A Brief History of Casco Township
By Rod Arroyo, Clearzoning, Inc.
How Did Casco Get Its Name?
Many cities, villages and townships in Michigan can trace their names to places in the Northeast region of the United States, where many Michigan settlers lived prior to relocating. For example the place names Troy, Rochester, and Albion all link back to towns in the State of New York.
Casco Township’s first Supervisor was William (W.D.) Hart. Born on June 24, 1820, he was a native of Ontario County, New York. As a young man he settled in Casco Township, which was known at the time as China Township.[i]
The key to discovering how Casco got its name comes from the wife of W.D. Hart, Emeline, and her family. Emeline came from Hallowell, Maine. Emeline’s parents were Capt. John Clark and Mary Sherburn Clark, and they came to Detroit in 1830, moved to Port Huron in 1831, and then settled in China Township in 1832. [ii]
The source of Casco’s name is likely derived from the town of Casco, Maine. In his book St. Clair County, Michigan: Its History and Its People, William Jenks notes the name may have been suggested by Capt. John Clark, Emeline Hart’s father, and a native of Maine.[iii] Hallowell, Maine, where the Clark’s once lived, is only about 60 miles from Casco, Maine.
Important Early Influences
There a many factors that influenced early settlers in the area, but two were particularly influential: 1) Government Policy and Laws and 2) Geography and Transportation.
Government Policy and Laws
The mile grid network in Michigan and in many other states was based on a land survey system established by Thomas Jefferson, who was a surveyor before climbing the political ladder to be President of the United States. He understood the value of having land purchased in large chunks for more orderly development. As part of the Ordinance of 1785, a system was established to divide land into congressional townships of six miles square. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the Northwest Territory, which included Michigan, and included the framework by which the Federal government would be sovereign and expand westward across North America. It also established the foundation for the creation of new states, rather than just expanding existing states.
With the grid survey system, land was made available to purchase in one square mile portions (640 acres). This system solved the problem of choppy private land holdings, where land owners would only purchase the good farm land and leave the rest in public ownership. This system encouraged the orderly sale and division of property in the Northwest Territory, including Michigan.
The graphic below shows the system of creating 36 square mile townships and the numbering of individual square mile sections within each township. The section lines became the location of mile roads, also known as section line roads, throughout southeast Michigan.
In 1805, the Michigan Territory was created by Congress, consisting of today’s Lower Peninsula and a small portion of the Upper Peninsula. It extended south to the Maumee River in Ohio.
On March 28, 1820, St. Clair County was set off from Wayne County by a proclamation by Governor Lewis Cass. St. Clair County was a large area the extended into what is now Huron, Sanilac, and Macomb Counties. In 1836, St. Clair County was modified to be in its current configuration.
On January 26, 1837, Michigan ceased being a territory and officially became a state.
Geography and Transportation
As with many new settlement areas, a key to growth and development was and continues to be access. The proximity of Casco Township to the St. Clair River and the presence of the railroad running through Adair and the northern portion of the Township had a significant influence on the Township’s development and settlement.
With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, Michigan and its waterways gained important connections to the Northeast U.S, and the people living in New York and New England gained access to wide open territory in Michigan and beyond. The Grand Trunk Railroad completed its 800-mile route from Portland, Maine to Sarnia, Ontario in 1859. In 1879, the Grand Trunk reached Chicago. In 1891, the Grand Trunk opened the world’s first international submarine railway tunnel under the St. Clair River, connecting Sarnia to Port Huron.
The combination of the Ordinance of 1785, the Northwest Ordinance, and enhanced access by water via the Erie Canal and by rail – primarily through the Grand Trunk system – provided opportunities to settle land in Michigan, and Casco Township benefited from these advancements.
