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History & Culture

Long before the automotive industry became rooted in Oakland County, enterprising professionals and businesspeople had discovered the natural resources and inherent potential in what was to become Oakland County.

Prior to the first permanent settlers in the area, Native American tribes such as Ojibwa, Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi roamed the Saginaw Trail and camped at Saginaw Plains, Apple Island and other beautiful spots in the region.

In fact, many of Oakland County's main transportation arteries had their genesis as Native American trails: the Saginaw Trail (now Woodward Avenue), the Shiawassee Trail (which followed the current Orchard Lake Road) and Grand River Trail.

The area of Oakland County was described in an 1816 official report as having "extreme sterility and barrenness." Developments and exploration were soon to prove that report false.

Natural Treasures, Townships and a New County
In 1818, the Pontiac Company was organized by a group enterprising 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 professionals and businessmen 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 County's rich natural resources and natural beauty did much to correct the 1816 description.

Oakland County was officially organized on January 12, 1819 when Michigan Governor Lewis Cass issued a proclamation establishing the new county's boundaries. The Pontiac Company offered to contribute both property and money to the establishment of a county seat in Pontiac, a central location no more than a day's journey from any point in the County.

With the County seat established in Pontiac, the County was divided into two townships. The northern section was Oakland Township and the southern section would be Bloomfield Township. In 1827, Oakland County was further divided into five townships: Farmington, Bloomfield, Troy, Oakland and Pontiac.

The Population Grows
The first official census of the County was taken in 1820 and counted 330 persons. Within 10 years the population grew to 4,911, and by 1840 it was 23,646. In 1870 the county had the fifth largest population in the state--40,867--surpassed only by Wayne, Kent, Lenawee and Washtenaw Counties.

The 2000 U.S. Census reports 1,194,256 persons living in Oakland County, which is the 2nd highest population for counties in the state, and 26th in the United States.

For more than 175 years, Oakland County has served as an example of the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit informs Oakland County's past and inspires its future.

For a little Michigan History visit this State-run site.

Some of the information provided here was researched at the:
The Oakland County Pioneer & Historical Society
405 Oakland Avenue
Pontiac, Michigan


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