Hillsdale County Michigan derived its name from the topography of the area—namely the hills and dales that are so typical of the region. In fact the County and the city of Hillsdale are geographically the highest point in the lower part of the state of Michigan. From the County, headwaters for five major rivers can be located; the two branches of the St. Joseph river, the Kalamazoo River, the Raisin River and the Grand River.
The land was ceded to the U.S. Government in 1821 by the Treaty of Chicago and this Treaty was signed by the venerable Pottawattomie Chieftain, Topinabee, and 544 of his co-chiefs. As compensation, the Pottawattomies were to be paid $5,000 annually for 20 years, plus $1,000 annually to support a blacksmith and a teacher.
The county is located in the central part of the lower tier of Michigan counties. It is bounded on the north by Calhoun and Jackson Counties, on the east by Lenawee County, on the west by Branch County, and on the south by the State of Indiana and the State of Ohio.
The earliest county settlements were made along the meandering Chicago Turnpike which followed the Old Sauk Trail, and few cared to venture far into the forest, which covered the present site of Hillsdale, or to isolate themselves from the main highway to the West.
In 1825 upon the urging of Father Gabriel Richard who was the first Roman Catholic priest elected to Congress, the government ordered a survey of the old Sauk Trail running from Detroit to Chicago. Capt. Moses Allen, who had served in the War of 1812, was a member of the surveying team. He was so impressed with the land that two years later he returned with his family and settled in what became known as Allen's Prairie. The next nearest settlement was Tecumseh to the east and White Pigeon further west.
Captain Moses Allen was followed in 1828 by Benaiah Jones III who settled and established Jonesville at a point where the Trail crossed the St. Joseph River. Benaiah Jones and his family lived with the Allens while they built their log cabin. It was here that Cordes Jones was born making him the first white child born in the County.
At this time Hillsdale County was attached to Lenawee County and was legally known as Vance Township. The 1830’s marked the beginning of the migrating epidemic into the county which reached its height about 1835. During the decade of 1830 to 1840 most the the townships were organized and much of the land was occupied by settlers. In the following twenty years, 1840-1860, great pioneer spirit was much in evidence and Hillsdale County became one of the most properous and enterprising communities in the new state of Michigan.
1827__ Moses Allen settled at Allen’s Prairie.
1828__ Benaiah Jones settled at Jonesville.
1830__ First census recorded 75 inhabitants, Lenawee and Hillsdale formed into one county known as Vance Township, Silas Benson built the first log cabin-tavern in what later became Moscow.
1834__Jeremiah Arnold built cabin and established settlement of Hillsdale.
John Potter Cook and Chauncy Ferris established first grist mill in settlement of Hillsdale.
1835__“Toledo War” settled the southern boundary of Michigan. A strip of land (including a portion of Amboy Township) was given to Ohio and the State of Michigan gained the Upper Peninsula.
1837__State of Michigan admitted to the Union.
1838__First school established in Hillsdale—Caroline Ford was the first teacher.
1840__ Pottawattomie Chief Baw Beese forced to leave the County and his tribe moved to Iowa.
1843__Railroad came to Hillsdale County and connected to Adrian in Lenawee County.
City of Hillsdale became the county seat.
1847__Hillsdale incorporated as a village.
1851__Hillsdale County Fair established.
Old Court House built and dubbed "The Old Stone Pile".
1853__ Hillsdale College established.
1862__Troops left for Civil War.
1879__ Rowing team won national championship.
1898;__ Present county courthouse built.
1912__First known aerial elopement ended with crash in Hillsdale County.
1958;__Oil discovered in Mosherville.
1964__Essex Wire strike. National Guard called in.
1955__Last passenger train left Hillsdale.
1965__Palm Sunday tornado left trail of destruction in County.
Hillsdale County Fair celebrated 100 years of existence.
1966__Flying Saucers reported in area—UFO watch established.
1967__Hillsdale County Medical Facility built.
1974__ New County jail erected.
First State of Michigan bicycle path opened between Jonesville and Hillsdale.
Additional information can be found under individual towns or townships.