Public Highways
Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal,
and Dexter Branch
Detroit and Grand River
Plank-Road Company
Howell and Byron Plank-Road Company
Detroit & Howell Plank-Road
Lansing and Howell Plank-Road
Detroit and Shiawassee
Railroad Project
Other Proposed Railroads
Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad


     THE first step in the direction of public internal improvement in all countries and regions is the building or opening of routes of travel, however primitive and rude these may be. The immigrant, in traveling towards his prospective home in the wilderness, must bestow some labor-be it more or less--in opening a route over which to reach it with his family and the few household necessaries which he brings with him. In densely wooded regions this task is often a heavy one, while it is comparatively trifling in such a country as the first settlers found in Livingston County, where access could be had to almost any spot through the convenient openings. But even here the new-comers were obliged occasionally to use the axe, to open a path through an intervening thicket or to fell a few trees to make a solid way across a stream or marshy place. And this work, light and insignificant as it was, was road building,--an improvement which it was necessary to make before the settler could reach the spot where his cabin was to be reared.

     The first highways in Livingston were the Indian trails, of which the principal was the Grand River trail, traversing the county through its centre from southeast to northwest, as has already been mentioned, and over this route, first while it was a mere trail, and afterwards when it became the Grand River road, a large proportion of the immigrants to the county passed on their way to their places of settlement.
     On the fourth of July, 1832, the Congress of the United States passed an act directing the President to appoint three commissioners to lay out a road
"from Detroit, through Shiawassee County, to the mouth of the Grand River," for military and other purposes. The road was accordingly "laid out," and the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars was expended by the government in the years 1833 and 1834 in working the eastern part of the road ten miles out from Detroit. 

  A further appropriation of twenty-five thousand dollars was made by Congress, March 3,  1835, and this amount was expended in 1835-36 in clearing the road one hundred feet wide through the timbered land, and in constructing bridges on its line across the Rush, Huron, Shiawassee, and Cedar Rivers. This was the last work done on the Grand River road by the general government, as Michigan had ceased to be a Territory and became a sovereign State. A grant of five thousand acres of land was, however, obtained from the United States for the benefit of the Grand River and the Saginaw roads, of which grant this road received its proportion.

     After the United States ceased making appropriations for the Grand River road, -- or Grand River turnpike, as it was called, -- very little was done on it for a time. When judge Turner came to Livingston County (1840) little, if any part of the road was graded west of Brighton. The State, however, took up the work soon after, and the construction of the road was continued by State appropriations made from time to time. An act, approved April 2, 1841, provided that five thousand dollars be expended on the construction of this road, under the direction of the Board of Internal Improvement; this sum being taken from the sixty thousand dollars which remained unexpended of the appropriations previously granted for the "Northern Wagon-Road," which project had at that time been virtually abandoned. A part or all of this appropriation was expended, under the supervision of Mr. Mullett, or Detroit, in opening the road from Fowlerville to Lansing, and about that time, or soon after, the first line of stages (lumber-wagons) was put on the route between Howell and Lansing by Ralph Fowler, O. B. Williams, of Williamston, and others. In 1845 an act was passed (approved March 24th), authorizing and directing the expenditure of certain non-resident highway taxes upon that portion of the Grand River road "between the village of Howell and the house of Justus Gilkey, in Ingham County." The non-resident taxes so directed to be expended embraced all the taxes of that kind levied on property lying within two miles of the road on each side, in the years 1845 to 1848, inclusive, and also all of such taxes which remained unexpended on the first of May, 1845. Ralph Fowler, of Handy, and J. H. Kilborn, of Ingham County, were appointed by the act special commissioners, "to have superintendence of said road within their respective counties, and to direct where the labor shall be performed on said road."

     An act was passed in March, 1846, providing "that ten thousand acres of internal improvement lands be, and the same are hereby appropriated, for the purpose of improving the Detroit and Grand River road, between the village of Howell, in Livingston County, and the village of Michigan, in the county of Ingham;" six thousand acres to be




expended in Ingham, and four thousand acres in Livingston County, under direction of special commissioners appointed by the Governor. By these appropriations, with subscriptions, and the expenditure of local highway taxes, the road, was finally completed.

     The old route of the road was north of the north bend of Cedar River; but in 1849 it was changed for a more southerly and nearly straight one through the west part of the township of Handy, and over this the road was opened and worked by Ralph Fowler and others, with funds raised largely by subscription. The construction of this part of the road will be found more fully noticed in the history of the township of Handy.

     A large number of State roads were authorized by the first Legislature of Michigan, at the session of 1835-36, several of which were to be laid out across the county of Livingston, or some portion of it. An act, approved March 26, 1836, provided that "there shall be laid out and established a State road from Allegan, in the county of Allegan, through the county-seats of Barry, Eaton, and Ingham; and the said road shall terminate at Howell, in the county of Livingston, where it may intersect the United States road running from Detroit to Grand River; and Joseph Fisk, of Allegan, Calvin G. Hill, of Barry, and F. J. B. Crane,* of Livingston County, be, and they are hereby appointed, commissioners for that purpose."

