The History of Clinton Township

The History of Clinton Township Michigan

On July 22, 1782 David Zeisberger and his followers founded the first settlement in Clinton Township. He described the site of "New Gnadenhutten" in his diary, "founded on this side of the river a fine place to lay out a town on a height ... between the river and the height, there are many springs with many separate little brooks that flow into the river and have exceedingly good water. The land on the site of the town is so sandy ... the lowlands are very rich with heavy timber. We chose this place before all others for our town site ... heavily laden boats can go even to the fork, a half-mile higher up ... and canoes can go much further. We are glad and thankful to have found such a good and healthy a spot for a town site nothing was lacking. We found traces that long ago an Indian town must have stood on this place."

It was in October 1781 that the British commandant at Detroit, Major DePeyster sent for the missionaries at Schoebrun (Ohio) to answer the charges against them of being sympathetic to the American cause. After much questioning they were vindicated. In July, 1782 DePeyster provided the Moravian Missionaries with provisions and obtained a parcel of land on the Huron River from the Chippewa Indians for use until the war between England and the colonies was over. (the Indians and French had called this river, the “Nottawasippe”. The English called it the Huron of St. Clair. Now it is called the Clinton River in honor of the former governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton.

David Zeisberger and his followers founded the first settlement in Clinton Township. He described the site of “New Gnadenhutten” in his diary on, [July] 21, [1782]: "In the evening, we came to the place appointed for use to settle in, and encamped, but were welcomed by mosquitoes and so badly treated that we had little rest, although we made a fire round about us, so that the air was filled with smoke and steam. Thus far we have found no place satisfactory to use, for all the land we have seen is too low, swampy, and exposed to overflow, though we landed several times and examined several places. Besides we did not dare to settle within a distance of eight miles from the lake, for the land both sides of the river belongs to some Detroit merchants. We examined the 22d, [July, 1782] further up the creek, and found on the south side of the river a fine place to lay out a town on a height, not inferior to that at Schonbrunn [Ohio] and it has the same slope, according to the compass, and the course of the river, which Schonbrunn had."

Tuesday, [July] 23 [1782]: "We found many traces that a long time ago an Indian town must have stood on this place, for we saw many holes in the ground, which were now indeed filled up, but quite recognizable, in which Indians have even now the custom of keeping their corn and other property."

Zeisberger also mentions the arrival of "Brother Conner" on Tuesday, March 25, 1783, "to build himself [and his family] a house." Conner was the only white man ever allowed to live with the Moravians and seems to have taken up residence simultaneously with William Tucker. Zeisberger describes Tucker on May 2, 1783, as "a white man, our neighbor, who settled several weeks ago on this river below us."

There was little food for either the Moravians or Chippewas, who resented having to share their hunting grounds and especially with Christianized Indians. The settlement at Detroit was also in severe want during the spring and summer of 1784, and the people had to live mainly on weeds, which they cooked. The problems with the wolves increased and many cattle were lost. The only animals taken in hunting were raccoons. This famine, which had been preceded by three years of hunger, did not end until the bountiful harvest of September 1784.

Despite the harvest, the Chippewas continued to voice their discontent that the Moravians were living on their lands. After much consideration, the Moravians determined to remove in the spring of 1785, although they were afraid that they must always live as pilgrims if New Gnadenhutten could not remain a permanent settlement. The black belt of war was passed among the Indian nations during the summer of 1785, and the Moravians decided to remain at New Gnadenhutten a while longer. A map made by David Zeisberger shows 29 cabins and a large meeting house or chapel at the Moravian Settlement.

On March 4, 1786, three years after the end of the Revolutionary War (when the English should have left Detroit), Major Ancrum, the new English commander at Detroit, and John Askins, a loyal English merchant, "each of whom had a grant from the king of 2,000 acres, [and] wished to have it taken up here for them" bought the Moravian settlement. New Gnadenhutten had been much admired for several years by surprised visitors, mostly from Detroit.

The Moravians left New Gnadenhutten on Thursday 20 [April, 1786]: "After we had early, for the last time, assembled in our chapel, we loaded our canoes, and all went away together in the afternoon. None of us remained behind, save Conner's family, who himself knew not whither to go, nor what to do."

