A few years ago, my husband Jonathan and I visited the Michigan Fireman’s Memorial in Roscommon, Michigan. I took the above photo at this memorial. I post it tonight in honor of the following dates:
September 29 – October 6, 2019: Light the Night for Fallen Firefighters
October 6 – October 12, 2019: Fire Prevention Week
October 8-10, 1871: Great Chicago Fire
October 8, 1871: Peshtigo, Wisconsin Fire
October 8, 1871: major fires in Holland, Manistee, and Port Huron, Michigan
October 9, 1871: major fire in Urbana, Illinois
October 12, 1871: major fire in Windsor, Ontario
In honor of Chicago and its firefighters, here is a photo that I took of a Chicago fire boat:
Here’s a little story for you: I learned on Wikipedia that a town by the name of Singapore, Michigan ONCE existed on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Singapore became a ghost town as a result of the October 1871 fires, but it DIDN’T burn.
Singapore, MI was founded in 1836. The town included two sawmills. As one might expect of a town that has sawmills, a forest bordered Singapore.
Well, the fires produced such a great demand for lumber that the businessmen in Singapore deforested the area surrounding Singapore. With the trees gone, the town had no protection from Lake Michigan’s sand dunes. By 1875, the town was covered up by sand!
In my opinion, this is the premise of a Margaret Atwood story.
So, shortly after the New Year, some Facebook friends will start to “vague-book” about Girl Scout Cookie season. From what I understand, people who sell Girl Scout Cookies aren’t actually allowed to post on social media about cookie sales until a specific kick-off date. However, I know people who post on Facebook “vague references” to selling Girl Scout cookies prior to the kick-off date.
I spent years as a Girl Scout and attended Girl Scout camp many summers. However, I did all of this long before we all had social media. So if I’m mistaken about the social media guidelines, please reach out and let me know. I’ll even add you to my newsletter mailing list!
For the record, one of the Girl Scout troops that I joined had a bake sale fundraiser which we didn’t report to our local council so that we wouldn’t have to receive approval OR share our “profits” with them. Since we didn’t have social media or access to the internet, and since we lived over an hour’s drive away from our council headquarters, we got away with this.
I have a ton of happy memories about being a Girl Scout. So, thank you, thank you, thank you to all of my former Girl Scout leaders.
Also, thank you to the ghost of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA.
I used to own a Girl Scout handbook that included a short biography of Juliette Gordon Low.
The biography mentioned that Low permanently lost part of her hearing on her wedding day. This happened after a wedding guest threw rice at her and the rice got stuck in her ear. The biography also mentioned that she was born right before the Civil War to a Yankee mother and a Confederate soldier father.
This biography left out Low’s family connection to a “massacre”/ “battle” on the site of present-day Chicago and the scandal in her own marriage. Here’s a short history about all of that:
So, when I was a kid, I didn’t realize that Girl Scout founder Low came from arguably one of the most elite families in the United States. Low’s mother grew up in a wealthy family that settled in Connecticut in the 1600’s. Low’s father inherited Georgia cotton and railroad money. Low married the son of Andrew Low II, one of the richest men in Savannah in the 1800’s. Low’s Georgia family owned slaves up until the Civil War. Yeah, my old Girl Scout handbook didn’t talk about this.
So let me start with Juliette Magill Kinzie. She became Juliette Gordon Low’s maternal grandmother. She grew up in Connecticut as Juliette Magill and married John H. Kinzie, the son of fur trader John Kinzie.
Juliette Magill Kinzie’s future in-laws ran their fur trade business on the Great Lakes. In fact, in 1812 the Kinzies actually ran their trading operations across the Chicago River from Fort Dearborn. This local area sits on the shore of Lake Michigan. Do you know what we now call the section of the Chicago River that meets with Lake Michigan? Chicago. We now call that place Chicago.
The Kinzie family in 1812 identified as Canadians, not as United States citizens. This is important.
During this time period, the white American settlers attempted to settle further and further west. Various Native American communities attempted to stop them. Almost all of us learned about a watered-down version of this in school.
