How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 8

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 and Part 7. This week, check out part seven, which shares the stories of how five more Michigan cities were named.

Escanaba
As is the case with several cities in Michigan, Escanaba’s name comes from Native American language. Escanaba is actually an Ojibwa (Chippewa) Indian word meaning “flat rock.” The name stuck when European settlers arrived and began lumber operations there in the 1830s. The community was officially incorporated in 1863, when the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company built the first iron-ore dock on Lake Michigan.

Benton Harbor
Benton Harbor was founded on a swampy area bordered by the Paw Paw River, through which a canal was built, creating a harbor. It was originally called Brunson Harbor after Sterne Brunson, one of the city’s founders. However, in 1865 the name was changed to Benton Harbor to honor Thomas Hart Benton, a Missouri Senator who helped Michigan achieve statehood. In 1869, Benton Harbor was organized as a village and in 1891 was incorporated as a city.

Hamtramck
Hamtramck’s name has been a subject of confusion for several years, but it was actually named for Colonel John Francis Hamtramck. Col. Hamtramck was a French-Canadian soldier who fought for the Americans during the American War for Independence. He was at the surrender of Detroit from the British in 1796 and shortly afterwards built a home near the present entrance to the Belle Isle Bridge. When Wayne County was organized in the early 1900’s the area was formally named.

Fenton
There aren’t many cities in Michigan that can claim their names were the result of a night of cards like Fenton can. The city was originally called Dibbleville in honor of Clark Dibble, who first settled the area. However, in 1837 William M. Fenton (a lawyer and land speculator) and Robert LeRoy (a land speculator) played a game of cards in which LeRoy lost, with Fenton getting to change the name. The consolation prize of the game, given to Robert LeRoy, was putting his name to LeRoy Street, the main route through the city. The game didn’t stop at one hand. The men continued on naming other streets, choosing names (like Adelaide and Elizabeth) in turn, according to the fall of the cards.

Omer
Michigan’s self-proclaimed smallest city (it’s actually 2nd smallest according to 2010 U.S. census data) was originally intended to be called “Homer” by its founders by George Gorie and George Carscallen, who set up a sawmill along the Rifle River in the mid-1860s. The town was first named Rifle River Mills, but Carscallen wanted to rename the town as Homer. However, he found a post office in another town with that name, so he simply dropped the leading H, producing the final name. Omer was incorporated as a city following the lumber boom of 1903.

Ice Climbing in Pure Michigan

February’s page of the 2012 Pure Michigan calendar features a photo of an ice climber scaling a frozen waterfall in Munising, one of the state’s most popular destinations for the activity. Garrett Peabody, owner of Peabody Ice Climbing Club in Fenton, shares some insights into this exciting sport and why Michigan is such a popular destination for it.

Q: How does somebody get started with ice climbing?

A: Ice climbing is a lot like rock climbing with respect to movement and belay systems. Understanding those concepts helps when getting started, though they can be learned quickly. Climbing outdoors or in a climbing gym is a great place to practice those skills in a controlled environment. That said, ice climbing requires additional considerations because of conditions and needed equipment.

Q: What equipment do you need?

A: Clothing suitable for cold temperatures with a water resistant shell is best. Harness, boots, ice axes, crampons, helmet and gloves. Eye protection helps too. The equipment is technical, and it helps to have a knowledgeable person go through its features and functions prior to using.

Q: Do you need any special skills?

A: A sense of awareness helps. Ice climbing involves inherent risk. The risk can be addressed by being aware of the situation and learning from others with experience.

Q: Where can you ice climb around Michigan?

A: Most of the climbing in Michigan is focused along the shore of Lake Superior in Munising. There are literally miles of sandstone cliff lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls ranging from 20 to 210 ft tall.

Q: Do people travel to Michigan to ice climb?

A: Absolutely. Many come from surrounding states as we are home to one of the best ice climbing regions in the country.

Q: Do you have any tips for ice climbers – regardless of experience?

A: Communication is key. Climbing is an individual and team pursuit combined. Being aware of your and your partner’s combination of ability and experience is inherent to safety and success.

Q: How can people learn more about ice climbing?

A: The Michigan Ice Fest in Munising in early February is the best way to see and experience the sport firsthand in its true element. It is hosted by Downwind Sports out of Marquette. Interested individuals can demo equipment, participate in a clinic with a professional climber, view slide shows of their trips, do some climbing and see the scenery. There is a lot of info online. Alternatively, interested parties can contact us if they have questions.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Peabody Ice Climbing Club?

A: Peabody Ice Climbing Club is an ice climbing venue. Two towers, 45 and 72 ft tall, are iced over in the winter to offer a place for experienced ice climbers to train. Trying out ice climbing on these towers also provides a great introduction to people interested in the sport. The club is located on an old apple orchard south of Fenton. We provide gear and instruction. See our Facebook page for conditions and  general information. Call us at (810)433-3304 or e-mail us at peabodyiceclimbing@gmail.com with questions.