How Bad Axe, Michigan Got Its Name (Plus Many Old Photos)
It’s one of the more unique names in Michigan: Bad Axe, Huron County, in the Thumb.
What comes to mind?
What gave the town its name?
Was it Native Americans?
The lumber business?
A serial killer?
None of those.
Back in 1861, Civil War Captain Rudolph Papst came through the area surveying a new road. Needing a place to rest, he and his friend George Pack decided to hole up in a hunter’s cabin they happened to find in the woods. While perusing the stuff left in the cabin, they came across an old beat-up, worn-out axe. To give the place some kind of recognition, Pack suggested Papst call the place “Bad Axe Camp”. Papst made a sign with that name and stuck it in the ground along the main trail and also included the name on his self-made map.
When the Civil War ended, Papst returned here and discovered the name ‘Bad Axe’ had been included on state maps.
In November 1870 a post office began operating under the name ‘Bad Axe’. Then, in 1881 the Great Michigan Thumb Fire burned down everything in town except for the brick courthouse. The railroad came through in 1882, helping to re-build and re-establish Bad Axe as a thriving community.
The town was incorporated as a village in 1885, and as a city in 1905. In 1909, legislature thought the name ‘Bad Axe’ was not savvy enough so they changed the name to “Huron”. Needless to say, the townfolk did not like that at all and raised such a stink, that the legislature was forced to change the name back to ‘Bad Axe’.
Bad Axe weathered all storms and remains the county seat to this day.
The gallery below features some vintage photos of how Bad Axe looked, going as far back as the late 1800s.
Bad Axe, Huron County: 1880-1950s