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Situated within five miles of the geographic center of Michigan, the City of Cadillac is the county seat of Wexford County.

Lake Cadillac is a 1,150-acre lake that is wholly within the city limits, and Lake Mitchell is a 2,50-acre lake immediately adjacent to the city to the west. Lake Cadillac is fed by two inlets, a small river flowing from Lake Mitchell and a short canal of the same origin, and one outlet, known as the Clam River. Originally known as Little Clam Lake and Big Clam Lake, the lakes were renamed in 1903 to Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell, respectively.

The City of Cadillac has its origins in the Village of Clam Lake.

The first Europeans to visit the region were explorers and fur traders, largely French and French-Canadians who came in the 1700s to trade with the regional Native Americans. However, European-American settlements did not occur until the late 1800s, when logging camps were established after the American Civil War.

The first sawmill was the Pioneer Mill, built by John R. Yale in 1871. The land that made up the original townsite was purchased from the US government by L.J. Clark and I.H. Maquest in that year but, rather than moving there, they sold out to George A. Mitchell, a lumberman, railroad man, and banker. Along with Adam Gallinger, a carpenter, Mitchell formed the Clam Lake Canal Improvement and Construction Company for the purpose of constructing a canal between Big and Little Clam lakes, which sawmill operators could use to transport timber from Big Clam Lake to the mills and railroad connections on Little Clam Lake.

The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad extended its tracks to Little Clam Lake in 1872, the year that Mitchell platted the village of Clam Lake on the eastern end of Little Clam Lake, which was incorporated as a village in 1875. A post office was established at Clam Lake on January 3, 1872, with John S. McClain as postmaster. In 1877, the village was incorporated as a city, and renamed Cadillac, with George Mitchell as its first mayor, although he was killed in a fall in 1878. The post office was renamed to match the city on June 13, 1877.

The seat of government for Wexford County moved from Sherman to Manton in 1881. However, in April of 1882, a county-wide vote chose Cadillac as the county seat. The following day, a sheriff's posse left Cadillac to travel to Manton to seize the county records. They were able to collect a portion of the records, but an angry Manton crowd drove them out of town. When the group returned to Cadillac, the townspeople had assembled a force of several hundred armed men, which included a brass band. The sheriff's posse, accompanied by this civilian force, returned to Manton to seize the remaining records. Although Manton residents had barricaded the courthouse, the Cadillac group was able to retrieve the documents they were looking for. This bit of history became known as the Battle of Manton.

During the 1880s, Cadillac was home to the Michigan Iron Works Company, which manufactured the Shay locomotive, although the lumber industry dominated the city's economy. By the early 1900s, the timber industry throughout much of Michigan was in decline, given a depletion in the availability of lumber. Industrial development came to dominate the economy of Cadillac and continues today.

Cadillac's commercial center is in the area where the town began, on the eastern edge of Lake Cadillac. Most of the buildings in downtown Cadillac are from two to five stories high, many of them facing Mitchell Street, a tree-lined corridor of travel through town. The Historic Courthouse Hill District is adjacent to the commercial center and includes several large Victorian residences built for early lumber barons. A more recently developed commercial district is situated on the western bank of Lake Cadillac, where M-55 intersects M-115. Known as Cadillac West, this smaller district caters mostly to tourists. Cadillac's chief residential areas are along the northern and southern banks of the lake.

The chief routes through the city are M-55, M-115, and US-131, the latter of which mostly bypasses the city to the east, but touches its northeast corner. Business-131, also known as Mitchell Street, serves as the city's main street. The city of McBain is 13.4 miles southeast, Lake City is 14.0 miles northeast, and Manton is 14.9 miles north of Cadillac.

The focus of this guide is on the City of Cadillac, Michigan. Appropriate resources include websites representing the city government, as well as any industries, businesses, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, events, sports teams or leagues, and recreational opportunities.


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