Cass County, Michigan

Cass County, Michigan

Map of Michigan highlighting Cass County
Location in the U.S. state of Michigan
Map of the United States highlighting Michigan
Michigan's location in the U.S.
Founded 1829[1]
Named for Lewis Cass
Seat Cassopolis
Largest city Dowagiac
  Total 508 sq mi (1,316 km2)
  Land 490 sq mi (1,269 km2)
  Water 18 sq mi (47 km2), 3.6%
  (2010) 52,293
  Density 107/sq mi (41/km²)
Congressional district 6th

Cass County is a county in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population was 52,293.[2] Its county seat is Cassopolis.[3]

Cass County is included in the South BendMishawaka, IN-MI, Metropolitan Statistical Area which has a total population of 316,663 and is sometimes considered part of Greater Michiana. Cass County has numerous lakes and is popular for fishing and boating.


The county is named for Lewis Cass,[4] the Michigan Territorial Governor at the time the county was created in 1829. Cass later served as the United States Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson, thus making a case for including Cass County as one of Michigan's "cabinet counties".[1]

Cass County was not as heavily forested and had more fertile prairie land than other nearby areas of Michigan, and thus during early settlement it grew more rapidly in population. As early as 1830, a carding mill was started in the county on Dowagiac Creek, a branch of the St. Joseph River. Although the Sauk Trail (Chicago Road) passed through the southern part of the county, early settlement did not come primarily from eastern Michigan. Instead, settlers from Ohio and Indiana who had heard of the prairie lands came to occupy them, reaching the Michigan Territory over a branch of the Chicago Road leading from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The population of Cass County was over 3,000 by 1834.[5]

Among the most prominent early settlers of Cass County were Baldwin Jenkins and Uzziel Putnam, who both came from Ohio by way of the Carey Mission in Berrien County. Jenkins had been born at Fort Jenkins in Green County, Pennsylvania, and had migrated to Tennessee, but then left that state to avoid the presence of slavery. Putnam, who had lived in Massachusetts and New York, came to Cass from Erie County, Ohio, by way of Fort Wayne. These settlers, and their families, established the nucleus of the village of Pokagon on Pokagon Prairie in 1825. The next year, a settlement was made on Beardsley’s Prairie, where the village of Edwardsburg was laid out in 1831.[6]

The village of Cassopolis was platted in 1831 and intended as the county seat, although no settlers yet lived there, because it was the geographical center of the county.[7]

Black settlers

After 1840, the black population of Cass County grew rapidly as families were attracted by white defiance of discriminatory laws, by numerous highly supportive Quakers, and by low-priced land. Free and runaway blacks found Cass County a haven. Their good fortune attracted the attention of southern slaveholders. In 1847 and 1849, planters from Bourbon and Boone Counties in northern Kentucky led raids into Cass County to recapture runaway slaves. They were "surrounded by crowds of angry farmers armed with clubs, scythes, and other farm implements", resisting their attempt.[8]

The raids failed to accomplish their objective but strengthened Southern demands for passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which was a step on the way to the Civil War.[9]

Cass County became known early on for the anti-slavery attitudes of its population. Pennsylvania Quakers made a settlement in Penn Township in 1829, which later became a prominent station on the Underground Railroad.[10] One established Underground Railroad route ran from Niles through Cassopolis, Schoolcraft, Climax, and Battle Creek, and thence along the old Territorial Road.

Historical markers

There are 26 historical sites located in Cass County as of December, 2009.[11]

Name of Site City Location Date Listed Marker erected
Cass County Courthouse Cassopolis 12/14/1976 08/17/1977
Cass County Office Building / Masonic Temple Cassopolis 07/23/1985 N/A
Centennial Hall Building Marcellus, Michigan 03/19/1980 N/A
Chain Lake Baptist Church Cemetery Calvin Township, Michigan 12/05/1986 04/07/1992
First Methodist Episcopal Church Dowagiac 07/18/1996 10/12/1999
First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon Pokagon Township 04/01/2002 N/A
First Universalist Church of Dowagiac Dowagiac 05/30/1984 09/08/1982
Jarius Hitchcox House Union 12/10/1971 N/A
Indian Lake Cemetery Silver Creek Township 03/15/1990 N/A
Carroll Sherman Jones House Marcellus, Michigan 03/15/1990 N/A
George Washington Jones House Marcellus, Michigan 12/09/1994 01/17/1986
Joseph Webster Lee House Ontwa Township 03/19/1987 N/A
Mason District Number 5 Schoolhouse Mason Township 06/10/1980 10/06/1981
Methodist Episcopal Church Dowagiac 01/20/2000 02/02/2000
Michigan Central Railroad Dowagiac Depot Dowagiac N/A N/A
George Newton House Volinia Township 11/14/1974 10/07/1977
Poe's Corners Newberg Township 03/21/1991 06/25/1991
Presbyterian Church of Edwardsburg Edwardsburg 04/20/2000 06/09/2000
Sylvador T. Read House Cassopolis 06/10/1980 N/A
Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church Silver Creek Township 01/16/1976 07/19/1977
Smith's Chapel and Cemetery Milton Township 04/24/1979 04/07/1981
Sumnerville Cemetery Niles, Michigan 01/20/2000 N/A
Sumnerville Mounds Dowagiac, Michigan 01/20/2000 2000
Thompson Road/Air Line Railroad Bridge Howard Township N/A N/A
Underground Railroad Informational Designation Vandalia, Michigan 01/19/1957 04/12/1957
Wayne Township School District No. 7 School Wayne Township 04/19/1990 N/A


