The story of Northville begins in 1823, when Gideon P. Benton took out the first patent for its land. At this point, the future city was apart of the northern area of Plymouth Township but would soon break off as its own town. Two years later, in 1825, the first settlers of this town, including Alanson Aldrich and Alvale Smith, begin to arrive in hopes of finding abundant farmlands. Alvale Smith aided towards the success of the town when he sold his land to John Miller, for it was John Miller who created the very first mill in Plymouth Township. The mill attracted employees, who built their homes close to their work, which created a foundation for the town.
Five years after the first settlers came to Northville, the town was beginning to prosper. Within the city, there was a medical practitioner, a tailor, a general store, a tavern, a shoe shop, and a blacksmith. Gideon Benton even served as the postmaster.
The town continued to flourish. In 1836, Methodists in the area created the first church building. Additionally, the first schoolhouse was created in 1853. Although schooling had occurred earlier than this, it had taken place in various homes, rather than one collective schoolhouse. This facility was also used as a meetinghouse.
Northville continued to be apart of Plymouth until it split as a village in 1867. At this time, Northville and Plymouth continued to be governed under the same township organization. Mounting tensions between the villages, however, caused the two to split completely in 1898. This led to the issue of Northville becoming a city. Five years after the split from Plymouth, Northville citizens vetoed the idea. Two years later, in 1955, the idea was approved and Northville officially became a city in 1955.
Michigan, as a boarder state with Canada, was essential to the efforts of the Underground Railroad. There were many stations for the Underground Railroad located in Southern Michigan. These stations were used to move escaped slaves to Detroit, and then onto the Detroit or St. Clair Rivers into Canada. Northville was home to several of these stations. One of these stations, which is still around today, is known as the Cady Inn. Created in 1835 on Cady Street, this building used to be used as a tavern, as well as a station. The building was transferred in 1987 to Mill Race Historical Village, located in Northville.