Naming and Division

How Plymouth Got Its Name

A meeting of the settlers was held on February 26, 1827, to select an official name for the community. The downtown are was known unofficially as "Podunk", and the north end of town at Main and Mill was known as "Joppa". At the meeting, the name "Peking" was proposed in honor of the Chinese city, since there was much interest in China in this country at the time. When the dust settled, the first choice was "LeRoy", wrote recording secretary A. B. Markham, but if that name has already been used, the second choice was "Plymouth", which was proposed for its historical ties to Plymouth, Massachusetts, the area from which some of the local settlers had come.

Territorial Governor Cass approved the name "Plymouth" in April, 1827, at which time Plymouth was established as a super township comprising the areas which are now Plymouth, Canton, and Northville. The south part of the area - Township Two South - was referred to as "South Plymouth." It became a separate township named Canton in 1834, again in response to the interest in China.

Community centers developed at both ends of Plymouth Township during the mid-1800's. The Village of Plymouth was incorporated by an act of the state legislature in March 1867. That same year, another legislative act established the Village of Northville. This resulted in a significant loss of political power to Plymouth Township, which then had two competing village governments working through the same Township Board.

Plymouth Township Divided

On a Saturday morning in March of 1898, some 100 residents of Plymouth Township met in the Opera House in the Village of Northville to decide whether Northville should set up its own township. Arguments for separation included the inconvenient travel distance required of Northville residents in dealing with the Township Board offices in Plymouth Township, and the preferential maintenance attention which the bridges in the south part of the township received, compared to the bridges in the north end of the township. The distance problem was supported by the fact that only 12 south-end residents attended the north-end meeting.

When the vote was taken, it was 40 to 30 in favor of splitting Northville Township off from Plymouth Township. This final split reduced Plymouth Township from its original size of 72 square miles, down to its present size of 15.9 square miles. The Township of Northville and Plymouth are the only Michigan case of half-sized townships resulting from a split rather than annexation by a city.

For More Information


    Plymouth Historical Museum

    155 S. Main
    Plymouth, MI 48170

    Phone: 734-455-8940

    Public Hours
    Wednesday, Friday - Sunday
    1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.