MICHIGAN . . . In the Beginning

Getting to Know Michigan - (Text Format)

In the days when only the American Indian inhabited the territory we know today as Michigan, explorers from Europe were actively seeking new lands for their mother countries.

Two French explorers, BrulÄ and Grenoble (sometimes spelled Grenolle), were the first Europeans to cast eyes on the great Lake Superior around 1622, and were determined from that first moment to claim this new land for France.

To protect their interests and defend their new-found territory from the Spanish and the British, they established military forts at key defensive points in the Great Lakes area. Fort Michilimackinac and Fort Miami (at the St. Joseph River) were among the first. In 1701, Fort Pontchartrain was established on the Detroit River. Fort Pontchartrain was to eventually become the city of Detroit.

In 1776, the Colonies declared their independence from European domination. The Revolution that followed gained freedom for the new world and the end of the war brought about the Ordinance of 1787 which made the territory of the Great Lakes a part of the Northwest Territory. A further division in 1805 declared the area the Michigan Territory, with Detroit chosen as the seat of government.

William Hull was appointed governor of the new Michigan Territory . . . only to surrender it to the British in the War of 1812. American forces reclaimed the territory a few months later, however, and Lewis Cass was appointed the new military and civil governor of the Michigan Territory, a post he held until he resigned to become Secretary of War in Washington, D.C.

After the War of 1812, farmers began settling in Michigan. The head of the family usually came first, found the land he wanted, and then bought it from the government. He then returned home to bring his family, livestock, and possessions to the new land.

In 1847, Lansing was selected as the state's capital, and telegraph communications came to Michigan.


Michigan . . . two peninsulas carved by a glacier . . . emerging as two of the most versatile, productive, and scenic areas found anywhere on earth. Each of Michigan's peninsulas has its own distinct personality its own deserved acclaim throughout the world. Two peninsulas joined together by statehood and the Mackinac Bridge give us a Michigan that offers quiet islands to escape to and metropolitan cities to swing in. Our state has flourished as the hub of a wealthy fur trade and survived a prosperous copper era and raucous lumbering boom. It is the place where Henry Ford put America on wheels . . . MICHIGAN OFFERS THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS.





Residents of the Michigan Territory were anxious to become a part of the Union of the United States. In 1835, they drafted a constitution in a try for statehood that was to take two long years to be realized.

A dispute over the city of Toledo, which was claimed by both Michigan and Ohio, caused the two-year delay. Neither state was willing to give up the city without a struggle.

Michigan finally relinquished the city to Ohio when it was offered the whole western portion of the Upper Peninsula in exchange.

Striking that bargain in 1837, Michigan became the 26th state to enter the Union and the largest state east of the Mississippi.


The first Michiganians were Indians, living in the territory for thousands of years before the first European explorers appeared. The villages of each of these tribes were a collection of dome-shaped shelters that could easily be moved when firewood or game ran out. Animals were hunted for the food and clothing they provided, and some crops were grown. Games were popular such as a bowl game, a moccasin game, and a field sport known today as lacrosse. The largest of the Michigan tribes was the Chippewa tribe, also known as the Ojibwa tribe.


Thomas Edison, who grew up in Port Huron, invented the incandescent light bulb in 1879.

Henry Ford hand built his first car in 1896, while Ransom E. Olds founded the first auto company in Michigan in 1897.

Ford's first production car was the 1908 Model T, which sold for $950. By 1912, Michigan led the nation in auto production and Detroit became the Motor City. Today, Michigan remains the center of the auto industry, with the headquarters of all three major American auto companies located in the state.


Michigan's present Capitol building was dedicated on January 1, 1879. It was rededicated in November of 1992 after an extensive restoration project was completed. The picture below includes four flags: on the left is the Senate flag, which flies over the Senate chambers; on the right is the House of Representatives flag, which flies over the House chambers. In the center, our national flag waves to remind Michigan residents of the freedoms they are privileged to enjoy through United States citizenship. Just below the U.S. flag is our state flag. This colorful banner flies as a symbol of the pride Michigan's citizens share in the beauty and the bounty of our Great Lake State.


