The town of Highmarket was formed from the town of West Turin by the county’s supervisors in 1852. The organizational meeting for the new township was held at S.C. Thompson’s home on February 8, 1853. The township government had to hold three more meetings before getting a full complement of persons to serve in the government. After this, the town government met once a year.
S.C. Thompson was the first town supervisor. When he later moved to Constableville, the town of Highmarket asked to be reunited with the town of West Turin. This request was denied.
Settlement of the area began in 1814 when Alfred Hovey and Liberty Fairchild moved here. There was an influx of settlers to the area when work on the canals was suspended in 1842. By 1855, about half of the township’s population was Irish. There were a few German and French families, particularly around Byron’s Corners. There were some English settlers that came from New England. They were mainly on Crofoot Hill. In the 1920s, Eastern Europeans came. Most were from the coal mining regions.
The major occupations of the populations were lumbering and farming. There were sawmills: Thompson’s had one on Sucker Creek; the Allen mill on Big Alder Creek; and Ruben Woodmere had a mill on Fish Creek. Ebenezer Thompson made oars. The big bandsaw at Direen Creek made veneer. Later softwood was shipped to Lyons Falls for papermaking. By 1929, the Tug Hill lumbering was almost over because the first growth trees were gone and the replanted trees had not matured enough to be lumbered. The state acquired land and began to reforest about 1922.
Farmers need to sell their milk. Until the 1920s, their milk went to cheese factories. The Plummer family had a cheese factory on the Plummer Road. It served the farms along the Plummer Road, the Smith Road, the Crofoot Hill Road, the Higbee Road, and the McKay Road.
Where the Dolphin Road joins the Highmarket Road, there was a cheese factory. It lasted until 1920. There was one cheese manufacturer listed in the 1872 Directory (Christian Clossner and Sons). By 1895, there were four (David Miller, William Blum, James McGrath, and Charles Plummer), but no cheese manufacturers were listed after 1920.
Some farmers made their own cheese. Among these were Fred Klosner, Thomas Walsh, Frank Carey and George Plummer. Most of this cheese was limburger.
During the 1920s, the milk companies established milk receiving plants. Milk was picked up and trucked in cans to the receiving stations in Boonville, Lyons Falls, and Burdick’s Crossing. The advent of the bulk tank on the farms in the 1950s resulted in milk being shipped in large tankers.
With a steady increase in the number of cows necessary to make a living, along with poor soil and harsh winters, the number of farms has steadily declined. Bulk milk tankers still collect milk from the few farms left and take it to manufacturers like Kraft Co. in Lowville.
Telephone service came to Highmarket in July 1888, when the Michigan Lumber Co. mill needed the service. An office was also established at Anken’s in Highmarket.
Electricity came to the area with the rural electrification act beginning in the 1930s. The power was supplied by the Gould Electric Co.
There were by 1875 nine school districts in the town. As the population declined, the one-room schools began to disappear. Among the last of the one-room schools were the Highmarket Rd. District Number 2 school and the Byron’s Corners District Number 8 school. The school system from Highmarket joined the Constableville Central School in 1930.
After St. Mary’s church in Constableville burned in 1879, there was a division of members. The Irish Catholics of Highmarket built their own church, St. Patrick’s. This is the only church in Highmarket. It never had a resident priest and depended on St. Mary’s pastor for services. It closed in 1946. A group of residents hold the Highmarket social last Sunday in August to raise money to maintain the church building.
The population in 1855 was 1125, but by 1970 it was 75. The township reentered West Turin in 1973, thus ending 120 years of town government.