Redford Township Foundation - Founding Fathers
Before a land office was set up in Detroit, around 1818, a young couple set out on Rouge River , about 20 miles, to settle their newly owned land. Israel Bell, aged 19, and his wife, Laura, aged 14, fought against the strong currents until they reached the mouth of two branches of the river, one pointed North, the other West. Bell floated up the West branch and established a homestead at a point where a steep slope reached down to the river. Today, this is Pomona Drive, just a half mile north of Five Mile Road.
The area was known at that time as "Bucklin", named for the Justice of the Peace, William Bucklin ( to view BUCKLIN family tree), appointed by Thomas Jefferson in 1808. There was no government, no policement to keep order, and the Bells lived off the land, as there were also, no stores of any kind. It wasn't until 1825, seven years later, the second family arrived in Redford, Thomas Geldard, his wife, Jane, and their son, Tom.
The Geldard's had immigrated from England that same year, and rode the same river path as the Bells, however, when reaching the North-West mouth, Geldard headed North. They settled at the Base Line (or Eight Mile Road) and Telegraph, completely unaware of the Bells.
In 1825, when the Erie Canal was completed, thousands of people came to Detroit, which was only a village of approximately 1,000 people. William Bucklin was the first settler West of Detroit. Appointed Justice of the Peace, he purchased 400 acres of land in 1809 from the government, along Old Sauk Trail, near present day, Westland. He later purchased another 185 acres in 1815, and sold those in parcels for a good profit. In accordance with the Land Act of 1785, Governor Lewis Cass began dividing the territory around Detroit into 6 mile square townships, except one, with so few inhabitants, that it was a 12 mile square. This was part of William Bucklin's homestead. By 1827, an aging Bucklin found all the clerical work of running a township too strenuous, which included all the land that is known today as Dearborn, Redford, Livonia, and "Nankin" (Westland).
A Methodist minister, born June 23, 1795, Reverend Marcus Swift, who had come up the river with his wife, two sons, and two daughters, was chosen as the first supervisor of "Bucklin", because of his devotion to the needs of the early settlers, and the friendly tribe of Potowtomie Indians. His circut included a 125 mile tract through dense woods, which he traveled every month. Swift was an abolitionist and denounced slavery. In May 1841, he organized the Weslyan Methodist Church. By 1843, the movement had 170 preachers and 8,000 members. Swift died in 1865, but had lived long enough to witness the Emancipation Proclamation.
(to view biographies of SWIFT Family Pioneers of Wayne County.
Another early settler was Conrad TenEyck, who built an Inn and supply depot at the junction of Old Sulk Trail and the Rouge River. These were the only routes into "Bucklin" and beyond, thus TenEyck captured all the business for years by boat and by ox cart. In 1827, a meeting was held in a small schoolhouse by the "Bucklin" residents. Marcus Swift was named supervisor, Joseph Hickcox ( to view HICKOX family) was named clerk, and Aaron Thomas, the collector of taxes. By 1829, "Bucklin" was filling quickly with people coming from Detroit. Because "Bucklin" was still the larger 12 square mile township, it was deemed necessary to split the township into two sections, down the middle from the North to the South. Because of recent friendships growing with China, two names were chosen for the areas, Nankin and Peking. These two townships were established April 8, 1830.
George Ferrington had recently migrated from New York State and came to Peking. He was named road comissioner first, and then elected as supervisor of Peking on August 4, 1832. He renamed Peking, to Redford on May 3, 1833, and held the office of supervisor until 1850, almost the rest of his life, he died at age 59, in 1854.
In 1827, brothers, Benjamin and James Green had settled on their spot near Telegraph and Five Mile Roads. In 1828, George and Elizabeth Norris built their home on Beech Road, just North of Five Mile Road. Later that same year, William and Keziah Lyon arrived at Redford Center . George and Prudence Ferrington claimed the land between Green and Norris on Five Mile Road. By 1832, the names Sylvester and Lucy Burgess, Hiram and Beulah Willmarth, Lewis Cook, George Boyce, Noah Peck, and Benjamin Bellhad all settled in the area. The procession continued and soon Redford Center had 200 people, SandHill had 100 people, and DuBoisville about 150 people.
The first two churches founded in Redford, were in Redford Center. In 1831, the Baptists with Reverend John Pearsall officating, and in 1833, a Methodist congregation used the same building on alternating Sundays.
In 1833, a new plank road was built, from Detroit to Lansing, which crossed the northern part of Redford. Business people saw the advantange of being on the main street, which gradually became known as, Grand River and business quickly moved there.
