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2018-03-07 / Features

What’s in a NAME?

Betsy Lake

Betsy Lake, although one of the biggest lakes in Luce County, went unnamed on many of the early maps. An article that appeared in the Lansing State Journal of May 24, 1955 says that it was named after Betsy Culhane, wife of lumberman Cornelius Culhane, but this is unlikely as Mrs. Culhane's first name was Ellen, her nickname was "Ma" and her daughter was Eleanor.

Betsy Lake, of course, runs into a river which is sometimes called "Betsy River" but more often called "Shelldrake River." The river does appear on early maps, being called by that name as early as 1820 (when the Lewis Cass expedition mentioned it).

In 1918, researcher William F. Gagnieur, made the claim that the river in Ojibwa was Anzeego-sibi where "sibi" is river and "anzeeg" is the saw-billed duck. In North America, English-speakers often called the sawbilled duck a "shelldrake." French-speakers called it "Bec Scies" or "beak saws." Bec Scies, was often mangled into Betsy, as seems to be the case here.

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