St. Joseph, Michigan

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St. Joseph, Michigan
Location of St. Joseph, Michigan
Location of St. Joseph, Michigan
Coordinates: 42°5′53″N 86°29′3″W / 42.09806°N 86.48417°W / 42.09806; -86.48417
CountryUnited States
 • Total4.80 sq mi (12.43 km2)
 • Land3.22 sq mi (8.34 km2)
 • Water1.58 sq mi (4.09 km2)
Elevation630 ft (192 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total8,365
 • Estimate (2012[3])8,311
 • Density2,597.8/sq mi (1,003.0/km2)
Time zoneEastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
FIPS code26-70960[4]
GNIS feature ID0636762[5]
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Not to be confused with St. Joseph County, Michigan.
St. Joseph, Michigan
Location of St. Joseph, Michigan
Location of St. Joseph, Michigan
Coordinates: 42°5′53″N 86°29′3″W / 42.09806°N 86.48417°W / 42.09806; -86.48417
CountryUnited States
 • Total4.80 sq mi (12.43 km2)
 • Land3.22 sq mi (8.34 km2)
 • Water1.58 sq mi (4.09 km2)
Elevation630 ft (192 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total8,365
 • Estimate (2012[3])8,311
 • Density2,597.8/sq mi (1,003.0/km2)
Time zoneEastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
FIPS code26-70960[4]
GNIS feature ID0636762[5]
Aerial view of the harbor at St. Joseph, Michigan. The St. Joseph River flows into Lake Michigan through the city.

St. Joseph is a city in the US state of Michigan. It was incorporated as a village in 1834 and as a city in 1891.[6] As of the 2010 census, the city population was 8,365. It lies on the shore of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the St. Joseph River, about 90 miles (140 km) east-northeast of Chicago. It is the county seat of Berrien County.[7] It is home of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are locally known as the "Twin Cities".


Downtown St. Joseph, May 2007

The mouth of the St. Joseph River at present day St. Joseph was an important point of Amerindian travel and commerce, as it lay along a key water route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Both the Miami and Potawatomi used this route and would use the area as a camp.[8] The St. Joseph River also allowed for connection with the Sauk Trail, which was the major land trail through Michigan. In 1669, the mouth of the river was discovered by European explorers. French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, built Fort Miami on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.[9] In 1679, he waited for the ship Le Griffon, which never returned. Once the ship was deemed lost, La Salle and his men made the first land crossing of the lower peninsula by Europeans.[10]

The next permanent white settler in St. Joseph was William Burnett, who around 1780 started a trading post at the mouth of the St. Joseph River.[11] The post traded food, furs and goods with places including Detroit, Mackinac and Chicago.[12] In 1829, Calvin Britain, who had come from Jefferson County, New York, and had taught at the Carey Mission at Niles for two years, came to the site of St. Joseph.[13] Shortly thereafter, he laid out the plat of the village, then known as Newburyport, named after a coastal city in Massachusetts. Britain was influential in attracting other settlers to the area. Lots sold rapidly and the village flourished.[14]

The St. Joseph river mouth was straightened through a channel and piers were added later. The first lighthouse in St. Joseph contends with Chicago's original lighthouse as the first to be built on Lake Michigan. Newburyport changed its name to St. Joseph when it was incorporated in 1834.[12]

The first water route across Lake Michigan between St. Joseph and Chicago began as a mail route in 1825, but service was sporadic until 1842 when Samuel and Eber Ward began a permanent service. That lasted eleven years. Before the rise of large ship companies on Lake Michigan, service was done primarily by owner-operated boats. With the rise in shipping in Benton Harbor and the rise in tourism in St. Joseph, permanent and larger operations began operating out of the ports.[15]

Original St Joseph Lifesaving Service boathouse, circa 1874. The Coast Guard still maintains a station on this site.[16]

In 1876 the United States Lifesaving Service built a Lifesaving Station at St Joseph, appointing Joseph Napier as the first stationkeeper.[16]

After a bitterly fought political contest, St. Joseph was named the seat of Berrien County in 1894, when Berrien Springs relinquished that status. The three largest towns in the county, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, and Niles, each wanted to be the county seat, but none had a majority vote. Once St. Joseph and Benton Harbor voters combined their votes, St. Joseph had enough to win.[17]

On October 11, 1898, Augustus Moore Herring took one of his gliders, fitted with a motor, to Silver Beach in St. Joseph. Herring’s machine lifted ever so slightly off the ground and actually flew for seven seconds. Eleven days later, the inventor made another flight of ten seconds. While Herring had a powered heavier-than-air craft, he did not have a way to control it. It was left to the Wright brothers to perfect controlled flight five years later, and give themselves and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a place in history that might have ended up belonging to Herring and St. Joseph.[18]

Transportation history[edit]

Two major shipping companies operated between St. Joseph and Chicago during the last half of the 19th century, the Goodrich Transportation company and the local firm of Graham and Morton. They dominated the traffic at St. Joseph for more than 100 years, although other smaller companies did operate during this time.

