Local History

The Avon Double Jubilee: The Celebration of the Century
Our community knew how to celebrate - even back in 1935! From June 13-16, 1935, the greater Rochester area celebrated our Double Jubilee - the 100th anniversary of Avon Township’s (Rochester Hills) founding. 
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Uriah Adams and Fanaticism in Avon Township
Born into a farming family of 7 children in East Bloomfield, New York in 1807, Uriah Adams and his family moved to the Michigan Territory in 1826. Uriah's father, Mark Adams, was remembered as a man of above average intelligence but eccentric in religious matters.
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Blizzard of 1886
The biggest snowstorm ever to strike Michigan occurred on Tuesday, April 6, 1886. The days preceding the storm, however, were more in keeping with spring weather rather than winter. Spring activities were already underway with many believing that winter was a distant memory. 
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Marsden C. Burch
Marsden C. Burch was one of the most prominent attorneys in Michigan's history, and built one of our community's most prominent homes. So why is it that we've never heard of him before?
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Chapman House
Charles Chapman was born in Proctorsville, Vermont in 1864. He left school at the age of sixteen and worked with a retail-clothing dealer. After one year, he worked as a wholesale dry goods dealer. While in his early twenties, Charles and his parents moved to Detroit.
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Chapman Pond

In the early twentieth century, the Western Knitting Mills (once called the Rochester Woolen Mills) built a dam (later called McAleer Dam) on Paint Creek to raise the water level in the creek and pond. The water would be used to provide power to the Western Knitting Mills. The new dam formed a millpond and was known as Chapman Lake (or Pond).
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Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal
In 1837, Michigan officially became a state. At that time, plank roads, corduroy roads, and Indian trails were the only ways to reach the interior part of the state. As Michigan's first governor, Stevens T. Mason actively encouraged projects that would develop wilderness areas and create jobs. Around the same time, the Erie Canal was enjoying great financial success prompting Governor Mason to attempt the construction of a canal in Michigan . . .
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D.M. Ferry Company
In 1852, Dexter Mason Ferry left New York and came to Detroit to earn money for college. He was hired to keep the books for a seed company and by 1856 he was a partner in the newly named company, Gardner, Ferry, & Church. It was not long before it became D.M. Ferry and Company.
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Detroit Pavilion Hotel
In 1832, Elnathan Wilcox built the Pavilion Hotel on the southwest corner of Main Street and Third Street. Wilcox operated the hotel for four years until he sold the establishment to a man named Hyatt in 1836; Wilcox moved to Orleans County, New York.
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Detroit Sugar Mill
In 1899, several Detroit businessmen gathered to discuss building a mill for the production of sugar from beets. To encourage the mill to be built in Rochester, several local citizens raised money and bought 30 acres of land northwest of town located off Woodward Street just north of downtown Rochester near the old Woodward School.
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Detroit United Railway
In January 1899, the Avon Township board granted John Winter and Oliver Law a franchise to construct and maintain a street railway for thirty years for transporting passengers and light freight across Avon Township.
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Dillman & Upton
Charles W. Upton was born in 1862, a native of Sterling, Macomb County. His home there is now known as The Upton House, located in the Sterling Heights Complex next to the Sterling Heights Library and police station at Utica and Dodge Park Roads. He worked on his father's farm until he was twenty-one, when he received a 100 acre farm in Washington Township.
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Alma Morgan Gatewood (1908 - 1963)
Alma Morgan Gatewood was born into a religious family, and her convictions were apparent in the way in which she lived her life.
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Lucia Fidelia Woolley Gillette (1827-1905)
Writer, lecturer, missionary, and Minister, Fidelia Gillette was hailed as a “thinker of uncommon breadth” for her efforts in the fight for women’s suffrage during the 1870s.
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Calvin H. Greene
Over seven years ago, John Rosemergy contacted the Rochester Hills Museum for information about Calvin H. Greene. Although the Museum receives over 100 research requests every year, this request was interesting since Mr. Rosemergy lives in Texas and was researching a typical small town farmer from Rochester.
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King's Cove: A History
The land on which the King's Cove condominiums stand once was occupied by a sand-brick plant. In 1913, J. H. Schlucter, an experienced brick maker, "bought 110 acres of land near Paint Creek and the Michigan Central Railroad northwest of Rochester."
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Log Cabins
Today, log cabins symbolize humble beginnings and a connection to the "common man." Eight presidents were born in log cabins, including one of the most beloved, Abraham Lincoln. The log cabin did not originate in America, however. In fact, log cabins had been built for centuries in Europe.
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When settlers first came to the colonies, they were accustomed to mills; they depended on them for necessities such as food and clothing. Settled areas were eager to attract men skilled in mill building. In order to attract mill builders, communities offered them free land, labor, and also water rights to get them started.
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One-Room Schoolhouses
The Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 set aside one section in every township for support of a community school. It was believed, even at that early date, schoolhouses "civilized" the community.
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Parke-Davis Farm
Parke, Davis and Company was authorized to produce the diphtheria antitoxin after receiving the U.S. Biological License Number One in 1903. The company was located in Detroit but it became increasingly difficult to house the large number of monkeys, horses, rabbits, and other research animals at the company's main lab; the company determined that a farm was needed.
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Parke-Davis Video
A Look Back: The Parke-Davis Years
Parke-Davis retirees talk about their work at the barns and its impact on the world.
Eva Woodward Parker (1856 - 1933)
The Rochester ERA newspaper described Eva Woodward Parker as “a lady of rare culture and the many attributes which go to make up a life as near perfect as is possible.”
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The Polio Vaccine Story
This world-changing vaccine was developed right here in our home town! Donald Callihan has the whole story about the setbacks and triumphs.
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Eula Pray (1911 - 2010)
When Eula Pray moved away from the Rochester area in 1945, she left behind the most detailed history of Avon Township that had been written up to that point.
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Before the railroad, the main modes of transportation were by water or plank roads. By the 1840s, railroads had proven their worth as an inexpensive means of transportation. Michigan built the Michigan Central Railroad, which the state sold to John Murray Forbes in 1846 because it could not afford to repair the lines
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Rochester Hills Fire Department
In May, 1895, a meeting was held in the Hotel St. James in the Village of Rochester to organize a fire department and within two weeks over 20 men had joined. By June 1895, the first fire hose and supplies were purchased. By July 1, 32 men offered to join the fire department.
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Watch our video on Fire Protection History

