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The city of Marshall, Michigan is in central Calhoun County, spanning Marshall, Fredonia, Eckford, and Marengo townships, and serves as the county seat.

The main routes to and from the city are I-69, which touches its western boundaries, and I-94, which forms portions of its northern boundary. M-227 (17 Mile Road) runs north-south through the center of the city, ending at Business-94 near the downtown district. Other routes include 16 Mile Road, 16 1/2 Mile Road, 17 1/2 Mile Road, 18 1/2 Mile Road, Division Drive, Homer Road, Old US Highway 27, and Verona Road.

Cities and villages within twenty miles of Marshall include Albion, Tekonsha, Olivet, Homer, Burlington, Battle Creek, Bellevue, Parma, and Springfield.

The Kalamazoo River, Rice Creek, and Talmadge Creek flow through the city, and the southeastern portion of the city is abutted by Stuart Lake and Upper Brace Lake.

Although the freeways connect Marshall to Lansing, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, and Grand Rapids, the surrounding county is largely rural and agricultural.

The city's Downtown District is primarily commercial, centered on its historic main street, with specialty shops and restaurants, as well as other retail venues, municipal offices, and Oaklawn Hospital campus. Several of its commercial buildings include upper-floor residences, and there are single-family homes surrounding the business district. Marshall's River District is anchored by the Dark Horse Brewery compound, with vacant land available for agricultural uses.

Apart from its mixed-use districts, the city has several commercial areas, most of which are auto-oriented, including West Michigan, Old 27, and East Michigan.

A significant portion of the city's land area is zoned for industrial use, including vacant land. Brooks Industrial Park occupies much of the southern part of the city, and hosts some of its largest employers, as well as Brooks Field, a small airport. Other industrial areas are concentrated in the area south of the West Michigan neighborhood, between the railroad and the Kalamazoo River.

Marshall's residential areas include traditional neighborhoods, suburban neighborhoods, and multi-family neighborhoods.

Marshall is known for its 19th and early 20th-century architecture, in particular the Marshall Historic District, one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the country, including more than 850 buildings, including the Honolulu House. Built with a tropical theme in 1860 by Abner Pratt, a Marshall judge who became the US Consul to the Hawaiian Islands, the structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic American Building Survey. It now serves as a museum, but without Pratt's Polynesian souvenirs and furnishings.

Marshall also includes a governor's mansion that never housed a governor. In 1840, Marshall was a strong contender to replace Detroit as the state capital. Senator James Wright Gordon built a governor's mansion and platted Capitol Square, with lots sold at high prices, in anticipation of the city being named the state capital. However, Lansing was chosen.

Housed in the historic Schragg Marshall post office, the second-largest Postal Service museum is in Marshall.

Marshall was founded by Sidney Ketchum, who came to the area from upstate New York in 1830 with his brother, George Ketchum, acquiring grants for most of the land upon which the city now stands. Knowing that Michigan was soon to become a state, they saw the potential of the area where Rice Creek merged with the Kalamazoo River for shipping and to supply power for mill sites. Sidney and George platted the townsite, naming it for Chief Justice George Marshall.

In 1843, Adam Crosswhite, a Kentucky slave whose father was white, escaped with his wife, Sarah, and four children, with the assistance of the Underground Railroad, and eventually settled in Marshall. The attempt to secure their return by Francis Giltner, the plantation owner, was thwarted by citizens of Marshall, who engineered their escape into Canada. The resulting legal actions led to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which contributed to the issues surrounding the Civil War. After the war, the Crosswhites returned to Marshall, where Adam Crosswhite lived the remainder of his years.

Other early Marshall residents included the Reverend John D. Pierce and Isaac E. Crary, an attorney who, together, designed the educational system that was later adopted by the state. Pierce became the first state superintendent of public instruction in the country, and Crary became Michigan's first member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Brotherhood of the Footboard, the first railroad labor union in the country, was formed in Marshall in 1863. At that time, Marshall was one of the only stops between Chicago and Detroit. Today, Amtrak provides daily service from Marshall.


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