Battle Creek, Michigan

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Battle Creek, Michigan
City of Battle Creek
Downtown Battle Creek in November 2008
Downtown Battle Creek in November 2008
Official seal of Battle Creek, Michigan
Nickname(s): "Cereal City"[1]
Location of Battle Creek within Michigan
Location of Battle Creek within Michigan
Battle Creek, Michigan is located in the US
Battle Creek, Michigan
Battle Creek, Michigan
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 42°18′44″N 85°12′15″W / 42.31222°N 85.20417°W / 42.31222; -85.20417Coordinates: 42°18′44″N 85°12′15″W / 42.31222°N 85.20417°W / 42.31222; -85.20417
Country United States
State Michigan
County Calhoun
Settled 1831
Incorporation 1859
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Mayor Dave Walters[2]
 • Vice Mayor Susan Baldwin[3]
 • Total 43.73 sq mi (113.26 km2)
 • Land 42.61 sq mi (110.36 km2)
 • Water 1.12 sq mi (2.90 km2)
Elevation 840 ft (256 m)
Population (2010)[5]
 • Total 52,347 (city proper)
 • Estimate (2012[6]) 51,911
 • Density 1,228.5/sq mi (474.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC−4)
ZIP codes 49014-49018; 49037
Area code(s) 269
FIPS code 26-05920[7]
GNIS feature ID 0620755[8]

Battle Creek is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan, in northwest Calhoun County, at the confluence of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek rivers. It is the principal city of the Battle Creek, Michigan Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which encompasses all of Calhoun County. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 52,347, while the MSA population was 136,146.

History and name origin[edit]

The Potawatomi and the Ottawa formed a joint village in the general area of Battle Creek, Michigan in about 1774.[9]

Battle Creek was named for a skirmish between a federal government land survey party led by Colonel John Mullett and two Native Americans, likely Potawatomi people, who were historically prominent in this area since before European encounter.

According to various European-American accounts, while Mullett and his group were surveying an area several miles from the present city in the winter of 1823-1824, their camp was raided by Native Americans. Two members of the survey party who had remained at the camp were attacked by two Indians. The Indians were reported as trying to steal provisions from the survey team. They were likely hungry because annuities and supplies were late or insufficient; the Potawatomi had ceded their land to the United States by an 1820 treaty and been restricted to a reservation. The Army was notorious for failing to deliver supplies and annuities on a timely basis.

During the fight, the surveyors shot and severely wounded one Indian, subduing the other. Fearing more hostilities, the survey party promptly packed up and left the area. They did not return until June 1824, after Governor Lewis Cass had settled the issues with the Indians. European-American settlers later called the nearby stream Battle Creek River.[10][11][12][13][14]

Native Americans had called the river Waupakisco, to which some attribute a folk etymology. By this account, the name Waupakisco or Waupokisco was a reference to an earlier battle fought between Native American tribes before the arrival of white settlers. However, Virgil J. Vogel establishes that this native term had "nothing to do with blood or battle".[10][15]

Following removal of the Potawatomi to a reservation, the first permanent European-American settlements in Battle Creek Township began to be made about 1831. Migration had increased to Michigan from New York and New England following the completion of the Erie Canal in New York in 1824. Most settlers chose to locate on the Goguac prairie, which was fertile and easily cultivated. A post office was opened in Battle Creek in 1832 under Postmaster Pollodore Hudson.[16] The first school was taught in a small log house about 1833 or 1834. Asa Langley built the first sawmill in 1837. A brick manufacturing plant, called the oldest enterprise in the township, was established in 1840 by Simon Carr, and operated until 1903. The township was established by act of the legislature in 1839.[17]

In the antebellum era, the city was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, used by fugitive slaves to escape to freedom in Michigan and Canada. It was the chosen home of noted abolitionist Sojourner Truth after her escape from slavery.[18]

Battle Creek figured prominently in the early history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was the site of this Protestant church founding convention in 1863. Later the denomination's first hospital, college and publishing office were constructed in the city. When the hospital and publishing office were burned down in 1902, the church elected to decentralize, and most church institutions relocated. The first Adventist church (rebuilt in the 1920s) is still in operation today.

World Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson was arrested here for marrying his White wife and transporting her across state lines.

The city was noted for its focus on health reform during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Battle Creek Sanitarium was founded by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. In addition to some of his sometimes bizarre treatments that were featured in the movie "The Return to Wellville", Kellogg also funded organizations that promoted Eugenics theories at the core of their philosophical agenda. The Better Race Institute was one of these organizations. He also supported the "Separate but Equal" philosophy and invited Mr. Booker T. Washington to speak at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in order to raise money. Mr. Washington was the author of the speech "The Atlanta Compromise", that solidified his position of being an accommodationist while providing a mechanism for southern Whites (and their sympathizers), to fund Washington's school (Tuskegee Institute).

W.K. Kellogg had worked for his brother in a variety of capacities at the B.C. Sanitarium. Tired of living in his brother's shadow, he struck out on his own going to the boom-towns surrounding the oilfields in Oklahoma as a broom salesman. Having failed, Kellogg returned to work as an assistant to his brother (John Harvey). While working at the sanitariums' laboratory, W.K. spilled liquefied corn meal on a heating device that cooked the product and rendered it to flakes. He tasted the flakes and added milk to them. He was able to get his brother to allow him to give some of the product to some of the patients at the sanitarium and the patients' demand for the product exceeded his expectations to the point of W.K made the decision to leave the sanitarium and along with some investors' built a factory to satisfy the demand for his 'corn flakes'. As W.K.'s wealth began to exceed his brother's, he funded some of his projects that were at the sanitarium. One of these projects was The Better Race Institute, a Eugenics-based organization. It was during this time that W.K. became a Mason. One of the tenets of the organization is that, "Masonry does not recognize color". As a result, W.K. Kellogg stopped funding his brother's projects and established equal pay policies in his company. In addition, He led desegregation efforts by allowing black kids to swim in his home pool and funded many school and philanthropic projects thru out the city and also founded Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI It was during this time of going their separate ways for good that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg sued his brother for copyright infringement. The U.S. Supreme court ruled in W.K. Kellogg's favor.

Inspired by Kellogg's innovation, C. W. Post invented Grape-Nuts and founded his own cereal company in the town. Battle Creek has been nicknamed "The Cereal City."

In the turbulent 60's, Battle Creek was not immune to the racial issues of the day.

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke here, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, President L.B. Johnson, as well as Heavyweight Champion of the world Muhammad Ali. Blacks were subjected to 'stop and frisk' while walking, housing covenants were in full force. There no Blacks working in the school systems, and there were only a few Black mid-level managers in the local corporate sector. The Federal government sector was better at the Federal Center, and less better at the local Veterans' Administration Hospital. The Black Recondos, a group formed from the local young adult council of the NAACP forced the local board of education to hire Black teachers and administrative personnel under the threat of removing every Black student from their public schools. They also forced the chief of police to allow Black Recondos to intervene in arrests and gave them the authority to take Blacks into their custody instead of the local police. This caused the first and only strike of a police force in U.S. history. The officers were fired and the strike was ended.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.73 square miles (113.26 km2), of which 42.61 square miles (110.36 km2) is land and 1.12 square miles (2.90 km2) is water,[4] making Battle Creek the third largest city in Michigan by area, and one of only three incorporated municipalities in the state over 40 sq mi (100 km2) in size.

  • Approximately 60% of the city's land is developed. Of the undeveloped land, 38% is zoned agricultural, 26% is zoned general industrial, 17.5% is zoned residential, 16% is the Fort Custer Army National Guard Base/Industrial Park, and 2.5% is zone commercial.[19]
  • After Battle Creek Township merged into the city of Battle Creek in 1983, the city's declining population rose by nearly 18,000 new residents, but the city continues to decline in population. Prior to the merge, the city measured 18.6 square miles (48.17 km2).
  • Battle Creek is variously considered to be part of Western Michigan or Southern Michigan.


