Farmington—1824–1984: A Slide Show

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    The Farmington area was once a wilderness a few miles from Detroit.
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    It was the hunting grounds of the Potawatomi Indians, part of the Algonquin-speaking tribes. Potawatomi means "the fire-makers." This name signified their custom of making a tribal council fire.
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    This tree shows how the Potawatomi Indians marked their trails. Farmington was where three of the Indian trails met: Shiawassee Trail, Grand River Trail, and the Orchard Lake Trail.
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    On what is now Halsted Road, the Potawatomi Indians once camped overnight.
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    Within a few hundred feet of the pond in the previous image, stand newly built apartments. Times sure have changed!
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    Historical Marker: Power Rd. S. of 11 Mile: When Michigan was a territory, several farmers from New York were attracted by the low cost of land, $1.25 an acre. One of these farmers was Arthur Power, a Quaker from Farmington, New York. On October 8, 1824, he founded Farmington, naming it after the New York town from which he came.
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    Rouge River at Shiawassee: The Rouge River runs from northwest to southeast across the cities of Farmington and Farmington Hills. On this river Arthur Power and his sons built a saw mill and a grist mill.
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    A well-chosen mill site was often the beginning of a settlement. In 1826, Arthur Power's saw mill was located behind the present First Baptist Church on Shiawassee, and his Grist mill was on Power Road. The tall man in the photo is John Power. Photo ca. 1900.
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    Shiawassee Trail from McGee Hill: The houses you see in the distance were the beginning of the center of Farmington. It was located where Farmington Road and Shiawassee Trail met.
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    Today, when you see this sign, you know you are entering the original village center—the "Old District".
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    Map of Farmington's Beginning: In 1830, along Farmington Road and Shiawassee Trail, the Farmington settlement had a post office, a tavern, a blacksmith, a shoemaker, a general store, a soap-making establishment, a school, and two mills.
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    The red brick house on the corner of Farmington Road and Shiawassee Trail was the original location of a general store. Photo c. 1989.
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    Next door to the red brick house is where the first post office was located on Farmington Road south of Shiawassee. Today the building still remains. Dr. Ezekiel Webb, a Quaker and first town doctor, was also the first postman. The mail came from Detroit once a week and was delivered by him, often when he made house calls.
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    The blacksmith shop stood across the street from the post office. Today this white house has taken its place. Photo c. 1989.
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    Originally, a tavern, located where Farmington Road and Shiawassee met, burned in 1850. The First Baptist Church was then built on this site, and some of the original structure remains even today. Photo c. 1989.
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    Often called the Carpenter House, this house next to the First Baptist Church, was considered the oldest in Farmington. It was built in 1824. Viewing this photograph, you can realize how small homes were then.
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    Now an empty lot remains, and the house is only a memory.
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    An old school record book: Influenced by the Quaker tradition and the Northwest Ordinance mandate, the Farmington Quakers established the first school in 1828. It was a log cabin on Shiawassee Trail. Education officially became organized in Farmington when the Township board recorded the first districts on May 3, 1830.
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    Nathan Power, son of Arthur Power, was Farmington's first teacher. He taught the winter of 1827-1828. He kept a diary which gives insight into Farmington history, but lacks detail. He also was responsible for building several of Farmington's school houses. When the log cabin school on Shiawassee Trail became too small in 1832, Nathan Power built a new school house on the hill by the creek. It was known throughout the district as "The Little Red School House."
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    The Farmington Board of Education Building is located where the log cabin school once stood on Shiawassee Trail.
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    The German school on Middlebelt north of Thirteen Mile is the only remaining one-room school house in Farmington. The site has been in continuous use as a school since it was built, although it is now a private facility.
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    When "The Little Red School House" was outgrown, Nathan Power built another in a new location on Thomas Road. It was eventually replaced by a larger structure and named Farmington Union School in 1883. The first graduating class contained one student, Jenny Hayes. By 1989 220 students would graduate as the 100th class of Farmington High School.
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    The Farmington Union School was replaced by a junior high school, which later became the Farmington Training Center.
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    Students and teacher in front of the second Nichols School. The first school was damaged in a severe storm in 1893. It was replaced about 1903 by this double-walled brick building. Photo c. 1904.
