Local history of Michigan places. Histories of Michigan counties, cities and regions, free online. Histories of Detroit, Upper Peninsula, Michigan regions.
Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.
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The Michigan County Histories and Atlases Digitization Project is comprised of nearly 500 titles published before 1925. You can search or browse by title, author, or subject. The collection contains:
– County and Town Histories.
– Biographies. Many of the county histories contain large biographical sections, and there are also individual biographical volumes too.
– Business Directories
– Multi-volume Photo Collections entitled “Art Work” for the Lake Superior region, St. Clair County and Washtenaw County, published in the 1890s.
– Atlases or Plat Books for many counties, often with directories. There are 131 atlases, nearly all published after 1870.
Find maps of historical Michigan at: Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers
This website has links to numerous free online histories and biographical collections published in the late 19th and early 20th century. For Michigan there are over 400 titles. These include biographical collections and histories that are state-wide, regional and county-wide.
A number of free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Michigan – Detroit”. Be patient as the page loads.
Burton, Clarence M. ed.
Detroit: S. J. Clarke. 1922
See the quote from May and Dunbar in the note under Silas Farmer, History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan, on this web page.
Some volume 1 & 2 topics: Tribal distribution at the beginning of the sixteenth century, coureurs de bois, Samuel Champlain, Dollier and Galinee, Treaty of St. Mary’s, Treaty of Upper Sandusky, biography of Cadillac, Detroit under French rule, Ordinance of 1787, law and order in early Detroit, British rule in Detroit, public utilities, fire and police departments, penal and charitable institutions, slavery and underground railroad.
Find 14 more subject pages of books and articles about Michigan at the History of the Great Lakes States Directory.
Burton, Clarence M.
Terming this a “financial and commercial” history seems slightly misleading today. Only a small part of this book is commercial history. Mainly it is a miscellaneous collection of incidents and stories, often very interesting, of Detroit from the 1780s until the mid-19th century. Among the stories of interest are the real estate boom in Detroit during the Revolution, and the effort by a few Detroit residents in the 1790s to buy the entire lower peninsula from the U.S. Government for $5,000.
Catlin, George Byron
Detroit: Detroit Savings Bank 1921
Detroit Public Library
Detroit: Detroit Public Library 1953
“A chronology of events – 1701-1951. One section is on Detroit events; three others deal with the country and the world during these same years. Political events, fads, fancies, popular music, reading of the times and scientific developments are among the subjects covered. A valuable reference tool.”
A Chronological Cyclopaedia of the Past and Present including a full record of territorial days in Michigan and the annals of Wayne County
Detroit: Farmer. 1889
A large number of county histories were produced in Michigan, beginning at the Centennial of 1876. In the mid-1880s, May and Dunbar note that, “In many cases, the attention in local areas shifted from the county level to the preparation of histories of a city. Towering above all of the productions of this type is Silas Farmer, History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan,1884, which appeared in revised editions in 1889 and 1890. This thousand-page work covers nearly every imaginable topic in truly encyclopedic fashion, with its geographical range, as the title indicates, sometimes stretching well beyond Detroit. Numerous histories of Michigan’s largest city have appeared since Farmer, but none matches it for detail or replaces it as the basic source for the period Farmer covers, although Clarence M. Burton, ed., The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, comes the closest.”
– Willis F. Dunbar and George S. May, Michigan: a History of the Wolverine State, Eerdmans 1995.
See the Michigan histories at: Michigan General History
An epitomized history of Detroit; an alphabetical list of its citizens; a classification of professions and principal trades in the city; every information relative to officers of the municipal government, to public offices and officers, to churches, associations and institutions, to shipping steam boats, stages, &c. Also, a list of the officers of the United States’ Government; the names of the Governor, and members of the Legislature of Michigan, and County officers of the state, &c.
