Cardinal Charlie: Shakespeare, the village that never was

Published 6:28 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Not many know, but in 1836, the village of Shakespeare was plotted southwest of Dowagiac.

It was in an area just northeast of the present day intersection of Peavine and the link roads in Pokagon Township. But it was never meant to be.

Back in those days, all you needed to do to start a town was to buy some land, draw a picture of where the lots and streets were going be and then sell the lots. There were a dozen of these “paper towns” like Shakespeare plotted during that time period in Cass County that never really became towns.

Cass County’s first prosecutor, Elias B. Sherman and Jonathan Brown hatched the idea for Shakespeare in 1836. Sherman, who was among the founders of Cassopolis and already owned 40 acres in Pokagon Township, convinced Brown to buy 40 acres adjacent to his 40 for the purpose of laying out a town.

They hired a surveyor by the name of Starr, who plotted the town “with broad streets, two avenues six rods in width, numerous public parks and a contemplated canal from one point of the Dowagiac River to another, with a number of reserved lots on the waterfront for manufacturing purposes.”

A total of 87 blocks were depicted with four prominent roadways cutting diagonally across the smaller streets, creating a double diamond shape in the center of town.

Where the name Shakespeare came from is mystery. Maybe it came from the English playwright and poet, who lived from 1564 to 1616.

It is not known if anyone even bought one of these lots and got “scalped” or not. Sherman became disenchanted with the exaggerated marketing ploy that was used and eventually sold his half of the interest in Shakespeare to Brown.

I wonder what the zip code would be?

I just saw that “Nice-a-Day Joe’s” daughter had passed away. Years ago, I had written about this popular old Dowagiac man that had a horse-drawn ice cream wagon. This was in the 1930s.

No matter what the weather, he would always say “Nice-a-Day.” I barely remembered him. But a few years ago, when my wife and I were out at the five-mile corner, a lady came up to me at our table and said, “Mr. Gill, you don’t know me but I’m ‘Nice-a-Day’s’ daughter.” I was telling a friend I’m so cold I guess I’ll go to bed.

Laughing, she said, “are you going to take your hot water bottle?” I said, “no but I used to in the 1930s.”

Also, we had what was called a soapstone that we heated on top of the old coal stove. We wrapped it with a clothe and put it at the foot of the bed like we did with the old “hot water bottle.” Kids don’t know about these things, especially a soapstone but they can look it up on their computer.


“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. Email him at