Oakland Township, Michigan

 

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Oakland Township has the distinction of being one of the state's oldest townships. It was one of the original 25 when the Territory of Michigan was organized in 1827.

The political boundaries which are familiar to us today, mark a much smaller area than they did in 1820 when the original divisions were made. At that time, the upper three-fifths of Oakland County was declared to be Oakland Township, and the lower two-fifths was designated Bloomfield Township. By an 1827 act of the Michigan Territorial Legislature, Oakland Township lost ten townships but still contained what are today Addison, Oxford, Orion, Oakland and Avon. As settlement continued, boundaries changed several times, and in 1837 when Michigan became a state Oakland was at its present size.

The geography of the area, well elevated and regular except along its creeks, appealed to the land hunters who entered the township one year after the first settler in Oakland County, James Graham, built his homestead in what is today's Avon Township.

After the government land office opened in 1818, William Russell and Benjamin Woodworth purchased parcels in Oakland Township on March 16, 1819, in Section 33. Other parcels were purchased in 1824 and 1825, but it was not until 1826 that the settlers erected log cabins. These settlers were Asa Baker, Benedict Baldwin, Needham Hemingway, Josiah Dewey, Jeremiah Hunt, Joel Potter, Samuel Tower, Russell Thurston, Ezra Newman, Ira and David Hammond, and James Coleman, all of whom emigrated from Monroe County in New York state and settled in the western part of the township. The following year Ezra Brewster also came from Monroe County with his sons Peter, Owen, Stephen and Allen, and commenced to build a pioneer's home. In 1829 William Snell came from New England, and William M. Axford, who later became the first supervisor of Oakland Township, came from New Jersey. Some prominent citizens who settled from 1831 to 1837 were: Isaac Sisson from Buffalo; Ludlow Shadbolt, Calvin and William Fosdick and Jonathan Carpenter from Duchess County, N.Y.; and Job Sherman from Ontario County, N.Y. Others during these same years were: Sanford Swayze, Peter Kline, Martin Vail, John Rodenbo, John Taylor, Shoups, Hixsons, Flumerfelts, Christopher Cole, and Jacob Perry.

Other early settlers were: the Bromley brothers Sewell and Boswell from Vermont; Aaron Cook from Monroe County; Abraham Axford; David Brooks; Stephen Parish; Moses and George Snover; George Mercer; David Covel; Ira Youngs and William Chapman. Many of these early settlers became influential citizens in the township, many were excellent farmers, and many have descendants here and in adjoining communities.

(Anderson Farm, above, on Letts Rd., circa 1870, shows dairy and orchard industries important in our Township.)

Schools were built by the first settlers. One was built in 1827 in Section 29. History says it was a log building with a large fireplace that could accommodate six-foot logs. The seats were arranged around the walls and were made of slabs with legs cut from saplings growing on the site. In 1836 a log schoolhouse was built on Section 8 for those living in the northern part of the township, and also in that year a schoolhouse of tamarack logs was built in the Kline settlement (Rochester and Stoney Creek Roads). By 1877 there were nine school districts in whole or in part in the township, namely Carpenter, Bigler, Clifton, Mt. Vernon, Snell, Kline, Baldwin, Eaton, and Brewster. The present modern Baldwin School on Bannister Road was dedicated in the spring of 1927. It had existed as a one-room school for nearly a century on the corner of Orion and Gunn Roads. On moving day the pupils marched from the old structure to the new while the old school bell rang continuously. In 1952 a large portion of the township consolidated with Rochester, and other parts with Lake Orion and Romeo school districts.

Church groups in the early days met in homes, and later in schools. History mentions revival meetings in the Baldwin schoolhouse in 1827. Kline school was the meeting place in 1837 for a group of Methodists, until 1855 when they built St. John's church on the northeast corner of Buell and Rochester Roads. It thrived until 1887, when it was moved to Collins Road in Goodison. In 1854 the Presbyterians also began to meet at the Kline school, and in 1855 they built a church on the southwest corner of Stoney Creek and Rochester Roads. The graveyard next to the church marks the location today, and also contains the remains of those who had previously been buried at a burial ground next to the Kline school across the road. The Kline Presbyterian Cemetery and the Bigler Cemetery at Gunn and Kern now belong to the township. The Paint Creek Cemetery on Orion Road near Lake George was earlier called the Baldwin Cemetery and is owned and controlled by the Paint Creek Cemetery Association. Before the days of hired caretakers, the families of the association brought picnic dinners to its regular annual meeting in August, and spent the day trimming bushes and attending the cemetery business. On the fringes of the township, serving our community, were the Oakland Baptist Church at Adams and Dutton; Seventh-day Adventist on Dutton at Livernois, and Baptist and Methodist churches in Mt. Vernon.

Town meetings were originally held in Rochester (then a part of Oakland Township), but the first annual meeting within the present bounds of the Township was in 1835 at the home of William Snell. Subsequent meetings were held in private homes until 1855 when a town house was created on Section 15 on Buell Road. In the early 1900s the Gleaner Hall on Collins Road served as the political and social center. It stood on the lot adjacent to the present town hall, which was built in 1938.

