Letters

Letters 08-25-14

Save America

I read your paper because it’s free and I enjoy the ads. But I struggle through the left wing tripe that fills every page, from political cartoons to the vitriolic pen of Mr. Tuttle. What a shame this beautiful area of the state has such an abundance of Socialist/democrats. Or perhaps the silent majority chooses to stay silent...

Doom, Yet a Cup Half Full

In the news we are told of the civil unrest at Ferguson, Mo; ISIS war radicals in Iraq and Syria; the great corporate tax heist at home. You name it. Trouble, trouble, everywhere. It seems to me the U.S. Congress is partially to blame...

Uncomfortable Questions

defending the positions of the Israelis vs Hamas are far too narrow. Even Mr. Tuttle seems to have failed in looking deeply into the divide. American media is not biased against Israel, nor or are they pro Palestine or Hamas...

The Evolution of Man Revisited

As the expectations of manhood evolve, so too do the rules of love. In Mr. Holmes’s statement [from “Our Therapist Will See Us Now” in last week’s issue] he narrows the key to a successful relationship to the basic need to have your wants and needs understood, and it is on this point I expand...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Visions of Mackinac
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Visions of Mackinac

Robert Downes - May 19th, 2008
If there’s one book you simply must have on your coffee table this summer, it’s “A Picturesque Situation: Mackinac Before Photography 1615-1860” by Brian Leigh Dunnigan.
The book is a treasure trove of the days when the Straits area served as North America’s ‘wild northwest,’ lifting the reader’s soul with visions of our colorful, rough-and-tumble past. Filled with 330 paintings, drawings, maps and documents, “A Picturesque Situation” tells the story of the Straits area at a time when it was the western terminus to the resources of North America.
Here are tales of fur traders, Indian tribes, explorers, settlers, soldiers and 19th century tourists who were drawn to the Mackinac Straits for its strategic importance. As the perfect rendezvous for the water highway to the West, the Straits provided a gateway to
Lake Michigan and the Mississippi Valley as well as the fur trade far up into northern Canada.
The Straits were one of the first areas settled in Michigan by several Indian tribes as well as white newcomers. Dunnigan tells how the Huron and the Ottawa tribes were driven from their homes in Canada by Iroquois war parties in 1648-49, with the refugees settling in the Straits area.
Their neighbors included French trappers and voyageurs as well as a succession of English and American troops who held (and lost) the fort on Mackinac Island.
Here too is the story of the capture of Fort Michilimackinac by Ojibwa warriors during a lacrosse game in 1763, armed with hatchets concealed under the robes of their women. The Ojibwa were angry that the fort had been surrendered by New France to the British in 1760, with whom they had been at war with for six years.
That story dovetails with the account of adventurer Alexander Henry, a British subject who came to the Straits, disguised as a French voyageur, “his face and hair smeared with dirt and grease to obscure his complexion. Henry was eager to engage in the rich fur trade of the region despite the very real possibility that the Ottawa or Ojibwa would kill him on sight.” Henry was held captive by the Indians following the massacre; his account of his journey with a tribe and life in winter quarters remains one of the most thrilling stories in the annals of Michigan history.
Dunnigan’s book is also filled with the observations of soldiers, artists and dignitaries who passed through the Straits, describing it variously as “a very lonesome place” with “40 houses all very badly built,” but also “a post of great consequence” and “The wildest and tenderest little piece of beauty that I have yet seen on God’s earth.”
Dunnigan is the head of research and publications and curator of maps at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. He is also the author of “Frontier Metropolis,” a widely hailed book on the founding of Detroit. His work, “A Picturesque Sitation”, combines the best of scholarship and art with the thrill of adventurous tales that are well worth repeating. Sum up his book and the beauty of the Straits with the words of Captain Dave Bates Douglass in 1820: “Nothing could be a finer subject for the pencil.”
 
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