A color painting in a gold frame of Thomas Hunt, who was a commander at Fort Mackinac.

2023 Mackinac State Historic Parks Collections Acquisitions

In 2023, the collections committee accessioned 643 objects into the Mackinac Island State Park Commission collection and archives. In addition to 83 purchases, 560 items were donated to the collection. The summer collections internship program saw the hiring of Kaitlyn Cary from Central Michigan University and Sara Handerhan from Cornell University. They assisted Curator of Collections Brian Jaeschke with the inventory of The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, several historic downtown Mackinac Island buildings and General Storage inside the Heritage Center.

A color portrait of Colonel Arent DePeyster. He is wearing a dress military uniform of the British military. The portrait is in an oval gold frame.

Colonel Arent DePeyster

A color portrait of Rebecca DePeyster, who is wearing a formal dress and hat, in an oval gold frame

Rebecca Blair DePeyster

 In the fall of 2022, Mackinac State Historic Parks was able to acquire two rare portraits of Lieutenant Colonel Arent DePeyster and his wife Rebecca. DePeyster was commandant of the King’s 8th Regiment of Foot at Fort Michilimackinac from 1774-1779. Francis Alleyne painted the images around 1790. The portraits were discovered in a London home and put up for auction. Money from the Jahn Collections Fund was used to purchase and conserve the portraits and their frames. They are currently on display in the Mackinac Art Museum.

A color painting in a gold frame of Thomas Hunt, who was a commander at Fort Mackinac.

Donated portrait of Colonel Thomas Hunt

 The commission received a donation of a framed portrait from a descendant of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Hunt. Hunt was commander of the 1st Infantry at Fort Mackinac from 1802 – 1804. During this time, Fort Mackinac became the sixth largest U.S. military post with 120 soldiers. Hunt had a distinguished military career starting in 1775 at Lexington-Concord. He served in several battles including Bunker Hill and Yorktown where he was wounded. After the war, he was a major in the 2nd Sub Legion and served during Wayne’s Indian Campaign of 1794, fighting at Fallen Timbers. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1802. The portrait was painted on tin circa 1808 and the artist is currently unknown. The painting is undergoing conservation treatment and will be placed on display in the near future.

Two photograph albums

Two of the donated photo albums

 Over the years, Mackinac State Historic Parks has purchased or had donated photograph albums containing snapshots taken by visitors to the straits region. This year the commission accessioned three albums containing several black and white images of Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City and other local attractions. Besides scenes such as Arch Rock, Fort Mackinac and Grand Hotel, the albums contain perspectives that commercial photographers would not normally shoot providing important historical information. Another aspect is images of  everyday people enjoying the sites much like visitors continue to today.

A collection of brochures, photos, and other items related to MRA and the Mackinac College

Donated items from the MRA and Mackinac College.

 Besides Grand Hotel, Mission Point Resort is another Mackinac Island icon. Many of the resort buildings were originally constructed for the group Moral Re-Armament which was an international moral and spiritual movement that started before World War II. In 1942, the group began holding conferences on Mackinac Island and by the mid-1950s had purchased the property known as Cedar Point on the east end of the island. They began constructing buildings using workers from around the world. One of those workers donated several photographs, slides, blueprints and other material related to the construction. In addition, various objects from Mackinac College, which operated at Mission Point from 1966 – 1970, were donated.

 This is only a small sample of the type of objects Mackinac State Historic Parks collects during any given year.  We are always looking for donations and items to purchase which will help the commission to continue its mission of educating the public about the history of the region.

