Historians! Help Streamline My Trip to Michigan

Oh, man, so I found this old map of Pontiac and I found Luke Phillips’s farm on it (warning PDF). So, since I’m going over there to try to look at his grave, I though, well, shoot, shouldn’t I try to scoot by the old farmstead? Like you do? But how do I find the approximate whereabouts of the old Phillips farm? Oh, sure, if that were my “F. Phillips” there (that’s Frank Phillips, though not the Frank Phillips who is my grandpa’s dad. I suspect that Frank Phillips is Luke’s nephew and who my Frank might be named after.), because there is a motherfucking Phillips Road. Oh, it’s cool, other Frank Phillips’s family. I’m not jealous at all.

But how do I find the approximate location of Luke’s farm in the city of Pontiac? On the one hand, that lake is still there–Galloway lake. And I’m guessing current University is Luke’s Clemons Road. And Perry/Lapeer is obviously the new route of Lapeer. But I’m having a hard time looking at Google maps and figuring out what would have been his little plot of land, since Galloway Lake is not the same shape.

Do you think it’s roughly where Joy, Commonwealth, Opdyke, and Pontiac Roads make a tiny square?

5 thoughts on “Historians! Help Streamline My Trip to Michigan

  1. The Oakland County register of deeds may possibly have records going (how far back exactly?). Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pontiac Public Library had city directories/land records going back a while. Then there’s always the Oakland Co. Historical Society (http://www.ocphs.org/drupal-6.1/). If none of that pans out, there is the best historical research resource in the state, the Burton Collection at the Detroit Public Library. The collection is state owned and administered, so its coverage goes well beyond the bounds of the city itself.

  2. Yes. I think you’ve got the approximate location. It’s unlikely that Galloway Lake was really that shape in 1872.

    Re: Charles’ advice — I agree with his first two suggestions if you want to be super-precise. The Oakland County Historical Society was cute and quirky (staffed with earnest elderly people), but not all that helpful because their research library was only open for a couple of hours every other Wednesday. (And they probably have the same township plat maps that you just Googled.) Likewise, on going to the DPL to use the Burton…uhhh…maybe not. Be aware that it’s closed on Sunday and Monday and only open 10-6 on Friday and Saturday. Additionally, you have to pay ($10 per day) to use its resources. They were very understaffed when I was there a couple of years ago and the things I needed were very slow in retrieval — frustrating, considering the constriction of hours. Although they have terrific collections in some areas (local history being one), I am skeptical that you’d be well-served spending your limited time and money hunting through a somewhat eccentrically organized card catalog to find that needle in a haystack. It seems to me to be one of those places that you need to have lots of time to coax its secrets out.

  3. I don’t know. I always found it pretty well-organized and very helpful/extensive. But if there’s a fee, I agree, don’t go. Last I went there was no fee. (Budget problems, I’m guessing?).

  4. Yeah, I think I was there last in 2006 or 2007 and was very surprised to be charged; no one had warned me about the change to a fee-system and like always, I was wandering around with little cash in pocket. You either had to show your library card or your day pass to get into the room — they were also trying to keep homeless people from sleeping or begging/bothering the patrons when I was there. I guessed that there was an element of screening going on, but I felt terrible for older genies on fixed incomes. They get such pleasure out of their research that it seemed criminal to charge them for something in a “public” library.

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