Berrien Township was one of the earliest township settlements in Berrien County. The settlement began in 1827 when the John Johnson family, originally from Southern Indiana, settled on 80 acres. The density of the wilderness in which the early settlers lived is best shown by an incident that happened to one of them, Michael Hand. Michael went out one morning to shoot a squirrel for breakfast. Just a few roads from his house, he found a large breakfast -- a deer. While trying to drag the deer home, he became lost. A snowfall also added to his distress. After an hour of hopeless wandering, he shouted for help. His wife soon arrived on the scene showing that he had not been far from home at anytime and had been moving in a bewildered circle.
In April of 1832 Calvin Britain, the legislative representative from Berrien County, petitioned for the organization of Berrien Township for a portion of Niles Township. The first official election was held on April 1, 1833, at the tavern of Pitt Brown, who was immediately elected Supervisor of the Township. The number of settlers increased rapidly after 1840.
In 1847 the County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution instructing the Superintendents of the Poor to purchase land in Berrien Township for the establishment of a poor farm. Almost 200 acres were bought for a mere $1,220. The Poor Farm was totally destroyed by fire in 1867 but was rebuilt in 1869-1870. This Poor Farm operation continued well into the twentieth century and eventually evolved into the Berrien General Hospital Center that is now Lakeland Medical Center. Today these 200 acres continue to serve Berrien County as a whole with many county facilities located there; including the Beacon/Lakeland Hospital, Sacred Heart, Love Creek Nature Park, the Berrien County Juvenile Center.
A. To maintain the status quo of an agricultural community.
B. To discourage large industrial development.
C. To remain a friendly, bedroom community.
Agenda of the Community Strategic Plan
At the time of this publication the Township of Berrien was in the process of updating their Master Plan. This agenda is based off of the Berrien Township Sketch Development Plan adopted on February 1992, commissioned and conducted by the township Planning Commission. The suggested growth policies were:
A. Encourage the preservation of the township’s agricultural and recreational lands by requiring relatively large residential parcels in the Agricultural-Residential Districts and by establishing and maintaining predominantly agricultural zoning.
B. Provide for a reasonable amount of urban development that will appropriately accompany the anticipated relatively low population growth.
C. Guide urban growth toward non-prime agricultural lands, open and unused land, and least productive agricultural land.
D. Require lot sizes adequately large enough to help prevent earth, groundwater, and surface water pollution, as well as to encourage aesthetically pleasing residential areas.