Cass County, Michigan

Cass County, Michigan

Infobox U.S. County
county = Cass County
state = Michigan

map size = 225
founded = 1829
seat = Cassopolis | area_total_sq_mi =508
area_land_sq_mi =492
area_water_sq_mi =16
area percentage = 3.20%
census yr = 2000
pop = 51104
density_km2 =40
web =

Cass County is a county in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the population was 51,104. It is part of the South Bend–Mishawaka, IN-MI, Metropolitan Statistical Area which has a total population of 316,663, and is sometimes considered part of Greater Michiana. Cass County has numerous lakes and is popular for fishing and boating.


The county is named for Lewis Cass, the Michigan Territorial Governor at the time the county was created in 1829. Cass later served as the United States Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson, thus making a case for including Cass County as one of Michigan's "cabinet counties".

Cass County was not so heavily forested and had more fertile prairie land than other nearby areas of Michigan, and thus during early settlement it grew more rapidly in population. As early as 1830, a carding mill was started in the county on Dowagiac Creek, a branch of the St. Joseph River. Although the Sauk Trail (Chicago Road) passed through the southern part of the county, early settlement did not come primarily from eastern Michigan. Instead, settlers from Ohio and Indiana who had heard of the prairie lands came to occupy them, reaching the Michigan Territory over a branch of the Chicago Road leading from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The population of Cass County was over 3,000 by 1834. [Fuller, George Newman (1916). "Economic and Social Beginnings of Michigan: A Study of the Settlement of the Lower Peninsula During the Territorial Period, 1805-1837", pp. 244-51.]

Among the most prominent early settlers of Cass County were Baldwin Jenkins and Uzziel Putnam, who both came from Ohio by way of the Carey Mission in Berrien County. Jenkins had been born at Fort Jenkins in Green County, Pennsylvania, and had migrated to Tennessee, but then left that state to avoid the presence of slavery. Putnam, who had lived in Massachusetts and New York, came to Cass from Erie County, Ohio, by way of Fort Wayne. These settlers, and their families, established the nucleus of the village of Pokagon on Pokagon Prairie in 1825. The next year, a settlement was made on Beardsley’s Prairie, where the village of Edwardsburg was laid out in 1831. [Fuller (1916), pp. 261-62, 274.]

The village of Cassopolis was platted in 1831 and intended as the county seat, although no settlers yet lived there, because it was the geographical center of the county. [Fuller (1916), p. 275.]

Cass County became known early on for the anti-slavery attitudes of its population. Pennsylvania Quakers made a settlement in Penn Township in 1829, which later became a prominent station on the Underground Railroad. [Fuller (1916), p. 302.] One established Underground Railroad route ran from Niles through Cassopolis, Schoolcraft, Climax, and Battle Creek, and thence along the old Territorial Road. In 1847, a group of Kentucky slave owners came to Cass County to reclaim slaves who had escaped, only to be "surrounded by crowds of angry farmers armed with clubs, scythes, and other farm implements", resisting their attempt. [McGinnis, Carol (2005). "Michigan Genealogy: Sources & Resources" (2nd ed.), pp. 199-200. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 0806317558.]


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, andparticipates with the state in the provision of welfare and other social services. The countyboard of commissioners controls the budget but has only limited authority to make laws or ordinances. InMichigan, most local government functions — police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, streetmaintenance, etc. — are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.

Cass County elected officials

* Prosecuting Attorney: Victor Fitz
* Sheriff: Joseph M. Underwood, Jr.
* County Clerk/Register of Deeds: Barbara K. Wilson
* County Treasurer: Linda Irwin
* Drain Commissioner: Jeff VanBelle
* County Surveyor: Roger Stephenson

(information as of September 2005)


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 508 square miles (1,317 km²), of which, 492 square miles (1,275 km²) of it is land and 16 square miles (42 km²) of it (3.20%) is water. The county seat is CassopolisGR|6.

Cities, villages, and townships

* Dowagiac
* Cassopolis
* Edwardsburg
* Marcellus
* VandaliaUnincorporated
* Adamsville
* Glenwood
* Jones
* La Grange
* Penn
* Pokagon
* Sumnerville
* Union
* Wakelee

* Calvin Township
* Howard Township
* Jefferson Township
* LaGrange Township
* Marcellus Township
* Mason Township
* Milton Township
* Newberg Township
* Ontwa Township
* Penn Township
* Pokagon Township
* Porter Township
* Silver Creek Township
* Volinia Township
* Wayne Township

Major highways

US highways
* Michigan State trunklines


Adjacent counties

*Van Buren County (north)
*St. Joseph County (east)
*Berrien County (west)
*Elkhart County, Indiana (southeast)
*St. Joseph County, Indiana (southwest)


As of the 2000 census, [ [ Statistical profile of Cass County, Michigan] , United States Census Bureau, Census 2000] there were 51,104 people, 19,676 households, and 14,304 families residing in the county. The population density was 104 people per square mile (40/km²). There were 23,884 housing units at an average density of 48 per square mile (19/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 89.19% White, 6.12% Black or African American, 0.82% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.17% from other races, and 2.15% from two or more races. 2.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 26.6% were of German, 11.1% American, 10.3% Irish, 10.1% English and 5.0% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000. 96.4% spoke English and 2.0% Spanish as their first language.

There were 19,676 households out of which 31.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.20% were married couples living together, 9.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.30% were non-families. 22.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.50% under the age of 18, 7.40% from 18 to 24, 27.60% from 25 to 44, 26.00% from 45 to 64, and 13.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 99.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $41,264, and the median income for a family was $46,901. Males had a median income of $35,546 versus $24,526 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,474. About 6.80% of families and 9.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.60% of those under age 18 and 8.80% of those age 65 or over.


Further reading

* [ Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Bibliography on Cass County]

External links

* [ Cass County government]

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