A Condensed History of Lapeer County
Lapeer County was once part of the Northwest Territory.
By an ordinance of the Congress of the United States, passed July 13,
1787, the whole of the territory of the United States, lying northwest of
the Ohio River, though still occupied by the British, was organized as the
The County of Wayne, named in the honor of General
Anthony Wayne, was formed from a portion of the Northwest Territory,
August 11, 1796. It included all of the lower peninsula, portions of
Northern Ohio and Indiana and also part of Illinois and Wisconsin.
On May 7, 1800, the Territory of Indiana was formed and
included all of the lower peninsula of Michigan. After Ohio and Indiana
became states, the Territory of Michigan was formed. Wayne County was
recognized by Governor Hull, of the Michigan Territory. Monroe County was
established in 1817, Macomb, Mackinac, Brown and Crawford counties in
1818. (The last two now being part of Wisconsin.) On October 9, 1819, Col.
Lewis Cass was appointed Territorial Governor.
In January, 1820, the County of Oakland was formed. On
September 18, 1822, Governor Cass set Lapeer County's boundaries, although
it remained part of Oakland County until it was organized. Lapeer County
officially became a county on February 2, 1835. The first recorded
elections for county officers, with 520 people voting, was in 1837.
How come the name "Lapeer"? Early tradition gives, as
the actual source of the naming of this city and county, the following:
The south branch of the Flint River, which has its rise in Lapeer County,
flows northwestward and throughout quite a distance of its course, flows
over rocky bed. It is supposed that this suggested to the French and
Indian traders, who frequently passed over this section, the name of stone
or flint. "The Stone" in French is "LePierre," but the English translation
of the Canadian French accent of this word is "Lapeer". Hence, Governor
Cass chose "Lapeer" as the name of the county.
The first settler in Lapeer was Alvin N. Hart, who was
born in Cornwall, Connecticut on February 11, 1804. He came to Lapeer in
1831 and platted the Village of Lapeer on November 8, 1833. The plat was
registered in Pontiac, December 14, 1833, in Associate Judge Bagley's
Court, County of Oakland.
Alvin Hart became a state senator in 1843, representing
Lapeer, Oakland, Genesee, Shiawassee, Tuscola, Saginaw counties and the
entire Upper Peninsula. He was instrumental in having the state capitol
moved from Detroit to Lansing. His death occurred on August 22, 1874. He
is buried in Lapeer. Mrs. Kate Rhead is a great-great-granddaughter.
Jonathon R. White, the second settler in Lapeer, was
born in South Hadley, Mass., in 1806. He also settled in Lapeer in 1831.
Being of pioneer stock, Hart and White each wanted to
start their own town; Hart forming what was known as Lapeer, and White
platting what was known as Whitesville. Whitesville was located on what is
now South Main Street in Lapeer, from the railroad tracks to DeMill Road.
Lapeer County's first courthouse was built by White and
his friends in 1839 on the site of the school administration building.
White got the job after Hart ran into legal problems related to his
original courthouse building. Court was first held in a Lapeer County
courthouse on July 7, 1840. Hart built the present courthouse in 1846. He
rented it to the county for one dollar, and court was first held there in
April, 1847. In 1852, White's courthouse was used again. Then in 1853, the
county bought Hart's courthouse for $3,000. It became county property in
1858. White's courthouse building eventually became a school.
The White family built a large impressive building,
which was called White's Opera House. It was located where Bishop Kelley
School is at the present time. Business apparently was not good enough
because in 1879, the building was moved piece by piece to its present
location at the southeast corner of Court and Nepessing Streets. The
building is now commonly known as the White Block.
Lumber was the principal industry from the 1830's until
1870, but with the removal of the forests, Lapeer became an agricultural
county. Through the efforts of Governor John T. Rich, from Elba Township,
the Lapeer State Home & Training School was established in 1894, with a
capacity of 200 patients.
Besides Rich, prominent Lapeer County residents
included Governor Moses Wisner, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph
B. Moore, Congressman Louis C. Cramton, and author Marguerite deAngeli.
Today, Lapeer County is a well-balanced community of
farms, small industry, and urban residents, serving the heavy industry of
Genesee and Oakland counties.
Lapeer County consists of 18 townships, 7 villages, 2
cities and has approximately 666 square miles.
This condensed history was compiled by Lyle F. Stewart,
former Lapeer County Clerk. The Directory was compiled by the County
Clerk's Office and can be obtained from this office by request.
Theresa M. Spencer, County Clerk
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