My Town Monday: John Pinckney’s Problem

In 1834, John D. Pinckney left his home in New York. He traveled up the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York, then took a steamer up Lake Erie to Detroit. From there he taveled to Salem, Michigan (southeast of South Lyon, east of Whitmore Lake.) He left his family with his father who lived in Salem, then went on into the wilderness of Livingston County to begin clearing the land he’d purchased and make a home of it.

It kills me to think that this chunk of suburbia was once covered with trees instead of overpriced site-condos and SUVs.

John D. Pinckney’s property was on the eastern edge of Howell Township. He was one of the first settlers in the Howell Township area. This area was also where “Livingston Centre” was established as the temporary county seat. His homestead was near the shores of Thompson Lake, “far north” of the Grand River Trail. The Grand River Trail was the only real “road” at the time, though it was certainly more a winding trail between trees than a road as the folks coming from New York would have been used to.

John D. Pinckney’s house was pretty typical of the time, a single room log house. The house did not have windows, doors or floor. Blankets covered the window and door holes and a fire would be lit to keep the wolves away. In December of 1834, he brought his family up to live in that house. His family at the time included a wife and two young daughters.

Being in the center of the county, and one of the first folks with a permanent residence in the area, John D. Pinckney was compelled to provide shelter and accommodation to many land seekers. Apparently, his house was the one the increasing number of land seekers were looking for as they made there way to Livingston Centre, and more importantly to the wild lands west and north of Howell Township. According to the 1880 History of Livingston County, Mr. Pinckney was not inclined towards providing these services.

One has to think that a man who would move his family to the middle of, well, nowhere, miles from civilization is probably a bit of a recluse. Which then makes sense that he wouldn’t have been too happy with having to house these newcomers who happened across his place on their trek.

The place that travelers realled needed was Amos Adams’ tavern house (aka the Eagle Tavern), not far from Mr. Pinckney’s house. This tavern initially was the county-seat building.

In 1835, the Eagle Tavern was built, with Pinckney selling some of his land for it. He was kind of pushing for a place for travelers to stay… probably so they’d stop crashing at his one-room place with him, the wife, and the daughters.

In November 1835, two fellows, Edward Brooks and Flavius J. B. Crane, purchased the chunk of land that would be organized into the Village of Howell. They platted the lands and recorded such in Wayne County (where Detroit is.) This prospective village was then given the name Howell, the same as the township that it’s in. And thus ended the name Livingston Centre. From then on, it has been Howell. First Village and now city.

Not a very big city, mind you. Nothing taller than three stories. Though, I bet John D. Pinckney wouldn’t care for what Livingston Centre turned into. Somedays, I don’t either.

NOTE: The answers to last weeks question are in the comments– click here.

My Town Monday was started by Travis Erwin. Check his place out for more towns.

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