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Strang: The Mormon King of Michigan

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

In the great state of Michigan, known as the Great Lakes State, you can expect to find many, many islands. One of these islands, probably one of the most interesting is Beaver Island. This is the Island that produced Michigan's first and last King, and that “King” who gave the island only 10 years of history may have made his story and the Islands engraved in history..

Beaver Island was once a Native American Island, used by the Ojibwe Tribe who lived on the land. And despite the fact that this 58-Square Mile-Island went from Natives to the modern day with beautiful beaches, nature and more. In between the gap of it being a Native Land and It becoming a modern resort area, it was a Mormon kingdom. Their King, James Strang arrived with a congregation of 300 after practically being chased out of a small town in Wisconsin where he tried building ``the City of the Mormons”, and this city's residents subsequently chased these Mormons away. With his congregation, they went all the way to Michigan, to escape the town which could make a story of its own. Strang, as he explored further into Mormonism, laid the claim of being the successor of a founder of the Faith Joseph Smith, and for that reason was able to claim a certain ‘Holiness’. So in 1848 when he and his small band of followers landed on Beaver Island in search of peace in a largely Irish populated island, well we’ll just say the Irish population was chased away. This faith couldn’t even be called Mormonism anymore, now it was the Faith of Strang.

On Beaver Island Strang created his own church, with its followers called Strangites This Strangite church began doing exactly what its 300 followers had tried escaping, they began persecuting and constantly clashing and abusing the Irish Population and Strang began claiming autonomy over the ‘Mighty Holy Lands of Beaver Island’. Finally in 1850, Strang had an incredibly elaborate ceremony in which he declared himself the King over the People of his Church and his Island. This ceremony had him in a large tabernacle, and bestowed upon himself a crown that was supposed to look like, and I quote, like , “a shiny metal ring with a cluster of glass stars in the front”, with this comes some confirmation that Strang was almost inches away from insanity. After his coronation he even went on to build a small military, mainly made up Mormon Drunkards, who even fired a cannon at a Irish fisherman in the area. Strang was even tried by the United States but was declared innocent rather shockingly. By this point the U.S government was incredibly threatened and despite being told that Strang was a mentally ill fool who was non-threatening to the United States, Then President James Madison sent the first American Naval Iron Clad to Beaver Island for an invasion.

When the Iron Clad arrived in the bay of St. James on Beaver Island, Strang was invited aboard the ship, most likely to be convicted, two Mormon women who had conspired with the government shot him twice in the head. Almost hilariously and rather interestingly, as the now somewhat famous Strang was announced as dead, a mob of 2600 coming from Mackinac Island and St. Helena Islands marched like Moses all the way to Beaver Island and literally ferried each Strangite off the Island. This Kingdom also led to a political crisis concerning politics in Charlevoix County where Strang was ruling his country which was poorly governed and required interference at a federal level to fix the Dent of Strang. For more about the Strangite people you can go to NPR or NPR Podcasts and learn more with Michigan Radio.

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