History of Canton
New England Settlers
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 brought settlers from New England. Settlers were met by heavy forests and many animals, including; bear, wolf, lynx, and fox. Early settlers engaged in self sustaining farming. Farm-produced food and products provided the family with sustaining food and extra goods could be sold or bartered for goods, services or cash.
The typical Canton farm family owned six or eight milk cows, hogs for marketing, chickens for eggs / meat and a few sheep.
Sheldon Corners (Michigan and Sheldon roads) was established in 1825 adjacent to the Sauk Trail (Michigan Avenue). The center spawned a small village made up of a number of homes, post office, general store, blacksmith, church and school. Today Sheldon Corners is but a remnant of its past, falling to the widening of Michigan Avenue. A few of the historic structures remain/The Inn, the school and a few homes. Canton owns the completely restored Sheldon School (built 1870). Sheldon is listed as a Michigan State historic site.
Cherry Hill Village
Cherry Hill Village was established at approximately the same time as Sheldon Corners. It was home to Canton's first church, the United Methodist Church. Cherry Hill was first known as "The Ridge." Following the construction of the Cherry Hill House (Ridge and Cherry Hill) the area became known as Cherry Hill. Cherry Hill remained very much like it was since the early 1800's until it was reestablished as the new Cherry Hill, including; hundreds of new homes, apartments, condos and commercial buildings. Cherry Hill is also home to the Village Theater at Cherry Hill Village. Both the church and school are Michigan State historic sites.
Becoming a Township (Township Hall)
On March 7,1834 Canton became a Michigan township. Canton, like Nankin and Peking townships, was named after a city in China. Washington D.C. had decreed that names for new townships could not use an existing name. As a result of the nation's fascination with China a number of townships adopted Chinese provinces and city names. Canton is the only remaining community with its original Chinese name.
Canton's first government office (township hall) was constructed in 1874 at the corner of Canton Center and Cherry Hill. It cost $700 to construct.
Canton's population increased to 5,300 by 1961.Resident's were interested in enhancing services. As a result residents voted to become one of Michigan's first charter townships. This move permitted the township to establish a police force, make traffic rules, and adopt ordinances. It also provided additional protection from annexation.
Sweet Corn Capitol
From 1925 to 1970, Canton became known as the "Sweet Corn Capitol of Michigan." A number of local farms provided corn to the area's major grocery stores. Because of Canton's central location it became a dairy farming center. Locally produced milk was processed at Canton creameries and then transported to larger nearby communities.
Most of Canton's settlers came from New England with its strong emphasis on education. Along with their convictions, the Territorial Council of 1827 ruled that any township consisting of 50 or more families must employ one or more school masters of "good standing" to teach the "three R's."
There were nine schools built in Canton, usually at a crossroad. They were located so that they were accessible to children walking to school. Teachers were hired for a specific number of weeks to teach and often boarded with local families. Each school was a "district" and had its own school board. Families in each area worked together to build and equip the school, paying a "tax" for each child that attended and donating a cord of firewood for the school stove.
The first schools were primitive log structures, one of the first being in Cherry Hill. Later, brick or frame schools replaced them. The schools were often used as community centers for the surrounding area for religious services and nonprofit shows. Today, three of the original nine schools remain: Cherry Hill (Cherry Hill and Ridge, Sheldon School (Michigan and Sheldon), Hough School (Old Haggerty and Warren).
Modern School Districts
Canton is served by three school districts, the Plymouth Canton Community School District (PCCSD), the Van Buren School District, and the Wayne-Westland Community School District. The vast majority of the Canton community is served by the PCCSD. In addition to the highly regarded public education institutions, Canton is also home to a number of Private institutions; All Saints Catholic School, St. Michael Lutheran School, Agape Christian Center, Crescent Academy and Plymouth Christian Academy. Canton is also home to the Heritage Charter Academy.
Canton's population remained relatively stable until the late 1960's when Holiday Park, a new subdivision, was developed south of Joy and East of the yet to be constructed I-275. The Plymouth Community School District purchased in a 130-acre centennial farm at the corner of Canton Center and Joy. The school district envisioned constructing a campus of high schools to serve the community. The first high school to be constructed was to replace Plymouth High School which was located in downtown Plymouth. The school site lacked basic sewer and water service. An agreement between Canton Township and developer's sewer and water lines were extended to serve the school site. Salem was the first of the High Schools to be constructed. The sewer and water extensions then opened the Eastern portion of Canton to development. The first new subdivisions were located along the East side of Sheldon Road, from Joy to Ford road. These first new subdivisions included 900 lot Windsor Park and 1000 lot Carriage Hills subdivision to the South. These subdivisions were completed in the early 70's.