Climate data for Battle Creek, Michigan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Average high °F (°C) 31
Average low °F (°C) 17
Record low °F (°C) −19
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.1
Source: Weatherbase[20]

Other municipalities in the Battle Creek area[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 993
1850 1,064 7.2%
1860 3,509 229.8%
1870 5,838 66.4%
1880 7,063 21.0%
1890 13,197 86.8%
1900 18,563 40.7%
1910 25,267 36.1%
1920 36,164 43.1%
1930 45,573 26.0%
1940 43,453 −4.7%
1950 48,666 12.0%
1960 44,169 −9.2%
1970 38,931 −11.9%
1980 35,724 −8.2%
1990 53,540 49.9%
2000 53,364 −0.3%
2010 52,347 −1.9%
Est. 2015 51,589 [21] −1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[22]

In 1982, at the insistence of the Kellogg Company, the city annexed Battle Creek Township, nearly doubling the city's population. Kellogg's even went so far as to threaten moving their headquarters if the annexation failed to occur.[23]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[5] of 2010, there were 52,347 people, 21,118 households, and 12,898 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,228.5 inhabitants per square mile (474.3/km2). There were 24,277 housing units at an average density of 569.7 per square mile (220.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.7% White, 18.2% African American, 0.7% Native American, 2.4% Asian, 2.7% from other races, and 4.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.7% of the population.

There were 21,118 households of which 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.1% were married couples living together, 18.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.9% were non-families. 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 3.04.

The median age in the city was 36.3 years. 26.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.9% were from 25 to 44; 25.5% were from 45 to 64; and 13.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.9% male and 52.1% female.

As of April 2013, Battle Creek has the fifth largest Japanese national population in the State of Michigan, 358 people.[24]

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[7] of 2000, there were 53,364 people, 21,348 households, and 13,363 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,246.0 per square mile (481.1/km2). There were 23,525 housing units at an average density of 549.3 per square mile (212.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 74.65% White, 17.80% black or African American, 1.94% Asian, 0.77% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 2.11% from other races, and 2.72% from two or more races. 4.64% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 21,348 households out of which 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.9% were married couples living together, 16.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% 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 3.04.

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 91.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,491, and the median income for a family was $43,564. Males had a median income of $36,838 versus $26,429 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,424. About 10.7% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.5% of those under age 18 and 11.8% of those age 65 or over.


The City of Battle Creek has a commission/manager form of government. Cities that follow this plan of government have an elected commission (or council) that appoints a professionally trained and experienced manager to administer the day-to-day operations of the city and to make recommendations to the city commission. Battle Creek also appoints a City Attorney, who provides legal counsel to the City Manager and City Commission.

The City Commission makes all policy decisions, including review, revision and final approval of the annual budget, which is proposed annually by the City Manager. The City Manager serves as an "at-will" employee and he works under an employment contract with the commission. All other city employees, with the exception of the City Attorney’s staff, are under the supervision of the City Manager.

There are five ward commissioners. Residents cast votes for a ward representative, who must live within the area they are representing, as well as for four at-large commissioners. These candidates may live anywhere in the city. All commissioners serve two-year terms and all terms begin and end at the same election. The next commission election will be fall of 2015.

Each November, the commission holds a special meeting to decide which commissioners serve as Mayor and Vice Mayor for the next year. The Mayor presides over the commission meetings and appoints commissioners and residents to special committees. He may also form special committees to explore community challenges or potential policies. The Vice Mayor stands in if the Mayor is unavailable.[25]


Largest employers[edit]

According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[26] the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Kellogg 2,500
2 Denso 2,085
3 Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center 1,556
4 Bronson Battle Creek 1,400
5 Battle Creek VA Medical Center 1,300
6 Michigan Air National Guard 1,127
7 Battle Creek Public Schools 1,089
8 Kellogg Community College 920
9 I I Stanley 750
10 Family Fare 700
10 Duncan Aviation 700


