How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 11

In our ongoing series of how cities in Michigan got their names, we’ve been able to share with you the history of cities from around our state. In case you missed them, here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 , Part 9 and Part 10.

Today, we bring you Part 11. Let us know in the comments section below which cities you’d like to see featured next!

Lake Odessa
Lake Odessa was developed by Humphrey R. Wager in 1887. Before it came to be “Lake Odessa”, the biggest settlement in the area was Bonanza. When the railway system was established farther south, the established Bonanza community moved to be closer to the railroad tracks. Abandoned Bonanza became cornfields and the new settlement near the railroad became Lake Odessa. Lake Odessa’s name was derived from two lakes, Tupper Lake and Jordan Lake, which are located in Odessa Township. In 1846, the Township was named by a committee in honor of one of Russia’s cities. 

Grand Haven
Grand Haven was first named Gabagouache by the Pottawattamie Indians. Once French settlers inhabited the area and made it a fur-outpost, they continued to call the location Gabagouache.  In 1835, Gabagouache was renamed Grand Haven due to its close proximity to the mouth of the Grand River and to honor the beautiful setting the river provided.  In 1837, the Grand Haven community grew to become a city.

Grand Haven's peaceful city boardwalk

St. Joseph
In 1669, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was the first European to settle in what is present day St. Joseph. La Salle and his crew named the river that was located in the area “River Miami” and built a fort, Fort Miami, on its shores. In 1679 the fort was destroyed, and it wasn’t until 1780 that the area became established again. In 1829, Calvin Britain created a plat map for the settlement, which was then called Newburyport, and the village thrived. In 1834, the village was renamed St. Joseph after the river, which had been renamed prior.

Mount Clemens
In 1795, the area that is present day Mount Clemens was surveyed by Christian Clemens. Four years later, Clemens settled the area.  During that time, Clements and a friend, John Brooks, built a distillery and platted the land, which started the expansion of the settlement.  The town was named after Clemens in 1818, and was incorporated into a town in 1851.  In 1879, the town was incorporated into a city.  Christian Clemens lived in Mount Clemens the rest of his life, and upon his death was buried in Clemens Park, located north of downtown.  

Imlay City
Eastern capitalist William H. Imlay moved to the area that is present day Imlay City in 1828. On April 1, 1850, the township came into existence and was named after Imlay.  During this time, Charles Palmer, the chief engineer of the railroad, selected Imlay as a potential produce market and purchased a tract of two hundred and forty acres of land, in which he surveyed and platted.  Because the area had already been named Imlay, Palmer decided to call his location Imlay City. It wasn’t until 1870 that the village began to take off due to the construction of the Port Huron and Lake Michigan Railway.

  • JaneBardwell

    How about Onekama…or ..becoming more well known as 1, ( one.comma)

  • AmandaBrohman

    Niles! The City of the 4 Flags has an interesting history.

  • Benita Graf

    What about Sebewaing?