How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 3

Photo credit - Michigan Travel IdeasIn parts one and two of our series explaining how Michigan cities were named, we shared unique stories and history of various areas of our state. This week, check out how the five cities below got their names.

Kalamazoo:
Kalamazoo, the largest city in Southwest Michigan, was originally known as “Bronson,” after founder Titus Bronson. In the 1830s, the name was changed to the Native American word “Kalamazoo,” but there are several theories to its exact origin. Some say it means “the mirage of reflecting river,” while others say it means bubbling or boiling water. Another legend is that the image of “boiling water” referred to fog on the river as seen from the hills above the current downtown.

Grosse Pointe:
Grosse Pointe, sometimes called “the Pointes,” refers to a comprised area of five individual communities outside of Metro Detroit. The name “Grosse Pointe” derives from the size of the area and its projection into Lake St. Clair.

Frankenmuth:
Frankenmuth, often referred to as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” was settled and named in 1845 by immigrants from Franconia (now part of Bavaria) in Germany. The German word “franken” represents the Province of Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria, and the German word “mut” means courage, which makes the city name of Frankenmuth stand for “courage of the Franconians.” Families flock to Frankenmuth to enjoy Christmas celebrations yearlong, in addition to a number of other activities.

Albion:
The city of Albion was almost named “Peabodyville,” after Tenney Peabody, the first European-American settler to arrive in the area in 1833. The area remained nameless until 1835, when a man named Jesse Crowell formed a residence and land development company called the Albion Company. Peabody’s wife was then asked to name the settlement and while she considered using her husband’s name, she ultimately selected “Albion.” The name was appropriate, since “Albion” is an old and poetic name for England, and many of the early settlers were of English decent.

Muskegon:
Like many other cities in Michigan, Native American tribes inhabited what’s known as Muskegon during historic times. The word “Muskegon” is derived the Ottawa Native American term “Masquigon,” meaning “marshy river or swamp.” The “Masquigon” river was identifed on French maps dating back to the late 17th century, suggesting that French explorers had reached Michigan’s western coast by that time. Today, people enjoy the water and sand dunes in Muskegon every summer.

  • John Klocke

    How did the own of Yale get its name?

  • Robert Morton

    How did the name of Flint come about, (that is before the lights were turned off) After all it was one of the most industrial cities in Michigan.

  • Kathy N

    Westland – named after Westland Mall.

  • Harmonie Ponder

    From the river on which it is located, the name derived from translation of the Indian name Pewonigo, “river of flint.” The place first bore the name of Flint River Settlement.

  • Sharon

    I would love to find out how Mesick got its name!

  • Harmonie Ponder

    Mesick was named for Howard Mesick, sawmill owner

  • Miezekatze (c/o Rick Mueller)

    Contrary to any myths about “Kalamazoo”, its actual translation is “Place Where Nothing Happens On Saturday Night”.

  • Sandy Pilkington

    Grosse Ile
    French explorers of the late 17th century named the island as “la grosse ile” — the “big island”. Missionary Father Louis Hennepin accompanied fellow French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle on the ship Le Griffon in exploring the Great Lakes in 1679. Father Hennepin wrote in his journals about the fruit orchards and wild animals on Grosse Ile; the north end of Grosse Ile is named Hennepin Point in his honor.
    The British anglicized the spelling to “Grosse Isle” after their victory in the French and Indian War; this form was used until the early 20th century when residents re-established the French version.

  • KayLee

    Have enjoyed this series on how MI cities got their name as I am a transplant to Michigan.
    Does anyone know how the little town of Elberta got its name? Someone told me the Elberta Peach was named after this little town, and is that true?

  • Annette

    Novi is said to be named after the train station that was there – No. VI

  • Lynn

    Actually, Novi was the number six (No. VI) stagecoach stop on the way from Detroit to Chicago.

  • Bill

    Novi did NOT get its name from being a stagecoach stop between Detroit and anywhere else. Not Chicago, not Lansing.

    One, the road to Chicago was a long established indian trail called the Great Sauk Trail and it was changed around 1815 to Michigan Ave and eventually in the late 1920s to US 12.

    Two, Novi was previously named West Farmington Township. It was changed around 1835 to Novi at the behest of local farmers who had a hard time writing writing all those letters on the side of produce crates. Novi was selected by the Township Supervisor’s wife, who knew a little about Roman Mythology and suggested the name on a minor Roman goddess.

    Unconvinced? How about this. Lansing was not the Capitol at the time Michigan gained Statehood in 1837. Detroit was the Capitol until 1847 when Lansing Township was picked. At the time, almost 50 people lived in Lansing Township. There would have no need to for anyone to run a stagecoach there for another ten years.

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  • Blakesleev

    i WAS TOLD THAT MUSKEGON GOT ITS NAME FROM SOME MEN WHO WERE OUT ON THE LAKE  AND HAD A MUSKIE GUN AND DROPPED HIS GUN IN THE LAKE AND HE TRIED TO FIND IT AND SAID “MY MUSKIE GUN” AND THROUGH THIS THE NAME MUSKEGON.

  • RAMULE

    Correction:  Kakamazoo REALLY means “Place Where Nothing Happens On Saturday Night”.

  • Sandra Engle Karnes

    Where did Jonesville, Michigan get its name?

  • Chris

    How about all the one’s in the U.P. or are they not part of Michigan