Oshtemo Historical Society



Early Land Mass
Oshtemo's land mass was first carved by a glacier that moved over the land taking everything with it except the bed rock. Gouges and creases created high and low areas. Natural springs filled the low areas creating several small lakes. A moraine created the highest elevation point in Kalamazoo County. It took many thousands of years for the prairies and surrounding hardwood forests to be developed.





Early Animals
Large Mammoths and Mastodons once roamed the area. They would have controlled the growth of vegetation, maintaining grassy area and other smaller plants. The discovery of these large animals make it known that their carnivores, scavengers and even their dung beetles were here.




Early People
Evidence indicates human life presence since about 9000 BC. They hunted and used the animals for food, clothing and shelter. Prehistoric peoples called The Hopewell lived in southwestern Michigan between 500 BC and AD 44. They are known for the thousands of burial mounds they created in S W Michigan and elsewhere.





Indigenous People

The Potawatomi tribe settled in Michigan about 1100, coming from Wisconsin. They had no permanent residences but scattered about the woods and prairies hunting, gardening and fishing. These Native Americans were owners and inhabitants of the territory.




European Pioneers

1680 found the first French fur traders making their way through the area by foot. Previously these trappers/traders had only used the water ways for travel.


The Treaty of Chicago was agreed upon in 1821; a monetary settlement transferred the land ownership to the U S government. after 1830, the tribes were forced to move west of the Mississippi.


First pioneer Land Owners
Benjamin Drake,
Enoch Harris, Royal Sherwood, Charles Wild, Phineas Hunt, Rigin Holmes and Laban Keyes.

It Begins

Lake Erie and the Hudson River were connected in 1825, creating the Erie Canal. This successful endeavor created an easier transportation route for both people and products from New England. However an economic slowdown kept people from having the needed resources for the move. In 1830, the economy improved, the Indians were being removed and Michigan was the most popular destination for westward moving pioneers. Oshtemo land was a part of the Territory of Michigan and was owned by the Potawatomi Tribes.



Michigan Territory was determined by the United States Congress in 1805. The name probably came from Fox Indian word “Mesikami”, meaning “great water.” In 1834, Michigan Territory included what is now the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and a large portion of the Dakotas. The Toledo war resolved boundary issues with Ohio in 1835 and the 1836 Wisconsin Territory was created in 1838 helping to make Michigan the area known today.


Here They Come

The settlers who arrived in Oshtemo before the government offered the land for sale were called squatters - as the land was owned by the Indians, who could not sell. Many Squatters had settled here. The first step in offering the land for legal ownership was to survey it; when this was completed, the land was opened to purchase for $1.25 an acre. Available land in Southwestern Michigan could only be purchased at land offices in Detroit or Monroe until 1831 when the land office in White Pigeon was opened. Between 1831 and 1834, 264,000 acres of land was sold from this Land Office.



The Original Land Office in White Pigeon has been restored by the St. Joseph County Historical Society. It is on the National Register of Historical Places and is located on the main street of White Pigeon.






How We Grew

In 1834 the land office in Kalamazoo opened. Michigan had the largest population increase during that time than any other state or territory. The Railroad was completed a few years after the Erie Canal, giving travelers west another option. Michigan became a state on January 26, 1837; It was the twenty sixth state in the Union. The population at the time of statehood is estimated to have been about 200,000. Stevens T. Mason was Territorial Governor and the first Michigan State Governor. Andrew Jackson was President of the United States of America. On March 22, 1839 , Oshtemo was designated a township, elections were held, offices were filled and rules were made.


Oshtemo township is one of sixteen townships in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Mr. Hammond of the Bank of Michigan in Kalamazoo suggested the Indian name "Oshtemo" for the new township. The name means "Head waters". The township has 36 square miles of land. The latitude is 42.258N, longitude is 85.677W.




" American History is not something dead and over - it is alive, always growing, always unfinished. "
John F. Kennedy

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