And, Happy 356th Antoine Laumet de LaMouthe sieur de Cadillac!
On July 24, 2014, the City of Detroit celebrates its 313th Birthday. Its Founder, Antoine Laumet de LaMothe, sieur de Cadillac, would have observed his 356th Birthday.
He was the commander of Fort de Buade, modern-day St. Ignace, Michigan, in 1694. In 1701, he led a flotilla of canoes from Montreal, Canada to establish a trading post at “le d’etroit.” When he arrived, he called it “Ville d’Etroit” or “city of the straight.” Readers will note the term “sieur” in his title. The term describes a man who owns the land, receives rent, and has seigneurial rights over his seigneury. As the Founder of Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit, and the commander from 1701 to 1710 and, according to the legendary historian Silas Farmer, “Cadillac is said to have been granted a domain of fifteen arpents square. The arpent was not a unifo
rm land measure. The United States standard fixes it as 192.24 feet. A woodland arpent is a little more than a square acre; but arpents and acres are often used as interchangeable terms. According to Silas Farmer in his seminal work “History of Detroit and Wayne County in Early Michigan” published in 1884, a Mr. C. Jouett, an Indian Agent, said that Cadillac’s land grant was “fifteen acres square, or two hundred and twenty-five acres in all.” Between 1710 and 1716 he was the governor of Louisiana, although he did not arrive in that territory until 1713
Cadillac, with the name Antoine Laumet, was born on March 5, 1658 at Saint-Nicholas-de-la-Grave, France. He died on October 16, 1730 (aged 72) Castelsarrasin. His resting place is in the Vault of Carmelite Fathers’ Church. Detroit’s Founder also served time in prison. He was imprisoned in Quebec in 1704. The Jesuits in Quebec criticized his alleged perversion of North America’s Native People with his alcohol and fur trading. And, in 1717, Cadillac and his son, Joseph, were arrested and imprisoned in Paris’ infamous Bastille for five months. They were released in 1718, and Cadillac’s honor was restored when he was decorated with the Order of Saint Louis to reward his 30 years of loyal service to France.
Cadillac was honored with a 3-cent U.S. Postage Stamp on July 24, 1951 to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of his landing in Detroit. On July 24, 2001, during Detroit’s 300th Birthday (Tricentennial) there was a reenactment of his landing at Hart Plaza. Your writer was present at the ceremony and observed the triumphant arrival of large, old canoes carrying Cadillac and his party. There are several historical markers and sites that visitors of Detroit can visit to retrace Cadillac’s steps. There is a marker showing where the original Fort Pontchartrain was located in the West Jefferson and Griswold Avenue area. There is also a sculpture of Cadillac and State Historical Marker in the Hart Plaza area by the Detroit River.
(Writer Joe Neussendorfer is an Affiliate Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a 38-year Member of the Engineering Society of Detroit.)
For more information on Antoine de LaMouthe Cadillac and the history of Detroit The Metropolitan recommends the following books:
Tonquish Tales Author | Helen Frances Gilbert Pilgrim Heritage Press 1984
DETROIT Author | Sid Glazer Bookman Associates, Inc 1965
Cadillac and the Dawn of Detroit Author | Annick Hivert-Carthew Wilderness Adventure Books, 1994