Mackinac State Historic Parks
2023 Accession Gift Donors

Amy Sacka
Large color photograph of Mackinac Bridge in wintertime by Artist-in-Residence
Raymond Gaynor
Framed black and white photograph of sailboats in Mackinac Island harbor by Artist-in-Residence
Becki Barnwell
Black and white portrait photograph of Samuel Bayard and Martha Poole
Copies of Mackinac Islander, The Island News and Mackinac Island News newspapers
James Newton
Souvenir letter wallet and change purse from Mackinac Island
Jeri Gustafsson
Black and white photographs of Fort Michilimackinac, Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Bridge
Joan Vannorman
Black and white photographs of Mackinac Island, Fort Mackinac, Niagara Falls and Parry Sound, Ontario
Patricia Jahn
Woven flax cloth night shirt
Joan Slater
Office paper spike and papers from John Doud store on Mackinac Island
John Polacsek
Georgian Bay Line travel brochures for S.S. South & North American
David Callaghan
New Testament Bible of Jacob Wendell and Old and New Mackinac by Rev J.A. Van Fleet
Kathy Verhagen
Color and black & white postcards from the Straits of Mackinac region
Michael McGarr
Metal artwork of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse entitled Midnight Light
Kathy Ames
Black and white photographs of the Tootle family, sailboats and Gardiner photographic prints
David Doss
Michigan State Highway Ferry schedule for Fall and Early Winter 1944
Cheboygan History Center
Color postcards of Mackinac Island and black and white photographs of a truck being pulled by horses on Mackinac Island
Dustin Hunt
Pencil sketch entitled Sue by Artist-in-Residence
Kateri Kaminski
Cross, pendants, brooch and earrings made in silver by Artist-in-Residence
Jeri Baron Feltner
Nikonos III underwater camera used to photograph shipwrecks in the Straits of Mackinac
High pressure scuba tank used by Charles Feltner for diving on Great Lakes shipwrecks
Sid Browne
Wooden walking stick crafted by Donald Andress
Phil Porter
Mackinac State Historic Parks employee coffee mug from 1994
Jean Gumpper
Framed woodcut print by Artist-in-Residence
James Swanson
Oil on linen of Round Island Lighthouse and seagulls by Artist in Residence
Marilyn Bachelor
Framed painting by Robert E. Wood entitled From Mackinac Island
Dorothy and Dan Elliott
Framed oil on tin painting of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Hunt
Anonymous
Real color postcard of Fort Michilimackinac land gate
Harold Kriesche
Clear glass ashtray with letter “L” engraved by Frank Kriesche
Dan Friedhoff
Fire axes recovered from the SS Cedarville shipwreck
Brian Scott Jaeschke
Copy of A Lake Tour to Picturesque Mackinac
Debra Orr
Photographs of Christopher Reeve, Mary’s Pantry, stockade spike, ferry pass, movie ticket and Truscott documents
Douglas McGregor
Moral Re-Armament and Mackinac College photographs, slides, booklets, blueprints, newsletters, records, postcards, Mackinac College letterman patch and stationery
Kyle Bagnall
Three color panoramic postcards of Mackinac Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vacationland Auto Ferry in the icy Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan State Highway Ferries 100th Anniversary

The Sainte Ignace auto ferry at a dock.

The Sainte Ignace

This summer marked the 100th anniversary of the Michigan State Highway ferry service going into operation. The service was started to get automobiles and their drivers across the Straits of Mackinac in a timely fashion. Prior to the service being instituted, the Mackinac Transportation Company and their two railroad car ferries, Chief Wawatam and Sainte Marie carried automobiles across when possible. In 1917 when the first automobiles were taken across, it cost $40 and the car had to be loaded on a railway flat car. On top of that, the automobile had to be drained of gasoline due to maritime regulations. By the early 1920’s, several drivers had complained to Governor Alex Groesbeck, who asked legislators to approve a state-run ferry.

The Ariel auto ferry

The Ariel

The Mackinaw City Auto Ferry

The Mackinaw City

 The first ship purchased by the state was the Ariel which could haul 20 automobiles. On August 6, 1923, she made her first trip and by November when the season ended she had carried around 10,000 cars. The highway department purchased two more vessels that year, the Colonel Pond and Colonel Card which became the Sainte Ignace and Mackinaw City. Along with the purchase of ships, the state bought a dock in St. Ignace and adapted part of the railroad dock in Mackinaw City to load and unload the cars. By 1925, the state had purchased shoreline property in Mackinaw City and had a 1,400-foot causeway built. The state ordered its first ferry in 1927 and it was christened, The Straits of Mackinac, which could carry 50 cars.

