Michigan History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

Michigan history

During the last Ice Age, North America was sculpted by massive glaciers, resulting in craters formed by receding (melting) ice. During that process, the Great Lakes were born and Michigan was formed.

Europeans began to explore the area in the 1600s. The first white explorer into the area was the Frenchman √Čtienne Bruhl in 1620 under the orders of Samuel de Champlain.

In 1668 the French missionary Jacques Marquette established the first permanent settlement at the Stermbank. Marie.

The French continued to build trading posts, forts and villages throughout Michigan, including Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit, now present day Detroit.

Territorial disputes between the British and French contributed to the start of the French and Indian War. With the Treaty of 1763, France ceded all of (future) Michigan to the British. The British included Michigan as part of Quebec in 1774.

The Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War in 1783, included the British cession of Michigan to the United States. Michigan first became part of the Northwest Territory, then the Michigan Territory until its admission to the Union as the 26th state January 26, 1837.

Michigan’s post-statehood growth was rapid as immigrants from Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands arrived to help build railroads, roads, and canals plus the expansion of a lumbering industry.

After the invention of the automobile, the automobile industry in Michigan exploded with the establishment of the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler’s mass production plants.

Race riots in 1967 rocked the city of Detroit. As a result, 43 people were killed, hundreds injured and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed, causing over $200 million in damages.

  • Topschoolsintheusa: Guides to study in Michigan, including geography, climate, economy, and tourism of the state.
  • A2zcamerablog: Offers general information about Michigan, covering history, population, economy and county list.
  • Campingship: State outline of Michigan, including geography location, state capital, brief history and a list of largest counties by area.

Michigan economy

Limited to four out of five freshwater Great Lakes Michigan is divided into two peninsulas, Upper and Lower, which are joined by the Mackinac (Big Mac) suspension bridge, spanning the Straits of Mackinac. Michigan’s dependence on the auto industry has caused the state to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

In the recession of the 1980s, factories were closed when car sales plummeted. In the 1990s, recession and foreign competition led to the layoffs of thousands of Michigan workers.

Although the 21st century recession has caused additional job losses, Michigan has diversified its economic base and is home to other major industries including cereals, pizza, information technology, aerospace and mining.

Michigan is currently the third largest producer of Christmas trees in the US. It ranks fourth in the country in high tech employment.

Michigan Tourism

Michigan ranks high in tourism with vacationers, hunters and fishermen attracted to its forests, lakes, thousands of miles of beaches, golf courses and snow activities. Detroit, the largest city, offers museums, arts, sports and gambling.

The Upper Peninsula is a beautiful, rugged, sparsely populated place where severe winters are commonplace. Small towns, big cities and fertile farmland in all directions dot the Lower Peninsula, home to most people.

Michigan’s coastlines are lined with over 115 lighthouses whose mission is to warn sailors of potential danger. They are also reminders of the state’s vital relationship with the Great Lakes.

Michigan timeline


  • (1620) French Canadian explorers arrived in the upper Michigan area
  • (1634) Jean Nicolet passed through the Straits of Mackinac, exploring the area
  • (1659) Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Medard des Groseilliers rode to western Lake Superior with furs, trading Native Americans
  • (1665) Claude-Jean Allowes and followers reported copper deposits in the Keweenow Peninsula region
  • (1668) First permanent European settlement established by French missionaries, Fathers Dablon and Marquette, at Sault Ste. Marie
  • (1673) Jesuit missionary, Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Jollit, led a small party to explore a large river called the Messissipi by the Indians
  • (1679) Ren√© Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, erected Fort Miami, the first French fort in the area
  • (1680) La Salle abandoned Fort Miami; traveled through the Lower Peninsula
  • (1686) Daniel Greisolone, Sieur du Lhut, established Fort St Joseph (now Port Huron)


  • (1701) French officer, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founded Detroit
  • (1754 – 1763) French and Indian War
  • (1758) British captured Fort Frontenac, supply interrupted New France and communications to Michigan
  • (1760) British captured Detroit, French rule ended
  • (1763) France ceded all lands in North America east to the Mississippi River to Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris; Ottawa Indians, led by Chief Pontiac, led an uprising against the British, captured all the forts in Michigan except Detroit
  • (1787) Michigan became part of the Northwest Territory in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787
  • (1796) British evacuated Detroit, other posts now under the terms of the Jay Treaty; Wayne County established as a county seat of the Northwest Territory


