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Mount Clemens was first surveyed in 1795 by Christian Clemens, who settled there four years later. Clemens and his friend, John Brooks, built a distillery, which helped settle the area. Brooks and Clemens platted the land, and the town was named after Clemens in 1818. It received a post office in 1821, with John Stockton as the first postmaster. It filed for incorporation as a village in 1837, but it was not acted upon until 1851. It was later incorporated as a city in 1879. Christian Clemens is buried at Clemens Park, located just north of downtown. It became the seat of Macomb County on March 11, 1818.
The Mount Clemens Public Library opened in 1865.
Historically, Mount Clemens' largest industry was the mineral baths that were scattered throughout the city from 1873 until 1974. The city once encompassed 11 bathhouses and several hotels at its peak. The first bathhouse was built in 1873 and was known as “The Original” and was located on the corner of Jones and Water Street. The bathhouse remained until 1883 when the building burned, yet was rebuilt in 1884 and accommodated larger crowds. Over the years, noted visitors such as film actors Clark Gable and Mae West, athletes Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey, news magnate William Randolph Hearst, and the Vanderbilt family vacationed in the city for the bath industry.
The only remaining bathhouse from the bath era of Mount Clemens is St. Joseph's Sanitarium and Bath House, which has been recently renamed Select Specialty Hospital and owned by Select Medical Corporation. This last bath house is in danger of being demolished while the Friends of Historic Preservation are working with the city to preserve it.
The Olympia Salon & Spa, located in the Martha Washington Sanitarium on Cass Ave, are rejuvenating the bath era by offering mineral baths once again.
Throughout the late 20th Century, the suburban expansion of Metropolitan Detroit and its exuburbia encompassed the city of Mt. Clemens as well as its surrounding townships.