Leonidas History

Leonidas History

The excerpts written out below are from a small booklet entitled,
"St. Joseph County Historical Review and Business Guide"
written and compiled by Roy D. F. Sowers, Historian.

Leonidas is located in the center of Leonidas township. The soil of this locality was very fertile and the prairie land with the heavier timbered parts made it ideal. Large maple sugar camps were located in the northern parts. It abounded in large "white-wood" trees which were used in all old buildings where large timbers were necessary. It grew to great size but is now extinct. In the early days it was considered a nuisance and many log heap fires or wind-rows of white-wood logs were burned up.

The township was first settled by Thomas HATCH, an Indian trader of the 1830ís. He married an Indian squaw named MARCHEE-O-NO-QUA and raised several children. He traded with the Indians all over the county and finally left his squaw and family and moved on, later marrying another squaw. George MATTHEWS and family of New York state was the next white family. A large orchard of apple trees, very old, was located at Leonidas when the first white settlers landed there. According to the Indians of that time, a legend of their ancestors, a "heap big medicine man CHEMOCOMAN" meaning missionary had planted them. Romance! We wonder who that missionary was-what stories he could tell!

The original village plat was laid out in December 1846, by E. G. TERRY at the intersection of the Washtenaw Trail road and Mendon and Colon roads. A number of saw-mills and grist-mills were built around Leonidas because of the wonderful power sites. Arks of grain was floated down the river through Three Rivers and Constantine to the mouth of the river at St. Joseph. Some of the grain and wood was even shipped to Chicago by water. Some of the men who built early saw-mills or grist-mills were James COWEN, Isaac BAILEY, James B. DUNKIN, A. C. FISHER, Phillip CLIPFELL and Jerry McDONALD were interested in a cooper shop. Arnold HAYWARD opened the first Tavern and Capt. WATKINS built the next "Farmers Home" in 1836. The first white child was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George MATHEWS, who died the following year. The first marriage was William ORCUTT and Esther WATKINS, daughter of Capt. Levi WATKINS. The cemetery was laid out in 1836 although there were several burials before this on various family plots on farms.

In 1837 Justus L. VOUGHT opened the first store. Later some of the early merchants were Lester and Chester BUCKLEY, HEWITT & ESTES, W. H. CROSS, HEWITT & RAMSDELL, George BUTLER, William LITTLE, KADD & GALLOWAY, E. L. YAPLE, DUNCAN & ALLEN. About this time a Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches were formed. A school house was built and post office opened in 1836. The Indians of the community were very friendly with the settlers and exchanged provisions, held wrestling matches and hunted together. The only trouble they ever gave the settlers was when drunk. Leonidas is a thriving little village today on a main road, M. 60. It has three grist-mills yet. So many human interest stories are told of the early days that we regret we have not space to repeat them.


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copyright This website is created and copyrighted 2007 by Joel Newport