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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