Battle Creek, Michigan

Battle Creek is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan, in northwest Calhoun County, at the confluence of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek rivers. It is the principal city of the Battle Creek, Michigan Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which encompasses all of Calhoun County. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 52,347, while the MSA's population was 136,146.

Battle Creek, Michigan
City of Battle Creek
Downtown Battle Creek

"Cereal City"[1]
Location of Battle Creek within Michigan
Battle Creek, Michigan
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 42°18′44″N 85°12′15″W
CountryUnited States
  MayorMark Behnke[2]
  City ManagerRebecca Fleury[3]
  Total43.75 sq mi (113.32 km2)
  Land42.60 sq mi (110.35 km2)
  Water1.15 sq mi (2.97 km2)
840 ft (256 m)
  Density1,203.76/sq mi (464.77/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Codes
49014–49018, 49037
Area code269
FIPS code26-05920[7]
GNIS feature ID0620755[8]

History and name origin

In about 1774, the Potawatomi and the Ottawa Native American tribes formed a joint village near the future Battle Creek, Michigan.[9]

Battle Creek was named for a minor encounter on March 14, 1824, between a federal government land survey party led by Colonel John Mullett and two Potawatomi Indians, who had approached the survey camp asking for food. They were hungry because the Army was late in delivering the supplies promised them by the treaty of 1820. After a protracted discussion, the Native Americans allegedly tried to steal food. One of the surveyors grabbed his rifle and shot one of the Potawatomies, seriously wounding him. Following the encounter, the surveyors retreated to Detroit.[10]

Surveyors would not return to the area until June 1825, after Governor Lewis Cass had settled the issues with the Native Americans. Early white settlers called the nearby stream the Battle Creek River, and the town took its name from that.[11][12][13][14][15]

Native Americans had called the river Waupakisco, to which some attribute a folk etymology. By this account, the name Waupakisco or Waupokisco was a reference to an earlier battle fought between Native American tribes before the arrival of white settlers. However, Virgil J. Vogel establishes that this native term had "nothing to do with blood or battle".[11][16]

Following removal of the Potawatomi to a reservation, the first permanent white settlements in Battle Creek Township began about 1831. Migration had increased to Michigan from New York and New England following the completion of the Erie Canal in New York in 1824. Most settlers chose to locate on the Goguac prairie, which was fertile and easily cultivated. A post office was opened in Battle Creek in 1832 under Postmaster Pollodore Hudson.[17] The first school was taught in a small log house about 1833 or 1834. Asa Langley built the first sawmill in 1837. A brick manufacturing plant, called the oldest enterprise in the township, was established in 1840 by Simon Carr, and operated until 1903. The township was established by act of the legislature in 1839.[18]

In the antebellum era, the city was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, used by fugitive slaves to escape to freedom in Michigan and Canada. It was the chosen home of noted abolitionist Sojourner Truth after her escape from slavery.[19]

Battle Creek figured prominently in the early history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was the site of a Protestant church founding convention in 1863. The denomination's first hospital, college and publishing office would also constructed in the city. When the hospital and publishing office burned down in 1902, the church elected to decentralize, and most of its institutions were relocated. The first Adventist church (rebuilt in the 1920s) is still in operation.

World Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson was once arrested here for marrying his White wife and transporting her across state lines.[20]

The city was noted for its focus on health reform during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Battle Creek Sanitarium was founded by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. In addition to some of his sometimes bizarre treatments that were featured in the movie The Road to Wellville, Kellogg also funded organizations that promoted eugenics theories at the core of their philosophical agenda. The Better Race Institute was one of these organizations. He also supported the "separate but equal" philosophy and invited Booker T. Washington to speak at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in order to raise money. Washington was the author of the speech "The Atlanta Compromise", which solidified his position of being an accommodationist while providing a mechanism for southern Whites (and their sympathizers), to fund his school (the Tuskegee Institute).

