Much of the area known today as Wayne County underwent numerous transformations throughout history, especially its villages. During the 1800s and 1900s, these villages, or ghost towns, quickly sprung up and contributed greatly to development of the area, but then disappeared almost as quickly as they came. These ghost towns in southeast Michigan include Perrinsville, Wallaceville, Schwartzburg, Warrendale, Newburg, and more.
Perrin Recreation Area is named after local pioneers and brothers Abraham and Isaac F. Perrin, and the village of Perrinsville. The Perrin brothers built their sawmill in 1832. It was located where Merriman Road crosses the Middle Rouge River today. Perrinsville grew out of the area where the Perrin brothers managed their sawmill.
Having become established during the 1830s, Perrinsville was a small but thriving business center. The vibrant village reached its economic peak by around 1850 with numerous businesses located along Ann Arbor Trail and Merriman Road. At one point, there was a school hall, a church, print shop, three blacksmith shops, three wagon shops, and more. However, over time the commercial center began to experience setbacks.
The construction of a railroad south of Perrinsville made the booming town less accessible to long-distance travelers who journeyed by train. This new mode of transportation and its location had long-lasting effects on local businesses. Perrinsville transformed from a business district to an agricultural area.
Perrinsville also experienced several name changes throughout its existence. On December 21, 1887, Perrinsville changed its name to Pike’s Peak. A few decades later, in 1919, Pike’s Peak split into Pike’s Peak and Perrinsville. Then, only a year later, the two towns combined once more into Perrinsville. By 1966, the historical village was absorbed by Westland. These days, a residential street, school, and store are what remain of this ghost town.
One aspect of Perrinsville that still remains is Perrinsville School. The first school was built on the Marcus Swift farm (the northwest corner of the family property) in 1833, located in the central part of what is now Garden City. The second school, built in 1843, was larger and constructed on the William Osband farm, another early local pioneer family.
Three one-room schools were prevalent during this time. Instruction was individual and focused primarily on reading and spelling. “Writing paper was unruly and there were no pencils.”
The first brick school, the next Perrinsville School building, was constructed in 1856. Classes continued to be held in this brick building until 1937, when Henry Ford replaced the Perrinsville School with a Nankin Mills schoolhouse. The former school was then repurposed as a church from 1948 to 1968. Eventually, the city of Westland not only acquired the old school building but restored it to its 1890s structure in 1990.
Wallaceville is named after fellow local pioneer John B. Wallace and his sawmill. While it existed, Wallaceville encompassed the area by Ann Arbor Trail and Gulley along the Rouge River. In addition to owning a sawmill, Wallace was also the first postmaster of Wallaceville.
Though Wallaceville no longer exists, there are several items and areas that point to its brief existence. A Wallace family couch can be found on display at the Caroline Kennedy Library of Dearborn Heights. The Wallaceville Cemetery still exists today as well.
Wallaceville School began as a church in 1824; five years later it was used as a public school building. It was the first school in Bucklin Township (later Dearborn Township). John B. Wallace donated the land and building, which led to the school earning its formal name Wallaceville School.
Students regularly attended Wallaceville School for several decades until 1876 when the school building burned down. The school was rebuilt with brick and used periodically until 1938. The building lay vacant until 1966 when Dearborn Heights converted it into a museum.
Schwartzburg is another ghost town in southeast Michigan. The village was located along the Rouge River, by Wayne Road, Stark Road, and Ann Arbor Trail. Its founder, the town’s namesake General John E. Schwartz, built and owned a saw mill along the Rouge River, just east of Wayne Road, in 1836. He also built a dam and hotel in the area.
Schwartzburg had a distillery, ashery, brick yard, ice house, and school. A noted physical landmark of the village was the bridge over the Rouge River on Wayne Road, built by Marcus Swift, famed Methodist preacher and local abolitionist. One of the first major settlements in Livonia, Schwartzburg prospered throughout the 1820s and 1830s, having as many as 50 buildings.
Local historians point to the creation and rise of Perrinsville for Schwartzburg’s eventual disappearing act. On top of this, a fire that destroyed the Holbrook hotel along with a Livonia prohibition law in 1853 are also believed to have brought about this ghost town’s end. “By the time of the Civil War, Schwartzburg had disappeared off the map, and was quickly forgotten.”
Warrendale was located in the northeast part of Dearborn Township along Warren Avenue. A local election on September 9, 1924 led to the area encompassing Ford Road to Joy Road and Greenfield to Rouge Park (7.5 square miles in total) becoming incorporated as the village of Warrendale. This new status, however, was short-lived. In April 1925, Warrendale was annexed into Detroit. Though the village no longer exists, the neighborhood is still known as Warrendale.
Newburg (a la Newburgh Road and Newburgh Pointe) was one of Livonia’s largest historical communities. First settled in 1819, Anthony Paddack coined the name for this ghost town. According to local lore, Paddack called the town “Newburg” for it was a new “burg” (or village). The name was also possibly used to differentiate from “Schwartzburg” (the old “burg”). Coincidentally, Newburg’s history is intertwined with Schwartzburg. Nankin, the Schwartzburg post office, moved to Newburg in the 1830s. Panel Text #19: After its initial establishment, Newburg immediately rose in popularity due to Ann Arbor Trail, a main path from Detroit to Ann Arbor (and other central parts of the state). Newburg had a hotel for travelers that was especially popular with passengers on the Stagecoaches that ran along Ann Arbor Trail between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Newburg also had several stores, a school (built in 1831), Methodist church (organized in 1834), and a cemetery (Newburgh Cemetery, created in 1832). Newburgh Cemetery contains several local Revolutionary War and Civil War casualties. The Tuttle sawmill and Newburg gristmill were located east of Newburg along the Rouge River. Also of note, Nicholas Bovee built a cider mill in the village in 1870; it produced up to 25,000 gallons of cider a year.
Bad luck struck Newburg when the Tuttle sawmill burned down in 1890. A few years later, the local hotel burned down in 1896. Additionally, with the building of a new railroad, Ann Arbor Trail grew less popular as the main stagecoach route. After this series of events, Newburg continued on as a rural community. Eventually, Newburg was incorporated into Livonia.
Greenmead Historic Park
If one is wishing to see vestiges of this ghost town, Greenmead Historic Park is the perfect place to visit. In addition to the Newburg-Ann Arbor Trail crossroads, Greenmead recreated the old Methodist Church, parsonage, Geer Store, schoolhouse, and more. An immersive experience, Greenmead Historic Park brought this ghost town back to life.