Many Nations... Many People... One Home

Grosse Ile has seen three national flags fly overhead since the late-17th century; British, French and U.S.People of many nations have called Grosse Ile their home. Since the late-17th century British, French and U.S. flags have flown overhead.

Their stories and others contribute to the rich history of Grosse Ile.

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Potawatomi ("Keepers of the Fire") people hunted the islands of modern-day Grosse Ile for a thousand years, and considered it a part of their ancestral home.

The Potawatomi nation, together with the Ojibwe and Ottawa nations, composed the powerful three-nation alliance called the Council of Three Fires. They referred to the island as "Kitcheminishen".

Read more: Many Nations... Many People... One Home

Grosse Ile: A Historical Timeline


  • The Potawatomi people and other Native Americans occupy Grosse Ile.

1600 - 1762

  • 1630? French explorers named the island as la grosse ile, the "big island".
  • 1679 Father Louis Hennepin accompanied fellow French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle on the ship Le Griffon in exploring the Great Lakes, mentioning Grosse Ile in his journals.
  • 1701 French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his convoy of 25 canoes sailed down the Detroit River and camped on the shore of Grosse Ile on his way to founding the City of Detroit. On the morning of July 24, Cadillac returned upriver and reached a spot on the shore near the present intersection of West Jefferson and Shelby streets in Detroit where he claimed French possession of the territory under the authority of King Louis XIV.

Read more: Grosse Ile: A Historical Timeline

The Macomb Brothers

Treaty Tree PlaqueThe  historical importance of the Macomb Brothers- William and Alexander - is found in numerous places on Grosse Ile.

The central business district of Grosse Ile is located along Macomb Street, named in their honor;
A monument commemorating the day that the Macomb Brothers purchased Grosse Ile from Potowotami tribal chiefs is located near the shoreline of the Detroit River.
The original deed, written on parchment, is currently stored in the Burton Historical Collection within the Detroit Public Library.
Both William and Alexander led colorful lives as entrepreneurs, and might have been characterized as "rascals". Each had impact well beyond Grosse Ile during the Revolutionary War period and beyond.