For years I have wanted to go to Mackinac Island....I have always called it Mackinaw Island...but when I looked it up in preparation for our Michigan trip I discovered a great deal about the island....one of which was the correct spelling. "According to Anishinaabe-Ojibwe tradition, Mackinac Island is a sacred place populated by the first people and was home to the Great Spirit Gitchie Manitou. Mackinac Island, by virtue of its location in the center of the Great Lakes waterway, became a tribal gathering place where offerings were made to Gitchie Manitou and where tribes buried their chiefs to honor the Great Spirit. Native Americans traveling the Straits region likened the shape of the island to that of a turtle’s back and named it Michilimackinac, Land of the Great Turtle. Celebrations to honor the Great Spirit took place on Mackinac Island each spring along with rest and relaxation on after the long northern winter. Hunters and accomplished anglers would meet, trade and rejoin their families while elders would discuss tribal affairs. Once the Europeans came, these early visitors believed Gitchie Manitou fled the Island to dwell in the Northern Lights. Mackinac’s location and rich fish population also drew French traders and Jesuit missionaries. In the 1670s, the first Europeans visited Mackinac. Father Claude Dablon wished to establish a mission on Mackinac Island and encouraged Father Jacques Marquette to move his congregation to the island. Eager to escape the dangers from the Huron and Sioux conflict, Father Marquette agreed and moved his displaced band of Huron followers to the island in 1671. At about the same time French missionaries were converting Native Americans, French fur traders were seeking their assistance in the lucrative fur business. For 150 years, through French, British, and American settlements of Mackinac, the fur trade business was active on Mackinac. Europeans would ship canoe loads of their goods to Mackinac to trade for Indian-trapped beaver, muskrat, otter, and fox pelts. After the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the British moved their settlement from what is now Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island and constructed Fort Mackinac(www.MackinacParks.com) in 1780. Threats from American forces as well as growing unrest in the Odawa and Chippewa, led the British Commander Patrick Sinclair to choose the more defensible location provided by the island bluffs. In order to protect their interests in the Great Lakes Fur Trade, Chippewa chiefs Kitchie Negon, Pouanas, Koupe and Magousseihigan sold Mackinac Island to the British on May 12, 1781 during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). The Island continued as a battleground during the War of 1812 (1812-1815), which eventually confirmed American and Canadian independence from the British crown. British troops were then forced to turn Fort Mackinac over to the Americans. During the 1820s Mackinac Island became one of the most valuable trading posts in John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company and dominated life on Mackinac Island. In the 1830s Mackinac’s primary industry switched to fishing. Schooners and steamboats traveled the Great Lakes and provided contact with markets hungry for the Straits areas whitefish, lake trout, and other native species. Small entrepreneurs dominated the fishing trade and American Fur Company warehouses switched from storing furs to storing fish. Before competition increased in the area in the 1870s, Mackinac shipped as many as 20,000 barrels of fish a year. The increase in rail access to the Straits area also hurt Island fish business as mainland competition could take easier advantage of this shipping method. The village of Mackinac was incorporated in 1817 and served as the seat for the territorial county of Michilimackinac by 1818 and as the seat of Mackinac County from 1849-1882. The territorial county of Michilimackinac covered much of what is now Michigan. Fort Mackinac (www.MackinacParks.com) housed the central government for the Northern Frontier after the American Revolution. By the end of the War of 1812, the Island figured prominently in the governing and early development of the Northwest Territory. Interestingly enough, Fort Mackinac served in the Civil War as a prison for three Confederate sympathizers. The island provided volunteers for the Civil War’s Union cause from both its native and military ranks. After the Civil War, Mackinac quickly became a popular resort destination and Mackinac’s business switched to tourism. Its healthy environment and beautiful scenery attracted visitors weary of war and eager for relaxing vacations. By 1875 Congress created Mackinac Island National Park, the country’s second national park (the first was Yellowstone). Military operations at the Fort had ceased and soldiers were removed from Fort Mackinac by 1895. Mackinac Island National Park became Michigan’s first state park in 1895 when the park was transferred from the U.S. Government to the State of Michigan. Today, Mackinac Island State Park land covers more than eighty percent of the Island; the remaining land is privately owned and includes the boat docks, shopping district, restaurants, resorts, hotels and summer homes. By the end of the twentieth century, tourism had replaced furs and fishing as the Island’s only viable industry. In the 1880s and 1890s Mackinac changed greatly. Business investment by large railroad companies and personal wealth led to the construction of opulent Victorian summer homes. Three transportation companies joined forces with hotelier John Oliver Plank and with Charles Caskey, a local cottage builder with an amazing reputation for quick construction, and built the Grand Hotel in less than four months. Meat packers, lumbermen, and railroad barons constructed elegant “cottages” on Mackinac’s West Bluff, East Bluff, and Annex areas. The traveling public also enjoyed Mackinac’s great offerings. Local carriage drivers were hired to take visitors on sightseeing excursions, entertaining them with stories about Indian legends and local history. By 1880, twelve carriage licenses were issued, and by 1896, a representative of the local carriage drivers, Thomas Chambers, petitioned the Village of Mackinac Island to ban the “horseless carriages” or automobiles because they startled the horses. Growing concerns for public health and safety in the 1920s led to regulatory systems which remain in effect today to restrict motor vehicles, excluding emergency vehicles in both the State Park and the City of Mackinac Island. The Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the steward of the island’s historic and natural resources began its preservation efforts in the 1890s. A revenue bond program, signed into law by Governor G. Mennen Williams in 1958, allowed the State Park Commission led by Chairman W.Stewart Woodfill (then owner of Grand Hotel) to establish an historic restoration and museum program for the park." We have all poured over Michigan places...everyone seems to be in agreement for Mackinac...Mandy wants to have high tea at the Grand Hotel...it costs 25.00....for tea and crumpets. Come on...for 25.00 I can eat a whole lobster in Maine. Grief...tourism can be a trap for sure. How much can it cost to make a few biscuits, put some jam on them, and boil a pot of tea? Definitely not a 25.00 investment. But...I will be able to say..."Been there, done that...." and that is half the point of taking a vacation somewhere you have never been. Right?
I am a woman who wears many hats and loves them all. I am a singer - I sing with the group Still Magnolias. I was part of the original First United Methodist Church Arbor Praise Team until we moved. After 24+ years of teaching English 11 and Spanish I - II at Benjamin Russell High School I decided to take a job closer to home. I now teach Spanish I & 2 at Randolph Co. High School and Wadley. I thought I was getting close to retirement and looking forward to it, but decided to move my cheese and try something different. I am a preacher's wife and a preacher myself. My husband Frank is the pastor at Rock Mills United Methodist Church and I am the pastor at Midway (Wedowee). It has made our conversations interesting, to say the least.