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Welcome to the Armada Area Historical Society

Armada, Michigan

 

About the Armada Area Historical Society

The Armada Area Historical Society holds its regular Membership Meetings the second Thursday of every month at 7:00pm in We The People located at 23010 East Main Street.

Click on the News link above regarding upcoming speakers and topics.

In the event that we do need to reschedule and meetings, we will include that information in the News link as well.

If you are interested in learning more about the AAHS, or wish to become a member, please select one of the links below.

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Armada History

Armada was nothing but brushy, low-lying swampland when federal surveyors mapped it in 1821, as part of the massive new Northwest Territories. Indians roamed the stream's bottomlands, rich with game, but the few white settlers in the area were concentrated in Romeo.

Michigan was a very popular location for pioneers and immigrants searching for new homes and better lives. "Michigan Fever" infected thousands of Easterners and they flocked westward to Michigan in droves. Macomb County was a center of rapid immigrant growth with the northern part of Macomb County experiencing rapid settlement from 1832-1836. The wilderness had largely disappeared under the diligent farmers' plow. A series of treaties had relocated the Indians far to the west, and small white settlements had popped up at Selleck's Corners (Romeo Plank and 32 Mile Roads) and Berry's Corners, a mile east at Omo Road. The only memory of the Indians was a group of burial mounds on a rise above the Clinton River. Settlers trickled in slowly at first, then poured through Romeo on the Hoxie Trail (32 Mile Road), with even more fresh arrivals from New York State, via the Erie Canal and Detroit.

With rapid settlement came a desire to form a separate township. In the 1830's, present day Richmond and Armada were part of Ray Township. A meeting was held at one of the settlements (located at Romeo Plank and 32 Mile Road) known as Armada Corners, in 1832, to consider the township question. There was apparently some opposition to the idea as it took two votes to push the measure through. The assembled voters then took up the question of a township name. The issue was pondered with many suggestions being voted down. Then, according to Lacines "History of Macomb County" (published in 1882), "Hosea Northrup jumped up and shouted the name Armada. The name was carried at once and probably without a knowledge of its meaning or its fitness".

Many Armada Township settlements did not survive the test of time. One that did was the Village of Armada. Originally know as Burke's Corners after an early settler, the village began to prosper when the old Indian trail, know today as Armada Ridge Road, was laid out as a roadway in the early 1830's. The road soon became part of the immigrant road network between Romeo and Port Huron.

Burke's Corners was briefly renamed Honeoye after the hometown of several newly arrived residents from New York. When the village was incorporated in 1867, it received its modern name of Armada. By 1881, Armada was described as a "thriving incorporated village of 800 inhabitants". The prosperous village was home to a stave and handle factory, a sash and blind factory, a cheese industry, a flouring mill as well as a number of other businesses such as blacksmith shops, hardware stores, banks, a drug store and so on. An evaporated fruit factory and dairies were located nearby. Four churches, a large hotel (the National Hotel), a library, and a newspaper (originally called the Telegraph then the Armada Graphic) also were located within the Village.

The village was actually founded in 1833 by Elijah Burke, a man of religious fervor and a member of the Temperance movement. He began a Sunday School, which eventually spawned two churches, the Congregational and the Methodist. Organized in either 1867 or 1869 (depending on what you read) as an official village and reincorporated in 1885 to include additional territory.

In its heyday, the town of Armada boasted an opera house, a theater, seven grocery stores, a hotel and livery stable, three hardware stores, a lumberyard, a grain mill, two implement dealers, a bakery, five doctors and several blacksmiths.

A stagecoach stop on the Romeo-Port Huron line was located at the present Armada Printing office on Fulton Street.

The community's strong ties to agriculture helped to bring about the well known Armada Fair (an annual event since 1873). Armada Township residents also displayed a strong affinity for the "culture" of the day with the Village of Armada as its cultural center. A number of fraternal organizations (ie. the Masons and the Odd Fellows), a Literary and Science club, and the Armada Coronet Band provided social outlets for villagers and township residents. The popularity of these social outlets was reflected in the week-long cultural fair that was held yearly during the late 1800's.

In 1899, a great fire destroyed many of the wood buildings along Armada's main street but village residents stayed on and rebuilt more permanent structures. The village continued to grow in size and in heart. Armada's enduring interest in literature and the arts helped to persuade industrialist, steel-maker Andrew Carnegie to donate $8,000 towards the building of a permanent township library. The grant from the Foundation fell short of the amount needed, so residents chipped in 128 loads of gravel and put on a minstrel show. The Armada Free Public Library was built in 1915. This is one of approximately 1600 Carnegie libraries that dot the United States.

A railroad, the Michigan Air Line, connected Armada with the rest of the world. Passengers and freight were processed through the two-door depot at the foot of Church Street. A cartage company delivered the freight to uptown businesses by horse and wagon. From 1925 to 1953, passengers could travel the Air Line to Jackson or Richmond on a one-car, self propelled "Doodlebug".

The first school in Armada was a one-room schoolhouse at Selleck's Corners. Soon schools sprang up all around the township. By the time the schools were consolidated during the 1940's, there were at least 18 one-room school houses in separately organized districts. Now the Armada Area Schools encompass 76 square miles and parts of seven townships.

Public works were strictly do-it-yourself in the early days. Settlers laid out the first roads and took it upon themselves to maintain them. As recently as the 1920's, farmers, along the Ridge Road in particular, dug gravel from their property to fill potholes in lieu of high road taxes.

