I was traveling through southern Michigan and I went through the town of Girard. I saw this old building which I can only assume was a church. The stained glass above the door prominently displays the date 1876. A hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I can only imagine what the town was like back then.
As with most of the places I visit I did a little research to find out some history of the town and as usual I learned something new. The town was named after Stephen Girard. The fourth wealthiest person in United States history. Born in 1750 in France he was a sea captain transporting good between France and the port of New Orleans. In 1776 the British forced his ship into the port of Philadelphia where he settled there as a merchant. He eventually worked his way up to purchasing the First Bank of the United States. Towards the end of the war of 1812, when the financial credit of the U.S. government was at its lowest, Girard placed nearly all of his resources at the disposal of the government and underwrote up to 95 percent of the war loan issued, which enabled the United States to carry on with the war.
Girard was struck by a horse and carriage and died in 1831. At the time of his death, Girard was the wealthiest man in America and he bequeathed nearly his entire fortune to charitable and municipal institutions of Philadelphia and New Orleans. It including an endowment for establishing a boarding school for “poor, male, white orphans” in Philadelphia, primarily those who were the children of coal miners, which opened as the Girard College in 1848.
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