Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, October 9, 1994, pg. 18

Did you know that Spring Arbor really wasn't in Spring Arbor, but one mile southwest of the present-day village and Spring Arbor College? This past September 25, I attended the state historical marker dedication of the Falling Waters Park, located at the intersection of Hammond and Cross Roads. It was at this site that a native Potawatomi burying ground was located, and an Indian village just to the west. One of the most prominent members was Chief Whapcazeek, who was wounded during the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe. The village was called "Falling Waters," aptly named because of the different streams in the area that traveled in different directions from the location.

White settlers came in 1831, and Spring Arbor Township was organized in 1832. Dr. Benjamin Packard and William Smith, both Methodists, platted the 128-lot Spring Arbor village in May, 1835. These two men, along with Henry Colclazer, pressed for the establishment of a Methodist school at this site. A charter for the Spring Arbor school was granted on March 23, 1835. It is that date that Albion College used in celebrating its sesquicentennial in 1985. Trustees of the yet non-existant school were elected, with Dr. Packard elected as its first president. It should be noted that this original Spring Arbor village was located at Hammond and Cross Roads, not where Spring Arbor is today.

While plans were made to acquire land, money, and the erection of buildings for classes, numerous individuals became interested in establishing a village about one mile south of the original Spring Arbor village site, near Sears and Cross Roads. Located along the Kalamazoo River, the proposed village comprised about 400 acres. This was in 1837. By the end of the year however, plans for building this second village were abandoned, probably because of the "panic of 1837) which caused economic turmoil across the country and in the banking community.

Before the abandonment of the proposed project however, optimistic Dr. Benjamin Packard had begun to erect the foundations for the Methodist Seminary on his property in the second village. This was located in the northwest corner of Section 32 of Spring Arbor Township where it intersected with Sections 29, 30, and 31, in a heavily wooded area. It is apparent that no classes were ever held for the proposed Methodist Seminary at Spring Arbor, either at the original 1835 "Falling Waters" site, or the 1837 one 1 mile south.

However, the erection of foundations stones by Dr. Benjamin Packard for the college is significant in Albion history. This foundation is the first physical evidence of what was to later become Albion College. A proposal was made in 1838 to move the proposed Seminary to Albion, and that was approved in 1839. The rest, of course, is history.

Subsequently, the original Spring Arbor Village site became the home of the Michigan Central College in December, 1844, operated by Free Will Baptists. They held classes here into 1845, when they moved the school, and village, to the present-day Spring Arbor village location. This was on the White Pigeon Road (now M-60), one mile northeast of the original "Falling Waters" site. In 1853 the college closed and moved to Hillsdale. That is the origin of Hillsdale College. The college stood vacant for 20 years when in 1873 it was purchased by Free Methodists and became Spring Arbor Seminary, today's Spring Arbor College.

At the site of the original Spring Arbor Village, a lovely "Falling Waters Park" has been erected, under the direction of the Spring Arbor Historical Committee. Chaired by Beverly Cunningham (a former Spring Arbor postmaster), the group fetched several large stones from the foundation of the proposed Methodist Seminary a mile south, and moved them to the park site. A state historical marker was dedicated on September 25, 1994, which mentions Albion as part of the text. There are lovely wood chip trails which go past the arrangement of the aforementioned foundation stones, leading up to the Indian burial ground. A large boulder has been engraved with the bust of a native Potawotomi. There is also an interesting display of old maps, artifacts, and information about the site.

The September 25 dedication ceremony featured representations from the Huron Potawatomi tribe, the three colleges, and various officials. Included in the program was Mike VanHouten, head of Public Services at the Albion College Library, who spoke on the early history of Albion College and its connections with this site. There is much more about this topic which we do not have enough space for it in this week's column, so I would suggest obtaining a copy of the new 86-page book, "Falling Waters 1825-1845," published by the Spring Arbor Historical Commission. The books are $10 each, and can be purchased at the Spring Arbor Township office. The book is filled with photographs, maps, and diagrams explaining the origins of the original Spring Arbor site, and its relationship to Albion College.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Beverly Cunningham, standing next to the foundation stones of the proposed school which was moved to Albion in 1839.

Beverly Cunningham by the 1839 foundation stones.


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