W. K. Kellogg had worked for his brother in a variety of capacities at the B.C. Sanitarium. Tired of living in his brother's shadow, he struck out on his own, going to the boom-towns surrounding the oilfields in Oklahoma as a broom salesman. Having failed, he returned to work as an assistant to his brother (John Harvey). While working at the sanitariums' laboratory, W.K. spilled liquefied corn meal on a heating device that cooked the product and rendered it to flakes. He tasted the flakes and added milk to them. He was able to get his brother to allow him to give some of the product to some of the patients at the sanitarium, and the patients' demand for the product exceeded his expectations to the point that W.K made the decision to leave the sanitarium. Along with some investors, he built a factory to satisfy the demand for his "corn flakes".

As W. K. Kellogg's wealth began to exceed his brother's, he funded some of his projects that were at the sanitarium. One of these was the Better Race Institute, a eugenics-based organization. During this time, John Harvey Kellogg became a Freemason. One of the tenets of the fraternity is that "Masonry recognizes the internal character of a man, not the external". John Harvey Kellogg stopped funding his brother's projects and established equal pay policies in his company. He also led desegregation efforts by allowing black children to swim in his home pool. He funded many school and philanthropic projects throughout the city, and founded Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

It was during this time of going their separate ways for good that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg sued his brother for copyright infringement. The U.S. Supreme court ruled in W.K. Kellogg's favor.

Inspired by Kellogg's innovation, C. W. Post invented Grape-Nuts and founded his own cereal company in the town. Battle Creek has been nicknamed "the Cereal City."

In the turbulent 1960s, Battle Creek was not immune to the racial issues of the day. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke here, as did Sen. Hubert Humphrey, President L.B. Johnson, and Heavyweight Champion of the world Muhammad Ali. African Americans were subjected to "stop and frisk" procedures while walking, and housing covenants were in full force. No Blacks worked in the school systems, and only a few Blacks held mid-level manager posts in the local corporate sector. The Federal government sector was better at the Federal Center, and less so at the local Veterans' Administration Hospital.

The Black Recondos, a group formed from the local young adult council of the NAACP, forced the local board of education to hire Black teachers and administrative personnel, under the threat of removing every black student from their public schools. They also forced the chief of police to allow Black Recondos to intervene in arrests and gave them the authority to take black law breakers into their custody instead of the local police. This caused the second strike of a police force in U.S. history. The officers were fired and the strike was ended.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.73 square miles (113.26 km2), of which 42.61 square miles (110.36 km2) is land and 1.12 square miles (2.90 km2) is water,[21] making Battle Creek the third largest city in Michigan by area, and one of only three incorporated municipalities in the state over 40 sq mi (100 km2) in size.

  • Approximately 60% of the city's land is developed. Of the undeveloped land, 38% is zoned agricultural, 26% is zoned general industrial, 17.5% is zoned residential, 16% is the Fort Custer Army National Guard Base/Industrial Park, and 2.5% is zone commercial.[22]
  • After Battle Creek Township merged into the city of Battle Creek in 1983, the city's declining population rose by nearly 18,000 new residents, but the city continues to decline in population. Prior to the merge, the city measured 18.6 square miles (48.17 km2).
  • Battle Creek is variously considered to be part of Western Michigan or Southern Michigan.


Climate data for Battle Creek, Michigan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Average high °F (°C) 31
Average low °F (°C) 17
Record low °F (°C) −19
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.1
Source: Weatherbase[23]

Nearby municipalities


Historical population
Est. 201851,247[6]−2.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[24]

In 1982, at the insistence of the Kellogg Company, the city annexed Battle Creek Township, nearly doubling the city's population. Kellogg's even went so far as to threaten moving their headquarters if the annexation failed to occur.[25]

2010 census

As of the census[5] of 2010, there were 52,347 people, 21,118 households, and 12,898 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,228.5 inhabitants per square mile (474.3/km2). There were 24,277 housing units at an average density of 569.7 per square mile (220.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.7% White, 18.2% African American, 0.7% Native American, 2.4% Asian, 2.7% from other races, and 4.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 6.7% of the population.

