Southern Michigan, including what is now known as Jackson County and Blackman Township, was occupied by the Pottawatomie Indians before settlement in the mid-1800’s. The Pottawatomie’s territory extended from portions of southern Michigan into Illinois and Wisconsin. The tribe was generally friendly and helpful to settlers that came to the area.
It was Horace Blackman who first settled the area. He had heard of fertile land west of Washtenaw Valley from a Pottawatomie Indian named Pe-wa-tum. Horace Blackman and Capt. Alexander Laverty were guided along an Indian trail by Pe-wa-tum to the area. The trip was a two-day journey that began on July 2, 1829. At about 6:00 p.m. of the following day the three men had reached the banks of what was later to become the Grand River.
By the winter of 1829-1830, the Legislative Council in Detroit responsible for dividing the Territory of Michigan into counties, created a new tier of counties along the Indian trail west of Washtenaw County to Lake Michigan. Jackson, Calhoun, Kalamzoo and St. Joseph counties were formed. Jackson County had 720 square miles with Blackman’s settlement brought within one-half mile of geographic center of the county. The Legislative Council also authorized the building of Territorial Road. Territorial Road was to run through the tier counties and opened up the counties for settlement.
In the winter of 1830, a Commission was appointed to locate Territorial Road. They reached the area where Blackman had erected a primitive log cabin on January 13, 1830. Two of the Commissioners were appointed to name the settlement. The village was to be called “Jacksonburgh” in honor of President Andrew Jackson. For a time postal officials name the settlement Jacksonopolis so as to avoid confusion over the numerous Jacksonburghs across the nation. Having dual names, however, actually created more confusion and so the ends were dropped from the name and the settlement became known as “Jackson” in 1838.
In the spring of 1830 families came from New York to settle Jackson. To a lesser extent they also came from Maine, Massachusetts and Ohio. By November, 1830, thirty families were in Jackson.
Blackman Township was part of the territory of Jackson until 1857 when it was organized into a Township. The first settler in the territory included in the Township was Lyman Pease in June, 1830. That homestead was located in Section 26.Minerals were also found in abundant supplies. Iron, coal, fire clay and large quarries of excellent limestone could be found in the Township. The supply of ore and coal were found in sufficient quantities to meet the early needs of the community.
Before Jackson grew into a major commercial and industrial area, the city and surrounding area including Blackman Township was primarily an agricultural community.
Small companies began springing up all over Jackson County throughout the 1800’s. Several cigar makers used tobacco grown west of the City. Two breweries were producing beer in 1884. Jackson was also home to companies that made sewer pipe, paving bricks and small oil heaters.
Large industries also began operations in Jackson. Railroading, coal mining and corset making were considered major industries in Jackson. The “Coal Basin” in Blackman Township ran east-west from the former Village of Woodville to Elm Street, generally parallel to and underneath I-94. Unfortunately, the coal was of poor quality making it less profitable. Also, the underground mines kept filling up with water which drove up the cost of mining.