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Michigan Center, Michigan is in Leoni Township, on the eastern border of the city of Jackson, in Jackson County.

As an unincorporated community, Michigan Center doesn't have legally established boundaries but, as a census-designated place (CDP), boundaries have been established for the purpose of the census.

The historic community is situated on the North Branch of the Grand River, and on the northern shores of Michigan Center Lake. Ballard Creek empties into the river within the CDP's boundaries, and Round Lake is fully within the CDP. Goat Island, just off the shore on Michigan Center Lake, is considered to be within the borders of the CDP.

Round Lake is a 155-acre body of water in the south-central portion of the CDP. There is a public access site on the south side of the lake, which also includes a public beach. Michigan Center Lake is a 730-acre body of water is one of seven lakes within the Michigan Center Chain of Lakes, which include Center Lake, Round Lake, Price Lake, Olcott Lake, Dollar Lake, Big Wolf Lake, and Little Wolf Lake, each connected by waterways.

The chief route through to and from Michigan Center is US-127, which forms a small portion of the CDP's western boundary. Other routes include Ballard Road, Hoyer Road, Lee Road, Napoleon Road, South Sutton Road, East South Street, and East Michigan Avenue.

Besides Jackson, other incorporated cities and villages within twenty miles of Michigan Center include Grass Lake, Brooklyn, Cement City, Parma, Concord, Manchester, Addison, and Onsted, while the unincorporated communities of Ackerson, Leoni, Vandercook Lake, and Napoleon are within ten miles.

When Jackson County was surveyed in 1829, only a few European-Americans were living there. Others had passed through on their way west, but the area east of Jackson was largely swampy, wooded, and wild. A few subsistence farmers were there, but that was about it.

Joab Page built a sawmill in 1831, and a flour mill and a store were opened by Ira Kellogg and H. Palmer, respectively, in 1833. At that time, Centre and Leoni were considered one fledgling town, so it's hard to say exactly where these businesses were.

Michigan Centre was platted and recorded by Abel F. Fitch and Paul Ring in 1837, and Mr. Fitch became the first postmaster on February 1, 1838. Despite the Centre's platting, Native Americans still inhabited or passed through the area. A historical record has it that William Filley, a five-year-old white boy, was taken by Native Americans in 1837, and remained with them for twenty-nine years before being reunited with his father in Jackson. He later documented his experiences in a book.

By 1845, many believed that Michigan Centre would be designated the Jackson County Seat. To that end, Amos Root, Henry C. Orendorff, and Ethan Rice opened mercantile businesses in the Centre. A cider mill, apple jelly factory, and a pump factory were also opened. In the end, Jackson was chosen as the county seat.

The Michigan Central Railroad reached Jackson in December of 1841, establishing a depot there rather than in Michigan Centre. This may have formed the basis for negative feelings toward the railroad, although the prominent issues had to do with area farmers losing cattle to the trains. When the MCRR refused to reimburse them for cattle that were killed by the trains, local residents organized to sabotage the trains on their runs between Michigan Centre and Leoni and, in 1850, approximately fifty leading members of the community were arrested on charges that included arson on MCRR's Detroit freight depot. On September 25, 1851, twelve men were convicted of arson. Most were later pardoned by Governor Kinsley S. Bingham, and the railroad offered reimbursements for damages. This incident became known variously as the Great Railroad War or the Great Railroad Conspiracy Case.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Centre community was growing. Schools and churches were built and improved upon, and new businesses and industries were opening. In the 1880s, the MCRR opened a station and ticket office in Michigan Center, as it was around that time that the Americanized spelling of Center versus Centre came into vogue.

The Michigan Center post office, which had originally opened in 1838, was closed on November 12, 1856, and then reopened and closed several times, particularly during the period of the American Civil War, but has remained open since 1908.

Today, Michigan Center is largely a bedroom community for people who work in Jackson, although it does include several commercial and service businesses, as well as light industries, particularly along Page Avenue, which connects with Jackson. Michigan Center Schools offers a PK-12th-grade public school curriculum through two elementary schools and a combined junior/senior high school.



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