History of Montmorency County

Prior to Michigan statehood in 1837, the land that would become Montmorency County was part of the Great Lakes Region, Indiana Territory. In 1805, when Michigan was organized, the territorial governor created Wayne County which included the present Montmorency County. As treaties were signed and land ceded by the natives to the federal government, new counties formed, and in 1818, the present-day Montmorency County was part of Michilimackinac County.

 In 1837 after Michigan attained statehood, Henry  Schoolcraft surveyed the state's northern property  and proposed twenty-nine northern counties as  well as their names; many of these names were  later adopted by the state legislature in 1840.  When the county was organized April 1, 1840, it  was known as Cheonoquet County after a  Chippewa Chief who took part in Indian treaties in  1807, 1815, 1825 and 1837.

 Renamed Montmorency County on March 8, 1843,  it was originally spelled montmorenci, and  historians conjecture this reflects the area's French-Canadian influence: the French Duke of Montmorency purchased a lieutenant governorship in Canada and the first archbishop of Canada--Montmorency-Laval--both could be influences on the county's name.   Montmorency was one of the last two Michigan counties to be officially approved by the state legislature in 1880 when it split from Alpena County. Its official year of establishment is 1881. Montmorency originally had three townships: Briley, Montmorency and Rust with the town of Brush Creek (now Hillman) being the county seat. Today, three towns comprise Montmorency County: Atlanta, becoming the county seat in 1893, Hillman, the only incorporated village, and Lewiston, a resort community; eight townships represent Montmorency's governmental units: Albert, Avery, Briley, Hillman, Loud, Montmorency, Rust, Vienna.


During most of the nineteenth century, the county's land was dense forest with white pine, jack pine and some hardwoods. But in the late nineteenth century when lumber companies discovered the county's vast timber resources, much of the land was clear-cut with the lumber being sent by rail to mills, to nearby rivers or to the Great Lakes for transportation down state.


Photographs of logging train and camp courtesy of Montmorency County Tribune

As the lumber industry declined, the county adapted by becoming agricultural as well as by promoting tourism. Today, tourism remains the largest industry as Montmorency has many acres of state forest land and campgrounds as well as lakes and streams. And in the winter, the county is part of the state snowmobile route. Agriculture, forestry and light manufacturing also provide revenue to the county's residents.

County government offices reside in the courthouse built in 1943 in Atlanta, which replaced the Old County Courthouse that burned in 1942, destroying the Prosecuting Attorney's records. After the fire, surviving records were moved to the Community Hall. One year later, this building also burned and with it all county documents exceptions being Montmorency's birth, death and marriage statistics.

Today, eight townships--Albert, Avery, Briley, Hillman, Loud, Montmorency, Rust and Vienna--and the incorporated village of Hillman comprise the local governmental units of Montmorency County.


Old County Courthouse photograph courtesy of Montmorency County Tribune


For further information on the county's history, see the following links:

Cemeteries of Montmorency County, Michigan

1873 Map of Montmorency Michigan

1895 Map of Montmorency County

Heritage Montmorency County Tribune

Montmorency County Historical Markers, Michigan Markers

"The History of County Creation" CMU CLARKE LIBRARY


Updated 5/19/15