Cass County Museums
James E. Bonine House
Vandalia was a major hub on the Underground Railroad. It’s claimed that over 1500 fugitive slaves (now called freedom seekers) were helped to freedom in Canada by Quakers and free blacks living in Penn, Calvin and Porter townships. The Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 2009 with the mission of telling the story of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) in Cass County, and the goal of restoring the historic James E. Bonine House and Carriage House in Vandalia to act as focal points for researching and telling the story. The best way to get an overview of the UGRR in Cass County is to visit the website of URSCC at https://www.urscc.org. Another hands-on way is to take the 14-site self-guided Driving Tour of Underground Railroad sites around Vandalia. You can obtain a tour map at the historic marker in Milo Barnes Park in Vandalia, the first stop. The tour takes about an hour, the map also includes brief histories of the UGRR in Cass County and the 1847 Kentucky Raid. https://www.urscc.org/driving-tour Annual events sponsored by URSCC are:
- Cass County UGRR Wax Museum (late May/early June) – Sam Adams Elementary School students portray local, state and national characters of the UGRR, staged in the Bonine House. www.urscc.org/waxmuseum
- Underground Railroad Days (2nd weekend in July) – URSCC partners with the Village of Vandalia to celebrate the legacy of the UGRR in the area. Underground Railroad Days
- Christmas at the Bonine House (1st or 2nd weekend in December. Please check web page below.) – The Bonine House is dressed up for the holidays! Fun for the entire family. www.urscc.org/christmasattheboninehouse
Significance: Cass County Underground Railroad Notables Source: Information taken from the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, Michigan website at Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, Michigan. Location: 18970 M-60, Vandalia, MI 49031 – Directions
Cass County Pioneer Log Cabin Museum
The Cass County Pioneer Log Cabin Museum was constructed in 1923 on beautiful Stone Lake with logs and money donated by the Pioneer Historical Society of Cass County. Visitors can come here to see and learn about Indian artifacts from the area and what the lives of early Cass County settlers were like. There are several well-attended events held at the museum from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The museum is also open for special events like Cassopolis Fall Festival and the Cassopolis Christmas tree lighting. Admission is free but ongoing support is provided by donations from visitors, the museum gift shop, the Cassopolis, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and local government. For anyone interested, they have monthly organizational meetings at the Cass District Library (Silver room) at 6:30 PM, on the third Thursday of the month. Admission: There is no charge for museum admission, but donations are greatly appreciated. Hours: The museum is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from noon – 5 pm, from Memorial Day until Labor Day Location: 400 South Broadway Street, Cassopolis, MI 49031 – Directions Facebook: Cass County Pioneer Log Cabin Museum
Dowagiac Area History Museum
The Dowagiac Area History Museum opened May 13, 2013, in a newly renovated building just off the city’s downtown district. The museum features 4,000 square feet of exhibits highlighting the history of Dowagiac, Cass County, and Sister Lakes. Interactive components make the museum a destination for visitors of all ages. The Dowagiac Area History Museum will educate and inspire residents and visitors about the rich history of the Cass County-Sister Lakes area. The museum will serve as a community cultural center that advances the understanding of local history through exhibits, school tours, and public programming. Admission: There is no charge for museum admission. Some museum programs will charge admission to non-members. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm – Closed on national holidays and holiday weekends Location: 201 E. Division St. Dowagiac, MI 49047 – Directions
Edwardsburg Historical Museum Celebrates 20th Year
The Edwardsburg Historical Museum is an old house that was once a hotel, now the repository of history for the area. Our mission is to provide a collection of historical artifacts from the Edwardsburg Area that tells its history. We offer changing displays of local artifacts along with several oral history programs. A highlight of the fall season is the annual “Witches on the Porch” program for Halloween. The Edwardsburg Area Historical Museum’s 2018 season which opens May 16 will showcase three displays. They are “Our Native American Heritage;” “How Far We Have Come,” a 20th-anniversary celebration that highlights donated artifacts from the museum’s collection, and a Christmas exhibit that will feature a new 10-foot decorated tree in the main gallery. Several speakers, a folk concert, and book signings also are scheduled. Phone: (269) 663-3005 Hours: The museum is open May 7 – December 14, 2018. Regular hours will be: Tuesday through Friday 1 – 4 PM, Saturday 11 AM – 2 PM, Closed on Sunday Events: Edwardsburg Historical Museum 2018 Events Schedule Facebook: Edwardsburg Historical Museum Email: Edwardsburg Historical Museum Location: 26818 W. Main St., Edwardsburg, MI, 49112 – Directions
The Heddon Museum
