On June 23, 1836 the Congress of the United States passed Act 72 to establish the northern boundary line of the State of Ohio and accepted the State of Michigan into the Union. Act 72 set aside sections of land reserved as potential sites for a University. The Legislature of the State of Michigan accepted these grants of land on July 25, 1836. The entire Section 9, Town1 North, range 10 east was “Reserved for University of Michigan” as recorded with the Oakland County Register of Deeds Office. This section later became part of Bingham Farms.
The entire area had been Indian reservations until relinquished by treaty in 1827. The Treaty was ratified by the United States in 1829.
Shortly after the territory was opened, Peter DesNoyer homesteaded a large section of property in 1833. Shortly thereafter, it was divided up between two families, the Adam’s and the Bingham’s. Subsequent splits were made to the Bristol’s and Britney families.
In the beginning, the State of Michigan was sectioned into townships which encompassed 36 square miles. Bingham Farms, Beverly Hills, Franklin as well as the City of Southfield were part of Southfield Township. The north-south boundaries were from Eight Mile Road to Fourteen Mile Road with the east-west boundaries from Greenfield Road to Inkster Road.
The early 1950’s were a troubled time for the residents in the Township. A small group of politically active residents filed to become a City. They were trying to take the entire township and fold it into the City of Southfield. Fortunately, there was an error in the filing and the request went back to these residents to resubmit. In the meantime, word had leaked out and the battle began.
Residents in the various sections of the Township liked their particular community, its topography and believed it was important to retain their identity.
Quickly, a few residents in each section of the Township filed to become separate Villages. Franklin had invited what is now Bingham Farms to join them and incorporate as one large village. Although Bingham residents had close social and economic ties to Franklin, they decided to remain independent.
Five residents took up the charge to draft a Charter for Bingham Farms. They were: William King, Chairman, James McGuire, Secretary, Frank A. Lamberson, William A. Hyland and Carson C. Bingham. The major challenge was to name the Village. Carson Bingham did not want the Village to be named after his family. Bingham Road had already been named as was Bingham Lane. Carson believed it was enough Bingham.
Despite his objections, on October 4, 1955 the Village of Bingham Farms was officially approved by the residents living in the Village. Ninety-nine voters turned out to approve the Charter.
The residents were intent on preserving the simple, rural way of life and the character of the Village. At the time of incorporation, residential developments were beginning to pop up and with that the topography was changing. What once was farmland and orchards now were partitioned into single-family lots. Development continued and by 1987, only 155 acres or just under 20% of the land remained natural and vacant. Fortunately, the essence of the Village, its woods and steep wooded ravines remained in tact due to zoning ordinances and natural topography of the land and the winding watercourse of the Franklin River throughout the Village.
At approximately the same time (1955), the Villages of Franklin and Beverly Hills were also incorporated.
Most of the early settlers to Bingham Farms were from New England and New York, and this heritage is reflected in the style of their dwellings. They arrived via the Erie Canal, across Lake Erie and into Detroit. Leaving Detroit, they traveled up the Saginaw trail (Woodward Ave.) and across what is now Fourteen Mile Road to the Bingham Farms area.
The success of the Erie Canal encouraged the development in Oakland County of an east-west canal artery, which was to link the Clinton and Kalamazoo Rivers. The advent of the railroad made the expensive canal project prohibitive.
The cheaper railway system was the demise of the waterway plan. By 1844 there was railroad service between Detroit and Pontiac. This promoted the development of the Royal Oak-Birmingham-Pontiac corridor. The road system was poor, primarily Indian trails until the 1850s.
The migration of easterners to the area also brought eastern names: Southfield, Livonia, Troy, etc. Along with familiar names came typical eastern style homes. These were modest houses that were simple in style. With establishment and prosperity came homes of grander scale that reflected popular national styles.
When John Daniels arrived in 1823, the land in Southfield Township was heavily wooded. The most prevalent was the oak tree, hence the source of the county’s name “Oakland”.
The creation of sawmills also contributed to the influx of settlers, providing necessary lumber for the construction of homes and barns. The fertile soil was perfect for farming. Apple, peach and pear orchards dotted the landscape. Wheat was planted and dairy farms were started. The Bingham Farm for example, had 954 apple trees on 40 acres of land in 1900.