     Other roads authorized by act of the Legislature at the same time, and of which the proposed routes lay partly in Livingston, were the following, viz.:

     "A State road from Jacksonburgh, the county-seat of Jackson County, by the most direct and eligible route to Howell, the county-seat of Livingston." The commissioners appointed to lay out and establish this road were William R. Thompson, Oliver Russ, and George B. Cooper.

     A State road from Pontiac, Oakland County, to be laid out over the most direct and eligible route, and "to terminate at the county-seat of Ionia." Alfred L. Williams, Erastus Yeomans, and William Terry, commissioners to lay out and establish the same.

     A State road "commencing at Ann Arbor, and running in a northwesterly course on the most direct and eligible route to the county-seat of Livingston." Henry Rumsey, Moses Thompson, and Benjamin Hobart, commissioners.

     A State road "from the village of Saginaw, or the county-site of the county of Saginaw, to run thence in a southerly direction through Byron[?],

*An act approved March 18,1837, appointed Guy C. Lee commissioner in place of Mr. Crane,

  the county-site of Livingston, and thence through the village of Dexter, in the county of Washtenaw to intersect the United States road running from Detroit to Chicago, at or near the village of Clinton, in the county of Lenawee." The commissioners named in the act were Alfred L. Williams, Salmon H. Matthews, and Nathaniel Noble.

     A State road "from the village of Pontiac, in Oakland County, to Mapes and Bursley's mill on Oak Creek, in township three north, range six east [Hartland], and thence to the centre of Shiawassee County." John S. Wilber, Samuel Mapes and George Buckley, commissioners.

     Legislation providing for the construction of roads was continued quite as briskly during the next two years. By an act approved March 17, 1837, the laying out of a State road was authorized and directed "from the village of Pontiac, in the county of Oakland, by the most direct and eligible route to the village of Lyons, in the county of Ionia;" and Truman F. Lyon, A. F. Bell, an John McKelvey were appointed commissioners for the purpose. Another section of the some act directed that "there shall be laid out and established a State road from the county-seat of Genesee to the county-seat of Washtenaw County and that Ira D. Wright, Philip H. McOmber, am Jesse Pinney be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for that purpose." The routes of both these roads traversed Livingston County the first from east to west, and the latter from north to south by way of the village of Brighton. And by section thirty-seven of the same act, a road to pass through the northeastern part of Livingston was authorized, viz.: "A State road at or near Farmington City, so called, in the county of Oakland, running by the head of Walled Lake, to Byron, in the county of Shiawassee, on the most direct and eligible route;" the commissioners appointed by the act for the purpose being Erie Prince, Isaac Wixom, and John Thomas.

     A road "from Dexter, in the county of Washtenaw, to the county-seat of Ingham, and from thence by the most eligible route to the village of Lyons, at the mouth of the Maple," was authorized by act approved February 16, 1837, to be laid out before January 1, 1839. Solomon Sutherland, of Unadilla, Livingston County, and Edward Lyon and A. Crosman, of Dexter, were appointed commissioners.

     In 1838, by act approved February 28th, a road was authorized to be laid out by Ephraim B. Danforth, of Ingham County, George W. Jewett, of Livingston, and Albert I. Bull, of Barry, commissioners "from the Grand River road at Howell, the county-seat of Livingston County; thence on




the most eligible route, by the county-seats of Ingham, Eaton, and Barry, to the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, in the county of Allegan."

     During the seven years next succeeding 1838, State roads were directed to be laid out through or in Livingston County, as follows:

     1839.--State Road, "commencing at a certain point upon the west line of Ingham County, where the State road laid out and established from Bellevue to the west line of Ingham County terminates; thence in an easterly direction to the mills in Leslie, on the most eligible route, until said, route shall intersect the Grand River turnpike, at or near the village of Pinckney, in the county of Livingston." Commissioners, Henry Fisk, Benj. Davis, and Amos E. Steele. Act approved April 18th.

     1839--State road "commencing at the village of Pontiac, in the county of Oakland; thence on the most direct and eligible route through the county of Livingston, by the way of Meadville, to what is called the Battise Trail, in the township of Stockbridge, Ingham County; thence on the most direct and eligible route to the village of Jackson, in the county of Jackson." Commissioners, Solomon Sutherland, Thomas Godfrey, and Mason Branch. Act approved April 18, section 24.

     1840--"State road running from the village of Milford, in Oakland County, to the township of Howell, in Livingston County." Commissioners to lay out, Morgan L. Smith, Phineas Bates, and W. A. Buckland. Act of March 4th.

