Archaeology at Fort Mackinac – Provision Storehouse

The “Store House” is the structure labeled “I” on the west end of the fort on this drawing from 1796. Credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

One of the largest archaeological excavations to take place at Fort Mackinac was at the site of the original provision storehouse. This excavation was carried out during the summers of 1981-82 by University of South Florida field schools directed by Dr. Roger T. Grange Jr. These were part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of Fort Mackinac. Dr. Grange’s final report was published as Number 12 in the Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Archaeological Completion Report Series (Excavations at Fort Mackinac, 1980-1982: The Provision Storehouse – Mackinac State Historic Parks | Mackinac State Historic Parks (mackinacparks.com) and was the basis of this blog post.

 The provision storehouse is an unusual structure because is has been excavated twice, in two different locations. It was originally built by British soldiers just inside the water gate at Michilimackinac (on the south side of the straits) in 1773. Being a relatively new building, it was moved to Mackinac Island when the garrison was relocated in 1781 and appears on early maps of Fort Mackinac.

 The mainland site was excavated in 1959 and the storehouse reconstructed in 1961. Today it houses the orientation film at Colonial Michilimackinac.

Scissors from the early American occupation.

Leather shoe parts from post War of 1812 deposit.

 On the island, the structure served as a storehouse through the first British occupation (1780-1796), the first American occupation (1796-1812) and the second British occupation (1812-1815). After the War of 1812, it was converted into a barracks, with workspace for military tailors and shoemakers, and a hospital. Its use as a hospital (1815-1827) overlapped with the service of Fort Mackinac’s most famous post surgeon, Dr. William Beaumont. A portion of the storehouse appears as a log structure next to the 1827 hospital painted by Mary Nexsen Thompson shortly before it burned down days before completion.

Microscope lens, possibly used by Dr. Beaumont.

Mary Nexsen Thompson painting of 1827 hospital with portion of storehouse. Credit: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

 A completely new hospital building was constructed in 1828, over the middle of the storehouse/1827 hospital, but oriented north-south instead of northeast-southwest like the original. A portion of the west end of the provision storehouse behind the 1828 hospital was the area of the archaeological excavation. No remnants of the provision storehouse are visible today, but you can stand on the original location while touring Fort Mackinac (opens May 4, 2023). You can also visit the reconstruction of the original provision storehouse at Colonial Michilimackinac (opens May 10, 2023) and learn more about Dr. Beaumont’s work at the American Fur Co. Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum in downtown Mackinac Island (opens June 3, 2023).

 

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!

2022 Mackinac State Historic Parks Collections Acquisitions

In 2022, the collections committee accessioned 176 objects into the Mackinac Island State Park Commission collection and archives. In addition to several purchases, over 90 items were donated to the collection. The summer collections internship program was restarted and Kendra Ellis, from the Maritime Studies Program at East Carolina University, was hired. She assisted Curator of Collections Brian Jaeschke with the inventory of Fort Mackinac buildings and Special Storage inside the Heritage Center.

 In 2010, five pen and ink drawings of Mackinac Island were loaned to the park for exhibit in The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. The loan was changed to a donation early in the year. The five drawings were done in the early 1840s by Francis Melick Cayley who moved to Canada in 1836. The views are some of the most precise pre-photographic images of the island known to exist. They are so well proportioned that it is believed he may have employed artificial means to prepare the sketches, such as a “camera obscura,” which permitted projection of a scene onto paper for tracing. The drawings continue to be displayed in the main gallery of the art museum.

 During the course of procuring images for the new Dr. William Beaumont Museum exhibit this winter, the park purchased four paintings of the doctor and his wife from the Wayne County Medical Society of Southeast Michigan. Two of the paintings are miniature portraits of Dr. Beaumont and his wife Deborah. It is believed they were done around the time of their marriage in 1821. The other two paintings are reproductions of images showing Beaumont later in life. The portraits need conservation work and will eventually be placed on display.

 The park purchased two black and white panoramic photographs showing Mackinac Island scenes. The first image, by island photographer William Gardiner, was taken from a naval vessel, quite possibly the USS Michigan. The ship is entering the harbor with downtown, Fort Mackinac and Grand Hotel visible. The second image was taken by H.J. Rossiter from the fort pasture and shows the officers’ and commanding officer’s quarters, Fort Mackinac and Trinity Episcopal Church. The images were taken around 1900 and give us a unique historic glimpse of the island.

