The original inhabitants of Livonia were the Potowatami Indians. Although some of the early settlers entered Michigan from Ohio, many crossed from Niagara to Windsor and then to Detroit from Canada, most however came by way of the Erie Canal, which was completed in 1825. A farmer could load his supplies, machinery, household goods, and family aboard a vessel on the canal, and travel in comfort to Buffalo, New York and then by lake boat to Detroit. In Detroit, one could buy a team of oxen or horses, a wagon, and a few supplies and set out for his new home in the wilderness.
He could reach his home in just a few days over old Native American trails or some rare Territorial Roads. Since many people had been there before, looking over their lands, a temporary home site may have already been built. Now there remained the job of a permanent home, cultivation of the land, planting of his crops, and building a barn for his farm animals.
In later years, the rich soil attracted pioneers from the eastern states. The soils in the Livonia area were good for farming. They ranged from sand to clay, with most of the area having a rich loam. As the land was fairly level, but poorly drained, there were often swampy areas from the River Rouge. The roads too, were poor, being almost impassable in the spring each year. The native trees consisted mainly of tamarack, oak, maple, beech, and elm.
Livonia (portions at times referred to as Nankin) is located about 20 miles from Detroit. Although Detroitwas founded in 1701, the first parcel of land purchased in Nankin was not sold until over a century later, in 1818. By 1825, there was still only one house, with one family living here.
One of its first settlers was Daniel Blue, from Oneida, New York, who located his claim here in 1832. Livonia Township was erected in 1834, and was named for other early settlers who came here from the Livonia, New York, area (the name originated as a province in western Russia).
Given a post office as Livonia MI on May 7, 1834, with James Gunning as its first postmaster. The office was transferred to and renamed Plank Road on May 20, 1851. The village was platted and recorded as Livonia City on May 20k, 1836. The Livonia post office was re-established on January 30, 1872, closed on September 16, 1906, restored as a branch of the Detroit post office in 1952, and was made an independent office again on April 1, 1954.
The boundaries of the City of Livonia, located in northwest Wayne County, were set in 1835 asLivonia Township. The boundaries of Livonia Township were set during an act of territorial legislature in 1835, and the area became home to dairy farms and fruit orchards. For the first 100 years Livoniawas largely agricultural, but in the late 1940s the area took a major step toward commerce and industry when General Motors Corporation built an automatic transmission plant, soon to be followed by a Ford Motor Company parts depot. In 1950, the residents voted to become a city, and the entire Township (36 square miles) was incorporated as the City of Livonia. Livonia has tried to hold onto some of it’s heritage through historic preservation. Greenmead Historical Village is a 103-acre farm/museum of Livonia’s history at the corner of Eight Mile and Newburgh Roads. Another historical site is Wilson Barn located on Middlebelt road near Plymouth Rd.
To contact somebody with Livonia’s Historical Society:
Mailing Address: 20501 Newburgh, Livonia, MI 48152
Phone: (248) 477-7375
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