Crops were sold at the Eastern Market. Product was loaded into wagons and transported down Northwestern Highway. The round trip took 10 hours.
Economic centers were also developing in Pontiac and Birmingham. Manufacturing was a mainstay in Pontiac. Carriage making was a prominent industry in the early 1880s’, which led to automotive manufacturing, and the production of cars, trucks and buses. It was home to many woolen and gristmills. The First National Bank of Pontiac was one of the first banks to open its doors in the 1800s. Birmingham also was sprouting banks on its way to becoming a city.
John Daniels was the first settler in Southfield Township, arriving in 1823. He was a native of Rutland, Vermont. He purchased the entire southwest quarter of section four (Telegraph/Bingham Road & Thirteen Mile). He built the first home in the Village, a cabin on the northeast corner of Bingham Road and Thirteen Mile Road. This structure burned down in the late 1990’s.
In 1824 he returned to New York and married Julia Clark of Massachusetts. They returned to Michigan and settled in the log cabin.
John and Julia had six children: Ezra B. Daniels (died in 1856), Samuel H, Clarissa (Bristol) (died in 1920), John C., Lycurgus L. and Mary E.
John C. Daniels, the second son, went to California in 1849 and reportedly made a fortune during the gold rush. He came back to the area circa 1853 and married Arabella Adams, daughter of Reuben Adams. They adopted one child, a girl named Bertha. John C. eventually took over and ran the sawmill after his father’s death in 1855.
Daniels enterprises flourished through the years. In 1877 a local historian characterized John C. as a man who “worked, prospered and was long respected and honored, filling many public offices in the locality, previous to his death in 1875.”
William Adams Sr. (of Scotch and Irish descent), came from upstate New York and fought in the War of 1812. Records indicate he settled in Michigan in 1834 but had purchased a substantial amount of land from Peter Desnoyer, a land speculator in 1833. The land was located in Section 5 (Franklin) and parts of Section 4 (Bingham Farms). The property located at 32851 Bingham Road was part of this land purchase.
Reuben Adams married Emily O. Tyler. She died in 1896, at the age of 72 years. Her parents were natives of New England and came to Oakland County in 1856. Emily’s father had been a mechanic in a plow and wire factory in Connecticut. He also was the inventor of a revolver, which was later patented.
Reuben and Emily had five children: William Wallace, John, Charlotte, Julia and Arabella (who married John C. Daniels of Bingham Road). Reuben was a Vice President of the First National Bank of Pontiac, which was one of the original banks in Michigan.
Reuben was born in New York State on March 28, 1817 and died in 1893. His estate was reportedly worth $200,000 (in excess of $4 million today).
William W. Adams, (Del & Anna Mary’s grandpa) was a farmer and capitalist. He was born in 1842 in the family home at 32535 Bingham Road. He served for a long time as Vice President of the First National Bank of Pontiac. He also farmed 227 acres in the Village.
William W. Adams obtained his education in the district schools of Southfield township. While he was involved in farming, his main avocation was his investments. He was recognized as one of the leading capitalists of Southfield Township.
In 1866, William Wallace Adams (grandson of William and son of Reuben) married Matilda German (grandmother) of Bloomfield Township. She was the daughter of George and Henrietta German, who were farmers. William W. and Matilda had six children. William, Cora, Frank, Archie, George and Ross. They lived in the Victorian now (32535 Bingham Road).
Frank Adams and his wife Jenny, built the farmhouse at 32831 Bingham Rd. Frank had three children, Milton, Carleton and Eugenia. Frank was a fruit farmer who regularly made the lengthy trip to the Eastern Market. Upon Frank’s death, his wife Jenny moved the family to California.
As part of his farming enterprise, Frank built two barns on his property. Both barns exist today. One is shared by the property owners (Hunters & Harms that acts as a garage and a playroom for the children. The second barn, which housed horses, cows and hay, now is a residence (Harms).
Milton Adams married Fanny Harris, who became Supervisor of Southfield Twp., circa 1930s.
David Bingham came to Michigan when he was 17 years old and spent most of his life as a farmer. He moved to Southfield Township in 1880 and resided there until his death in 1899 at the age of 61.
He was married twice and had seven children: William, Lorenzo, George, Addie, Ida, Charles and Floy. George Bingham became postmaster at the Franklin post office and the owner of the General Store.