In 1812, the young United States and Great Britain entered into a war with each other that we now call the War of 1812. Great Britain and its Native American allies took Fort Mackinac in Michigan from the United States. This fort sat on the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron. So, once the United States lost Fort Mackinac, they had no way to send supplies or extra troops to any U.S. holdings on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The U.S. forces evacuated Fort Dearborn. However, during the evacuation, Native Americans ambushed the evacuating soldiers and civilians. Dozens of soldiers and civilians, including children, died.
One of the things that I learned from this above-linked article is that for decades after this event, the public referred to it as the “Massacre at Fort Dearborn.” Native American advocates pointed out that, generally, incidents which resulted in defeat for white settlers were commonly referred to as “massacres” while engagements that resulted in defeat for indigenous peoples were referred to as “battles.” Many sources no longer refer to the Fort Dearborn incident as a massacre. Wikipedia calls this the “Battle of Fort Dearborn.”
When I visited Chicago a few summers ago, I stood on the sidewalk marking that commemorated the actual site of Fort Dearborn. I stood at the site of Fort Dearborn and I looked across the river at Chicago’s own Trump International Hotel and Tower.
So, Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low’s Canadian Kinzie ancestors ran a trading post along the Chicago River, very close to where the Trump high-rise now sits.
The Kinzie clan didn’t die in the Battle of Fort Dearborn in 1812. In fact, Juliette Migill Kinzie’s mother-in-law safely evacuated before the attack started. Remember, they were Canadians and they had relationships with the local Native Americans.
Since John H. Kinzie survived the Battle of Fort Dearborn in 1812, he could marry Juliette Magill from Connecticut in 1830. Juliette Magill had a relatively elite education for her day. So, she could read and write. Which she did.
Juliette Magill Kinzie moved to the Midwest with her husband and then she wrote several books.
She wrote about her Kinzie in-laws’ experiences during the Battle of Fort Dearborn. Juliette Magill Kinzie’s writings became a well-known source of information about the battle. Critics maintained that she wrote about the event from her in-law’s point of view and therefore made the Kinzie family out as the “heroes” of the event. Again, read this article from Chicago Magazine. It gives some good insights about the controversy around Juliette Magill Kinzie’s work.
Juliette Magill Kinzie and her husband John had seven children. Four of their sons served in the United States Army during the Civil War.
The Kinzies’ daughter Eleanor married William Gordon II of Savannah, Georgia. Gordon and his relatives served with the Confederate Army during the Civil War. William Gordon was the son of a politician and railroad president. He worked as a cotton and rice broker. You can read on Wikipedia all about the Gordon family’s prominence in Georgia in the 1800’s.
William Gordon II and Eleanor Kinzie Gordon had a daughter in 1860 that they named Juliette. Little Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon. The Civil War started a few months later.
In 1886, Juliette Gordon married William Low. I learned in a Eugenia Price historical novel and also from this website that William Low was the son of Andrew Low, a Scottish immigrant who became one of the richest men in Savannah.
Juliette Gordon Low’s husband had affairs and then asked her for a divorce.
She moved on and started the Girl Scouts of the USA.
The United States posthumously issued a postage stamp in Juliette Gordon Low’s honor and also awarded her a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Low’s supporters worked have to her birthplace listed as a National Historic Landmark.
I don’t know what kind of legacy William Low left behind because he doesn’t actually have his own page on Wikipedia.
Here’s what I learned from reading about the Kinzie and Gordon families: Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, came from wealth and incredible privilege. She came from a family fortune built on the exploitation of non-white people.
But Juliette Gordon Low also came from people who survived things. The Kinzies survived the Battle of Fort Dearborn in 1812. The Kinzies and the Gordons survived the Civil War. She herself survived a Victorian Era divorce from a prominent husband.
When we drove home to Pennsylvania from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this summer, we spent one night in Port Huron, Michigan.
Port Huron sits where Lake Huron meets the St. Clair River. Port Huron belongs to St. Clair County. The St. Clair River flows into Lake St. Clair.
