History of Macomb County, Michigan

Information about Macomb County


Named in honor of General Alexander Macomb, a highly decorated veteran of the War of 1812,  About Macomb County was formally organized on January 15, 1818, as the third county in the Michigan territory. At that time it covered a much larger area than it does today. In 1819 and 1820, large portions of the county were removed to form the current counties of Oakland, Lapeer, Genesee, and St. Clair.

The first Europeans arrived in the area during the 17th century. They included French fur trappers who recognized the richness of the marshes and sought new opportunities for trade. Moravian missionaries established the first organized, non-native settlement in the county in 1782, as a refuge for Christianized Indians driven out of Ohio. They built along the banks of the Clinton River, then known as the Huron River, but were forced to leave four years later by the Chippewa Indians. In the late 1790s, Christian Clemens visited the area, and in March 1800, purchased a distillery considered the first building on the site of the future Mount Clemens. The next year he bought 500 acres for development. This site, known as High Banks, was platted as the Village of Mount Clemens in 1818 when it was proclaimed as the seat of Macomb County.

By 1840, settlers had moved into the interior of the County, carving out farms from the hardwood forests. By this time the roots of the County villages and townships were established. In addition to the original French and English, later settlers included Germans, Belgians, and others who came directly from Europe.

In the 1870s, mineral baths – believed by many to hold therapeutic properties – brought international fame to Mount Clemens. Although the stream still runs beneath the city, interest in the spas died out by the early 20th century. Recently, there has been a renewal of the mineral baths, at several locations in the area.

Between 1920 and 1930, Macomb County doubled in population, rising from 38,103 to 77,146. Two significant developments spurred this growth: the establishment of Selfridge Field in 1917, and the beginning of the urbanization movement northward from the City of Detroit. During the 1940s and the 1950s, many moved from the central city to the suburbs. The largest growth occurred between 1950 and 1970 when Macomb County's population grew by 440,000.

Macomb Today

The County encompasses 482 square miles and ranks third in population in the state, and the United States Census shows the county at 873,972 as of 2019. For more facts about our county visit our About Macomb page and find more about the communities we service below.

Prepared in consultation with the Macomb County Historical Society, President Ross Champion. Information gathered from the Macomb County Clerks Office website.