Rockford, Michigan

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Rockford is a city in Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 4,626. It is on the Rogue River and is only a few miles north of Grand Rapids.

Contents

History

The Rockford area was first visited and inhabited by Native American cultures, such as the Hopewell, Mascouten, and Ottawa peoples. There have not been archeological finds of Native American settlements in the Rogue River valley, but their trails branched through the area and were noted by early surveyors.

The first important settler of what would become the city of Rockford was Smith Lapham, who had come to Kent County in 1843 after living in Washtenaw County for 18 years. Smith Lapham came to the banks of the Rogue to assist in the completion of a dam and sawmill begun by a William Hunter. Hunter gave Lapham 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land on the east side of the Rogue for his trouble, and Lapham stayed there for the rest of his life. Hunter shortly left the area.

Lapham built his own sawmill on his side of the river, which was completed by 1844. Other settlers soon followed, including John Long, Freeman Burch, and William Thornton. By the fall of 1845, the settlement had about 5 houses. Since the settlement existed largely on land owned or sold by Smith Lapham, it became known as Laphamville. In 1856 it was first platted as Laphamville by William Thornton.

By 1865 the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company had begun a railroad extending northward through the village. The railroad had been advising the residents to adopt a shorter name, and when a newly arrived resident from Rockford, Illinois proposed the name of his former town, the new name was narrowly approved. It was replatted under the name Rockford in 1865 and incorporated as the Village of Rockford in June 1866 with 315 inhabitants.

In recent years (starting around the 1980s), the town of Rockford has developed a more suburban character as a middle class bedroom community of Grand Rapids, MI.

Recreation

The White Pine Trail runs through the downtown area of Rockford, next to the Rogue River and the Rockford Dam. Rockford also has many small parks dotted along the river for a great place to rest while enjoying the white pine trail. Rockford is noted for having a wide variety of unusual boutique shops with many specializing in hard-to-find or one-of-a-kind items. Children delight in shopping at Aunt Candy's Toy Company. Adults can browse through Baskets In The Belfry, grab a bite to eat at Dam Dogs, or purchase gourmet coffee and fudge from Herman's Boy. One of Rockford's unique features is that the streetlights play music which the strolling shoppers can enjoy. The outskirts of Rockford offer unique restaurants. Locals love to visit Stavros Restaurant for breakfast, stop by Bostwick Bakery for an afternoon sweet treat and make their way to Fireside Pizzeria for dinner. The downtown area has many activities to promote itself. In the summer, there is a farmer's market where fresh produce, flowering plants, and gourmet baked goods may be purchased every Saturday morning. The city offers several festivals. At the start of summer, a carnival with fireworks is always fun to attend. In the fall, there are three weekends that serve for the Fall Harvest Festival with activities for all ages. The Rockford Historical Society has a "Create Your Own Scarecrow" activity that is fun for families during that time and for a small donation, children and adults can create life-sized, straw-filled characters. Children enjoy free pony rides and seeing the large Hush Puppy Mascot (a Basset Hound) walking around. The generous community of Rockford comes together for their Relay For Life, which includes a walking relay and various booths with fun activities and information. The Relay For Life is a large community fundraiser with funds going to help prevent cancer. Nearby Grand Rapids offers museums, sporting events, arena concerts, John Ball Zoo, and the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

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