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DeWitt Community History:

The DeWitt area was first investigated and settled by Captain David Scott and his family in 1833. It had been known for generations as Wabwahaseesee, the home of a community of Chippewa Indians. When the Scott family moved here from Ann Arbor, the village was not yet a frontier settlement in Michigan Territory; their destination was an unsettled wilderness. They faced the usual hardships and rigors of pioneer life. With a determination that at times cost them their friends, family, health and eventually their lives. They carved out a settlement that has evolved into the present day DeWitt. 

The Early Years   

In its earliest years, DeWitt was a center of government, culture, commerce, travel and education for all of Clinton County. It served as the county seat from 1839 to 1857, and even ran a heated battle to become the state capitol.

By the 1850's, DeWitt was a prosperous village, having outlasted the short-lived success of New Albany, another platted village south of the river, in the 1840's. The prosperity, however, was soon to come to an abrupt halt. By the end of the decade, the Oakland and Ottawa Railroad had bypassed DeWitt, and the county seat was moved to be located along its tracks in the center of the county. Many of DeWitt's businesses and most prominent citizens followed the county seat to St. Johns, sending DeWitt into a period of stagnation that was to last for many decades. The fact that DeWitt survived at all during these years was solely due to the prosperity of the area farms.

The 20th Century brought with it two events that changed DeWitt drastically. The first was the opening of the Lansing and Suburban Electric Railway, which ran through DeWitt on its route between Lansing and St. Johns. The second event was the tremendous surge of "well-to-do" farmers retiring to new homes in the village. Between 1900 and 1910 the population of the village doubled, as did the number of homes and businesses.   

Following 1910, the farmers were still retiring to the village, and many young families were establishing homes here as well, for the Interurban offered reliable access to jobs in the budding factories of Lansing.

DeWitt continued to prosper as it "roared" through the 1920's. In October of 1927, just six years shy of its centennial, DeWitt finally became incorporated as a village.

The Great Depression had only minor effects on DeWitt; Woodruff Bro's Bank survived intact and Rosevale Packing Company kept a large percent of area residents and farmers employed. It was instead a fire on October 21st of 1930 that proved most disastrous to the business district.


The fire leveled three of the four corners at the main intersection and destroyed eight buildings, including the historic "Clinton House." Fortunately, the reduction of the business district from both the fire and subsequent decline did not hamper the increase on residential development. By the mid 1930's, DeWitt began to be described as a "pleasant affluent community" and was partly evolving into the bedroom community it has become.

In 1965, DeWitt officials recognized that its rural form of government was unequipped to handle the Village's changes and impending problems; the need for expanded school facilities, sanitary sewers, better services and protection was becoming apparent. The Village was successfully incorporated as a City.