Historical Saline

The history of Saline – named for its natural salt springs – really began millions of years ago. Saline’s salt springs originated 600 million years ago when ground water pressure forced brine, from an ancient sea bed, up to the earth’s surface to form salt flats and springs. That salt has been attracting visitors for tens of thousands of years – from Ice Age animals, to Paleo and Pottawatomie Indians, to French traders, to the English-speaking settlers who started what has grown into the thriving City of Saline we know today.

Historical Highlights

Over 12,000 years ago: When the last set of Ice Age glaciers started retreating over 12,000 years ago, unusual animals and then pre-historic man (called the Paleo Indians) began making Michigan home. Fossilized mammoths, mastodons, caribou, giant beaver, ancient bison, dire wolves, and peccaries have been found scattered throughout the Lower Peninsula. Mastodon tracks have been found in Saline – heading northeast into Pittsfield Township; and mastodon bones have been found in southeast Pittsfield Township. You can see these artifacts in person at the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History.

1500s: Generations of Pottawatomie Indians migrated to Michigan, traveling six major trails that converged in the area we call Saline. They hunted wildlife – game that was attracted to the salt flats – and harvested salt for their own use and for trading with neighboring tribes.

1600s: French traders, traveling by canoe, discovered the salt springs and named the local river the “Saline River” after the French word for salt.

1800s: General William Harrison (9th president of the United States) set up a military encampment at Saline’s salt springs during the War of 1812. Joseph Francis, a surveyor, officially documented the salt springs in 1819. In 1824, Europeans, mainly of English and German descent, began a settlement in the Saline area. Orange Risdon, chief surveyor of the Detroit-Chicago Road now known as U.S. 12 or Michigan Avenue, purchased land from the government that formed the basis for the village of Saline, incorporated in 1832. He and a group of others chose the name “Saline” because of the Saline River and the salt springs. Throughout the century, Saline grew and prospered with the expansion of agriculture, a salt mine, and establishment of a railroad line. Saline was officially chartered in 1866 and will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2016.

1900s: As cars and trucks replaced rail and trolley transportation, Saline remained a farming community throughout the century. Saline became a city in 1931 and adopted its seal in 1966. To preserve Saline’s past, the city established the Historic District Commission in the mid 1970s, identifying 335 historic structures built between 1820 and 1926. The Saline Area Historical Society opened the Saline Railroad Depot Museum in 1995 and the Rentschler Farm Museum in 1999.

Visit Our Historical Treasures

The Saline Area Historical Society and other community members are devoted to the preservation of Saline’s rich history. Take a step back in time and visit some of our cherished points of interest.

  • Rentschler Farm Museum – Founded in 1999, The Rentschler Farm Museum, consisting of a Queen Anne-style frame house and 11 out buildings, provides a firsthand look at how farm life changed from 1900 to 1950.
  • Depot Museum – Founded in 1995, The Depot Museum features the late-Victorian-style Saline Railroad Depot built in 1870.
  • Weber-Blaess School – The Weber-Blaess School, once a quaint one-room schoolhouse from the 1860s, has been transformed into an interactive museum and is used widely in the Saline Area Schools elementary curriculum.
  • Driving, biking or walking through downtown Saline, along Michigan Avenue and Ann Arbor Street, you can view many Victorian era homes, most notably the Davenport-Curtiss Home on East Michigan Avenue, built in 1875.

For more information on historic sites in the Saline area and a more detailed account of Saline’s history, visit the Saline Area Historical Society

Museums

meredithbixby

Bixby Marionette Exhibit

Dioramas of Bixby’s marionettes and stage settings, photographs, and artwork highlight his 50 years as a national performer.

Details »

WeberBlaess_building

Weber Blaess One-room Schoolhouse

This quaint one-room schoolhouse from the 1860’s has been made into an interactive museum with many historical artifacts, including desks and furnishings. Teachers from Saline Area Schools have developed individualized curriculum for Weber-Blaess enabling students to experience different eras and a rich, varied sampling of the early days of education in a one-room schoolhouse.

Details »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Depot Museum & Trail

Tours: The Depot Museum is open year round on Saturdays for browsing and for guided tours. Visitors will see a station agent’s room, freight room, furnished caboose, and livery barn. A restored Eclipse Windmill is on the property. Regular hours are 11:00-3:00 and by appointment. Groups larger than ten require a reservation. Call 734-944-0442

Details »

Rentschler Farm Museum

Rentschler Farm Museum

Tours: The Farm Museum is open May to mid-December on Saturdays. After September, only the farmhouse is open as the outbuildings close for the season and the animals return to their owners’ farms. Regular hours are 11:00-3:00 and by appointment. Groups larger than ten require a reservation. Call 734-944-0442.

Details »

Tours

Rentschler Farm Museum

Rentschler Farm Museum

Tours: The Farm Museum is open May to mid-December on Saturdays. After September, only the farmhouse is open as the outbuildings close for the season and the animals return to their owners’ farms. Regular hours are 11:00-3:00 and by appointment. Groups larger than ten require a reservation. Call 734-944-0442.

Details »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wellers

Visit this unique one-of-a-kind property, once owned by Henry Ford open May through October.
OPEN HOUSE: EVERY Saturday 11 AM to 1 PM
No appointment needed

Details »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Depot Museum & Trail

Tours: The Depot Museum is open year round on Saturdays for browsing and for guided tours. Visitors will see a station agent’s room, freight room, furnished caboose, and livery barn. A restored Eclipse Windmill is on the property. Regular hours are 11:00-3:00 and by appointment. Groups larger than ten require a reservation. Call 734-944-0442

Details »