Muskegon is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan, and is the largest populated city on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. At the 2010 census the city population was 38,401. The city is the county seat of Muskegon County. It is located at the southwest corner of Muskegon Township, but is administratively autonomous.
The Muskegon Metro area had a population of 172,188 in 2010. It is also part of the larger Grand Rapids-Wyoming-Muskegon-Combined Statistical Area with a population of 1,321,557.
Human occupation of the Muskegon area goes back seven or eight thousand years to the nomadic Paleo-Indian hunters who occupied the area following the retreat of the Wisconsonian glaciations. The Paleo-Indians were superseded by several stages of Woodland Indian developments, the most notable of whom were the Hopewellian type-tradition, which occupied this area, perhaps two thousand years ago.
During historic times, the Muskegon area was inhabited by various bands of the Ottawa and Pottawatomi Indian tribes, but by 1830 Muskegon was solely an Ottawa village. Perhaps the best remembered of the Indian inhabitants of the area was the Ottawa Indian Chief, Pendalouan. A leading participant in the French-inspired annihilation of the Fox Indians of Illinois in the 1730s, Pendalouan and his people lived in the Muskegon vicinity during the 1730s and 1740s until induced by the French to move their settlement to the Traverse Bay area in 1742.
The name "Muskegon" is derived from the Ottawa tribe term "Masquigon," meaning "marshy river or swamp".
During the lumbering era of the late 1800s, lumber companies sent white pine logs down the Muskegon River from as far away as Houghton Lake in Northern Michigan to sawmills and processing facilities in Muskegon.
The "Masquigon" River (Muskegon River) was identified on French maps dating from the late seventeenth century, suggesting that French explorers had reached Michigan's western coast by that time. Father Jacques Marquette traveled northward through the area on his fateful trip to St. Ignace in 1675 and a party of French soldiers under La Salle's lieutenant, Henry de Tonty, passed through the area in 1679.
The earliest known Euro-American resident of the county was Edward Fitzgerald, a fur trader and trapper who first came to the Muskegon area in 1748 and who died there, reportedly being buried in the vicinity of White Lake. Sometime between 1790 and 1800, a French-Canadian trader named Joseph La Framboise established a fur trading post at the mouth of Duck Lake. Between 1810 and 1820, several French Canadian fur traders, including Lamar Andie, Jean Baptiste Recollect and Pierre Constant had established fur trading posts around Muskegon Lake.
Euro-American settlement of Muskegon began in earnest in 1837, which coincided with the beginning of the exploitation of the area's extensive timber resources. The commencement of the lumber industry in 1837 inaugurated what some regard as the most romantic era in the history of the region. Lumbering in the mid-nineteenth century brought many settlers, especially ones from Germany, Ireland, and Canada.
Some neighborhoods of Muskegon began as separate villages. Bluffton was founded as a lumbering village in 1862 in Laketon Township. It had its own post office from 1868 until 1892. It was annexed by Muskegon in 1889.