Mackinaw City Historical Pathway
In 1761 Alexander Henry from New Jersey was one of the first English traders to venture into the interior of Michigan and came here to Fort Michilimackinac.
Each summer, thousands of Indians led by their chiefs came to receive presents from the King. They also brought furs, corn, and game to trade with the local traders for blankets, clothing, powder, shot, rum, and trinkets. The Indians, essential to the fur trade, could be dangerous.
In 1763, the local Chippewa Indians surprised and captured the fort. The leader of the attack, Chief Matchekewis, lived during the summer in the village of Cheboygan, sixteen miles southeast of here.
Trader Henry lived within the stockade and his story is the only detailed report of the massacre which he wrote later in 1809 after returning to England.
In the course of dreams and visions, it was revealed to Chief Wawatam, a local Indian chief, that later in life he would adopt a white man as perhaps a son, friend or brother. Wawatam thought that, through his guiding spirit, Henry was that person. Henry did live part of the time with Wawatam and his family.
Just before the attack broke out, Chief Wawatam told Henry to go back to Sault Ste. Marie, but Henry couldn't understand what Wawatam wanted him to do, so he ended up staying at the fort and
living through the attack with the help of Wawatam.
About a week after the attack, the Indians, about 350 men, women, and children, decided to cross over to Mackinac Island. Wawatam and his family, in which Henry was included, also moved to the island. While there the Indians acquired some rum which they had taken from the traders and began to drink. Fearing Henry's safety, Wawatam led him out of camp by night to the interior of the Island to a place called Skull Cave; Henry stayed there until Wawatam brought him back to camp.
That winter Henry accompanied Wawatam and his family to the vicinity of the city of Ludington where he hunted and trapped with Wawatam and his sons. In the spring, they returned back to Fort Michilimackinac. All was not well yet; a band of Indians arrived from the Saginaw Bay area and upon learning of Henry's presence, proposed to kill him. To escape such a fate, Wawatam took Henry to the Les Cheneaux Islands northeast of St. Ignace. From there, Wawatam would send Henry to Sault Ste. Marie for his safety.
Alexander Henry later went to England and wrote about his experiences here in the Straits area. Born in New Jersey in 1739, he lived 85 years. Chief Wawatam continued to live here in the Straits area until his death on Mackinac Island; the date is unknown. (Marker Number 49