The Ottawa village here was built on an eminence, near a large crooked tree, under which they held their councils, and where the mission established by the Jesuits in 1742 took its name L'Arbre Croche, or the crooked tree. In 1827, Reverend Pierre DeJean moved the mission to and built a log church at adjacent Little Traverse. French voyageurs had found two deep indentations on Michigan's west coast; the smaller one they called La Petite Traverse, or the little crossing.
In 1853, Richard Cooper opened a general store for Captain Kirtland and began the modern development of the village. Given a post office as Little Traverse on March 27, 1862, renamed Harbor Springs on March 71, 1881. The village was sometimes called Bayfield. Incorporated as the village of Harbor Springs in 1881 and as a city in 1832. Named from its natural harbor and the many springs in the area.