The Sea Serpent at Mackinac

HMS Daedalus crew sees a serpent
Illustrated London News (Oct. 28, 1848)

 On August 6, 1848, the captain and crew of the British frigate, HMS Daedalus had a freak encounter with a “sea-serpent of extraordinary dimensions” off the west coast of Africa. When an official report reached England that October, a virtual firestorm of wild speculation, other sightings, and denouements circulated in the press for months. The Illustrated London News printed several fabulous illustrations of the beast, capturing details described by Captain Peter M’Quhae and his men. Watching the creature for twenty minutes, they estimated at least 60 feet of the creature was visible, with another 30 or 40 feet below the surface. The animal had the head of a snake, with “something like the mane of a horse, or rather a bunch of seaweed washed about its back.” Its cylindrical body measured about 16 inches in diameter, being dark brown, with yellowish-white about the throat. It had no fins, and traveled by undulating at a speed of 15 miles per hour. The British paper included examples of many additional sightings, including some of the Great American Sea-Serpent, Scoliophis Atlanticus.

Head of the serpent (left) and view of the Great American species. Illustrated London News (Oct. 28, 1848)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Monsters

Advertisement for the Missouri Leviathan (ca.1845)

 In the United States, news of the Daedalus’ encounter spread like wildfire. While many derided the claim as fantastical, others, including Dr. Albert C. Koch, reveled in the discovery. A German-born naturalist, showman and entrepreneur, Koch first came to the U.S. in 1827, settling in St. Louis. With a flamboyant style akin to P.T. Barnum, the good doctor opened the Saint Louis Museum in 1836. Displaying both cultural and natural history specimens, exhibits included much of William Clark’s collection (of Lewis & Clark fame), acquired after his death in 1838.

 Koch’s star began to shine in 1840, when he claimed to have found the complete fossilized skeleton of the “Missouri Leviathan,” a previously unknown elephantine behemoth which dwarfed the extinct American mastodon. To increase his audience (and profits), Koch closed his museum and carted the Leviathan across the Atlantic for a European tour. The massive skeleton was particularly popular in England, where it was displayed at Egyptian Hall, in Piccadilly, London. Ultimately, Koch sold the skeleton to a British scientist before returning to America in May 1844. Only later was it discovered the Leviathan was a fabrication, composed of several mastodon skeletons, including added vertebrae and other bones to exaggerate its size.

Hydrarchos exhibition advertisement,
New York City (1845)

 Back in the states, Dr. Koch searched for new fossilized wonders for display. In March 1845, he announced the discovery of a new monster, excavated from the rocky prairies of southern Alabama. On May 30, 1845, the Vicksburg Tri-Weekly Sentinel reported, “It is of the amphibious species, supposed to have been fiercely carnivorous, and is some thing of the alligator form except that it had fins instead of feet.” Measuring 114 feet long, Hydrarchos Harlani was displayed in New York and Boston, drawing fierce supporters and critics alike. The giant “Sea Snake” was a sensation. In 1846, Koch started another European tour, eventually selling his “specimen” to the Royal Museum in Berlin. It eventually proved to be an elaborate hoax, composed of parts from several fossilized Basilosaurus skeletons, a type of extinct whale.

The Sea Serpent at Mackinac

 In June 1847, in the very midst of sea serpent mania, Horace Greeley and Lewis G. Clark boarded a steamboat at Detroit, bound for Mackinac Island. While the ship provided comfort, their Lake Huron journey was shrouded in fog and mist the entire length of the lake. Greeley, the noted editor and publisher of the New-York Tribune, was on a tour of the Great Lakes, to conclude at a Rivers and Harbors Convention in Chicago. ­­During the pair’s brief stop at Mackinac, Greeley noted it was “among the coldest spots within the limits of our Union.”

 Greeley’s companion, Lewis G. Clark, served as editor of his own publication, The Knickerbocker: or, New-York Monthly Magazine. When news of the Daedalus sighting hit the U.S. (more than a year after their Mackinac visit), Clark shared a unique perspective based on personal experience.

Horace Greeley (left) and Lewis G. Clark spotted a “sea serpent” while guests at the Mission House in July 1847.

