History of Canton Michigan
Canton is a charter township of Wayne County of Michigan. The county currently has a population of about 93,000- a safe township with a very low rate of crime. It is the second
most populated township in Michigan, and in this article, we share a bit of history and what
to expect when you visit.
The Early Beginnings of Canton
It all started around Lake Whittelsey, presently known as Lake Erie, where early settlers were
exploring the beaches and Ridges around the lake. The lake was rich in organic matter and
minerals, which made Canton a rich and fertile agricultural area.
The Potawatomi Indians once lived in the Southeastern Michigan area where Canton is
situated today. They hunted game and gathered natural foods from the abundant streams and woods. The native Americans travelled by trails such as Geddes Road, Joy Road, Ann Arbor Trail, and Michigan Avenue, which as still present.
Early Canton Settlers
Early settlers started invading Canton in the early 1800s, and native Potawatomi was uneasy,
which led to a conflict. At first, no settlers were injured, but they instead staged an attack on
the Potawatomi. Chief Tonquish and his men were captured, and the chief’s son was shot and
killed the same day of the capture in mid-1819.
The natives gave up the land after the incident and you can today see a historical marker on
Wayne Road where the incident happened.
The dense woodlands and mosquito-infested swamplands didn’t discourage more settlers
from coming into Canton. The Erie Canal was opened around 1825, and this encouraged even
more settlers to move in from upstate New York and New England.
Philander Burd and Samuel were the first settlers to be legally granted land in Canton. Rachel
Sheldon and Timothy Built the Inn on Michigan Avenue, triggering a start and expansion of a
thriving village. Today, you can still find restored historical homes on the Joy Roads site.
Canton was mainly made of thick forests and swamplands that had plenty of wildlife back
then. However, all of this was cleared to make space for farms, homes, schools, and churches.
By the 1830s, the community had started coming up as most settlers were looking forward to
making Canton their permanent home.
The Making of Canton Township
Canton became a Township on March 7, 1834. It consisted of a six-square-mile area
surrounded by Van Born Road, Joy Road, Hannan Road, and Napier Road. The town Canton
was named after a Chines city due to the then establishing business relationship between
China and the United States. Canton has retained its original name to date, unlike Peking’s
and Nankin township.
A Board of Trustees governed Canton and in 1874 the first town hall was built at the cost of
$700, with the capacity to hold 400 people.
By 1961, the population of Canton had risen to 5,300, and the township proposed to the
voters that Canton would be better off if incorporated into a charter township. Since there was
an increased need for service, making Canton a township made more sense. The township
then went on to broaden healthcare services, establish a police post and make traffic rules.
The Growth of Canton Michigan
The primary source of income for the early settlers in Canton was self-sustaining farming.
Farmers produced food enough for their families and traded the surplus for services, money,
and goods. Canton was promoted as the “Sweet Corn Capital of Michigan” from the 1950s to
the 1970s. Most farmers raised sweet corn which they sold at the Detroit Farmers Market.
Farmers took advantage of the central location of Canton Township to prosper in dairy
farming. They used to sell milk to local creameries in the Cherry Hill and Sheldon Villages.
Creameries then distributed the milk to larger communities including Detroit.
There was a strong emphasis on education in Canton, probably because most settlers had
come from New England. The territorial Council ruled that a schoolmaster must be employed
in any township that consists of 50 or more families. More schools were built as the
population grew –most of them located at the crossroads for ease of access.
Today, Canton Township is served by the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools (which
serves the northern 2/3 portion of Canton), Wayne-Westland Community Schools (which
serves the south-eastern portion of Canton), and Van Buren Public Schools (which serves the
south-western portion of the township).
The Modern Canton
Canton Michigan Township is today a prosperous township that ranks among the highest-
income places in the US. Residents here take advantage of professionally managed
departments, full-service police and fire department, a robust recreational department, and a
thriving business environment. Services such as Carpet Cleaning, Air Duct Cleaning, home
repainting, and maintenance can be easily accessed within the township.