Starting in 1874, Henry Graham and J. Stanley Morton began operating a steam line out of St. Joseph. Their collaboration would become the Graham and Morton Transportation Company. Through vigorous competition, they won the war to become the major carrier out of St. Joseph. Goodrich stopped service to the Twin Cities in 1880. The company grew fast and over the fifty plus years of its existence became the second largest line on Lake Michigan behind only Goodrich.[15]

In 1924 G & M merged with Goodrich. Like most other ports along Lake Michigan, St. Joseph saw a huge drop in traffic during the early years of the twentieth century and this was exacerbated by the Great Depression. The route between Chicago and St. Joseph did survive until the 1950s.[15]

On January 29, 1870, the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad extended a rail line from New Buffalo to St. Joseph. This railroad connected St. Joseph to Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit and Chicago. (Prior to this, the only connection St. Joseph had to these other cities was by water.) The line was reorganized as the Chicago and West Michigan Railway and then was incorporated into the Pere Marquette Railroad.

Business and industry history[edit]

In 1911, Louis, Emory, and Frederick Upton began a business that produced household washing machines. The business soon became a boom and has continued to grow to this day. In 1929, Upton Machine Company merged with Nineteen Hundred Corp., taking the latter name. The company began marketing a line of appliances known as the "Whirlpool" brand in 1948. Within the next decade, Nineteen Hundred changed its name to Whirlpool. Today, Whirlpool Corporation is the largest manufacturer of major home appliances and maintains a large presence in St. Joseph and nearby Benton Harbor. Whirlpool has its world headquarters outside Benton Harbor.[19]

In 1891 the Silver Beach Amusement Park was opened on land between the lake and mouth of the river in St. Joseph. Logan Drake and Louis Wallace bought the land from the Pere Marquette Railroad and added cottages to lure tourists to the lake front. As the park aged and grew in popularity, the pair added many attractions, including concessions, games, pool, a boardwalk and different rides. The first roller coaster was built in 1904 and was called the Chase Through the Clouds, which was replaced by the Velvet roller coaster (renamed the Comet). Among the most popular attractions were the carousel and the Shadowland Ballroom, built in 1927. During the 1960s and 1970s, the buildings decayed and the crowds decreased. Finally, crime in the park caused it to be shut down by police in 1970.[20]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.80 square miles (12.43 km2), of which, 3.22 square miles (8.34 km2) is land and 1.58 square miles (4.09 km2) is water.[1]


The demographics of St. Joseph contrast sharply with those across the river in Benton Harbor.

Benton Harbor7.0%89.2%$17,301
St. Joseph88.1%5.3%$49,982

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 8,365 people, 3,933 households, and 1,941 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,597.8 inhabitants per square mile (1,003.0 /km2). There were 4,795 housing units at an average density of 1,489.1 per square mile (574.9 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.1% White, 5.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 3.4% Asian, 0.9% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.8% of the population.

There were 3,933 households of which 20.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.5% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 50.6% were non-families. 43.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.97 and the average family size was 2.74.

The median age in the city was 41.6 years. 16.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.6% were from 25 to 44; 27.2% were from 45 to 64; and 18.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 8,789 people, 4,117 households, and 2,058 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,561.3 per square mile (989.3/km²). There were 4,594 housing units at an average density of 1,338.8 per square mile (517.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.31% White, 5.11% African American, 0.41% Native American, 2.39% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.46% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.29% of the population.

There were 4,117 households out of which 22.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.6% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.0% were non-families. 44.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.99 and the average family size was 2.77.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.0% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,032, and the median income for a family was $51,328. Males had a median income of $36,250 versus $26,395 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,949. About 4.3% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.1% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture[edit]

St. Joseph is cohost of the annual Blossomtime Festival[21] with Benton Harbor.

The Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff[22] is held in Lake Bluff Park every year on the weekend after the July 4 weekend.

St. Joseph was the site of the Venetian Festival, an event that drew thousands annually to its shores, from 1979 to 2011.

The Concours d'Elegance of Southwest Michigan is held annually on the second Saturday in August. The inaugural show was held in 2005. An invitational fine car show, 75 vintage car owners are asked to show vehicles in St. Joseph's downtown Lake Bluff Park.[23]


City government is organized as a council-manager government. There is a city commission with five members, who are elected at large. City elections are held in November of even-numbered years; at each election, three commission seats become open. The two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes receive four-year terms, while the candidate receiving the third-greatest number of votes receives a two-year term. At the first meeting following each election, the commission selects from its own number a mayor and mayor pro tem for the following two years. The city commission is a part-time body, typically meeting twice each month to act as a legislative body and set general policies. Day-to-day operations are delegated to a contracted city manager.

