Friday evenings in early 19th Century South Haven were filled with the hustle and bustle of horse and buggies, fruit wagons and an endless stream of well wishers rushing to meet the giant steam boats carrying travelers from Chicago and Milwaukee. Fringe-top surreys carried vacationers to over 200 of the finest resorts.
Founded in 1787 by Ottawa, Miami and Pottawattamie tribes, the area was christened "Ni-Ko-Nong" which translates to beautiful sunsets. Pioneering times brought J.R. Monroe who founded the area in 1833.
Pioneer families came over the decades to settle with the opening of sawmills. This new industry made hotels, schools, homes, stores and tanneries possible to exist on the banks of the Black River.
The choice lumber was shipped across Lake Michigan to ports in Chicago and Milwaukee and early steamers were built in South Haven shipyards. As lumber gave way, room for fruit growers opened up and soon peach, apple and blueberry farmers made up the Michigan fruit belt.
Visitors came to the area for beaches, weather, entertainment, resorts and an opera house. But it was in the 20's and 30's when commerce exploded in the area. Horse and buggies made way for the automobile. In 1969 South Haven was crowned the World's Blueberry Capital. This title is still held today.
Over the years great progress and prosperity has created a charming village that keeps one hand clasped onto yesteryear while the other stretches out to greet the future.
For more information regarding the history of South Haven read or visit Bea Kraus Books; a trilogy of the history of South Haven from the founding to the Jewish resort era to present day. Bea Kraus Books can be found at 229 Brockway, South Haven, MI 49090. Telephone: (847)675-1338
See also: South Haven Facts