Austin Lake covers 1050 acres of Southwest Michigan just south of Kalamazoo, MI. There are 417 properties on Austin Lake.
Pre-History of Austin Lake (Provided by Kalamazoo Valley Chapter, Michigan Archeological Society)
Austin Lake was formed about 10,000 years ago when the last glaciers retreated. We know that various cultures lived here, perhaps as long as 14,000 years ago.
Austin Lake ultimately drains into the St. Joseph River, which was known as the "River of the Miamis" in the mid-1600s. By the early-1700s the Miamis shared the region with Potawatomis. Some artifacts of the Iroquois have even been found not far away at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River.
Archeological evidence for Mississippian cultures (the "Mound Builders") has been found along the St. Joseph, Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers. The Mississippian culture was centered near St. Louis, peaking about 1,000 years ago, at a site now known as Cahokia. These "Hopewell" people had distinctive pottery and burial practices, making their presence easily recognizable. In addition, they prepared garden beds such as those found by early European settlers in our area. The most unique among the 23 garden beds discovered in southern Michigan was a 90-foot diameter wheel-shaped bed found in Kalamazoo County.
Middle Woodland cultures from about 1200-1600 years ago left distinctively-shaped points (including "arrowheads") and pottery marked with designs from twisted cords. KVC-MAS members have excavated some Middle Woodland sites along the Kalamazoo River. In 1999,
KVC-MAS members discovered evidence of even earlier cultures at a site along the Kalamazoo River near Fennville. This site has also revealed artifacts from Early Woodland cultures, carbon-dated to as early as 2,400 years ago, plus points and pottery from the Archaic cultures of about 3,000 years ago.
Evidence of the earliest human occupation of southwestern Michigan is a collection of over 100 crude "fluted" points from Berrien and Cass Counties along the St. Joseph River. These points are typical of the workmanship of the "Paleo-Indian" cultures of about 9,000 years ago, but the location of these finds, along the shores of prehistoric glacial Lake Algonquin and glacial channels, suggests they could have been made as early as 14,000 years ago.
How Austin Lake Got its Name
On May 7, 1833, the first settlers arrived at the north end of our lake, and immediately began to erect a log shanty for their living quarters. Moses Austin and his fourteen-year-old son, Benjamin M. Austin, had traveled from the town of Pavillion, in Genessee County, New York, looking for a decent area to settle with their family.
After building a temporary shelter, Moses, Benjamin and their hired hand, Charles, set about erecting a one and one-half story building from "hewed logs" for their more permanent residence. The home was nearly complete when Mrs. Austin, with their other son, William, arrived October 1, 1833.
Click to see an article on Austin Lake's early years. The article originally appeared in museON, a publication of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, operated by Kalamazoo Valley Museum and governed by its Board of Trustees.