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The city of Niles, Michigan started as a mission by the French in the 1680s. Pere Claude-Jean Allouez led the forming of the Mission de Saint-Joseph in the then new settlement and tried to convert the locals to Christianity. They then formed Fort Saint Joseph in 1691, mainly as a trading post for the lower Saint Joseph River.

Fort St. Joseph proved to be an important spot for fur trade in its part of Lake Michigan. It has also been the home to some military forces, including a commandant, priest, blacksmith, interpreter and some 15 households.

The Fort St. Joseph Museum commemorates this history right inside a historic structure, the old carriage house of the Chapin mansion. The Fort St. Joseph Museum also features the Lakota Indian collection of Chief Sitting Bull?s pictographs.
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