Wyandotte Harbor is located in Wayne County, Michigan, about three nautical miles (five kilometers or 3.2 miles ) south-southwest of the Port of Detroit. Platted in 1854 on the site of a Wyandot village, Wyandotte Harbor grew up around Eureka Iron Works that produced the United States' first commercial Bessemer steel. Wyandotte Harbor was also known for ship-building from the early 1870s through 1920.
Today, the Wyandotte Harbor economy is based on a diverse manufacturing industry that includes chemicals, pharmaceuticals, steel and steel products, and plastics. Wyandotte Harbor sits atop large salt beds that support the chemical industry. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 25.9 thousand people living in Wyandotte Harbor.
Wyandotte Harbor was built on the site of the Wyandot (or Huron) village where Chief Pontiac planned a 1763 attack on Detroit. Called Huron by the French, the Wyandot were part of the Huron Confederacy, a coalition that formed in the middle 15th Century.
Immediately before contact with Europeans, there were about 30,000 Wyandot people. The first meeting with Europeans happened in 1615 when the Wyandot met French explorer Samuel de Champlain as he explored the St. Lawrence River. After 1634, the population of Wyandot dramatically decreased by some two-thirds due to epidemics of smallpox and measles brought by the Europeans.
The Wyandot and Iroquois had been enemies for many years pre-contact. When European weapons arrived, their competition and the brutality of tribal warfare increased. In 1649, an Iroquois war party burned Wyandot mission villages, killing some 300 Wyandot as well as many Jesuit missionaries. Fleeing to Christian Island (Gahoendoe), many of the 10,000 Wyandot starved during the 1649-1650 winter. Survivors settled Wendake near Quebec City, absorbing other refugees and becoming the Huron-Wendat Nation (French).
By the late 17th Century, some Wyandot re-formed and settle areas in what is now Ohio and southern Michigan. The Wyandot of Anderdon Nation did not leave when the people were removed to Kansas in 1842. They stayed in Michigan and Canada, continuing to elect the Tribal Chief and Council, observe traditional ceremonies, and built sweat lodges.
In 1999, disparate bands of Wyandot across Quebec, Michigan, Kansas, and Oklahoma reformed the earlier Wendat Confederacy. Today, each Wyandot community is an autonomous band. With about 800 members, the Wyandot Nation of Anderdon, Michigan, is headquartered in Trenton about 8.7 kilometers (5.4 miles) south-southeast of Wyandotte Harbor.
Wyandotte Harbor was incorporated as a city and granted a charter in 1866. In the distance between Wyandotte Harbor and Detroit, many settlers lived along the river that had been the Wyandot's traditional farming lands.
John Biddle was one of the first white settlers in Wyandotte Harbor. An Army major that fought in the War of 1812, Biddle had a successful political career that included being president of the Michigan Central Railroad, speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, and a candidate for Governor of Michigan. In 1835, Biddle bought a plot of land that he called "The Wyandotte." In 1854, he sold the land to the Eureka Iron Company.
By 1865, the steel rails created in Wyandotte Harbor stimulated a boom of iron-related businesses. The boom made Detroit a major iron producing center and eventually made it possible for Henry Ford to create his automobile assembly lines.
Suffering a raw material shortage, Eureka Iron Works finally closed in 1892 but, by that time, Wyandotte Harbor was a busy hub for the chemical production industry. In 1893, Captain John Baptiste Ford (founder of Pittsburgh Plate Glass) used the salt beneath Wyandotte Harbor to create baking soda, lye, and soda ash and to establish the Michigan Alkali Company.
From the 1870s until the early 1920s, Wyandotte Harbor was the site for ship-builders who created a wide range of boats from ferries to tugs and steamers. The country's first steel-hulled vessel on the Great Lakes, the tugboat Sport, was built by the Wyandotte Iron Ship Building Works in 1873. From the 1920s until the 1950s, Wyandotte Toys was the United States' busiest manufacturer of toy guns and toy airplanes made with scrap metal from local automobile factories.
Today, much of Wyandotte Harbor's industry has closed or moved to other locations. Baden Aniline and Soda Factory (BASF) is a notable exception. Opening in 1969, BASF operates five production facilities and employs about one thousand people in Wyandotte Harbor. BASF products made in Wyandotte Harbor include polyurethanes, jounce bumpers for automobiles, specialty plastics, thermo-plastic urethanes, and Joncryl® products including packaging, surface coatings, and printing.