Outside the Walls: The “Subarbs” of Michilimackinac

Outside the Walls: The “Subarbs” of Michilimackinac

In the 18th century, the summer population of Michilimackinac could swell into the thousands as voyageurs, clerks, merchants, and other French-Canadian, British, and Native American participants in the fur trade descended on the post for the annual trading season. Given the relatively small size of the town inside the fort’s walls, where did all of these people live? By the 1760s, a growing collection of homes sprang up east of the fort, creating the suburbs of Michilimackinac.  (more…)

Mackinac’s Contribution to Fashion? Hats!

Mackinac’s Contribution to Fashion? Hats!

Nearly all European and American men wore felt hats in the 18th century. Hats came in numerous shapes and sizes, as seen in this 1747 engraving by famed illustrator William Hogarth.

Nearly all European and American men wore felt hats in the 18th century. Hats came in numerous shapes and sizes, as seen in this 1747 engraving by famed illustrator William Hogarth.

For over 200 years, Michilimackinac, and later Mackinac Island, were centers of the Great Lakes fur trade. Every summer, merchants based at Michilimackinac or on the island shipped tons of furs to factories on the Atlantic coast or in Europe. Trapped by indigenous people around the Great Lakes, otter, muskrat, mink, rabbit, fox, and especially beaver pelts were highly prized in the garment and fashion industry. These furs were used to trim collars and cuffs, line capes and muffs, and, most importantly, to make felt hats. (more…)

The Treaty of Greenville: August 3, 1795

The Treaty of Greenville: August 3, 1795

On August 3, 1795, the Revolutionary War on the western frontier finally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Greenville. This treaty signaled the end of British control of Mackinac Island, and heralded the American occupation of Michigan. Although the Treaty of Paris of 1783 formally ended the war between the American colonists and the British, the indigenous residents of what would become the United States had not been consulted. As a result, the Revolution evolved into the Northwest Indian War, fought between Americans pouring westward over the Appalachian Mountains and the plethora of indigenous nations known as the Western Confederacy. (more…)

What’s on the Other Side of the Lake? Green Bay!

What’s on the Other Side of the Lake? Green Bay!

A combined British-Native force from Fort Edward Augustus helped diffuse tensions at Michilimackinac following the attack of 1763. Courtesy of British Library

A combined British-Native force from Fort Edward Augustus helped diffuse tensions at Michilimackinac following the attack of 1763. Courtesy of British Library.

You may be aware of Mackinac’s connection to cities like Detroit and Montreal, but many other communities can also trace a historic connection back to the straits. One such city is Green Bay, Wisconsin, which will be celebrating several important milestones in 2017. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Fort Howard, built by American troops, and the 300th anniversary of the colonial French Fort La Baye. Both posts were located in present-day Green Bay and had ties to Mackinac.

By the 1600s both Mackinac and Green Bay were part of French Canada, and both deeply linked to the fur trade. The majority of the fur trade that went west from Michilimackinac headed to Green Bay. Green Bay’s Fox River was a main artery for reaching the Mississippi River and trading grounds in central Wisconsin and Minnesota. As a result of the first Fox War (1712-1716), the French established Fort La Baye to protect this vital trade route. Many of the French soldiers who built and later garrisoned La Baye were sent from Fort Michilimackinac, which was built around 1715.

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