The Four Maps of Michilimackinac

In addition to over 50 years’ worth of archaeological evidence, historians have four maps of the original community of Michilimackinac to help them understand how people lived at the fort in the 18th century. These maps, created between 1749 and 1769, provide a fascinating glimpse into the changing community of Michilimackinac.

7. Lotbiniere plan 1749 mapThe earliest known map of Michilimackinac was drawn in October 1749 by Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, a French military engineer. Dispatched to Michilimackinac to report on the state of the post, Lotbinière recorded the fort’s defenses (which he considered “very badly built”) as well as the layout of the community within the walls. His map also listed the residents of most of the fort’s 40 homes, as well as the few buildings occupied by the French military and the Catholic priest. In an accompanying written report, Lotbinière also provided a number of details about the construction and design of the built environment at Michilimackinac.

Magra mapLt. Perkins Magra of the British 17th Regiment created the next map of Michilimackinac in 1765. After Capt. William Howard requested improvements at Michilimackinac, the British realized they had no maps of the post, so the duty fell to Magra. Magra was particularly interested in depicting the living quarters available to the British army, and so his map recorded the inhabitants of the fort’s buildings using a combination of colors and letters. Magra carefully noted which houses were inhabited by British officers, soldiers, and merchants, while homes of French-Canadian families were left unmarked. Magra’s map was also the first to depict the final configuration of Michilimackinac, which had been enlarged by the French sometime in the 1750s.

Crown Collection map 1768The next map of Michilimackinac was drawn soon after Magra produced his colorful depiction of the post. This map is perhaps the most mysterious of the four Michilimackinac maps, as its delineator, date of creation, and even its purpose remain unknown. Not as detailed as Magra’s map, it nonetheless depicts the various government properties scattered throughout the fort. Minor differences from Magra’s map, combined with archaeological evidence, suggest that the drawing was created sometime between 1766 and 1769.


Nordberg map 1769The final Michilimackinac map was drawn in June 1769 by Lt. John Nordberg of the 60th Regiment. Since at least 1765, Commander in Chief Thomas Gage had dealt with numerous pleas for a barracks to be built at Michilimackinac (as noted on Magra’s map, British soldiers, like French troops before them, lived in rented homes). When Gage finally authorized barracks for Michilimackinac, Capt. Beamsley Glazier complained that “the King has no ground in the Fort” upon which to build the new structure. Realizing he had misspoken (the British actually owned several plots, including the large parade ground in the center of the fort), Glazier ordered Nordberg to prepare a map for Gage. Nordberg’s map dutifully recorded all British government property, including the parade ground where barracks were built later that year.

These four maps, created over a 20 year period, reveal a great deal about the French and British inhabitants of Michilimackinac, depicting where individual families lived and demonstrating how the fort changed over time.

4 Responses to “The Four Maps of Michilimackinac”

  1. Christina A. Reardon

    Very interesting article. The little initials help. Could use info on what other letters and marks mean, also what is on map that is comparable to what is seen today in fort.

  2. Fern Perkins

    My Saulteau grandmother, Isabella Mainville, was born to Josette and Joseph Mainville (Ojibway-Métis) NWC fur trader in January or April, 1807 or 1808 on Island of Michilimacinac. Can you give me any info. about that time period?

    • Catherine Allen

      Hi Fern, your grandmother Isabella is my great , great, great ,great grandmother . I am related to her through her daughter Catherine Ross who married James Marsh. I would love to know of any history that you can share .with me. Catherine

  3. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    The French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan web site has a brief article in pdf showing “Michel Chartier de Lotbinière’s 1749 Map of Michilimackinac,” taken from
    Fort Michilimackinac in 1749: Lotbiniere’s Plan and Description
    Volume 2, Issue 5 of Mackinac history
    Author: Michel Chartier de Lotbinière
    Editor: Marie Gérin-Lajoie
    Publisher Mackinac Island State Park Commission, 1976
    Original from the University of Michigan
    Digitized Sep 4, 2009

    Map is from page 5 and includes the names of the residents. Other articles are also available. See


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