There were 21,118 households of which 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.1% were married couples living together, 18.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.9% were non-families. 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 3.04.

The median age in the city was 36.3 years. 26.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.9% were from 25 to 44; 25.5% were from 45 to 64; and 13.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.9% male and 52.1% female.

As of April 2013, Battle Creek has the fifth largest Japanese national population in the State of Michigan, 358 people.[26]

2000 census

As of the census[7] of 2000, there were 53,364 people, 21,348 households, and 13,363 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,246.0 per square mile (481.1/km2). There were 23,525 housing units at an average density of 549.3 per square mile (212.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 74.65% White, 17.80% Black or African American, 1.94% Asian, 0.77% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 2.11% from other races, and 2.72% from two or more races. 4.64% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 21,348 households out of which 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.9% were married couples living together, 16.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,491, and the median income for a family was $43,564. Males had a median income of $36,838 versus $26,429 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,424. About 10.7% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.5% of those under age 18 and 11.8% of those age 65 or over.


The City of Battle Creek has a commission-manager form of government. Cities that follow this plan of government have an elected commission (or council) that appoints a professionally trained and experienced manager to administer the day-to-day operations of the city and to make recommendations to the city commission. Battle Creek also appoints a City Attorney, who provides legal counsel to the city manager and City Commission.

The City Commission makes all policy decisions, including review, revision and final approval of the annual budget, which is proposed annually by the City Manager. The City Manager serves as an "at-will" employee and he works under an employment contract with the commission. All other city employees, with the exception of the City Attorney's staff, are under the supervision of the City Manager.

There are five ward commissioners. Residents cast votes for a ward representative, who must live within the area they are representing, as well as for four at-large commissioners. These candidates may live anywhere in the city. All commissioners serve two-year terms and all terms begin and end at the same election. The last commission election was in fall 2015.

Each November, the commission holds a special meeting to decide which commissioners serve as mayor and vice mayor for the next year. The mayor presides over the commission meetings and appoints commissioners and residents to special committees. He may also form special committees to explore community challenges or potential policies. The vice mayor stands in if the mayor is unavailable.[27]

The city levies an income tax of 1 percent on residents and 0.5 percent on nonresidents.[28]


Largest employers

According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[29] the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of employees
1 Kellogg 2,500
2 Kraft Foods, Post Division Between 2,085 and 2,500
3 Denso 2,085
4 Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center 1,556
5 Bronson Battle Creek 1,400
6 Battle Creek VA Medical Center 1,300
7 Michigan Air National Guard 1,127
8 Battle Creek Public Schools 1,089
9 Kellogg Community College 920
10 I I Stanley 750
10 Family Fare 700
11 Duncan Aviation 700


Colleges and universities

Public school districts

High schools (public)

High schools (private)

Secondary schools

  • Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center, an accelerated secondary school that focuses primarily on STEM education[42]
  • Calhoun Area Career Center, provides career and technical education to primarily 11th and 12th grade students[43]

Foreign-language education

The Battle Creek Japanese School (バトルクリーク補習授業校 Batoru Kurīku Hoshū Jugyō Kō), a supplementary weekend Japanese school, holds its classes at the Lakeview School District building.[44]



FM radio stations that originate or can be heard over the air in Battle Creek:

