Brief History of Saline
Compiled by Agnes Dikeman

In the Beginning
History books record evidence of prehistoric animals in this part of Michigan. In recent years, an archeological dig took place west of our town, where significant finds occurred, revealing mastodon bones and footprints. These are now preserved at the University of Michigan Natural History Museum.

Long before white men came into the area we call Saline, the surroundings were widely known to Native Americans. For generations, they had been canoeing from Lake Erie or using six different trails to reach this area, rich in wildlife and salt. They came to hunt and to acquire salt, which they carried back to their villages for both domestic use and trade. This goes back many generations, even before the name Saline was given to the river by French explorers.

Did Saline Miss Its Moment in History?
In 1823, the University of Michigan appointed two members to inspect various tracts of land in southeast Michigan. They identified four tracts, one of which on the Saline River. At that time, the inspectors were not able to identify the section number. They claimed "the area was destitute of timber and possessed no peculiar advantages". They reported "a valuable salt spring and the trail leading from Detroit to Chicago (that) passed immediately by it." The University said thanks, but no thanks, and looked instead at a salt spring section on the River Rouge in lieu of the one in Washtenaw. (Michigan University Records 1817-37). Had the university decided upon Saline, perhaps we would have become the county seat! This reference appears to be the earliest public record containing a description of land that comprises our City of Saline.

The Start of Settlement
About this same time, Orange Risdon was attracted to this part of the Territory of Michigan while surveying a military road from Detroit to Chicago. He was working at the request of the federal government. The road was subsequently known as the Chicago Road, later called U.S. 12 or Michigan Ave.

Risdon produced The 1825 Map of the Surveyed Part of the Territory of Michigan, which "was the first to show how the land in the southeastern portion of the future state was divided for settlement. Risdon first had to entice potential clients by overcoming the popular belief that the land was unsuitable for agriculture. In his advertisement in the Detroit Gazette on Sept. 10 of that year, he stated with confidence that the land abounds with a most fertile and healthy description and the climate is particularly adapted to our eastern constitution and that the tide of immigration has just begun." (Dunnigan)

On April 5, 1825, Risdon purchased 164 acres from the government. In time, he built his house on the land and it was there that the first town meeting was later held. In 1832, Risdon was instrumental in Saline being platted as an unincorporated village, a status that was retained until 1866 when the village incorporated.

Interestingly, the area almost became two towns. In 1845, Schuyler Haywood of Barnegat, NJ built a flour mill on the west side of the Saline River. Other settlers soon added a saw mill, blacksmith shop, cooper shop, stores and a windmill factory. For a time, local residents considered platting under the name Barnegat. Eventually, however, the west side of the river became Haywood's addition to the Village of Saline. This was in 1848.