Nine years after William Yates and his family settled on the Clinton River and started a milling business, something big happened to change the course of history for the Rochester area. The Detroit & Bay City Railway planned a route through Avon Township and Rochester, connecting the community to the outside world by rail for the first time. The arrival of the railroad was a game-changer for Avon’s farmers. It meant that they would have cheaper and better freight options for shipping crops to market, and it also meant more timely access to news and the ability to send and receive telegrams without traveling to Pontiac.
Avon’s farmers were in favor of the railroad line, and when railroad officials approached them for right-of-way to lay tracks across their land, the property owners granted it. The Yates family, however, did something special; they included a business-savvy clause in the deed to their land that would put them “on the map” for years to come.
Caroline Yates, who was the legal owner of the family’s land, granted right-of-way to the D. & B. C. Railway, but included this important provision in the deed:
This deed is given upon conditions that said company shall have a flag station at such place on said premises as the grantor shall designate & shall receive & discharge freight or passengers by any regular train at said station when required or signaled for that purpose. This grant to be void upon breach of any of said conditions.
To comply with the agreement, the D. & B. C. Railway created a flag stop on its line known as Yates Station. It appeared on the railroad line’s maps and schedules for decades thereafter. Now, William Yates could ship freight from his doorstep, without having to make a trip to the depot in Rochester—a great advantage for his milling business.
The Michigan Central Railroad took over the D. & B. C. Railway in 1881, and at some point, the M.C.R.R. decided that it didn’t really need to operate a flag station at Yates, since it was only about two miles away from the depot in downtown Rochester. But when the railroad announced that it would discontinue the flag stop, William Yates reminded company officials that the provision in the deed could deny them right-of-way to Yates land, and Yates Station remained in operation.
The railroad line was discontinued in 1976, but when you visit us today you can still enjoy a leisurely nature walk along the former railroad bed and imagine a train pulling into Yates Station!
Written by Deborah Larsen
Freelance writer, Copyeditor, Proofreader,
Research Committee chairperson with
Rochester Avon Historical Society.