Timeline

  • Prehistory – The first people to inhabit the Southern Great Lakes region (including the Detroit area) are believed to have been the builders of burial and/or ceremonial mounds (and hence they are referred to as the Mound Builders). The Mound Builders lived in the area before later tribes, such as the Potawatomi, Wyandot (Hurons), Kickapoo, Sauk, Meskwaki (Foxes), Odawa (Ottawa), and Chippewa (Ojibwe). All mounds in southeastern Michigan have long since been flattened and turned into streets and lots.
  • 1600’s – France began establishing forts at strategic locations in North America, in order to try to keep the British from moving west out of New England and to establish a monopoly on trade. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac felt that the area that had become known as le detroit, or the straits, was an obvious location for a major post. The river was narrow enough that a cannon could be fired from one side to the other, but substantial enough to provide a defense. The surrounding Great Lakes and waterways meant easy travel from most major points. The court in France agreed, and Cadillac was allowed to establish a settlement at the Detroit River in 1701.
  • 1701 – July 24, Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac, with his lieutenant Alphonse de Tonty and a company of 100 men, establishes a trading post on the Detroit River under orders from the French King Louis XIV. He names the settlement Fort Pontchartrain du d’Étroit (“Fort Pontchartrain On-the-Narrows”), in honor of Louis Phélypeaux, the Count of Pontchartrain.
  • 1701 – Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church is the first building built in Detroit, started within two days of Cadillac’s landing.
  • 1706 – Father del Halle is murdered by an Ottawa man, becoming Detroit’s first murder victim.
  • 1745 – British and New Englanders attack the French post Louisburg (at the head of the St. Lawrence River) in attempts to gain full access to the great waterway. The ensuing battle lasts 10 weeks and ends with the French surrendering the post.
  • 1746 – Chief Mackinac leads a group of Chippewas in an attack on Fort Ponchartrain. The attack is halted by Chief Pontiac, of the Ottawas, who drives the Chippewas away.
  • 1760 – Major Robert Rogers and a group of his Rogers’ Rangers take formal command of Fort Detroit in the name of Great Britain after the French defeat in the French and Indian War.
  • 1763 – Chief Pontiac besieges Detroit during Pontiac’s Rebellion. Captain Dalzell and Major Rogers lead 250 soldiers and rangers on an attack against Pontiac’s camp, resulting in a bloody battle, which only 90 of the British troops survive. The incident becomes known as The Battle of Bloody Run. Pontiac and his men kill captives from Cuyler’s group and send their bodies down the Detroit River on logs.
  • 1763 October – A peace treaty is signed between the British and the French. France no longer supports Pontiac and his forces against the British.
  • 1763 – A peace treaty is signed ending the war between France and England. New France is handed over to the British.
  • 1766 – Pontiac signs a peace treaty with the British.
  • 1769 – Ojibwa and Ottawa tribes sell Hog Island (Belle Isle) to George McDougall for a total of 8 barrels of rum, 3 rolls of tobacco, 6 pounds of vermillion, and a wampum belt.
  • 1771 – (Spring) George McDougall takes full possession of Belle Isle.
  • 1775 – (April) Detroit is annexed to Quebec.
  • 1775 – (April) The Revolutionary War begins with the Battle of Lexington.
  • 1783 – The area south of the Great Lakes (including all of Michigan) is ceded by Great Britain to the United States by the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War. However, the British kept actual possession.
  • 1796 – Detroit and all other British posts in Michigan were turned over to the United States under terms of the Jay Treaty. Wayne County, containing Detroit, was established as an administrative division of the Northwest Territory. American forces take over command of Detroit.
  • 1802 – Detroit is incorporated as a town.
  • 1805 – June 11, a fire burns virtually the entire city. The city’s motto, Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus (“We hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes”) is coined by Father Gabriel Richard.