One theory claims that settlers named the river, the lake, and the county after General Arthur St. Clair from Scotland and Pennsylvania. Here are some fun facts about General St. Clair:
1.) He settled in Ligioner, Pennsylvania in the 1760’s. He faced a court-martial for giving up Fort Ticonderoga to the British in 1777. He was exonerated.
2.) After the Revolutionary War, he served as the first Governor of the Northwest Territory. This territory included present-day Michigan.
3.) In 1791, a Native American force (which included Pennsylvania native Simon Girty) ambushed St. Clair at the Battle of the Wabash. The ambush resulted in the greatest defeat of a U.S. Army by Native Americans in history. Once again, St. Clair was exonerated.
4.) The United States failed to repay a substantial debt owed to St. Clair.
5.) He died in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He is now buried in Greensburg’s St. Clair Park. Today, St. Clair Park regularly hosts “SummerSounds – Concerts in the Park.”
6.) Lore says that General St. Clair’s ghost and his wife’s ghost haunt the museum at Fort Ligioner. (Ligioner and Greensburg are about 20 miles apart if you take Route 30.) My fourth grade class visited Fort Ligioner several decades ago. I didn’t see any ghosts.
7.) From what I read about General St. Clair, his supporters argue that St. Clair didn’t have adequate resources to succeed at Fort Ticonderoga or at the Wabash.
Anyway, back to Port Huron:
We spent one night at the Hilton in downtown Port Huron, to the left of the Blue Water Bridge that crosses the St. Clair River to Canada. The Fort Gratiot Lighthouse sits to the right of the bridge. These mark the confluence of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River.
Jonathan specifically chose this hotel so that we could watch river traffic (specifically, freighters) travel under the Blue Water Bridge.
Directly across the highway from the Hilton, we accessed the Blue Water River Walk along the St. Clair River. We saw the lights of – gasp – a CANADIAN casino directly across the river.
About a dozen people – men, women, and children – sat on the river walk to fish. Bicyclists with lights on their handlebars rode past us. The bugs bit on our shins even after we coated ourselves with repellant.
Jonathan took this photo of a barge traveling under the Blue Water Bridge:
The next morning, we ate brunch at the Hilton’s restaurant, named Freighters. Freighters’ dining room includes picture windows that face the river.
We saw more boats.
We also saw a statue of Thomas Edison. We wondered why. I did some research and learned that Thomas Edison grew up in Port Huron. Edison publicly demonstrated his phonograph for the first time on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
We checked out from Freighters Restaurant and from the Hilton, then drove to the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. Jonathan took the photo at the top of this blog post.
We drove back to Pennsylvania that day. However, we look forward to our next trip to downtown Port Huron.
What places excite you about visiting?
With this post, I wrap up my series about Michigan.
I look forward to bringing you many more stories of Pennsylvania and its people, history, and lore.
Do you want to read more ghost stories here? See more gravesite posts? Do you have any other ideas of things that I should blog about here? If you do, drop me a comment here or on my Facebook page.
This light sits on the Lake Michigan, Lower Peninsula beach of the Straits of Mackinac. It’s less than 5 miles from downtown Mackinaw City.
The United States Lighthouse Board built this lighthouse in 1868-1869.
We ended up at the McGulpin Point Lighthouse’s beach s0 that we could view the Lake Michigan side of the Mackinac Bridge.
(FYI if you judge me on my spelling: Mackinaw City is correctly spelled with a “w.” The Mackinac Bridge, Straits, and Island are all spelled with a “c.”)
Stay Here If You Dare
On the lighthouse’s website, I found a link to a “A Brief History of the McGulpin Point Lighthouse” by Terry Pepper. According to Pepper, the lighthouse keeper, James Davenport, lived at McGulpin Point during the shipping seasons with his wife and children. In 1891, his wife and one of his children died. One day in December 1893, Keeper Davenport traveled to Mackinaw City and left his nine surviving children at the lighthouse.
Out on the Straits, the Waldo A. Avery (a wooden propeller) caught fire. The captain steered the burning boat full steam toward the McGulpin Point Lighthouse so that the crew would have a chance at rescue.
