best describes over 135 years of history in the colorful community. Formerly a part of the old Township of Ecorse, the 6.85 square miles south of Detroit has grown into what is now a true "symbol of progress." Ten years before Michigan became a state in 1837, Ecorse Township was the largest township (in area) in the new territory, measuring more than 54 square miles at its inception. The area’s earliest history boasts of the great Potawatomie and Wyandot Indian Tribes, who held sole rights to the region until the arrival of French explorers, traders, and missionaries, beginning with Rene Robert Cavalier LaSalle in 1679. The first white settler of record was Pierre Michael Campau in 1795, who was soon followed by other French and English settlers along the Detroit and Rouge Rivers. Expansion in the area accelerated following the completion of the Erie Canal in 1830, which improved western migration from the east.
The history of Southgate itself begins with a petition to incorporate filed with the Wayne
County Board of Supervisors in November 1955. This was followed by a favorable referendum on incorporation in October 1956. After one unsuccessful attempt at adopting a City Charter in December 1957, a second Charter was drafted and successfully presented to the electors in September 1958, with official incorporation coming on October 8, 1958.The growth of Southgate is not measured solely in numbers. Southgate is a great community to live, work and raise a family. Beginning with a collection of only 64 farm families over 100 years ago, the real population surge became a reality shortly after World War II. With less than 2,000 citizens in 1940, the City grew to a population of 10,000 in 1950; and the population continued to rise for the next 20 years to 29,404 in 1960; 33,723 in 1970. A small decline in population has occurred over the past 20 years, however, that is due to the expansion of the communities surrounding Southgate. The Census count was 31,633 in 1980;30,771 in 1990 and 30,136 in 2000. Southgate however continues to grow with the addition of new Condominiums, Apartments and Subdivisions.The Municipal Government was for many years located in the Village of Grandport, later the Village of Ecorse, and was moved to the Village of Allen Park upon the incorporation of Ecorse as a city in 1942. The Township hall remained in Allen Park until late 1956, the original municipal building was built on Northline near Burns. A Police Department was inaugurated in 1950, and in 1953 the first Full-Time Firemen were employed to assist the five-year-old Volunteer Fire Department. It was in 1953, also, that the Recreation Department was formed, along with the first Planning Commission, and the progress in municipal services has been continuous since.A highlight of the City’s involvement with its residents is the well-organized public recreation facilities. The park system, which began in 1949 with a single 36-acre park, has slowly expanded through gifts and acquisitions, to its present complimentof 74.7 acres, which include 9 neighborhood parks and playfields, 2 community parks and a major softball and Little League Baseball playing site, which has been host of the major tournaments in recent years. Joining the baseball diamonds, the City’s impressive community ice and hockey rinks, and the 18-hole municipal golf course with clubhouse.In 1976 the existing Police, Fire, Court and Civic Center were built and the staff was moved from the Northline facilities. In 1979 the City Hall was moved to its current location. In 1995 the Library building was doubled to offer expanded services and hours thanks to a 1-mil vote of the residents.The 21st Century is an exciting time for the residents of the City. We have already seen the expansion of our civic center, the expansion and re-paving of municipal complex parking lots, and the construction of the Southgate Fun & Family Fitness Centre. Southgate has also welcomed many new businesses to our City.