HISTORIC MICHIGAN: Pokagon, Potawatomi, and the Old Rugged Cross
The historic village of Pokagon is located in Cass County, about seven and a half miles northeast of Niles.
At one point in time, namely from the 1870's through the rest of the century, Pokagon was a busy little village with homes, shops and businesses that crammed the downtown crossroads. The businesses are gone - general store, blacksmith, train depot, hotel, saloon, etc. - but plenty of houses remain, along with an interesting history.
The classic hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross", was written in 1912 by George Bennard in Albion, Michigan. The first time that hymn was ever performed in public was at the church in Pokagon, which is now referred to as "The Old Rugged Cross Church" (SEE PHOTOS). An Historical Marker is currently present at the church site.
This area is where the last of the Potawatomi Indian tribe made their home. Chief Leopold Pokagon, called “the Good Chief”, was a highly regarded member of the Potawatomi; the local residents thought so much of him, they gave the new settlement his name. This is now known as the town of Pokagon - the township was named afterward in 1829.
To read an extensive history of the Pokagon Potawatomi tribe, CLICK HERE. It's an interesting, insightful look at the people who inhabited (and still inhabit) this part of our state and how they benefited Cass County to made it grow and prosper.
Visit Pokagon during your Michigan roadtrip and see the Old Rugged Cross Church, the old Methodist Church and the former downtown, which is nowadays just a crossroads with the railroad cutting through it. No depot, no stores, no shops. Just homes. It's a melancholy outcome to one of Michigan's most historic villages.