The township of Canton was created by act of the Michigan Territorial Legislature on March 7, 1834 out of what had been Plymouth Township. It was named after the city of Canton in China. The name was chosen for the purpose of not conflicting with the name of any post office in existence at the time. At the time, there was a territorial law from April 12, 1827, prohibiting the incorporation of any new township having the same name as any existing post office. However, on October 20, 1829, the legislature had passed legislation creating the townships of Lima and Richland out of Bucklin Township. Governor Lewis Cass returned the acts unapproved, citing a conflict under the law. The legislature thus had to substitute the names of Nankin and Pekin after the cities of Nanking and Peking in China. Although the name of Pekin was changed to Redford in 1833, apparently when naming Canton, the legislature decided to continue having at least two townships named for Chinese cities.

The first meeting to organize the township was held in April 1834. Canton is near Detroit and has a rapidly increasing population.