[kad-l-ak; for 1 also Fr. ka-dee-yak]
Cadillac, Antoine de la Mothe, c.1658-1730, French colonial governor in North America, founder of Detroit. Of the minor Gascon nobility, he came to America in 1683 to seek his fortune and lived for a time at Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal, N.S.) and then on a grant of land in present-day Maine. He became a favorite of Frontenac, the governor of New France, and in 1694 he was placed in charge of the frontier post at Mackinac. In 1699, Cadillac went to France to urge establishment of a post on the Detroit River, which he believed would offer a better strategic position against the English than Mackinac. Receiving a grant of land, trade privileges, and command of the new post, he set out with a band of colonists. Detroit was founded in 1701. Cadillac persuaded many Native Americans to settle near the new colony. In 1711 he was appointed to the governorship of the vast territory of Louisiana. He reached his new post in 1713 to begin an administration that was remarkable only for the frequency and fierceness of internal quarrels. He was recalled in 1716 and spent his last years in Gascony.

See biography by A. C. Laut (1931).

Cadillac is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and is the county seat of Wexford County. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 10,000. The city is situated at the junction of US 131, M-55 and M-115. Approximately five miles north-northwest of Cadillac lies the geographic center of Michigan.

Cadillac became the county seat after the so-called "Battle of Manton," in which a show of force was involved in enforcing a controversial decision to move the county seat from Manton, Michigan.


Village of Clam Lake

Although European explorers and traders visited the area since the 1700s, permanent white communities were not established until some time later. Initial settlements were connected with the logging industry.

In 1871, Cadillac's first sawmill began operations. Originally called the Pioneer Mill, it was built by John R. Yale. That same year, George A. Mitchell, a prominent Cadillac banker and railroad entrepreneur, and Adam Gallinger, a local carpenter, formed the Clam Lake Canal Improvement and Construction Company. Two years later, the Clam Lake Canal was constructed between Big and Little Clam lakes, present-day Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac. Sawmill owners used the canal to transport timber from Big Clam Lake to the mills and railroad sites—the G.R. & I. Railroad had reached the area in 1872—on Little Clam Lake, in Cadillac.

Cadillac was originally named Clam Lake and was incorporated as a village in 1874. George Mitchell was elected the first mayor. The village was incorporated as a city in 1877 and renamed Cadillac, after Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a Frenchman who made the first permanent settlement at Detroit in 1701.

Battle of Manton

The Wexford County seat of government, originally located in Sherman, was moved to Manton in 1881, as the result of a compromise between the feuding residents of Cadillac and Sherman. Cadillac partisans, however, won the county seat by county-wide vote in April 1882. The day following the election a sheriff's posse left the city for Manton by special train to seize the county records. After arriving and collecting a portion of the materials, however, an angry crowd confronted the Cadillac men and drove them from the town.

When the sheriff returned to Cadillac, a force consisting of several hundred armed men was assembled; this group reportedly included a brass band. The Sheriff's force, some of whom may have been intoxicated, traveled back to Manton to seize the remaining records. Although Manton residents confronted the Cadillac men and barricaded the courthouse, the posse successfully seized the documents and returned to Cadillac.

City of Cadillac

In 1878, Ephraim Shay perfected his Shay locomotive, which was particularly effective in its ability to climb steep grades, maneuver sharp turns and manage imperfections in railroad tracks. Cadillac was home to the Michigan Iron Works Company, which manufactured the Shay locomotive for a short time in the early 1880s. The lumber industry continued to dominate the city, drawing in a large immigrant labor force, most of whom were Swedish; two of Cadillac's sister cities are Mölnlycke, Sweden, and Rovaniemi, Finland.

In 1899, the Cadillac Club formed, the forerunner of the Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce. Gradually, various manufacturing firms found success in Cadillac. By the early 1900’s, lumber was depleted and the timber industry was in decline. Industrial development soon dominated the local economy, and it continues to do so today. Cadillac's range of industries include the manufacture of pleasure boats, automotive parts, water well components, vacuum cleaners and rubber products.

In 1936, the U.S. Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps created the Caberfae Ski Area, which led to promotion of the area as a tourist center. Caberfae remains in operation today, as the oldest ski resort in the midwest. Tourism has since become an important sector of Cadillac's economy. In the summer, tourists travel to the city for boating, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and camping. During the fall, hunting and color tours are popular. The winter is possibly the busiest season; the area can be found packed with downhill skiers, cross-country skiers, ice-fishers, snow-shoers and–most of all-snowmobilers. The North American Snowmobile Festival (NASF) is held on frozen Lake Cadillac every winter.

Thirsty's, a gas station on M-55 west of Cadillac, was the home of Samantha or "Sam The Bear" from the 1970s through the late 1990s, when Sam died of old age. Sam was the only brown bear in captivity in the US at the time to hibernate naturally. Sam lived in a large cage in front of the gas station and was fed ice cream cones by tourists every summer.

