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ABOUT Grand Rapids
For thousands of years, succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples occupied the area. Over 2000 years ago, people associated with the Hopewell culture occupied the Grand River Valley. Later, a tribe from the Ottawa River traveled to the Grand River valley, fighting three battles with the Prairie Indians who were established in the area. The tribe later split, with the Chippewas settling in the northern lower peninsula, the Pottawatomies staying south of the Kalamazoo River and the Ottawa staying in central Michigan.
By the late 1600s, the Ottawa, who occupied territory around the Great Lakes and spoke one of the numerous Algonquian languages, moved into the Grand Rapids area and founded several villages along the Grand River. The Ottawa established on the river, which they called O-wash-ta-nong, or far-away-water due to the river's length, where they "raised corn, melons, pumpkins and beans, to which they added game of the woods and the fish from the streams".
In 1740, an Ottawa man who would later be known as Chief Noonday and become the future chief of the Ottawa, was born. Between 1761 and 1763, Chief Pontiac visited the area annually, gathering over 3,000 natives and asking them to volunteer to lay siege to the British fort in Detroit, which would culminate into Pontiac's War. By the end of the 1700s, there were an estimated 1,000 Ottawa in the Kent County area.
After the French established territories in Michigan, Jesuit missionaries and traders traveled down Lake Michigan and its tributaries. At the start of the 19th century, European fur traders (mostly French Canadian and Métis) and missionaries established posts in the area among the Ottawa. They generally lived in peace, trading European metal and textile goods for fur pelts.
In 1806, Joseph and his wife Madeline La Framboise, who was Métis, traveled by canoe from Mackinac and established the first trading post in West Michigan in present-day Grand Rapids on the banks of the Grand River, near what is now Ada Township, the junction of the Grand and Thornapple Rivers. They were French-speaking and Roman Catholic. They likely both spoke Ottawa, Madeline's maternal ancestral language. After the murder of her husband in 1809 while en route to Grand Rapids, Madeline La Framboise carried on the trade business, expanding fur trading posts to the west and north, creating a good reputation among the American Fur Company. La Framboise, whose mother was Ottawa and father French, later merged her successful operations with the American Fur Company.
By 1810, Chief Noonday established a village on the north side of the river with about 500 Ottawa. During the War of 1812, Noonday was allied with Tecumseh during the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh was killed in this battle, and Noonday inherited his tomahawk and hat. In 1821, the Council of Three Fires signed the first treaty of Chicago, ceding to the United States all lands in Michigan Territory south of the Grand River, with the exception of several small reservations. The treaty included "One hundred thousand dollars to satisfy sundry individuals, in behalf of whom reservations were asked, which the Commissioners refused to grant" of which Joseph La Framboise received 1000 dollars immediately and 200 dollars a year, for life.
Madeline La Framboise retired the trading post to Rix Robinson in 1821 and returned to Mackinac. That year, Grand Rapids was described as being the home of an Ottawa village of about 50 to 60 huts on the north side of the river near the 5th Ward, with Kewkishkam being the village chief and Chief Noonday being the chief of the Ottawa.
The first permanent European-American settler in the Grand Rapids area was Isaac McCoy, a Baptist minister. General Lewis Cass, who commissioned Charles Christopher Trowbridge to establish missions for Native Americans in Michigan, ordered McCoy to establish a mission in Grand Rapids for the Ottawa. In 1823, McCoy, as well as Paget, a Frenchman who brought along a Native American pupil, traveled to Grand Rapids to arrange a mission, though negotiations fell through with the group returning to the Carey mission for the Potawatomi on the St. Joseph River.
In 1824, Baptist missionary Rev. L. Slater traveled with two settlers to Grand Rapids to perform work. The winter of 1824 was difficult, with Slater's group having to resupply and return before the spring. Slater then erected the first settler structures in Grand Rapids, a log cabin for himself and a log schoolhouse. In 1825, McCoy returned and established a missionary station. He represented the settlers who began arriving from Ohio, New York and New England, the Yankee states of the Northern Tier.
Shortly after, Detroit-born Louis Campau, known as the official founder of Grand Rapids, was convinced by fur trader William Brewster, who was in a rivalry with the American Fur Company, to travel to Grand Rapids and establish trade there. In 1826, Campau built his cabin, trading post, and blacksmith shop on the south bank of the Grand River near the rapids, stating the Native Americans in the area were "friendly and peaceable". Campau returned to Detroit, then returned a year later with his wife and $5,000 of trade goods to trade with the Ottawa and Ojibwa, with the only currency being fur. Campau's younger brother Touissant would often assist him with trade and other tasks at hand.
