Today is the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, and if you’re in Michigan, you’ll probably hear The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot today. I’m pretty sure, however, that you won’t enjoy it more than when you’re watching this video.
Joseph Fulton put together this amazing tribute to the 29 men who went down with the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. This video is one of the best I’ve ever seen on YouTube and I hope you can watch it.
Scott took this shot of the Dawn Donut sign in Flint back in 2011 & shares that Dawn Donuts was a Michigan-based chain that at one time had nearly 50 locations across the state. Most closed after Dunkin’ Donuts purchased the business in the early 1990s. You can see a bunch more great signs in his Vintage Signs album on Flickr.
There’s still a Dawn Donuts & the cool sign at this location – the last in Michigan. Check them out at Dawn Donuts on Facebook!
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established by Act of Congress October 21, 1970. Public Law 91-479 states, “…the Congress finds that certain outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient glacial phenomena, exist along the mainland shore of Lake Michigan and on certain nearby islands in Benzie and Leelanau Counties, Michigan, and that such features ought to be preserved in their natural setting and protected from developments and uses which would destroy the scenic beauty and natural character of the area.” The Congress also directed that “…the Secretary (of the Interior) shall administer and protect Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in a manner which provides for recreational opportunities consistent with the maximum protection of the natural environment within the area.”
…The Lakeshore mission is to preserve outstanding natural features including forests, beaches, dunes and ancient glacial phenomena along 100 km (64 miles) of Lake Michigan shoreline, in order to perpetuate the natural setting for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, and to protect it from developments and inappropriate uses that would destroy its scenic beauty, scientific and recreational value.
I know that there’s few people in Leelanau who would disagree that the park has helped to maximally protect our area’s incredible natural beauty with over 60 miles of shoreline open & accessible to all as well as miles of forest, dune & farmland. Head over to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Facebook page for all kinds of 50th Anniversary fun!
The career of the motorship Nordmeer ended abruptly when it miscalculated a turn and ran aground 7 miles northeast of Thunder Bay Island. Some crewmen stayed on board, but they evacuated a few days later when a storm struck and tore open the ship’s bottom. Part of the vessel stands out of the water, but years of storms and ice have broken and twisted the hull. The big diesel engine stands amid the wreckage, but the cargo has been removed. A steel barge rests alongside the wreck, a relic of extensive salvage work. Some artifacts may be seen today at NOAA’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.
Chris dove the wreck a week ago and writes: “Bea and I had a big day of diving in Lake Huron today. We visited three shipwrecks and can’t wait to share some photos. This picture is the engine from the Nordmeer shipwreck near Rockport Michigan.”
Located at the northern tip of Lake Huron, on the south shore of Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, the Les Cheneaux area was once a strategic international northern outpost and center of early exploration. But it was not until the early eighteen eighties that permanent homesteaders came in earnest to Les Cheneaux: Anthony Hamel came over from Mackinac Island, William A. Patrick arrived from Ontario, the Westons migrated north from Chicago, and the likes of Henry Clay Wisner and the McBain-Coryell clan appeared as the area’s first seasonal visitors.
From this decade can be traced the story of the evolution of the Les Cheneaux area from unwanted real estate into highly desirable timberland and, almost simultaneously, homestead settlement and summer resort community. Our story is an individually distinct as any in American history and as important as the opening and development of the Great Lakes and the integration of two great peninsulas into the State of Michigan.
Since she first sailed the Straits of Mackinac between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan in 1911, the Chief Wawatam carried thousands of passengers, automobiles, and railcars. The last coal-burning vessel on the Great Lakes, the Chief Wawatam made a name for herself for reliable, efficient service across the often-treacherous waters of the Straits. It was often the Chief who would deliver food and fuel to other Great Lakes vessels who became stuck in the thick winter ice.
After the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, the crossing time was slashed from nearly an hour by ferry to a matter of minutes by car. While other ferries ceased running almost immediately, the Chief Wawatam stayed in service for another twenty-seven years before finally retiring. Four years later, the boat was sold to a Canadian firm that cut the 338-foot ferry down to a deck barge.
Bill took this photo back in 1979 & writes:
The Chief is closing in on the dock at St Ignace, MI after crossing the Straits of Mackinac with another load of freight cars. There’s a Soo Line crew waiting for the Wawatam’s arrival. They’re taking a break right now, as are the deck hands on the Chief. Soon, everyone will be hard at work, moving their share of America’s freight. This was a daily scene way back when and will never be repeated. I was lucky enough to catch the action on September 24, 1979.