Now, according to Pepper’s article, “the children were a resourceful group, and made preparations for the care of the survivors.” I took this to mean that the kids got the rescue boat ready.
Keeper Davenport and the townsfolk of Mackinaw City got word of the shipwreck. Davenport and several men booked it to the lighthouse and managed to rescue the entire crew.
In my opinion, this little story buried in the middle of Pepper’s article was the most interesting part.
I want to know more about the adult lives of these Davenport kids. If you grow up at a lighthouse and think on your feet when you see a burning ship heading straight toward you, then you can handle whatever else life throws in your lap.
The Australian Diary
This story of the wreck at McGulpin Point reminds of a website that I found years ago and bookmarked about lighthouses in Australia. Unfortunately, the link that I bookmarked no longer works and I haven’t found a new link to the information. Anyway, this website included excerpts from the diary of an Australian lighthouse keeper’s wife – that is, the third keeper’s wife. As in, this particular lighthouse had three keepers. The diary writer’s husband ranked third – last – in the seniority rank of the three lighthouse keepers.
Anyway, this wife of the third-ranked Australian lighthouse keeper journaled about the aftermath of a shipwreck at this lighthouse, in the fog, during her husband’s shift. When the diary writer witnessed the disaster, she first wondered in a panic if her husband would be blamed for the incident. Did he fall asleep and let the light go out in the fog? Then she started on her own first aid duties in the rescue of this ship’s passenger and crew. At the beginning, everything was in her lap to handle. As soon as the wives of the second-ranked and first-ranked lighthouse keepers showed up on the scene, she let them take charge of the first aid response.
Isn’t this just the parable of life? Out of nowhere, a huge mess falls into your lap. You wonder how you and yours are going to be blamed for the whole thing. Did you do enough to CYA? It’s too late now; this baby is now your mess to handle! Then someone with more rank shows up and pushes you out of the way.
If you can’t take the heat, stay away from the lighthouse keeper’s family life.
The Big Rock
Now, the website for the McGulpin Point Lighthouse also promotes the “McGulpin Rock” which the website also refers to as the “Big Rock.”
The website claims that the Big Rock is five times the original size of Plymouth Rock in New England. According to the website, French explorers in the 1600’s used the Big Rock in order to gauge the water levels on the Straits of Mackinac.
I saw signs for the Big Rock when we visited McGulpin Point. In fact, other visitors stopped me to ask for directions to the Big Rock. To be honest, I didn’t actually try to find the Big Rock myself. I was hot, tired, and cranky.
So, you will have to settle for this photo of a couple of seagulls sitting on a Normal Rock at McGulpin Point.
To reiterate, this is NOT the Big Rock.
Do you have a special rock that you like to visit?
My sisters and I liked to sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” along with a mixed cassette tape during road trips in our parents’ station wagon.
This ballad by Gordon Lightfoot recounts the real-life sinking on Lake Superior of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald during a storm on November 10, 1975.
As it turns out, my future father-in-law, Dennis Woytek, worked for a radio station in Northern Michigan during this storm. The Associated Press sent him to cover this story as first responders searched Whitefish Bay for the crew.
So of course, I will blog about my visits to Lake Superior before I wrap up my series on Michigan.
My first trip to Lake Superior started with a trip to the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie and proceeded to Whitefish Point, on the tip of Whitefish Bay. (The Fitzgerald sank less than 20 miles from the bay.)
During our drive, we listened to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on the radio. And then, I kid you not, the radio station broke into the song to issue a severe thunderstorm watch.
Whitefish Point includes the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, a museum, and also a memorial to the Fitzgerald crew.
Here’s the tip of Whitefish Point:
On my first trip to Whitefish Point, the storm clouds held off long enough for me to see all of these. I dipped my feet in the bone-chilling water. (It was August.) The flies bit my ankles.
Point Iroquois Lighthouse
We drove southeast back to Sault Ste. Marie, and on the way we stopped at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse.
