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Jonathan Kearsley (1786–1859) was an American military officer and politician. He fought in the War of 1812 and was a two-time mayor of Detroit.

Jonathan Kearsley
5th Mayor of Detroit
In office
Preceded byJohn Biddle
Succeeded byJohn R. Williams
3rd Mayor of Detroit
In office
Preceded byHenry Jackson Hunt
Succeeded byJohn Biddle
Personal details
Middletown, Pennsylvania
Detroit, Michigan
Alma materWashington College

Early lifeEdit

Jonathan Kearsley was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania on August 20, 1786,[1] and graduated from Washington College in Washington, Pennsylvania (now Washington & Jefferson College) in 1811.[2] He was one of the founders of the Union Literary Society at Washington College.[3] He joined the Army the following year as a First Lieutenant in the Second Artillery Corps, eventually reaching the rank of Major.[1] He fought in several battles during the War of 1812, including the Battle of Stoney Creek, Battle of Crysler's Farm, and the Battle of Chippawa (following the Capture of Fort Erie).[4] In the latter battle, he was wounded, and one of his legs was amputated. The operation was performed incorrectly and he suffered pain for the rest of his life from it.[1]

In 1815, Kearsley married Margaret Hetich.[1] The couple had three children: Edmund Roberts (1816), Rebekah H (1817), and Martha I. (1819); Margaret died in 1821.[1] He later married Rachel Valentine.[5]

Life in DetroitEdit

He held the office of Collector of Revenue Taxes in Virginia from 1817 until 1819, when he moved to Detroit and was appointed Receiver of Public Monies, a title which he held for thirty years.[1] He lived on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street in Detroit.[4]

He served as mayor of Detroit two separate times, first appointed by the council to fill the unexpired term of Henry Jackson Hunt in 1826, and then being elected in 1829.[6] He also served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Michigan from 1827 to 1837, and again on its re-organized Board of Regents from 1838 until 1852.[1][7] He died in 1859 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.[8]

Kearsley Creek, a tributary of the Flint River, Kearsley Community Schools[9], and a major street in Flint, Michigan are named after him, as was the short-lived (1839–43) Kearsley Township, Michigan.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Elmer L. White (1900), The descendants of Jonathan Kearsley, 1718–1782, and his wife Jane Kearsley, 1720–1801, (from Scotland), pp. 51–52
  2. ^ (washington, Washington and Jefferson College; ), Pa; Eaton, Samuel John Mills (1889), Biographical and Historical Catalogue of Washington and Jefferson College, Cincinnati, Ohio: Elm Street Printing Company, p. 272
  3. ^ McClelland, W.C. (1903), "A History of Literary Societies at Washington & Jefferson College", The Centennial Celebration of the Chartering of Jefferson College in 1802, Philadelphia: George H. Buchanan and Company, pp. 111–132
  4. ^ a b Carlisle, Fred, ed. (1890), Chronography of Notable Events in the History of the Northwest Territory and Wayne County, Detroit: O.S. Gulley, Bornman, pp. 236–237, OCLC 13694600
  5. ^ Silas Farmer (1889), THE HISTORY OF DETROIT AND MICHIGAN, p. 1033
  6. ^ The government of the city of Detroit and Wayne County, Michigan: 1701 to 1907, historical and biographical, 1907, p. 28
  7. ^ Barnard, F. A. (1878), American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men: Michigan Volume, Cincinnati: Western Biographical, p. 88, OCLC 2988468
  8. ^ Franck, Michael S. (1996), Elmwood Endures: History of a Detroit Cemetery, Detroit: Wayne State University, p. 156, ISBN 0-8143-2591-2
  9. ^ McKay, Ave'r. "Kearsley celebrates its 75th anniversary". The Eclipse. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Jackson Hunt
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
John Biddle
Preceded by
John Biddle
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
John R. Williams