The origins of Brownstown

The township was named "Brown's Town" after Chief Adam Brown. Adam Brown was a white, eight year old boy who was taken captive from Virginia along with his brother (Samuel) and another boy from the Carpenter family.  An account of this event was recorded by A.S. Withers in “Chronicles of Border Warfare” . Brown took an Indian wife and grew to manhood as a member of the Wyandot Indians, eventually becoming a tribal leader of the Deer Clan of the Wyandot Tribe.  (Adam Brown's Wyandot name was Ta-haw-na-haw-wie-te)  His village was called “Brown’s Town” it was located along the banks of Brownstown Creek at Gibraltar Road. When the Township was formed in 1827 it was given the name Brownstown Township.

 Native Americans including the Wyandot (Huron), Chippewa, Pottawatomie and Ottawa are known to have held important tribal councils along the banks of the Detroit and Huron Rivers during the years of 1788 and 1806. The Treaty of Brownstown was signed by Governor Hull on November 7, 1807 and provided the Indian Nations with a payment of $10,000 in goods and money along with an annual payment of $2,400 in exchange for an area of land that included the southeastern one-quarter of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

In the War of 1812 the Wyandot tribe allied itself with the British and the famous Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh. With the defeat of the British forces and the death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames; Adam Brown and his family moved to Amherstburg Canada. Adam Brown died in 1823 in Anderdon Township, Ontario, Canada.

The territory of Brownstown was populated by many settlers from central New York state and New Jersey who came by way of the Erie Canal and Lake Erie steamships during the years following the War of 1812. The promise of good farmland being offered at $1.25 an acre was a strong attraction to these early pioneers. 

US census records from 1820 show the following residents: Seth Dunham, David Smith, Benjamin Knapp, Elias Long, Nathaniel Clark, Glade Compeau, Truman Bears and others. The Tillman farm located on Telegraph Road was once the site of a stagecoach stop for traveling passengers.   

Records show the first elected officials of Brownstown were Moses Robberts, Supervisor: James Vreeland, Clerk; Jacob Knox, William Hicox and David Smith, Assessors.  Their duties were varied but the most important was to assure that each homestead kept their livestock within their fences.  

At the beginning of Brownstown government, The Vreeland family was involved with the township as early as 1827. The Vreelands held many of the township offices and their name has remained as a main street running along Brownstown and Flat Rocks’ borders. The longest unbroken term of government service in a position was that of Rose Legg, who served as Clerk for 23 years. Phoebe Stromp was the first and only female supervisor; June Bourassa served as the first female Treasurer.

Brownstown held its first meeting as a township on May 28th, 1827 and is one of  the original nine townships created when Wayne County was measured into six square mile townships as called for in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Michigan became a state ten years later on January 26, 1837. The area was once a part of French Canada and later fell into the hands of the British after the French and Indian War ended in 1760.  In 1795 the territory came under American control as a result of Jay’s Treaty. 

The 1875 Atlas lists Flat Rock and Gibraltar as the business centers of the township territory.  Gibraltar held what was described in those days as an excellent harbor and shipyard.  Flat Rock boasted two flour mills along the Huron River and several general stores.  The majority of residents classified themselves as farmers by occupation but some listed occupations that have been lost in the passage of time. These include harness makers, well borers, horse trainers, ship builders, dress hoop makers, millers and wood benders.