Long before European settlement and Union City, the St. Joe was known by Native Americans as the River of the Miamis. It was an important resource for water, game, fish and transportation. The origin of the St. Joe is found in the lake in Hillsdale named for the Potawatomi Chief BawBeese. Some accounts place a Potawatomi camp near this bank. Peaceful forest dwellers, they took advantage of the large stand of maple trees on the south side of the river to produce syrup. Friendly local tribes helped early settlers survive harsh winters in Branch County. In 1837, there was an estimated 1000 natives living near the junctions of the Coldwater & St. Joe Rivers, but many succumbed to diseases that arrived with early settlers. Other than a few reservations, including the Nottawaseppi just west of here, most of their land was taken under the 1833 Chicago Treaty. Many were forcibly moved to reservations in Kansas under the Indian Removal Act of 1840 with local Chief Moguago escaping during the long trip and returning to the Athens area. The Nottawa Huron Band has a 120 acre reservation a few miles away, northwest of Athens, and was recognized in 1995 by the U.S. Government.