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Sanilac County


History of Sanilac County


The area that would become known as Sanilac County, was originally made part of St. Clair Co. for “judicial” purposes. The area extended to Saginaw Bay and west to Tuscola County

In 1848, the Legislature authorized the separate organization of the county and Lexington was the county seat until 1879 when it was moved to Sandusky. In the Census of 1850, Sanilac Co. had three townships: Worth Lexington and Sanilac. Worth and Lexington Townships were close to the present size; Sanilac Twp. included the rest of the territory in Sanilac and Huron Counties.

The county was covered with forests and travel was difficult. A pioneer account from the HISTORY OF SANILAC COUNTY 1834-1984 p. 225 states “Upon their arrival at the Fort (Ft. Gratiot) their packs were remade and only the absolute necessities could be taken as the balance of the trip, a distance of about 24 miles , had to be made on foot. The balance of the belongings were left at the Fort to be picked up at a later date. There were no roads, only a trail made by the Indians through the woods.” This story took place about 1842 . The names of this pioneer and his wife were David & Susanna Taylor McClure.

The first settler was Joel Carrington who came into the area that is now know as Worth Twp. in 1834. Reuben Dimmon was the 2nd settler and taught the first school just south of the Village of Lexington. Early pioneers as stated in the Portrait and Biographical Album-1884 were Dr. Woodard, , John Smith, Uri Raymond, John Ryan, William Leonard, , George Smith ; William Austin, and the list goes on. See our complete list elsewhere on the page.

Political unrest in Ontario and the promise of jobs in the lumber mills brought many to Sanilac Co. These settlers were of Scotch, Irish and English nationality.

By 1860, the townships of Fremont, Speaker, Maple Valley, Buel, Elk, Washington, Marlette, Bridgehampton, Forester, and Austin had been organized and the southern part of the county was being cleared for farming.

The first newspaper was The Sanilac Jeffersonian established at Lexington in 1858 and still in operation, is now located in Croswell. In an article on the front page of “The Jeff” April 27, 1861 we read an account of a war rally to recruit soldiers to fight for the Union cause in the Civil War. The Sanilac Pioneers, better known as Co. D, 10th Michigan Infantry with Capt. Israel Huckins was made up of many men from Sanilac Co.

By 1870 all but two townships were organized. Evergreen, 1873, Custer in 1877 and Wheatland in 1881 completed Sanilac Co. as we know it today.

Sanilac Co. is an agricultural county with sugar beets, corn, wheat, oats, soy beans, and hay as its major crops.

Some of Sanilac County’s tourist attractions are the Sanilac Co. Historical Museum in Port Sanilac; the historic Sanilac Petroglyphs in Greenleaf Twp.; the picturesque village of Lexington; Croswell’s Swinging Bridge; and many other interesting sites.


Submitted by Ella Klein


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