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HISTORY OF THE ALMON STARR HOUSE AND THE INDIAN TRAIL

Native Americans used many paths as they walked through what is now Royal Oak. During the early 1700’s to the mid 1850’s, one of the paths led from Main Street to Essex Road and became Crooks Road. Another path wandered from the east end of the Detroit River near Peche Isle. Across the sandy ridges, the two met at the brow of the hill which Almon Starr later chose for his home. The path crossed the hill over what is now 13 Mile Road. We think Starr Road was another part of this path, and it led northwest to meet the main Saginaw Indian Trail which is now Woodward Avenue. 

The hills where the trails met was the highest place around and of sandy soil, so it is likely the Native Americans camped here at least one night. Evidence of this was found by the great grandsons, as they gathered arrowheads from this area. The Native Americans probably stayed in the Royal Oak area for several days in the fall to gather the cranberries which grew profusely in the bog located at what is now 11 Mile & Woodward. 

We know the trail across his land was not in use when Almon Starr built this red brick house in 1868. However, it was clearly visible and early settlers told the Starr family of their dealings with the Indians. One of the stories passed down in the family was that at the crest of the hill, there was for many years a small building that was a trading post, where the Native Americans traded the fish they had dried during the winter for beads, cloth and pots and pans. 

In 1939, Mrs. Rhoda Starr Green, Oliver’s mother, led the Children of the American Revolution in planting a tree near the edge of the trail. 

The Almon Starr house was lived in by descendants of Almon Starr until 1963, five years short of the building’s centennial year. 

In 1985, when the Friends of the Almon Starr Historic House were encouraging the city to acquire the house for use as the Royal Oak Historical Museum, the legend of the Indian Trail was rediscovered. The Friends had raised funds to renovate the house, but when that was no longer possible the Friends instead purchased the large boulder with the bronze plaque noting the history of the trail and placed it on the lawn of the Almon Starr House next to the trail. The dedication of the plaque was held May 17th, 1987. Today (May 19, 2012) marks the 25th anniversary of this event. This year is also the 175th anniversary of the Michigan’s statehood. We are today rededicating this piece of Royal Oak and Michigan history. 

by Local Historians Lois Lance and David G. Penney, PhD


Joan Larson and David G. Penny PhD at the Indian Trail marker on the lawn of the Almon Starr House