Michigan's present state flag was adopted by the Legislature in 1911 with a simple phrase: The State Flag shall be blue charged with the arms of the State. This is Michigan's third flag. The state coat of arms appears on both sides. The first flag, bearing the State Seal, a soldier, a lady on one side and a portrait of the first governor, Stevens T. Mason, on the other, was first flown in 1837 the year Michigan became a state. In 1865, the second flag carried the state coat of arms on a field of blue on one side and, on the reverse side, the coat of arms of the United States. The state flag flies over the Capitol on the main flagstaff, just below the flag of the United States.

At the top of the seal, you will notice the words, E Pluribus Unum. These words come from our national motto meaning, From many, one. which means that our nation or country was made from many states.

The word Tuebor means I will defend and has reference to the frontier position of Michigan. The State Motto is Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam, Circumspice, which means If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.


Just as our American flag has a pledge, so too does our state flag. The Legislature enacted Public Act 165 of 1972 to declare the following pledge, written by Harold G. Coburn, as the official pledge of allegiance to the state flag:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of Michigan, and to the state for which it stands, 2 beautiful peninsulas united by a bridge of steel, where equal opportunity and justice to all is our ideal."


"Petoskey Stone"

Petoskey stones are fossil fragments from ancient corals. The corals were found in the northern counties of Michigan's lower peninsula about 350 million years ago. The living corals died and were transformed into large fossil reefs. Fragments from the fossil reefs were scattered by glaciers about 1.8 million years ago. These fossil fragments are found on beaches as pebbles and cobbles, rounded by the action of the waves. Petoskey stones are most often found along the shorelines of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and inland lakes. Michigan adopted the Petoskey Stone as the official State Stone with Public Act 89 of 1965.



(or Greenstone)

Chlorastrolite is a mineral that is formed in association with lava flows. Its common name, greenstone, comes from its green color. Typical gems have a pattern of overlapping edges, ranging from yellow-green to almost black. Chlorastrolite is derived from three Latin words: chloros, meaning green; aster, meaning star; and lithos, meaning stone.

Chlorastrolite was named the official state gem of Michigan with Public Act 56 of 1972. In Michigan, chlorastrolite pebbles can be found on rocky beaches in Northern Michigan's copper country, particularly on Isle Royale.


"Apple Blossom"

The apple blossom, the symbol of springtime beauty and the bounty of Michigan's orchards and agricultural lands, has been the official State Flower since its adoption April 28, 1897, by the Legislature. The resolution said that a refined sentiment seems to call for the adoption of a State Flower. It continued: Our blossoming apple trees add much to the beauty of our landscape, and Michigan apples have gained a worldwide reputation. At least one of the most fragrant and beautiful species of apple, the Pyrus coronaria, is native to our state. Michigan has been one of the leading producers of apples and apple products since those early days.


"Dwarf Lake Iris" (Iris lacustris)

On December 30, 1998, the Dwarf Lake Iris became the State Wildflower by act of the Legislature (Public Act 454 of 1998). This wildflower is found on rocky shorelines in the Great Lakes region, with 90% of the species found in Michigan. You are most likely to find the Dwarf Lake Iris on the Lake Huron shoreline along the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula.


"Robin Redbreast"

The robin redbreast became the official State Bird on May 21, 1931, when the Legislature, by resolution, made the selection as the result of an election conducted by the Michigan Audubon Society. Nearly 200,000 votes were cast, of which robin redbreast received many more votes than any other bird as the most popular bird in Michigan. The resolution added that the robin redbreast is the best known and best loved of all the birds in the state of Michigan.


"Brook Trout"

The trout lives in many of Michigan's lakes, rivers, and streams. Sportspersons love it for its gameness, good flavor, rich flesh, and pretty colors. Most trout live year-round in fresh water. Michigan lawmakers chose the trout as the official State Fish in 1965, but it was not clear which of the four species found in Michigan the brook trout, the brown trout, the rainbow trout, and the lake trout was the State Fish. A law passed in 1988 made the Brook Trout the official State Fish.



From 20,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago, when they became extinct, the elephant-like Mastodon roamed Michigan's Ice Age landscape. Dining on leaves, pines, and acorns, these creatures grew nine feet tall and stretched 15 feet from tusk to tail. They may have weighed as much as six tons. We know Mastodons lived in Michigan because of the many fossil sites. Fossil sites have been found in every county in the Lower Peninsula. Over 250 Mastodon remains have been discovered; and recently, near Saline, scientists discovered the only set of Mastodon footprints known to exist in the world. In recognition of the importance of gaining knowledge of this ancient mammal, the Legislature enacted Public Act 162 of 2002 to designate the Mastodon (Mammut americanum) as the official State Fossil of Michigan.


