REGION 6: HISTORY (The Great Lakes) Fun Facts


Michigan * Indiana * Wisconsin * Minnesota * Illinois


When we think of the Great Lakes Region, images come to mind of huge ocean-like lakes, fascinating geology, forests, enormous waterfalls, shipwrecks and history dating back to before the landing of the Pilgrims.

What we probably don’t think about though, is the huge impact that this has region made on the forming of the new U.S. Government and its Constitution, inspiring it’s directives from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

We might also be somewhat unaware of the impact of the Great Lakes Region on economics and commerce during the Industrial Revolution.

For our ‘Focused Events’ we’ll spend most of our time between the years 1760-1840.

We’ll call this the ‘Age of Government and Industry.



*The original Native Americans living on the lands around the Great Lakes were primarily Iroquois, Algonquin and Winnebago.

*The St Lawrence River connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

*Early explorers to the Great Lakes region were searching for a Northwest Passage to East Asia in order to establish a shorter trade route to China.

*1450-1600: The Iroquois Confederacy was a league of 6 tribes that sought to unite the tribes with a contract of peace.  The articles of this Confederacy served as fore-runners for the Northwest Ordinance and then ultimately for the U.S. Constitution.

g6*1840’s: The Great lakes became a super-highway for the transportation of wheat, corn, lumber, coal and iron.

*The Logging Industry of the Great Lakes Region has provided well over 2 billion board feet of white pine alone! 

*The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on the shores of Lake Superior report that the Lakes have claimed more than 6,000 ships and over 30,000 lives.


*1781: Originally the Articles of Confederation was the 1st American Constitution. They were weak and vague.  Here’s what they tried to accomplish:

  1. Establish a Federal Government with most of the power remaining with the individual states and avoid ‘big central’ government.
  2. Provide Diplomacy
  3. Print money
  4. Resolve controversies between states
  5. Create and maintain the Continental Army

*The Articles had no way to accomplish these tasks, enforce anything or impose taxes.

*1787:The Articles were drafted into the U.S. Constitution

*1787: Congress Passed the Northwest Ordinance which provided rules for governing the Northwest Territory (the land north of the Ohio River and west of the Alleghenies) that had been acquired by the U.S. in 1783 at the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution.

*The Northwest Ordinance detailed the terms for gaining status as a territory and provided a Bill of Rights for the governing of a Territory.

*The Northwest Ordinance then detailed the requirements for becoming a state and guaranteed a new state’s equality with the original 13.

*Here were the steps to becoming a state:

  1. When a Territory was being settled, congress would appoint a governor, a secretary and 3 judges.
  2. Once the Territory reached 5,000 free men it could elect a legislature.
  3. When the territory reached 60,000 people, it could apply to become a state.

*The Northwest Ordinance also guaranteed:

  1. There would no slavery in the territory
  2. Freedom of Religion would be guaranteed
  3. Resident Indians would be treated decently
  4. Education would be provided




1: Lake Superior:

*Largest of the Great Lakes

*31,700 sq. miles of surface water

*2,726 miles of shoreline

*483’ deep on the average and 1,332’ at its deepest point

*Water visibility is up to 100’ in some areas

 2: Lake Huron:

*2nd largest of the Great Lakes

*23,000 sq. miles of surface water

*3,827 miles of shoreline

*195’ deep on the average and 751’ at its deepest point

*Home to 30,000 islands

 3: Lake Michigan:

*3rd largest of the Great Lakes

*22, 404 sq. miles of surface water

*1,640 miles of shoreline

*279’ deep on the average and 923’ at its deepest point

*Like the Bermuda, Lake Superior has a triangle that has caused strange disappearances

4: Lake Erie:

*4th largest of the Great Lakes

*9,940 sq. miles of surface water

*871 miles of shoreline

*62’ deep on the average and 210’ at its deepest point

*Lake Erie draws in the most income from recreation and fishing

5: Lake Ontario:

*Smallest of the Great Lakes

*7,340 sq. miles of surface water

*1,146 miles of shoreline

*283’ deep on the average and 801’ at its deepest point

*Waters are sometime white due to occasional calcium carbonate increase




1). MICHIGAN: Motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”


*1620-1680: French explorers arrive in the region and set up European settlements

*1787: Michigan becomes part of the Northwest Territory.