In the early 1970's, some new and existing Canton residents shared the desire to maintain Canton a rural atmosphere. The group met for over a year before gathering enough signatures to place a "farmland preservation" millage before the electorate. The 4% mill tax increase would have permitted the township to purchase from farmers their right to develop their land for new housing. The farmer would still own their land and have a right to farm,however they would be precluded from selling their land for development. Twice "farmland preservation" was placed before the voters and twice voters rejected it. The second time the issue was defeated by a much larger percentage. It was at that point that the community's residents understood that Canton would continue to grow.
There are two major factors which led to the rapid growth of Canton. One was cross-district busing and the other was the construction of I-275.
In the early 1970's a number of school segregation court cases were filed across the United States. Such a case was filed in Detroit's federal court. Judge Damon Keith was assigned the case. Over many years the court considered the establishment of a plan to move students and teachers from their schools in the suburbs to Detroit schools, while busing students and assigning students to schools in the suburbs. Many plans were considered. Each plan had as its Western boundary the Eastern edge of the Plymouth Community Schools. Some families who did not support the adoption of the plan moved west of the cross-district plan boundary and into the Plymouth school district. Canton saw its population explode. It was not unusual for Canton to see the construction of 2,000 homes in a single year. No cross-district plan was ever implemented.
Another major influence on the development of Canton was the completion of I-275. Canton's central location permitted residents to use the new I-275 North/South freeway to travel anywhere in the Detroit metropolitan area within an hour. As a result, more and more people seeking new housing and close proximity to their work selected Canton as their home. During the late 1970's new home construction hovered around 1500 new homes.
During Michigan's difficult recession of 1981-1983, Canton's home sales reached rock bottom. Very few homes were constructed during this time period. In some cases entire platted subdivisions were claimed by banks for outstanding unpaid loans.
New housing starts picked up in the latter part of 1983 and continued strong for the balance of the 80's.
The 1980's saw a disturbing trend beginning to materialize in Canton. Most new housing was constructed on 60' X 120' lots and was fairly homogeneous. Individuals wishing to buy a new home with a larger lot and more living space were forced to move from the community. They typically moved to one of the new subdivisions being constructed in Plymouth Township which offered larger lots and larger homes. Additionally, Canton was seen as two communities….those living North of Ford road living in more desirable areas than those South of Ford road.
The election of 1988 resulted in a new Board of Trustees and the adoption of a number of "community building" goals. Many of the goals dealt with taking actions which would enhance the image of the community. One of the first thrusts was to develop a family-friendly community. Greater emphasis was placed on children and family activities and events. Special attention was paid to providing a respected and responsive Public Safety Department. Efforts were also made to work cooperatively with developers to achieve the best possible development plans.
In the late 1980's, Wayne County was experiencing a shortage in landfill capacity. Canton, along with a number of communities, possessed sites (private interests) for landfills. It was very difficult to site new landfills. Residents and elected officials made landfill development very difficult. Capacity issues became so acquit that The County Executive threatened to use his police power's to site new landfills. Canton's officials recognized that the site in Canton was likely to be identified as a new landfill. As a result, Canton became the first community in Michigan to utilize a host community agreement to facilitate the construction of a landfill. In exchange for not fighting the development the community would receive annual financial benefits.
The Canton Board of Trustees approved the construction of Sauk Trails, South of Michigan Avenue, and the vertical expansion of the landfill East of I-275 (south of Van Born). The Board also limited the expenditure of landfill royalties to capital improvement projects only (parkland purchase, park improvements, facilities, roads and recycling).
Building More Homes
Coincidental with the construction of the landfill, there was the exploration of actions that could be taken to enhance Canton's housing stock. Initial discussions were held with developers to encourage them to build a golf course community (image enhancement and enhanced housing stock). The private sector did not respond to Canton's request.
Canton officials were successful in encouraging the development of Glengarry (East of Canton Center and South of Cherry Hill). The development plan included a full boulevard throughout the subdivision and larger lots and homes. Home buyers positively responded to this new development. This success set the stage for Pheasant Run. Three developers and Canton developed a planned golf course community. The plan featured an 18-hole upscale golf course surrounded by larger, more expensive housing.
Included in the Pheasant Run development was the first project to be constructed utilizing landfill royalties was the Summit on the Park. In just a few short years, the image and housing stock of Canton changed dramatically. Families wishing to move up no longer had to move out. By 1993 Canton offered a full range of housing options. The success of Pheasant Run led to the development of Central Park, Cherry Hill Village, The Hamlet and a number of other projects.
Canton's commercial development beginning in the late 1970's through 2000 consisted of community shopping and neighborhood retail centers. Community shopping by its very nature focuses on providing retail to support the local community. Many products and services were not available within Canton and necessitated trips to malls and shops located outside of Canton. In 2005 IKEA, the world's largest furniture/accessory store announced that would locate its only Michigan store in Canton. Immediately the commercial world noted this change in the landscape and took another look or a first look at Canton as a regional retail center. Since the IKEA announcement new retailers have located or planned to locate on Ford road.