St. Joseph is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. It was incorporated as a village in 1834 and as a city in 1891. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 8,789. It lies on the shore of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the St. Joseph River, about 60 miles east-northeast of Chicago. It is the county seat of Berrien County. St. Joseph is the site of the Venetian Festival, an event that draws thousands annually to its shores. It is also home of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
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.
The demographics of St. Joseph contrast sharply with those across the river in Benton Harbor.
|White||Black||Average Household Income|
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. 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. There in 1679, he waited for the ship Le Griffon which never returned. Once the ship was deemed lost, LaSalle and his men made the first land crossing of the lower peninsula by Europeans.
The next permanent white settler in St. Joseph was William Burnett who around 1780 started a trading post. The post traded food, furs and goods with places including Detroit, Mackinac and Chicago. 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. 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.
The St. Joseph river mouth was straightened through a channel and piers were added later. The first lighthouse in St. Joseph battles 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.
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.
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 may have ended up belonging to Herring and St. Joseph.
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. 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. 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.
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.
Major city facilities include the City Hall and Police Station at 700 Broad Street; the Department of Public Services 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, west of the St. Joseph River, 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.
|Name||Title||Year First Elected|
|Michael Garey||Mayor pro tem||1999|
|Mary Goff||1986 (a)|
|Fran Chickering||2007 (b)|
|Shipper||Good||Number of Vessels||Tonnage|
|Consumers||Limestone, sand and slag||27||277,106|
|Dock 63||Limestone, stone and sand||13||171,187|
Previous year tonnage includes:
The controversial book A Million Little Pieces takes place in part in and around the city of St. Joseph. Many of the disputed parts took place in the area. James Frey 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.