Oceana County, Michigan

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Oceana County administrative offices are located at 100 South State Street, Hart, MI 49420; phone: 231-873-4835.

Beginnings [1]

Oceana County has a rich and detailed history that dates back as far as March 2, 1831. Seven years before Michigan was to become a state, the territorial legislature established an "Oceana County." This included all of the present Oceana County along with parts of Muskegon, Montcalm and Kent Counties. The first white settlement in Oceana County was on Lake Michigan near Whiskey Creek. A sawmill was central to this first settlement of the area as the lumber industry provided most of the employment opportunities to the residents of early Oceana County.

It was not until 1855, however, that the State of Michigan Legislature established Oceana County with its present-day boundaries. The County was divided into three parts and townships were established that year, those townships being Pentwater, which stretched across the Northern portion of the County; Stony Creek (which was later known as Benona) which covered the middle portion of the County; and Claybanks which included the County's Southern portion. Rapid growth characterized the area at this time as roads and bridges were being constructed and farmlands were being cleared. As growth continued, manageable governance of the developing County and its residents became a top priority.

The three large original townships were later divided into smaller governmental units. Greenwood and Elbridge Townships were formed in February 1858, Otto and Weare Townships in February 1860, Hart Township in December 1860, Golden Township in 1864, Crystal and Newfield Townships in 1865, Leavitt and Grant Townships in 1866, Shelby Township in 1867, Ferry Township in 1868, and finally the last of sixteen present day townships was established with Colfax Township in 1869. At this point, County development was prevalent at all levels. Pentwater was incorporated as a village in 1867. It was the first incorporated village in Oceana County. The history of Oceana County is marked by the white settlers that came over from Europe and the Native Americans that already inhabited the area. The Native Americans played a vital role in the evolution of Oceana County's development.

In the late 1850's, the Ottawa Indians relocated from the Grand Rapids/Kent County area to Oceana County. This was the result of an agreement between the area tribes and lawmakers in Washington, D. C. The Ottawa Indians agreed to abandon their land on the Grand River in exchange for lands further North, which they were to select. The land selected was in part what is today Elbridge and Crystal Township. The government built schools for the Native American population in these areas and monies were appropriated for livestock and tools.

  1. Oceana County Planning Commission, Oceana County 2020 Master Plan, 2004, www.oceana.mi.us, accessed February, 2016.

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