MICHIGAN SHADOW TOWN: Kinderhook, in Branch County
Kinderhook lies close to the Indiana border in Branch County.
The fourth oldest pioneer of Kinderhook was George Tripp, born in Otsego County in 1809; he came to Kinderhook in 1835 and passed away there in 1889. Oliver & Miranda Mead were also among the earliest Kinderhook settlers, arriving in 1836. Searching the cemetery you can find the final resting places of many of the early settlers.
Kinderhook’s post office opened under the name ‘Ovid’ on April Fool’s Day, 1837, due to being a part of Ovid Township. But this portion of land eventually split off with its own separate civil government in 1842. The P.O. name and new township was changed to ‘Kinderhook’ in June 1843. The post office closed down in January 1864, re-opened in January 1865 and finally shut down for good in May 1917.
As for where Kinderhook got its name, it was thanks to Martin Van Buren. His presidential campaign was well underway when a bill was presented to the Legislature that the particular section of Ovid Township be separated and given a different name. After a slew of lame suggestions, one member jokingly came up with ‘Kinderhook’ after Van Buren’s birthplace.
Finding this idea somewhat humorous, the members voted in favor of the name and that was that. Some historians claim that the town & township were named after the hometown of some early settlers, Kinderhook, New York, but this has proven to be false.
Along with the post office, Kinderhook had a handful of the usual village establishments: blacksmith, Baptist Church, doctor’s office, general store, schoolhouse, and shoe shop.
These days, Kinderhook has a good portion of old buildings left: a couple of old churches, one-room schoolhouse, and old storefront downtown.
It’s one of those Michigan small towns you’ll enjoy driving through.