MICHIGAN (NEXSTAR) – Michigan has officially been part of the United States since Jan. 26, 1837, but which Michigan city or town can call itself the oldest?

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation says Sault Ste. Marie, founded in 1668, is Michigan’s oldest city. Founded and named by Father Jacques Marquette, its name came from the French word Sault, meaning, “rapids,” whereas Ste. Marie or “Saint Marie” came from the Virgin Mary.

The area was initially a single city separated by the St. Mary’s River. When the Upper Peninsula was transferred from Canada to the U.S. in 1797, the city was split in two, with the smaller half being in Michigan and the larger half being in Ontario, Canada.

Due to its location, the area was rich in resources and was a center of Native American life long before French explorers passed through. As copper and iron ore were discovered in the western reaches of Lake Superior, trade and commerce grew exponentially. 

Eventually, this led to the first American “Soo Lock” being developed in 1855. These Soo Locks helped ships navigate the rapids in Lake Superior more easily.

As of the 2020 Census, it’s the second-most populated city in the Upper Peninsula with a population of 13,337 people.