 “Toward the twilight of a still day, near the end of July, 1847, Horace Greeley .. and ‘Old Knick’ hereof, were seated on the broad piazza of the dark-yellow ‘Mission-House’ at Michilimackinac, looking out upon the deep, deep blue waters of the Huron, when an object, apparently near the shore, suddenly attracted our attention. We both examined it through a good glass, and came to the mutual conclusion that it was an enormous sea-serpent, elevating its head, undulating its humps, and ‘floating many a rood’ upon the translucent Strait. Such was the opinion of the proprietor of the ‘Mission House,’ who in a ten years’ residence at Mackinac had never seen the like before.”

 Clark delightfully describes Horace Greeley’s “tremendous kangaroo bounds” as the pair dashed for a closer look, himself getting slightly stuck in marsh mud near the shore. Reaching the beach, he continued:

 “When we had arrived, lo! The object which had so excited our curiosity was nothing more than the dark side of a long undulating, unbroken wave, brought into clear relief by the level western light which the sun had left in his track as he dropped away over Lake Michigan. We felt rather ‘cheap’ as we came back together, and ‘allowed’ that if they’d seen at Nahant what we had at Mackinac, they’d have sworn that it was the sea-serpent. Catch us doing any thing o’ that kind!’”

 Was Mackinac’s sea serpent nothing more than illusion, or did a mysterious creature deftly vanish beneath a convenient wave? As Lewis Clark noted, “We have been led to believe, from our own experience, that one may very easily deceived by these water reptiles.” During your next visit to Mackinac Island, keep an eye on the watery horizon. You might be surprised at what you find!

Christmas Wish for Mackinac, 1873

Merry Christmas!

“What though the woods are bare and cheerless, the water-courses bound by fetters of ice, and the whole earth covered with snow? A cheery greeting, for all that, to those who burn the Yule log and brighten their homes with the holly and yew. They say these days are the embers of the dying year; then kindle the flames of life and love anew. Light up the candles that gleam in the branches of evergreen. Hang Christmas boxes on every bough. Make every one happy, old and young. Rejoice!”
Forest and Stream, December 25, 1873

The first Christmas edition of Forest and Stream brimmed with optimistic holiday cheer. Published in New York by Charles Hallock, the weekly journal gained quick popularity since its premiere that August. Its publisher was an unapologetic nature lover, prolific author, and well-traveled explorer of wild places. More than a rod and gun magazine, Forest and Stream was “devoted to field and aquatic sports, practical natural history, fish culture, the protection of game, preservation of forests, and the inculcation in men and women of a healthy interest in out-door recreation and study.”

An advertisement for ice skates found in the 1873 Forest and Stream magazine.

An advertisement for Avilude.

“Happy now are the children whose thoughtful parents have bought for them ‘Avilude, or Game of Birds.’ They gather around the table with bright eyes and smiling faces … A whole winter of enjoyment combined with instruction…” (advertisement from 1874 edition)

 Forest and Stream was filled with articles, news stories, editorials, humor, and reader submissions. Each issue also included advertisements for outdoor-related products. For Christmas 1873, one could dream of ice skates, sporting boats, clothing, hunting gear, fishing tackle, and Avilude, an educational card game featuring 64 different birds.

Charles Hallock was also a vocal and early promoter of America’s national parks. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant created the country’s first national park by signing the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act. The designation preserved more than 2 million acres of mountain landscapes for future generations. On January 6, 1873, Michigan Senator Thomas W. Ferry proposed a second park for the nation’s people, located Mackinac Island.

A son of Presbyterian missionaries, Thomas Ferry was born at Mackinac Island’s Mission House in 1827. His bill proposed converting most of the U.S. military reservation on the island into a park, “for health, comfort, and pleasure, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” The park was intended to protect and preserve the island’s historic character and natural beauty. In part, Ferry’s bill directed the Secretary of War to provide “for the preservation from injury or spoilation of timer, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.” It continued, “He shall provide against the wanton destruction of game or fish found within said park, and against their capture or destruction for any purposes of use or profit.”

