History of Ingham County

General Information

cthouse.gif (41030 bytes)

History of Ingham County

An 1829 act of the Territorial Legislature created Ingham County. Called a "cabinet county," it bears the name of Samuel D. Ingham, who was Secretary of the Treasury under President Jackson at the time.

The area was a forest wilderness filled with wide tamarack marshes, and was sparsely populated. Because of its dense forest, early Michigan settlers tended to avoid Ingham County and to settle its perimeters. The first piece of land purchased and deed recorded was in the Okemos area in 1832. Settlers, moving into the county from the east and south, followed old Indian trails from Jackson, the Dexter-Stockbridge area and Pontiac. By 1842, all of the present townships of Ingham County were organized.

capitol.jpg (16536 bytes)The State Legislature met in Detroit in 1846 to choose a site for a capitol for the new State of Michigan. Lawmakers presented bills proposing many localities, each, of course favoring his own district as a site. Lansing township was a surprising compromise made by the legislators, for the nearest railroad was 40 miles away and there was only a few trails to the site, which was still a wilderness. The deciding factors for Ingham County were its central location and the offer by James Seymour of a large tract of land at the bend of the Grand River.

The Capital City was soon carved out of the forest. Travel was facilitated by the construction of a plank road from Detroit to Lansing. This toll road, financed with federal funds, was completed in 1860 and gave force to the large number of new Michigan settlers that poured into the region. The seat of Ingham County government was established in Mason, which is centrally located, fulfilling the requirements of the time that the county seat be no more than a day's travel from any location in the county.

n2_bg.jpg (51693 bytes)The Lansing area grew gradually over the years, with industry and the educational facilities of a land-grant college contributing to its expansion. The remainder of the county developed into an agricultural area, much of which remains at the present time. The spread of suburban living has recently cut somewhat into these rural areas.

Structure of Ingham County Government

Ingham County is governed by a 14-member Board of Commissioners elected on a partisan basis for terms of two years from single-member districts that are approximately equal in population. The Board annually elects from its ranks a Chairperson, Chairperson Pro-Tem and Vice-Chairperson Pro Tem by majority vote. The administration of the County, other than as delegated to elected officials, is guided by the County Controller who is appointed by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Commissioners and serves at its pleasure. Primary functions of the Board include determination of the type and level of County services, adoption of the County budget, equalization of County property values, legislative oversight of County services and the appointment of various boards, commissions and County officials. Judges of the 30th Judicial Circuit and the Probate Court are elected at large for six year terms, while the Judges of the 55th District Court are elected from the area of the County outside of Lansing and East Lansing. (Lansing and East Lansing both have their own district courts.) Operation of the court system is under the auspices of the Michigan Supreme Court and the respective presiding Judges, while the County government primarily provides financial support.clinton.jpg (55242 bytes)

Administration of the County is divided by the Michigan Constitution among various statutory County officials, including the County Treasurer, County Clerk, Register of Deeds, Prosecuting Attorney, Drain Commissioner and Sheriff, who are elected at large for four year terms. The County Treasurer is the custodian of funds to local communities and school districts, and performs other duties concerned with interrelated fiscal affairs of County departments and agencies. The duties of the County Clerk include keeping and maintaining records of births, deaths, marriages and discharge of military personnel and serving as Clerk of the Board of Commissioners. The duties of the Register of Deeds include the recording or deeds, mortgages, surveys, plats, notices of liens and bills of sales. The Prosecuting Attorney prosecutes violations of state criminal law within the County and may represent the County in appropriate Courts. The County Drain Commissioner administers the location, construction and maintenance of drains in the County. The Sheriff's duties involve the charge and custody of the County Jail, the serving of processes, and law enforcement in unincorporated areas.

grbreak.jpg (122594 bytes)In addition, the Board of Commissioners appoints several County officials, including the Controller, Health Officer, Medical Examiner, Equalization Director and Animal Control Director with responsibilities as defined by statute, County ordinance or resolution. The Controller's responsibilities include direction of central administrative functions of the County government and acting as a liaison on behalf of the Board of Commissioners between County offices, appointed officials and the general public. The Health Officer directs the operation of the County Health Department in accordance with Board of Commissioner's directions and as authorized by State law. The Medical Examiner serves as the Medical Director of the Health Department as well as performing the statutory duties of Medical Examiner. The Equalization Director oversees the equalization process of the County as prescribed by law. The Animal Control Director enforces appropriate State law and the Ingham County Animal Control Ordinance with respect to insuring the public safety animal related matters.

The Board of Commissioners also appoints various boards and commissions to oversee specific County services and to advise the Board on certain matters of interest. Appointments to boards overseeing specific County functions include the Family Independence Agency Board, the County Library Board, the Board of County Road Commissioners, Parks Board, and the Housing Commission. Appointments to advisory committees include the Women's Commission, the Equal Opportunity Committee, and the Board of Health. Finally, the Board also appoints representatives to regional bodies overseeing programs in the areas of airport operations, aging, manpower training, planning and substance abuse.