Colon and the township were originally a part of Sherman Township. Later they were divided off into Nottawa Township. Finally it was made into Colon Township which was subsequently divided and made into Colon and Leonidas townships.
The country was level except at Colon along the rivers which were heavily timbered. "Colon Mountain" is the highest point in the locality being 120 feet above general level. It is believed to be the work of the mound builders as well as the several other earthern fortifications and garden plots in elevated ridges.
The original plat of Colon was made in 1832 but not recorded until 1844. The first settler was Roswell SCHELLHOUS of Ohio, who came in 1829 and built the first log house. It contained two rooms and was used as a hotel for other settlers and travelers. In 1838, Roswell SCHELLHOUS left for Illinois, where he made his home but in the meantime Lorancie SCHELLHOUS, and Martin G. SCHELLHOUS & George F. SCHELLHOUS, brothers of the first settler, had located here and became leaders in the community. They induced 30 more people from Ohio to locate here. George and Martin SCHELLHOUS bought the present mill site and erected a sawmill, later adding a grist mill. During the year of 1832 almost every person was sick of the "fever" and many succumbed to the disease.
Charles PALMER came into the township from Ohio and Palmer Lake is named after him. Mr. PALMER and the SCHELLHOUSE'S were very active in the community and started or helped to organize several of the manufacturing enterprises.
The first crops were corn, potatoes and wheat. In 1873 mint was planted for the first time.
Gilbert N. LIDDIE built the first brick house and Adam DOWER built the first stone house. Martin SCHELLHOUS planted the first apple orchard and his brother Roswell SCHELLHOUS started the first nursery. Mr. LELAND planted the first peach orchard but the cold winter of 1852 froze out all of the peaches. Wild plums were plentiful in the early days.
Cattle, hogs and sheep were raised very successfully and draft horses and fine race horses soon became a paying enterprise, Colon having one of the first race tracks in St. Joseph County. The first improved farm machinery was used in 1841. Louis A. LELAND established a store in the township and ran a "huxter" wagon between Bronson and Centreville selling merchandise and accepting grain and produce in exchange. Cyrus SCHELLHOUS and J. D. FREEMAN started stores. John D. EVERHARD built a sawmill in 1837 and added a grist mill in 1858. Samuel KING built a whiskey distillery in 1839-40.
The first white children born were sons to Mr. and Mrs. Swell SCHELLHOUS and Mr. and Mrs. Martin SCHELLHOUS. Both children, cousins, died within the year. The first adult death was Grandmother SCHELLHOUS. She was buried in the first cemetery laid out in 1832 and enlarged in 1838 and 1876. There was an old cemetery laid out on the ground adjoining the EVERHARD Mill. The first marriage was Jonathan ENGLE and Delia BROOKS in 1832.
The first school was started in 1833 and Martin SCHELLHOUS was the teacher. The pioneers believed in education and the school had almost 100 percent attendance. The Methodist and Baptist churches were formed. Later the Dutch Reformed church. Several lodges were organized about this time.
The first road laid out was from Colon to Coldwater and from Colon to Centreville. First bridge was built in 1840 over St. Joseph river, called the Farrand Bridge. The Leland Bridge was built in 1845. In 1868 an iron bridge was built over the St. Joseph River and in 1873 an iron one over the Swan Creek.
First post office was instituted in 1835. Lorancie SCHELLHOUS was the first postmaster. Mail was brought from KENT's and ADAMS' mills. Henry GOODWIN, an 8 year old boy, brought the mail from Thompson and Needham mills and Leonidas. Mail was forwarded from here by horseback to Centreville, Three Rivers, Cassopolis, Niles and Berrien. The population in 1838 was 368, in 1850 it had grown to 846.
The first celebration was in 1840 over the Whig victory of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too."
Wild ducks, pigeons, and turkeys were very plentiful. A pair of bald eagles made their nest in a tree here for 20 years.
The CLIPFELL family arrived in 1847 and later built a distillery.
L SCHELLHOUS built the first blacksmith shop and lathe factory for the making of spinning wheels, chairs and flax wheels and reels. Dr. Isaac S. VOORHIS located here in 1836 and built the present mill in 1839. Charles L. MILLER of Constantine located here and opened a store. David BARROWS made wagons and Earnest MILLS started a wagon and carriage factory. SHUERT and DUEL erected a foundry in 1847 to supply the needs of the settlers. David BROWNFIELD built a tannery. Charles L. MILLER built a fruit drying factory in 1847. Michael KEITH was the first shoemaker going from home to home to do his work. R. J. HAZEN was a cooper. E. HILL and Sons opened a store, and shipped live stock and grain. Later they opened the Exchange bank which is still doing business. Dr. Isaac SIDE opened the first drug store.
Dr. H. AUSTIN was the only dentist for a number of years. Hiram DRAPER was the first lawyer and after losing his first case to a school teacher, Mr. SCHELLHOUS, never tried a case again.
The citizens gave liberally of money to get the Michigan Air Line railroad built through Colon. Large amounts of flour, hogs, sheep and cattle were shipped to the Chicago markets.
The Colon Seminary Company was started in 1858 and existed 10 years, with Prof. Orlando MOFFATT as the first teacher. Several national known students graduated from this seminary.
Cyrus and Martin SCHELLHOUS had a great influence over the Nottawa Indians and were busy constantly keeping peace between the settlers and Indians. Fort HOGAN was started with lots of pomp but never finished.
Colon furnished her share of soldiers to the war of rebellion.
A horse and carriage from Colon, St. Joseph Co., MI
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Thrams
Today, Colon is one of St. Joseph County's live little towns with active merchants and a good newspaper.
This page was last modified <Wednesday, 03-Mar-2010 12:48:46 MST >
This website is created and copyrighted 2007 by Joel Newport