This land we live on, the fertile valley of the St.
Joseph River, was wilderness - a vast and endless forest. Over it
lay a great silence broken only by the rushing wind and the running water.
It was land of rare beauty, countless lakes, burr oak plains, white oak
ridges, pines skirting the river, prairie ablaze with flowers.
For thousands of years ancient people wandered into the valley and drifted out. These prehistoric peoples mysteriously vanished leaving behind extensive earthworks, complex burial grounds, and unique garden beds.
In the 1600's when the first white explorers ventured into the valley they found living there peaceful Indians, the Pottawatomies. For the past two hundred years the Indians had hunted, fished, and roamed the prairies. The Potawatomies were a great Indian nation occupying southern Michigan and northern Indiana. They were closely related to the powerful Ottawas and Chippewas. Recognizing this relationship they formed a loose federation calling themselves the "Brothers of Three Fires."
Through the years the Indians watched the intrusion of their land by explorers, missionaries, trappers, traders, soldiers, and the onrush of the American pioneer. In the Chicago Treaty of 1821 signed by Gov. Cass, Top-in-a-Bee and major Pottawatomie Chiefs, most of the southwestern Michigan south of the Grand River was sold to the American government. From the vast lands which the Pottawatomies had occupied, all that was left were a few isolated reservations and the Nattawa-seppe reservation. It was prime fertile land, a tempting area to the land hungry pioneer. In the Chicago Treaty of 1833, Gov. Porter tricked the Indians with slick promises and the Pottawatomies sold the reservations. Many Indians would not honor the treaty and refused to move off their land. In 1840, General Brady, with troops from the United States Army, rounded up the Indians and moved them across the Mississippi. Some Indians not willing to move hid in the forest until the soldiers were gone but their power and land was gone.
The St. Joseph River valley was a choice spot. The fertile prairies were covered with grass four or five feet high. The soil was rich and deep and forests of hard wood trees so dense the sun scarcely came through. It was wild land, untamed.
The early pioneers were squatters putting up temporary shelters and laying claim to many acres of land. Some were agents or land spotters for wealthy men in the East. The land office opened in White Pigeon in 1831.
In 1828, Jacob McInterfer came from Ohio and selected a mile square section of land along the Rock River. He erected a lean-to shelter, cleared land, planted corn and potatoes, and in the spring brought his wife, Cathryn, and twelve children to live here. The Richerts and the Sinnamans platted the village of Moab in 1830. Their land lay south of Broadway along the west side of the St. Joseph River. In 1830, George Buck purchased 800 acres on the east side of the St. Joseph River. He built a large two-room log house for his wife, Martha, and thirteen children.
Life was a challenge! Jacob McInterfer and George Buck cleared the wilderness, streets were laid through the woods, and the village of St. Joseph platted in 1830 (second district). They hoped to be the center of county government but lost out to Centreville. McInterfer started a saw mill on the Rock River. George Buck used his large double cabin for a pioneer hotel, and constructed a ferry raft to be towed across the St. Joseph River by rope and tackle. George Buck's cabin (4th Street) became the social and political center of the community. He was the first postmaster, and the first Justice of the Peace. The first road from White Pigeon came to his cabin door.
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