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The Village of Clinton, Michigan is situated in northern Clinton Township, bordering on Bridgewater Township, in Washtenaw County, to the north. Ann Arbor is about twenty miles to the northeast.

The River Raisin flows south through the western segment of the village, forming a wide, lake-like body of water in the northwest part of the village, widening again near the center, adjacent to the Floyd C. Tate Memorial Park, then forming a portion of Clinton's western boundary in the south.

The village's population center is marked by the intersection of US-12 (Michigan Avenue) and Tecumseh-Clinton Road, which forms a portion the village's eastern boundary in the south, becoming Tecumseh Road as it enters the village limits, North Jackson Street as it continues north of US-12, and Clinton Road as it exits the village in the north. Clinton-Mason Road forms a portion of the village's southern boundary in the east.

Tecumseh is 6.2 miles south of Clinton, Manchester is 8.2 miles northwest, Britton is 11.2 miles southeast, Saline is 11.9 miles northeast, Onsted is 15.2 miles southwest, and Milan is 17.0 miles to the east.

Before the Midwest was settled by European-Americans, it was inhabited by various Native American tribes. Created by the Sauk and Pottawattamie people, the Sauk Trail led through what is currently Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. In use for thousands of years, the trail brought the Sauk, Seneca, Shawnee, and Pottawattamie people near an area known as the Oak Opening, as there was a natural opening in the oak trees found in the region.

In 1925, the US government surveyed the construction of a military road between Detroit and Chicago. While the road followed the Sauk Trail, for the most part, it diverted south from the trail, bringing the road into Lenawee County before crossing the River Raisin.

The area where the road was to cross the river was a logical place for a town, considering that a bridge would have to be built there. John Terrill came to the area from Vermont in 1825 and bought a land grant of four hundred acres from the government. He then returned to Vermont, bringing his family to settle in what is now the southern part of the village in 1831. Upon his return, he brought Thaddeus Clark with him. The first European-American to actually settle in the area was Alpheus Kies, who came with his family from Connecticut in 1829, building a log cabin near what is now the intersection of Tecumseh Street and US-12. The first business was a grocery store opened by Alonzo Clark and his brother.

A post office was established on October 8, 1831, with Horatio N. Baldwin as postmaster. Both the village and township were named for DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York from 1825 to 1828. Baldwin took the first census in Clinton in 1836, at which time the community had a population of 926. Clinton was incorporated as a village in 1837, the year that Michigan became a state.

Clinton was a significant center for commerce because of its position on the Chicago Road and the River Raisin. Within ten years of its settlement, the community had ten general stores, a hardware store, and several blacksmith shops. In 1836, the Atlas Feed and Grain Company was established. It operated until it was declared unsalvagable after a fire in 2009.

By 1836, Clinton has four dry goods stores, four grocery stores, four retail shops, a hardware store, a cabinet shop, two millinery shops, a barbershop, a paint shop, two meat markets, two saloons, four wagon shops, two blacksmith shops, a grist mill, a plaster mill, a shingle factory, a tannery, and a railroad depot.

Built with hickory rails in 1839, the first railroad to Clinton was horse-drawn and used to carry freight. The first passenger train was the Palmyra & Jacksonburgh Railroad, which reached Clinton in 1853. Beginning as a private venture in 1838, by the time it reached Clinton, it had been sold to the state and was operated as the Southern Railroad., which became the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad in 1878. Abandoned in 1981, the Southern Michigan Railroad Society, then led by three high school students, purchased the Clinton Branch and transformed it into an operating railroad museum, with an operable passenger train.

The first churches in the village were St. John's Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, and St. Dominic's Catholic Church.

The first school in Clinton was in the log home of Alpheus Kies, but a one-room log schoolhouse was constructed in 1832, and a one-room frame schoolhouse was built soon after. The village's first public high school was the Union School, built on the Public Square in 1859. The three-story brick building was dismantled in 1905, and replaced by the Clinton School, which served from 1906 to 1971 when a new high school was built.

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