Michigan History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Michigan History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Michigan history.

Following the prehistoric inhabitants, Michigan's residents were the tribal groups of Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi Native Americans. The history and the way of life of Michigan Indians was profoundly affected by newcomers to the area. The indigenous people had occupied the land thousands of years before the first European explorers arrived. The Europeans brought with them new ideas, customs, religions, weapons, transport (the horse and the wheel), livestock (cattle and sheep) and disease which profoundly affected the history of the Native Indians.

 Michigan, the Wolverine State, joined the union in 1837. Located in the center of the Great Lakes, Michigan is divided into two land masses known as the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

17th Century Michigan History Timeline

1622 - French explorers etienne Brule, and his companion Grenoble, are probably the first white men to see Lake Superior.

1668 - Fathers Jacques Marquette and Claude Dablon establish the first mission at Sault Sainte Marie.

1673 - May 17 - Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette, fur trader Louis Jolliet and five voyageurs leave the recently established Indian mission at St. Ignace to explore a great river known by the Indians as the "Messissipi."

18th Century Michigan History Timeline

1701- June 24 - Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a 43-year-old French army officer, selects a site at le detroit (the straits) - the waterway between Lakes St. Clair and Erie - and establishes a French settlement.

1715 - The French establish Fort Michilimackinac at the Straits of Mackinac.

1760 - The French surrender Fort Pontchartrain to the British, ending French rule in Detroit.

1763 - May 7 - During the Indian wars in the area, Pontiac leads a 135-day siege of Detroit. Indians capture all the forts in Michigan, except Detroit.

1787 - The (Northwest) Ordinance of 1787 defines the procedure for obtaining statehood in the Northwest Territory, of which Michigan is a part.

1792 - Under the British Parliament's Constitutional Act, the first election is held in Michigan.

1796 - July 11 - The British evacuate Detroit and abandon their posts on the Great Lakes.

19th Century Michigan History Timeline

1805 - The Michigan Territory is created, with Detroit designated as the seat of government. William Hull is appointed as governor. Detroit is destroyed by fire.

1812 - Detroit and Fort Mackinac are surrendered to the British during the War of 1812.


  • January 22- A British force of 1,300 soldiers and Indians falls upon an American army at the River Raisin near present-day Monroe. Against direct orders, US Brigadier General James Winchester has moved his force of 700 Kentuckians and 200 regulars to the River Raisin.
  • American forces reenter Detroit. Lewis Cass is appointed military and civil governor of the Michigan Territory.

1819 - The Treaty of Saginaw cedes nearly 6 million acres of Indian lands to Michigan settlers. Michigan sends a delegate to Congress.

1828 - The Territorial Capitol is built at Detroit for a cost of $24,500.

1835 -

  • The Toledo War ensues over the Michigan- Ohio boundary. Michigan was not admitted to the Union because she would not surrender her claim to the Toledo strip. The area was finally surrendered in exchange for the western section of the Upper Peninsula.
  • The First Constitutional Convention . . Stevens T. Mason is inaugurated as the first Governor.

1837 - Michigan is admitted to the Union as the twenty-sixth state.

1841 - The University of Michigan is moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

1842 - Copper mining operations begin near Keweenaw Point.

1844 - Iron ore is discovered in the Upper Peninsula at Negaunee.

1847 -

  • January 27 - Underground Railroad: Francis Troutman and several others arrive at the home of the Adam Crosswhite family - Kentucky slaves who have escaped to Marshall.
  • A law is passed by the State Legislature to locate the State Capital "in the township of Lansing, in the county of Ingham."

1854 - The Republican Party is organized at Jackson.

1855 - June 22 - The ship canal at Sault Ste. Marie opens.

1863 - July 1- Civil War

1861-1865 - Over 90,000 Michigan men are mustered into service during the Civil War.

