Downtown Historic District
Williamston grew where two Native American trails crossed. In 1834 settlers Hiram and Joseph Putnam built the north-south road that became Putnam Street. construction of the Grand River Turnpike from Detroit to Grand Rapids created Grand River Avenue. Starting in 1840, brothers Oswald, Horace and James Williams built a dam, saw mill and grist mill on the Red Cedar River. By 1871, when rail service came, the town had become a farm market center and boasted more than twelve hundred residents. After a short boom, the population declined until Grand River Avenue was paved circa 1923. The improved road encouraged auto tourism and allowed residents to commute to work instead of moving.