Mackinac Island's Michigan Historical Markers

Mackinac Island’s Michigan Historical Markers

Skull Cave Michigan Historical Markers

Few places in Michigan have a concentration of historical markers like Mackinac Island does. There are more than 20 sites on the island that have been honored with this historic designation, with a few others that either used to have markers, lost their marker due to a change in the historic structure, or have markers that have gone missing. This post will take a look at the sites we’ve had the pleasure of visiting, be sure to check a few out when you make your next trip to Mackinac Island! The book Traveling Through Time by Laura Rose Ashlee was incredibly helpful when trying to find these sites. Some of these sites are among the oldest houses and churches in the entire state, and a few of these markers are among the first handful put in place by the state when the program began in the 1950s.

American Fur Co Store

American Fur Company Store/Beaumont Memorial (Market St.) – “On June 6, 1822, Alexis St. Martin (1804 ~ 1889), a French Canadian, was accidentally shot in the stomach at this American Fur Company retail store. Dr. William Beaumont M.D.(1786 ~ 1853), army surgeon at Fort Mackinac nursed him back to health. Although St. Martin’s physique was not impaired, his stomach wound refused to heal, leaving an opening through which the doctor could observe the digestive process. Beaumont convinced St. Martin to become the subject of a medical study of digestion and wrote several articles on the findings from these experiments. St. Martin married and fathered seventeen children. He out-lived Beaumont by twenty-seven years. The Michigan State Medical Society acquired the retail store in 1947 and, after building this memorial to Dr. Beaumont in 1953, gave the structure to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.”

Battlefield of 1814

Battlefield of 1814 (British Landing Rd.) – “Here in this area on Aug. 4, 1814, an American force battled the British in a vain attempt to recapture the island which the British had seized at the outbreak of the War of 1812. Coming ashore at what is known as British Landing, the Americans under Col. George Croghan soon ran into strong resistance as they advanced inland. An attempt to outflank the British line was repulsed by Indians hidden in the thick woods and resulted in the death of Maj. Andrew Holmes. Croghan withdrew when he found he could not defeat the British.”

Biddle House Mackinac

Biddle House (Market St.) – “This house is probably the oldest on the island. Parts of it may date from 1780. A deed to the property upon which a $100 down payment was made in 1822 by Edward Biddle was obtained by him in 1827 from the then owner. Biddle was a cousin of the Biddles of Philadelphia and a leading trader and citizen. For years he lived here with his Indian wife. The house is an example of the Quebec rural style. It is listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey and was restored by the Michigan Society of Architects and the building industry in 1959.”

British Landing

British Landing (on the lakeshore at British Landing Rd.) – “Here, during the night of July 16-17, 1812, a small force of British regulars and several hundred voyageurs and Indian allies from St. Joseph Island landed. They occupied a height that overlooked Fort Mackinac and demanded its surrender. Lt. Porter Hanks, commander of the American garrison of 57 soldiers, had not known that war had been declared. Realizing that resistance was hopeless and might provoke an Indian massacre, Hanks capitulated without a fight.”

Missionary Bark Chapel Mackinac

Early Missionary Bark Chapel (Marquette Park) – this marker is missing, but the text used to read “According to descriptions by Jesuit missionaries, the bark chapels, which were built among the Indians of the Great Lakes looked like this. In such primitive huts, far from civilization, the courageous French “black robes” lived and sought to turn the minds of the savages to Christianity. One of this illustrious company, Father Claude Dablon, from the mission of Sault Ste. Marie, and later superior general of the Jesuits in Canada, wintered on Mackinac Island in 1670-71 and carried on missionary work here. It is in memory of these heroic pioneer priests that this reconstruction of a bark chapel is dedicated.”

Fort Holmes

Fort Holmes (Fort Holmes Rd.) – “Here in 1812 on the island’s highest point, a blockhouse and stockade were built by the British and named Fort George. It was the bulwark of British defenses in 1814 when the American attack was repulsed. After the war the Americans renamed the post in honor of Maj. Holmes who was killed during the American assault in 1814. The fort was not maintained by the Americans however. The present blockhouse is not the original building.”

Grand Hotel Mackinac

Grand Hotel (on the island’s west bluff) – “Opened on July 10, 1887, the Grand Hotel was built by the Grand Rapids & Indiana and Michigan Central Railroads and the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company through the efforts of Sen. Francis B. Stockbridge. It is built of Michigan white pine. With its magnificent colonial porch, longest in the world, it is a classic example of gracious living seldom seen today. One of the outstanding landmarks on the Great Lakes, it is the world’s largest summer hotel.”

