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Surrey Township

Clare County Michigan

A Brief History of Surrey Township

Surrey Township was established in 1870 by the Chippewa Indians. Soon, the area's abundant resources were tapped by Michigan's booming logging industry. As logging increased, the area's population grew and buildings began to spring up in the area. At this time, Surrey Township boasted the largest governmental unit in the county. On December 5, 1870 a Trust Deed was written to lay out a town in the township. The name of the company laying out the town was called Farwell City Company.

In 1871 a new railroad was completed that would carry passengers from as far away as Detroit into Surrey. Famous Surrey citizen Martha Hitchcock and her daughter Alice were the first to travel the new railraod. Mrs. Hitchcock and her husband George Hitchcock settled in Surrey with her brother Edmund Hall. The Hitchcocks home became the first in Farwell. Many people that passed through Farwell at the time, stayed at the Hitchcock's home. In 1918, the Hitchcock's historic home was dismantled and moved to Crooked Lake.

In addition to opening her home to travelers, Martha Hitchcock aided in the naming of the village and the county. Surrey was originally part of "Three Lakes Township". Once officials were elected into designated geographical areas, Martha assisted with naming some of the other townships within Clare County. Two townships were named for Civil War generals, Grant and Sheridan. Mrs. Hitchcock then used her considerable influence to help organize the naming of Surrey Township one year before it was even established! How she was able to precipitate this remains a great mystery.

With Surrey Township holding the largest governmental unit, it became the hub of the county. On May 11, 1871, Farwell was given the distinction of being the Clare County seat. The county seat remained in Farwell for six years until the Clare County Courthouse burned in 1877. A vote was then taken over the placement of the county seat. It was said that even all the men in the Harrison lumber camps were brought in to vote. The final decision was to move the county seat to Harrison, where it remains today.

In 1875 George Hitchcock built a water driven grain mill. He knew the lumber would be gone someday and he wanted something to continue to bring people to town. People traveled long distances to grind their grain at the mill. The Gristmill was in operation for over 100 years. The mill was eventually used as a source of power for the people southwest of town. The mill supplied power for at least 50 years. On July 3, 2003 the Farwell Mill was consumed in fire. The cause of the fire was never determined.