Early Pittsfield Township

In the early 1800s, the famous Sauk Indian chief, Black Hawk, crossed through Pittsfield Township with other indians from the junction of the Rock River and Mississippi River (in Illinois) on their annual trip to Malden (in Canada) to receive tribute payments from the British. In his autobiography, Black Hawk also records coming through the township to fight on behalf of the British during the War of 1812. 

In 1824, the first purchase of federal land in what later would become Pittsfield Township was made by Geo. W. Noyes in what is now Township Section 10. Section 10 is located between Platt and Stone School Roads, bordered by Packard Road on the north and Ellsworth Road on the south. Most of this area now has been annexed into the City of Ann Arbor.

Government land in the township was rapidly taken after Noyes purchased his lot in May 1824. Since little land was taken by speculators, it was acquired and settled quickly by individual landowners. For a list of patentees from the 1820s and early 1830s, please see 1820/1830s List of Owners by Section.

This area, which was part of Wayne County, became Ann Arbor Township in 1827. The population consisted of mostly immigrants from eastern states such as New York and Pennsylvania. By 1830, the land had been divided between Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Saline Townships, as follows: two and one-half miles on the north was connected with Ann Arbor; the west half of the remainder to Saline, and the east half to Ypsilanti.

Naming Pittsfield Township

The township of Pittsfield was organized according to the act of the Territorial Council, in 1834, its first town meeting being held in April of that year. Prior to the organization of the township, a meeting was held at the McCracken schoolhouse for the purpose of selecting a name. At this meeting there were 13 people present, each of whom chose the name of the town from which he had come. Some of the names proposed were too long to suit the majority. Finally, Ezra Carpenter (his homestead was located in Section 11 - the present area southwest of Carpenter and Packard Roads) offered the name of "Pitt," for William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (see below). His suggestion was seconded by Roderick Rowley, a resident of Section 36 (the present area west of Munger and Bemis Roads). Such admiration and respect was inspired by the great British orator and statesman, fifty years after his death, that the Township was named "Pitt Township" by its residents.

The Sixth Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan passed the Act enabling the organization of the "Township of Pitt" on 7 March 1834. This name was retained until 22 March 1839 when it was changed to "Pittsfield Township" by act of the Michigan State Legislature. One hundred and thirty-three years later (1972) the residents of Pittsfield Township voted to become a charter township and the name was changed once more to "Pittsfield Charter Township.”

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William Pitt, 1708-1778

Pittsfield Township was named for William Pitt (1708-1778), who was elected to parliament in 1735. During his time in office, he accused his government of neglecting the two million people in the America colonies. His concern for America lasted his whole life. William Pitt won the cooperation of the colonies when he directed the war that drove the French from America. He had endorsed the repeal of the Stamp Act, proclaiming "This country has no right under heaven to tax America" and warned, "If you conquer them, you cannot make them respect you". It is not difficult to see why the pioneers settling the Americas were impressed by his leadership.

Historic Sites

  1. Sutherland-Wilson Farm
  2. Buildings and Farms
  3. School Houses
  4. Cemeteries
  5. Other


Picture of the Sutherland-Wilson Farm in the 1800s1958 picture taken from the air of the Sutherland-Wilson Farm

Sutherland-Wilson Farm in early 2000s when acquired by Pittsfield Charter Township

The Sutherland-Wilson farmstead located at 797 Textile was acquired by Pittsfield Township from the family November 16, 2000 with the understanding it would be preserved as an historic site. Renovation/restoration of the buildings to their 19th century state was done by the Pittsfield Township Historical Society and the Township, and it is now an educational resource for the community.

The Sutherland-Wilson Farm Museum is used for special events, such as the annual Pittsfield Township Harvest Festival (on hold 2020-22 due to Covid). Free docent-led tours of the farmhouse are held the 3rd Sunday of every month May-October, from 2-5 pm. The newly updated meeting/class room in the farmhouse may be used for historical society meetings and other educational programs.

Sutherland-Wilson Farm Brochure

Description of Sutherland-Wilson Farm

The Sutherland-Wilson Family

Note: This introduction to Sutherland-Wilson farm and the families that lived there, was written by Mary Campbell, herself a long-time resident of Pittsfield Township.

