The Highland Township Historical Society
Highland, Oakland County, Michigan


NOTE:  The following references are taken from George N. Fuller, Economic And Social Beginnings Of Michigan: A Study Of The Settlement Of The Lower Peninsula During The Territorial Period, 1805-1837, Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., Lansing (1916).  While not a history of Highland per se, Fuller's work mentions the township several times in the course of describing the early settlement of Oakland County as a whole.  These excerpts thus help put Highland's own settlement in a much broader context.  The footnotes in Fuller's original text are presented below each excerpt.  The complete text of Fuller's work is available on Google Books at this link.

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pp. 212-214 [Re: The First Inland Counties]

The interrelations of transportation improvement with the general physical influences of settlement in this section are illustrated by the manner in which the frontier was extended. In determining the location of the first settlements, which were to be points of departure for settlement in each county, no causes were more influential than the relative position of river and trail.  The general directions in which settlement spread out from these centers, and the rate of its movement, varied somewhat in different parts of the section, but in general the movement of the frontier was westward, with a northwest and southwest trend respectively at the two extremities.   Although settlement received an earlier start at the north, the rate of frontier extension was more rapid at the south, partly because it began about the time of the rapid increase of immigration to the Territory as a whole.  In all of the counties the frontier reached the western boundary of the section at about the same time, and at those points which were most easily reached - near the great western trails [Ftnte 67].

Southwest was the direction in which the frontier extended the most rapidly in Oakland up to the time when the first settlements were made in Washtenaw and Lenawee.  By 1825 all of the townships in the two southern tiers in Oakland, excepting the westernmost, had received their first settlers [Ftnte 68].  A few settlements had by that time been made in Waterford Township west of Pontiac, and a few north of the Clinton River in the eastern part of the county; also land had been purchased in all of the townships east of a northeast-to-southwest [Ftnte 69] diagonal line drawn through the center of the county, comprising fifteen of its thirty-six surveyed townships.  For five years following 1825 there was a pause in the extension of the frontier.  In this interval land had been purchased in all of the remaining townships except Brandon in the extreme north and Highland and Rose in the extreme west.  The time which elapsed between the dates of first purchase and first settlement in the north-central and northeastern townships varied from four to eight years; but it was shorter in the northwest, where though the buying began from three to seven years later, the first settlements followed the first purchases within a year. In the southern tier of townships settlement generally began within two years after the first purchase, and in the central townships within a year.  By 1830 only seven townships had not yet received their first settlers, all in the extreme north and west except White Lake;[Ftnte70] Brandon and Rose had no settlers until 1835 [Ftnte 71].

The dominating influence which checked the extension of the frontier, especially in the period before [Begin Page 213] 1830, was desire to be near the older settlements.  The townships first settled were those bordering on the townships of Pontiac and Avon, and the first settlements made above the Clinton were in the very southern parts, near Pontiac and Rochester, and made from six to nine years afterward [Ftnte 72].  Though Waterford, which was just west of Pontiac, was first settled in 1819 the townships adjoining it north and west had no settlers for a decade [Ftnte 73].  The position of the first land purchases reflect the same desire.  In the south and southwest the settlements came apparently from the same impulse which brought immigration to the interior and northern parts of Wayne County upon which they bordered; but the impulse seems to have spent itself in the filling-in process before settlers reached the extreme southwest.  There seem to have been no unfavorable physical contrasts between the southwestern townships and their eastern neighbors sufficient to warrant the difference of from five to seven years in the dates of settlement [Ftnte 74]; the contrasts of environment were greater in the townships north and west of Waterford [Ftnte 75].  In White Lake Township directly west of Waterford there was little water power, and much swamp and inferior soil.   The availability of land near the older settlements, appears sufficient reason for the pause in the extension of the frontier from 1825 to 1830.

