Cheboygan Michigan shares its name of the city with the name of the county. It draws its origin from the Cheboygan River, although the precise meaning is no longer known. It may have come from an Ojibwe word zhaabonigan meaning “sewing needle”. Alternatively, the origin may have been “Chabwegan,” meaning “a place of ore”. Cheboygan County, “Michigan’s Shoreline County” Containing miles of beautiful shores along the Straits of Mackinac, Lake Huron; The Inland Waterway, Burt Lake, Mullet Lake, Black Lake, Douglas Lake and dozens of additional inland lakes. Cheboygan County is a great place to live and work, containing some of Michigan’s most visited tourist destinations and recreational assets as well as home to agricultural, health care, paper products, marine contracting, steel fabrication and hundreds of additional small businesses available to serve you.
The city is at the mouth of the Cheboygan River on Lake Huron. U.S. Highway 23 (US 23) connects with Interstate 75 (I-75) at Mackinaw City and the Mackinac Bridge, about 15 miles to the northwest. Rogers City is about 41 miles to the southeast. M-27 runs south from the city along the north shore of Mullett Lake to I-75 at Indian River about 18 miles to the southwest. M-33 runs due south along the east shore of Mullett Lake to M-68 about 20 miles to the south.
Cheboygan was originally an Ojibwe settlement. In 1844, Jacob Sammons, a cooper from Fort Mackinac, chose the old native camping ground (then called “Shabwegan”) as the site for his cabin. He recruited other settlers, and a post office named “Duncan” was established in 1846. It was made the county seat in 1853. Duncan or Duncan City was given a post office in 1850 as a result of the building of sawmills in this area. Duncan was made the county seat in 1853 and the location of the federal land office in 1855. The county seat shifted to Cheboygan in about 1870. Later Duncan was included within the expanded boundaries of Cheboygan.
The area became known as Cheboygan in 1870. It was incorporated as a village in 1871. Rail maps in 1876 show planned rail service for Cheboygan, but due to various setbacks, rail did not arrive there until 1881. There was a theater built in town in 1877. Cheboygan was incorporated as a city (versus a village) in 1889.
In approximately 1890, Cheboygan became the home port for ferryboats to nearby Bois Blanc, an island in the Straits of Mackinac. The Kristen D is a ferry which operates between Cheboygan and Bois Blanc Island. Early in the 20th century, it was home to the pioneering brass era cyclecar maker, Flagler.
In 1944, Cheboygan became the home port of the former U.S. Coast Guard cutter and icebreaker Mackinaw, serving from 1944 to 2006. Beginning in 2006, the port continued this role as the home dock of the new Mackinaw, a successor cutter.