Timeline of the 1800's
In 1832 the first school was started with nine pupils and with Cynthia Gloyd as the teacher. The first store was established by Silas Holbrook; the M.E. Church was founded with five members; and the first sawmill was erected at the junction of Division and Clay Streets.
Lyons to Coldwater
In 1833 the name of Lyons was changed to Coldwater. Branch County as such began its separate existence, being previously attached to St. Joseph County and a sheriff, clerk treasurer, register of deeds (one office), and probate judge were elected by the people.
In 1834 the "old red schoolhouse" was erected at the corner of Pearl and Hudson Streets.
Baptist Church / Building of the First Church
In 1835 Masonville was platted on the east bank of the Coldwater River and again struggled to become the county seat. That year the Baptist Church was organized with sixteen members.
In 1836 the first church was built in Coldwater by the Methodists. The village had twelve houses and continued to grow. The next year Coldwater was incorporated as a village having a population of 140 people. Dr. Alger, traveling the Chicago Road from Detroit to Chicago, found at this time 32 taverns between Quincy and Sturgis, indicating the tremendous westward immigration through here at this time.
Malaria Outbreak / the Observer
1837 was a terrible year for malaria fever. 32 out of 140 people died that fall. The cause was said to be the Clay Street Milldam and the angry citizens, taking the law into their own hands, destroyed it. Also this year the first newspaper, The Observer, was issued and the Presbyterian Church organized with sixteen members.
Removal of the Pottawatomi Indians
In 1840 the Pottawatomi Indians, except for a few stragglers, were removed to the far west. This opened for settlement much of the land of Branch County, which had been designated as Indian Reservations. It also helped bring in many new settlers who had been deterred by the presence of such a large Indian population in the County. To this date progress has been steady.
In 1841 Albert Chandler founded the Coldwater Sentinel and in 1842 Coldwater became the permanent County Seat, supplanting the village of Branch and blasting Masonville's hopes.
Two New Churches
In 1844 two churches were built: the Baptist Church was built on the northwest corner of Monroe and Pearl Streets, and the Presbyterian Church was built on the present site of the new building today, but was sold in 1868 to the Lutherans who moved it to its present location on S Jefferson Street.
In 1846 the first jail was erected. Also, the voters voted against the sale of liquor.
Building of the Courthouses
In 1847 the county voted to build a brick courthouse by a majority vote of 27. A majority of 27 was the same when the proposition to build the second one carried 40 years later. This one burned down on December 5, 1972, and another new courthouse started construction in the fall of 1974 on the same spot. Also this year, the Masonic Lodge was established.
Telegraph Lines / First Train
In 1849 the telegraph lines reached Coldwater and St. Charles Catholic Church was formed.
1850 was a banner year for the growing village. The first train arrived and Coldwater was connected directly to the populous East. For many years Coldwater and Branch County were noted for their horses.
The start was made in 1851 when A.C. Fiske purchased Green Mountain Black Hawk for the enormous price of $1,500. Many people now living can remember the various racetracks in and around Coldwater. Raising and training racehorses was a big industry for many years. In 1851 Coldwater boasted 370 houses, but the first of many disastrous fires destroyed eight stores in the business section during the winter.
Fire Along Main Street / Cemeteries
In 1854 another disastrous fire along Main Street caused the village board to prohibit the erection of any frame buildings from Clay Street to the parks. This was the first zoning acted upon in the community. The Main Street because of this action was built of brick. Also this year, Oak Grove Cemetery was established, which continued to expand. There had been two earlier cemeteries, one at Masonville, which today is a cultivated field; the other on Morse Street which contains tombstones recording burials from 1835-1857. The present cemetery board maintains this burial ground even though there have been no burials since 1857.
In 1856, because of the many fires, the first fire company was organized with Clinton B. Flask as foreman. Everyone was proud of the "Excelsior" the hand-pump that was purchased.
In 1857 the corner stone of the Episcopal Church was laid. This building was completed in 1862.
Incorporation of Coldwater
In 1861 Coldwater became an incorporated city. That year The Coldwater Light Artillery (later called Loomis Battery) left for the war with six brass cannons and 120 men, only 49 of whom returned home three years later. Coldwater, even as her men have done in the years since, paid for her existence with the blood of her youth. Many other Coldwater men enlisted in the 1st Michigan Infantry and the list of casualties was large for such a small town. It is said that over 500 men from Coldwater fought in the Civil War. To show how the raising of horses had grown in the county during the war years of 1861-65, over 3,000 horses were brought here for use in the Federal Service.
Millionaire in Coldwater / Coldwater National Bank
In 1865 the war ended and the soldiers returned home. That year Coldwater had its first millionaire. SM. Siely made $1,500,000 in oil speculations. In July the Coldwater National Bank opened and Coldwater became a money order post office.
Growth of Coldwater
The town continued to grow steadily after the war. In 1866 the first hospital was established where the Elks Temple is now located. One hundred new buildings were erected and new industries located here. The industries, at this time, consisted of flourmills, an oil mill, breweries, a wheel barrow factory and many small factories making cigars. By 1870 there were so many cigar makers that a Cigar Makers Union was organized and functioned for many years.
In 1870 the Lewis Art Gallery opened. For 25 years until its removal to Ann Arbor this gallery attracted visitors from all parts of the country. Recently the Lewis Collection was returned to Coldwater.
The "Seventies" was a period of railroad building and Coldwater was caught up in the spell. Two roads were chartered, the Mansfield, and Coldwater and Lake Michigan Railroad, and the Coldwater Railroad. Neither railroad was ever completed. The collapse of the Mansfield Railroad cost the investors of this vicinity $200,000.
In 1876 an interesting item was noted, the English sparrow was introduced by Captain Mansfield and George Firth. Today it is difficult to believe that this "pest" hasn't been here always. In 1880 the first bicycle was brought to Coldwater.
1881 was an exciting year for Coldwater. A series of fires caused suspicion of incendiarism. After an investigation, several firemen who confessed were sentenced to serve prison terms. Chief Drake, after a lengthy and expensive trial, was acquitted. The convicted men had started the fires to show that they needed new equipment.
Bell Telephone / Public Library
In 1882 the Bell Telephone began business. In 1886 the Public Library building was dedicated - a gift from the Hon. ER. Clarke. In 1887 an idea began that has since grown to large proportions and has meant much to Coldwater and Branch County. This was the "the-cottage-at-the-lake" idea begun by 10 members of Jacob Commandery at Templar Beach Morrison Lake. Today the spread of this idea has seen the shores of most of the over 100 lakes in Branch County covered with homes, both year around and summer. Today, the money brought into the county and city each year by the summer visitors makes it one of our best industries.
Electric Street Lighting
In 1888 a small private company started electric street lighting. Three years later in 1891 they sold their property to the city, which has maintained the electric service since that date. In 1890 the first city water system was installed by vote of the people. This system was joined the next year by the light plant and Coldwater was in public utility business to stay.
Compiled by Charles N Hill, Coldwater Chamber of Commerce, from materials of Brown-Facklam; Conover; Luedders Directory; "Mich. in 4 Centuries," Blad; etc.