KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MI
GENEALOGY & LOCAL HISTORY
COUNTY HISTORY PAGE 1
|The Gull Street Bridge, site of earlier ferries and bridges that provided a means of crossing the Kalamazoo River into the heart of the county.|
LINKS TO TOPIC HEADINGS ON THIS PAGE
ORIGINS OF KALAMAZOO COUNTY AND CITY
click on images to enlarge them
Kalamazoo County was organized by an act of the Territorial Legislature and approved by the Governor on July 30, 1830. The town of Bronson, subsequently Kalamazoo, named for the village's founder, Titus Bronson, was designated the county seat in 1831. See the Chronology of Township, Village and City Formation page.
click on link to see photo !
The village was renamed Kalamazoo by legislative act in 1836. The county's name is said to be derived from the word "Kikalamazoo" which means "the mirage of the reflecting river."
Identical historical markers placed in expressway rest areas near county borders, with the words shown below, summarize the settlement and history of the Kalamazoo region:
1929 City of Kalamazoo
Centennial Program History Section
click on image to enlarge it
The Kalamazoo River was key to development of Kalamazoo County and was described as follows in the 1854 Michigan Gazetteer:
A four faceted historical marker, dedicated to the Kalamazoo River, located on the Kalamazoo Mall explains different aspects of the Kalamazoo River:
click on image to enlarge it
Kalamazoo River near Allegan 2000
Kalamazoo County crosses two watersheds, the Kalamazoo River and St. Joseph River watersheds. Although the St. Joseph River itself does not flow through the county, it drains the southern half of it.
click on image to enlarge it
The St. Joseph watershed includes the lakes in city of Portage and much of the area south of Centre Street. Since prehistoric time people and trade have regularly crossed the two watersheds. Portage Creek and the Portage Trail, the Indian trail that became Portage Road, facilitated the connections between the watersheds. In 1831 Titus Bronson directed Stephen Vickery, after whom the village of Vicksburg is named, to the Portage Trail. Vickery followed the trail south into the county and dammed Portage Creek. Then he used some small millstones he had brought from Indiana to creek to build the first mill in the county - see VICKSBURG MI HISTORY SITE
The St. Joseph watershed, traditional home of the Pottawatomie, has played an important part in the history of Kalamazoo County and Southwestern Michigan.
click on images to enlarge them
St. Joseph River, Berrien County
The following is based on a history of the St. Joseph river by By Bob Owens & Scott Null written for the Friends of the St. Joseph River
"The St. Joseph River like other geographic features in southwest Michigan was formed as the glaciers retreated 8000 years ago. Evidence suggests the first people to visit the region were small bands of hunters. Settlements were established along the St. Joseph from 4000 to 2000 BC. About 2,000 BC. people known as the mound builders came to southwest Michigan from the central Mississippi region. Many mounds existed throughout the Saint Joseph River valley and the artifacts found in the mounds suggest that these people traveled and traded extensively throughout this continent.
The Hopewell people arrived about 500 BC. It is not certain if this group of people was an outgrowth of the earlier mound builders. Hopewells also built mounds, however, the Hopewellean mounds were usually formed in effigy of different animals. The Hopewell people appear to have disappeared around 900 AD perhaps as a result of the migration of another people, the Algonquins. The major Algonquin groups were (1) the tribe that became known as the Potowatomi who resided to the north of present day South Haven and (2) the Miami tribe who occupied the southern part of Lake Michigan and most of the Saint Joseph River Valley.
The Miami lands were host to a hundred and fifty miles of a heavily traveled cross continental trail that later came to be known as the Sauk Trail (presently US-l2). The Miami tribe occupied land as far west as what is now Gary, Indiana. The Miamis called the St. Joseph River, Sauk-Wauk-Sil-Buck.
In 1610, under Samuel de Champlain the French began fur trade with the Iroquois. As the Iroquois exhausted the game in their traditional hunting areas, they reached into Michigan driving out many of the Algonquin peoples who retreated to Wisconsin and western Illinois.
The Iroquois called the St. Joseph, the River of The Illinois (after 1630) and called Lake Michigan, the Lake of The Illinois, perhaps because the first Algonquian tribe that they encountered after crossing the river was the Illinois tribe who inhabited the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan.
Some of the Miami tribe began to return to the Saint Joseph River Valley, but met determined opposition from the Iroquois.