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 508 square miles (1,320 km2), of which 490 square miles (1,300 km2) is land and 18 square miles (47 km2) (3.6%) is water.[12] It is the smallest county in Michigan by total area.

Major highways

Adjacent counties


The county government operates the jail, maintains rural roads, operates the major local courts, keeps files of deeds and mortgages, maintains vital records, administers public health regulations, and participates with the state in the provision of welfare and other social services. The county board of commissioners controls the budget but has only limited authority to make laws or ordinances. In Michigan, most local government functions police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, street maintenance, etc. are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.

Lake Driskel in Jones, an unincorporated community in Cass County

Elected officials

(information as of September 2012 by J.J.S.)


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201551,657[13]−1.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[14]
1790-1960[15] 1900-1990[16]
1990-2000[17] 2010-2013[2]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 52,293 people residing in the county. 88.9% were White, 5.4% Black or African American, 1.0% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 1.1% of some other race and 3.0% of two or more races. 3.0% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). 25.9% were of German, 10.0% English, 9.6% Irish, 8.1% American and 5.7% Polish ancestry.[18]

As of the 2000 census,[19] there were 51,104 people, 19,676 households, and 14,304 families residing in the county. The population density was 104 people per square mile (40/km²). There were 23,884 housing units at an average density of 48 per square mile (19/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 89.19% White, 6.12% Black or African American, 0.82% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.17% from other races, and 2.15% from two or more races. 2.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 26.6% were of German, 11.1% American, 10.3% Irish, 10.1% English and 5.0% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000. 96.4% spoke English and 2.0% Spanish as their first language.

There were 19,676 households out of which 31.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.20% were married couples living together, 9.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.30% were not family units. 22.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.50% under the age of 18, 7.40% from 18 to 24, 27.60% from 25 to 44, 26.00% from 45 to 64, and 13.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 99.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $41,264, and the median income for a family was $46,901. Males had a median income of $35,546 versus $24,526 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,474. About 6.80% of families and 9.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.60% of those under age 18 and 8.80% of those age 65 or over.


Higher Education

Cass County is home to Southwestern Michigan College. The college is a public two-year institution of higher education, the college is part of the Michigan community college system. The college is the largest employer in Cass County.


Cass county has several library system which operate in the county. The Cass District Library is the largest library in the county, have branch located in 4 cities around the county. Cass District Library is the library system which services Calvin, Howard, Jefferson, LaGrange, Mason, Milton, Newberg, Ontwa, Penn, Pokagon, Porter and Volinia Townships.

The Dowagiac District Library service the city of Dowagiac, but has worked with the Cass District Library to see about merging with them in an effort to save money. Marcellus Township also operates their own library apart from the Cass District library to service the residence of the village of Marcellus and the Township of Marcellus.

Southwestern Michigan College operates the Fred Mathews Library on its Campus in Dowagiac.




Unincorporated communities


See also


  1. 1 2 "Bibliography on Cass County". Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  2. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  3. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  4. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 71.
  5. Fuller, George Newman (1916). Economic and Social Beginnings of Michigan: A Study of the Settlement of the Lower Peninsula During the Territorial Period, 1805-1837, pp. 244-51.
  6. Fuller (1916), pp. 261-62, 274.
  7. Fuller (1916), p. 275.
  8. McGinnis, Carol (2005). Michigan Genealogy: Sources & Resources (2nd ed.), pp. 199-200. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 0-8063-1755-8.
  9. Benjamin C. Wilson, "Kentucky Kidnappers, Fugitives, and Abolitionists in Antebellum Cass County Michigan," Michigan History, July 1976, Vol. 60#4 pp. 339-358.
  10. Fuller (1916), p. 302.
  11. . Retrieved December 24, 2009.
  12. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  13. "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  14. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on April 22, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  15. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  16. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  17. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  18. Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "American FactFinder".
  19. Statistical profile of Cass County, Michigan, United States Census Bureau, Census 2000

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 41°55′N 85°59′W / 41.91°N 85.99°W / 41.91; -85.99

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