Michigan nuggets of history starts with Andrew Jackson
Most of you grew up here, but what do you really know about it?
Did you know, for example, that Michigan became the 26th state on Jan. 26, 1837, after sacrificing some of the land to Ohio, then being rewarded with the Upper Peninsula, by President Andrew Jackson and Congress?
But earlier, did you know that the French began settling here in 1668, with Fr. Jacques Marquette founding the first permanent settlement, then winning the war with the British, to become part of the Northwest Territory in 1787?
After statehood was established, “Michigan Fever” descended on NY and New England; thousands of settlers flocked to set up new homes. More came in the 1840s when iron and copper were discovered in the UP. By 1847, the state capital was moved from Detroit to Lansing, mainly because of a more centralized location.
Michiganders still brag that in 1817 The University of Michigan was one of the first public universities established in the US (originally in Detroit, later moved to Ann Arbor). At that time, the university boasted two professors and seven students in a town of 20,000 people, one bank, two churches and four mills.
Battle Creek became famous in 1906 as the foundation city of the W.K. Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake Company, prospering to this day with its corn flake cereal – and more.
In September of 1908, W.C. Durant organized many independent automobile plants into what was to become General Motors.
Then it took more than three decades after the first cars were produced for the Michigan born Packard company to introduce the concept of car air conditioning in 1939 – sold as an option for $279. And flopped. Banished in 1942.
Meanwhile, Michigan ranked and still ranks No.1 nationally in the production of, not cars, but dog sleds.
Other little tidbits:
•During the lumber boom, the row of saloons that lined Water Street in Bay City was known as “Hell’s Half Mile.”
•The onion became our largest fresh-market vegetable crop.
•Ours is the only state in the nation that was owned by four different counties: U.S., England, France and Spain.
•Our first police woman began walking the beat in Detroit in 1893.
•Charles A. Lindbergh was born in Detroit on Feb. 4, 1902.
•The original name of Utica, Michigan, was Hog’s Hollow.
•S.S. Kresge Corp. opened the first Kmart store on March 1, 1962, in Garden City, just four months before the first Walmart opened.
•The original home of Life Savers Candy, Beech-Nut Gum, and Squirt drinks is in Holland, Michigan.
• The only marble lighthouse is located on Detroit’s Belle Isle.
• Alpena is the home of the largest cement plant.
•Colon is home to the largest magic supply shop.
•There are no longer wolverines in our “Wolverine State.”
•The city of Novi was named from its designation as Stagecoach Stop number 6, or No.VI.
•Michigan was the first state to give every child the right to tax-paid high school education.
• In 1936, Escanaba harvested and processed 100,000 sq.ft. of birds-eye-maple to be used in the luxury liner, the Queen Mary.
•What about the Great Lakes? Well, actually, the largest one, our Lake Superior, is not a lake at all, but an inland sea. Isle Royale is a massive island surrounded by Lake Superior, and within this island are several smaller lakes. Yes, that’s a lake on a lake. There is enough water in that lake to submerge all of North and South America in a foot of its water. It rarely freezes over, the last time being in 2009. Despite its massive size, Lake Superior is extremely young, created during the last glacial retreat, hardly 10,000 years ago. It’s deepest point is 1,333 feet.
•Then there’s the great Mackinac Bridge, which now connects the state’s two peninsulas, completed in 1957 – the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world: total length, 5 miles. (Ask old timers about waiting in their cars to cross on either side of the open water, for a ferryboat connection in an hour-long boat ride.)
An interesting note on wildlife: for some reason, perhaps using the islands between the two peninsulas as stopping and location sights, huge numbers of waterbirds species make the crossing – some from as far away as Central America. Sightings include kingbirds, swans, ducks, snowy owls, brown thrashers, sparrows, wild turkeys, woodpeckers, bald eagles, and, oh, yes, the ubiquitous Canadian geese.
That’s a heap of a heap of information, and it’s only touching the surface. We haven’t even probed the fascinating origins, customs, and inventions of – at one end, Detroit – and at the other end, our unique UP. We haven’t discussed the variety of immigrants and the customs (and accents) they brought with them. Nor the foods, the most revered, respected and loved of which is – well, you already know: the pasty.
We’ll save that and more for another time. Meanwhile, follow Graham Jaehnig’s column for his beautifully delineated histories in depth. And for the present, how about a smart little recipe for a healthy, tasty dessert made from the state’s popular veggie: the pumpkin:
Combine 1/2c vanilla fat-free regular or Greek yogurt, 1/4c pumpkin puree, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, and ¼ tsp ground nutmeg in a small bowl. Mix well, and serve in a cup, topped with a coarsely crumbled gingersnap cookie.