Clay Township Facts


Clay Township forms the southern point of St. Clair County and is
bounded on the north by the townships of Ira and Cottrellville, east and south
by the St. Clair River, and west by Lake St. Clair. It is bounded on three
sides by water and is also divided into several islands by branches of the St.
Clair River, principal among which are Harsens, Dickinson and Russell Islands.
Clay is one of the four townships that
originally comprised the entire area of St. Clair County. The other townships
were Cottrellville, St. Clair, and Desmond (the settlement of Desmond
maintained its title until the year 1835, when the Honorable Daniel B.
Harrington laid out the plan of a village, which now bears the name Port
Huron). The settlement of Clay predates the organization of the county, May 8,
1821. Clay was organized as a township in 1822 under the name of Plainfield and
remained so until 1828, when the name was changed to Clay. It was changed
because there already was a Plainfield Township in Allegan County. The first supervisor
was Harvey Stewart. Early pioneers were John K. Smith, Aura P. Stewart, Ira
Marks, Henry Robertson, Captain George Harrow, Jacob Peer, Ebenezer Westbrook
(or Wesbrook) and Silas Miller.
Algonac, originally named Pointe du Chene and one of the oldest
settlements in Michigan, was the principal village and post office in the
township. The southern point of Algonac is still called Pointe Du Chene
(translation from French; "Point of the Oaks"). Algonac is situated
on the west bank of the St. Clair River at the head of the St. Clair flats.
It's advantageous location on the banks of one of the most beautiful rivers on
the continent gave it ample accessibility by water, both north and south. The
original settlers of Algonac were Angus MacDonald and John Martin (also known
as John Maine), who came from Canada and New York state about 1805. This was
the year that Michigan became a territory of the United States. John K. Smith
settled in Algonac in 1816 and was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1821, and
served as Probate Judge in 1828. On August 26, 1826, Smith was appointed the
first Postmaster in Algonac, and the county, by Governor Lewis Cass, a position
he held for about 27 years. The post office went under the name of
"Plainfield" (1826), then "Clay" (1828), then
"Manchester" (1836), then changed to "Algonac" (1837), which
is the name to this day. Jacob Peer built the first house in Algonac. It was
located at 1760 Washington St. Mr. Peer earlier purchased the land of Captain
Andrew Westbrook and settled in Clay Township in 1821. He selected some 300
acres bounded south and west by Lake St. Clair, in Pointe Aux Trembles (in the
southern area of what is now known as the St. John Marsh, which would
approximately include St. John Dr. to the east, Colony Dr. to the west and
north almost to Anchor Bay Dr.). In 1827, the waters of the lake had risen so
high that his farm was completely submerged. Peer next selected lands lying
north of Algonac and when he died in 1855, he left one of the best farms and
orchards in the county. The first Methodist society in St. Clair County was
organized at Algonac in 1821. It was under the leadership of Rev. Griffith, who
was sent here by the Canadian Missionary Society. The first church was built in
1830. There was a Catholic mission established at Algonac prior to the
organization of the Methodist society, but its early history cannot be traced
with certainty. The first school, opened in 1827, was in "The Old Boarding
House"; the first teacher was Peter Brakeman. It was located on the site
now occupied by Henry's Restaurant. There were two schools built in the early
1800's. The "Red School" in the 600 block on Mill St. and the
"White School" located in the 1000 block on Michigan St. These
schools were replaced by the "Union School" about 1860, located in
the 1400 block on Washington St.. There will be a future issue covering schools
in Algonac, Clay Township and Harsens Island.
There were three salt mines that operated in Algonac and Clay Township. The Algonac Salt Company and a salt company operated by Mark Moore and Charles DeBeau, both located on Pointe du Chene, and the Walton Salt Association operated by Albert Miller located in Pearl Beach, just east of the current Sassy Marina.. They were short lived businesses, with the Walton company lasting the longest, 20 years.
Winter 1996 Topic: Algonac and Mainland Clay Township article will be continued.

  • Clay Township became a Township in 1822. 
  • Elections for the board are held in presidential election years.
  • The 37 square mile township includes Harsen's Island, Russell Island, Dickinson Island and St. Johns Marsh.
  • Ferry Service connects Harsen's Island with the Mainland.
  • Clay Township is a center of water recreation and a public pier is located off M-29 at Pearl Beach.
  • The Colony Tower, at the southwest corner of Clay Township, has been a registered landmark since the 1920's.
  • At one point, the 136 foot Colony Tower housed a 60,000 gallon water tank. It provided water to the Colony's residents. 
  • Harsen's Island and the St. Clair Flats combine to create one of the largest inland fresh water deltas in the world.
  • The Michigan Department of Natural Resources maintains two access sites on Harsen's Island, One on the South Channel and one on the Middle Channel.
  • St. John's Marsh is also managed by the DNR and sports an access site and areas for fishing.
  • As of 2000 Clay Township had a population of 9,822 at the time being the second highest populated Township in St. Clair County.