Personal Memoirs Of A Residence Of Thirty Years With The Indian Tribes On The American Frontiers
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft
Part 5 out of 15
When it is considered what a small population of civilized beings
inhabit that part of the world, it is not to be wondered at that so
little knowledge about it exists. I went from Green Bay, with the
Express, where but few people ever travel, which was attended with
fatigue and danger; but the journey produced this conviction on my mind,
that the Michigan Territory has in it a great extent of fine country.
I regard Green Bay, at the mouth of Fox River, and Chicago, as two
very important positions, particularly the latter. For many years I have
felt a most anxious desire to see the country between Chicago and the
Illinois (River), where it has generally been, ignorantly, supposed that
only a small sum would be wanting to open a communication between them.
By traveling on horseback through the country, and down the Illinois, I
have conceived a different and more exalted opinion of this
communication, and of the country, than I had before, while I am
convinced that it will be attended with a much greater expense to open
it than I had supposed.
[Footnote 41: The Illinois Canal now exists here.]
I, with my two companions, found your fossil tree, in the Des Plaines,
with considerable labor and difficulty. This I anticipated, from the
commonly reputed opinion of the uncommon height of the waters. With your
memoir in my hand, we rode up and down the waters till the pursuit was
abandoned by the others, while my own curiosity and zeal did not yield
till it was discovered. The detached pieces were covered with twelve to
twenty inches of water, and each of us broke from them as much as we
could well bring away. I showed them to Col. Benton, the Senator in St.
Louis; to Major O'Fallon; Col. Strother, and other gentlemen there; to
Mr. Birkbeck in Wanboro'; to Mr. Rapp in Harmony; and to a number of
different people, through the countries I traveled, till my arrival
"On my arrival here (Philadelphia), I handed the pieces to Mr. Solomon
W. Conrad, who delivers lectures on mineralogy, which he made partly the
subject of one of his lectures. Since that, I had a piece of it made
into a hone, and I had marked on it, 'Schoolcraft's Fossil Tree.'
"Brooke's _Gazetteer_, improved by Darby, has been ready for delivery
three or four months, and is allowed to be a most valuable book. He is,
I am sorry to say, truly poor, while his labor is incessant. He set out,
several weeks since, to deliver lectures, in the country, where he will
probably continue through the summer."
_16th_. J. D. Doty, Esq., writes from Detroit that a District Court has
been established by Congress in the upper country--that he has been
appointed to the judgeship, and will hold a court at Michilimackinack,
on the third Monday in July. A beginning has thus been made in civil
jurisdiction among us benighted dwellers on this far-off land of God's
creation. He states, also, the passage of a law for claimants to lands,
which have been occupied since 1812. Where law goes, civilization will
_23d_. Giles Sanford, of Erie (Penn.), sends me some curious specimens
of the concrete alum-slate of that vicinity--they are columnar,
fan-shaped--and requests a description. It is well known that the
presence of strong aluminous liquids in the soil of that area had a
tendency to preserve the flesh on General Wayne's body, which was found
undecayed when, after twenty years' burial, they removed it to Radnor
church, in Philadelphia.
_28th_. Governor C. sends me a pamphlet of additional inquiries, founded
chiefly on my replies, respecting the Indian languages. He says--"You
see, I have given new scope to your inquiries, and added much to your
labors. But it is impracticable, without such assistance as you can
render me, to make any progress. I find so few--so very few--who are
competent to a rational investigation of the subject, that those who are
so must be loaded with a double burden."
_July 6th_. Mr. Harry Thompson, of Black Rock, N.Y., writes me that he
duly forwarded, by a careful teamster, my three lost boxes of minerals,
shells, &c., collected in the Wabash Valley, Missouri, and Illinois, in
1821, and that they were received by Mr. Meech of Geneva, and forwarded
by him to E.B. Shearman & Co., Utica. The loss of these collections of
1821 seems to me very grievous.
_19th_. Judge Doty writes from Mackinac: "Believing the winds and fates
to have been propitious, I trust you had a speedy, safe, and pleasant
passage to your home. A boat arrived this morning, but I heard nothing.
