Fort Michilimackinac, photo submitted 1960
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Fort Michilimackinac
Straits Avenue, Mackinac City - Emmet County
Property Type fort
trading post
Historic Use COMMERCE/TRADE
DEFENSE/military facility
Current Use RECREATION AND CULTURE/museum
RECREATION AND CULTURE/outdoor recreation
Style Other
Significant Person Chief Pontiac
Narrative Description Fort Michilimackinac was built by the French on the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac in approximately 1715. Previously, French presence in the Straits area was focused in what is now St. Ignace where Father Marquette established a Jesuit mission in 1671 and Fort de Baude was established around 1683. In 1701, Cadillac moved the French garrison from St. Ignace to Detroit, which led to the closing of the mission and considerably reduced French occupation in the area. Several years later, as the French sought to expand the fur trade, they built Fort Michilimackinac to re-establish a French presence in the Straits area. The original Fort Michilimackinac appears to have included a mission building, two guard houses, and a single, long structure for military personnel, all enclosed within a small, square stockade with bastions. Subsequently, the French expanded and modified the fort several times, so that by the end of the French occupation, it was three times its original size. In 1760 the British assumed power in Canada after defeating the French and their Indian allies in the French and Indian War. In 1761 the British took control of Fort Michilimackinac and other French posts in the Great Lakes region. The British occupied the fort until 1781 at which time they abandoned the post, moved to Mackinac Island and built Fort Mackinac. In 1959 the Mackinac Island State Park Commission began archaeological excavations at the site of Fort Michilimackinac. Archaeological data, in combination with documentary data, were used to begin reconstruction of the fort on its original site. Today, 13 of the 19 interior buildings have been reconstructed, as well as the perimeter stockade wall. Archaeological investigation of the remaining structures continues on an annual basis.
Statement of Significance Fort Michilimackinac was a strategically located fortified trading post. The fort was not built primarily as a military facility but as a link in the French trade system, which extended from Montreal through the Great Lakes region and northwest to Lake Winnipeg and beyond. Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the fort served as a supply post for French traders operating in the western Great Lakes region and as a primary stopping-off point between Montreal and the western country. Fort Michilimackinac was an island of French presence on the frontier from which the French carried out the fur trade, sought alliances with native peoples, and protected their interests against the colonial ambitions of other European nations. In 1761 the French relinquished Fort Michilimackinac to the British who had assumed control of Canada as a result of their victory in the French and Indian War. Under the British, the fort continued to serve as a major fur trade facility. The Ottawa and Chippewa in the Straits area, however, found British policies harsh compared to those of the French and they resented the British takeover. In 1763 as part of Pontiac's Rebellion, a group of Chippewa staged a ball game outside the stockade to create a diversion and gain entrance to the post and then attacked and killed most of the British occupants. The use of Fort Michilimackinac came to an end in 1781 when the British abandoned the post and moved to Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island.
Marker Name Fort Michilimackinac
Marker Text FORT MICHILIMACKINAC This fort, built about 1715, put French soldiers at the Straits for the first time since 1701. French authority ceased in 1761 when British troops entered the fort. On June 2, 1763, during Pontiac's Uprising, Chippewa Indians seized the fort, killing most of the small force, and held it a year. When the British moved to Mackinac Island in 1781 this old fort soon reverted to the wilderness.
Period of Significance 1715-1781
Significant Date(s) 1715, 1761, 1781
Registry Type(s) 1958 Marker erected
10/09/1960 National Historic Landmark listed
10/15/1966 National Register listed
02/18/1956 State Register listed
Site ID# P565