Pontiac Village and City 1810s
The "Pontiac Company," as shown in the previous (Part I) documents, by their agent, Colonel Stephen Mack, purchased on the 6th of November, 1818, the twelve hundred and eighty acres of land before described, and between that date and the 19th of February, 1819, laid out on the southeast quarter of section 29 the original town plat of Pontiac. (This plat covered about 160 acres, including its adjoining outlots.) The surveying and platting were done by Major John Anderson, and all the corners were marked, according to Captain Hervey Parke's recollection, with posts made of four-inch scantling, sawed at the mill erected on the plat. The saw-mill was in process of building at the time Major Williams passed through the place in the forepart of March, 1819, on his way to settle at Silver Lake with his family.
The surveying may have been done in November or December, 1818, but if the posts were set at the time of the survey, it must have been after the mill was put in operation, which was probably in April, 1819. ( The original plat was spread upon the record some time during the year 1831, in compliance with a special act of the legislative council, approved March 31, 1831. It does not give the date of the survey.)
COUNTY-SEAT. It is not probably known at this day who suggested the name of "Pontiac," but it seems to have been determined upon by the company at the date of its formation in November, 1818. It was assumed, no doubt, in remembrance and honor of the great Ottawa chieftain, whose people occupied the region now comprised within the limits of Oakland County. Being well located on the great Detroit and Saginaw trail, which had already been adopted as the route for a military road by the Territorial and United States authorities, and being also conveniently located for the transaction of the county business, its proprietors at once saw the advantages that would accrue from the location of the county-seat, and took measures accordingly. On the 12th day of February a letter was addressed to the commissioners appointed to examine and report with reference to the county-seat, making overtures on behalf of the company, offering to donate certain lots and a. certain sum of money provided the seat of justice should be fixed at the village of Pontiac.The report of the commissioners recommending the location of the county-seat at Pontiac was favorably received by the governor, and on the 28th of March, 1820, he issued his proclamation organizing the county of Oakland, and fixing the seat of justice at Pontiac.The causes which directly influenced, or resulted in, the formation of the Pontiac company are not certainly known. It has been suggested that the report brought back by Major Williams, in the autumn of 1818, very likely had considerable to do with the matter. It is probable that after determining to make their settlement on the " Huron of St. Clair," as the Clinton river was then called, the company selected the site of Pontiac from the fact that it was not only the crossing-place of the Saginaw trail, but also because it was the first available locality below the chain of lakes drained by that stream where water-power could be made available. At all events, the site was well chosen, and the embryo town of 1818 soon became a place of importance, and for many years was hardly second to any town in the Territory, and subsequent State, excepting Detroit. It disputed the palm with Monroe, Mount Clemens, and Ypsilanti successfully until the era of railways built up new and flourishing centres of trade and commerce in various parts of the State, and Adrian, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids became prominent competitors for the business of the interior.
FIRST SETTLERS IN PONTIAC. The first settlers on the spot now occupied by the city of Pontiac were undoubtedly Colonel Stephen Mack, Major Joseph Todd, William Lester, and Orison Allen. These, with a body of workmen, probably came in November or December, 1818. In 1819 Calvin Hotchkiss, Nathan Cogswell, and Jeremiah Allen entered lands in the vicinity. Harvey Williams and Elisha Gardner were the first blacksmiths and worked in the old shop built by Colonel Mack.Colonel Mack and Mr. Emerson were in trade at Detroit when Hull surrendered the post to the British, which event deranged all business during the occupation of the latter. After the war was over he again engaged in trade under the firm-name of Mack & Conant, and continued until the Pontiac company was formed, when he became a stockholder and the business agent and manager for the company, and from that time made his home in Pontiac. He and his partner associated themselves with Judge Sibley, as a silent partner, under the name and style of Mack, Conant & Sibley, and made the first improvements in Pontiac. They obtained from the Pontiac company the title to the water-power, in consideration for which they were to pay a bonus of one thousand dollars towards the erection of county buildings, in case the county-seat was located at Pontiac.
The Pontiac company also donated certain lots and perhaps some money for the same object, and in addition reserved localities for schools, churches, and a cemetery.Mack, Conant & Sibley built a dam where the present one stands, below Pike street, and erected a saw-mill during the winter and spring of 1818-19. The first building erected on the site of Pontiac was a small log cabin built by them for the temporary accommodation of their employees while getting out timber for the dam and saw-mill. It stood near where the Commercial hotel is now located, and in March, 1819, was occupied by Major Joseph Todd and family, William Lester, and Orison Allen. This cabin was probably built in November, 1818.
The saw-mill before spoken of stood at the east end of the dam, and at this writing (June, 1877) the bed-timbers still remain. The next building completed was the blacksmithing-shop which stood near the flouring-mill. A trip-hammer was added to this shop about 1823, but was never much used.The flouring-mill, which was the first regular flouring-mill in the county, was completed in 1819 or 1820, and is still standing. It contained one or two run of burr (technically, buhr) stone, and one run of common stone made from the boulders of the regions.In connection with this mill, some amusing incidents are preserved in the memory of one who was closely identified with the business of Pontiac for a number of years,-one whose whitened locks tell of many years spent among the toils and privations of frontier life, but whose recollection of the early days is still, apparently, as fresh and vivid as if he were talking of the events of yesterday.When the flouring-mill was completed, in 1819 or 1820, quite a number of the Pontiac company, and several others, came up to have a grand celebration of the opening of the mill for business. Among them were William Woodbridge, Solomon Sibley, John L. Whiting, Austin E. Wing, David C. McKinstry, Henry I. Hunt, Andrew G. Whitney, William Thompson, Judge Whipple, Daniel Le Roy, and Colonel Mack; and others were also present.The use of liquor was common among all classes in those days, and it was freely circulated. The settlers collected in the embryo city, and there was a general backwoods good time.
Source: History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.