Fort Mackinac Landscape

Historic Fort Mackinac (Fort St.) – “Mackinac Island has been called the most historic spot in the Middle West. Fort Mackinac was first built by the British in 1780-81. It was not until 1796, thirteen years after the end of the Revolutionary War, that the British relinquished this fort to the Americans. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 the British seized the island and built Fort George. This fort, which you see to the north beyond the Rifle Range, was renamed Fort Holmes by the Americans who reoccupied the island in 1815. Troops garrisoned Fort Mackinac until 1895.”

Manoogian Museum Indian Dormitory

Indian Dormitory/Henry R. Schoolcraft (Huron St. next to Marquette Park; now the Manoogian Art Museum) – “The Treaty of 1836 transferred 15 million acres of Ojibway (Chippewa) and Odawa (Ottawa) land in Michigan Territory to the federal government. It also required improvements to the Mackinac Island Indian Agency, including a dormitory for Indians visiting the post. This building, designed by Indian Agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, was completed in 1838. It was the agency’s administrative headquarters for eight years and occasionally housed Native Americans who came to the island to receive their annual treaty payments. From 1846 to 1867 the building was used for a variety of purposes, including as a U.S. Customs House. In 1867 it became the Mackinac Island Public School, serving in this capacity until 1960. The Mackinac Island State Park Commission purchased it in 1964 and renovated it in 1966.Given the choice, Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft (1793-1864) moved from the “wild magnificence of nature” at Sault Ste. Marie “back one step into the area of the noisy world” on Mackinac Island in 1833. From the Agency House next door to this site, he continued his lifes work documenting “the history, manners and customs, languages and general ethnology” of Michigan Indians. He first came to Michigan in 1820 as the geologist with the Lewis Cass expedition. In 1822 he became the Indian agent at the Sault. Named commissioner for treating with the Indians in 1836, he insisted on broad tribal involvement in the negotiations. After Schoolcraft left Mackinac for his native New York in 1841, he continued to write and publish research on Michigan Indians that scholars still use today.”

Island House

Island House (Huron St.) – “Constructed for Charles O’Malley about 1852, this building was one of the first summer hotels on Mackinac Island. Captain Henry Van Allen, a Great Lakes skipper, purchased the hotel in 1865. He later moved it from the beach to its present location. By the 1880s the Island House was known as “The best family hotel on the island.” Following the death of her parents, Mrs. Rose Van Allen Webster became proprietor about 1892. She was the wife of Colonel John Webster, whom she had met during the 1870s when he was stationed at Fort Mackinac. Mrs. Webster added the large wings in 1895 and 1912, retaining ownership until her death in 1938. The Island House still serves as a resort hotel.”

Little Stone Church

Little Stone Church (Cadott St.) – “The Union Congregational Church, affectionately called Little Stone Church, was established in 1900 by eleven charter members. Local residents and summer visitors donated funds for its construction. The cornerstone was laid on August 2, 1904. This structure was built of Mackinac Island stones in an eclectic Gothic style. Its handsome stained glass windows, installed in 1914, tell the story of the Protestant movement on the Island. Open only during the summer, this church has been a landmark to visitors and a popular wedding site.”

Mackinac Conference Marker

Mackinac Conference (marker is near Grand Hotel) – “On September 6, 1943, Michigan’s Republican United States Senator, Arthur H. Vandenberg, chaired the meeting of the Post War Advisory Council. Republican National Committee Chairman, Harrison Spangler, created the council to draw up a foreign policy plank for the 1944 party platform. Fearing a split between isolationists and internationalists, Spangler wanted a unified policy statement on treaty ratification and the proposed world peace organization. The resulting plank cleared the way for Republican congressional support of the United Nations and ultimately the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Among those attending the public sessions were Governors Warren of California, Dewey of New York, Kelly of Michigan, Green of Illinois, and Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio.”

Mackinac Island Marker

Mackinac Island (marker can be found on Market St.) – “In 1670 a Jesuit priest, Fr. Claude Dablon, wintered here. The British in 1781 made it a center of their military and fur trade activity. The island was occupied by the Americans in 1796. Held by the British during the War of 1812, it became the hub of Astor’s fur empire after 1817. Mackinac was already becoming a popular resort when fur trading declined in the 1830’s.”

