Early Christmas at Mackinac

In the midst of the holiday season, and with Christmas upon us, let’s take a look at one of the earliest recorded Christmas celebrations in the Straits of Mackinac.

This map, drawn around 1717, shows the location of the original St. Ignace Mission, labeled “maison des Jesuits,” as well as the Odawa and Huron communities nearby. Edward Ayer Collection, Newberry Library

  During the winter of 1679, Fr. Jean Enjalran supervised the Jesuit mission of St Ignace. Originally intended to serve a group of refugee Huron people brought to Mackinac by Fr. Jacques Marquette, the mission also served converts among the local Odawa. Combined with ministering to a French trading settlement that sprang up soon after the mission’s founding in 1671, Fr. Enjalran spent much of his time preaching to Native converts and instructing them in the Catholic faith. There were so many Odawa people living near the St. Ignace mission that the Jesuits eventually set up a smaller church, dedicated to St. Francis de Borgia, to specifically minister in their communities.

During one of the      Christmas processions the Huron carried a banner depicting the Holy House of Loreto, which some believe was the house that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived in while Christ was a child. The remains of the house are now enshrined in the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy. This image may have been chosen thanks to the Huron’s familiarity with Fr. Pierre-Joseph-Marie Chaumonot, another Jesuit who worked extensively with the tribe in New France and who felt a special connection with the Holy House after visiting multiple times before sailing for Canada.

  During the Christmas season, Fr. Enjalran supervised an elaborate series of services, processions, and feasts to mark the birth of Christ. In preparation, the Huron converts built a grotto in the mission church, complete with a cradle and a statue of the infant Jesus. After Fr. Enjalran conducted a midnight mass on Christmas, the Hurons and some of the Odawa asked that the priest bring the statue to their villages. Instead of simply moving the statue, the Hurons planned an elaborate procession for Epiphany, recreating the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ. The Hurons, including those who were not converts, split into three large groups, each with a tribal leader wearing a crown and carrying a scepter to represent the three kings and accompanied by the sounds of trumpets. Proceeded by a banner carried on standard depicting a star on a sky-blue field, the three groups marched to the church, where they presented gifts to at the grotto and prayed. Fr. Enjalran then wrapped the statue in a fine linen cloth, and followed the procession, this time led by two Frenchmen carrying a banner depicting Mary and Jesus, to the Huron village. Once there, all of the Hurons, including those who had not converted to Christianity, participated in a dance and feast. A week later Fr. Enjalran supervised a similar procession, with the Huron this time visiting the Odawa community for another feast. A complete description of these rituals can be found in the Jesuit Relations of 1679, vol. 61.

  We hope that you enjoy this festive season. From all of us at Mackinac State Historic Parks, happy holidays!

The Grenadiers’ “Mutiny” of 1780

The summer of 1780 was not a happy time at Michilimackinac. Patrick Sinclair, the lieutenant governor since October 1779, found himself at odds with most of the community he nominally governed. Much of the discord seems to have been of Sinclair’s own making (he was quick to take offense and vain about his prerogatives as lieutenant governor), but in mid-summer he faced a new problem: the grenadier company of the 8th Regiment, which made up half of Michilimackinac’s garrison, refused one officer’s order and started submitting petitions with grievances to another.
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Queen Charlotte’s Birthday: January 18

Queen Charlotte’s Birthday: January 18

On January 18, 1780, a barrage of artillery fire rolled across the frozen Straits of Mackinac. The guns of Michilimackinac boomed as artillerymen loaded and fired 12 pounds of gunpowder. Why were they shooting in the dead of winter, when not much ever happened at the isolated outpost? To celebrate Queen Charlotte’s birthday! (more…)

The Hanging for the Murder of Hugh Flinn

The Hanging for the Murder of Hugh Flinn

Private James Brown entered the mess room of the Soldiers’ Barracks at Fort Mackinac the evening of December 5, 1828. A loud blast filled

Muster roll for Comapny G, 5th Infantry with entries for Corporal Hugh Flinn and Private James Brown.

