Visionary business people, generous citizens and responsive government, all have made their contributions to the establishment and growth of Hastings. While they werenít aiming to develop "one of the 100 Best Small Towns", they were determined to make the city a viable business base and a pleasant living environment. It started in 1836 when three gentlemen named Dibble, Kingsbury and Kendall purchased the 480 acre town-site from Detroit banker Eurotas P. Hastings for $3,000. They platted the land into streets and lots and offered inducements to attract settlers. Waterpowered gristmills and sawmills were constructed along Fall Creek. In 1841, a wooden schoolhouse was built just east of the present library. Assurance of future importance come when the State legislature designated Hastings as the County Seat of Barry County in 1843. By 1848, there was enough of a population to warrant stagecoach service connecting the new town with Grand Rapids and Battle Creek. (Today, one of the stagec
A democratic journal, the Barry County Pioneer, first appeared in 1851. With around 300 inhabitants, Hastings incorporated as a village in 1855. There was a two-story schoolhouse to serve the eighty families, a county building and a two-year old jail. In 1856 a second newspaper, the Republican Banner, started publication. (The Banner still continues to be published weekly.) Like the rest of the nation, Hastings and Barry County saw most of its able-bodied men off to the battles of the Civil War. A total of 1,632 men from a county population of 15,000 served between 1861 and 1865. (A 100-ton monument to them, topped by the figure of a Union soldier, now stands at the entrance to Tyden Park.)
The first railroad train chuffed into town in 1869. (Although rail service ended in the 1970's, the old train station still stands and provided attractive office space.)
Two years later, March 11, 1871, Hastings officially become a city. The impressive Barry County Courthouse, which dominates the downtown, and its annex, were built in 1893. Extensive remodeling and rehabilitation have kept it beautiful and useful. (Itís one of only a handful of Michiganís 19th century public buildings still serving their original purposes.) The city grew slowly and carefully. New school buildings went up in 1916.
A $20,000 bequest from the Pennock family was the start of $100,000 fund drive that was used to establish a modern hospital in 1923. During the early Ď40's, the Draft Board, headquartered in Hastings, processed more than 5,000 notices and an estimated 3,000 Barry County citizens either volunteered or were drafted into military service. Air travel became commonplace and a City Airport was operational by 1947. Population of the city grew to 6,501 by 1960, decreased slightly by 1980 and leveled off at 6,549 in 1990.
The Master Plan for the city proclaims: "We treasure the old, progress with the new." The Barry County Historical Society continue to give new meaning to these words.