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In 1763 France and Great Britain signed a peace treaty ending the French and Indian War in North America and the Seven Year War in Europe. The French seceded to the British all of its colonial empire in North America and all land east of the Mississippi.
The land which we call Michigan no longer had French governors from Quebec. In Detroit – down went the flag of France and up went the Union Jack!
We then experienced Concord Lexington (1775) and the American Revolution that followed. We won our independence and our Michigan land was to be American.
But not so fast….
The British refused to honor the Peace of 1783 and we Americans had to fight a second war of Independence – which was part of the War of 1812. The war was a “draw” and finally, our flag with its stars and stripes was raised over Detroit.
During the War of 1812 the American government decided that a fort should guard the narrow passage way our of Lake Huron. In 1814, Captain Charles Gratiot, an engineer, was assigned the task of constructing the fort bearing his name. Several years later he would order the building of the military road between the fort and Detroit. We now know this as Fort Gratiot. The fort was used by troops on and off until 1879 when it was abandoned. This property was sold.
Early on, a settlement developed near the fort, whereas, in the early 1800’s few people lived near the mouth of Black River.
The Fort Gratiot Lighthouse was built by the government in 1825. However, lake storms took their toll on the structure and it was rebuilt in 1829.
In 1821 Michigan established St. Clair County. In the beginning we had three townships. It was not until 1866 that the Township of Fort Gratiot was sanctioned by the county board of supervisors. It was a “fractional” township with boundaries smaller than the typical six mile by six mile square township.
Like the City of Port Huron, Fort Gratiot was taken from Port Huron Township and was created for the purpose of giving the north end of the county more clout in the fight over moving the county seat from St. Clair to Port Huron.
In 1836 some speculators bought large tracks of land north of the fort to create the “Town of Huron”. This plan failed when the “Panic of 1837” hit the nation and a smaller area was developed into the Village of Fort Gratiot. This became an incorporated village in January, 1881. The village became the City of Fort Gratiot in 1889 and remained so until 1893 when it merged with the City of Port Huron. The area has always been known as the “Fort”.
In 1859 Grand Trunk Railway of Canada extended itself at Fort Gratiot and built its line to Detroit. Fort Gratiot became known as a railroad town. At this period, our young Thomas Edison was living on the military reservation and began his journey into history with his newspaper and experiments. Even after Tom leaves for “big time” his family continued to participate in the affairs of the “fort” community. Edison’s family members are buried in Lakeside Cemetery.
The village and later the city had its own newspaper (Fort Gratiot Sun followed by The Enterprise), its own churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal) as well as the Fillmore School.
The larger parcel of Fort Gratiot Township was mostly agricultural. Eventually people would identify themselves to a particular area because of a school, church, resort, or store. Thus, we had Keewahdin Beach (resort), Gardendale (school and township hall), and State Road, North River Road, Krafft Road (generally for their schools).
This represents only a very small portion on the history of Fort Gratiot Township. Today, Fort Gratiot Township is by far the largest retail center in the county.