  • WSPB 89.7 - Battle Creek - Holy Family Radio Roman Catholic Radio[47]
  • WCSG 91.3 - Grand Rapids - Christian Adult Contemporary
  • WZUU 92.5 - Mattawan/Kalamazoo - Classic Rock
  • WBCT 93.7 - Grand Rapids - Country
  • WWDK 94.1 - Jackson/Lansing/Battle Creek/Kalamazoo - Classic Country
  • WBCK 95.3 - Battle Creek - News/Talk
  • WZOX 96.5 - Portage/Kalamazoo - Alternative Rock
  • WNWN 98.5 - Coldwater/Battle Creek/Kalamazoo - Country
  • WFPM 99.1 - Battle Creek - Gospel
  • WBCH-FM 100.1 - Hastings - Country
  • WBFN 101.1 - Battle Creek - Christian (FM translator for AM 1400)
  • WTOU 102.7 - Battle Creek - Urban Adult Contemporary
  • WKFR 103.3 - Battle Creek/Kalamazoo - CHR/Top 40
  • WBXX 104.9 - Marshall/Battle Creek - Alternative Rock
  • WSRW 105.7 - Grand Rapids - Adult Contemporary
  • WJXQ 106.1 - Jackson/Lansing/Battle Creek - Mainstream Rock
  • WVFM 106.5 - Kalamazoo - Adult Contemporary
  • WRKR 107.7 - Portage/Battle Creek/Kalamazoo - Classic Rock

AM radio stations that originate or can be heard over the air in Battle Creek:

  • WKZO 590 - Kalamazoo - News/Talk - (FM translator at 106.9)
  • WTOU 930 - Battle Creek - Urban Adult Contemporary
  • WILS 1320 - Lansing - News/Talk
  • WKMI 1360 - Kalamazoo - News/Talk
  • WBFN 1400 - Battle Creek - Christian
  • WQLR 1660 - Kalamazoo - Sports


  • WWMT, a CBS affiliate licensed to Kalamazoo and also serving Battle Creek, Grand Rapids and western Michigan
  • WOTV, an ABC affiliate serving Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and southwestern Michigan, and also serving as a secondary ABC affiliate for Grand Rapids
  • WZPX, an ION affiliate serving all of western Michigan
  • AccessVision, public-access television on Comcast channels 16 and 17; broadcasts to all municipalities within Battle Creek, and Newton Township[48]


  • The World's Longest Breakfast Table
  • The Battle Creek Field of Flight Entertainment Festival is an air show and balloon event held yearly in Battle Creek.[49]
  • International Festival of Lights[50]


Battle Creek is home to the Music Center,[51] which serves South Central Michigan.

The Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra is based at the W.K. Kellogg Auditorium in downtown Battle Creek.[52] The symphony is conducted by Anne Harrigan. It is Michigan's longest-running symphony orchestra.

The Brass Band of Battle Creek is composed of 31 brass players and percussionists from around the United States and Europe. "Created in 1989 by brothers Jim and Bill Gray, podiatrists and amateur brass players from Battle Creek, MI, the BBBC has grown to cult status in Battle Creek, where BBBC concerts are regularly sold out and waiting lists are created weeks in advance."[53]

Leilapalooza - The Leila Arboretum Music Festival is a free summer music festival held at the Leila Arboretum. Proceeds benefit the Leila Arboretum Society and Kingman Museum.[54]


Battle Creek hosts the annual Michigan High School Athletic Association team wrestling, volleyball, baseball, and softball state championships. The town receives quarterly boosts to its economy from the fans who flock there to follow their teams.[55]

Each year, Battle Creek hosts the Sandy Koufax 13S World Series, for 13-year-old baseball players.

In August 2010, Battle Creek was host to the eighth edition of the International H.K.D. Games.

Sports teams

The Battle Creek Bombers are a collegiate baseball team, a member of the Northwoods League, who began play in 2007. After a last place finish in 2010, the Bombers went 47-26 in 2011 and won their first NWL championship.[56] It was the first championship in Battle Creek since 2000, when the Michigan Battle Cats won the Midwest League championship. The team's home is C.O. Brown Stadium. In 2011, the team signed a five-year lease, which guarantees the team's ten-year anniversary in Battle Creek in 2017. Actor Tyler Hoechlin, who starred alongside Tom Hanks in the critically acclaimed film Road to Perdition, previously played for the Battle Creek Bombers.

