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Highland Township was founded by pioneer families in 1835. A major factor in the development of Highland was the railroad, which allowed lumber to be transported cheaply, and allowed pickles from the township's early factories to be exported easily. In 2003, in an effort to retain its rural character, as well as preserve its extensive equestrian heritage, Highland declared itself an "equestrian community" and began active support and encouragement of the equestrian presence and related development in the township. In 2006, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Highland Equestrian Conservancy, Highland Township received official recognition by the state government as Michigan's first designated equestrian community.