     1841--"A State road commencing at or near the fifty-seventh mile-post on the Grand River turnpike; from thence on the most eligible route along the valley of the Red Cedar River, until it intersects said turnpike at the meridian line . . ." Commissioners, J. H. Kilborne, of Ingham, Elijah Grant and Martin W. Randall, of Livingston County. Act approved April 13th.

     1844--"State road from Ann Arbor, in the county of Washtenaw, by way of the village of Brighton in the county of Livingston, Murray's Mills, and the village of Flushing, in the county of Genesee, to the Saginaw turnpike, at a point about fourteen miles north of the village of Flint." Commissioners, Albert Stevens, John Kenyan, Isaac Penoyer, and James H. Murray. Act approved March 9th.

     1844--State road "commencing at or near the point where the road leading from the village of Dexter, in the county of Washtenaw, to Mason, in Ingham County, crosses the west line of Livingston County; running thence by the most feasible route through the township of Hamburg to the village of Brighton, in said county of Livingston." Commissioners, Solomon Sutherland, Justus J. Bennett, and Jasper H. Buck. Act approved March 9th.

     1845--"A State road from Pontiac, in the county of Oakland, to Hillman's Tavern, in the township of Tyrone, in the county of Livingston." Commissioners, Willard K. Goodrich and William Capron, of Oakland, and Jairah Hillman, of Livingston. Act approved March 24th.

     1845--"A State road commencing at the village of Brighton, in Livingston County, and running thence to the village of Fentonville, in Genesee County."

Commissioners, Harvey T. Lee and Alonzo Slayton, of Livingston, and Elisha Holmes, of Genesee. Act approved March 24th. In 1848 an act was passed (March 23d) appropriating two thousand acres of the State internal improvement lands for the purpose of opening and improving this road.

     It is to be borne in mind, however, that to "lay out and establish" a road-particularly in the earlier years--was not equivalent to opening and making it ready for travel; but that in many instances years intervened between the time when a highway was laid out by the commissioners and the time when it was made passable for vehicles; and that it was not unfrequently the case that roads which had been authorized and laid out were never opened.


     The project of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal,--to be built by the State as part of the extensive internal improvement system inaugurated about the time of the admission of Michigan into the Union,--was introduced in the Legislature at the session of 1837, and resulted in an appropriation (by act approved March 20th) of the sum of twenty thousand dollars from the internal improvement fund, for the prosecution of several surveys for canals and slack-water navigation on rivers, among these being included as follows: "for the survey of a canal, or for a canal part of the way and railroad the balance of the route, commencing at or near Mount Clemens, on the Clinton River, to terminate at or near the mouth of the Kalamazoo River." Under this appropriation a preliminary survey was made, of a route to pass-through Livingston County by way of Crooked Lake in the township of Genoa; thence to the waters of the Cedar, and so west-ward to the Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers. A more southerly, as well as a more northerly, route through the county was examined, and each had its adherents, who, respectively, were confident of the superiority and ultimate adoption of that route in, which they were most interested. By people




having no local interests to serve, however, it was generally believed that the route by way of Crooked Lake was the one to be preferred. In connection
with this, a project was conceived by private parties to construct a branch canal to unite with the proposed State canal in Livingston County, and continue along the valley of the Huron to Dexter, in Washtenaw County, where it would strike the central of the three lines of railway which, had then recently been authorized by the Legislature to be built by the State. In 1839 the project of this branch canal was brought before the Legislature, which thereupon passed "an act to incorporate the Dexter Branch Canal Company," approved April 19th, in that year. By the terms of this act, the company so incorporated was empowered and authorized (as soon as funds were provided) "to construct, make. and finish a canal of sufficient width and depth to admit the passage of such boats or other craft, through said canal, as are commonly used and employed in the carrying trade, and also to make such locks and guards, in and around said canal, as shall render the occupation safe and easy for boats or any other craft that may be used thereon. Said canal to commence at the village of Dexter, in the county of Washtenaw, and extend to the Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal, in the county of Livingston, by the following route: commencing at the village of Dexter, from thence up the valley of the Huron River, or as near the valley as practicable, to the peninsula between Portage and Bass [Base?] Lakes; from thence to the northwest side of Bass Lake; from there up the valley of the outlet of Crooked Lake, on the most approved and direct route, where it will intersect the line of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal. . . . It shall and may be optional with this corporation, that in place of the aforesaid canal they may use the bed of the
Huron River, commencing at the village of Dexter, and from thence to improve the same by excavation and by dams and locks and other improvements, so as to make a safe and easy slack-water navigation for boats and other craft up said river to the lakes before described, and also to improve and use the lakes as a part of said navigable communication, and from said lakes by the afore-said canal route to where the same intersects the line of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal." The commissioners appointed by the act of incorporation were Samuel W. Dexter, Asa Williams,
Nathaniel Noble, Alanson Crosman, Cyrel Nichols, and Nelson H. Wing. The capital stock of the company was fifty thousand dollars. It was required that the work be finished within six years from the passage of the act. Beyond the above-mentioned legislation and the making of