Mr. Morrison leaves this evening, and I forward, by him, your
dictionary, with many--_many_ thanks for the use. _We_ completed the
copy of it last evening, making seventy-five pages of letter paper. I
hope I shall be able to return you the favor, and give you soon some
_nice_ Sioux words."
_August 5th_. Judge Doty, in a letter of thanks for a book, and some
philological suggestions, transmits a list of inquiries on the legal
code of the Indians--a rather hard subject--in which, quotations must
not be Coke upon Littleton, but the law of _tomahawk upon craniums_.
"The Sioux," he says, "must be slippery fellows indeed, if I do not
squeeze their language, and several other valuable things, out of them
next winter. I expect to leave for the Mississippi this week, in a
barge, with Mr. Rolette."
_6th_. Mr. D. H. Barnes, of the New York Lyceum of Natural History,
reports that the shells sent to him from the mouth of the Columbia, and
with which the Indians garnish their pouches, are a species of the
Dentalium, particularly described in Jewett's "Narrative of the Loss of
the Ship Boston at Nootka Sound." He transmits proof plates of the fresh
water shells collected by Professor Douglass and myself on the late
expedition to the sources of the Mississippi.
_11th_. The Adjutant-General of the Territory, General J. R. Williams,
transmits me a commission as captain of an independent company of
militia infantry, with a view, it is presumed, on the part of the
executive, that it will tend to strengthen the capacity of resistance to
an Indian combination on this frontier.
_20th_. Mr. Giles Sanford, of Erie, sends me a specimen of gypsum from
Sandusky Bay, and a specimen of the strontian-yielding limestone of
Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie.
_September 10th_. Judge Doty writes from Prairie du Chien, that he had a
pleasant passage, with his family, of fifteen days from Mackinaw; that
he is pleased with the place; and that the delegate election went almost
unanimously for Major Biddle. A specimen of native copper, weighing four
pounds, was found by Mr. Bolvin, at Pine River, a tributary from the
north of the Wisconsin, agreeing in its characters with those in my
cabinet from the basin of Lake Superior.
_15th_. Dr. John Bigsby, of Nottingham, England, writes from the
North-West House, that he arrived yesterday from the Boundary Survey,
and is desirous of exchanging some of his geological and conchological
specimens for species in my possession. The doctor has a very bustling,
clerk-like manner, which does not impress one with the quiet and repose
of a philosopher. He evidently thinks we Americans, at this remote
point, are mere barbarians, and have some shrewd design of making a
chowder, or a speculation out of our granites, and agates, and native
copper. Not a look or word, however, of mine was permitted to disturb
the gentleman in his stilted notions.
_16th_. Major Joseph Delafield, with his party, report the Boundary
Survey as completed to the contemplated point on the Lake of the Woods,
as called for by the Treaty of Ghent. The ease and repose of the major's
manners contrast rather favorably with the fussiness of the
_26th_. Mr. Felix Hinchman, of Mackinac, transmits returns of the recent
delegate election, denoting the election of Major Biddle, by a rather
close run, over the Catholic priest _Richard_.
_October 9th_. Mr. W.H. Shearman of Vernon, New York, writes that my
boxes of minerals and fresh water shells are irretrievably lost; that
Mr. Meech, of Geneva, remains mum on the subject; and that they have not
arrived at Utica. Hard fate thus to be despoiled of the fruits of
_14th_. Mr. Ebenezer Brigham of Springfield, Illinois, an honest
gentleman with whom I embarked at Pittsburgh, in the spring of 1818 for
the great West and the land of fortune, writes a letter of friendly
reminiscences and sympathies at my success, particularly in getting a
healthy location. Brigham was to have been one of my adventurous party
at Potosi, in the fall of 1818, but the fever and ague laid violent
hands on him. He managed to reach Potosi, but only to bid me good-by,
and a God-speed.
"In this country," he says, "life is at least fifty per cent, below par
in the months of August and September. I have often thought that I run
as great a risk every season which I spend here, as I would in an
ordinary battle. I really believe it seldom happens that a greater
proportion of an army fall victims to the sword, during a campaign, than
there was, of the inhabitants of Illinois, falling victims to disease
during a season that I have been here."
