Original Highland Township Landowner
The second parcel of government land ever sold in Highland Township was purchased October 19, 1832, but confusion has unfortunately reigned with regard to the names of its three (3) buyers. In 1872 the Hon. Thomas J. Drake read an address on the "History of Oakland County" to the Wayne County Pioneer Society. This was subsequently published in the Michigan Pioneer And Historical Collections, Robert Smith & Co., Lansing (1894), Vol. XXII. At page 414 of that volume Drake claims that "In 1832, James [sic] Aldrich, Richard Willett [sic], Samuel Myers [sic], Jr., Rufus Tenny and Alvah Tenny purchased and became settlers." Obviously relying on Drake's address, Samuel W. Durant, in his 1877 History of Oakland County, Michigan, also declares "James Aldrich [sic], Richard Willett [sic] and Samuel Myers [sic], Jr., purchased land in the township the same year [i.e., 1832]." For its part, First Land Owners of Oakland County identifies the buyers as "Samuel [sic] Aldrich, Richard Willit(s), NY, and Samuel P. Noyes, Jr., Michigan." Inspection of the actual patent, however, shows it was issued to "Saviel Aldrich, Richard Willets, and Samuel P. Noyes, Junr. of New York, and Michigan Territory." The patent further makes clear the three men purchased the property "as tenants in common and not as joint tenants."
While the identity of this Richard Willits has yet to be established with certainty, the available evidence suggests several possibilities. The key is Willits' obvious association with (and possible relation to) Saviel Aldrich and/or Samuel P. Noyes, Jr.. As noted in his own biographical sketch, Aldrich was part of a Quaker (Society of Friends) family from Massachusetts who joined a Quaker migration to Ontario County, New York, where his kinsman, Nathan Aldrich, had helped found a colony at Farmington.
The new settlement soon attracted other Quakers, including members of the Willets family from New Jersey. These included Micajah Willets, born 1753 at Monmouth, New Jersey, who appears on the 1810 Census for Farmington, Ontario County and the 1820 Census for Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) County. Among the children of Micajah Willets was a son, Richard Willets, born 1778, who married Rachel Birdsall and moved to Ontario County circa 1805.
Another early Quaker pioneer at Farmington was Barzilla a/k/a Brazilla Willets, the nephew of Micajah above, who was born circa 1780 in New Jersey and removed to Farmington, New York, circa 1805. He died at Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) County, New York, where his will was probated in 1813. Among his children was a son, Richard Willets, born in 1804, who married Rebecca White. Of interest is the fact this Richard eventually settled in Cambria, Hillsdale County, Michigan, where he appears on the 1850 Census.
Whether the Richard Willets who purchased land in Highland was the one born 1778, the one born circa 1780, or an entirely different man is still unclear. It seems reasonably certain, however, that he was (i) a member of the Quaker Willets family which settled in and around Farmington, Ontario County, New York, and (ii) was associated with, if not related by blood or marriage to Saviel Adlrich, who was likewise connected to the Quaker colony at Farmington. Their purchase of land in Highland may have been a simple investment, or as part of an effort to secure additional lands for other Quakers who had begun to settle in Michigan in the 1830's; most notably at "Quaker Acres" in Livonia, Wayne County. There is no evidence, however, that Aldrich, Willets or Noyes themselves ever resided in Highland Township.