Berrien County Genealogical Society
Amelia Island Genealogical Society
Origins - Old Place Names
Information in parenthesis was added by BCGS for clarification purposes.
The name origins and history of many past and present Berrien County communities, townships, county, lakes, rivers, creeks, roads, woods, and parks.
Sponsored by Farmers & Merchants National Bank as a bicentennial commemorative (1976).  Compiled by Dwight Edmunds, WHFB Radio
Avery – Named for Gilbert B. Avery, who built a sawmill in the area in 1854 and was Avery’s first postmaster in 1860.  Also, at times, known as Avery Station and Avery’s Mills.
Bainbridge Township – Named by Jehiel Enos who had the township surveyed in 1830 and names it after his native town of Bainbridge in New York.
Bakerstown – Named for the Baker Brothers who operated a mill in the area in the 1830’s.
Baroda – Named after Baroda, a city in India known for jewelry, at the suggestion of M. B. Houser, who platted the village around 1890.  Incorporated a village in 1907.
Benton Harbor – Originally named Brunson Harbor after co-founder Sterne Brunson.  Renamed in 1866 for U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri who had championed the Territory of Michigan’s plea for statehood.  Incorporated a village in 1866, a city in 1891.
Benton Heights – Originally called Euclid Center.  Renamed by popular vote in 1957 because of its closeness to Benton Harbor.
Benton Township – Named for Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, who championed the Territory of Michigan’s plea for statehood which came in 1837 when Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th State.  Organized March 11, 1837.
Berrien Center – Named after Berrien Township.  Settled in 1828.
Berrien Township – Named after Berrien County.  Organized in 1832.
Berrien County – Named in honor of John  McPherson Berrien, a native of New Jersey who moved to Georgia and who held office of U.S. Attorney General under President Andrew Jackson from 1829 through 1831.  Organized March 4, 1831.
Berrien Springs – Berrien comes from Berrien county; Springs from the mineral springs present in the area in the 1830’s.  Founded in 1831.  Incorporated in 1863.
Bertrand Township – Originally known as Parc-Aux-Vaches.  Named after fur trader, Joseph Bertrand, one of the first permanent white settlers in Berrien County.  Organized March 23, 1836.
Bethany Beach – Named by a group of Swedish Baptists who came from Chicago, settled on the shores of Lake Michigan in the area, and named it Bethany – home of Marcy, Martha, and Lazarus and where Christ often visited and worked some of his greatest miracles.
Black Lake – In Pipestone township’s Section 4.  Named by early settlers of the area after the blackness of its waters.
Blue Creek – Starting in Bainbridge township’s Section 16 and emptying into the Paw Paw River, named because of the water’s blue color.
Blue Jay Creek – Two miles south of New Troy, flowing east-west, connecting into the Galien River.  Authorities believe the name Blue Jay came into being because of the blue jays that congregated along the banks at the time.
Boyle Lake – Named for George Boyle, who in 1864 bought land in Weesaw township and went on to become one of the more successful farmers in this part of the county.
Brandywine Creek – Named after Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Bridgman – Name for George Bridgman who directed construction of a railroad from New Buffalo to St. Joseph, donated land for a depot, and laid out the village in 1870.  Incorporated a village in 1927 and as a city in 1949.
Browntown – Named for Oliver Brown, who built a sawmill and platted the village in 1861.  The Pere Marquette depot and the village are gone, but Browntown Road still remains.  In times past also known as Brown’s Landing.
Brush Lake – Located east of Eau Claire.  Named by pioneer settlers for its brushy surroundings.
Buchanan – Named for James Buchanan, U.S. Senator, Minister to Russia and Britain, Secretary of State under President Polk, and 15th President of the United States.  Incorporated a village in 1858 and a city in 1929.
Buckhorn – Named after the Buckhorn Tavern which was frequented by travelers between Berrien Springs and St. Joseph in the early 1830’s and so called because of the easily seen pair of buck’s horns mounted atop the tavern.
