Sunday, July 6, 2008

My Town Monday: Early Days

Livingston County, Michigan saw settlement starting in the early 1830s. There were two big factor's contributing to the settlement of Southeast Lower Michigan (yes, we really call it that, to differentiate between the Lower and Upper Penninsulas. It's a Michigan thing.)

One factor was the Erie Canal. With the opening of the Erie Canal, there was a faster, safer route between New York and the Midwest, particularly Michigan. At the time, Michigan Territory was part of the old Northwest Territory. Ohio and Indiana Territories had been carved away and began their bids for statehood before Michigan.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825. Michigan was not the first destination of choice for folks heading West. Some idiot surveyors had declared that Michigan was all swampy and unsuitable for farming. So, for some reason, the farmers avoided the state, settling instead across Ohio, Indiana and into Illinios.

Finally, someone got a clue and re-surveyed Michigan. The state was not all swamp.

Why so many heading West? Free land. After the War of 1812, the Federal Government was giving away 160 acres of free land to the veterns. By the time Michigan was resurveyed and discovered to be good land, the folks running Michigan territory didn't want to *give* the land away anymore. So they sold it. But people still came in droves to Michigan.

People got off the ferries at Detroit. They settled the areas around there (like where Patti Abbot lives) before heading further west. Livingston County was entered from the south, as people came from the town of Ann Arbor north to the uncharted wilderness of Livingston County. There were no bridges in Livingston County in the 1830s.

The early settlers recorded in the 1880 History of Livingston County that they had to clear a lot of trees in order to plant their farms. That's one thing that hasnt' changed in this county-- people still think that trees are in the way. =(

The only major thoroughfare at the time in Livingston County was the Grand River Trail, which connected Detroit with the capital-to-be Lansing. When Michigan became a state, the capital was made in Lansing. This immediately boosted Livingston County's population and business as Howell, the center of the county, is the half-way point on the Grand River Trail between Lansing and Detroit.

Funny story about Lansing. When the first folks to buy land in Lansing showed up, they learned something about the land they had bought sight-unseen. The land was a floodplain. Most of the the land was actually underwater. They'd been swindled. The city of Lansing started as a con. And, since it is the state capital, the cons have only continued.

My Town Monday brought to you by the letters "TRAVIS ERWIN". From links on his page, you can travel the world without leaving your computer. No TSA hassles, no airplane food, and no crowds. My kind of travel. =)

7 comments:

debra said...

This is a great post, Clair! Did they fill the floodplain in Lansing? Does it still flood? Apropos that the center of government was a con job, eh?
Also interesting that the canal was a factor in the development of both our towns.

Travis Erwin said...

I really enjoyed the history here and funny what you say about Lansing.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Clair, you had me at Southeast Lower Michigan. I love that every geography has its own personal language.

And your Lansing story is priceless.

Terrie

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have only been to Lansing once and only to see a baseball game. It was dry at the time.

Clair Dickson said...

The floodplain has been filled in as Lansing grew from just another Michigan settlement to the state Capital.

The confidence games still continue...

Barbara Martin said...

Excellent post, Clair! History can be very interesting.

The floodplain in Lansing was news for me.

Debbielou said...

Great post !