Rock & Roll
Rochester Hills is certainly not the center of the music industry, and yet, some very influential musicians hail from our community.
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Ski Slide
In 1926, the Hall Brothers of Detroit built the highest ski slide at the time in the Lower Peninsula. The 112-foot slide was built at a cost of $40,000 and was located on a hill in Bloomer Park just east of Rochester (on John R just north of Avon Road).
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St. Andrew's Church
In the early twentieth century, the Western Knitting Mills, as well as other industries in the area, had trouble keeping Catholic workers in their employment for longer than a few months. The Rochester community had no Catholic Church, leaving many devout Catholic workers no choice but to leave the community in search of other employment.
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St. James Hotel
In 1847, John Lambertson built what came to be known as the Lambertson House on the southwest corner of Main Street and Fifth Street. Soon after the property was sold and had many owners. 
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Stony or Stoney Creek?
Nestled among the growing subdivisions of Rochester Hills is the quaint 19th century Stony Creek Village. Settled in 1823, Stoney Creek is home to several of Oakland County's oldest and most well preserved homes.
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Subdivisions of Rochester Hills
If you were to try to understand the rhyme or reason for the names of the subdivisions in Rochester Hills, you would have to interview each developer in the city.
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Volcanoes: Did They Influence Rochester's Settlement?
Rochester's settlement in 1817 cites various factors that brought pioneers to our area. The War of 1812 created a need to pay soldiers – and cheap land in the Midwest was used. However, weather factors during the summer of 1816 may have helped.
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Western Knitting Mills
When Western Knitting Mills came to Rochester in 1891, it would become the area’s largest employer, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of knitted products, and affect the growth of the community, including the establishment of a Catholic Church.
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Who Was Earl Borden?
Before Avon Township became incorporated as the City of Rochester Hills, Township Supervisor Earl Borden carefully guided its transformation from a sleepy rural community to Oakland County’s fastest developing city.
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Who Was Howard Bloomer? 
Although Howard Bloomer did not grow up in our community, his impact on the citizens of Michigan and the Rochester area is still being felt today. Howard Bloomer was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1871.
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Who Was Thelma Spencer?
Thelma Spencer was a life-long resident of this area. She was born in Addison Township on a farm on Lake George Road in 1911. When she was in 3rd grade her family moved into Rochester.
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Woodward School
By 1916, the village of Rochester had five hundred and twenty-three students enrolled in a two-story brick and stone building called the union school. The students and sixteen teachers were cramped in the building.
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