The harbor, St. Ignace, circa 1906 (Source: U.S. Library of Congress, American Memory Project)
“. . . With the Martel furnace, Mackinac Lumber Company, and the iron ore docks in full blast, shipping ought to be lively next summer.” – The Northern Spy [weekly newspaper], February 16, 1882.
St. Ignace bustled with development in 1882. The week before this issue of The Northern Spy, (February 6-15, 1882), a census was compiled of the population for the purpose of incorporating the village of St. Ignatius. The formal incorporation petition was sent to the Mackinac County Board of Supervisors on February 23, 1882. The board supported the petition, but changed the village’s name to St. Ignace. By March 14, 1883, St. Ignace became an incorporated city.
Another view of St. Ignace’s harbor, circa 1906 (Source: U.S. Library of Congress, American Memory Project)
There were three key developments to the economy and growth of the area between the years 1880-1882. The Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette Railroad opened a southern terminus in St. Ignace (1881), railroad car ferry service began between Mackinaw and St. Ignace (1881), and the Martel Furnace Company (iron smelting) opened near Graham’s Point (1880). In addition, a county-wide election authorized the transfer of the county seat from Mackinac Island to St. Ignace (April, 1882). By May, the Mackinac County Board of Supervisors authorized money for the construction of a county courthouse and jail in St. Ignace.
In the end, the Martel Furnace Company failed because of the Panic of 1893. The Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette Railroad was not a financial success at first. In 1886, the line was bought by the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway, and it prospered under the new owners. The passenger and railroad car ferry service prospered as well. The 1888 arrival of the powerful ice-breaker, City of St. Ignace, changed the community significantly. “No longer would there be any danger of months of winter isolation – a dependable connection was made with the lower peninsula” (Before the Bridge, pg. 70). Now, that connection is much more dependable with the Mackinac Bridge, which opened in 1957.