Did you know that John W. Patterson Way is named after Battle Creek's first black police officer?

John W. Patterson enjoyed a 39-year career in Battle Creek law enforcement.  Patterson was a baseball player early on in his life. In fact, he coached Battle Creek's high school baseball team between 1907 and 1909. That's when he joined law enforcement according to Battle Creek Inquirer,

In 1909, he became a patrolman with the Battle Creek Police Department in an era when, according to local historian Mary Butler, Battle Creek was a welcoming place for African-Americans.

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Having a person of color join a police force in 1909 was extremely rare. To put this in perspective, Kalamazoo hired its first black police officer, Public Safety Officer Robert “Al” Goodwin in 1951. The first African American Michigan State Trooper, Jack Hall signed on in 1967.

Patterson was an impressive man. Before moving to Michigan, Paterson was born in 1872 in Nebraska when the state's black population was less than 5%. He went on to play, manage, and coach baseball in Chicago and Battle Creek. Which was no doubt, one heck of an accomplishment for a black man in the early 1900s.

By all accounts, John W. Patterson was well-liked in the community. He was known to have a smile on his face all of the time and was happy to help anyone who needed him. Tragically, Patterson's career ended when he died at the age of 68 according to the Battle Creek Inquirer,

While assisting in the capture of an escaped patient from the Veterans Administration facility, Patterson suffered a rupture in his groin that eventually became infected.

The Officer Down Memorial Page points out that Battle Creek changed the name of a portion of East State Street 'John W. Patterson Way' on New Year's Eve of 1999.

John Patterson was likely the first black police officer in West Michigan but second in the state overall as John Wilson joined the Detroit Police Department in 1878.

Read More: Did You Know Michigan Chose Two Different State Capitals Before Settling On Lansing?

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See Inside the Mt. Vernon Home Rumored to be Part of the Underground Railroad

Located at 917 Mill Street in Mt. Vernon, less than a mile north of the Ohio River, there are a few different rumors of how the Robin Hill home was involved in helping slaves escape to the North. One rumor suggested there was a tunnel underneath the home slaves would use to pass through after getting off a boat on the river. That rumor has been debunked, but there once was a creek that ran near the home which was so overgrown with plants it looked like a tunnel. It is believed slaves used the creek as a pathway as they headed north. The home's current owner, Brian Alldredge, says he heard someone who lived or worked at the home during that time period would hang a colored blanket over the balcony to let those assisting the slaves know whether or not it was safe to pass with one particular color providing a green light, so to speak, and another warning there were people in the area looking for runaway slaves (some people in the North were known to capture slaves and send them back to the South).

The home went through a $700,000 remodel from 2001-2008 which included a new foundation and main support walls, all new floor joist and floors, new roof, new windows, and new drywall. It's currently for sale on Zillow with an asking price of $412,500

Gallery Credit: Ryan O'Bryan

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