The land that now comprises Benton Harbor/St. Joseph holds a special place in American history. Explorer and missionary Father Jacques Marquette takes credit for "discovering" the area in 1675, although the Miami Indians had long established roots and community life in the region. Fellow Frenchman Rene LaSalle also journeyed to the area, eventually building Fort Miami as a base for his famous exploring runs. Today, that fort site sits on St. Joseph’s city limits.

St. Joseph River, named after Canada’s patron saint, has always wound its way through Benton Harbor/St. Joseph’s history. Its transportation opportunities fed economic wealth to a society dependent on water to make good time between trade areas. The soil also supported fine crops of fruits and vegetables, and businessmen quickly capitalized on ways to distribute the bounty to tables throughout the Midwest.

By 1891, both cities held state charters, enabling them to grow as farming, shipping and manufacturing havens.

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