"Reader, did you ever hear of the city of “Wapokisko,” in Michigan? Probably not. But this is the romantic metamorphose of Battle Creek."

In the final weeks of 1858, a committee was appointed in Battle Creek to hammer out a new city charter. Citizens felt the village had outgrown the old charter, and needed a new one to reflect the growing community. Soon, a new city charter was ready for approval, but there was one big point of contention:  The committee members decided that the name of the city should change from “Battle Creek” to “Wapokisko”.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a popular reference to William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet and the quote that aptly applies to the City of Battle Creek which was almost known as "Wapokisko" as well as a few other names that might leave you scratching your head. Truth be told, the smell of cereal wafting from the ovens of Kellogg's and Post would still smell just as sweet.

The Friday, December 31st, 1858 edition of the weekly Battle Creek Journal noted it in an article that was reprinted from the Grand Rapids Enquirer:

“Reader, did you ever hear of the city of “Wapokisko,” in Michigan?  Probably not.  But this is the romantic metamorphose of Battle Creek.  The people of that village assembled together at seven o’clock in the evening of Monday, Dec. 113, 1858, and then and there deliberately adopted a City Charter, to be presented to the Legislature for action thereon.  In addition, it was resolved, that the name of Battle Creek be changed to Wapokisko.  Three cheers for the Wapokiskins.  The following names, other than the successful, were proposed, viz: Battle Creek, Eureka, Calhoun City, and Waukisko.”

 

But it wasn’t a done deal. When it came time for a vote, the chairman couldn’t tell if the “yays” or “nays” were in the majority. After some parliamentary wrangling, it was decided that a formal vote of the citizenry would be held, on New Year’s Eve, 1858.

The next issue of the paper, Friday, January 7th, 1859, had the following headline:

"Battle Creek Not Dead Yet"

Shall Battle Creek be snubbed in our new city, or not?   Polls opened at half-past six, P.M., at Peninsular Hall. There was a perfect rush to the ballot box, the Hall was literally crammed.  Battle Creek was triumphant over all opposition. The name and the place may now be considered as inseparably associated, we suppose, for all time, and a majority of our citizens are evidently well suited with both.

467 ballots were cast.

  • Battle Creek, 315
  • Calhoun City,  93
  • Wapokisko, 50
  • Peninsular City, 6
  • Eureka, 3

The author had the following to say after the decision was made.

Now let our object be to make the City of Battle Creek distinguished as the city where shall be done good and unceasing battle for the right; where the cause of human liberty shall never want an ally; where bigotry shall never usurp the throne of reason; where prejudice shall never prevail against justice; where enlightened individual independence shall never denigrate into lawless license; where a health action in all the affairs that promise good to body and mind, shall never be stagnated by the adverse dogmas of fossilized fogy-ism; where the poor shall never be forgotten or oppressed; where the public good shall not be sacrificed to individual selfishness; where enterprise shall not overrun good conscience.  Let it be the city where education shall enlighten, and reason lead; where unity and good order shall make strong where good morals shall make happy, and good taste make beautiful and the name of Battle Creek shall sound as pleasing to the ear as the music of a running brook.

Incidentally, "Wapokisko" was the Native American name for what is now the Battle Creek River, and is said to mean “River of Blood.”

Battle Creek Journal 12-31-1858
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