Three Michigan Marauders Who Ruled the Great Lakes

Ahoy! Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day to all you landlubbers out there! You didn’t know it was Talk Like a Pirate Day?  Yarr, you might be walking the plank yet, matey!

Photo by Dave Nowak - Nordmeer Shipwreck Lake Huron

Photo by Dave Nowak – Nordmeer Shipwreck Lake Huron

The Great Lakes were home to some of the most fearsome and burly pirates of any waters on the map.  These swashbucklers ruled the high fresh-water seas and made their living sailing and searching for treasure not known to Jack Sparrow – lumber, illegal alcohol and wild-game meat. Known as Timber Pirates by some, these buccaneers would ship up to the Upper Peninsula to cut down wide areas of timber to sell to industrializing cities east of the state. Alcohol runners would even steal alcohol to sell in Detroit or Chicago, or trade for guns and loot.

Below are some of the most recognized pirates of the Great Lakes. Check them out – if you dare!

Calico Jack

John Rackham – John Rackahm, or Calico Jack as he was often known, is remembered as a small-time pirate from the 1700’s. He would steal anything from cashboxes to entire ships. Calico Jack would wait until a fisherman or woodcutter was away from their ship and sail off with it in the night. This pesky pirate was notorious for his stealthy crimes.

In October 1720, Rackham cruised near Jamaica, capturing numerous small fishing vessels, and terrorizing fishermen along the northern coastline. He came across a small vessel filled with eleven English pirates. Soon after, Rackham’s ship was attacked by an armed sloop and was captured. Rackham and his crew were brought to Jamaica, where he and nearly all of his crew members were sentenced to be hanged.

220px-James_Strang_daguerreotype_(1856)James Jesse Strang – In 1855, a religious gang on Beaver Island burned sawmills and stole $1,600 worth of goods from a local store, under the leadership of “King” James Jesse Strang.

Strang, a self-proclaimed religious leader and king, quickly made foes among his own people, too. One of these, Thomas Bedford, had been flogged for adultery on Strang’s orders, and felt considerable resentment toward the “king.” Another, Dr. H.D. McCulloch, had been excommunicated for drunkenness and other alleged misdeeds, after previously enjoying Strang’s favor and several high offices in local government.

In June of 1856, Strang was waylaid around 7:00 PM on the dock at the harbor of St. James, chief city of Beaver Island, by Wentworth and Bedford, who shot him in the back. Not one person on board the ship made any effort to warn or to aid the intended victim.

Dan SeaveyDan Seavey – The most notorious Great Lakes pirate may be none other than Roaring Dan Seavey, who started as a regular sailor in the U.S. Navy. After leaving the military he found himself a poor man with only his ship, Wanderer, to his name and took up a life of plundering.

Seavey was a thief who had eyes for large shipments of venison and alcohol, to then later sell at a higher price. Anyone who tried to stop him faced the cannon he held on board. Seavey’s most famous escapade was his takeover of a schooner docked named the Nellie Johnson. The clever seaman invited the Johnson’s crew to drink with him, staying mostly sober himself. He then threw the drunken sailors off their ship and sailed it to Chicago, where he sold the Nellie Johnson’s cargo.

Seavey retired sometime in the late 1920s, and settled in the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. He died in a Peshtigo nursing home on 14 February 1949 at the age of 84.

Want to know more about these Michigan marauders? Strap on your peg leg and set sail towards one of these maritime attractions to get your fill of pirate personas!

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum 
Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Real Pirates exhibit 
Alpena Shipwreck Tours

Are you celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day? 

Celebrate Fat Tuesday with a Paczki in Pure Michigan

To celebrate Paczki Day (Fat Tuesday) in Pure Michigan, Joanna Dueweke of The Awesome Mitten gives us some history behind the holiday along with a roundup of sweet ways to indulge next Tuesday! 

Paczki-in-HamtramckIt’s that time of year again! March 4th is Fat Tuesday, or as it is lovingly called in many areas in Michigan, Paczki Day. Pronounced POONCH-KEE, paczki are deep-fried pieces of dough stuffed with sweet fillers of numerous variations. Fat Tuesday is the day before the Christian holiday of Lent where folks traditionally refrain from indulgent treats, but Michiganders (and much of the US) have adopted the Polish tradition of indulging in these treats and adding festivities to the mix. In Hamtramck, a city near Detroit which has been heralded as Michigan’s ‘Poletown’ since Polish immigrants started flooded the area in 1914, celebrations start at 7am and consumers line up around the block from their favorite bakeries to get their hands on paczki.

