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…)

Greening Michilimackinac

Greening Michilimackinac

If you have visited Colonial Michilimackinac in recent years, you have probably noticed some changes to the site. We have a whole new building, bigger than any that had previously been reconstructed, new tours, programs and updated exhibits. We excavate every day in the summer, learn as much as we can from the artifacts that we find, and apply that information to ultimately reconstructing the buildings and the life that was there 250-300 years ago. But that word “life” can be tricky. What makes a neighborhood, village or city alive? Our staff believes that in addition to presenting a collection of buildings and artifacts, we can also share the smells, tastes and sounds of historic Michilimackinac. We have taken the challenge of making Michilimackinac come alive very literally. Commanding Officer's Gardens

Plants and Trellis Right now there are 13 recreated gardens inside the fort’s palisade. Some are small or some, like the commanding officers’ garden, are actually quite large, containing 16 beds centered around a brass sundial and totaling around 785 square feet. All the gardens big and small in the 1770s were a source of food, medicine and household supplies. Due to the small space and diverse nature of food and household needs, many types of plants were tucked in together. One example of this is found in a small backyard garden that belonged to a French fur trader. In it there are planted chives, radishes and violets. (more…)

Weapons of Michilimackinac

Weapons of Michilimackinac

Soldier Firing Wall GunAlthough it primarily served as a logistical center for the Great Lakes fur trade, the post of Michilimackinac remained a military establishment from the moment it was constructed by French soldiers in 1715 to the day the last British troops abandoned the fort in 1781. Especially during the period of British control (1761-81), Michilimackinac served as an increasingly important and well-defended military outpost.

(more…)

A New Season – Archaeology at Michilimackinac

A New Season – Archaeology at Michilimackinac

With the summer season rapidly approaching, another archaeology field season is upon us. Even though we are continuing where we stopped last August, there was some preparation necessary before we began excavating again. At the end of each season we line the site with plastic and straw bales to protect it from the weather over the winter. In the spring we have to remove all of this. This process began May 26. Then we re-established the grid strings we measure from, put out our water-screening stations and organized the other field equipment and supplies. Most of the crew arrived June 1, and after a few days of orientation and training, the field season was fully underway June 4. (more…)

The Four Maps of Michilimackinac

The Four Maps of Michilimackinac

In addition to over 50 years’ worth of archaeological evidence, historians have four maps of the original community of Michilimackinac to help them understand how people lived at the fort in the 18th century. These maps, created between 1749 and 1769, provide a fascinating glimpse into the changing community of Michilimackinac.

7. Lotbiniere plan 1749 mapThe earliest known map of Michilimackinac was drawn in October 1749 by Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, a French military engineer. Dispatched to Michilimackinac to report on the state of the post, Lotbinière recorded the fort’s defenses (which he considered “very badly built”) as well as the layout of the community within the walls. His map also listed the residents of most of the fort’s 40 homes, as well as the few buildings occupied by the French military and the Catholic priest. In an accompanying written report, Lotbinière also provided a number of details about the construction and design of the built environment at Michilimackinac. (more…)

Digging up the Past, All in a Day’s Work

Visitors to Michilimackinac get to interact with archaeologists uncovering little bits of history every day during the peak season. What they are observing is only part of the process. For every day we spend excavating, we spend two or three days in the lab trying to figure out what it all means. Following each season, a preliminary report is written, summarizing the season’s findings.

(more…)

Lace and Buttons: More than Just Decoration

Dressed in their madder red regimental coats, black hats, and white underclothes, the soldiers of the 8th Regiment who served at Michilimackinac in the 1770s may have looked quite similar to other British troops fighting in the American Revolution. Their uniforms, however, were unique, marked by distinctive buttons, trim, and lace tape. (more…)

Canadian Costume Reflected Lifestyle

French-Canadians adapted to the harsh climate of their new home with a variety of clothing, including coats called capots. Made from trade blankets, these simple coats were warm and practical, and proved popular with Canadians and Native Americans alike.

French-Canadians adapted to the harsh climate of their new home with a variety of clothing, including coats called capots. Made from trade blankets, these simple coats were warm and practical, and proved popular with Canadians and Native Americans alike.

Far from home and living in a harsh environment, the French residents of Michilimackinac and the rest of Canada were quick to adopt new styles of clothing. While French fashions remained popular for most people, many soldiers, voyageurs, and others who regularly interacted with Native Americans adopted their neighbors’ style of dress. Like Native men, voyageurs and soldiers on campaign frequently wore soft moccasins, breechcloths, and leggings. In 1749, Swedish traveler Peter Kalm noted that “the French [Canadians] dress as the Indians; they do not wear breeches.”

In warmer months, French voyageurs wore moccasins and breechcloths. The easily-removable leggings allowed them to jump in and out of the water as they hauled cargo around portages. Elaborately-woven sashes served as weight belts, protecting the men’s backs from injury as they carried loads over 100 pounds.

In warmer months, French voyageurs wore moccasins and breechcloths. The easily-removable leggings allowed them to jump in and out of the water as they hauled cargo around portages. Elaborately-woven sashes served as weight belts, protecting the men’s backs from injury as they carried loads over 100 pounds.

Other pieces of clothing were unique to French-Canadians. British trader Alexander Henry left a good account of the Canadian disguise he wore during his first secret journey to Michilimackinac in 1761: “I laid aside my English clothes, and covered myself only with a cloth, passed about the middle; a shirt, hanging loose; a molleton, or blanket coat; and a large, red, milled worsted cap.” The red cap (or tocque), blanket coat, breechcloth, and leggings were something of a uniform for French-Canadian men of the fur trade, and would have been seen regularly at Michilimackinac.

Behind the Scenes of New SSW Rowhouse Exhibit

While the construction on the South Southwest Rowhouse continues, our staff is hard at work developing the new exhibits that will be placed within the new building.

One half of the reconstructed rowhouse will feature an audio/visual presentation of the attack at Michilimackinac. Principal photography took place in the summer, but some additional shots were needed. What we’re shooting here is a re-creation of a meeting that took place in Charles Langlade’s house on June 3, the day after the attack. The surviving British prisoners (Etherington, Solomon, Henry, etc.) were all present, as was Fr. Du Jaunay. The meeting served two important purposes. First, Du Jaunay convinced Etherington that further resistance to the Ojibwa was futile and second, Langlade outlined his plans to protect the prisoners from their Ojibwa captors. Langlade personally secured the release of Etherington. He also sent word to the Odawa of L’Arbre Croche, who arrived shortly after and took the prisoners to the safety of their village. Henry became separated from the other survivors at this time, as he was taken into the home of his friend, Wawatam, for protection.

 

The photos were taken at Future Media in Okemos, Michigan.