Lost Landmarks of Mackinac Island: The Mitchell House

The Mitchell House, on Mackinac Island’s Market Street, was constructed by David and Elizabeth Mitchell. David, a native of Scotland, had served as a surgeon’s mate with the King’s Eighth Regiment at Michilimackinac since 1774. There he met Elizabeth, of French Canadian and Ojibwa ancestory. They were married in 1776 and moved with the rest of the coummunity to Mackinac Island in 1780. In 1783, when the King’s Eighth left Mackinac, David received approval to resign his post and remain with his family.

The Mitchell House 1 (more…)

Charting the Great Lakes

Maps of the Great Lakes created during the 17th and 18th centuries reflect the importance of waterways to early explorers. These maps reveal the struggle explorers faced when documenting this challenging landscape. Early maps of this region allow researchers and historians to better understand the ways in which Europeans explorers related to their new surroundings. The colonization of North America rapidly increased the need and desire for atlases and maps, mainly being produced by the Dutch, English and French. (more…)

2015 Archaeology Field Season in Review

The field season at Michilimackinac is over and as we dive into the winter lab work routine, there is time to reflect on what we learned this summer.

Of course the most notable find of the summer was the intact rosary Rosary (1) .  We will devote some time this winter to trying to answer some of the questions it raised.  Why does it have “extra” beads – is it a Brigittine rosary or are they for some other devotion?  Was it made in France?  How costly would it have been?  Other questions will have to wait for further excavation next season.  The rosary was found in the tenth-of-a-foot level above an as-yet-unidentified clay feature.  The clay is surrounded by cobbles and a plank.  It extends into an adjacent quad, which was partially excavated this summer. (more…)

Frank Kriesche’s Ruby Souvenir Glasses

Frank Kriesche’s Ruby Souvenir Glasses

Frank Kriesche came to America from Bohemia in the late 1800s where he had learned his trade as a glass engraver. He moved to Mackinac Island in the early 1890s and during the summers applied his talents at the glassware shop that he owned on Main Street. Kriesche would import some of the glass from Germany for his more expensive glassware but the pieces that he is most famous for are his ruby souvenir glasses.

Ruby Glass (more…)

Fort Mackinac’s Marksman

Fort Mackinac’s Marksman

By the 1880s, Fort Mackinac had little military value, instead serving primarily as the headquarters of the Mackinac National Park. However, the fort’s garrison still practiced critical military skills such as marksmanship, and the detachment of the 23rd Infantry stationed at Mackinac ultimately produced some of the finest sharpshooters in the entire U.S. Army. (more…)

Campbell’s Will Helps Outline History at Mill Creek

Campbell’s Will Helps Outline History at Mill Creek

Archaeological work at Historic Mill Creek began in 1972, allowing historians, naturalists, and visitors to understand what life was like at the site of Michigan’s first water-powered saw mill. While archaeological discoveries like structural remains, military items, and mechanical parts help uncover what daily life may have been like, documentary evidence shows the importance of the saw mill as both a family business and a valuable part of the Michilmackinac community. One such document is the will of Robert Campbell, original owner of the mill. (more…)

Robert Rogers at Michilimackinac

Robert Rogers at Michilimackinac

Robert RogersAlthough many of the historic residents of Michilimackinac were well-known around the Great Lakes and played key roles in the region’s development, few have remained as famous as Robert Rogers. Today known mostly for his exploits with ranger units during the Seven Years’ War in the late 1750s, Rogers also briefly served as the commanding officer of Michilimackinac, a position which brought him disgrace and financial ruin rather than the glory of his earlier military exploits. (more…)

New Historical Marker Commemorates the Rear Parade Ground and Scout Barracks

New Historical Marker Commemorates the Rear Parade Ground and Scout Barracks

On July 25 the newest Michigan Historical Marker will be formally dedicated. It will be the twenty-first marker on the island.

Fort Mackinac from the north, ca. 1890.  The baseball field can be seen at center left, with the grandstand at extreme left.

Fort Mackinac from the north, ca. 1890. The baseball field can be seen at center left, with the grandstand at extreme left.

The rear parade ground north of Fort Mackinac is a distinctive Mackinac Island landscape, an integral part of the operation of Fort Mackinac for both military use and, beginning in 1885, as a baseball field. After the closing of the fort in 1895 the Mackinac Island State Park Commission maintained this historic landscape, including the baseball field. The barracks for the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp was built here in 1934. The new, double-sided marker commemorates both the historic landscape and the Scout Barracks.

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Mackinac’s Field of Dreams – The Fort Mackinac “Never Sweats” and Vintage Base Ball

Mackinac’s Field of Dreams – The Fort Mackinac “Never Sweats” and Vintage Base Ball

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.  –Terrence Mann – “Field of Dreams”

The large, grassy field behind Fort Mackinac has served many purposes since the end of the Civil War.  It has been a drill field for soldiers, a playground for scouts, and a great place to canter a horse.  But the one constant on that field for nearly a century and a half has been baseball.   Fort Mackinac soldiers established the first ball field on this site in the 1870s and continued to develop and improve the field until the fort closed in 1895.  Local residents and summer workers played baseball at the “fort ball grounds” in the early 20th century.  Since 1934, when Civilian Conservation Corps workers built the nearby scout barracks, boy and girl scout troops from across Michigan have played ball on the same field during the summer months.

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