LACOTA

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A 1917 black and white photo shows a one-story, wood building – a train depot with a sign that reads 'Lacota.' A New York Central railcar is open; men inside and outside the railcar move boxes and trunks. Image Credit: Van Buren County District Library

In 1870, businessman Enoch Pease platted the town of Irvington on the north side of the newly arrived railroad. Soon after, competitors established a second plat south of the tracks.

A plat map of the Town of Lacota shows the town's layout before and after the arrival of the Michigan Central Railroad, Kalamazoo Division. The town's original 1870 plat is northeast of the railroad; The area developed after the railroad's arrival sits to the southwest. A street connecting the two sides of town changes name at the tracks. Image Credit: Library of Michigan

By 1892, both areas were unified under the name Lacota at the request of the Michigan Central Railroad. Local lore states that Varnum D. Dilley suggested the name after a character in a book.

The train's arrival transformed the local economy. Farmers could rapidly ship fresh produce to market and increase their fruit acreage. Many new businesses took root, including a cider mill, a manufacturer of fruit wagons, grocery stores, a dance hall and boardinghouses.

Lacota Pickle Factory

A black and white photo shows a pickle factory alongside the railroad tracks in Lacota. In front of a two-story barn-like building, nearly a dozen wooden barrels, each about five feet in diameter and four feet tall, are organized into two rows next to a small wooden shed. Several men stand among the barrels, one of the men peers into an open barrel. Image Credit: Van Buren District Library

Small pickle operations were common in towns along the railroad. In Lacota, massive wooden barrels used to process pickles lined the tracks. In the spring, dynamite broke up the hardened salt in the barrels. As a boy, Sheldon Gould would leave school to work in the factory. He recalled feeling miserable in the winter months, soaked with pickle brine.

Community Life

A 1997 black and white photo of Eilleen Wood wearing a zippered windbreaker. She has short, wavy gray hair and wears large, round, wire-rimmed glasses on her round face. Image Credit: Press News Service Photos

A black-and-white photo of Lacota's post office, a small, one-story building with white wooden siding and black trim. A decorative wooden sign on the outside of the building reads 'Lacota Bookmobile Stop.' Image Credit: Van Buren District Library

Eilleen Wood, Lacota postmaster from 1953-76 describes a vibrant community scene in the 1920s. "All of our entertainment was in Lacota - outdoor movies, box socials, community meetings. . . . The men used to go to town every night and they'd sit and talk in front of the hardware store. It's too bad Lacota kind of melted away."

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