Chief David Shoppenagon was born into the Chippewa Tribe on July 1, 1809. He was born along the Tittabawassee River in the Green Point area near Saginaw.
He believed that it was not natural for a Native American to live under a roof and was grown man before he ever had a roof over his head. Shoppenagon said this was why he had such good health.
He was married with five children, Tom, Cora, Nancy, Hattie, and Mary. He became affectionately known as Shop to his friends.
He became a Methodist in middle age. The Chief experienced the devastation caused by alcohol abuse amongst the Native Americans. He became a teetotaler and preached against the evils of alcohol.
In 1875 he visited Grayling to hunt deer with his son. Although they had to pack into the Manistee by foot, the passenger pigeons nesting on the west side of the river made him want to come live in Grayling. The next year he moved his family to Grayling. He built a home at the mouth of the AuSable River’s east branch.
The Chief’s familiarity with the woods and waters around Grayling made him a sought-after hunting and fishing guide for some of Saginaw’s wealthiest men. He had many stories that he shared around the campfire and lasting friendships were formed. He was an honored guest in the finest homes in Saginaw.
Partnering with a Lumber Merchant
After moving to Grayling Shop got to know T.W. Hanson who was a lumber merchant. Shop was an expert when it came to wood and used maple to carve canoe paddles. Whenever they were sawing maple, Shop would go to the log pond and find the log he wanted. He would follow it to the mill and would have the sawyer cut it to order for him. Hanson would say, “Anyone owning one of his paddles would never part with it. It had a swing of its own.”
Shoppenagon developed a business relationship with Hanson. The “Shoppenagon” brand of cork pine was carried by Hanson’s Lumber company. This pine has a world-wide reputation for quality and softness of texture. Hanson also carried Maple flooring call the “Chief” brand and the products carried a profile of the Chief. Shop would go with Hanson to meetings and conventions using his Indian dances and stories to fascinate potential customer.
Expert Hunting and Fishing Guide
The Chief’s familiarity with the woods and waters around Grayling made him a sought-after hunting and fishing for some of Saginaw’s wealthiest men. He had many stories that he shared around the campfire and lasting friendships were formed. He was an honored guest in the finest homes in Saginaw.
Chief Shoppenagon was a frequent visitor to the home of Buzz Morley. Buzz said that his mother could never convince Shop to sleep in a bed. Shop preferred the floor in front of the fireplace in their library. Buzz’s great-uncle Lorenzo Burrows and Shop were close and went on fishing trips in the Grayling area for many years. They would camp out, cook their owns meals over a fire and of course fish. Their last trip together, they camped beside the Manistee, both were past 80 years old.
Leading the Parade
In 1907 The City of Saginaw celebrated its Sesquicentennial and Shop was Grand Marshall of the biggest parade. The Chief asked his friend Charles Bauer if he would take in up the river to Green Point. Once their Shop pointed out the spot where he was born and where he believed his parents were buried. It was reported that “he then drank from the river and cried like a child.”
It is said he was given the title of Chief although he never claimed such a title. He came from a proud family his grandfather assisted the British in the French and Indian Wars. Shoppenagon proudly wore the two crescent shaped silver medals his grandfather had been awarded. Portraits of George Washing show him wearing similar medals. Shoppenagon’s grandfathers’ medals are now part of a collection of the Saginaw Historical Museum.
The Chief was once asked to talk to the Sioux tribe of Minnesota who were planning an uprising. The Sioux threatened to kill Shop, but he was eventually able to convince them that their plan was a bad idea. They were hopelessly outnumbered, and a bloody massacre was prevented.
David Shoppenagon was a dignified man and lived successfully in two worlds. He never really left the Chippewa tribe he was born into while he lived in the world of the white men he had befriended.
Chief David Shoppenagon died on Christmas Day in 1911. He was 102 years old and had lived a long, full life. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Grayling, Michigan.
Chief Shoppenagon/Shoppenagon’s Homesite
Civil War and After (1860-1875) – Registered in 1979 and erected in 1981 – ID #L757B
Located at 103 E. Michigan, Grayling/Bus 75 and AuSable River – Lat: 44.65986200 / Long: -84.71115500
Chief David Shoppenagon was born in Indianfields, a Chippewa Indian Village in the Saginaw River Valley. In 1795 his grandfather, also a Chippewa chief, was among the Indians who met with General Anthony Wayne at Fort Greenville, Ohio, and signed a treaty that ended forty years of warfare in the Ohio Valley. Shoppenagon arrived in the Grayling area from the Saginaw Valley during the early 1870s. He trapped, hunted, and was a guide for sportsmen throughout the northern Lower Peninsula.
Chief David Shoppenagon had a house near this site, though he spent much of his time along the lakes and rivers of the area. Whites called him “Old Shopp” and welcomed his campfire tales of bear and deer hunts. He made canoes and paddles by hand and was a river guide in the area. In the early 1900s, a local inn, the area’s cork pine and maple flooring company were named for Chief Shoppenagon. The chief died on Christmas Day 1911. He was believed to be 103 years old.