Henry Howland Crapo / Willson Park
Henry Howland Crapo
Near this site stood the home of Henry Howland Crapo (1804-1869). Born in Massachusetts, Crapo in 1858 moved his family to Flint, where he had invested in timber land. Here he developed a prosperous lumbering business, which became one of the largest and most successful in the state. In 1863-64 Crapo turned his attention to railroading. He was instrumental in the construction of the Flint & Holly Railroad and served as its president until 1868. Originally a Whig, Crapo became a Republican early in his political career. He became mayor of Flint in 1860 and was a state senator in 1863. In 1864 he was chosen as Michigan's thirteenth governor. He was reelected to that post in 1866. Fearing that localities would burden themselves with debt, Crapo opposed measures that permitted communities to subsidize railroads. He died in Flint in 1869.
Willson Park was originally laid out by Governor Crapo as a garden in the early 1860s. Shaped like an amphitheater, it had winding paths and steps bordered with flowering shrubs, perennials, evergreens and original forest trees. Friends said it was "a garden of surprises, since no one knew what finely arranged display would appear at the next turn in the path." The garden also contained an octagonal latticed summer house, which stood in the park for many years. Following Governor Crapo's death, the house and garden were maintained by his son-in-law Dr. James C. Willson, after whom the park is named. After Dr. Willson's death in 1912, his son George offered the site to the public. It is now part of the campus of the University of Michigan Flint.