Historic Village of Ortonville
Nestled in the rolling hills of north Oakland County, the Village of Ortonville was founded by Amos Orton in 1848. Mr. Orton, his wife Emily, and their two children made the difficult trip from upstate New York via boat and ox cart in 1839, eventually working their way north through Troy and Pontiac on muddy Indian trails until they reached the present site of the Village of Ortonville. What they found was Kearsley Creek nestled in a heavily wooded area, along with bubbling artesian springs and beautiful pristine lakes. Mr. Orton, being an devoted businessman, immediately saw the potential of Kearsley Creek for waterpower. He built a log house north of the Village in 1839 and by 1848, he had built a small grist mill on the banks of Kearsley Creek.
In 1856, this small structure was replaced with a much larger building still in use today and Mr. Orton also constructed a dam and mill pond to provide power for this larger Grist Mill. As the number of farmers bringing their crops to the Mill grew, a variety of businesses were established to provide services to these ready made customers. Among these businesses were a blacksmith, a carriage maker, a general store, and a stable, and a saloon. In time, these businesses were followed by a Post Office, a hardware store, a hotel, a dress maker, a baker, a drug store, and an undertaker.
The Village prospered by becoming the commercial center for Brandon Township and a portion of Groveland Township. Mr. Orton worked hard to bring the railroad to Ortonville but became despondent when the line coming north went through Holly instead. He eventually left the Village that bears his name and lived for some time in Fenton and Okemos. He and his wife Emily are buried in the Ortonville cemetery. The Mill constructed by Amos Orton continued to be used until 1960 for a variety of purposes related to agriculture. In 1968, Emiline and Jack Hamilton donated the Mill to the Ortonville Community Historical Society and the building now contains a museum of local history.
Today the Village strives to maintain its historic charm while adjusting to the pressures of modern day development. It still serves as the commercial center for Brandon Township and a portion of Groveland Township. A short walk down the streets of the Village will give you an idea of what the Village used to look like. Included among our historic buildings are the "Old Town Hall" where a variety of community meetings still take place, a jewelry store that served as the community's drug store for over fifty years, an insurance business housed in a building that held the first post office and the first telephone exchange in the Village, and of course, Amos Orton's Grist Mill.
The Ortonville Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Ortonville Village Council are also working hard to maintain the historic nature of the Village while promoting commercial and retail developments. The DDA completed the installation of a streetscape project in 1995 with old fashioned street lights~ benches, new signage, and a fountain. In addition, the Village has recently been chosen as a Main Street community in Oakland County and this will bring a host of new resources to Ortonville.