The City of Cheboygan Auto Ferry on the water.

The City of Cheboygan

The City of Munising auto ferry.

The City of Munising

 During the 1930’s, the highway department improved the docks on both sides of the straits by making them bigger for the increasing demand in auto traffic. Restrooms, large parking lots for waiting motorists and elevators for lifting cars to the second deck of the ferries were constructed. More ferries were added to the fleet; instead of building new ships, unused Lake Michigan railroad ferries were acquired. The first was the Ann Arbor No. 4 which became the City of Cheboygan in 1937. One year later the Pere Marquette No. 20 was purchased and became the City of Munising. Rounding out the decade was the addition of the Pere Marquette No. 17 which became the City of Petoskey in 1940.

The City of Petoskey Auto Ferry on the water.

The City of Petoskey

 Rationing of gasoline and tires during World War II saw most of the ferries sitting idle but the post-war saw an increase in crossings. Three of the ships were altered by adding seagates to the bow allowing for faster loading and unloading. In 1948, the ferry service celebrated its 25th anniversary with several events including a parade, coronation ball, swimming race to Mackinac Island and a special moonlight cruise aboard The Straits of Mackinac. One of the highlights was models of the new icebreaking ferry the state proposed to build. One year later, construction began on the 360-foot-long, diesel-powered Vacationland. The ship had pilothouses and double propellors on both ends and could carry 150 automobiles.

 The Vacationland arrived in St. Ignace January 12, 1952 and immediately began hauling cars across. Due to her size and power plant, new slips were constructed in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City along with storage tanks to supply the ship with diesel and lubricating oil. As the ship began her service, plans were underway to construction a new way to cross the straits. In 1954, funds were obtained to start construction of the Mackinac Bridge which was completed in 1957. One of the stipulations of construction was that the highway ferries would stop running the day the bridge opened. The ferries were eventually sold, the City of Cheboygan and City of Munising being used to store and ship potatoes from Washington Island, Wisconsin. The City of Petoskey was sold for scrap and The Straits of Mackinac ferried tourists to Mackinac Island. She was the last surviving ferry eventually being sunk as a dive site off Chicago in 2005.

The Vacationland Auto Ferry in the icy Straits of Mackinac.

The Vacationland

 The Vacationland was sold and renamed Jack Dalton hauling trucks between Detroit and Cleveland. The venture lasted only a few months and the state repossessed the ship after failed payments. The vessel was sold again to North-South Navigation Company in 1961 and renamed Pere Nouvel. She returned to her role as an automobile ferry crossing the St. Lawrence River between Rimouski and Baie Comeau, Quebec. In 1967, she sailed to the West Coast of Canada serving British Columbia as the Sunshine Coast Queen until 1977. After an attempt to make her an oil drilling support ship on Alaska’s North Slope, she was sold to a company in Washington for scrap. She was to be towed to China but on December 3, 1987, the tow ran into an early winter storm and the ship began to take on water. The ship sank in the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles offshore in deep water with no loss of life.

The archaeological pit filled in with a tarp and hay bales.

2023 Archaeology Field Season Wrap-Up

The archaeological pit filled in with a tarp and hay bales.

The site packed for the winter.

The 65th season of archaeological excavation at Michilimackinac wrapped up August 24 and the site is now secured for the winter. This was our 17th season of work on House E of the Southeast Rowhouse.

 The most interesting finds of the second half of the field season were remnants of the house itself. The house was burned when the community relocated to Mackinac Island in 1781. The charred wood of the house was partially preserved in the sandy soil the fort was built on.

The central cellar of House E of the Southwest Rowhouse

The central cellar.

Southeast cellar of House E of the Southeast Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac.