Carey Mission – After Reverend William Carey, noted English Baptist missionary.  Named by Baptist Minister Isaac McCoy, who established the mission, located west of Niles, in 1822 at the invitation of Michigan Territorial Governor Lewis Cass.  The mission played an important part in attracting the advance-guard of pioneers who helped populate this part of the Michigan Territory at that time.  With the U.S. Government’s removal of local Indians to the West, the mission closed in 1830.
Carl – A Royalton township station on the Milwaukee, Benton Harbor, and Columbus Railroad.  Named for grocer Carlton L. Bunker, who was first postmaster in 1898.  Station ceased operation in 1911.
Chadwick School – Named for Isaac W. Chadwick, who in 1844 started from Chataqua, New York for Wisconsin, heard favorable reports about Michigan, journeyed by way of Lake Erie to Detroit, and walked from there to become a prominent citizen in Sodus township.
Chapin Lake – A man-made lake in the St. Joseph River, formed by the dam at Berrien Springs.  Named after Charles A. Chapin, prominent member of a Niles family.
Chickaming Township – The name Chickaming comes from an Indian word meaning ‘lake’.  Organized in 1856.
Clear Lake – Named so by early settlers because of the character and clarity of its waters.
Coloma – Named after a California village, Coloma is the Spanish name for a fragrant and beautiful flower that grows on the Pacific slopes.  Incorporated a village in 1893, and a city on December 22, 1941.
Colvin Lake – Named for early settler Absalom Colvin who came from Ohio in 1838, settled in the Section containing Colvin Lake, and later became a Justice of the Peace.
Comer Creek – Named for John Comer, an early settler who located along the banks about 1833.
Coveney Lake – Named for Joseph Coveney who left Ireland at the age of 20, practiced carpentry, and who, in 1836, settled on 40 acres of land at the north end of the lake.
Davis Lake – Named after an owner of land about the lake.
Dayton – Founded in 1830 by Benjamin Redding.  Known as Terra Coupe in 1839, Redding’s Mills in 1850, and renamed Dayton in 1859 after Dayton, Ohio, from which many of the early settlers had come.
Deer Creek – Custom in early days was to name places after the activity taking place there.  The banks of this Three Oaks township creek were a favorite resort for deer.  Hence, the name.
Derby – A station on the St. Joseph-Galien Branch of the Michigan Central Railroad originally.  Named by the builders of the railroad.  First postmaster was James Morrow in 1890.
Eau Claire – Named after a crystal clear creek that flowed through the area in the 1860’s.  Eau Claire, in French, means ‘clear water’.  Founded in 1837.  Incorporated a village in 1891.
Fairplain – Originally referred to as Heath’s Corners, after Salmon Heath who settled at the corner of Colfax and Napier.  The name ‘Fairplain’ was chosen by a group of citizens because of the bounty and beauty of the orchards, vineyards and shade trees at the time … all adding up to a ‘land fair to look upon’.  Believed to be the only ‘Fairplain’ in the United States.
Farmers Creek – William Smythe Farmer bought a farm in the Eau Claire area in 1848; added to it until he owned 2,000 acres; suggested the name Eau Claire for the village; help secure Eau Claire’s first post office in 1861; and got the first Grange in the State of Michigan established in Berrien County.
Galien – Named after Galien township which in turn was named after the Galien River which in turn was named after Rene de Galinee, a priest and mapmaker for the missionaries who came to Michigan as early as 1670.  Originally called Galinee.  Organized a township in 1844.  Incorporated a village in 1879.
Garwood Lake – Named for Samuel H. Garwood, first white settler in Galien township, who in 1834 built his cabin by this body of water.
Glendora – Originally a station and post office on the Michigan Central Railroad’s St. Joseph-Galien Branch.  Named by the officials of the Vandalia Railroad Company who built the line.
Glenlord – Named for Monroe N. Lord who donated the land for the right of way to the Chicago and Western Michigan Railroad.  Lord was Glenlord’s first postmaster.
Grand Beach – Named by a Chicago advertising man, Floyd Perkins.  Perkins, who had a cottage and hunted in the area around 1905, liked what he saw, formed a company with George Ely, bought up about 4 miles of beach property, and named it Grand Beach because that’s what it was in 1907 – a grand expanse of beach 250 feet or more deep running the entire length of the village.  Incorporated a village in 1934.
