Just West of Kalamazoo Was Once The Mint Capital of The World
Maybe some of the old-timers who grew up here know the stories, but a few days ago, I just found out the surrounding area just west of Kalamazoo was once the mint capital of the world. And it was right up until the early 1970's, when blight disease killed it.
If you google Mentha, Michigan it will re-direct you to Pine Grove Township. If you drive west on D Ave., that's an area a few miles southwest of Timber Ridge. The train that ran from Kalamazoo to South Haven in the early 1900's stopped there. That train line is now the Kal-Haven Trail.
And at one time, this area supplied 90% of the world's mint, mostly for peppermint oil and spearmint oil. Michigan History magazine goes into details in its magazine.
A young farmer, Albert Todd began farming mint as a teenager, Todd became an expert in all things mint oil. With two large operations in Van Buren and Allegan counties, he was the largest producer of peppermint oil in the world.
Todd's story is interesting beyond mint. He ran for governor supporting prohibition and lost, but eventually was elected to the House of Representatives. Two of his sons were mayor of Kalamazoo.
Todd bought a mansion on 620 West South Street in Kalamazoo and lived there until his death in 1931. It eventually became a frat house in the 1950's. A real estate website says it's now an apartment house.
There is still some spearmint grown in the area, a variety resistant to verticillium wilt, which is what killed the industry here some 50 years ago. Other than that, Mentha is a ghost town. You can find some photographs of a few remaining structures, but they're almost all gone now. Even more than the paper industry, the mint industry is just a distant memory. Parchment still has its name; there are still remnants of the Kalamazoo Mall, Kaopectate is still sold, but Mentha is now just Pine Grove Township.