Lapeer was established in 1831. It was settled by New York State land speculators and the Pontiac Mill Company. In 1869 Lapeer was incorporated as a city, and within three years, boasted 3,000 residents and a prosperous downtown shopping area along Nepassing Street. Growth was steady, because Lapeer served a richly forested hinterland in the county that supported thirty-four manufacturers of wood products and seventy sawmills; within the town, several flour mills and foundries were active. With the arrival of the Port Huron and Lake Michigan Railroad in 1871 and the Detroit and Bay City Railroad in 1872, expanded markets were opened to farmers purchasing the cleared timberlands. By 1880 the city's business district had grown substantially; new residents had built houses, as well as churches, schools, and community buildings; the city had erected additional bridges and roads; and in 1895, the state opened the Lapeer Home for Feeble-Minded and Epileptics. Agriculture, notably potatoes, dominated the local economy after the turn of the twentieth century, but increasingly land was devoted to dairy farming. The Michigan Central Railroad arrived in 1904 and further spurred development. Automobile parts manufacturers were established to serve the automobile industry in Flint and Detroit; tools and aircraft specialty parts also were produced by local industries. Today, in addition to maintaining this industrial base and serving the county's farmers, Lapeer functions as a bedroom community for Flint and Port Huron and for Detroit's northern suburbs.
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