List of Michigan county name etymologies


List of Michigan county name etymologies

This is a list of Michigan county name etymologies. The origin of some names is unclear and credible scholarly sources disagree on the meaning (or intended meaning).

Particularly, Henry Schoolcraft's made up words have disputed sources. Likewise, some Native American words may have originated with tribes from other areas of the country, such as New York or the northeast, where many settlers to Michigan came from.

The wholesale renaming of Michigan counties in the early 19th Century made several cultural and political points.Fact|date=December 2007 First, under Henry Schoolcraft's tutelage, real Native American words were eradicated,Fact|date=December 2007 and he substituted made-up pseudo words, sometimes with a kernel of Indian language or sound in them. A second group of counties were renamed for Irish locales, apparently because it was close to the heart for certain Michigan legislators or their constituents. A third group involved naming counties for persons, either to honor their contributions to Michigan, or as a token of acknowledgment to persons in power such as members of President Jackson's cabinet. [http://www.michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-15481_20826_20829-54126--,00.html "Michigan Counties"] from the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, which contains additional references at the end of the article] ] [http://clarke.cmich.edu/ Clarke Historical Library] , Central Michigan University, Bibliography by county and region, including origin of county names]

Ten counties, the so-called "cabinet counties", were named for persons who served in Andrew Jackson's presidential administration. Eight were named in 1829. Livingston County was named in 1833. Cass County was also named in 1829, but Governor Lewis Cass did not become a member of Jackson's Cabinet until 1831.

Nine counties have names invented by Henry Schoolcraft, usually adapted from parts of Native American words, but sometimes having parts from Greek, Arabic and Latin roots.

Four counties are named after Irish counties.

