Our Past

by Wayne Clements, Saline Area Historical Society




Salt has been very important throughout history and the Latin - SAL, gives us the words salt and Saline. Water and salt in the early days were essential to survival and our Indian predecessors established no less than six well defined trails to the salt wells along the Saline River south of the village. Saline's first permanent settler was Leonard Miller in 1826, following closely was Orange Risdon who surveyed Saline village in 1832 along with the Detroit to Chicago Road and many other Michigan buildings and lands. Mr. Risdon officially named the village Saline and is honored today as its founder. He died Nov. 27, 1876 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

The village grew in support of the very productive farm land of the four townships surrounding Saline: Lodi, York, Pittsfield and Saline. Many centennial farms still exist today in the gently rolling country side and in their early years depended on the village for supplies, feed mills, creameries, newspapers, hardwares. When the railroad came to Saline in 1870, the village also offered a way to ship their many products including grain and cattle.

Photo Doris Kays Kraushaar
Many areas in Saline retain the "look" of the early days. A good number of residents are related to the early pioneers and have a direct interest in preservation. They are supported today in that effort by new residents, businesses, local government, the Historic Commission and Historical Society. The landscape in and around Saline today is composed of a great many centennial buildings and structures still in active use including, commercial, homes, farms, barns, churches and an occasional windmill. Traveling the townships around Saline, following the many streams and the Saline River, takes you by dairy farms, woods, corn and wheat fields, sheep farms and even a one room country school or two, now abandoned but active in serving the educational needs of the community from 1831 to 1950.

Building upon solid traditions and heritage, the progressive residents of Saline over the years have made the necessary additions and changes to keep pace with the life styles different from the early settlers. The village was incorporated on October 18, 1866, and the first election was scheduled on Tuesday, November 27, the day of founder Orange Risdon's death in 1876. From this beginning Saline has kept up to date with new banks, high schools, hospitals, recreational parks, industrial park, churches and housing. Good planning and the blending together of the ancestors of early pioneers with the residents and companies drawn to Saline by its quiet history and charm has maintained a quality of life that would make the village founders of 1866 proud.

Photo Doris Kays Kraushaar
Due to the sound thinking and creativity of Saline residents and leaders over the passing years, quoted from the Washtenaw County History of 1881, over 100 years ago, is as true about Saline today as it was then; "Among the villages of Michigan there is not one perhaps which surpasses Saline in beauty of location, regularity of streets or in the neatness of its commercial and dwelling houses. The people belong to that class known as progressionists - who seize upon every opportunity to build up the interest of their town. This is apparent in the number of business blocks which they have erected, in their principle school building, in their churches and in the taste displayed in the homes of the people generally. The business center of the village presents a busy scene that bears a very favorable contrast with the commercial quarters of much larger towns. So that it may be truly said, Saline forms one of the most pleasant little centers of population in Michigan."

Building on Saline's beautiful location and solid past will make this quotation just as meaningful in 2091 and the next 100 years of Saline history.