St. Clair County, Michigan History & Geography
St. Clair County, Michigan
              Genealogy on the Web

History and Geography of St. Clair County

A brief history, a small map and a table showing information about the county's townships, cities, villages and other populated places. There are also links to other internet sites that can provide more information. by Tom Kephart.

A Brief History of Michigan and St. Clair County
by Tom Kephart

French explorers, looking for a passage to China through the unexplored North American continent, visited what is now Michigan in the early 1600s. The native people gave the visitors some much-needed assistance during their journeys, building and navigating canoes, protecting and teaching them about the environment, and helping them forage and hunt for food. The Indians also traded animal furs for guns, powder, ammunition and other tools that moved their culture into the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

In 1679, the French explorer Robert Cavelier de la Salle and French missionary Père Louis Hennepin entered a body of water while sailing on the Griffon up from Lake Erie on what is now the Detroit River. The date was 12 August 1679, which was the day of the religious festival of Sainte-Claire, who founded the order of Franciscan nuns in the 13th century. Ste.-Claire was a contemporary and friend of St. Francis of Assisi. Père (Father) Hennepin held a mass, during which the newly-discovered lake was given the name Lac Sainte-Claire. In time, the river leading north out of Lac Sainte-Claire, the county that developed along it, and a city on the river all took the same name St. Clair. (The name was often spelled St. Clare in English in the 1700s, but most mapmakers had settled on the current spelling by 1840.)

The profits being realized by the French traders prompted British traders from New-York and Hudson's Bay to try to get a share of the business themselves. In response, French governeur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established Fort Ponchartrain and the Détroit settlement in 1701. (The name Detroit comes from the French d'étroit, meaning "at the narrows.") The French and British fought four wars, primarily over the valuable fur trade in the Great Lakes regions, ending with the eventual withdrawal of the French from Forts Pontchartrain, St.-Joseph in western Michigan, and Mackinac in northern Michigan.

The British garrisoned these forts, but some Indians, many followers of Chief Pontiac, attacked in hopes of returning their friends, the French, to power in the region. After the Seven Years War ended with a peace treaty in 1763, the native people learned to accept the British, who in turn realized the value of protecting the fur trade from encroaching settlers, much as the French had. The British built Fort Sinclair near the entrance to the St. Clare River at the southern end of Lake Huron in 1765. During British rule, little changed culturally: fur trading, farming, religion and place names remained mostly of Indian or French origin, and those two cultures influence would continue to be felt in Michigan well after the American nation was established.

During the Revolutionary War, what is now Michigan, then part of the British province of Québec, remained loyal to King George III. Although the popular view of the war of American independence is that George Washington's army defeated the British, in fact it was a war of attrition that the much better equipped British could have prolonged indefinitely. In the Great Lakes region, the British were superior in numbers, in fortifications, in supplies and in knowledge of the terrain, plus they had the Indians as their allies. But the king's military advisors told him the facts: while the Americans probably couldn't win, neither could the British. Tiring of the expensive war, King George gave in and granted independence to the 13 former colonies, although the British resisted giving up their Great Lakes forts until 1796.

Michigan was initially part of the Northwest Territory under Thomas Jefferson's Northwest Ordinance of 1787. In 1800, the western half of the state was made part of the Indiana Territory. Ohio became a state in 1803, and the remainder of the old Northwest Territory was added to the Indiana Territory. In 1805, Michigan Territory was created by Congress, consisting of today's Lower Peninsula and a small section of the eastern Upper Peninsula. The southern boundary of the territory was from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to the mouth of the Maumee River, land which is today part of the states of Indiana and Ohio. In 1816, Indiana entered the Union, claiming its current boundary with Michigan, and the Illinois Territory was created to administer the remaining Indiana Territory lands. When Illinois also achieved statehood in 1818, the Michigan Territory was expanded to include all of the current state of Michigan, plus Wisconsin and part of what is now Minnesota.

