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? 

A Grouse Hunter’s Guide To Navigating Michigan’s Seven New GEMS

GEMS logo

Grouse hunting season in Michigan is open now through November 14th. Today, guest blogger Katie Keen from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us about a new program that’s giving Michigan hunters access to some of the top grouse hunting areas in the country.

Daylight is starting to give us the squeeze, and if you’re like me, you’re starting to smell fall in the air.

Fall brings prime hunting season in Michigan, and with it a new program that the DNR and many other groups – like the Ruffed Grouse Society, U.S. Forest Service, National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited – are really excited about.

It’s called GEMS, or Grouse Enhanced Management Systems.

Michigan is among the leading states in the nation for grouse hunting, and the GEMS showcase seven great areas for those who want to give the sport a try or maybe existing hunters looking for new locations. The great thing about grouse hunting is, if you’re already a hunter you have – or will soon have, with deer season right around the corner – the hunting license you need.  The base license serves as a small game license, which is all you need for grouse hunting. The base license provides critical funding for wildlife and habitat management and conservation officers, and also to educate the public on the benefits of hunting, fishing and trapping.

Info kioskSeven GEMS are ready for this year’s grouse season, which starts Sept. 15.  Go online and pick out the first GEMS site you want to visit, whether it’s just below the bridge in Indian River, just north of the tri-cities near Standish, or north of the bridge where you could go from Drummond Island in the eastern U.P. to the Ottawa National Forest in the far western U.P.  The adventure is there and waiting!  You’ll also notice, when you’re on the GEMS website, the local support area businesses are giving GEMS. GEMS hunters will receive some great discounts by taking a selfie at a GEMS site and showing the picture to the participating business.

Once you’ve picked out your first GEMS location, and arrived there with your fashionable hunter orange vest, you’ll find some very useful information. Learn about ruffed grouse biology and how forests are managed for wildlife through cutting, hear examples of a ruffed grouse drumming on a log, and – most importantly – check out the map that will show you the miles and miles of hunter walking trails waiting for you.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 5.10.49 PMGEMS areas feature non-motorized trails planted with clover weaving through pockets of grouse’s favorite habitat – stands of young aspen trees. You can choose to stay on the trail looking for grouse, or step off a bit and venture through the stands of young timber.  And don’t forget the other great upland game bird that can be found and hunted in these GEMS – the American woodcock.  Woodcock season starts on Sept. 20, and since it is a migratory bird, an additional free “woodcock stamp” is needed for hunting.  You can grab a woodcock stamp anywhere DNR licenses are sold or online.

Once you’ve completed your first GEMS hunt, make sure to take that selfie in front of a GEMS sign and visit one of the area businesses to get a great discount.  Hunters in Michigan bring millions of dollars into our economy … and have a whole lot of fun doing it!

Katie KeenKatie Keen is a wildlife outreach technician for the DNR in Cadillac, who spends her working hours with hunters, landowners, educators and media representatives to help with their DNR-related needs. In her off-time, she is a hunting-landowner who loves to educate folks about the DNR.