In 1833, while exploring lands for his clients, a Mr. Jay R. Monroe acquired a land patent of 65 acres on Lake Michigan and the Black River from the United States government. He built a log cabin on that land, however Monroe and his wife left to live in Lawrence Township because of the slow development there. Monroe continued to bring people to buy his land and by 1838 South Haven was officially organized into a township. As Monroe sold land, he began laying out the first roads of the town, with one going to Prairie Ronde and the other towards Paw Paw.
It wasn’t until the lumber industry picked up did South Haven finally start to develop. Thanks to the introduction of sawmills in the 1850s, which brought employment and cleared the nearby land, South Haven underwent a huge expansion. The woodland that used to dominate the area was turned into lumber for stores, houses, and a school. A.S. Dyckman, one of the owners of the sawmills, built the city’s first hotel in 1867, called the Forest House. By the late 1860s, South Haven was turning into a stable and solid community.