From the Erie Canal, to the Grand River Trail

The story of Brighton, begins within a much larger story; the story of Michigan. Michigan was established as a territory in 1805, by then President Thomas Jefferson. However, Michigan faced many challenges in terms of getting people into the state. Michigan was not as open as it is today; rather dense forests covered the interior of Michigan. When Lewis Cass took the office of territorial governor in 1813, his primary goal was to get people to settle in Michigan.

In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed, marking one of the most important technological developments for the Midwest. With the completion of the canal, the gates of “west” were open. Later called “Michigan Fever”, Michigan became the most popular destination for eastern pioneers (mainly from New York). It’s popularity for settlement peaked in the years 1830-1837(McMacken, pp. 13). The population of the territory grew from 31,000 in 1830, to over 212,000 in 1840.

One of such families to settle in Michigan at the time was the Maltby Brothers. In 1832, Maynard and Almon Matlby left western New York to find a new home in the increasingly popular Michigan Territory (McMacken, pp. 12). Leaving their families behind, the two men ventured into Michigan hoping to find land suitable for settlement. Water, soil, and drainage were among the highest qualities men sought in looking for a place to settle. Maynard, after some time looking, found suitable land in what later became the village of Brighton.

In the fall of 1834, Maynard Maltby became the first person to purchase land 65 acres of land in the Brighton Township (McMacken, pp. 14). . However, the celebration would not last long, as Maynard needed to head back to western New York to bring his family to his newly acquired land. The journey back into Michigan was an arduous one. Taking the Erie Canal, the Matlby Family ultimately landed in Detroit, and began their journey through the interior of Michigan towards their new home. Taking a trail, known as the Grand River Trail, the Maltby family averaged about two miles an hour to reach present day Livingston County (McMacken, pp. 14). . In 1834, the first residents of what later would be called the Village of Brighton had arrived. The rest, as they say, is history.

Photo taken in 1925, depicting the first frame house built in Brighton (1840). (Pratt, pp. 39).
Photo taken in 1925, depicting the first frame house built in Brighton (1840). (Pratt, pp. 39).

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