Plymouth

The first settlers to come to what is now known as Plymouth, Michigan, were Keziah (Benjamin) and William Starkweather. Farmers from Preston, Connecticut, they purchased 240 acres (240 acres (0.97 km2)) of land from the United States Government on March 11, 1825, for $1.25 an acre. The Starkweather clan had lived in Preston at least as early as 1694, according to records of a land gift in which Captain John Masons gave land to Robert Starkweather, William’s grandfather. William, ninth born of 11 siblings, and his wife Keziah brought their first born son Albert to the area, and built the first home in Plymouth, at the southwest Corner of Main Street and Ann Arbor Trail. The first home was a rustic lean-to, and was later replaced by a log cabin which has since been lost to time. William’s eldest son Albert died at age 20 while attending the newly formed University of Michigan as a sophomore. George Anson Starkweather, William’s second-born, was the first non-native American born within the boundaries of what is now known as the City of Plymouth. His father William died at 44 years of age, from typhoid, and his mother Keziah two years later, leaving their eldest son George at 20 years of age.

In 1830 William and Keziah sold their land in downtown Plymouth and moved their family to 80 acres (320,000 m2) of land William purchased in what was then called “North Village” (now called “The Historic Old Village”) and built a home there. He was the first residential owner in the Old Village area and lived there until his death in 1844. William and Keziah’s Midwest Greek Revival Style homestead is still on North Mill Street. After his marriage to Lydia (Liddy) Amelia Heywood in 1861, George Anson Starkweather and R.G. Hall were partners in a general store facing Kellogg Park. The partnership dissolved in 1870, and George built a dry goods store on the Southeast corner of Liberty Street and Oak Street (now Starkweather) which he operated until 1901. George’s wife, Lydia Amelia Heywood, was the adopted daughter of Mary Davis, of Plymouth. Liddy, as she was known as a little girl, was born in Wayne, MI and was adopted at age 4 by Mary Davis after both of her parents died of typhoid. Lydia Amelia Heywood was also known as Amelia Davis prior to marriage, as she took on the Davis family name.

George felt that the railroad coming to North Village would give it a commercial advantage over the Kellogg Park area. In the 1860s, he convinced the Detroit and Howell Railroad Company, to build through the town. The first actual construction on the entire (east – west) D & H line began in Plymouth, Michigan, on February 6, 1867, at a ceremony where a cherry wood tie was fashioned on the spot and laid on the center line of the road – at Shearers Cut. Work during the time of existence of the D&H was never completed and the line was completed under a new company.

The Detroit and Howell Railroad was later merged into the Detroit, Howell and Lansing Railroad, later merged into the Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan Railroad. It was under the DL & LM RR that the line between Detroit and Lansing was opened for public use, in August, 1871. At the end of 1876, after operating for only five years, the DL & LM went into receivership and was re organized as the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad. The DL&N was then merged into the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Western Rail Road, which was finally merged into the Pere Marquette Railway in Jan, 1900. PM was in 1947 merged into the C & O, which later became the Chessie System, and as of 1987, is now known as CSX. So at the time of this writing, in 2011, Plymouth’s 144 year history in Michigan railroading, the east – west line through Plymouth had been operated under 9 different names. The North – South line during construction was known as the Holly, Wayne and Monroe Railway which merged into the Flint and Pere Marquette system on the very first day of operation, May 30, 1871 and then in 1900 both lines the north-south and east west-lines that ran through Plymouth, came under ownership of the newly formed Pere Marquette railway, which was the result of a merger of the Flint and Pere Marquette system with other shorter lines in Michigan. In 1900, the Flint name of the company was dropped and it was just known as the Pere Marquette RR.

Starkweather was responsible for cutting Oak Street North through his farm in order to reach his new store and the train station. After his death in 1907, Oak Street was renamed Starkweather in his honor. In addition to his other pursuits George Starkweather took an active civic role. He served as a member of the State Legislature in 1854, had several terms as Township Supervisor, 16 years as Justice of the Peace, and as Plymouth Village President in 1898.

George Starkweather’s grandson, Karl Hillmer Starkweather (who changed his name from Karl Starkweather Hillmer to carry on his mother’s maiden name, which did not work out as planned because Karl had all female offspring), was a respected and lifelong Plymouth resident and local historian, and Ford Motor Company employee at the Wilcox Lake Tap Plant in which he was shop steward, died on May 1, 1969. His father, Lewis Hillmer, also served as village president for a time. Notable streets in Plymouth are named after some Starkweather family members, including Blanch, Karmada (after the children Karl, Mary and Davis), Davis, Starkweather (formerly Oak Street), Amelia and Rose. Starkweather Elementary School was named after George Anson Starkweather of Plymouth, which was converted to an adult education center. It was the first elementary school built in Plymouth largely through the efforts of grandson Karl Starkweather, who promoted the need for a ward school in Plymouth to local residents. He was also instrumental in the establishing of the Plymouth Historical Society Museum, and his mother, George’s daughter Mary K. Starkweather-Hillmer, was a charter member.

Daisy Manufacturing Company, now Daisy Outdoor Products started in 1882 as Plymouth Iron Windmill Company in Plymouth, Michigan.

In 1886 Plymouth inventor Clarence Hamilton introduced a new idea to the windmill company. It was a combination of metal and wire, vaguely resembling a gun that could fire a lead ball using compressed air. Lewis Cass Hough, then president of the firm, gave it a try and, after his first shot, enthusiastically exclaimed, “Boy, that’s a daisy!”

The name stuck and the BB gun went into production as a premium item given to farmers when they purchased a windmill. The gun was such a huge success that Plymouth Iron Windmill soon began manufacturing the Daisy BB gun in place of windmills. On January 26, 1895 the company’s board of directors officially voted to change the name to Daisy Manufacturing Company, Inc.

Much to the dismay of Plymouth residents, Daisy moved its corporate offices and manufacturing facilities from Plymouth to Rogers, Arkansas in 1958.

In 2003 the former Daisy factory was converted to Daisy Square Condominiums despite being situated next to an active freight rail line. The front wall of the Daisy factory was left standing to be built into the apartment building, but is still free-standing since the completion of the building.

In 2007 Plymouth Township was named 37th Best Place to Live in the United States by CNN Money Magazine.