The Origins of Casco Township as a Government Unit in Michigan
Casco Township was set off from China Township by act of the Michigan Legislature on March 15, 1849[iv] W.D. Hart was the first Supervisor, and he served seven terms on the Board of Supervisors, and he also held the office of Town Clerk and Town Treasurer.[v]
When first organized in 1849, the population of Casco “did not exceed 134 souls.” The equalized valuation of the Township in 1882 was $395,680.[vi]
Early Land Settlers and Officials of Casco Township[vii]
EARLY LAND BUYERS. Among the early land buyers in the township from 1828 to 1836 were Gardner Freeman and Andrew Westbrook, 1832; William Tenton, 1834; William Cash, Lot Clark, Stephen Warren, L. B. Mizner, Selden Freeman, Elisha B. Strong, Hiram Smith, W. B. Smith, John Thomas, Charles Cook, Edwin Jerome, Francis Dwight, Dennis Bates, Charles B. Keeler, Henley Smith, Seth Beardsley, John Starkweather, Nathaniel Reed, Ira Porter, Abner Porter, James Seymour, Levi Tuttill, George E. Hanna, Mary M. Gallagher, H. R. Mizner, Richard P. Hunt, H. A. Allen, Charles A. Cook, T. L. L. Brent, Benjamin Raney, Olive Hart, Phineas D. Kinyon, R. Knight, H. F. Daniels, Joseph Hall, Eli Stone, J. M Flagg, Christian Clemens, J. G. Street, H. Agens, N Godell, John Webster, S. P. Gill, W. T. Westbrook, Dolorah Hill, T. 0. Hill, Patrick Healey,James Seymour, Joseph I. Seidmore, Bayard Clark, George F. Brown, James Edwards, Mark H. Sibley, W. P. Hallett, Wesley Truesdell, Anthony Chortier, Antoine Droniilard, Andrew Turck, Sylvester F. Atwood, Sylvester Armington, Reuben Moore, John Tellman. Portions of Sections 35 and 36 formed part of the Indian Reservation.
SUPERVISORS. William Hart, 1849; Porter Chamberlin, 1850; H. S. Clark, 1851-52; Mr. Chapin, 1853; Stephen Fenton, 1854-56; H. S. Clark, 1857; S. A. Fenton, 1858-63: J..A. Hirt, 1864; Julius Granger, 1865; J. A. Hirt, 1866-67; Fred Bielman, 1868-71; William Miller, 1872 -76; Edward March, 1877; William Miller, 1878-80; Jacob L. Kellar, 1881-82.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE. Horan S. Clark, 1849; John P. Hart, 1849; Dennis Bates, 1849; William Fenton, 1849; A. Tappan, 1851; Henry Topping, 1851; Alexander Chase, 1852; Albert Topping, 1853; James Robinson, 1853; F. P. Chapin, 1854; Charles Bremer, 1857; Samuel Reeder, 1858-62; Dennis Bates, 1858; Henry Jonas, 1859: Stephen A. Fenton, 1859-60; Charles Bremer, 1861; Martin Dringle, 1862; Samuel Sparr, 1864; Nathan B. Clark, 1865; William Miller, 1865; J. G. Myer, 1866; Samuel Sparr, 1867; Fred Bidman, 1867; William Miller, 1868; Frank Maedel, 1870; Nathan B. Clark, 1870; Lochl Herman, 1871; William Miller, 1872; F. Maedel, 1873; M. Ruemenapp, 1874; George W. Pelton, 1875-79; William Miller, 1876; John Hubbert, 1877; Israel Walter, 1878; William Miller, 1880; C. Seurynck, 1880; 0. Fenton, 1880; M. Ruemenapp, 1881; Isaac C. Burch, 1881; George W. Pelton, 1882.
The resident owners upon the assessment roll of 1840 were:[viii]
Section 1: William Fenton, John Tappan, Elijah and Cortland Lindsay;
Section 2: Orange Fenton, Richard Freeman;
Section 5: Dennis Bates;
Section 6: James Reynolds;
Section 10: Hiram A. and Alonzo Allen, Charles Davis;
Section 11: Phineas Kinyon;
Section 24: Claude Duchene;
Section 25: Francis Phenix; and
Section 35: Moses Duchene.
Property Owners: 1876
Source: Combination Atlas Map of St. Clair County, Philadelphia: Everts & Stewart, Philadelphia. 1876
The result of the election of April, 1882, was as follows:
Supervisor: Jacob L. Keller;
Clerk: Martin Ruemenapp;
Treasurer: Conrad Marth;
Highway Commissioner: Charles Zentgrebe;
Justice of the Peace: George W. Pelton;
School Inspector: One year, Isaac C. Burch; two years, Henry Kammer;
Drain Commissioner: Goorge W. Pelton;
Constables: Fred Rochl, Henry Stahlbuck, Michael Shindler, C. Baumgarten.
Adair Plat – 1897
Atlas of Casco Township 1876
Atlas of Casco Township 1897
[i] History of St. Clair County, Chicago: A. T. Andreas & Co. 1883
[iii] Jenks, William Lee, St. Clair County: Its History and Its People. 1912
[v] History of St. Clair County, Chicago: A. T. Andreas & Co. 1883
[viii] William Lee, St. Clair County: Its History and Its People. 1912