Fort Michilimackinac was an 18th-century French, and later British, fort and trading post at the Straits of Mackinac; it was built on the northern tip of the lower peninsula of the present-day state of Michigan in the United States. Built around 1715, and abandoned in 1783, it was located along the Straits, which connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan of the Great Lakes of North America. Present-day Mackinaw City developed around the site of the fort, which has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. It is preserved as an open-air historical museum, with several reconstructed wooden buildings and palisade.
|Location||Near Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, Michigan|
|NRHP reference #||66000395|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||October 9, 1960|
|Designated MSHS||February 18, 1956|
The primary purpose of the fort was as part of the French-Canadian trading post system, which stretched from the Atlantic Coast and the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes, and south to the Mississippi River through the Illinois Country. The fort served as a supply depot for traders in the western Great Lakes.
The French had first established a presence in the Straits of Mackinac in 1671 when Father Marquette established the Jesuit St. Ignace Mission at present-day St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 1683, they augmented the mission with Fort de Buade. In 1701, Sieur de Cadillac moved the French garrison to Fort Detroit and closed the mission.
By 1713, however, the French decided to re-establish a presence along the Straits of Mackinac, and built the wooden Fort Michilimackinac on the northern tip of the lower peninsula. They sent Constant le Marchand de Lignery with a contingent of soldiers and workmen in 1715 to accomplish the job. Over the decades, they made several modifications and expansions to the palisade walls. Chevalier Jacques Testard de Montigny, who was a Lt. and a Knight of the Order of St. Louis, was appointed in 1730 and served for three years as commandant of the fort. He was previously commandant of Fort La Baye (Green Bay, Wisconsin). Many of his relatives settled in Michigan.
The French relinquished the fort, along with their territory in Canada, to the British in 1761 following their loss in the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War. The British continued to operate the fort as a major trading post, but most residents were French and Métis (Ojibwe-French), who spoke predominately French and worshipped at Sainte Anne Church in a small log structure. Other civilian residents included British fur traders, some of whom resided within the fort in the southeastern row house.
The Ojibwe in the region resented British policies as harsh. On June 2, 1763, as part of the larger movement known as Pontiac's Rebellion, a group of Ojibwe staged a game of baaga'adowe (a forerunner of modern lacrosse) outside the fort as a ruse to gain entrance. After entering the fort, they killed most of the British inhabitants. They held the fort for a year before the British regained control, promising to offer more and better gifts to the native inhabitants of the area.
The British eventually determined that the wooden fort on the mainland was too vulnerable. In 1781 they built a limestone fort on nearby Mackinac Island. Now known as Fort Mackinac, it was apparently also initially named Fort Michilimackinac. The British then moved related buildings to the island by dismantling them and moving them across the water in the summer and over ice in winter to the island during the next two years. Ste. Anne's Church was also moved. Patrick Sinclair, the lieutenant governor of Michilimackinac, ordered the remains of the southern Fort Michilimackinac to be destroyed after the move.
In 1960 the fort grounds were designated a National Historic Landmark. This is a popular tourist attraction as part of Colonial Michilimackinac State Park in Mackinaw City, a major component of the Mackinac State Historic Parks. Interpreters, both paid and volunteer, help bring the history to life with music, live demonstrations, and reenactments, including musket and cannon firing demonstrations. The site has numerous reconstructed historical wooden structures based on archeological excavations. This is considered one of the most extensively excavated early colonial French archaeological sites in the United States. The fort grounds also contain the foot of the Mackinac Bridge, the Old Mackinac Point Light (an 1892 lighthouse), and a day-use park with a view of the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinac Island.
