If you’re a longtime Michigan resident, you are aware of the problems Flint has faced in the last number of decades: GM unemployment, city water, 30-million-dollar debt, and seemingly endless lawsuits and financial setbacks. Before all those negative things started to happen, Flint was on its way to becoming the second largest city in the state.

Turning back time to the 1700s and 1800s, the area now known as Flint was the home of the Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans. In fact, a good portion of the current city sits atop some of the Indian burial grounds and mounds.

Then in 1819, along came Jacob Smith, a fur trader who did business not just with the Ojibwa, but the government as well. It’s believed he built the first structure, a trading post on the Flint River. It was a good place to build the post, for it was smack on the route from Detroit to Saginaw, where many travelers stopped. Thanks to the travelers who decided to settle, and the stopover travelers, the village grew and was incorporated in 1855. Okay, so why wasn’t the village named after Jacob Smith...like Smithsburg, Jacobsville, or something else that’s a no-brainer? It was decided to name the place ‘Flint’ after the Flint River.

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Okay, but why was the river named “Flint’ in the first place? There was a crossing at the river where the Indians would go to gather rocks of flint to make their trinkets and possibly arrowheads. They named the river ‘Pawanunking’, which translated means “River of Flint”.

In the mid-late 1800s, Flint’s economy was growing thanks to the lumber industry. The money made by lumber was used to pay for a carriage factory....and when automobiles started becoming more popular, the horses & buggies were pushed aside to make room. Buick moved from Detroit to Flint, and soon Flint was nicknamed “Vehicle City.” Chevrolet’s first plant was in Flint and for a while, all Chevys and Buicks came from Flint (AC Spark Plugs also originated in Flint).

Some people and historians feel that the beginning of Flint’s woes started in 1904 when William Durant began managing Buick. He lost control of GM twice and was ruined during the 1929 stock market crash. From then on, he was relegated to running a bowling alley until his death in 1947.

Two mayors were recalled: The KKK called out Mayor Cuthbertson in 1924.
In 1927, Mayor McKeighan was recalled, and under investigation for numerous crimes in 1928.

Flint’s peak years were the 1950s and 60s, and then the spit hit the fan.

The gallery below has many images of Flint’s amazing growth years from the 1890s to the 1920s. Have a look...

Vintage Photos of Flint: 1899-1924


Vintage Photos of Mackinaw City

Vintage Photos of South Boardman

Vintage Beaver Island

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