Although Ferry’s initial proposal received widespread support, it moved slowly through Congress. After several hurdles, he introduced legislation to create Mackinac National Park on December 2, 1873. At

Senator Thomas W. Ferry.

Senator Thomas W. Ferry first proposed a bill to create Mackinac National Park on January 6, 1873. The bill was signed into law on March 3, 1875.

each step, growing press coverage across the country stimulated public support. On December 25, 1873, Forest and Stream included the following editorial by Mr. Hallock:

Mackinac Island as a Park.

Charles Hallock. “We most especially recommend to the notice of Congress … expediency of dedicating to the public use as a park the Island of Mackinac … celebrated for the magnificence of its scenery. Covered mostly with a grand old forest … it lies placidly on the deep blue waters of [Lake Huron]. It has certain peculiarities which would make the preservation of the Island for public use a most fitting one … the preservation of this Island would be hailed with untold satisfaction.

        Measures of this character are as wise as they are thoughtful. The worthy Senator from Michigan is not thinking only of to-day, but of to-morrow, not of us alone belonging to the last quarter of the 19th century, but for those who will come a hundred years after us …

        The Forest and Stream most strongly advocates the founding of National Parks and thinks the people cannot have too many of them.”

On March 3, 1875, more than two years after Senator Ferry’s initial bill, President Grant signed an act creating Mackinac National Park. The park existed for 20 years, until Fort Mackinac closed in 1895. When the U.S. Army left Mackinac Island, the national park was transferred to Michigan, and our first state park was created.

Today, 63 national parks can be found throughout the United States, plus several hundred national monuments, lakeshores, battlefields, seashores, historic parks, and more. Michigan is home to seven sites managed by the National Park Service, including Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior. The state also contains 103 Michigan State Parks and recreation areas, including the family of sites managed by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. Learn more about Mackinac State Historic Parks at www.mackinacparks.com.

Thanks to Senator Ferry, Charles Hallock, and other park-lovers of the past, we can all enjoy gifts of wonder, inspiration, and education this holiday season and beyond. We hope to see you at Mackinac State Historic Parks in 2023. As Mr. Hallock once beseeched his readers, “Herewith we bespeak your favor. Though a stranger, we feel that you will bestow it, for is it not written, ‘One touch of Nature makes the whole world kin?’”

A postcard from of the Deer Park on Mackinac Island from the early 20th century.

White-Tailed Deer on Mackinac Island

A deer in the woods on Mackinac Island.

A curious deer near Beechwood Trail, May 2022

 Sometimes, white-tailed deer either swim the channel or walk over ice to Mackinac Island. The island’s current small herd originates from the winter of 2014, when several deer crossed the ice from St. Ignace. In 2017, a damp deer emerged from the straits near the public library. After browsing some nearby cedars, the buck waded back into Lake Huron and swam to Round Island, about one mile away.

 Historically, deer have come to the island in other unusual ways. In the early 1830s, Henry Schoolcraft “procured a young fawn” near Green Bay and brought it to his garden at the Mackinac Indian Agency, east of today’s Marquette Park. On August 17, 1835, he wrote, “This animal grew to its full size, and revealed many interesting traits… It would walk into the hall and dining-room, when the door was open, and was once observed to step up, gracefully, and take bread from the table. It perambulated the garden walks. It would, when the back gate was shut, jump over a six feet picket fence, with the ease and lightness of a bird.”

A map showing Deer Park in 1915

Boundaries of Deer Park, 1915

 As wildlife numbers decreased through the 19th century, interest in preserving nature increased. In 1875, Mackinac National Park was created, in part to “provide against the wanton destruction of game or fish found within said park, and against their capture or destruction for any purposes of use or profit.” The Mackinac Island State Park Commission continued this mission in 1895 when Mackinac Island State Park was established. In 1901, the commission authorized a new attraction called Deer Park, north of Fort Mackinac. A tall wire fence enclosed over 10 acres, where food and shelter were provided for a herd of white-tailed deer. The herd grew substantially and was maintained for more than 40 years.

