Aviva Directory » Local & Global » North America » United States » States » Michigan » Cities & Towns » Coloma

The small city of Coloma, Michigan is in lower central Coloma Township, in upper Berrien County, in the southwestern Lower Peninsula. The city is southwest of Paw Paw Lake and Little Paw Paw Lake, and its northern boundary is formed by the Paw Paw River.

I-94 passes by just south of the city limits, almost touching the city in the southeast. Passing through the city center is Coloma Road, which becomes Center Street within the city, and connects with Red Arrow Highway as it leaves the city in the east. Red Arrow Highway enters the city in the southwest, running diagonally in a northeastern direction to Red Arrow Highway, then turns east to connect Coloma with Watervliet. Friday Road enters the city in the south, then becomes Church Street, which leads north to Center Street, then continues north as Paw Paw Street. Paw Paw Street veers northeast and exits the city as Paw Paw Lake Road. Other routes include Delfield Road, Ryno Road, and Wilson Road.

Watervliet is 2.4 miles east of Coloma, Hartford is 9.6 miles east-northeast, Benton Harbor is 10.1 miles southwest, and St. Joseph is 11.7 miles to the southwest.

Before the city became Coloma, the community was known as Shingle Diggins and Dickerville.

The first European-American settlers to come to the area were the Job Davis family, who came from Cass Cass County in 1832, buying a hundred and fifty acres intending to produce shingles, floating them to market in St. Joseph via the Paw Paw River. However, his wife died the first year, and Davis sold out to Griffith, Hoyt, and Hatch, a St. Joseph company.

Davis had dug a mill put and cut timber for the mill frame, so the new owners needed to construct a canal connecting the Paw Paw River and Paw Paw Lake, west of where the Paw Paw Lake Golf Course now is. They had the land surveyed and laid out a town near the mill, which they intended to name Griffith. They then advertised for a shingle maker.

Stephen R. Gilson, a shingle maker from New York, answered the ad in late 1833, and spent the rest of his life at it. The community that grew up around the shingle operations became known as Shingle Diggings. By 1837, when Michigan became a state, Shingle Diggings included several families and a log schoolhouse that doubled as a church. The supply of suitable timber for shingles was soon depleted, and the operation closed in 1838.

In 1836, Moses Osgood had come from New York, buying land west of the current site of Coloma, where he planted a fruit orchard. His brother, Gilson Osgood, came to the area in 1841, operating a tannery on a stream that became known as Tannery Creek, and opened a store on what is now South Paw Paw Street, near St. Joseph Street.

By the 1840s, some of those who had settled Shingle Diggings had moved west, across the river., near the Osgoods. Because they had very little money, they would dicker for what they needed at the store. There was so much of that going on that the settlement became known as Dickerville, which became a stagecoach stop along the route from Detroit to St. Joseph.

In 1850, Stephen R. Gilson and his son, Warren, along with some others, headed out from Dickerville to make their fortunes in the California Gold Rush. While on his quest for gold, Gilson stayed in Coloma, California. In 1855, Gilson returned to Dickerville. When a post office was established on August 23, 1856, there was some concern that Dickerville wasn't a good name for a town that was going to have a post office. Gilson suggested changing the name to Coloma, and that was accepted. Dr. Henry M. Marvin was named the first postmaster of Coloma.

The Chicago and West Michigan Railroad extended its tracks to Coloma in 1871, which prompted many of Coloma's businesses to move to be nearer the railroad tracks. By the 1880s, the current downtown district was established along Paw Paw Street. The railroad also brought new businesses, including a basket and ladder factory, a pickle plant, and a canning company. The railroad also brought people from Chicago who summered along Paw Paw Lake.

Coloma was incorporated as a village in 1893, and Coloma had become so popular as a summer resort area by 1895 that hotels and pavilions were built all along the lake, and steamboats circled the lake on a regular schedule. A steamboat captain built a railroad from Coloma to his boat dock on the lake, and an Electric Interurban Train was built to bring passengers to Coloma. Coloma was incorporated as a city in 1941.

Except for a slight decline in the 1920 census, Coloma's population grew until 1990, but has been declining slightly each decade since.

The focal point of this guide is on the City of Coloma, Michigan. Topics relating to the city or any individuals, businesses, industries, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, or events within the city.


Faith & Spirituality



Recommended Resources

Search for Coloma on Google or Bing