Clare was Founded When?

Jon H. Ringelberg
Member, CCHS
March 5, 2019

Plat

Sometimes one stumbles into history by sheer accident and this particular stumble into history involves the now City of Clare, previously known as Isabella Crossing and McEwanville before a ‘founding’, and then known as the Village of Clare on its ‘founding’.

Originally named KayKaKee County in about 1840, the county name was changed to Clare County in 1843.  And, although surveyed, the townships of Clare County, mostly unnamed, were legally ‘attached’ in various parts at various times to Midland, Isabella, and Mecosta Counties.   Sheridan and Grant Townships were ‘organized’ in 1870, followed by Winterfield and Surrey Townships in 1871.  Then, according to Forrest Meek in Michigan’s Timber Battleground (1976), at page 133, the first village in Clare County was founded:

“It was on a Friday afternoon, about thirty minutes before the Register of Deeds office in

          Midland would close, that McEwan came in and laid on the counter a proposed platting          for the town of Clare, Michigan.  He had beat the calendar.  So, Clare became more that a station stop on that 30th day of December 1870.  It became the first platted and registered           town in Clare County.”

As an aside it is noted that the Village of Clare was incorporated on May 28, 1879, (Michigan Legislature 1879, Local Acts, #404) and the City of Clare was incorporated on March 12, 1891 (Michigan Legislature 1891, Local Acts, #210). 

Now back to the stumbling part.  In December of 2018, while checking a historical marriage license in the Clare County Clerk’s vault in Harrison, this writer, purely by accident, noticed a notebook containing plats.  The plat of the Village of Clare was located in the notebook and a copy of the plat obtained.

The copy of the original Plat of the Village of Clare presents a surveyed platted area one-half mile by one-half mile consisting of 48 Blocks containing about 500 lots; the street names of First through Seventh Streets running East and West; and Hemlock, Pine, McEwan, Beech and Maple Streets running North and South.  The copy sets out a notarization of the Plat of the Village of Clare by Notary Public N.I. Evans of Bay County on December 30, 1870, as to the signatures of William McEwan and John McEwan, as owners, and the signature of surveyor J.M. Johnston.  Immediately following the notarization, the copy of the original Plat of the Village of Clare reads as follows: “Received and Filed 16th day of March 1871   A. Bacon, Register” of Midland County.  Note that Midland County handled the Register of Deed duties relating to Clare County prior to and for a time after the organization of Grant Township.

So, the historical stumble raises the question of the ‘founding’ of the Village of Clare:   Was it ‘founded’ on December 30, 1870, or Was it ‘founded’ on March 16, 1871?  The answer to the question would decide if the now City of Clare celebrates is sesquicentennial, 150 years since its ‘founding’, in 2020 or in 2021.

Consider that from a purely legal point of view the verbal orders of a Judge are generally meaningless and only obtain legal effect on the Judge signing a writing and the writing being filed with the County Clerk.  And, a deed gains legal status on being filed, that is recorded, with the Register of Deeds.  Similarly, a plat obtains legal effect only upon its filing with the Register of Deeds.   And so, the December 30, 1870, notarization of the Plat of the Village of Clare is meaningless as to a ‘founding’.  The date of March 16, 1871, the day of “Received and Filed”, that is, the date of recording the Plat of the Village of Clare with the Midland County Register of Deeds, and coincidentally the day before St. Patrick’s Day, is the date of the founding of the City of Clare; and so a sesquicentennial celebration of the founding of the City of Clare should be celebrated in the year 2021.