*1805: Michigan Territory is created.

*1819:  Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi Indians cede over 6 million acres and begin migration to the south.

*1835: Toledo War grants entire Upper Peninsula to Michigan.

*1837: Michigan becomes 26th state admitted to the Union.

*1842: Copper mining begins near imagesm3 Point.

*1842: Last of the Indian lands ceded by treaty.

*1844: Iron Ore discovered in Upper Peninsula.

*1847: Lansing becomes the Capitol.

*1854: Republican Party organized in Jackson.

*1855: Soo Canal and Locks open connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

*1861-1865: 90,000 Michigan Men serve in the Civil War.

*1881:  the ‘Great Thumb Fire’ becomes the first natural disaster served by the American Red Cross.

*1896: Charles King of Detroit tests his gas-powered automobile.

*1899: Ransom Olds builds first automobile factory in Detroit.

*1908: First Ford Model T manufactured.

*1913: Henry Ford’s Hyland Park plant opens.

*1928: Ford River Rouge Plant completed and becomes the largest factory complex in the world.

*1929: The Ambassador Bridge – longest bridge in the world – opens connecting Detroit to Windsor, ONT.

*1935: United Automobile Worker’s Union (UAW) formed in Detroit

*1957: Mackinac Bridge opens

*1963: New State Constitution ratified


When Michigan was a Territory, deer were so plentiful that deer skins were used as money.  A deer carcass was worth $1, so the dollar became known for what it was worth – a ‘buck’.


2). INDIANA: Motto: “The crossroads of America”

g9*1500-1700: French explore and claim the Indiana area for France.

*1702: Queen Anne’s War ends Spanish presence.

*1752-1753: Smallpox epidemic ravages local Indian population.

*1763: Britain gains control of the area.

*1763: Proclamation of 1763 forbids settlement west of Appalachian Mountains.

*1774: Britain passes the Quebec Act and Indiana becomes part of the province of Quebec.

*1778: Indiana becomes part of Virginia.
*1787: Indiana becomes part the Northwest Territory.

*1800: Indiana established as a Territory.

*1803: Indians cede Indiana land.

*1805-1809: Michigan Territory and Illinois Territory break from Indiana Territory.

*1811: Chief Tecumseh defeated at battle of Tippecanoe.

*1816: Indiana becomes 19th State admitted to the Union.

*1816: Abraham Lincoln moves to Indiana.

*1825: Indianapolis becomes state capitol.

*1835: Wabash and Erie Canal opens.

*1844: The University of Notre Dame receives its charter.

*1845: Johnny Appleseed dies.

*1851: State Constitution adopted.

*1858: The Studebaker Brothers start a company that would become the largest producer of farm wagons and carriages.

*1862: Richard Gatling patents the machine gun.

*1868: The ‘Great Train Robbery’ takes place at Marshfieldg10

*1880: Wabash becomes the first town completely illuminated with electric lighting.

*1911: First Indy 500 race run.

*1915: Workman’s Compensation Act established.

*1958: Michael Jackson born in Gary.


3). WISCONSIN: Motto: “Forward!”

*1634: First European arrives in Green Bay looking for the Northwest Passage.

*1754-1763: French and Indian War ending with the French giving over control of the area to Britain with the 1st Treaty of Paris.

*1679: Wisconsin area claimed for France.

*1764: ‘Pontiac’s Rebellion’ pits the Ottawa tribes and their allies against the British.

*1774: The Quebec Act makes Wisconsin part of Quebec.g12

*1781: Settlement established at Prairie du Chien.

*1783: U.S. takes control of the region with the 2nd Treaty of Paris.

*1836: Territory of Wisconsin established.

*1787: Wisconsin becomes part of the Northwest Territory.

*1822: mining begins in SW Wisconsin.

*1825: Native tribal boundaries are established.

*1832: Black Hawk War is the last Native American conflict in the area.

*1835: First Steamboat arrives in Milwaukee.

*1837: The ‘Panic of 1837’ results in failure of all territorial banks and the Winnebago tribes cede all land to U.S.

*1848: Wisconsin becomes the 30th state admitted to the Union.

*1851: First railroad opens between Milwaukee and Waukesha.

