Mottville History

Mottville 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.

In 1833 Buck's township was set off from old White Pigeon township, its territory then covering the present area of Fabius and Lockport and in 1837 the balance of the original township was erected into Mottville, Constantine, Florence and White Pigeon. In 1828 Joseph QUIMBY was the first settler to locate at Mottville although it was known as the Grand Traverse or Crossing for years previous and used as a crossing point on the old Indian Trail from Chicago to Detroit. Soon Levi BECKWITH, Sr., John BEAR, Joel STEVENSON, Elias TAYLOR, Aaron BROOKS, and the three ODELL brothers, Nathan, Thomas and James located here.

Mottville was platted out in 1830 by Orange RISDON and John R. WILLIAMS. Elias TAYLOR, the old Indian agent and first county sheriff, built a frame house. It was the first store, Tavern and Post Office. In 1833, Hart L. STEWART built a larger Tavern and substantial bridge across the river. Some of the timbers were 18 inches square and 60 feet long of white-wood. It was rebuilt in 1845 and later in 1867. Since then a beautiful concrete arch bridge has been built where U. S. 112 crosses the river. In spite of one settler holding his land at an exorbitant price the village was a great shipping terminal of the '30s and '40s. Man propelled keel-boats and steamers came up the river from the mouth of St. Joseph river. Grain and whiskey was shipped from here. Rumor says grain was hauled from as far south as Ft. Wayne and Jacksonburg (now Jackson, Michigan). The Rev. Erastus FELTON, a Methodist minister, was the first religious leader. Several stores, a warehouse and distillery were built. The first salt brought into the county came from New York through the Great Lakes, up the St. Joseph river. Salt was a very valuable article in the early days. Michigan salt wells produce most of the world's supply today.

The Grand Traverse and White Pigeon were well known when Fort Dear born (Chicago) was yet an infant.

In the Civil war, Mottville was one of the last terminals of the "underground railroad" for the smuggling of southern slaves into the north. Many slaves hid in the great Cassopolis swamp until the war was over. That is why Cass County has so many blacks. Some are quite well to do and have large farms that were considered worthless and given to the blacks by the government.


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