 Donated to the park collection this summer was a painting with a unique perspective from a path behind Trinity Episcopal Church looking toward Fort Mackinac. The oil on canvas by German-born Curt Bielefeldt was done sometime between 1940 and 1960. He lived in Buffalo before moving to Detroit in the early 1930s. He worked in oils and watercolors and was also known for murals. He was a cousin of German boxer Max Schmeling. Bielefeldt won the grand prize in the 1930 Buffalo Society of Artists in the Albright Gallery. His work was displayed in many locations including the Detroit Institute of Art and the J.L. Hudson Company Gallery.

 This is only a small sample of the type of objects Mackinac State Historic Parks collects during a 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.

What’s New for 2023?

As the calendar flips to the new year, the Mackinac State Historic Parks crew is busy preparing its historic sites and parks for an exciting 2023 season.

 “We are excited to welcome visitors to experience our parks and numerous attractions,” said Steve Brisson, Mackinac State Historic Parks Director. “We have added a variety of new exhibits and programs over the last few years, and our staff is busy preparing to have everything ready for our spring openings.”

2023 marks the 125th anniversary of the automobile ban on Mackinac Island. Mackinac State Historic Parks will mark this occasion with a special event on July 22, complete with an 1886 Benz Motorwagen on the island. The “horseless vehicle” will also be on display outside Fort Mackinac during the day on July 22. A special commemorative logo has been developed and will be found on merchandise at Mackinac State Historic Parks museum stores, as well as on the license plates found on carriages throughout the island. A new vignette, written by former Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Director Phil Porter, will also be published for the anniversary.

“Mackinac Island is famous for many things, but the century and a quarter-old ban on motorized vehicles is truly at the top of why it is such a special place,” Brisson said.

Staying on the island, Fort Mackinac opens for the 2023 season on May 4. The museum store and theater have swapped spaces, with the store now in the Commissary and the theater now in the Soldiers’ Barracks. The swap is part of a larger interpretive plan for the barracks which will happen in stages in coming years. The Fort Mackinac Museum Store will continue to feature publications, apparel, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

Additionally at Fort Mackinac, a new program titled “Soldier’s Gear and Quartermasters’ Storehouse” will allow visitors to see what soldiers would have been issued at Fort Mackinac in the 1880s and how that had an impact on their daily lives. Classic programs, such as the rifle and cannon firing demonstrations, will feature fresh perspectives. Other programs will highlight the changing face of Fort Mackinac, the historic residents who called the fort home, a look at Mackinac as a national park, the role women played at the fort, and what happened in the evening at Fort Mackinac.

“We hope to display the unique mix of the military culture and tourism at Fort Mackinac in those last years of Mackinac National Park,” explained Jack Swartzinski, Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Interpretation Coordinator.

The Tea Room at Fort Mackinac, operated by Grand Hotel, will feature new menu items for the 2023 season, and, as always, will feature one of the most stunning views in Michigan. Perhaps the way to make a Fort Mackinac visit most memorable is firing the opening cannon salute, which is available to one guest daily. More information can be found here.

Elsewhere on Mackinac Island, the McGulpin House, one of the oldest residential structures on the island (built in 1790) and a rare and excellent display of French Canadian domestic architecture, will receive brand new exhibits for the 2023 season. The Biddle House, featuring the Mackinac Island Native American Museum, shares the continuing store of the Anishnaabek on Mackinac Island, with daily interpretive programs and engaging exhibits. The Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, located next door to the Biddle House, is a working blacksmith shop that dives into the 1950s and the changing culture of workers on Mackinac Island. The American Fur Co. Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum received a new exhibit in 2022. Admission to all of these sites is included with a Fort Mackinac or Historic Downtown Mackinac ticket.

At The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, located in front of Fort Mackinac in Marquette Park, a new juried art exhibition will debut on the second floor – “A Mackinac Day.” There’s always something special about being able to spend a day on Mackinac. The sun seems to shine a little brighter. The sky seems a little bluer. Even days where things don’t go to plan can seem perfect. Everybody has their “Mackinac Day.” The gallery will be on display from May 12 – October 8. An art attendant, new for 2023, will guide guests through the museum and provide a better understanding of the art and artists who have created art inspired by the Straits of Mackinac. Additionally, eight artists-in-residence will stay on Mackinac Island throughout the summer. Each artist will host a special, free workshop on the second Wednesday of their residency.

The Biddle House, featuring the Mackinac Island Native American Museum, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, and The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum open for the 2023 season on May 12. The McGulpin House and American Fur Co. Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum open June 3.

