Dowagiac, Michigan

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Dowagiac, Michigan
Location of Dowagiac, Michigan
Location of Dowagiac, Michigan
Coordinates: 41°59′4″N 86°6′29″W / 41.98444°N 86.10806°W / 41.98444; -86.10806
Country United States
State Michigan
County Cass
Incorporated 1848
 • Mayor Donald Lyons
 • Total 4.54 sq mi (11.76 km2)
 • Land 4.46 sq mi (11.55 km2)
 • Water 0.08 sq mi (0.21 km2)
Elevation 761 ft (232 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 5,879
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 5,846
 • Density 1,318.2/sq mi (509.0/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 49047
Area code(s) 269
FIPS code 26-22880[4]
GNIS feature ID 0624843[5]

Dowagiac (/dəˈwɑːæk/ də-WAH-jak) is a city in Cass County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 5,879 at the 2010 census. It is part of the South BendMishawaka, IN-MI, Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Dowagiac is situated at the corner of four townships: Wayne Township to the northeast, LaGrange Township to the southeast, Pokagon Township to the southwest, and Silver Creek Township to the northwest.

The city name comes from the Potawatomi word dewje'og meaning "fishing [near home] water".[6]


Dowagiac was first platted in 1848. It was incorporated as a village in 1863 and as a city in 1877.[7] Dowagiac gained national attention in June 1964 after police began investigating multiple reports of what became known as the Dewey Lake Monster.[8]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.54 square miles (11.76 km2), of which 4.46 square miles (11.55 km2) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.21 km2) is water.[1]

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary, commonly referred to as Dowagiac Woods, a 235 acres (0.95 km2) woods located in Cass, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Michigan's exceptional natural habitats and extraordinary and endangered plants and animals.

The Dowagiac River flows from the stream which rises as the "Dowagiac Drain" in central Decatur Township in southern Van Buren County, Michigan. It is joined first by the "Red Run" and then by the "Lake of the Woods Drain" near the southern edge of Hamilton Township, it becomes the "Dowagiac River" before entering into Wayne Township in Cass County. North of the city of Dowagiac, the river passes through the "Dowagiac Swamp". Just west of Dowagiac, the river is joined by its principal tributary, the "Dowagiac Creek".

The city of "Dowagiac" is also mentioned in the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film, "North by Northwest" at 1:04:15 into the film as a destination read by the overhead announcer in the train station.

The city of "Dowagiac" is phonetically spelled "DOW WAH JAKK" scrolling on the stock ticker in the 2013 Martin Scorcese film, "The Wolf of Wall Street" at 00:01:03 as a list of stocks.[9]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,181
1870 1,932 63.6%
1880 2,100 8.7%
1890 2,806 33.6%
1900 4,151 47.9%
1910 5,088 22.6%
1920 5,440 6.9%
1930 5,550 2.0%
1940 5,007 −9.8%
1950 6,542 30.7%
1960 7,208 10.2%
1970 6,583 −8.7%
1980 6,307 −4.2%
1990 6,409 1.6%
2000 6,147 −4.1%
2010 5,879 −4.4%
Est. 2014 5,748 [10] −2.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 5,879 people, 2,337 households, and 1,463 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,318.2 inhabitants per square mile (509.0/km2). There were 2,674 housing units at an average density of 599.6 per square mile (231.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 73.5% White, 14.3% African American, 3.0% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 2.4% from other races, and 6.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.4% of the population.

There were 2,337 households of which 36.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.6% were married couples living together, 22.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.4% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 13% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.14.

The median age in the city was 32 years. 29.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.5% were from 25 to 44; 22.3% were from 45 to 64; and 12.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.6% male and 52.4% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 6,147 people, 2,421 households, and 1,542 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,530.8 per square mile (590.4/km²). There were 2,631 housing units at an average density of 655.2 per square mile (252.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 76.95% White, 15.63% African American, 2.02% Native American, 0.57% Asian, 1.59% from other races, and 3.24% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.49% of the population.

There were 2,421 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.1% were married couples living together, 18.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.1% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,926, and the median income for a family was $33,443. Males had a median income of $28,534 versus $22,282 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,659. About 14.3% of families and 17.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.6% of those under age 18 and 12.8% of those age 65 or over.



Dowagiac Municipal Airport has a 4,700-foot (1,400 m) long paved runway for private pilots with a turf runway as well.


The city is at the junction of M-51 and M-62. M-51 connects with Niles 17 miles (27 km) to the southwest and with I-94 21 miles (34 km) to the northeast. M-62 connects with Cassopolis eight miles (13 km) to the southeast and with M-140 nine miles (14 km) to the west.


One of the oldest dial-a-ride services in Michigan, Dowagiac DART began service in June 1975 with a three bus fleet. The service is provided to the community of Dowagiac with service extended out to Southwest Michigan College. The service is provided by the city administration and is operated from a multi-modal terminal located on an Amtrak line. In its former life, the building was originally a Michigan Central, and later a Penn Central, train station. The building has been preserved and is carefully maintained by the City of Dowagiac.