Although many people think Michigan, My Michigan, by W. Otto Meissner and Douglas Malloch, is the official State Song, this is really the traditional song, dating back to the Civil War. Few are aware that, in 1937, the Legislature designated My Michigan, by Giles Kavanagh and H. O'Reilly Clint, as an official song. When passing House Concurrent Resolution No. 17, Legislators specifically amended the resolution to make sure that My Michigan was not named the official song, implying no other.

A number of songs have been suggested over the decades, but with so many musical fans and wonderful choices, is it any wonder Michigan has no single official song? These are some of the songs suggested:

In 1998, the Legislature considered establishing a commission to select a state song. What do you think? If you had to pick one song to represent all of Michigan, which song would it be? Tough choice, isn't it?


"White Pine"

The towering white pine of Michigan's lush forests of the pioneering days was adopted as the official State Tree on March 4, 1955. The white pine was the focal point of one of Michigan's greatest industries, lumbering. Both Michigan and the state of Minnesota claim to be home to the legendary Paul Bunyan. On Arbor Day in 1955, lawmakers attended special ceremonies during which small white pine trees were planted in the Capitol lawn.


"The Wolverine State"

With a heavy, cumbersome body and short muscular legs, the wolverine resembles a small bear. The two light chestnut stripes extending along its dark brown sides from the shoulders to the base of a hairy tail give it a strikingly skunk-like appearance. The wolverine and the skunk both belong to the weasel family, the wolverine being the largest member at 35 to 44 inches long, including its bushy tail. Neither the skunk nor the bear can match the vicious disposition and destructive capabilities of the wolverine.

The bad temper and destructive habits of the wolverine have made it very unpopular with humans. Never found in great numbers, even in Canada and Alaska, where the climate is best suited to their tastes, the wolverine population has dwindled alarmingly. Just how Michigan came to be known as the Wolverine State is subject to many theories, particularly since most experts agree that if the wolverine was ever present in Michigan, it was never here in abundance.


"Kalkaska Soil Series"

Michigan has about 400 different kinds of soils. Each soil has its own unique set of properties and supports different types of vegetation or activities. For example, soils serve as foundations for our homes, highways, and airports. Soils also provide the foundations for our parks, wildlife preserves, lawns, and play areas. Michigan's official state soil, the Kalkaska Soil Series, was formed from the chemical and physical activities of vegetation in sandy glacial deposits. One of the most extensive soil series in Michigan, the Kalkaska soil series is found in both peninsulas. It is typically several feet thick and made up of many distinct layers. The soil is easily identified and supports varied uses including forests, wildlife, cultivation, recreation, and business.


"Painted Turtle"

For many Michiganians, a painted turtle is a part of their childhoods. Cardboard boxes, old aquariums, tin pails, quart jars, and many other containers have been home to this favorite reptile. In 1995, the Michigan Legislature formally adopted the Chrysemys picta, or painted turtle, as Michigan's State Reptile. The painted turtle is found throughout the entire state of Michigan. It ranges in length from as small as four inches long to as large as ten inches. It has distinctive yellow and red markings on its head, limbs, and shell. Normally, it lives in shallow water and eats pond vegetation, insects, crayfish, and mollusks, including the zebra mussel. During the cold winter months, it buries itself in the mud and hibernates. The painted turtle is gentle and easy to handle.


"White-tailed Deer" (Odocoileus virginianus)

The white-tailed deer is found in much of the United States and Canada. They may be found in groups of up to 25 deer and can run up to 40 miles per hour. Photographers, tourists, hunters, and nature enthusiasts are drawn to Michigan for this beautiful animal. The deer's distinctive tail, when raised, is like a flag that provides a flash of white, signaling other deer when there is danger. The Legislature adopted the white-tailed deer as a state symbol through Public Act 15 of 1997.



