The City of Caro

The History of Caro

Novesta, Alcor, Alvana, Eagle Point, Fontana, and Latusco share one common background: they are all names that were proposed at a meeting, held on December 30, 1868, to change the name of the town referred to today as Caro, then known as Centerville.

Confusion had overcome the townspeople due to the fact that the village and the post office had two different names — Centerville and Tuscola Center.

Thus, a meeting, chaired by M. D. Orr and recorded by H. G. Chapin, was held to consider this matter. The name Novesta dominated the ballots, winning twenty-five out of forty votes. However, within the next week, a new town was organized elsewhere and, to the dismay of those forty voters, it was named Novesta. Therefore, another meeting was held and by February of 1869, the State Legislation had officially changed Centerville's name to Caro, a title suggested by William E. Sherman.

This was not the first time the Sherman name had made its mark on Caro's history. In 1852, William's father, Samuel, built the first permanent settlement here. His settlement was preceded by just a few traveling lumbermen, surveyors, and observers, including the author of Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville. He predicted, based on the flurry of industrialization occurring during this time, that he and his group would be the last to see the "primitive grandeur of this solitude".

Samuel Sherman, born on March 4, 1805, in Massachusetts, came to Michigan in 1823. Later, he was referred to the Indianfields area by his son William, who worked in the vicinity as a lumberjack.

After settling on September 8, 1852, Sherman was of great importance to the village of Caro, as he was the first township clerk and Justice of the Peace. He was also a member of the first Village Council, which held its premier meeting in 1871. The group consisted of President Henry Atwood, clerk Samuel Armstrong, treasurer A. M. Judd, assessor Henry Church, and trustees Charles Montague, Cyrenius Black, George Howell, A. P. Cooper, George Gage, W. Balch, J. P. Hoyt, and Sherman.

On his way to the train depot on January 1, 1883, Sherman fell to the ground and died. Long before this, however, Caro had begun making great steps toward prosperity.

In June of 1866, after a grueling struggle, the town gained the privilege of being the county seat, taking it from the previous holder — Vassar. However, the Cork Pine City did not want to let it go, so one night Peter Bush and Indian Dave stole the records and transported them to Caro by canoe up the Cass River.

The river has always been at the center of Caro's growth and development. A most notable scene is portrayed in the stained-glass windows in the Tuscola County Courthouse, in which General Lewis Cass is depicted negotiating a treaty with the Chippewa Indians who gave this land to the "white man".

The courthouse dates back to 1866, when an old Universalist Church was moved into Caro from Almer Township. This tiny facility served its purpose until 1873, when Bush donated land for a $15,350 building to be constructed on it. It was 58 years before anyone would even talk about erecting a new courthouse, and in 1933 the present courthouse was completed at a cost of $180,000.

The history of Caro's schools begins in 1857, when Peter Bush took it upon himself to purchase lumber and other supplies and build a schoolhouse on South State Street. The daughter of Samuel Sherman, Ruth, was hired as Caro's first teacher. This building lasted less than a year, burning down and creating a three-year absence of education in Caro. Another building was used from 1860 to 1868 as a temporary schoolhouse, until efforts were made to construct a $284 building known as the "white building".

In 1887, a school, complete with high-school laboratories, was finished to alleviate the overcrowding of the white building. Eventually, these buildings were torn down in order to make room for a huge two-story brick school in 1924, presently Frank E. Schall Elementary. This facility housed the high school students until 1957, when construction of the present high school began, thanks to $900,000 in bonds, approved by local electors. Coincidentally, today's Caro High School was built in the centennial year of Caro Schools.

The most recent changes to Caro's educational system occurred in 2005 with the passing of a bond.  Among the many changes were a new Middle School wing along with the separation of the Middle School and High School.  New offices and safety entrances were designed on the McComb Elementary and High School along with new classrooms and science labs.  The Schall Elementary also received a handicapped accessible entrance as well as a safety entrance.

The growth of Caro's educational system is paralleled by the community's industrial development, which is tied to the community's agrarian roots. Caro has long been among the leaders in the state in bean, sugar beet, wheat, corn, and grain production. The first huge change in Caro regarding industrialization was the construction of the sugar factory in 1899. The factory would later join hands with sugar factories from around the area and form the Michigan Sugar Company, with the brand name of Pioneer.

In 1913, the Caro Regional Mental Health Center was created and has served as an integral part in shaping the town's economy. Walbro Automotive Corporation was introduced to Caro in 1947, bringing many employment opportunities to the community. Today, Caro's economy is thriving with many small industrial and service-based industries. Obviously, agriculture and human services are a large part of the community's success, but the economy also relies on food services, automotive businesses, retail shops, and family-owned commercial outlets.

Thanks to the historic efforts of men like Samuel and William Sherman and Peter Bush, Caro has become an ideal place to live, work, and raise a family.

Please check out the following links to view some photos of the history of Caro:

 

Historic Downtown Caro

Historic Area Festivals and Fairs

Historic Municipal Buildings

Historic Businesses

Transportation

Schools

Road House Museum History

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