A shelter within Deer Park on Mackinac Island, circa 1915

Deer Park shelter, ca.1915

 In 1910, a white-tailed deer was captured alive while swimming near Echo Island, in the Les Cheneaux area of the eastern Upper Peninsula. Caught illegally, the large buck was “promptly, and properly, confiscated by the state game warden, who removed him to the deer colony in the state park on Mackinac Island.” Author Frank Grover described the incident, expressing hope the animal would eventually die “of old age, rather than by the sportsman’s bullet.” In 1914, Park Superintendent Frank Kenyon restored the fenced enclosure, built a concrete watering basin, and cleared underbrush within Deer Park.

A postcard from of the Deer Park on Mackinac Island from the early 20th century.

“State Park in Winter, Mackinac Isl. Mich.” Real photo post card, by Cheboygan, Michigan photographer John R. Johnson, ca. 1910-1920

 William Oates served as Michigan’s State Game, Fish and Forestry Warden from 1911-1917. In 1914, he noted more than 80% of the state’s primaeval forests were gone. At the time, the state’s deer population was estimated at 40,000 in the upper peninsula and only about 5,000 in the lower peninsula. Oates advocated for a “Buck Law,” limiting hunting to antlered males, which was passed in 1921. Throughout the early 20th century, it’s likely most Michigan residents never saw a wild deer in its native habitat.

Fallow Deer on Mackinac Island

Fallow Deer feeding from British Deer and Their Horns, 1897

European fallow deer in British Deer and Their Horns, 1897

 In 1913, lumber baron Rasmus Hanson donated land in Crawford County as military reserve for the national guard. Two years later, 80 of those acres were set aside as Michigan’s first State Game Refuge where deer, elk, wild turkeys, pheasants, and mallard ducks were raised. The reserve began with 25 white-tailed deer, and soon after, five European fallow deer were added. Fallow deer had been a popular attraction at the Belle Isle Zoo in Detroit since 1901. The herd sent to Grayling was originally imported from Germany to a park in Petoskey. The state game warden wrote, “The fallow deer is hardy and should adapt itself to the cover and food which Michigan affords.” He hoped to one day release them into the wild where they would “increase rapidly.” In 1917, Mackinac Island’s white-tailed herd was large enough to export 12 deer to the Hanson Refuge. In return, two of their nine fallow deer were shipped to Mackinac Island.

 About 30% smaller than white-tailed deer, European fallow deer retain white spots as adults. Much variation occurs in coat color of the species, with all black and all white variants. Only bucks grow antlers, which become broad and palmate when they reach 3 years of age. To date, no photos are known of fallow deer on Mackinac Island.

Deer Park’s Demise

Deer being fed in Deer Park by Clara Kenyon, wife of Park Superintendent Frank Kenyon, circa 1920s

Clara Kenyon, wife of park superintendent Frank Kenyon, feeding Mackinac’s white-tailed deer, ca.1920s

 In 1941, The Lure Book of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, advertised Deer Park among Mackinac Island’s attractions, noting, “Back of Fort Mackinac is a natural deer park. Keep your eyes open as you drive along and you will see these shy animals back in the bush.” Not long after, however, several factors caused the site to close. During the Great Depression, a lack of visitors and reduced funding greatly affected Mackinac Island. In 1944, the state park commission decided to close Deer Park for good. During their December 5th meeting, the chairman reported “deer had been turned loose on Mackinac Island and the Superintendent was given strict instructions to use all lawful means for their protection.”

 At the same time, deer were becoming common in Michigan. A decade after Deer Park opened, only about 45,000 deer roamed wild in the state. After the passage of a “Buck Law” in 1921, numbers quickly grew. In 1938, the population ranged between 800,000 and 1,000,000. By the time Deer Park closed, Michigan’s population was the largest in the United States. Today, about 2 million deer inhabit the state, and concerns of overpopulation are common.

Remnants of a fence in the Deer Park in July, 2022

Old Deer Park fence growing through a cedar tree, July 2022

 Today, Mackinac Island visitors can still find old cedar posts and rusted wire fencing along Deer Park Trail, north of Fort Mackinac. The next time you visit the island, keep an eye out for these shy woodland residents. Although deer are common today, nothing in nature can be taken for granted. Even the commonest creatures deserve attention and care to ensure healthy ecosystems and abundant biodiversity for future generations.

