South Southwest Rowhouse Construction Continues

After starting in October of last year, the construction on the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City is making great progress.

Two new exhibits and all new restrooms are planned for the structure, the largest in the history of reconstruction at Colonial Michilimackinac and the first in 23 years.

With the completed construction of the roof, dormers have been added facing what will be the gardens.

The ruins of an original hearth will be featured in a new exhibit about the French presence at Colonial Michilimackinac and the architectural style of the period.

The walls and preliminary plumbing for the restrooms are in position.

Wawashkamo Red Oak Witnessed Island Battle

A enormous red oak at the Wawashkamo golf course on Mackinac Island fell after strong winds in July and has proven to have a history that far pre-dates that of the golf course.

A cross-section of the 200 year old oak tree. A Michigan driver’s license is inserted to give scale to the image.

In one of the first actions of the War of 1812, British troops surprised and captured Fort Mackinac on July 17, 1812. Two years later, 750 American troops attempted to recapture Mackinac Island. To counter the American attack, British, Canadian, and Native American troops took up positions on the fields of Michael Dousman’s farm. Here, on the afternoon of August 4, 1814, the two forces met and fought the Battle of Mackinac Island. An American defeat, the battle left Mackinac in British hands until the end of the war.  

In the center of the battlefield/golf course is a steep hill and stand of trees. In that grove sits the remaining stump of the red oak that Mackinac Associates Vice President Peter Pellerito, among others, believed could have been a “witness” to that American defeat. Pellerito arranged for a large cross-section of the tree to be examined by Dean Reid, a forester. Meticulously counting each ring and allowing for the height at which the section was cut, Reid determined the age of the tree to be 207 years old. Though very small at the time, there’s no doubt that this red oak was present during the battle.

Fort Fright at Colonial Michilimackinac

The autumn air is crisp and cool as you pass down the trail of lantern lights, the skeleton soldiers are waiting to welcome you to Colonial Michilimackinac. It’s time for Fort Fright.

A Werewolf watches as unsuspecting visitors enter Fort Fright.

This haven for lutins, werewolves and other bad-tempered creatures, the fort provides a fun, fall atmosphere for the entire family with it’s fair-share of scary experiences and historical background.

Visitors can explore the wooden palisade of the fort at twilight and as the sun sets, the lore and legends of Native Americans, French Canadians and the British come to life.

Visitors to Fort Fright are escorted down the path to the gate, manned by skeleton soldiers and patrolled by goblins and ghouls.

But listen to the warnings of the voyageurs who man the fires, safe from the scarier elements. They tell the tales as the werewolf howls in the distance and caution you on entering the haunted rowhouse. A number of other activities are of the non-terrifying variety and suitable for children of all ages. Music, treats and goody bags sponsored by Ryba’s Fudge are available.

On guard, these eerie soldiers aren’t to be trifled with.

Typically held the weekend of the first full week of October, the fort and fur trading village in Mackinaw City is taken over with the spooky specters from the of the past.

Be sure to dress appropriately for weather. For more information, call 231-436-4100 or www.mackinacparks.com/fort-fright/.

 

 

Master Map Gets an Update

The archaeological excavation of Fort Michilimackinac has been ongoing for more than five decades and detailed notes and records of each season, each site, and each square are important to our understanding and ongoing research. That accumulated data is presented in one, large document, the master map, which shows all of the major features excavated within the palisade wall from1959 until 2007, when the most recent project was completed.

Much like the time spent in the field excavating artifacts, maintaining those documents can be a time consuming, but fascinating endeavor.

Georgia Wulff updates the Colonial Michilimackinac master map with information from recently completed archaeological excavations at the site.

“The master map shows how all of the features, most of which are structural features such as parts of buildings, relate to each other, tying all of our projects together,” said Dr. Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks. “This is important because we are interested in understanding the community, not individual structures isolated in space.”

Georgia Wulff, an artist from Minocqua, Wisc., met Dr. Evans on a study tour and offered to help update the map. But, this wasn’t Wulff’s first trip to northern Michigan, far from it.

“My family took a number of trips to the Upper Peninsula when I was younger,” said Wulff, noting that her grandfather served as lighthouse keeper in Manistique and her great-grand father served as lighthouse keeper in Traverse City. “I even remember coming across on a ferry before the bridge was built.”