List of county name origins

* Alcona County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft.
* Alger County is named for Russell A. Alger, a Michigan Governor and U.S. Senator.
* Allegan County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft.
* Alpena County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft. It was founded originally in 1840 as Anomickee County. In 1843, the name was changed to Alpena, a pseudo-Native American word — a neologism coined by Henry Schoolcraft, meaning something like "a good partridge country." [ [http://clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Alpena.htm Clarke Historical Library bibliographic entry for Alpena County.] ]
* Antrim County is named for County Antrim in Ireland.
* Arenac County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft which meant something like 'sandy place'.
* Baraga County is named for missionary Bishop Frederick Baraga, who worked with local Native Americans.
* Barry County, named for William T. Barry, Postmaster General of the United States, is a Cabinet county.
* Bay County is named due to its location at the head of Saginaw Bay.
* Benzie County is an Americanization of the French name, "Riviere Aux-Bec-Scies" ('river of sawbill ducks'), for the local river.
* Berrien County, named for John M. Berrien, Attorney General of the United States, is a Cabinet county.
* Branch County, named for John Branch, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, is a Cabinet county.
* Calhoun County, named for U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, is a Cabinet county.
* Cass County, named for territorial governor and Secretary of War Lewis Cass, is a Cabinet county.
* Charlevoix County is named for French Jesuit missionary Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix.
* Cheboygan County is named for the Cheboygan River, which itself is of uncertain origin. It may come from an Ojibwe word "zhaabonigan" meaning "sewing needle". Alternatively, it may have come from "Chabwegan," meaning "a place of ore." [ [http://www.sheboygan.lib.wi.us/pages/sheboyganname.html "The Meaning of Sheboygan".] ]
* Chippewa County is named for the Chippewa, or Ojibwe, Native American people.
* Clare County is named for County Clare in Ireland.
* Clinton County is named for DeWitt Clinton, the Governor of New York under whom the Erie Canal was constructed.
* Crawford County may be named for Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, which was in turn named for politician William H. Crawford.
* Delta County is named for the Greek "Delta" symbol, because the original shape of the county was triangular (i.e., like a delta.)
* Dickinson County is named for Don M. Dickinson, U.S. Postmaster General under Grover Cleveland.
* Eaton County, named for United States Secretary of War John H. Eaton, is a Cabinet county.
* Emmet County is named for Irish patriot Robert Emmet.
* Genesee County was named after Genesee County, New York, home of many original settlers.
* Gladwin County is named for Henry Gladwin British military commander at Detroit during Pontiac's War.
* Gogebic County probably comes from the Ojibwe language word "bic", meaning "rock".
* Grand Traverse County is an Americanization of the French phrase "grande travers", meaning long crossing, and originally referring to Grand Traverse Bay.
* Gratiot County is named for Charles Gratiot, the military officer who built Fort Gratiot at the present site of Port Huron.
* Hillsdale County is a hilly area.
* Houghton County is named for Douglass Houghton, Michigan geologist and Mayor of Detroit from 1842 to 1843.
* Huron County is named for Lake Huron.
* Ingham County named for United States Secretary of the Treasury Samuel D. Ingham, is a Cabinet county.
* Ionia County is named for the ancient Greek region Ionia.
* Iosco County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft. Iosco is a Native American word meaning "water of light". It was used by Schoolcraft to refer to Indian men and boys. In 1840 the county was set off as Kanotin County, and renamed Iosco in 1843. The county was organized in 1857. [ [http://clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Iosco.htm Clarke Historical Library bibliographic entry for Iosco County.] ]
* Iron County is named for the iron resources found widely in the county.
* Isabella County was named for Queen Isabella of Spain, who patronized Christopher Columbus.
* Jackson County is named for Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States.
* Kalamazoo County is named for the Kalamazoo River. See Etymology of Kalamazoo for a discussion of the river's name.
* Kalkaska County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft. See Kalkaska County for a more detailed explanation.
* Kent County is named for New York jurist James Kent, who represented the Michigan Territory in its dispute with Ohio over the Toledo Strip.
* Keweenaw County is named for an Ojibwe word "gakiiwe-wewaning" meaning "portage".
* Lake County has several small lakes and lies near Lake Michigan.
* Lapeer County is said to be an Americanization of the French "la pierre" meaning "flint".
* Leelanau County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft.
* Lenawee County is a Henry Schoolcraft neologism signifying a Native American word for "man" -- either from the Delaware "leno or lenno" or the Shawnee "lenawai." [ [http://www.michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-15481_20826_20829-54126--,00.html Michigan History, Arts and Libraries on sources of County names.] ] See also, [ [http://www.clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Lenawee.htm Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Bibliography on Lenawee County.] ]
* Livingston County named for United States Secretary of State Edward Livingston, is a Cabinet county.
* Luce County is named for Michigan Governor Cyrus G. Luce.
* Mackinac County was originally Michilimackinac, believed to be a French interpretation of the Native American name for the place.
* Macomb County is named for U.S. General Alexander Macomb, a notable officer of the War of 1812.
* Manistee County was named for the Manistee River, which in turn is from the Ojibwe name, "ministigweyaa" meaning "(river) at whose mouth there are islands".
* Marquette County is named for French Jesuit missionary Pere Jacques Marquette.
* Mason County is named for Michigan Governor Stevens T. Mason.
* Mecosta County is named for Mecosta, a Native American leader.
* Menominee County is named for the Menominee Native American people.
* Midland County is located near the midpoint of the Lower Peninsula.
* Missaukee County is named for Missaukee, an Ottawa leader who signed land-grant treaties in 1831 and 1833.
* Monroe County is named for James Monroe, the fifth U.S. President.
* Montcalm County is named for the Marquis de Montcalm.
* Montmorency County is probably named for a historical figure named Montmorency, but which one is unknown.
* Muskegon County is named for the Muskegon River, named for the Ojibwe language word "mashkiigoong" meaning "in the swamp" or "in the marsh".
* Newaygo County was either named for a Chippewa leader who signed the Saginaw Treaty of 1819 [ [http://clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Newaygo.htm Clarke Historical Library bibliographic entry for Newaygo County] ] or for a Native American word meaning "much water".
* Oakland County was named for the many oak openings in the area.
* Oceana County is thought to be named for Lake Michigan, a freshwater "ocean." However, there some apparently have speculated that the name may be related to the title of a controversial 1656 book by James Harrington, "The Commonwealth of Oceana". [ [http://clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Oceana.htm Clarke Historical Library bibliographic entry for Oceana County] ]
* Ogemaw County is named for the Ojibwe word "ogimaa", meaning "chief" or "leader".
* Ontonagon County is named for a river called "Nantounagon" on an early French map.
* Osceola County is named for Native American leader Osceola of the Seminole nation.
* Oscoda County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft thought to be a combination of two Ojibwa words, "ossin" (stone) and "muskoda" (prairie) -- hence 'pebbly prairie.' [ [http://www.michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-15481_20826_20829-54126--,00.html Michigan History, Arts and Libraries on sources of County names.] ] See also, [ [http://www.clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Oscoda.htm Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Bibliography on Oscoda County.] ]
* Otsego County is named for Otsego County, New York. (But see text above.)
* Ottawa County is named for the Native American Ottawa people.
* Presque Isle County is an Americanization of the French term "almost island", indicating a peninsula.
* Roscommon County is named for County Roscommon in Ireland.
* Saginaw County is a Native American term, perhaps having reference to the Sauk tribe who lived at the mouth of the river. [ [http://clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Saginaw.htm Clarke Historical Library bibliographic entry for Saginaw County] ] Another source opines that: "There are two possible derivations: from 'Sace-nong' or 'Sak-e-nong' (Sauk Town) because the Sauk (Sac) once lived there, or from Chippewa words meaning 'place of the outlet' from 'sag' (an opening) and 'ong' (place of)."
* St. Clair County is either named for Arthur St. Clair, first governor of the Northwest Territory, or for Saint Clair on whose feast day Lake St. Clair was discovered.
* St. Joseph County is named for Saint Joseph, the patron saint of New France.
* Sanilac County was probably named for a Wyandotte leader named Sannilac.
* Schoolcraft County was named for explorer and ethnologist Henry Schoolcraft.
* Shiawassee County is named for the Shiawassee River, and means 'river that twists about. [ [http://clarke.cmich.edu/localhistory/Shiawassee.htm Clarke Historical Library bibliographic entry for Shiawassee County] ]
* Tuscola County was a name created by Henry Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft said it meant both "warrior praire" and "level land". Native Chief Otusson's reservation was in Tuscola County. His name meant bench or platform in the lodge.
* Van Buren County named for United States Secretary of State Martin Van Buren (later eighth President of the United States), is a Cabinet county.
* Washtenaw County comes from the Native American term O-wash-ten-nong.
* Wayne County is named for U.S. General "Mad" Anthony Wayne.
* Wexford County is named for County Wexford in Ireland.

