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One summer afternoon, Colonel Fowler said to Chief Baw Beese as they looked out over the water, “No longer shall this lake be called by its Indian name. Hence­forth, it shall be known as Baw Beese Lake, in honor of the chief who has been a true and loyal friend to the white man – in your honor – and your memory shall be kept alive forever by all cit­izens of Hillsdale County.”

The tribe of the Pot­tawatomies was friendly and fierce – though known by the set­tlers to be more of the former trait than the latter. They roamed through the valleys of the St. Joseph, Kala­mazoo, and other streams that flowed into Lake Michigan, camping near Som­erset and Lake Baw Beese. Tribes would often travel along the Sauk Trail, which is the U.S. Route 12 today and carries traffic across the state. For­merly, it was a rough, worn trail used by tribes, trappers and traders, and explorers such as Frenchman Robert LaSalle.

In 1827, Hillsdale County’s first set­tlers arrived, lead by Captain Moses Allen, a veteran of the War of 1812 and one who helped survey Chicago Road – another name for U.S. Route 12. A year later, Benaiah Jones settled five miles from the Allens. Chief Baw Beese and the Pot­tawatomies helped the set­tlers gather sup­plies and food, espe­cially to survive for the harsh winter. Also, once the set­tlers opened the first county school, Chief Baw Beese sent his son to be one of the pupils.

 The set­tlers and Indians received the 1837 federal mandate that required the Pot­tawatomies to move west. It wasn’t until troops enforced the law in 1840 that the tribe left — school was dis­missed for the day so they could said goodbye.

 A diary entry written years later by Moses Allen’s grand­daughter says that members of the Pot­tawatomies bore the body of Chief Baw Beese back to bury him with his ancestors near the lake that was later renamed after him.