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Historic Mill Creek History

Mill Creek was established in 1790 by Robert Campbell to provide sawn lumber for nearby Mackinac Island.  Campbell also operated a farm, with hay fields, cattle and an extensive orchard.  A gristmill was eventually added to the operation.  In 1819 the mill and farm were purchased by wealthy Mackinac Island merchant Michael Dousman.  He continued operations on the site through the 1830s.  Abandoned and eventually forgotten, Mill Creek was rediscovered in 1972.  After extensive archaeological work, the site opened in 1984.  Today, visitors can watch the reconstructed sawmill in operation and explore the natural history of the site through trails, exhibits and naturalist programs.

Historic Mill Creek Chronology 

 1770s Property is part of the reservation surrounding Fort Michilimackinac and used for procuring firewood.

 1790 Robert Campbell establishes a sawmill and farm at Mill Creek site.

 1795 Property part of land ceded to the United States by the Chippewa in the Treaty of Greenville.

 1808 Robert Campbell dies.  Heirs present claim to 640 acres, citing large area of improved cultivated land, sawmill, gristmill and large orchard.  Known as “Private Claim 334.” John Campbell continues operations at the site.

 1819 Campbell’s Mill and Farm sold to Michael Dousman.

 1839 Mill operations cease.

 1854 Michael Dousman dies.

 1856 Private Claim 334 sold to William W. Wendell.  The property was subdivided and portions of it sold a number o times during the remainder of the nineteenth century.

 1865-1920 Limestone quarrying operations conducted on property.

 1950s Property reverts to state ownership and incorporated into the Hardwood State Forest under the Depart of Natural Resources, Forestry Division.

 1972 Ellis Olson discovers mill site.

 1973 Archaeological work begins.

 1975 Property transferred to Mackinac Island State Park Commission.

 1984 Historic Mill Creek opened to the public.

Historic Mill Creek Historical Facts and FAQ

Who owned the mill? Robert Campbell constructed the original dam and sawmill in the late 1780’s. His son sold it to Michael Dousman in 1819.

Where was the lumber used? Mill Creek’s market was Mackinac Island. Lumber from the sawmill was used to build the Mission House (1825) and the Mission Church (1829).

How many years did the mill operate? Approximately 50 years, from the late 1780s until about 1839.

Was there other activity on the site? Yes. A gristmill was eventually added to the operation. Agricultural products, including hay and beef, were also produced on the site.

Who discovered the site? The historic mill site was rediscovered by Ellis Olson of Cheboygan in 1972.

When was archaeological work done on the site? Archaeological excavations have taken place at Mill Creek periodically from 1972 through 1994.

What structures have been found? The remnants of the dam, two houses, a workshop and several other structures have been located.

When did the site open to the public? Historic Mill Creek opened to the public in June of 1984.

Federal Recognition: Historic Mill Creek is a National Registered Historic Site.

Acreage and other features:

  • 625 acres
  • 3,250 feet of Great Lakes Shoreline
  • 3.5 miles of interpreted nature trails (1.5 miles are handicap accessible).

Reconstructed structures at Mill Creek:

  • The Mill Dam
  • Sawmill
  • British Workshop
  • American Millwright’s House