Back in the spring of ‘04, (now this really sounds like an old timer’s story, doesn’t it), when we were transitioning from Georgia back to Michigan, we visited Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-aw, don’t ask me why) Island for an afternoon. One weekend each fall “they” offer a free ferry trip to the island for residents of Emmett County. We hadn’t closed on our house in Harbor Springs, Michigan which made us eligible for the free ride. We went with Judy’s brother, John, and his wife, Della.
Mackinac Island is a small island of about 3.8 square miles in land mass located in the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac which separates Lake Huron and Lake Michigan as well as Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
Mackinac Island was considered a sacred place to the Ojibwa Indian Tribes. The tribes would gather on the island to make their offerings to Gitche Manitou, the “Great Spirit”. The island was, also, the place where the Ojibwa buried their tribal chiefs (after they died, of course).
We took a ride on one of Arnold Line’s jet powered catamaran ferry boats. It was a smooth and quick ride.
The first European likely to have seen Mackinac Island was Jean Nicolet, a French explorer, during his 1634 explorations. About thirty years later the French established a Mission on the island. With the establishment of a mission, the Straits of Mackinac quickly became an important French fur trading location.
The British gained control of the island after the French and Indian Wars. A fort, Fort Mackinac, was built to protect their settlement from attack by French-Canadians and native tribes. Even though the fort was built during the American Revolution no battles were fought there until the War of 1812. The United States took control of Mackinac Island after the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1815.
Following the Civil War, the island became a popular tourist destination for residents from cities around the Great Lakes. The federal lands on Mackinac Island was designated as Mackinac National Park in 1875, the second national park to be established (the first being Yellowstone). However, in 1895 the Federal Government turned the park over to the State of Michigan which designated it as their first State Park.
Mackinac Island State Park encompasses about 80 percent of the island including Fort Mackinac as well as portions of the downtown and harbor areas. Transportation on the island is provided mainly by horse drawn carriages and bicycles since no motorized vehicles (except for emergency vehicles) are allowed on the island. Oh yes, let us not forget to mention that the Island is, also, noted for its fudge.
The Grand Hotel was built on the island in 1887 and is noted for having the longest porch in the world, the porch is 600 feet long. Five Presidents of the United States (Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Bush Sr., and Clinton) are recognized in the long list of the hotel’s noted visitors. The Grand Hotel hosted the first public demonstration of Thomas Edison’s phonograph as well as frequent stays by Mark Twain. We didn’t pay the $10 head fee charged to visit the hotel but, certainly will should we ever return to the Island.
The Mission Church is the oldest existing church in the state of Michigan. It was built in the New England Colonial style in 1829.
Here are a few photographs taken on our way back from our Island trip. The Mackinac Bridge was completed in 1957 is the world’s longest suspension bridge (between anchorages). It is 5 miles long from end to end with a 3800 foot span between its towers linking Mackinaw City (lower peninsula) to St. Ignace (upper peninsula). (Note: Mackinaw is the correct spelling for the city, everything else is Mackinac)
Two other familiar sights around the Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac are the lake freighters and lighthouses. The Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was built in 1892 and today has a beautiful park where you can just sit and enjoy the views of the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island, and the Mackinac Bridge.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the pictures from our past. If you pass through that area, be sure to take some time to visit Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, and St. Ignace. This was our “stomping grounds” for many years.
I first arrived in the area in 1970 when the Coast Guard stationed me at the Marine Inspection Office in St. Ignace, Michigan. Judy and I returned to the area when I accepted a position with Control Engineering Company located in Harbor Springs in 1997. Judy’s brother built his retirement home in the area so we return often. It is a beautiful place to live and/or visit.