Nottawa by Raymond Meyer




By Raymond C. Meyer Sr., Colon Express, April 4, 1990: ”In its early history, St. Joseph County was divided into three townships. Then, as the settlements grew, the townships were subdivided. One of the townships was that of Sherman, in which Nottawa was included. As we have mentioned in former articles, Nottawaseepe means Prairie by the River in Indian. The northern portion of the township was included in the reservation.

The St. Joseph River crosses the northwest corner of that township, and the Prairie River (Hog Creek) crosses near the center to join the St. Joseph just below Three Rivers. The village bearing the same name was first called Oporto; it is situated near beautiful Sand Lake, a resort and picnic area.

(I disagree.  I find several articles that state that Colon was once called Oporto. Nottawa was called Nottawa Station. Joe Ganger)

There are some smaller lakes and Prairie river was dammed to form beautiful Lake Templene.




W. R. Frary General Merchandise

It was located on the north side of M-86 across from Cutler’s store.


Captain Henry Powers was the first postmaster, one of three in this township. He was also the leader of the militia in the area.

The Grand Rapids and Indianapolis railroad once served the village. Colon Elevator Company has an elevator here.




Cutler’s Store


Cutlers once had a store here. There is one now where you can get a generous helping of ice cream and the store advertises how many million scoops it has sold. The Methodists have a church and the Mennonites have a church and a school. Nottawa has a public school next to the old stone school, the latter now a historical building and museum. Nottawa also had a neat bank and post office combined in one building. The Adventists have a school west of the village and there is a fine restaurant on M-86. There is an Amish school on Truckenmiller Road. There are many Amish farmers in the area. These industrious people take us back a century as they still live a quiet, simple life. Miller’s Discount is on Truckenmiller Road.

A hamlet named Wasepi is located about a mile and a half due north; I do know the Indian translation. In the Roaring Twenties the railroads that junctioned here carried on a thriving business. The tracks have been removed and all that is left is the railroad bridge west over the highway … and the memories. There is a Mennonite Church and a Dutch Thrift store. The very popular Wasepi Blue Grass Gospel Singers travel all over the tri-state area and can be heard on FM station WNWN every Sunday morning.

The first postmaster of Wasepi was Mr. D. C. Gee. I presume that at one time there was a store and hotel. I recall a train wreck when I was a young fellow. The wreckage was all around the place the tracks crossed. Joshua Goodrich, Joshua Lyon and Edward K. Wilcox located first near Wasepi. They were brothers-in-law. Joshua Goodrich purchased the properties of Lyon and Wilcox and they removed near Leonidas.fs

Farther north on the corner of  Spring Creek and Bucknell roads there is a plat of ground, now grown over, that was the site of the Downing trading post. It was located on the Washtenaw trail, and across the toad is Pioneer cemetery. After Rufus Downing died in 1834 his ledgers were found to contain the names of early settlers of all the surrounding area.

The county seat of Centreville is located on the western townline and thus the center of the county. In an earlier article I mentioned the fact that Loransi Schellhous carried the chain for the surveyors, on what is now M-86, from Colon to Three Rivers; he was also the first postmaster of Colon.

Mr. T. W. Langley was appointed the first postmaster of Centreville. He was also very prominent in both the affairs of the township and the county, in their early history. Directly north, the Langley covered bridge spans the St. Joseph River.  This is an historical site and has been the subject of many an artist. These old bridges were known as “kissing bridges”. When our granddaughters were small I explained this to them as we drove through. This bridge has been kept in very good repair.

Adjoining at the east of the Village of Centreville are the Grange Fairgrounds. This fair was organized in 1850. I recall how I enjoyed the fair as a young lad … and I still like to attend, although there are well-placed benches that draw my attention more than in the past. These grounds and the programs are a credit to this fine organization. I recall that Dick Sparrow of Iowa drove a 40-horse hitch around the track here in 1977 and even turned this team around right in front of the grandstand. The lines on the lead team were 130 feet long. Bobby Hankins, WNWN and Radio City, is from Iowa, and I gave Bobby one of the pictures. There is something of interest for everyone at the fair and, as I wrote my article, The Fair, one week each year all roads lead to Centreville and the Grange Fair. Also many antique shows are held in this beautiful park atmosphere.

Here are some more names of early settlers who were prominent in the development of the area: Sturgis, Judge Conner, Dr. Mottram, Fletcher, Hazzard, Laird, Kline, Wampole, Howe, Dr. McMillian, Engle, John Foreman, Bell, Strong, McKercher, Clark Lancaster, Stewart, and Knox.

The first school in Centreville was built in 1841. There are several churches in Centreville. My father’s parents walked miles to the Lutheran church and carried little children; and his grandparents are buried in the Centreville cemetery. The first courthouse was built in 1842. The present structure was built in 1900 and is distinguished by having a clock and a bank account. There is now an annex to the historic building. There are several restaurants that serve fine foods in the area.

The Blackhawk uprising caused the settlers much alarm as to what the Indians of the Nottawa-seepe would do. Captain Powers drafted 50 men and Fort Hogan was started for a defense. The Indians became alarmed because it looked to them that the white man was preparing to wipe them out. The Schellhaus brothers and others met with the Indians and found out that the Indians were sympathetic with the whites. The Indian trader, Capt. A. T. Hatch, had taken a group of their braves to join General Atkinson’s forces in Chicago. Blackhawk was soon captured and the scare was over.

Chief Blackhawk and his people would trek from Chicago to Detroit biannually to receive their government payment. They would camp near Coldwater, where the cemetery is located.  US-12 was called the old Sauk Trail, and south of Coldwater there were the Blackhawk mills; a saw mill, a gristmill and a cider mill. Chief Blackhawk was the great-great-grandfather of the famous Jim Thorpe, the greatest athlete in the first 50 years of this century. Jim, by the way, was a twin.”