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Arent Schuyler DePeyster (27 June 1736 – 26 November 1822) was a British military officer best known for his term as commandant of the British controlled Fort Michilimackinac and Fort Detroit during the American Revolution. Following the capture of Lieutenant-Governor General Henry Hamilton, DePeyster is often credited as being the military leader of British and Indian forces in the Western American and Canadian frontiers.Banknote of Fort Michilmackinac
An extremely rare banknote that was issued in 1815 at Fort Michilimackinac, Michigan, United States, by an occupation force from the British Army.Charles Michel de Langlade
Charles Michel de Langlade (9 May 1729 – after 26 July 1801) (Ottawa) was a Great Lakes fur trader and war chief who was important to the French in protecting their territory. His mother was Ottawa and his father a French Canadian fur trader.Fluent in Ottawa and French, Langlade later led First Nations forces in warfare in the region, at various times allied with the French, British, and Americans. Leading French and Indian forces, in 1752 he destroyed Pickawillany, a Miami village and British trading post in present-day Ohio, where the British and French were competing for control. During the subsequent Seven Years' War, he helped defend Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) against the British. He was named second in command at Fort Michilimackinac and a captain in the Indian Department of French Canada.
After the defeat of the French in North America, Langlade became allied with the British, who took control of former French possessions and took the lead in the fur trade. During the American Revolutionary War, Langlade led Great Lakes Indians for the British against the rebel colonists and their Indian allies. At the end of the war, he retired to his home in present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin. Due to his having had a trading post at Green Bay since 1745 and later settling there, he is called the "Father of Wisconsin."Fort Michilimackinac State Park
Fort Michilimackinac State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located in Mackinaw City along the Straits of Mackinac. The park contains Fort Michilimackinac, which itself is dedicated a National Historic Landmark.Fort Saint Charles
Fort Saint Charles (1732) on Lake of the Woods was the second post built by La Vérendrye during his expansion of trade and exploration west of Lake Superior. It was located on Magnusens Island on the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, 3.5 miles east of Angle Inlet, Minnesota and one mile southwest of Penasse, Minnesota, the most northerly point in that state. The site of the modern reconstruction may be somewhat different since the lake levels were raised by control structures on the Winnipeg River. For related forts see Winnipeg River.
La Vérendrye reached the north shore of Lake Superior in late 1731 and sent men ahead to build Fort St. Pierre on Rainy Lake. In July or August 1732 he, his eldest son Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye, his nephew Christopher Dufrost de La Jemeraye, Father Charles-Michel Mesaiger and 50 canoes of Indians left Fort Saint Pierre and built Fort Saint Charles on Lake of the Woods. The fort was 60 by 100 feet with two gates and a double row of 15-foot palisades and four bastions and a watch tower. The internal buildings were roofed with bark. There was abundant fishing, hunting and wild rice, an important matter since it was difficult to haul food from Montreal or Fort Michilimackinac. Next spring he sent Jean Baptiste and La Jameraye down the Winnipeg. They got to within 15 or 20 leagues of the lake when they were blocked by ice. The English on Hudson Bay reported increased activity of Coureurs des bois west of the fort, but La Vérendrye said nothing about them in his reports. On the first of January 1734 a group of Assiniboines reached the fort and brought the Europeans their first news of the Mandans. Some time after this two of his men returned from Lake Winnipeg and the first Fort Maurepas (Canada) was built soon after. In 1735 La Jameraye's men returned to the Lake from the Red River of the North via the Roseau River (Manitoba-Minnesota), Portage de la Savanne and Reed River.
On June 6, 1736 an expedition departed from Fort Saint Charles, consisting of Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye (the eldest son) with the Jesuit missionary priest Father Jean-Pierre Aulneau and nineteen French-Canadian voyageurs. They were headed for Fort Michilimackinac. They had traveled only a few kilometres from the fort when they were attacked by Sioux, who killed everyone in the party. The Sioux were retaliating against La Vérendrye père, whom they believed was trading guns to their traditional enemies, the Cree and Assiniboine. The expedition members were killed on a small island, called Massacre Island, Ontario, however historians have not been unable to reach consensus on its exact identity. After the massacre was discovered, La Vérendrye père directed that the bodies of his son and the priest, and the heads of the 19 voyageurs, be brought back for burial at Fort Saint Charles. The remains of his son and the priest were buried under the altar stone of the chapel, and the voyageurs were buried outside.
