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Bad Axe Historical Society - Home

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Pioneer Village

Local History – How Bad Axe got its Name


While surveying the first state road through the Huron County wilderness in 1861, Rudolph Papst and George Willis Pack made camp here and found a much-used and badly damaged axe. At Pack’s suggestion, Papst used the name “Bad Axe Camp” in the minutes of the survey and on a sign he placed along the main trail.  By the time Papst returned from the Civil War, the name was on the map.

 Because of its remote location in the middle of a heavily forested county, very little activity took place here until the county supervisors selected Bad Axe as the new county seat in 1872. By 1875, the little village had a big brick courthouse and its first hotel, the Irwin House, and the community was off and running.  Nearly everything burned in Great Fire of 1881 except for the brick courthouse which became a refuge for many of the town’s citizens. The Great Fire along with the arrival of the railroad in 1882 opened the community to agriculture and more rapid growth.   

Bad Axe was incorporated as a village in 1885 with Septimus Irwin, its first settler, as president; and it was incorporated as Huron County’s first city on March 15, 1905 with Joseph Fremont as the first mayor.  Bad Axe celebrated its first 100 years as a city in 2005. It remains the county seat and is the largest community in Huron County as well as a commercial center for the upper Thumb area.


Bad Axe Historical Society


Above photos show from left to right, Bad Axe in the 1890's, around 1952 and then in 2006.  Click on the above thumbnails to see the full-size picture.

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