1844: Grand Rapids versus Kent Name Finally Settled

February 6, 2024 all-day

In a letter written to his brother and sister December 23, 1833, describing his arrival here the previous summer, Joel Guild said: “After looking about for a home, I thought it best to move about fifty miles down Grand river” (from its junction with Maple river) “to a place called Grand River Falls.” However, there appears to be no official record that the city was at any time known as Grand River Falls.

During the first ten years after the pioneer colony of easterners arrived, the name which the community should bear was the cause of considerable strife. At first the name was “Grand Rapids,” then for eight years it was “Kent.” Finally the postal department changed it back to “Grand Rapids.”

The battle of names began away back at the time Louis Campau won out against Lucius Lyon in the race to the government land office at White Pigeon and secured a grant for the 72 acres, now the heart of the city. This tract, as the reader will recall, was bounded by the river and Division avenue, and by Fulton and Michigan streets. Uncle Louis sold the north half of it to Lucius Lyon and had his brother plat what was left as “The Village of Grand Rapids.” Mr. Lyon called his half, “Kent,” and later, joining with Dexter, Ransom, Sheldon, Daniels, Bostwick and other holders of land north, east and south of the Campau plat, had a “Village of Kent” plat recorded at Kalamazoo February 8, 1836.

Mr. Lyon and his associates were influential enough to have the post office name changed from “Grand Rapids” to “Kent,” on September 1, 1836, when Darius Winsor was appointed postmaster to succeed Leonard Slater, who had lived on the west side. And “Kent” it remained until February 6, 1844, when it was changed back to Grand Rapids once more.

Sources: Grand Rapids or Kent?

Also see Etten, William J., A Citizens’ History of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Published by A. P. Johnson for the Campau Centennial Committee, 1926.