HISTORIC SMALLTOWN MICHIGAN: Westphalia, Clinton County
The people of Westphalia know how historic their town is...but do you? If not, maybe you should visit Westphalia sometime.
Westphalia was founded in 1836 (and named) by a group of settlers who emigrated from a number of cities in the Germany province of Westphalia. The land surrounding the Westphalia area was excellent for their farming purposes and they immediately began settling and platting the village. Along with other emigrants from Austria, Bavaria, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, and Poland, they brought with them their skills at blacksmithing, carpentry, masonry and shoemaking. Sadly, many early settlers and their families perished thanks to an outbreak of cholera.
Among the first settlers were Father Anton Kopp and Eberhard Platte. They walked from Detroit to Ionia along Dexter Trail and bought 560 acres on which St. Mary's Parish was constructed. Thus, Westphalia became the first German/Catholic settlement in Mid-Michigan. A fire in 1959 almost brought St. Mary's down for good, but it survived. To see pictures of this terrible blaze, CLICK HERE.
One of downtown Westphalia's most historic structures is the Snitgen Store building. Joseph Snitgen came to America in 1855, settling in Westphalia. He started a blacksmith shop which he soon expanded into a general store. Snitgen died in 1918 but the store stayed in the family for 99 years until 1966. The Snitgen Store sits on the corner of W. Main and S. Westphalia streets and proudly displays its own historical plaque, right on the front of the store (SEE PHOTOS BELOW).
Westphalia finally became incorporated in 1883 and throughout the rest of the late 1800's the village had a bank, blacksmith, brewery, several churches, creamery, depot, drug store, evaporating company, farm implement store, flour mill, furniture store, general store, grist mill, hardware store, harness manufacturer, post office, real estate office, retail store, sawmill, schoolhouse, shoemaker, tavern, wagon maker, and other shops and stores. Westphalia survives & thrives to this day and embraces its history, as any good town should.
Now that you know a little more about Westphalia, take a little roadtrip, pay a visit, check out the Snitgen Store and St. Mary's; take some photos, and spend a few bucks in one of their locally owned, mom-and-pop shops!