The Michigan Territory was created by the Confederation Congress in 1787 as part of the Northwest Ordinance, prior to the passage of the Constitution.
In 1807, the federal government and the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandotte and Potawatomi tribes signed the Treaty of Detroit which ceded most of southeastern lower Michigan to the United States. The tribes were to move off this land but did retain hunting and fishing rights.
Oakland County was created in 1816. It once had numerous Native American settlements and a number of Indian trails. It was these trails which allowed the rapid settlement of Oakland County. Orion Road from Rochester to Lake Orion was one of these trails.
Macomb County was created in 1818. Like Oakland County, it had a number of Native American settlements but fewer trails. The rivers and streams provided much of the transportation highways in the county.
Lapeer County did not have either trails or navigable rivers so it did not have the advantages to settlement of Oakland and Macomb. Additionally, there were few Native American settlements within Lapeer County.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, the British trappers and traders who were living in Michigan tried to discourage settlement by spreading the rumor that Michigan was a “bug infested swamp.” In the case of southeastern Lapeer County, this was an especially accurate statement. The original survey crew that started working in Lapeer County in 1822 returned to Detroit in the fall and essentially told the territorial government “to take the surveying job and shove it!” They refused to go back to that “mosquito infested swamp” where they sunk to their knees with each step. With no drainage system and numerous beaver dams, the muck fields north and east of Imlay City must have been nearly impassable. Even the Native Americans did not want to live here in large numbers.
As part of the Native American’s right to hunt and fish, they established camp sites. One of these camp sites was where Romeo is now located. Romeo’s initial name was “Indian Settlement.” Another camp site was located in Goodland Township, north of the muck fields. The Native Americans would come and hunt and harvest local plants. The Goodland campground was used extensively to pick cranberries which covered all of the muck fields.
The women would come to Almont to trade baskets and hides at Robert’s Trading Post—the current location of Maria’s restaurant, but probably a newer building. The men would bring in deer and pellets to trade for knives, powder and shot, and “firewater.”
By the time Lapeer County began to be settled in the 1830s, (to my current knowledge) there were only three Native American villages still in Lapeer County. One was near Elba, another was north of North Branch and the third was located near Almont. A small village located near a place called Sparrows Corner—near the current location of the intersection of Dryden and Glover Roads—interacted with the earliest pioneer settlers of Almont. This was the home of Tipsico.
Before white settlers came to Lapeer County, the Almont area was extremely important to the Native Americans of not only Southeastern Michigan by as far away as northern Indiana.
The city of Council Grove, Kansas, is so named because of a grove of oak trees under which the local tribes would come to meet in council and resolve their differences.
To the southwest of the house at 325 West St. Clair Street was a large willow tree that stood next to Shus-hu-ga creek, now referred to as the Farnum Drain. It was under this willow tree that the Native Americans would meet to resolve their differences. Unfortunately, the tree no longer exists.
Occasionally, the Native Americans did not resolve their differences peacefully. There was evidence found by early settlers that a large battle occurred between tribes which could not agree. The battle site was south of Hough (pronounced Huff) Road and running along Shoemaker Road up to Tubsprings Road. When this happened is not known but long before white men set foot in Lapeer County.
On June 4, I met at the museum with Jon W. Carroll, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Registered Professional Archaeologist. He and a crew of students had just come from a nearby dig. They had found a stone “flake” produced by Native Americans working stone into arrow heads or other stone tools.
Professor Carroll’s work on the tribes in Michigan, Indiana, and Ontario, Canada indicate that the Native Americans who lived in these areas had considerable interactions both socially and economically. Almont’s “Indian Tree” is a strong indication that the area around Almont was of significant importance to the Native Americans living as far away as Indianapolis, Indiana to London, Ontario, Canada.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or email@example.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.