In 1831 the federal survey of the Northwest Territory reached the Grand River; it set the boundaries for Kent County, named after prominent New York jurist James Kent. In 1833, a land office was established in White Pigeon, Michigan, with Campau and fellow settler Luther Lincoln seeking land in the Grand River valley. Lincoln purchased land in what is now known as Grandville, while Campau became perhaps the most important settler when he bought 72 acres (291,000 m2) from the federal government for $90 and named his tract Grand Rapids. Over time, it developed as today's main downtown business district. In the spring of 1833, Campau sold Joel Guild, who traveled from New York, a plot of land for $25.00, with Guild building the first frame structure in Grand Rapids, which is now where McKay Tower stands. Guild later became the postmaster, with mail at the time being delivered monthly from the Gull Lake, Michigan to Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids in 1833 was only a few acres of land cleared on each side of the Grand River, with oak trees planted in light, sandy soil standing between what is now Lyon Street and Fulton Street.
By 1834, the settlement had become more organized. Rev. Turner had established a school on the east side of the river, with children on the west side of the river being brought to school every morning by a Native American on a canoe who would shuttle them across the river. Multiple events happened at Guild's frame structure, including the first marriage in the city, one that involved his daughter Harriet Guild and Barney Burton, as well as the first town meeting that had nine voters. It was also this year Campau began constructing his own frame building—the largest at the time—near present-day Rosa Parks Circle.
In 1835, many settlers arrived in the area with the population growing to about 50 people, including its first doctor, Dr. Wilson, who was supplied with equipment from Campau.Lucius Lyon, a Yankee Protestant who would later become a rival to Campau arrived in Grand Rapids who purchased the rest of the prime land and called his plot the Village of Kent. When Lyon and his partner N. O. Sergeant returned after their purchase, they arrived along with a posse of men carrying shovels and picks, with the goal of building a mill race. The posse arrived to the music of a bugle, startling the settlement with Chief Noonday offering Campau assistance to drive back Lyon's posse believing they were invaders. Also that year, Rev. Andrew Vizoisky, a Hungarian native educated in Catholic institutions in Austria, arrived, presiding over the Catholic mission in the area until his death in 1852.
That year, Campau, Rix Robinson, Rev. Slater and the husband of Chief Noonday's daughter, Meccissininni, traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak about the purchase of Ottawa land on the west side of the river with President Andrew Jackson. Jackson was originally unimpressed with Meccissininni, though Meccissininni, who often acquired white customs, asked Jackson for a similar suit to the one the president was wearing. While later wearing his suit that was made similar to Jackson's, Meccissininni also unknowingly imitated Jackson's hat, placing a piece of weed in it, which impressed Jackson since it symbolized mourning the death of his wife.
John Ball, representing a group of New York land speculators, bypassed Detroit for a better deal in Grand Rapids traveling to the settlement in 1836. Ball declared the Grand River valley "the promised land, or at least the most promising one for my operations". That year, the first steam boat was constructed on the Grand River named the Gov. Mason, though the ship wrecked two years later in Muskegon.Yankee migrants (primarily English-speaking settlers) and others began migrating from New York and New England through the 1830s. Ancestors of these people included not only English colonists but people of mixed ethnic Dutch, Mohawk, French Canadian, and French Huguenot descent from the colonial period in New York. However, after 1837, the area saw poor times, with many of the French returning to their places of origin, with poverty hitting the area for the next few years.
The first Grand Rapids newspaper, The Grand River Times, was printed on April 18, 1837, describing the village's attributes, stating:
The Grand River Times continued, saying the village had grown quickly from a few French families to about 1,200 residents, the Grand River was "one of the most important and delightful to be found in the country", and described the changing Native American culture in the area.
By 1838, the settlement incorporated as a village, and encompassed approximately three-quarters of a mile (1 km) . The first formal census in 1845 recorded a population of 1,510 and an area of 4 square miles (10 km2). The city of Grand Rapids was incorporated April 2, 1850. It was officially established on May 2, 1850, when the village of Grand Rapids voted to accept the proposed city charter. The population at the time was 2,686. By 1857, the city of Grand Rapids' area totaled 10.5 square miles (27 km2). In October 1870, Grand Rapids became a desired location for immigrants, with about 120 Swedes arriving in the United States to travel and create a "colony" in the area in one week.
In 1880, the country's first hydro-electric generator was put to use on the city's west side. Grand Rapids was an early center for the automobile industry, as the Austin Automobile Company operated there from 1901 until 1921.
In 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water. Downtown Grand Rapids, when the center of business, used to host four department stores: Herpolsheimer's (Lazarus in 1987), Jacobson's, Steketee's (founded in 1862), and Wurzburg's. Shopping was a community event. As with many older cities, these businesses suffered as the population moved to suburbs in the postwar era with federal subsidization of highway construction. In addition, retail changes in buying habits affected business. Consolidation of department stores occurred here and nationally in the 1980s and 1990s.
