City of Westland
Wayne County, Michigan
Back in 1805, after the Revoluntionary War, when the United States government had control of this territoriy, theis region of Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory. However, in 1812, our state became the Michigan Territory, under its first governor, Lewis Cass.
Michigan Territory had two million acres at stake in the secision of the survey team, and as they arrived, they survey began in the Rouge River area. When they found themselves knee deep in flood water (due largely from an unusual heavy rainy season), they assumed these conditions existed throughout the entire region, abadoned their assignment, and declared Michigan to be "one big swamp land."
The United States government gave Illinois the two million acres, but when made aware of these undesireable conditions, settlers from the East avoided Michigan Territory and found it easier to travel down the Ohio River and settled mostly in Ohio and Indiana.
Governor Cass did not like the trend emerging, and ordered his own survey team to evaluate the land. Three years later the band of surveyors filed their report which depicted rolling green hills, rich soil, and plentiful water resources. As time passed, and word spread, and with the opening of the Erie Canal, talk spread in the East about the Michigan Territory, and in 1818 settlers began the journey to Michigan to see the new land for themselves and for possible homesites.
Dennison Palmer was the first person who acquired the first land package, which today would be located with Westland City boundaries, on November 7, 1818. The land was loacted on the northwest corner of Warren Avenue and Inkster Road, and Palmer was not alone in these parts as he soon found out.
A band of Pottawatomie Indians,, lead by Chief Tonquish, lived on the banks of the Rouge River, and Tonquish resented the invasion of white settlers on his land and felt that they were forcing the Natives out of the area. Chief Tonquish vowed to retain his Native Indian heritage in the area, but as his hunting grouns began to vanish into farms, there was little food left for the Native Americans. His tribes began stealing food from white settlers during the day, and the troubles began between the white man and the red man. One fall day in 1819, a farmer surprised Tonquish during his search for food, but as Tonquish escaped, a number of farmers pursued him and a band of Native American along the Rouge River to a point near what is now Tonquish Creek beside Holliday Park Townhouses on Wayne Road just south of Joy Road. According to reports, Tonquish and his son were killed and buried at this site. The death of Tonquish marked the end to Native American uprisings in southern Michigan, and the settlers stayed. Today, a marker stands at about the point where Tonquish was said to have been slain and buried to remind others of the past history of the area.
About eight years later, in 1827, the land which is now the cities of Westland, Livonia, Garden City, Inksters, Wayne, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Redford Township became Bucklin Township, having been named after William Bucklin. Legend indicates he swapped this free services as Township Clerk for the area to be known as his surname, Bucklin.
In 1829, only two years later, Bucklin was divided into Lima and Pekin Townships. Lima did not retain its name very long because post office regulations stated "two townships in the United States cound not keep the same name," which spurred Lima to change its name to Nankin Township.
In 1835, however, Livonia Township split from Nankin Township, which at that time included the area we recognize today as Westland, Wayne, Garden City and Inkster. ( to view these city area histories: Bucklin-Redford or Garden City or Inkster or Dearborn Heights ). A figure that played a vital part in the early history of Nankin Township, now Westland's area, was Marcus Swift, who arrived here from Palmyra, New York in 1825, and settled on 160 acres which now would be bordered by Maplewood, Henry Ruff, Merriman, and Warren Roads. (or Garden City) He assumed a leardership rode in the community in 1827 and served as Buckin's first supervisor and then as Nankin Township's first supervisor in 1829. (to view Swift Family biography see: Wayne County Pioneers) When Nankin Township made its final split, Ammon Brown was elected Nankin Township's supervisor.
Until this time, Nankin Township was viewed as a rural community. In 1839, Samuel Torbert's 435 acre farm, which he bought 10 years earlier, was purchased by Wayne County, and the two log buildings which Torbert built were used as mental institutions. In 1894, the hospital petitioned postal authorities for a post office, and after submitting several names for the approval of a name, the post office selected, "Eloise".