Special events at Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Island include Twilight Turtle Treks on January 7, February 7 and March 7; the Fort2Fort Five Mile Challenge May 13; the annual Vintage Base Ball game July 29; special activities for July 4; special history evening programs including a guided tour of Historic Downtown Mackinac as it would have looked in the 1830s and a tour highlighting the creation of the village of Mackinac Island; special nature and birdwatching tours; night sky programs at Fort Holmes and Arch Rock; bike tours looking at Mackinac’s forgotten features and the War of 1812; and much more. More information can be found at mackinacparks.com/events.

The year 1780 will be explored at Colonial Michilimackinac, in Mackinaw City, where mischief and mayhem reigned. 1780 saw this isolated British outpost become a scene of paranoia, military mischief, and, from a certain point of view, mutiny. A special daily program will explore this spirit of dissention and disobedience that destabilized Michilimackinac’s garrison.

Other programs throughout the day explore the rich history of the site and showcase how it was more than a military outpost. Get an up-close look at the merchandise that passed through Michilimackinac during the height of the fur trade; explore dining culture at a Merchant’s House; learn about the enslaved community at Michilimackinac; explore the 5,500 square feet of gardens during an engaging tour; have tea at a British Trader’s home and dive into the complexities of British society; find out what civilians and soldiers were up to; and, of course, feel the power of Michilimackinac’s weapons with musket and artillery firings.

The Mackinac State Historic Parks’ archaeology program will enter its 65th season in 2023. Work will continue in House E of the Southeast Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac. Archaeologists will be out daily (weather permitting) during the summer months. Guests will have the opportunity to see the most recent finds at Colonial Michilimackinac with a new “Recent Excavations” display inside the Colonial Michilimackinac Visitor’s Center.

Guests now have two opportunities to fire weapons at Colonial Michilimackinac: an opening cannon blast, at 9:30 a.m., or they can fire the full complement of weapons at Guns Across the Straits. Reservations for either program can be made by calling (231) 436-4100. More information can be found here.

Special events at Colonial Michilimackinac include exhilarating “Fire at Night” programs, deep dives into Michilimackinac’s maritime history, a celebration of the King’s Birth-day on June 4, a look at Askin’s Men and Women at Michilimackinac in August, a moonlit Michilimackinac evening, the ever-popular Fort Fright, and A Colonial Christmas. More information can be found at mackinacparks.com/events.

Colonial Michilimackinac opens for the 2023 season May 10.

“Colonial Michilimackinac will continue to provide an interesting and unique look into the early history of the Straits of Mackinac in 2023, and we invite you to explore Colonial Michilimackinac and the exciting history of the great lakes fur trade,” said LeeAnn Ewer, Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Curator of Interpretation.

The ongoing restoration of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse continues in 2023, as an oil house will be reconstructed on the property. The last few years have seen several gallery openings at the lighthouse – the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum, a Science and Technology Exhibit, and the Marshall Gallery on the extensively renovated second floor. Throughout the day guides will sound the Fog Signal Whistle and provide tours of the lighthouse tower. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse opens on May 11.

Programs at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park feature daily demonstrations of a reconstructed 18th century sawmill. With the smell of fresh sawdust in the air, the awesome power of the water never fails to impress as the mill springs to life, fed by the pond and ever-flowing currents of Mill Creek. Near the workshop, sawpit demonstrations and historic farming programs highlight what life was like beyond the sawmill more than 200 years ago. On the wild side, guests will make new discoveries as wildflowers bloom and wildlife flourishes along 3.5 miles of nature trails. Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park opens for the 2023 season May 12.

A streamlined Forest Adventure Experience, formerly the Adventure Tour, features the Forest Canopy Bridge, Eagles’ Flight Zip Line, and Treetop Discovery Climbing Wall. Forest Adventure Experiences are available beginning June 9.

“The story of Mill Creek links all MSHP sites together,” said Kyle Bagnall, Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Park Naturalist. “Whether you’re watching sawdust fly in the sawmill, soaring down the zipline, or perched on the treetop discovery tower, you’re sure to experience Mackinac’s natural and cultural wonders in many unique ways.”

Every museum store will feature new items inspired by the site they represent. The Official Mackinac Island State Park Store, inside the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center, will continue to have new items inspired by the historic and natural elements of Mackinac Island.

Most major projects were funded, in part, by Mackinac Associates.