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    Historical Marker: First Quaker Meeting. Besides town meetings, there were also church group meetings. In 1831, Michigan's first formal Quaker meeting was organized in Farmington. Dominated by a Quaker population, Farmington was often called Quakertown. By 1860, the Quaker influence diminished as people from different religious backgrounds—Baptists, Methodists, and Universalists—began to settle in the area.
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    Quaker Burial Ground Historical Marker: In 1832, Arthur Power gave the land for the Quaker Meeting House and the Quaker Cemetery on Gill Road. This is how it looks as of 1989. The cemetery still remains, but the meeting house has become a nursing home.
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    Arthur Power's Tombstone: Ironically, the first people to be buried in the cemetery were Arthur Power's granddaughter and daughter-in-law. They died from Asiatic Cholera which was brought to Farmington by a man named Barnum, who had visited Detroit at the time a cholera epidemic broke out in 1832.
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    Besides the Tavern on Shiawassee, which had been replaced by the First Baptist Church, there were two other taverns in Farmington—the Nathan Philbrick Tavern on Eleven Mile and Powers Road, and the Walker Tavern. The Philbrick Tavern in the 1830s and 1840s was the meeting place of town government. Just before the Civil War in the 1850s, it is thought that it was used as a station for slaves escaping to Canada through the Underground Railroad.
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    Today, the Philbrick Tavern is a privately-owned home.
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    This is a portion of an Underground Railroad Map of southeast Michigan. When the direct line along the Michigan Central Railway became too dangerous, the Farmington Underground Railroad was an alternate route. Mr. Power, of Farmington, was president of the Oakland County Anti-Slavery Society. As a "conductor," he was known as "Uncle Nathan".
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    Ellen Wilson was an escaped slave from Virginia who eventually made her home in Farmington.
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    Aaron Wilson, the husband of Ellen, is standing second from the left. Aaron and Ellen Wilson were slaves from Virginia who traveled the Farmington Underground Railroad. After reaching Canada and receiving Canadian citizenship, which was their insurance against slave hunters, they returned to Farmington to make their home because they liked the community.
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    This historical marker on Eleven Mile near Orchard Lake Road indicates the land where the Wilsons made their home—now known as "Freedom Acre". The Wilsons were the first Black family of Farmington. Several generations of that Wilson family have lived in Farmington.
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    Detroit-Howell Plank Rd. c. 1904: When the state capital was moved from Detroit to Lansing, Grand River became the main road of Farmington instead of Shiawassee Trail. This one-lane plank (wooden) road gave right-of way to people going to Detroit; people going to Lansing had to move off the road into the mud.
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    Just before arriving at the Weston Inn, (better known as the Botsford Inn), there was a toll gate house on the Plank Road (Grand River Avenue) and Inkster intersection. It was one of four on the way to the new state capital in Lansing. The toll gate keeper's job was to live right on the premises and collect the toll.
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    This Total Gas station (picture taken in 1989) is where the toll both once stood. (The station is no longer at the intersection.)
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    Weston Inn, now known as Botsford Inn, was built as a home in 1837 by Orrin Weston along the Grand River Trail which led west to Lake Michigan and became the Plank Road to Lansing. The trail later became the Plank Road to Lansing. In 1841, it was converted into a tavern by Stephen Jennings and known as the Sixteen Mile House. It was a stage coach stop on the Plank Road.
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    When Milton Botsford purchased the Weston Inn (Sixteen Mile House) around 1860, he changed its name to Botsford Inn, which it is still called today. The Botsford Inn became a popular meeting place for farmers, drovers, and travelers to and from Detroit.
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    While courting his wife, Henry Ford saw the Botsford Inn, and in 1924 purchased it from Milton Botsford. It was bought from Ford by John N. Anhut in 1951 for $250,000. The Botsford is the oldest inn in Michigan providing food and lodging. It is a National Landmark. (The property is now owned by Botsford Hospital.)
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    After staying overnight at the Botsford Inn, you could have passed this beautiful Victorian home on Grand River as you enter the center of Farmington's business district.
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    That Victorian home was replaced by a Burger King franchise in 1960.
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    Across from the beautiful Victorian home was Warner Cheese Factory on the northeast corner of Grand River and Grove Street. Milk stations and cheese factories were going concerns in the late 1890s and into the 20th century. This one was owned by Fred Warner. He would give a farmer a cow and the farmer, in return, would give Fred Warner the milk to pay for the cow.