Colleges and universities[edit]

Public school districts[edit]

High schools (public)[edit]

High schools (private)[edit]

Secondary schools[edit]

Foreign-language education[edit]

The Battle Creek Japanese School (バトルクリーク補習授業校 Batoru Kurīku Hoshū Jugyō Kō), a supplementary weekend Japanese school, holds its classes at the Lakeview School District building.[41]


Print media[edit]

Radio and television[edit]

Battle Creek is served by several radio and television stations, including:


  • WTOU (930 AM), the city's heritage radio station, now broadcasting a sports format.
  • WBCK (95.3 FM), a news/talk outlet
  • WBXX (104.9 FM), "104-9 The Edge", playing alternative rock
  • WBFN (1400 AM), featuring Christian programming and simulcasting WUFN-FM in nearby Albion
  • WNWN-FM (98.5 FM), playing country music, licensed to nearby Coldwater and based in Battle Creek
  • WFPM-LP (99.5 FM), a low power station featuring black gospel programming
  • WKFR (103.3 FM), a top 40 music station licensed to Battle Creek with studios in Kalamazoo


  • WOTV An ABC affiliate serving Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and southwestern Michigan, and also serving as a secondary ABC affiliate for Grand Rapids
  • WZPX, an ION affiliate serving all of western Michigan
  • WWMT A CBS affiliate licensed to Kalamazoo and also serving, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids and western Michigan
  • AccessVision Public-access television on Comcast channel 16 & 17. AccessVision broadcasts to all municipalities within Battle Creek, and Newton Township.[44]

WNWN-FM and WKFR are typically the top-rated radio stations in the market. The area can also receive radio and TV broadcasts from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and other nearby cities.


2010 World's Longest Breakfast Table
  • The World's Longest Breakfast Table
  • The Battle Creek Field of Flight Entertainment Festival is an air show and balloon event held yearly in Battle Creek.[45]
  • International Festival of Lights[46]


Battle Creek is home to The Music Center,[47] which serves South Central Michigan.

The Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra is based at the W.K. Kellogg Auditorium in downtown Battle Creek.[48] The symphony is conducted by Anne Harrigan. It is Michigan's longest-running symphony orchestra.[citation needed]

The Brass Band of Battle Creek is composed of 31 brass players and percussionists from around the United States and Europe. "Created in 1989 by brothers Jim and Bill Gray, podiatrists and amateur brass players from Battle Creek, MI, the BBBC has grown to cult status in Battle Creek, where BBBC concerts are regularly sold out and waiting lists are created weeks in advance."[49]

Leilapalooza - The Leila Arboretum Music Festival is a free summer music festival held at the Leila Arboretum. Proceeds benefit the Leila Arboretum Society and Kingman Museum.[50]


Battle Creek is host annually to the Michigan High School Athletic Association team wrestling, volleyball, baseball, and softball state championships. The town receives quarterly boosts to its economy from the fans that flock there to follow their teams.[51]

Each year, Battle Creek hosts the Sandy Koufax 13S World Series, for 13-year-old baseball players.

In August, 2010, Battle Creek was host to the eighth edition of the International H.K.D Games.

Sports teams[edit]

Downtown Battle Creek

The Battle Creek Bombers are a collegiate baseball team, a member of the Northwoods League, who began play in 2007. After a last place finish in 2010, the Bombers went 47-26 in 2011 and won their first NWL championship.[52] It was the first championship in Battle Creek since 2000, when the Michigan Battle Cats won the Midwest League championship. The team's home is C.O. Brown Stadium. In 2011, the team signed a 5-year lease which guarantees the teams 10 year anniversary in Battle Creek in 2017. Actor Tyler Hoechlin, who starred alongside Tom Hanks in the critically acclaimed film "Road to Perdition", previously played for the Battle Creek Bombers.