St. Clare County was set off from what was then Wayne County by a proclamation of Governor Lewis Cass of the Michigan Territory on 28 March 1820. It included lands that are now Huron and Sanilac Counties, and parts of what would become Tuscola and Macomb Counties. St. Clair County was the first stopping place for many immigrants from Canada who crossed the St. Clair River at the town of Sarnia in Upper Canada to Port Huron in the United States. Some continued to move west toward Flint and the new state capital at Lansing, and southwest toward Pontiac and Detroit, but many stayed and settled in St. Clare County, primarily along the river since few roads were available, and the river made transportation possible, as it had in the French trading days and as it still does today.

In 1834, lands in modern-day Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota were annexed to the Michigan Territory. When Michigan became the 26th state in 1837, the remaining territorial lands became the Wisconsin Territory. Michigan also ceded the "Toledo Strip" to Ohio, establishing the current border with the Buckeye State, and was awarded the Upper Peninsula in return. Not many people thought this was a good deal in 1837, but it turned out to be very beneficial to the young state, particularly after the discovery of copper and gold in the U.P. during the late 1800s.

In 1836, St. Clair County took its current shape for the first time, when newly set off Lapeer County was given lands in the Thumb region. But in 1840, Lapeer was cut off by Saginaw County, and St. Clair was again given administrative control over much of the Thumb. In 1852, Sanilac County was created, taking with it the future Huron County as well, and St. Clair County was established in its modern-day configuration.

St. Clair County Townships

Geography of St. Clair County

Bounded on the north by Sanilac, on the west by Lapeer and Macomb Counties, and on the east by the province of Ontario, Canada, the interior of St. Clair County remains largely rural, with agriculture and related activities making up the bulk of the economy. However, along the shorelines of Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair and the banks of the St. Clair River, cities such as Port Huron, St. Clair, Marine City and Algonac grew up on ship-building, chandlery, and other port activities. Today the suburban sprawl of the Detroit metropolitan area reaches well into the southern part of the county.

St. Clair County covers 700.27 square miles. There are 23 survey townships in the county. A list of all of the townships, plus the cities, villages and towns in the county, is below. Where available, a link to the census demographics is provided; this data is courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Management and Budget. The township and range identifier for each township is shown in the second column; for other places, the name of the township where the city, village or town is located is shown.

NOTE: For the purposes of this table, a "town" may be either: (1) a Census Defined Place (CDP); (2) an unincorporated populated place; or (3) a "ghost town," which may or may not have any current population, but is shown for the historical researcher.

The US Geological Survey and the Bureau of the Census have placed a huge amount of geographic data online. By taking advantage of their databases, we can view lists of features, locations, and even see maps of the selected region. Here are two examples:

United States Geological Survey information about St. Clair County ~ A list of all St. Clair County features, including population clusters, cemeteries, townships (civil), churches, etc. from the USGS database.  This kind of list can be very helpful, as many of these places are locally-known names that can appear in family records yet have never been incorporated as towns or cities that appear on a map or postal directory.

The US Gazetteer Population, zip code, and simple locator maps for incorporated cities and towns.


