Hillsdale’s beloved Lake Baw Beese derived its name from Potawatomi Indian chieftain Baw Beese, whose tribe of about 150 members settled on the banks of the lake sometime in the first quarter of the 19th century. While Baw Beese and his tribe roamed as whim, game, and season led them, present-day Hillsdale County and the lakeshore held their burial grounds, maize fields, and semi-permanent housing.
The Hillsdale County Community Center’s History Index, based upon the account of the Hillsdale Centennial book of 1969, reports that Baw Beese disregarded the 1816 Treaty of Chicago granting Hillsdale County, among other tracts, to the young United States and considered the area to be his sovereign territory. Baw Beese went so far as to demand tribute, as fee for rental of the property used by American citizens, from the government.
However, in 1840 the federal government expelled Baw Beese band from his lake and territory on the authority of the Indian Removal Act. Baw Beese died circa 1850.