Michigan’s Second Oldest City: Looking back on St. Ignace


St Ignace Lighthouse, photo by Sheldon Spurrell

You may know that Père Jacques Marquette founded Michigan’s oldest city Sault Sainte-Marie in 1668, but do you know Michigan’s second old city? If you can read titles, you know that’s St. Ignace, founded in 1671 and named in honor of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Here’s some of the history of St. Ignace from the St. Ignace Visitor’s Bureau:

The natives of the St. Ignace region were migratory. In the spring, the Anishinabeg gathered maple sugar and fished sturgeon and smelt. Summer found them in settlements surrounded by crops of corn, potatoes and squash, and near the abundant supplies of wildlife, fish and berries. They developed efficient housing, watercraft, hunting and farming tools.

The heritage of the Straits evolved and changed over the centuries beginning with the arrival of Roman Catholic missionaries and then French and British explorers and fur traders … The natural waterway joining Lakes Michigan and Huron at the Straits of Mackinac generated extensive water traffic, and prompted the establishment of an outpost during the period of French occupation. The outpost – Fort de Buade – became the seat of King Louis XIV’s authority in the interior of North America. French notables including Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle and Antoine Lamothe Cadillac spent time at the post. St. Ignace was among the largest settlements in New France from the last decade of the 15th century until the establishment of Detroit in 1701. The British arrived in the St. Ignace region with the defeat of the French during Seven Years War.

St. Ignace played a pivotal role in the fur trade until this industry began to wane. By the mid-1800’s the financial importance of commercial fishing to the economic well-being of the area eclipsed that of the fur trade. Ancillary industries including curing, packing and shipping augmented the fishery. It was during this period that the Mackinaw Boat became a familiar sight on the waters in and around the Straits. As the lumber industry in Michigan evolved, St. Ignace became a center for mill yards and its proximity to the shipping lanes added to its importance as a commercial hub in the northern Great Lakes area.

Read on for more including travel information.

Sheldon took this photo back in July of 2012 at sunrise. View it bigger and see more in his Michigan slideshow.

More from St. Ignace on Michigan in Pictures.

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