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What Were They Thinking?

Records of the first Farmington Township meetings show what was on the minds of early settlers.

Imagine for a moment that you are a pioneer in Farmington Township. You have left your past behind and moved away from family and friends in a well settled area in New York to a vast unpopulated wilderness in an unknown spot in a new land.

In your new home there are few roads, no police, no courts, no churches, and no stores. The nearest settled areas are miles away over primitive roads that are often impassable. So when there was enough population to legally form an independent township, the inhabitants took a day off from their daily chores and met to hold a township meeting where they were able to vote on measures that were of highest importance to them.

So what was on their mind? What were they thinking? Fortunately, records of that first meeting have survived and I can answer that question. On April 12, 1827 there was sufficient population to divide Oakland County into five townships: Oakland, Pontiac, Farmington, Bloomfield, and Troy. At that time, Farmington Township consisted of present-day Milford, Commerce, Lyons, Novi and Farmington Townships. The first annual meeting of the inhabitants was held on Monday May 28, 1827 at Robert Wixom's home on section 15. Here is a summary of this meeting:

Amos Mead and Seth A. L. Warner opened the meeting and led the people to a choice of William Yerkes as moderator and Erastus Ingersol as clerk for the day. A ballot for township officers was held and Amos Mead was chosen Supervisor and Robert Wixom Township Clerk. Other offices filled that day were Assessors, Commissioners of Highways, Overseers of the Poor, Constable & Collector, Path Masters, Fence Viewers, and Pound Keepers. Robert Wixom also served as one of the Pound Keepers.

Next they voted to raise $25.00 to support the poor, then township Bye Laws were adopted as follows:

  • Article 1 - "A fence of strong and sound materials of five feet in height and so close that hogs and sheep cannot creep through, or a hedge two feet high upon a ditch three feet deep and three feet broad, or instead of such hedge, a fence three feet high the hedge or fence being so done that the animals aforsaid cannot creep through, shall be accounted a Lawfull fence. Provided however that no person shall be obligated to fence against pigs weighing less than thirty pounds."

  • Article 2 - "All stallions of the age of twenty months and over shall be restrained from going at large on the public highway or Commons within the said Township under the penalty of the sum of $10.00 to be recovered with cost of suit by the Supervisor of the said Township."

  • Article 3 - "All rams in like manner shall be restrained from going at large from the fifteenth day of August to the fifteenth day of November in each year both days inclusive under the penalty of $5.00 to be recovered from the owner or owners of such ram or rams so found going at large in the same as is provided for in the preceeding article.”

  • Article 4 - "All boars of the age of three months and over shall be restrained from going at large on the public highway or Commons in said Township under the penalty of $2.00 for each boar so found going at large, to be recovered by the Supervisor of said Township together with cost of suit.“

  • "All which penalties when recovered shall be for the use of said Township according to the statute in such case made and provided. Provided however that if any stallion, ram or boar without the knowledge of such owner or owners shall breakout of their enclosures and escape from them the foregoing penalties shall not be recovered from such owner or owners but the person or persons sustaining damages in consequence of such escape shall be entitled to recover such damages with cost of suit against the owner or owners of such stallions, boar or ram escaping so as aforsaid."

They then voted to adjourn and hold the next annual meeting (for 1828) at Amos Mead's home. So now you know what was foremost on their minds. Amazing!

Brian Golden February 05, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Interesting, John, there was no provision for horses getting loose. I guess the people of the township were used to each others "horsing around"!

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