Michigan did not become a state until 1837, prior to this time, the territory of Michigan was governed by a territorial government located in Detroit and controlled by Congress in Washington D. C.

Michigan’s territorial government was responsible for the sale of federal lands. Before land could be sold, it first had to be surveyed. The area north of Oakland and some of Macomb County was assigned to Oakland County. In 1822, a survey crew began the process of surveying this area. The first survey crew quit after the first summer. The area was too bug-infested and too swampy. A second crew solved these problems by working in the winter. Surveying was not completed for the entire County of Lapeer until 1834.

During the spring and summer of 1827, James Thorington, William Allen, William’s son, George Washington Allen, and Levi Washburn cut a road from Washington Township north up to about the present location of the downtown of Almont. The purpose of this pathway was not to promote settlement but to provide access so the area could be effectively logged.

In early 1828, Lydia Baldwin Chamberlain was the first person to buy property in what is now Almont Township but she did not immediately develop the property. She was one of sixty pioneers who founded Romeo.

On October 29, 1828, James Deneen purchased property in what is now section 9 of Almont Township—located at the corner of Van Dyke and Hollow Corners Roads. He was the first to purchase and develop property. He came with his wife, Elizabeth Miller Deneen and five children. At that time, Elizabeth was about five months pregnant.

No one came and established a homestead in 1829, but Elisha Webster bought his homestead on Webster Road. However, the population grew by one with the birth of James and Elizabeth’s daughter, Anna.

Three homesteads were founded in 1830— Oliver Bristol, Jonathan Sleeper, and Bezaleel Bristol. Rev. Luther Shaw made his first unsuccessful attempt to establish Belle Arbor along Ross Road on Lydia Chamberlain’s property. The number of homesteads increased in 1831 and more property was purchased that would not be developed until later. Walter and Ebenezer Hough first purchased land that year but did not develop it until 1833 and didn’t actually become Almont residents until 1834. The year 1832 saw more people come back and develop their homesteads. More homesteads were purchased, some immediately developed and some developed later. The year 1833 started the boom in the population of Almont. Most of the property that had been purchased in prior years was developed and most of the new land purchases were immediately developed.

Sometime between September 1833 and March 1834, the territorial government appointed Ira S. Saunders as ‘Justice of the Peace’— the only law north of Oakland and Macomb counties. In early 1834, the territorial government determined that the area around what is now Almont had a large enough population to form a township government. At that time the proposed township covered what is now Almont Township, Imlay Township, and the southern portion of Goodland Township.

Mr. Saunders set March 7, 1834, for the organization meeting for the township. The meeting was set to be held at Daniel Black’s Tavern located at the northwest corner of downtown. The day was planned as a celebration with horse races, foot races, and maybe even wrestling matches scheduled.

It appears that there was a minimum length of residency for someone to be able to vote. Phillip Smith, Jim Smith Jr.’s great grandfather had arrived in February but was not allowed to vote. At the meeting, there were about 13 qualified voters. They would elect the people to hold the seven positions of the township government and determine the township’s name.

Mr. Saunders opened the meeting by asking for nominations for the position of supervisor. No record survives as to who was nominated. Oliver Bristol was elected the township’s first supervisor. It is an assumption that Mr. Bristol then took over the meeting for the remainder of the officer elections. Jonathan Sleeper was elected as clerk, Daniel Black as treasurer, Nicholas Richardson and Elisha Webster as assessors and James Deneen as highway commissioner. It appears that no one wanted to be the justice of the peace, so Oliver Bristol was also elected to be the justice of the peace.

The last item on the agenda was to select a name for the township.

In 1832, probably after the farms had been planted, a “Road Bee” was called. The inducement to get men to participate was a keg of spirits. However, one gentleman who liked his whiskey, feared that the men might “abuse the blessing” and partake too much. So he tapped the keg and drew off a large portion of the whiskey. Not being a teetotaler, he saved the whiskey, which he had withdrawn for his personal use. He then replaced the whiskey with water, plugged the tap hole, and endeavored to obliterate any evidence of his deeds.

After completing the construction of the road, the men returned to enjoy their reward. The whiskey had a decidedly different taste than expected and was not having the desired effect. It was quickly surmised that someone had tampered with the keg. A close inspection of the keg confirmed this suspicion. It is assumed that the man who tapped the keg confessed to his crime and shared the siphoned whiskey with the men who were there. The men had a good laugh and joked that they should call this place “Tapshire”. Newcomer, Philip Frisbie was the person who suggested the name.

Though the name Tapshire never had any official sanction, it was used for a period of time by those that helped construct the road. It was used often enough and long enough that other nearby county histories referred to Almont as Tapshire. Old time Almonters, those who helped build the road, were still referring to the township as “Tapshire” into the 1880s.

Elisha Webster suggested the name of his daughter who had been born in Almont just the year before. This name was voted to be the name of the township. It was sent to the Territorial government as “Mia”, which became the township’s name. Unfortunately, Mr. Webster’s daughter was named “Mya”. This may have contributed to the name being changed in December 1834 to “Bristol” after Oliver Bristol.

At the end of the meeting, a keg of whiskey was tapped and the people present used it to christen the formation and naming of the township.

Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or jrwade49@ gmail.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.