Whether it was settled 100 years ago or 1000, every town has its own, unique history. But in the United States, only a handful of towns can claim to be 350 years old. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (pronounced soo saint marie) is one of those places. Settled only 40 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, it became an important fur-trading settlement.
Why trade fur at Sault Ste. Marie, of all places? Because Sault Ste. Marie is located at the rapids of the Saint Mary's River, effectively connecting Lake Superior to Lake Huron. The rapids fall 21 feet from Lake Superior to the lower Lake Huron and necessitate a portage to cross. This afforded a natural gathering place for Native Americans to trade furs collected along the shores of Lake Superior, and the rapids also provided an abundance of fish.
The Native Americans established a village there possibly as long as 2,000 years ago. The first Europeans traveled to Sault Ste. Marie in 1668. This was Father Jaques Marquette, a Jesuit priest who would go on to become the first explorer of the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries. Father Marquette had heard of the Native American village went there to found a Catholic mission.
Sault Ste. Marie grew in prominence as more and more trappers and fur traders flooded the northern Great Lakes. Sitting right on the border between Canada and the United States, it was often fought over between French and British trappers until the area was finally ceded to the United States in the early 1800s.
Shipping remained an important part of the local economy as natural resources were harvested from the wilds of Lake Superior and shipped to more populated areas. In 1855, the first lock in America was built so that ships no longer needed to portage the rapids.
Today, the city of Sault Ste. Marie still exists. There are four locks, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, and they are the busiest locks in the world, transferring more freight each year than the Panama and Suez Canals combined.
Have any of you ever heard of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan before? Are you surprised to learn that this little northern city has been around for 350 years? Were you aware that the locks connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron are the busiest in the world?
*****A mother of two young boys, Naomi Rawlings spends her days picking up, cleaning, playing and, of course, writing. Her husband pastors a small church in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, where her family shares its ten wooded acres with black bears, wolves, coyotes, deer and bald eagles. Naomi and her family live only three miles from Lake Superior, where the scenery is beautiful and they average 200 inches of snow per winter. She is looking forward to the release of her fourth novel, Falling for the Enemy, in January 2015. For more information about Naomi, please visit her website at www.NaomiRawlings.com.