Chapter 2
The River, Islands, Wharves and Docks, Streams And Mills
Table of Contents

Title Page
2 The River, Islands, Wharves and Docks, Streams And Mills
The River
Wharves and Docks
Streams and Mills
83 Journeying -- Transportation Facilities -- Express Companies
85 Navigation On Rivers And Lakes
86 United States Lake Survey -- Lighthouses and their Construction -- Life Saving Service -- Harbor Improvements -- Inspector Of Steamboats -- Signal Service -- Marine Hospital
Table of Illustrations


The islands vary in size from one to several thousand acres. Two of them are located above, and twenty below the city. Beginning at the head of the river, the first is Isle La Peche, or Isle of the Fishes, also called, in 1810, Peach Island. It is situated on the Canadian side of the river, and was, during the summer months, the home of Pontiac. Belle Isle, the City Park, is described in the article on Parks. Beginning at a point six miles below the city are the islands known as Fighting, Mud, Grassy, Grass, Mama-Juda, Grosse, Turkey, Stoney, Slocum's, Humbug, Fox, Elba, Calf, Snake, Hickory, Sugar, Bois Blanc, Horse, Cherry, and Tawa, or Celeron. Fighting Island, also called in 1796, Great Turkey Island, was originally occupied by the Wyandotts, and in 1858 it was sold by the Canadian Government for their benefit. In 1810 Indian intrenchments were plainly visible on the northeast end of the island, and from these warlike appearances the island took its name.

An old French memoir of the date of 1717 says :

Two leagues from Fort Detroit is an island called Isle aux Dindes. It is so called because Turkeys are always to be found there. It contains only very little timber, only prairie. Four or five years ago, a man named Le Tonnerre, principal Chief of the Foxes, and two of the same tribe, were killed there by the Hurons, settled at Detroit. The two Foxes who were with Le Tonnerre were devoured by wild beasts, crows, or other vermin; but the body of Le Tonnerre was still uninjured a year afterward, not an animal having touched him.

Grosse, or Great Island, is the largest in the river. The French memoir just quoted says:

It is very fine and fertile and extensive, being, as is estimated, from six to seven leagues in circumference. There is an extraordinary quantity of apple trees on this island, and those who have seen the apples on the ground say that they are more than half a foot deep; the apple trees are planted as if methodically, and the apples are as large as small pippins. Abundance of excellent millstones are found on this island; all around it are very fine prairies. It was a long time doubtful whether Detroit should not be founded there. The cause of the hesitation was the apprehension that the timber might some day fail.

At one time, the locating of Fort Wayne on this island was seriously considered, and on some accounts it would have been an extremely favorable situation. The banks rise abruptly from the water in many places to fully twenty feet in height. In 1776 Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton gave William Macomb leave to occupy the island, and on July 5, 1793, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe gave his family permission to continue.

Several citizens of Detroit have elegant residences here, and there are many fine farms and homes. The Canada Southern Railroad extends to the island, connecting by ferry with the Canada shore.

Mama-Juda Island contains twenty-nine acres, and is named from an old squaw, who, prior to 1807, used to camp there year after year, during the fishing season. She finally died on the island.

Slocum's Island, of about two hundred acres, is owned by G. B. Slocum.

Humbug Island, of some forty acres, just below, is also owned by Mr. Slocum. It is not inappropriately named, for it is rather a part of the main land than an island.

Elba Island, in 1817, was thickly covered with trees.

Bois Blanc, or Whitewood Island, on the Canadian side of the river, was occupied by the HuronIndians in 1742, and contained a village regularly laid out and inhabited by several hundred people. Father Potier was in charge of a mission among them, but in 1747 they became estranged from the French and he returned to Detroit. The following year the difficulties were settled, and a Huron Mission was established at Sandwich under charge of Fathers Potier and De la Richardie.

In 1796, when the British yielded up Detroit, they erected a blockhouse on this island, but as the United States protested that it did not belong to them, they for the time yielded the point, and soon after erected a fort at Malden.

In 1813, during the fight which preceded Perry's victory, Tecumseh and his Indians were here encamped. When the patriots were in possession in 1838, they denuded it of the trees in order to get better range for their cannon.

Celeron Island, of seventy acres, is so named after Sieur de Celeron, once Commandant of Detroit.


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