Charles A. Bingham married Jenny and they had two sons, Kenneth & Carson. Charles ran Pinehurst Fruit Farm, which produced apples and peaches. He also founded the family insurance company, Bingham & Bingham that was located in the Wabeek building in Birmingham.
Carson Bingham married Evageline (Nancy Trimbley) in the mid 30’s and they had three children Charley, Nancy and David.
The earliest records of land ownership date back to 1821. One of the first settlers was John Daniels who by 1823 had acquired hundreds of acres of land in the Village that stretched both north and south of Thirteen Mile Road. His home still stands at 31435 Bingham Road. He turned the land into a working farm, growing vegetables, raising sheep and tendering an orchard.
The first house built by the Daniels family was a cabin located at the southeast corner of Bingham Road and Thirteen Mile Rd. This also was the location of a commercial sawmill. The Daniels mill was known as the pioneer muley mill in Michigan. (see picture of a muley saw.
In 1832, John Daniels built a sawmill believed to be at the southeast corner of Bingham Road and Thirteen Mile Rd. The Daniels mill was known as the pioneer mill, the first to use a muley saw.
In 1848, William Adams (the elder), sold 160 acres of land to his daughter Roxanna Adams Keeney and her husband, Wells Keeney. It is believed the current home at 31435 Bingham Road was built by the Keeney’s around 1858. The construction technique (pegged posts and beams) also places the construction of the home around this time.
In 1863 John Daniels and Arabella Adams purchased the 160-acre “Keeney farm”. Arabella re-married after John’s death and moved to West Bloomfield. Tenant farmers apparently worked the land until 1920. The property was eventually sold to Danzinger of Grosse Pointe. The Danzingers employed tenant farmers to work the land until 1933 when a portion of the property was sold to George and Lucie Yeoman. They took great pains to restore the main house.
In 1936, the VanDusen family purchased the house and lived there until 1943 when it was sold to F.A. Lamberson.
The present owners of the home, Jerome P. Wiater and his wife Michelle purchased the house from the Lamberson trust in 1980.
The Wiaters have maintained the historic and structural integrity of the house. Comparing the house today to the 1877 lithograph, it is easy to see the commitment to retaining the original character of the home.
Richard Van Dusen was raised in the Daniels house. He later owned the Italian Villa style house at 32205 Bingham Road. Richard was Under Secretary of the Interior under George Romney during the Nixon administration.
Sometime between 1834 and 1839 William Adams (grandfather) built the white, Greek Revival farmhouse at 32851 Bingham Road, which was later, sold to his son Reuben for $500 (in excess of $10,000 today). The house was eventually sold to Frank Adams (uncle).
During the 1920’s the Adams farmhouse was substantially modernized with the addition of two bathrooms, one on the first floor and one on the second. At the same time, the outside columned porch on the front of the house was removed and the living room was extended out to the edge of the prior porch with the addition of a large rectangular, paned window.
During the early 1900’s, William Wallace Adams, son of Reuben, built the house located at (now 32535 Bingham Road). In 1928, his son, Ross G. built the house behind 32555 Bingham Road that was used by his wife as a florist shop and was passed down to their son Delbert (Del) who also ran a florist shop from the first floor of the house until his death on December 31, 1999.
Lewis W. Adams leased part of his property to the Fractional School District No. 2 in 1867 and built a one-room stone schoolhouse (32515 Bingham Rd). Children from the Daniels, Adams and Bingham families were taught the 3Rs here. The schoolhouse was later turned into a house. David Bingham bought the home at 32205 Bingham Road in 1880 along with 106 acres to establish orchards. At the time, David was living in a residence on Maple Road with a small orchard and he wanted to expand his orchard business. His son, Charles A. (1875-1931) bought an interest in the house in 1896 and cultivated 40 of the 106 acres in apple orchards. There were almost 1000 apple trees of many varieties. The Bingham Farm was known as Pinehurst Farms (put in business card) during this period reflecting the many pine trees that were on the property.
The apples were transported to the Eastern Market in downtown Detroit. The trip, by horse and wagon, took about five hours each way. The family also planted crops and raised cows and chickens for personal use rather than commercial use. At harvest time most farm hands came from neighboring farms or from Franklin Village.
In 1921 Charles A. ceased farming and established the Bingham insurance business. His sons, H. Kenneth Bingham and Carson Bingham owned the property consecutively until 1953.
