William McKendree Carleton, The Bard of Michigan

Will Carleton, the Michigan BardWilliam McKendree Carleton, The Bard of Michigan
10/12/1847, Hudson, MI – 12/18/1912, Brooklyn, NY

Carleton, a farmer’s son, was an 1869 graduate of Hillsdale College and internationally-recognized poet, editor, and lecturer, described the inspiration for his most well-known poem:

“Over there to the west, in Hillsdale, there stood in the old days a county poorhouse,” he said.
“Sometimes, I used to visit the inmates there and hear their troubles.
And sometimes I used to see old people … who had out their property in the hands of their children,
passing up the road on their way to the poorhouse on the other side of the hill.”

Upon his death, Carleton became the unofficial “poet laureate.” In Public Act 51, signed into law in 1919, the State of Michigan designated October 21st of each year as “Carleton Day” in memory of “Michigan’s pioneer poet.”2 

These selections by and about Will Carleton held at the Library of Michigan:


1The Collegian. Hannah Niemeier, “Will Carleton: Poet of the People” March 23, 2017.

2Mlive. Jack and David Dempsey, “Michigan Authors: Poet Will Carleton Came to Fame Writing Wistfully About Divorce.” August 9, 2013.