In The Thumb of
By Mark R. Putnam
of Agriculture and Farmland”
Akron likely means the
the place that is arable and agrarian.
German word "aker" means cultivated land.
Akron was named after Ohio's
City of Akron.
Akron is the place of agriculture and and the ardent famer.
Here planting is done on almost every acre.
The township name Almer
means the atheling or high
born man or woman,
The overseer, the elder,
the gentle . . . man or woman.
“Artist of Beauty"
Arbella means the one with skill . .
. and symmetry.
It means someone whose
work is a new
creation or novella—
The word is related to—Mars,
The God of Agriculture
and War . . . he was mentioned
in ancient memoirs.
The surname Dayton is
said to come from the name Deighton.
the town by the dyke.
A dyke is a mound.
Dayton is on Tuscola County's southern high ground.
Columbine means dove.
Passenger Pigeons once flock in Columbia Township in the northern part of Tuscola.
The dove was once the symbol
of Venus—the Goddess of Love.
Denmark means borderland,
or swamp land.
In Europe as here a borderland
was called a mark.
“The Land of the Roe Deer”
means the high mead land—
The haughty place . . .
of the elk or large roe deer.
To this place at an early date hunters of "alces" would gather.
means the highland town.
It means the place with
It means the place that
is not subdued .
A highland along the north bank of the Cass River,
Ellington was the land elevated and uplifted.
It was the land that was superior.
“The Elder Forest Realm”
Elmwood means the forest
that contains alder or elm.
was a forest of mature old wood
“The Beautiful Pine”
means the place of the pine.
Fairgrove lies on a
small knoll that was once filled with pine that were first-rate.
Fairgrove was also the place of the Native Indian Trail and wigwam cove.
The height of the isolated pines that stood here was eminent and
Fremont means the unencumbered mountain.
In the southern hills of
Tuscola County, lies the Township of Fremont.
“The Pass Over the Gully”
means the pass over the ravine.
Gilford was the place of the small stream that went about
An ancient Indian Trial
here once crossed the stream, which is now very much a gully.
This was the place of the gully ford.
“The Native Farmland”
Indianfields means Native Farmland.
Native People often came to live
here and work
grew large crops of Indian Corn, squash,
beans, and potatoes,
Which were often arranged together in rows.
Juniata Township was
once called Rogers, which was a surname that likely meant rock.
The Standing Rock is also the meaning of the Iroquoian word Juniata
The hills of
Juniata allow a wide
view of the Cass River Valley.
The hills here
were once covered with many a majestic, cork pine tree.
is a land that is baronial.
It's a royal town of Michigan.
Early inhabitants own a link to a King,
And, the stories that heritage would bring.
The Latin word "collis"
means a hill or high ground.
Koylton is set at a high point in the center of the Thumb of Michigan.
Koylton was the place of the ancient Indian highland pass
Koylton is the township
at the top of the mound.
“Here Millwork was Done”
Millington means the place where wood
Millington was the place
of an early saw-mill hut.
On Millington Creek pine wood was transported down to the Cass River.
In the woods of Millington the shanty boy or logger worked each winter.
Novesta Township was
named for a stove called
"No. 5 Vesta".
Vesta was the Latin goddess of
the fireplace, hearth, or stove.
Tuscola means level
prairie or farm land.
Once the entire Thumb of Michigan was
called in French "Le
English it was called "The Flat Country".
Native Indian Chief Otusson
village that was once in Tuscola.
the meaning of his name
In Chippewa and Ottawa, "Tessiaki" means the flat country.
The Latin word "cola"
means a colony or farmland.
Tuscola means the farm-land that is flat!
“The Place that is often Inundated with Water”
Vassar means water.
The Latin word "vas”
means a water container.
Vassar is located on a
alluvial ground of the Cass River.
A flood was once common to
Wells means the place of
the place where cold water from the ground expels.
Watertown means the
Watertown means the sodden ground.
It was the place of the bog.
the nearby, dry, sandy hills
pine once were found.
Watertown was the place of the muskrat,
beaver, badger, raccoon, and ground-hog.
Wisner was once a
wet prairie land.
in German means a meadow that is fair.
Wisner was named for a Michigan governor.
It was a place of fishing, hunting, and trapping.
Wisner was once the place of the Maqua or great bear.
Rivers and Streams
“The Stream that is Stony”
Territorial Governor Lewis Cass was the namesake for the Cass River.
His surname may have meant
The Latin word for rock
The Cass River is the
grandest river in Michigan's Thumb.
In Latin "calx", in French "cailloux", and in German "kies"
The Cass River is made of cobble and pebble.
“The Place of the Great Rice Gathering”
Cheboyganing means the place for flailing.
"Gitchi" means great while
"bwahgan" means to harvest
rice with the flick of a stick.
Cheboyganing Creek was the great rice
gathering area or creek.
was the morning dove.
Passenger pigeons or doves once flocked to Columbia Creek.
They were a spectacular sight,
And, the flocks would darken the sky as dark as twilight.
Evergreen Creek was once lined with
Which loggers cut and floated down
Place of Blessing”
is a blessed thing.
Goodwin Creek was once called
Houghton and Goodings Creek.
The woodland bounty of early
Goodwin Creek was a great thanksgiving.
“The Carry Over or Portage”
The Latin word "peri"
means to go through or to carry over.
Below the mouth of
Perry Creek once was a driftwood dam that blocked the river.
This was the place of a great Cass River portage.
Quanicassee means Little
The Stream was originally called Maqua-na-ke-see[be],
According to The History of Saginaw County.
Maqua means Bear while Seebe means river.
