The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter IV
Road Building

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



Another impulse tot he settlement of Flint was the road from Detroit, which was first improved by the national government. It followed very nearly the old Indian trail, its purpose being originally to connect the forts at Detroit and Saginaw. It was first cut out in the winter of 1822-1823 from Saginaw to Flint by detachments of the Third United States Infantry, sufficiently to allow the passage of horses to and from Saginaw. Previous to this a road southward from flint had been cut and partially corduroyed through the swampy lands between Royal Oak and Detroit, by soldiers under command of Colonel Leavenworth. In 1824, the territorial government authorized the appointment of a commissioner to lay out and establish a territorial road from Detroit to Saginaw. Though this was surveyed in 1826, it was four years before the construction of the road reached Genesee county and 1833 when it had reached as far as the present Kearsley street. In 1834, the swamp was filled in between Kearsley street and the Flint river, the bridge was started, and in the same year, or in the spring of 1835, the road was finished to a point about five miles north of the river, which was the end of the work done upon it by the national government. Judged by standards of today, this road was scarcely deserving of the name, but for those days it was serviceable and over it came a large portion of the early settlers to their homes in Genesee county.

With the improvement of this road and the establishment of the postoffice and the land office at Flint, a line of stages from flint to Pontiac was begun by William Clifford. As early as 1833 Joshua Terry carried the mails over the route between Pontiac and Saginaw, making weekly trips, with limited accommodations for passengers. The Clifford stage-line was a much needed improvement and was continued under various managements until the completion of a railway.

Not least among the attractions for settlers in the neighborhood of Flint were the Thread river mills. The saw-mill started at Grand Blanc in 1828 has the honor of being the first effort in a line of industry that gave Flint its initial prominence as a manufacturing city. It provided lumber for the first homes in the county. The proprietors were Rowland Perry and Harvey Spencer. According to some accounts the first saw-mill near Flint was built by George Oliver as early as 1830, but in 1833, or 1834 one was built near Flint by Rufus W. Stevens. In 1836 another was begun by Stage, Wright & Company. About the same time the Stevens brothers built the first grist-mill in Flint, at the intersections of Thread river and the Saginaw road. This greatly promoted immigration, by furnishing means of making flour or meal without having to make the long trips to Pontiac or to Detroit, and drew to Flint the trade for many miles around. A season's crop of grain would sometimes come from Saginaw by canoe to be ground in Flint. The grist-mill occupied the place of first importance in this budding industrial community, but along in the fifties the saw-mill finally came into its own with the development of lumbering as a commercial enterprise.

In 1836 was started the first mercantile enterprise of importance in the growing village, when Messrs. Robert F. Stage and Ira D. Wright built the first store, an adjunct to their milling enterprise. It was situated on Mill and Saginaw streets not far from the bridge. The stock was valued at twenty thousand dollars, a large sum for that time. The store was a substantial frame building, the upper story of which was used as a public hall. In it were convened all the religious meetings of the day and the first court was held within its walls.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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