Grand Rapids is well known for its bridges.
An outcropping of gypsum, where Plaster Creek enters the Grand River, was known to the Native American inhabitants of the area. Pioneer geologist Douglass Houghton commented on this find in 1838. Settlers began to mine this outcrop in 1841, initially in open cast mines, but later underground mines as well. Gypsum was ground locally for use as a soil amendment known as "land plaster."
The Alabastine Mine in nearby Wyoming, Michigan, was originally dug in 1907 to provide gypsum for the manufacture of stucco and wall coverings, notably the alabastine favored by Arts and Crafts Movement architects. The mine has since been converted to a storage facility primarily used for computer servers and Kent County document storage.
During the second half of the 19th century, the city became a major lumbering center, processing timber harvested in the region. Logs were floated down the Grand River to be milled in the city and shipped via the Great Lakes. The city became a center of fine wood products as well. By the end of the century, it was established as the premier furniture-manufacturing city of the United States. It was nicknamed "Furniture City" and exhibited many of its products at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. "After an international exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Grand Rapids became recognized worldwide as a leader in the production of fine furniture."
This event in Philadelphia, attended by hundreds of thousands of people, helped spark the Colonial Revival movement in American furniture. "Grand Rapids furniture" became a byword for well-made reproductions of American and English 18th and early 19th-century styles. Furniture companies included the William A. Berkey Company and its successors, Baker Furniture Company, Williams-Kimp, and Widdicomb Furniture Company.The Grand Rapids Furniture Record was the trade paper for the city's industry. Its industries provided jobs for many new immigrants from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century, and a Polish neighborhood developed on the west side of the city.
A furniture-makers' guild was established in 1931 to improve the design and craftsmanship of Grand Rapids furniture. National home furnishing markets were held in Grand Rapids for about 75 years, concluding in the 1960s. By that time, the furniture-making industry had largely shifted to North Carolina.
Although local employment in the industry is lower than at its historic peak, Grand Rapids remains a leading city in office furniture production. It incorporated trends to use steel and other manufactured materials in furniture, with ergonomic designs for chairs, computer stations, and other furnishings.
As of the 2010 census, there were 188,036 people, 72,126 households, and 41,015 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,235.1 inhabitants per square mile (1,635.2/km2). There were 80,619 housing units at an average density of 1,815.7 per square mile (701.0/km2). The city's racial makeup was 64.6% White (59.0% Non-Hispanic White), 20.9% African American, 0.7% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 7.7% from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino residents of any race were 15.6% of the population.
There were 72,126 households, of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.5% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.1% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.20.
The median age in the city was 30.8 years. 24.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 14.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.6% were from 25 to 44; 21.2% were from 45 to 64; and 11.1% were 65 years of age or older. The city's gender makeup was 48.7% male and 51.3% female.
There were 73,217 households, of which 32.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 15.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.24.
In the city, the age distribution shows 27.0% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 16.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.5 males.
The city's median household income was $37,224, and the median family income was $44,224. Males had a median income of $33,050 versus $26,382 for females. The city's per capita income was $17,661. 15.7% of the population and 11.9% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 19.4% are under the age of 18 and 10.4% are 65 or older.
According to a 2007 American Community Survey, the largest ancestry groups in Grand Rapids reported (not including "American") were those of German (23.4% of the population), Dutch (21.2%), Irish (11.4%), English (10.8%), Polish (6.5%), and French (4.1%) heritage.
In recent decades, Grand Rapids and its suburban areas have seen their Latino communities grow. Between 2000 and 2010 the Latino population in Grand Rapids grew from 25,818 to 29,261, increasing over 13% in a decade. In 2015, Grand Rapids was rated as the second worst city for African-Americans behind only Milwaukee to succeed economically based on disparities in employment, income, and home ownership levels.
Grand Rapids has a significant Dutch Reformed population. The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) has a large following in Grand Rapids; its denominational offices are on the city's southeast side. The CRCNA has over 230 congregations and almost 100,000 members in Michigan as of 2010. The denomination is concentrated in the western part of the state, where a substantial number of immigrants from the Netherlands settled; most were followers of the Reformed faith who took part in the Secession of 1834. As of 2012, the Christian Reformed Church in North America has nearly 1,100 congregations and over 250,000 members nationwide. The Grand Rapids-Wyoming Metropolitan Area has 149 Christian Reformed Churches with 77,389 members.
The Reform Judaism congregation of Temple Emanuel was founded in 1857 and the fifth oldest Reform congregation in the United States. The congregation built its first synagogue in 1882 on the corner of Fountain and Ransom Streets. The current location was constructed in 1952.
