In 1679 this site was visited by La Salle and his companions, who named the Detroit River and Lake Saint Clair.
The first permanent Catholic mission within the present limits of Detroit was at Fort Saint Joseph or Pontchartrain; in the interest of French claims a few Canadian families under Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac settled about the fort in 1701, and on 26 July their first pastor, Father Constantine Delhalle, began the still existing records of the church of Saint Anne.
He was succeeded by Recollects and other priests, mostly from Quebec.
In 1778 the church was the only public building in the palisaded village, which consisted chiefly of log houses and had a population of about 300.
In 1796 Detroit passed from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Quebec to that of Baltimore; but Bishop Denaut of Quebec visited the village in 1801, at the invitation of Bishop Carroll of Baltimore, and confirmed 521 Catholics ranging in age from 13 to 80.
At this time, and until 1832, the pastor was Father Gabriel Richard, a Sulpician.
His parish included all the present State of Michigan and a large part of Wisconsin.
Three years after the fire of 1805 which destroyed nearly the whole town, the church was rebuilt.
Father Richard lectured weekly in the Council House and set up a printing press and founded in 1809 the "Michigan Essay or Impartial Observer," the first Catholic paper in the United States and the first paper of any kind in Michigan.
Among the books which he issued was one entitled "."
He was a founder, vice-president, and professor of the University of Michigan.
In 1823 he was elected to represent Michigan Territory in the House of Representatives, the only Catholic priest who has ever been a member of Congress.
In 1833 the Diocese of Detroit was established.
The same year the Poor Clares founded a convent within the town.
The rapid commercial and industrial growth of Detroit during the 19th century has brought large numbers of Catholics of several nationalities, especially Polish.
New Catholic Dictionary