Saturday, August 31, 2013

Flagget Henry Trabbic (1866-1919)

From a campaign card in the possession of Mrs. Judy Carr.


   A resident of distinction in Monroe County, Michigan, Flagget Henry Trabbic lived to the age of just 53, and during that short lifespan rose to become one of the aforementioned county's most honored sons, being at various times a farmer, stock-raiser, town supervisor and state representative. Despite his prominence in 19th and early 20th century Michigan, Mr. Trabbic is all but forgotten today, and it is that point that makes me proud to know that there are existing historical and genealogical societies that dedicate much effort to keeping records on the lives of long deceased figures like the man profiled today.
   The following write-up on Flagget Trabbic's came about with help of the Genealogical Society of Monroe County President Loretta Dunham, who received an e-mail from me a few weeks ago asking for help in tracking down a portrait of Mr. Trabbic. I received an e-mail shortly thereafter from Loretta, who related in her message that there was a GSMC member who was a Trabbic descendant, and with luck she might have a picture of him. A short while afterwards I received a kind e-mail from one Judy Carr, who noted that Flagget Trabbic was her great-great uncle! After relating that I had been unable to locate a portrait of Mr. Trabbic, Judy e-mailed me the above portrait, part of a campaign card dated 1910 that Trabbic used when he ran for register of deeds in Monroe County. The full card is shown below, and this marks the first time I've seen a picture of this elusive Michigan native since locating his name nearly a year ago. I can't thank Judy enough for her help with locating the picture, as well as relating new information on Flagget that I'd previously been unaware of!
   The story of this oddly named legislator begins with his birth in Erie Township in Michigan on February 10, 1866. Flagget H. Trabbic was one of eight children born to Guytani Peter Trabbic (1821-1903) and his second wife Caroline Knaggs (1830-1881). Peter Trabbic, as most references list him, was born near Genoa, Italy in 1821 and had immigrated to the United States in the early 1830s. Over the course of his life he became one of Monroe County's prominent landowners, "owning over 700 acres of Michigan's best soil, all located in Erie and Bedford townships." As Judy Carr related to me during our correspondence, the Trabbic family name was originally spelled as "Trebbeco", as per old family records, and "the name Flagget was not an uncommon amongst the French Canadians" that had settled in the Monroe County area during the first half of the 19th century. Peter Trabbic was also politically active, serving as Erie Township supervisor on two occasions.
  Flagget Trabbic received his education in schools local to Erie township and later attended the St. Mary's Institute in Dayton, Ohio. Following the completion of his schooling Trabbic returned to Erie to take over the day to day operations of the family's 700 acre farm. For many years afterward he was engaged in farming and in June 1892 married Ms. Mattie Lehr (1867-1957), mentioned by the 1913 History of Monroe County as a "musician of talent." The couple would later have two children, a son who died infancy in 1893 and a daughter Gladys, who died aged one in 1902.
  Trabbic first became active in local political affairs in 1893, when he was elected as Erie township supervisor. He served in this capacity for three years, and during his last year in office served as president of the board of supervisors of Monroe County. He was returned to the office of supervisor a decade later but resigned when he was elected to the legislature. Trabbic became a candidate for the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1906 and in November of that year won the election, defeating Republican Lucien B. Smith by a vote 3,269 to 3,007. His election as Monroe County's representatives in the legislature was later encapsulated by the History of Monroe County in the following passage:
"The citizens of Monroe County were fully aware of the possibilities for either good or evil when they sent Mr. Trabbic to the legislature as their representative, but new absolutely from their lifelong acquaintance with the man that nothing but the strictest justice would ever issue from his hands. They were not mistaken; he preformed his duty to the entire satisfaction of his constituents, and also of his state, which is proud to acknowledge him as one of her sons."
From the 1907 Michigan State Legislative Manual.

   Taking his seat in January 1907, Trabbic served one term as a representative, 1907-1909. Despite serving only one term in the house Mr. Trabbic proved to be a very capable first term legislator, introducing a number of bills during his term. Amongst these pieces of legislation were a bill "to establish a township system for maintaining, repairing and cleaning out established ditches, drains and water-courses in the county of Monroe" and also introduced a petition brought about about by Monroe County residents "asking for the passage of a bill to regulate the practice of optometry." In addition to the above Trabbic held a seat on the house committees on Game Laws, Industrial Home for Girls, Mines and Minerals, during 1907-08 legislative session. Late in his term Trabbic became a booster for the establishment of a monument to Col. George Custer in Monroe County, and "was instrumental in gaining an appropriation of twenty-five thousand dollars" to fund the project through.
  After a successful first term in the legislature Trabbic ran for reelection in November 1907 but was defeated by Republican candidate C. Wesley Kemmerling by a vote of 4,018 to 3,655. Following his defeat, Trabbic continued to take an active role in Monroe County political affairs, being the Democratic candidate for Register of Deeds in 1910.

Trabbic's campaign card, from the collection of Judy Carr.

   Little could be found in regards Trabbic's final years, although notice is given as to his opening a garage in Erie township in 1917. He was the proprietor of this garage for only a few years, as he contracted pneumonia and later pyelitis (an inflammation of the kidney area in the pelvic region) and died aged 53 on April 4, 1919. Trabbic was later interred at the St. Joseph Cemetery in Monroe, Michigan and was survived by his wife Mattie (also interred at St. Joseph), who died at age 90 in 1957. 

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