Thursday, June 28, 2007

History of Harbor Country/Southwest Michigan

Harbor Country is situated in the Southwest corner of Berrien County in the Southwest corner of the state of Michigan. This geographic region is limited to the following eight lakeshore communities and villages: Michiana, Grand Beach, New Buffalo, Union Pier, Lakeside, Harbert, Sawyer, and the inland community of Three Oaks. This trademarked region begins at the Michigan state line and stretches approximately 15 miles North along lake Michigan as well as 6 miles inland to the East.

In The Beginning
The Miami Indians were this area's first residents and were challenged for territory by the Iroquois of New York. These territorial struggles were short-lived as the Iroquois soon lost interest in the area and began returning to their native homeland. The Pottawatomi Indians migrated Southeast from Wisconsin by the early 1700's and assumed land from the area that is now Chicago to as far North as Grand Rapids. This area was infiltrated, over time, by French fur traders as their territories became diminished through treaties. Finally, in 1838 the Pottawatomis gathered their families and worldly possessions and migrated to a new home in the Kansas plains.

Growth In The Region
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 brought an increase in travel and soon thereafter stage coach routes were carved out of the densely wooded forests. These new routes linked the larger cities of Detroit and Chicago which spurred growth and recognition along this new trade route. Many business investors from the East Coast realized the potential that the vast, dense forests offered and saw mills began to spring up in Harbor Country. Large ships were being constructed on the shores along the beaches and numerous piers (Union Pier) were built to service the demand created by the upstart local logging industry. The City of Chicago provided a proximal destination for the lumber as it continued to grow and flourish and even moreover as it recovered from The Great Chicago Fire. Eventually the forests were depleted and as the logging waned, the open spaces that remained became fertile farm fields which gave rise to fill a new demand for produce markets.

A Rebirth, as it Were
Harbor Country has experienced a veritable renaissance over the past decade as this tantalizing get-away has grown in both population and culture. While there are many new development and housing projects on the landscape the enduring charm of this lakefront community has and continues to be preserved. The shops, restaurants, and galleries, but most importantly the residents, create the sense of belonging and longing to be here as the sunsets over beautiful lake Michigan. Only ninety minutes from Chicago but a world away, Harbor Country offers the best of all worlds to both our full time residents and our welcomed visitors.

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