British General Brock of the Michigan Command ordered Captain Roberts, on St. Joseph Island, to attack the American Fort on Mackinac Island. That morning Captain Roberts embarked for Michilimackinac on the Northwestern Fur Company’s ship, Caledonia, with two six-pound guns, ten batteaux (flat-bottom boats), and seventy canoes. Captain Roberts’ force was composed of 42 regulars and 4 officers, 260 Canadians, 572 Chippewas and Ottawas, 56 Sioux, 48 Winnebagoes, and 39 Menomonies. The British arrived at Mackinac Island at 3:00 a.m. on July 17.
Fort Mackinaw’s American commander, Lieutenant Hanks, immediately prepared for action. However, around 9:00 in the morning he discovered that the British were in possession of the higher ground above the fort and that British artillery was already directed at the Americans’ most defenseless position. At 11:30 in the morning, the British sent in a flag of truce and the fifty-seven United States officers and enlisted men at the Fort surrendered.
After this victory, the British constructed Fort George (now known as Fort Holmes) about a half-mile behind the main Fort in order to protect it during future invasions. Great Britain retained control of Fort Mackinaw until the United States won it back in the Treaty of Ghent in 1815.
On July 8th, 1850, James Jesse Strang was crowned king of Beaver Island. Michigan History Magazine shared this article with me years ago:
Despite claiming to be “the perfect atheist,” Strang became a follower of Mormon leader Joseph Smith. When Smith was murdered in March 1844, Strang claimed to be the new Mormon leader, although most Mormons followed Brigham Young to Utah.
Strang’s followers settled on an uninhabited island in northern Lake Michigan they called Big Beaver. The island had everything Strang and his followers needed: virgin timber, tillable land, a deep and sheltered bay and exceptional offshore fishing. It also was twenty-five miles off the mainland-a perfect place to protect Strang’s followers from outside influences and beliefs.
By the mid-1850s, the Mormon colony on Beaver Island boasted more than 2,500 followers. Beaver Island replaced Mackinac Island as the principal refueling stop for steamers, and the annual value of the kingdom’s exports (fish, wood and potatoes) was considerable.
The growth of Strang’s kingdom was not without controversy. Non-Mormons, called Gentiles, took exception with the Mormon settlement. Driven from the area’s fishing spots, angry over the establishment of a kingdom and Strang’s adoption of the practice of polygamy, the Gentiles vowed revenge. At the bequest of President Millard Fillmore, the U.S. district attorney prosecuted Strang for an assortment of unfounded offenses that included murder and treason. However, Strang was acquitted on all charges, and a year later he was overwhelmingly elected to the state legislature.
Strang ruled Beaver Island as an autocrat; he even had himself crowned king. But regulating every aspect of his followers’ lives led to his downfall. Describing women’s clothes as impractical and unhealthy, Strang decreed female subjects needed to dress in loose, knee-length smocks worn over modest pantaloons. Most Beaver Island women accepted the change, but a few refused to comply. When two women refused to wear pantaloons, Strang had their husbands whipped. The two men sought revenge and on June 16, 1856, they ambushed and shot their king.
On July 9, 1856, James Jesse Strang died from his wounds. He was buried in Wisconsin.
With Strang gone, enraged Gentiles charged onto Beaver Island and evicted the Mormons. After taking control of the Mormon printing office, the attackers printed a manifesto that boasted, “The dominion of King Strang is at an end.”
The Ford-Wyoming drive-in was built by Charlie Schafer, opening for business in May 1950. He and his family grew a veritable movie house empire in the Metro-Detroit area under the umbrella of Wayne Amusements, but the Ford-Wyoming is the only evidence of the legacy that remains. When it was first built, there was only one screen—the backside of the immense Streamline Moderne structure that sits at the front of the property. One screen with accommodation for 750 cars grew to nine screens and a 3,000-car capacity, and the theatre began to make the claim of being “the largest drive-in in the world.” Today the theatre has downsized to five screens.
Click on Detroit shares that the Detroit March to Freedom on June 23, 1963 was at the time the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history, with 125,000 marching down Woodward Avenue culminating in a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King at Cobo Hall:
The crowd carried signs and moved in relative silence as tens of thousands more watched from sidewalks and buildings.
The route of the march started at a twenty-one-block staging area near Adelaide Street. It followed Woodward Avenue to Jefferson Avenue, then headed west through the Civic Center. An hour and a half after it began, it ended at Cobo Hall, where 25,000 people, an estimated 95% of them African American, filled the building to capacity.
Thousands of demonstrators who could not find a seat spilled onto the lawns and malls outside, and listened to the programming through loudspeakers. Inside, public officials, African American business and civic leaders, and dignitaries including John B. Swainson, Congressman Charles Diggs, and Rev. Albert Cleage were among the speakers.
They note that the rally is remembered primarily for Dr. King’s first delivery of what became the “I Have a Dream” speech two months later at the historic March on Washington. Read on for more.