1808 - 1898
Laura Haviland, affectionately known as Aunt Laura, is probably the best-known and most-admired person who ever lived in Lenawee County. The reason for this admiration and acclaim lies in Mrs. Haviland's life-long devotion to helping others and in the success she so often achieved. Born in 1808, Laura Haviland began her humanitarian and social justice activities in 1832, and she continued with them until her death in 1898.
Most of Mrs. Haviland's activities involved helping African-Americans, but she also devoted much of the latter part of her long life to the temperence movement as pushed by the Women's Christian Temperance Union (the WCTU). No matter what the particular aim of her activity, Mrs. Haviland's strong religious convictions and great personal courage were always evident and led her on no matter what the difficulties and dangers were.
Laura Smith Haviland was born in Canada in 1808. She married Charles Haviland in New York when she was 16 years old. They moved to Michigan around 1829 and lived in Raisin Township. Laura and Charles had eight children.
When they moved to Raisin Township Laura and her husband were members of the Quaker Church, but at that time there was a faction of the Quakers known as Hicksites. The Hicksite Quakers held much stronger views against slavery and by 1834 the
Havilands decided that they should leave the Quaker Church. The Methodist Episcopal Church was having the same division and the strong antislavery members came to be known as the Wesleyan Methodists. The Havilands and others who shared their views eventually joined the Wesleyan Methodists.
In 1845 Laura faced a devestating year. A disease swept through Raisin Township taking not only Laura's husband, but her mother, father and youngest child. Laura was likewise stricken but survived. Despite this monumental setback, Laura Haviland continued to serve as a teacher, nurse, missionary, abolitionist, temperance reformer, and mother.
Laura Haviland died in April of 1898 and is buried at the Raisin Valley Friends Cemetery in Birdsall.
In 1832 Laura Haviland became a member of the Logan Female Antislavery Society. The Logan Female Antislavery Society is considered the first antislavery society in Michigan and the first women's antislavery society anywhere in the old Northwest Territory.
One of the most remarkable achievements in Laura Haviland's life was the creation of the Raisin Institute in 1839. The Raisin Institute is considered the first integrated school in the history of Michigan.
Throughout her life Mrs. Haviland cared deeply about education and saw it as one of the prime ways in which she could help African-Americans
in their efforts to improve their lives. Laura Haviland also started and taught at schools for African-Americans in Cincinnati, Toledo and also in Canada.
Laura Haviland not only helped slaves by education but was personally involved in moving fugitive slave families northward toward freedom. From 1846 to 1856 she made repeated trips to Cincinnati to help stations on the Underground Railroad. At one point slave owners put a $3000 bounty on her because of her efforts.
During the Civil War Laura Haviland worked tirelessly to the benefit of soldiers and freedmen dispensing supplies, money and relief from poor conditions.
In 1874 Laura Haviland became involved with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and was the Adrian group's first president.
In 1881 her autobiography, A Woman's Life Work
The idea for the statue was first conceived in 1907 by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Haviland Association. It took two years to raise the needed $1740. Six hundred people made donations from 5 cents to 500 dollars. Their names, along with a newspaper of the day and a copy of Laura's book, A Woman's Life Work
, were put into a copper box and placed in a compartment between the statue and its base.
The statue, sculpted by F. Barnicoat, was made from 10 tons of Westerly Rhode Island Granite and stands 9'3" tall with a 4'6" figure of Aunt Laura sitting, holding her book A Woman's Life Work
. She is dressed in her traditional Quaker garb including a bonnet with a bow and ribbon. Below Laura a drinking fountain was designed into the statue base. Originally, there was a manhole near the statue where blocks of ice could be put on the water pipes to cool the water.
The Laura Haviland Statue unveiling was on June 24, 1909 on the occasion of the biennial Homecomers' Day Celebration. The statue stood on the front lawn of the Adrian City Hall just west of its present location. Will Carleton, the poet, was the key speaker. He concluded the statue was a tribute to her memory that shall endure for the ages, in order that all who come after us may know who she was, what she did, and thus the memory of the just shall not perish."