Waterford Township Historical Timeline

1650 - The area now known as Waterford Township was a hunting and fishing ground for American Indians, primarily the Potawatomi and the Ottawa.  Waterford had many swamps and Indians did not live near swamps because of mosquitoes.

1701 - July 24:  Cadillac, a French fur trader, established a settlement, which he named de’Troit (The Strait), on the river.  Fort Pontchartrain was built.

1760 - The British took command of Pontchartrain and renamed it Fort Detroit.

1783 - The Treaty of Paris, ending the American War for Independence, gave the Northwest Territory, including Michigan, to the United States.

1787 - The Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance.

1794 - General Anthony Wayne defeated the Indians in The Battle of Fallen Timber.  The Indians lost confidence in the British and signed The Treaty of Greenville, the British were forced to abandon Fort Detroit. 

1796 - July 11:  Americans assume command of Fort Detroit, Captain Moses Porter raised the American flag.  They renamed it Fort Lernoult, and the settlement of Detroit.

1805 - Congress passed an act organizing the territory of Michigan.

1815 - Edward Tiffin, Surveyor General of the United States, reported that Michigan land consisted of swamps, lakes, and poor sandy soil which was not worth the cost of a survey.  This delayed settlement of Michigan for several years.

1818 - Land office opened in Detroit, offering land for $2.00 an acre.  Major Oliver Williams settled on the south shore of Silver Lake, the  first farm settlement on the Saginaw Trail.  Alpheus Williams and Archibald Phillips settle at the point where the Saginaw Trail crosses the Clinton River (modern Dixie at Andersonville Road).

1819 - Governor Cass formed the boundaries of Oakland County, the third county in Michigan.  Alpheus Williams and Archibald Phillips began building the first dam and sawmill.

1820 - Olivere Williams, age 17, son of Alpheus and Abigail Williams, became the first white settler to be buried at what is now the Waterford Village Cemetery.

1821 - The first school in Oakland County was started in the loft of Oliver Williams sheep barn.  There were seven students

1822 - First schoolhouse built of logs on Oliver Williams farm, south of Silver Lake.  This was first school building in Oakland County and had 13 students. 

1823 - Jonathan Perry, Harvey and Austin Durfee settled at what is now Drayton Plains.  At some point in this era Daniel Windiate built a grist mill which he called the Drayton Mill.  Drayton Plains took its name from this mill.

1825 - The Erie Canal was completed, and the number of settlers in Michigan vastly increased.

1829 - Construction began on a road north from Detroit along the Saginaw Trail.  Ferdinand Williams, son of Detroit’s first mayor, John R. Williams, built a log cabin on the west shore of Williams Lake, which was named for him.  The site is now 2590 Williams Lake Road.

1830 - Samuel Munson built a grist mill and saw mill at Clintonville, just north of where the Clinton River meets Walton Boulevard.

1834 - First Post Office established in Waterford, on the north shore of Elizabeth Lake. First postmaster was William Terry.

1835 - Isaac Voorheis elected first supervisor of Waterford Township.  He received 35 votes.  Ira Donelson named first Supervisor of Education.

1837 - January 26:  Michigan became the 26th state.  Mehlberg’s General Store built in Waterford Village.

1838 - September 12:  First recorded burial in the Drayton Plains Cemetary; infant, age 6 weeks, son of D. & M. Windiate.

1839 - Drayton Plains Hotel opened on Dixie Highway across from Sashabaw Road.  February 2:  first recorded burial in the Four Towns Cemetary was Martha A. Coyles, age 7 months, 18 days.

1840 - Railroad completed as far north as Pontiac.  It was ten years before construction was completed through Waterford.  There were three stations; Drayton Plains, Waterford, and Windiate Park.  The railroad made Waterford Lakes available to people from Detroit and other cities.  Waterford gradually became a resort area.

1840 - Henry S. Andrews opens up shop as a blacksmith.

1841 - Stephen Besley began construction of the hotel, later known as the Bradt’s Exchange, The Waterford Exchange, and the Waterford Hotel.  He sold it to Daniel R. Lord who sold it to William Bradt.  It served as a stagecoach stop for over 60 years.  Finally torn down in 1970.  August 28:  First recorded burial in the Waterford Center Cemetery was Lewis L. Morris, age 47.

