Tuesday was the anniversary of an event which greatly influenced the history of this community and its agricultural, economic and cultural growth, due to the vision of one man. For on August 12, 1824 Orange Risdon took up 160 acres of land; which included the site of the present City of Saline, which he later platted.

His accomplishments were the result of his early life. Orange Risdon was born at Rupert, Bennington County, Vermont, December 28, 1786 and at the age of three his parents moved to Saratoga, New York, where he attended school until thirteen years of age, after which his success was due to his own efforts. He studied surveying and at the age of 21 he assisted a noted surveyor in surveying 100,000 acres of Allegany and Genesee Counties. At first he carried the chain at $16 a month, but soon his ability was recognized and he assisted in laying out the cities of Buffalo and Lockport, and during the war of l8l2, he was assistant surveyor and assessor.

He married Sally Newland in New York in 1816, who died in Saline in 1866. At one time he had accumulated one thousand acres of land on the Genesee River, but in 1817 there was a financial crisis and he lost heavily as did many others. So he decided in 1823 to go to the new territory of Michigan, where boundaries of Washtenaw County had been established the previous year. He spent considerable time in southern Michigan continuing his occupation as surveyor, as all land had to be surveyed before it could be purchased. The next year he directed the survey of the Detroit to Pontiac road.


In all his travels, Mr. Risdon had been greatly impressed with this part of the country, for it had fertile land, dense forests for buildings and fuel, and the river for power. The Saline River was then large enough for canoes and small boats to travel from Lake Erie via the Raisin River. So on August l2, 1824 he purchased the land in Section 1, then continued his surveying for he was chief surveyor for the military road from Detroit to Chicago, the Chicago Turnpike, now U.S. 12.

Several settlers came in 1826, but Mr. Risdon did not return until 1829, when he built his house on the hill overlooking the road he surveyed and the beautiful river. That house remained in the possession of his daughter, Harriete Mead, until the remainder of the farm was purchased by the City of Saline for a park and addition to Oakwood Cemetery. Then the house was purchased by Erwin Schmid and moved to West Henry Street and made into apartments.

The Risdon home served as an inn, for several years, for all travelers were welcome at the nearest house when darkness overtook them. The first post office was in the Risdon home in 1830 and he was the first postmaster for ten years. The first store was there also, for a Silas Finch had come from New York State to start a store, and no other place being available, Mr. Risdon rented his parlor. This storekeeper later built the first store in the village, the site now occupied by the Saline Savings Bank. As a Justice of the Peace for twelve years, Mr. Risdon officiated at the first wedding, that of Polly Gilbert and Robert Craig, which took place in the Benton district on the Chicago road, and he rode there horseback, accompanied by his wife, who rode postiilion.


The first election was also held in the Risdon home on the first Monday in April 1830. Although Washtenaw County had been established in 1822 by the Legislative Council, after the proclamation by Gov. Lewis Cass, there was not a white person living here at that time, and it was not until 1827 that there were enough whites to organize. Three townships were formed, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Dexter. These townships were divided from time to time until there were twenty townships in the county which accounted for a small portion of Lodi, Pittsfield, and York townships being included in Saline village, the main part of which was situated in Saline township. Hence the earlier officers included the names of men who lived in any of the four townships.

In September 1832 Orange Risdon platted the village of Saline on a part of his land, with the Chicago road as the main street, which was known for many years as Chicago Street. Later additions, the Risdon, Mills and Bennett additions were added, the latter after the railroad was built through Saline. It is fitting that his name should be perpetuated as Risdon Drive.


Mr. Risdon's advice was sought by pioneers in the selection of land, and was given without remuneration although he often was called some distance. He was generous with his property, having given land for the first church, the Baptist. Also given was the location for the first Methodist church however that church was struck by lighting and burned. The land then became the site of the first village school. The Methodists rebuilt where their present building is located, also donated by Mr. Risdon. He also gave land for the first Oakwood Cemetery, which has had several additions since, although it was all originally Risdon property.

He was an active Mason, having been a Master Mason at the age of twenty four and in 1815 he received the Knight Templar degree in New York City. At the time of his death November 27, 1876, he had the honor of having held the degree of Knight Templar longer than any other man in the United States. He had served as Deputy Grant Master at the laying of the comer stone of the first State Capitol building in Detroit in 1823, and fifty years later he was present at the laying of the corner stone ceremonies of the new State Capitol in Lansing.


Orange Risdon continued in his chosen profession until 1856, assisting in government surveys and re-surveys and examining records. His chief interest was establishing the permanent village of Saline in this part of Washtenaw County. He was truly a great man and a great leader. The early history of Saline records many names of men, and women, who also helped develop this village. They were pioneers who endured hardships which we in this generation cannot realize.

Saline was settled chiefly by New Yorkers who had come way of the Erie Canal, then sailing vessels on the Great Lakes to either Detroit or Monroe. As soon as they had built homes they established churches, then schools. The story of their early life was long, interesting and inspiring. Macauley wrote truthfully: "A people that take no pride in the noble achievements or remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants".