book flip Berrien County ~ Michigan ~ History
Pioneer Days to Present
The two original townships in this county, when it was founded in 1831,
were Niles and St. Joseph.

Page researched & constructed by Deanna West

1906 History Of Berrien County Index:   A - H,   I - P,   Q - Z
This list was donated to the Berrien GenWeb by Carrie Gleaves, See Lookups for more information .
Book on line at University of Michigan

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  1878 Reunion of Aged Pioneers of Berrien County, Michigan

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   Lottie Wilson - 1854 to 1914 - Well known black artist of Niles, Michigan

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Berrien County ~ Michigan ~ History - Pioneer Days to Present - -  1679 to 1829 please see the wonderful presentation by: Southwestern Michigan Business and Tourism Directory which may be viewed at:   http://www.swmidirectory.org/History_of_Berrien_County.html

Berrien County was first inhabited by Paleo-Indians whose settlements were along the high ridges. After the Paleo-Indians came the Pottawattomie and the Miami who inhabited the area until many were pushed out by white settlers.

This county was named for John M. Berrien of Georgia. He was the U.S. Attorney General under U.S. President Andrew Jackson (1829-1831). Berrien county's boundaries were set off by an act of the legislature of the Michigan Territory on October 29, 1829.  It was initially attached as Niles Township to Cass County.

In 1831 Berrien County was detached from Cass County. Only three townships defined the county originally. They were Berrien Township, consisting of present-day townships of Berrien, Oronoko, and Lake plus a two-mile strip north of that territory; St. Joseph Township, consisting of everything north of Berrien Township; and Niles Township, consisting of everything south of Berrien Township.

Berrien County is located in the southwestern corner of Michigan and is bordered to the South by LaPorte County, Indiana. Early day settlers and modern day visitors are drawn to Berrien partially because of the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. The benefit of being near Lake Michigan helps extends the growing season in the area. This added to the rich loamy soil of the area makes it a very desirable growing area for fruit farms.

Another attraction is the Warren Dunes state park and its sandy beaches and sand dunes. Many of the areas natural attractions are owed to Edward Warren. Not only is the Warren Dunes state park named after him but also Warren Woods. He was the owner of Warren Featherbone Company in Three Oaks, Michigan which was quite an enterprising store for its day and time.

County Seat:
Berrien Springs is also named after John M. Berrien. The word "Springs" was added after mineral springs were discovered in the area. Berrien Springs was originally the county seat until 1894, when St. Joseph became county seat.
The Berrien Springs post office was opened on December 4, 1832, only under the name "Berrien" and changed to Berrien Springs on April 18, 1836.
St. Joseph was incorporated as a village in 1834 and as a city in 1891. In later years it would be known as the twin city to Benton Harbor, after the later's development. (See Benton Harbor below)

Other County Facts:

Benton Harbor was founded by Henry C. Morton, Sterne Brunson and Charles Hull. All had schools named after them.
Benton Harbor was mainly swampland bordered by the Paw Paw River, through which a canal was built, hence the "harbor" in the city's name
In 1863, the settlement was given the name of Brunson Harbor but there were land deeds given in 1860 or earlier with the name of Brunson Harbor. Then by 1865 the name of the settlement was changed to Benton Harbor in honor of Thomas Hart Benton. He was a Missouri Senator who helped Michigan achieve statehood. In 1866, Benton Harbor was organized and in 1891 was incorporated into a city. This is one reason why you will not see Benton Harbor on the maps that we have provided on line.

Other Villages and Towns of Berrien County, Michigan

Village or Town Date Established Specials Notes
Baroda Baroda Twp Found by: Michael Houser when he platted out 240 acres  in 1860
Baroda Post Office opened January 1, 1891 - Became incorporated in 1907. 
Benton Harbor Renamed from Brunson Harbor 1866 Originally known as Brunson Harbor. See above.
twin city to St. Joseph, Michigan
Berrien Springs This village saw its first Post Office opened in December 4, 1832 First known as Berrien and Later Berrien Springs
Springs" was added after mineral springs found in area.
Bridgman Known as a City in this county  First white settler - John Harner - 1834. Town named after George Bridgman.  In 1949 Bridgman became a city. 
Buchanan Known as a City in this county - settled in 1833 location is where McCoy Creek meets - St. Joseph River
Pears Mill was built here on the MCoy Creek
CharlottesvilleVillagein Lake Township and founded in 1860- location of the Charlottesville Lumber Company operated by Charles and Warren Howe along with George Bridgman.  When Bridgman, being only 1/2 mile from Charlottesville, this little village was absorbed by Bridgman.
Coloma City - 1832 brought the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Job Davis.  see swimdirectory.org for more on this city.
It tells more of the story, including "Shingle Diggins".
Eau Claire Village Lies in two townships of Pipestone and Berrien Charter.
Galien Village  Founded in 1854 and incorporated in 1879- George Blakeslee played a large part in platting the village and other projects he also led the way on. 
Grand Beach Village - founded about 1903 known for cottage resort area in old and newer times.
Michiana Village - followed suite with Grand Beach but also known for many of the log homes
built for summer vacationing in the 1920's
New Buffalo City located on the mouth of the Galien River
First settled by Captain Wessel Whittaker in the fall of 1834 when his ship, Post Boy, ran aground.
Named after his town of Buffalo, New York - New Buffalo was named and in 1837 becamse incorporated. He loved the area and how the Galien River flowed into Lake Michigan. 
Niles City - It is located in both Berrien and Cass Counties lies at the site - French Fort St. Joseph, established in 1691.
located on the St. Joseph river and is mostly in Niles Township
Niles, also known as the 4 flags city. In 1828 three men: William Justice, W. B. Walling and
Obed P. Lacey laid out a village called Niles, which Lacey named after his favorite
newspaperman, Hezekiah Niles, editor of the Niles Weekly Register in  Baltimore, Maryland.
He was one of the most influential newsmen and publishers of his day, being acquainted with
Henry Clay and Daniel Webster and was a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery.
Niles also strongly supported Thomas Jefferson and opposed Andrew Jackson.
St. Joseph (See above)  
Shoreham Village - located within St. Joseph Charter Township
Stevensville Village located in Lincoln Township
Three Oaks Village - located only two miles from the Indiana state line
Village first settled by Henry Chamberlain circa 1850
Watervliet City located in Watervliet township
     
