Vicksburg Historical Society

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Vicksburg Area History

Vicksburg Historical Society and Historic Village is dedicated to the story of how our townships were developed beginning in the 1830's and the history of our first inhabitants, the Native Americans. John Vickers was the founder of the Village of Vicksburg, and other significant contributors who made Vicksburg what is  today can be found on the Biographies Page.

John Vickers

In 1831, John Vickers built a brush dam over the eight-foot waterfall on Portage Creek and erected a log grist mill. The mill is believed to have been the first in Kalamazoo County. The dam created a pond that supplied water power to the mill, and formed the sizeable Sunset Lake, around which pioneers built homes and set up businesses. Vickers died in 1842. On October 18, 1871 the village was incorporated as Brady, but one day later a petition passed to rename it Vicksburg.


More than 175 years ago, the first white settlers were beginning to appear in Kalamazoo County. One of the first to arrive was John Vickers, who came from Ohio in 1829 and moved into the Portage Creek area in 1830. Knowing that there was a large demand in the county for a convenient place to grind corn and wheat into flour, he quickly located a site on the banks of Rocky Creek and built a small temporary grist mill. Over the following two years, Vickers laid plans for a larger more permanent mill and employed another early pioneer, Joseph Frakes, to assist with the construction. During the winter of 1832, Vickers traveled to Ohio and bought a pair of 11 inch mill stones to install in the new mill on Portage Creek.


Vicker's Mill Historic Marker

Vickers' Mill was technically located on Indian land until 1835. Nevertheless, pioneer squatters like Vickers continued to settle nearby. They came to claim squatter's rights to the abundant farmland, for the plentiful resources of the woods and water, and for the ease of living so close to the mill. Sometime during 1836 John Vickers hired William R. Watson to survey the area around his mill and to plat a village called Vicksburgh. That same year Clark Briggs and John Noyes opened a store in the small community. In 1837 a blacksmith shop and hotel moved into town. John Vickers also had a hand in improving the village during this period, as he helped to construct Vicksburgh's first school and expanded his milling operations to include a sawmill. He died on 1 July 1843, so he did not live long enough to see the little plat that he established grow into a bustling village.

Between 1849 and 1871 Vicksburg suffered an identity crisis when some technicalities of the land ownership system changed the name of the village to Brady. The new name never stuck, and finally in 1871, the County Board of Supervisors agreed with a petition by the residents to incorporate the village under the name of Vicksburg, by which it has been known ever since.