some preliminary surveys, nothing was ever done towards the construction of either the main line of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal, or of the Dexter Branch, through any part of Livingston County, though a portion of the east end of the main work was completed from Mount Clemens. But, for a period of about ten years from the inception of these projects, strong hopes were entertained by many that they would ultimately be completed; and extravagant expectations were indulged in of great advantages to accrue in consequence, to the county, and particularly to certain localities along the projected line. As late as 1845 the matter was discussed in the public prints in a manner showing that there was still abundant confidence among the people in the accomplishment of the scheme and in the great and beneficial results sure to follow. An editorial article, which appeared in the Detroit Advertiser in February of that year, in speaking of the main canal, and of a change of route which seemed to the writer to be desirable, said that "the western route of the canal should be so modified that, after leaving the Clinton River and the small lakes of Oakland and Livingston Counties, it should pass down the valleys of the Red Cedar and Grand Rivers to Lyons, Ionia County, and to the head of navigation on Grand River," and added that the work appeared to be second in importance only to that of the Central Railroad. At the same time the Livingston Courier thought that the canal ought to commence at Detroit, instead of Mount Clemens, and that its proper route would be from the former place northwestwardly through Livingston County to the head of navigation on Grand River. "A canal," said the Courier," connecting Detroit and Grand River would undoubtedly be one of the greatest of our internal improvements and the greatest source of revenue to the State." Similar views and expectations were quite generally entertained during the earlier years of the canal agitation, but beyond the privilege of indulging for a time in these pleasant anticipations, the people of Livingston County never derived any benefit from the visionary projects of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal and its Dexter Branch.



     This company was incorporated by act of Legislature (approved March 12, 1844), which provided "That C. P. Bush and Ely Barnard, of Livingston County, and Levi Cook, John Blindbury, and David Thompson, of Wayne County, be and they




are hereby appointed commissioners, under whom, or a majority of whom, subscriptions may be received to the stock of the Detroit and Grand River Plank-Road Company, hereby incorporated; and they shall cause books to be opened at the village of Howell, in the county of Livingston, and at the office of the city clerk in the city of Detroit, county of Wayne, for three successive days, at such time as a majority of them shall direct, for the purpose of receiving subscriptions to the capital stock of said company." The company was incorporated for the period of twenty years from the passage of the act; its capital stock was placed at fifty thousand dollars, in shares of fifty dollars each; the object for which it was incorporated was set forth in the act to be "the improvement of the present Grand-River turnpike, from the northerly line of the Cass farm, in the city of Detroit, to the point where the base line intersects the said road;" and for this purpose the company was "authorized to take immediate possession of the Grand River turnpike from the city of Detroit to the base line," and was required to plank the road from Detroit to the base line "with sound plank not less than three inches in thickness, and not less than eighteen feet in length, to be well fastened down at the bed timbers, so as to make the same a good plank-road at all seasons of the year." The company was required, under penalty of forfeiture of charter, to complete eleven miles of the road within five years, and the remainder within ten years, from the passage of the act. An amendatory act was passed May 4, 1846, by the provisions of which the company, instead of being compelled to lay a plank-road, were required to "cause to be laid down and constructed a good and substantial plank, macadamized, or charcoal road, from the city of Detroit to the said point where the base line intersects said turnpike; such road to be not less than sixteen feet in width, and of such materials and description as shall make the same a good substantial road at all seasons of the year." The intention was to extend this road ultimately to Howell, but the obstacles encountered were too great to be surmounted at that early day, and the company never even organized under their charter.


     In 1850 the Howell and Byron Plank-Road Company was incorporated for a period of sixty years and with a capital stock authorized to the amount of thirty thousand dollars, for the receipt of subscriptions to which, George W. Lee, Josiah Turner, B. W. Dennis, F. J. Provost,* and Noah Ramsdell were appointed

*By an act passed in March, 1851 Nathaniel Turner and Harvey T. Lee were made commissioners in place of Messrs. Dennis and Provost.


commissioners. The object of the incorporation of the company, as set forth in the act (approved March 25th), was "to lay out, establish, and construct a plank-road and all necessary buildings and appurtenances, commencing in the village of Howell, and terminating in the village of Byron, in the county of Shiawassee;" and authority was conferred to unite the road at any point with the road of any other company.

     This company organized and elected George W. Lee as President, and Josiah Turner, Secretary and Treasurer, but no part of the road was ever built.


