The History of Clinton Township

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 sympathy to the American cause. After much questioning they were vindicated. In July of 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. This river was called "Nottawasippee" by the Indians and French. The English referred to it as The Huron of St. Clair.

Accounts vary as to the number of cabins erected from twenty to thirty with a chapel. On December 19, 1785 along with some of the Indians, brethren went to lay a road to Detroit; when finished, it became known as the Moravian Trail. This was the first wagonway made into the interior of Michigan. It was 23-1/2 miles long to Detroit through the bush. The roads now that follow that course are Moravian to Schoenherr to Gratiot and Six Mile Road to Detroit City Airport. As a result of Britain losing the war and control of the fort at Detroit, the Moravian Mission was vacated on April 20, 1786. The Moravians moved to Fairfield Ontario, which was still under the protection of the British.  They later returned to Ohio.

Being on in years, Richard Conner remained with his family. His life was interesting in itself from his Irish background and early years in Maryland, through his relationship with the Indians, even his marriage to Margaret Boyer (herself a captive of the Indians and treated by the chief as his own daughter). Richard Conner (originally O'Connor) and his family were an exception in the Moravian community being neither brethren nor Indian but allowed to live with them because of his character and beliefs. Susannah, his youngest daughter, was born at the settlement and baptized by the Moravians in December 1873 when she was four days old, establishing her as the first child born in Macomb County to English-speaking parents.

Susannah Conner married Elisha Harrington in 1807 who had come to the area just the year before from New England. Richard Conner lived at the Moravian site until his death on April 17, 1808. Elisha Harrington then assumed Richard Conner's position of prominence, and after serving in the War of 1812, was appointed associate judge around 1819 by then Chief Justice Christian Clemens. Susannah and Elisha lived at the Moravian village in a two-story home Elisha constructed after the War of 1812 until their deaths in 1847 and 1848. During the War of 1812, when the British (seeking revenge) offered the Indians $5.00 per American scalp, the settlers sought safety at the fort in Detroit. Upon their return to the Moravian site, they found burnt buildings and much desolation. However, by 1818, the site now known as the village of Fredrick (at first called Casino) contained about 20 families. Its main streets were Livingston, Harrington and Shelby. There was a hotel, blacksmith, and a mill.  In 1843 it was even busier than High Banks (later to be renamed Mount Clemens). This was the private claim granted to the heirs of Richard Conner (James, William, John and Henry) who gave their interest to Susannah and Elisha. After the peace of 1815, the Indians never again made war upon the settlers. The Moravian site also had a small clearing and burial spot upon it, and occasionally a company of Indians would visit and have a pow wow there.

In 1799 the 5th Congress of the United States appropriated $8,000 for pay and supplies of a survey crew. Christian Clemens was a surveyor on this project and decided to settle at Big Springs while doing this work. On January 15, 1818, Macomb County was created by Proclamation of Louis Cass and in April of the same year, our court system was created.  By 1827, the township area was larger and encompassed Warren and Erin Townships. The first township meeting was held at the courthouse in Mt. Clemens.  It was carved from a portion of what had been known as the Northwest Territory.  Surveying was done and the township created encompassing a six square mile section.  In 1837, Michigan became a state. At the first meeting of the Michigan Legislature, the river was renamed to honor the Governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton, who had been so instrumental in the construction of the Erie Canal.  The township was then named for the river, which forks into three branches within a mile of the original Moravian settlement.

Since the Erie Canal had proven to be such a success in New York during this time, others were also looking at canals as a major means of transporting goods in the future. The Clinton River Navigation Company was founded on April 12, 1827.  This project would utilize the waters of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Rivers, to connect the waters of Lake St. Clair and Lake Michigan in a canal 216 miles long, thus providing for an easy access for people into the interior of the state.  The village of Fredrick was anticipating a flood of immigrants and freight which people felt certain would follow the completion of the canal. On July 20, 1838, Michigan's first Governor, Stephen T. Mason, came to Mount Clemens and dedicated the beginning of the canal in Clinton Township.  Thousands of men, mostly Irish immigrants, worked with pick and shovel to dig the canal, which was about 50 feet wide, with locks to raise and lower the boats as the elevations changed. Work progressed as far as the city of Rochester, but had to be abandoned several times because money was becoming increasingly difficult to raise.  One boat, called the Uncle Peter, traveled the canal for two years between the village of Frederick and Utica, however, by 1850, it was abandoned altogether.  Many of the canal workers eventually settled in this area when they were given land grants in lieu of wages owed to them.

