A resolution to change the name of the historic William P. Rosso Highway came before the Chesterfield Township Board on Feb. 4, 2014. Two local businessmen were in favor of changing the name to Hall Road as they thought the current name might confuse visitors from out of state.
Hall Road is thought to have been originally named for early settler John Hall whose farm was located on Hall Road near Fairchild Road in 1837.
William P. Rosso Highway was named after the first Macomb County road commissioner who was born in Macomb County on June 23, 1865 to German immigrants Johann Christian and Fredericke “Rachel” (Stein) Rosso. William Phillip married Emma Parker, daughter of Israel T. and Eliza (Martin) Parker in 1886. The Parkers had purchased several acres of farmland near the Gratiot Turnpike and Hall Road in 1865; William and Emma inherited 20 acres from them and purchased another 20 acres from Emma’s sister.</p>
William and Emma had eight children. They farmed and also ran the Clover Leaf Dairy.
In April of 1912, Macomb County elected to adopt the county road system. It was a close vote; many farmers felt improving the roads served only city people with their new-fangled automobiles. It was thought that more farmers would have voted against the roads if the roads had been in better condition for them to get to the polls to vote.
In April of 1913, William Rosso received the most votes cast for the road commissioner’s office and served a six-year term. Adna Freeman of Romeo served for four years, while Jacob Hartsig of Warren served for two years.
Rosso was reelected in 1918, defeated in 1924, and then won again in 1930 by an overwhelming number, serving a total of 19 years as a road commissioner.
Defeated in the 1936 election against Bert Moore, Rosso retired, only to fall seriously ill shortly afterward. In 1937, the Road Commission designated Hall Road (where the Rosso farm was located) from Gratiot Avenue to Lake St. Clair the William P. Rosso Highway. Rosso died seven months later.
William and Emma’s children, all born on the Rosso farm, were noted for their community service. Arthur Rosso served as the Mount Clemens police chief, his brother, Floyd, was chairman of the Board of Macomb County Supervisors and Charles received a Purple Heart in WWI. Lyle Rosso served as the head of the county’s Social Welfare Commission, James P. was the County Youth Home superintendent and Robert was the County Road Commission superintendent.
In 1983, the family received a Michigan Centennial Marker honoring the family for residing on the same farm since 1865.
A bill was presented to the Michigan legislature in 1989 designating Hall Road as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. The Rosso family fought to retain their portion of Hall Road named in honor of their ancestor. Resolutions were passed by Chesterfield, Clinton, Harrison and Macomb townships requesting that the William P. Rosso Highway’s signage remain. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway terminates at Gratiot where the Rosso name begins.
The extended Rosso family, friends and local historians again fought successfully in the spring of 2014 to retain the Rosso Highway name, hopefully for the last time. 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the same family residing on the same historic farm in Macomb County.
Cynthia S. Donahue is a historian for Macomb County Facilities and Operations. This article was featured in Macomb Matters in March 2014.