Another Old Michigan Town You Need To Check Out
Lacota is a community within Geneva Township in Michigan’s Van Buren County.
The first person to settle in the area was Clark Pierce in 1837; in 1864, the community’s first post office opened, titled ‘West Geneva’. Then, in 1870, the village was platted by Enoch Pease, who took it upon himself to name the town. So, he named it “Irvington” after his son Irving. Four years later, the post office’s name was reverted to ‘Irvington’.
Finally, the town received its permanent name in December of 1884, thanks to the Michigan Central Railroad which ran through town. The railroad’s route already had a station stop in Barry County named ‘Irving’, so to avoid confusion, they requested the name change. The name was suggested by V. D. Dilley from a name he read in a book. It’s possible it was a book about the Lakota Native American tribe.
Hard to fathom, but Lacota had a decent downtown area, dotted with shops and plenty of traffic. At one time, Lacota had a shoemaker, churches, bank, schoolhouse, Odd Fellows Hall, the Van Pelt Store, Wood’s general (grocery) store and a nice handful of shops that were lined up downtown.
The old store was first named Clark’s General Store, changed to Wood’s by the 1940’s. An addition to the store was built on, and then the whole thing was sadly demolished years later. Now there’s an empty lot where it once stood. Currently, there are a number of empty lots where shops used to stand, some of them now have homes built where businesses once flourished.
The old schoolhouse is now part of the Lacota Church, south of town. There’s a book about the history of Lacota by Barbara W. Wood that is worth seeking out. It has plenty of pictures of what the town looked like. The downtown pictures will surprise you.
Take a drive-thru Lacota sometime. You'll get a few great photo ops, but hurry before someone decides to demolish the remaining old buildings.
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