History of Coldwater

Naming of Coldwater

The City derives its name from the Indian word "Chuck-sey-ya-bish," meaning cold water. When the first settlers came to this vicinity, they found this area inhabited by the fierce and warlike Potawatomi Indians. Although the old Indian trail between Detroit and Chicago, (now U.S. 12), saw great numbers of pioneers passing this way, bound for Illinois and other parts of what was then "the far west!" the presence of the roving bands of Pottawatomi Indians deterred many who might otherwise have settled here. The defeat of the British in the War of 1812 and the death of the great Indian leader, Tecumseh, in 1813 caused the Pottawatomi to lose heart and in 1821 Chief Topinabee and his people sold to the settlers what is now Branch County and a vast area besides, although they continued to occupy it as before, supposedly on reservations. One of these reservations, six miles square, was in Coldwater and Quincy Townships.

The present City of Coldwater occupies part of what was then a beautiful prairie some three miles long from east to west and two miles wide. It was dotted with oaks, with an occasional elm, but bordering this prairie were magnificent forests of beech, maple, walnut, whitewood and elm interspersed with many streams and over a hundred lakes, large and small in what is now Branch County.

It was natural that our first white settlers came to trade with the Indians. In 1822 Joseph Godfrey established a trading post near downtown Coldwater and a little later that year one Marantette established another post where Oak Grove Cemetery is now located.

In the year 1829 Branch County was laid out and so named by the Territorial Legislature. It was first attached to Lenawee County and later to St. Joseph. It was named in honor of John Branch of North Carolina who was President Jackson's Secretary of the Navy.

First Log Cabin

The first log cabin was erected in 1830 by Hugh Campbell on the present site of the Masonic Temple. In 1831 Allen Tibbits and Joseph Hanchett platted a village here calling it Lyons. It ran from Jefferson Street to Monroe Street and from Church to Washington Street. In July 1831, Mr. Tibbits preached the first sermon. There were 50 whites in Branch County at that time. This same year A.F. Bolton erected the first frame building, a hotel at Masonville. Masonville was a settlement on the east banks of the Coldwater River in the west part of the present city and covered the territory from the river and east to the intersection of West Pearl Street and West Chicago St. On the strength of this hotel, Masonville was made the County Seat. Masonville did not hold the honor long as the ambitious village of Branch, which was located south of our present airport near the present Black Hawk Mill, won the coveted plum and held the county seat from 1831 to 1842. At the time it became the county seat, it had only one log house but it had ambitious politicians. The Coldwater Post Office was at Masonville.

150th Anniversary

Coldwater celebrated its 150th Anniversary with parades and other special events. Many religious, cultural and public buildings celebrated 100-year anniversaries.


Compiled by Charles N Hill, Coldwater Chamber of Commerce, from materials of Brown-Facklam; Conover; Luedders Directory; "Mich. in 4 Centuries," Blad; etc.