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Situated at the geographic center of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, the City of Saint Louis is in Gratiot County. It is adjacent to Alma, to the southwest.

The Pine River flows through much of the city. US-127 passes through the southwestern corner of St. Louis, while M-46 (Monroe Road, Washington Street) runs east-west through the city center.

Besides Alma, other cities and villages within twenty-five miles of St. Louis include Ithaca, Breckenridge, Shepherd, Merrill, Mt. Pleasant, Perrinton, Ashley, Edmore, and Maple Rapids, while the unincorporated communities of Forest Hill, Beebe, Pleasant Valley, Coe, and Eugene are within ten miles.

The area of Gratiot County was inhabited for thousands of years before the Europeans came. When the French came through the area in the 18th century, the Ojibwe were the dominant people. The French traded for furs with the Ojibwe.

Following the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the French ceded its claims to the New France territory to the English, who continued the fur trade at Sault Ste. Marie. The territory changed hands again after the American Revolution, when it was ceded to the newly created United States government.

However, the area was sparsely settled by European-Americans until the mid-19th century. Lutheran missionaries established Bethany Lutheran Mission in 1848, reaching out to the Ojibwe, who were also known as the Chippewa. Bethany Lutheran Mission still stands near the Main Street Bridge, across from the Pine River.

Joseph W. Clapp came to the region following Native American trails, and he is acknowledged as the founder of Saint Louis. Along with Dr. Abram M. Crawford, Mr. Clapp employed L.D. Preston to plat the village in 1855, naming it Pine River. A post office was established at Pine River on November 16, 1855, with Mr. Clapp as postmaster.

Edward T. Cheesman and Gilbert E. Pratt platted an adjacent plot of land as Saint Louis in 1859, and the two villages were consolidated as Saint Louis in 1865. Saint Louis was incorporated as a village in 1868, and became a city in 1891.

The entire Gratiot County region was slow to develop because much of it was swamp land. Settling in the higher places, the soil was sandy and unproductive. Those who didn't get discouraged and leave eventually drained the wetlands, creating some of the richest agricultural lands in the state. Even today, cash crop farming is a significant business in the county, primarily growing corn, soybeans, dry beans, sugar beets, and wheat, although there are quite a few beef and dairy farms, as well.

During the late 19th century, local mineral springs brought people to the area for the perceived health benefits of the mineral-rich water.

Saint Louis is also the site of the former Michigan Chemical Corporation plant, whose main product was DDT. Following its purchase by Velsicol Chemical Corporation, the plant was responsible for a serious product mixup in the 1970s that results in cattle feed being contaminated with PBB, a flame retardant, which was then distributed throughout Michigan and the Midwest. A long-term dredging project is underway to remove contaminants from the Pine River, which flows alongside the property where the plant was located.

The city reached its peak population of 7,482 after an explosion of growth between 1990 and 2010, largely due to its prison population. The city is home to the St. Louis Correctional Facility, Central Michigan Correctional Facility, and the State of Michigan Pine River Correctional Facility, which are the primary employers in St. Louis, followed by St. Louis Public Schools and Schnepp Health Care Center.

The St. Louis Police Department provides law enforcement and police protection within the city, while the Mid-Michigan Community Fire Department provides fire protection and medical first response services to the city, all of Jasper Township, and parts of Bethany and Pine River Townships.

Parks and recreation areas in St. Louis include Clapp Memorial Park, Penny Park, Lions Park, Lincoln Street Park, Leppien Park, Barnum River Park, Magic Square, W.T. Morris Memorial Swimming Pool, and School Woods Property.

This portion of our guide is focused on the City of Saint Louis, Michigan. Topics related to the municipal or county governments, any other governmental entities located within the city, and local businesses, industries, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, events, entertainment venues, and recreational facilities, are appropriate topics for this category.


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