  • 1812 – August 16th, Detroit becomes the only city in United States history to surrender to a foreign power, after capitulating without firing a shot to British Army General Isaac Brock and his ally Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, who commanded a force of just 600 men. This defeat is recorded as one of the most outrageous bluffs in military history.
  • 1813 – September, The British retreat from Detroit, which served as a base for the invasion of Canada.
  • 1833 – June 14, slave hunters from Kentucky arrest Thornton and Ruth Blackburn, who had escaped from slavery almost two years previously. The subsequent judgment for their return to slavery touches off the riot and successful guerrilla effort to free them, later known as the Blackburn Riot.
  • 1837 – Detroit becomes capital of the State of Michigan (until 1847).
  • 1863 – The Detroit Race Riot of 1863 erupts as a result of tensions over race and the military draft. One reporter calls it “the bloodiest day that ever dawned upon Detroit”, resulting in two deaths, countless racially-motivated beatings, 35 buildings burned to the ground, and the creation of Detroit’s first full-time police force.
  • 1877 – Detroit College (now the University of Detroit Mercy and U of D Jesuit HS) is founded by the Society of Jesus.
  • 1903 – Ford Motor Company is founded by Henry Ford in Detroit.
  • 1929 – Ambassador Bridge construction complete.
  • 1930 – Detroit-Windsor Tunnel construction complete.
  • 1943 – The Detroit Race Riot of 1943, spurred by competition among black and white residents for wartime factory jobs, results in 34 deaths.
  • 1950 – Detroit’s population reaches its historical apex, at 1.85 million.
  • 1963 – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leads the Great March to Freedom in Detroit.
  • 1967 – On July 23, the 12th Street Riot, one of the worst riots in United States history, begins on 12th Street in the predominantly African American inner city (43 killed, 342 injured and 1,400 buildings burned).
  • 1973 – Coleman Young is elected Detroit’s first black mayor – a position he would hold for 20 years.
  • 1979–1980 – Saddam Hussein makes large donations to a Chaldean church in Detroit; for this, he receives a key to the city.
  • 1984 – The Detroit Tigers of the American League defeat the San Diego Padres to win the World Series in five games. During the final match, for upwards of four hours nearly all activity in the city comes to a complete halt.
  • 1992 – November 5, black motorist Malice Green dies after struggling with white policemen Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn during a traffic stop. The officers were later convicted and sentenced to prison. The convictions were overturned, but the officers were retried and convicted of lesser charges.
  • 1996 – In November, Michigan votes to allow the operation of three casinos in Detroit.
  • 1997 – In June, the Detroit Red Wings win their first Stanley Cup in 42 years.
  • 1999 – The Detroit Tigers play their final baseball game in classic Tiger Stadium, which had opened in 1912. The team relocated to the new Comerica Park downtown in 2000.
  • 2001 – Kwame Kilpatrick becomes the youngest mayor of Detroit, elected at age 31. Over the next eight years, he would preside over a cartoonishly corrupt and incompetent city government, which mismanaged, stole, and lost track of several million taxpayer dollars.
  • 2004 – The “restored” Campus Martius Park opens in downtown Detroit. Featuring an ice-skating rink, it is the focal point of the city’s new Winter Blast festival.
  • 2005 – Kwame Kilpatrick is re-elected.
  • 2006 – In February, the city hosts Super Bowl XL.
  • 2008 – Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigns his office as mayor effective September 19, after pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and no contest to one count of assaulting and obstructing a police officer. He leaves under the shadow of a 38-charge felony indictment on additional corruption charges, in what a federal prosecutor called a “pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud” by some of Detroit’s most prominent officials.
  • 2009 – Following a special election on May, 2009, businessman and former Detroit Pistons star Dave Bing becomes the Mayor of Detroit, and is subsequently re-elected to a full term of office in 2009.
  • 2013, July 18th – The City of Detroit files for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, in the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, by both population and amount of debt (an estimated $18-20 billion).

Timeline

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