British Detroit (1760-1787)

Please Note: The Detroit Historical Museum is closed due to flooding.
  • 1760: British Major Robert Rogers and his troops take command of Detroit.  As part of the treaty at the end of the war, Britain obtains Detroit from the French.
  • 1760: The British discover that Detroit has about 2,000 inhabitants and 300 buildings.
  • 1762: Abraham Chapman arrives in Detroit via Montreal.  He is believed to be the first Jewish settler in Detroit.
  • 1763: Chief Pontiac and his Ottawa tribe attack Detroit and other forts in Michigan in an attempt to drive out the Europeans.  He fails, and eventually signs a treaty with the English.
  • 1764: Many Detroit inhabitants leave the village for the new settlement at St. Louis in present day Missouri.  Detroit’s population is greatly reduced.
  • 1769: A British Lieutenant named George McDougall buys Hog Island – present day Belle Isle – from Native Americans for 8 barrels of rum, 3 rolls of tobacco, 6 pounds of vermilion paint and a wampum belt.
  • 1771: Detroit is the center of the Great Lakes fur trade. Native Americans exchange pelts and furs for European goods like guns, cooking utensils, cloth and jewelry.
  • 1773: Detroit’s population is about 1,400 with 280 houses.
  • 1776: Britain’s thirteen colonies in North America demand independence as the United States of America.  Detroit is not one of the colonies, and remains under British rule.
  • 1776: The British fort at Detroit is reinforced with 200-300 British soldiers.  The fort does not see battle, but it is used as a base for sending raiding parties into Ohio. Also, the Citadel is used to hold American prisoners.
  • 1778: British Captain Richard Lernoult builds a new fort at Detroit, which is named after him.
  • 1778: The British hold American Patriot Daniel Boone, who was captured by Native Americans, at Detroit.
  • 1778: April 26.  British census records 2,144 residents at Detroit, not including military personnel or prisoners. It does include 138 enslaved persons.
  • 1779: General George Washington considers attacking the British at Detroit during the Revolutionary War, but he does not act.   
  • 1780: The British hold approximately 500 American prisoners at Detroit. Some are held in jail, while others live with local families and are allowed to wander freely.
  • 1783: September 3.  Michigan becomes part the United States.  Major Ephraim Douglass enters Detroit on July 4. However, the British refuse to surrender the forts in Detroit and Mackinac.
  • 1787: Representatives from 12 of the original 13 colonies meet to draft the United States Constitution. The Northwest Territory, comprised of the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota, is created by an ordinance of the Continental Congress.  They also ban slavery in the Northwest Territory.