The fort was abandoned in 1749.French Farm Lake
French Farm Lake is a lake in Wawatam Township in Emmet County in the U.S. state of Michigan. 802 acres in size, it is located approximately 2.7 miles southwest of Mackinaw City, Michigan. It is the northernmost lake of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. It is served by the North Country Trail from Mackinaw City and by local dirt roads.
A typical shallow lake in the North Woods, the lake is partly surrounded by wetlands. Like much of the Mackinaw State Forest the region around the lake was cut over in the late 1800s for timber; exhausted land parcels were allowed to return to the public sector. The French Farm Lake State Flooding Wildlife Management Area, a unit within the State Forest that is owned and managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (M-DNR), is a parcel of land of 2,948 acres in extent. M-DNR maintains an earthen boat ramp close to the northern end of the lake, from which boaters can launch vessels and fish for bass and pike. The surrounding wetlands are breeding grounds for mallards and wood ducks.The lake's name may be derived from a frontier farm cultivated on the lakeshore in the 18th century. The farmstead, which supplied food to Fort Michilimackinac, was excavated by archaeologists in 1981-1982. A monograph was published.John Sayer (fur trader)
John Sayer (c. 1750 – 2 October 1818) was an early Canadian fur trader. He was one of the earliest traders working out of Fort Michilimackinac to winter in the Leech Lake, Minnesota area. During the winter of 1804–1805, he wintered along the Snake River (St. Croix River tributary) near present-day Pine City, Minnesota, where he helped establish the North West Company at the site of present-day Snake River Fur Post.List of National Historic Landmarks in Michigan
The National Historic Landmarks in Michigan represent Michigan's history from pre-colonial days through World War II, and encompasses several landmarks detailing the state's automotive, maritime and mining industries. There are 42 National Historic Landmarks (NHL) in the state, located in 17 of its 83 counties. The landmarks also cover sites of military significance, such as Fort Michilimackinac, religious significance, such as the St. Ignace Mission, and cultural significance, such as the Fox Theater and Ernest Hemingway's boyhood summer cottage. In addition, two previously designated landmarks have lost that status due to the demolition of the sites.The National Historic Landmark Program is administered by the National Park Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service determines which properties meet NHL criteria and makes nomination recommendations after an owner notification process. The Secretary of the Interior reviews nominations and, based on a set of predetermined criteria, makes a decision on NHL designation or a determination of eligibility for designation. Both public and privately owned properties can be designated as NHLs. This designation provides indirect, partial protection of the historic integrity of the properties via tax incentives, grants, monitoring of threats, and other means. Owners may object to the nomination of the property as a NHL. When this is the case the Secretary of the Interior can only designate a site as eligible for designation.All NHLs are also included on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), a list of historic properties that the National Park Service deems to be worthy of preservation. The NHLs in Michigan comprise approximately 2% of the 1,757 properties and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Michigan as of January 2012. The primary difference between a NHL and a NRHP listing is that the NHLs are determined to have national significance, while other NRHP properties are deemed significant at the local or state level.Wayne County, the location of the automotive capital Detroit, has the most NHLs, with 13, followed by Emmet County and Mackinac County with three each. Five counties have two each, and seven counties each have one listing. Michigan's first NHLs were designated on October 9, 1960, when three locations were chosen. The latest designation was made on October 31, 2016. Ten Historic Landmarks in Michigan are more specifically designated National Historic Landmark Districts, meaning that they cover a large area rather than a single building.Mackinac Island State Park Commission
The Mackinac Island State Park Commission is an appointed board of the State of Michigan that administers state parklands in the Straits of Mackinac area. It performs public activities under the name Mackinac State Historic Parks. Park units include Mackinac Island State Park including Fort Mackinac and certain properties within the historic downtown of Mackinac Island, Michigan; Colonial Michilimackinac including Fort Michilimackinac and Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse; and Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park. It is assigned to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Mackinac State Historic Parks is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Over one million artifacts are in the collection. which are overseen by a professional curatorial staff. Archeological digs are conducted, and educational opportunities, including lesson plans, are available. The commission maintains the official Michigan Governor's Summer Residence on Mackinac Island and distributes photographs, media kits, brochures and other promotional material.On July 15, 2009, the Park celebrated its 20 millionth visitor.Mackinaw City, Michigan
Mackinaw City () is a village in Emmet and Cheboygan counties in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 806 at the 2010 census; the population surges during the summer tourist season, including an influx of tourists and seasonal workers who serve in the shops, hotels and other recreational facilities there and in the surrounding region. Mackinaw City is at the northern tip (headland) of the Michigan's Lower Peninsula along the southern shore of the Straits of Mackinac. Across the straits lies the state's Upper Peninsula. These two land masses are physically connected by the Mackinac Bridge, which runs from Mackinaw City north to St. Ignace. Mackinaw City is also the primary base for ferry service to Mackinac Island, located to the northeast in the straits.
