STRANGE GH: Pirates try to rob Grand Haven

In the early fall of 1855, the West Michigan shoreline was under assault by a band of pirates associated with the notorious King Strang of Beaver Island. And Grand Haven was one of the targets.
Kevin Collier
Nov 12, 2012


Historically, James Strang enjoyed an eight-year reign as “King of Beaver Island.” Accounts portray him as the founder of the Strangite sect of Mormonism. Sometimes described as a capable journalist and a talented legislator, others describe Strang as a lunatic pirate captain, a murderer and thief.

An article published in the Oct. 1, 1855, edition of the Allegan Record claimed that a “band of marauders” numbering 20 wreaked havoc along the Lake Michigan shore from Kalamazoo to north of Manistee. The gang, sailing in one small schooner and two Mackinaw boats, had caused a path of destruction and thievery along the way.

The band of pirates burned sawmills and robbed stores north of the Grand River, next arriving in Grand Haven.

In Grand Haven, the gang of pirates came ashore and made repeated attempts to break into stores and shops. The attempted break-ins appear to have occurred under the veil of night and nothing was reported stolen. Several residents witnessed the event, however, and saw the thieves make off in their vessels.

The thieves next struck LaGrange Township in Cass County, and broke into the Robinson & Plummer’s store, robbing it of $1,600 worth of goods. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Plumber, along with a posse, pursued them some considerable distance along the shoreline.

Robinson and Plumber stopped at Grand Haven briefly, perhaps for provisions, and were informed that the pirates had previously been there and to be wary of their numbers.

Authorities in Grand Haven advised the posse that it would be “useless and unsafe” to chase the pirates farther “without a strong force of hundreds of men.”

Newspapers reported that there was no question as to the origin of the bandits. “They are emissaries from King Strang’s realms,” one wrote.

While no published reports placed Strang himself on the vessels, it was clear the men acted on his behalf, if not orders, and spoils from the coastline heists were to be returned to Beaver Island.

“The whole power of the state (of Michigan) should be lent to ferret out, and bring to justice, the perpetrators of such bold crimes,” The Allegan Record newspaper wrote.

About nine months after Strang's pirates tried to rob Grand Haven, the King of Beaver Island met his end.

On June 16, 1856, the USS Michigan pulled into the harbor at St. James and invited Strang aboard. As he walked down the dock, two disgruntled followers shot him from behind.

Strang died from his wounds on July 9, 1856, and the two assassins never faced charges.



Wow, can you recommend a good book or 2 on this subject? I have a healthy interest in Michigan history and know very little about This man, his leadership and his time on Beaver Island.


Most of all that I have found is online..... pretty easy to find....


Most of all that I have found is online..... pretty easy to find....


Yeah, I suppose, I just like reading books. Thanks for the feedback.


Try this Book ... Assassination of a Michigan King: The Life of James Jesse Strang, by Roger Van Noord. Also ... The Journal of Beaver Island History, Volumes 1 through 5 ... check the library, or you can buy them at and get them delivered through the mail!


Thanks for taking the time to share that info Justsayin....I believe I'll head down to the library tomorrow and see if any of these are available. Appreciate your feedback.


Perhaps you should do some research before you insert your opinion on this story about Strang . First, James Jesse Strang never proclaimed himself "King of Beaver Island", he was proclaimed as "king" of an ecclesiastical monarchy that he established on Beaver, a king in terms of leadership of his branch of his religion - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). He only 'governed' his own followers, there was a significant population of people (white and Indian) that resided in Beaver Island that were not subjected to his jurisdiction. In fact, contrary to popular rumor, Beaver Island was never a sovereign nation, but, has always been under the jurisdiction the State of Michigan and United States government. The island's post office and school were both controlled by the State of Michigan and the U.S. government. He was only the leader of a religious sect that, in that time, many people were terrified of because they were different, not Christian in the sense of the majority.

Also, Strang was brought to Detroit to defend the rumors about his rule and religion. After his presentation to congress, and before he left to return to Northern Michigan, he was made a member of the Michigan House of Representatives and held the post until 1856 during which he was instrumental in establishing and organizing local county government, school systems and county boundaries in the northern Michigan area.

Lastly, he was assassinated by two of his own religious followers who were excommunicated from the church because they committed crimes against their religious society -mainly public drunkenness and oppression of women. They were both brought to trial on Mackinaw Island, found guilty but neither were ever punished because of an agreement with a U.S. Naval captain who's ship was in St. James Bay on Beaver Island.

The raid in Grand Haven that you refer has been documented as part of a group of mobs were operating along the Lake Michigan shoreline, hired by Strang's excommunicated foes to ravage under guise. These mobs eventually converged on Beaver Island after commandeering several trade ships along the coast, burning the church and most followers homes on Beaver Island and then evicting and dumping his followers in many mainland ports along the Lake Michigan coast.

Yes, he was a strict and powerful man of religious sect that many people feared. I am sure, as many men of power have and do, he participated in questionable practices and ideals as the common man of the time might perceive. But, the issue here is your portrayal is extremely inaccurate, to such a degree that a minimum of research would have revealed.

Please do the research so facts, rather than exaggerated rumor may be conveyed to your reading public - you will best gain respect that way......


Arrrrgggg. did it again.


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