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    Today, small stores have replaced the cheese factory.
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    Grand River at Farmington Rd., 1870: The Owen House at the right; across the road, the Korner Barber Shop. When Lansing became the state capital, the Farmington and Grand River Road intersection became the center of town instead of the Shiawassee and Farmington intersection.
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    On the northeast corner of Farmington and Grand River is the Korner Barber Shop. It is Farmington's oldest downtown building. You can still get your hair cut there today.
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    Across the street on the opposite corner to the barber shop stood "The Finest Inland Hotel in the State"—at least that is what L. D. Owen, the owner, claimed in his advertisements. Twice a day the big 24-passenger coach stopped in Farmington at the Owen House.
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    In 1920, the Owen House was moved farther southeast on Farmington Road to make way for the National Bank of Detroit building. Small shops now occupy the bank building, and it is called the Village Mall. The Owen House eventually fell into disrepair and was torn down in the late 1950s.
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    In 1870 Farmington's business people had already established stores on the north side of Grand River. Most of the merchants preferred to have their shops on the north side for some unknown reason. Town stores on the northeast side of the Grand River and Farmington intersection were the Korner Barber Shop, the Oliver B. Smith Dry Goods Store, which housed Mrs. Pierman's Millinery store, Power's General Store, Warren Selby's Jewelry Shop, and Dr. Woodman's Drug Store.
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    The drought of the summer of 1872 made buildings very dry. Consequently, about 2 a.m. on October 9, 1872, a fire broke out in the Oliver B. Smith Dry Goods Store, next to the Korner Barber Shop. There was little water, no fire department, and the only way the remaining stores could be saved was by ripping down the Kent house. Farmington was saved from further damage; unfortunately the building that housed the Masonic Temple and some of the town records was destroyed. This marker is still viewable inside Cowley's.
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    After the fire, about 1876 the Graham Bros. Blacksmith Shop on the northwest corner of Grand River and Farmington was moved across the street to the southwest corner of the intersection. This was done so that the Town Hall could be built.
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    Today the Old Town Hall has become the Masonic Temple.
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    Near the blacksmith shop stood the town newspaper building. Edgar R. Bloomer published the first edition of The Farmington Enterprise on November 2, 1888. The Farmington Enterprise often let Governor Warner of Michigan defend his progressive viewpoint in their columns. Some of his causes were: popular nomination of the U.S. Senators, uniform taxation of corporations, railroad operation laws, and anti-lobby and anti-booze measures.
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    Today the blacksmith shop that was located on the corner has been replaced by a store that sells paintings, posters, and frames, called Pictures and More.
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    Down the street from the Pictures and More store is a grey building that once housed The Farmington Enterprise. No longer used for publishing the newspaper, the Enterprise building housed Jerry's Book Store in 1989. (The site is now painted tan and is an insurance office.)
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    Today an early morning jogger waits for a signal light on the north side of Grand River near where the original stores were built. As we leave the jogger and head toward Lansing on the Plank Road (Grand River) we see the Warner Mansion, built by Fred Warner, Governor of Michigan.
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    Fred Warner was born in Nottingham, England, and adopted by the P. D. Warner family, who had come to Farmington soon after Arthur Power had founded it. When Fred grew up, he became a prosperous businessman of the town, owning a hardware store and several cheese companies in the area. Having a strong interest in politics and being a Progressive, Fred Warner became state senator, Secretary of State, and at the turn of the century, he became Michigan's Governor for three consecutive terms.
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    "The Warners' home was built after the Civil War. Since Michigan was mainly made up of farmers, the Governor conducted the state's business in his home rather than in Lansing," said Mrs. Barber, a docent at the Farmington Historical Museum in 1989.
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    Today Governor Warner's home is the Farmington Historical Museum. It is decorated in the style typical of the Victorian period. On display are relics from the Owen House as well as memorabilia from the Warner family. (The museum is now known as the Warner Mansion Museum.)
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    Another Victorian home on the south side of Grand River, just east of Grove Street.
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    This business (looking east) is on the north side of Grand River between Warner and School Streets.
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    Photo taken (looking west) from the north side of Grand River Street east of Grove Street.
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    This house, located at 52699 Grand River near Maple, was built with a combination of three architectural styles.
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    (Old Map of Farmington) The End!