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Situated in southeastern Wayne County, a few miles north of its border with Monroe County, the City of Gibraltar is bordered to the east by the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River, just north of where the river feeds into Lake Erie.

Gibraltar is bordered by Trenton to the north and Brownstown Township to the west and south. Grosse Island, and Grosse Ile Township, separates the channel from the rest of the river.

Gibraltar itself includes a few islands, most notably Edmond Island, Hamburg Island, and Horse Island. A series of canals bisect the city and its islands. Gibraltar also includes several natural resources, such as five miles of canals, wetlands, and streams, particularly in the northwest. Humbug Marsh, part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, is in the northern part of the city, and Lake Erie Metro Park is in the south.

Gibraltar is a southern suburb of the Detroit Metro Region. Besides Trenton, which borders Gibraltar, cities, and villages within twenty miles include Rockwood, Flat Rock, South Rockwood, Woodhaven, Riverview, Wyandotte, Estral Beach, Southgate, Ecorse, Taylor, Carleton, Allan Park, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, River Rouge, Monroe, Romulus, Inkster, and Dearborn.

Before the European-Americans came, the area that was to become Gibraltar was the main village of the Wyandots. Then, it came under French control until the British captured Detroit in 1760. Early French maps referred to the region as Chenal de la Presque Isle. It was the British who changed the name to Gibraltar, although it was spelled Gibralter until 1900.

After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, a group of entrepreneurs formed the Gibralter-Flat Rock Land and Canal Company in 1836, intending to construct a canal between Gibraltar and Flat Rock, then extending it to Ypsilanti and Muskegon. The leaders of this group included former Governor Lewis Cass and Daniel Webster, the renowned orator. Dredging along the Huron River was started, but the scheme ultimately failed in 1838.

The Gibralter-Flat Rock Land and Canal Company did succeed in filling the area with settlers, however, selling lots for $5,000 or more. Gibralter was platted and recorded in March of 1837 by trustees of the Land and Canal Company. A post office was established on October 2, 1837, with Amos Dunbar as the first postmaster. On December 18, 1838, the post office was renamed Woodbury, but it reverted to Gibralter on May 13, 1839, with the spelling changed to Gibraltar on January 31, 1900.

With the failure of the canal project, the village did not prosper until much later, and then as a suburban boom.

Farming, lumber, and shipbuilding were important for the early economy of the village. Most of the homes in Gibraltar took in sailors and shipbuilders as boarders, and its 2.5-story hotel was nearly always full. Lumber cut by French woodsmen provided planks for the ships, and material for a basket shop.

In 1837, a lighthouse was built at the mouth of the Detroit River at Gibraltar, which operated until 1879. By the 1860s, regular steamboat services between Detroit and Cleveland were making stops at Gibraltar, including the Olive Branch, the Princess, Island Queen, Newboy, and Massasauga.

In 1873, the community had a population of about four hundred people.

In the early 1900s, boatbuilding continued in Gibraltar. Horse Island was platted, and lots were sold for building sites, and the Horse Island Boat Basin was established by Otto Rieger in the 1920s. It included his home, a store, and docks on the north end of the island.

In 1954, Gibraltar was incorporated as a village, and it became the second smallest city in Michigan in 1961. Since 1970, its population has fluctuated little, and is approximately 4,500 today.

The focal point of this guide is on the City of Gibraltar, Michigan. Online resources representing the municipal government or any individuals, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, or events within the city are appropriate topics for this category.

 

 

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