History in the Making

From its days as a settlement to becoming a city, Dexter has a rich history along Mill Creek.

From Settlement to City

The area was first settled in 1824, 13 years before Michigan became a state, when land speculator Samuel W. Dexter purchased a large tract of land and originated the village. It was known as the “Mill Creek Settlement” until the village was platted in 1830 and the name was officially changed to Dexter.

Mill Creek and the Huron River, which form much of the western and northeastern boundaries of the village respectively, have long been valuable resources to Dexter. A sawmill was built in 1827, a woolen mill in 1838, a grist mill in 1844, and a cider mill in 1886. After being appointed County Court Justice in 1826, Judge Dexter reportedly established a post office in his home, shuttling mail between there and Ann Arbor on horseback.

The village founder Samuel W. Dexter served as the chief justice of the Washtenaw County Court as well as being elected a University of Michigan regent. His home just northwest of the village was built in the early 1840s in Greek Revival architecture and is a recognizable historic landmark in the area. Samuel Dexter called it Gordon Hall to honor his mother’s family. It and 70 acres of surrounding property was gifted to the University of Michigan in 1950 by his Granddaughter Katherine Dexter McCormick. It is said that Gordon Hall may have served as a refuge for slaves on the Underground Railroad.

On Thursday, March 15, 2012, Dexter was struck by a large EF3 tornado causing substantial damage to local houses and businesses. There were no deaths or injuries reported.

On November 20, 2014, the Village of Dexter officially became a city after its new voter-approved Charter was filed with the State of Michigan’s Office of the Great Seal.