Cadillac, Michigan became the county seat of Wexford County, Michigan after the "Battle of Manton" in which the county seat was forcibly moved from Manton, Michigan. It was founded in the 1700's as a logging town and was originally called Clam Lake. Many of the early settlers were Swedish. Cadillac was incorporated as a city in 1877. Two of Cadillac's sister cities are Molnlycke, Sweden, and Rovanieme, Finland. The city covers nine square miles. It was named after Antoine De La Monthe Cadillac, a Frenchman who made the first permanent settlement at Detroit in 1701.
It is currently the northern terminus of U.S. Interstate 131 (though soon a bypass will be built around Cadillac and 131 will continue to Traverse City).
It has two relatively shallow glacial run-off lakes, Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell. Lake Cadillac is entirely within the city limits while Lake Mitchell is only partially within the city limits. Cadillac contains the largest lake entirely within its city limits of any city in the United States. The two lakes are now very equal in size but in the 19th century one was much larger than the other and they were known as Big Clam Lake and Little Clam Lake. In 1873 a small stream running between the two was dug into the Clam Lake Canal to drain some of Big Clam into Little Clam. Cadillac's canal was featured on Ripleys Believe It or Not in the 1970's because in the winter the canal freezes before the lakes and then when the lakes freeze, the canal thaws and remains unfrozen all winter long. Every year multiple snowmobiles and, unfortunately lives, are lost as snowmobilers try to run the length of the canal, from one frozen lake to the other across the open water, on their snowmobiles.
Tourism is the main industry in Cadillac all year long. In the summer tourists come for the boating, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and camping. In the fall they come for the hunting and color tours. The winter is probably the busiest season of all as motels are packed with downhill skiers, cross-country skiers, ice-fishers, snow-shoers and most of all snowmobilers. The North American Snowmobile Festival (NASF) is held on frozen Lake Cadillac every winter.
Cadillac sits on the edge of the Manistee National Forest and the surrounding area is heavily wooded with mixed hardwood and conifer forests. The main agricultural industry in the area is Christmas tree farming. In fact, Cadillac was chosen in 1988 to donate the Christmas tree to sit on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C..
Thirsty's, a gas station on M-55 right outside of Cadillac's city limits, was the home of Samantha or "Sam The Bear" from the 1970's through the late 1990's when Sam died of old age. Sam was the only brown bear in captivity in the US, at the time to hibernate naturally. Sam lived in a large cage in front of the gas station and was lovingly fed ice cream cones by tourists every summer.
Cadillac is one of three "hot spots" for Lou Gehrigs Disease in the US. The occurrence of the disease within the city limits of Cadillac is over 100 times the normal rate. The cause of the abnormally large occurrence of the disease in Cadillac is as of yet unknown.