St. Ignace

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A city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Seventeenth Century

For much of the seventeenth century, St. Ignace was the center of French influence and power in the Upper Great Lakes. in 1671, the Jesuits established a mission and near here the Ottawas and Hurons settled. Then because of the Indian settlement, St. Ignace became a center for the fur trade.

The fur trade complicated relations with the Jesuits as the fur traders often used brandy as a primary trade good, something about which the Jesuits complained often.

In official French documents and among the fur traders, the settlement was called Michilimackinac. Only the Jesuits used the place name St. Ignace.

Olivier Morel de La Durantaye was the first commandant, appointed in 1683. In 1690, as the Beaver Wars and King William's War were heating up, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, the governor of New France, replaced La Durantaye with Louis de la Porte, Sieur de Louvigny. Frontenac also reinforced the place with 150 soldiers. This act impressed upon the Indians the strength of France and the importance that the crown placed on the region.

The Sieur de Louvigny built a fort here and named it Fort Du Buade after Frontenac but few traders or government officials used this title preferring to call it the Fort at Michilimackinac. The 1749 map of Michel Chartier de Lotbiniere with its narrative shows that the fort was located west of Point St. Ignace, which is west of the Mackinac Bridge.[1]

In 1694, Frontenac placed Captain Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in charge of the fort as well as all French forces in the upper Great Lakes. Cadillac remained until 1697. During his tenure at Michillimackinac, Cadillac inspired the emnity of the Jesuits. Cadillac encouraged the use of brandy in the fur trade and even on occasions released several gallons to celebrate Huron and Ottawa victories over the Iroquois. The Jesuits complained loudly to Frontenac who ignored them. Cadillac on occasion also threatened the Fathers and called them violent and seditious. However, the Jesuits had a sympathetic ear in France, which ultimately led to a reversal of French policy in the Great Lakes.


  1. Richard Alan Sambrook, "Thematic Innovation on the Colonial Frontier: Four Historic Maps of Fort Michilimackinac," Michigan Academician 23 (Winter 1991): 1-18. Despite this evidence, many locals have argued for two other possible locations: the first is on the hill above Marquette Park and the other being on the shore in what is today the central business district.