In May 1817, Thomas Squire, a Canadian and reputedly the first resident
of Utica, Michigan moved west along the Clinton River from near Mt. Clemens, until
he came to a high point of ground where the river
and two Indian trails crossed. Here he built a cabin, somewhere
near where the Jean Ridge now stands.
By the end of the summer newcomers had built two more dwellings.
The rapidly growing settlement was variously called McDougalville,
Hog Hollow and Harlow.
The first plat of the area was made in November, 1829, by Joseph Stead, under the preferred name of Harlow. The grant was signed by President James Madison. Yankees from New York State, attracted to this region
after the English had relinquished control of the area to the United States, changed the name of the village to Utica, after the name of the city in their home state.
Directly after the legislature of the new state had passed an act permitting the incorporation of villages in March, 1838, Utica became one of the first half dozen Michigan towns to take on this status. It was re-incorporated in 1877 with smaller limits to allow certain farm properties to enjoy lower township taxes. In the pioneer days the history of Utica was interwoven with the development of the Clinton River and the initiation of the ill-fated Clinton - Kalamazoo Canal. It was the river that attracted the early settlers, and it was the projected and partially built trans - Michigan canal, in 1837, which was responsible, together with the strap-iron railroad to Detroit, for the great boom in 1838.
The Wildcat Bank of Utica was organized and flourished, and an
enormous, three-story Railroad Hotel was built, both near the terminus of the railroad on the west side of the river. Grim history relates that within a year or so the bright bubble had burst, the canal project had gone bankrupt, the bank had gone broke, the strap-iron railroad had failed and the hotel had gone up in smoke.
On a brighter side, a small group formed the Methodist Church Society in 1823. Two of the founders of Utica's first church, the forerunner of Utica United Methodist Church, were Utica's first settlers, Nathaniel and Jemima Squires. Utica Methodist Church, was built in 1839. It was later cut in half and moved in two sections from its original site on
Brownell near Summers to Cass and Stead.
The first industry in Utica, aside from farming, was the manufacture of pickets by William ("Picket") Smith, who became the first postmaster. The first school was a log cabin, near the site of the present
Eppler Jr. High, started in the winter of 1820. The graduating
class of 1884 donated the large rock in the front of Eppler.
In 1904 and again in 1905, (both on Sundays) fires swept through the village, destroying most of the business section, many
residences and the renowned Exchange Hotel.
In 1905, Charles Ward built a power-house on the bank of
the canal basin and furnished Utica with it's first electricity.
The waterworks was built in 1926, gas mains were brought in from
Mt. Clemens in 1930; and sewers were laid in 1937. By the summer
of 1938 most of the city's streets were surfaced, either with
concrete or asphalt. On August 20, 1937,
Utica became a fifth-class city.