What's in a Name? By CCP Author Kenn Grimes
In my book, Strangled in the Stacks, Myrtle, on her second day in Booker Falls (a fictitious town) was talked into driving Daisy to the town of Red Jacket (a real town) so that the latter could pick up a typewriter she had purchased. Over the course of the next year, Myrtle made several more trips to Red Jacket, once with George and once by herself. If you look on the map of Michigan today, you will not find any city, town, village, burg, or municipality by the name of Red Jacket. But, as I indicated above, it really did (does) exist. Named for a Native American Chief of the Seneca tribe, Red Jacket was settled in 1864, midway up the Keewenaw Peninsula, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, just west of what is now U.S. 41. Incorporated as a town in 1867, it soon became the major hub of the copper industry that dominated the area. By 1900 the town boasted a population of 4,668, and the township in which it was situated numbered 25,991 residents. By the time Myrtle arrived in Booker Falls in 1919, the loss of wartime demand for copper had caused the price to drop. Thousands of people who had worked the numerous mines in the area left not only Red Jacket, but the many surrounding towns. Most moved to Detroit, where the automobile industry was going full blast. Lying just east of Red Jacket, on the other side of U.S. 41, was the town of Calumet. The first deeded sale of property to a private individual of what was to become that town occurred in 1880. So, from that time until 1895, fifteen years later, the two towns existed side by side. Then something happened. Now it’s not all that unusual for towns and cities to change their name: Michigan’s Sterling Heights used to be Jefferson; Istanbul used to be Constantinople; Ho Chi Minh City used to be known as Saigon; New York used to be New Amsterdam; and let’s not forget St. Paul, Minnesota, which used to be Pig’s Eye (not to be confused with Monkey’s Elbow, Kentucky, which, as far as I know, has always been Monkey’s Elbow). But the case of the towns of Red Jacket, Calumet, and Laurium in Michigan has a little different twist to it. In 1895, the good people of Calumet decided they needed their own post office, a desire which the U. S. Post Office readily agreed to. The only catch was that the new post office couldn’t be called the Calumet Post Office, as the residents of Calumet requested, because a post office with that name already existed across the road—U. S. 41—in Red Jacket, in Calumet Township. What to do? Just one thing: change the name of the town. Which the residents of Calumet did, adopting the name “Laurium,” the name of a famous mining town in ancient Greece. So in 1895 the name of any town in Michigan known as “Calumet” ceased to exist. There was Laurium on the east, and Red Jacket on the west.
But that’s not the end of the story. Because in 1929 the people who called Red Jacket home, for some reason, decided that if Laurium no longer wanted the name of Calumet (which they'd given up 34 years earlier, mind you), they’d take it. And so that year the town formerly known as Red Jacket officially became Calumet, and that name once again began to show on maps of Michigan. An interesting side to this story is that, as I was in the early stages of writing Strangled in the Stacks, I had been using the name of Calumet instead of Red Jacket, until I discovered my error and had to go back and make the appropriate changes. Which goes to show – it pays to do research.