MacCabe, Julius P. Bolivar
Detroit: Harsha 1837
See gazetteers for Michigan at: Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers
Collected Maps & Gazetteers for Historic Michigan
Fully Illustrated, containing a sketch of Detroit’s History, Resources and Points of Interest to Visitors
Detroit: Alvord 1891
History of Monroe County, Michigan: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests
Bulkley, John McClelland
Chicago: Lewis 1913
Topics covered in early Monroe history include the Congress of Indians at St. Mary’s Falls, the Mode of Living of the Indians, Count Frontenac, Joliet, Father Marquette, the Griffin, Surrender of Detroit by General Hull.
Stephenson, Orlando Worth
Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce. 1927
Stephenson was a professor at the University of Michigan. This history was done at Ann Arbor’s centennial. Topics mentioned in chapter headings include: the German settlers, private and public schools, the University, business life, fire and water, gas and light, health and sanitation, transportation and communication, YMCA and YWCA.
Chicago: Inter-state Publishing Co. 1881
industrial development and present conditions, together with interesting reminiscences, compiled by Colonel Charles V. DeLand, to which is appended a comprehensive compendium of local biography, embracing life sketches of many well-known citizens of the county. Illustrated
DeLand, Charles Victor
Logansport, IN: Bowen 1903
Some topics included in the Table of Contents are: the Great Railroad Conspiracy Case, the Republican Party – History of its origin and organization, newspapers and newspapermen.
Portland, ME: Nelson 1900
Photos of Jackson, taken mostly in the 1890s.
containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the counties, together with biographies of all the governors of the state and of all the presidents of the United States
Chicago: Chapman Bros. 1891
For descriptions by an early settler of Pinckney, Livingston County, see the novels of Caroline Kirkland on: Michigan Novels and Historical Fiction
Books and articles on The History of Michigan
Adams, Mrs. Franc L.
Lansing: Wykoop Hallenbeck Crawford 1923
Topics covered are Ingham County Stories of Pioneer Days, and township histories.
NY: Stratford House 1950
History of the Early Life and Business Interests of the Village and Township of Leslie, Ingham County, Michigan
Vliet, Mina Alice
Leslie: Daughters of the American Revolution 1914
A number of free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Michigan – Grand Rapids”. Be patient as the page loads.
Containing descriptions of each Town and Village within the County. Also, the Names of all Persons Residing in the Several Villages in the County. With a New Census of Kalamazoo Village, and all the Villages in the County
Thomas, James M., comp.
Kalamazoo: Thomas 1869
See the 19th century newspapers from southwestern Michigan at: Michigan History Periodicals: Magazines, Historical Journals & Newspapers
Magazine of American History Vol 24, pp 457-464
Gibbs, Mary V.
Reminiscences of the 1830s.
For a novel set in early Kalamazoo county, see: Cooper, James Fenimore, The Oak-openings; Or, The Bee-hunter on Michigan Novels and Historical Fiction
Collection of Documents & Records in Michigan History
Kalamazoo: Labadie 1909
100 pages of photos
Weissert, Charles A., ed.
Dayton: Nathional Historical Association 1924
Among the topics covered in the Table of Contents for Southwest Michigan are included: Indian Life prior to white settlement, Kalamazoo as a center of Indian trails, La Salle’s fort on the St. Joseph River, French influence in the Kalamazoo Valley in the 1690s, conflict between French and Indians in early 1700s, Fur Trade at St. Joseph, Spanish capture of Fort St. Joseph, Michigan in the Black Hawk War, construction of Fort Hogan, Pottawatomi village in Portage township, Titus Bronson founds Kalamazoo.
NY: Munsell. 1891
Dunbar and May said of this city history, “For outstate communities, Albert Baxter, History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, comes close to the high standards of comprehensiveness set by Silas Farmer” [in his History of Detroit, found on this web page]. Willis F. Dunbar and George S. May, Michigan: a History of the Wolverine State, Eerdmans 1995.
