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Scene In TimeBY ELIZABETH NEUMEYERSince I wrote about the baseline and Michigan sur- vey in a past issue of Scene (40-05), I will retell the sto- ry of the naming of Battle Creek. It has been told manytimes, often incorrectly. Once the base- line was established, surveyors were sent out to map the areas and set the township boundaries. It was at a camp in Convis Township near the baseline and the con- fluence of Battle Creek River and Ackley Creek that this “battle” occurred.It was not a military battle. It was a struggle between two workers in the camp and two Indians who encountered them. In the metaphorical sense it was a battle – between two different cultures and their ways of life. The survey was conduct- ed by John Mullett and in the spring of 1825, he was working near “stream 139” as Mullet named it in his notes. Mullett reported that all along his route the Indi- ans were defacing his survey marks and pulling up marker posts. The Indians said surveying was disturbing the harvest of sugar maple sap.Most of the workers were in the field that day, March 14, 1825, but two men remained in camp: Taylor, the cook and Baldwin the packman. Two Indians, Mogaw and Samo (name spelling ac- cording to Mullett), entered the camp and demanded the surveyors stop. Taylor and Baldwin offered them food and tobacco. Then one of the Indians allegedly made a grab for Taylor’s gun and the fight start- ed. Baldwin and Taylor overpowered both Indians and tied them up. When Mullett came back, he was furious that things had escalated this far. His report calls it a “scuffle.” He released the Indians, refused to continue the survey, quit and went back to Detroit.After Mullett complained, a French trader was employed by Michigan Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft to tell the In- dians that the survey was to be allowed unimpeded. The next year when Sylvester Sibley continued the survey, there were no incidents. It was Sibley who was ac- quainted with Mullett’s story and when he came to “stream 139,” he named it Battle30 SCENE 4309 I HEALTH ISSUEWhat’s In a Name: Battle CreekCreek in his survey notes. This was, ap- parently, the first use of the name.We only have one side of the story and it is from Mullett. We don’t have any version from Taylor, Baldwin, Mogaw, or Samo. They told their story to Mullett and he re- ports it to the Indian Agent. Later the story gets embellished and magnified out of pro- portion until supposedly, “tomahawks, rifles and hot fire pokers” were flying about.In its early days the village of Bat- tle Creek was often called Milton after the early township or Merritton after the founding Merritt family as well as Bat- tle Creek. When the village incorporated in 1850, the name Battle Creek was for- mally adopted after a vote. Several other names were offered: Calhoun City, Eure- ka, Peninsular City, Waupakisko and Bat- tle Creek. Battle Creek won by 315 votes out of 467. The state legislature approved Battle Creek’s new charter and name on February 3, 1859. However it caused a problem using Battle Creek to mean both the stream and the town. So it became Battle Creek River, redundant but neces- sary to avoid confusion.The name Waupakisco was supposedly an Indian word meaning, “river of blood.” Erastus Hussey and a few prominent vil- lage leaders apparently liked Waupakisko because of the dual battle image. They were wrong. I consulted a Potawatomi El-der and Heritage Speaker Donald Perrot and he said that, “river of blood” would be “mskwimzibi” and he thought waupa- kisco was likely a mispronunciation of “wabegishgo” which means a vision or day dream. Whites often misunderstood or mispronounced Indian words.While we are at talking about words, is it Battle Creek or Battle “Crick” as many older citizens say it? In British English, the word “creek, crick or crake” was ap- plied to a salt water inlet from the sea and the pronunciation depended on what part of England the person was from. When English settlers came to America (as well as to Australia and New Zealand), they applied the word to small, fresh water in- land streams.East of the Mississippi researchers for the Dictionary of American Regional English found that “creek” predominated in New England and the South. “Crick” was most likely to be heard in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, northern West Virginia, north and central Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In some areas you heard both “creek” and “crick.” Rare- ly, the pronunciation “crake” was used, mostly in the southern Appalachians. Since most settlers in early southern Michigan came from New York, Pennsyl- vania and Ohio, the most common pro- nunciation was “Battle Crick.” Now as national media and educational systems influence standardized English, the more phonetic “creek” predominates.Thanks to Mary Butler for letting me use her written materials from the Kim- ball House displays and Jane Ratner who wrote a more extensive story on the name Battle Creek for the magazine Her- itage Battle Creek in Fall, 1991 Volume 1, pp. 60-65. For more on Battle Creek history, visit www.heritagebattlecreek. org. For more on language, visit Don Per- rot’s site, the Neshnabe Institute for Cultural Studies, and learn a Potawatomi word a day. Mr. Perrot periodically conducts language classes coordinated by Cultural Associate Mon- ee Zapata at the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi reservation. Vis- it for more information and history about the NHBPI.This column is a reprint of the story of the naming of Battle Creek.

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