Lost Landmarks of Mackinac Island: The Mitchell House

The Mitchell House, on Mackinac Island’s Market Street, was constructed by David and Elizabeth Mitchell. David, a native of Scotland, had served as a surgeon’s mate with the King’s Eighth Regiment at Michilimackinac since 1774. There he met Elizabeth, of French Canadian and Ojibwa ancestory. They were married in 1776 and moved with the rest of the coummunity to Mackinac Island in 1780. In 1783, when the King’s Eighth left Mackinac, David received approval to resign his post and remain with his family.

The Mitchell House 1By 1790 the Mitchells had constructed a large gambrel-roofed house on Market Street. David served for several more years as hospital mate to the British Army at Fort Mackinac, prior to its departure in 1796. He became a successful merchant and also acquired several parcels of land on the island where he raised crops for local sale. The Mitchell’s house was the center of Mackinac society, where the family hosted card parties, dances, dinners and tea parties. The Mitchells maintained a large library and sent their sons to Montreal and daughters to Europe for their educations.

David maintained his British citizenship and at the dawn of the War of 1812 enlisted in the British army, moving to Fort St. Joseph. He participated in the capture of Fort Mackinac in July 1812. Elizabeth encouraged her kinsmen to fight for the British. After the return of the island to the United States, David moved to Drummond Island, securing a post as assistant surgeon in the British Indian Department. The Mitchell House 2Elizabeth stayed on Mackinac Island to manage the family’s farm and businesses. Tensions between Elizabeth and U.S. officials caused her to flee to Drummond Island in 1815. She eventually returned, spending most of her time on Mackinac, while David remained on Drummond. Her son William remained with her, becoming an American citizen while three other sons resided with David on Drummond. Elizabeth visited David occasionally. On one such visit in 1827 she became ill and died. Her body was returned to Mackinac Island for burial. A year later David moved with the British garrison to Penetanguishene on Georgian Bay. He died in 1832.

By the late Victorian period the Mitchell’s home had become a historic curiosity and was featured in souvenir stereoview cards as the “oldest house on the island.” Vacant by 1890, it was destroyed between 1895 and 1900. A dance hall, later known as Dewey Hall, occupied the site from the early 1900s to the middle twentieth century. The site is now the vacant lot next to Cindy’s Riding Stable.

8 Responses to “Lost Landmarks of Mackinac Island: The Mitchell House”

  1. Donna McEwen

    This is absolutely amazing! I love hearing the stories of the history of this island that I have visited on many occasions. My gr gr gr grandparents are buried on this island and had a bakery business until Antoine Hamel’s death in 1847 at 51 years of age. His wife Catherine Hamel died in 1875 and they are buried in St. Anne’s cemetery. They came to Mackinac in 1835 from Berthierville Quebec and when I see other historical stories it makes me wonder if these pioneers knew each other and attended island functions etc. Thank you for posting, and thank you for the interesting story.

  2. Brock Chalmers

    The Mitchell house would be the same age at the McGulpin House, at least on Mackinac Island. The McGulpin House might possibly have been brought across the ice in the move from Fort Michilimackinac.

  3. Kim Bujold

    I am a direct descendant of David and Elizabeth Mitchell and am compiling my family history… thank-you for the information

    • Gail Cutter

      Hi Kim. I am also a direct descendant of David and Elizabeth Mitchell, their son Andrew and his daughter Louisa Elizabeth (my great-great grandmother). I am very interested in finding out more about Elizabeth’s mother . It seems her father was Joseph Laurent Bertrand, a French fur trader. My grandmother told us that we were descended from a Native American who was the chief’s daughter. She was forced to marry a fur trader as part of the deal for the trader to hunt their lands. The marriage was very unhappy, and they separated shortly after their daughter was born. The information I have found supports most of this family legend, but I have not been able to find Elizabeth’s mother name, or if she indeed was the chief’s daughter. Our grandmother said we were descended from the Hurons, but it appears this is not correct as everything I have read says Ojibwa or Chippewa. I would appreciate any information that you have! Thank you, cousin!

      • Gwendolyn Loehr

        I too am related to Elizabeth Bertrand Mitchell. I find her fascinating. Thank you for your information about her parents.
        I believe her mother’s name was Marie Joseph Lamaire, a Chippewa.

    • Gwendolyn Loehr

      I too am a descendent of Elizabeth Bertrand Mitchell. I find her life fascinating.

  4. Maurice Sarrazin

    hi my mother was a Bertrand from Mattawa Ontario . Her father was jule Bertrand . My mother was of Algonquin desendent. I am also trying to find my connections . If anyone could add to my tree would be wonderful.


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