Some topics from the Table of Contents: Algonquins and their predecessors, ceding of lands north of Grand River, Indian trade, Dexter colony, Grand River Valley in 1837, government under French and English rule, Northwest Territory, first steamboats, the Holland colony.
Belknap, Charles E.
Grand Rapids: Dean-Hicks 1922
Some topics from the Table of Contents: Shantytown and wildcat money, pioneers’ winter food, an Indian wedding tour, the first river steamboat, the Fisk Lake Log Tavern, Kent County’s pioneer jail, experience of a volunteer fireman, an old-time doctor.
Works of Fiction set in Michigan
its growth, development, and resources, an extended description of its iron and copper mines: also, accurate sketches of its counties, cities, towns, and villages … biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers
Chicago: Western Historical Co. 1883
For an 1840s account of copper country in the U.P., see: St. John, John R., A True Description of the Lake Superior Country on Michigan Economic History
Houghton: Tyler 1904
100 pages of photos; no text.
Chicago: Lewis 1895
Links to Museums & Historic Sites in the Michigan U.P.: Museums and Historic Sites in Northern Michigan
“A newspaper man’s story of Old Fort Mackinac on the Hill of History at Mackinac Island, and its direct succession to the ancient forts at St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, Michigan. These three forts were for years called “Michilimackinac” and their history is progressively related in the records of those vibrant days beginning nearly three hundred years ago. They all played a dramatic part in the development of the Old Northwest and in the stirring colonial and 19th Century history of our country.” -Author’s acknowledgements
Bailey, John R. (M.D.)
Lansing: Thorp. 1895
History of Mackinac from the 1630s, when French missionaries first passed through. The volume includes a considerable amount of Native American history in that area.
Jamison, James K.
Ontonagon, MI: Ontonagon Herald 1948
Books and articles about work, medical care, business & industry, etc. at Michigan Economic History
Powers, Perry F.
Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company 1912
Late 20th Century historians of Michigan George May and Willis Dunbar recommended this in 1995 in History of the Wolverine State as the only work for most of the counties of the northern half of the Lower Peninsula that, “… is comparable to the Durant-Farmer-Baxter model of county or city history for the southern part of the state”. In other words, they considered this among the best of the local histories written for Michigan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and definitely the best history of this part of the state.
Sawyer, Alvah L.
Chicago: Lewis. 1911
Late 20th Century historians of Michigan George May and Willis Dunbar recommended this in 1995 in History of the Wolverine State as the only work for the upper peninsula that, “… is comparable to the Durant-Farmer-Baxter model of county or city history for the southern part of the state”. In other words, they considered this among the best of the local histories written for Michigan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and definitely the best history of the upper peninsula.
Also see the Michigan histories at: Michigan General History
Links to Museums & Historic Sites in the Michigan U.P.: Museums and Historic Sites in Northern Michigan
“At the Meeting of the Trails: The Romance of a Parish Register”
Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol VI, 1912-13, 198-217
Thwaites, Reuben Gold
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association
The parish register of the title is for the small church at St. Ignace from 1695 to 1821. The author draws upon the parish register as a source for a cursory history of the community that was based on the Mackinaw trading post, which played a vital role in the life of the region’s Indians and served the French as their western outpost of empire in Canada.
with copious extracts from Marquette, Hennepin, La Houtan, Cadillac, Alexander Henry, and others
Van Fleet, J.A. Rev.
Ann Arbor: Courier 1870
For links to tourist booklets from the 1880s and 1890s, see: Vacationing Up-North in the Late 19th Century
Williams, Meade C.
Originally published 1897. A collection of Indian tales and other information that was gleaned by the author over many years of research on Mackinac Island.
illustrated from sketches, drawings, maps and photographs, with an original map of Mackinac Island, made especially for this work
Wood, Edwin O.
NY: Macmillan. 1918
Of nearly 250 webpages of books and other resources at Century Past History,
over 90 pages are in the group History of the Great Lakes States.
You can find more works like these at the state ‘Cities, Counties & Regions’ pages.