French Detroit (1700-1760)

Please Note: The Detroit Historical Museum is closed due to flooding.
  • 1701: July 24. Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac establishes a settlement at Detroit.  He leads 100 French soldiers and 100 Algonquins to "le détroit" (the strait).  They build Fort Pontchartrain du détroit from logs.  The goal is to protect the French fur trade in the Great Lakes from the English and Iroquois.
  • 1701: Fall and Early Winter. Cadillac asks Native Americans to settle in the area. He offers protection and trading opportunities. The Huron, Miami, Ottawa and Chippewa build villages in the surrounding area.
  • 1704: February 2. The first European child is born at Detroit. Marie Therese Cadillac is the daughter of Antoine and his wife.
  • 1704: Cadillac reports that 2,000 Native Americans live in villages surrounding Detroit.
  • 1706: June 6. The first major confrontation between the French and local Native Americans occurs when a French commander's dog bites an Ottawa.  Fighting leaves Father Nicolas de L'Halle, Ste. Anne's priest, and 30 Ottawa dead.
  • 1707: Cadillac begins granting lands around Detroit to French settlers. He acts as a landlord and requires settlers to pay him an annual rent plus a percentage of their crops.
  • 1709: Count Pontchartrain, Cadillac’s French supporter, complains in a letter that Cadillac is greedy because of the amount of rent and crops he requires from his settlers.
  • 1710: The French Government removes Cadillac from his position of commander of Detroit.  He becomes the governor of the French colony in Louisiana. He does not return to Detroit.
  • 1712: Tensions between Fox Indians from Wisconsin and the French at Detroit escalate.  The Fox attack Fort Pontchartrain for 19 days.  On retreat, the Fox are overtaken by Huron, Ottawa, and Potawatomi, who are loyal to the French.
  • 1715: The French rebuild the fort at Michilimackinac to control access to the upper Great Lakes.
  • 1720: Detroit’s population is about 200 people. Church records indicate that there were 43 baptisms, 7 marriages, and 15 deaths for the year.
  • 1721: June. Father Pierre de Charlevoix stops at Detroit during an exploration trip of the Great Lakes.  He reports that settlement is run down and suffers from neglect by the French Government.
  • 1730: The register of Ste. Anne’s parish records 106 baptisms, 16 marriages and 44 deaths in Detroit.
  • 1730: October 15. Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac dies in France.
  • 1733: A smallpox outbreak in Detroit kills many residents.
  • 1740: The first home built outside of the Fort Pontchartrain stockade is erected by farmer Jean Baptiste Baudry.
  • 1747:  Tensions in North America between the French and British increase.  The French send 150 troops from Montreal to strengthen Detroit’s fort against Huron Indians, who are allied with the British.
  • 1749: Detroit’s population is about 900.  The Governor of New France offers animals and farm equipment to Frenchmen who settle in the area.  Only 46 accept his offer.
  • 1751: The French operate seven forts within Michigan to protect their fur trade in the region.
  • 1751: Detroit's population is 483, including 33 enslaved Native and African Americans.
  • 1751: Michael Yax begins farming in present day Grosse Pointe.  He is considered the first German settler in Michigan.
  • 1752: Smallpox and famine threaten the settlement at Detroit.
  • 1754: The French and Indian War begins, which is part of the Seven Years' War between England and France. Detroit is a major stronghold for the war. The French send over 400 militia and supplies to the fort.
  • 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.