 

 

Fort Mackinac soldiers clearing a path in front of Fort Mackinac in the 1880s.

Winter for the Soldiers at Fort Mackinac

 Wintering on Mackinac Island has always been a desolate and isolated affair. For much of its history, many well-off merchants, fur traders, and other entrepreneurs would leave the island during the winter months. The soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac though did not have this luxury and found ways to sustain themselves during those harsh months. Soldiers kept busy through various trainings and responsibilities but were often left with the harsh reality of winter in Northern Michigan. Looking at the men of the 23rd United States Infantry, companies E and K, we can see how the soldiers and the army tried to adapt to their Mackinac Island home as winter resources slowly improved.

Fort Mackinac soldiers clearing a path in front of Fort Mackinac in the 1880s.

Soldiers at Fort Mackinac clearing path in Post Garden, 1880s.

 The daily routine of Fort Mackinac changed as the days got colder. In November of 1887, Captain Greenleaf Goodale issued General Order 97, moving the first assembly of the day from 6:00 am to 6:30 am. In this same General Order, less time was allocated towards drill, and more time for fatigue duty for clearing paths, chopping firewood, and general maintenance. The high snow fall on the island could make company and battalion level drill almost impossible, and subsequent orders show a greater focus on smaller scale drills, like signal drill, school instruction, and litter-bearing for the post hospital. The garrison still conducted bi-monthly musters but these were often moved indoors in order to compensate for winter weather. In order to make up for this lack of consistent and high-quality drill, Captain Goodale directed the garrison to conduct regular battalion and company drill as soon as the weather turned warm again. He also assigned recruits to drills created especially for them to make up for lost time in winter.

Plans for a shooting range, gallery and gymnasium from 1889.

Plans for the Shooting Gallery, Drill Room and Gymnasium, which would never be constructed, 1889.

 Throughout the 1880s, the United States Army put a large focus on marksmanship skills. This program required soldiers to visit a rifle range at least twice a week over the four-month training season. Outside of the season soldiers were expected to take indoor practice, called Gallery Practice. Soldiers used 7-10 grains of black powder with modified rounded bullets (much different than the 70 grains of black powder and conical shaped bullets soldiers typically used) and shot at small, metal plates, over 30 to 50 feet. The main purpose of this practice was to improve the soldier’s trigger discipline and aiming skills. Fort Mackinac received a grant from the Army in 1887 to buy targets and lease the island’s ice rink, though it seems the soldiers never used the ice rink and stuck to practicing in the Post Barracks. Gallery Practice seems to have been one of the more effective trainings the soldiers conducted during the wintertime, as is reflected in the high number of Marksman and Sharpshooter designations earned at Fort Mackinac.

 Not only were prescribed drills and trainings inhibited by winter weather, but also the kinds of free time activities the men could enjoy. This became a concern amongst the command staff at Fort Mackinac, as the soldiers not only spent much of their time drinking but also getting out of shape. The snow made it impossible for sports like baseball to be played. The healthiest activities for soldiers to participate in were, as Assistant Surgeon C. E. Woodruff wrote, “those sports requiring expensive apparatus, as snows-shoes and toboggans.” Both Woodruff and Captain William C. Manning recommended building a gymnasium and drill hall on the Fort grounds, but these plans were ultimately denied.

The John Jacob Astor Hotel on Market Street, 1885.

The John Jacob Astor Hotel on Market Street, ca. 1885

 In their loneliness, soldiers drinking downtown risked embarrassing accidents. According to the Cheboygan Democrat, soldiers started their own “social club” in the Astor Hotel in December of 1887. Soldiers could often get a pass to go downtown to one of the saloons, leaving the army vulnerable to embarrassing drunken antics by the men. Luckily, the Army had already been looking to reduce this risk by creating “Post Canteens.” There soldiers could drink and socialize within the walls of their station under the watchful eye of their offices, served by a bartender who had to follow the Army’s regulations. In the winter of 1889, soldiers of Fort Mackinac converted the old wood quarters into a post canteen. This post canteen reduced the public incidents of the soldiers, but it did nothing to relieve the heart of the problem.

 The isolated nature of the island still plagued the men. Soldier’s still lacked activities that kept them active throughout the winter, which not only hurt their personal health but also their skills as soldiers. Unfortunately, due to the nature of Fort Mackinac’s military importance, they did not see the improvements some other stations would during this time. The soldiers of Fort Mackinac in the 1880s  had to do as many of their predecessors had, stay as warm as possible, and wait for the warm and beautiful return of summer on the Straits of Mackinac.

