The History of Detroit and Michigan

America has but few cities that can properly be called old. Detroit is one of these, and its history is unique and peculiarly interesting. Before New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, or Boston was settled, and long before the time of Oliver Cromwell, the Sieur de Champlain had nearly reached our border, and the Indians had described our site. The city was founded before Peter the Great had built St. Petersburg.

When Cadillac came the East India Company and the South Sea Bubble had not been heard of, and there was not a newspaper or a post-office in the United States. The first colon y here established was like a bit of France in the wilds of the New World, and no city in the Eastern States, and but one or two in the South and West, have anything in common with our earlier life. Some of the old records read like a page of Froissart, and visions of mediaeval scenes and pictures of savage life are strangely intermingled in the records of our past. Cradled in romance, nurtured in war, and trained in the school of conservatism, the city now glories in her position as the most attractive and most substantial of all the cities whose traditions reach back to the days of the " Grand Monarch." Like some old castle on the Loire, with cresting, tile, and finial added to the ancient towers and moss-grown battlements, so Detroit stands, a proud relic of the past, graced and crowned with all the gifts of the present. Even in its names, it is favored above most cities. At different times it has been designated by no less than six distinct appellations, and has had three different corporate names.

In the old traditions of the Algonquin Indians, it was known by the name of Yon-do-ti-ga, or Yon-clo-ti-a, A Great Village; its first name was thus prophetic of its future. It was also called Wa-we-a-tun-ong, Circuitous Approach, on account of its location at the bend of the river. The Wyandotts called the site of Detroit Toghsaghrondic, or Tysch-sarondia, which name, variously spelled, will be found in the old Colonial Documents, published by the State of New York; it has been modernized into Teuscha Grondie, and has reference to the course of the river. The Huron Indians called the place Ka-ron-ta-en, The Coast of the Strait.

When first settled, the location received the name of Fort Pontehartrain, in honor of Count Pontchartrain, the then French Colonial Minister of Marine. As the number of inhabitants increased, and the settlement grew into a village, it received its present name from the word détroit, or strait. Its popular cognomen, the City of the Straits, is thence derived. It is an interesting fact that the name of the oldest city in the Canadian Dominion and the first capital of that region, the place from which Cadillac and the first settlers came hither, is derived from the Algonquin word quebeis or quelibec, signifying a strait; the cities of Detroit and Quebec thus bear names similar in origin and signification.

The early French colonists applied the name Detroit to the settlements on both sides of the river, calling one North Detroit, the other South Detroit. It is also known that early French travelers designated all of the waters between Lakes Erie and Huron as the détroit. This generalization has led several modern authors into the error of locating events here that really occurred on the river St. Clair. The city's corporate names have been as follows: By Act of January 18, 1802, it was designated as the "Town of Detroit." By Act of October 24, 1815, it was called the " City of Detroit." On April 4, 1827, it was enacted that the corporate name should be "The Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen of the City of Detroit." On February 5, 1857, it was enacted that the name should be "City of Detroit."

The manuscript we feature here is a comprehensive study into the first 200 years of Detroit and Michigan history.

Read this Book - Free
Download this Book ( 74.2 MB PDF ) - Free

Source: The History of Detroit and Michigan: A Chronological Cyclopaedia of the Past

A sample of additional resources for Detroit online: