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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Spring Lake


Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1930 1,271 0
1990 2,537 3
2000 2,514 8

Method of Exclusion

  • Private Bad Behavior

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


In the 1850s, Hezekiah Smith, a former slave founded a black colony in Spring Lake. According to a May 4th, 1915 article in the Grand Haven Daily Tribune “the negroes soon aroused the enmity of these people by making raids on their coops and their crops. The companies suffered through the disappearance of lumber… The blacks were sometimes caught in their
depredations and summarily punished without resort to the court…. But still the stealing went on and every once in a while one of the men would announce the loss of another chicken. The situation was really desperate.” White residents decided to dress up in old army uniforms and inform the black residents (“the lazy negroes, who were taking their morning bask in the warm sunshine”) that they had to leave.”Starting up like frightened sheep as soon as they saw McCarthy and the others coming, the negroes made a dash for the home of Hezekiah Smith…” The white
vigilantes gave him the document they had prepared, but he could not read. When the leader of the mob read it, the blacks “started to cry and moan… All that day the negroes could be seen packing their belongings into sacks and boxes, and trudging down the road with their chickens and other prized possessions. The next day there was not a negro in sight.” 20 years later, “Hezekiah Smith, bent with age, came back to Spring Lake and was permitted to live there until his demise, but the colony never returned.”

Nov. 2013 email: “You really need to rethink how you label these towns. Spring Lake is not and never was a “Sundown town” as you say. They have always allowed anyone regardless of color/religion/etc… to live there. They DID run out a band of thieves in the early 1900’s who also happened to be Black. The leader was even allowed to return and live peacefully until his death. How on Earth is that a “Sundown Town” I ask? Smith was NOT out of town for 20 years, he left for 4 years. A section of lake is named after him, he was a leader in the area, as well as a respected farmer.”