I climbed the lighthouse steps and watched a freighter pass.
Then the thunderstorm hit.
July 2016: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Now, if you hop about one hundred miles southwest of Whitefish Point, you will reach Munising, Michigan. Munising also sits on Lake Superior. Folks visit Munising in order to tour Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
See, sandstone cliffs line this portion of Lake Superior. Mineral deposits (such as iron, copper, and manganese) coat the cliffs. These cliffs reflect splendid colors when the sun hits them.
In late July 2016, Jonathan and I trekked with his parents Denny and Fran to Munising. We actually drove along the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan for part of our trip.
Now, hiking trails do exist along the shore of Pictured Rocks. However, our research suggested that we needed to be on the water or in the air for the best views.
Outfitters rent sea kayaks in Munising. In fact, we saw many sea kayaks during our Pictured Rocks trip. Our group of four didn’t feel confident to paddle on the deep water of Lake Superior. In fact, during the same week that we visited, the Coast Guard had to assist in the rescue of several kayakers along this lakeshore.
A tour company with clear-bottomed boats advertises cruises that show off the local shipwrecks. However, for roughly the same cost as four tickets for this two-hour trip, we rented a pontoon boat for five hours.
Jonathan piloted our rental boat.
We visited the famed shipwrecks that the clear-bottomed boats touted. We also passed these two landmarks:
1.) The rock formation known as Miner’s Castle:
2.) And the East Channel Lighthouse:
Note the following:
1.) I took all of my photos with a telephoto lens. Therefore, in my photos Miner’s Castle looks much closer than we physically were in relation to it. Since the water was choppy, we didn’t want to get too close to the shore.
2.) The boat concessionaire that we chose pleased us with their customer service. However, we turned around halfway through the trip that the concessionaire recommended for a five-hour rental. Why, you ask? Well, we found the lake very choppy. (Otherwise, the weather was gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky. A comfortable breeze. We took our boat trip during a Midwestern heat wave. The bank sign in Munising listed the temperature as 90 degrees.)
Multiple boats from Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours passed us. We opted not to purchase tickets from their tour company since we preferred to rent our own boat. However, here is their website. It provides information about the local shipwrecks.
Last month, I promised to blog about these tall ships:
1.) The U.S. Brig Niagara
The U.S. Brig Niagara “resides” in Pennsylvania: The Niagara’s home port is Erie, PA.
However, one morning in July 2016 I watched the Niagara cruise past the house that my family rented in St. Ignace, Michigan. The ship docked in the bay, surrounded by St. Ignace.
My husband and I walked to the dock for “Niagara at Lake Huron” photos.
We already had in our possession “Niagara at Lake Erie” photos.
You see, in fall 2015 we sat at the North Pier at Presque Isle State Park (in Erie, PA) to watch boats. The Niagara sailed off of Lake Erie toward its home dock. It sailed past us. Under FULL sail. See my below photo from Erie:
2.) The S/V Peacemaker
See here for Jonathan’s story about his experience on the Peacemaker. My husband might have sailed away as a community’s ship crew that afternoon!
3.) Le Griffon, A Ghost Story
This history of New Kensington, Pennsylvania notes that the explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle boated down the Allegheny River. He traveled past the future site of Parnassus. Presumably toward the river confluence that we now call “Pittsburgh.”
La Salle journeyed on several boats in his travels. In the 1679, La Salle took off from his ship Le Griffon on Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.
After La Salle left Le Griffon, his crew mutinied. The ship disappeared on Lake Michigan.
To my knowledge, the ship’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
Folklore claims that Le Griffon still sails as a ghost ship.
La Salle himself perished in a mutiny and ambush in Texas in 1687.
I promised to blog about remote beaches. So, I present the beaches of DeTour.
You must drive about 60 miles north of St. Ignace and the Mackinac Bridge or about 60 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie to reach DeTour Village. It sits on M-134.
As I mentioned in my last post, boats that travel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron (and the rest of the Great Lakes) traverse the St. Marys River.
The St. Marys River bends as it meets Lake Huron. This forms the DeTour Passage.
