Farmington MI was the site of three Indian trails, the Orchard Lake Trail, the Grand River Trail and the Shiawassee Trail; each generally followed the now-used roads of the same name.
Farmington is located in southern Oakland County, just east of the intersections of I-96 and I-275. This town was first settled in 1824 by Arthur Power and David Smith, Quakers from Farmington New York. First referred to as “Quakertown,” this community grew as a result of a sawmill Powers built and a strong religious commitment which included the formation of a church in 1826 by Elkanah Comstock, the first Baptist minister to settle in Michigan.
An interesting bit of Farmington’s history which is believed to be part reality, part speculation, is the story of Farmington’s part in the Underground Railroad.
The peace-loving Quakers were supporters, of course, of the Abolitionist ideals of freedom for all, so it is natural to assume that they would give what aid they could to runaway slaves traveling to Canada. It is believed that the Farmington routes were used only when the direct passage to Detroit was blocked by the watchfulness of slave hunters.
Although there is no actual evidence to support the claims, several buildings in Farmington are said to have been stations along this route. The first was the old Quaker Meeting House, where Arthur Power lived after 1836. Located on Gill Road, it is now a Convalescent Home.
Other purported stations on the Underground Railroad include: the Philbrick Tavern at Eleven Mile Road and Power, now a private residence; the basement of the First Baptist Church; a home owned by a Judd Webster, which stood where the Thayer-Rock Funeral Home is now located; and the Shaupter Place on Grand River, which is now Executive Office Supply.
Tragically, a major fire destroyed a number of buildings on Grand River in October, 1872. Flames destroyed several shops, the Masonic Hall, township hall and township records. The township built a new town hall at Grand River and Farmington Road in 1876; the Masons leased space in the upper level and still maintain the building today. It incorporated as a village in 1867 and later as a city in 1926.
One of Farmington, Michigan’s most easily recognized landmarks, the Governor Warner Museum, resides within an impressive Victorian Italianate mansion built in 1867 by
P. Dean Warner.
Warner and his wife Sarah Botsford Warner, adopted two children. Their son, Fred, eventually became owner of the home and, in 1905, governor of Michigan. He was the first Michigan governor to serve three successive terms.
Furnished in late Victorian style, the mansion sits on approximately three acres surrounded by gardens. Visitors will find history on display in the form of period furnishings and artifacts, as well as Warner family memorabilia. The home was deeded to the City of Farmington in 1980 by Warner family members and is open to the public.
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