1877 - January 28 - Winfield Scott Gerrish opens the 7.1-mile-long Lake George and Muskegon River Railroad in Clare County. Following a warm winter that seriously hampered logging activities, Gerrish moves 20 million board feet of logs to the Muskegon River.

1879 - The new State Capitol is dedicated in Lansing; the structure cost $1,510,130.

20th Century Michigan History Timeline

1908 - The Ford Model T is first manufactured.

1896 - March 6 - Charles King of Detroit is the first person to test drive a gasoline-powered automobile in Michigan. Three months later, also in Detroit, Henry Ford drives his gasoline-powered, two-cylinder quadricycle.

1910 -The first primary election in Michigan is held.

1920 - Detroit's WWJ begins commercial broadcasting of regular programs, the first such radio station in the United States.

1930 - The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel opens to automobile traffic.

1933 - May 2 - Two hundred young men from Detroit arrive at an isolated spot in Chippewa County and set up Camp Raco - Michigan's first Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) facility.

1935 - In the midst of the Great Depression, the United Automobile Workers of America (UAW) is organized in Detroit.

1936 - December 30 - Spurred by an unfounded rumor that work is going to be transferred to plants with weak union support, autoworkers begin a spontaneous sit-down strike at General Motors Corporation (GMC) plants in Flint.

1941 - Auto plants are converted to the production of war materials, helping Michigan become known as the "Arsenal of Democracy" on Oct 1, 1942.

1957 - November 1 - The five-mile long Mackinac Bridge opens on November 1.

1959 - Berry Gordy, Jr. founds Motown Records in Detroit.

1963 - The new State Constitution is ratified at the April election.

1967 - Riots erupt in Detroit amidst racial tensions.

1974 - Gerald R. Ford of Grand Rapids becomes the 38th President of the United States.

1976 - Throwaway bottles are banned by a referendum vote .

1977 - The Renaissance Center is dedicated, marking a revival of downtown Detroit.

1980 - The Republican National Convention is held in Detroit.

1981 - The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum are dedicated in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, respectively.

1987 - January 26 - Michigan celebrates 150 years of statehood.

1989 - The Michigan Library and Historical Center is dedicated in Lansing.

1992 -

  • Michigan State University hosts the third and final Presidential debate. The State Capitol building is fully restored and rededicated.
  • A constitutional amendment is adopted limiting the number of terms an official can serve as governor or as a federal or state Senator or Representative.

1997 -

  • President Bill Clinton addresses joint session of Michigan Legislature, the first U.S. President to do so since President Theodore Roosevelt visited the state capital in 1907.
  • The Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup, its first Cup victory since 1955.
  • Lansing celebrates its sesquicentennial as Michigan's state capital.

1998 - The J. L. Hudson's building in Detroit is demolished. Chrysler Corporation merges with the German auto company Daimler-Benz, forming DaimlerChrysler.

21st Century Michigan History Timeline

2001 - Detroit celebrates its 300th anniversary.

2002 - Jennifer M. Granholm becomes the first woman elected governor of
the state of Michigan.

2004 - Altercation between Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers took place at NBA game, nine players suspended, five players charged with assault; Detroit Pistons won NBA championship
2005 -

  • General Motors announced massive job cuts;
  • civil rights icon, Rosa Parks, died at age of 92

2008 - Detroit Red Wings won 11th Stanley Cup

2009 -

  • General Motors GM - announced cut of 21,000 US jobs, phasing out Pontiac brand;
  • Chrysler filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy;
  • incident on airliner on international flight arriving in Detroit from Amsterdam was failed bomb attack, Nigerian man arrested

2010 - Pipeline in Kalamazoo River sprung leak, more than 800,000 gallons of oil released into creek, traveled to Kalamazoo River, largest oil spill in history of Midwest

2011 - Trial began for Nigerian accused of trying to bomb Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam
2012 -

  • General Motors reported record profits for 2011
  • Nigerian bomber sentenced to life in prison

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