By the 1830s, Michigan fever had become an epidemic. Pioneer families from all over the East Coast headed west via the newly completed Erie Canal, passed through Detroit, and continued along the new Detroit-Chicago Road, which cut across the southern half of the state’s Lower Peninsula. Their final destination: Michigan’s rolling prairies, with rich soil and fertile land that the federal government was selling for the bargain-basement price of $1.25 an acre.
Many of the early settlers were Easterners, leaving already-overwhelming cities to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families. The onrush between 1825 and 1855 spurred the settlement of some of Michigan’s largest towns, including Battle Creek and Jackson. That early growth was soon augmented by the railroad; by 1849, Michigan Central began making regular state crossings, disgorging thousands of optimistic settlers along the way.
In the region known as Michigan’s Heartland, the most visible evidence of these early settlers can be found in the Greek Revival homes and clean-lined architecture of the cities and villages they built. They also founded a number of Eastern-style private colleges, a concentration unmatched elsewhere in the state.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel