This Southwest Michigan Community Was First Known as ‘Cow Pasture’
When this Southwest Michigan city first appears on a map in 1827, it was known as Cow Pasture. Actually it was written in French, Parc aux Vaches.
The city in question is Niles. Today, it's Southwest Michigan's City of Four Flags, but back in the early 1800s, in the days of the French fur traders, it was simply known as Cow Pasture.
The full map, which can be seen here, is known as the Kendrick Survey was mandated by Congress to determine the northern boundary of Indiana.
Parc aux Vaches is remembered now on a Michigan State Historical Marker inside Madeline Bertrand County Park:
Known as Parc aux Vaches, or "cow pasture," this area was named by the French for the wild buffalo that once grazed here. Two major Indian trails crossed here; the Sauk Trail, also called the old Chicago Trail, which linked Detroit and Chicago; and the Miami Trail, which linked the Grand and the Wabash rivers. About 1808 French fur trader Joseph Bertrand established a post in this area. Bertrand married Madeline, said to be the daughter of Potawatomi Chief Topenebee. Under the 1821 Treaty of Chicago, which ceded much of the lower southwest corner of Michigan to the United States, this site was deeded to Madeline Bertrand. Parc aux Vaches is now part of Niles Township.
The name also lives on in the South Bend, Indiana area, with a Parkovash Street.
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Inspired by the History of South Bend/Mishawaka Facebook page.