Branch County, Michigan
Located along the U.S. 12 Heritage Route
Branch County was a primeval wilderness a little more than one hundred and fifty years ago, inhabited only by the Potawatomie Indians. While it is true that there were trading posts within the limits of what is now Branch County as early as 1825, the first actual white settler appears to have been Jabez B. Bronson, who made his home in 1828 in the city now bearing his name, Bronson, Michigan.
The Old Sauk Trail between Detroit and Chicago, known now as Chicago Road or US-12, saw a great number of pioneers passing this way, bound for and other parts of what was then the “far west.” The presence of the Indians deterred many that would otherwise have settled in this area.
It was in 1821 that Chief Topinabee and his people sold to the white man what is now the County of Branch, though they continued to occupy it as before, on reservations.
Named for John Branch, President Andrew Jackson's secretary of the Navy, the county was one of thirteen established by the territorial legislature in 1829. The village of Branch, located three miles southwest of Coldwater was the original county seat, but in 1842 county commissioners decreed that the seat be moved to Coldwater. In 1848 a courthouse was erected on this site.
The Chicago Road, now US-12, and the coming of the Michigan Southern Railroad in 1850 attracted settlers. During the 1850s and 1860s, Coldwater was a horse training and breeding center. Local breeders provided three thousand horses to the Union Army during the Civil War. In the 1870s and 1880s, the manufacturing of cigars contributed to Coldwater's prosperity. In 1882, some 13.4 million cigars were manufactured in Coldwater.
Bronson located on the old Chicago Trail (US-12 a.k.a. the Sauk Trail), was founded in 1828 by Jabez B. Bronson, the first settler in Branch County. The village was incorporated in 1866 under the name Bronson Prairie, the name was later shortened in 1871 when the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad came through. The Chicago Trail was a main thoroughfare between Chicago and Detroit during prohibition. Many locals have stories passed down through generations about boot-legging and lawless characters that have passed through the area.
Area residents have dubbed Bronson the Gladiola Capital, as you drive the country side you will see acres and acres of brilliant blankets of flowers. The gladiola bulbs are harvested for commercial use, but the vibrant bouquets can be purchased from the local farmers. They also are host to the huge monthly White Star Snowmobile and ATV Auctions that bring in potential buyers from all over the United States and Canada.
This quaint community has pride in their unique architecture such as the City Hall, built in 1970 made out of 100 percent plastic, erected in only 14 hours is still standing the test of time. A Carnegie Library built in 1924 was commemorated with a historical marker last year. The gazebo at the main 4-corners, the murals of days gone-by on the barber shop wall, as well as, the Victorian architecture makes this notable community a memorable stop on your journey across southern Michigan.
This city reflects a unique balance of past and present, featuring many fine old turn of the twentieth century homes coupled with a booming economy and rapid retail development. Coldwater was first settled in 1830 by Allen Tibbits and Joseph Hanchett. In 1833 it was named Coldwater (from the Potawatomie, chuck-saw-ya-bish or cold running water) after the river that runs through it. Coldwater was incorporated as a city in 1861 and continues to thrive as a significant contributor to Southern Michigan.
During the Civil War, a Light Artillery Battery, led by Commander Cyrus Loomis went to fight for the Union, going on to become one of the most renowned regiments in the country. Several of their ten-pounder Parrott cannons can be seen downtown across from the Branch District Library. A State School for dependent and neglected children was built here in 1874 and in later years became a center for the developmentally disabled.
Coldwater attractions include the famous Tibbits Opera House, the Wing House Museum, the Capri Drive-In Theater as well as an abundance of lakes, parks and charming downtown shops.
The village of Quincy was originally settled in 1830 by Horace Wilson, who built the first log cabin there. There were few businesses in the early days, and Quincy did not see much development until after the Civil War. A Town Hall was built in 1880 on the site of the first jail and firemen’s shed. The fire bell currently resides in the village library which was built in 1910. Community hosts the annual Tip-Up Festival each February and is now home to an annual Kite Festival and Competition as well.
Union City was founded in 1833 by Justus Goodwin and renamed in 1866 to reflect the union of the St. Joseph and Coldwater rivers. Home to well-known children’s book author and illustrator, Patricia Palocco. Palocco has restored two fine old homes and turned the firehouse into an arts center, as well as to the acclaimed Victorian Villa Bed and Breakfast Inn.
The local Rotarians collect and process maple syrup every Spring as a community-wide fund raiser. The Carp Rodeo and Holiday Festival bring in guests from all over.