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Washtenaw County's Got Deep Roots

December 19, 2017

 I found out a bit of history about the Washtenaw County area, which where I guide.  It's good to remember that there have been many peoples for whom this area was sacred land, hunting ground, and opportunity.  See below.  there is a lot more information from both sources than is included here.



1909 photo of a Potawatomi community, “after a dance,” in Athens, Michigan. According to Matt, “These are the direct descendants of the Potawatomi of the Huron River. They escaped forced removal in 1840-41 in Kansas, and returned to Michigan.” The image is from the family of Abram B. Burnett, Chief of the Potawatomis (1812-1870).]



The Legislative Council of Michigan Territory defined the boundaries of Washtenaw County in 1822. Washtenaw is a variant of Wash-ten-ong, a Chippewa name for Grand River. The Huron River valley was originally home to a large Native American population. In 1680, the French explorer La Salle passed eastward through this region canoeing from Portage Lake down the Huron to Lake Erie. French fur traders and Jesuit missionaries soon followed.


 Four years after Michigan became a Territory in 1805, Godfrey, Pepin and La Shambre established a trading post known as Godfreys, on the Pottawatomie Trail in what is now Ypsilanti. Many pioneers saw economic opportunity by harnessing river power for sawmills and gristmills. Major Benjamin Woodruff, who purchased 160 acres of land in 1823 in Ypsilanti Township, is commonly acknowledged to be Washtenaws first settler.


Since its founding, the County has grown in population, accommodating settlers from New England, New York, and southern Canada; and immigrants from Germany, Ireland, and other parts of Europe.


The County has ranked among the top counties in Michigan for agricultural production, and become known for its sheep and as the home of the University of Michigan. The University, founded in Detroit in 1817, moved to Ann Arbor in 1837. In Ypsilanti, the Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University) was established in 1849. It is the oldest teachers institution west of the Allegheny Mountains.


from http://www.ewashtenaw.org

from http://markmaynard.com




... The Miami were a very numerous and quite widely distributed Algonquian tribe. They occupied the valleys of the Maumee, Wabash, St. Joseph and Raisin rivers, and probably that of the Huron at one time. They also extended west and northwest into Illinois and Wisconsin and south to parts of the Ohio River. The tribes were migratory, moving about a fairly well localized tribal center. Upon the outskirts of the tribal center they were displacing and being displaced as they came in contact with other bands.


The Miami extended into southeastern Michigan and, no doubt, held sway for a time in Washtenaw County. Little Turtle, the great Miami chief,, born in 1752 and dying in 1812, whose father was a Miami and mother a Mahican, said: "My fathers kindled the first fire at Detroit," and asserted that they extended their lines for the entire length of the Scioto River, down the Ohio to the Wabash and to Chicago. There was a Miami village at Detroit in 1703, but the chief settlements were upon the St. Joseph and at the headwaters of the Maumee.


They had been overrun by the Six Nations and were not able to resist the encroachment of the Potawatomi, who forced them out of Michigan. The Potawatomi displaced the Miami and held sway through Washtenaw County, but not without the presence here at the same time of fragments of other tribes. The Potawatomi tribe, who at their numerical maximum probably never numbered as many as three thousand individuals, were Algonquins.


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