This time we feature a look at something that has been on exhibit for decades, but is often overlooked by bigger
and more showy displays in the museum- our Map Collection. Many were collected by the Monroe Evening News past owner JS Gray.
Housed in our small Map Room, it's easy to walk right on by. But what you are missing includes a 1790s, heavy left-leaning waterways drawn map of the territory of Michigan which includes forts, portage areas, and early land purchases from the 1760s and 1770s.
The 1790s Peter McNiff map "A Rough Sketch of a part of Wayne County, Territory of the United States, North west of River Ohio" map shows waterways, springs, rapids, forts, mills, some Native American sites and a proposed route from the St. Antoine church northeast to the LaSalle place south of Detroit, while the path to Detroit follows the shoreline.
At the far left is the church of St. Antoine a la Riviere aux Raisins ("Church") which was about 3 miles west of current Monroe. Notice the mixing of English and French with the "River au Raisin." To the south (left) is "Otters Creek."
A gem of the collection is the circa 1810 French Claim (or Private Claim) plat map. Plat maps show property ownership and are of great use to researchers. The key gives the claim number, name of owner, and acreage and is organized by North or South of the River Raisin ("Riviere aux Raisins"), Otter Creek ("Riviere au Loutre"), Sandy Creek ("Riviere aux Sables"), and includes Brown's Town and Grosse Isle. The long lot farms give them the name "ribbon farms" because of their length and narrow frontage on the water of the river and creeks.
The circa 1817 by Col. Anderson, topographical engineer, follows the early military road from Maumee (Miami) to Detroit, in 2 sequential maps. This extensive map shows rivers, islands, villages, prairie and key landmarks.
At right of center of image is the newly platted "Town of Monroe" on the south side of the River Raisin (map inverted here.) To the left is part of the "Old Road" south to the Miami. Dark boxes mark significant buildings.
Here the northbound "Military Road" starts from the Frenchtown settlement and cuts over Mason Run to the north of the River Raisin (see the three islands.) The "Old Road" cuts off from the Military Road.
Two "Bird's Eye" maps give a unique view of Monroe city drawn in 1866 and 1894. A large amount of skill went into the artist/mapmaker's craft to make these accurate renditions of the buildings, landmarks, and streets of the city.
The horse race track in 1866, north of West Noble and St. Mary's Avenues, off of North Monroe Street (Anderson Street.) The Nims house stands near it near the head of Godfroy ("Godfrey") Avenue. Houses stand now at the site of these old fairgrounds on Noble.
The large 1859 County of Monroe map published by Geil, Harley & Siverd of Philadelphia (Geil, Jones & R. Pearsall Smith) shows plats along with the usual markings for waterways, villages and farms. Around its border are artist engravings of properties and businesses in Monroe County such as the City Hall block of Monroe and the Young Ladies' Seminary & Collegiate Institute, and including the residences of J.W. Mason, Dundee, Royal L. Potter of Ash, Section 25, and Wm. Corbin of Petersburg. Detail maps are provided of Dundee, Vienna (Erie), Brest, Petersburg and the City of Monroe. The "ribbon farm" lots are clearly evident in Raisinville, Frenchtown and Monroe townships.
Many old maps were printed on coated linen fabric, as some of the worn areas on the 1859 map will show among its cracks. Railroads appear- here the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Rail Road comes up from the left and enters town moving right. Though business and residential blocks are platted throughout Monroe, both east and west of South Monroe Street, large areas of undeveloped or cultivated land still remain, especially north of the river, as in this view.
The Plat Map of 1871 for the City of Monroe shows property ownership and houses/businesses, and the 1901 George Lang Plat Map was a rare feat of dedication by a local Carleton man who often rode his bicycle from spot to spot to make and publish his map.
These are only a few of the great maps the museum has on exhibit and also for research. Please call ahead to the Archives department for an appointment with the Archivist to see other maps, get photocopies, use indexes, etc. Not all have indexes, and a new version of the French Claims (River Raisin limited area only) map is available.