History Gem – Gitchee Agomowin (Grand Marais history article) November 2020

Reprinted from The Alger Echo, Vol. 1, No. 9, Fall 1969

Gitchee Agomowin

In early times, med stayed close to the shore when traveling on Lake Superior; Their light crafts were no match for the lake in its angry moods.  Indians and early French knew well the sheltered spot they both called Great Bay or Great Harbor – “Gitchee Agomowin” in the Chippewa language, and “Grand Marais” in French.

The use of the harbor on the long stretch of shelterless coast began centuries before recorded history.  Activity there was noted in the earliest French accounts, and it was mentioned frequently by most travelers from that time on.

The first white man to record his visit to Grand Marais was Pierre Esprit Radisson in the summer of 1658.  Many expeditions followed, and about 200 years later, in 1853, a permanent settlement was established.  Fur trading, then commercial fishing and lumbering were responsible for the beginnings and development of the Grand Marais area during its early decades.  It became Alger County’s largest and fastest-growing town during the pine lumber boom of the 1890s.

After a sharp decline in 1910 following the abandonment of the Manistique Railway, Grand Marais settled into a small but stable village where fishing and lumbering and later, tourism, provided a livelihood for this historic and beautiful community.

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