An Early Map of Quanicassee
The stream called Sucker Creek was named for
the maple trees along its side that produced maple sugar.
Native American's made
sugar cubes from the sap of the maple trees that grew along the creek.
French "sucre" and in German "Zucker"
During the spring, the stream was
known also for its great runs of sucker fish.
Coated with maple syrup everyone
would eat them with relish.
“The Clear and Bright Stream"
Tuscola County's second
largest stream is White Creek.
White Creek glittered with light
and was a clear crystal stream.
Wiscoggin, also known as
Wishkawking, seems to mean
place of the beaver or muskrat lodge.
Wiscoggin Creek was the home of many
a small animal haunt.
It was a place of
which everyone would speak.
The pelts from Wiscoggin Creek were worn with a flaunt.
Towns and Cities
“The City on the Hill .
. . the Acropolis”
See Township of Akron.
“He Who Harries”
The City of Caro was named for Egypt's City of Cairo,
Which was likelwise named
for Mars the ancient God of Agriculture and War.
In Greek Mars was called Aries.
Both names mean he who
harrows or harries.
Caro is a town on a hill that was once surrounded by a wetland moor.
“The City of Stone”
See Cass River.
“The Place Majestic”
Mayville is located on a
In Latin "maior"
means something major or majestic.
Mayville is the high point of Tuscola County.
It is the town in the highland country.
See the Township of Millington.
"A Place Bountiful"
In German the word "reich" means
wealthy, copious, large, or wide.
Richville was named for the good
soil that surrounds the village on every side.
"The Town Joined Together"
Wishkawking was the Native American
name for Unionville.
Unionville means the town that
is connected or united together.
Unionville was the place of the
Point Aux Marai.
Unionville was the place of the
largest Marsh along the Saginaw Bay.
See the Township of Vassar.
Huron County Place Names
"The Ile of Compassion"
Ottawa and Chippewa "Shawangunk" was their name for Charity Island.
Charity Island is a refuge for sailors in the Saginaw Bay.
Charity in Chippewa is "Zhaawendan"
that also means I have mercy
When boating in bad weather,
the Ile of Charity
was a good place to stay.
"The Place with
The Chippewa word "kadawa" means
it is hidden.
good or provision.
Katechay means the cache.
The place of the
hidden things or catch seems to be the meaning of Katechay Island.
It was the place of the great
"The place of the Partridge
In Chippewa "bine" means
partridge while the ending
It is a
very flat and wide
On an 1860 Map of Tuscola and Saginaw Counties,
Pinnebog Creek was shown as Partridge
Pinniebog Creek flowed north through a forest of hardwood trees.
"The River of the Bird of Love"
The word Pigeon means dove.
Along the Pigeon River, Passenger
Pigeons once filled the skies.
The birds are now gone forever.
Their feathers were held as a great reward or prize.
"The River with the Twist
Sibbewaing, or Sebouin mean it seems the crooked river with waggle.
It was once said to mean little
The French called Sebewaing "Rio Du Fil"
the river of thread or twine.
The Sebewaing River twists and turns
like a piece of string
In Chippewa "siibi" means
river, and "wagi" means to be crooked or bowed.
It was the river that wiggled,
waggled, or wangled.
Shown is Sebewaing and Kate-Tchoi Island.
Shown is Che-bay-onk River, Ka-te-kay, and Stony Island.
"The Place of the
Cut or Passageway"
Shebeon, or Chebayonk,
likley means the pass in the waterway.
Between the mouth of Shebeon Creek and Katetchay Island is
Blind Pass, or Rush Cut.
It is a blind or hidden passageway.
Sheboen was once the site of a ancient trading post and many a
From the bay, Shebeon was hidden by the Ile of Cache and Ile
The Chippewa Ottawa word "assina"
the beginning of the word Shaing-wau-ko-kaug.
The middle "wagakwad"
seems to mean crooked axe.
The ending might be a form of "aki"
meaning place or land.
Shaing-wau-ko-kaug seems to mean the
place of the stone
The early Ottawa live around and
about the Stone Island.
"The Place of the Weaving
The place of the weaving tree is the
meaning of Willow Creek.
The willow was used in
Saginaw County Place Names
"Where the river pours out"
Saginaw means the place
where the river opens out.
At an early date Sankinon
was a name for Saginaw.
The German and Dutch word "schenken" means to
In Chippewa "siginan"
means I pour it,
While "saginang" means
we pour it.
In Chippewa "Saging" means where the river pours out.
Sanilac County Place Names
"The River that is Dark"
The Black River
was named after the
deep color of the river water.
In Chippewa "makatewagamiwsibi" means
From it's hemlock trees, the color
of the Black
River was very dark.
In a old Huron poem
the hero was a spirit warrior called Sannilac.
In Huron, the word "sandusky" means
water that is chilly.
Sanilac likely has the same root as
In Onondaga "ochneca" means
Sanilac once included nearly the
entire Thumb of Michigan,
Which was on many sides surrounded
"The Place that is Strong"
"Sabadis" in Chippewa
means it is hardy.
The road called
Shabonna Road goes from Sanilac
to Tuscola County.
The roads goes along a rugged area.
It means the place that is tough and strong
The Indian Trails of Michigan's Thumb
The Thumb of Michigan's
Indian Trails are shown below on the map.
of the trails form M-24 and a part of M-53:
I called the M-24 path
the "Podunk Trail",
the M-53 Trail the "High Ridge Trail".
In the western Thumb is "Saginaw Trail",
which was the baseline for I-75.
The high ground near
major rivers was often followed.
Above is a section of the 1846 Michelle Map with an overlay of the
Indian Trials of Michigan's Thumb.