State Bar of Michigan - Michigan Legal Milestones header

Michigan Legal Milestones
14. The King's Grant

One of the most celebrated cases of the 19th century involving a dispute over land granted by French King Louis XV in 1750. Dedicated and placed at Brady Park (along Water St.) at the site of Fort Brady and Fort Repentigny in Sault Ste. Marie on July 16, 1991.

Complete Text on Milestone Marker

The Kings Grant

To provide a refuge at Sault Ste. Marie for French traders and missionaries, King Louis XV in 1750 ordered Louis de Repentigny to build a fort near what later became Fort Brady. The king also granted 214,000 surrounding acres of land to de Repentigny and Captain Louis de Bonne—land which the Native Americans who lived here called Bowating. In so doing, the king created the largest private estate ever held in Michigan, and set the stage for a legal dispute that would not be settled until after the Civil War.

In 1825 the de Bonne descendents not living in Ireland began to press their claims to what had by then become very valuable land. They were joined within a few years by the de Repentigny heirs, living in poverty in the Caribbean. After many disappointments, they obtained passage of a special bill by the United States Senate in 1860 authorizing the federal district court in Michigan to decide their claim. That court ruled in their favor in 1861, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision in 1867, citing the lapse of time and the failure of the original grantees to improve land as primary reasons for its decision.

Thus ended the last claim to Michigan lands under French occupation.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the 50th Judicial Circuit Bar Association, 1991.