The Sutherland-Wilson family lived on their farm at 797 Textile for six generations -- from the time Langford Sutherland purchased it in 1832 until 2000. This family may have been continuous residents of the township longer than any other.

Over the years Langford bought more land. He and his wife, Lydia, had eight children, one of whom, Tobias, made his home on the part of the farm that now is owned and preserved by Pittsfield Township as an historic site.

Tobias married Harriet Knaouse and they had two children, Ernest and Bessie. Ernest and his wife, Delia Rheinfrank Sutherland had an only child, Mildred who married Arthur Wilson; their son, Harold and his wife Mary Roy Wilson continued to live in the beautiful old farm house until 2000. Neal, their only child and his wife Anita Bruder Wilson lived next door in the old tenant house. In later years, the Wilson's rented their land to other farmers, but continued to garden as long as they lived there.

Sutherland-Wilson Family TreeRestored Sutherland-Wilson Farmhouse in fall 2022 Opens in new window

Harold and Mary Wilson Oral History 

Ernestine Wilson Meehan Oral History

Sutherland-Wilson Farmhouse and the Underground Railroad


  1. People of Pittsfield
  2. Oral Histories
  3. Local Government

Early Settlers of Pittsfield Township

Note: The following description of Pittsfield Township is taken from the NEW HISTORICAL ATLAS OF WASHTENAW COUNTY MICHIGAN ILLUSTRATED, Everts & Stewart, 1874, Compiled, Drawn and Published From Personal Examinations and Surveys Chicago, Ill. 1874.

Pittsfield, memorable not alone for its unsurpassed fertility and location, but for its many self-denying early pioneers. This town was first settled in 1824, in which year Samuel McDowell, Ezra Maynard, Lewis Barr, and Oliver Whitmore, with their families, came and occupied the land. Mr. Barney settled in 1825, in the Whitmore settlement. On the books of the United States Land Office at Detroit we find the following entries of land for this year, viz: June 4, Ezra Barr, in Section 2; Ezra and Charles M. Maynard, the south half of Section 3; John Hiscock, Sections 4 and 9; Claudius Britton, Jr., Section 3; June 7, Oliver Whitmore, Section 11; Samuel McDowell, southwest half of Section 2; June 14, Luke H. Whitmore, Section 2; July 29, Joseph Parsons, Jr., Section 2; September 21, Charles Anderson, Section 2. In the spring following (1825) Eri Higby located on Section 4; Dr. Kellogg on Section 3, Robert Geddes on Sections 7 and 18, and John Gilbert and Jonathan Kearsley on Section 31. These were the first purchases. David Hardy came in 1825. Thomas Wood was also an early settler in the south part of the town, and one of the most successful farmers in the County. Of him it is said: “He made the most money from small beginnings of any one in this section.” He died some eight years or more ago.

Pittsfield was organized in 1836, prior to which it was included in the civil jurisdiction of Ann Arbor Township. When organized, it was christened "Pitt," after the celebrated statesman and orator; but, subsequently, “field” was very appropriately added, as it is truly a region of fertile fields. In the early day her people not only went to Ann Arbor for marketing, blacksmithing, etc., but to church, with ox-teams. The Indians supplied them the first year or two with cranberries and venison. "Quinine and marsh-hay" also were valued allies in those days. Mr. Maynard says the boys of that time often used to go hunting and fishing with the Indians.

Oliver Whitmore was the first justice in Pittsfield; Miss Brooks the first school teacher, in 1826-7. The first birth was that of a daughter of Samuel D. McDowell, now Mrs. A. R. Hall, in 1824. The records inform us that the members of the First and Second Wesleyan Societies of Pittsfield Township met at school-house in District 3 on the 22d day of September, 1845, and organized a society known as the "First Wesleyan Methodist Society of Pittsfield." David Page bought the farm, and sold it to the County, about 1836, upon which the poorhouse was built. The first structure, a frame building, was commenced in the summer and finished in the fall of 1836, and two years later the stone building was constructed. Its first superintendents were Lewis Barr and Samuel D. McDowell, of Pittsfield, and Job Gorton, of Ypsilanti. Moses Boylan was the first keeper.

