The City of Mackinac Island

Did you ever wonder why your Mackinac Island t-shirt might have “Established 1817” on it? The answer happened 200 years ago today.

A circa 1965 look at Community Hall with City Hall just visible on the left side.

A circa 1965 look at Community Hall with City Hall just visible on the left side.

Mackinac Island in 1817 was recovering from the effects of the War of 1812. Still often called Michilimackinac, it was shortened to Mackinac soon after the war. Mackinac Island was a center of the fur trade, but had struggled through the war. The economy was strengthening by 1817, though, with John Jacob Astor establishing the northern headquarters of his new American Fur Company on the island.

This is probably one of the first photographs taken on the island in the late 1850s. The old City Hall building can be seen in the center-right of this photo, with the cupola on top.

This is probably one of the first photographs taken on the island in the late 1850s. The City Hall building can be seen in the center-right of this photo, with the cupola on top.

A proclamation and act in March and April 1817, respectively, established the Borough of Michilimackinac under the Michigan Territory. This specified duties and organized the makeup of the civil government. Duties included taxation, maintenance, and regulation of the area. The first official meeting took place on July 7, 1817, probably in the northeast section of what is now Marquette Park, with an annual meeting to be held each November. Local government came into action after this meeting, with several acts and provisions passed and enacted by the following year. Mackinac Island was incorporated as a city in 1899.

200 years later, the city of Mackinac Island is commemorating this occasion with a ceremony today, July 7, 2017, with a special city council session, open-house tour of government offices, community hall reception, and costumed historic interpreters to help celebrate the anniversary of the City of Mackinac Island. Events will take place at the old courthouse, next to Community Hall, and the reception will take place at Community Hall. Island Historian Brian Dunnigan, Mayor Margaret Doud and Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter will all speak.

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