The Yankee West: Community Life on the Michigan Frontier

By Susan E. Gray | Go to book overview

Introduction. The Yankee West and the "Universal Yankee Nation"

This is the story of three townships on the antebellum southwestern Michigan frontier. Richland, Climax, and Alamo are located in Kalamazoo County and are roughly equidistant from Kalamazoo, formerly Bronson, the county seat. Throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, the economy of the townships was agricultural. None of the villages established in the townships--Gull Corners (later Richland), Climax Corners, and Alamo Center--ever became more than low-level centers for the exchange of goods and services. The townships acquired inhabitants in a manner consistent with their development as farming communities; the population of each grew from a few hundred souls in the 1830s, the first decade of settlement, to roughly 2,000 individuals by 1880, then stabilized. One could write the early history of Richland, Climax, and Alamo as the mundane march of the farm boy who collects the herd in the back forty and drives it resolutely toward the barn and not be far from the mark, except for two considerations: the circumstances under which the townships were settled were by no means mundane, and the settlers saw themselves as anything but plodders.

Richland, Climax, and Alamo are located near the heart of a culture region known in the late nineteenth century as "Greater New England," more recently as "Yankeeland," and in this work as the "Yankee West." In the nineteenth century, this region extended west from New England along

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