The Chippewas did not agitate for the removal of the Conner family. Certainly the entire family had a special knowledge of Indian customs and dialects. Richard Conner, who was born about 1718 in Maryland, was 68 years old when the Moravians departed. His wife, Margaret, had been captured by Indians at the age of four. Conner had bought her freedom and then made her his wife, no doubt considering her suitability to the life he led as a trader and interpreter among the Indians. As part of the bargain, according to tradition, the Conners were obliged to give their first-born child, James, to the Indians. Several years later they were able to redeem him. Their son, Henry, was later highly respected and influential among the Indians. Their daughter, Susanna, may have been the first child of English-speaking parents to be born in Macomb County. In 1807, she married Elisha Harrington, who had settled in the neighborhood the year before. Richard Conner lived at the Moravian site until his death April 17, 1808.

During the War of 1812 the British, seeking revenge, offered the Indians $5 per American scalp. The settlers sought safety in the fort at Detroit. Upon their return to the Moravian site, they found burnt buildings and much desolation. Elisha Harrington, after serving in the War of 1812, with his wife built a large house near the Moravian site. Displays of the house can be seen in the Moravian Hall Museum. Chief Justice Christian Clemens appointed Elisha associate judge around 1819. Elisha and Susan lived in the house until their deaths in 1847 and 1848

By 1818 the Moravian Settlement was now known as the Village of Frederick (at first it was called Casino) and contained twenty families. Its main streets were Livingston, Shelby and Harrington. There was a hotel, several mills, a blacksmith, and a cooper (barrel maker) In 1843 Frederick was a busier place than even High Banks (later called Mount Clemens). The area was a private claim given to the heirs of Richard and James Conner. James, William, John and Henry gave their interest to Susannah and Elisha. After the peace of 1815, the Indians never made war again upon the settlers.

The Moravian Site also had a small clearing and burial spot and even today Indians will visit the area to honor their ancestors. In 1818 Macomb County was created a court system was formed for the Michigan Territory.

In 1827 the Clinton Township was much larger than today and encompassed what later became Warren and Erin Townships. In 1837 Michigan became a state. Clinton Township was named for the Clinton River when it was renamed at the first meeting of the state legislature. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825. Now it was possible to ship goods and people from the east coast to any place on the Great Lakes. Transportation was difficult in southern Michigan due to the wide expanse of marshland. A canal across Michigan seemed to be a logical endeavor, due to the success of the Erie Canal. On April 12, 1827 the Clinton River Navigation Company was formed and planed to build a canal from Frederick to Lake Michigan, utilizing the waters of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Rivers. Public Act #27 declared 500,000 acres of land was to be sold to provide funds to build locks on the Clinton River at the Village of Frederick. The Canal was completed from Frederick to the Village of Rochester. By 1850 it was abandoned as a result of increased dependence on rail transportation. ______________________________________________________

The following insert is information about an early resident of Frederick:

Noahdiah Sackett was born August 5, 1789, at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co. MA where he resided with his parents until their removal to Brighton, Monroe Co. NY in 1810. The same year he married Sophia Allen, a relative of Ethan Allen of "Revolutionary Fame", and settled at Leicester NY. He remained at this place until 1820, when he removed to Avon,Loraine Co. Ohio.

Here his wife died April 27, 1829 at 41 years old. He soon remarried to a widow named Mrs. Hannah Chapman who had several children. Her oldest was William Henry Chapman, who afterward married his third daughter Jane Frances Sackett.

In about four years he again changed his residence, going to Frederick, Macomb Co. Michigan, where he located on a large tract of land extending north toward Utica for several miles. Frederick was the site of a former "Moravian Mission." In 1836 Horace Stephens, of Detroit, bought a number of acres of land and laid it out in village lots. He named the new village Frederick, in honor of a brother of that name. It is situated on the banks of the Huron (now Clinton) River. Upon the banks of this river the first orchard in Macomb County was planted. Some of the trees, which are still standing, show the marks of great age, and are of great size. The fruit is peculiar, and unlike any of today. Noahidiah Sackett built the first grist mill and cooper shop in Frederick. A pump factory was built by the firm of Campbell & Sacket, and an extensive business was done, 1200 being manufactured in one year, and were sold in several states." In 1844 Campbell & Sackett built a fine hotel, which did a good business and was well patronized. The following year the Kalamazoo and Clinton Canal was built, and there was a general "jollification" when the ground was broken.

For about ten years he resided in Frederick, superintending his mills and hotel, and also teaching school. In all of his undertakings he was assisted by his son, George Seymour Sackett, who accompanied his father from Ohio to Michigan, and early turned his attention to cultivating and improving the land.