When the village of Bingham Farms was incorporated in 1955, the Bingham name was chosen because of the family’s association with the area since 1862 and what was previously known as Adams Rd. became Bingham Rd.
In 1957 Richard and Barbara VanDusen purchased the property. Richard was listed in “Who’s Who” and in “Who’s Who in American Politics”, was an attorney and political figure of local, state and national significance. In 1952, he, along with his wife Barbara and four other individuals, established the Birmingham Republican Club. The purpose of the club was to promote ways and means of increasing voter turn out.
In January, 1954, Richard was appointed to complete Howard Estes’s term of office in the Michigan House of Representatives. That same fall, he won re-election. In 1963 he was a legal advisor to Governor George Romney and from 1969-1972 he served as Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Washington D.C.
Richard died in 1991 while on vacation in England. His wife Barbara currently resides in Birmingham.
The Daniels and Adams children attended school in the one room schoolhouse located at 32515 Bingham Rd. The one room schoolhouse had a big potbelly stove that heated the school. There were two outhouses behind the school, one for boys and one for girls.
Mona A. Conley was hired by Elizabeth Adams in the 1920s to teach at the school. By this time there were only 8 students (4 Adams, Kline (tenant’s son) and 3 of the Bingham children. Elizabeth Adams (wife of Ross) was on the Southfield Township School Board. Through acquaintances at a horticultural society, Elizabeth was introduced to Mona who was hired to teach. Not having a car, she lived at the Adams home (32555 Bingham Rd.) She taught for about 5 years before the school closed and students then went to Hill School in Birmingham and then Baldwin High School (now Chester St. parking garage across from St. James Church).
During the summer, the students would go to different schools to participate in sports.
The standard for teacher qualifications in the 1800s was not high. For females, “A young girl who was able to read and write, and to “cipher” through the four primary rules of arithmetic, was considered a competent teacher for the summer term. Their male counterparts, who “kept winter school” were more remarkable for physical than for mental accomplishments, though this was not the case with all.” 1
The Outland Stables was probably the only other commercial enterprise in Bingham Farms other than farming. The Stables were created by the Butler family, which acquired property on both the north and south side of Fourteen Mile Rd. The Outland family later took over the stables. The stone house on the North side of Fourteen Mile was added on to in order to house the stable help. Bridal paths extended all the way to Bingham Rd and north to Lincoln. Stables, riding rings and outbuildings were located on the 10-acre parcel on the south side of Fourteen Mile (show picture) and operated until the mid 70’s.
There were two fires at the Stables during its operating years. One of the fires occurred in the late 30’s. In high school at the time, Anna Mary Adams remembers looking out her window and seeing the flames shooting high. She rallied her brothers and helped rescue all the horses that were in the stables. “It was really difficult trying to get panicked horses out in the corrals. They were so scared, they kept trying to get back into the barns.”
One of the rooms in the stable, had a nickelodeon music box that was periodically used for entertainment.
The Outland family was highly recognized as equestrian coaches and trainers. Zelma Outland had coached his Outland Equestrian Team to numerous State Championships in the late 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.
There wasn’t much in the way of social life in the early days. Most of the functions were held in Franklin. In the early days the social functions were held at Franklin Hall which was eventually torn down. The entire family went to the socials on Saturday night. Cooking was done on the second floor. There was a narrow stairway going upstairs. Long tables were set up. It was often pot luck where everyone brought a dish or box food.
Dancing was held on the first floor, mainly the fox trot and waltz. All there was at the time was live music, with trombones, trumpets, and violins. A fiddle was used for square dancing. The kids just loved to run and slide on the dance floor. Social events usually ended by 11 o’clock.
Picnics were the main social event of the summers. Baseball was the sport of choice played by adults and children.
On Sundays, the entire family would go to services at the Franklin Community Church. When Franklin Hall was torn down, the Church became the center for social events. Young children often participated in pageants and plays.
Stories abound about travel to Franklin. Horse and buggy and later automobiles had to traverse dirt roads. This became quite tricky in the winter with ice and snow. And the spring wasn’t much better with muddy, potholed roads. But the desire for social contact was stronger than the difficulty in getting there.
Outland Stables also provided a social outlet. Many of the children in Bingham Farms used to go to the stables to “help”. The horses were a main attraction.
