Macomb County celebrates 200 years built on immigration, agriculture and industry

By: Joshua Gordon | C&G Newspapers | Published January 11, 2018

 Chuck Stokes, right, vice president of the Historical Society of Michigan, presents Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel with a Michigan Historical Marker on Jan. 10 to celebrate the county’s bicentennial in Mount Clemens.

Chuck Stokes, right, vice president of the Historical Society of Michigan, presents Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel with a Michigan Historical Marker on Jan. 10 to celebrate the county’s bicentennial in Mount Clemens.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

MOUNT CLEMENS — Back on Jan. 15, 1818, Macomb County was founded with about 870 people occupying the state’s third county. Now, 200 years later, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said the population is approximately 870,000.

Hackel, along with other county leaders, celebrated Macomb County’s bicentennial on Jan. 10 in Mount Clemens as the county was presented with several special recognitions from state officials. Plans for several events to celebrate the 200th birthday were also laid out.

Much of the growth over the past 200 years can be attributed to immigrants, Hackel said, as the county was founded with immigrants from all over the world, and that trend has continued to make it the third-largest county in the state.

“I find it very interesting to stop and think about the progress and growth we have had, starting with the Native Americans to the French fur traders, the Germans and Belgians,” Hackel said. “We were actually not only a nation of immigrants, but Macomb County in particular was a county of immigration and immigrants.

“That is still the case today, and in fact our population growth is attributed much to the immigration that has taken place and the perception we have given people to feel welcome here in Macomb County.”

Lois Jackman, president of the Macomb County Heritage Alliance, also mentioned how immigration has helped grow the county.

Jackman recalled a story of her and her father passing by the construction site of Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights when she was in high school, and how her father wondered why a mall was being built in the middle of a bunch of farms.

French, German and Polish immigrants helped begin a tradition of agriculture in Macomb County, Jackman said, and later immigrants helped continue that tradition while also bringing in an industrial component.

“That story to me has always been the history of Macomb County in a nutshell — strong agricultural roots that transformed into industry,” Jackman said. “The thread of agriculture and industry has helped us become instrumental in areas like the auto industry and gain distinctions like the rhubarb center of the world.”

Macomb County was the third county established in Michigan, coming after Wayne and Monroe counties. Hackel poked fun at neighboring Oakland County and its county executive, L. Brooks Patterson, for coming around after Macomb County.

Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chair Bob Smith congratulated the county on behalf of the board and said he sees the history of the county being broken into two chapters. The first is the first 193 years up to 2010, and the second is after a county executive was established.

Smith was part of the Charter Commission that helped establish the charter of an executive-led government.

“The first chapter was 193 years of a different type of government where our county became what it was in 2010, which was a great county going in a great direction,” Smith said. “The second was the Charter Commission voted on by the people to change our form of government to an executive-driven government. Based on the last seven years, I can see this county is in store for even more greatness and a brighter future in the next 200 years.”

Macomb County Deputy Executive Pam Lavers spoke about a number of upcoming events to celebrate the bicentennial. The celebration was put together by a committee of around 125 people.

The county will participate in three parades throughout the year, starting with the Memorial Day parade in St. Clair Shores. The second will be around Labor Day in the northern part of the county, most likely Romeo, Lavers said, while the third will be in Mount Clemens in November.

A passport program was created where people can get a passport booklet and receive a stamp for visiting any number of participating historical sites in the county. If you collect seven stamps before the end of 2018, you will receive a free dinner at participating Culver’s restaurants in the county.

The biggest event is a torch relay in June that will consist of a continuous 200-mile relay through all 27 municipalities in the county. The relay will start in the morning June 21 and run continuously until it ends at around 9:30 p.m. June 22 in Mount Clemens with fireworks.

Hackel, who said he will take part in the event, said the 200-mile relay will be broken up into 1-mile stretches with communities selecting personnel to participate. The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office will participate to make sure the event is safe and secure.

Hackel said the reason the relay is 200 continuous miles as opposed to being broken up over a few days is to represent the progress of the first 200 years of the county.

“By doing that, it signifies this is a continuous 200 years of progress in Macomb County and the momentum will continue on,” he said.

For more information on the bicentennial events, visit