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Mr. Smith's Forgotten Community

Genres: History

A man with a vision — Birney Walker Smith, Sr. — searched north of Detroit to purchase land to create, which he often called, the “Promised Land.”  The year was 1919.  By the following year, he owned farm land and an old farmhouse and proceeded to plat eighty acres, just outside of Brighton, Michigan.  He called the development Brighton Gardens Lake Colony.

His dream was to develop a resort-like setting for prosperous Black African-American professionals to either get away from the big city on the weekends or to set up full-time residences in this rural setting.

He, himself, was a professional, working for Wayne County as well as serving as a “caller” at high society soirees, hosted by such notables as the Ford family, J.L. Hudson, and many more.

Read the story of how this community came together in the early 1900s in the midst of the “Great Migration” out of the south.  And, learn of those settling into this peaceful, nature-enhanced environment, positioned along Lyons Lake, just east of Brighton.

The above blurb is taken from the back of this local history book published in 2020, commissioned by Watson Financial Group and New Echelon Direct Marketing.  The book is filled with oral storytelling by past and present residents of the development as well as maps, pictures, and written history as found in local libraries.

“Mr. Smith’s Forgotten Community” is available for purchase through (search on Marion Cornett or the title) or by contacting me through email at  As I worked on this book, quite often it felt like a “love letter” from the memories related to me.




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