Discontinued or changed county names

The following is a list of discontinued or changed names, followed by the present county names:
#Aischum County, created April 1, 1840, changed to Lake County on March 8 1843
#Anamickee County, created April 1, 1840, changed to Alpena County on March 8 1843
#Bleeker County Menominee County
#Brown County Oceana County
#Cheonoquet County, created April 1, 1840, changed to Montmorency County on March 8 1843
#Des Moines County, see Des Moines County, Iowa
#Dubuque County, see Dubuque County, Iowa
#Iowa County, see Iowa County, Wisconsin
#Isle Royale County Keweenaw County
#Kanotin County, created April 1, 1840, changed to Iosco County on March 8 1843
#Kautawaubet County, created April 1, 1840, changed to Wexford County on March 8 1843
#Kayakee County, created April 1, 1840, changed to Clare County on March 8 1843
#Keskkauko County, created April 1, 1840, changed to Charlevoix County on March 8 1843
#Manitou County, formed in 1855 from parts of Emmet County and Leelenau County. County government was disorganized in 1861 and attached for administrative purposes to Mackinac County. In 1865, it was attached to Leelanau and reattached to Mackinac in 1869. County was abolished in 1895 and absorbed by Charlevoix County and Leelanau County.
#Meegisee County Antrim County
#Michilimackinac County Mackinac County
#Mikenauk County Roscommon County
#Milwaukee County Wisconsin
#Negwegon County Alcona County
#Notipekago County Mason County
#Okkuddo County Otsego County
#Omeena County Grand Traverse County
#Reshkauko County Emmet County
#Shawono/Shawano/Shawona County Crawford County
#Tonedagana County Emmet County
#Unwattin County Osceola County
#Wabassee County Kalkaska County
#Washington County Marquette County
#Wyandiot County Cheboygan County

ources

* [http://clarke.cmich.edu/ Clarke Historical Library] , Central Michigan University, Bibliography by county and region, including origin of county names.
* [http://www.michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-15481_20826_20829-54126--,00.html "Michigan Counties"] from the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries
* [http://www.freelang.net/dictionary/ojibwe.html Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary.]
* [http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=micounty;cc=micounty;idno=bac9250.0001.001;size=l;frm=frameset;seq=132 Powers, Perry F., assisted by H.G. Cutler, "A History of Northern Michigan and its People" (1912), p. 94.]
* [http://www.sheboygan.lib.wi.us/pages/sheboyganname.html History of the name "Sheboygan".]

Notes

Further reading

* Armitage, B. Phyllis. "A Study of Michigan's Place-Names." "Michigan History Magazine", Vol. 27 (Oct-Dec 1943), pp. 626-637.
* County histories published in Michigan History Magazine. Some back issues that include these histories are still available for purchase.
* Jenks, William L. "History and Meaning of the County Names of Michigan". Collections and Researches of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society. Vol. 38 (1912), pp. 439-478.
* "Michigan Manual" (the "Red Book") published biennially by the Legislative Service Bureau under the direction of the Legislative Council, State of Michigan.
* Powers, Perry F., assisted by H.G. Cutler, "A History of Northern Michigan and its People" (1912).
* "Reports of Counties, Towns and Districts. Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan". (2nd Ed.) Vol. I (1874-6). Lansing, MI: Robert Smith Printing Co. 1900, pp. 94-520.
* Romig, Walter, Larry B Massie (Designer), "Michigan Place Names: The History of the Founding and the Naming of More Than Five Thousand Past and Present Michigan Communities" Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986. ISBN 9780814318386
*Vogel, Virgil J. "Indian Names in Michigan". (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1986). 244 pgs. 8 B&W photographs & 3 maps. (1986) ISBN 978-0-472-06365-9.

ee also

* Michigan
* List of Michigan counties
* List of abolished U.S. counties
* Lists of U.S. county name etymologies
* County (United States)


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