Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Mackinac(măk`ĭnô'), historic region of the Old Northwest (see Northwest TerritoryNorthwest Territory,
first possession of the United States, comprising the region known as the Old Northwest, S and W of the Great Lakes, NW of the Ohio River, and E of the Mississippi River, including the present states of Ohio, Ind., Ill., Mich., Wis., and part of Minn.
..... Click the link for more information. ), a shortening of Michilimackinac. The name, in the past, was variously applied to different areas: to Mackinac Island; to Michigan; to the whole fur-trading region supplied from the island; to the northern mainland shore (St. Ignace, Mich., has been sometimes called Ancient Michilimackinac); and to the southern mainland shore, where Mackinaw City, Mich. is located and where a fort called Old Mackinac once stood.
The Straits of Mackinac, a passage between the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Mich., connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, served for many years as an important Native American gathering place. In 1634 the French explorer Jean NicoletNicolet, Jean
, 1598?–1642, French explorer in the Old Northwest. He came to New France with Samuel de Champlain in 1618. In 1634, under the direction of Champlain, he took a notable voyage west in search of the Northwest Passage, exploring Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and
..... Click the link for more information. was the first European to pass through the straits. The French Jesuit Claude AllouezAllouez, Claude Jean
, 1622–89, French Jesuit missionary in Canada and the American Midwest. After arriving (1658) in Canada he served at posts in the St. Lawrence region until 1665, when he went to Lake Superior and founded the Chequamegon Bay mission (near present-day
..... Click the link for more information. , in 1665, was the first missionary to go there; he was followed by Father Jacques MarquetteMarquette, Jacques
, 1637–75, French missionary and explorer in North America, a Jesuit priest. He was sent to New France in 1666 and studied Native American languages under a missionary at Trois Rivières.
..... Click the link for more information. , who established a mission at St. Ignace in 1671. A fort was later built there, and it became the headquarters of French trade operations in New France and an important military post in the Old Northwest; its importance declined when Detroit was founded in 1701.
The region passed into British hands in 1761 during the last conflict of the French and Indian WarsFrench and Indian Wars,
1689–1763, the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. . In 1763 members of the British garrison at Old Mackinac were attacked and killed by the Ottawa during Pontiac's RebellionPontiac's Rebellion,
or Pontiac's War,
1763–66, Native American uprising against the British just after the close of the French and Indian Wars, so called after one of its leaders, Pontiac.
..... Click the link for more information. . During the American RevolutionAmerican Revolution,
1775–83, struggle by which the Thirteen Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America won independence from Great Britain and became the United States. It is also called the American War of Independence.
..... Click the link for more information. , the fort and town at Old Mackinac, threatened by the exploits of the American general George Rogers ClarkClark, George Rogers,
1752–1818, American Revolutionary general, conqueror of the Old Northwest, b. near Charlottesville, Va.; brother of William Clark. A surveyor, he was interested in Western lands, served (1774) in Lord Dunmore's War (see Dunmore, John Murray, 4th earl
..... Click the link for more information. , were moved to Mackinac Island.
The island and the straits were awarded to the United States in 1783 by the Treaty of Paris, but they remained in British hands until 1794. One of the first events of the War of 1812 was the British capture of Mackinac; it was returned to U.S. control by the Treaty of GhentGhent, Treaty of,
1814, agreement ending the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. It was signed at Ghent, Belgium, on Dec. 24, 1814, and ratified by the U.S. Senate in Feb., 1815. The American commissioners were John Q. Adams, James A.
..... Click the link for more information. in 1814. After the war, Mackinac Island became the center of operations of John Jacob AstorAstor, John Jacob
, 1763–1848, American merchant, b. Walldorf, near Heidelberg, Germany. At the age of 16 he went to England, and five years later, in 1784, he arrived in Baltimore, penniless.
..... Click the link for more information. 's American Fur CompanyAmerican Fur Company,
chartered by John Jacob Astor (1763–1848) in 1808 to compete with the great fur-trading companies in Canada—the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company. Astor's most ambitious venture, establishment of a post at Astoria, Oreg.
..... Click the link for more information. , which thrived until the 1830s, when fur trading declined.
After the 1840s the straits area changed from an important crossroads to an out-of-the-way shipping point. Mackinac National Park, the second U.S. national park, was established on Mackinac Island in 1875, but it was turned over to the state along with the U.S. army post in 1895. Mackinac Island became a Michigan state park and, along with Bois Blanc Island, a popular summer resort.
Iron-ore mining revitalized the area in the early 20th cent., but the mineral was soon depleted. The Mackinac Straits Bridge (3,800 ft/1,158 m long; opened 1957) spans the straits and links St. Ignace with Mackinaw City. The connection has stimulated the economy of the Upper Peninsula as a result of the added transportation route for tourists, vacationers, and sports enthusiasts. The straits are an important link in the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence waterway.