White Lake Township

For great photos and more historical information on the area’s families, businesses, churches, schools, and more, consider purchasing In Remembrance, a wonderful book published in 1990 from where much of the information that follows was obtained (Historians: Audrey J. Deloge Hunt and Mary Katherine Seaman Johnson). Please see our store tab for purchasing information.


Long Ago

In March of 1968, skeletal remains of a mastodon were discovered at a construction site on Highland Road (M-59) between Elizabeth Lake and Williams Lake Roads. It is estimated that this particular mastodon walked the earth 10,000 years ago. Though only one third of the bones were found, missing pieces were created and the mastodon was reconstructed in full. The mounted mastodon is on display at Oakland Community College, Highland Lakes Campus in Union Lake, Michigan in Levinson Hall Science Building.

Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa Native Americans lived, traveled and camped in this area including on the shores of White Lake which they called “white” or “clear” and that is where the name of the lake and township originated. There are 21 lakes in White Lake Twp.  Click here for a list of lakes in White Lake Twp.


White Lake Township

The United States acquired the area now known as Oakland County from France in 1803. It was officially organized on January 12, 1819. The Territory of Michigan was formed by Congress on June 30, 1805.  White Lake was organized as a township in 1836, one year before Michigan became a state.

The total area of White Lake Twp. is 37.2 square miles of which 33.7 square miles is land and 3.5 square miles is water. There were originally two villages.

The White Lake Settlement was located in Section 6 in the area of White Lake and Ormond Roads and thrived for over 40 years. The first settler arrived in 1833.  White Lake Road began as a well-used trail of the Native Americans. A stagecoach line used White Lake Road to run between Grand Rapids and Detroit as early as 1836 and made stops at the White Lake Settlement beginning in 1837. This area that was once home to a post office (built in 1840, postmaster Emery Fergason), a general store, three taverns, a feed mill, two blacksmiths, a Knights of the Maccabees Hall, and three churches, is now almost completely residential.  Crossroads Free Will Baptist Church now stands where the White Lake Presbyterian Church last stood on White Lake Road. The White Lake Presbyterian Church has a new building and location on Highland Road east of Ormond Road.

Oxbow Lake Village, located on what is now Elizabeth Lake Road near Oxbow Lake, was started by Erastus Hopkins. He bought 320 acres in 1833 when he came to Michigan from New York. He brought his family the following year.  Oxbow Lake Village was home to the Hopkins Mills (grist mill and sawmill), a post office and a blacksmith. This post office was the first in White Lake Twp. Frederick Hopkins was appointed postmaster in 1836. In 1840 the post office was moved to the White Lake Settlement.

Some of the earliest settlers of White Lake Twp. were Harley Olmsted, Erastus Hopkins, Joseph Voorheis, Robert Garner, John Garner, Thomas Garner, Nicholas Doherty, John S. Cooley and Charles Porter.

Maps:


Census Information

  • 1833 – Approximately 10 settlers
  • 1874 – 1,000
  • 1930 – 1,114
  • 1950 – 4,182
  • 1960 – 8,381
  • 1970 – 16,000
  • 1980 – 21,870
  • 1990 – 22,608
  • 2000 – 28,219
  • 2010 – 30,000

One-Room Schools

Schools were the first public buildings built by the settlers and often doubled as places of worship. White Lake Twp. was once home to several One-Room Schools.

  • Dublin School
  • Fair School
  • Gibson School
  • Granger School
  • Thompson School
  • Webster School
  • White Lake Center School (aka Porter School)
  • White Lake Settlement School

White Lake Twp. had 3 Fractional schools, which means that they were located only partly in White Lake Twp.

For more information on Michigan schools, see  School District Organization in Michigan published by Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Report No. 298, November 1990.

See our memories tab for firsthand accounts of attending a one room school.

See our field trips tab for information on experiencing a school day in a one-room schoolhouse in the Thompson School located on the Kelly-Fisk Farm property.


Cemeteries

The township has 3 cemeteries that date back to the earliest settlers and another attached to St. Patrick Parish. Click here for a list of cemeteries in White Lake Twp.


Sesquicentennial

In 1986 under the township supervision of Jim Reid, White Lake Twp. celebrated its Sesquicentennial. At Supervisor Reid’s request, Marge Sawruk accepted the position of Chairperson of the Sesquicentennial Committee that headed up five special events; the first Fisk Farm Festival, a Historic Homes Tour, a reenactment of the first township meeting as well as a parade and fashion show.

The Historic Homes Tour committee consisted of Anne Hill, Marie Hewitt, Audrey Hunt, Katie Johnson and Barbara Rodgers and included these homes.


White Lake Historical Society

The White Lake Historical Society was organized in 1986 and the charter members consisted of 18 people: Ron Voorheis, Sally Witt, Marie Hewitt, Ruth McCulloch, Barbara Rogers, Lee Stowe, Dorothy Brendel, Mae Voorheis, Marion Reid, Jim Reid, Sharon Bigelow, Juanita Ward, Katie Johnson, Mary Jo Houston, Stan Freville, Shirley Wilfong, Janet Russell, and Marge Sawruk. When it was formally established in 1987, the officers were Don Vantine-President, Terry Houston-Vice President, Dale Houston-Treasurer, Marge Sawruk-Secretary. Today, in 2014, there are approximately 80 members.


