“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Mackinaw City in Emmet County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Settling the Straits

The European Era Begins with John McAlpin

— 1772 —

Settling the Straits Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 31, 2017
1. Settling the Straits Marker
Inscription.  European soldiers stay and become land owners
For thousands of years, generations before the arrival of the French in the 1600s, the Anishnaabek nation established villages along the Straits of Mackinac, including near where you are standing today. Europeans brought with them a new concept of “land ownership.”

Their concept of land ownership was a major reason that the Odawa and other tribes had been at war against the British and Americans here at Mackinac; Native nations contested European and American claims on their ancestral homelands.

The French were the first Europeans to arrive in this area and used land ownership as a way to encourage a growing European community to develop around their fort, Michilimackinac. When the French lost the Fort to the English in 1760 they departed and in 1761 British soldiers arrived. Wishing to sustain the residents' support, the British honored land titles distributed by the French. Among the arriving British soldiers was Patrick McGulpin, a 21-year-old who was married to an Indian wife. Patrick had been born in Scotland and he followed the footsteps of his father, John
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McAlpin, into English military life because times were very lean in Scotland. Upon arriving in the Straits, Patrick quickly left the military life for the life of a fur trader and family man.

Amazingly, 11 years later Patrick's father's military unit, the 10th Regiment of Foot, was assigned to Fort Michilimackinac. Father and son were reunited. John, the father, also met his grandchildren for the first time. Just two years later John's unit was being dispatched to Boston and Lexington Green because of some rebellious citizens. John had sufficient service to retire and chose to stay in Mackinac and take a plot of land for his service. That plot is one of two English plots in the Straits, the one we now call McGulpin Point. The other is Mill Creek.

John would have been born around 1715 or 1720 and he lived until 1802. He farmed his land and possibly married an Indian. They likely grew some of the regionally successful crops such as peas, buckwheat, parsnips, potatoes, onion, spinach, oats and squash. They may have raised cows and pigs and he undoubtedly hunted game and fish. The Fort was actively trying to buy food from area producers, including the Indians. If John was able to produce excess food, he would have had a nearby market.

Our image of John shows him with his clay pipe. Smoking was very common among the British at this time. He is also shown with his
Marker detail: McGulpin Headlands Area Survey, 1841 image. Click for full size.
2. Marker detail: McGulpin Headlands Area Survey, 1841
axe. Everyone living year-round in the Straits had to acquire wood for the hearth and for winter heat. The McGulpin 640 acres had probably been denuded by earlier Fort work details. While cleared land was ideal for farming John would have had to travel to harvest his wood.

What was happening in the region at the time?
In 1764, Fort Michilimackinac had been returned to the British by American Indians who took control of it during Pontiac's Uprising in 1763. The British arrived aboard the schooner Gladwin, the first sailing vessel to call at the Straits since the ill-fated Griffin in 1679. In 1772-75, major restorations were taking place to the Fort's walls, platforms, stairs and gates, much of it done by John's regiment. In 1774, Capt. Arent DePeyster held an important council between the Ojibwa and Sioux at Michilimackinac, securing peace between these historic enemies. War parties were still being dispatched to assist British operations in various parts of the country. In 1765, development of Michilimackinac suburbs was beginning. Source: Mackinac State Historic Parks

Deeding McGulpin Point
The 640-acre property that would become known in contemporary times as "McGulpin Point" was the first one deeded in Emmet County in 1811. By this time the Americans were in control of the Straits of Mackinac and they honored all earlier land claims with
Marker detail: Original land deed record to Patrick McGulpin, 1808 image. Click for full size.
3. Marker detail: Original land deed record to Patrick McGulpin, 1808
To the Register of the Land Office at Detroit.
Detroit, October 19, 1808.

Sir: Patrick McGulpin hereby gives notice that he claims a certain tract of land, and makes entry of his said claim with the commissioners of the land office at Detroit, of six hundred and forty acres, with the houses, buildings, and improvements thereon made; which said tract of land is situated on the main land, southerly of said island of Michillimackinack, in said district, upon the strait of Lake Michigan, near the island of Michillimackinack, at a place called Old Michillimackinack, being twenty acres front by thirty-two acres in depth, and bounded in part, and on each side, and rear, by unlocated lands, being the same farm or tract of land whereon the father of the claimant lived, and, after his death, the said Patrick by himself and tenants, commonly known by the name of McGulpin's farm. The said Patrick sets up claim and title to said tract of land by virtue of long and continued possession, occupancy, and improvements in and by himself, and in and by those under whom he sets up title, and derives title.
For Patrick McGulpin,
Sol. Silbey, Attorney.
from American State Papers, Vol.1, page 374
the British (though not with the Odawa Indians). Since John McAlpin had died before officials of the American land office had arrived to sort out land claims, the deed was given to his son, Patrick McGulpin. Note that the change in spelling of the McAlpin/McGulpin last name was due to the anglicizing of European names. Patrick was the father of 16 children including his oldest son, George McGulpin, who would also call this parcel of land home. You'll meet him along this trail as well...

Ownership history: The use and ownership of the land here today changed numerous times since Patrick McGulpin's deed in 1811. By the early 1850s, it was seen as a crucial lighthouse site. Congress appropriated funds for construction of a lighthouse, which began in 1868. The lighthouse operated from 1869 to 1906, when it was decommissioned and sold into private ownership. It was purchased by Emmet County in 2008 and reopened as a public park property in 2009.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial EraForts and CastlesNative AmericansSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1772.
Location. 45° 47.253′ N, 84° 46.354′ W. Marker is in Mackinaw City, Michigan, in Emmet County. Marker can be reached from Headlands Road north of McGulpin Point Road,
Settling the Straits Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 31, 2017
4. Settling the Straits Marker
on the right when traveling north. Marker is located along the Discovery Trail at McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 500 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City MI 49701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Charles de Langlade (within shouting distance of this marker); McGulpin Family Life (within shouting distance of this marker); Cedarville (within shouting distance of this marker); Carl D. Bradley (within shouting distance of this marker); Eber Ward (within shouting distance of this marker); James W. Bennett (within shouting distance of this marker); Minneapolis (within shouting distance of this marker); William H. Barnum (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mackinaw City.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Discovery Trail to the Straits of Mackinac
Also see . . .  Discovery Trail to the Straits of Mackinac. John McAlpin (Anglicizing changed the name to McGulpin years later) was the first European settler on the grounds. (Submitted on August 16, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
McGulpin Point Lighthouse image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 31, 2017
5. McGulpin Point Lighthouse
Credits. This page was last revised on August 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 16, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 171 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 16, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Jun. 6, 2023