The Mission of the St. Joseph County Historical Society of Michigan is to promote an interest in the history of St. Joseph County, Michigan and the surrounding area by being the repository for the collective memory and bringing the past forward.
Our current board members for the year 2022/2023 are President Holly Stephenson, Treasurer Eva Sylvester, Secretary Sara Pulver Davis, Bubba Bill Barnhardt, Don Carr, and Jan Northrup.
A Brief History of the SJCHS
The original pioneer society of St. Joseph County of Michigan was founded in 1873.
Membership was based on having a family member who settled in St. Joseph County prior to
1840. Their mission was "to rescue from oblivion the early annals of our county" and "to
promote the general good of the community". There was one president, 16 Vice Presidents
(one for each township), a treasurer, a secretary and as many assistant secretaries as needed.
As the numbers of original members dwindled, they expanded the membership requirements to settlers
that had arrived by 1845. In 1893 the constitution was again amended to include the children of the
The annual meetings, were all day affair‘s, heralding more than 200 persons in attendance. There were picnics, speakers and musical performances. The fairgrounds in Centerville was the usual venue, but Lafayette Park in Three Rivers, a park in Sturgis or Colon's opera house were also used.
1910 was the last year the pioneer society officially existed. It then became the St. Joseph County Historical Society which still continues as a nonprofit. It's headquarters is located in Three Rivers, Michigan.
A Brief History of the White Pigeon Prairie U.S. Land Office
A State and National Historic Site
The Michigan Territory was authorized on Jan. 11, 1805 from
the larger Northwest Territory. During the next 20 years, the
boundaries in this part of the state changed several times.
In 1829, Michigan's territorial government created St. Joseph
county. It included parts of what is now Kalamazoo, Calhoun,
Branch, Barry and Eaton counties, as well as, all other counties
north to Mackinac. The land offices, at that time, were located
in Monroe and Detroit. That same year, Peter Klinger, Richard
Meek, Arba Heald, Luther Newton and John Sturgis, all of St. Joseph County, requested that a new land office be opened in White Pigeon. As land became available, in the western section of Michigan it became difficult to continue the Land Office in Detroit. White Pigeon was chosen because it was the largest village west of Jackson in Lenawee county and was located on the Sauk Trail (U.S.12), which was the military road connecting Detroit to Chicago.
In 1828, Robert Clark Jr. had surveyed White Pigeon township. During 1830, the village of White Pigeon had been platted. November of that year, Clark purchased 80 acres of land which included the property where the Land Office sits. The territorial government closed the Monroe Land Office and transferred its employees Abraham Edwards, register, and Thomas C. Sheldon, receiver, to White Pigeon. In July 1831, Clark sold lot 49 of the original plat of White Pigeon to Abraham Edwards for $20.00. Edwards must have rented the building, as the federal government's policy was to lease, not own, the land office buildings. We do not know the exact date the building was constructed. We do know the White Pigeon Prairie United States Land Office was officially in use from June 6, 1831 until it was closed on May 1, 1834. After a complete restoration in 2020, today the Land Office is open to the public and is a museum featuring rotating displays of surveying equipment and other materials relevant to the sale of land in the Michigan.