Michigan State University

An Error-ridden Map of Michigan

Kathleen Weessies

Michigan was swarming with settlers in the 1850s.  As the rural population rose, counties were organized, split, and reshaped at a fast pace.  Settlers were eager to buy maps that reflected the newest information and relied on mapmakers to pay attention to such developments.  

This map contains numerous errors in county boundaries.  The Tuscola, Huron, and Lapeer County boundaries date from 1845.  Charlevoix County is shown, but had been eliminated 4 years prior in 1853 (it would be resurrected in 1869).  Leelanau and Manitou Counties had been created, but don’t appear (for some reason these two counties rarely appeared on any maps at this time).  

Townships were the primary minor civil division in rural Michigan, and important for pinpointing land parcels.  Those with enough population to organize a township government are named on the map, while the blank townships were still unorganized.

MSU’s copy of this map is the only known surviving copy in existence.  It was purchased with funds from the Tamara Brunnschweiler Geography Library Endowment Fund.  You may view the full map here: https://lib.msu.edu/branches/maps/MSU-Scanned/Michigan/843-A-1857-ensign/


Township map of Michigan. From the latest authorities.  Published in New York by Ensign, Bridgman and Fanning in 1857.  

This map will be on exhibit in the MSU Map Library the week of October 1, 2018. Alongside it is a 1854 map of Michigan made by Colton, which was more accurate, though it also doesn't show Leelanau County.


  • Bibliography of the printed maps of Michigan, 1804-1880, with a series of over one hundred reproductions of maps constituting an historical atlas of the Great lakes and Michigan. Written by Louis C. Karpinski and William Lee Jenks. Published  in Lansing, Michigan by the Michigan historical commission in 1931.
  • Michigan. From Colton’s Atlas of America. Published in New York by J. H. Colton & Co. in 1855.
  • Michigan. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. Compiled by Peggy Tuck Sinko and published in New York by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1997.


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