The History of Howell
The city of Howell, as we know it now, was established as a village by an act of Legislature on March 14, 1863, consisting of sections 35 and 36, and the south half of sections 25 and 26 of Howell Township .
The first actual settlements in Howell, were made by George T. Sage, John D. Pinckney, James Sage, and David Austin in the year 1834. The village was laid out by Flavius J. B. Crane and Edward Brooks in July 1835, and was named Howell in honor of Thomas Howell, a friend of Mr. Crane and son of Judge Howell of Candaequa, New Jersey. The name did not come into immediate use, however, as it was called Livingston Centre for quite some time.
In 1835, John D. Pinckney built the first log house in this area and the settlement became known as Livingston Centre. In this year, Moses Thompson and his family migrated here from New York and Livingston Centre began to grow in population.
The first building erected was a two story frame house, which was a public house. This structure was built by Misters Crane and Brooks and was known as the Eagle Tavern, or hotel, for Mr. Amos, who was the first settler within the village. The establishment stood on the southeast corner of Grand River and Walnut Street which is the current site of the Historic Howell Opera House.
Other public houses and taverns came after the erection of Eagle House. There was the “Old Stage House,” midway between East and Walnut Street on Grand River , in the year 1840. Then the Temperance Hotel, which was just what the name inferred – “No Liquor.” It was said you had to get a room in the Temperance to get a good night's sleep as the other hotels had taverns connected to them. Mr. Gay, who built, owned and operated this hotel, was a brave and noble man and met with much opposition, but carried his project out in spite of it all. After these followed the Union Hall, Shaft's Hotel and the Melvin House.
The pioneer manufacturing enterprise of Howell was the saw mill built by Moses Thompson in 1836. This mill was built on the stream which forms the outlet of our present Thompson Lake, which was named after him.
January 1836 saw the establishment of the first post office. Flavius J. B. Crane was postmaster and the post office was located in the Eagle Tavern. In March of this same year, there was a mail route started between Howell and the village of Kensington, and west to Grand Rapids. On March 24, 1836, the legislature passed an act organizing Livingston County and Howell was slated to become the County seat. This claim was vigorously opposed by a group from Brighton and was wholly relinquished by them until the county buildings were actually erected 12 years later. Howell at once assumed the dignity of the County seat.
The year 1836 also saw William McPherson migrate to this village from his native Scotland and become one of the most respected and wealthiest of men in the area. He came here with his wife, two sons, and a daughter. Mr. McPherson was a blacksmith and started a blacksmith shop with his father-in-law, Andrew Riddle, who was also a native of Scotland.
The Howell Steam Saw Mill was built in 1850. The proprietors were D. T. chandler, George W. Kneeland, and Shubael B. Sliter. The mill was destroyed by fire the following year, but was rebuilt by Judge Kneeland. A large amount of work was done here in sawing plants for the Detroit, Howell, and Lansing plank roads. The engine that drove the machinery for most of this work was the first steam engine manufactured in Howell. John Wright built the first planning mill in the village in 1869. This mill was located on Clinton Street, between Center and Walnut. This was destroyed by fire in 1875, but was rebuilt soon afterwards.