History

graphicDeWitt is the first and one of the nine communities that make up Clinton County. Its name originated from Clinton County’s first settler and prominent American statesman, DeWitt Clinton. In order to make travel easier, he conceived the idea of an artificial waterway, which would become the Erie Canal. Many of the county’s first residents took advantage of the canal and came via it to make their new lives in the area.

Several decades later, land was purchased closeby and St. Johns was laid out. This area was named after John Swegles, one of the officials involved in the purchase. The Saint was added later by a Baptist minister. Thanks to the railroad that ran through town, St. Johns became the county seat in 1857.

The community of Fowler owes its existence to swamp land. After the chief engineer of the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad realized that the site for his planned village was doomed due to the swamps, he moved his town to stable land owned by J.N. Fowler of Detroit.

Ovid was not named after its first settler who had arrived to the area in 1836. Instead, it was named by one of its pioneers, William Swarthout, who had arrived from Ovid, New York. As for Elsie, it was named after the village’s first born. She was the daughter of the area’s first postmaster.

When George Campau built his home in 1835 near the rapids of the Maple River, he decided to name the area Maple Rapids. In 1853, William A. Hewitt bought the land, then built a dam, sawmill, and store.

John Platte built Westphalia’s first store, which was stocked with goods two years later. The area’s first settlers, mostly farmers, arrived from Westphalia, Germany, hence the name.

Eagle’s first two settlers named the village. But due to a donation of land, a depot and a Methodist Church by George W. McCrumb, the village was moved a half mile east.

It is believed that Bath borrowed its name from Bath, England since its pioneers came from Canada in 1836. The village began to thrive when the Michigan Central Railroad came through.

As the county seat, St. Johns is especially rich in history. Its abundance of pine trees acted as a catalyst for the village’s growth; 1857 brought even more growth in the form of a schoolhouse and a newspaper. By the end of the year, St. Johns acquired a foundry, a bank and a carpenter’s and builder’s shop.

St. Johns’ oldest standing brick home, now referred to as the Paine-Gillam-Scott Museum, is the headquarters for the Clinton County Historical Society.


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