Pittsfield is noted for its grain, stock, and excellent fruit, its fine farms and thrifty farmers. There is neither village, hamlet, nor post-office, in this town.

People of Note

Carpenter, Ezra - Ezra Carpenter was born at Attleborough, Mass. on 16 August 1776. He moved to Groton, Tompkins Co., N.Y., in 1803, and drew the first load of household goods ever brought into that town -- at a time when it was a wilderness, and heavily timbered. In 1826 he came to Michigan, arriving at Detroit on May 12, and in Pittsfield Township fifteen days later. He acquired land on sections 11 and 12, now called "Carpenter's Corners." He was a faithful member of the Presbyterian Church, of Ypsilanti, and a "standard bearer" in that body of Christians. He died on 17 February 1841, at 65 years of age.

Source: This brief entry was prepared by the Historical Committee of Pittsfield Township, which helped compile information for The History of Washtenaw County Michigan (Chas Chapman & Co., 1881). Members of the Historical Committee were Horace Carpenter, David Dupue and Randall Boss.

Harwood, William Sidney (d. 1963) bio by Marcia Ticknor

Lillie, Robert A., Pittsfield Township Supervisor, 1969-1983, tribute by C. Edward Wall

Mitchell, Mary D., Educator

Reader Sr., James D, Pittsfield Township Treasurer, 1967-1987, tribute by C. Edward Wall


  1. Maps
  2. Treaty of 1807
  3. 1850 Census

Orange Risdon's Map of 1825

This is a section of the first map of southeastern Michigan, which was created by Orange Risdon in 1825. This portion includes lands actually surveyed by Risdon, including Pittsfield Township and the Saline area, which he later founded as a community.

Historic Orange Risdon Map of 1825_Pittsfield Township section

Pittsfield Township is the first "Township Three" directly west of Ypsilanti/Woodruff's Grove and north of the dividing line between the Detroit and Monroe Land Office areas.

Note Malletts Creek in the northern part of Pittsfield Township, along which some of the first homes were constructed and near which the first school in Washtenaw County was built in 1825.

Also note the important "United States Road from Detroit to Chicago" -- known originally as the Old Sauk Trail -- subsequently the Chicago Road, US 112, Route 12, and Michigan Avenue. The Chicago Road was surveyed by Orange Risdon, making it one of the first roads laid out with federal funds. When Risdon began surveying the road, it was his intent to make the road as straight as possible between Detroit and Chicago. He started his survey from Detroit, but by the time he reached Pittsfield Township -- and encountered the marshes east of Saline -- he realized he would have to closely follow the original Old Sauk Trail to avoid major obstacles like the marshes. Thus, west of Pittsfield Township, the road is much more meandering and winding than is the road between Detroit and Pittsfield Township.

Source: This image from Risdon's map is provided courtesy of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. The University owns two of the thirteen surviving copies of the Risdon map. This portion of the map is mounted on the Pittsfield Township Historical Society website with the permission of the Clements Library.

Plat Maps

Plat maps show who owns a section of land. Below we have Pittsfield Township maps for various years along with its list of property owners (sometimes it's hard to read the handwriting!). Some years' plat maps aren't available, but we do have the list of owners. 

We start with the 1820/1830s plat map of Pittsfield Township Patentees.  A patentee is the person who originally received the land from the federal government. Most patentees sold their land to settlers. See more about Federal Land Patents, including the ability to look up specific patents, at the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management. Of interest is the Sutherland-Wilson Farm Land Patent issued 1 December 1831 to Jonathan Meeds, who transferred ownership to Langford Sutherland in 1832. 

1820/1830s Plat Map of Pittsfield Township Patentees with an introduction by Marcia Ticknor and a list of patentees by section

1840 Plat Map Plat map of original owners of Pittsfield Township land patents 1820s to1830s Opens in new window

1856 Plat Map

1864 Plat Map

1874 Plat Map

1895 List of Owners by Section

1915 Plat Map

1920 List of Owners by Section

1939 List of Owners by Section