- Mecosta County, Michigan
Mecosta County, Michigan
Location in the state of Michigan
Michigan's location in the U.S.
Founded April 1, 1840 Seat Big Rapids Area
571.10 sq mi (1,479 km²)
555.69 sq mi (1,439 km²)
15.41 sq mi (40 km²), 2.70%
73/sq mi (28/km²)
Mecosta County is a county in the U.S. state of Michigan. The county is named after Chief Mecosta, the leader of the Potawatomi Native American tribe that once traveled the local waterways in search of fish and game. Chief Mecosta was one of the signers the Treaty of Washington in 1836. The easily navigated waterways soon led to a boom in lumber industry growth. Workers settled the area in 1851, the county was officially settled and the government officially organized in 1859. Mecosta County is home to over 100 lakes, rivers, and streams with the Muskegon River winding its way through the county seat and largest city Big Rapids (originally named Leonard).
As of the 2010 census, the population was 42,798. The county seat is Big Rapids. Mecosta County was set off on April 1, 1840, but remained attached for administrative purposes to Kent County until 1857, when it was attached to Newaygo County. County government was organized on February 11, 1859.
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics
- 3 Geography
- 4 Transportation
- 5 Major Businesses & Employers
- 6 Government
- 7 Cities, villages, and townships
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Information Compiled by Jim Wood
The Surveyor General approved the United States survey of Mecosta County on February 22, 1839, and the State Legislature established the county boundaries on April 1, 1840.
In 1852 John Davis purchased 160 acres (0.65 km2) in Mecosta Township and John Parish purchased 57 acres (230,000 m2) in Big Rapids. They were the first two permanent county residents. On July 20, 1852, the first family to reside in the county, William and Margaret Brockway and their two children moved into a logging shanty on Mitchell Creek. On February 12, 1853 Alice Victoria Brockway was born to the couple. Alice was the first white child born in the county. In the spring of 1853 the Brockway'ís moved to a 200 acres (0.81 km2) farm in Aetna Township.
In March 1854 Zerah and George French and nine members of their family moved to a shanty close to Mitchell Creek and the Muskegon River. Zerah and George French are considered the co-founders of Big Rapids. In the spring of 1855 James and Laura Montague and their children became the third family to settle in the county. Their 160 acres (0.65 km2) farm in Green Township was located where 19 Mile Road intersects the west bank of the Muskegon River.
The organization of Leonard (Big Rapids) Township and Green Township was authorized in February 1858. On April 5, 1858 the first township elections were held and Jesse Shaw was elected supervisor of Leonard Township and Jesse A. Barker was elected supervisor of Green Township. On February 11, 1859 the State Legislature authorized the organization of Mecosta County and established the Village of Leonard as the county seat. The first county elections were held on April 4th and the following county officials were elected: Orrin Stevens, Clerk and Register of Deeds; Alfred L. Clark, Sheriff; Charles Shafer, Treasurer; Jesse A. Barker, Judge of Probate; and Augustine N. Williams Surveyor. Mr. William T. Howell of Newaygo was appointed Prosecuting Attorney. On May 2nd Luther Cobb and Jesse A. Barker convened the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors and Jesse A. Barker was chosen chairman. The population of Mecosta County was 671 inhabitants in 1860.
The first issue of the Big Rapids Pioneer, a five-column folio, was printed on April 17, 1862. Charlie Gay was the proprietor, owner, and co-editor with Ceylon C. Fuller. The paper was under the same management for nearly 22 years and 140 years later the paper is still being published.
The plat for the Village of Big Rapids was recorded on November 3, 1859 and the plat for French's addition (Glen Elm) was recorded on May 9, 1860. The State Legislature authorized the incorporation of the City of Big Rapids in April 1869. The first city elections were held on April 19, 1869 at which the following officials were elected: George F. Stearns, Mayor; Charlie Gay, Recorder; W. Irving Latimer, Treasurer; and William Van Loo, Supervisor. Mecosta County had 5,642 residents in 1870.
The Grand Rapids and Indiana was the first railroad to enter Mecosta County. In June 1869 the GR&I railroad crossed the Little Muskegon River and the Village of Morley was created. Construction of the next section of track to the Village of Paris started in late July 1869 and the Village of Stanwood came into existence. The GR&I reached the city limits of Big Rapids on June 20, 1870 and the Village of Paris on July 1, 1870. Construction of the GR&I continued for several years until the line reached Petoskey in December 1873.
Early county prisoners were housed in the County Sheriff's private house or a local hotel or the Kent County jail or the Newaygo County jail. In 1862 county residents decided not to erect a county jail. The first county jail was erected in the summer of 1868. This jail was situated in the same place where the Old Historic Jail built in 1893 is presently located on Stewart Street. Construction for the present county jail was completed in 1965. This jail was renovated in 1986. The Mecosta County Board of Commissioners approved another jail renovation & expansion in 2000 with scheduled completion in 2001.
The 1880 census revealed that Mecosta County had a population of 13,973. In the early 1880s, rented county offices were located in two downtown buildings near the corner of Elm and Michigan. In 1883 the Board of Supervisors submitted to the voters the proposition to authorize a two-year tax for the purpose of erecting a county courthouse. County voters passed the courthouse tax issue in April 1884. Construction on the first courthouse began in 1885 and was completed in 1886. A ground breaking ceremony for the present Mecosta County Building (second courthouse) occurred on April 8, 1969. Construction of the Mecosta County Building was completed in late August 1970 and a dedication ceremony was held on November 7, 1970.
