Remember When …

The sign designating the original Atherton Farm. Photos courtesy of the Burton Area Historical Society

The sign designating the original Atherton Farm. Photos courtesy of the Burton Area Historical Society

I was thinking about why I have such a passion with history of our county and how it all got started in 2011. Well, I found out my high school was 175 years old and nobody had ever told me about it, I had lived here my whole life, how crazy! I was in shock, went to all the year books and found it, 1965, yep it was true.

Atherton Community Schools in Burton, is the third oldest school in the state of Michigan 1836, recorded in the Library of Congress in 2011 and Betsy Atherton was our first teacher. Part of our first schoolhouse is where the Burton Memorial Library is now at Center and Atherton roads.

Did you know most all streets were named after the family that owned the land around it? That is where Atherton Road came from it used to be an Indian trail named “Atherton Trail” and there is even a family cemetery on the corner of Atherton and Center Road (also used to be an Indian burial ground).

Native Americans were here first in Michigan, by 1760 there were many different tribes, French and British were here before the War of 1812. More fur traders and settlers came after the Civil war to pioneer the land since the government would give land for their service.



The Saginaw Trail, Saginaw Street (part is Dixie Hwy) went from Saginaw to Toledo in right through Genesee County, we were the hub, north and south (later I-75). As more pioneers came, trading for goods, was common, there was a trading post on the Atherton Trail and part of it still stands today as a home.

Evelyn, one of the Atherton descendants told me the Indians would sleep on the floor of her grandpa’s cabin sometimes during the cold winter’s night, her family told her. I went to Gloucester, England while looking for my family, I found John Atherton that had died in 1786 buried by my ancestor.

American history was interesting to me because I had a great teacher Mr. DuBois, because it really happened. I love to imagine as I travel our country, that I am walking in my ancestor’s footsteps, on the same paths.

The Atherton trail, they used to trade goods from one end of Genesee County to the other; (east to west, from Gaines to Davison). There were many family settlements on the trail, the name came from family of the “Atherton Settlement” this was the 3 Atherton brothers and their nephew (Pliny Skinner) that moved from Jefferson County, New York to Michigan.

The Atherton’s built their settlement homesteads finished by 1835 on the Thread River. This is now known as Burton. There are many Atherton families all over Genesee County; one family in every city, I even have a relative of mine that married an Atherton. I went to a church in Gaines last year and found another Atherton Settlement Farm, and it’s still operating today in Gaines starting in 1838 as dairy farm, with their own family cemetery.

Most Atherton families that came to America from England went to New York first, the path changes there; but Atherton is a strong Christian name that has many foundations across the world, helping children and families.

Some Athertons became philanthropists in Hawaii, some the first Puritans in America settling in Massachusetts and some founding Atherton, California to become the highest property tax value in the USA. Other Atherton schools in California, Kentucky and in London, England. Have you looked up your family name? Or the name of your town or street, as it is very interesting for sure. Good luck in all your research!

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email History.