Sections of land in the township were given "In The Territory of Michigan" to veterans of the early wars of our country. During the early development of the township and the Macomb County area, lumbering was the major attraction. This area of the state was very heavily wooded with many hardwood varieties to be found. After the lumbering industry had cleared much of the land, farming became the major occupation of many of the settlers. Along the banks of the Clinton River, there were many sawmills and gristmills to aid these settlers.

There were several villages and towns in Clinton Township. There was Fredrick (the original Moravian Mission site), Marcellus (platted in 1838), Quinn (1816-1873) and Cady's Corner (1833-1906).  All are no longer in existence (see list below).

The Detroit Creamery chapter of our history originated on the property of Emery Trufant who came to this area in 1825 settling at what is now the 16 Mile Road and Gratiot area. He 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 later grew to acquire the Engleside farm in 1915. Also acquired was a cooperative of other farms along Moravian and Nunnley, and eventually extended all the way to Schoenherr. In addition to diary farming, the buildings were frequently rented out for use as reception and banquet halls.  Twin Pines Dairy purchased the grounds in the 1940's, and some of the land in the 16 Mile and Groesbeck area was sold off and developed into a subdivision.  By 1963, the dairy farm heydays were over, and the rest of the area developed into subdivisions.

Our area was also the largest producer of roses in the state, which included most prominently the Weiss Family¬ís Mt. Clemens Rose Gardens at Cass and Clinton River Roads.  During World War II, in 1943, Paul Weiss petitioned the Federal Government for permission to relocate Japanese American citizens who were interned in camps. They came to this area to work and live 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 descendants who have since moved back to the California area.  During the Gerald Ford administration, the Rose Gardens were dealing directly with the White House Floral Staff and making daily shipments of roses to Washington DC.  Those roses were used for floral arrangements, state dinners and public areas throughout the White House.  The Rose Gardens (as well as other America flower growers) were eventually driven out of business in 1999 under pressure from foreign importers, and were ultimately abandoned.  The area is now being developed into a condominium community.

Clinton Township has many old cemeteries, some dating back to the middle 1800's. In each are people who played a part in the development of this area, along with many historical figures. Inside Clinton Grove Cemetery (on Cass Avenue), there is a veteran buried there from every war this country has ever been involved in. A leisure walk through any one of them is like taking a step back into Clinton and Macomb history. Each marker has its own unique story.

In 1996, we claimed the title of the most populated township in the state. We have had an average increase in residential homes of 300-400 per year since 1990. Our township offices are located on land adjacent to the Old Canal at Romeo Plank and Canal Roads. In these pleasant surroundings, we respond to our residents in a number of ways. Our Senior Citizen Center and Parks and Recreation Department sponsor year round activities for young and old. The DPW maintains the ball fields, soccer fields, volleyball court, and many other township facilities. The gazebo hosts free summer concerts and other activities, and is also available to rent for weddings.  Our cultural exchange with Japan blossoms each year in a pond garden that graces the entrance to the Senior Citizen Center.  And residents are always welcome to visit our own Clinton Township Historical Village, which includes the 1880's Town Hall (which use to stand on Moravian Road near the Moravian Mission), as well as the newly-refurbished 1840's Williams Log Cabin (which used to stand on the NW corner of Romeo Plank and Canal Roads).

            Names and Villages in Clinton Township

Casino (aka Frederick) - Village at Canal & Clinton River Roads; platted in mid 1830's
Bobcean's Corner (aka South Waldenburg) - Village at Romeo Plank & Hall Roads
Cady's Corner (aka Cady) - Village at Moravian & Utica Roads; platted in 1833; abandoned 1906
Marcellus - Village at Gratiot & the Clinton River; platted in 1838; abandoned by 1890
Frederick (aka Casino) - Village at Canal & Clinton River Roads; platted in mid 1830's
Moravian Village (aka New Gnadenhutten) - Village at Moravian & the Clinton River; est. in 1782
Nottawasippee River - Later changed to Huron River, then to Clinton River
Quinn - Village at Quinn Road and Gratiot; platted in 1816; abandoned by 1873
Red Run Corners - Village at 16 Mile & Gratiot; post office est. in 1857
South Waldenburg (aka Bobcean's Corner) - Village at Romeo Plank & Hall Roads
Warsaw Village - Village at Cass & North Rose near depot; platted in 1862; now part of Mt. Clemens