The Mitchell Research Center. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

Hillsdale County res­i­dents learned about the lives of former Hills­dalians during walk-throughs of his­torical downtown. 

The Hillsdale County His­torical Society hosted walks to cel­e­brate the 150 year anniversary of Hillsdale’s founding 1869. The walk touched on a variety of ele­ments of Hillsdale’s early history including various struc­tural fires and Hillsdale’s very own opera house. 

The Hillsdale County His­torical Society’s JoAnne Miller led the his­torical walks on three sep­arate occa­sions. The idea for the walk came from a his­torical society board meeting. Miller and fellow board members wanted to do some­thing to cel­e­brate the sesqui­cen­tennial. 

The walks began with a brief, intro­ductory pow­er­point pre­sen­tation at the Mitchell Research Center. During the pow­er­point, Miller explained that Hillsdale’s history really started with the Erie Canal.

“I feel that it’s really important to start with the Erie Canal. Because we need to know how this got settled. If anybody’s thinking, they’re thinking ‘Appalachian Moun­tains? How did we get here?’ You don’t get wagons over even low moun­tains like that,” Miller said.

After her pre­sen­tation, Miller guided the group through downtown and spoke of dif­ferent his­torical events as the crew dove deeper into the city’s past. 

She told of how Hillsdale became the county seat, various other his­torical interest stories, and of how Broad Street got its name. Broad Street is 99 feet wide instead of the typical 66 feet. 

One story that caught the attention of the attendees was that of the old jail. 

Lora Glei-Dietz has lived in Hillsdale her whole life. She said she remem­bered the old jail, and, in her mind’s eye, it was pink. Glei-Dietz said she went on the walk to spend time with friends and to hear Miller speak.

“JoAnne is fan­tastic at history. It’s just fun,” she said.

Valerie White, who has worked in Hillsdale since 1996, said she also came on the walk because she knew how good Miller was at retelling Hillsdale’s history. 

“I thought it would be kind of cool to hear what she has to say about dif­ferent buildings and stuff like that,” White said.

White worked in the prosecutor’s office at the Hillsdale County Cour­t­house. 

“I’d always check out the old buildings and hear stories from old attorney’s and stuff about the court building, old jail, and stuff like that,” White said.

When putting together the talk, Miller didn’t focus on any one theme or time period in Hillsdale’s history. She said she just wanted to reach some people with the town’s story. 

“If one person showed up, it was worth­while,” Miller said.