The original settlement of the Port Huron area, including what is now known as Fort Gratiot Township, occurred in the latter portion of the 17th Century. This settlement was related to the location of the area along the St. Clair River at the southern end of Lake Huron. The location had an obvious strategic value for military, as well as commercial purposes. Direct access to the river and lake was a major asset to the area's first major commercial activities: fur trading and lumbering. The emergence of the railroad as an important form of transportation in the mid-1800's also served as a catalyst to growth in the area as Port Huron was located on major rail corridors linking St. Clair County with other developing population centers, including Chicago and Detroit.
Fort Gratiot Township became a recognized governmental unit in 1866. For most of the Township's history, it has played an ancillary role to Port Huron as the County's dominant city. Development in the Township for many years was limited to the establishment of homes along the Lake Huron shoreline and farming in the interior portions of the community. A limited amount of non-farm residential growth also occurred along the section line roads that served the Township.
During the second half of this century, the pace of growth accelerated in the Township. As was the case earlier, much of this development was concentrated along two of the Township's most scenic areas: the Lake Huron and Black River shorelines. The lake also attracted tourists to the area, many of whom eventually developed summer cottages in the Township. In 1979, the Township was changed from a General Law Township to a Charter Township.
In the last thirty years or so, extensions of water and sewer lines into the Township from Port Huron have allowed interior portions of the Township to be converted from farms to suburban residential subdivisions and to commercial developments. One of the most notable commercial developments is the Birchwood Mall, which opened in 1991. The mall is notable not just for being the largest commercial development in the County, but also for being the catalyst for extensive commercial development in the Township during the 1990's. As a result of these developments, the automobile-oriented Fort Gratiot Township has supplanted the 19th Century, pedestrian-oriented downtown Port Huron as the retail/commercial center of the County and the surrounding regions. In 2016, the new 22,000 square foot Fort Gratiot Municipal Center opened and is home to the township administration offices, fire department and St. Clair county Sheriff's Office substation.
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Updated: 22nd February, 2019 8:51 PM.