Otsego County is located in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century.

Before European settlers arrived, the area that is now Otsego County was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Ottawa and Chippewa. These Indigenous people relied on the region’s abundant natural resources for their livelihood.

1842 Map of Michigan with its canals roads showing Okkuddo County (Otsego County)Okkuddo County

The original name of Otsego County was Okkuddo County, which meant sickly. However, the name was changed to Otsego on March 8, 1843, which means “clear water” or “meeting place”. The county was organized on March 12, 1875, with Otsego Lake Village as the temporary county seat. Two years later the county seat was moved to Gaylord after a vote.

The area was mostly ignored until after the civil war. The U.S. government offered 160 acres free to veterans and 80 acres to nonveterans. This attracted folks from eastern U.S., Europe, and Canada.

The first white settlers moved into Otsego County in 1868 for the purpose of lumber and were not successful. Charles Brink came in 1869 with a crew of fourteen men and started a successful lumber company. With the lumber industry growing construction of railroads started and contributed to the growth of the county.

As the timber industry started to fade, many started farming. The area’s fertile soil and favorable climate were perfect for many crops including potatoes, hay, and corn.

Otsego County Today

Otsego County BuildingToday Otsego County is a popular destination for tourism and outdoor activities. The major freeway I-75 runs through the middle of it allowing easy access to the many popular tourist destinations.

The abundance of lakes, rivers and forests attract families to the area to enjoy the outdoor recreational activities. The area is also a popular destination for boaters, hunters, and fishermen.

Otsego County is home to Otsego Lake State Park and the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The Pigeon River area is famous for its elk population and offers excellent opportunities for hiking, hunting, and wildlife viewing.

The history of Otsego County, Michigan, is a story of early settlement, the rise and fall of the lumber industry, agricultural development, and the county’s transformation into a modern, tourist-friendly destination. Its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities continue to attract visitors and residents alike.

Thank you to the Otsego County Historical Society for the Timeline of Otsego County (last updated 2018)

Otsego County Historical Marker

Otsego County MarkerStatehood Era (1815-1860) – Registered in 1960 and erected in 1961 – ID # S219

Located at 225 West Main Street, Gaylord, Bagley Township – Lat: 45.02723500/Long: -84.67676200

First named Okkuddo when it was set off in 1840, this county was renamed Otsego in 1843 after a New York county and lake by that name. It is said to mean “clear water.” Settlement did not begin until the late 1860s when lumbering was started. Otsego Lake, the first village, was founded in 1872 and became county seat in 1875 when the county was organized. Gaylord was settled in 1874 and named county seat in 1877. Farming and the tourist industry are now the chief businesses.

Learn more about the rich history of the Northeast Lower Peninsula.