The Early Years of Portland, Michigan: 1800s-1940s
The Ionia County town of Portland was home to many Native American tribes, pre-1830s. Then in 1833, Elisha Newman arrived and settled near the Looking Glass and Grand rivers. Portland is now known as “The City of Two Rivers” as both flow through downtown.
Why was it named 'Portland'?
Sometime around 1836, the settlers got together for a meeting in order to give their new community a name.....mainly, because they felt mail would get to them easier if they had an actual town name. Some of the suggestions given at the meeting were Boguetown, Boyerville, Jamestown, and Newmanville. As the names were being pondered over, one of the attendees, Abram Hixson, whispered to his grandfather Abner to suggest 'Portland', referring to ports in the two rivers. After hesitating, Abner did indeed suggest the name and it was agreed by all that 'Portland' was a fine name.
1837: First post office, thanks to the town's new name.
1850s: Home of Chief John Okemos.
1869: First train arrival, on the Pere Marquette Railway line.
1869: Incorporated as a village.
An infamous drunken saloon brawl occurred in December 1869 when railroad construction workers started fistfights over non-payment of wages. Many men were injured, and many of them passed out in the streets until daylight. Thanks to this, saloons set new hours and weren't open all night any more.
1969: Incorporated as a city.
In the 2000s, Portland makes a nice stop off I-96 to grab some grub, fill the gas tank, or peruse the downtown shops. Take a look at the gallery below, showing what Portland looked like over 100 years ago!
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