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.

How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 7

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 and Part 6. This week, check out part seven, which shares the stories of how five more Michigan cities were named.

Holland
As you might have guessed, Holland was settled by Dutch immigrants. They were looking to escape social, cultural and economic troubles in Europe in the 1840’s. The settlement established by them was known as the “Holland Kolonie.” It was formally founded in 1847.

Pigeon
Started as a railroad town in 1883, Pigeon was originally called Berne Junction. However, the new community began calling it Pigeon due to the nearby Pigeon River. The river was named for the huge flocks of passenger pigeons that lived near the river. It’s said the flocks were so thick that, when flying, they blacked out the sky. Despite this though, the passenger pigeon was named extinct by 1914.

Ypsilanti
Like Pigeon, Ypsilanti wasn’t always known by the name is has today. The city was originally a trading post set up in 1809 and called Woodruff’s Grove after Major Thomas Woodruff. The name was later changed to Ypsilanti in 1829 in honor of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti was a hero in the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Munising
Munising is a Native American name meaning “Place of the Great Island.” In 1820 the Chippewa village was located at the mouth of the Anna River, but they later moved camp to Sand Point. Munising was actually officially founded in 1850, but the first civilization was built in Au Train. The town consisted of thirty homes, one blacksmith shop, the bay furnace, a sawmill and a government lighthouse.

Gaylord
Gaylord’s namesake comes from Augustine Smith Gaylord. It was established in 1872 and named Barnes, but it was changed a year later to honor Gaylord, who was an attorney for the Jackson, Lansing, Saginaw railroad. Still, if you were to ask someone why the name was changed just a year later to Gaylord, no one could tell you as the reason for doing so has been lost!

How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 6

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 and Part 5. This week, check out part six, which shares the stories of how five more Michigan cities were named.

Rochester:
The city of Rochester was settled in 1817 and drew pioneers because of its location between the Clinton River, Paint Creek and Stoney Creek – all of which powered mills to cut timber, grind grain, card wool, and press apples into cider. The city was named for Rochester, New York, as many early settlers to the area were formerly from the state of New York.

Harbor Springs:
In 1847, L’Arbre Croche had the largest concentration of Native Americans in the states. At that time, Harbor Springs was called L’Arbre Croche, which means Crooked Tree. Later, French traders renamed the area Petit Traverse, or Little Traverse, when they arrived in the area. The village was eventually incorporated as Harbor Springs in 1880.

Flushing:
The original Flushing  was located in the borough of Queens, New York, and named after the city of Vlissingen, Holland – also known as Flushing, Netherlands. Flushing sprang up in Michigan as a railroad town long ago and Charles Seymour, formerly of the city in New York, is credited with naming the Michigan community in the 1830s.

Birmingham:
Birmingham was founded in 1818, when four enterprising men purchased land in the area. The founders quickly established a manufacturer based local economy that brought foundries, tanneries, blacksmith shops, broom and brick making factories to the area. The name Birmingham was chosen after Birmingham, England, in hopes that the Michigan city’s manufacturing capabilities would take after England’s biggest industrial center.

Jackson:
On July 3, 1829, Horace Blackman, accompanied by Alexander Laverty, a land surveyor, and an Indian guide passed through what is today known as Jackson. Blackman returned in August with his brother Russell, and claimed 160 acres of land in the area. In 1830, the area settlement agreed on the name of ‘Jacksonburgh’ in honor or President Andrew Jackson, and in 1838 the name was changed to Jackson.