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Community, Services & Programs: County History - County Government Inaugurated

County History Topics

* St. Joseph County by John Marvin:
* Introduction
* Costly Victory
* Changing Times
* St. Joseph County by John Marvin (Cont.):
* County Government Inaugurated
* Historical Firsts
* Early Background


St. Joseph County

by John Marvin


County Government Inaugurated

On November 4, 1829, actual government was inaugurated within the present limits of St. Joseph County, at White Pigeon, by order of the Territorial Council. Provisions for holding court, with the usual jurisdiction and functions, was granted and was held at the house of Asahel Savery on the White Pigeon Prairie.

The original county was divided into townships and first settled as follows: Townships of White Pigeon in 1827, Mottville, Fawn River and Sturgis in 1828, Lockport, Florence, Constantine, Colon, Nottawa, and Flowerfield in 1829, Fabius, Sherman in 1830, Burr Oak, Leonidas and Mendon in 1831, with Park Township in 1834. The first election ever held in St. Joseph County was the Town Meeting of April 1830, conducted in White Pigeon and Sherman Townships. The City of Three Rivers is located in the northwest quadrant, primarily occupying Lockport Township lands, but also containing small portions of Fabius within its corporate boundaries. Flowerfield and Park Townships lie to the north of these units, completing the northwest quarter. The City of Sturgis incorporating lands from Sherman, Burr Oak, Fawn River and Sturgis Townships is in the southeast quadrant, with its south City Limits only one mile from the Indiana border.

The County Seat of Centreville occupies Lockport and Nottawa Township lands and is located at the mid-point of the County. Mendon, Leonidas, Colon and Nottawa Townships comprise the northeast quadrant; Florence, Constantine, Mottville and White Pigeon and Colon bear the name of the Township in which they are located.

The first Board of Supervisors met at Savery's house in White Pigeon on April 19, 1830. On April 23rd the new Board of Supervisors created assessors and instructed them to return assessments for the year 1830 at $30 for each horse, oxen at $40 per yoke, cows at $10, and all animals taxed being over three years of age. Land was valued at $1.25 per acre.

White Pigeon was selected as the temporary seat of justice for the reason that it was the largest settlement. Upon the growth and development of other areas of the county, however, there appeared a need for a central location. On the basis of prevailing sentiment and liberal land donations, recommendations were made to the Governor, who issued a proclamation November 22, 1831, locating the county seat at Centreville.

The first courthouse was the leased upper room of the only two-story frame building in Centreville, built and owned by Thomas W. Langley. This was in the fall of 1832. The building was located on the corner of Main and Clark Streets and served the courts and county officials until the first courthouse was erected in the fall of 1842 at a cost of $43,200.00.

Cities and villages were platted as follows: White Pigeon 1830, Sturgis 1832, Mottville 1830, Centreville 1831, Constantine 1831, Three Rivers 1830, Flowerfield 1833, Colon 1832, Leonidas 1846, Burr Oak 1851, and Mendon in 1845.

The present courthouse was placed on the State Historic Register on March 20, 1984 and the National Historic Register on September 16, 1993. Because of the growth and expanding of the courts and court related offices the new Courts Building, located immediately south of the Courthouse, was completed in 1975 at a cost of about $1,324,000.00.

Annex Building I and II house various County Offices and/or County related offices. The County Jail is on the east side of Centreville. The Jail was constructed in 1961 and was remodeled to meet the standards of the State in 1982 and again in 1988. Annex III is called Keystone Place and is used as a homeless shelter.

In 1995-96 the County built an 8000 square foot addition to the jail to house County offices that were vacating the Courthouse due to a $3.8 million restoration/renovation project. This included compliance under the American with Disabilities Act for all County buildings.

In September of 1997 after a rededication celebration was held on August 1, 1997 the offices moved back to the newly remodeled Courthouse. Beginning in the fall of 1998 remodeling of the 8000 square foot addition began at the Sheriff's Department which is now housing Administration Offices. Their former offices are now being used for housing prisoners.

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St. Joseph County, MI Statistics

Founded: 1829
County Seat: Centreville

Total - 521 square miles
Water - 23 square miles

Population (2010 Census):
61,295 people
23,244 households
16,275 families