3 historically family-fun festivities highlight full event calendar at Mackinac State Historic Parks

A visit to one of the Mackinac State Historic Parks provides educational opportunities for the entire family. Better yet, it inserts you into history, producing experiential fun that divulges memories of the past to create lasting family memories in the present. When in season, no matter the time you explore one of the six historic sites there are ample activities to discover, from firing the iconic Fort Mackinac cannon to zip-lining 50 feet above Mill Creek. However, a full event calendar delivers additional, unique experiences to plan an adventure around. Below are three events that highlight how Mackinac State Historic Parks offers can’t-miss historical escapades, two of which occur outside the summer season — a time you may not typically consider a trip to the area.

 Vintage Base Ball on Friday, July 23rd

 No, that’s not a typo: it’s “base ball” with no spaces. Since 2003, Mackinac State Historic Parks has hosted a 19th-century style “base ball” game at the ball field behind Fort Mackinac — the oldest continually used ball field in Michigan!

 This year’s matchup pits the Mackinaw City Boys against the Fort Mackinac Never Sweats. The Never Sweats honor the legacy of the Fort Mackinac team comprising of soldiers from the mid-1880s, which used the moniker.

 The game acknowledges the style, rules, and atmosphere of the era, which features barehanded play, “gentlemen’s rules,” underhanded pitching, players fined for smoking cigars on the field, old-timey cheering and more.

Get ready to say play ball Friday, July 23rd from 6:30 to 8pm. Admission is by donation.

 Fort Fright on Friday, October 7th and Saturday, October 8th

 Come October, Colonial Michilimackinac showcases how history can be frightfully entertaining. This long-time staple event kicks off the Halloween season through Colonial Michilimackinac’s haunted transformation. It’s the biggest event hosted by Mackinac State Historic Parks and provides an opportunity for guests to experience the site at night paired with an ambience set through eerie folklore.

 Lanterns guide you through an array of storytellers, fortune tellers, and legendary creatures like werewolves and witches for a folklore lesson loaded with thrills and chills. This spooky good time also features bonfires, cookies, candy, cider and other treats found throughout the grounds. Families can experience an entire evening of entertainment backdropped by the resplendently lit Mackinac Bridge.

 Conjure the frightful fun 6:30-9:30pm on Friday, October 7th and Saturday, October 8th. Tickets become available online in September.

 A Colonial Christmas on Saturday, December 10th

Historic Interpreters getting ready to celebrate Christmas at Michilimackinac In December you can jingle all the way to Mackinaw City for A Colonial Christmas. ‘Tis the season for holiday traditions of the 17th and 18th century to come alive at Colonial Michilimackinac. Amble through lantern-lit paths to hear accounts of the first Christmas at Mackinac in 1679 and traditions of historic residents.

 You can simply have a wonderful Christmastime perusing the fort as storytellers share German, French and Native American holiday customs. The warm, welcoming Christmas spirit at the event includes craft-making, games, and holiday snacks throughout the fort.

 Have a holly jolly Christmas at Colonial Michilimackinac on Saturday, December 10th from 4-7pm. Tickets will be available online later this year.

 These are only a few of the festivities that compose an eventful calendar throughout the six sites of Mackinac State Historic Parks. With entertainment that ranges from movie nights to artist residencies to various educational demonstrations like Maritime Michilimackinac, there’s bound to be something that interests every family member. This year our full event calendar returns, and we can’t wait to provide plentiful merriment and compelling history to numerous visiting families.

 View our entire event calendar here.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Dr. Beaumont at Mackinac

 In 1955 the “Beaumont Memorial” opened at the corner of Market and Fort Streets on Mackinac Island. Now known as the American Fur Co. Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum, the property is operated by Mackinac State Historic Parks. It was originally funded by the Michigan Medical Society.

 The Beaumont Museum was not the first nor only place that the Dr. Beaumont has been commemorated on Mackinac Island.

Beaumont Monument, Fort Mackinac

 In 1900 the Upper Peninsula and Michigan State Medical Societies placed this monument to Beaumont and St. Martin Beaumont inside Fort Mackinac. It is located next to the Officers’ Stone Quarters, where Beaumont began his experiments.

