16 Important Dates in Michigan History

  • A Brief History of the Great Lake StateThe following 16 dates highlight people, places and events across more than 300 years of Michigan history. Text is based upon the 1989 "Michigan Through the Years" brochure (now out of print). All photos courtesy Archives of Michigan.
  • Father Jacques Marquette MAY 17, 1673 Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette, fur trader Louis Jolliet and five voyageurs leave the recently established Indian mission at St. Ignace.
  • JULY 24, 1701

    Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a 43-year-old French army officer, selects a site at le détroit ("the straits")—the waterway between Lakes St. Clair and Erie—and establishes a French settlement.

  • Henry Gladwin MAY 7, 1763 Three hundred Ottawa Indians, led by Pontiac, enter Fort Detroit intent upon launching a surprise attack on the British garrison commanded by Major Henry Gladwin.
  • General Anthony Wayne JULY 11, 1796 U.S. regulars under the command of Lt. Colonel John F. Hamtramck enter Detroit and replace the British Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.
  • JANUARY 22, 1813 A British force of 1,300 soldiers and Indians falls upon an American army at the River Raisin, near present-day Monroe.
  • Stevens T. Mason JANUARY 26, 1837 In Washington, D.C., President Andrew Jackson signs the bill making Michigan the nation's 26th state.
  • Sojourner Truth

    Francis Troutman and several others arrive at the home of the Adam Crosswhite family—Kentucky slaves who have escaped to Marshall.

  • The Soo Locks shortly after the Civil War JUNE 22, 1855 The passage of the steamer Illinois through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie marks the opening of unobstructed shipping between Lakes Superior and Huron.
  • Colonel Benjamin Pritchard JULY 1, 1863 The Twenty-fourth Michigan Infantry, a member of the famed Iron Brigade, engages advancing Confederate forces at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. . . .
  • JANUARY 28, 1877 Winfield Scott Gerrish opens the 7.1-mile-long Lake George and Muskegon River Railroad in Clare County.
  • Ransom E. Olds MARCH 6, 1896 Charles King of Detroit is the first person to test drive a gasoline-powered automobile in Michigan.
  • CCC worker plants trees MAY 2, 1933 Two hundred young men from Detroit arrive at an isolated spot in Chippewa County and set up Camp Raco—Michigan's first Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) facility.
  • DECEMBER 30, 1936 Spurred by an unfounded rumor that work is going to be transferred to plants with weak union support, autoworkers begin a spontaneous sit-down strike at General Motors Corporation plants in Flint.
  • Willow Run B-24 bomber production OCTOBER 1, 1942 The first B-24 bomber rolls off the assembly line at the Willow Run Bomber Plant near Ypsilanti.
  • Building the Mackinac Bridge NOVEMBER 1, 1957 The Mackinac Bridge, connecting Michigan's two peninsulas, opens. . . .
  • JANUARY 26, 1987 Michigan celebrates its 150th anniversary of statehood. . . .