(click on photos to see them full size.)
Rachel (back to camera) Pat Moran, Marg Thomas, Dennis Moran and Lee Moran. In foreground with backs to camera - Vince Thomas and Aaron Moran. In background at next table are Josh, Jay, Mary, Patty, Tawneé and Allison (hidden)
John Jacob Astor organized the American Fur Company in 1809. To gain access to the great fur trade monopoly held by the British from posts in Montreal, Astor bought out everyone he could to establish himself as the most successful fur trader in the world. The Stuart House Museum was the social center for the fur traders and Astor in the early 1800's and now is restored to tell the story of America's first millionaire.
The parish's earliest baptismal records go back to 1695. The first parishioners were Hurons encountered by Jesuit Father Jean De Brebeuf. The big Gothic Ste. Anne's in Detroit's Corktown by the Ambassador Bridge began as the very same parish when the French government moved fort and traders to the site where they founded Detroit.
Here on Mackinac, the parish now serves a huge variety of Catholics, from island workers to political luminaries. Michigan's liberal Senator Phil Hart ("the conscience of the Senate," for whom one of the Senate's main office buildings was named) is buried in Ste. Anne's Cemetery near Skull Cave behind the Grand Hotel's front golf course.
After Father Marquette discovered the soil by the mission was only six inches deep, unsuitable for gardening of any kind, his parish moved to St. Ignace. Then in 1700 it followed the combined mission, fort, and fur-trading outpost to the new French fort at Detroit as Cadillac founded the city as a potentially profitable real estate development for himself. This same peripatetic parish later moved back to Michilimackinac on the mainland, and then in 1780 to the island. By then the British controlled the fort, but Commander Patrick Sinclair needed the French traders to continue the fur business. He knew the French would follow their church, so he destroyed the old one at Michillimackinac.
The church interior was recently restored to its appearance from the time when wealthy summer residents remodeled it in the late 19th century. A three-generation painting in the apse shows the Blessed Virgin Mary, her mother Ste. Anne (the patron saint of mariners), and the baby Jesus, surrounded by oddly solid-looking clouds. Candles, a favorite with traditionalists, can be lit for a suggested donation of $1 and $3, depending on size.
In the lower level, a multi-room museum exhibit, "Images of Faith," tells the parish story, beginning with Jesuit "black robes" who professed poverty, chastity, and obedience as outlined in St. Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ. It shows how Presbyterian and Catholic communities here often clashed over missionary efforts. The parish broadened with the arrival of Irish fishermen in the 1840s. Artifacts include a brandy bottle (a flash point of contention between Jesuits and French officials, who used brandy in trading with native peoples), a reliquary, home altars, medals, and a 1730 Psalter. Wisconsin history buffs will recognize another peripatetic frontier missionary, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, venturing far from his home turf around Dubuque, Iowa, to evangelize on Mackinac in 1837.
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