Both Holly Township and Holly Village were named by Jonathan T. Allen after Mount Holly, New Jersey. It is thought that the red berries of the Michigan holly inspired the title. Ira C. Alger was the first settler to live within what became the corporate limits of the village. In 1836, Alger built a log cabin in the area where Stiff’s Mill Pond and Broad Street are today. By 1843, he dammed the Shiawassee River and constructed a saw mill, and a year later, a grist mill. This became the first business district.
The Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad came through Holly in 1855 followed by the Pierre Marquette in 1862, thus making Holly one of the first Michigan communities with a junction. These rails brought white pine from the forests of northern Michigan to the eastern United States. The end of the Civil War marked the incorporation of Holly Village. By then, the business district had moved to the Saginaw and Broad Street blocks, with several hotels, stores, banks, foundries, coal yard, lumberyard and the train depot. Joining these two busy streets was Martha Street, named after Alger’s daughter. In 1885, it became known as Battle Alley when an altercation between local men and a traveling circus turned into a brawl. In 1908, national temperance leader Carry Nation stopped here to speak on the prohibition of alcohol and the event is marked by a festival every September the weekend after Labor Day.
As the boom time for Michigan lumber decreased, other businesses took their place. The H. J. Heinz Company, Grinnell Brothers Piano Factory, the Hartz Spring Factory and Lane (Cyclone) Fence Factory were once all located here. Currently, Holly is the home of Bars Leak, Delta Tube, Phyle Industries, and Universal Data. Holly is now well known for its lovely antique stores and restaurants in the downtown area as well as its beautiful parks that help maintain a rural setting.