The first man to settle in what is now known as the City of Stephenson was James Valentine. Mr. Valentine came here in 1870 and established three small buildings on the property along US-41 toward the south end of the City. Each section on the railway was marked. That method designated the land on which the City of Stephenson is built as Section 21.
Tragedy struck the village with the burning of 27 buildings in the great fire of 1865. All that area from Robert Street on the south to Samuel Street on the north burned without leaving a single building standing. Business owners had little or no insurance. There was no fire protection and the only source of water was the Little Cedar River.
When the Chicago and Northwestern Railway was commissioned to build the rail line from Menominee to Escanaba, the United States Government granted the new railway every other forty, from the city limits of Menominee to the city limits of Escanaba. The railway had to be built in one year. The year of the grant was 1870.
In order to cover the approximately 60 miles, it was necessary to begin building the new railway at the city limits of Menominee and at the city limits of Escanaba at the same time, with a meeting place somewhere in the area of what is now the village of Powers.
With the establishment of the railway, which began operation in 1871, the little village of Stephenson, about half-way between Escanaba and Menominee, was at an advantage of being a necessary place for steam trains to take on a water supply. This meant that Stephenson had established a place in the life and operation of steam trains.
(The previous information is taken from the pamphlet “A Brief History of the City of Stephenson” by the late Frank Bayee, editor and publisher of the Menominee County Journal.)
The Village of Stephenson was incorporated in 1898. It was named after early lumbermen in the area who had the last name of Stephenson. Stephenson became a Home Rule City in 1969.
The City has 1/14 square miles of area and is split by the Little Cedar River running through its middle. US-41 also runs through Stephenson.
The present population of Stephenson is 860 people and boasts a bakery, a grocery store, three banks, a care and rehab center, and a movie theater. Numerous other shops, stores and restaurants are located in the downtown area and along US-41, and five churches are located in the City. The City has two parks and three pavilions. The K-12 Public School for students who live in the City and the surrounding area is located in the City.
The City of Stephenson has its own water supply and a modern sewage system. Fire protection is provided by a volunteer department. A volunteer ambulance and emergency rescue unit is also located within the city limits.