What’s Michigan’s Smallest County?
That would be Cass County.

The first permanent settlers in the area which would become Cass County was Uzziel Putnam, his wife, and daughter who settled on November 18, 1825.

Just a few years later, the county was organized and named after Lewis Cass, former Secretary of State, Senator, French Ambassador, Secretary of War, and Governor of Michigan. The county boasted a population of 900, including many who migrated from Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia.

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Aside from the above migrators, the majority of residents of Cass County were split into three categories: New Englanders, Native Americans, and African Americans.

The Native American Potawatomi tribe lived throughout Cass County and southwestern Michigan. They signed an 1828 treaty which allowed them a 49-square-mile reservation in Berrien County, but in 1833 they were forced to give that up as well. The white settlers didn’t want the Indians around, so they shipped them off to Kansas. The ones that rebelled and tried to hide were hunted down by the U.S. army and sent west. Potawatomi burial grounds near Sumnerville still survive.

Cass County was a safe place for African American slaves who sought freedom in the north. Just west of Vandalia was a place that was nicknamed ‘Ramptown’. It was a Quaker community and many of those families used their homes as shelter and hiding places for slaves. Thus, the escapees could live freely by clearing the land, building their homes, growing their own food, attending church, earning a living, and sending their children to school. In Ramptown they could have a normal life. Read more about Ramptown HERE.

With such a rich history, you’d think Cass County would not be our smallest county…but since it is, just how small – or big – is it? 508 square miles: 490 of it is land, the other 18 is water.

Below are some vintage photos of various locations throughout Cass County.

Michigan's Smallest County: Cass


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