“The master map is also important for planning because it shows where we have and where we have not excavated.  We don’t want to install fences or underground utilities in undisturbed deposit,” said Dr. Evans.

She added that, ideally the map would be updated at the end of each major project, when the important features are better understood. Things such as rodent runs and modern disturbances aren’t generally  included on the master map for the sake of clarity.

King’s 8th Still Present at Michilimackinac

In 1774, between 65 and 70 enlisted men and three to four officers of the 8th, or King’s, Regiment of Foot arrived at Fort Michilimackinac. This detachment comprised two companies of the 8th Regiment: the elite grenadier company as well as the “General’s” company.

Under the command of Captain Arent S. DePeyster, these men protected the combined military garrison and civilian fur trading community at Michilimackinac. Most of the men spent their time on fatigue duty, maintaining the fort’s walls and other government buildings, chopping firewood, hauling supplies, and performing other tedious but necessary chores. All soldiers regularly took part in drills and stood guard. Lieutenant-Governor Patrick Sinclair took command of the garrison and community of Michilimackinac in October 1779.

Interpreters dressed as members of the King’s 8th at Colonial Michilimackinac discuss the duties of the day.

Under Sinclair’s direction, the men of the 8th dismantled the post of Michilimackinac for the move to Mackinac Island. There, with assistance from soldiers from the 84th Regiment of Foot, they began to construct Fort Mackinac. Unhappy with their treatment at Sinclair’s hands as well as their own officers, the men of the 8th publically complained to DePeyster, their beloved former commander. To prevent more trouble, the grenadier company was transferred from Michilimackinac in September 1780, while the “General’s” company was relieved in August 1781. The 8th remained in North America until 1785, having served there since 1768.

Excavated from Colonial Michilimackinac this past summer, the 8 is still visible after more than 200 years on this button.

Bits and pieces of the 8th still remain from the 1700s, including the unique buttons on the regiment’s dress uniform.

This coming weekend, September 22 and 23 2012, the King’s 8th will be back at Fort Michilimackinac demonstrating drill and the other duties of the soldiers. For more information on the encampment, click here or go to Kings8th.com

“Our Flag Was Still There” The Origin of the Star-Spangled Banner

The bombardment of Fort McHenry took place on September 13th and 14th, 1814. Francis Scott Key, held captive aboard a Royal Navy warship, watched as the British attacked the fort and other defenses of Baltimore.

This flag at Fort Mackinac, though smaller than the one seen by Francis Scott Key the morning of September 14, bears the 15 stars and stripes.

By the dawn’s early light of September 14, he saw that the American flag remained flying above the fort. The large garrison flag that Key saw flying that morning 198 years ago measured 30 by 42 feet and bore 15 stars and 15 stripes (one for each state). Inspired by the sight of the flag, that morning Key wrote a poem about the battle called “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” Later set to music, the poem became “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which officially became the National Anthem of the United States in 1931.

Mackinac Art Museum 2013 Exhibition “People of Mackinac”

Mackinac State Historic Parks is pleased to announce the theme for the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum’s 2013 art exhibition, “People of Mackinac.”

Highlighting the array of individuals that make Mackinac Island a unique destination, the theme is not strictly portraits, but broadened to include any work of art combining “Mackinac” and “people.” The independently juried exhibition will feature over two-dozen pieces of selected art in a variety of mediums from May through October 2013. 

A total of six awards and $5,000 in cash prizes, including a Best of Show Award, will be selected by the juror. The Best of Show winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize, the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum Gold Medal and their name will be added to the list of annual Gold Medal winners displayed at the museum. In addition, there will be second and third place cash prizes of $1,000 and $750 respectively and three (3) honorable mention awards with cash prizes of $250 each. All prizes are donated by the Mackinac Arts Council and Mackinac Associates. Winners will be announced at the June 26, 2013 awards ceremony.

Both amateur and professional artists are encouraged to enter. Guidelines, entry forms, and more information for the exhibition can be downloaded at here.

Changing Leaves, Put Mackinac in a New Light

Almost as if the leaves recognize the steady decline of visitors to the Straits of Mackinac after Labor Day, they change their color from rich, healthy greens tobrilliant reds, yellows, and oranges. It’s a last hurrah for this iteration of the natural beauty of Mackinac before the straits succumb to the inevitable winter.

Though the warmer weather has made some wary if the foliage would ever turn, those of us who see the day-to-day can assure you of the natural transition.

