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The founder of our City, Christian Clemens, first came to this area in 1796 as part of a surveying venture. At the time the area was known as “High Banks” or “Big Springs”along the river, then known as the Huron. Clemens was intrigued with the area, in 1801 bought some property along the river. He built a log house about where the County Court Building is today. In 1818, Clemens laid out lots and streets with names; plotting a village he named Mount Clemens. On January 15, 1818, Michigan Territory Governor, Lewis Cass, signed a proclamation establishing the County of Macomb, named after General Alexander Macomb, hero of the War of 1812. Three months later, Governor Cass named Mount Clemens the County seat and appointed Christian Clemens Judge of the County Court. On January 26, 1837, the little settlement was incorporated as a village, the same date that Michigan became the 26th state admitted to the Union. By1879, the town had grown to over 3,000 souls and the people voted for the village to become a City.
During the 1870’s, attempts to develop salt wells had proved unsuccessful but resulted in the discovery of the famed mineral waters. Soon a mineral bath industry flourished that made Mount Clemens famous throughout the world as a health spa. During the heyday of the mineral bath era, 23 major hotels and bath houses along with many smaller hotels and rooming houses prospered. Around World War II, this thriving industry began to decline, and fewer and fewer people came to stay the three weeks required to obtain the curative powers of the baths. Reminders of the era can still be seen throughout the City, in the neighborhoods with the lovely old homes and in the downtown with its picturesque buildings.
As the mineral baths were bringing fame to the City, another industry was developing which brought national attention to Mount Clemens. Beginning in 1880, and for two decades after World War I, there were ten major rose growers with over 30 acres under glass. Mount Clemens was once known as the Rose Capital of the United States.
The Clinton River played a prominent role in the City’s development. From the earliest settlement, through the 1800’s and into the mid 1900’s, our citizens fished, hunted and trapped along its banks. Boat building and repair establishments flourished along the river. Notable among the boat builders was the Hacker Boat Company, originator of the famous “Hackercraft.” Mount Clemens built ships up to 190 ft. in length for the commercial trade.
After World War II, a group of forward-thinking citizens began what would become a nine-year struggle to reform the City Charter. Since 1919, the City had been governed by four elected Commissioners and a Mayor. It took several attempts, but on April 5, 1954, a new City Charter calling for a City Manager form of government was passed. It also called for an elected Mayor and six Commissioners, elected at large.
The significance of this political reform became clear as a physical reform of the City followed quickly. Extensive urban renewal projects began in the 1950’s and 1960’s that greatly transformed the appearance of the Old City. Riverfront and downtown developments such as landscaping, a marina and a boardwalk enhance the City’s attractiveness. As the County Seat and one of the oldest cities in Michigan, it remains as a financial and judicial center. Mount Clemens continues as a fine residential city and its citizens and business people are proud of its elegant, famous past and enthusiastically plan for its bright future.