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County History

The hallways outside the Wayne County Commission chambers have showcases displaying maps, documents, photos and more from the history of Michigan's most populous county, and photos of key leaders in the county's history line the walls.

The following is an electronic look at what's on display. Items in the showcases originally were researched and compiled by historian John Stewart.

The Wayne County Commission chambers are on the mezzanine level of the Guardian Building, 500 Griswold, Detroit. Full Commission meetings are held at 10 a.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month in the chambers; committee and task force meetings are held during the week in the seventh-floor hearing room. Schedules and agendas are posted at Click on the "committees" pull-down menu.

The Beginnings


Influential Residents

Six famous people in the history of Wayne County have portraits in the hallways outside the Wayne County Commission chambers on the mezzanine level of the Guardian Building, 500 Griswold, Detroit. The portraits were hung in 1989 at the Old Wayne County Building, 600 Randolph, Detroit. County operations were moved to the Guardian in 2009.

The six are Joseph Campau, Henry Ford, Josephine Gomon, David McCoy Jr., Benjamin Pelham and Alfred Pelham.

The Pelhams

Benjamin Pelham and his son, Alfred, are two key people in the history of Wayne County government. Not only were they among the first black leaders, their financial acumen had a major impact on Michigan's most populous county.

Benjamin Pelham (1862-1948) was known as the "Czar of Wayne County." He served in the county's government for 47 years (1895-1942), including as chief accountant, the highest nonelective position. He was credited with helping Wayne County not default during the Great Depression. He also was clerk to the county treasurer, Board of Auditors and Board of Supervisors, and served on many boards and commissions, including as a Wayne County Parks trustee.

A gifted writer, he and his brothers started The Venture literary magazine, aimed at fellow blacks, in 1879 and changed the name to the Plaindealer in 1882 before folding it in 1893.

Pelham Road in Allen Park, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Taylor is named in his memory.

Alfred Pelham (1900-1987) succeeded his father as Wayne County's accountant in 1942 and served as the county's director of budget and finance and interim president of Wayne County Community College, rescuing it from financial turmoil. He earned the nickname "The Miracle Worker."

Like his father, he was a talented writer. The younger Pelham was a published author.