Sterling Heights, MI Chamber of Commerce

The Roots of the Area

Of the three communities served by the Chamber, historic Utica is the oldest center of commerce. In 1817, Thomas Squire, a Canadian followed the Clinton river west from Mount Clemens and built his cabin on the high ground where the river and two Indian trails crossed. Joseph Stead made the first plat of the area in November of 1829, under the name of Harlow. Yankees from New York State were attracted to the region and changed the name of the Village to Utica, after the name of the city in their home state.  

Sterling Heights, MI Chamber of Commerce

As Harlow/Utica attracted more settlers to the lands surrounding their little community, many farmers built their homesteads on the fertile ground to the south of the Village along the Clinton River in Sterling Township. Attracted by the large expanses of developable land, the mid 1950s saw Sterling Township begin to change from a farming community to one of booming manufacturing.  Due to the growth in the township, many of the surrounding cities tried to annex land from the Township. To control the identity and to build their own community the residents in 1968 incorporated to become the City of Sterling Heights.

Although early surveyors of Macomb County gave up in disgust claiming the land north of Utica was nothing but swamp and barren soil, Shelby Township was certified on February 3, 1818. The Township was named Shelby in honor of the Revolutionary War hero and first Governor of the State of Kentucky, Isaac Shelby. In its early years Shelby Township was mostly rural farmland with only two commercial centers.  

In the 1940s Shelby began to shift from being a rural farming community to a suburban one. Platting for residential developments began in 1941 and 1942. During the Second World War Shelby was involved in the war effort with the Packard grounds being used for the testing of tanks and the manufacturing of jet engines. When Packard went out of business, aircraft manufacturer Curtiss-Wright purchased the proving grounds. Continuing as a defensive area for our government in 1955 construction was completed of a U.S. Army Nike anti-aircraft missile battery in the southwest corner of the Township.  Shelby Township continues to be one of the fastest growing communities in Michigan.


Sterling Heights, MI Chamber of Commerce

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