31 Division Street – Coldwater
This Historic Site marker is located next to the brick clock tower located at the corner of E. Pearl & Division Streets. Its location is near the north edge of the ground on which the old Branch County Jail once sat. Two previous courthouses have sit on the property that holds the current Branch County Courthouse.
Branch County Courthouse – South side of Marker:
“Coldwater’s first county courthouse was erected on this site in 1848. Forty years later local architect M. H. Parker designed the second courthouse, a High Victorian building. The stately corner tower, visible for miles, housed a 3,500-pound bell manufactured by the C. H. Meneely Company of Troy, New York, and a clock manufactured by the Howard Company of Boston. In 1972 the building was destroyed by arson, but the bell and clock were salvaged. Organized in 1974 and reactivated in 1987, the Branch County Clock Committee collected monies from generous citizens and businesses to restore the clock and bell and construct a new tower. The Branch County Clock Tower was dedicated on July 30, 1988. The original finial tops the cupola.”
Branch County – North side of Marker:
“Branch County, named for John Branch, President Andrew Jackson’s secretary of the navy, was one of thirteen counties established by the Michigan Territorial Legislature in 1829. The village of Branch located three miles southwest of Coldwater, was the original county seat, but in 1842 county commissioners decreed that the seat be moved to Coldwater. In 1848 a courthouse was erected on this site. The Chicago Road (now US-12) and the coming of the Michigan Southern Railroad in 1850s and 1860s, Coldwater was a horse training and breeding center. Local breeders provided three thousand hours to the union army curing the Civil War. In the 1870s and 1880s, the manufacture of cigars contributed to Coldwater’s prosperity. In 1882, some 13.4 million cigars were manufactured in Coldwater.”
HISTORIAN NOTES (D. L. McDonald):
The first Courthouse to operate in Coldwater was located on the northeast corner of E. Chicago & Marshall Streets. It was a recycled building converted for use as a Courthouse with the first Branch County Sheriff’s jail located next door to it. Approximately where the west portion of the St. Mark’s Church is located today.
The first location selected as the Branch County seat was the village of Mason, located on the east shore of the Coldwater River and US-12. The commissioners failed to be duly sworn in prior to their trip to Branch County. As a result, their decision was nullified.
At the time that the location called ‘Branch’ was selected as the county seat, there were no buildings present, it was simply undeveloped countryside.
The Branch County Courthouse clock and bell were originally purchased for $2,500. The clock was originally operated by weighs but was electrified in 1945.
After the fire in 1972 the clock was sold by the City of Coldwater for $35. The clock committee recovered the clock components and restored them.