"If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you" is the Michigan state motto and I imagine my ancestors who immigrated from foreign lands coming to Michigan and seeing the beauty that I see when I look at my home state. Clear blue lakes and rivers, rock structures and mountains, sandy beaches and dunes, and more are what Michigan had to offer the first immigrants.
Before 1837, when Michigan became a state, Native Americans were the very first inhabitants. Next, came the French, who were the earliest missionaries in the area. Then, the British arrived as a result of the expansion of the British Empire. Eventually, others realized what great opportunities Michigan offered.
Three rivers were important to the early settlement of Michigan. The Clinton River Valley saw the settlement at Mt. Clemens, Pontiac, and Rochester. Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti were formed along the Huron River. Monroe, Tecumseh, and Adrian were settled along the Raisin River. All three of these areas form a circle around Detroit.
The early Michigan pioneers migrated from New York and the New England area, settling in the Michigan Territory from 1830-1837. Michigan became attractive to the early settlers because traveling to the territory became easier. Originally, the only mode of transportation was by horseback or wagon train, which was a long and treacherous trip. Steamship travel on Lake Erie became available, too. The completion of the Erie Canal, in 1825, made migrating easier for New Englanders. Road construction from Ohio to Detroit and Chicago allowed settlers to arrive that way. Plus, land offices were opened in Monroe and Detroit. These factors helped draw settlers to the territory. 140,000 pioneers came to the Michigan Territory from 1830-1837. New York, Ohio, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts were the top five states early settlers migrated from.
Fertile land, forests, and mines were all available for early immigrants to develop. Agriculture was the main economy. Michigan's early history was rich in industrial development, much as it is today. Iron mining helped the manufacturing of stoves, steam engines and farm implements. The Soo Locks and Railroads helped to grow Michigan's economy. Copper mining was a draw as well as the lumber industry. Later, automobile, chemical, and cereal manufacturing made Michigan a place to migrate to.
Foreign immigrants came from many countries to make Michigan a true melting pot. Michigan was made the state it is today from the many immigrants who traveled from their homeland during the years 1837-1924.
I will discuss the push (reasons for leaving their homeland) and the pull (reasons to immigrate to Michigan) factors by country. The below countries are where the greatest number of immigrants came to Michigan from.
- Political refugees from a 1837-1838 revolt.
- Depression of the timber and shipbuilding industries
- Military, agricultural, economic, and industrial opportunities after the civil war
- Michigan's close proximity to Canada provided a fresh start for some
- Economic hardships, unemployment and crop failure
- To avoid war and military service
- German government encouraged the poor to emigrate
- Fertile farmland
- State of Michigan recruited immigrants
- Established German settlements (see note)
- the dying copper mining industry in Cornwall, which is in southwest England. Once a great copper mining area.
- copper and iron mines in the Keeweenaw Peninsula, in the Upper Peninsula, which today is known as "Copper Country"
- a place to start new
- improvement of existence
- Religious upheaval in Netherlands
- King William I tight control over the Reformed Church
- Economic depression
- Religious freedom
- Improvement of existence
- Economic opportunities in furniture industry, utilities and finance
- Lack of suitable farmland
- End of the guild system led to more urban centers
- Change from rural to industrial system
- Left to escape parental control, military service, political or religious persecution
- Availability of land
- Economic opportunities with many Scandinavians working in the railroads, mining and furniture making.
- Failure of political revolts
- Small land holdings
- Low wages
- High taxes
- Labor, including railroad workers, sewer and water main workers, and street pavers. Later, for automobile and foundry.
- Liberal revolts in 1848-1849
- Peasants lack of economic success
- Antisemitism led to immigration of Jews.
- Labor opportunities in mining; lumbering; and sugar beet producing in the Thumb area of Michigan.
- Few economic opportunities
- Manual labor and mining jobs
DeBoer, Shirley, M, NGS Research in the States Series: Michigan, Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2008.
Eichholz, Alice, Editor, Red Book, Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004.
Holick, Jennifer, Legacy QuickGuide Michigan Genealogy, Surprise, Arizona: Millenia Corportation, 2013.
"Scandinavian Immigration", Harvard University Library, Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930. http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/scandinavian.html: Accessed 26 April 2013.
1. Michigan History
2. Migration and Immigration