In October 1975 the rock group Kiss visited Cadillac and performed at the Cadillac High School gymnasium. They played the concert to honor the Cadillac High School football team. In previous years, the team had compiled a record of sixteen consecutive victories, but the 1974 squad opened the season with two losses. The assistant coach, Jim Neff, an English teacher and rock'n'roll fan, thought to inspire the team by playing Kiss music in the locker room. He also connected the team's game plan, K-I-S-S or "Keep It Simple Stupid", with the band. The team went on to win seven straight games and their conference co-championship. After learning of their association with the team's success, the band decided to visit the school and play for the homecoming game.

Historic Landmarks

Cadillac maintains a number of state historic landmarks. Most are marked with a green "Michigan Historical Marker" sign that includes a description of the landmark. There are six markers within the city limits: 'Cadillac Carnegie Library,' 'Charles T. Mitchell House,' 'Clam Lake Canal,' 'Cobbs & Mitchell Building,' 'Cobbs & Mitchell No. 1' and the 'Shay Locomotive,' which is pictured at the right. Two more are in the near Cadillac area ('Caberfae Ski Resort' and 'Greenwood Disciples of Christ Church') and another two are dispersed in surrounding Wexford County ('Battle of Manton' and '1st Wexford County Court House').



According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.6 square miles (22.3 km²), of which 6.8 square miles (17.7 km²) is land and 1.8 square miles (4.6 km²) (20.70%) is water.

The Lake Cadillac is entirely within the city limits, and some claim it is the largest lake entirely in any city in the United States. The larger, Lake Mitchell is nearby on the west side of the city, with 1,760 feet of shoreline within the city's municipal boundary. The lakes were connected by a stream which was replaced in 1873 by the Clam Lake Canal. The canal was featured on Ripley's Believe It or Not in the 1970s due to the phenomenon that in winter the canal freezes before the lakes and then after the lakes freeze, the canal thaws and remains unfrozen for the rest of the winter.

Cadillac sits on the eastern edge of the Manistee National Forest and the surrounding area is heavily wooded with mixed hardwood and conifer forests. A main agricultural industry in the area is Christmas tree farming. In fact, Cadillac was chosen in 1988 to donate the Christmas tree to sit on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.

The area surrounding Cadillac is primarily rural, and is considered to be part of Northern Michigan. The small size of nearby communities make the city a major commercial and industrial hub of the region.


The commercial center of the city is located on the eastern edge of Lake Cadillac. Most downtown buildings range from two to five stories in height and face the traditional corridor of travel through town, Mitchell Street, the city's tree-lined main street. The downtown contains a movie theater, gift shops, restaurants, a bookstore, specialty food stores, jewelers, clothing retailers and various other businesses. The Courthouse Hill Historic District, established in April 2005, lies adjacent to the city's commercial center. The District contains a number of large Victorian-style residences built by the lumber barons and businessmen who helped establish the city in the 1870s. Population and building density is highest in this area.

On the western portion of Lake Cadillac, where M-55 intersects M-115, is what is locally referred to as Cadillac West. This is a small commercial district, bordering Mitchell State Park and the two lakes, which caters mostly to tourists. It contains a number of motels and restaurants.

Along the northern and southern stretches of the lake are the residential areas of the city. They are generally of low to moderate density, characterized primarily by single family structures.


Cadillac experiences a typical northern Michigan climate, undergoing temperate seasonal changes, influenced by the presence of Lake Michigan and the inevitable lake effect. Winters are generally cold with large amounts of snowfall. Summers are warm. The average high temperature in July is 80 °F (27 °C) and the average low is in February, at 9 °F (-13 °C). Summer temperatures can exceed 90 °F (32 °C), and winter temperatures can drop below 0 °F (-18 °C). Average annual rainfall is 30 inches (76 cm), and average annual snowfall is 81 inches (206 cm) . Snowfall typically occurs between the months of November and March.


As of the census of 2000, there were 10,000 people, 4,118 households, and 2,577 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,466.0 per square mile (566.1/km²). There were 4,466 housing units at an average density of 654.7/sq mi (252.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.55% White, 0.21% Black or African American, 0.92% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 1.38% from two or more races. 1.18% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 4,118 households out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.9% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 31.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,899, and the median income for a family was $36,825. Males had a median income of $29,773 versus $21,283 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,801. About 10.9% of families and 13.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.4% of those under age 18 and 13.3% of those age 65 or over.


By Michigan law, Cadillac is a home rule city. The city was incorporated in 1877, with a Council-Manager form of government-one of the first in Michigan. Under this system, the responsibilities of government are shared between an elected City Council and a hired full-time City Manager.

The elected City Council is the legislative authority of the City, composed of five members, one of whom is Mayor. All members have equal authority. The Council is responsible for making policy, passing ordinances, voting appropriations, and having overall supervisory authority in the city government. The terms of office are four years for Council Members and two years for the Mayor. The salaries of each council member are set by an independent advisory committee, which meets every two years.

