Ecorse, Michigan

by Bret Schnitzer

Formerly named “River Aux Echorches”, which means “The River of the Barks” in English, the area that would become Ecorse was originally used as a burial ground for the Native American tribes of the area, and later settled by the French in the last two decades of the 18th century.
In the 1836, the settlement was named Grand Port, but remained unincorporated within Ecorse Township. The settlement incorporated as the village of Ecorse in 1902. Ecorse became a significant economic force in the region when its first steel mill, Michigan Steel Mill, began operation in 1923. The village would finally incorporate as a city in 1941.
Since the post-war era, the city, like most other industrial inner-ring suburbs, has fallen into economic decline. In December 1986, the Wayne County Circuit Court issued a court order appointing a receiver for the bankrupt city. The receivership would last until August 1990, but the city’s finances were monitored by the state for another ten years, afterwards.
By the fall of 2009, facing a $9 million deficit and a federal corruption probe, Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm declared a financial emergency for the city, paving the way for the appointment of an emergency financial manager. On September 25, 2009, Ecorse Mayor Herbert Worthy and city Controller Erwin Hollenquest were arrested on charges conspiracy, bribery, and fraud. Both are alleged to have received thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, after the mayor allegedly orchestrated the dismantling of the city’s public works department and its replacement with a private contractor prior to winning his election for mayor. In 2011, newly-inaugurated Governor Rick Snyder assumed the role of interim mayor, still represented by emergency financial manager Joyce Parker who had been appointed by Granholm. Although Darcel Brown was elected mayor of Ecorse later that year, Parker remains in her capacity as Ecorse’s emergency financial manager.

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