North Berrien Historical Museum
Native Americans including the Potawatomi have long resided in what is now North Berrien County, Michigan. In 1834 a settlement called “Shingle Diggins” was established on the Paw Paw River. Saw and grist mills, basket and canning factories, and the Chicago-Grand Rapids railroad soon prompted the growth of Coloma, Watervliet, and Riverside. The Watervliet Paper Mill operated for a century, employing hundreds of workers at its peak. Farmers planted orchards on the rolling hills near Lake Michigan, which moderates the temperature to create a climate perfect for growing fruit. Paw Paw Lake, the region’s largest inland lake, became a legendary resort area featuring dance halls, hotels, and its own train and steamboat services. The automobile era led to the development of Lake Michigan Beach, which also began as a resort community.
Exhibits at the North Berrien Historical Museum cover 10,000 years of human history, from archaeology to modern technology. The main gallery features Native Americans, lake resorts, rural schools, resident life, and businesses including the Paper Mill. The Nichols Agricultural Building holds farm equipment, lumbering tools, and transportation displays. Highlights include a 1934 Parrett Tractor and a 1929 Ford Model A Pickup, both used by local fruit farmers. Our Print Shop contains the original newspaper linotype and other printing artifacts from the Watervliet Record. The Carter House (c.1860) tells the story of the museum property and holds events throughout the year. Temporary and traveling exhibits also feature a wide range of topics in local and national history.
Educational Programs compliment our exhibits with engaging and interactive lessons about history. Popular children’s programs include Spring Break activity day, Summer Time Travelers, and holiday-themed crafts. Our Traveling Trunks, Slide Presentations, and Walking Tours are adaptable for all ages. Group tours of the museum are always welcome!
No cost to tour museum buildings, but donations are welcome.