"I have little doubt but the trade of this part of the State of Illinois
will pass through that channel (the northern lakes). Our produce is of a
description that ought to find its way to a northern market, and that,
too, without passing through a tropical climate. Our pork and beef may
arrive at Chicago with nearly the same ease that it can at St. Louis;
and, if packed there and taken through the lakes, would be much more
valuable than if taken by the way of the South; besides, the posts
spoken of (Chicago, Green Bay, &c.) may possibly be supplied cheaper
from this than any other source."
"Moses Austin, I presume you have heard, is dead, and his son Stephen is
acting a very conspicuous part in the province of Texas. Old Mr. Bates,
and his son William, of Herculaneum, both died last summer."
"I should like to know if the same warlike disposition appears amongst
the northern Indians that does amongst those of the west. Nearly, or
quite every expedition to the west of the Mississippi in the fur trade,
this season, has been attacked by different tribes, and some have been
defeated and robbed, and a great many lives have been lost. Those in the
neighborhood of this place, to wit, the Kickapoos and Potawattomies, are
getting cross and troublesome. I should not be surprised if a war with
the Indians generally should take place soon. The troops at the Council
Bluffs have found it necessary to chastise one tribe already (the
Aurickarees), which they have done pretty effectually, having killed a
goodly number, and burnt their towns."
_19th_. Governor C. writes, in response to a letter detailing
difficulties which have arisen oh this frontier between the military and
citizens: "Military gentlemen, when stationed at remote posts, too often
'feel power and forget right,' and the history of our army is replete
with instances proving incontestably by how frail a tenure our liberties
would be held, were it not for the paramount authority and redeeming
spirit of our civil institutions."
"I thank you," he observes, "for the specimens of copper you have sent
me. I participate with you in your feelings upon the important discovery
you have been the instrument of communicating to the world, respecting
the existence of that metal upon the long point of Lake Superior. This
circumstance, in conjunction with others, will, I hope, lead to a
congressional appropriation, at the next session, for exploring that
country, and making such purchases of the Indians as may promise the
"My Indian materials are rapidly accumulating; but, unfortunately, they
are more valuable for quantity than quality. It is almost impossible to
rely upon the information which is communicated to me on the subject of
the languages. There is a lamentable obtuseness of intellect manifested
in both collector and contributor; and there is no systematic
arrangement--no analytical process, and, in fact, no correctness of
detail. I may safely say that what I received from you is more valuable
than all my other stock.
"It has recurred to me that you ought to visit Europe. Don't startle at
the suggestion! I have thought of it frequently. You might easily
procure some person to execute your duties, &c., and I think there would
be no difficulty in procuring permission from the government. I speak,
however, _without book_. Think of the matter. I see incalculable
advantages which would result to you from it, and you would go under
very favorable auspices, and with a rich harvest of literary fame."
_23d_. B. F. Stickney, Esq., writes on the occasion of not having
earlier acknowledged my memoir on the Fossil Tree of the Des Plaines, in
Illinois. "How little we know of the laws of nature," he observes, "of
which we profess to know so much."
Incidents of the year 1824--Indian researches--Diverse idioms of the
Ottowa and Chippewa--Conflict of opinion between the civil and military
authorities of the place--A winter of seclusion well spent--St. Paul's
idea of languages--Examples in the Chippewa--The Chippewa a pure form of
the Algonquin--Religion in the wilderness--Incidents--Congressional
excitements--Commercial view of the copper mine question--Trip to
Tackwymenon Falls, in Lake Superior.
1824. _Jan. 1st_. As soon as the business season closed, I resumed my
General C. writes: "The result of your inquiries into the Indian
language is highly valuable and satisfactory. I return you my sincere
thanks for the papers. I have examined them attentively. I should be
happy to have you prosecute your inquiries into the manners, customs,
&c., of the Indians. You are favorably situated, and have withal such
unconquerable perseverance, that I must tax you more than other persons.
