How did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 5

We’re happy to share with you another post in our ongoing series of how cities in Michigan got their names. Here is the naming history of five more cities, including one city whose founders’ clever thinking was able to get their city named as county seat. In case you missed them, here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Marquette is surrounded by its past but also by new shops displaying artwork, restaurants serving whitefish, symphonies playing in restored historic structures, and theaters highlighting local and national talent.



The city of Marquette was founded with a different name. It was first called Worchester by a group of miners from a city by that name in Massachusetts. In 1850, the city was renamed to honor French Jesuit missionary Jaques Marquette, who famously explored the region.


The area that is now Livonia was known for its rich soil and abundant harvests, attracting pioneers from New England. It’s believed they named the area after cities of similar names in New York state, Pennsylvania and, possibly, after a region near the Baltic sea comprising present day Estonia and Latvia.


The Sauk Indians originally lived in the Saginaw area before being driven out by the Ojibwe, or Chippewa Indians. The name, however, stuck. Saginaw is believed to mean “where the Sauk were.” The first permanent settlement by those other than the Native Americans began in 1815 on the banks of the Saginaw River.


Originally named Bedford Center in 1859,  “Temperance” was suggested by one of the founding land father’s wives, who was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. A petition was sent around, and the name was changed to Temperance. As you might imagine, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages was prohibited for some time.


The name Cadillac comes from Native American language as “Kautawabet” meaning “Broken Tooth,” after a Potawatamie chief who signed the Great Peace Treaty of 1825. The city was first organized in 1872 and called Clam Lake Village, but a dispute with the village of Sherman ensued over which city would hold the county seat. A group of politicians thought to change the name to Cadillac, after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, an early Michigan explorer and founder of Detroit. Changing the name tricked the legislators, and Cadillac became the “new” county seat.

  • Matthew R. Axley

    PLEASE do Ontonagon next! :))

  • Alana Hensley

    was otisville ever named something different & what does otisville mean..???
    thank ya’ll sooooo much.. merry christmas & happy new year!!

  • Bob

    How about “Novi”?

  • John Rivers

    Novi is an easy one! It was the Number VI train station in Roman numerals for the number 5
    happy holidays!

  • Chris Cantley

    I know a bit on how Lapeer was named, but it would be neat to see it on here!

  • Brandon

    How about Munising? or Escanaba? oooh. or Manistique?

  • Mehohanna

    Muskegon got its name from French trappers on a fishing trip with local Indians. After not one bite all day the Indian told the trappers that the Muskie gone.

  • Mehohanna

    After the bad day of fishing the trappers headed east looking for beaver and got to the only place where they could cross the river. aby the time they got there the river had risen due to heavy rains,the trappers asked now what and their Indian guide told them in broken english New way go, hence the city of Newaygo.

  • Mehohanna

    The travelers finally crossed the river and headed north to a spot on Lake Michigan. It had been some time since they bathed and one trapper said Man I stink and thus named Manistee.


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