The strength of the impulse of 1830 extended settlement during that and the following year into the farthest corners of the county.  Speculation had an important function in helping to determine its rate and direction, tending to hasten its extension by making less available at Government prices the land near the older settlements.  Speculation called the attention of intending settlers to places where speculators were taking up new land.  It has been noted that the buying of land was usually much in advance of settlement, and the degree of discrepancy in time may in general be taken as a fair index to the amount of speculation.  Judging by this rule, speculators preferred the northeastern part of the county to the northwestern, apparently because nearer to the older settlements, but settlement reached both of the northern corners of Oakland County at about the same time.  An aid to the extension of settlement to the northwest was the Saginaw Trail, over which the Government was building a road in the early thirties.  The Detroit Journal and Michigan Advertiser of May 18, 1831, says, "The turnpike from Detroit to Saginaw passes through the most populous part of the county. . . This road is intersected in every direction by roads accommodating the settlements in different parts of the county."  It appears to have been the chief axis of settlement.   The effect of very unfavorable conditions of surface, soil, timber distribution, and of water power, are seen in the backwardness of three of the northwestern townships: Brandon was broken, densely forested and had mediocre water power [Ftnte 76]; Highland and Rose, though more open, were high and hilly with only mediocre soil and water power [Ftnte 77], and combined with these [Begin Page 214] defects was their distance from the older centers of settlement.

Original notes

67. History of Oakland County (1876), 106, 193; History of Washtenaw County (1881), 752, 1296; Hist, and Biog. Rec. of Lenawee County, II, 9, 22, 39.

68. History of Oakland County (1876), 106, 158, 166, 221, 231, 237, 267, 285, 312, 320.

69. Mich. Hist. Colls., IIl, 565-570.

70. History of Oakland County (1876), 105, 106, 124, 153, 175, 183, 193, 201, 221, 243, 261, 250, 275.

71. Ibid., 243, 261.

72. Ibid., 70, 130.

73. Ibid., 105, 175, 183.

74. Ibid., 158, 214, 221, 230.

75. Ibid., 183, 207, 274, 299

76. Ibid., 152.

77. Ibid., 201, 261.

p. 241 [Re: Origins Of Early Settlers]

The foreign elements of the population of the section in this period were mainly English, Irish, Scotch and German.  In 1830 the total number of foreigners in the three counties who were not naturalized amounted to 128 [Ftnte 204], but this probably represents only a small proportion of the settlers who were born in foreign lands.  They were distributed as follows: in Oakland 84; in Washtenaw 27; in Lenawee 17.  The Germans were more numerous in Washtenaw County, and settled mainly in the townships of Ann Arbor and Freedom [Ftnte205].  The center of their settlement in Washtenaw County in 1833 seems to be indicated by the situation of their first Church, two miles west of Ann Arbor [Ftnte 206]  Hoffman, in the account of his visit to the village of Ann Arbor in 1833, does not mention Germans, but Englishmen [Ftnte207]; and a nucleus of Englishmen seems to have formed about 1830 in Independence Township in Oakland County [Ftnte 208].  In 1831 a small colony of English and Irish distinguished for learning and culture, settled in Lenawee County on the shore of Sand Lake, Cambridge Township. Irish settlers are mentioned frequently, and also the fact that they showed a preference for the lake district [Ftnte 209]   Two Scotch centers of settlement in that county seem to have formed in West Bloomfield and Highland townships [Ftnte 210].   In 1825 a company of thirty Canadians from South Yarmouth are said to have settled in Avon Township [Ftnte 211].

Original notes

204. U. S. Census (1830), 115.

205. Mich. Hist. Colls., XXVI, 249, 250, 254; History of Washtenaw County (1881), 1292; Beakes, Past and Present of Washtenaw County, 651-658.

206. Mich. Hist. Colls., XXVI, 255.

207. Hoffman, A Winter in the West, I, 157. The reference to Englishmen is possibly a typographical error.

208. History of Oakland County (1876), 207.

209. Ibid., 138,184,193, 207, 275, and passim.

210. Ibid., 201, 314.

211. Ibid.. 132.

NOTE:   The claim that Highland was a "Scotch center of settlement" cites the account of Highland in Durant's History of Oakland County (1877).  This, in turn, notes that Scots natives Peter McPherson and his wife, along with Robert Findley, son Alexander Findley, and son-in-law, Duncan McCall, settled in Highland together in 1834.  This seems, however, more like the migration of a single (albeit large) extended family than a conscious attempt to establish a "Scotch center."   Fuller's claim seems questionable absent evidence that the settlement of McPherson, Findley and McCall was either intended to and/or had the effect of attracting other, unrelated settlers from Scotland.

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