Thursday, September 19, 2013

Aloha to Christmas, Moscow to Hell: Weird Place Names in Michigan

Ever look at a map of Michigan and wonder, 'How the heck did that place get its name?'

Following are some of the more, shall we say, uniquely named locations in our state, and where those names came from.


1. Aloha (Cheboygan County) --- Named by James B. Patterson, who ran a sawmill around which the township formed, and who was inspired by a trip he had taken to Hawaii.

2. Battle Creek (Calhoun County) --- We hear this name so often it doesn't really make an impression, but when you think about it, "Battle Creek" is kind of unusual, right? The city got its name from a skirmish that occurred between a government survey party and two Native Americans during the winter of 1823/24. The altercation led settlers to name a nearby waterway the "Battle Creek River," which itself inspired the naming of Battle Creek.

3. Center Line (Macomb County) --- Received its name during the mid-1800s because it was located on the middle of three Potawatomi trails that led away from Fort Detroit.

4. Christmas (Alger County) --- Named in 1938 after a Christmas ornament and gift company that operated in the area at that time.

I couldn't find a good picture to represent Germfask,
so here's where it's located on a map.
5. Germfask (Schoolcraft County) --- This township's founders had the following last names: Grant, Edge, Robinson, Mead, French, Ackley, Sheppard, and Knaggs. Take the first letter of each, and what do you get? An oddly named town!

6. Hell (Livingston County) --- No list of weird place names in Michigan would be complete without Hell. No one knows exactly how the community got its name. Some say that it's a derivation of the phrase, "So schön hell," which means "So beautifully bright" in German, and was supposedly said by German travellers visiting the area in the 1830s. The other theory is that George Reeves, the area's original resident, said that he didn't have an opinion regarding what name the community received, declaring, "You can name it 'Hell' for all I care."

7. Lum (Lapeer County) --- Named in 1884 after Colonel Charles M. Lum, whom one of the community's original residents had served under during the Civil War.

Pictures of Mio were hard to come by, so here's a photo of my cat, Milo.
8. Mio (Oscoda County) --- Originally named "Mioe" in 1881 after the wife of one of its founders; the "e" was dropped from its name two years later.


9. Moscow (Hillsdale County) --- Apparently, this township received its moniker because someone drew the name "Moscow" out of a hat. I couldn't find out who placed the name "Moscow" into the hat to begin with, or why he or she did so.

Photo of a pawpaw tree
10. Paw Paw (Van Buren County) --- Named after pawpaw trees, which once grew in large numbers along the nearby Paw Paw River.

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