Club Sport League Venue
Battle Creek Bombers Baseball Summer Collegiate Baseball, Northwoods League C. O. Brown Stadium

Former sports teams

The Michigan Battle Cats/Battle Creek Yankees/Southwest Michigan Devil Rays were a Class A minor league baseball team that played in the Midwest League from 1995 through 2006. The team's home was C.O. Brown Stadium.

The Battle Creek Crunch were a member of the Great Lakes Indoor Football League (GLIFL), that began play in 2006. They played one season in Battle Creek before ceasing operations due to financial trouble. The team's home was Kellogg Arena.

The Battle Creek Belles, a member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, played two seasons, 1951 and 1952, before relocating to Muskegon.

The Battle Creek Revolution were a member of the All American Hockey League, a low-level professional minor league, from 2008 to 2011. The team's home was Revolution Arena. The organization also started a junior hockey team called the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution in 2010. The junior team was sold renamed to the West Michigan Wolves in 2014 before relocating to Lansing in 2017.

The Battle Creek Blaze is a not-for-profit, adult football team that plays NFL rules football as a member of the IFL (Interstate Football League). The Blaze organization raises funds and community awareness in the fight against cancer. They are in their sixth season of operation, and won the IFL North Division Championship in 2010.[57]

The Battle Creek Cereal Killers roller derby team began in 2011.[58]

The Battle Creek Knights are a minor league basketball team. They were a charter member of the International Basketball League (IBL) and went 21-0 during the league's first season in 2005, winning the championship. The team's home is Kellogg Arena. After announcing in July 2009 that they would sit out the 2009 season, that October the team announced that they would return to play in the International Basketball League.[59]

Points of interest

Fort Custer Army National Guard Base

Founded in 1917, Camp Custer, as it was then known, served over the next decades as a training ground, from World War I until the present. Parts of the base were spun off and developed as the Battle Creek Veteran's Hospital, Fort Custer National Cemetery, Fort Custer Recreation Area and Fort Custer Industrial Park. This industrial park contains more than 90 different companies.

The United States Government still owns the land, under an arrangement by which the state of Michigan administers and manages the property. The base, which is still mostly undeveloped, wooded land, takes up a sizable portion of Battle Creek's land area. The part of the base in Battle Creek that is now the industrial park measures 4.69 square miles (12.15 km2) in area, which is approximately 10.6% of the city's area. A much larger part of the base lies in Kalamazoo County. The adjoining W.K. Kellogg Airport is a joint civilian-Air National Guard facility.


Battle Creek is situated on Interstate 94 (I-94) midway between Detroit and Chicago.

Railroad and bus lines

The Battle Creek Amtrak Station serves Amtrak trains on the south end of the station and Greyhound and Indian Trails bus lines on the north side of the station. The Canadian National Railway and Norfolk Southern Railway provide freight service to the city.

Public transportation

Battle Creek Transit provides public transit services to Battle Creek area residents. Regular route bus service is provided throughout the City of Battle Creek.

Major highways


Kalamazoo's Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport serves Battle Creek. Locally, W. K. Kellogg Airport serves the general aviation needs of the community. The airport is also home to Western Michigan University's College of Aviation, Duncan Aviation, WACO Classic Aircraft Corp. a bi-plane manufacturer,[68] and formerly, the Michigan Air National Guard's 110th Fighter Wing, which flies the A-10 and O/A-10 aircraft.

Notable people

See also People from Battle Creek, Michigan

Sister cities

Battle Creek has sister city relationships with Santo André, Brazil and Takasaki, Japan

Battle Creek's relationship with Takasaki is more than 25 years old. Takasaki later established sister city relationships with Santo Andre; Chengde, China; Pilsen, Czech Republic and, in 2006, Muntinlupa City, the Philippines. These cities take turns hosting annual environmental conferences where technical and administrative staff share ideas and projects about environmental concerns.

Battle Creek and Takasaki also organize junior high and high school student and teacher exchanges each summer.

See also

  • Michigan portal


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