Detroit, Michigan

City: Detroit

County: Wayne

State: Michigan

Lat/Long: 42.331389, -83.045833

Located on the Detroit River on the United States-Canadian border, Detroit is the largest city in Michigan and the seat of Wayne County. Prior to the eighteenth century, the Detroit River region was home to Native American villages, as the Huron, Ottawa, Chippewa, Fox, Sac, Miami, and Pottawatomi nation vied for control of the region. French explorers began arriving in the area in the 1660s, and in 1701, the French established a trading post they named Detroit, the French word for strait. Established to control the fur trade and blunt any British encroachment in the Great Lakes region, the post expanded throughout the eighteenth century, becoming home to both fur traders and farmers. As Anglo-French relations worsened, Detroit became embroiled in the wars between France and the United Kingdom, and in 1760, the British took possession of the post as spoils in the aftermath of the French and Indian War. British settlers began arriving, leading to conflict with the Native Americans, which resulted in Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763. After the Pontiac’s defeat and the displacement of the Native Americans, Detroit settled into a period of prosperity. During the American Revolution, the British used Detroit as a base to attack American settlements in the Ohio Valley, and they built a fort to protect the area from American attacks. After the Revolution, the United States occupied the fort, though the British continued to cling to the Detroit area until 1796, when Detroit became an American town. Over the next two decades, the town experienced slow growth. In 1805, Detroit became the capital of the new Michigan Territory. A fire in 1805 devastated the town, but it was rebuilt on a plan similar to that for Washington, DC. During the War of 1812, Fort Detroit served as the base of American attacks into Canada, but in August 1812, the British captured the fort, which it would hold until the end of the war. The surrounding town also suffered during the war from constant fear of Indian or British attacks. After the war, Detroit enjoyed a period of sustained prosperity, as the advent of steam navigation, sale of public lands, the opening of the Erie Canal, and the introduction of railroads transformed Detroit into a commercial and manufacturing hub. In 1824, it received its first city charter. American settlers from the east flocked to the city, as did immigrants from Greece, Germany, Ireland, and other countries. Detroit became a center of anti-slavery agitation and was an important stop on the Underground Railroad. By 1860, it was the nineteenth largest city in the United States. Detroit showed fervent support of the Union during the Civil War, sending numerous white and African American regiments into combat, and supporting the war effort on the home front.

Walter Romig, Michigan Place Names, Great Lakes Book ed. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986), 154; Arthur M. Woodford, This is Detroit 1701-2001 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001), 1-50; David Lee Poremba, Detroit: A Motor City History (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2001), 9-76.