THE HISTORY OF ECORSE
Ecorse, formerly known as
“River Aux Echorches,” is a
Ecorse has a very
colorful background, which dates back in history as far as 1763. It
was then that the great Pontiac and another allied Indian chief called
The original name, “River Aux
Echorches,” is derived from the early French
settlers who named the city “The River of the Barks.” The city was named
that because the Indians gathered there by a small stream, which is now
The settlement at “River Aux
Echorches,” was on outgrowth of the settlements
Around this period, “River Aux Echorches,” which had come to be known as Grandport, was incorporated as a village under the name of Ecorse. Alexis M. Salliotte was the first president, who was followed by many other good men. Alfred C. Bouchard, our ninth president, held office longer than any other president, which was a period of five and one-half terms. His sixth term was interrupted by his death in September 1928.
Ecorse became a
Long before 1941, when Ecorse became a city, it was an integrated community, so it’s only right to discuss the black history as it was lived in the early days. Apparently, no exact date can be pin-pointed as the time African- Americans first settled in the Ecorse area, but we do know there were a small number of black families living in Ecorse prior to 1919.
At that time, the city was not segregated as
to residency, though local prejudice made it felt
in other areas of life. One local citizen, whose family moved to
Ecorse in 1919 from River Rouge, remembers life as good and bad. The
schools were integrated and he attended schools Two, Three, and Four,
later known as
Social life was centered on church activities, ball games, and movies. However, pleasures such as movies were governed by the Jim Crow laws, and blacks were seated in a separate section of the theater. The same rule was observed in public transportation, where blacks were required to sit in the back of the buses.
At that time, only a few firms were willing to hire black men. These were Ford Motor Company, Whitehead and Kales, the Ryan Foundry, and later Great Lakes Steel. No women at all were hired in the industry.
Early schools in Ecorse were integrated as to students, but all teachers were white, the School Board contending no qualified Black instructors were available. Black children attended schools Two and Three and were taught by white teachers in basement classrooms, were often damp and poorly heated. These conditions led to an epidemic of bronchial and respiratory ailments. Dr. Milton advised the parents to take their complaints to the School Board. Clarence Oliver and Roland Gadton were spokesmen for a delegation to the Board from the Black community. On their arrival, the board declared the meeting adjourned. When the delegation demanded to be heard, fire hoses were used to drive them away from the premises of School One, where the meeting took place.
Shortly after, Dr. Milton
spoke with the Board and threatened to institute a lawsuit against the
School Board as a threat to the children’s health. He suggested that
a school be built where Black children could be taught in their
neighborhoods, by black teachers. An agreement was made to build the
school, which became known as
When the Great Depression struck in 1929 into the 30’s, whites and blacks were laid off in all industries. However, without the protection of a union, black employees were the first to go, regardless of seniority. Ecorse was still a village at the time and a local welfare center was set up. Assistance was available to all, yet it primarily dealt with black because of job prejudice.
Approximately 500 to 600 blacks lived in Ecorse in 1941, when it officially became a city. Under President William Vosine, conditions had begun to improve, and with the election of the first mayor Newton Hawkins, the trend continued. Vosine, who later became mayor, was responsible for the first post office and the construction of Ecorse Public Library.