A post office was established in Goodison in 1874. It had a daily mail, and L.P. Tower was the first postmaster. Later postmasters were: William Goodison, Jr.; William Toms and daughter Mary Toms Barkham; Ellen Collins; and Mrs. Blair. The post office did not have its own building but was housed in various stores. One of these was Billy Wangalien's, which is still remembered fondly by residents who recall going there for after-school candy. This store was adjacent to the Goodison Mill. Mr. Wangalien and his son-in-law Art Fox built a new store across the road on the site of the present Rochester Gear Works, and it was moved to its present location on Territorial Road in 1950. In earlier years there had been a trading post on Axford property at Gunn and Rochester Roads, and a small store in Section 30 owned by John P. LeRoy.

The Goodison Grist Mill on Paint Creek was built in 1835 by Needham Hemingway. The water power was generous and did not require the usual mill pond. He dug a mill race from a half-mile upstream, and instead of the usual waterwheel, a box-flume fed the water under Gallagher Road (then the old Tower Road) into the basement of the mill, where it turned a turbine. This engaged a shaft that reached up to the second story and turned the mill stones. In 1877 the mill was improved and enlarged by William Goodison. Later owners of this mill were William Toms, Sam Barnes, and in its declining years, Maurice Collins and son-in-law Frank Voll. It ceased grinding during World War II. In the 40s, after more than a century of service, and having passed the point of preservation it was reluctantly dismantled by its latest owner, Dale Miller, and the present Paint Creek Cider Mill was built.

Stoney Creek supplied the power for two other mills in the township. The James Hersey Saw Mill was located near where the stream crosses East Gunn Road in Section 23. Built by Arnon Baker in 1836, it was purchased by Hersey in 1839. It was run by him until 1877, then by his son-in-law Charles Coryell until 1890. Another mill, saw and grist, was a half-mile south of the Hersey, on the same creek, where it crosses Snell Road into Section 26. Built in the 1830s it was run by the Wilber family during four generations, beginning with Elon Dudley and ending with Howard Wilber in the 1920s.

Blacksmith shops were much needed in the early days, and our township was well supplied: Gerilot's on West Predmore; Dernberger's (later Campbell's) at Rochester and Romeo Roads (1842); Metz's at Dequindre and Inwood; "Uncle H" Halsted's on Silverbell (1828) and the Maurice Collin's at Goodison (1872-1935).

Other craftsmen in the township included Robert Barkham's great-grandfather, William Toms, who was a cobbler in his home on Collins Road, and Clarence Kremer's father, Frank, who built buggies and wagons in a shop beside his house on Dutton Road.

The Detroit and Bay City Railroad was built through the township in 1872, and established a " flag" station at Goodison. The grist mill and post office were both run by Goodisons at that time, so the crossing was called "Goodison's Station." It was a busy center. Folks gathered at the store-and-post-office located next to the mill, and there was much activity at Maurice Collin's blacksmith shop adjacent on the south. Long freight trains were switched on the sidings along the tracks which lay to the north and to the south from Goodison. A third short siding and weighing platform served local farmers who loaded grain and potatoes for market, and likewise at Rudd's Mill Crossing at Clarkston Road. A one-car passenger train went daily north to Bay City in the mornings and back in the afternoons until about 1950, when passenger service was discontinued. At about the same time steam engines were replaced by diesels. In the first quarter of this century the railroad serviced a thriving sand-and-gravel operation along its course, traces of which remain, south of Silverbell and north of Gunn.

A branch of the Detroit (electric) United Railway was built through Goodison in 1900 and went north to Orion, Oxford, and Flint. In Goodison its track lay along what now is called Territorial Road. There was a substation there, where local dairy farmers brought their daily milk cans for the DUR to transport to Detroit creameries. A passenger waiting station stood on the site of the present Rochester Gear Works; others were located at several road crossings through the township. Many of the local youth rode the DUR to high school at Orion or Rochester. The fare was a nickel. On weekends extra excursion cars were run, to carry vacationers to Lake Orion for boat rides and lakeside attractions. When the automobile arrived, use of the DUR by passengers dropped off, and trucks became the transportation for milk. In 1933 the line was discontinued.

History moves on. Increasing numbers of new settlers are moving in, attracted by the historic and rural character of the area, and by the rolling scenic beauty of its land and streams. Residential developments are being laid out in some of the abandoned old fields. Farming has changed. The plow, though much different in style, still plays a part in the use of the land. 

The preceding is excerped from the booklet, HERITAGE IN OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Editors: Delta Kelly and Barbara Kandarian, Oakland Township Historical Society, June 1976.

The township hall in Goodison was built in 1938 of cement block with an
English Tudor influence common for municipal buildings at that time.   It was used for meetings and social events.  In the 1972 Clerk Carolyn Phelps had an office in the building.  It was later sided and additions were made to accommodate more township office space.   Today, the hall is home to the police substation. 


 

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