PAUL BUNYAN The Hero of the Michigan Logger

In Michigan, during the 1800s, men would come to Michigan to work to cut down trees this was called logging. The trees were taken to saw mills and cut into lumber for houses and other buildings. This was hard work and the men became very strong. To reach the logging camps, they had to canoe up icy rivers and sometimes carry their canoes around beaver dams and other things that would block their way.

Once they reached their camps, they were snowed in for a long time, sometimes for months and months. They started working as soon as the sun came up and did not stop until dark. Their meals consisted of beans, salt pork, and sourdough bread. They spent their evenings in their shanty, relaxing around the stove, singing songs, and telling tall tales. In all the logging camps, the tallest tale of all became the story of Paul Bunyan, the hero of the Michigan lumberman.

Tall tales come from the telling of a story, over and over again. Each time someone tells the story, it gets bigger, or better, or greater, or more wonderful. That's what happened to the story of Paul Bunyan.

Some people think Paul Bunyan was not a real person, but that's just not true. He was real and he lived in Canada. He became famous during a war in that country in 1837, called the Papineau Rebellion. A lot of the loggers joined the fight against the Queen's troops, and Paul Bunyan was always in the front lines, swinging his axe or any weapon he could reach, charging and smashing the enemy. When the war was over, Paul Bunyan had earned a reputation that would live for hundreds of years, maybe forever. The story of Paul Bunyan got bigger and better and greater each time the loggers gathered around their campfires at night.

Even though Paul Bunyan was from Canada, it was the American loggers who made him a hero. Michigan loggers added their own imagination to the tall logging tales. You see, it was in Michigan that Paul Bunyan found Babe, the blue ox that measured 42 axe handles and with chewing tobacco between the horns. It was also in Michigan where Paul Bunyan's gigantic logging camps were built and furnished.

The most famous of the hundreds of Paul Bunyan stories is about the time he found Babe. This is the way it goes:

One winter, the winter of the blue snow, Paul Bunyan found a huge cave in Canada. He decided that it would be a perfect place to read. So he moved into the cave and lived there for the whole winter. Paul Bunyan loved to read and to learn things. He wanted to read everything he could find to make himself smarter and wiser. That is what he did the winter of the blue snow.

The strange blue snow had scared all of the animals. They ran away to the North Pole. The bears were so frightened that their fur turned white and so did the fur on their babies, so we can thank the blue snow for the polar bear. All the moose and other forest animals ran away, too. Even Paul Bunyan's dog, Niagara, ran away. Niagara was a moose hound and he kept Paul Bunyan supplied with his favorite food, moose meat. When Niagara ran away, Paul Bunyan had to leave his cave to look for him and for food. That is when he noticed that the snow was not white, but blue. He looked and looked for Niagara and when he could not find him, he became very sad. He sat down by the fire in his cave and put his face in his hands. He was lonely.

Suddenly, Paul Bunyan heard a crash near the river. Thinking it might be Niagara, he reached the river in two leaps and waded through the seven-foot-thick pieces of ice. But it was not Niagara, it was a big blue baby ox, which had fallen from the cliff. The ox was so big that Paul had to use both arms to carry him back to the cave. He laid him by the fire to keep him warm and he fixed him some moose stew. The baby ox's mother was nowhere to be found and Paul Bunyan did not have enough milk to feed an ox that big.

Paul believed the mother was so frightened by the blue snow that when Babe was born, he was born blue. Paul Bunyan and Babe spent the winter together in the cave. When spring came, Paul and Babe left Canada to become U.S. citizens.

The people in Michigan's Upper Peninsula wanted to make sure that Paul Bunyan would live in our hearts forever. The town of St. Ignace built a statue of the gigantic Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, so that his memory and the stories of the northern woods will never be forgotten.


(Told by the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)

Many years ago, in a state called Wisconsin, a black bear and her two cubs lived in the woods. One day, a fire broke out and all the animals had to run away. The mother bear and her two cubs swam across Lake Michigan to the state of Michigan. It was a very long journey and the cubs became tired, so tired that they fell behind. When the mother bear finally reached the shores of Lake Michigan, she climbed up on a big sand dune to watch for her cubs. But her cubs could not swim that far, so the Great White Spirit changed each cub into an island. They can be seen today as the North Manitou Island and the South Manitou Island off the shore of Lake Michigan where their mother, Sleeping Bear Dune, is still waiting for them.

Geography! Facts!!