A Fort Mackinac cannon in winter.

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?’”

Fix Bayonets!

 Throughout Fort Mackinac’s military history, British and American soldiers were issued bayonets to complement their shoulder arms. Bayonets allowed a firearm to double as a stabbing weapon and a pike. Additionally, soldiers advancing with fixed bayonets could be a powerful psychological weapon, frightening the enemy into fleeing before contact. By the 1880s, however, bayonets had lost much of their tactical usefulness. Nonetheless, American soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac and elsewhere continued carrying these secondary weapons, and the bayonets of the late 19th century reflect an interesting time of transition for the U.S. Army.

 When the army adopted the new Springfield .45-70 rifle in 1873, a new bayonet came with it. Featuring an 18-inch long triangular blade, the Model 1873 bayonet utilized a rotating clasp to lock onto the front sight at the muzzle end of the gun barrel. From 1873 to 1878, bayonets were specifically produced for use with the new rifles. However, officials in the War Department, always eager for ways to reduce costs, realized that the government still had large stocks of surplus Model 1855 bayonets. These older weapons, produced in huge quantities to supply federal troops during the Civil War, were designed to fit .58 caliber rifled muskets. Fortuitously, officers at the Springfield Armory devised a method of cold-swaging the larger sockets of the 1855 bayonets down to fit the .45 caliber barrels of the 1873 rifles. The older bayonets could thus be utilized at little cost to the government, and no new bayonets were produced after 1878. So large was the stock of 1855 bayonets that it took a decade for the armory to finally run out of them.

 When the old bayonets were finally expended in 1888/89, the army officially adopted a ramrod bayonet. A sharpened metal rod carried within the stock just under the barrel (the traditional location for a ramrod on all earlier muzzleloading weapons), the ramrod bayonet could be extended beyond the muzzle and locked in place. This eliminated the need for soldiers to carry a separate bayonet and scabbard, since the bayonet was already integral to the rifle. The army experimented with ramrod bayonets for most of the 1880s, continually tinkering with the design and issuing small numbers of the weapon to soldiers for field testing. In 1886, Co. K of the 23rd Infantry, stationed at Fort Mackinac, received rifles with ramrod bayonets for evaluation.

 As bayonet designs evolved, so too did the scabbards to carry them. Although the ramrod bayonet eliminated the need for a separate scabbard, those weapons were not in general service until the middle of 1890. As a result, most soldiers carried their bayonets in metal scabbards hung from their belts through the 1880s. Initially, scabbards for the 1873 bayonet featured a leather frog, which simply looped over the 1¾-inch wide waist belts issued beginning in 1872. However, as soldiers increasingly preferred to wear wider cartridge belts for field service, these scabbards were no longer compatible. As a result, in 1889 the army finally adopted a new scabbard design featuring a long, thin brass hook in place of the leather loop. The hook could still easily be worn with the narrower 1872 belts, but could also be used with a woven cartridge belt.

 Even as the Army continually refined and experimented with bayonet designs, general officers and regular soldiers alike increasingly questioned the utility of the bayonet in an age when troops were trained for exceptionally long-range marksmanship. Noting that in combat the bayonet functioned only as far as a soldier could reach, Commanding General of the Army William Sherman stated that “my experience teaches me that one side or the other runs away before arm’s length is reached.” Sherman and other officers suggested that the bayonet be declared obsolete and dropped from service, but stopped short of pressing the issue as he believed bayonets might still be useful in highly specific circumstances such as riot control. In the 1870s and 1880s soldiers were deployed to suppress civil unrest, usually linked to strikes and other labor actions, and officers felt that bayonets allowed troops to “safely” disperse crowds without firing on them.

 If you would like to see original bayonets up close, feel free to ask our interpretive staff at Fort Mackinac. They carry original bayonets (to go with the original .45-70 rifles used daily for demonstration) and are happy to answer questions about them, as well as the rest of the unique uniforms and equipment utilized by the U.S. Army during the 1880s. This was a time of change and experimentation for the army. If you would like more information, or an opportunity to buy tickets to Fort Mackinac and our other museums, please visit our website.

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.

Creating the Village of Mackinac Island

Join us for a guided tour going through the creation of the village of Mackinac in the 1780s. This guided tour, led by Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Interpretation Coordinator Jack Swartzinski, will take guests through downtown Mackinac Island, laying out how the Village of Mackinac came to be, contrasting current locations with how they would have looked in the early 1800s. Tour will begin at Windermere Point. This is a free tour – donations welcome. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Tour should last about an hour.