     This company was incorporated in 1848 (by act approved April 3d), with a capital stock of one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, "for the purpose of building and maintaining a plank-road from the city of Detroit, in the county of Wayne, on the most eligible route to the village of Howell, in the county of Livingston; and also from some point at or near the Sand Hill, so called, on the Grand River road, in the said county of Wayne, to the village of Waterford, in said county; and also from some eligible point on the main line of the plank-road hereby authorized to the village of Milford, in the county of Oakland. Said company shall have the right to increase their capital stock to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and to extend the road to the town of Michigan, in the county of Ingham." Henry Ledyard and A. S. Bagg, of Detroit, Jabesh M. Mead, of Plymouth, Augustus C. Baldwin, of Milford, and Josiah Turner, of Howell, were empowered as commissioners to receive subscriptions to the stock. The company was authorized -- as soon as organized--"to enter upon and take possession of so much of the Detroit and Grand River road, so called, as lies between the city of Detroit and the village of Howell, and to proceed to construct and maintain thereon a plank-road."

     The company was duly organized with Hon. C. C. Trowbridge as President, and Henry Ledyard, Secretary and Treasurer. Work was commenced a few months after the incorporation, and the road was finished to Howell during the year 1850. It immediately became financially successful, and for many years was an advantage to Howell and to Livingston County, second only in importance to that which has since resulted from the opening of the railroad to Detroit and Lansing.


The Lansing and Howell Plank-Road Company was incorporated by act approved March 20, 1850,




with power "to lay out, establish, and construct a plank-road, and all necessary buildings, and appurtenances, commencing at Lansing, county of Ingham, and terminating in the village of Howell, county of Livingston, with the privilege of uniting said road at any point with the road of any other company." James Seymour, Hiram H. Smith, Ephraim B. Danforth, George W. Lee, and Frederick C. Whipple were appointed commissioners to receive subscriptions to the capital stock, which was authorized to the amount of sixty thousand dollars. The company was empowered, as soon as organized, "to enter upon and take possession of so much of the Detroit and Grand River road, so called, as lies between the village of Lansing and the village of Howell, and proceed to construct and maintain thereon a plank-road." The act of incorporation to remain in force for the term of sixty years. The work of construction was commenced in the summer or fall of 1850, and the road was completed from Howell to Lansing in about two years. Many of the planks for this as well as for the Detroit and Howell road were furnished from the steam-mill of Chandler & Kneeland in Howell. This road completed the planked way from Detroit to the State capital. The through line became prosperous at once, and for some years was one of the principal thoroughfares of the State; being second to none (railways excepted) of equal length in the amount of business transacted upon it. A continual procession of teams and vehicles passed over it from end to end, and two four-horse stages (with frequent extras) made daily trips each way, each coach carrying from twelve to twenty passengers. The staging business over the Grand River road, before the days of planking, was commenced between Howell and Detroit, about 1838, by Allen C. Weston, and continued by Benjamin J. Spring and others. The founders of the staging business between Howell and Lansing were Ralph Fowler, O. B. Williams, of Williamston, and some associates, who started the first stage-wagons over that part of the line in or about 1842, as has been mentioned. From these small beginnings grew the heavy stage traffic which afterwards passed over the plank-road. This great and continually-increasing business ceased almost entirely upon the opening of the Detroit and Milwaukee and Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroads, and since that time stage-coaching between Detroit and Lansing is but a memory of past days.
     After the diversion of a large part of the travel from the plank-roads, it became the policy of the companies to remove the planking as it decayed, and to fill
  the gaps thus, made with substantial grading. In this way all the planking has been removed over the entire line, and, although the names of Detroit and Howell Plank-Road and Lansing and Howell Plank-Road are still in use as the legal designations of the two sections of the line, the whole is now a solidly-graded turnpike. It still accommodates a large amount of travel, and is the main thoroughfare of Livingston County. The toll-gates still remain upon the line, and toll is collected as formerly. The continuance of these gates, and of toll-taking, by the company, is considered an unjust burden by many of those who travel most on the roads. To such complaints, and to frequent demands which have been made in late, years for the discontinuance of toll-taking, the Hon. C. C. Trowbridge has recently (October, 1879) made a reply, which, though evidently addressed particularly to complainants in the immediate vicinity of Detroit, is equally applicable along the other portions of the line. As a presentation of the views and arguments of the proprietors in favor of the continuance of the toll-gates, this reply is given below, without the expression of any opinion on the merits of the case. Mr.Trowbridge says: "Certain parties who live near the city, but outside of the toll-gates, are desirous to have the gates removed, so that they can travel free. All persons living between gates have hitherto made a law for themselves, and have traveled between gates without paying toll; but this does not satisfy the malcontents, who have obtained some legislation which they think sufficient to accomplish their purpose, which would be the practical destruction of value to the proprietors of these roads. The plank-road corporations are desirous to have the mooted questions which have arisen in respect to their rights and duties submitted without delay to the, competent tribunal, and they will at once obey its behest. Meantime they think it but fair that some facts bearing upon these questions, although not touching the law of the case, should be stated in their behalf.