Photo courtesy of Carrie Acosta

Photo courtesy of Carrie Acosta

Traditionally, paczki were made to use up the remaining lard, sugar, eggs and fruit that were in households before Lent began; Catholic customs forbid those indulgences during the Lenten holiday. Polish immigrants brought those traditions with them to the United States, so places with strong Polish roots hold on to those important celebrations. No one is really complaining; Fat Tuesday is a day full of fun and delicious treats!

We know that not everyone can travel to Hamtramck or devote a day to revelry. With that in mind, we’ve discovered several spots throughout Michigan that are rumored to have especially delicious paczki. It is often advised to get to these spots early or order in advance because they’re a hot commodity!

Suggestions in no particular order:

Photo courtesy of Tour de Troit

Photo courtesy of Tour de Troit

Feel guilty about indulging in such decadence? No worries, Hamtramck has you covered there as well. Join them for the Paczki Run on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. You will run through some great urban terrain and end with a much deserve paczki and a beer!

Will you be having a paczki on Fat Tuesday? Let us know where you get one from!

Joanna DuewekeJoanna Dueweke writes for the Awesome Mitten and is the Interactive Marketing Coordinator for the Detroit Regional Chamber. Born and raised in Traverse City, she is enjoying new adventures in the Detroit area, but also values her roots in Northern Michigan. Exploring the outdoors, sailing, travel, and enjoying the Mitten’s beer industry consume her time when she is not pursuing her Master’s in Library and Information Science at Wayne State University.

From Our Community: 21 Reasons We’re in Love with Michigan

It’s Valentine’s Day! And it’s the perfect time to show your love. We asked our fans on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Instagram to tell us why they love the state of Michigan. We received so many wonderful and heartfelt responses. From long summer days to soft falling snow, it’s unanimous – There’s a lot to love about Pure Michigan!

Below is a roundup of just some of our favorite responses from fans. If yours is missing, tell us in the comments section why you’re in love with Michigan!

“I love the beauty of our state, from the miraculous sand dunes up and over the Mighty Mac Bridge to Pictured Rocks and all around the mitten the sparkly blue water of the Great Lakes!”  -Mary Distelrath McGowan

“I love the four beautiful seasons and the lighthouses.” -Lisa Foor Swartz

South Haven, Traverse City, Mission Point, Petoskey, The Great Lakes..Hot Summers..Colorful Fall Season..Apple orchards..blueberries.” -Jean Farrell DeWaters

“All the natural beauty, from lighthouses, to sand dunes, to sunsets and everything in between!” -Robin Ruff Leja

“I love the sand dunes and the wineries and the beaches!”  -Amy Parsons

“I love the smell of fresh air in Northern MI. The beautiful fresh water in our lakes…the seasons…I LOVE Mackinac Island!” -Teresa Dungey Gotch

“EVERYTHING, including the SNOW!” -Carol Hagen

“The smell of the pines and a wonderful sunset over Grand Traverse Bay!” -Linda Leder

“I love the way the sand feels on my feet 100 yards out! When it ripples into a washboard like repetition! I also love that you can find a spot ankle deep 200 yards out!” -Nathan Smith

“Skiing in Boyne!” -Lindsay O’Rourke

“The lakes and rivers to fish in. Fresh stealhead or walleye.” -Beth Powell-bennett

Fishing, camping and hiking in the Western U.P.” -Loretta Stolarz

“Summers near Ludington!” -Anne Stewart Goss

Frankenmuth, I love going there. I have been going up there for 50 years, never get tired of it!” -Louise Brown

“The snow, the lighthouses, Mackinac Island. The Lakes. Well Everything really.” -Sheila Anne Lawson

“Taking a day off to go to a lake is easy. Can’t wait for spring!” -Theresa Lynn Many

“We have a BEAUITFUL state! The water at Pictured Rocks in Lake Superior is like the Caribbean, it’s gorgeous! The different blues, you have to go see it!” -Wanda Tindle-Perry

“The 4 seasons, scenery like nowhere else, the lakeshore, and the sweet embrace when I go home to the UP!” -Cheryl Pekuri Wright

“Scenery, scenery, and more scenery. Add my family to that and I have everything.” -Tobie Kahn Scheibel

“Plentiful waters, beautiful curvy hills & a blended culture. Michigan has creative products & best small businesses anywhere!” -Twitter user @TheXExchange  

“What’s not to love about Michigan?” -Michael Tokarz Photography

Why do you love Pure Michigan?