Additional Communities    
Benton Heights   located next to Benton Harbor
Berrien Center founded in abt 1857 located near Berrien Springs
Bethany Beach circa 1920 known for its summer cottages, located in Chikaming twp
Birchwood modern day community Mostly resort community located in Chikaming vicinity
Dayton - located between Niles and Three Oaks and is in Bertrand Twp and situated on Dayton Lake
Fair Plain developed strongly in the 1950's 60's era located in St. Joseph Twp & Benton Township adjoins Benton Harbor
Glendora - located in Weesaw twp
Harbert circa 1920's located between Lakeside and Bethany Beach Michigan
Hazelhurstunicorporated area
Lakeside circa 1920's located in Chikaming township, between Harbert and Union Pier - Logging, as in many of the other communities in this area, became a source of making a living in this village area. And beginning in the 1920's it also became a favorite resort area for the near-by Chicago residents looking for a place to vacation at. 
Millburg circa 1837 located in Benton Twp near Bainbridge Twp
New Troy circa 1840's located on the E. branch of the Galien River - located in Weesaw twp
Paw Paw Lake circa 1859 Coloma Charter Township/Watervliet Township area
RiversideUnincorporated Area
Sawyer mid 1800's Named after Silas Sawyer, a Ohio Judge - saw its really great times with the lumber trade in the 1800's. John Flynn arrived in the 1920's and  started the Palm Tree Room as well as a Soda Grill .  The Flynn Building was quite famous in its day, housing the Flynn Theater with offered live performances.
located in Chikaming twp
Scottdale developed mostly in the 1950's - 60's located in Royalton twp - it is Southeast of St. Joseph city
Shorewood Hills circa 1920 Originally known as Bethany Hills County Club - a Swedish Christian community that eventually broke off from Bethany Beach. -
Shorewood-Tower HillsUnincorporated Area
Tower Hills started development in mid 1950's very small vacation area - located between Shorewood Hills and Warren Dunes State Park
Union Pier circa 1920's developed as yet another resort area along the shores of Lake Michigan.
located approximately 5 miles from the Indiana State line.
Warren Dunes Silas Sawyer logged this area and hauled timber on horse driven railroad to  Fuller Pier (where Warren Dunes is now located). Edward K. Warren was a conservationist and purchased the 1500 acre preserve the park is located on.  Now known as Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Woods Located on Warren Woods Rd between Three Oaks and Lakeside.
300 acre preserve, originally founded by Edward K. Warren.

Townships and their Origins
They didn't move the farm, they just added new townships.

Townships Originating Date Township taken
From
--- Townships Originating Date Township taken
From
Bainbridge
Benton
Berrien
Bertrand
Buchanan
Chikaming
Galien
Hagar
Lake
Lincoln
New Buffalo
Mar 23, 1837
Mar 23, 1837
June 9, 1832 - Orig. Twp
Mar 23, 1836
Mar 23, 1837
Mar 10, 1856
Feb 29, 1844
Mar 25, 1846
Mar 25, 1846
Apr 6, 1867
Mar 23, 1836
Berrien
Paw Paw
territory of Niles
Niles
Niles
New Buffalo
Niles
Paw Paw
Oronoko
Royalton
Niles
--- Niles
Oronoko
Paw Paw
Pipestone
Royalton
Sodus
St. Joseph
Three Oaks
Watervliet
Weesaw
Nov 1829 - 1st Orig. Twp
Mar 23, 1837
Mar 7, 1834
Feb 16, 1842
Mar 17, 1835
Apr 6, 1860
June 9, 1832 - Orig. Twp
Mar 10, 1856
Mar 25, 1846
Mar 20, 1837

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Ceased asWatervliet & Hagar -formed
Now Watervliet & Hagar
Bainbridge & Royalton
Berrien
Pipestone
territory of Niles
New Buffalo
Paw Paw
Please see our 1860's maps for most of these townships      

Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties,Michigan
The digitized copy of this book is available free, online:
Originally published in 1893, it's fully searchable and indexed.

Go to http://books.google.com
Select/click "Full view books" and
Type in: biographical berrien cass

(Note: If you don't click "full view" as a search requirement, you may get books that show you just "snippets" of the text, not the whole thing.)
Click highlighted results or the little book picture to see full book. The entire book can also be saved as your own pdf file.

Other Note Worthy Reading

Coloma
Osgood House History. Article assembled and contributed by: Deanna Branson West.

 

Watervliet
Reminiscing With Pearl Playford - Columns From The Watervliet Record 1959-1966
Reminiscing With Pearl Playford, Columns From The Watervliet Record will be offered to the public at no charge… Microsoft Word Document

Try the following for getting additional  
information on the above.
Berrien County MapsBerrien County.org
Michigan Townships

If you have any links or information which pertain to the History of Berrien County, please
send an e-mail with the subject line of Berrien County History to berrienmigengen@yahoo.com ,
with the information or link and we will add it to the site.

 

 

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This page was last modified <16 Feb 2009>