Major city facilities include the City Hall and Police Station at 700 Broad Street; the Department of Public Works at 1160 Broad Street; the Fire Department at 915 Broad Street; the Maud Preston Palenske Public Library at 500 Market Street; the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena at 2414 Willa Drive; the Water Treatment Plant at 1701 Lions Park Drive; and Riverview Cemetery at 2525 Niles Road.

The city Water Treatment Plant provides drinking water to the communities of the Lake Michigan Shoreline Water and Sewage Treatment Authority, which serves Lincoln Charter Township, Royalton Township, St. Joseph Charter Township, and the villages of Shoreham and Stevensville. Wastewater treatment is provided through the Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is jointly owned by the cities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, and which also serves the LMSWSTA communities, Benton Charter Township and portions of Sodus Township.

Current City Commission
NameTitleYear First Elected
Michael GareyMayor1999
Fran ChickeringMayor pro tem2007
Jeffery RichardsCommissioner1984
Mary GoffCommissioner1986
Chris HeugelCommissioner2013



St. Joseph is served by The Herald-Palladium newspaper, whose offices are in nearby St. Joseph Township, is part of the South Bend/Elkhart television market, and is served by sister radio stations WCSY-FM, WCXT, WIRX, WSJM, WSJM-FM, and WYTZ as well as some in the South Bend market.


2007 Shipping Report
ShipperGoodNumber of VesselsTonnage
ConsumersLimestone, sand and slag27277,106
Dock 63Limestone, stone and sand13171,187
LafargeBulk Cement27185,250

Previous year tonnage includes:

Past Tonnage

Notable people[edit]

St. Joseph in popular culture[edit]

The book The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz (ISBN 0-385-47721-X) documents the death of an African American teenage boy through the eyes of locals in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The book delves into race relations between the two cities.

The controversial book A Million Little Pieces by James Frey takes place in part in and around the city of St. Joseph. Many of the disputed parts took place in the area. James went to St. Joseph High School. Some members of the area including local police helped to show that the book was not a complete factual recount but partly a fictional retelling of events.

Stephen Christian, singer of the band Anberlin, spent part of his childhood in St. Joseph, and in the song (*fin) mentions "The house on Ridge Road", which he says is in St. Joseph.


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  3. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: St. Joseph, Michigan
  6. ^ Coolidge, Orville W. (1906). A Twentieth Century History of Berrien County, Michigan, p. 25. The Lewis Publishing Company.
  7. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  8. ^ French and Indian Footprints
  9. ^ Tour of St. Joseph
  10. ^ Eccles, W.J. "French Exploration in North America, 1700–1800". In Allen, John Logan, ed. (1997). North American Exploration, Vol. 2, p. 134. University of Nebraska Press.
  11. ^ Coolidge (1906), p. 19.
  12. ^ a b History of Saint Joseph, Michigan History Magazine,
  13. ^ Fuller, George Newman (1916). Economic and Social Beginnings of Michigan: A Study of the Settlement of the Lower Peninsula During the Territorial Period, 1805–1837, pp. 266. Lansing: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co.
  14. ^ Fuller (1916), pp. 275-76.
  15. ^ a b c Hilton, George W. (2002). Lake Michigan Passenger Steamers. Stanford University Press. (ISBN 0-8047-4240-5).
  16. ^ a b Connie Braesch (2010-11-08). "Coast Guard Heroes: Joseph Napier". United States Coast Guard. Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. "As keeper of the Saint Joseph Life-Saving Station, Station 6, Joseph Napier demonstrated his heroism during multiple rescues as a career lifesaver on the Great Lakes. His gallantry was no more visible than on the day he risked his life and led his crew into gale-force winds to save six souls aboard a stranded vessel." 
  17. ^ Fedynsky, John (2010). Michigan's County Courthouses, p. 25. University of Michigan Press.
  18. ^ "Augustus Herring and the Wright Brothers"
  19. ^ Whirlpool History
  20. ^ Silver Beach Amusement Park Overview
  21. ^ Blossomtime Festival
  22. ^ Krasl Art Center: Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff
  23. ^ Concours d'Elegance of Southwest Michigan
  24. ^
  25. ^ Harbor Report, City of St. Joseph
  26. ^ "SJHS Alumni named Miss America". WSJM, September 16, 2013. Accessed 9 March 2014.
  27. ^

External links[edit]

Asian Indian Community

MRSA Awareness





Coordinates: 42°05′53″N 86°29′03″W / 42.09806°N 86.48417°W / 42.09806; -86.48417