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The City of Niles, Michigan is in the southwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, only a few miles north of the Indiana border.

The St. Joseph River flows mostly north through the city, at the site of the former French Fort St. Joseph, which was built in 1697 to protect the Jesuit Mission that was established in 1691. After 1761, the fort was in the possession of the British until it was captured by Native American forces during Pontiac's Rebellion. Although the British later retook the fort, it was not re-garrisoned but served as a trading post. During the American Revolution, the fort was held by the Spanish for a short while.

Niles is primarily in Berrien County, although a small section extends east into Cass County. McKinzie Creek flows through the northern section of the city in Cass County.

Niles is surrounded by Niles, Howard, and Bertrand townships.

Michigan cities and villages within twenty miles of Niles include Buchanan, Berrien Springs, Edwardsburg, Eau Claire, Galien, Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Baroda, Three Oaks, and Vandalia, while Indiana cities and towns within twenty miles include Roseland, South Bend, Portage, Mishawaka, and Osceola. The unincorporated communities of Bertrand, Michigan, and Notre Dame and Indian Village, in Indiana, are within ten miles.

The Niles area has been inhabited for hundreds of years. When Europeans first came to the region, it was inhabited by the Potawatomi people.

French Jesuit missionaries came to the region in 1684 to establish a mission to the Potawatomi, and Fort St. Joseph was built along the banks of the St. Joseph River to provide security to the mission in 1691. The Jesuit, Claude Aveneau, is acknowledged as the founder of this early mission. He was given a land grant by Governor Jacques Denonville of New France, at Quebec, in 1694. The St. Joseph and Pokagon bands of Potawatomi soon became largely Catholic and acculturated. As a result, the Pokagon were protected from removal by treaty and were permitted to remain after other Native American tribes were removed by the United States government. However, they were refused tribal status under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and were only able to gain federal recognition in 1994, although most of their members are scattered throughout southern Michigan and northern Indiana.

The area that makes up Niles was occupied at various times by Spain, France, England, and the United States. Thus, it comes by its designation as the City of Four Flags.

The Niles area was a trading area and the passageway for pioneers traveling west, but permanent settlement began in 1828 when Eli P. Bunnell and Abram Tietsort came from Ohio to build cabins near the river. That same year, they sold out to Samuel B. Walling and Obed P. Lacey, who remained.

A post office was established on December 4, 1828, as Carey, as the office was situated next to the Carey Mission. Samuel B. Walling was the first postmaster. However, on February 27, 1829, the name of the post office was changed to Pogwatigue, which was Potawatomi for "running water."

Mr. Lacey platted the townsite and recorded it as Niles in 1829, naming it for Hezekiah Niles, publisher of the Niles Register, a Whig newspaper based in Baltimore. Niles was incorporated as a village in 1835, although the post office did not adopt the name until August 21, 1841, with Joseph G. Larimore as postmaster. Niles became a city in 1859.

Today, the city's history is significant to its identity. As one of the oldest communities in Michigan, the city includes fourteen historic landmarks listed on the State or National registers of historic places, and nineteen buildings and sites recognized as historically significant by the County.

Additionally, the river provides for recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat, given that much of the city's open spaces follow the course of the river.

Commercial areas in Niles are concentrated in the downtown district and along Main Street. Its downtown district largely consists of the traditional small-town commercial buildings, of two or three stories, with retail stores downstairs and either office or residential space on the upper floors.

Rail services to Niles are currently provided by Norfolk-Southern, for both freight and Amtrak, and by South Shore Railroad for passenger service. Still in the planning stages, there is also a proposed high-speed rail connection to Chicago

K-12 education in Niles is provided by Niles Community Schools, Brandywine Community Schools, and the Berrien RESA, as well as some private and parochial schools. Two junior college campuses are in Niles, Lake Michigan College and Southwestern Michigan College.

The focus of this portion of our guide is on the city of Niles, Michigan, as well as local businesses, industries, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, and events.


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