  •  Michigan County Atlas (Williamston, MI: Universal Map, 1988?)
  •  Michigan Department of Management and Budget
  •  St. Clair County Directory (1999-2000 edition)
  •  Schramm, Jack E., et al, When Eastern Michigan Rode The Rails, Book Two (Glendale, CA: Interurban Press, 1986)
  •  Sommers, Lawrence M., ed., Atlas of Michigan (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1977)
  •  U.S. Postal Service
Place Name Address or Post Office/Zip Range/Township
Identifier or Township
as Township
or Village
as City
Town of Abbottsford   Kenockee & Clyde Townships        
Town of Adair   Casco Township        
City of Algonac 805 St. Clair River Dr.
Algonac, MI 48001
(810) 794-9361
Clay Township 1867 1967 4,551  
Town of Allenton Allenton, MI 48002 Berlin Township        
Town of Anchorville (CDP) Anchorville, MI 48004 Ira Township        
Town of Atkins   Clyde Township        
Town of Avoca Avoca, MI 48006 Kenockee Township        
Town of Bedore   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
Town of Belle River   Columbus Township        
Town of Belle River Mills   China Township        
Berlin Township 13892 Hough Rd.
Allenton, MI 48002
(810) 784-9717
T6N, R13E 23 Mar 1839   2,407  
Town of Berville Allenton, MI 48002 Berlin Township        
Town of Blaine   Grant Township        
Town of Broadbridge Station   Cottrellville Township        
Town of Brockway Yale, MI 48097 Brockway Township        
Brockway Township 7645 Sayles Rd.
Yale, MI 48097
(810) 387-2052
T8N, R14E 17 Mar 1848   1,609  
Burtchville Township 4000 Burtch Rd.
Lakeport, MI 48059
(810) 385-5577
T8N, R17E 16 Feb 1842   3,559  
Village of Capac 131 N. Main St.
P.O. Box 218
Capac, MI 48014
(810) 395-4355
Mussey Township 1873   1,583  
Town of Casco Casco, MI 48064 Casco Township        
Casco Township 4512 Meldrum Rd.
Casco, MI 48064
(810) 727-7524
T4N, R15E     4,552  
China Charter Township 4560 Indian Trail
China, MI 48054
(810) 765-1145
T4N, R16E 17 Mar 1834   2,644  
Clay Township 4710 Pte. Tremble Rd.
P. O. Box 429
Algonac, MI 48001
(810) 794-9303
T2N, R15E 1828   8,862  
Town of Clays Landing   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
Clyde Township 3350 Vincent Rd.
North Street, MI 48049
(810) 985-7258
T7N, R16E 26 Mar 1836   5,052  
Town of Columbus Columbus, MI 48063 Columbus Township        
Columbus Township 1732 Bauman Rd.
Columbus, MI 48063
(810) 727-2055
T5N, R15E 11 Mar 1837   3,235  
Cottrellville Township Marine City, MI 48039 T3N, R16E 12 Apr 1827   3,301  
Town of Doyle   Riley Township        
East China Charter Township 5111 River Rd.
E. China, MI 48054
(810) 765-8879
T4N, R17E 12 Feb 1859   3,216  
Village of Emmett P.O. Box 127
Emmett, MI 48022
(810) 384-6991
Emmett Township 1883   297  
Emmett Township 11100 Dunnigan Rd.
Emmett, MI 48022
(810) 384-8070
T7N, R14E 19 Feb 1850   1,519  
Town of Fair Haven (CDP) Fair Haven, MI 48023 Ira Township        
Town of Fargo Greenwood, MI 48006 Greenwood Township        
Town of Forster   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
Fort Gratiot Charter Township 3720 Keewahdin Dr.
Ft. Gratiot, MI 48059
(810) 385-4489
T7N, R17E 13 Jun 1866   8,968  
Town of Gardendale   Fort Gratiot Township        
Town of Goodells Goodells, MI 48027 Wales Township        
Town of Grande Point   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
Grant Township 8512 Jeddo Rd.
Jeddo, MI 48032
(810) 327-6775
T8N, R16E 9 Oct 1866   1,210  
Greenwood Township