Located in the former Heddon factory at 414 West St. in Dowagiac MI., the over 3000 sq. ft. Heddon Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the Heddon family’s many contributions to the fishing tackle industry, as well as the city of Dowagiac. The Heddon family’s many activities are chronicled, including James’ beekeeping and weekly newspaper publishing, his son Will’s 1891 parachute jump from a balloon, his second son Charles’s National Amateur Billiard Championship in 1918 and his funding and publishing of the Dowagiac Daily News, which is still being published today. Hours: Every Tuesday evening 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., and the last Sunday afternoon of every month from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. Appointments made anytime by calling Don & Joan Lyons (269) 782-5698. Closed: Christmas, New Year and Thanksgiving Days. Admission: Free Email: Heddon Museum Location: 414 West Street Dowagiac, MI 49047 – Directions
Cass County Local History Library (Carnegie Library)
The Local History Library has a unique and original collection of books and information on the history of the area, with the primary focus being on Cass County. The history branch specializes in genealogy and research. This branch houses the histories of countless families. The records here can shed light on marriages, birth, death … all the important things in life. This library is a piece of Americana from the early twentieth century. The library also maintains a large microfilm collection of local newspapers. Cassopolis Vigilant, 1872-2005 Dowagiac Times, 1888-1910 Dowagiac Republican, 1881—1889 Cass County Republican, 1860—1864 Marcellus News, 1887-1994 Edwardsburg Argus, 1879-1975, 1997, 2004-2005 The National Democrat (pub. at Cassopolis), 1851-1913; The Niles Republican (Niles, MI), 1839-1862 Niles Gazette & Advertiser, 1835-1837 Niles Intelligencer, 1838-1841, 1858-1860 In addition to the collection of microfilmed papers which the local history branch holds, the library holds detailed information on the births, marriages, and deaths of residents. The library is home to several different collections of local books and information on the different communities around the area. The collection of records includes lists of burials at a large number of local cemeteries along with a collection of local funeral home records. Hours: Monday – Thursday: 9 am – 4 pm, Saturday: 10 am – 2 pm Phone: (269) 445-0412 Location: 145 N. Broadway, Cassopolis, MI 49031 – Directions
Marcellus VFW Post #4054 – Military Museum
We invite you to visit our Military Museum where you enter into the Revolutionary War room. Following the Civil War, you travel, room by room, through the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Middle East War. Our Museum has thousands of military items, many of them very rare. there are 30 mannequins dressed in authentic or replica uniforms worn during the various wars. There are over fifteen large, painted murals — the largest, 32 feet long — depicting scenes from the wars.
Museum Curator: Wilber Breseman
Phone: (269) 646-3498
Admission: Free, but donations welcomed to help us continue our work Location: M-40 South Marcellus, MI 49067 – Directions (Plug coordinates into your GPS unit for the fastest most accurate directions. Latitude: 42.020283 Longitude: -85.815601)
Website: Marcellus VFW Post #4054 Military Museum is currently closed.
NEWTON HOUSE MUSEUM
Location: 20689 Marcellus Hwy, Decatur, MI 49045 (but near Marcellus) – Directions
Hours: Historical Society of Cass County opens Newton House to the public on the first Sunday of the month, June, July, August, and September, or by appointment.
Phone: (259) 782-3239
The Newton House Museum is housed in a restored two-story Quaker home of the mid-1800s, one of the area’s oldest dwellings. It allows visitors to view the quality and style of the life lived over 100 years ago. It features a herb garden and one of the last remaining virgin stands of black walnut timberland in the state. The museum is open to the public on the first Sunday of the month, May – December, from 1 pm- 4 pm, or by appointment. While visiting the Newton House Museum you might also want to explore Newton Woods. The George Newton House is a private house located at 20689 Marcellus Highway near Marcellus, Michigan. It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1974 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
It is significant as the home of prominent civic leader George Newton, the son of Cass County pioneer Col. James Newton. James Newton was born in England in 1777 and emigrated as a boy to the United States. His family settled near Morristown, New Jersey; later Newton moved on to Pennsylvania, and then, in 1804, Ohio.
He commanded a regiment of Ohio militia, earning the rank of Colonel, and served in the War of 1812, commanding at times both Fort Black and Fort Meigs. James Newton’s son George Newton was born in 1810 in Preble County, Ohio in 1810. Both George and his father James moved to Cass County in 1830 and settled down to farm. James Newton served as a member of the 1835 Michigan Constitutional Convention, and as a member of the Michigan House in 1837/38 and 1838/39. James Newton died in 1844. George Newton married Esther Green in 1837; the couple had two children. He followed his father into public service and was elected to multiple local offices. In addition, he served as a member of the Michigan House in 1858/59. In 1865, Newton commissioned architect Christian G. Haefner to design this house. George Newton died in 1883. In 1931, Fred Russ purchased the house and the surrounding 580-acre parcel of timberland. In 1942, he gifted the land to Michigan State University. The University Forestry School used it as the Fred Russ Experimental Forest. The house was restored by the Cass County Historical Commission. As of 2013, the house operated as a public museum, the Newton House Museum.