Grayling legend David Shoppenagon

Chief David Shoppenagon with wife & child

Shoppenagon, photo courtesy the Archives of Michigan

November is Native American Heritage Month and last year, the Archives of Michigan featured one of Michigan’s most famous Native Americans, David Shoppenagon.

Shoppenagon’s birth date is unknown. He died in 1911 and was generally believed to be about 103 at the time! He was a Chippewa from the Saginaw River Valley who settled in Grayling sometime in the 1870’s. Locals believed him to be a chief. However, the Grayling Centennial history (The First Hundred Years: An Introduction to the History of the Grayling Area, edited and published by the Grayling Centennial Commission, 1972), notes that Shoppenagon himself may have never claimed such a title.

“Old Shop,” as he was affectionately known, built a home at the mouth of the Au Sable River’s east branch. He gained wide renown as an expert trapper, hunter and fisherman. Whites often hired him as a guide, and his services were greatly in demand.

The Grayling Centennial history characterizes Shoppenagon as a man who knew the value of promotion. It’s noted that he frequently dressed in Native American regalia to impress his clients. The Grayling history also states that Rasmus Hanson, a local lumber baron, had an arrangement with Shoppenagon and used his image to sell his products. During his long life, Shoppenagon contributed greatly to Grayling area commerce and to general awareness of the Northern Lower Peninsula’s abundant natural resources.

You can read the rest of Shoppenagon and get some links to resources for Michigan Native American history (including the Clarke Library at Central Michigan University) at the Archives and also check out the Michigan Historical Marker at the Shoppenagon home site in Grayling from Waymarking.

8 thoughts on “Grayling legend David Shoppenagon

  1. He was my Great Grandfather…so proud of my heritage! His daughter was my Grandmother, Effie Brown who married James Brown. Their finale resting place is a shared grave which is as it should be!
    My Mother was one of their 12 children, Helen Ruth Brown Shaw.


    1. Belinda, Effie Brown was the Daughter of David Shoppenagon? Effie was my Great Grandmother, nobody ever said anything about her being Shoppenagon’s daughter. Can you please help me with this family history?


    2. Hi Belinda, unfortunately I don’t think this is true! Effie was my great-great grandmother and I have done some family history research. Effie was born in 1894 which would make Shoppenagon in his 80s at the time of her birth. While not impossible, it is very unlikely that he was her father. From what I can find, Effie’s father was named John Bennett and her mother Annie Pepkie Bennett. Annie was 23 when Effie was born. So while the possibility of an affair can’t be ruled out, I just don’t think the dates line up for it to be likely. But please let me know if you have information I don’t! I’m interested.


    1. Hi Gerald. My mother was Mary Madeline Weiss Gamble of Tellico, Tennessee. Her father was Ervin Weiss, his father was William Frederick Weiss. It is my understanding that Wm.’s mother was “Hopper” , daughter to David Shoppenagon. Perhaps by Cora?


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