Dowagiac is served by Amtrak trains with daily service to Chicago and Detroit. The historic depot is located at 200 Depot Drive in the downtown area. Baggage cannot be checked at this location; however, up to two suitcases in addition to any personal items such as briefcases, purses, laptop bags, and infant equipment are allowed aboard as carry-ons. Also at this historical train depot is where the first orphans from the orphan train were dropped off and adopted.

Attractions and dining[edit]

Caruso's Candy on Front Street in Dowagiac, Michigan

Dowagiac is home to one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the area, 5-Mile Drive-In Theater, located at the intersection of M-51 and M-152. It is named after its location of "Five Mile Corners",[12] located five miles (8 km) north of Dowagiac on M-51. Lutz's Drive-In Restaurant is located next to the theater, and is quite popular in the summer months.

Dowagiac is located in close proximity to the area known as Sister Lakes, in nearby Keeler Township, providing a very popular summer vacation home for many Chicago-area residents who have cabins and homes on the various lakes. A favorite restaurant near Sister Lakes is Driftwood Summer Shop, an ice cream parlor and arcade on Round Lake. Also on Round Lake is Captain Jack's Redwood Inn, which includes a small resort hotel. Big Crooked Lake has the Lakeview Inn, a neighborhood watering hole for over 30 years. Other attractions in the Sister Lakes area include the Ramona Roller Rink and Lakes Bowl. Twin Lakes, located in Wayne Township, is another local recreation area consisting of two small lakes northeast of Dowagiac.

Downtown Dowagiac has several popular restaurants and bars, including Foodies Fresh Cafe and Catering, open seven days a week with classic comfort food, gourmet grilled burgers, homemade artisan breads, and lots of vegetarian options. Zeke's Food and Spirits, where there is an assortment of 250+ brands of beer, is home to the World Tour of Beers beer club. Also located downtown are the Round Oak Restaurant, Philo's Pub, The Wounded Minnow Saloon (named as an homage to the Heddon heritage), Wood Fire Italian Trattoria (featuring live jazz and blues three nights per week, and known for cooking over 70% of its menu in a wood fire oven using 100% fruit wood from local farms), and Saylor's Pizza, which bills itself as "Home of the $5 Pizza". Located across from Saylor's is Mr. K's Wearhouse, "Home of the $5 Custom T-shirt", which offers custom-embroidered and screen-printed apparel. Caruso's Candy & Soda Shoppe, family owned and operated since 1922 with a fully operating old fashioned soda fountain, homemade candy, and lunch, is located in the center of downtown Dowagiac at 130 S. Front Street.

National Guard[edit]

Dowagiac is also Michigan's "Home of Armor," even though there are no more Armor units left in Michigan. When Michigan did have Armor units (194? — Oct 2006), the Armor Battalion was headquartered in Dowagiac. The Armory Battalion started off temporarily in a warehouse located near what is now Ameriwood while the Armory itself was being planned and built. Finished in the fall of 1957, the Armory now stands near the airport, on the corner of West Prairie Ronde Street and Middle Crossing Road. Notable features of the Armory include the M103 heavy tank located at the corner, and the 246 Association Memorial for soldiers who served with Headquarters 246th Armor that have died.

Headquarters 1/246th Armor served at the Dowagiac Armory from the 1940s until it was disbanded in 1999. Members of the 1/246th Armor were involved in the 1967 Detroit riot and helped support the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1999, the 1/246th Armor was converted to the 1/126th Armor (taking on the lineage and honors of the famed 126th Infantry Regiment headquartered in Wyoming, Michigan, and the soldiers in the Dowagiac Armory now belonged to D Company/1-126th Armor. Following the actions of September 11, 2001, soldiers of D Company/1-126th Armor were mobilized stateside under Operation Noble Eagle for U.S. Air Port and Air National Guard Airbase security enforcement, and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to Texas and California. They were also attached with B/1-126 which deployed to Iraq in 2004 and to an Embedded Training Team which deployed to Afghanistan in 2005, as part of the war on terrorism.

In 2006, the 1/126th Armor converted to the 1st Squadron 126th Cavalry Regiment also headquartered in Wyoming, Michigan. The unit at the Dowagiac Armory were now changed to C Troop/1-126 Cavalry Squadron. C Troop is the Dismounted Reconnaissance Troop in the Cavalry Squadron. C Troop is composed mainly of the Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) 11B and 11C (Infantryman and Indirect Fire Infantryman) while the majority of the squadron is composed of MOS 19D (Cavalry Scout). Soldiers of the 1/126 Cav were mobilized to Fort Hood in January 2008, deployed to Iraq and Kuwait in April 2008, and returned home in December 2008.


Dowagiac is served by the Dowagiac Union School District, consisting of the following schools:

Notable people[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°59′03″N 86°06′31″W / 41.98417°N 86.10861°W / 41.98417; -86.10861