Jesuit Père Jacques Marquette sailed over from France and staked the first European claim in Michigan in 1668 (ignoring, of course, the natives already here). He named his settlement Sault Ste Marie, and it became the USA’s third-oldest town. In 1763 the British swiped all of France’s settlements and used Michigan as a base for conducting Indian raids against the Americans during the Revolutionary War. The Brits also built a fort on Mackinac Island in 1780. Its location in the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron made it one of the most important ports in the North American fur trade, and a site the British and Americans battled over many times.
Starting in the 1920s, car-making became inextricably linked to Michigan’s economy, although that hasn’t been a good thing in recent years as the industry sputters. General Motors (GM), Ford and Chrysler all maintain their headquarters in or near Detroit.