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Numerous Pets Hold Place in Mackinac History

Animals below Fort Mackinac
Grand: Several men and their dogs gather on the government pasture below Fort Mackinac. These soldiers are likely from the 23rd Infantry or belong to the Michigan state troops, who gathered on Mackinac Island for summer encampments in the late 1880s.

Many visitors to the Straits of Mackinac today bring their four-legged friends with them. It’s not unusual to see any number of pets out with their owners in Marquette Park on Mackinac Island or strolling along the shoreline in Michilimackinac State Park.

Pets were an important part of historic Mackinac as well. The Marshall family kept large collies at the Old Mackinac Point Light Station when George Marshall served as the keeper. His nephew Chester recalled mornings waking up to the sound of Flora, Tatty, and Reno barking as breakfast was cooked around 1910. Dogs played an important role at Fort Mackinac as well, serving as companions and friends to the men stationed there. Several historic photos from the 1870s and 1880s show soldiers relaxing with a variety of dogs. In 1836, traveling writer Harriet Martineau noted that a dog followed Captain John Clitz down the ramp from Fort Mackinac as he came to meet her boat.

Dog with soldiers at North Sally Port Fort Mackinac
North sally: Several soldiers, including one man in an apron who is likely the post baker, pose with a small dog near Fort Mackinac’s north sally port around 1875.
Dog with Soldiers at Shooting Range
Rifle range: Lieutenant Benjamin Morse (standing) and other men from the 23rd Infantry take target practice on Fort Mackinac’s rifle range in the 1880s. Their canine friend is apparently undisturbed by the roar of the rifles.

Although many historic Mackinac residents owned pets, few could match the DePeysters of Michilimackinac in the variety and number of animals they kept as companions. During the period Arent DePeyster served as the British commander of Michilimackinac (1774-79), his wife Rebecca had a pet chipmunk named Tim. At other times, the DePeysters variously had a pet swan, two different spaniels named Dapper, a Newfoundland dog named Towzer, and a parrot. The parrot, presented to Rebecca by Lieutenant Isaac Brock (of War of 1812 fame), could speak and regularly issued commands to the soldiers.

Dog with Fort Mackinac soldiers
Soldiers and a dog near the Fort Mackinac guardhouse in the late 1860s.
Pets on the Parade Ground Fort Mackinac
A soldier and dog relax on the porch of Fort Mackinac barracks as other men perform a guard changing ceremony on the parade ground in the 1880s.