the room and Corporal Hugh Flinn fell to the floor, bleeding from his neck. The fifteen witnesses in the room saw Pvt. Brown lower a musket to his hip and exclaim, “My God, what have I done?” (more…)

Native American Quillworking in the Great Lakes Region

Native American Quillworking in the Great Lakes Region

Huron_moccasins_with_quillwork_and_moose_hair_1780-1830_-_Bata_Shoe_Museum_-_DSC00647 What did the local Native populations do during the long, historic winters in northern Michigan? Winter was a fantastic time for the women and children of Native families to make things. Today, most things we wear have some sort of decoration on them. There were many different ways for Native people to decorate their clothing and accessories, but porcupine quillwork was perhaps the most unique decorative art developed by the Native groups of the Great Lakes region. (more…)

Surviving the Canadian Climate: British Winter Uniforms

Surviving the Canadian Climate: British Winter Uniforms

von Germann

Friedrich von Germann sketched this British soldier dressed for the Canadian winter in 1778.

Capot

As depicted in von Germann’s drawing, British soldiers donned blanket coats, wool leggings, and fur-trimmed “Canadian caps” to keep warm in wintertime.

When the men of the 8th Regiment arrived at Michilimackinac in 1774, they, like the rest of the British army posted in Canada, found themselves in a remote wilderness with pleasant, temperate summers and harsh, bitter winters. The Canadian winter climate was significantly cooler than what most soldiers were accustomed to in Britain. Fortunately, several uniform pieces allowed these men to live and even fight in the coldest of Canadian winters.

Leggings

With the lapels buttoned over, collar turned up, and tails let down, a soldier’s regimental coat helped protect him from the cold. Blue wool leggings further protected his legs.

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Which Flag Flew Over Michilimackinac?

Which Flag Flew Over Michilimackinac?

In the late 18th century, Michilimackinac served as an important economic, diplomatic, and military center for the British government. Although one of the most remote outposts of the British empire, Michilimackinac held the key to British influence in the Great Lakes, and it seems only logical to assume that the British projected this regional power by flying a flag over their fort on the Straits of Mackinac.

The Red Ensign served as the flag of the British Royal Navy until 1864. Today, it is the flag of the British merchant fleet.

The Red Ensign served as the flag of the British Royal Navy until 1864. Today, it is the flag of the British merchant fleet.

In a September 1774 letter to Lt. Col. Samuel Cleaveland of the Royal Artillery, newly-arrived Capt. Arent DePeyster made a rare reference to a flag when he requested a “large Ensign” be sent to Michilimackinac. For many years, historians assumed that DePeyster was referring to the Red Ensign, which served as the flag of the Royal Navy in the 18th century. However, reviewing the entire letter reveals a bit more ambiguity in DePeyster’s request:

Sir- I was informed by my predecessor that the Colours of this Garrison belonged to a Master of a Vessel of whom he had borrowed them to hoist upon particular occasions. They are at length demanded by the owner, by which means the Garrison remains without Colours which are absolutely necessary to return the compliments of tribes of Indians when they come on matters of any consequence to the Government. They serve to display a certain necessary dignity, therefore I am informed by the standing orders of this post that the Commanding Officer of the Artillery [Cleaveland] is to be applied to for Colours when wanted. I take the liberty of troubling you upon this occasion and shall be glad to have a good large Ensign sent as early in the spring as possible.

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2015 Archaeology Field Season in Review

The field season at Michilimackinac is over and as we dive into the winter lab work routine, there is time to reflect on what we learned this summer.

Of course the most notable find of the summer was the intact rosary Rosary (1) .  We will devote some time this winter to trying to answer some of the questions it raised.  Why does it have “extra” beads – is it a Brigittine rosary or are they for some other devotion?  Was it made in France?  How costly would it have been?  Other questions will have to wait for further excavation next season.  The rosary was found in the tenth-of-a-foot level above an as-yet-unidentified clay feature.  The clay is surrounded by cobbles and a plank.  It extends into an adjacent quad, which was partially excavated this summer. (more…)