Decatur Historical Roots Planted Firmly In Agriculture

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DECATUR, Mich. — Located in the southern portion of Van Buren County is the small village of Decatur. I found some treasures that most of West Michigan probably doesn’t know about.

The old town hall, now on the state’s historic registry, was built in 1901 and houses the May Kaplan Memorial Museum. May was a local artist who drew and painted some wonderful things, plus she served as a township board trustee for many years until her recent passing.

The museum houses some of May’s artwork, old books, newspapers, giant scrapbooks (assembled by May), and is still loaded with paperwork that needs to be sorted. But perhaps the strong bond is agriculture. Old photos, gizmos, contraptions, and things that are deeply rooted in the town’s ability to produce and grow some of the very best vegetables around.

Much of Decatur and Van Buren County sits on muckland, or muck soil. It’s drained swampland rich in nutrients and peat moss…perfect for growing celery, onions, potatoes, corn, pickles, and a host of other things. In fact, Decatur was once the celery capital of the United States. Now, one of the country’s largest pickle producers/growers is still located there.

The museum is still undergoing some renovations, especially upstairs. Stacks of paperwork, village records, tax records, and other things need to be sorted, but it’s an ongoing project that will take several months. Click here for the village of Decatur website.  Since the museum is still getting things up and running, they do not have a website, but you can contact the curator Jim Abshagen at (269) 423-8176 to schedule a visit. By the way, you may want to stop by Laura’s Little Burger Joint on M51 and taste the Chapman Burger. It was recently voted number one in the state by Mlive.

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