This photo from last fall shows the gradual transition from summer to autumn colors.

Color tours will still bring leaf peepers in droves to the Straits of Mackinac, especially Mackinac Island, where Mackinac Island State Park’s 70 miles of trails and roadways make it easy to appreciate this seasonal spectacle.

Fort Mackinac as a Civil War Prison

Fort Mackinac as a Civil War Prison

This year marks the Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the American Civil War. While the fighting didn’t reach northern Michigan, Mackinac Island and Fort Mackinac played a role as a prison for Confederate sympathizers.

Though recognized today as a vacation destination for travelers to northern

Barrow

Michigan, 150 years ago in the summer of 1862, Fort Mackinac became a prison. Although the fort itself played only a small role in the Civil War, for a few months the post on Mackinac Island housed three Confederate Army prisoners guarded by nearly 100 men.

After Capt. Henry Pratt’s company of the 2nd Artillery left in early 1861, Fort Mackinac was virtually abandoned. Only Ordnance Sergeant William Marshall remained behind as the fort’s sole caretaker. A year later, things began to change at the post. In early 1862, victorious Federal forces recaptured much of Tennessee from the Confederacy. Andrew Johnson (later Lincoln’s Vice President, and ultimately the 17th President) was installed as the military governor of the state, a position he used to quickly arrest several prominent Confederate sympathizers.  On Johnson’s orders, Josephus (or Joseph) Conn Guild, George Washington Barrow, and William Giles Harding were placed under arrest and shipped north. Aware of Johnson’s actions, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton made preparations to exile the three men to Fort Mackinac, where their influence and wealth could not help the Confederate cause. Unfortunately, no Federal troops were immediately available to garrison Mackinac as guards; as a result, the three prisoners were sent temporarily to Detroit, where they were well-received by an inquisitive and sympathetic public.

Guild

Throughout April 1862, Federal officers in Detroit, Washington, and elsewhere scrambled to find a suitable garrison for Fort Mackinac. Eventually, Capt. Grover S. Wormer received orders to raise an independent company in Detroit specifically to guard the Tennesseans on Mackinac. Mustered into service in early May, Wormer’s unit, named the Stanton Guard after the Secretary of War, counted just fewer than 100 men in its ranks. Boarding the steamer Illinois around May 10, the new Stanton Guard and their three prisoners arrived on Mackinac Island shortly after.

Unfortunately for the new garrison of Fort Mackinac, a quick inspection of the nearly abandoned post revealed that it was not ready to accommodate the prisoners. As a result, the three men were lodged at the Mission House Hotel while the Stanton Guard repaired the quarters at the fort. The improvements complete, on May 25 the Tennesseans moved into the fort’s Wood Quarters to begin their incarceration at the post. Despite the repairs carried out by the Stanton Guard, the War Department quickly discarded any thought of housing more prisoners at Fort Mackinac, as the fort would require considerably more work to make it secure.

Harding

Despite their status as prisoners, the three men apparently enjoyed a pleasantly boring summer on Mackinac. They were allowed to explore the island with a small guard detachments, and wrote of Mackinac’s interesting geological formations and rich history. They frequently wrote letters home to Tennessee, and Guild and Barrow both complimented Capt. Wormer for his kindness and dignity. Indeed, the prisoners received such liberal treatment that in early August, Col. William Hoffman, the Commissary-General of Prisoners, reprimanded Wormer for failing to impose harsher restrictions upon the men.

As the summer drew to a close, the War Department reassessed the value of Fort Mackinac as a prison. Col. Hoffman recommended that the Stanton Guard be disbanded, as its men could be better used in the field. On September 10, the troops and prisoners departed Fort Mackinac, bound again for Detroit. The Stanton Guard formally mustered out and disbanded on September 25. Guild and Harding swore allegiance to the U.S. and were released on September 30, 1862, leaving only Barrow in custody. He was transferred to the more established military prison on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio. He remained in prison until March 1863 when he was released as part of a prisoner exchange.

With the departure of the Stanton Guard, Fort Mackinac was again virtually abandoned, save for Ordnance Sergeant Marshall. He served alone for the next five years, until the Army garrisoned the post in 1867.

Welcome

Welcome to the Mackinac State Historic Parks blog, new communication channel allowing us to share information, both old and new, about our sites and the historical and natural treasures of the region.

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