<<Back to Bios
Served the Territorial Court from 1824 through 1836
Chief Justice: 1827, 1828, 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833, 1834, 1835, 1836, 1837
Solomon Sibley was born on October 7, 1769, in Sutton, Massachusetts, into a prominent New England family. He was of English descent and his family first came to the New World shortly after the settlement was established at Plymouth Rock. As a result of his ancestry, he had a strong Puritan background.
The office of prominent Massachusetts lawyer William Hastings served as a classroom where Sibley read law. Sibley found success as a lawyer in Boston, yet decided to relocate to the Northwest Territory in 1795. He initially settled in Marietta, Ohio, but eventually ended up in Cincinnati. There, he formed a partnership with a well-respected lawyer, Judge Jacob Burnet. The partnership was ended in 1796, however, and Sibley went on to settle in the area now known as Detroit. “It may be reasonably claimed that he was the founder of the Detroit city government, as he was the author of the act of incorporation and his influence carried through the Legislature.” (Reed, George I., The Bench and Bar of Michigan: A History and Biography. Chicago: The Century Publishing and Engraving Co., 1897.)
Governor Hull appointed Sibley mayor of Detroit in 1806 and he was given autocratic power in order to get the city established. Subsequent public service consisted of being elected as the director of the Bank of Michigan in 1818, as well as being elected to represent the Michigan Territory in the United States Congress in 1820.
His service on the Michigan Supreme Court began in 1824, and he served until 1837. He served as Chief Justice from 1827 to 1837. Upon his death on April 4, 1840, many members of the Bar wore a badge of mourning for 30days. As a jurist, Sibley was recognized as “a man of most generous disposition and purest integrity.” (Reed.)
In addition to his work in the public sector, Sibley also had a large family. He married Sarah Whipple Sproat of Providence, Rhode Island, in October of 1802.