Michigan: Monroe County

Monroe County (pop. 152,021) is one of 17 counties named for James Monroe, fifth president of the United States.

He was from Virginia.

Monroe County is in the southeastern corner of Michigan, along the shore of Lake Erie.

A geographical oddity in Monroe County is the “Lost Peninsula,” which is connected to Toledo, Ohio; drivers must go 10 minutes through Ohio to reach the rest of Michigan.

“Lost Peninsula” at upper right, above Toledo

Monroe County has the lowest elevation in Michigan, 571 feet above sea level along Lake Erie.

Sterling State Park and Fermi Nuclear Generating Station

The county seat of Monroe County is the city of Monroe (pop. 20.733).

Monroe County Courthouse (1880)

The Monroe Theatre (1938) in downtown Monroe is now the River Raisin Centre for the Arts.

It was vacant for many years.

General George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) spent much of his childhood in Monroe.

Custer statue in Monroe (1910)

Model Christie Brinkley was born in Monroe in 1954, as Christie Lee Hudson.

The furniture manufacturer La-Z-Boy is headquartered in Monroe. The firm was founded in 1927.

Not just recliners anymore

The Cabela’s store in the village of  Dundee (pop. 3,957) claims to have “The World’s Largest Bronze Wildlife Sculpture.”

Two fighting (or kissing) bears

The unincorporated community of Ottawa Lake has a giant Uncle Sam statue.

Formerly in Toledo

Monroe County has a village called Maybee (pop. 562), named after one of its founders, Abram Maybee.


Michigan: Lenawee County

Lenawee County (pop. 99,892) is east of Hillsdale County, along Michigan’s southern border with Ohio. It is the only Lenawee County in the U.S.

Lenawee County in 1895

The county seat of Lenawee County is the city of Adrian (pop. 21,133).

Lenawee County Courthouse

Around the turn of the 20th century, Adrian was known as the “Fence Capital of the World” because of its wire fence manufacturing plants.

The Adrian Engine House No. 1 is an historic fire station built in 1855. It now houses private offices.

Romanesque Revival and Italianate styles

The Adrian Public Library (1909) building is now the home of the Lenawee County Historical Society Museum.

Next door to the old fire station

The Croswell Opera House (1866) in Adrian is the oldest continuously running theater in the state. It was a movie theater from 1921 to 1967.

Still used for live theater

Adrian College, founded in 1859, is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It has about 1,600 students.

Founded as a theological institute

The Irish Hills Towers, in northern Lenawee County, are wooden observation towers built in 1924 to boost tourism in the area. They have been closed to the public since 2000.

60 feet tall

The Southern Michigan Railroad Society runs seasonal trains in Clinton Township.

13 miles of track

The city of Tecumseh (pop. 8,521) was once known as the “Refrigeration Capital of the World” because of the manufacture of refrigeration products. Tecumseh Products moved its factory from Tecumseh to Mississippi in 2008.


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Michigan: Hillsdale County

Hillsdale County (pop. 46,688) is east of Branch County. It’s the only Hillsdale County in the U.S.

The Grand River, Michigan’s longest river, begins in the northeastern corner of Hillsdale County and flows 252 miles to Lake Michigan.

The county seat of Hillsdale County is the city of Hillsdale (pop. 8,305).

Hillsdale County Courthouse (1899)

Hillsdale is the home of Hillsdale College (1844), which was the first college in the U.S. to prohibit admissions discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or religion.

About 1,500 students

Actor Jason Robards, Sr. (1892-1963) was born in Hillsdale. He was the father of Jason Robards, Jr.

In “The Wayne Murder Case” (1932)

In the unincorporated community of Somerset, a small park has 17 “faux wood” concrete bridges that were constructed in about 1930.

The style is called “trabajo rustico.”


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Michigan: Branch County

Branch County (pop. 45,248) is east of St. Joseph County, on the border with Indiana. It’s the only Branch County in the U.S.

Branch County was named for John Branch, Jr., (1782-1863), secretary of the Navy under President Andrew Jackson.

Also senator from North Carolina

It is Michigan’s third-smallest county in square miles, with about 100 lakes.

Popular for fishing

The county seat of Branch County is the city of Coldwater (pop. 10,945). A clock tower, adjacent to the courthouse, was built in 1988.

The old courthouse burned down in 1972.

Downtown Coldwater is on the National Register of Historic Places.

U.S. Highway 12 runs down Chicago Street.

The Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater is the second-oldest theater in Michigan.

Built in 1882

The Capri Drive-In Theater in Coldwater has been in operation since 1964.

Two screens


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Michigan: St. Joseph County

St. Joseph County (pop. 61,295) is east of Cass County. The only other St. Joseph County is nearby, in Indiana.

The county seat of St. Joseph County is the village of Centreville (pop. 1,425).

St. Joseph County Courthouse (1899)

Actor Verne Troyer grew up in Centreville. He played the part of “Mini-Me” in the Austin Powers movies.

He is 2 feet, 8 inches tall.

The largest city in St. Joseph County is the city of Sturgis (pop. 10,994), hometown of Motel 6 spokesman Tom Bodett.

The Strand Theater in downtown Sturgis has been operating since 1941.

It now has four screens.

The Mottville Speedway, in Mottville Township, opened in 1950.

The village of Colon (pop. 1,173) was named for the punctuation mark, not the body part.

Colon was the longtime home of magician Harry Blackstone, Sr. (1885-1965). Colon has several magic-supply businesses, and it hosts an annual magic convention.

Blackstone’s grave, Lakeside Cemetery

At Colon High School, the sports teams are called the Magi.


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