Episode 1 Mackinac: An Island Famous in These Regions

Episode 1 Mackinac: An Island Famous in These Regions

“Mackinac: And Island Famous in These Regions” was written by Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter and first published in 1998. The book covers the history of the Straits of Mackinac, its people, and its impact on the region and the world.

These first two chapters, narrated by Phil Porter, cover the origins of the region and the people who first called it home.

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Métis Women of Mackinac

Métis Women of Mackinac

Métis culture held a unique place of being part of two cultures, French and American Indian, that became a unique culture itself. This culture came about from the French men of the fur trade coming into the Great Lakes territories, populated by local tribes throughout the region. Families and bonds were made with this interaction.

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft

By the 1820s and 30s, the fur trade was at its height on Mackinac Island. John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company had its headquarters on Market Street. While it held a virtual monopoly on the fur trade, small independent traders held their own and had many successes. The métis culture held one foot in the European American world and one foot in the American Indian world, becoming an integral part of the fur trade as part of the middle ground to interact between these other two cultures.

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Cheers to Fort Mackinac

Cheers to Fort Mackinac

 

Capt. Greenleaf Goodale served as Fort Mackinac’s commander between 1886 and 1890. He supervised many improvements in the National Park.The army undertook projects designed to improve soldiers’ morale and provide recreational opportunities. These projects were part of a broader attempt to improve army life for enlisted men beginning in the 1880s. Known as the Army Reform Movement, these measures instituted better training procedures, improved uniforms and living conditions and provided recreational opportunities.

The War Department officially approved the construction and use of canteens for the entertainment, recreation, and amusement of enlisted men at military posts in 1889. Captain Greenleaf A. Goodale, the commanding officer Fort Mackinac quickly took advantage of the new policy and remodeled the wood quarters into the post canteen at a cost of $82.53. Opened on November 7, 1889, the canteen provided the men with two billiard rooms and a bar and a lunch counter. The rooms were furnished with books, magazines and board games including backgammon, checkers, dominoes and chess. The walls were decorated with large, framed pictures including seven large Civil War battle scened donated by West Bluff summer cottager Henry Leman. In the lunch room soldiers enjoyed ham and cheese sandwiches with imported Swiss cheese and French mustard, light wines and beer, including Schlitz of Milwaukee which was sold for “Five-cents per glass – large size.” Beer was the main source of profit while coffee was discontinued after three weeks for lack of interested. The canteen was immensely popular with the solders and enthusiastically supported by the officers who noticed an immediate improvement in moral and behavior.

 

Lost Hotels of Mackinac Island: The Windsor

A view of Hoban St. in 1919 with the Windsor in the distance showing the fourth floor and side addition added by Belle Gallagher by 1910.

A view of Hoban St. in 1919 with the Windsor in the distance showing the fourth floor and side addition added by Belle Gallagher by 1910.

The four-story, jade-colored building at the corner of Market and Hoban Streets has served as employee housing for Grand Hotel since the early 1980s. However, as the name board still declares, it was prior to this the Windsor Hotel. (more…)

Lost Hotels of Mackinac: The Palmer House

Lost Hotels of Mackinac: The Palmer House

The Palmer House, Ca. 1880

The Palmer House, Ca. 1880

Mackinac Island features many historic hotels that have welcomed visitors for generations. There were other early hotels that, for a variety of reason, have closed their doors. Some of these buildings remain standing but are used for different purposes. Others have disappeared completely. In this and future posts we will explore some of these lost hotels of Mackinac Island. (more…)

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…)

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…)

Cooking with Fire

Cooking with Fire

Where does family usually end up gathering at the house? It seems like the kitchen is the place for a lot of people. Food is universal and meals bring people together in a home.

The Biddle House, on Market Street on Mackinac Island, has a working kitchen with a fireplace that is used for demonstrating a household of the 1830s by means of creating a meal that would have been commonplace for the time period. Open hearth cooking remained the primary cooking method until the mid to late 1800s, when wood and coal burning stoves were commonplace. Every summer, staff and visitors gather here to learn more about the family around the fire. (more…)