The fire department has always been composed of volunteers. There was not a paid policeman until 1942, although businessmen went together in 1930 to hire a night watchman. He never was paid a salary, but took donations for 12 years, until a police officer was hired.

Armada rates a star on the historical monument circuit. One of its sons, an itinerant carpenter named John Huff, earned glory on a Civil War battlefield when he fatally shot the Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart, on May 11, 1864. Huff, a sharpshooter, was in the right place at the right time (Yellow Tavern in Virginia) when Stuart and his staff road onto a prominent rise. Huff's shot wounded Stuart mortally, and the general died the next day - a grievous blow to the Confederacy.

Huff himself was in the wrong place only 20 days later. He was shot in the head during a battle at Hawes Shop, just three miles from Yellow Tavern. Huff lingered for nearly a month in a military hospital, then was sent home on the train to die. He is buried in Armada's Willow Grove Cemetery. His home still stands on East Main Street.

Armada and Armada Township have weathered the years in good stead. Within commuting distance of the greater Detroit Metropolitan area, Armada Township is now one of the fastest growing areas in the entire tri-county area. Today it is a bustling agricultural region known for its' orchards, its flea market, and  its county fair. These have ceased to be purely local events in recent years, and now attract a metropolitan audience. Even with it's growth the township and village of Armada has retained its country charm.

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Armada Ecumenical Tour   - December 3, 2022
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In keeping with spirit of the upcoming holiday, and in conjunction with Holly Days this December, the AAHS pleased to announce the first in a series of Ecumenical Tours of Armada.

Join us in discovering more about the history of the churches within our community as we make our first stop at the Congregational United Church of Christ. Learn about its contributions to our

community, which will include a tour of the church, including its long musical background.

The tour begins promptly at 11:00am at the Congregational United Church of Christ, located at 73966 South Fulton (one block south of Main Street).

This tour is open to the public and there is no cost to attend, but if you could RSVP, it would be greatly appreciated.

Please RSVP at our e-mail address: ArmadaHistorical@yahoo.com

 

News

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November 2022 General Membership Meeting

The next general membership meeting of the Armada Area Historical Society is scheduled for November 10th at 7pm in We the People.

The meeting agenda will be announced prior to the meeting.

We hope to see everyone at the November Meeting.

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The Armada Area Historical Society invites you to own a piece of our local history.

The mystery is finally solved!

After more than three years of research, the inception date for the Village of Armada has finally been found: October 22, 1867.

The Armada Area Historical Society, after long hours of intensive searching and numerous dead-ends, located the date in an 1885 Michigan Legislative Manual. The information is supported by newspaper articles from 1867 that have been uncovered.

The Centennial and Sesquicentennial were celebrated on the date of the village organization because that was the only consistent date in the historical literature. But now, we can set the record straight by recognizing the Village’s actual birth date and telling the intriguing story behind the founding father of the Village of Armada.

We want to purchase a historical marker to commemorate this and we need your help.

The cost for a marker is $4,500. The Village already has $750 in donations from the 2019 Sesquicentennial for a historical marker and we need your help to raise the rest.

Please consider donating to the Armada Area Historical Society’s Historical Marker campaign, so that we may purchase and dedicate a fitting and proper historical marker for Armada.

To donate, please send a check to:

Armada Area Historical Society 

c/o Armada Free Library

73930 Church Street

Armada, Michigan

48005

If there are any questions, please feel free to contact the Armada Area Historical Society Treasurer Sam Boelke at (586) 784-8593 or at sam.boelke@gmail.com.

Donate today!

 
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News

On this date in history:

At the beginning of World War 2, the Merchant Marine fleet was taking heavy losses due to German U-Boat attacks during the Battle of the Atlantic. To address this problem, the War Department issued a requirement in 1942 for a Trans-Atlantic aircraft to be built which would be capable of transporting large quantities of personnel and equipment.

Kaiser Shipyards founder, Henry Kaiser accepted the contract and teamed up with aircraft builder Howard Hughes to create a seaplane which would fulfill the War Department’s contract.

After many delays, including restrictions on obtaining strategic materials and disagreements over the design and construction, Henry Kaiser eventually dropped out of the project and Howard Hughes took it upon himself to complete the aircraft on his own.

The size and scope of the project caused it to fall significantly behind schedule and it wasn’t until long after the war had ended that the now designated H-4 Hercules was eventually completed.

Members of Congress began to look into war-profiteering allegations concerning Howard Hughes and his contract. He was eventually called to testify before Congress in August 1947 regarding the cost-overruns and delays in the project.

During a grueling hearing in which his integrity was being called into question by Senator Owen Brewster of Maine, Howard Hughes stated, ”Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it's a failure, I'll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.”

During a break in the hearings, Howard Hughes returned to California to perform H-4 taxi testing on November 2, 1947.

The first two runs that day were uneventful. During the third and final taxi test, the aircraft “somehow got away from him”, and rose to above the water where it flew for approximately one mile before landing smoothly.

Despite being vindicated by this “accident”, the largest flying boat ever built...never flew again.

 
 
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Contact Us

Contact Us

If you would like to contact us, you can reach us through one of the following.

We can be reached via regular mail at the following address:

Armada Area Historical Society

c/o Armada Public Library

73930 Church Street

Armada, Michigan

48005

or we can be reached via e-mail at:

ArmadaHistorical@yahoo.com

Gab: @ArmadaHistorical

Twitter: @ArmadaHist1

Parler: @ArmadaHistorical

Facebook: Armada Historical