History of St. Ignace

Father MarquetteSt.Ignace was founded by Father Marquette in 1671, and was named for St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Ignace has a rich Native American history and was once the bustling hub of 17th century fur trade. In the mid-1800s, the population swelled as logging and commercial fishing went into full swing.

Today, the people of St. Ignace welcome visitors from all over the world to enjoy the natural beauty, alluring attractions, and friendliness of this uniquely wonderful vacation destination.

Downtown St.IgnaceIn the early 1900s, the few cars traveling the Straits crossed on railroad ferries at a cost of $40.00 each! In 1923, the Michigan State Ferry Service was established to transport autos between St. Ignace and the Lower Peninsula at the more reasonable cost of $2.50. During its first year of operation, 10,351 vehicles made the 1 hour crossing. In 1956, with 5 ferries running, about 1 million vehicles were transported across the water. During summer weekends, holidays and hunting season, as many as 9,000 cars were ferried, bringing line-ups of several miles and waits of 6 – 12 hours. The Mackinac Bridge replaced the Ferry Service in 1957. In its first few months of operation, the Mackinac Bridge recorded 140,000 vehicle crossings. Today, the Mackinac Bridge provides safe crossings for more than 4.5 million vehicles annually.

Mackinac or Mackinaw?

The native people called the area Michinni-makinong. The name was shortened over the years by French and British settlers. In the 1600s, the French pronounced the ending as “aw”, which translated to their spelling as “ac”. Michilimackinac, Fort Mackinac, Mackinac Island, the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge are spelled with an “ac”, but pronounced “aw”. Upon the arrival of the British, a village established as Mackinaw (Mackinaw City) is pronounced as “aw” and also spelled that way. There are also Mackinaw boats, Mackinaw coats, and Mackinaw blankets (all pronounced “aw”).

History Books & DVDs

Would you like to know the history of the Mackinac Bridge? How about Before the Bridge? The history of St. Ignace? Books and DVDs are now available via the
St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce.

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