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Situated at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula, Mackinaw City, Michigan is actually a village and not an incorporated city.

The popular tourist village is geographically within two townships and counties. The eastern portion is in Mackinaw Township in Cheboygan County, while the western portion is in Wawatam Township in Emmet County. Its northern and eastern boundaries extend to an imaginary line halfway across the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The southern part of the Mackinac Bridge is within the village limits. Its western boundary is Wilderness Park Drive, and Trail's End Road serves as its southern boundary, except for a couple of annexed areas that extend to the south.

The chief routes to and through the village are I-75 and US-23. The city of St. Ignace is in the Upper Peninsula, across the bridge to the north, while Mackinac Island is 7.5 miles by water, which is the only way to reach the island, other than by air. During the tourist season, Shepler's Ferry runs hourly from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island, while the Arnold Line Ferry makes four runs a day. The city of Cheboygan is 15.6 miles to the southeast, the village of Pellston is 16.7 miles to the south, and the unincorporated communities of Freedom and Carp Lake are 5.4 miles to the southeast and 6.7 miles to the south-southwest, respectively.

The name Michilimackinac (Great Turtle) was given to Mackinac Island because of its shape, and was eventually applied to the larger Straits of Mackinac region. In the early 1800s, the name was shortened to Mackinac, and the founders of Mackinaw City opted to use the phonetic "aw" spelling in order to distinguish the town from the island, so as not to confuse the post office. While the bridge, the straits, the island, and the city on the island, are spelled Mackinac, the village is spelled Mackinaw, but all of them are properly pronounced Mackinaw.

Opened in 1957, the Mackinac Bridge is a five-mile suspension bridge connecting the Lower Peninsula of Michigan with the Upper Peninsula, with the City of St. Ignace to the north and the Village of Mackinaw City to the south. As an aside, one day before the bridge opened to automobile traffic, it was open for anyone who wanted to walk across it to do so, and with a part of my family, I did that. I was six. Today, there is a tradition of the governor leading the Mackinac Bridge Walk across it each Labor Day.

The chief business of Mackinaw City is tourism, and has been for quite some time, but that was not always the case.

European-American settlement of the area began with the French Fort Michilimackinac in 1714 when it served as a Catholic mission and a military trading post between the French and the Ottawa, Chippewa, Sauk, Fox, Menominee, and Huron tribes. The British took control in 1761, following the French and Indian War. The British were not well-liked by the Ojibwa people who lived in the area. In 1763, the Ojibwa killed several of the British troops who were stationed there and took the fort. British troops again took control of the fort the following year, but burned it in 1781 and relocated to Mackinac Island.

Although the region became part of the United States following the Revolutionary War, American troops did not occupy the region until 1796.

Edgar Conkling and Asbury M. Searles acquired the land in 1854 and arranged for the townsite to be platted by R.C. Phillips in 1857, while the George W. Stimpson family were the first permanent settlers in modern Mackinaw City when they arrived in 1870. A post office was established on April 25, 1871, with Louis J. Willets, a storekeeper, as the first postmaster. its name was shortened to Mackinaw on November 22, 1894, but was restored to Mackinaw City on December 19, 1935.

The first large lumber operation in Mackinaw City was begun in 1878, and soon the lumber industry became the dominant industry in the early economy of the town. The Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad came through in 1881, spurring the growth of the community. Soon, the New York Central & Pennsylvania Railroads arrived, crossing the Mackinac Straits by barge, and later by ferry. The first known icebreaker of its kind, the ship, Algomah, was constructed with a pointed bow that flattened near the waterline, allowing the ship to ride on the ice, breaking it up with its weight.

Mackinaw City was incorporated as a village in 1882. Large parts of the village were destroyed by fire in 1900, and again in 1916. The lumber industry in the Mackinaw City region was ended in 1919 when a large fire burned most of the remaining forest land.

By then, the village was well on its way to transitioning into a tourist destination. the Fort Michilimackinac site became a State Park in 1902, and two state roads terminating at Mackinaw City were built.

The focus of this category is on the Village of Mackinaw City, Michigan.


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