Above is a close up and enhanced image of the 1696 Coronelli Map of the Great Lakes, touted as being the most accurate map of the Great Lakes found in the 17th Century. Obviously, as we know today, it was sadly lacking in accuracy. One thing that is easy to see however, is that whoever controled the Straits of Mackinac wielded military might at that time. The straits are that close area between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. The French were the first colonial presence in this area.
The original Fort Michilimackinac, one of three forts bearing the name, was constructed by the French and built in St. Ignace, Michigan. The fort also went by the name Fort DeBuade. St. Ignace is located in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula. Situated on land that juts out into the straits of Mackinac, St. Ignace is bordered by two bays and two of the Great Lakes - Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Located at a strategic juncture for the fur trade, the French built the fort centrally, with two tribes also encamped on either side. We don't really know what Fort DeBuade looked like but it make have been a stockaded wooden fort such as one can find displayed in Mackinaw City at the Michigan State Parks Fort Michilimackinac. (Wiki gives several references, that look good, for their notes on Fort DeBuade.)
Native American life, around colonial forts, isn't always considered at many museum sites. The Fort DeBuade museum, in St. Ignace, houses many Ojibway artifacts and is located at the site of one of the villages that surrounded the fort. Native American goods and history are the focus.
The French had a different approach to interacting with the Native Americans than the British died when they came to the straits (their ill treatment later contributing to Pontiac's Rebellion.)
In my recent releases, Books 2 and 3 in the Christy Lumber Camps Series, The Lumberjacks' Ball and Lilacs for Juliana, the stories are set near St. Ignace, in the early 1890s.
Although they are after Fort DeBuade's day, the residents of the area (I grew up not far from there) were no doubt affected by the history of the fort. Having different tribes encamped on either side of a French fort had to have been an interesting situation--there was a balance to be had. Yet when the English came in, it is well documented that they failed to treat the tribes with respect and immediately began to engender their hostility.
The later built Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City was ultimately dismantled and moved to Mackinac Island. Seated high on the bluff, the final fort built had an excellent vantage point!
In the time of my series, Fort Mackinac, as it is now called, was winding down. There was no longer a need for a fort in the straits of Mackinac.
Question: Does it seem strange to you that over time the main French fort moved three times in the Straits of Mackinac?
Former “Yooper” Carrie Fancett Pagels writes Christian historical romances about overcoming. She grew up in Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where many of her stories are set. Possessed with an overactive imagination, that wasn't "cured" by twenty-five years as a psychologist, she loves bringing characters to life. Carrie and her family reside in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, which is perfect for her fascination with history. Carrie enjoys reading, traveling, baking, and beading—but not all at the same time!