More than 2,000 years ago, Native Americans settled at Sault Ste. Marie because it was a good place to gather fish and furs. In the mid-1600s, French missionaries explored the area. In 1668, Father Jacques Marquette built a mission near the river and named it Sainte Marie du Sault. The French name means “St. Mary of the Rapids.” However, It is often just called “The Sault” (pronounced “Soo”).
In 1783 the St. Marys River became part of the international boundary between British Canada and the United States.
In 1820, Michigan territorial governor Lewis Cass obtained land from the Ojibwa along the St. Marys River. Fort Brady was built so that the Americans could protect this strategic place from the British who lived across the river in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Fort Brady closed after World War II. Today, Lake Superior State University is located on the grounds of the former fort.
The importance of Sault Ste. Marie changed with the opening of the Soo Locks in 1855. Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates and maintains this important waterway. The locks, which have been expanded over the years, remain one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations.
|For more great stories on Michigan’s past, look to Michigan History magazine. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/.
UPDATE: In the comments, someone mentioned Superior Heartland – A Backwoods History by Fred Rydholm, a book that I have heard good things about.