*1853: Capital punishment is abolished.

*1854: Wisconsin Supreme Court declared Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 unconstitutional.

*1864: First Cheese factory opens in Ladoga.

w2*1868: C.L. Sholes patents the typewriter.

*1889: Prayers and reading from the King James Bible becomes prohibited in public schools.

*1919: Wisconsin is the first state to ratify the nineteenth amendment (women’s suffrage), and deliver it to Congress.

*1932: Wisconsin is first state to pass unemployment legislation in the U.S.

*1965: Legislation passes banning housing discrimination.


4). MINNESOTA: Motto: “The star of the north”

*1659-1660: French Fur traders explore west end of Lake Superior.

*1683: First book written about Minnesota written by Catholic Missionary, Father Louis Hennepin.

*1763: Spain receives the Louisiana Territory.m2

*1787: Eastern Minnesota becomes part of the Northwest Territory.

*1787: First formal mapping of the Minnesota territory completed.

*1800: France acquires the Louisiana Territory from Spain.

*1800’s: Logging and Lumber industry begins in Minnesota.  Golden Era of Lumbering was 1890-1910 during which 2 billion board feet of white pine was lumbered.

*1803: Louisiana Purchase

*1805: First expedition through Minnesota led by Zebulon Pike.

*1815: First American Fur traders let into Minnesota.

*1818: North boundary of MN established at 49th parallel.

*1836: Wisconsin Territory including Minnesota established.

*1849: Minnesota Territory formed with present day boundaries.

*1850: Treaties with Dakota Indians for eastern lands result in wheat becoming major crop.

imagesm1*1858: Minnesota become the 32nd state admitted to the Union.

*1862: Railroad completed between Minneapolis & St Paul.

*1862: The Sioux Uprising results in 800 white settlers dead and 38 Sioux Indians hanged.

*1880: Telephone communication established between Minneapolis and St Paul.

*1927: Minnesota native, Charles Lindbergh, flew solo across Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris.

*1959: St Lawrence Seaway opens gaining access to the Atlantic Ocean from Duluth.


5). ILLINOIS: Motto: “State sovereignty, national union”

*1673: France explores the Illinois area.

*1699: Town of Cahokia established, oldest town in Illinois.

*1717: Illinois becomes part of the Louisiana Territory.

*1718: John Law is granted a French charter and colonizes the Mississippi Valley.

*1763: French and Indian War leaves Illinois ceding all lands to Britain.Illinois-River-Campingi2

*1769: Illinois Indians starved at Ft St Louis – which is now Starved Rock State Park.

*1800: Congress Creates the Indiana Territory which includes Illinois.

*1803: Kaskaskia Indians cede nearly all lands in Illinois.

*1804: Lewis & Clark explore Illinois.

*1809: Illinois established as a Territory.

*1811: First coal mine founded in Jackson County.

*1817: Veterans of War of 1812 receive 160-acre land warrants in Illinois ‘Military Tract’ between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.

*1818: Illinois becomes the 21st state admitted to the Union.

*1819-1829: Kickapoo, Chippewa, Ottawa and Pottawatomie Indians cede their lands.

*1837: Chicago incorporated as a town.

*1837: John Deere designs self-scouring steel plow.

*1839: Cherokee Indians pass through Illinois on the ‘Trail of Tears’ toward Oklahoma.

*1844: Mormon leaders, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, assassinated at Carthage.

*1846: Mormons leave Illinois for Utah.

*1848: Illinois and Michigan canal completed.imagesi1

*1856: 1st railroad bridge across the Mississippi completed.

*1868: Ulysses S. Grant elected President.

*1926: Charles Lindbergh begins daily mail delivery flights between Chicago & St. Louis.

*1929: Valentine’s Day Massacre between Chicago gangs.

*1954: First McDonald’s restaurant opens in Des Plaines.

*1970: Voters adopt New Constitution.


So, spend some time exploring the Great Lakes Region.  Wherever your interests lie, the Great Lakes Region has something for you to experience, learn about or just plain enjoy!




One Comment on “REGION 6: HISTORY (The Great Lakes) Fun Facts

  1. Pingback: REGION 6: ART & ARCHITECTURE (The Great Lakes) Fun Facts | Road Trips and Tiny Trailers

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