Cadillac 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 1700s 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 Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a Frenchman who made the first permanent settlement at Detroit in 1701.
Cadillac contains the largest lake entirely within its city limits of any city in the United States. Lake Cadillac is entirely within the city limits while Lake Mitchell is only partially within the city limits. The two lakes are now almost exactly 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 Ripley's Believe It or Not in the 1970s 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 1970s through the late 1990s 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 Gehrig's 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.
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According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.3 km² (8.6 mi²). 17.7 km² (6.8 mi²) of it is land and 4.6 km² (1.8 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 20.70% water.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 10,000 people, 4,118 households, and 2,577 families residing in the city. The population density is 566.1/km² (1,466.0/mi²). There are 4,466 housing units at an average density of 252.8/km² (654.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 96.55% White, 0.21% African American, 0.92% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 1.38% from two or more races. 1.18% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 4,118 households out of which 32.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.9% are married couples living together, 14.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% are non-families. 31.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 14.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.37 and the average family size is 2.96.
In the city the population is spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 84.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $29,899, and the median income for a family is $36,825. Males have a median income of $29,773 versus $21,283 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,801. 13.7% of the population and 10.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 15.4% are under the age of 18 and 13.3% are 65 or older.