The first settlers in the area of Northville, came primarily from four counties, in New York, namely; Ontario, Seneca, Livingston, and Wayne. Ontario County was the leading contributor. Only 2 of the first families to actually settle here, came from another state outside of New York, these two came from Vermont.
There has been conflict as to who exactly was the very first settler in this area, as three seperate families took up land here within a 10 day span. Those families were: John Tibbits, with his family of 11 children, William Starkweather, and his family, and Walter McFarland, with his family. If it is true that any of these 3 families were the first to settle here, this would mean that the area south of Five Mile Road, was inhabited prior to the area north of Five Mile Road. (any area south of 5 Mile is now, Plymouth Township and the area north, is currently Northville Township.) John Tibbits settled in Section 27 or 28 , William Starkweather settled in Section 26, and Walter McFarland settled in Section 26. Therefore, all 3 would be considered actual settlers of now, Plymouth Township.
Of the other settlers in the Northville Township half, six arrived in 1825, William Bartow, who owned 158 acres in Section 1, bounded by current day Seven Mile and Eight Mile Roads, and from Haggerty one mile west. Abraham B. Markham who owned 180 acres of land in Sections 9 and 10, bounded by current day Six Mile and Seven Mile Roads, and by Beck and Northville Roads. David Phillips in owned acreage in Section 15, from Northville Road to an area west of Sheldon Road, and from Five Mile to Six Mile Roads. Erastus Starkweather, who owned land in Section 12, bounded by current day Six and Seven Mile Roads, and from Haggerty one mile west. Paul Hazen in Section 20, and Rufus Thayer, Jr who owned 322 acres in Section 18, between current day Five and Six Mile Roads from Napier Road east one mile.
The first land patents issued for Northville was filed on August 3, 1823 by Gideon P. Benton. He purchased 240 acres south of what is today, Seven Mile Road, on the southeast corner of Six Mile Road and Northville Road. The following year, on October 25, 1824, Ephraim Francis filed an 80 acre patent on Section 1, and Gardner S. Simmons filed 160 acres in Section 12, that same year.
In 1825 the following people purchased land patents, however, several did not settle here that year : Alanson Aldrich, Justus Andrews, William Bartow, James C. Beverly, David Crooks, Philo Crooks, John Dickerson, Hiram S. Fuller, Paul W. Hazen, Rosenkrans Holmes, William Hubbard, Clement Leach, Abraham Leets, Henry Lyon, Abraham B. Markham, John Power, Ansel Seland, Constant Simmons, Silas Sly, Alvah Smith, Samuel Sterling, Ebenezer Stewart, Orval Stewart, Philo Taylor, Rufus Thayer Jr, Ezekiel Webb, Arnold Whipple, Henry Whipple, and Joseph Yerkes.
Those who filed in 1826 were: Morris Andrews, John Blanchard, Richard Boughton, Harvey S. Bradley, Daniel L. Cady, Samuel S. Cady, David Crooks, Salmon Kingsley, Clement C. Leach, Ira Rice, Silas Sly, Henry Whipple, John Yerkes, Joseph Yerkes, and
All of those land claims or patents can be found in the Wayne County Property Claims or Land Claims Department, housed at 201 City County Building in Detroit, MI 48201.
Most of the areas early settlers arrived in Detroit after having traveled from New York by steamship across Lake Erie and up the Detroit River. Some, however, did come by land through Canada and by ferry across the river into Detroit. It is estimated in 1827, that an average of 20 teams of horses, 200 yoke of oxen, and 800 people traveled to Michigan via Canada each month.
Once in Detroit, they faced the last leg of their trip into the then wilderness of Western Wayne County. Most of this area at that time was heavily wooded, muddy or frozen with heavy clay beneath, and marshy lands. Even after the pioneer wagons had worn paths through the timbered swampy lands, travel was still treacherous. It took an average of 3 days for a wagon to reach Ypsilanti from Detroit, a distance of only 28 miles. From Detroit to Northville is a distance of approximately 19 miles, still requiring 3 days time to avoid or ford streams and swamps.
Sarah Ann Cochrane, was a child when her parents made this trip inland from Detroit and wrote down her experiences before her death in 1917 for the Burton Historical Collections. In part she wrote:
"For days we walked more miles than we rode, my mother carrying me on her hip with one arm while with a long pole in the other hand she tested the depth of the mud before each step.... The poor horses frightened by the unstable footing, plunged and floundered and at times sank one or more legs between loose logs, their extrication proving to be a serious problem if no fence rail or other means of leverage was at hand.... Was it strange that my poor mother, never infatuated with the scheme of emigration, and whose heart was sore under her recent bereavement of her mother and her baby boy, was it strange that in her sheer weariness, she would find relief in tears and sobs, while we children would pity though we could not understand."
Charles L. Dubuar, an early Northville historian, spoke of similiary experiences that are in reprint in the Northville Record April 20, 1928. Dunbuar claimed the first settlement in Plymouth Township was made in the spring of 1825. This would have occurred at about the same time that Erastus Ingersoll cut down trees on his property in Novi. Ingersoll, the father of 9 children, settled in Novi on the southeast quarter of Section 26 (near today's Haggerty and 10 Mile Roads) This is about 2 miles outside of Northville Township.
William Yerkes, who was born September 29, 1794, landed at Detroit on April 20, 1825, with his cousin, Thomas Pinkerton. Pinkerton was born February 22, 1802. They had left their homes in Seneca County, New York aboard the steamship Superior. Yerkes was married to Hester, who was born March 21, 1799, and had several children. Pinkerton was at that time, unmarried, however he later married to Sarah, and had a son, Charles who was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness at the age of 25.
