The History of the naming of the village of Capac!

Capac Village Map of 1859

The Capac Historical Society recently discovered the following three articles in the Capac Weekly Argus Newspaper Collection of 1880. Although no author is given, there is strong evidence that Honorable Dewitt Clinton Walker was the writer of these articles. Whom else would have the information concerning the historical background of our village name other that the founder himself.

Map of Capac 1876

“I am not given to making rose colored pictures of our village as the home of my adoption because I believe the permanent growth of a village is better advanced by inducing settlers to locate among us who expect to battle for livelihood, or work out a fortune by their own efforts and calculations, here, the same as they would have to do elsewhere”

Built in 1874, First Baptist Church celebrated “Pioneer Day” in 1908.

“Capac has not grown as rapidly as some other places, but has grown slow and sure, and it is gratifying to observe the continued prosperity and increased substantial growth of the place, which has been especially marked during the past year, giving the best evidence that the village and the people have come to stay.”

Capac School Built in 1879

“We can today boast of as good a school house as there is in St. Clair County, being a very handsome brick structure three story high, costing in the neighborhood of $7000, and situated on a very imposing piece of ground.”

“There are several buildings in the course of erection now, prominent among which is the brick dwelling of Dr. McGurk, situated on Main Street. This is to be a very handsome building, and will be furnished with all the modern improvements including heating by steam.”

Methodist Episcopal Church Completed December 1879

“Next in order comes the new M. E. Church a prominent building, and whose spire is the first object to be seen from a distance. Other buildings have been erected during the past year, but I speak only of the more costly ones.”

“Perhaps it would be well for me to say something of the importance and different branches of business as carried on.

National (New Western) Hotel built in 1857

There are 3 first class hotels, 13 general stores, 3 millinery shops, 2 boot and shoe shops, 4 blacksmith shops, tin shop, meat market, carriage works, marble works, brick factory, foundry, 3 grain elevators, 5 mills, 4 churches and 4 lodges, viz: Masonic, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and Good Templars.”

Doors from second floor of the old wagon shop on the northeast corner of Main and Meier speak of a bygone era. Photo courtesy Raymond MillsCollection.

“A prominent feature of Capac is its numerous mills, having two saw mills, one sash, door and blind factory which is doing a very extensive business, and one grist mill, also another in the course of erection, a favorable mention of which appeared in last weeks edition of the Argus.

Capac Map of 1896 shows the Agricultural Fair Grounds in the north west corner of the village.

Another prominent feature is the Capac District Agricultural Society, which was organized last spring. The Society has erected new buildings, and prepared a very fine half-mile track said to be one of the best in the state. The first Annual Fair was held September 24, 25 and 26 of the present year (1879).

We also have one of the best grain markets along the N.W.G.T.R.R. (North West Grand trunk Rail Road), the highest market price being paid for wheat and other cereals. This is a great inducement to farmers to come here and market their produce, some coming even as far as twenty five miles, preferring our market to Port Huron.”

Capac Depot prior to 1914

“Capac has done well by those who were pioneers in this locality, and, by their sagacity and enterprise, they have in turn done a great thing for Capac. The shrill noise of the locomotive whistle that first rang out upon the frozen air and re-echoed through the trees that surrounded the village, was in the year 1869, and it heralded the advent of prosperity for this place.

The Old Union Church Bell cast in 1874 still rings out from the bell tower of First Baptist Church. Photo courtesy Raymond Mills Collection.

Not a few of our business firms represent men who began the battle of life with comparatively small resources, they were unencumbered, and, as they became independent through their well earned success, they abandoned their early determination to make as much money possible here and return to their former abode to spend it. Nearly everyone is ready to admit that there is a rapid growing improvement in the condition of society, which is shown in the retiring of the crude elements which are so generally boldly planted wherever a live new town is established.

The first brick church built in Capac
Photo Courtesy Bill & Janet Savage Collection

No community in the State (Michigan) can today boast of a better class of people than those who form the substantial settlers of Capac, and in no place can a more wholesome society be met with. There may of course be a darker picture drawn if a person choose to follow only the lower level, but there are few towns of the size of Capac, having a large floating population, where public morals and the public peace are better maintained. What is most desirable to make Capac a city worthy of its founders and a credit to its inhabitants, is to have a harmonious action upon the part of the business men especially with reference to promoting our growth and prosperity as a town.

Honorable Dewitt Clinton Walker

The prosperity of any town, large or small, new or old, may be promoted by an organized effort on the part of its inhabitants, having in view the public good rather than the accomplishment of some private purpose. Capac has had an existence of nearly 28 years, and I am not disposed to think her destiny fulfilled, or that her growth and career of usefulness have any more than fairly begun. – AN INTERESTED CITIZEN. ” Capac Weekly Argus NOVEMBER 14, 1879.”