Grand Mere – Present name comes from original name, Grand Marais, because of the wet, spongy, low lying ground to be found in the area.  ‘Marais’, in French, means ‘swamp or marsh’.  One of the few areas in southwestern Michigan still partly preserved in its primeval state.
Hagar Township – Originally part of St. Joseph township.  Named for William Hagar who helped it become a separate and independent township in 1846.
Half Moon Lake – Named for its half-moon shape.
Hall Park – Named after Charles Hall, who owned 10 acres of wooded land along Ox Creek between Britain and Highland Avenues, and who willed the land to the City of Benton Harbor when he died in 1907.
Harbert – Founded in 1887 and named after an Evanston, Illinois, attorney who owned property in the community, wanted a train stop there, the Railroad Company said “Okay, if you build the station,” and attorney Harbert did.
Harris Lake – Named after Ohioan Benjamin Harris who entered 160 acres at $1.20 an acre in 1848, and who returned in 1850 with  his wife and seven children and settled the lake-area that now bears his name.
Hartman – Named for F. Hartman, a farmer who gave the Chicago and Western Michigan Railroad an acre of land for a depot.  Had an authorized post office from 1888 through 1913.
Hess Lake – Named after the Hess family who owned a farm near the lake that bears their name.
Hickory Creek – One of the longest creeks wholly within Berrien County.  Early maps list it as Pine Creek and the 1860 county maps set it down as Hickory Creek.  Historians feel both names were derived from the type of lumber standing along the course.
Higman Park – Named after developer John Higman who platted the two hills around 1900.  In early years of settlement known as Higman’s Michigan Park.
Hill’s Corners – Name d for Alpheus Hill, a native of Connecticut, who came to Weesaw township in 1840, settled at Hill’s Corners in 1846, and at one time was a Justice of the Peace.
Hilltop – Once a railroad station stop and so named of its location at the top of a hill enroute south from St. Joseph, at present-day Hilltop Road.
Hipp’s Hollow – Named after Horace Hipp who, about 1873, ran a sawmill on the site, fragments of which are still visible on the creek in the Village of Eau Claire.
Hollywood – Robert Hollywood, a linen-bleacher in Ireland, came to the U.S. in 1820, became a sailor on the Great Lakes, and in 1839 bought 120 acres of land in Royalton township.  His two sons, Robert and Jeb, went on to become extensive fruit growers and owned one of the most profitable and finest farms in the area in the 1870’s.
Jarvis Lake – Named after B. Jarvis who was a landowner of property that abutted the lake.
Jean Klock Park – 90 acres of land with a shoreline one-half mile long on Lake Michigan in the city of Benton Harbor.  Named by J. N Klock in memory of his daughter, Jean.
Judy Lake – Listed on some maps as Judy Lake but more correctly should be Juday Lake, for the lake was named after J. Juday who was a landowner on the lake.
Kinzie Creek – Named after pioneer settler John Kinzie who came to the area with his family in 1828 and who, in 1829, built a dam and a sawmill at the place where the Berrien County line crosses the creek.
Klute’s Lakes – Located south of Three Oaks Village.  Known through the years as Shedd’s Lakes, Fitch’s Lakes, and Klute’s Lakes with each name being bestowed by the owner of land along the lake.
Lakeside – Named so because of its location on Lake Michigan.  Originally called Wilkinson after Joseph Wilkinson, who built a pier and a sawmill in the area in 1854.
Lemon Creek – Named after William Lemon, one of the earliest settlers in Berrien Township.  Lemon operated and built sawmills in the area and was Oronoko Township supervisor for 4 years and Township Treasurer for 1840-1843.
Lincoln Township – Named for Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President.  Erected and organized in 1867.
Little Indian Lake – ‘Little’ seems to be a reference to its size when compared to the larger Indian Lake located just across the county line in Cass County, which was named so, because of the Indians that lived on its shores.
Livingston – Altho unclear, some authorities believe it was named for Edward Livingston, U.S. Secretary of State, 1831-1835.  First Livingston postmaster was William Blakeman in 1890.  The office closed July 31, 1912.
