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MICHIGAN GHOST TOWN: Leoni, Jackson County

There are numerous ghost towns in Michigan, most of them you hear about are in mid-to-northern Michigan. But who’da though the vanishing village of Leoni was considered a ghost town? Well it is, and it’s just one of many Jackson County ghost towns.

Leoni sits – obviously – in Leoni Township, about halfway between Jackson & Grass Lake at the intersection of East Michigan Avenue and Portage Road.

According to, “in 1836 William Jackson came through Leoni looking for wild land…..Leoni appeared to him a second garden of Eden… October, 1838, he chose it for his home, and engaged in the sale of dry-goods, groceries, Sapington’s ague-pills, and Peleg White’s salve, and subsequently sold Pratt’s pills and Lond’s ointment.”

The website also says Leoni Township boasted a cider mill, apple jelly factory and pump factory; the first school teacher was Allen Knight, who lived a half mile east of downtown Leoni village in a log house.

Did you know there actually was a COLLEGE in that village? It began in 1845 as the Leoni Theological Institute, changing to Michigan Union College in 1855 (SEE PHOTO GALLERY ABOVE FOR LOCATION OF THE COLLEGE). According to a wonderful mlive article, in 1859, a minister from Adrian, Reverend Asa Mahan, acquired the college and moved it to his town and re-named Adrian College. Mahan was a strong anti-slavery supporter and became elected as the president of Adrian’s “new” college.

The village of Leoni still retains some of the old buildings from 100 years ago, and one only has to travel to that intersection to see them. Just north on the right side of Portage Road is an old assembly hall that still stands…now owned by the Leoni Baptist Church which stands alongside it

Stores, hotel, saloon, mills, factories, railroad depot…..all dust in the Leoni wind.

Now that you know a little bit about it, pay a visit or just take a short stop next time you’re driving through and think about what it once was.

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