Michigan City History

Bird's Eye View of Michigan City, 1869

Bird's eye view of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana 1869, by A. Ruger, Merchant's Lithographing Co., Chicago

The area around Michigan City, Indiana was used by humans for centuries before the establishment of the city itself. At the time of the last ice age in what is now northwest Indiana, native people, similar to modern day arctic dwellers, lived along the front edge of the glacier. As the ice retreated, those people retreated northward and new people moved into the region from the south. The new residents were of the Mound Building cultures. These people left burial and other mounds behind. Many mounds were found by early European settlers to LaPorte County in the area that is now known as Union Mills. Mound Builders had sophisticated travel and trade routes, evidenced by items such as obsidian traced to locations in Utah, mica from Kansas, shells from the Carolinas, copper from northern Michigan, and alligator teeth from Florida, all found in excavated mounds. After the departure of the Mound Builders, the area was inhabited by people of Algonquian stock which included the Potawatomi, Menominee, Chippewa, Ottawa, Sauk, Fox, Miami, and others. The area that now includes Michigan City was crossed by a number of Indian Trails, including the Sauk Trail which was an important route of travel from Canada, crossing into the United States at the site of modern-day Detroit, through the present Indiana towns of LaPorte and Valparaiso as well as Joliet, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa. In the 1770s, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable established a cabin and potential trading post along Trail Creek, the creek the Michigan City Old Lighthouse is located on. Du Sable was a black man of mixed French and Caribbean heritage.

Indiana became a state in 1816, an area carved out of the previous "Indian Territory." The boundaries of LaPorte County were established by act of the Indiana Legislature in January of 1832.


The Old Lighthouse Museum
Michigan City Historical Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 512
Michigan City, IN 46361
(219) 872-6133
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Updated March 24, 2018

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