Cheers to Fort Mackinac

Cheers to Fort Mackinac

 

Capt. Greenleaf Goodale served as Fort Mackinac’s commander between 1886 and 1890. He supervised many improvements in the National Park.The army undertook projects designed to improve soldiers’ morale and provide recreational opportunities. These projects were part of a broader attempt to improve army life for enlisted men beginning in the 1880s. Known as the Army Reform Movement, these measures instituted better training procedures, improved uniforms and living conditions and provided recreational opportunities.

The War Department officially approved the construction and use of canteens for the entertainment, recreation, and amusement of enlisted men at military posts in 1889. Captain Greenleaf A. Goodale, the commanding officer Fort Mackinac quickly took advantage of the new policy and remodeled the wood quarters into the post canteen at a cost of $82.53. Opened on November 7, 1889, the canteen provided the men with two billiard rooms and a bar and a lunch counter. The rooms were furnished with books, magazines and board games including backgammon, checkers, dominoes and chess. The walls were decorated with large, framed pictures including seven large Civil War battle scened donated by West Bluff summer cottager Henry Leman. In the lunch room soldiers enjoyed ham and cheese sandwiches with imported Swiss cheese and French mustard, light wines and beer, including Schlitz of Milwaukee which was sold for “Five-cents per glass – large size.” Beer was the main source of profit while coffee was discontinued after three weeks for lack of interested. The canteen was immensely popular with the solders and enthusiastically supported by the officers who noticed an immediate improvement in moral and behavior.

 

Fort Mackinac and the Mackinac National Park

Lt. Calvin Cowles, along with Lt. Benjamin Morse, surveyed the National Park in 1885.

Lt. Calvin Cowles, along with Lt. Benjamin Morse, surveyed the National Park in 1885.

This year, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary. By 1916, the Mackinac National Park had already passed into and out of existence, its fate linked to the fortunes of Fort Mackinac.

After Congress created Yellowstone in 1872, Senator Thomas Ferry introduced legislation to create a second park on Mackinac Island. In addition to the island’s attractive history and natural features, the U.S. government already owned much of the island as part of the Fort Mackinac military reservation and the soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac could act as caretakers. As a result, the park would cost almost nothing, which Ferry knew appealed to the tight-fisted Congressmen of the 1870s. After two years of campaigning, President Ulysses Grant created the Mackinac National Park, the second park in the country, on March 3, 1875. (more…)