Michigan has a lot of history, but for the longest time, only the southern half of the lower peninsula was heavily civilized. Major roads, thoroughfares and shipping lanes ran through Detroit, and west to Lake Michigan, and across to Chicago. So, only about a third of the state had been scrutinized, mapped, and established.

But there was a lot, still, to explore, and in the mid-1800s, H.R. Schoolcraft started to put a name to each region... but... most of it was in a nonsense Native language that only he could understand.

1240 WJIM AM logo
Get our free mobile app

Henry Rose Schoolcraft was an important man in Michigan. He studied Native American cultures, was a geographer, geologist, and ethnologist. And for a time, he served as a United States Indian Agent in Michigan, starting in 1822. During that time, the state was creating, and reorganizing counties, and they put him in charge of naming them.

What you'll find interesting, is the number of counties that were originally named after tribal chiefs, that "needed a change" during this time of reorganization in Michigan.

It's worth noting, too that Schoolcraft married a woman named Jane Johnston while living in Michigan. She was the daughter of an Ojibwe mother, and offspring of a high-ranking daughter of war chief Waubojeeg. So Schoolcraft had direct ties to the indigenous tribes, and even married an Ojibwe-speaking woman... yet... he still made up these "neologisms" for Michigan counties. MANY of the names he came up with were changed within a few years, but some still remain today.

Michigan Counties with Made Up Indigenous Names

Henry Schoolcraft named more than half the counties in Michigan, some of which were completely made up Indigenous words that he made up from pieces of the native languages. And some of those county names still exist today.

Common Practices That Are Illegal in Michigan