Lybrook’s Falling Branch Creek – In Buchanan Township’s Section 12.  Named after early settler, John Lybrook, through whose land the creek flowed and at which point it dropped about 20 feet making it the only waterfall in Berrien County.
McCoy Creek – Named for Reverend Isaac McCoy, Baptist Minister, who founded the Carey Mission near Niles in 1822.
Michiana – Partly in Michigan and partly in Indiana, and originally known as Michigan Shores.  The Michigan side was first to incorporate, and unwilling to lose area identity chose the name Michiana.  Incorporated a village in 1945.
Michigan, State – Takes its name from Lake Michigan, named so by the French from Indian words which mean Great Lake.  Admitted to the Union in 1837 as 26th State.
Millburg – Oldest village in Benton Township and named so because of the grist and saw mills built in the community in the 1830’s.
Mill Creek – Historians state that the Watervliet area, in the early days of lumber production, had the largest producing lumber mill in all of Berrien County.  Named after the first mill built on the creek.
Moccasin – A familiar name in Buchanan.  Comes from Moccasin, an Indian village in Buchanan township when the first white settlers came in 1833.  Named after Moccasin, an Indian medicine man.
Moon Lake – Named for Zimri Moon, owner of a farm on which the lake was located.
Morrison Channel – Named after Alexander Hamilton Morrison who came to St. Joseph from Chicago in 1850.  Morrison played an important part in the construction of the 250 mile long Chicago and Michigan Lakeshore Railroad, was a Berrien County supervisor, a State Senator, and erected one of the most extensive woodenware factories in the Midwest on the banks of the St. Joseph River Channel in 1878.
Mud Lake – When early pioneers came to the area it was important to provide reference names for the virgin territory.  Named so because of its muddy shores.
Murphy Lake – Named after Ohioan Isaac Murphy who came to the area in 1831, worked as a blacksmith, and in 1833 settled on land near the lake.
Naomi – When James Haskins applied for a post office in the early 1880’s he was asked to keep the name shore and unlike any other in Michigan.  Storekeeper D. W. Hartwell suggested Naomi and it was so named from 1884 until it closed in 1903.
New Buffalo – Named by Great Lakes Schooner Captain, Wessell Whittaker, who hailed from Buffalo, New York.  He simply added the word ‘New’ to his hometown name.  Incorporated a village in 1836 and a city in 1965.
New Troy – Settled in 1836 by two brothers, Hiram and Solomon Gould, who built a sawmill in the area.  The Goulds left in 1838 and the sawmill was virtually abandoned until 1853 when Ambrose and Thomas Morley purchased the property and re-erected a sawmill on the site of the original Gould mill.  Troy comes from Troy in New York – home state of many of the early settlers.  When the Chicago and Western Michigan Railroad came through the area and named a station ‘Troy Station’ (located two miles west in what is now Sawyer), the village was renamed New Troy.
Niles – Platted and recorded in 1829 and named after Hezekiah Niles, publisher of a newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland.  Incorporated a village in 1835 and a city in 1859.  The only Michigan community to be under four different flags with a rich local heritage that dates back to 1690 when Claude Aveneau, a Catholic priest, founded an Indian mission on the site.
Noogles Lake – Named after a man named Noggle who was an early owner of property abutting the lake.
Oronoko Township – Named by Stevens Mason, first Governor of the State of Michigan.  Historians indicate that it was named after an Indian Chief called Oronoko.  Organized March 20, 1837.
Ox Bow – Located in Sodus township and so named because of the bend the St. Joseph River makes at that point.  A bend that resembles the U-shape frame used by early day farmers to embrace an ox’s neck.
Ox Creek – Historians say that in the early days of Benton township settlers invariably got stuck crossing the creek at Territorial Road with their yoke of oxen.  Hence, the name, Ox Creek.
Parc Aux Vaches – Pronounced park-oh-vahsh, it is the French name for the land included in the St. Joseph River oxbow at Bertrand.  The strict translation if ‘pasture for cows’, but as the name for the area was existent before 1800, when on one living in the area owned cows, in all probability it meant ‘pasture for buffalo’ as the French name for buffalo was ‘cow, or wild cow’.
