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Community History

The Village of Maquaqua
Village of Maquaqua 
 
 A boat launch in Wyandotte
Boat launch in Wyandotte
 
SS Columbia
SS Columbia 
 
Wyandotte at the turn of the century
Wyandotte at the turn of the century 
 
Wyandotte in the 1940's
Wyandotte in the 1940's 
 
Eureka Iron Works
Eureka Iron Works
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Below is a brief History of the City of Wyandotte. For more information, photographs and archival information about The City of Wyandotte may be obtained by contacting the Wyandotte Museums Office at: 734-324-7297, museum@wyan.org, or by visiting their website.

The area that became the City of Wyandotte was first settled in 1732 by a branch of the Huron Tribe known as the Wyandots. The Wyandots first arrived from Ontario, Canada when their French allies founded Detroit. The Wyandots followed the Detroit River10 miles to the south and founded a village named Maquaqua.

The first permanent non-native settler in the area was Major John Biddle. He was an officer in U.S. Army during the War of 1812 and a mayor of the City of Detroit. His land was located in the area of Biddle Avenue and Vinewood Avenue. He named his farm “The Wyandotte” after his neighbors to the south. When other settlers came to the area they started to refer to the area as Wyandotte. It is from Biddle’s farm that the City of Wyandotte derives its name.

December 12th, 1854 marks the date of the founding of the Village of Wyandotte, which coincides with the founding of Wyandotte’s first industry, the Eureka Iron Works. On May 26th 1865, the Eureka Iron Works was the first mill in the United States to produce steel using the Bessemer Process. This method was the foundation of the industrial revolution and the key to making high quality steel in large quantities. Unfortunately, the Eureka Iron Works suffered a boiler explosion and fire in 1888, from which it never recovered.

The Village of Wyandotte officially became the City of Wyandotte on April 8th, 1867. A few years after that event, in 1871, the Wyandotte Shipyards started operation. The shipyards produced many hulls including the famous and speedy passenger boat, the Tashmoo and the Columbia, one of the Bob-Lo boats. The Shipyard remained in operation until 1922.

In the early 1890’s, a man named Captain J.B. Ford traveled to Wyandotte to investigate the reports of salt deposits found here. Captain Ford was interested in the salt to produce soda-ash, a chemical necessary in the manufacture of plate glass. Having found salt in sufficient quality and quantity, Ford created the Michigan Alkali Company to process the chemicals he needed. In addition, he started the J.B. Ford Company to further process the soda-ash into various soaps and cleansers sold commercially. These and other chemical plants have formed a lasting industry in Wyandotte that continues to this day. In 1969 the chemical giant B.A.S.F. purchased the Michigan Alkali Company and the J.B. Ford Company (which were merged in the 1930’s) when they went public with their stock. B.A.S.F. continues operations in Wyandotte to this day.

As the other communities of Southern Suburban Detroit have grown around it, Wyandotte’s riverfront and other charms continually draw people from all over the world. Over the years, Wyandotte has mirrored the rest of the country with several waves of immigrant populations moving into the area seeking jobs and community. Much of the City’s culture is influenced by the German, Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants.

The City has several festivals during the year including the Riverside Fourth of July Fireworks, the Heritage Event Series (highlighting culture and history), the Street Art Fair (the second largest in the state), and Autumnfest. Also found in the city are many art studios, galleries and boutiques. There have been many local visual and performing arts groups in Wyandotte since it’s inception. Currently the Acanthus Art Society is the oldest, having been established in 1932. The City also owns has a cultural campus which includes the Wyandotte Museums. The Museums’ consist of three homes restored to a period appropriate look.

The City of Wyandotte is a community in south-east Michigan, Wayne County of about 28,000 citizens. The City is ten miles south of the City of Detroit and lays along the Detroit River. With a municipally owned water and power plant the City can provide service to businesses operating here.

As the City moves forward, it remains committed to preserving the past and celebrating the unique culture and history that make up the City of Wyandotte. 

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