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Mackinac and Bois Blanc

 
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Therese M
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:10 pm    Post subject: Mackinac and Bois Blanc Reply with quote

Can anyone tell me why Bois Blanc did not play as prominent a role in Straits history as Mackinac? It is my understanding that the Native Americans revered Mackinac and called it the Great Turtle or something like that. And later on it became the hub for the fur trade, etc. Yet here is this big island next door that is practically ignored. Why? Is it because of the island's geography?

This has bugged me ever since I was a child. I have relatives living near Mackinaw City and even they could not tell me why. (I did hear the rumor about Dillinger's cabin, though).
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mikewhite
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:29 am    Post subject: answer Reply with quote

There were two immediate reasons why Sinclair wanted to move from the South shore. One was that he needed a more defendable place for the fort. The American Revolution had him worried. He saw the cliff on Mackinac as the best spot around for that. Second was the need for a deep water harbor. Mackinac had that close to the cliff. So you could say that geography was everything in his mind.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bois Blanc did play a big part in the development of Mackinac.. Wood for building and burning and maple sugar.. I always called BBI the poor man's Mackinac.. Very Happy
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Dan Reynolds
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The topography/geography of Mackinac had strategic significance for the military. Little else mattered in the 18th and 19th centuries, before tourism and the automobile brought more people north. Bois Blanc was considered nothing more than a swampy woodlot to support those military interests.

At the outset of the 20th century, Bois Blanc wasn't radically different from the rest of northern Michigan. It was all fairly rough, wooded, wet land. The pace of logging slowed, and there was no other particular reason to travel across to BBI, although there was already a small degree of tourism. In the early 1920s, automobiles had become more common and tourism gained momentum. That's when the Island dodged a bullet of sorts, as planning for a bridge to span the Straits had already begun. One firm developed plans for a series of bridges and causeways that would have hopscotched from Cheboygan to Bois Blanc, across Round Island and Mackinac, to St. Ignace.

It's hard to imagine the Island as it would be today, under those conditions... "Take I-75 north to Exit 343, Pointe Aux Pins." ugh. That certainly would have put it on the map, but not in a way we'd like.

So, in a way, the Island was guaranteed a certain degree of obscurity by the construction of the Mackinac Bridge as we know it. And Mackinac Island was well-known long before the Bridge was in place.
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doug miller
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the things that has amazed me since I started regularly coming to BBI in 1993 was the fact that the tip of the west end facing the Bridge could remain undeveloped for so long--especially when one considers just how much history the rest of the Straits had.

It wasn't until this new millenium that several of the parcels of land looking out at the bridge were developed. Now I know that the fact they are low has something to do with it. But still, its amazing that Mack Island was thriving 3 to 4 hundred years ago and our island was still being "settled" in 2000 and after.
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Conis
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not, all wrong.

Back in 1700, Mac Island had bars, brothels, and strip clubs. You think the fur traders and military were a tad edgy after months on end in the wilderness? And Bois Blanc had nice trees, so no big attraction.

I just learned this at the dentist office reading a 1963 Readers Digest. So it must be true. The title of the article was "Mackinac Island: A Debauchers Paradise, (but BYO whiskey, wampum and an ax...)"

Excellent reading and nearly made my filling tolerable.
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mikewhite
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:06 am    Post subject: Military Reservation Reply with quote

Another factor that prevented development of BBI was the fact that it was given to the US Govn't by the indians in 1795. It was used by the US as a military reservation for the use of the garrison on Mackinac for about 90 years. It was not opened to the public until 1894 when some land patents were issued. During that 90 year period ,and before, it was mostly used as a woodlot and secondly as a source of maple sugar and lime. So, Mackinac was the leisure spot while BBI was all work.

One guy on work detail escaped from BBI by taking the garrison boat. He was chased to Detroit and caught. Then he was returned to Mackinac to get military justice. He may have been sentenced to go back to BBI.
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flymom
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For all Straits history buffs, I highly recommend this book - it is out of print, but I found mine on the used book section of Barnes & Noble:

Three Flags at the Straits
by Walter Havinghurst
1966, Prentise-Hall

While it concentrates on Mackinac and Michilimackinac, it provides an indepth view of the exploration, settlement, and politics of the Straits area. BBI is only a minor mention, but the strategic geographic influences of Mackinac Island are pretty clear. Enjoy.
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