My stock of materials, already ample, is rapidly increasing, and many
new and important facts have been disclosed. It is really surprising
that so little valuable information has been given to the world on
Mr. B.F. Stickney, formerly an agent at Fort Wayne, Indiana, writes from
Depot (now Toledo): "I am pleased to see that your mind is engaged on
the Chippewa language. It affords a field sufficiently extensive for the
range of all the intellect and industry that the nation can bring into
action. If the materials already collected should, after a scrutiny and
arrangement, be thrown upon the literary world, it would excite so much
interest as not to permit the inquiry thus to stop at the threshold. It
is really an original inquiry concerning the operations of the human
mind, wherein a portion of the human race, living apart from the rest,
have independently devised means for the interchange of thoughts and
ideas. Their grammatical rules are so widely different from all our
European forms that it forces the mind to a retrospective view of first
"I have observed the differences you mention between the Ottowa and
Chippewa dialects. Notwithstanding I conceive them to be (as you
observe) radically the same language, I think there is less difference
between the band of Ottowas you mention, of _L'Arbre Croche_, than the
Ottowas of this vicinity. It appears that their languages are subject to
very rapid changes. From not being written, they have no standard to
resort to, and I have observed it demonstrated in bands of the same
tribe, residing at considerable distances from each other, and having
but little intercourse for half a century; these have with difficulty
been able to understand each other.
"I am pleased to learn that you are still advancing the sciences of
mineralogy and conchology. Your discovery of native silver imbedded in
native copper is certainly a very extraordinary one."
_28th_. Major E. Cutler, commanding officer, applies to me, as a
magistrate, to prosecute all citizens who have settled on the reserve at
St. Mary's, and opened "shops for the sale of liquor." Not being a
public prosecuting attorney, it does not appear how this can at all be
done, without his designating the names of the offenders, and the
offences for which they are to be tried.
_30th_. The same officer reports that his duties will not permit him to
erect quarters for the Indian agent, which he is required to put up,
till another year. If this step is to be regarded, as it seems, as a
retaliatory measure for my not issuing process, _en masse_, against the
citizens, without he or his subordinates condescending to name
individuals, it manifests an utter ignorance of the first principles of
law, and is certainly a queer request to be made of a justice of the
peace. Nor does it appear how the adoption of such whims or assumptions
is compatible with a just official comity or an enlarged sense of public
duty, on his part, and pointed instructions, to boot, in co-operating
with the Indian department on a remote and exposed frontier.
There seems to be a period, on the history of the frontiers, where
conflicts between the military and civil authorities are almost
inevitable; but there are, perhaps, few examples to be found where the
former power has been more aggressively and offensively exercised than
it has been under the martinet who is now in command at this post. It is
an ancient point of settlement by the French, who are generally a mild
and obliging people, and disposed to submit to authorities. Some of
these are descended from persons who settled here under Louis XIV. That
a few Americans have followed the troops with more rigid views of
private rights, and who cannot be easily trampled on, is true. And the
military have, justly, no doubt, felt annoyances from a freedom of trade
with the soldiery, who cannot be kept within their pickets by bayonets
and commands. But he must be far gone in his sublimated notions of
self-complacency and temporary importance who supposes that a magistrate
would surrender his sense of independence, and impartiality between man
and man, by assuming new and unheard-of duties, at the beck of a
military functionary who happens to overrate his own, or misjudge
_March 31st_. I have given no little part of the winter to a revision of
my manuscript journal of travels through the Miami and Wabash Valleys in
1821. The season has been severe, and offered few inducements to go
beyond the pale of the usual walk to my office, the cantonment, and to
the village seated at the foot of the rapids. Variety, in this pursuit,
has been sought, in turning from the transcription of these records of a
tourist to the discussion of the principles of the Indian languages--a
labor, if literary amusement can be deemed a labor, which was generally
adjourned from my office, to be resumed in the domestic circle during
the long winter evenings. A moral enjoyment has seldom yielded more of
the fruits of pleasure. In truth, the winter has passed almost
imperceptibly away. Tempests howled around us, without diminishing our
comforts. We often stood, in the clear winter evenings, to gaze at the
splendid displays of the Aurora Borealis. The cariole was sometimes put
in requisition. We sometimes tied on the augim, or snow-shoe, and
ventured over drifts of snow, whose depth rendered them impassable to
the horse. We assembled twice a week, at a room, to listen to the chaste
preaching of a man of deep-toned piety and sound judgment, whose life
and manners resemble an apostle's.
In looking back at the scenes and studies of such a season, there was
little to regret, and much to excite in the mind pleasing vistas of hope
and anticipation. The spring came with less observation than had been
devoted to the winter previous; and the usual harbingers of advancing
warmth--the small singing birds and northern flowers--were present ere
we were well aware of their welcome appearance.
