The city of Marquette is surrounded by twenty-four miles of beaches and is the closest natural harbor from the ore deposits in the Western UP and the Soo Locks. It only took five years after the discovery of iron in present day Negaunee for Marquette to spring up from temporary settlements to a bustling industrial city. Today, Marquette is more of a college town and tourist attraction for mountain bikers, hikers, and health enthusiasts; but the Queen City of the North has a rich history.
Before European exploration, Marquette was home to the Ojibwa people who still survive in the region today. After iron was discovered in 1844 by William Burt, an American surveyor, immigrants flooded into the UP. Immigrants and the Ojibwa people lived in harmony together with the help of the chief, Charlie Kawbawgam. Kawbawgam became the guide and mail carrier between L’Anse and other settlements throughout the area and worked closely with Peter White, a prominent figure in Marquette’s history. The Kawbawgam’s lived on Presque Isle, where their grave is marked by a huge natural boulder.
While the mines were being excavated, Marquette’s piece in the puzzle was to efficiently ship the ore from the mines to the rest of the world. It is estimated that 97% of iron used during World War II came from UP mines. Because of Marquette’s role of shipping ore, the docks were guarded by a military base stationed at Pictured Rocks. There were also watch towers stationed around Marquette itself. The most notable is Graveraet High School. With the threat of war declining, the production and mining fluctuated year to year and caused Marquette’s once booming shipping industry to slow down and leave only one functioning dock in Upper Harbor.
But the story of Marquette does not stop at the harbors. Marquette’s industry has shifted from once an industrial city to that of a college town and tourist destination. Marquette’s central location allows visitors to stop in for the weekend or stay for the summer. Students attending Northern Michigan University can explore some of the oldest land forms in the world along with pursuing their degree in higher education. People may also stop in to take advantage of the Level II Trauma Center part of the UP Health Systems.
No matter the industry that may come or go from the area, Marquette will somehow find its way through history to make it work. From once a peaceful home for the Ojibwa tribe or hustle and bustle of trains and ships to the day trippers and seasonal residents, Marquette is called the Queen City of the North for its adaptation.
The history above is of course very brief, and all information was researched at the Marquette Regional History Center. If you a wish to see a more in-depth history of any topic about Marquette, please leave a comment below and check back frequently for a new posting.