Remnants of the walls and a floorboard in the southeast cellar.

 One of the defining features of this house is its two cellars. Most of the central cellar (except a portion of the northwest corner) is now five and a half feet deep. Remnants of the burned wall posts can be seen along the edges of the gray sand cellar deposit in the center of the image. The eastern half of the central cellar was also better defined. This cellar had plank walls and remnants of the walls and a floorboard were exposed this season.

A trench at the north wall of House E of the Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac.

Humic stains from the north wall of the house (the dark soil at the top of the image. 

View along the north wall of House E of the Southeast Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac.

View of the north wall with the tree stump at the back. 

 We were able to identify humic stains from the north wall of the house (the dark soil at the top of the image). Unfortunately we also confirmed that the tree stump we have been working around is right in the center of the east end of the wall trench. In the image you can see how the stump is in line with the reconstructed house wall of another unit of the rowhouse and the dark wall trench stain at the bottom of the image. The tree was not there when the house was; it was planted around 1910 shortly after Michilimackinac became Michigan’s second state park. The roots do not seem to have grown around artifacts, rather they displaced artifacts as they grew.

 Stay tuned to the MSHP blog to see what interesting things the archaeologists might discover in the lab this winter as the season’s artifacts are cleaned and better identified.

U.S. Army Forage Cap and Dress Helmet

Inspection at Fort Mackinac with soldiers in dress uniform.

The public interacts with our interpretive staff every day, asking questions about the island, fort, and the way soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac lived when it was active between the years of 1780-1895. One of the main draws, other than the rifle and cannon demonstrations, are the tours, given by interpreters seen in two types of uniforms: the everyday “undress” uniform and the more elaborate “dress” uniform. One of the unique aspects of Fort Mackinac in the 1880s is the balance between its soldiers serving in both military and public facing capacities, which almost perfectly matches the roles of their different uniforms. A big part of how Mackinac State Historic Parks makes sure to best tell the stories of these uniforms, and the soldiers that wore them, is though our collections. Headgear, especially for the uniforms that are worn at the fort, are vital to the overall story that the park tells the public. Two specific items that embody these uniforms are the forage cap and dress helmet.

Forage Cap

 The forage cap, or the wool, leather brimmed cap with unit brass on the front, is an evolution from the forage cap from the Civil War. Mostly worn by officers until 1872, when the whole army adopted them, these vital pieces of a uniform were more commonly seen used during daily duties in and around the fort. For more formal occasions, such as when the public was let in the fort several times a week, they had a different uniform: the dress uniform. This consisted of a frock coat, white gloves, dress collar, and the dress helmet. This helmet had both Prussian and British influences, with a brass eagle plate on the front, and a spike on top.

Dress Helmet

 Both hats are unique in the way they help portray military life in the 1880s, as well as being some of the most recognizable items when the public comes to the fort. Having these items in our collections, furthermore, establishes the importance of public interaction with museums and their objects. Museum collections are often referenced for research, both public and private, and these hats hold significant value for those who want to learn more about the soldiers at Fort Mackinac. Items so easily identifiable and personal, such as these hats, aid in making that connection from the past to the present day, as these are the physical objects used daily by the people who served in the army in the 1880s.

A work party at Fort Mackinac.

 Fort Mackinac, one of our premier sites, benefits from having several items in our collections pertaining to it and the soldiers that were there. Being able to have physical representations from that era, which visitors see daily, is history translated to the present day. They allow the public to get a look at our collections every day, but in the form of a personal aspect, through our interpreters. This makes the park a living representation of its objects, with the interpreters discussing their importance every day, and sharing their legacy with a wider audience. The kepi and dress headgear are vital to the park to tell these stories, as they are an iconic part of the uniform, fort, and overall encompass a crucial period in the islands’ history.

A view showing Main Street on Mackinac Island looking south.