     "It is useless to expect to catch the car of the present busy generation as to what transpired about these roads thirty odd years ago; but the fact is undeniable that at certain seasons of the year, and about half of the time, they were almost impassable, and that at such periods non-intercourse with the country was the rule. A great outcry was made for relief. Certain of our business men procured the passage of the plank-road act of 1848, and these corporations were organized under its provisions. Failing to persuade the farmers and the city land-holders to take up the capital stock, these same business men took it and built the roads. At first they were profitable to their owners, but




the revenues soon fell off and the expenses of repair increased, so that for the last seventeen years the Saline has paid only-an average of one and one-seventeenth per cent per annum; the Lansing and Howell, for twenty-five years, one and one-eighth percent; the Detroit and Howell, for sixteen years, six and three-fifths per cent; and the Erin less than nine per cent., the whole average being less than five per cent; while the yearly saving to our citizens in the cost of fuel and supplies, and the general effect upon the markets, has been equal to the total cost of the roads, and the lands along their lines have been quadrupled in value. Please note here that these and the succeeding dividends will be all that the shareholders will receive in return for three hundred thousand dollars which they expended in building these roads. At the expiration of their charters, now only twenty-eight years distant, the roads revert to the vicinage and become town property, subject to taxation for repairs. In respect to one of them that period will probably be materially shortened, for it is already difficult, by the most economical use of the revenue, to keep it in passable condition.

     "Under these circumstances the proprietors feel that they are equitably entitled to whatever the law allows; and they ask their fellow-citizens to put themselves in their place, and not to condemn them as thieves for endeavoring to maintain their rights. It is obvious to all who have served as road-masters, that if left to the towns to keep the roads in repair the people would never submit to the necessary taxation. Up to 1879 the Howell road has expended for that purpose three hundred and three thousand three hundred and sixty-nine dollars and ninety-eight cents, or an average of eleven thousand six hundred and sixty-seven dollars and ten cents per annum; the Erin, two hundred and seventy-six thousand eight hundred and ninety dollars and sixteen cents, or an average of ten thousand six hundred and forty-nine dollars and sixty cents; the Lansing, ninety-eight thousand eight hundred and fifty-four dollars and seven cents, or an average of three thousand nine hundred and fifty-four dollars and eighteen cents; and the Saline, two hundred and sixty-one thousand six hundred and ten dollars and thirty-one cents, or an average of ten thousand four hundred and sixty-four dollars and forty-one cents,--a total sum of about one million of dollars."

     But there is little doubt that the toll-gates be discontinued between Howell and Lansing, if not between Howell and Detroit, long before expiration of the charters.



     The first company proposing to construct a line of railway through the present territory of Livingston County was incorporated by an act of Legislature, approved March 22, 1837, which provided "that Marshall J. Bacon, Silas Titus, Elijah F. Cook, Thomas Curtis, Alfred A. Dwight, Robert Warden, Jr., and Ely Barnard be, and they are hereby, appointed commissioners, under direction of a majority of whom subscriptions may be received to the capital stock of the Detroit and Shiawassee Railroad Company hereby incorporated. . . . Said corporation shall have power to construct a railroad with single or double track from Detroit, in the county of Wayne, through Farmington, in the county of Oakland, Kensington, in the township of Lyon, the county-seat in the county of Livingston, Byron, in the county of Shiawassee, to Shiawassee village, in said county of Shiawassee, with power to transport, take, and carry persons and property upon the same by the power and force of steam and animals, or of any mechanical or other power, or combination of them." The capital stock of the company was authorized to the amount of five hundred thousand dollars. The road was to be commenced within one year from the date of incorporation,--twenty five miles of it to be finished in two and a half years, and the whole to be completed in six years, on penalty of forfeiture of charter for such parts as were unfinished at that time. By act of April 6, 1838, the charter was amended by the repeal of so much of the act of incorporation as called for the construction of the road through Byron to Shiawassee village, and by the granting to the company of the power "to continue the construction of said railroad from the county-seat of Livingston County to Biddle City, in Ingham County."

     Some of the principal promoters of this project were the master-spirits in the old "wild cat" Bank of Kensington, which is still clearly but unfavorably remembered by many people of Livingston County. It may have been the design of these men to honestly carry out the objects set forth in the charter which they obtained, but it is hardly likely that such was the case. There is, however, no doubt of the good faith of such men as Ely Barnard and some others of the corporators. The road was never commenced, nor the company organized under the charter.


