From its historic churches and quaint places to stay in town to the stunning Victorian architecture of homes and cottages atop the bluffs, Mackinac Island oozes charm. The 19th-century look makes it feel like you’re walking through yesteryear.
That sense is especially strong when passing by Ste. Anne’s or the Little Stone Church. Only about 500 people live year-round on Mackinac Island, yet the collection of church buildings is truly one-of-a-kind.
Did you know that Mackinac Island is home to the oldest surviving church building in all of Michigan? Or that the Catholic church on the island has records that are 325 years old?
Churches have been and continue to be important pieces of Mackinac Island’s culture – both as places of worship and as memorable wedding venues.
Here’s a look at the historic church buildings of Mackinac Island:
The Mission Church
Back in 1820, when an expedition led by then-Governor Lewis Cass stopped at Mackinac Island on the way to the northern reaches of the Michigan Territory, it was noted that “there is neither school nor preaching upon the island.” By the end of the decade, that void had been filled.
In 1830, Presbyterian missionaries the Rev. William and Amanda Ferry started both a school and a church. The Mission Church is still on Mackinac Island to this day – the oldest surviving church building in all of Michigan. Located inside Mackinac Island State Park, the Mission Church no longer holds regular services. But it is open daily for tours in season and is a very popular wedding venue on Mackinac Island.
Interestingly, the missionaries’ son, Thomas Ferry, went on to become a U.S. senator and was instrumental in getting Congress to create a national park on Mackinac Island. The national park later became Mackinac Island State Park, where Mission Church is preserved!
Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church
While the Mission Church was the first Protestant church on Mackinac Island, it was far from the first religious congregation. Not by a long shot. Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church has records dating back to 1695!
In fact, the Catholic presence on Mackinac Island is even older than that. This year is the 350th anniversary of the first Catholic mission on Mackinac Island. The recreated Missionary Bark Chapel at the foot of Fort Mackinac commemorates that first mission, established in 1670 by Father Claude Dablon.
Over the years, the Catholic mission relocated to the mainland at what is now St. Ignace and later became part of Fort Michilimackinac in present-day Mackinaw City. When the British moved the fort to Mackinac Island in 1780, Ste. Anne’s was one of the first buildings to come along with it.
Although the Catholic flock hasn’t always had a shepherd – there was no priest when the Cass expedition visited in 1820 – it is Mackinac Island’s oldest church. The current Ste. Anne’s building, which dates to 1878, has a museum with original stained-glass windows, paintings and the old records.
Little Stone Church
The building erected in 1904 using local fieldstones is the home of Union Congregational Church. But it’s known as the Little Stone Church. Like all Mackinac Island churches, the historic building is a popular and picturesque venue for weddings on Mackinac Island. In addition to the building’s distinctive exterior, the inside features stained-glass windows that depict scenes from Mackinac Island history.
Trinity Episcopal Church
When Fort Mackinac welcomed its first chaplain in 1842, it happened to be an Irish Episcopalian named John O’Brien. Four decades later, the foundation laid by O’Brien led to the construction of Trinity Episcopal Church. Furnishings in the building include an altar of hand-carved walnut and two chancel chairs made by soldiers at the fort.
- Mackinac Island also is home to Mackinac Island Bible Church, which was started in 1994. The church holds services for visitors throughout the travel season, and for year-round residents in the winter.