Dean Cornwell Studies for Beaumont and St. Martin, 1938

Pencil Study for Beaumont and St. Martin

Pencil Study for Beaumont and St. Martin

Oil Study for Beaumont and St. Martin

Donated by Paul Douglas Withington

 Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) was one of the most prominent American illustrators from the 1920s into the 1950s. A major corporate commission was The Pioneers of American Medicine by Wyeth Laboratories. The series of eight paintings commemorated the achievements of America’s medical heroes. Beaumont was one of the subjects chosen.

Oil Study for Beaumont and St. Martin

 The original 1938 painting was exhibited for several decades at the Beaumont Museum but was returned to Wyeth Laboratories in 1999. However, Mackinac State Historic Parks has two original studies by Cornwell in its collection, currently exhibited at The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. They represent preliminary work done for the final painting. Cornwell was a gifted draftsman and master of composition. All his paintings were preceded by extensive research. Nonetheless, true accuracy was often sacrificed for drama and idealism. The rustic cabin setting presents a more “frontier” atmosphere than Beaumont’s own quarters at Fort Mackinac, where the experiments took place. Likewise, Beaumont probably did not conduct his work wearing a full-dress uniform.

Marshall Frederick, William Beaumont M.D. Bas Relief Plaque

 In 1955 the Michigan Medical Society commissioned this bas relief for the Beaumont Museum. It is now also on exhibit at The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum.

 Marshall Fredericks (1908-1998) was one of the most prolific sculptors of the twentieth century, known in America and abroad for his monumental figurative sculpture, public memorials and fountains, portraits, and animal figures. His sculptures can be found in more than 150 public and corporate locations in seventeen states and seven foreign countries.

 Mackinac State Historic Parks is commemorating the bicentennial of the accidental shooting of St. Martin that led to Beaumont’s experiments throughout the summer of 2022. A new exhibit is on display at the American Fur Co. Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum, which will be open through August 20. Admission is included with a Fort Mackinac or Historic Downtown Mackinac ticket.

 

Re-opening the Archaeological Site at Michilimackinac

The House E site with all of the squares open.

Map of British features of House D showing House E cellar (F.866) to west of common wall separating Houses D & E.

Late May saw the beginning of the 64th archaeological field season at Michilimackinac. We are continuing to excavate the rowhouse unit we have been working on since 2007. We have opened three new squares where we expect to find remains of the trench for the north wall of the house. This should be as wide as the excavation for this project expands.

 The house walls do not fall exactly in line with the grid. Because of this, when we excavated the rowhouse unit to the east (House D) in the 1990s, we excavated about a foot of the current house (House E) as well. In doing so, we uncovered the edge of the root cellar in the southeast corner of House E. We reached the bottom of the western two-thirds of this cellar at the end of last season. Now we have uncovered the eastern third, which we had protected and re-buried when we backfilled House D in 1997. Our first exciting find of the season came from the east section of the cellar, most of a redware bowl with a green-glazed border. We had found a matching rim sherd in the western edge of the cellar in 2018. 

The dark crescent-shaped area is the cellar. The rocky sand is the beach underlying the fort.

Bowl with rim fragment from 2018 held in place.

Mackinac Associates: Celebrating 40 Years of Supporting Mackinac State Historic Parks

The first edition of Curiosities, the Mackinac Associates newsletter

 In the late 1970s several Mackinac Island cottagers met with Eugene Petersen, then Director of Mackinac State Historic Parks, to discuss creating a private organization to help support state park programs and initiatives. In 1980, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission gave its blessing for the creation of a non-profit membership organization. On August 22, 1980, the Commission passed a resolution to recognize and name Mackinac Associates – a group dedicated to sponsoring projects to benefit the needs of the historic sites under their jurisdiction.  The group held its first event in 1981 and in 1982 Mackinac Associates received their official 501(c)(3) non-profit designation.