In all, the township developed and became nine little communities with nine schools. The first school was built in 1837 by a man known only as Mr Sullivan, at Grand River and Burt Road, this area was called, SandHill, for the sand sometimes a foot deep at the edge of the roadsides, and the many hills of sand. The first teacher was Charlie Smith (1811-1882), the building was used during the week for classes, and on Sundays by the Redford Center Baptists. The second school built in 1865, had only one room, and was located on the Solomon Burt farm. Hiram Willmarth was hired as teacher. A larger 2 room school was later built on the same site in 1890. The third school, and the largest, was located on Beech Road, north of the Detroit-Howell railroad tracks. The railroad later became Detroit, Howell, and Lansing RailRoad in 1870, and in 1899, the Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan RailRoad. Finally, in 1947, the Chesapeake and Ohio RailRoad system. The fourth school district, called Greenfield, was most easterly on Grand River, and was actually located outside of the Redford town line, by less than a mile. The fifth district was called Oak, and held three of the nine schools. One was at Evergreen near Schoolcraft, north of the railroad, the second was located on the north side of Plymouth Road between Evergreen and Lahser, and the third was on the west side of Southfield between the railroad and Plymouth Road. A French-Protestant Church was established in 1860, at Evergreen and Schoolcraft. By 1868, there was daily mail delivered with John Lambert, as postmaster. A cider mill owned by the Becker Brothers, Dr T.H. Matthews, had an office here, and Fred G. Chavey had a grocer store. An ususual saltwell was discovered in the area, and Mr Coon built a hotel here advertising salt baths. The old hotel still stands on Beech Road, north of Plymouth. The smallest school was located at Belle Branch District (the new name of Redford Center), south of 12th Street on the east side of Telegraph. The last teacher to teach there was Miss Jamima Brook, who later married the postmaster, John Minock. Belle Branch is also the oldest community in the area where the mouth of the Rouge River divides, now, Eliza Howell Park. In 1899, the Belle Branch community had two churches, a general store owned by Charles A. Pierce, an aviary, owned by M.H. Hunt, a physician's office run by Dr C. C. Smith, a blacksmith shop, owned by F. Smilley, and a glue factory was located a half mile east of center square. In the mid 1830's the Maccabees built a meeting place which held a dance every Saturday night. Belle Branch also established a cemetery on Telegraph, a half mile north of the center square. Bell Branch(MI VETS) or 317 Tombstones cemetery records are well preserved by "The Decendents of the Redford Pioneer Association," and holds veterans from every American war, including two from The American Revolution, who came west with younger members of their families, Ephraim Daines and Darius Smeed. The last district, Duboisville, has the only school building still standing in Redford Township today. Located on the south side of Seven Mile Road between Berg and Lahser. Duboisville, so named for settling miller, Issac DuBois, who dammed the Rouge River to create a greater force on his waterwheel, and built two mills, one for lumber, and one for grain. There was also a grist mill, operated by George Killan, and a general store was established by Julius Ziegler, with food, clothing, supplies, and hardware. DuBois, Smead, and Parent, were all settling families of this area, and were all related by marriage. Darius Smead had ten children, his daughter, Mariette, married George L. Parent, his other daughter, Ximina, married Issac DuBois, owner of the 2 largest mills in the area. The DuBois were French Huguenots who fled to Holland and came to America with the Dutch. A second cemetery was established just east of DuBoisville, on Lahser, near Seven Mile Road, it was named Mount Hazel Cemetery. It isn't as large as the first cemetery, however, it does hold many prominent Redford family names: Burgess, Burns, Churches, DeNio, Hardenburgh, Houghton, McIntyre, Sturmans, Willmarth, Wood, and Ziegler. Sylvester Burgess brought prosperity to Redford with his kiln. He made bricks and tile from the red clay he collected from the banks of the Rouge River. A postoffice was approved by the government so the citizens would not have to depend on the Beech Road postoffice to deliver mail by stage coach. A building owned by John Park, the blacksmith, was delegated to be the postoffice, and it was here the name Redford was first used. Each little community began calling themselves Redford, and maps began to show Redford, located approximately at Seven Mile Road.
Most of the earliest pioneers came to Redford by the Rouge River in barges, or by the old Indian trails which were narrow and winding. The road to Howell and Lansing had begun in 1833, made of planks 8 inches by 4 inches, and 10 feet long, they were spiked together to half logs. This is how Grand River started out with the name Old Plank Road.
At the other end of Grand River, in Redford, was a settlement of French and Irish immigrants. On the Greenfield side of the line was a German settlement. It was here the first attempt to build a Roman Catholic Church was made. Early names associated with the church were: Chaivre, Chevillet, Clinton, David, Morell, Gaffney, Gautherot, Richard, Siterlot, and Smith. In 1843, John Blindbury sold a piece of land to Bishop Peter Paul Lefebvre, and so the start of St Mary's of Redford Catholic Church. The first baptism was in 1850, a small cemetery was started, and the first resident priest, Father Edward Dumont, had his home here.
A new toll gate was established as SandHill became more popular. A.P. McIntyre, built a hotel on Lahser which was used most often by people traveling from Howell to Detroit. McIntyre became one of the wealthist men in town. He built a race track for horse racing and later a yearly Fair was held on the grounds until the year 1901. Located on Mill Street (now Redford Avenue), was an underground spring, which Mr Vitsdaum used for a brewery for making beer. German immigrant Charles Lahser, a wagon maker, built a general store at the corner of the street, which now bares his name , Lahser.
Charles Lahser pictured with his wife, Christine. (They had 6 children: Charles jr, Otto, Will, Clara, Charlotte, and Anna)
The first barbershop was opened by Roy Hutchingson, and Ziegler had a postoffice sub-station located in his store. In 1907, SandHill was incorporated into a village, and named, The Village of Redford. Most of the township was still largely farming, the Village of Redford continued to dominate the rest of Redford's economy until the 1930s, when annexation to Detroit was introduced. The township was in debt, and a dissatification by Redford's towns people over better roads and proper sized sewers had erupted. Although most local officials fought against annexation, it seemed the only answer to the townships problems.
State equalization may one day make it reasonable for the consolidation of the districts, possibly, if the township ever incorporates into a city. This is unlikely, and today Redford is still a township, and not a city.
Contributed by Linda Ball