Detroit in 1837 had changed radically from the community founded by
Cadillac in 1701. Its people had been transformed from a French and
Indian community to a city of economically driven, Protestant New
Englanders. Its economy had been transformed from that of a military
garrison and fur-trading outpost into a supply center for an
agriculturally oriented state. Yet for all these changes the city still
remained on the edge of the forest. As late as 1830 residents could
clearly hear the call of wolves. As thousands of settlers poured through
Detroit's streets in the 1830s deer could be taken a half-day's walk
away from town, and on the occasional evening a disoriented bear made
the walk into town and could be seen wandering about. In 1837 Detroit
was not yet far removed from the forest Cadillac had seen.
In one other way the Detroit of 1837, for all its differences
from the community founded by Cadillac, still shared a vital
similarity-the river itself. Detroit came into existence because the
French saw military and economic advantage to be gained from the river.
Detroit prospered in the 1830s because of the importance of water-borne
transportation. Soon enough the forest would be pushed back. But in
1837, as in 1701, it was the river around which the community revolved.