The Four Maps of Michilimackinac

The Four Maps of Michilimackinac

In addition to over 50 years’ worth of archaeological evidence, historians have four maps of the original community of Michilimackinac to help them understand how people lived at the fort in the 18th century. These maps, created between 1749 and 1769, provide a fascinating glimpse into the changing community of Michilimackinac.

7. Lotbiniere plan 1749 mapThe earliest known map of Michilimackinac was drawn in October 1749 by Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, a French military engineer. Dispatched to Michilimackinac to report on the state of the post, Lotbinière recorded the fort’s defenses (which he considered “very badly built”) as well as the layout of the community within the walls. His map also listed the residents of most of the fort’s 40 homes, as well as the few buildings occupied by the French military and the Catholic priest. In an accompanying written report, Lotbinière also provided a number of details about the construction and design of the built environment at Michilimackinac. (more…)

Anniversary of the Cedarville

Anniversary of the Cedarville

At 9:45 a.m. on Friday, May 7, 1965, two ships collided in dense fog in the middle of the Straits of Mackinac. One of them, the limestone-carrying freighter Cedarville, capsized and sank approximately 40 minutes later just off Old Mackinac Point. Fifty years later, the loss of Cedarville remains the one of the worst maritime disasters in the straits, claiming 10 lives.

Cedarville (1)

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Mission Point Began as Conference Center and College

Mission Point Began as Conference Center and College

What is today Mission Point Resort was originally constructed between 1955 and 1965 as a conference center for Moral Re-Armament (MRA). The international peace organization, based in Switzerland, had originally been established in England in the 1930s by Frank Buchman, a former Lutheran pastor from Pennsylvania. The group held its first gathering on Mackinac Island in 1942. They held conferences at both Grand Hotel and also leased the vacant Island House Hotel from Mackinac Island State Park. The conferences increased in size so that by 1954 MRA decided to purchase land on the island for their own center, acquiring several large parcels at Mission Point. (more…)

Small Fort Plays Big Role in Mackinac History

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Major Charles Gratiot visited Mackinac Island in 1817, using his trained engineer’s eye to carefully record the design of Fort Holmes in these detailed plans. The fort’s blockhouse, walls, and gun platforms are clearly visible on Gratiot’s drawings.

When American troops returned to Mackinac Island following the War of 1812, they inherited a new piece of defensive architecture from their former British enemies. In addition to Fort Mackinac, the Americans also acquired a small fort on the island’s highest point when they arrived in 1815. Although the British originally named the post Fort George, the Americans quickly renamed the fort to honor Major Andrew Holmes, who had been killed in battle on the island in 1814. For the next few years, Fort Holmes played an important part in the daily routines and duties of the American soldiers stationed on Mackinac Island. (more…)

World War I Helps Start First Exhibits at Fort Mackinac

One hundred years ago, as the First World War raged in Europe, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission began the long process of creating museum exhibits to share the rich history of the Straits of Mackinac region. Although the United States would not enter the war until 1917, the conflict would eventually play a role in the commission’s first permanent exhibits.Exhibit

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What is with these Rising Lake Levels?

The Great Lakes water levels have both seasonal changes and long term changes.

In a normal year the water level of Lakes Michigan and Huron rise and fall about 11 inches. The high usually occurs in July and the low in February. The melting snow and spring rains cause the levels to rise until mid-summer. Then the water levels slowly drop as the water warms and evaporation takes place. When fall and winter arrive, the rate of evaporation increases, because the water is warmer than the cold dry winds from the northwest. The quicker the ice forms and the more lake it covers, the sooner the drop in water level is reversed. By February the lake level usually stabilizes before it rises again in the spring. (more…)

Digging up the Past, All in a Day’s Work

Visitors to Michilimackinac get to interact with archaeologists uncovering little bits of history every day during the peak season. What they are observing is only part of the process. For every day we spend excavating, we spend two or three days in the lab trying to figure out what it all means. Following each season, a preliminary report is written, summarizing the season’s findings.

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Mackinac State Historic Parks 2014 Collections Review

The Mackinac Island State Park Commission accessioned over 120 gifts and 67 purchases to the state park historic object and archival collections in 2014. The items represent a board spectrum of Straits of Mackinac history covering topics such as shipwrecks, the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp and businesses in Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.

Many of the donations were given to the park for the new Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. Diving gear including a dry suit, pants, boots, gloves and air tank were donated to show how diving was done in the 1970’s. From the S.S. Cedarville, a station bill represents the most recent tragedy in the straits and safety gear including a lifeboat oar represents equipment found on ships to save lives. Purchased were a ships compass and radio to tell the story of navigation and communication on the lakes. (more…)