The First Michigan Pro Football Game Was Played in Clinton County in 1895
In the upper eastern part of Clinton County, between St. Johns and Ovid, lies the village of Shepherdsville. Or least, what once WAS Shepherdsville.
Shepherdsville played a major role in the development and growth of Ovid Township. It was a depot / station stop along the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railroad line, later named the Grand Trunk Railroad.
The town was named by (and after) the man who homesteaded the land in 1866, one William Shepherd. Thanks to the railroad bringing businessmen and travelers, Shepherdsville prospered and many establishments sprang up: cheese factory, church, general store, grist-mill, hotel, schoolhouse, stave-factory, and various shops & stores.
So what happened? It wasn't the depletion of timber, or the railroad ceasing to exist, as were the cases with many old Michigan towns...it was because of numerous fires. The first occurred in 1871, destroying the stave mill. In 1872-1873, another blaze ravaged three business blocks and wiped out three stores and some other shops. Then, in 1878, the cheese factory caught fire and burned beyond repair. Distraught over the consistent fires and disillusionment to try and rebuild, the villagers either moved away or stayed, leaving things as they were and content to do their shopping at other nearby towns.
These days, the old railroad is now the Fred Meijer Clinton-Ionia-Shiawassee Trail and the old red brick schoolhouse still stands.
Not only that, but another point of interest lies just south of Shepherdsville, just east of the intersection of S. Shepherdsville Rd and M-21. It's a monument that commemorates the site where the first professional football game was played in Michigan on July 4th, 1895. The game was organized by Leo Grove who learned how to play in college and organized the whole thing when he returned home.
The marker reads, "In the field south of this site on July 4th, 1895 the Michigan Rushers, a local team, played the first professional football game in Michigan, and possibly in the U.S.".
Take a drive and check out the old schoolhouse, the defunct railroad, and of course, the "first professional football game" marker. Great historic photo ops!