1844 - Dr. George Williams builds grist mill in Waterford village with three run of stone.

1848 - School built on Grand River.  The street name was later changed to Maple Street, and later renamed Andersonville Road.

1850 - Population of Waterford Township is 1,085 (1850 Census)

1860 - Population of Waterford Township is 1,289 (1860 Census)

1866 - Four Towns School built.  This building stands at 6451 Cooley Lake Road, as the Four Towns Methodist Church.

1869 - First Church built in Waterford.  This Methodist Church was restored in 1976-77 and stands at 5860 Andersonville Road.  Waterford Center School built.  The site of this one room country school (at Pontiac Lake Road and Airport Road) was once the Waterford School District central Offices, but is now privately owned and is used as a church.

1870 - Population of Waterford Township is 1,362 (1870 Census)

1880 - Population of Waterford Township is 1,324 (1880 Census)

1885 - The first automobile was built in Germany by Karl Benz.

1890 - Population of Waterford Township is 1,163 (1890 Census)

1896 - Construction of the Electric Interurban began.  It connected Pontiac with Detroit, Farmington and Keego Harbor.

1900 Population of Waterford Township is 1,079 (1900 Census)

1905 - Peoples Ice Company, of Detroit, bought land on Lotus Lake for an icehouse.  Local rumor holds that Al Capone owned stock in this company.  Horatio Earl became the first Michigan Highway Commissioner. 

1910 - Population of Waterford Township is 1,065 (1910 Census)

1913 - The Oakland County Road Commission was formed.

1915 - Voters approved a million dollars for highway construction.  This included paving Dixie Highway as far west as Silver Lake Road.

1918 - The first number was assigned to a road in Wisconsin.

1920 - Population of Waterford Township was 1,354 (1920 Census)

1922 - Old Mill Tavern, Waterford’s most famous restaurant, was built by Lois Dorman.

1923 - Dixie Highway widened to four lanes.

1927 - State of Michigan authorized construction of M-59, connecting Highland Road with Pontiac’s Huron Street.

1928 - November 27:  Pontiac Airport opened.  Built  by the city of Pontiac, it is now operated by Oakland County and called Oakland County International Airport.

1929 - October 23, Stock Market Crash, brought on the Great Depression.  The result of this for Waterford was devastating; hotels, country clubs, and resorts went broke.  Waterford would only recover when factory workers moved into vacant cottages in the area.

1930 - Population of Waterford Township was 8,239 (1930 Census)

1933 - CCC Camp built on Elizabeth Lake Road, now Optimist Park.

1940 - Population of Waterford Township was 12,396 (1940 Census)

1941 - First Township Hall built at the corner of Crescent Lake and Highland Roads.  Waterford Volunteer Fire Department organized with one Fire Truck, a 1941 GMC Pumper.

1942 - Drayton Men’s Club developed Drayton Ball Park, now Shell Park.

1943 - Mother’s Club of Waterford Village School organized

1944 - Waterford Schools consolidated.  Jim Covert was hired as first Superintendent.  The Waterford Women’s Club organized Community Activities Incorporated  (CAI).

1947 - First CAI Building, an old chicken and horse barn, burned.

1950 -  Population 24,316 (1950 Census)

1951 - First Waterford Township High School opened.  Don Weaver was named principal.

1954 - January 1:  Waterford Police Department organized.  Waterford Schools and Township boards organized the recreation department.

1960 - Population 47,107 (1960 Census)

1964 - Waterford Township Library opened.

1965 - A system of sanitary sewers was begun, to protect the quality of the water in our lakes, helping to make Waterford one of the finest residential communities in Michigan.

1970 - Population 59,123 (1970 Census)

1979 - Present Township Hall opened.

1982 - Old Mill Tavern burned.

1988 - Hess Hathaway Park opened to the public.

1992 - Historical Society acquired Fish Hatchery House for the preservation of Historical materials.

1994 - New library and Recreation Department opened.

2000 - Population is 73,150 (2000 Census)

2000 - Fire Department moved from Crescent and M-59 (old Town Hall building) to current location at Crescent and Hatchery Road. This brand new state of the art building becomes Satione One & Headquarters.

Originally compiled for the Waterford Historical Society by William Aebersold.  
Updated by Sally Strait, President of the Waterford Historical Society February 2011.
Added to by librarians of the Waterford Township Library.