New Buffalo Township is a civil township of Berrien County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the township population was 2,386. It is the southwesternmost township on the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
When Berrien County was first established in 1831, New Buffalo was a part of Berrien Township. New Buffalo Township was established by an act of the state legislature on March 12, 1836. Five days later, the village of New Buffalo was incorporated. The township originally included what are now Three Oaks Township and Chikaming Township. Three Oaks and Chikaming were set apart in 1856.
At the time of the arrival of the first Europeans to the area, French explorer Father Jacques Marquette in 1675 reported seeing the Miami people in his travels down the nearby St. Joseph River. Four years later, the exploration party of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, reported that the Miami were being displaced by the Potawatomi.
In 1834, one of the first permanent white settlers to the area, Captain Wessell Whittaker, ran his schooner Post Boy aground near what is now the village of Grand Beach. The captain and crew found shelter a bit south of there at the present-day Michigan City, Indiana. While traveling north to St. Joseph to report the ship's loss to its underwriters, Whittacker was so struck by the beauty of the area and the natural harbor that he filed claim to a large tract of land around the mouth of the Galien River. Whittacker named it after his hometown of Buffalo, New York.
After laying out plans for the city and gaining partners to develop the area, the value of land rapidly increased in a period of land speculation. This lasted until the Panic of 1837, which brought an abrupt end to most speculative land development in the area for several years. Followed soon after by a severe winter in 1841, the area struggled economically. The western terminus of the Michigan Central Railroad in New Buffalo was completed in 1849. The harbor was improved and the economy flourished briefly until the railroad connection to Chicago was completed in 1853, after which the use of the harbor for shipping declined.
Around the turn of the century, the area began to be recognized for its vacation and resort potential, resulting in summer cottages, camps and hotels. 1921 saw the opening of the Golfmore Hotel, rated as one of the finest resorts on the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1936. Like much of the country, the area struggled through the Great Depression, followed by booming growth after World War II.
During the 1970s and 1980s nightclubs just north of the Indiana state line in New Buffalo Township were popular destinations for young adults from Illinois and Indiana who were under age 21. Both of those states had minimum drinking ages of 21, whereas Michigan's minimum drinking age was 18.