Michigan boasts an interesting selection of geographic locations, tourist attractions and natural resources. Michigan also has a collection of unique town names. Many of the names will give you pause. Where did the town names “Bloody Corners” or “Kalamazoo” or “Chocolay” come from? As part one of a series, we’ll track down the origin of these and other unusual town names.
In the 1860s, surveyors still worked on completing surveys for Huron County, located in the thumb region of Michigan. As a profession, surveying combined survival skills with acute mathematical and engineering skills. It wasn’t easy work. Surveyors in the field didn’t have the luxury of a Red Roof Inn at the end of the day. The land they were surveying was undeveloped, save for any indigenous populations. According to Walter Romig’s Michigan Place Names and the Bad Axe Historical Society, Captain Rudolph Papst made camp at an abandoned hunter’s cabin while surveying a state road in 1861. Among the debris left behind was a worn-out axe. A colleague in the surveying party, Lt. G.W. Pack, suggested naming the camp “Bad Axe Camp.” The name stuck. Captain Papst referred to the site as such in the minutes of his survey and later on the county map.
Making It Official
The first post office appeared in Bad Axe on November 27, 1870. Two years later, on October 15, 1872, the county supervisors voted Bad Axe the seat of Huron County. Septimus Irwin, one of the first permanent residents, was present for the incorporation in 1885 as a village and 1905 as a city. The legislature must have not liked the name “Bad Axe”, as they attempted to legally change it to “Huron City” in 1909. The local residents rejected the law through referendum, and the name “Bad Axe” endured.
Today, the city continues to commemorate the unique history of it’s name through Chamber of Commerce welcome signs, The Bad Axe theater marquee and the Hatchet Festival.