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Berrien County, Michigan

Berrien County Historical Association Project

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Please contact us if you know of anyone of Greek descent or married to a Greek who had a home or spent their summers in Southwestern Michigan.

We are doing oral histories and research regarding this community.

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Project Publication Online

Thomopoulos, Elaine, The Greeks of Berrien County, Michigan, Michigan Humanities Council (Berrien County Historical Association, 2003), available at http://www.berrienhistory.org/greekstudy/pamphlet_print.pdf — 7mb PDF download.

Project Description

The Greeks of Berrien County, Michigan

The Berrien County Historical Association (BCHA) in partnership with the Annunciation and Saint Paraskevi Church and Columbia College, as well as other organizations, has implemented a project entitled, The Greeks of Berrien County, Michigan. The project studies the settlement patterns and history of the Greeks of Berrien Country starting with the 1910s and 1920s (when the first Greek immigrant settled in the county) and continuing to the present. The research includes:

  1. the early immigrants who settled in the county, their children and grandchildren
  2. the more recent immigrants and their children who came after World War II;
  3. the Greeks who bought second homes;
  4. and those who came to the resorts in the summer as a respite from crowded Chicago.

Our researchers use census data, immigration and naturalization records, probate records, city, township, and county records, and archival material from museums, libraries, the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek organizations. Photographs and artifacts are collected and deposited at the Berrien County Museum for use in exhibits.

The success of this project is due to the involvement of volunteers, who conduct oral histories and assist with the research under the direction of Dr. Elaine Thomopoulos, Project Director. Particularly important is the participation of the Annunciation and Saint Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Church under the leadership of the parish priest Father Basil Stamas and the parish council president Ted Kerhoulas.

First Phase of the Project

In the first phase of the project, the Berrien County Historical Association (BCHA) received $12,000 in funding through the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment of the Humanities, to conduct the historical research, present three programs to discuss the results of the research, and print a small publication.

The 10-page, project publication is available online now.

Second Phase of the Project

In the second phase of the project, in 2006, Berrien County Historical Association (BCHA) has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council to produce the Greeks of Berrien County Exhibit. According the Michigan Humanities Council grant announcement:

The exhibit will explore the history and contributions of Greek immigrants who settled and vacationed in Berrien County. The exhibit will include photographs and artifacts and be displayed at three places:

  • the Orchards Mall in Benton Township from November 20, 2006 — January 6, 2007;
  • the 1839 Courthouse Museum in Berrien Springs from January 16 — February 9, 2007; and,
  • a permanent display at the Annunciation and St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Church in New Buffalo, beginning February 15, 2007.

Additional components of the project include a 20-page publication, humanities scholars presenting public discussions about Greek immigration, radio presentations, oral histories, and Internet postings of photos.

Consultants / Advisers

Dr. Erin McCarthy's Columbia College Oral History Class students, starting in the fall semester 2002, have interviewed the Greeks who summered in Michigan. Drs. Gary Land and April Summitt from Andrews University, Berrien Springs, have agreed to conduct interviews and transcribe interviews as part of this project.

The BCHA has also been fortunate to have as volunteer consultants and advisers the following distinguished scholars:

  • Dr. Artemis Leontis, Adjunct Professor and Coordinator of Modern Greek, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor;
  • Rev. James Bogdan, priest, Ph.D. candidate, and instructor and chair of the Division of Social Sciences at Grand Rapids Community College;
  • Gordon Olson, City Historian, Grand Rapids Public Library;
  • Steve Frangos, author/editor of books and articles about the Greek-American experience;
  • Paul Chardoul, historical consultant and past project director of The Greeks in Grand Rapids Project;
  • Pearl Kastran Ahnen, author of Legends and Legacies (the Greeks in Ann Arbor, Michigan);
  • Dr. Charles Moskos, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and author of Greek Americans: Struggle and Success;
  • Dr. George Kourvetaris, Professor of Sociology at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, and author/editor of books and articles about the Greek-American experience.

Leo Goodsell of the BCHA has served as co-director.

Our evaluator is Dr. Arthur Helweg, Professor of Anthropology at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Principal

For further information, contact Elaine Thomopoulos, Ph.D., project director.


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