Cobblestone Home Questers

The very first Quester group was formed in 1944 in Philadelphia. Cobblestone Home Questers Group #1004 based in White Lake, was formed in 1981 and is one of five groups in the Mid-Lakes Area. The group named themselves after the cobblestone home on White Lake Road that was built by John Garner in 1846. The Questers-Cobblestone Home #1004, is a non-profit national organization for restoration and preservation of historical sites and the love of antiques and collectibles. Charter members were Linda Voorheis (President), Sharon Bigelow (Vice Pres.), Rita Stockemer (Secretary), Alice Hunt (Treasurer), Pat Watson, Joan Giegler, Dorothy Brendel, Carol Brendel, and Tip Ruggles. Some of their most notable achievements for White Lake have been the iron fence at the White Lake Cemetery as well as the matching stone pillars on McKeachie Road, historical markers for the White Lake Cemetery, the Fisk Farm and the old township hall, and countless hours of work at the Fisk Farm preparing it for public access as well as cleaning and decorating. They also serve as consultants for period furnishings for the farm house. At this time there are six members working hard for the White Lake Community and the one remaining charter member, Sharon Bigelow, serves as Treasurer. New members are always welcome.


Time Capsule

In 2011, Township Supervisor Greg Baroni announced plans to bury a time capsule to commemorate the 175th birthday of White Lake Township. On October 5, 2013, the time capsule was buried at the White Lake Cemetery. Township records note that the capsule will be retrieved and its contents revealed in the year 2063.


Township Offices

The township hall that houses the township offices as well as the Police Department is located at 7525 Highland Road, and shares a parking lot with the White Lake Twp. Library.

The original township hall, which still stands on Highland Road across from the current township offices, was built in 1875. It was built on land that was purchased from Edward J. Stockwell for the sum of $1.00 on September 27, 1875. Electric power for lighting was authorized for the hall on June 21, 1931.  In July of 1931, while repairs were being made to the collapsed floor, the structure was lifted and a basement was dug. The new foundation was constructed of cut stone. An addition was built in 1952, and restrooms were added at a cost of $4,000.00. The first township library was housed in this building on May 15, 1981 until August of 1982. The building is still used for events by the township and the community. It can be rented for showers, meetings, and other events. It has been preserved and is now part of the White Lake Historical Society.

Current Fire Chief, Andrew Gurka, oversees three fire stations; Fire Station 1 on Highland Road, Fire Station 2 on Round Lake Road, and Fire Station 3 on Ormond Road.

See the store tab for purchase of our Photo Album book, Vol. II that is specific to the history of our police and fire departments.

The Dublin Community Senior Center is an activity center for the community’s senior citizens. It is located at 685 Union Lake Road, White Lake, MI 48383.


Veterans

VFW Oxbow Post 4156, 321 Union Lake Road, White Lake, MI 48383.

Veteran’s Memorial

Veterans Day 2014 Ceremony

Veterans Day 2014 Ceremony at the Veterans Memorial

The newly assembled (2014) Veteran’s Memorial is an impressive enhancement to the grounds of the White Lake Cemetery. The United States flag displays its stars and stripes with pride as it undulates in the breeze. It is surrounded by five other flags representing the National Guard, the United States Army, the United States Navy, the United States Marines, and the United States Coast Guard.  The Veteran’s Day Service on November 11, 2014 included the unveiling of a bronze statue of the Memorial of Fallen Soldiers. The memorial will be considered complete once it rests upon a marble pedestal. A brick walkway is also in the plans.


Parks and Recreation

White Lake Twp. has some beautiful areas that were set aside as park land for the enjoyment of the community. A few of them have some interesting histories. Click here for park descriptions.


Firsts

  • Electricity at Kelley-Fisk Farm: 1938
  • Settler:  Harley Olmsted, 1830
  • House Built: Harley Olmsted, June 1832
  • Pioneer Baby: James H. Olmsted, born February 20, 1833, child of Harley & Dyantha Olmsted
  • Marriage: Late 1833 or early 1834, Nancy Garner, daughter of Thomas Garner, Sr. and Francis J. Smith by Rev. Isaac W. Ruggles, a Presbyterian minister of Pontiac who made the 20 mile journey by foot.
  • Church: White Lake Presbyterian Church, organized in 1835 in the White Lake Settlement Village
  • Minister: Presbyterian, Rev. George Hornell
  • School: White Lake Settlement, fall 1835
  • Schoolhouse: Webster School
  • School teacher: Miss Lydia Hornell
  • Cemetery: Oxbow Lakeside Cemetery, 1835
  • Paved Road: Stretch of Highland Road (M-59)
  • Post Office: Oxbow Village, Frederick Hopkins postmaster, 1835
  • Township Leader Election: 1836
  • Town Meeting: April 4, 1836 at the Maxfield Ludlow residence
  • Township Supervisor: Alexander Galloway
  • Township Clerk: Andrew D. Voorheis
  • Township Hall: Built in 1875 and located on Highland Road
  • Volunteer Fire Dept: 1948
  • Commissioners of Schools: John R. Howland, Maxfield Ludlow, Andrew D. Voorheis
  • Overseer of Common Schools: Daniel Arthur
  • Grave Marker: Son of Erastus and Lydia Hopkins, July 27, 1835
  • Correctional Facility:  1953, for youthful offenders, located on 40 acres, now closed

Sources:

  • In Remembrance:  Published by White Lake Township, Oakland County, Michigan 1990
  • White Lake – Our Community:  Compiled and printed for use in the Huron Valley School Social Studies Curriculum, Grades 3 & 4.  Published by the Huron Valley Board of Education, 1997.  Research, Writing and Design by Alice Davies.

For more information, see our resources tab.