Spring History Series dives into local water industry

Published 10:29 am Thursday, April 11, 2019

NILES — The Niles History Center and Niles District Library will partner to co-host a program called, “Powered by Water: Early Industry in Niles.”

Niles History Center Assistant Director Mollie Watson will present the program at 6:30 p.m. today at the Niles District Library. Admission is free, though donations will be accepted to help support the program. 

Watson will discuss how local waterways played an important role in the development of early Niles industry. During the 1830s, the St. Joseph River and its tributaries attracted settlers looking to harness its power. The first mills in Niles utilized hydropower from the Dowagiac River.

Local waterways also played an important role in the transportation of goods produced in these early industries. Keelboats on the St. Joseph River carried manufactured goods to other newly settled towns.

Thanks to the availability of water power, industry in the area flourished, program officials said. By the turn of the 20th Century, numerous mills, paper companies and other factories operated along the St. Joseph and Dowagiac Rivers. 

The program is part of the spring local history series offered by the Niles District Library and Niles History Center. The series concludes on May 9 with Boxes for Civil War Soldiers: Comfort from Home presented by Faye Chamberlain.  For more information, call the Niles District Library at (269) 683-8545 or the Niles History Center at (269) 845-4054.