About Oshtemo

Oshtemo Township is located in southwest Michigan in Kalamazoo County. It is located halfway between the cities of Chicago and Detroit, just north of Interstate 94 with US 131 bisecting the eastern end of the township north-to-south. Originally known as an agricultural community, Oshtemo is now predominantly a residential community with a strong commercial area along West Main Street which generally serves communities in the western and northern parts of the county and beyond and another commercial area along Stadium Drive serving a more local customer base. As a community with a large residential base, growing and convenient commercial base, low taxes, and Kalamazoo, Mattawan, and Otsego Public Schools. Oshtemo is an attractive place in which to live and work.

As part of the of the greater Kalamazoo metropolitan area, Oshtemo Township and its residents have many ties to the central city and all of its surrounding communities. Township officials collaborate with neighboring communities on regional issues. Residents of Oshtemo often work, shop, or visit the neighboring communities as well.

Oshtemo Township contains almost 36 square miles. It is bordered by the City of and Township of Kalamazoo to the east, Alamo Township to the north, Texas Township to the south, and Almena Township to the west in Van Buren County. Regional accessibility to the Township is provided by a nearby interchange along I-94 and two interchanges along US 131.

History of Oshtemo

In 1795, when the Northwest Territory was opened for settlement, the area around what would become Kalamazoo County was first set aside for an Indian Reservation. Later, the Treaty of 1821 opened the area for settlement by the many people moving west from the eastern seaboard. Titus Bronson was the first settler of note in the area; he built his first cabin in 1829, replacing it a year later with a more permanent dwelling on what is now the site of Bronson Park. Kalamazoo was first known as the Village of Bronson; its rapid growth caused it to be named the County Seat in 1831. Six years later the first main line railroad station was constructed.

Oshtemo is one of 15 townships in Kalamazoo County, which is located in southwestern Michigan. Oshtemo Township was organized as an independent Township in 1839, although the first recorded settlement of the Township was by Benjamin Drake in 1830.  It is believed that the homestead established by Benjamin Drake, in the northeast section of Oshtemo Township, was prior to any other. In 1831, The southeast corner of the township was settled by pioneer Enoch Harris and throughout the following eight years over twenty new settlers would move into the area. On March 22, 1839, approval was made for the organization of an independent township by the Legislature. A very early road, later to be named Drake Road, is believed to be the first surveyed road in the township.  The name of Oshtemo Township is thought to have been suggested by a Mr. Hammond of the Kalamazoo branch of the Bank of Michigan, and was derived from the Potawatomi Indian word for headwaters, referring to the headwaters of Arcadia Creek. The headwaters are located in the vicinity of South 11th Street and West KL Avenue.

Benjamin Drake’s land would again be the site for another first in Oshtemo by supplying the land used to construct the first school house upon, built in 1833. Not much later, a second school house was constructed in the southeast sector of the township under approval of several residents, so that the opportunity of education for their children would be within easy distance of their own homes. At the time of its incorporation in 1839 there were 67 resident tax payers and 86 non-resident tax payers in Oshtemo Township. The first Township meeting was held on the first Monday in April of that year in Section 14, in a shanty owned by A. Buell. By 1840 a new school was erected in the village of Oshtemo, replacing an earlier one constructed in 1833. This building was replaced in 1870, by which time the Township had experienced significant growth.  By the year 1880, the township numbered six whole and five fractional districts. The total number of children attending for the year 1896 was 402.

The population of Oshtemo hovered around 2,000 persons from 1870 until after World War I when it began to grow rapidly. By 1970, the population had tripled to nearly 6,000. Over the past 50 years, Oshtemo has been transformed from an agricultural area to a predominantly suburban township. Oshtemo Township became a Charter Township in 1979 due to annexation pressures from neighboring City of Kalamazoo among other reasons.  Today there are 3 school districts in the township – Kalamazoo, Mattawan, and Otsego. We are a growing residential community with a thriving commercial and industrial base. Our 2010 Census population was 21,705.

Quality of Life

The location of Oshtemo Township, in particular its proximity to both natural and built environments in the region, lends to the high quality of life in the Township. The natural features enjoyed by the residents are fully described later in this chapter. The proximity of shopping and employment to residents adds to the quality of life, as is indicated by respondents to the public input survey. U.S. Route 131 bisects the east side of the Township and Interstate 94 runs just to the south; the proximity of both highways connects Oshtemo residents to employment and other major metropolitan areas outside southwest Michigan.

The mix of land uses in Oshtemo also contributes to the quality of life in the Township. A variety of housing choices at all income levels is available to residents. The assortment of housing choices also caters to residents with different housing type preferences; single-family, multiple-family, senior, and manufactured housing options are available. A variety of commercial as well as industrial uses varying in intensity is also available. Maintaining a diverse range of land uses will be important in future planning efforts and land-use policy making.

Depending on where they live, parents have schooling options for their children. Three quality public school districts (Kalamazoo, Mattawan, and Otsego) extend into the Township. Nearby private options are available as well. The proximity of post-secondary education institutions, including but not limited to Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, within the Kalamazoo area also add to the quality of life here.

The above mentioned factors contributing to quality of life are among the top reasons that residents like living in Oshtemo Township. The residents have noted their interest in preserving and enhancing the quality of life; therefore, it should continue to be an important part of future planning efforts.