CAPAC – A Short History on the Origin of the Name- Capac Weekly Argus


“In the course of a few weeks we intend to give a history of the origin of the name “Capac’” especially for the benefit of those who call the place Kapac, Hapac, Hopack and a dozen different ways, merely through ignorance, of the history of their country.”

CAPAC – A Short History on the Origin of the Name – Capac Weekly Argus 1/9/1880

1787 Edition Visions of Columbus by Joel Barlow

“It is often asked how our village came to be called Capac, especially is this case among the illiterate and those who are not well read in ancient history. Such persons are apt to associate it only with names of a somewhat similar sound, such as shoepack, epecac etc., and when Capac began to cut off from the older and more southern villages of Memphis, Armada, Romeo and Almont, a large portion of their trade from the north, they gave vent to their ire by heaping epithets on the name of our village, somewhat after the manner, that a schoolboy will sometimes vent his spire on another by making up uncouth faces at him. For the information of such we will refer them to almost any of our encyclopedias, and to the Vision of Columbus, written by Joel Barlow in 1787, and a dissertation upon Manco Capac for the first of the Peruvian Emperors or Incas; a few quotations from which we will give as follows: On page 69 of the latter work the poet writes:

‘There reigns a prince, whose land the scepter claims,

Visions of Columbus pg69

Thro’ a long lineage of imperial names;

Where the brave roll of following Incas trace –

The distant father of the realm and race, Immortal Capac.

He is youthful in pride, With fair Oella, his illustrious bride,

From the pure splendors of their God, the sun;

With power and dignity a throne to found,

Visions of Columbus p70

Fix the mild sway and spread their arts around;

Crush the dire Gods that human victims claim,

And point all worship to a nobler name;

With cheerful rites, the due devotions pay,

To the bright beam that gives the changing day.’ ”

Visions of Columbus p71

“From the traditions of Capac and Oella, mentioned by the Spanish historians, they appear to have been very great and distinguished characters. About three centuries previous to the discovery of that country by the Spaniards, the natives of Peru were as rude savages as any in America. They had no fixed habitations, on ideas of permanent property; they wandered naked like the beasts, and like them, depended on the events of each day for a precarious subsistence. At this period, Manco Capac and his wife Mama Oella appeared on a small island in the lake Titiaca; near which the city of Cusco was afterwards erected. These persons in order to establish a belief in divinity, in the minds of the people, were clothed in white garments of cotton; and declared themselves from the Sun, who was their father and the God of that country. They affirmed that he was offended at their cruel and perpetual wars, their barbarous modes of worship, and their neglecting to make the best use of the blessings he was constantly bestowing, in fertilizing the earth and producing vegetation; that he pitied their wretched state, and had sent his own children to instruct them, and to establish a number of wise regulations by which they might be rendered happy.” – To be continued

CAPAC – A Short History on the Origin of the Name – Capac Weekly Argus 1/16/1880

A few brief selections from Joel Barlow’s “Vision of Columbus”

“By some extraordinary method of persuasion, those persons drew together a number of the savage tribes, laid the foundations of the city of Cusco, and established what was called the kingdom of the Sun, or the Peruvian empire. In the reign of Manco Capac, the dominion was extended about eight leagues from the city; and at the end of three centuries, it was established fifteen hundred miles on the coast of the Pacific Ocean; and from that ocean to the mountains of the Andes. During this period, through a succession to twelve monarchs, the original constitution, established by the first Inca, remained unaltered; and was at last overturned by an accident, which no human wisdom could for see or prevent.”

“The history of the world affords no instance of men whose manners were equally ferocious, and whose superstition was more bloody and unrelenting that the Peruvians. On the contrary, the establishments of Manco Capac carry the marks of a most benevolent and pacific system; they tended to humanize the world and render his people happy; while his ideas of the Deity were so perfect, as to bear a comparison with the enlightened doctrines of Socrates or Plato.”

“We find the political system of Capac at least equal to those of the most celebrated or modern lawgivers. But in one particular his character is placed beyond comparison; I mean for his religious institutions, and the just ideas he had formed, by the unenlightened efforts of human wisdom, of the nature and attributes of Deity.”

“On the whole, it is evident, that the system of Capac is the most surprising exertion of human genius to be found in the history of mankind. When we consider him as an individual emerging from the midst of a barbarous people, having seen no possible example of the operations of laws in any country, originating a plan of religion and policy never equaled by the sages of antiquity, civilizing an extensive empire and rendering religion happiness of mankind, there is no danger that we grow too warm in his praise, or pronounce too high an eulogium of his character. Had such a genius appeared in Greece or Rome, he had been the subject of universal admiration, had he arisen in the land of Turkey, his praises had filled a thousand pages in the diffusive writings of Voltaire.”

The members of the Capac Historical Society are grateful to Editors Albert H. Finn and Joseph E. Stoults for recording the above articles in Capac’s first newspaper:Capac Weekly Argus.

Click the link to read The Visions of Columbus by Joel Barlow 1787.

Articles and photos compiled by Roxann Mills.

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