DeTour Village is its own peninsula because the St. Marys River, the DeTour Passage, and Lake Huron surround it on three sides. At the same time, it sits on the most eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Drummond Island sits directly across the DeTour Passage from DeTour Village.
Here are five reasons that you should detour to Detour:
1.) Boat Watching
We discovered the charms of Detour Village by accident during a freighter watching trip. See my last blog post.
When I first blogged about the public marina on the outskirts of DeTour Village, I didn’t mention all of the butterflies that I saw at the marina.
The DeTour Passage lures scuba divers because so many boats wrecked here.
If you don’t scuba dive, you can still see shipwreck remains from land. You just need to take a short walk on the trail at the Detour Botanical Gardens. (This is free.)
4.) DeTour Reef Light (A Lighthouse)
A shoal, DeTour Reef, sits in the water at the southern entrance of DeTour Passage. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the DeTour Reef Light on top of this reef.
You will need a boat in order to access this lighthouse.
I took the above photo of this lighthouse with a telephoto lens, from a beach that is no longer accessible to the public.
However, you will be able to see this lighthouse off in the distance when you ride down the highway towards DeTour Village.
5.) DeTour Peninsula Nature Preserve
Jonathan and I “hiked” down a dirt road, through this preserve. At the very end of this road, we reached the tip of the DeTour Peninsula. I stood on the beach and took the lighthouse photo that I posted above.
We returned a few years later to “hike” the preserve again. At this visit, we discovered that the property at the very tip of the peninsula – and the beach there – was closed to the public. We still enjoyed the gorgeous preserve.
This nature preserve is open to the public for no admission or membership fee.
Here are three places where we go for up-close freighter watching. I took all of these freighter photos at the three places that I list here:
1.) Sault Ste. Marie
The St. Marys River is the ONLY waterway that connects Lake Superior with the rest of the Great Lakes.
Shortly after boats leave Lake Superior, they will come upon the rapids on the St. Marys River. In order to bypass the rapids, they enter the Sault Ste. Marie Canal and then the “Soo” locks. They exit the locks and proceed down the St. Mary’s River to Lake Huron.
We watch freighters both at the “Soo” locks and also a few miles away at Rotary Island Park, both in Sault Ste. Marie.
Admission to both are free.
Both places have public restrooms. The restrooms at the Soo locks are in the visitor’s center. The restrooms at Rotary Island Park are “primitive,” or, as we always said as kids, “outhouses.”
The United States Army Corps of Engineers operate the Soo locks. Be aware of the Corps of Engineers’ regulations . The viewing platforms and visitors center (and public restrooms) are open to the public during specific hours. You may also be subject to a bag / security check before you can enter the premises. I have linked the Corps of Engineer’s website above so that you can use it to plan your trip.
Volunteers host a few boatwatcher’s hotline phone numbers / websites that you can consult before your trip to watch freighters. This way, you can check on upcoming boat traffic. One website that we use is www.boatnerd.com.
In 2010, we took my parents and two of my sisters to the locks, and only one freighter came through the day of our visit. We actually missed seeing it go through the locks, but were able to watch it travel the St. Marys River, at Rotary Park.
Speaking of Rotary Park: This is another of our favorite boat-watching sites. We often stop for to-go hamburgers at Clyde’s Restaurant, next to the park. You can actually see the freighters, and also the Sugar Island ferry, from Clyde’s. Clyde’s accepts cash only.
2.) Public Marina Near DeTour Village
DeTour Village sits on the DeTour Passage of the St. Marys River. The marina includes public restrooms and a picnic area.
You can also take a short trip down the highway and walk through the DeTour Botanical Gardens. You can view some DeTour Passage shipwreck remains there.
There are no admission fees to view freighters at the marina or to tour the gardens.
3.) Mackinac Island / Straits of Mackinac Round Island Passage
This passage between Mackinac Island and Round Island sees heavy freighter traffic. You can stand next to the water at Mackinac Island and see freighters up close. In fact, I took the above photo of a freighter passing the Round Island Lighthouse as I stood on Windermere Point on Mackinac Island.
