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Harsens Island is a wet marshy location at the mouth of the St. Clair River in the U.S. state of Michigan. Politically, the island is in Clay Township of St. Clair County. The Island was named for its first white settler, James (or Jacob) Harsen, a Dutchman, who came from New York state in about 1779 with his son-in-law Isaac Graveraet (or Graveret). Harsens bought the island from the Indians in 1783. It was also known as "Jacob Island" (also James or Jacobus Island) as late as 1809. The name of the post office, Sans Souci, was changed to "Harsens Island" in 1960.

The nation "owning" the island was a disputed matter for many years. The 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War described the international boundary line with imprecise terms in several places, including the mouth of the St. Clair River. The area had not been surveyed at that time. In the most commonly known map of the area from that period, made by John Mitchell in 1755 and which was used in negotiating the treaty, the delta and all the islands at the mouth of the St. Clair River are absent. In the language of the treaty, the boundary line was to run through the middle of Lake Erie until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron, "thence along the middle of said water communication into the Lake Huron". Due to this vagueness, all of the delta islands, including Harsens and Dickinson, were claimed by the British, and some from the United States who did not want to give up their English citizenship following the war made their residences there. The area was administered by the Hesse District of Upper Canada, including the awarding of land grants. In 1809, surveyors for the British government placed the boundary line in the north channel, which placed all of the delta and islands under British control.

However, in the 1814 Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, the ambiguity of provisions in the 1783 were acknowledged: "And, whereas, doubts have arisen, what was the middle of the said river, lakes, and water communication, and whether certain islands lying in the same were within the dominions of his Britanic majesty, or of the United States." To decide these questions, two commissioners were to be appointed, one from each nation, to designate the international boundary. They executed their survey of the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River in 1819 and 1820 and issued their final conclusions on June 18, 1822. Their decision regarding the St. Clair River delta was that the boundary should run north through Lake St. Clair, entering "that mouth or channel of the River St. Clair which is usually denominated the Old Ship Channel; thence along the middle of said channel, between Squirrel Island on the southeast, and Herson's (sic) Island on the northwest, to the upper end of the last mentioned island, which is nearly opposite to Point aux Chenes, on the American shore; thence along the middle of the River St. Clair, keeping to the west of, and near, the islands called Belle Riviere Isle, and Isle aux Cerfs, to Lake Huron." By this conclusion, both Harsens and Dickinson Islands were placed on the U.S. side of the boundary.

The St. Clair River is an integral part of the Great Lakes, draining water from Lake Huron down, eventually, to Lake Erie. The river is the international boundary between the United States and Canada. The river carries more freighter traffic than the Suez and Panama Canals combined. Over one billion gallons of fresh water per day flow down the St. Clair River, and through its delta region, the St. Clair Flats. Harsens Island is the major US island in the Flats. The Canadian side of the Flats has the largest islands in the delta including Walpole Island, home to the Walpole Island First Nation of Native Americans. The St. Clair Flats is home to wildlife such as the great blue heron, snapping turtles, and red-winged blackbirds. The area is a popular fishing spot with sunfish, pumpkinseed fish, bluegills, and silver bass available. The State of Michigan owns about 75% of the area of the Island, and has waterfowl and wildlife santuaries throughout.

Harsens Island is the only US island in the Flats that can be reached by automobile ferry, and the only one with roads, an unincorporated community, Sans Souci, a school (now closed), and a small airport. All the other US islands—there are scores of them—are accessible only by boat.

Zip Code 48028


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