Imlay City, located in Lapeer County at the intersection of Interstate I-69 and M-53 was named after William H. Imlay, who was an eastern capitalist before moving to this area about 1828. When the township came into existence on April 1, 1850 it took the surname of Mr. Imlay.
The chief engineer of the railroad, Charles Palmer, selected this location as a likely produce market between Lapeer and Capac. He purchased a tract of two hundred and forty acres of land, which he surveyed and platted. Inasmuch as the township had been named Imlay, Mr. Palmer chose to call his location Imlay City.
The village was settled in 1870 when the construction of the Port Huron and Lake Michigan Railway was completed as far as Attica, west of Imlay City. Within eighteen months the town’s population grew to 500 people and boasted a school, two hotels, four general stores, two hardware stores, a furniture store, a drugstore, two carriage and blacksmith shops, a saw and planning mill, a livery stable, and an elevator. Aside from these businesses, approximately one hundred buildings were erected.
By 1914, the town began building around streetcar lines - a sure sign of a progressive community as only large cities typically invested in this public transportation. In April 1970 the town celebrated its 100th birthday and the residents of Imlay City changed from a village to a Home Rule city form of government by a two to one vote.
Construction finalization of I-69 served in connecting east and west arteries, linking industrial centers of Flint and other western points to Port Huron and Canada. This, along with the State’s 1995 expansion of M-53 to five lanes has spurred significant industrial, commercial, and residential growth in the Imlay City area.