How a River Made a Town

Jonesville was founded by Benaiah Jones in 1828, nine years before Michigan became the 26th state in the United States. 

Benaiah left his home in Painesville, Ohio along with his wife Lois Olds Jones and five young sons.  They were traveling to see Benaiah’s friend, Moses Allen who was living in what is now Allen, Michigan.  As the family was making their way, they crossed the St. Joseph River.  They crossed along the Sauk Trail now known as US-12.  Benaiah was so taken with the beauty of the St. Joseph River that he decided to settle here with his family. 

The spot Benaiah chose to build his log home was on the west side of the St. Joseph River in October of 1828 becoming the first village in Hillsdale County. At the time, this area was heavily wooded.  There were some homes nearby that belonged to the Potawatomi Indians.  These Indians, led by Chief Baw Beese, were friendly and they helped the Jones family make it through some harsh winters.

Benaiah set out to build a trade center out of his home.  Trading was very important to the growth of the town.  During this period, he started to build a community.  Eight of Benaiah’s brothers and sisters came to join him in the newly settled land.  With the opening of Chicago Street (previously known as Sauk Trail) and by making Jonesville a trading center, many people came to Jonesville to settle down.

Benaiah was very ambitious.  He was a carpenter, joiner, surveyor, and a civil engineer.  He became the Justice of the Peace, he was the first postmaster, and he was the proprietor of a stage coach line.  He even built a hotel. 

Jonesville quickly grew in prosperity and became a place for others to settle.  On February 15, 1831, Jonesville became the county seat until 1841.  Many new businesses were born.  Also in 1831, the first saw mill opened by E.J Sibley on the St. Joseph River just two miles south of Jonesville. 

The first grist mill was opened by Levi Baxter and Cook Sisson in 1834.  The mill, called City Flouring Mills, was located on the east bank of the St. Joseph River.  On this sign you will see a picture of the grist mill.

Soon the town of Jonesville had a railroad, school, several churches, wagon factory, wool factory, doctor, tavern and so much more. 

Just think….one man thought so highly of this river, he decided to settle here.

As you walk the trail along the St. Joseph River, think about what it must have been like for Benaiah Jones back in 1828. 

The City of Jonesville welcomes you!

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