Sandhill Cities. The Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad first pulled into town in 1858. The impressive depot was originally located across the Grand River at the foot of Dewey Hill just beyond Grand Haven's city limits. It spawned a small village that included two hotels, a tavern, bakery, an ice house, coal depot, and housing for railroad employee and fisherman families, along with their shanties and boat houses. As that fledgling community expanded, it begged naming. "Cedarville" and "Sanford" were seriously suggested and unceremoniously discarded. In 1866 the editor of the Grand Haven News proposed the tiny town be named "Muir" in honor of the superintendent of the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad. That, too, was vetoed. By 1870 the once thriving village, by whatever name, would become a "Muir" ghost town.

Encroaching sand and the inconvenience of ferrying passengers and freight across the river to Grand haven sealed the railroad's decision to move its terminus across the channel to a newly built depot at the foot of Washington Avenue. One would have thought any confusion in naming the abandoned dune land would have ended there. Not so. The great sand dune remained a landmark of note, but without designation until the turn of the century. Commodore George Dewey's victory in Manila Bay at the beginning of the Spanish-American War in 1898 inspired national pride and a wave "Dewey dubbing". To honor and memorialize Dewey's opening blow, a parade of torch-toting citizens marched down Washington Avenue to the riverfront where orators officially named the creeping dune Dewey Hill. That name has stuck since July 5, 1900.