Pearl Grange – ‘Pearl’ comes from ‘Pearl’s Settlement’.  Led by Phineas Pearl, the Pearls settled in the area in 1840 and became one of the county’s most prominent families, playing an important part in the early development of Benton Township.
Penn Yan – A name from times-past, Penn Yan was settled in 1836 by Pennsylvanians and New Englanders, and named so, because it gave both recognition by combining ‘Penn’ from Pennsylvania and ‘Yan’ from Yankee.
Pipestone Township – There are a number of different origins of the name, but it’s believed the name ‘Pipestone’ came from the fact that Indians found the banks of the Pipestone Creek contained a clay which dried very hard, and which they found excellent for making their stone smoking pipes.  Organized in 1842.
Riggins Lake – Named for David Riggins who came to the area in 1834 and settled along the lake in 1836.
Riverside – So named because of its nearness to the Paw Paw River.  Charles Sellers was first postmaster in 1872.
Round Lake – In those early settlement days, settlers took the easy expedient of naming lakes for their shapes.  So named because of its round shape.
Royalton Township – Among the area’s settlers was the John Pike family in 1832.  It’s believed the name came from the Pike family’s home town of Fort Royal, South Carolina.
Rowe Lake – Named for John Rowe, one of the earliest settlers in the northeast corner of Pipestone township who located there in the 1840’s and ran a sawmill.
St. Joseph – In the early 1800’s sailors called its harbor, Saranac; in 1831, founder Calvin Britain named it Newberryport; and in 1833 it was renamed after the St. Joseph River, which early Catholic missionaries named in honor of St. Joseph, patron saint of Canada.  Incorporated a village in 1834 and a city in 1891.
Sarett Nature Center – Named for educator-lecturer-conservationist, Lew Sarett, 1907 Benton Harbor High School graduate, Speech Professor at Northwestern University, and an outdoorsman who abandoned the classroom periodically for the wilds of the Northwest, and who won national awards for his poetry in the 1920’s.
Sawyer – An important lumber producer in the mid-1800’s.  Named after Silas Sawyer who came from Ohio, built a steam sawmill in the area in 1853, and went on to become first Supervisor of Chickaming Township in 1856.
School Lake – It’s believed that the name originated from a district school located on its southeastern end.
Scottdale – A station stop on the Buchanan Branch of the Pere Marquette Railroad, named so by railroad officials.
Shanghai Corners – Named as a tribute to a popular and highly respected Doctor, Morgan Enos, who settled in the area in 1837, and had a fondness for raising Shanghai chickens.
Sherwood Lake – Named for Harvey C. Sherwood, who came from Syracuse, New York, settled in the area in 1870, and became a successful farmer and fruit grower.
Shingle Diggings – A name and place out of the past located on the Paw Paw River between Coloma and Watervliet.  First settled in 1832 it became a supplier of wood shingles for the St. Joseph market starting in 1834, and was abandoned in 1838 when the lumber supply ran out.  The ‘Diggings’ part of the name had to do with the first settlers having to do almost anything to eke out, or dig, for a living, to survive in those early pioneer days.  Today preserved and being restored by the Berrien Historical Society.
Shoreham – Founded by William Ducker.  Ducker, being English, liked the ‘ham’ ending to words.  So with its full length along the shore of Lake Michigan when it came to its name, Ducker combined ‘shore’ with ‘ham’ and named it Shoreham.  Village incorporated on April 7, 1930.
Singer Lake – Named after Samuel Singer who, in 1836, settled on the eastern shore of the lake.
Smith Lake – Named for John Smith who came on foot from Union County, Indiana, and who, in the spring of 1830, entered 96 acres of land in the area containing the lake.
Snow – Originally a station stop named in honor of a Mr. Snow, a member of the Michigan State Railroad Commission, by officials of the St. Joseph-Galien Branch of the Michigan Central Railroad.
Sodus Township – Organized in 1860 and named after Sodus, New York, hometown of a pioneer family, the Rectors.