LIFE ON THE FARM
Life on the farm was not easy. Every family member worked the farm. Every child had several chores. That’s how life was for the Bingham Family. Kenneth (the oldest child) milked to cows. The youngest, Cameron walked to the schoolhouse early in the morning to start the coals to heat the one classroom. The school board paid him 50 cents per week to fill the coal bin.
The Bingham Farm was primarily an orchard. They had almost 1000 trees and harvested about 8000 pounds of apples each season. The apples were picked, placed in bushels and divided into those for sale and those for family use.
They also had a dairy herd, about 12 milking cows. It would take more than a half hour to churn butter. There were also chickens used for the main meal and for their eggs. Before refrigeration, eggs and butter were stored in a case inside the well to prevent spoiling.
Charles A. Bingham would head to the Eastern Market every week to sell his apples. He would leave late at night and drive down to the market (horse and wagon) to sell his product and then returned around noon the next day.
The apples used for the family were stored in bins in the basement. The problem was to keep them from freezing. There would be two to three kerosene lamps strategically placed to provide enough warmth.
Carson Bingham remembers farming as producing a meager income. However, there was plentiful food, most of which was raised on the farm. They had very few clothes and few linens.
Before electricity, bathing was once a week on Saturdays. It was not convenient to bathe more often. The bathtub was a galvanized wash tub. The taller one got, the more they had to skootch up to fit in. The tub was filled with about five pails of water. Children didn’t object to it. They were told to get in the tub and they did. Children didn’t argue with their parents.
Washing clothes was even more of an ordeal. It was done in the same galvanized but that was used for bathing. Water was boiled on the stove and then poured into the tub. “Thousand Act” was the soap used at the time, a large tan-colored soap. It had lye in it which made it hard to lather but it lasted longer. Clothes were rubbed up and down a corrugated wash board. Some farmers had a second tub that was used for colors. White clothes were boiled to sterilize them as thee wasn’t much else to protect against disease as vaccines were not yet available.
Medical attention was scarce in the early days. Home remedies were often used for minor afflictions. When one caught a bad cold, mustard plaster was used. It tasted really bad if the mix was too strong. Mustard corn starch was also used. It was smeared on a sheet and the sick person would lay down on the sheet. Methol was boiled in water and this alleviated congestion. Camphor oil was applied for a sore nose. Ear drops were a sweet oil mixture.
The doctor was called in dire emergencies. He would travel by horse and buggy.
Bingham Road was a nameless Township Road until approximately 1925. It was originally named Adams Road. The original mailing address for Bingham Farms was actually Birmingham, Michigan. Birmingham also had an Adams Road and to avoid confusion, Bingham Farms Adams Road was renamed Bingham Rd. Carson Bingham believes the Bingham name was used due to his father’s many civic activities. Bingham Road remained a dirt road until the early thirties when it was graveled. All the Village roads were dirt roads until 1984 when by a close vote, residents approved paving them. There were those trying to maintain the past, others bringing the Village into the present.
Most of the Village roads were named after several prominent families who operated farms. All Village roads were
Fourteen Mile Rd. was a main thoroughfare connecting the Village to Franklin. It remained a dirt road until the late 20’s. Every spring the road would turn into mud and getting vehicles (whether horse & buggy or car) through the muck was difficult.
Originally, Bingham Farms was not easy to get to and this kept growth in the area down until major roads were built. In the early 1800s, the major arteries were Northwestern Highway, Southfield Rd. and Woodward. In the 1920s the State decided to begin construction on a 2-lane road (Telegraph Rd) to provide another north south artery for commercial and residential expansion. The road officially opened in 1928. Charles Bingham helped the State get the necessary rights of way for the road.
The road would divide the Adams farms (Ross and Frank).
The Adams children had fond memories of sitting on top of the hill at Fourteen Mile and watching the big machines digging out the road below.
Shortly after it was finished, Telegraph Road was nicknamed “Bloody Telegraph” due to all the accidents. Cars at that time found the concrete surface perfect for getting to and from places in a hurry. There were few traffic lights and it was a quick shot up to Pontiac.
History of Oakland County, Michigan, 1877
Research by Lynne Weir – Registration Form for National Register of Historic Places
32851 Bingham Road
Better Homes & Gardens, October, 1956