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St Johns City

St. Johns City Hall is located at 100 East State Street, St. Johns, MI 48879; phone: 989-224-8944.

Beginnings [1]

St. Johns had its beginnings some time after the first settlements throughout the county had been made. In the year 1853, a party of four state officials examined the line of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad as then proposed, having in view the purchase of land along the line for purposes of speculation. These persons were John Swegels, Auditor General; Porter Kirby, Commissioner of the Land Office; E. C. Whitmore, State Treasurer; and H. S. Mead, Deputy Attorney General.

John Swegels, the principal factor in the enterprise as far as St. Johns was concerned, was a native of New York State and in 1840 became a resident of Hillsdale County, Michigan. He was later the editor and publisher of the Hillsdale Gazette, being elected Auditor General of the State in 1850. Swegels obtained information from Engineer Hingam that the railway company would establish a station at some point near the vicinity of what later became the village of St. Johns and he began the purchase of land in the area. Swegels new company, eventually owned an aggregate of 920 acres of land. The site of the village was designated and work was begun at once; surveys were made, streets named and lots cleared. A company of laborers was imported and set at work under the charge of George W. Estes.

One of the first moves was the creation of a steam sawmill which was in operation in the winter of 1854 and 1855. Cornelius Vrooman built a frame house just prior to the building of the sawmill. Samuel Gardner, tavern-owner and pioneer of Bingham, soon arrived at the new town and purchased a lot. He erected a frame building as a tavern and called it the "Gardner House."

As to the naming of the village there seems to be some difference of opinion as far as the traditions offer information. One explanation is that the village was named in honor of John Swegels. George W. Estes claims this to be the fact. Another remembers "it came from the name of Johnsville, a village of central New York and a station of the New York Central Railroad."

  1. Judge S. B. Daboll and D. W. Kelley, Past and Present of Clinton County Michigan, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1906.
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