Fort St. Joseph Site (20BE23)
South Bond Street, north of Fort Street, Niles - Berrien County
Property Type fort
Jesuit mission
trading post
Historic Use COMMERCE/TRADE/department store
DEFENSE/military facility
Statement of Significance A Jesuit Mission on the St. Joseph River was established in the 1680s, and by 1693 the French began construction on a fortified military post, predating both Fort Michilimackinac and Detroit. Two Indian villages were in the immediate vicinity of the establishment and in its time a sizeable village of French fur traders developed. British troops first garrisoned the post at Fort St. Joseph in 1761, at the end of the French and Indian War. Two years later they were taken by surprise during an uprising led by Chief Pontiac. All but three or four of the troops were killed, the rest were taken prisoner. The Indians controlled the fort for several years following the attack, and it was never again reoccupied by British troops. In 1781 Spanish raiders from the Mississippi country took over the post and proclaimed it briefly as a possession of their king. Through most of the 18th century the St. Joseph post was the most important fur trading establishment on lower Lake Michigan. At the time of the American Revolution St. Joseph was one of only six areas in Michigan with sizeable European populations. In four of these areas today, nearly all vestiges of 18th century habitation have been obliterated by modern construction, and those sites that have been preserved concentrate primarily on the post-1760 British period. Fort St. Joseph offers the only remaining opportunity at which the important French period of Michigan's heritage may be developed and interpreted.
Marker Name Fort St. Joseph
Marker Text FORT ST. JOSEPH The French fort built here in 1691 controlled southern Michigan's principal Indian trade routes. Missionaries and fur traders were here already. The fort became a British outpost in 1761. Two years later it was one of the forts seized by Indians during the uprising of Chief Pontiac. Still later, traders made it their headquarters. In 1781, Spanish raiders ran up the flag of Spain at the fort for a few hours.
Period of Significance 1600-1825
Significant Date(s) 1693, 1761, 1763, 1781
Registry Type(s) 04/19/1957 Marker erected
05/24/1973 National Register listed
02/18/1956 State Register listed
Site ID# P22614