The two men had come to Michigan to find new homesteads for their families and friends. Yerkes chose a site in Section 36, near the northeast corner of 8 Mile and Meadowbrook Roads, and Pinkerton chose land north of Nine Mile Road, east of Meadowbrook.
William Yerkes died January 5, 1884 and his wife died September 11, 1881. Both are buried in the Yerkes Cemetery. Thomas Pinkerton died August 12, 1883 and his wife, died in January, 1903. They too are buried in the Yerkes Cemetery along with their son, Charles.
Yerkes and Pinkerton returned to New York packed the tools needed to return to build temporary shelters for their families. The route chosen to come back to the Northville area, was through Canada, an almost non-traveled wilderness. The entire journey took them about 14 days.
On April 18, 1826, family and friends gathered to make their final trip to Michigan, namely: Joseph Yerkes with his sons, John and Joseph, and his daughters, Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth and Hannah, also, William Yerkes, and his wife, Hester their children Joseph, William P. , Mary, and John. Also along was Thomas Pinkerton, Richard Boughton and Stephen Hayward.
Joseph Yerkes, Sr., was a Revoluntionary War soldier, he purchased 488 acres of land on the south side of 8 Mile Road in Section 2, opposite his son, William. John Yerkes, purchased 240 acres in Section 6, near today's Napier and 8 Mile Roads. Richard Boughton and Stephen Hayward also settled in Northville.
James D. McFarlin, the grandson of Hannah Yerkes-Griswold, wrote an account of the Yerkes family's arrival to the area which stated in part:
"It was in May that they arrived, so they had no opportunity to raise much to live on that first winter...Joseph Yerkes did not know for some time after he settled on his homestead, that he had a lake on his farm. This was the Yerkes Lake - the only natural body of water in Wayne County. Joseph Yerkes was also a cooper by trade as well as being a farmer."
Two other area settlers were: Gannett and Dyer Ramsdell, they were brothers who founded a small but thriving community in Northville around the area of Northville Road, south of 6 Mile, as did Ira Rice, who selected land in Section 3.
By the time the Yerkes family was settled in their log houses, they became distant neighbors to newlyweds, Joshua and Hannah Simmons, who had taken up land along 8 Mile Road just east of Haggerty. It was in September when the Simmons arrived having traveled west aboard the steamship Superior and then made the 30 mile trek to the land that Joshua, had purchased the previous year.
Simmons was a mechanic who brought a few of his tools with him to his new homestead. He was able to support his family with his skills for the first few years of their lives here. He built the first frame barn in the area, on the farm of Erastus Starkweather in 1827. He also hewed the timber of the first mill in Plymouth and for the first one in nearby, Farmington Township. Simmons also cleared his land and cultivated his crop. In 1841, he built a new home to replace the original log cabin, and at the time, was acknowledged as the finest farmhouse in the country.
Joshua and his wife, Hannah had the following children : Richmond C. , L. Wellington, William T. , J. Morell, Mary E. , Jennie E. and Helen M. all of whom married and settled on farms near their parents residence. 6 of their 7 children were born in the log cabin, and the seventh was born in their new farmhouse.
David Clarkson was only 14 years old when he came to Northville with Captain William Dunlap in the spring of 1831. Among those in their party were : Robert Purdy, Henry Waldron, Samuel Blackwood, Peter Larkins, and William Smith and their families. In the Dunlap family there were: Clarkson and Lewis McCormick, both 18 years old. Dunlap had served in the War of 1812, and elected Captain of his company of New York Militia. He was born Febraury 1, 1796 and died April 10, 1878. His wife Sarah Nivius was born May 21, 1801 and died May 3, 1884. They are both buried in the Cady Street Cemetery, as is Robert Purdy (1783-1856); Samuel Blackwood (1802 - 1888) and David Clarkson. Henry Waldron, who had been part of this group, departed out of Detroit toward Pontiac, where he had family.
The Purdy's settled near the Plymouth home of James Purdy and the Larkins settled west of Northville. Blackwood settled in Novi, near 10 Mile Road and Napier Road, and Smith and his family settled on "Base Line" or 8 Mile Road.
Captain Dunlap had purchased 160 acres of land from John Miller near the center of the northern half of Section 3. He built a small logcabin house, with a stick chimney, near a mill. He planted 6 acres of corn, near where the old Wheeler's Millinery Store stood in 1872. A few weeks after settling here, Lewis McCormick had taken ill with fever and died within a few days. He was attended to by a Dr. Emery. He was the first to be buried in this area. His grave was located on Main Street south of where Waterman's Meat Market stood. It was later removed to Cady Street Cemetery. Dunlap interested himself in a small grist mill, which he bought and enlarged. He later sold it to John Smith, of Oakland County, in 1863. Then left the area for Walled Lake, however only stayed there for four years and returned to Northville in 1867.
John Miller had come here in 1825, clearing land on the east side of what is now Center Street north of Dunlap Street. The land had originally been owned by Alason Aldrich. Miller also cleared land on the west side of Center Street, and built another log house on the east side of a stream, near where the old Northville Mill stood. Miller selected this site for Northville's first mill in 1826, which was constructed in the summer of 1827. Miller was later almost killed in an accident at this mill during the winter months, when ice build up shut the wheel down. Miller while cutting the ice away , slipped into the wheel turn and nearly froze to death.
The Dunlaps were the principal settlers north of Main Street on both side of Center Street, however, Daniel L. Cady pioneered much of the land containing East Main Street and Seven Mile Roads and South Center to Northville Road. Hiram Robinson took up land on the west side of South Center, south of Main Street to the Section lines.