MICHIGAN HISTORY: The Small Town of Leonidas
Leonidas is a small town in St. Joseph County's Leonidas Township, in an area settled by the George Mathews family, New Yorkers who arrived in 1831.
James and Robert Cowen, also from New York, came here in 1831 as well. They constructed and operated a mill along Nottawa Creek in 1832 at a site they named after themselves: Cowen's Mills. Not only did they produce flour and grain, but they also built arks, boats and rafts in order to ship their wares downriver, as far as Chicago.
Settled along Nottawa Creek, it was given a post office in 1836 named Fort Pleasant – the “Fort” coming from old mission ruins that were excavated in the area by early settlers. Isaac Bailey was elected the first postmaster.
Finally, Fort Pleasant was platted in 1846 and eventually re-named Leonidas in 1850. It was named by attorney Niles F. Smith after an ancient king of Sparta.
The Michigan Central / Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad, running between Battle Creek and Goshen, served Leonidas.
The town had a tailor shop, tavern, grist mill, churches, schools, cemetery, and the usual shops and stores.
Read more about Leonidas HERE. Leonidas remains an historic Michigan small town, and it makes a good drive-thru on your Michigan roadtrip! Check out the then-and-now photos below.