     Several other unsuccessful railroad projects, proposing to build roads through the territory




of Livingston County, have been started at different times, among these having been the Michigan Air-Line road, to pass through the southern part of the county, and on which some grading work was done, and the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Railroad line, which proposed to run its route through the centre of Livingston, passing over the farm of Alexander McPherson, within the corporation limits of Howell, and thence northward by way of Oak Grove to Owosso. An organization of this company was effected at Ann Arbor, October 28, 1869, and subscriptions to the capital stock to the amount of some twenty thousand dollars were secured in this county, of which subscriptions about five per cent has been paid in, but beyond this no progress has been made as regards that part of the line north of Ann Arbor.
     A proposed line of road, to pass through Howell village, is mentioned in the newspapers of 1857, as also the fact that at a public meeting held in the spring of that year George W. Lee and L. K. Hewett, of Howell, E. F. Burt, of Marion, Hon. S. M. Holmes, of Detroit, A. S. Lapham of Northville, Hon. Whitney Jones and H. H. Smith, of Lansing, James B. Lee, of Brighton, and H. Crawford, of Milford, were appointed a "Central Business Committee," who were authorized to procure pledges to a capital stock, grants of right of way, and pledges for sums to purchase the right of way, as well as the appointment of sub-committeemen, calling of primary meetings and finally a general meeting for the organization of a company. But although it was announced that the efforts of the committee had met with encouraging success in Livingston County, this railway project faded and went the way that hundreds of similar enterprises have gone before and since that time.


     That part of the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad which traverses the county of Livingston is composed of the roads originally projected and commenced by the Detroit and Howell and the Howell and Lansing Railroad Companies. Of these, the Detroit and Howell was the earliest incorporated; the articles of association being filed in the office of the Secretary of State, under the general railroad law, on the twenty-first of September, 1864. The meeting at which the organization was effected, however, had been held on the seventeenth of June preceding, at New Hudson.


     The first officers of the company were:
Theodatus T. Lyon, President
G. A. Starkweather
William Taft
S. Hardenbergh
O. C. Abell
J. M. Swift
John H. Galloway
E. F. Burt
E. F. Albright
Lyman Judson
R. C. Rumsey
Joseph H. Wilcox
Ely Barnard
William McPherson, Treasurer
E. F. Burt, Secretary
Marcus B. Wilcox, Attorney

     The commissioners to procure and receive subscriptions to the capital stock (which was placed at four hundred thousand dollars, in shares of fifty dollars each) were:

Hiram Newman
Isaac W. Bush
P. B. Holdridge
Giles Tucker
J. M. Swift

     The subscription books of the company were opened at Howell in November, 1864, and at several other points along the line soon after. Stock was taken at first with considerable rapidity, but it was not until September of the year 1865 that the announcement was made that two hundred and fifty thousand dollars had been secured in subscriptions and pledges of aid from towns on the route.
     In September, 1866, President Lyon reported that "On the portion of our line between Plymouth and Howell, the sum of three hundred thousand dollars has now been secured, which sum was designated in our Articles of Association as the amount necessary to warrant the commencement of the work of construction."

     Preliminary surveys had been made, but beyond this little or nothing had been done, and the work of construction was not earnestly commenced until 1867. In that year and 1868 (but principally in: the latter), most of the work ever done on the line by the original company was performed; the total amount expended on the road by that company being about two hundred and forty thousand dollars, after which, for lack of further funds, the work languished and was suspended entirely; the road finally passing into other hands in an uncompleted state.

     Though the Detroit and Howell Railroad failed of completion by the company which was incorporated for its construction, yet in the prosecution of the enterprise as far as it was carried by them,




in the procuring of individual subscriptions and votes of township aid to so considerable an amount, in the delicate and difficult matter of securing the right of way, and in the vigorous pushing of the work, until the exhaustion of funds rendered suspension unavoidable, a remarkable amount of business ability, as well as of energy and perseverance, was displayed by the officers of the company, several of whom were men of Livingston County. And to none of these in greater degree than to William McPherson was due the credit of the results attained. Mr. McPherson was perhaps the most active among the principal promoters of the enterprise from its very inception, and was the treasurer of the company from its organization until the time when it ceased to exist by reason of the sale-or rather the gift -- of its road to other parties. That transfer and the final completion of the road will be noticed below.

     The Howell and Lansing Railroad Company formed for the purpose of constructing a railway between the places indicated in its title--was incorporated under the general railroad law, in 1868, the articles of association being filed in the office of, the Secretary of State, on the twenty-third of June in that year. The first officers of the company were:

Theodatus T. Lyon, President
Alvin N. Hart
James F. Smiley
George N. Walker
James W. Waldo
James M. Williams
Egbert Grattan
Joseph Dennis
James Sullivan
Alexander H. Benedict
George W. Palmerston
Joseph H. Wilcox
Joshua K. Kirkland
J. B. Waldo, Treasurer

     The company was organized in the interest of the Detroit and Howell Company, with which it was intended to act in concert for the purpose of completing a through line from Detroit to Lansing. In 1870 the two were consolidated as the Detroit, Howell and Lansing Railroad Company; the articles of consolidation being filed in the office of the Secretary of State, on the eleventh of April, in that year.

