It was the very first settlement in Kalamazoo County, kicking off in 1828. That was when the Bazel Harrison brood arrived and set up their own farm. Lucius Lyon platted this new village in 1831 and named it after his friend, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft.

In 1830, Thaddeus Smith opened a general store (Smith, Huston, & Company). At the end of the year, Schoolcraft was where everyone wanted to go. Other businesses followed: the “Big Island” Hotel, post office, and churches.

The town of Schoolcraft's historic claim to fame is the old home of Nathan & Pamela Thomas, who opened their home as a refuge on the underground railroad, before the Civil War broke out. Smith was a doctor and abolitionist who began his quest to help escaped slaves in 1843. The escapees would travel all night and arrive at Smith's house at dawn. They were given food and places to sleep during the day; by night they would be taken to Battle Creek to the next refuge. He estimated that he helped over one thousand slaves escape.

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Schoolcraft was on its way to become as huge as Detroit...but in 1834, the railroad bypassed Schoolcraft and went through the small village of Bronson. When the railroad finally did hit Schoolcraft, their time for growth was too late: Bronson's name was changed to 'Kalamazoo' and became the center of trade and business.

By the early 1900s, Schoolcraft had a bank, three churches, dentists, two depots, doctors, three grocers, two hotels, a bank, and a newspaper.

In the 2000s, Schoolcraft residents are happy that it didn't turn out as big as Kalamazoo – if a trip is needed, the big city is just a few miles away.

Vintage Photos of Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo County


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