In the early 1900’s water power harnessed by hydro-electric dams became the energy base for the manufacturing of furniture, and other wood products. The extraction of bedrock deposits of oil, gas, glacial sand and gravel soon became important economic activities. Although logging activities dominated early history, health services and education have become more significant and enduring forces in shaping the community. Mecosta County has grown in population through the years to over 42,000 with a wealth of opportunity in industry, education, and small town country living.
Mecosta County was first settled by African Americans in the 1860’s when James Guy obtained 160 acres (0.65 km2) in Wheatland Township, with a deed signed by Abraham Lincoln. The Homestead Act of 1962 allowed each settler 160 acres (0.65 km2), resulting in African Americans owning 1,392 acres (5.63 km2) in the area where Remus sits today. They were woodsmen and farmers who established schools and churches in their community. Referred to as the “Old Settlers”, a reunion is held every year in the Remus area to celebrate those that originally settled here.
Woodbridge N. Ferris, who later became a Michigan Governor, established Ferris Industrial School in 1884 in Big Rapids. The 600 acres (2.4 km2) school became Ferris Institute, Ferris State College, and is currently home of the Bulldogs and Ferris State University. Before his death in 1928, Ferris had trained 50,000 students and attained a yearly enrollment of 1,800. Currently, enrollment is over 14,000.
The tourist industry within the area has had steady growth and is now an important source of income while development opportunities continue to exist. With Mecosta County’s numerous lakes, streams and rivers there are limitless opportunities for water and fishing activities. Play our golf courses, bike our trails and experience the fun of the outdoors with family and friends. Mecosta County has grown in population through the years to over 42,000, with a wealth of opportunity in industry, education, and small town country living. Come and experience Mecosta County with its small town charm and friendly atmosphere.
As of the census of 2000, there were 40,553 people, 14,915 households, and 9,888 families residing in the county. The population density was 73 people per square mile (28/km²). There were 19,593 housing units at an average density of 35 per square mile (14/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 92.68% White, 3.60% Black or African American, 0.64% Native American, 0.87% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.37% from other races, and 1.79% from two or more races. 1.28% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 25.5% were of German, 10.8% English, 9.8% American, 9.2% Irish and 5.3% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000. 95.9% spoke English, 1.7% Spanish and 1.1% German as their first language.
There were 14,915 households out of which 29.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.30% were married couples living together, 9.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.70% were non-families. 24.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the county the population was spread out with 22.50% under the age of 18, 19.80% from 18 to 24, 23.00% from 25 to 44, 21.50% from 45 to 64, and 13.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 102.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $33,849, and the median income for a family was $40,465. Males had a median income of $32,127 versus $22,467 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,372. About 9.60% of families and 16.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.60% of those under age 18 and 7.60% of those age 65 or over.
According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 571.10 square miles (1,479.1 km2), of which 555.69 square miles (1,439.2 km2) (or 97.30%) is land and 15.41 square miles (39.9 km2) (or 2.70%) is water.
National protected area
- Manistee National Forest (part)
Osceola County Newaygo County Isabella County Mecosta County, Michigan Montcalm County
BUS US 131 is a loop route traveling through Big Rapids.
Michigan State Highways
Major Businesses & Employers
- Ferris State University, Big Rapids
- Haworth, Big Rapids
- Mecosta County Medical Center, Big Rapids
- Wolverine Worldwide, Big Rapids
The county government operates the jail, maintains rural roads, operates the major local courts, keeps files of deeds and mortgages, maintains vital records, administers public health regulations, and participates with the state in the provision of welfare and other social services. The county board of commissioners controls the budget but has only limited authority to make laws or ordinances. In Michigan, most local government functions — police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, street maintenance, etc. — are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.
Mecosta County elected officials
- Prosecuting Attorney: Peter Jaklevic
- Sheriff: Todd Purcell
- County Clerk: Marcee Purcell
- County Treasurer: Connie L. Scott
- Register of Deeds: Karen Hahn
- Drain Commissioner: Jackie Fitzgerald
- Road Commissioners: John R. Currie; Paul Jefts; Randy Maxwell
(information as of January, 2011)
Cities, villages, and townships
- ^ a b c d e f "History of Mecosta County". Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce. http://www.mecostacounty.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=152&Itemid=139. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- ^ a b "Mecosta County History". Central Michigan University, Clarke Historical Library. http://clarke.cmich.edu/resource_tab/bibliographies_of_clarke_library_material/michigan_local_history/county_material/mecosta.html. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- ^ "American FactFinder". United Stated Census Bureau. http://factfinder2.census.gov/main.html. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- ^ "Historical Data of Mecosta County". Mecosta County Official Website. http://www.co.mecosta.mi.us/history.asp. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- ^ "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. http://www.census.gov/tiger/tms/gazetteer/county2k.txt. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Mecosta County official website
- Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce
- Mecosta County Development Corporation
Municipalities and communities of Mecosta County, Michigan County seat: Big Rapids City Villages Charter
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