SMC Luncheon Speaker 09/11/2018 Grosse Pointe Historical Society
Reported by George Arsenault
Esabelle (Izzy) Donnelly — Director of Education & Collections Manager for the Grosse Pointe Historical Society gave us a chronological compilation of the evolution and history of Detroit and the Grosse Pointe Windmill location and its development from the years 1679 to 1876.
1679 – Sieur de la Salle – (Rene Robert Cavelier) French explorer of the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Passage of Le Griffon, Le Griffon was a 17th-century sailing vessel built by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in his quest to find the Northwest Passage to China and Japan was the first to research the Great Lakes.
1698 – Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac — Cadillac, French explorer, was specifically interested in the area south of Lake Huron known as le Detroit, or the “straits”. The area known as le Detroit was ideal for a new settlement because the land was fertile, the location on the river was felt to be easily defended against the British and the climate was more hospitable than that in the more northern settlements like Michilimackinac. Knowing that the abandoned forts were an invitation to the British to take over the area, Cadillac spoke to Frontenac about founding a new settlement in the Detroit area. Frontenac died before formalizing the agreement. Frontenac’s replacement, Hector Louis de Callieres, was not too fond of Cadillac and thus not likely to agree to the plan. So, Cadillac set sail for France in 1698 where he convinced King Louis XIV to allow him to found a new lower settlement in the Great Lakes.
1701 – Fort Ponchartrain — Cadillac returned to Quebec, and then travelled to Montreal where he gathered canoes, farmers, traders, artisans, soldiers, and Native Americans to accompany him on his quest. The men set sail on June 4, 1701. Cadillac and his men reached the Detroit River on July 23, 1701. The following day, July 24, 1701, the group traveled north on the Detroit River and chose a place to build the settlement. Cadillac named the settlement Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit in honor of King Louis’s Minister of Marine.French settlement in the Detroit region was built on this site in 1701. The location was recommended by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who wished to move the fur trade center south from Michilimackinac. Cadillac’s plan was approved by Count Jerome de Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine, for whom the fort was named. The term le Detroit (the strait) was applied to the fort and surrounding area.
1712 – Fox Indian Massacre — Encouraged by a potential alliance with the English, the Fox Indians besieged Fort Pontchartrain, Detroit, in 1712. Repulsed by the French and their Huron and Ottawa Indian allies, the Fox retreated and entrenched themselves in this area known as Presque Isle. The French pursued and defeated the Fox in the only battle fought in the Grosse Pointes. More than a thousand Fox Indians were killed in a fierce five-day struggle. Soon afterward French settlers began to develop the Grosse Pointes.
1751 – Fort Detroit — After 1751, Fort Ponchartrain, Detroit, was known as Fort Detroit. In 1760, as a result of the French and Indian War, the British gained control of Detroit and other posts in the Great Lakes region. British troops enlarged Fort Detroit, but during the American Revolution they moved to nearby Fort Lernoult, built in 1778-79. The Americans occupied Fort Lernout in 1796 and renamed it Fort Shelby.
1876 – French ribbon farms — in the United States, ribbon farms are found in various places settled by the French, particularly along the Saint Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, Detroit and Grosse Pointes.
1920 – Windmill Point — By the 1920s, Windmill Pointe, which William Moran drained in the late nineteenth Century, was providing fashionable building sites in Grosse Pointe Park and the surrounding areas.