Laketon Township


By 1781, the 13 original States had voted to join together in a confederation of free and independent states to be known as “The United States of America”. Before the state of Maryland would join the Confederation, however, she insisted on one thing; that the states who claimed any of the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River surrender their claims. Once this was accomplished, Maryland ratified the Articles of the Confederation and the “U.S. of A.” was born.

This “vast expanse” of land and water referred to by Maryland was known as the “Northwest Territory”. It was governed by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The Ordinance stated the residents of any area over 60,000 people could adopt a constitution and become a State. From the Northwest Territory lands came the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, part of Minnesota and – important to this story – Michigan!

Michigan became a State in 1837. In 1838, Michigan was divided into five Land Districts (Detroit, Monroe, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Grand River). Within the Districts were smaller areas called counties. Muskegon County was formed in 1859. Within the counties were even smaller divisions called townships. Townships were squares of land six miles long and six miles wide. Each townshipwas further divided into 36 smaller squares of 640 acres, or (one square mile) to be known as “sections”.

Laketon Township was organized March 8, 1865. It was the 11th of 16 townships in Muskegon County. Laketon Township originally included the south side of Muskegon Lake as well as the City of North Muskegon. Today its boundaries are Lake Michigan to the West, River Road to the North, Whitehall Road on the East to Witham Road, and Bear Lake and Muskegon Lake on the South.

In the early days, Laketon Township was very rural in nature. Transportation consisted of boats in the summer and sleds or foot travel in the winter to get across the lakes. As more people arrived they began to create paths through the woods. Territorial legislation required all able bodied males, except clergymen, ages 21-50 to help work on the roads for a minimum of 2 days and up to a maximum of 50 days per year. The dirt and gravel paths in 1900 led to over 100 miles of roadway covered with either concrete or macadem (a pavement of layers of compacted small stones usually bound with tar or asphalt). In the 1920’s this was used to provide good roadways for the growing number of automobiles.

Also in those early days of Laketon Township, policing was at it’s most provincial, consisting of only one elected constable in 1883. There were 4 constables from 1885 until the 1950’s. Today, the Township contracts the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department for it’s policing.

Healthcare at that time was very primitive, as it was all over the young nation. People took care of their own injuries and illnesses. Delivering babies at home and folk remedies were the norm. In 1883 Dr. N.W. Andrews was paid $200.00 per year for his service as a Health Officer of the Township. He was the only doctor close to Laketon Township with his office in North Muskegon above the drug store. Life expectancy (if you were born in 1900), was 47.3 years but gradually increased to 54.5 years after the polio epidemic of 1916.

Formal education was also beginning to emerge in the area. Schools were log buildings with few windows where students sat on benches or stools instead of desks. The school terms were only 3 months in the beginning and parents helped pay teachers salaries and other school needs. State funded education was slowly emerging. In 1842 the only “free” schools were in Detroit, but by 1869 free schools were all over Michigan, however, state aid was added to the taxes collected by the Townships. By 1895 children had to attend school 4 months a year and by 1905 school districts were able to set the “school year” for themselves and children had to attend a full “school year”. Laketon students attended high school in North Muskegon from 1934 until they could attend high school at Reeths Puffer High School in 1964.

A Vacation Destination

Today, Laketon Township is one of the most desirable places to live in Muskegon County. It offers many recreational activities with its three lakes (Lake Michigan, Muskegon Lake and Bear Lake) and five parks (Muskegon State Park: including the Winter Sports Complex, Pioneer County Park, Mullally Park/Lange Complex, Horton Park and Green Creek Park).

In the last twenty years, 12,500 people have moved into Muskegon County and now occupy more than 45,000 acres of land. In the 1990 census, Laketon Township numbered 6,538 persons. In the 2000 census, the number of residents had risen to 7363 residents. Registered voters currently number 5,806 persons in Laketon Township.