  • (1805) Michigan Territory established, seat of government established in Detroit; much of Detroit destroyed by fire
  • (1812) War of 1812; Detroit, Fort Mackinac surrendered to the British
  • (1813) American forces retake Detroit
  • (1819) Ojibwe, Ottawa, Potatomy Indians ceded more than six million acres on the Lower Peninsula to the United States; The Indians began an exodus to the south
  • (1824) Chicago Road viewed between Fort Dearborn and Detroit
  • (1835) Conflict with Ohio (War of Toledo) along the border; Ohio granted lands around Toledo, Michigan received the entire Upper Peninsula
  • (1837) Michigan became the 26th American state
  • (1842) Copper mining started near Keweenaw Point; last Indian lands ceded in Michigan agreement
  • (1844) Iron ore discovered in the Upper Peninsula
  • (1847) Lansing called State Capital; Dutch Calvinist Separatists founded Holland, Michigan
  • (1854) Republic Party organized in Jackson
  • (1855) Soo Canal and open Locks, linked Lake Superior to Lake Huron
  • (1861 – 1865) civil war; over 90,000 men from Michigan served
  • (1871) Fires in Port Huron, Holland and Manistee, killed 200, burned over 1.2 million acres
  • (1881) Big “Thumb Fire” (Huron’s Fire) killed 282 people, $2,347,000 loss, was the first natural disaster served by the American Red Cross
  • (1896) Charles King of Detroit first person to design, build, test drive a gasoline-powered automobile
  • (1899) Ransom E. Olds established the first automobile factory in Detroit


  • (1908) First Ford Model T produced; General Motors founded
  • (1910) Michigan held first primary
  • (1928) Completed Ford River Rouge Plant, the largest factory complex in the world, used 100,000
  • (1929) Ambassador Bridge opened between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario (world’s longest bridge when built)
  • (1930) Detroit-Windsor Tunnel opened
  • (1935) United Automobile Worker Union (UAW) formed in Detroit; Detroit Tigers win the World Series
  • (1936) Automotive workers organized a sit-in at the General Motors Corporation in Flint
  • (1941) Automated plants converted to produce war materials, Michigan became known as “Democracy’s Arsenal”
  • (1945) Detroit Tigers won the World Series
  • (1957) Mackinac Bridge “Big Mac” opened
  • (1959) Barry Gordy, Jr. founded Motown Records
  • (1963) New State Constitution ratified
  • (1967) Five days of race riots in Detroit, 43 killed, 1,189 injured, over 7,000 arrested, much of downtown destroyed
  • (1968) Detroit Tigers won the World Series
  • (1974) Gerald Ford became the 38th American President
  • (1975) Ore freighter, Edmund Fitzgerald, soaked Lake Superior in a storm, everyone on board was lost
  • (1976) Referendum vote banned blank bottles
  • (1977) Renaissance Center dedicated in Detroit
  • (1980) Detroit hosted the Republican Convention
  • (1981) Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum dedicated in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids
  • (1984) Detroit Tigers won the World Series
  • (1989) Detroit Pistons win NBA championship
  • (1990) Detroit Pistons win NBA championship
  • (1992) Term limits for governor, federal or state senator or representatives adopted by state constitutional amendment
  • (1998) Chrysler Corporation merged with German auto company, Daimler-Benz


  • (2001) Detroit celebrated 300th anniversary; DaimlerChrysler announces layoffs
  • (2002) Jennifer Granholm elected Michigan’s first female governor; Detroit Stanley Cup Red Wings win
  • (2004) Altercation between Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers took place in NBA game, nine players suspended, five players charged with assault; Detroit Pistons win NBA championship
  • (2005) General Motors announced major layoffs; civil rights icon, Rosa Parks, dies at 92
  • (2008) Detroit Red Wings won the 11th Stanley Cup
  • (2009) General Motors (GM) announces 21,000 US job cuts, phasing out Pontiac brand; Chrysler filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy; an incident on an airliner on an international flight arriving in Detroit from Amsterdam was a failed bomb attack, a Nigerian man arrested
  • (2010) Pipeline in Kalamazoo River jumped over spill, more than 800,000 gallons of oil released into creek traveled to Kalamazoo River, largest oil spill in Midwest history
  • (2011) Trial begins for Nigerian accused of trying to bomb Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam
  • (2012) General Motors reported record earnings for 2011
  • (2012) Nigerian terrorist sentenced to life in prison

Michigan History