According to AAA's 2009 TripTik requests, Mackinaw City is the most popular tourist city in the state of Michigan. Local attractions include Fort Michilimackinac, the Mackinac Bridge, the Mackinaw Crossings shopping mall, Mill Creek, the Old Mackinac Point Light, the Historic Village, the McGulpin Point Light, and the retired US Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw.
The official name of the community is "The Village of Mackinaw City" and as that suggests, it is a village by state law. Mackinaw City is governed by the General Law Village Act, Public Act No. 3, of 1895, as amended. The downtown district and much of the development lie within Mackinaw Township, Cheboygan County, but the larger portion of the village by area is in Wawatam Township, Emmet County, which borders Mackinaw Township to the west.Matchekewis
Matchekewis was a tribal leader of the Ojibwe people. His people had their home in Michigan country, migrating to avoid pioneer expansion. In 1763, he took part in Pontiac's Rebellion in the capture of Fort Michilimackinac from the Kingdom of Great Britain. But in 1780 he commanded his tribes in the American Revolutionary War as an ally of Great Britain against the Kingdom of Spain. At the Battle of St. Louis, in charge of all of the native American troops, he was defeated by the Spanish gunpowder weapons. After the war, he signed the Treaty of Greenville with the young United States, ceding Bois Blanc Island in Lake Huron, in addition to all of his original lands, to the United States.Maurice-Régis Blondeau
Maurice-Régis Blondeau (23 June 1734 – 13 July 1809) was a fur trader, militia officer, and office holder in Canada.
Blondeau was born into a merchant family from Montreal in New France. He became associated with the fur trade and spent his early career specializing in trade with natives of the Illinois area.
In 1757, during the French and Indian War, he went into the employee of Joseph-Michel Cadet, who was purveyor general with the French forces in New France, and spent a year at Fort St. Frédéric at Lake Champlain. After 1763 he made a successful foray into the west, visiting Fort La Reine and Fort Dauphin, two original La Vérendrye forts. He then organized trading trips to Grand Portage and Fort Michilimackinac for his father. His trading parties and partnerships grew larger and so did his wealth.
Blondeau became an important businessman in Montreal and was actively involved in a variety of real estate endeavors. He partnered with Joseph Quesnel on a number of business ventures. He was also a captain in the militia and a justice of the peace. Maurice-Régis was also a founder of the Beaver Club in Montreal.McGulpin Point Light
McGulpin Point Light was constructed as a navigational aid through the Straits of Mackinac. The light began operation in 1869, making it one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the Straits. The light is located on McGulpin Point, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Fort Michilimackinac.Michilimackinac
Michilimackinac is derived from an Odawa name for present-day Mackinac Island and the region around the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Early settlers of North America applied the term to the entire region along Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior. Today it is considered to be mostly within the boundaries of Michigan, in the United States. Michilimackinac was the original name for present day Mackinac Island and Mackinac County.Olivier Morel de La Durantaye
Oliver Morel de La Durantaye (17 February 1640 – 28 September 1716) was an Officer of New France. Born in Notre Dame du Gaure, Nantes, France, he served as commandant of Fort Michilimackinac, in what is now Michigan, from 1683 to 1690. In 1684 he traveled to Fort St. Louis to assist Henri de Tonty against the Iroquois, and it is thought that during this journey he constructed a temporary fort that Tonty visited in the winter of 1685/1686, and later referred to as the Fort of Chicagou.Sainte Anne Church (Mackinac Island)
Sainte Anne Church, commonly called 'Ste. Anne Church' or 'Ste. Anne's Church', is a Roman Catholic church that serves the parish of Sainte Anne de Michilimackinac in Mackinac Island, Michigan. The Jesuit missionary Claude Dablon inaugurated the rites of the Catholic faith on Mackinac Island in 1670, but the earliest surviving parish records list sacraments performed starting in April 1695. After moving from Fort de Buade to Fort Michilimackinac about 1708 and from Fort Michilimackinac to Mackinac Island in 1781, the parish used a historic log church for decades. It constructed the current church complex starting in 1874 on a site donated by the former fur trader, Magdelaine Laframboise.Straits of Mackinac
The Straits of Mackinac ( MAK-in-aw) are narrow waterways in the U.S. state of Michigan between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The main strait flows under the Mackinac Bridge and connects two of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The main strait is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) wide and has a maximum depth of 295 feet (90 m). Hydrologically, the two connected lakes can be considered one lake, which is called Lake Michigan–Huron. Historically, the native Odawa people called the region around the Straits Michilimackinac. The Straits of Mackinac is "whipsawed by currents unlike anywhere else in the Great Lakes".Islands forming the edge of Straits of Mackinac include the two populated islands, Bois Blanc and Mackinac, and one that is uninhabited: Round island. The Straits of Mackinac is a major shipping lane, providing passage for raw materials and finished goods and connecting, for instance, the iron mines of Minnesota to the steel mills of Gary, Indiana. Before the railroads reached Chicago from the east, most immigrants arrived in the Midwest and Great Plains by ships on the Great Lakes. The straits is five miles (8 km) wide at its narrowest point, where it is spanned by the Mackinac Bridge. Before the bridge was built, car ferries transported vehicles across the straits. Today passenger-only ferries carry people to Mackinac Island, which does not permit cars. Visitors can take their vehicles on a car ferry to Bois Blanc Island.
The straits are shallow and narrow enough to freeze over in the winter. Navigation is ensured for year-round shipping to the Lower Great Lakes by the use of icebreakers.
The straits were an important Native American and fur trade route. The Straits of Mackinac are named after Mackinac Island. The local Ojibwe Native Americans in the Straits of Mackinac region likened the shape of the island to that of a turtle, so they named the island Mitchimakinak, meaning "Big Turtle". When the British explored the area, they shortened the name to its present form: Mackinac.Located on the southern side of the straits is the town of Mackinaw City, the site of Fort Michilimackinac, a reconstructed French fort founded in 1715, and on the northern side is St. Ignace, site of a French Catholic mission to the Indians, founded in 1671. The eastern end of the straits was controlled by Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, a British colonial and early American military base and fur trade center, founded in 1781.Wawatam
Wawatam (little goose) (fl. 1762 – 1764) was an 18th-century Odawa chief who lived in the northern region of present-day Michigan's Lower Peninsula in an area along the Lake Michigan shoreline known by the Odawa as Waganawkezee (it is bent).Wawatam Township, Michigan
Wawatam Township is a civil township of Emmet County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the township population was 705.
The village of Mackinaw City is located mostly within the township.
The township is named after Wawatam, an Odawa chief noted for rescuing British trader Alexander Henry the elder from the Ojibwas' capture of Fort Michilimackinac in 1763.
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