Portraits Put Face on Mackinac History

It’s fascinating that after fifty years of actively collecting materials related to Fort Mackinac history, we still discover new treasures. Our most recent “discovery” is two portraits of Colonel George Mercer Brooke who commanded the fort in 1832.

George Mercer Brook 1819

Portrait ca. 1819

George Mercer Brooke 1825

Portrait ca. 1825

While conducting research for a future publication tentatively entitled “Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: A Pictorial History”, Director for Mackinac State Historic Parks Phil Porter made contact with Colonel Mercer’s great, great grandson George Mercer Brooke, III, through Ancestry.com. Brooke, a retired United States Marine colonel, shared with me a photograph of a portrait of his ancestor painted c. 1819 in Boston. While the portrait is not signed, family tradition holds that it was painted by Gilbert Stuart, the famous early American portraitist. Mr. Brooke’s cousin, Theodore Brooke, provided an additional portrait of the fort commander painted c. 1825.

Brooke was born in Virginia and appointed a 1st Lieutenant to the United States Army in 1808. Brooke served on the New York frontier during the War of 1812. He remained in the army following the war and was appointed Colonel and regimental commander of the 5th Regiment of Infantry in 1831. Brooke commanded Fort Mackinac from May through October 1832, a period during which the fur trade was still the dominant industry of the upper Great Lakes. Brooke was the highest ranking officer to serve at Fort Mackinac during its final 63 years of occupation. Brooke was engaged in staff duties in Texas during the Mexican War and it as here, in San Antonio, where he died in 1851.

We are grateful to the Brookes for allowing us to use these photograph and we look forward to sharing them, along with other new images of fort soldiers, through our forthcoming publication.

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