Early History 1866-1935

The First Settlers of Macomb County
There is something stirring in the early historical panorama that is unrolled before the eye in reviewing the beginnings of any town in these United States. There is the headlong rush of the early settlers, with the attendant crises and crashes, the brave beginnings and the many tragic failures, the story of hardships so foreign to our own lifetime. It is always the sharp contrast of great ideas and impelling motives that led men to leave settled lands to be pioneers in what seemed to them a land of promise, followed by the stark realities attendant upon the taking root in new soil.

In 1818 Macomb County was not only explored and settled, but it was also organized, for a petition was addressed to Governor Cass, signed by a number of the inhabitants of the territory that "a new county may be laid out therein."

The crossing of two Indian trails, one from Mt. Clemens to Rochester, and the other from Frederick (a town west of Mt. Clemens no longer existent) to Pontiac, was the location of what was to be the town of Utica. Three log cabins were the first buildings; one was in the center of today's Utica, one was a half mile south, the other to the north. In July of 1817 the first non-Indian child, Joclamy Squiers, was born in what was variously called Harlow, McDougalville and Hog Hollow.

In 1818 and 1819 a school was already in use, a shanty built by a Joseph Lester, with a fireplace of clay and a stick chimney, with seats of basswood logs split in the middle and supported by legs. The first teacher's name has been recorded, an Asa Adsell, a young man who arrived about that time. The following year a schoolhouse of logs was built on a spot just south of what is now Eppler Junior High School. Little by little the community took shape. The first wedding is given as in 1819; no minister being available, a Justice by the name of Eleazer Scott performed the ceremony. In 1821 a sawmill was erected by one Jacob Price, where the Utica Public Library now stands. In 1828 the first election was held and in November 1829, a plat of the place was made by Joseph Stead and the grant was signed by President James Madison, and the village of Harlow became a reality.

The City of Utica
The year 1833 marks the beginning of a new period. A new movement of settlers began. They were, as one reads in the charter of the city of Utica, "attracted to this region after the English had given over control of the area to the United States". The name of the village was changed to Utica, which shows, as did the naming of the neighboring village of Rochester and of Troy Township, that the settlers came from New York State. The change of names was decided on by a group of inhabitants meeting in the house of Elias Scott and acting on the suggestion of Gurden C. Leech.

The First Utica Church
In 1835 the First Presbyterian Church of Utica was erected, and also in this year the Utica Library Association began. In 1837 the first bank was opened, and the following year a new railroad was built. The rails of the road were made of poles strapped onto logs and the propelling power was the horse. The road ran from Utica, towards Detroit, turned off and ran to Connor's Creek. The road was operated only a short time and was called the Detroit and Shelby Railroad.

Thus, in just a few decades, this tiny crossroad had been transformed into a respectable community. By the beginning of the 1840's, the story of Utica slowed down to the pace of a typical small town.