Market Street Mackinac

Market Street – “During the peak of the fur trade this street bustled with activity. Each July and August Indians, traders and trappers by the thousands came here with furs from throughout the Northwest. In 1817, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Co. located its headquarters here. Furs valued at $3,000,000 went through the Market Street offices in 1822. After 1834 the trade moved westward.”

Mission Church

Mission Church (Huron St. near Mission Pt. Resort) – “This is one of Michigan’s oldest Protestant churches. It was built in 1829-30 by the Presbyterian flock of Rev. Wm. Ferry, founder in 1823 of a nearby Indian mission. Robert Stuart and Henry Schoolcraft were lay leaders. About 1838 private owners bought the building. It is judged Michigan’s best example of Colonial church style.”

Mission House Mack

Mission House (at Mission Pt. Resort) – “In 1823 the Reverend William Ferry founded a Mission on Mackinac Island on the land know known as Mission Point. Two years later he and his wife, Amanda, erected this building as a boarding school for Indian children. In 1827, 112 students attended the school. The majority of the resident pupils were metis, children of Indian and Euro-American parents. The mission closed in 1837. In 1849 Edward Franks opened the Mission House Hotel after adding a third story to the structure. The Franks family operated the hotel until 1939 when it was sold and converted into a rooming house. In 1946 Miles and Margaret Phillimore bought the property, which provided a base for the Moral Re-Armament movement. Around 1971 the Cathedral of Tomorrow purchased the site. Six years later the Mission House became part of the Mackinac Island State Park.”

Round Island Lighthouse

Round Island Lighthouse (Huron St. south of ferry docks) – “The Round Island Lighthouse, seen south of this site, was completed in 1895. Operating under the auspices of the United States Government, this facility was in continuous use for fifty-two years. It was manned by a crew of three until its beacon was replaced by an automated light in 1924. A sole caretaker occupied and operated the station from 1924 to 1947. Following the construction of a new automatic beacon near the breakwater off the south shore of Mackinac Island, the lighthouse was abandoned. The United States Forest Service now supervises the structure which is located in the Hiawatha National Forest. The lighthouse serves as a sentinel for the past, reminding visitors of the often precarious sailing and rich history of the Straits of Mackinac.”

Sainte Anne Church

Saint Anne Church (Huron St.) – “In 1670, Jesuit Father Charles Dablon founded a birchbark mission chapel on Mackinac Island. The following year, Father Jacques Marquette relocated the mission at St. Ignace. Abandoned in 1706 and reestablished at Fort Michilimackinac around 1715, the new church was named Sainte Anne de Michilimackinac. During the winter of 1780 – 1781, British to the island and moved the church building across the ice. The church is the nation’s oldest dedicated to Saint Anne, and maintains baptismal records dating from April 1695.”

Skull Cave

Skull Cave (Garrison Rd.) – “According to tradition, this is the cave in which the English fur-trader Alexander Henry hid out during the Indian uprising of 1763. The floor of the cave, he claimed, was covered with human bones, presumably Indian.”

Trinity Church Mackinac

Trinity Church (Market St. at Fort St.) – “Episcopal services on Mackinac Island date from 1837, when a Bishop preached in the Mission Church. For many years the congregation met in the post Chapel at Fort Mackinac and in the Court House. In 1873 a parish was organized, and in 1882 this church building was constructed. Its furnishings include an altar of hand-carved walnut, and two chancel chairs made by soldiers at the fort.”

Wawashkamo Golf Club

Wawashkamo Golf Club (British Landing Rd.) – “In 1898 Chicago cottagers founded the Wawashkamo Golf Club. By 1900 the club had been incorporated and the clubhouse had been built on the site of the 1814 Battle of Mackinac Island. Wawashkamo is Indian for “Crooked Trail.” Golf course architect Alex B. Smith left the natural features of the site unaltered in his design for these true nine-hole Scottish links. Wawashkamo Golf Club is Michigan’s oldest unchanged private nine-hole golf links.” *There is also a small plaque on the clubhouse.

Other notes on Mackinac Island Historic Markers:

Hubbard’s Annex to the Nat’l Park – added in 2014

Old Agency House – building and marker removed

British Cannon – marker missing

Lake View Hotel – marker removed after renovations changed the historic structure, hotel has replaced with a blue and white one of their own.