Colonial Michilimackinac is a restored 18th Century fort on the shores of Lake Michigan. Visiting the site enabled us to step back and discover what life was like in this colonial outpost.
This settlement got its start as a trading post in the early 18th Century, when French-Canadian voyageurs from Montreal first arrived to promote the fur trade with local indians. The French later stationed a small garrison, and for the most part respected indian cultures and traditions. However, the British won control of the fort by virtue of their victory in the 1750s French and Indian War. The first British governor of the territory ended all economic aid to indians, which they deeply resented. Tensions bubbled just under the surface until 1763, when a band of indians launched a successful surprise attack. According to the film shown here, the indians invited the British commander and his deputy to watch a lacrosse game outside the walls. At the designated time, the players threw the ball over the fort's wall. When the British opened the gate, the indians captured the British officers outside and killed 15 soldiers inside the fort. This incident was part of a larger indian uprising known as Pontiac's Rebellion.
The rebellion ended with a negotiated settlement: the cruel governor was sent home to London, the captives were released, and economic aid to the territory resumed. It stayed that way until the American Revolution, when the British--realizing that a fort on the shore of Lake Michigan was not defensible--tore it down, took everything they could use, and attempted to blow up what was left.
The restoration work done here shows how the British tried to blow up the magazine, or ammunition bunker, but that they failed. The explosion collapsed the roof, and snuffed out the fire before it could destroy the building.
Besides the magazine, the fort features a number of restored 18th Century buildings, including the commander's home and office, a trader's home (more spacious than the commander's), a soldier's barracks, the community church, and storehouses for supplies. A small museum displays 18th Century artifacts found on site during recent excavations.
Reenactors were in the fort the day we visited to fire muskets on the parade ground and to explain how meals were prepared for soldiers and civilians. Outside the fort,,reenactors explained how indians built their dwellings and how the voyageurs packed their canoes with supplies.
Food is not available at the fort. There are several souvenir stores across the parking lot that serve ice cream, fudge, and candies. Darrow's Family Restaurant is nearby. Finally, while this site is state-owned and operated, it is open only during the May-October "season."
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