarly attainments and, for several
years from its organization, Cashier of the First National Bank and
Treasurer and Librarian of this society since its organization, for the
interesting works and objects collected, illustrative of the history of the
county and surrounding Lake Superior region, from the period of the ancient
dwellers, whether Mound Builders or miners, people of a pre-historic
civilization, or of the uncivilized Indian." "...Among the important
commercial institutions of Houghton is that of the First National Bank,
which was organized in May 1865 with a capital of $160,000 and established
in its own building. Ransom Shelden was its first President, and John
Chassell its first Cashier, and a board of nine Directors. It was largely
through Mr. Chassell's influence that the capital was raised. Prior to 1879,
the bank met with reverses, which proved disastrous to the stockholders, but
not to its patrons..." (quoted from pp 274/275 "History of the Upper
Peninsula of Michigan", Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1883.)
An entry on page 1233 of "A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan"
(Chicago, 1911) reads "In 1888 a new township was organized in Houghton
County and a village, named by Governor Robinson, in honor of Mr. Chassell,
was platted, Mr. Chassell having been the cashier of the first bank
established in Houghton."
John Chassell died at the age of 69 on May 15, 1883 at the Douglas House
in Houghton after a brief illness. The news paper obit indicates he is
buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Houghton, Michigan. (The records of
Forest Hill Cemetery do not have him listed, it has been suggested his body
was taken East for burial near his parents.) John Chassell was the only one
of his family who settled in Michigan. He did not marry and left no direct