Voices of Detroit: Early American Detroit

Province_of_Quebec_1774The El Moore, a reconstruction project focusing on historic rehabilitation and modern urban sustainability, is based on the history of Detroit as a city of neighborhoods, and how that history shapes how Detroit is reinventing itself yet again. This is part of the series of posts on the “Voices of Detroit” and how those voices are integral parts of the El Moore, from before the founding of Detroit to the present day.

Fort Detroit was founded by French explorer Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac in 1701, and was under French and British rule throughout most of the 18th century.   By the end of the 18th century, a series of battles and treaties finally resulted in Detroit becoming a part of the new United States of America.

Modern-day Detroit is known for its majority Black population, but the first Black landowner in Detroit was a Mr. Jacob Young, who in 1793 bought land from a French settler.

In 1794, American army general Anthony Wayne defeated British troops and their Native American allies in a battle near present-day Toledo, Ohio—this area was originally part of the Michigan Territory.

John_Francis_HamtramckBy 1796, the British had finally surrendered Detroit to the Americans via Colonel Jean Francois Hamtramck, originally a French-Canadian who rose through the ranks of the new American army. It was also in 1796 that Detroit became an official part of Wayne County, which at the time included all of Michigan and parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin.





FatherGabrielRichardFather Gabriel Richard (pronounced “Ri-CHARD”) arrives in Detroit. He will play an influential role in the development of the City. He was an assistant pastor at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, the oldest church in Detroit, as well as a founder of the University of Michigan, which was originally located in Detroit. Father Richard also founded a primary school and brought the first printing press to Detroit with which he printed a spelling book for his students.

After the 1805 fire that destroyed much of Detroit, Father Richard also wrote the motto for the City: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus, which translates to “We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes.”


WoodwardAveIndianTrailIn 1816, the Saginaw Trail was upgraded as a road leading to the new settlement of Pontiac, Michigan. The road was re-named Woodward.

By 1819, the population of Detroit reached 1,100, and Michigan Territorial Governor Lewis Cass negotiates several treaties with the Indians opens Michigan up for greater settlement, but limits the rights of the First Nations.

Thomas Palmer erected the first brick building in Detroit for his shop.

The City of Detroit was the first capital of the State of Michigan.