A number of other familiar names in Westland today can be traced back to early Nankin Township settlers. The Chubb Cemetery on Warren Road west of Hix Road reminds us of Globe D. Chubb, who settled here in 1826 and served Nankin Township in several posts and also as an agent of the Underground Railroad.
Abraham and Isaac Perrin will be remembered as the two brothers who brought industry to Nankin when they arrived in 1832 and built a sawmill where Merriman Road crosses the Rouge River. It was successful and others came.
Soon a tiny community formed around the intersection of Merriman and Ann Arbor Trail, and it was named, Perrinsville. The main residential streets, Perrin and Liberty, are still there today.
Patchin School on Newburgh is a product of Abel Patchin who came to Nankin from Yates County, New York in 1829. He donated a piece of land from his farm in 1834 to build the first Patchin School. Although a new school stands on this same location, the name remains the same.
The corner of Wayne and Cherry Hill once was referred to as "Cady's Corner". Samuel Pratt Cady and his six sons played prominet roles in the development of Nankin Township. Their contributions were not only made through political positions, but also educational, engineering, and business positions. One contribution included Cady School which stood on the northwest corner of Wayne Road and Cherry Hill until it was demolished several years ago. As the Cady family built the first school in 1840, they boarded teachers free and the first text books were hand made by this same family. Although the site is now a commericial strip, the developer, Glenn Shaw, in trying to preserve the location's history, named the site, "Cady Center".
Nankin remained somewhat rural and intact until 1860 when the village of Wayne developed. At that time, Nankin and its people suffered many hardships due to the lack of funds. Roads, forinstance, needed repair, but money was unavailable. Farmers were unable to afford an increase in taxes, so the only way to accomplish road repairs was for the farmers to work out their road tax by being on the job with picks, shovels, wheelbarrows, and teams to build primitive roads.
The turn of the century lifestyle brought changes to Nankin when farmers began to earn money by working in Detroit factories. WIth the added income, families were able to purchase luxuries, and in 1905 the first electrical lines were set up. By 1920, telephone lines extended to Nankin.
In 1918, a wave of excitement came to Nankin when Henry Ford bought the old Nankin Grist Mill on Ann Arbor Trail and Farmington and converted it to his first rural factory, thus creating jobs for local men. He also built a school across the street for the employees' children. The school, which still stands there, was built to resemble the original Perrinsville school on Cowan Road, however, it offered all the modern teaching facilities and methods of the day.
By 1920, the intolerable living conditions in Detroit forced hundreds of persons to migrate to rural areas such as Nankin. Here property was cheap, water and electricity were available, taxes were low, and a portion of the land could be farmed for food. Soon the farmers recognized the trend and began subdividing their own land, or selling it to land developers. The first large development in Nankin was owned by Arnold Folker who platted Folker's Garden City Acres in 1927. This marked the development of small residential communities within Nankin, and soon, Inkster and Garden City were recognized as villages.
By 1931, Nankin's population grew to 17,500, and with the growth came the problems of providing more and better services to its citizens.
Another population boom hit during World War II, when the Federal Government built a housing project for workers at nearby war plants. With the bomber plant in Ypsilanti in full production for the war effort, the development was constructed as temporary homes for those people and came to be known as Norwayne with 1,100 houses and 1,900 living units. Almost 7,000 people made their home in Nankin as a result of that project.
By 1950, the population soared to 32,000 and by 1960, Nankin Township was recognized as the largest township in the world with a population of 70,000.
A City Charter was approved by the voters, and as provided for in the charter, the new city government took effect on May 16, 1966. The first elected city officials were as follows: Thomas H. Brown - Mayor; Virgil Gagnon - City Council President; William P. Anderseon, Justine Barnes, Paul Krarup, Henry Lundquist, John F. Markes, Charles E. McIihargery - City Council; Douglas Craig and Robert Martin - Judges. Nankin Township has passed from a township to the City of Westland, to become the fourth largestest city in Wayne County. The city moto: "Pride, Progress, and Promise".
Contributed by Linda Ball
- Written by Administrator