The chief administrative officer of the City of Cadillac is the City Manager. The City Manager is responsible for the administration of all City departments, as well as the enforcement of all laws, provisions of the City charter and acts adopted by City Council.

Current Council members are Shari Spoelman, Thomas Dyer, Arthur Stevens, James Dean and William "Praying for Snow" Barnett (Mayor). Ronald Blanchard, the previous mayor of Cadillac, held the position for 18 years, until he retired from office in 2008. The present City Manager is Peter Stalker.

Cadillac is located in Michigan's 2nd congressional district, represented by Republican Peter Hoekstra.


Manufacturing has been the greatest employer in Cadillac since the logging industry. Presently, over 26% of the city’s labor force is employed in manufacturing. There are three industrial parks within the city limits, comprising 7% of the total land use in Cadillac and 47% of the city’s tax base. Much of the city’s economic performance is determined by the fortunes of local industry.

Major manufacturers include Four Winns, AAR Manufacturing, Avon Rubber and Plastics, FIAMM Technologies, Michigan Rubber Products and Rexair.

Apart from its manufacturing base, Cadillac is frequently considered by those who know it to be a tourist town. The center of the city is generally perceived to have a "small-town-feel. In the summer, the downtown fills with tourists, many of whom are from southern Michigan. The city center is in fact only one block from Lake Cadillac and, by docking at the public docks, is as nearly accessible by boat as it is by car. The city’s immediate proximity to two lakes, as well as Manistee National Forest, Pere Marquette State Forest, Mitchell State Park and a number of major highways ensures that tourism occupies a significant sector of the local economy.

During the winter months Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell freeze over and the city becomes covered with snow. Cadillac is connected to a number of trail systems heavily used by winter recreation enthusiasts, and the city itself integrates unusually well into the corridors of travel created by snowmobilers.

Cadillac is also known as Chestnut Town, USA. The local area is home to a relatively large number of American chestnut trees, planted by pioneers from New York and Pennsylvania who settled in western Michigan. A blight in the early twentieth century wiped out nearly every American Chestnut tree, but those in western Michigan developed a mysterious resistance and survived. The Cadillac Chestnut Harvest Festival is held every year, on the second Saturday of October.

Lou Gehrig's Disease

Based on a single, limited study involving twenty people, some people have labelled Cadillac as one of three "hot spots" for Lou Gehrig's Disease in the US. However, the study made no attempt to ascertain the occurrence of the disease in other parts of the state, or elsewhere in the country. The study was designed to examine the possible occurrence of the disease due to genetic influences. The occurrence of the disease within the city limits of Cadillac is reportedly over 100 times the normal rate. The cause of the abnormally large occurrence of the disease in Cadillac is as of yet unknown.


The Baker College-Cadillac campus occupies 66 acres just outside of the City of Cadillac. The school enrolls more than 1,300 students and offers associate's and bachelor's degrees, apart from professional certifications.


Major highways

Cadillac is situated as the confluence of three highways: US-131, M-55 and M-115. Prior to 2001, the northern terminus of the freeway portion of US-131 was located at the southern entrance to Cadillac. With the construction of a bypass, the US-131 freeway was extended around the east side of the city. The former route of the highway through downtown Cadillac was redesignated as Business US-131. In the city, BUS US-131 is named named Mitchell Street, after George Mitchell, but may be referred to as main street.

US-131 bypasses the city to the east. The freeway continues southerly toward Big Rapids and Grand Rapids and northerly toward Manton before transitioning to a two-lane highway for the remainder of the distance to Petoskey.

BUS US-131 a loop route through downtown, running largely along the former route of US-131 through the city.
M-55 is a major two-lane east-west route across the state, connecting with Manistee on the west and Houghton Lake and Tawas City on the east.
M-115, another major two-lane route, runs diagonally from Clare to the southeast to Frankfort to the northwest.


The city is serviced by rail via the Great Lakes Central Railroad. This is primarily a freight line, although passenger service is expected in the future.

Public Transit

Cadillac and Wexford County jointly operate a local public bus service. The Cadillac/Wexford Transit Authority is a demand-response system, and has been in operation since 1974. In recent years the Authority has been experimenting with a fixed-route service, operating a mid-day service in the summer. This proto-bus line runs between Cadillac West and the downtown.

Non-Motorized Transportation

The White Pine Trail's northern terminus is in Cadillac. The trail, which stretches 92 miles and originates from Comstock Park, follows an abandoned railroad bed into the center of the city. The last mile of the trail is paved.

Local media


  • The Cadillac News


  • WTCM (580 AM, Traverse City) - news and talk
  • WLDR (1210 AM, Kingsley-Traverse City) - classic country
  • WATT (1240 AM) - news and talk
  • WLJW (1370 AM) - religious
  • WIAA (88.7 FM, Interlochen) - classical music "IPR Music Radio"
  • WOLW (91.1 FM) - religious "Northern Christian Radio"
  • WJZQ (92.9 FM) - soft AC/smooth jazz "The Breeze"



Further reading

External links

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