Washington Township, located in northern Macomb County, was first surveyed in 1816. The first settler, James Thorington, came to Washington Township in 1818.
By the mid-1820's, many settlers had obtained government land grants in the township, the majority of them from New York.
A meeting to organize the township was held in April 1827 at the home of Alvin Nye. When it came time to chose a name for the new township, Daniel Thurston, who presided over the meeting, said "I move we name the town in honor of the father of our country." The name Washington was enthusiastically accepted by the group. The township originally included what is today Washington and Bruce Townships. Bruce Township became a separate entity in 1833.
The first school was a log schoolhouse built in 1824 just south of the Washington Village with Miss Emeline Allen, younger sister of the early settlers William and John Allen, as the first teacher.
In the early days, there were circuit ministers who visited Washington Township, otherwise people had to travel to Utica for worship. The first organized church was the Methodist Church formed in 1823. Services were first held in homes, then in schoolhouses, and finally a building was erected in 1846 where the Methodist Church is today. The next church to appear in the township was the Washington Union Church which was organized in 1879. The church building still stands today across from the museum.
The township has historically been a productive farming community, with a strong emphasis on orchards. In 1850, Washington Township had 119 farms and by 1874 that number had grown to 196. Beginning in the 1950's, much of the farmland has been sold and converted to subdivisions. The current Township is 36 square miles: 26 Mile Road to 32 Mile Road and from Dequindre to Hayes (Powell) Roads.
Washington Township was named after the father of our country.
Washington Township is the only township in Macomb County that has an octagon house --- in fact, it has two, the Loren Andrus House and the William Burt House.
William Austin Burt (inventor, surveyor, legislator, and millwright) settled in Washington Township in the 1824.
In his workshop in Washington, William Austin Burt constructed the first patented typewriter in 1829 and built the solar compass, which was patented in 1836. The solar compass was the prototype for those used today.
Mary Jane Jersey was the first pioneer child born in Washington Township February 12, 1824.
In 1823, Washington Township (which included Bruce Township) contained thirteen families.
In 1827, the Village of Washington was the only post office between Pontiac and Mt. Clemens.
Asahel Bailey bought the first government land in Washington Township on July 3, 1821.
Washington Township has two "ghost towns" -- Mt. Vernon and Clifton, both thriving villages at one time.
The Washington Historical Museum is in the old Washington High School. The school was built in 1916 and officially opened in January, 1917. It was constructed with three classrooms upstairs and an auditorium downstairs. Classes were held in this building until 1972.
The Museum was established in 1975 and incorporates special exhibits in five large rooms with a Freedom Shrine that includes more than 30 photographic reproductions of documents of the history of the United States. Other exhibits include items from this area, farm tools, a printing press, old pictures of the Washington and Romeo area, displays with items from the Civil War, World War I and II, and Desert Storm.
The Museum is featuring an extensive display on George Washington for 2006, which includes many pictures and commemorative items from our country's Bicentennial. A display commemorating the 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty has also been added this year. Other displays include a Vintage Hat Display, a 1900 bedroom/nursery, a Music Room, a Vintage Sports Display and an early 1900's kitchen.
The Gift Shop has many items reminiscent of "days gone by" in Washington Township including postcards, maps, photographs and "Through These Doors", a history of the Washington High School.
The Boy Scout Museum contains the largest collection of Boy Scout paraphernalia in the southeastern Michigan area covering the entire history of the Boy Scouts and also has many items from the Girl Scouts.
The Museum is located on Van Dyke between 26 Mile and West Road.
For special tours of the Museum, call 586.786.5304 (leave message) or 248.652.2458. For tours of the Boy Scout Museum, call 586.677.1587.
The Greater Washington Area Historical Society was organized in 1975. Through the years, the Society has saved the old Washington High School, promoted the cultural arts, and collected and preserved many artifacts pertaining to Washington Township and the surrounding area. Our major fund-raiser is our Annual Art and Craft Show which is held in conjunction with Washington's Super Sunday on the first Sunday in June.
Projects we are currently working on include:
There are many other projects we would like to undertake, however, our resources are limited. If you are interested in meeting some interesting people, learning more about the history of Washington Township, and spending a few hours a week helping to save that history, join the Society and volunteer to help. We are always looking for new ideas and can always use a couple of extra hands. Not to mention -- it will give you a very good feeling!!!