Michigan Myth? 1847 Calumet Was 1 Vote Away From State Capitol
Some stories have been around so long that they have become facts. Take the Upper Peninsula city of Calumet. Right smack dap in the middle of the wind-swept Keweenaw Peninsula sits this once booming copper mining town.
Was the Upper Peninsula's Calumet, Michigan Considered for State Capitol?
If you've ever visited Calumet, Houghton County, or the Great Lake States UP, chances are you've been told how beautiful it is, how nice the people are, and how Calumet lost out to Lansing for Michigan's Capitol City by just 1 vote. They'll go on to tell you that during the debate on the floor of the then principal city Detroit, an argument was made that the Yooper copper mining town was more heavily populated than Lansing.
This would seem to make sense at first glance. It's obvious that this town of 694 people (2021), was once home to hundreds, if not thousands more. And it was. It hosted an elegant nightlife, Brunswick stained glass overhangs in taverns, a theater, and everything needed to entertain the almost 5,000 people that called Calumet home and the surrounding nearly 25,000 residing in the township according to the 1900 census, when it reached its peak population.
Lansing had nowhere near that amount of people living there at the time our state was looking for its home city. In fact, Lansing had just been settled that very same year. So why isn't Calumet one of the 50 names you had to memorize in elementary school?
With many cities promoted and opposed, James Seymour, a speculator who owned land in Ingham County, drew attention to Lansing Township. On March 16, 1847, after months of debate, the Governor signed a law naming Lansing Township in Ingham County as the new state capital. Horrified observers, noting that not even a village existed at the location, called it a “howling wilderness.”
Calumet was robbed! Right? Wrong. Calumet didn't exist in 1847. The area wouldn't be settled until 1864 when it was originally called Red Jacket. It would be decades before this northern Michigan town would boom, and 1929 before the town would officially be named Calumet.
Though not Michigan's Capitol City, Calumet is proud of its history and loves to share it. I'd highly recommend a weekend trip to explore.