South Clear Lake – Located at the south boundary of Bertrand Township and partly in the State of Indiana, the name ‘clear’ was given it by early settlers because of the clarity of its waters.  ‘South’ was added to the name to distinguish it from the ‘Clear Lake’ located about five miles north in Buchanan Township.
Spink’s Corners – The name comes from the Spink families who came to the area from New York in 1844, and storekeeper E. S. Spink.
Spring Creek – So named because the creek took rise in the Spring of the year.  Spring Creek Road takes its name from the fact that Three Oaks Township’s first post office was located in the general area.
Stemm – A station stop on the Buchanan Branch of the Pere Marquette Railroad in the early 1900’s.  Had a post office run by storekeeper, John J. Stover, and was named for John Stemm, a nearby farm owner.
Stevensville – Named after a prominent banker from Niles, Thomas Stevens, who owned a large tract of land in the area, and laid out the village plate in 1871.  Incorporated a village in 1893.
Stump School – Named for John Stump who, with his family, settled near the mouth of Pipestone Creek at the St. Joseph River in 1854, built a sawmill in 1855.  Before he died of typhoid in 1864, Stump gave land for the Bethel Church, organized in 1877, gave an acre of land for a cemetery, and gave an acres of land for the school which today bears his name.
Tabor Farms – Named after the Tabor Family:  Wallace Tabor, owner of a fruit farm in 1854, and his son, Earnest, who in 1891 built the first cottages on the present site and saw the popular resort grow in fame as people first came by St. Joseph riverboat, later via the inter-urban and finally, as they do today, by automobile.
Three Oaks – Named after a ‘landmark’ pointed out by railroad crews and passengers:  three large white oak trees growing so closely together that from a distance they appeared as one huge tree.  Village founded in 1857 and incorporated in 1867.
Tryon’s Corners – Named after William H. Tryon, pioneer fruit farmer and storekeeper who came on foot from Indiana with his father in 1834.  A most respected hunter in the area he was often matched against Indian hunters whom he surpassed on frequent occasions.
Union Pier – First called Townline because of its location on the Chickaming-New Buffalo Township lines.  Renamed about 1870 when C. H. Goodwin, John Gowdy and the six McCartan Brothers got together, formed a business union, and built a pier in the area.
Vineland – A station stop on the St. Joseph-Galien Branch of the Michigan Central Railroad in 1890, it had its own post office from 1891 until 1907.  So called because of its location in a grape growing region.
Warren Dunes State Park – Named for Mr. and Mrs. Edward K. Warren of Three Oaks, who owned the 300 acres of duneland with 1-1/4 miles of frontage on Lake Michigan, and gave the valuable tract to be preserved as a park and a natural phenomena of the Great Lakes.
Warren Woods Park – One of the few tracts of virgin timber still remaining in the Middlewest.  Named after Mr. and Mrs. Edward K. Warren of Three Oaks, who founded a non-profit Foundation in 1917 and deeded it these 300 acres of primeval forest to be preserved as a park and a natural laboratory.
Watervliet – There are two prominent theories as to its name origin.  One says it was named after Watervliet, New York; the other says the origin is from ‘Watervliet’, a Dutch term supposedly signifying ‘flowing water’.  Originally called Waterford.  Incorporated a village in 1891 and a city in 1924.
Weaver Lake – Named after John Weaver who came from Ohio in 1829 and who, in 1837, located a 160-acre claim on Section 28 which contains the lake.
Webster Lake – Named after Luke Webster who, with his family, came by horse-drawn wagon from Virginia, locating in Cass County in 1831, then in Niles township, and finally in Berrien township where they settled on Section 32, which contains the west end of the lake bearing his name.
Weesaw Township – Once famous for its dense forests of black walnut and white wood trees.  Named after a Potawatomi Indian Chief, Weesaw, an Indian name signifying ‘He, The Torch Bearer’.  Organized March 20, 1837.
Yellow Creek – Named so by early settlers because of the yellow color of the waters.
Yellow Lake – Named so by early settlers of its banks because of yellowish character of its waters.