In 1864, Charles Sanford, of Madison County, New York, purchased 213 acres of land where the village is now located, along with 1,000 acres of pine land. The site was first known as the "Salt-Spring Reserve", and was the location of the first salt well in the state. Douglass Houghton, the state surveyor and geologist, supervised sinking the shaft of the well. Charles Sanford moved there in May 1864. He platted the village in 1870. Romig identifies Jay F. Hamilton as the first postmaster of Sanfordville on June 23, 1871, while the Portrait and biographical album of Midland county, Mich. lists Phineas Hamilton as the first postmaster. The name was shortened to "Sanford" on July 13, 1871.