     Between Howell and Lansing the work of construction had not been commenced, and little had been done by that company beyond taking steps to secure votes of aid from townships along the line. In September, following the consolidation, the franchises were conveyed to James F. Joy and other capitalists, forming the 

  Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan Railroad Company; to which line the Lansing and Ionia Railroad was soon afterwards added by consolidation, thus securing a continuous line from Detroit to Ionia. The transfer of the franchises of the Detroit and Howell Company to Mr. Joy and his associates was without consideration, being in fact a gift by that company of the work which they had done (amounting to nearly a quarter of a million of dollars), on condition that the road should be speedily completed and opened for travel and traffic.

     The new company commenced work in earnest, at both ends of the line, pushing the construction from Detroit and from Lansing towards Howell; and it was prosecuted with so much of vigor, that it was finished in less time than could reasonably have been expected. On the eastern end, the road was completed and opened to Plymouth on the sixteenth of May, 1871, and to Brighton, Livingston County, on or about the fourth of July following. From the west the completed track entered Livingston County in the same month, and on the third of August, 1871, there was a great gathering of people at Fowlerville to celebrate the formal opening of the road to that point from Lansing. On that occasion an address was pronounced by Dennis Shields, Esq., of Howell, and the general rejoicing was unbounded.

     The tracks from the east and the west were joined, and the road was thus completed, a few days after the celebration at Fowlerville. The line was formally opened August 22, 1871, by an examination-trip from Detroit, over its entire length, to Kaywood station (five miles beyond Greenville), which was then the northern terminus. A representative of the Detroit Tribune, who accompanied the excursion-party upon this occasion, wrote of its progress through Livingston County as follows: "Small delegations joined the train at Plymouth and Brighton, but these points, having been out of the woods for some time, manifested less interest than other points between Brighton and, Lansing. At Howell, the people were especially jubilant, turning out en masse, and some enterprising Howellian impressed an anvil into the service, and fired a salute. It is certainly a day of jubilee for Howell, to which she has been looking forward with patience for many years. The people of Lansing are scarcely less appreciative of the advantages of the road, shortening the distance, as it does, over thirty miles between Lansing and Detroit."

     The Detroit Post was also represented in the




excursion party, and this paper in its issue of the following day said,--

     "At Howell the train was received with something of an ovation. A six-pound cannon had been brought into service and fired a salute as the train moved up to the depot, where were assembled an immense concourse of people, who testified their gratification at the arrival of the party by cheers and waving of handkerchiefs. Ladies distributed bouquets. The people are enthusiastic over the advent of the iron horse to their town, and though the assemblage was impromptu, it clearly indicated the joy which they feel over the completion of the railroad for which they have worked and waited for so many long years. Their enthusiasm is pardonable. The town has a population of over two thousand, is one of the handsomest in the State, and, next to Lansing, probably the most important on the line of the road. Just as the train was moving away the people called on Mr. Joy for a speech, but he did not see fit to respond."

     Railroad communication with Detroit, for which the people of Livingston County had waited so long and anxiously, was now an accomplished fact. Regular trains commenced running at once, and the total receipts of the Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan Railroad during its first business week were as follows:

For freight


For passengers




Which was very encouraging, though small when compared with present weekly exhibits. A week or two after the opening, the Ann Arbor Courier mentioned the event, and its significance to the people of this county, as follows:

     "The three Howell papers come to us rejoicing over the completion of the Detroit and Lansing Railroad to that place. They may well rejoice, for every acre of land in Livingston County north of the

  railroad is worth ten dollars per acre more than it would be without the road, and every acre on the south side within five miles is worth five dollars more than before. The men benefited the least are the merchants in the little towns along the line, and they are the men who pay the most for the road. We do not consider the road of any benefit to the mercantile interests of Howell, and their merchants will say the same thing one year from this date.

     "Without commenting on the last part of the Courier's prediction, it is safe to say that the first part has been more than verified. And it is not alone the farmers of Livingston who have been benefited by the road but the three principal villages of the county and their people have also derived great advantage from it, as must be apparent to all observers.

     The Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad (which name has recently been substituted for that of Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan) traverses Livingston diagonally from southeast to northwest, entering the county near the centre of the east line of Green Oak township, passing thence through the southwest corner of Brighton township, through Brighton village, Genoa, the northeast corner of Marion, Howell village, Howell township, and Handy, touching the village of Fowlerville, and running from that point due west, to Ingham County. The principal stations in Livingston are at the villages of Brighton, Howell, and Fowlerville; and there are less important stations at Green Oak, Genoa, and Fleming,--the last named being in Howell township. The road was completed in the fall of 1871 to Howard City, which is still its northern terminus, and where it forms a junction with the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. An extension is, however, in process of construction to Big Rapids, and the road will be opened to that point in the near future.

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