I took this photo on the island’s main (carless) highway, between the rock formation known as “Devil’s Kitchen” and the island’s public school.
I also saw a freighter close up from the side of the road, next to the lawn at Mission Point Resort.
Here are gravesites that I found and photographed in the Upper Peninsula / Northern Michigan:
1.) Ancient Anishinaabeg Burial Ground, Sault Ste. Marie
It’s fun to turn off of the streets that you know and look at a “familiar” city with fresh eyes.
We visit Sault Ste. Marie once each year so that we can watch the freighters in the “Soo Locks.” Boats travelling between Lake Superior and Lake Huron use the locks to bypass the rapids on the St. Marys River. Then, we pick up hamburgers from Clyde’s Drive-In and watch the neighboring ferry boat transport cars and heavy construction equipment across the St. Marys River to Sugar Island. Freighters, burgers, ferry boat viewing.
One year, we changed up our trip by looking for historic neighborhoods in Sault Ste. Marie.
We ended up on Water Street, along the St. Marys River. Signs identified four houses at the end of this street as the four oldest in the city. These now operate as a museum with re-enactors, including a man in colonial dress using his cell phone in front of one of the houses. We walked down the street to Brady Park, the former site of French, British, and United States forts, and read all of the monuments.
We then stood outside the gates of a fenced-in cemetery pictured above. The actual signs in front of the gates read “Ancient Anishinaabeg Burial Ground.”
“Anishinaabeg” means “The People” – The Original People – in Ojibwe/Chippewa.
2.) Old Mission Indian Cemetery (AKA Father Marquette Cemetery), Hessel
Trees surround this cemetery, but the lot sits next to the premises for Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in rustic Hessel. Hessel sits on the shore of Lake Huron, north of St. Ignace and south of Sault Ste. Marie.
I used to attend services at Our Lady of the Snows during our Michigan visits. I (and some family members) referred to services at this church as “the donut Mass” because parishioners served donuts at a reception after Sunday Mass.
Historians believe that the Old Mission Indian Cemetery dates back to the 1700’s. Most of the graves belong to the Ojibwa (Chippewa) Native Americans from the tribe based in Sault Ste. Marie. The Native American Society for Historic Preservation maintains this cemetery.
Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church sits in the Diocese of Marquette. Father Marquette came to Northern Michigan to establish Jesuit missions among the indigenous peoples here. I wish that I knew more of the story about the Catholic parish’s connection to the Ojibwa buried in this cemetery.
I found much online about the spirit houses that are traditional among several Native American tribes.
Here is a Native American “spirit house” found in the back of this cemetery:
I also found this statue of the Blessed Virgin (Virgin Mary), which is traditional among Christians such as Roman Catholics:
3.) Lakeside Cemetery, St. Ignace
This cemetery sits at the end of a lightly traveled road, next to a walking trail entrance for Straits State Park. I rode my bike here from the house that we rented near downtown St. Ignace.
4.) Father Marquette’s Grave, St. Ignace
Father Jacques Marquette established a Jesuit mission at a Huron tribal village at the southern tip of the Upper Peninsula. He named this spot “St. Ignace” after St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Father Marquette died young and his followers buried him at least three times.
First, since he died in the wilderness, his companions had to bury him there.
French Catholic settlers returned to his first grave. They dug him up. They boiled him down to his bones. They transported his bones to St. Ignace. They laid his bones under the altar of the original Catholic chapel in St. Ignace.
Years later, the parish built a new church at a new location. Historians located and identified Father Marquette’s bones.
Father Marquette’s bones now rest next to the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace.
5.) A Shell Gas Station, St. Ignace
I learned on a guided history walk this year that St. Ignace’s original Catholic church building once stood where this Shell Gas Station now stands. The church’s graveyard adjoined it. The parish eventually built a newer church up the street from this. Since their graveyard ended up in an area of prime economic development, the town dug up and relocated the graves. Did they manage to successfully move ALL of the graves? This remains an open question.