Preservation: Puzzle Pieces to the Past

Mackinac Island is endearingly cherished among visitors for its placid atmosphere that seemingly evades the changing tides of time. From the Anishinaabek belief that tells the story of Mackinac as Earth’s origin land to the cinematic portrayal of time travel set on Mackinac in Somewhere in Time to horse-drawn drays carrying Amazon packages, the island possesses an unyielding autonomy from the effects of time. Consequently, Mackinac Island demonstrates a unique propensity for preservation and it is the Mackinac State Historic Park’s honored duty to uphold the island’s tradition of conservation. An integral component of this responsibility are the park collections. By preserving artifacts, archives, and material culture, the collection pieces together the past to narrate Mackinac Island’s story. While seemingly trivial to a visitor’s Mackinac experience, the collection is fundamental to ensuring that the island’s treasured history is commemorated for the enjoyment of all for years to come. Yet this commitment to preserve Mackinac Island for generational enjoyment is not a modern concept.

A view showing Main Street on Mackinac Island looking south.

William H. Gardiner’s photo of Main Street on Mackinac Island. 

 In 1896, photographer William H. Gardiner established a “Photo and Art Studio” aimed at penetrating the souvenir market that emerged as a direct result of the island’s burgeoning tourism industry. Gardiner initially set up shop on the corner of Main and Fort Streets until relocating next door above Fenton’s Bazaar; today both studio spaces constitute Doud’s Market. Gardiner captured the essence of Mackinac Island and preserved its visual history through his photography. His products included keepsakes, such as postcards, hand-tinted photos, and portraits, that memorialized a visitor’s time spent on the island. Gardiner’s photos depict the island’s most unique and treasured attractions, such as Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf Rock, and Main Street. Similar to the collection’s commitment to conservation, Gardiner’s images preserve special moments in Mackinac’s history for reminiscing and nostalgic wonder. The collection and Gardiner’s parallel dedication to preservation can be most explicitly seen in one of Gardiner’s downtown depictions.

Fenton's Bazaar on Mackinac Island.

Fenton’s Bazaar, the location of Gardiner’s studio. 

 At the beginning of the twentieth century, Gardiner stepped out on the balcony of his studio and, struck with inspiration from Mackinac’s vivacious downtown, immortalized a buzzing afternoon on Main Street. This image excellently captures the key components to a day on Mackinac, including a car-less atmosphere, military tradition, and bustling businesses. Some of the storefronts highlighted in the image are Fenton’s Bazaar and Bailey’s Drug Store. These businesses were pillars of Mackinac’s economy around the turn of the century. Dr. Bailey, the son of the surgeon general at Fort Mackinac, served his community as the assisting surgeon and pharmacist, ensuring the health and longevity of Mackinac’s people. Fenton’s Bazaar was a one-stop shop for soldiers, islanders, and visitors alike for all the necessities for life on the island; Fenton’s even introduced the island’s first soda fountain! Fortunately, these businesses and their immense impact on Mackinac’s daily life are remembered beyond Gardiner’s image.

Bailey's Drug Store on Mackinac Island.

Bailey’s Drug Store.

 The collection has preserved numerous Bailey’s Drug Store bottles, which represent Dr. Bailey’s committed service and contribution to Mackinac’s medical history. Additionally, the collection possesses an American flag that flew above Fenton’s Bazaar. This flag, which watched over Main Street and witnessed the ebbing and flowing of countless visitors, encapsulates Mackinac’s continued reputation as “America’s Summer Place.” Also in the collection is an image of downtown that is a near copy to Gardiner’s aforementioned photograph. Yet the picture was taken decades after Gardiner’s and is the work of another artist. Taken from the same angle, this picture illustrates a similarly hurried downtown speckled with visitors, carriages, and storefronts. Comparing this image to Gardiner’s, the atmosphere of downtown remains unchanged, yet the storefronts have clearly evolved. For instance, the New Murray stands as the latest addition to the collection of hotels, souvenir shops, and restaurants that line Main Street. Meanwhile, a stroll down Main Street today will still evoke the same timeless ambience found in Gardiner’s image.

