2017-07-14 / Top News

City of Mackinac Island Reaches 200th Anniversary

By Cathryn Lien


The Mackinac Island City Council met in special session Friday, July 7, to commemorate 200 years of local government on the Island with a resolution and historical program. Mayor Margaret Doud noted, “It is remarkable that our council is still governing. We hope to continue on for another two hundred years and beyond.” Members of the city council and representatives from Mackinac County, the City of St. Ignace, and the Village of Mackinaw City were on hand for the milestone event. From left, they are (back row): Mackinac County Commissioner Calvin McPhee and Commission Chairman Jim Hill, City Aldermen Jason St. Onge, Andrew McGreevy, Dennis Bradley, and Kathleen Hoppenrath, and city attorney Tom Evashevski; (front) Alderman Steven Moskwa, Mackinaw City Village President Robert Heilman, Mackinac Island Mayor Margaret Doud, and St. Ignace Mayor Connie Litzner. The Mackinac Island City Council met in special session Friday, July 7, to commemorate 200 years of local government on the Island with a resolution and historical program. Mayor Margaret Doud noted, “It is remarkable that our council is still governing. We hope to continue on for another two hundred years and beyond.” Members of the city council and representatives from Mackinac County, the City of St. Ignace, and the Village of Mackinaw City were on hand for the milestone event. From left, they are (back row): Mackinac County Commissioner Calvin McPhee and Commission Chairman Jim Hill, City Aldermen Jason St. Onge, Andrew McGreevy, Dennis Bradley, and Kathleen Hoppenrath, and city attorney Tom Evashevski; (front) Alderman Steven Moskwa, Mackinaw City Village President Robert Heilman, Mackinac Island Mayor Margaret Doud, and St. Ignace Mayor Connie Litzner. The City of Mackinac Island celebrated its rich history, natural beauty, and longevity with a special bicentennial city council meeting and open house Friday, July 7, the precise date when the first governing session of the Borough of Michilimackinac was held in 1817.


The first local government on Mackinac Island was formed in 1817 and representatives held an inaugural meeting July 7. The Borough of Michilimackinac developed into the City of Mackinac Island. A special session of the city council to commemorate 200 years was held Friday, July 7. Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter and historian Brian Dunnigan outlined the history of Mackinac Island government and its relationship to Fort Mackinac. They are shown here flanked by Fort Mackinac interpreters dressed in military uniforms of the time and carrying a United States flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes representing the 15 states in 1817. From left are Tristan Di Cesare, Mr. Porter, Mr. Dunnigan, and Marc Van Horn. The first local government on Mackinac Island was formed in 1817 and representatives held an inaugural meeting July 7. The Borough of Michilimackinac developed into the City of Mackinac Island. A special session of the city council to commemorate 200 years was held Friday, July 7. Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter and historian Brian Dunnigan outlined the history of Mackinac Island government and its relationship to Fort Mackinac. They are shown here flanked by Fort Mackinac interpreters dressed in military uniforms of the time and carrying a United States flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes representing the 15 states in 1817. From left are Tristan Di Cesare, Mr. Porter, Mr. Dunnigan, and Marc Van Horn. “It is remarkable that our council is still governing,” said Mayor Margaret Doud, who has led the Island’s municipal government for 42 years, almost a quarter of those two centuries. “We hope to continue on for another two hundred years and beyond.”

Mayor Doud, appointed to fill an uncompleted council term in 1964, elected mayor in 1965, and re-elected annually since then, presided as council members

Dennis Bradley, Kathleen Hoppenrath, Andrew Mc- Greevy, Jason St. Onge, and Anneke Myers approved a resolution recognizing the occasion.

The resolution marks key dates in local government history:

• On February 2, 1817, Indian Agent William Henry Puthuff requested the establishment of the borough and funding for the building of a jailhouse.

• On March 15, 1817, Michigan Territory secretary William Woodbridge proclaimed the formation of a township on Mackinac Island, then known as Michilimackinac, citing the region’s remote location from the territorial capital of Detroit.

• On April 6, 1817, a territorial act established the Borough of Michilimackinac, joining the established districts Detroit, Eerie, and St. Clair. Undergoing both a change of name and a progression as a more sophisticated governing body, the Village of Mackinac replaced the borough.