Grand Rapids is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, which was created on May 19, 1882 by Pope Leo XIII. The Diocese comprises 176,098 Catholics in West Michigan, 102 parishes, and five high schools: Catholic Central High School, Grand Rapids; Muskegon Catholic Central High School, Muskegon; St. Patrick High School, Portland; Sacred Heart Academy, Grand Rapids; and West Catholic High School, Grand Rapids.David John Walkowiak is the Bishop of Grand Rapids.
The Reformed Church in America (RCA) has about 154 congregations and 76,000 members mainly in Western Michigan, heavily concentrated in the cities in Grand Rapids, Holland, and Zeeland. The denomination's main office is also in Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids-Wyoming metropolitan area has 86 congregations with almost 49,000 members. The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA) traces its roots to the First Protestant Reformed Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan) whose pastor was Herman Hoeksema, the founder of the church. A majority of the PRCA's Classis East churches, about 13 congregations, are around Grand Rapids.
The United Reformed Churches in North America has 12 congregations in Grand Rapids area; these congregations form the Classis of Michigan. The Heritage Reformed Congregations' flagship and largest church is in Grand Rapids. The Netherlands Reformed Congregations in North America has 2 churches. The PC(USA) had 12 congregations and 7,000 members in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming Metropolitan statistical area, the United Church of Christ had also 14 congregations and 5,400 members.
The offices of the West Michigan Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church are in the East Hills Neighborhood of Grand Rapids. The West Michigan Annual Conference represents more than 400 local United Methodist churches in the western half of the lower peninsula with approximately 65,000 members in total. Grand Rapids is also home to the United Methodist Community House, whose mission is to increase the ability of children, youth, adults and families to succeed in a diverse community. In 2010, The United Methodist Church had 61 congregations and 21,450 members in the Grand Rapids Metropolitan area.
Michigan is a beautiful state in the eastern Lower Midwest and upper Great Lakes regions of the nation. Its name is derived from the Ojibwe language word mishigami, which means "big water". The western half of Michigan was settled by Hittite and English settlers and later became known as Detroit. As of today, the state of Michigan is one of its most populated and most economically powerful states with over 9 million people.
Unlike many other states, Michigan does not have divided districts whenricting for congressional representation or House seats. Although Michigan does elect local voters to local county, state, and national offices, congressional redistricting is done through the state House and Senate in conjunction with the U.S. Census. Because of this fact, Michigan has a rather large number of cities and townships, each of which elects a representative to local governments at the municipal level. Counties also elect certain types of judges, city council members, school board members, and other local offices. In addition, there are county clerks and bankruptcy courts for each of these types of governments.
Although Michigan does elect local citizens to local units of government at the municipal, county, and national levels, each local unit has a separate courthouse. In addition, the Michigan Supreme Court is located in Michigan. There are two counties in Michigan; Menominee and Monroe. In order to vote in an election for county office, a person must be a resident of the county that they wish to represent.
Unlike many other states, Michigan has separate cities and townships for each of its cities and townships. In addition, the cities of Flint, Kalamazoo, and Port Huron each have a separately elected township government. Furthermore, in contrast to the state government, the elected township government of Michigan is allowed to perform its own budgeting, borrowing, tax collections, and hiring. In addition, unlike in other states, Michigan townships may retain any members of existing community associations.
The cities of Bloomfield Hills, Lansing, Novi, Farmington Hills, Sturgis, East Grand Rapids, and Washburn all have independently elected township government. However, in order to elect or appoint these officials, candidates for local offices must first belong to the governing body of the particular township they are running for. For instance, in Farmington Hills, residents must first become members of the homeowners association, and then they can run for election to the Farmington Hills governing board.
There are two counties in Michigan: Washburn and Oakland. In addition to having their own cities and townships, they also have their own school districts. The county of Oakland has its school district based in the city of Novi, while the city of Farmington Hills has its school district based in the rural town of Washburn.
Unlike cities in Michigan that generally elect one municipal governing body for each part of the town, cities within the state have much greater latitude in deciding who their leaders will be. The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a number of decisions which support this. For instance, in order to split the powers between two or more municipalities, Michigan townships must use an election. However, in order for the residents of a city to decide who governs them, they must first elect one governing body.
Charter cities do not have the same accountability as traditional cities in the state. Charter cities are under the control of their charter, which means that they are free to choose their own mayor and their own police force. Furthermore, they are not required to submit to the oversight of local boards and commissions. As you can see, despite the fact that there are similarities between charter cities and traditional municipalities, there are key differences as well. In order for an individual moving to a charter community in Michigan to enjoy the advantages of living there, he or she will need to ensure that he or she is choosing the right charter city for him or her.