Much of the story of Baw Beese Lake is folklore handed A century and more ago, Baw Beese Lake was the favorite camping ground of a tribe of Potawatomi who roamed the region under the leadership of their chief, Baw Beese. The Potawatomi, as a nation, were fierce and warlike, but this particular band of one hundred and fifty or so was peace-loving, kindly and unaggressive.
They had no permanent village but appear to have wandered here and there as inclination dictated. Always, however, they returned to the banks of the spring-fed lake with its abundant fishing and its surrounding forests filled with game.
Here they erected a few bark cabins and planted scattering patches of maize. Here were their dead.
The spot was included in that cession of land from original owners to the U.S. Government concluded by the treaty of Chicago. Strangely enough, it seems to us who were taught that Baw Beese was a mighty Chieftain, his mark does not appear among the fifty-five Potawatomi signatures upon the treaty, but we like to think, and it is possible, that some reason other than importance, kept him from that conference.
Be that as it may, he was supreme as a chief of that democratic race, over his group, and to the end of his days considered Hillsdale County his personal property.
He went so far, at one time, as to try to collect fees and rentals from the government, like any lord of a manor levying upon his tenants. Failing in this, he and his companions remained in their ancestral forests, complacently disregarding the terms of the treaty whereby western reservations were provided for the Potawatomi.
Since there were then no white settlers to dispute possession, no move was made to eject them and, unmolested, they pursued the even tenor of their ways.
In 1827 the first white family made its difficult way into Hillsdale County, coming by sledge over the frozen trail from Wayne County.
Heading the party was Captain Moses Allen, a veteran of the War of 1812, and a member of the crew that surveyed the Chicago road.
brought his young wife and children and located on the fertile prairie later called by that name.
Chief Baw Beese cordially welcomed these white people into his realm, assisting them in every way within his power, and a friendship which stood the test of time was cemented by smoking the pipe of peace, with both Captain and Mrs. Allen.
The next year, when Benaiah Jones settled at the junction of the trail and St. Joseph River, five miles from the Allens, Baw Beese extended friendship to him and his ever enlarging family, and a situation of brotherly affection was created which was unique in the struggle between red and white.
Had it not been for their indian neighbors, the early settlers in Hillsdale County would have fared badly during the first hard winters. Though they were scions of sturdy stock, resourceful, and inured to hardships, they must of necessity have succumbed to the privation and exposure, if Baw Beese had not come to their rescue. In fact, Captain Allen did succumb and was buried as fittingly as possible upon his claim. But his girl-wife and her little ones came through unscathed, as did the Jones, and no small share of credit must be given to the faithful chief, who would often appear at the door laden with game and maize, a wild turkey, or a quail, throw it at their feet, stoically receive thanks, and, in all probability, join them in a meal which he had provided.
Chief Baw Beese is described by one who was his friend as tall and handsome, dignified and courteous, a noble speciman of Indian manhood, highly respected and loved by his white associates.
This account from the book prepared for the Hillsdale Centennial 1869=1969