Prior to European contact, present-day Michigan was inhabited by several major Native American groups, including the Ojibwe, Menominee, Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, Wyandot, Kickapoo, and Miami. Approximately 15,000 native people lived in the upper and lower peninsulas in 1621, when Étienne Brûlé became the first European to explore Michigan. The area received its first permanent European settlement in 1668, when Father Jacques Marquette founded a mission at Sault Ste. Marie. In the 18th century, both peninsulas served as important hunting, trapping, and trading grounds, and the British and French disputed their ownership. Present-day Michigan became part of the Northwest Territory in 1787, although the British continued to occupy Fort Detroit until 1796. In 1805, the Territory of Michigan was created, with Detroit as its capital; the territory became the 26th state to join the union on January 26, 1837.
The Michigan collection contains approximately 300 miscellaneous items relating to present-day Michigan during the 18th through the 20th centuries. Spanning 1759 to 1947, it comprises letters and documents pertaining to Native American activities, French settlement, trade, politics, town growth, agriculture, and land surveying.
A few notable letters and documents include:
August 8, 1763, account of the Siege of Detroit by James MacDonald.
Speech to the Ottawas attributed to Pontiac .
Robert Rogers' request for the removal of "Mr. Roberts the Commissioner of Indian affairs" (September 4, 1767).
May 12, 1781 deed granting Michilimackinac to the British, signed by four Chippewa chiefs with their totem marks.
A letter from John Jacob Astor, dated August 18, 1819, which refers to the fur trade and "Mackinaw skins."
Discussion of the advantages of Niles, Michigan, by a recent settler (Sept. 1, 1836).
August 26, 1840, letter concerning the political and economic climate of Michigan.
Discussion of farming near Kalamazoo, Michigan (January 28, 1847).
Three letters from Robert McQuaid, a soldier in the 27th Michigan Infantry during the Civil War (May 21, 1863; July 12, 1863; June 28, 1864).
A letter dated August 7, 1916, with a description of summer vacation on Isle Royale.
A letter on the prospects of the Democratic Party in Michigan (May 13, 1935).