Royal Oak’s First Pioneers and Naming:
Land in the present day Royal Oak was settled by soldiers who fought in the War of 1812. In recognition for their service, the government granted them free land on which to live and farm. Many of the early pioneers in the area were soldiers from the war.
The first known pioneer of Oakland County was a man by the name of William Thurber, who arrived in January of 1819. He paid $1.25 for an acre of land on which to build his home in what is now Royal Oak. Many of the early settlers of Royal Oak were from the western part of New York. After a surveying expedition by Territory Governor Lewis Cass, word spread quickly of the area, which had many opportunities for those that would settle there.
The first registered landowner was a man by the name of L. Luther. One of the best known early settlers was a man by the name of Orson Starr, who established one of the area’s first companies to manufacture animal bells.
The town itself was actually given the name of Royal Oak by Governor Cass. In 1918, during a survey trip, Cass took a rest under a large oak tree. He observed that the large tree was likely similar to a tree that protected Prince Charles of England during a harrowing escape. Hence, because that oak saved a royal, he designated the tree a “Royal Oak,” thus giving the town its name. In 1938, 60 acorns from the original “Royal Oak” tree in England were planted at the present Detroit Zoo.
The area was incorporated as a village in 1891 and a city in 1921.
Penney, David G, and Lois A. Lance. Royal Oak Twigs and Acorns: Articles, Essays, Letters and Other Historical Writings; Also Pictures and Various Illustrations Most Previously Unpublished About Royal Oak and Royal Oak Township. Royal Oak, MI: Little Acorn Press, 1996. Print.
Perkins, Owen A. Royal Oak, Michigan: The Early Years. Royal Oak, Mich: Golden Jubilee ’71, Inc, 1971. Print.