Michigan City is an Indiana town with a lot of history! Compiled here is a list of ten of the most fascinating tidbits about this lovely city on the lake from a range of historical periods and more!
The Canal that Never Was – Michigan City would have been the terminus for a proposed canal that would have run from Toledo, Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie, all the way through Northern Indiana/Southern Michigan to Michigan City on the shores of Lake Michigan. The project was seriously talked about for decades in the 1800s and early 1900s with the Congressional Committee on Rail and Waterways strongly recommending it become a reality. If it had come to fruition, Michigan City could have potentially been the “Chicago” of Lake Michigan, rather than Chicago itself.
First in Town – The 160 acres of land for the City was purchased by Isaac C. Elston in 1830 for a mere $200 (around $5,120.85 in today’s money). Elston made a fortune down south in Crawfordsville and moved north. Today, Elston Middle School still bears his name.
The Battle of the Dunes – Only one battle was fought in Northwest Indiana during the Revolutionary War and it was in the vicinity of Michigan City. The battle occurred when a group of American colonists and Frenchmen raided For St. Joseph, but were overcome by British soldiers along the Indiana Dunes upon their return.
The Old Lighthouse – It was once a new lighthouse, built in 1858 at the cost of $8,000 ($227,098.76 in 2018 dollars), it replaced an older lighthouse at the same location. Now, it stands as the oldest structure in the city as the Old Lighthouse Museum.
A Civil War Hub – When the war began in 1861, droves of Michigan City men ran off to enlist and join the Union fight, with the city serving as a major shipping point for troops as well as a producer of war goods for the effort. There was even a militia organized called the Union Guards in 1863.
Colonial Cloak and Dagger – Michigan City was home to a famous resident, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who is regarded as the first permanent resident of what would become Chicago. Point du Sable lived from the 1740s until 1818 and was of African decent and believed to have had a French-Canadian background. While he was trading in the Great Lakes area, in modern-day Michigan City, he was arrested by the British military on suspicion of being an American sympathizer during the Revolutionary War. He was briefly imprisoned in Fort Michilimackinac before being let on his way to go back to trading.
A Serious Case of the Flu – Between 1918 and 1920 the world was gripped with a deadly epidemic of Spanish Influenza. This outbreak was so severe in Michigan City that church services, public gatherings, and most commerce were cancelled temporarily. As many as 200 new cases were reported a day when it was at its worst.
The Birthplace of the Wiki - Howard G. "Ward" Cunningham, the famous computer programmer, is from Michigan City and first coined the term Wiki, which is a website that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users.
Fighting for Their Rights - Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson, born in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, was a black suffragist. The Michigan City native advocated for equal rights for all races and genders at a time when this was no easy feat to say the least. Anderson wrote poetry and gave speeches which put a spotlight on the continued maltreatment of black women, who could not vote. Anderson was also behind the nation’s first State Women’s Suffrage Referendum and received much praise from other famous suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony.
Snow Magnet – Thanks to the Lake Effect snow that Lake Michigan is kind enough to provide the city, Michigan City has an average snowfall of 49 inches per year, greater than the national average of 26, and still greater than nearby Valparaiso at 39 in, Hammond at 31 in, and rivalled only by neighboring La Porte at 61 inches a year.