It's difficult to think of Michigan's state capital as anything other than Lansing. But in the 1840s, as the tiny village was growing, the name of the capital city was very much up for debate. Here's a bit of history you might not know.

Thanks to the historical marker along Michigan Avenue at Capitol, perhaps you know that the village that became Lansing was originally platted as the village of Michigan:

In 1847, required by Michigan’s 1835 constitution to choose a permanent capital site within the first decade of statehood, the legislature voted to move the capital from Detroit. Convinced that the governmental seat should be in the state’s interior, legislators voted to relocate in Ingham County’s unsettled Lansing Township. Citizens viewed the choice with skepticism—believing the decision was a joke that backfired. The capital commission platted the “Town of Michigan” in 1847 and chose a site bounded by Washington and Capitol Avenues and Allegan and Washtenaw Streets for a temporary capitol building. When the legislature met that year, many members were forced to lodge in private homes; others made their beds on the capitol floor. During that session, the legislature renamed the capital city Lansing.

But people felt that "Michigan, Michgian" sounded silly - although "New York, New York" never seemed to bother anyone - so the Town of Michigan never was. But there was a fierce debate as to the name of the new settlement.

According to a 1984 Lansing State Journal article, there were nearly 20 different names debated for the new capital.

One of the odd-sounding to our ears is Pewanagowink, which is a Native American word translated to "Place of Flint Rock" and has a historic association with, not surprisingly Flint and the Saginaw Bay area. Here are some of the other names put up for a vote to the Michigan legislature:

  • Swedenburg
  • Houghton
  • Harrison
  • Bushridge
  • Kinderhook
  • El Dorado
  • Torbush
  • Huron
  • Marcellus
  • Fulton
  • Tyler
  • Cass
  • Lafayette
  • Franklin

In the end, the city took the name of the surrounding township, Lansing. That township, named for the village in central New York's Finger Lakes of the same name.

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[Historical Society of Greater Lansing]