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Vandalia, Michigan is situated along M-60, in Penn Township, Cass County, in the southern Lower Peninsula, about ten miles from the Indiana border.

M-60 intersects Paradise Lake Road (Main Street) in the center of town. White Temple Road forms the eastern border of the village.

Michigan cities and villages within twenty-five miles of Vandalia include Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Marcellus, Constantine, Edwardsburg, Three Rivers, Decatur, White Pigeon, Niles, Centreville, Lawton, Berrien Springs, and Eau Claire, while the unincorporated communities of Brownsville, Wakelee, Calvin Center, Jones, Volina, and Dailey are within ten miles, and the Indiana localities of Granger, Elkhart, and Dunlap are within twenty-five miles.

Christiana Creek flows through the Vandalia, and Lake Paradise is south of the village, while Donnell Lake and Lewis Lake are southeast of the village limits, and Belas Lake and Kirk Lake are to the northeast.

Vandalia has never been a large town. It first appeared on a census roll in 1880 with a population of 439, and its population was 318 at the time of the 2020 census. Its peak population was 447 in 1980, and its lowest population was 301 in 2010.

Despite its small size, Vandalia has a rich history.

Like many Michigan communities, its early history was closely connected to the railroad. Stephen Bogue and Charles P. Ball came to the area in the late 1840s and built a grist mill. In 1851, they arranged to have the village platted.

A post office was established on July 8, 1850, with Theron J. Wilcox as the first postmaster. Another early settler was Abraham Sigerfoos, a blacksmith who set up shop there. Soon afterward, Asa Kingsbury opened a general store. The Michigan Central Railroad opened a depot in the village in 1871, and Vandalia was incorporated as a village in 1875. The village was named for Vandalia, New York.

It wasn't long before the village had, not only a grist mill, but a sawmill, a handle factory, and a foundry, as well as a school, a hotel, and a bank. Agriculture was also an active industry in the area, and Vandalia shipped hogs, cattle, poultry, wheat, and apples by rail.

Very early in the history of the community, and decades before the Michigan Central Railroad came to Vandalia, the area hosted another kind of railroad. The Underground Railroad was active in Cass County, with a couple of lines running through. The Illinois Line, which came north from the St. Louis area, and the Quaker line, from Kentucky, crossed near the area of Vandalia.

It was more than just a junction, however. A group of Quakers who lived in the area was active in the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves either make their way to Canada or start a new life in Michigan. Some of them settled in the Vandalia area, where they were protected by Quakers, other abolitionists, and free black people.

Because of this, Vandalia became the site of what became known as the Kentucky Raid into Cass County. Months before the actual raid, Kentucky slaveholders from Boone and Kenton County sent a spy to Cass County. Posing as an abolitionist newspaper reporter, the spy, going under the name of Carpenter, was able to learn which cabins and farms were housing fugitive slaves.

After getting the information needed, Carpenter returned to Kentucky to relay that information to the slaveholders, who organized a raid into the area, keeping in mind that the Fugitive Slave Act prohibited even people in free states from harboring fugitive slaves.

Although no one was killed during the raid, it was not without violence, and nine African-Americans were captured. Due to resistance from local people, particularly Josiah Osborn, the son of the Rev. Charles Osborn, and a group of about a hundred local people, black and white, from neighboring farms, the Kentucky group was persuaded to let a Cass County Court decide the matter.

In the Cass County courtroom, the Kentuckians did not prevail. The nine fugitive slaves who had been captured were released and, along with thirty-four others, left Cass County, as the Kentuckians were appealing the case, and some of those assisting them were prosecuted.

By the time the second trial took place in the US Circuit Court in Detroit, the Fugitive Slave Law had been strengthened, and the Kentuckians prevailed against the Cass County abolitionists, but the fugitive slaves were not recaptured.

Much later, on September 2, 2001, there was a standoff between the owners of Rainbow Farm, just east of Vandalia, who had hosted two annual festivals promoting the legalization of marijuana from 1996 to 2001. When they failed to appear in court, there was a standoff at the farm, which led to the deaths of the owners, Tom Crosslin and Rolland Rohm.

The focus of this portion of our guide is on the small village of Vandalia, Michigan. Online resources relating to the village are appropriate here.



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