Three people on bikes heading to the G. Mennen Williams Mackinac Celebration.

Friends Preserving and Sharing Mackinac’s Heritage

Looking back over the last forty years since receiving their official 501(c)3 non-profit designation in 1982, Mackinac Associates has funded an outstanding list of projects supporting Mackinac State Historic Parks. Funds raised through Mackinac Associates from membership fees, appeals, sponsorships, and other gifts assist in in preserving the rich history and natural beauty of the Straits of Mackinac.

Members are welcomed by staff to a special event at Fort Mackinac in the early days of Mackinac Associates’ 40-year history.

 Mackinac evokes so many memories of a special place that has allowed individuals, families, and friends to create memories and unique experiences. In managing 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 State Historic Parks has the unique ability to protect and preserve the most treasured natural and historical resources in the Straits of Mackinac.

 What started as a group of a dozen local residents and friends of the park in the late 1970s has grown into a friend’s group made up of more than 2,000 members dedicated to our mission: “Friends preserving and sharing Mackinac’s heritage.” Members can be proud they are part of an organization that has provided over $2 million to support projects in every area of museum operation, making possible park improvements, interpretive programs, publications, exhibits, and natural history education over the last 40 years.

A new sign at the entrance to the Dr. Beaumont Museum.

The entrance to the new exhibit at the American Fur Co. Retail Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum.

 Mackinac Associates helps fund projects both large and small and this past year was no exception with nearly $200,000 in projects sponsored across Mackinac State Historic Parks sites and operations. On Mackinac Island, updates to the American Fur Company Store included a brand-new exhibit highlighting Fort Mackinac surgeon Dr. William Beaumont’s famous experiments and the scientific process about the digestive system brough about by the accidental shooting of French-Canadian voyageur Alexis St. Martin in 1822. Additional projects on the island included electrical upgrades for the Schoolhouse building at Fort Mackinac, projectors and touchscreens updates and installations within exhibits, and furthering the dendroarchaeology study on the McGulpin House, one of the island’s oldest structures.

 At our mainland sites, Mackinac Associates’ 2022 Spring Appeal announced the Parks’ newest reconstruction project – the Southwest Rowhouse addition at Colonial Michilimackinac. Originally built in the 1730s and extensively rebuilt in the 1760s, archaeologists excavated the remains of the rowhouse in 1960-63, and a portion of the building was reconstructed in 1968. Continuing with the reconstruction of an addition on the east end of the rowhouse will assist in better interpreting Michilimackinac during the 1770s. This past spring’s fundraising effort completed the first step in this reconstruction process, the creation of an architectural design plan to move the project forward.

A person riding the zip line at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park.

Annual Mackinac Associates members receive a 15% discount on the Forest Adventure Experience at Mill Creek.

 Additional projects were completed at Colonial Michilimackinac with the help of Mackinac Associates included the relocation of the Blacksmith Shop to a more historically correct location outside the palisade walls, and the purchasing of supplies for the shop. Funding was also given toward improvement planning for the Michilimackinac State Park day-use area at the base of the Mackinac Bridge, which will include future updates to this iconic and scenic space. At Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park located 3.5 miles east of Mackinaw City, improvements were made to the zipline, part of the park’s Forest Adventure Experience where guests can “fly” 425 feet down the Eagle’s Flight Zip Line over the creek bed.

 Mackinac Associates was also able to assist with marketing, interpretation, and wayfinding projects this year, including the replacement and upgrading of signage throughout Mackinac State Historic Park sites, new cocktail tables for special events, and digital advertising to welcome new and returning visitors to the Parks.

Three people on bikes heading to the G. Mennen Williams Mackinac Celebration.

Marie Bunker, Adrienne Rilenge, and Lauren Rilenge following the 2022 G. Mennen Williams Member Celebration. Image by Kara Beth Photography.

 As we look back on the 40-year history of Mackinac Associates, members 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.

 Mackinac Associates members receive a wide range of educational and social benefits, including unlimited admission to all Mackinac State Historic Parks sites, 15% discount at all museum stores, a subscription to the Curiosities newsletter, and invitations to member exclusive events*. For more information on membership, giving, and benefits, please visit www.mackinacassociates.com.

*Mackinac Heritage Season Pass is valid towards site admission only and does not include discounts or special events.