From Rural Farming to Midcentury Growth
Texas Charter Township was established in 1838, eight years after pioneer settlement had begun. Originally part of Brady Township, its name likely derives from the national attention the state of Texas was receiving in the late 1830s. Located in the southwestern portion of Kalamazoo County, the township borders the city of Portage to the east, Oshtemo Township to the north and Prairie Ronde Township to the south. The township’s topography includes broad plains, low range hills and a fair number lakes, including Crooked, Eagle, Pretty, Pine, Paw Paw, Weed’s, Atwater Mill Pond, Mud, Bass, and Duck.
The landscape has always been ideal for agricultural pursuits and rural living, and so while other portions of the county advanced toward industrial development, Texas Township remained relatively aloof, and meagerly populated throughout the 19th century. Whereas most of the county grew, Texas Township’s highest population total was 1084 (1874 Michigan Census). In 1904, only 770 residents called the township home. It wasn’t until well into the 20th century, when more advanced commercial and real estate development began to take place.
The township has two cemeteries–
Hope Cemetery, located on the east side of 8th street, about halfway between West Q Avenue and West R Avenue. And the Virgo Cemetery which is situated at the southeast corner of VanKal Street and RS Avenue. Early Families
1873 Texas Township Plat Atlas
Bazel Harrison and his family settled in nearby Prairie Ronde Township, settlers and speculators began to purchase land throughout the township, registering their properties with the U.S. Land Office in White Pigeon. Early pioneers included William Bishop, Thomas and Allen McLin, William Harris, Samuel O. Wells, Justin Halstead, Isaac Gage, and Ambrose Fitzgerald. As was true of much of the settlement of Kalamazoo County in the first half of the 19th century, a majority of these men and women came westward from the state of New York.
After Brady Township was broken into smaller governing townships, it would be Samuel O. Wells who would become the township’s inaugural supervisor, voted to office in 1838 inside the log cabin home of Albert G. Towers. Along with the supervisor position, other township roles were filled including Assessor, School Inspector, Treasurer, Director of the Poor, Highway Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, and Clerk. Outside of the appointments, an agreement was drawn up “on regulations to restrict the roaming of domestic livestock” as well as “established bounties for killing wolves and foxes.”
Over the coming years, growth was unhurried yet steady. By 1844, there were 59 registered tax payers in the township. A saw mill was erected by Isaac and William Chester Gibbs in 1834 near the outlet of Mill Pond Lake. Several years later, Gibbs sold the mill to Edrick Atwater, the lake’s current namesake (Atwater Mill Pond). Unlike other parts of the county after the Civil War, the move toward industrial manufacturing failed to catch on in the township.
Residential Plats (a sampling)
Rix Plat (vacated), 51 lots, 1914
Pleasant Grove Park, 32 lots, 1915
Pretty Lake Heights, 30 lots, 1934
Bright’s Park, 37 lots, 1948
Crooked Lake Heights, 13 lots, 1948
Belle-Lac, 17 lots, 1949
Mack Plat, 13 lots, 1954
Birchwood Hills, 51 lots, 1957
Heritage Estates, 54 lots, 1963
Colony Woods #1, 38 lots, 1966
Kelly Meadows, 25 lots, 1975
Eagle Lake Terrace, 10 lots, 1976
Chadeau Estates, 21 lots, 1978
Bay Ridge, 40 lots, 1994
Applegate Farms, 39 lots, 1995
Not surprisingly, many of the first subdivisions registered took root around lakes. But even after 1914, wide swaths of the township remained the property of individuals or families.
The commercial hub of the township has always been at the intersection of Q Avenue, Texas Drive and 8th Street. Dubbed Texas Corners for some time now, the setting was once referred to as Parsons Corners, a reference to a farmer named Nelson Parsons, who resided on the land in the late 1800s. Over the past 70 years, the corners have been occupied by a post office, grocery store (Crawford’s, Wolbers), gas stations (Marathon), a convenience store (Hull’s Party Store), a bank (First National Bank and Trust), and a hardware store (Texas Corners Hardware). The current township hall that lies just west of the ‘corners’ was built in 1967, and featured an adjoining fire station when opened.
Wolbers Grocery Store, 1982. Photo courtesy Wendy Kooyers VanderVeen Township Schools and Church
Texas Township District No. 4 School, c.1880. Collection of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum
For more information about the rural ‘district’ schools situated in Texas Township, click
here. Texas Township has never had an organized school system or public library of its own, a choice that has led to lower property tax rates than neighboring communities. According to the 1880 History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, it is likely that the township’s rural schools had been established and financed around 1840. Eventually, with the increase in population during the 20th century, township children attended schools in the Portage, Mattawan and Schoolcraft districts.
Teachers who taught in these pre-Civil War years included: Lucinda Mattice, Jane Benedict, Isaac Stuart, Juliana Douglass, Mary Allen, Julia Hills, Thomas Fitzsimmons, S.W. Deming, Angeline Russell, Fanny Beckley, Adeline McCrary, Miss H. Hunt, and Celina Reese.
In 1900, the First Congregational Church of Texas was built in 1900 near the southern end of Texas Drive. In 1971, the church changed its name to the Texas Corners Bible Church. The building also served as township headquarters. As of 2023, a brewery and wine-tasting establishment now calls the one-time church home.
Highway Arteries and Suburban Growth
Most of the township’s population growth has occurred after 1960, when the 9th Street interchange with Interstate 94 made it easier for city dwellers to access and explore the pastoral township. The township’s close proximity to both I-94 and U.S. 131 likely contributed to the township’s suburban growth, beginning in the 1960s. By 1980, platted subdivisions dotted the eastern border with Portage, including Rudgate in the Woods, Colony Woods and Chadeau Estates. The attractiveness of Portage Public Schools undoubtedly was a motivating factor for those middle and high income families choosing to make the 15-20 minute commute into the more commercially developed cities of Kalamazoo and Portage.
Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Established in 1966 and opened two years later, the Texas Township campus of
Kalamazoo Valley Community College was another vehicle in bringing attention to the township and its rural character and affordable housing market. In the early 1960s, local educational stakeholders grew increasingly concerned with both the accessibility of higher education, and the ever expanding impact of post-industrial automation and new technologies on job markets. Educational leaders throughout the county investigated possible solutions to the “lack of vocation/technical training opportunities in the area…and the rising entrance standards in institutions of higher education…”
The Kalamazoo County Superintendents’ Association completes a “Survey of Vocational Education and Practical Arts Facilities and Programs in Kalamazoo County;” the report recommends serious consideration of some type of county-wide post high school program that would include programs for low competency students.
–KVCC Time Line by Jan Alm (2013)
Designed by celebrated modernist architect
Alden B. Dow, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, KVCC has provided educational and training opportunities to tens of thousands of students, many of whom were drawn to the campus from the nearby cities of Kalamazoo and Portage.
The 741-acre Al Sabo Land Preserve stretches around the campus. Named for the longtime manager of the Kalamazoo Water Utility Department in 1972, the wooded area adjacent to KVCC’s campus facilities has been a popular getaway for naturalists. Begun in 1921, Camp Rota-Kiwan’s facilities along 8th Street provided young people with camping activities. This too was a primary focus for Kalamazoo philanthropist
Edward Desenberg and his Pretty Lake Camp services, a tradition that has served over 50,000 children since 1916.
Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, December 2023