In the fall of 1654, Medard Chouart Des Groseilliers crossed the lower part of Michigan from east to west. He was accompanied by an unknown French companion and a few Huron guides. These two Frenchmen paddled their small gondolas (birch bark canoes) down most of the length of the Saint Joseph River. Des Groseilliers did not give a name to the river but , he did record the Miami tribe as dwelling along the south east shore of the big lake. The tribe called the lake "Michigami" which was the Algonquian name for Lake Michigan. In all probability, Des Groseilliers referred to the Saint Joseph River by the Miami name Sauk-Wauk-Sil-Buck.
Claude Allouez, a Jesuit missionary, arrived in the Green Bay area in 1666. He named the great lake "Lake Saint Joseph" upon first seeing it on the date of the Catholic Feast Day of Saint Joseph.
In the spring of 1672, Rene-Robert Cavalier De La Salle passed up the Kankakee River, across the Grand Portage, and down the Saint Joseph River in his quest to find the easiest route between Quebec and the Mississippi's mouth. He found only Miami Indians along the banks of the Saint Joseph River; he named the river, The River of the Miami's.
Claude Allouez founded a mission at the junction of our river and the great transcontinental trail. He had followed an exodus of Algonquian people returning to southwest Michigan. This area came to be called Parkovash by the French because of the great herds of buffalo that grazed here. At this time Claud Allouez named the river The River Saint Joseph because it was the largest river that he knew to drain into his "Lake Saint Joseph".
La Salle returned to his River of the Miami's in 1679. La Salle made numerous trips up and down the river between the mouth and the Grand Portage during the following few years. He continued to use the name he had created for the stream.
The French built a fort on the west bank of the Saint Joseph River near present day Niles, Michigan in 1691. At about this time, more Potowatomi bands began migrating to the south of Lake Michigan from Green Bay. They found protection near the west bank of the Saint Joseph River where Fort Saint Joseph was garrisoned by their friends, the French. And, the Miami's occupied the east bank. The Fort offered the Potowatomi a refuge from the Iroquois incursions while opening up fur trade directly with the French. This trade arrangement was better for both the Miamis and Potowatomis because it eliminated the middle men who were previously the Ottawa and the Hurons. The Potowatomi name for the river was Sohg-Wah-Se-Pe, or Sagwa-Se-Pe which translated means "Mystery River".
The French withdrew the garrison from the fort at about the turn of the 18th century but, the mission stayed on as did the French trappers and traders, but a new calamity befell them.
The Fox and Sauk tribes started to make raids upon the fur stores of the Potowatomi and the French traders in 1701. This was the beginning of the Fox Wars. The year 1702 found the Fox allied with the Mascoutens fighting on behalf of the English against the Potowatomi who backed the French.
By 1722 the Fox had the fur trade in a shambles. The Potowatomi thoroughly defeated the Fox and made peace in 1730. The Potowatomi then acted as mediators between the French and the Fox until 1737 when the war diminished. Many of the Miami tribe had moved to the Detroit area to escape the Fox incursions during the 1720's. They returned to the Saint Joseph River Valley in the mid 1730's, but the Potowatomi forced the Miami tribe south to the Tippecanoe Valley around 1743.
In the 1820's and 30's, settlers, using the old Indian transcontinental trail, often encountered roaming Sauk. This old trail came to be called the Sauk Trail. Those settlers who squatted and bought land along the Saint Joseph River lived among the Potowatomi bands who were the last Indians as a group to occupy the Saint Joseph River Valley."
back to the topics heading list
|HISTORY INDEX||1846 County History||KALAMAZOO THEATRE VIEWS|
|HISTORY PAGE 1||1876 COUNTY HISTORY||Obituaries from the Pioneer Society Reports|
|HISTORY PAGE 2||1980 TORNADO||Railroads, Interubans, and Transit History|
|HISTORY page 3||Chronology of Township, Village and City Formation||Reminiscences of Kalamazoo, 1832 -1833 by Jesse Turner|
|HISTORY PAGE 4||Centennial History and Pageant Program||SCHOOLCRAFT MI HISTORY|
|HISTORY PAGE 5||Historical Markers||VICKSBURG MI HISTORY SITE|
|HISTORY PAGE 6||Indians in Kalamazoo - Early Letters|
|HISTORY PAGE 7||Kalamazoo Mall|
|HISTORY PAGE 8||Kalamazoo Views|
To Next Page in the County History
All rights reserved.
This site may be freely linked to but not duplicated
in any fashion without my consent.
The information on these pages is meant for personal genealogical
research only and is not for commercial use of any type.