Life in Michigan in early 19th century was difficult. There were great opportunities, so many thousands of people flocked to the state after they found that it was not swamp land. They opened the state through the use of water and train. The roads in the 19th century were nearly as bad as what we have today. All of the stories talked about how many times travel was impossible because of the muddy roads. “When we first came here, the roads were pretty good, but sometimes in the Spring and Fall it would be impossible to get through except on horseback, the mud was so deep. If they attempted to go through with a carriage or stage, they would sometimes have to stop and take the rails from the fences, or take logs which had been cut, and put them in the roads in order to get through (page 64, The Great Water).”
Money was scarce and produce was very low. C. Dibble writes “Hard times. Hard times is a complaint of most everyone we see. We are in hopes of better times. We shall have heavy taxes for many year. Our tax this year was $6.88.” The people found themselves living among the Native American Indians. The Indians in and around the Detroit and Saginaw areas were friendly and without malice. A.H. wrote in 1860, “The tribes are not so distinct and separate as formerly. The number of Indians in the state has not diminished much for several years; but the real Indian is slowly and steadily fading away (Page 68, The Great Water).” He also wrote “If half the money spent in fighting them, were spent in providing for them, much might be done to advance them in the road to civilization and happiness (Page 69, The Great Water).”
The appeal to many of these settlers was the chance to improve their lot in life. Free land and the chance to be land-owners in the state was very seductive. There were many different industries that the settlers could choose to make their fortune. Farming, mining, and logging were the three main industries in Michigan. Many came to Michigan to make their fortune as farmers, loggers, and miners. These miners, farmers, and loggers would make their fortunes in Michigan and then travel to more temperate climate. This was the beginning of the snow bird migration that we see even today. The ability to make large amounts of money in cash crops, lumbar, and precious metals, like copper and iron ore, was a huge draw for many. The Indians were frequently given the short end of the stick in order for the settlers to make their fortunes.
These settlers were very hardy and felt that their culture were superior to the Native Americans. No one had any problem with legislating the Indians out of existence. “Chief Government Negotiator Robert Stuart, a former aid to John Jacob Astor, later boasted that he had done in the Indians by excluding the usual allowances of goods and services, educational benefits, and assistance towards ultimate assimilation into white society (page 75, Michigan: a History of the Great Lakes).”
This poor treatment of the Indians continued throughout the history of Michigan. Many millions of dollars of profit were taken with disregard to the plate of the Indians. The immigrants and settlers were convinced that their way of life were superior to those of the Native Americans. They were not interested in learning about the Indian ways. The burning down of the Indian village in 1900 was one example of the atrocities perpetrated on the Michigan natives. Michigan was settled by many different foreign cultures such as, the Germans in the East, the Dutch in the West, and the French and British throughout the rest of the state.