Marquette History

Front Street, Marquette, MichThe Marquette area was first settled by Ojibwa Indians who came into contact with french explorer and Jesuit missionary in 1669. Although the area had been officially “discovered” by the French, and the harbor was used for rest, fishing, and transport for both the French voyagers and the Ojibwa, it was not until the discovery of iron ore in the mid 1800s that the are was settled.

In 1849 iron ore was discovered in the area, and the Marquette Iron Company promptly founded the village of Iron Bay on September 14, 1849, to provide settlement opportunities for workers. The village was later renamed New Worcester. A second mining company came to the area in the form of the Cleveland-Cliffs Company. The Cleveland-Cliffs Company outlasted the Marquette Iron Company and renamed the town Marquette.  The village was platted in 1854, incorporated as a village in 1859 and as a city in 1871. The city of Marquette began as a shipping port for hematite ores and to this day continues to serve as a port for enriched iron pellets from nearby mines.

In 1899 Northern Normal School, a teacher’s college, was founded in Marquette. The college is now know as Northern Michigan University. During the Cold War the Marquette area was home to the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base which was host to B-52H bombers and KC-135 tankers of the strategic air command. The base was closed in September of 1995 and now serves as the area’s airport.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Baraga PanoramaBaraga is named after Father Frederic Baraga who in 1843 established a mission two miles north of town. The area was later settled by Euro-Americans. A ship captain James Bendry became stranded near what is now Baraga. He spent the winter in the area with his family and subsequently bought land, built a sawmill and brickyard, and founded the settlement that went on to become Baraga.

Baraga Links


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Gwinn History

Gwinn MichiganThe history of Gwinn began with the acquisition of property by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Mining Company in the Austin and Princeton area in 1902. In 1907 the president of C.C.I. decided that a town was necessary for miners to live in. Gwinn was chosen for its beautiful location and its lack of iron deposits. The town was a model town and was designed before it was built.

It soon became a thriving mining town. In 1956 the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base was developed as a joint civil-military facility. The base was originally used as an Air Defense Command base to deter Soviet bomber attacks. The base was closed in September if 1995. In 1999 it was reopened as the Sawyer International Airport.

photo by Andrew Jameson

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L’Anse History

Braga Courthouse in L AnseThe L’Anse area was first occupied by the Sugar Island Band of Ojibwa Indians who utilized the rich fishing grounds in the area. 1660 was marked by the entrance of Father Rene Menard, a French Jesuit Priest. Menard was the first white person on record to arrive in the area.

L’Anse was founded in 1871 when a preliminary route was platted from the eastern end of Lake Michigamme to the head of the Keweenaw Bay. The village was founded with the intention that it would become a port and house numerous stamping mills for the nearby iron ore mines. It was in August of 1871 that village stores were built. The first railroad engine did not reach L’Anse until December 17, 1872.  The village was in the midst of a boom when it quickly came to an end with the panic of 1873.

Again twenty-three years later L’Anse was faced with another setback. On May 9, 1896 a fire, started at the L’Anse Lumber Company, ravaged the village. The village was gradually rebuilt. Henry Ford bought the sawmill in 1922. The mill went on to ship as much as 180,000 board feet of lumber a day.

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Munising History

Munising Michigan HistoryThe Munising area was originally inhabited by Ojibwa who used the area as a summer camping ground. After the first exploration by Europeans, Grand Island soon became a fur-trading outpost, and later a steamship fueling station. In 1895 construction began on the town of Munising.

It wasn’t until the 1870s that a iron blast furnace was built, attracting permanent settlers to the area. Sawmills, a tannery, and the Munising Woodenware Company led to greater development in the area.

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The City of Marquette, Michigan

Marquette LighthouseHistorian Fred C. Rydholm wrote a brief history of Marquette, Michigan that begins:

It was the Noque band of Chippewa Indians that lived along the shore of Marquette County for hundreds of years. The Jesuit Father Marquette, namesake of the city, passed along these shores for times between 1668 and 1671. He reported the Noquets to be less than 150 souls. Indian legend says that Marquette’s favorite camping spot was at Lighthouse Point near Marquette’s Lower Harbor.

Marquette Links

Travel Marquette

City of Marquette

UP Health System – Marquette Regional medical center; a modern, well run facility opened in 2019, with over 200 doctors.

Northern Michigan University in Marquette is a four-year, public, coeducational university which offers over 170 degree programs to about 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Marquette Weather

Marquette Panorama

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The Lore of the Lakes

Lighthouse Point, Marquette, Michigan

Granite Island Scott Holman’s Lake Superior Light House rehab (great site)

Lighthouses of the Upper Peninsula can be found through Exploring the North’s list of Upper Peninsula Lighthouses open to the public and Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is dedicated to the perils of maritime transport on the Great Lakes. It is fittingly located at Whitefish Point, Michigan, site of the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior near Paradise, Newberry and the Tahquamenon Falls. The collection includes artifacts like the bell from the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald and a fully restored 1861 Lightkeepers Quarters.

Photo: Marquette, Mich., Lighthouse Point, courtesy Library of Congress (LC-D4-4759)

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Fall Color Touring in the Marquette Area

The Start of Autumn by Marjorie Obrien

The photo blog Michigan in Pictures is featuring a fall color tour of from Marquette to Big Bay to Negaunee to Au Train. Whether you do all or part of it, you won’t be disappointed – the Marquette area and the entire UP are simply gorgeous at this time of year. Some other tours they have are Pictured Rocks/Munising/Grand Marais, the Western U.P. and Houghton/Eagle River/Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The photo is from October 4, 2007 and was taken by Marjorie O’Brien, the very talented young woman who has taken many of the photos used in our About the UP section. Michigan in Pictures has an interview with Marjorie that you might enjoy.

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Ontonagon History

ontonogan-riverThe area was first inhabited by Ojibwa Indians. European occupation began in the 1790s with English fur traders. Miners were then drawn to the area. Ontonagon did not become a flourishing town until the economic upswing in the 1880s with the construction of lumber mills soon followed by shingle mills.

The fire of 1896 destroyed the town. It was not until 1921 and the arrival of a big paper mill that the town was fully revitalized. Ontonagon was home to the Upper Peninsula’s first newspaper and pioneered the inter-city phone.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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