Ferry-Morse Garden Seeds Have Rochester Area Roots

If you started vegetables or flowers from seed this spring, you may have used seeds from the Ferry-Morse company currently headquartered in Norton, Massachusetts. If so, your seeds have long historical ties to Michigan and the greater Rochester community. In 1852, Dexter Mason Ferry came to Detroit with plans to attend college and began a night job as a bookkeeper for a small seed house. Four years later he became a partner in the firm, and in 1867, he and other investors took over the … [Read more...]

Yates is the “Granddaddy” of Rochester Area Cider Mills

The nation was in the throes of the Civil War when William Henry Yates and his wife, Caroline, bought 80 acres of land on the Clinton River in southeastern Avon Township. It was April 1863, and the Yateses, with their nine-year-old son, Frank, made the trip to their new home in Michigan from Madison County, New York. Settling on land at what we know today as the intersection of Avon and Dequindre roads, William Yates used an existing dam on the Clinton River to power a lumber and … [Read more...]

The History of Brooklands

The "Brooklands" have a Long History with Big Changes Coming The Brooklands area in southeastern Rochester Hills is undergoing a makeover project this summer. The Auburn Corridor Plan seeks to attract new investment in Brooklands by improving traffic flow, parking, pedestrian and bicycle paths, landscaping, neighborhood amenities and curb appeal of commercial structures. While much discussion time has recently been devoted to the future of Brooklands, far less attention has been given to its … [Read more...]

The History of MeadowBrook Village Mall

From Fox Farm to 1800s Themed Mall to The Village Today, the northeast corner of Adams Road and Walton Boulevard is the home of the Village of Rochester Hills, an outdoor shopping destination. Longtime residents of the area will recall that the predecessor of the Village of Rochester Hills was MeadowBrook Village Mall, an enclosed shopping center that occupied the location for about a quarter century.  Detroit Silver Fox Farms However, long before either of the shopping centers was built, … [Read more...]

The Hamlin Family Legacy

The Story of the Hamlin Name in the Rochester Area Hamlin Road, Hamlin School, Hamlin Place Farms Subdivision – even Hamlin Pub – all owe their names to a pioneer settler of Avon Township (now Rochester Hills) named John Fairchild Hamlin. The immigrant ancestor of John F. Hamlin settled in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1640. Some branches of the family moved on to New York State, where John Fairchild Hamlin was born in the Finger Lakes region in 1799. Hamlin family footprints are … [Read more...]

The History of Winchester Mall

The Winchester shopping center at Avon & Rochester roads is now in the process of entering its third incarnation as a retail development. Earlier this year, the owners sought approval from the City of Rochester Hills for another makeover of the site. An Art Van furniture store will occupy space that has been vacant since the K-Mart store closed in December 2014. The plan also calls for new outbuildings to house an Aldi grocery and a restaurant, as well as a complete redesign of the parking … [Read more...]

How Wilcox Street Was Named

Do you know the story behind the name of Rochester’s Wilcox Street? Early Avon Township settler Lyman J. Willcox and his son Elliot R. Willcox owned part of the land through which Wilcox Street now runs. According to an 1883 account in the Pontiac Gazette, Lyman Willcox left New York City with nothing but a rifle and a pack on his back and walked westward, traversing Ontario, and finally coming to Michigan. He stopped first in Troy Township and then settled in Avon Township in 1824, where … [Read more...]

Water-Powered Mills of the Rochester Area

Mill Town Heritage of Rochester and Avon Township The real estate professional’s mantra that “location is everything” was as true in Rochester’s pioneer days as it is today. Long before the James Graham party led white settlers to today’s Oakland County, its hospitable lakes and streams and the excellent fishing they offered drew native people to the area. Water also attracted the Grahams and those who followed them. It was an essential element to sustain life, and it would power the new … [Read more...]

Christmas 1942 in Rochester, Remembering the Fight and Loss of the War

Virginia MacLeod and Christmas 1942 in Rochester  Seventy-five years ago, Rochester’s Christmas season was a memorable one – for a tragic reason. The end of the first year of the Second World War brought with it rationing restrictions, worries about absent loved ones, and the shock of a wartime-related death that happened not overseas, but right here at home.  There were no big, bright holiday lights on Rochester’s Main Street in December 1942. The news from the fighting fronts was … [Read more...]

The Battle for Avon Township, Rochester and Rochester Hills, A Tale of Two Cities

As we celebrate the founding of Rochester during 2017, we must also note that Rochester Hills shares the same anniversary. Both Rochester and Avon Township - today’s Rochester Hills - received their first non-native settlers in 1817. Some of the founding Graham family members built their home in what is now the City of Rochester. The rest of them moved out to the area that is now the intersection of Avon & Livernois Roads, becoming the first white settlers of what would become Avon … [Read more...]