Another image of Main Street on Mackinac Island looking south.

Looking down Main Street. 

 Although shop signs have changed, Mackinac’s timeless energy endures. Similar to how Gardiner captured the views of Mackinac to commemorate a visitor’s special experience, the collection plays a crucial role in maintaining Mackinac Island’s abiding charm. Yet preserving history goes far beyond the sweet nostalgia of family vacation postcards. The collection pieces together the past like a puzzle by linking artifacts to moments somewhere in time in order to write the story of the island for the enjoyment of generations to come.

 

Meet the Mackinac State Historic Parks Dray Team

One of the most magical noises on Mackinac Island is the morning *clip* *clop* of horse hooves on the pavement as the busy days come to life. Horses are a huge part of the island’s allure. Something a lot of people may not think about is the fact that the horses aren’t only here for show or tourist charm. In reality, a lot of what these horses do, specifically dray teams, is what allows the island to function as well as it does.

Mackinac State Historic Parks' dray horses, Holiday on the left and Dex on the right.

 Dex on the left, and Holiday.

 Mackinac State Historic Parks is no exception. The organization is a machine with many parts, and each position allows the park to function season to season. You have your interpreters, park operations, and even some interns in the mix, among others. But one position that can be overlooked is that of the “dray horse.” A dray is a four-wheeled flat cart that is pulled by a horse, sometimes multiple, depending on the load. The state park has its own dray team that works 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, just like the rest of the park employees.

The Mackinac State Historic Parks Dray horses in their pasture.

The team in their pasture.

 Meet Dex and Holiday. These two strong boys do a LOT for the parks. This is their first season working for MSHP, but they already know their way around the island, having been here in previous seasons. They are both Belgian Draught Horses, and as one of the most muscle-y breeds out there, they were built to work. They’re fueled by three cans of oats a day, and lots of treats (of course!).

 Just like people, the two of them have their own personalities. Holiday is a wise old man. He keeps the team calm. Dex is younger, and has a little bit more fire. Dex is the get-up-and-go type, while Holiday likes to take things a little easier. This was hard for them at first, but they have figured out how to balance each other out at the perfect pace to do their job.

Holiday with his human helper, Eric.

Holiday and Eric.

 Our brave steeds don’t work alone. Every team needs a coach, and this is where dray driver Luis comes in. Luis also has an assistant, Eric. These two men have a deep love and respect for Dex and Holiday. They spend hours a day not only driving the horses and doing their own jobs, but also caring for them, feeding them, and just giving them attention. Basically, Dex and Holiday are like their 1500 pound dogs.

Dex the horse with a special July 4 hat on his head.

Dex celebrating the Fourth of July.

 Dex and Holiday’s main job, along with their drivers, is to keep the park in top shape. This means picking up trash, delivering supplies, and other maintenance. On an island with no cars, this job becomes that much harder. The dray team makes it much more manageable for their human counterparts.

 They have day-to-day surprises, and have even survived a dray crash! Don’t worry, they handled it like champs, and weren’t even spooked. Luckily, there was no damage done to either dray. They are also natural models, as Luis and Eric explained that tourists take pictures of them throughout the day. The team is up for the challenge though, and they know how to pose for a camera. They have even been featured as special guests in some staff pictures at one of the Mackinac Island inns!

A picture of Doug the horse.

The third horse team member, Doug.

 We also can’t forget about Doug and his driver Juan. These two cover the off days for Dex and Holiday, because horses are human too! Wait…but anyways, these two contribute a lot to the park’s quality, doing the same job as Dex and Holiday.

The Mackinac State Historic Parks Dray team walking on M-185.

The Dray team at work.

 While the dray horses aren’t at the forefront of MSHP’s operation, they are so crucial to its upkeep. So next time you’re around, Dex, Holiday or Doug would never say no to an apple or carrot as a thank you for everything that they do for the parks and the island! They can be found in the pasture on their off-days, as long as it isn’t rainy.