Area History

The Early History of the Cassopolis/ Vandalia Area: 1825 to 1945
Written by Marjori Federowski of Cassopolis, MI

County Atlases: 1860, 1872 and 1896
County Histories: 1875 and 1882
The Cassopolis Vigilant

Cassopolis was laid out and designated as a county seat in 1832. The first Grist Mill in the county was built in 1828 on Christianna Creek near what is now Vandalia. In 1832, the first store opened in Cassopolis in the hotel of Isa Henderson, run by Jacob Silver. Asa Kingsbury opened a store in 1837. Harnesses were manufactured and sold by P.B. Osborn in 1843. In 1833 Jacob Silver put up a large distillery using the entire male population in the area to erect the frame. The work lasted three days and each night Mr. Silver passed two pans among the men; one filled with gold coins and the other filled with silver. He asked that each man select whatever he considered his due for that day’s work.

Cassopolis actually became the Village that we know it to be today in 1865. By 1875 the census listed the population as one thousand people. The business community consisted of twenty-two businesses; two printing offices, one foundry and machine shop, one wooden bowl factory, two hotels, three meat markets and one livery stable. The professional community was made up of two clergyman, eight lawyers, six physicians and three dentists.

Asa Kingsbury opened a banking office in June of 1855, and in May of 1871, organized the First National Bank. The Airline Railway Company came to Cassopolis in June of 1871, and the Peninsular Rails followed later that year.

Stephen Bogue and Charles P. Bail laid out the Village of Vandalia in 1851. By 1875 it had two dry goods stores, one clothing and boot store, one hardware store, three grocery stores, two drug stores, two meat markets, one machine shop and foundry, four blacksmiths, one wagon shop, two hotels and one milliner, one furniture and cabinet shop, and a combination handle factory and sawmill. There were also three physicians, a private bank, a broom factory, one tin shop, one livery barn and one copper shop with five employees.

In 1872 business was going strong in Cassopolis. The Cassopolis House and attached stable offered boarding by the day or week, and an adjusting corn and follow cultivator was manufactured under Rider’s Patent. The Boot and Shoe Dealers completed shoe repairs promptly, and Redfield, Lacey and Bement operated the Grist Mill. In addition to this, the area carpenters, builders and contractors numbered four.

In 1860 the newspaper was the National Democrat. However, by 1872 the Cassopolis Vigilant was also publishing a weekly paper. The courthouse building was relocated, and would later become a theater. The new courthouse was built in 1899, and Andrew Carnegie built the La Grange Township Library in 1908. 
Ads from the 1930 Cassopolis Vigilant show that Connelly Furniture and Undertaking and Gohn’s Central Drug Store were thriving local businesses. Also listed among the ads were Michigan Gas and Electric, Harrington Clothing, the Colonial Theater, Ellis’ 5 and 10, the Cass County State Bank, shoes by Eby and Rudd, well drilling by Lewis, Chevy’s from Atkinson’s and hardware from Hayden and Sons.

In the 1940s, the ads in the Cassopolis Vigilant featured local businesses like the A&P Store and Kroger’s, Hazard Electric Service, Fisk Drug Store, Community Mills, Service Oil Company, the Vandalia Cider Mill and Reneberg Hardware. Cass County Lumber Coal was listed as expanding its territory, and Maddox 5 and 10 and the Campbell Food Mart were new area businesses. According to the Vigilant, these new community business efforts supported the war.