Hope is a flower that fills the sentient mind
With sweets of rapturous and of heavenly kind;
And those, who in her gardens love to tread,
Alone can tell how soft the odors spread.
_April 20th_. "There are, it may be," says Paul, "many kinds of voices
in the world, and none of them is without signification." It could
easily be proved that many of these voices are very rude; but it would
take more philological acumen than was possessed by Horne Tooke to prove
that any of them are without "signification." By the way, Tooke's
"Diversions of Purley" does not seem to me so odd a title as it
C. writes to me, under this date, "I pray you to push your philological
inquiries as far as possible; and to them, add such views as you may be
able to collect of the various topics embraced in my plan."
There is, undoubtedly, some danger that, in making the Indian history
and languages a topic of investigation, the great practicable objects of
their reclamation may be overlooked. We should be careful, while
cultivating the mere literary element, not to palliate our delinquencies
in philanthropic efforts in their behalf, under the notion that nothing
can be effectively done, that the Indian is not accessible to moral
truths, and that former efforts having failed of general results, such
as those of Eliot and Brainerd, they are beyond the reach of _ordinary_
means. I am inclined to believe that the error lies just here--that is,
in the belief that some extraordinary effort is thought to be necessary,
that their sons must be cooped up in boarding-schools and colleges,
where they are taught many things wholly unsuited to their condition and
wants, while the mass of the tribes is left at home, in the forests, in
their ignorance and vices, untaught and neglected.
In the exemplification of St. Paul's idea, that all languages are given
to men, with an exact significance of words and forms, and therefore not
vaguely, there is the highest warrant for their study; and the time thus
devoted cannot be deemed as wasted or thrown away. How shall a man say
"raca," or "that fox," if there be no equivalents for the words in
barbarous languages? The truth is that this people find no-difficulty in
expressing the exact meanings, although the form of the words is
peculiar. The derogative sense of sly and cunning, which is, in the
original, implied by the demonstrative pronoun "that," a Chippewa would
express by a mere inflection of the word fox, conveying a bad or
reproachful idea; and the pronoun cannot be charged with an
In _ke-bau-diz-ze,_ which is an equivalent for _raca_, there is a
personal pronominal prefix, and an objective pronominal suffix. The
radix, in _baud_, has thus the second person thou in _ke_; and the
objective inflection, _iz-ze,_ means a person in a general sense. This
reveals two forms of the Chippewa substantive, which are applicable to
all words, and leaves nothing superfluous or without "significance." In
fact, the whole language is susceptible of the most clear and exact
analysis. This language is one of the most pure, clear, and
comprehensive forms of the Algonquin.
_May 20th_. The Rev. Robert McMurtrie Laird, of Princess Anne, Maryland,
but now temporarily at Detroit, writes to me in a spirit of affectionate
kindness and Christian solicitude. The history of this pious man's
labors on the remotest frontiers of Michigan is probably recorded where
it will be known and acknowledged, in hymns of gladness, when this
feeble and frail memorial of ink and paper has long perished.
Late in the autumn of 1823, he came, an unheralded stranger, to St.
Mary's. No power but God's, it would seem, could have directed his
footsteps there. There was everything to render them repulsive. The
Indian _wabene_ drum, proclaiming the forest tribes to be under the
influence of their native diviners and jossakeeds, was nightly sending
forth its monotonous sounds. But he did not come to them. His object was
the soldiery and settlement, to whom he could utter truths in the
English tongue. He was assigned quarters in the cantonment, where an
entire battalion of infantry-was then stationed. To all these, but one
single family, it may be said that his preaching was received as
"sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." Certainly, there were the
elements of almost everything else there but religion. And, while
occupying a room in the fort, his fervent and holy spirit was
"By most unseemly mirth and wassail rife."
He came to see me, at my office and at my lodgings, frequently during
the season, and never came when he did not appear to me to be one of the
purest and most devoted, yet gentle and most unostentatious, of human
beings. It is hoped his labors were not without some witness to the
truths which he so faithfully taught. But, as soon as the straits were
relieved from the icy fetters of winter, he went away, never, perhaps,
to see us more. He now writes to apprise me of the spread of a rumor
respecting my personal interest in the theme of his labors, which had,
without permission from his lips, reached the ears of some of my friends
at Detroit. Blessed sensitiveness to rumor, how few possess it!
