What Happened to Farmington Township?

As two cities developed, very little remains of the original township.

If you read early histories of the Farmington area you will often see references to Farmington Township. But today the term is not used at all.

So, what did become of Farmington Township? Here is the story:

The Northwest Territory, which included present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan, was ceded to the United States as Part of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War. The British, however, never handed over the area until 1796, then took it back again during the War of 1812. We finally took permanent control of the land after the war in 1815.

In order to sell the land to settlers, the entire area first needed to be surveyed. A rectilinear system of townships each 6 miles square, was laid out assigning unique “Town” and “Range” numbers to each township. So our particular 6-mile square area was designated as Town 1 North, Range 9 East in 1817 when the survey crews came through the then uninhabited area.

Most of the first settlers to buy land and immigrate here came from Farmington, New York in 1824. They decided to name the land Farmington Township. The great appeal of the area was that it was easy to get to since it was located at the convergence of three major Indian Trails, the Shiawassee, the Grand River, and the Orchard Lake. It also had an abundance of flowing streams to provide water power for the early mills needed to cut wood and grind grain.

The great flow of settlers and goods through the area at first followed the existing Indian trails. Local settlers took advantage of this, by building businesses at the point where these trails came together, and thus formed the beginnings of “Power’s Settlement”, which soon became known as Farmington. Traffic increased rapidly to the point where a paved “plank road” was built down Grand River in 1851.

As the flow of pioneer settlers coming through the settlement steadily increased, so did the size of Farmington, until, in the winter of 1866-1867, it was designated a village by a vote of the local citizens. Growth continued until the flow of settlers and commerce increased to a point where, in the 1870s, the railroad found it worthwhile to build lines throughout the area. Almost overnight the great throngs of travelers disappeared from the roads causing the ruin of many businesses and Inns.

While there was enough economic activity in the area to keep people employed, the great boom days were over. Farmington’s growth became stunted. But since Grand River was still one of the few major paths out of Detroit and into the farmlands to the north and west, as well as the State Capitol at Lansing, the roadway was continuously improved. This effort was stepped up after the automobile became popular. In fact, its surface was paved with concrete in small advancing sections, until, in 1919 it was completed from Detroit to one mile west of Farmington.

and others at this time, the automobile combined with the concrete road allowed one to live the dream of life on a rural farm, paid for by a daily commute to high paying jobs in Detroit. Farmington’s growth was once again on the rise and it incorporated as a City in 1925.

Due to poor roads that were often impassable, the outlying areas of Farmington Township remained farmland at this time. In fact, a “Worker’s Camp” was developed at 12 Mile Road and Halsted where families of Detroit factory workers would come and stay for summer vacations. Some of the farms in the area became the summer homes of prosperous workers from Detroit. These outlying areas continued their 19th century look and appeal well into the middle of the 20th century.

The events of World War II caused President Dwight Eisenhower to realize just how important good interior roads were to the safety and well-being of the people and he devised the massive interstate highway system that thrives today. I-696 was first laid out in the 1955 to 1958 time period and the first section of it from Novi at I-96 east to Southfield and the Lodge Expressway was opened in 1963 and 1964.

Now, a new group of settlers discovered how they could live in the outlying areas of Farmington Township, along I-696 and still travel by car to that high paying job in Detroit. The population of this area quickly grew and soon the citizens decided to combine all Farmington Township lands not part of the City of Farmington into a new City called Farmington Hills in 1973.

Since the governmental functions of every square inch of Farmington Township were either controlled by Farmington or Farmington Hill City laws, there was no further need for the functions of the Township Supervisor and his government, so the Township legal entity was disbanded. Today, the original 6-square-mile area is still legally known as Farmington Township, but there is no political governing body known by that name.

So Farmington Township didn’t die, it just laid down for a very long nap.


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