 Forty years later, Mackinac Associates has supported an expansive and remarkable list of projects thanks to the incredible growth and support of the organization by its members and their dedication to the group’s mission: “Friends preserving and sharing Mackinac’s heritage.” What started as a group of a dozen local residents and friends of the park has grown into a friend’s group that today is made up of more than 2,000 members. Mackinac Associates’ members can be proud that they are part of an organization that supports needed projects in every area of museum operation, and make possible interpretive programs, publications, exhibits, natural history education, park improvements and more.

As the highest point on Mackinac Island, Fort Holmes served as an active part of the island’s defenses between 1815 – 1817.

 Thanks to the generosity of Mackinac Associates members and donors, Mackinac State Historic Parks has been able to fulfill its mission of preserving the cultural and natural resources of the Straits of Mackinac. Looking back at the past forty years, Mackinac Associates has provided over $2,000,000 in support. Funds raised through membership fees, sponsorships, and fundraising campaigns go towards assisting efforts in preserving the rich history and natural beauty of the Straits of Mackinac. This includes Mackinac Island State Park, which encompasses over 80% of Mackinac Island, Michilimackinac and Mill Creek State Parks in Mackinaw City, and all the buildings and sites contained within those boundaries.

 Mackinac Associates biggest financial assistance to date has been $250,000 in support of the reconstruction of Fort Holmes on Mackinac Island. Fundraising for the reconstruction started in conjunction with the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the project was completed in 2015. The reconstruction of Fort Holmes continues to shine as a primary example of the work Mackinac Associates members, donors, and sponsors have done over the years in support of Mackinac State Historic Parks.

Exhibit inside the Biddle House

 Other major projects have included $130,000 for the creation of the Mackinac Island Native American Museum at the Biddle House, and this year, $40,000 for the redesign of the Dr. Beaumont Museum inside the American Fur Co. Store. The exhibit, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the accidental shooting of French-Canadian voyageur Alexis St. Martin, recognizes Dr. Beaumont’s famous experiments and the scientific process related to the digestive system, as well as the effect it had on St. Martin.

 According to Mackinac Island State Park Director, Steve Brisson: “It’s not just the financial support that we’re thankful for. Knowing there is this group of people that are so supportive of our mission is hugely gratifying and a big part of what makes Mackinac Associates special.” Mackinac Associates helps fund projects both large and small, such as providing a historically accurate anvil for the blacksmith shop, funding for the production of the Shipwrecks of the Straits video shown at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, and accessibility scooters that are more durable and can handle the gravel and sand at Colonial Michilimackinac and the trails at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park.

Mackinac Associates help bring students on site where they can be a part of seeing history come alive.

 In addition to park projects, Mackinac Associates has supported the Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Education Outreach program since its creation in 1988 and has provided over $700,000 for education outreach programs. Through Mackinac Associates support, interpreters have visited more than 250,000 children in classrooms across Michigan, engaging and entertaining them as they learn about the important history and natural history of the Straits of Mackinac. In 2020, this fund also allowed for Mackinac State Historic Parks to provide a virtual option for outreach highlighting the park’s historic sites with online exhibits, exciting videos, educational materials, and more. Mackinac Associates also has been able to use this fund to provide grants to a number of schools each year to visit Mackinac State Historic Parks in person.

Members watch the screening process at the behind-the-scenes archaeology program in July 2021.

 Exclusive after-hours programming and events has also been a favorite of Mackinac Associates members. Every year in August, the Mackinac Associates Annual Business Meeting open to all membership presents the current business of the organization and allows attendees to meet candidates for the board. It also allows for fun and engaging programs each year just for members. In the past programming has included learning how to play cricket, meet authors of Mackinac State Historic Parks publications and discuss their works, and enjoy presentations from partners such as Eric Hemenway from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

 As we look back on the 40-year history of Mackinac Associates, it is incredible the amount of support the organization has given Mackinac State Historic Parks, and the projects that have been accomplished thanks to this dedicated friend’s group.  Mackinac Associates members are passionate about preserving the rich history and natural beauty of the Straits of Mackinac, and can treasure the fact that they have a direct hand in helping to protect, preserve, and present Mackinac’s rich historic and natural resources.  If you have a fondness for Mackinac Island and the Straits of Mackinac, we hope you will consider showing that support by joining Mackinac Associates to help make the next 40 years just as successful as the last.