9025 Yale Rd.
Greenwood, MI 48006
(810) 387-4044

T8N, R15E 12 Feb 1855   1,037  
Harsens Island Harsens Island, MI 48028 Clay Township        
Town of Hawthorne   East China Township        
Ira Township 7085 Meldrum Rd.
P.O. Box 230555
Fair Haven, MI 48023
(810) 725-0263
T3N, R15E 11 Mar 1837   5,587  
Town of Jeddo Jeddo, MI 48032 Grant Township        
Kenockee Township 4420 Kilgore Rd.
P.O. Box 400
Avoca, MI 48006
T7N, R15E 9 Feb 1855   1,854 Pronounced "ken OH kee"
Town of Keewahdin   Fort Gratiot Township        
Town of Kimball Kimball, MI 48074 Kimball Township        
Kimball Township 1970 Allen Rd.
Kimball, MI 48074
(810) 987-9797
T6N, R16E 12 Feb 1855   7,247  
Town of Lakeport Lakeport, MI 48059 Burtchville Township        
Town of Lambs   Wales Township        
Town of Lesterville   Berlin Township        
Lynn Township 15819 Dudley Rd.
Brown City, MI 48416
T8N, R13E 18 Mar 1828   921  
Town of Mapleleaf   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
City of Marine City 300 Broadway
Marine City, MI 48039
(810) 765-8830
Cottrellville Township 1865* 1887** 4,556 *as Village of Newport; later changed to "Marine"
**as City of Marine City
City of Marysville 1111 Delaware
Marysville, MI 48040
(810) 364-6613
Port Huron & St. Clair Townships   28 Oct 1919 8,515 Original name was Vicksburg, after E.P. Vickery, who built a sawmill there in 1840s. In 1860s, he sold the mill, and the town was renamed after one of the new owner's wives, Mary.
City of Memphis 35095 Potter St.
P.O. Box 86
Memphis, MI 48041
(810) 392-2385
Riley Township (also part in Richmond Twp., Macomb County) 1865 1953 363
(in St. Clair County)
Town of Miller   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
Town of Muirs   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
Mussey Township 135 N. Main St.
P.O. Box 118
Capac, MI 48014
(810) 395-4915
T7N, R13E 10 Feb 1855   1,530 Pronounced "MOOS ee"
Town of Muttonville   Casco Township        
City of New Baltimore New Baltimore, MI 48047 Ira Township (also part in Chesterfield Twp., Macomb County)        
Town of North Lakeport Lakeport, MI 48059 Burtchville Township        
Town of North Street North Street, MI 48049 Clyde Township        
Town of Pearl Beach (CDP) Algonac, MI 48001 Clay Township        
Town of Perch   Ira & Clay Townships        
Town of Peters   Casco Township        
Town of Pointe Aux Tremble   Clay Township        
City of Port Huron 100 McMorran Blvd.
Port Huron, MI 48060
(810) 984-9725
Port Huron Township 1849 1857 33,694  
Port Huron Charter Township 3800 Lapeer Rd.
Port Huron, MI 48060
(810) 987-6600
T6N, R17E 12 Apr 1827   7,621  
Town of Rattle Run   St. Clair Township        
Town of Riley Center Riley, MI 48041 Riley Township        
Riley Township 13016 Belle River Rd.
Riley, MI 48041
(810) 392-2326
T6N, R14E 6 Mar 1838   2,154  
Town of Roberts Landing Marine City, MI 48039 Cottrellville Township        
Russell Island Russell Island, MI 48001 Clay Township        
Town of Ruby Ruby, MI 48049 Clyde Township        
City of St. Clair 411 Trumbull St.
St. Clair, MI 48079
(810) 329-7121
St. Clair and China Townships 1850 1858 5,116 Originally Town of Palmer; changed to St. Clair in 1846.
St. Clair Township 1539 S. Bartlett Rd.
St. Clair, MI 48079
(810) 329-9042
T5N, R16E and T5N, R17E 12 Apr 1827   4,614  
Town of Sans Souci   Clay Township (Harsens Island)        
Town of Smiths Creek Smiths Creek, MI 48074 Kimball Township        
Town of Snyderville   Columbus Township        
Town of South Park   Port Huron Township        
Town of Sparlingville (CDP)   Kimball Township        
Town of Starrville (Starville)   Cottrellville Township        
Town of Sunnyside Station   Kimball Township        
Town of Tappan   Port Huron Township        
Town of Thornton   Wales & Kimball Townships        
Town of Wadhams   Kimball Township        
Town of Wales Goodells, MI 48027 Wales Township        
Wales Township 1372 Wales Center Rd.
Goodells, MI 48027
(810) 325-1517
T6N, R15E 27 Mar 1841   2,294  
Town of West Tappan   Kimball Township        
City of Yale 111 W. Mechanic St.
Yale, MI 48097
(810) 387-3311
Brockway Township 1885* 1905 1,977 *as Village of Brockway Center; changed to Village of Yale in 1889

Email the county coordinator any obituaries, photographs, marriage records or other materials you wish to have posted at this site.

St. Clair County MIGenWeb Pages

Biographies  |  Cemeteries  |  Churches  |  Family Group Sheets  |  Family Pages  |  First Nations  |  History Home  |  Libraries, Museums, Societies

Lookup Volunteers  |  Maps  |  Obituaries  |  Photographs  |  Researchers  |  Resources  |  Tombstones  |  Site Map

This page was last updated Saturday, April 01, 2006