• In 1898, the City of Mackinac Island became the local government its residents know today.

• On Monday, July 7, 1817, William Henry Puthuff presided over the inaugural meeting of the Borough of Michilimackinac, held in the Indian Council House, a building that would have stood in today’s Marquette Park.

The special session of the City Council was held on the second floor of the county courthouse building, a historic location that was once the county seat for Mackinac County until 1882, when the seat was moved to St. Ignace. The building was then used as the city hall until 1998.

In her welcoming speech, Mayor Doud noted that the location was also site of the August Pond vs. The People court case of 1860, clarifying a legal principle of self-defense from which arose the phrase “a man’s home is his castle.”

Mackinac State Historic Parks interpreters Tristan Di Cesare and Marc Van Horn, wearing early 19th century United States military uniforms, presented the colors: a 15-star United States flag representing the 15 states of the union in 1817. The flag also had 15 stripes to represent the states, the only flag to have more than 13 stripes that represented the original 13 colonies.

Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter told the gathering a relationship forged between Fort Mackinac and the residents of Michilimackinac has evolved into a strong and positive partnership.

“Mackinac is a small island, rich with history, blessed with natural beauty, and drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer,” he said. “The management of this complex resource is made possible through the effective cooperative partnership between the city and State Park. On behalf of the Commission, I thank you for the outstanding management of the resources and facilities under your jurisdiction.”

Brian Dunnigan, Mackinac Island historian and associate director of William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, delivered a commemoration address tracing the local government’s history over the last two centuries.

Mr. Dunnigan said 1817 was a landmark year for Michigan. Monroe County was established and visited by President James Monroe, who took a tour of the northern lakes but never traveled as far as Michilimackinac. The year also marked the founding of the University of Michigan in a building about the size of the Stuart House and, at that time, located in Detroit.

In 1817, the Island and its surrounding region were known as Michilimackinac and Fort Mackinac was a fully operating military garrison. The American Fur Company was established on Main Street, now Market Street. Before the establishment of the borough, Michilimackinac had a justice of the peace, supervisor of roads, and two captains of the militia companies stationed at the fort. The population on the Island was 300 in the winter and 3,000 in the summer.

The purpose of the July 7, 1817, meeting was to choose a warden, two burgesses, a clerk, a treasurer, and a marshal. Mr. Puthuff was appointed warden, a role similar to today’s mayor. The Borough of Michilimackinac officials had the power to lay out streets, collect taxes, govern over markets and commerce, charge and discipline public nuisances, supervise wharves and anchorages, enact fire prevention measures, plant shade trees and control distribution of the fruit from those trees, commission public lights and lamps, and enforce restraints on roaming animals.

On December 4, 1817, the borough passed its first ordinance titled, “An Act for the Prevention of Fire,” concerning regulations on sweeping chimneys and storing gunpowder properly. In April of 1818, ordinances passed for public cleanliness, preventing stallions running at large, and the preservation of sheep - the Island’s first legal action for dog control. On April 13, 1818, an act was passed permitting Mr. Puthuff to build a wharf at the foot of Cross Street, now Astor Street. This wharf would become the coal dock, the oldest surviving wharf on Mackinac Island.

“As a historian, it’s important to remember these events publicly,” Mr. Dunnigan said, and he commended Mayor Doud and the council for holding the special session and celebration.

Mackinac County Commission Chairman Jim Hill and Commissioner Calvin “Bucky” McPhee represented the county at the special meeting and presented a plaque commemorating the bicentennial.

“For 200 years, Mackinac Island’s timeless character has made it the jewel of the Great Lakes and one of the world’s premier tourist destinations,” Mr. Hill said.

“It’s an honor to sit here today for this historic moment,” councilmember Dennis Bradley said prior to the city’s adoption of its resolution.

Citizens were invited to an open-house and tour of government offices, the fire hall, and the Stuart House following the special meeting, with refreshments served in the community hall next door.

Other officials present at the event were Mackinaw City Village President Robert Heilman and St. Ignace Mayor Connie Litzner.

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