Bois Blanc Island (Michigan) - History


Bois Blanc was ceded by the local Anishinaabe (Chippewa) as "an extra and voluntary gift" to the U.S. federal government with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. The cession for the area, Article 3, item 13 of the treaty states: "The post of Michilimackinac, and all the land on the island on which that post stands, and the main land adjacent, of which the Indian title has been extinguished by gifts or grants to the French or English governments; and a piece of land on the main to the north of the island, to measure six miles, on lake Huron, or the strait between lakes Huron and Michigan, and to extend three miles back from the water of the lake or strait; and also, the Island De Bois Blane, being an extra and voluntary gift of the Chippewa nation." The treaty ceded most of Ohio and a slice of Indiana to the government, as well as sixteen strategic sites well within Indian territory, on waterways in the future states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

During the War of 1812, U.S. Navy Captain Arthur Sinclair's fleet took shelter at the island while waiting to attack the British at Fort Mackinac. In 1880 the island provided a haven to alleged murderer Henry English who escaped from Pennsylvania authorities before his trial. He was apprehended on Bois Blanc by Pinkerton agents, returned to Pennsylvania and acquitted.

In 1827, the United States mapped the island. The United States Coast Guard established a life-saving station at Walker's Point in 1890. The following year the Pointe Aux Pins Association was formed. After extensive use as a source of kilned lime and firewood for Mackinac Island and other local frontier settlements, Bois Blanc was settled in the late 19th century as a summer resort community. In 1908, on behalf of the association, President Walter B. Webb hired the Mason L. Brown Company, a Detroit surveying firm, to map and record the Pointe Aux Pins subdivision. Pointe Aux Pins was the first resort community on the island. Much of Bois Blanc Island is state-owned forest land containing White and Norway pines that tower 200 feet (61 m) tall. As recently as the 1950s, Bois Blanc provided lumber to Mackinac Island where woodcutting is prohibited.

Bois Blanc Island was without electric service until 1964, when the Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-Op completed a project to install a continuous 3.7-mile underwater cable from Point Nipigon to Bois Blanc. At that time, there were approximately 200 structures on the Island. An electric service upgrade in 1999 replaced the original cable with two submarine cables spanning the Straits of Mackinac.

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