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Early Oakland County

The County of Oakland has one of the most interesting histories in the state of Michigan...

Prior to the first permanent settlers, Native Americans (of many different tribes, Ojibwa, Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi) roamed along the Saginaw Trail and camped at Saginaw Plains, Apple Island and various other beautiful spots. Much of the original settlement of the county was around three major native American trails; Saginaw Trail - much is now Woodward Avenue, Shiawassee Trail - followed the current Orchard Lake Road and Grand River Trail. The United States acquired the area now known as Oakland County, from France, in 1803, as part of a 800,000 square mile agreement, and the area was given the name "Old Northwest". The Territory of Michigan was formed by Congress on June 30th 1805, with statehood on January 26, 1837.

Despite Oakland County's official description in 1816 as having "extreme sterility and barrenness", on November 5, 1818, the Pontiac Company was organized by a group of Detroit and Macomb County men for the purpose of purchasing land and laying a town. In the fall of that same year, an exploring party of prominent professional and business men from Detroit came up the Saginaw Trail on horseback and camped the first night in what is now Royal Oak. These men named most of the lakes in what are now Bloomfield and West Bloomfield Townships. Their published report of the exploration did much to correct the false information of the 1816 description.

Oakland County was officially organized on January 12, 1819. Governor Cass issued a proclamation that laid out the boundaries of the county. The Pontiac Company offered to contribute both property and money if the county seat was established in Pontiac. The county was divided into two townships on June 28, 1820 (by another proclamation). The northern section was proclaimed Oakland Township, the southern section was named Bloomfield Township. Subsequently, on April 27, 1827, the legislative council of the Territory of Michigan divided Oakland County into five townships: Farmington, Bloomfield, Troy, Oakland, and Pontiac. In 1820 Governor Cass set the county seat in Pontiac--a central location no more than a day's journey from any point in the county.

The first official census of the county was taken in 1820, and the final count was 330 persons. Within 10 years the population grew to 4,911. By 1840 it was 23,646, and by 1870 it had reached 40,867, being surpassed only by Wayne, Kent, Lenawee and Washtenaw Counties, in that order. The 1990 U.S. Census reports 1,083,592 persons living in Oakland County, with the current estimated from 2000 census data at 1,162,098, which is the highest population for counties in the state.

For Michigan History, visit this State-run site.

The Oakland County Pioneer & Historical Society

Gov. Lewis Cass (Jan 12 1819)

I do by these presents and in conformity with the provision of the Ordinance of Congress of July 13, 1787, "layout" that part of the said Territory included within the following boundaries, namely; beginning at the South East corner of Township Number 1, in range Number 11, north of the base line, thence North to the North Eastern corner of Township Number 6, in the same range; thence west to the Native American boundary line; thence south to the baseline, thence east to the place of beginning into a new county to be called the County of Oakland .

Some of the information in this page was reprinted with permission
 from a web page authored by Oakland County government


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