How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 2

Last week, we shared the first part in our series explaining how Michigan cities were named. This week, check out part two, which shares the story of how five more states were named.

Lansing:
How the name of Michigan’s capital city came to be is a fun story. In the 1830s, two brothers from New York tried to scam their fellow statesman by going to Lansing, New York, and trying to sell plots of land in an area of Michigan that was underwater most of the year. When men who bought plots of land realized they had been scammed, they settled in the area that is now metropolitan Lansing and renamed the area “Lansing Township” as an homage to their home village in New York. In 1847, the state constitution required that the capital of Michigan be moved out of Detroit. Lansing Township was chosen out of frustration with the process.  In 1848, the area was eventually given the name of Lansing. From November 9 – 17, check out the Lansing Film Festival, which will feature foreign films, documentaries and student productions from around the world.

Ann Arbor:
There are a couple theories about the origin of Ann Arbor, but the most agreed-upon theory revolves around two men named John Allen and Elisha Ramsey, two pioneers who were part of a group of settlers who set up a community by the Huron River in 1824. Both Rumsey and Allen’s wives were named Ann, and the word “arbor” means “a leafy, shady recess formed by tree branches, shrubs, etc.,” which perfectly describes the landscape of the area in 1824. Explore this city that does things a little bit differently:

Petoskey
Surrounded in mystery and legend, Petoskey is said to be named after the son of a French fur trader and Ottawa princess. He was named Petosegay. The translation of the name is “rising sun,” “rays of dawn,” or “sunbeams of promise” due to the bright light that shone on his face near the Kalamazoo river when he was born. He was a successful merchant and trader, who also married an Ottawa princess. It’s said a small settlement was started on his land just a north of Bear Creek and was named Petoskey (an English translation) after him. Petoskey is known for its bike trails, including Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile stretch that follows the shoreline from Charlevoix north to Harbor Springs.

Bad Axe
While surveying Huron County in 1861, Rudolph Papst and George Willis Pack made camp and found a badly damaged axe at the site. The camp became known as Bad Axe Camp after a sign Papst placed at the camp and near a trail. When he returned from the Civil War in 1870, he founded a small city in the place of the camp. It was called Bad Axe.

Sault Sainte Marie:
The origin of the name of the oldest city in Michigan goes back to the 1600s, when French missionaries and fur traders went into the area, calling it Sault du Gastogne. In 1668, Fr. Jacques Marquette, who you may remember from the story of Ludington’s history in part one,  renamed the settlement Sault Ste. Marie, in honor of the Virgin Mary—the first “city” in the Great Lakes region.  Fun fact: Native Americans gathered here more than 2,000 years ago for the wealth of fish and fur and called the area “Bahweting,” or “The Gathering Place.” In February, check out the 44th Annual International I-500 Snowmobile Race, also nicknamed “NASCAR on Ice.”

Fayette Historic State Park

Loreen Niewenhuis highlights a unique part of Michigan history by detailing a great Michigan state park, where nature and industry collided along the limestone cliffs of the UP.

While most of Michigan’s lakeshore parks preserve a slice of wilderness, Fayette Historic State Park contains a slice of 19th-century life along with evidence and artifacts of the Chippewa tribes that inhabited the area long before iron ore was ever extracted from the heart of the mountains. Continue reading