Highland Founders Festival: A Celebration of Spring and Heritage

Milford High School Band proudly marched down Livingston Road to celebrate a past Founders Festival.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 21 to enjoy the annual Founders Day festival. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the party is back with a parade, kids’ zone, plant sale and veterans’ ceremony, plus food trucks and a craft show.

The fun begins at 9 a.m. with the parade rolling down Livingston Road at 10 a.m., featuring Sue and Dick Cole as Grand Marshal, youth baseball teams, new and old fire engines and local organizations. A Veterans Ceremony will be held at Veteran’s Park (corner of Livingston and John Street) where the parade will end. The all-day festivities will continue until 4 p.m.

As Highland prepares to celebrate “Founders Day”, many may wonder who these “Founders” were. We put this question to Eugene Beach, president of the Highland Township Historical Society, who provided us with this answer:

“In the early 1830s, all of northwest Oakland County was so sparsely populated that it was considered part of Pontiac Township. This proved a hardship for early Highland settlers who had to travel more than 20 miles along winding native trails to attend town meetings, pay taxes or transact other township business. Thus, in December 1834, these pioneers drafted a petition to the territorial governor and the legislative council of Michigan requesting that “…start and organize ourselves in a separate town by the name of Highland…” This petition was filed before the legislative council On January 19, 1835 and on March 17, 1835, Governor Stevens T. Mason signed into law legislation which, among other things, established Highland as a separate self-governing township.

“Listed alphabetically, the signers of this petition were Stephen Armstrong, Theron L. Armstrong, Michael Beach, Joseph M. Becker, Jeptha Coburn, Daniel Dunham, Alexander Findley, Robert Findley, Mindret W. Gardner, Abner Hyde, Noah P Morse, Duncan McColl, Peter McPherson, Jesse Tenny and Rufus Tenny. Although not a signatory, pioneer Jonathan F. Stratton is named in the petition as the settlers’ choice to be their first justice of the peace. These men can therefore be considered “The Founders” since they set in motion the process that directly led to the creation of Highland. Several went on to play key roles in the early history of Highland as township officers or church and civic leaders.

Beach invites anyone interested in learning more about these “founders” or other aspects of Highland history to visit the historical society booth at the upcoming festival.