Settled on the St. Joseph River in 1832, Hillsdale was incorporated as a city in 1855. It was at the junction of the Ypsilanti, Lansing and Fort Wayne branch and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern railroads. Like many southern Michigan villages, Hillsdale grew in the 1840s when the railroad built a station here and when the legislature made it the seat of county government. Baptists moved the college they had established in Spring Arbor to Hillsdale in 1853 ( HI7).
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