Club Sport League Venue
Battle Creek Bombers Baseball Summer Collegiate Baseball, Northwoods League C. O. Brown Stadium

Former sports teams[edit]

The Michigan Battle Cats/Battle Creek Yankees/Southwest Michigan Devil Rays were a Class A minor league baseball team that played in the Midwest League from 1995 through 2006. The team's home was C.O. Brown Stadium.

The Battle Creek Crunch, were a member of the Great Lakes Indoor Football League (GLIFL), that began play in 2006. They played one season in Battle Creek before ceasing operations due to financial trouble. The team's home was Kellogg Arena.

The Battle Creek Belles, a member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, played two seasons, 1951 and 1952, before relocating to Muskegon.

The Battle Creek Revolution were a member of the All American Hockey League, a low-level professional minor league, from 2008 to 2011. The team's home was Revolution Arena. The organization also started a junior hockey team called the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution in 2010. The junior team was sold renamed to West Michigan Wolves in 2014 before relocating to Lansing in 2017.

The Battle Creek Blaze is a not-for-profit, adult football team that plays NFL rules football as a member of the IFL (Interstate Football League). The Blaze organization raises funds and community awareness in the fight against cancer. They are in their sixth season of operation, and won the IFL North Division Championship in 2010.[53]

The Battle Creek Cereal Killers roller derby team began in 2011.[54]

The Battle Creek Knights are a minor league basketball team. They were a charter member of the International Basketball League (IBL) and went 21-0 during the league's first season in 2005, winning the championship. The team's home is Kellogg Arena. After announcing in July 2009 that they would sit out the 2009 season, in October the team announced that they would return to play in the International Basketball League.[55]

Points of interest[edit]

Kellogg House

Fort Custer Army National Guard Base[edit]

Founded in 1917, Camp Custer, as it was then known, would over the next decades serve as a training ground, from World War I until the present. Parts of the base were spun off and developed as the Battle Creek Veteran's Hospital, Fort Custer National Cemetery, Fort Custer Recreation Area and Fort Custer Industrial Park. This industrial park contains more than 90 different companies.

The United States Government still owns the land, under an arrangement by which the state of Michigan administers and manages the property. The base, which is still mostly undeveloped, wooded land, takes up a sizable portion of Battle Creek's land area. The part of the base in Battle Creek that is now the industrial park measures 4.69 square miles (12.15 km2) in area, which is approximately 10.6% of the city's area. A much larger part of the base lies in Kalamazoo County. The adjoining W.K. Kellogg Airport is a joint civilian-Air National Guard facility.


Battle Creek is situated on Interstate 94 (I-94) midway between Detroit and Chicago.

Railroad and bus lines[edit]

The Battle Creek Amtrak Station serves Amtrak trains on the south end of the station and Greyhound and Indian Trails bus lines on the north side of the station. The Canadian National Railway and Norfolk Southern Railway provide freight service to the city.

Public transportation[edit]

Battle Creek Transit provides public transit services to Battle Creek area residents. Regular route bus service is provided throughout the City of Battle Creek.

Major highways[edit]


Kalamazoo's Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport serves Battle Creek. Locally, W. K. Kellogg Airport serves the general aviation needs of the community. The airport is also home to Western Michigan University's College of Aviation, Duncan Aviation, WACO Classic Aircraft Corp. the world's only bi-plane manufacturer,[64] and formerly, the Michigan Air National Guard's 110th Fighter Wing which flies the A-10 and O/A-10 aircraft.

Notable people[edit]

See also People from Battle Creek, Michigan

Sister cities[edit]

Battle Creek has sister cities relationships with the following cities:

Battle Creek's official Sister City is Takasaki, Japan, a relationship that is more than 25 years old. Takasaki later established Sister City relationships with Santo Andre, Brazil; Chengde, China; Pilsen, Czech Republic and, in 2006, Muntinlupa City, the Philippines. These cities take turns hosting an environmental conference each year to allow technical and administrative staff to share ideas and projects for addressing environmental concerns.

Battle Creek and Takasaki also organize junior high and high school student and teacher exchanges each summer.


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External links[edit]