After leaving Frederick, he located at Elgin, IL, where he bought two farms, one on the east and the other on the west side of the town. While residing here he superintended the building of a

large church. After a short time he sold his farms and went to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he built a large sash, door, and blind factor, employing many men and doing a large amount of work for the city and surrounding country. He was also "Mail Contractor" for twenty-four years while in Oshkosh. ______________________________________________________________ ORIGINAL TOWNSHIPS. A proclamation of the Governor issued April 8, 1818, divided Macomb into the following townships, viz : All that portion of the county south of a line drawn due west from the mouth of Swan Creek, to the Indian boundary line, shall form one township, and be known as the township of Huron ; all thut portion which lies north of a line drawn due west from the mouth of Swan Creek, shall form one township and be called St. Glair. Under the same proclamation all that portion of the town of Huron (which lies south of the base line) beginning at Forsyth's farm, including the farm, extending along the shore of Lake St. Clair to the River Huron, and west to the United States lands, was attached to the township of Hamtramck, in Wayne County. Perry Township was established by the Act Jan. 12, 1819. It comprised the western sections of Macomb, all the unorganized territory north to the treaty line, and west to the meridian, north of the boundaries of Oakland. THE NAME HURON CHANGED TO CLINTON. An act approved July 17,1824, declared that confusion, uncertainty, and inconvenience may frequently arise from the variety of rivers and places called Huron, and directed, for that reason, that the northern town of Macomb, which was established under the name of Huron, Aug. 12, 1818, should be called Clinton; and the river running through said town into Lake St. Clair, commonly called the Huron, should be named Clinton. CHANGE OP BOUNDARY. The boundaries named in the Act establishing this county, Jan. 15, 1818, were changed in September, 1822, as shown in the following description: " Beginning on the boundary line between the United States and the Province of Upper Canada, where the northern boundary of the county of Wayne intersects the same ; thence with the said northern boundary, west, to the line between the eleventh and twelfth ranges, east of the principal meridian ; thence north to the line between the townships numbered five and six, north of the -base line ; thence east, to the line between the third and fourth sections of the fifth township north of the base line, in the thirteenth range, east of the principal meridian ; thence south to the southern boundary of the said township; thence east, to the line between the fourteenth and fifteenth ranges, east of the principal meridian; tbence south to Lake St. Clair; thence in a direct line to the place of beginning. Given under my hand, at Detroit, this tenth day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the forty-seventh. LEW. CASS."

Sections of land in the township were given to veterans of early wars of our country. During the yearly development of Macomb County, lumbering was the major attraction. This area of the state was very heavily wooded with many hardwood varieties. After the lumbering had cleared much of the land, farming became the major occupation of the settlers. Along the banks for the Clinton River were many sawmills and gristmills.

There were several towns in Clinton Township. Frederick, Marcellus(1838), Quinn (1816-1873) and Cady’s Corner (1864-1906) are now history.

The Detroit Creamery chapter of the township history stared on the property of Emery Trufant who came in the 16 Mile/Gratiot area 1825. Trufant was a farmer and after his death, John Trufant inherited the property. John was in real estate and railroads and sold the property to the Detroit Creamery in 1905. This venture grew and later acquired the Engleside Farm in 1915 and a cooperative of other farms along Moravian and Nunneley. In the 1940’s it was bought by Twin Pines Dairy. Lots of people still remember the chicken dinners served at their large restaurant. By 1963 its hey day was over.

In 1943, during WWII, Paul Weiss, proprietor for the Mount Clemens Rose Gardens (Cass and Clinton River Road) petitioned the Federal Government for permission to relocate Japanese-American Citizens who were interned in camps. They worked and lived at the Rose Gardens. While here they formed a baseball team and won the league championship in 1947. These actions helped foster increased community cohesiveness between the two cultures. To this day the Weiss family enjoys a friendship of those employees and their descendents who have since moved back to the California. Our area had been the largest producer of roses in the state since the 1920’s. Now imported roses dominate the market.

Clinton township has many old cemeteries, some dating back to the early 1800’s. In each lie people who played a part in developing the area along with many historical figures. In the Clinton Grove Cemetery there is a veteran buried from every war this country has ever fought. A leisure walk through any of them is like taking a step back into history. Each marker has its own unique story.

Clinton Township is the largest township in the state with nearly 100,000 people. The township offices, the Clinton Macomb Public Library, the Senior Center, the Historical Village, and athletic fields are all located on land adjacent to the Old Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal. There are gardens, a fishing pond, a sledding hill and gazebo that make a beautiful setting for summer concerts and weddings. All of these make Clinton Township a nice place to live.


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