Monday, July 14, 2008

My Town Monday: Kensington

There is no Kensington, Michigan. Not anymore.

Especially not since I-96 was put in through what did remain of the village of Kensington.

But there used to be a little village along the banks of the Huron River, just north of South Lyon and west of New Hudson.

The name survives with the Kensington Metro Park that's off I-96. And in Kent Lake. Apparently Kent is a shortening of Kensington since Kensington was too long for local people to say in everyday conversation. They used the longer word in print, and the shorter word in speech. The shorter version was attached to one of the local lakes. (And you thought laziness was a new phenomenon!)

In the 1840s, Kensington rivaled the other local towns like Milford and New Hudson, and had a hotel, a sawmill, the standard stores, a bank, and a Baptist Church (pic below).

It was the bank that put Kensington on the national map. Or so it's told in the Brighton Bicentenniel (published 1976.) The promoters of the Kensington Bank issued a lot of unbacked currency and unloaded it for land and merchandise around Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Then two officials took off with the remaining assests.

On top of that, merchants in Kensington became known for not paying their bills. In Eastern wholesale circles, the town became proverbial. When a wholesaler had an uncollectable account, he said: "The good have gone to Kent." (There's that Kent again, rather than Kensington! I don't get it... Kensington's not that hard to say. Anyway, back to history...)

Below is the Kent Bank. It was made of red brick, which was really popular during the 1830s and 40s when much of Livingston County (and surrounding areas) were sprouting. The Bank stood until about 1920 or so.

Unfortunately, the tales of Kent Bank have been lost with time. Many people don't even realize that there's nothing left of the town. Or that there was a town called Kensington. Or some of the other little towns that doted the landscape, about a day's trip in between.

When you look at an old map, like one of Livingston County, there were little towns at a lot of the major road intersections. These towns were usually far enough apart from each other that folks could walk or ride a horse on a day excursion into town for the things they needed. As travel became easier, most of the tiny settlements disappeared, with just a few of the bigger towns becoming the place that people went.

Kensington was on the Grand River Trail (now called Grand River Ave) between Brighton and New Hudson. But, long before the railroads went in and far before cars, and even before the Civil War, Kensington was already dying as a town. Most of the structures were gone before the start of the Civil War. Maybe it was because of the bank?

Old Kent Bank (now 5/3 aka the Borg Bank) does not appear to have any relation to the defunct Kent Bank. There is a Kent County on the western side of Michigan, and Old Kent Bank began in that area. Or so they say... ;-)

My Town Monday is a blog event started by Travis Erwin. Since he's off galavanting and gambling, Barrie Summy is hosting the Links.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Drove right by here yesterday and going to and fro from Grand Rapids and I thought, "hey this is Bo Fexler country." Wish we had the time to get off 96 and prowl around and find the imagination station.

Barrie said...

"The good have gone to Kent." Love those little tidbits. Great historical post!

Stacy said...

Kent as a nickname? I love it. I think Michiganders are just lazy. I live in Milan and have yet to figure out why my town is pronounced "My-len." To piss off both the Italian and the hooked-on-phonics populations?

Clair Dickson said...

Patti-- get off 96 at Spencer Road and head into downtown brighton. Go past the traffic light and you'll see the pond on the right.

Barrie-- Some of the things recorded in the old local history books are a hoot! I love it.

Stacy-- I think Milan got goofed up because it was a name on a map in a place no one had been to (or probably heard of-- the first folks in Michigan weren't the world travelers.) But I totally agree on lazy Michiganders. Home of the Motor City and the rear ends to prove it...

preTzel said...

How sad. A town just obliterated by time and greed. That just makes you wonder how many other little towns used to exist and what went on in those towns.

Thanks for taking me to Kent. :D

Barbara Martin said...

Interesting historical post about the bank.

Travis Erwin said...

It's kind of sad to see a place disappear.