Michigan’s Irish County Names

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Mystery Solved?
Republished from the Wolverine Café Blog of 2005

Click to download: 77_MichigansIrishCountyNames.pdf

Antrim County, Clare County, Roscommon County, Wexford County. If you are from Michigan, you should recognize these as four of Michigan’s 83 counties. If you are from anywhere else in the world, you might recognize these as four of Ireland’s 32 counties.

Add Emmet County to this list and you have five Michigan counties named in the 19th Century with Ireland in the mind of the namers.

Naming rights to a location usually belong to the original settlers. It was not at all unusual for settlers to name places in North America after the original homes of the settlers. New York and Boston come to mind. Often, towns were named after the original settler – every Simpsons viewer knows that Springfield was named after Jebediah Springfield.

One could easily assume that the first settlers to these five Michigan counties were immigrants from Ireland, who chose a county name which reminded them of home.

But these five Michigan counties were not named by the settlers! Nor were there any Irish at all, to speak of, in any of these counties at the time of the naming!

So how did these counties become known as Antrim, Clare, Roscommon, Wexford and Emmet? It’s an interesting story, and we’re still not certain that we got it right. But here it is anyway:

Go to Michigan’s Irish County Names page 2