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.