Having said this much, I may add that, in the course of the winter, my
mind was arrested by his mode of exhibiting truth. The doctrine of the
Trinity, which had seemed to me the mere jingle of a triad, as deduced
from him, appeared to be a unity, which derived all its coherence and
vitality from a belief in the Second Person. The word "Lord" became
clothed with a majesty and power which rendered it inapplicable, in my
views, to any human person. The assiduity that I had devoted, night and
day, to my manuscripts, in the search after scientific truths, and the
knowledge arising from study, did not appear to me to be wrong in
itself, but was thought to be pursued with an intensity that withdrew my
mind from, or, rather, had never allowed it properly to contemplate and
appreciate the character of God.
_23d_. A literary friend writes: "I am rejoiced to learn that you have
made such progress in your new work. I hope and trust that the celerity
with which you have written has not withdrawn your attention from those
subjects connected with literary success, which are more important than
even time itself."
"My prospects of seeing you at the Sault, this season," writes the same
hand, "grows weaker and weaker every day. I cannot ascertain in what
situation Col. Benton's bill is, for the purchase of the copper country
upon Lake Superior, nor the prospects of its eventual passage. Our last
Washington dates are of the 8th instant, and at that time there was a
vast mass of business pending before both Houses, and the period of
adjournment was uncertain. Mr. Lowrie and Governor Edwards have
furnished abundant matter for congressional excitement. It really
appears to me that, as soon as two or three hundred men are associated
together to talk at, and about one another, and everything else, their
passions and feelings usurp the place of their reason. Like children,
they are excited by every question having a local or personal aspect.
Their powers of dispassionate deliberation are lost, and everything is
forgotten but the momentary excitement."
_25th. Commercial View of Copper Mine Question_.--M.M. Dox, Esq.,
Collector at Buffalo, writes:--
I have long had it in contemplation to write to you, not only on the
score of old friendship, but also to learn the feasibility of a scheme
relating to the copper mines of Lake Superior. This subject has so often
annoyed my meditations, or rather taken up so considerable a proportion
of them, that I have been disposed, with the poet, to exclaim--
'Visions of (copper ) spare my aching sight.'
[Footnote 42: "Glory."--_Gray_.]
"I have just met Mr. Griswold, from whom I learn that you made some
inquiries in reference to the price of transportation, &c. I will answer
them for him. Copper in pig, or unmanufactured, is free of duty, on
entry into the United States; its price in the New York market is, at
this time (very low), sixteen cents per pound. Copper in sheets for
sheeting of vessels (also free), about twenty-five cents per pound, and
brazier's copper (paying a duty of fifteen per cent, on its cost in
England), equal to about two and a half cents per pound. Until this
year, and a few previous, the article has uniformly been from thirty to
forty per cent, higher than the prices now quoted, that is, in time of
peace. In time of war (in Europe) the price is enhanced ten or twenty
per cent. above peace prices: and in this country, during the Late War,
the price was, at one time, as high as $1.50 to $2.00 per pound.
"The history of England and this country does not furnish a period when
copper was as low as at the present time, according to its relative
value with the medium of exchange. Time and invention have developed
richer mines and produced greater facilities for obtaining it; but the
world does not probably know a region from whence the article can be
furnished so cheaply as from the shores of Lake Superior. All accounts
concur in representing the metal in that quarter of a superior quality,
and furnish strong indications that it may be obtained, in quantities,
with more than ordinary facility. When obtained, if on the navigable
waters of the lake, the transportation to the strait will be easy and
cheap, and the smelting not cost to exceed $20 per ton (for copper), and
the transportation thence to New York one or one and a half cent per
pound; one cent per pound, in addition, will carry it to any market in
"If the difficulties to be incurred in obtaining the ore should prove to
be no greater than may be reasonably anticipated, it is evident that it
must be a very profitable business. Will the government then have the
mines worked? I answer for them, _No_. The experience had by Congress in
regard to the Indian trade (the Factory System) will, for many years at
least, prevent that body from making any appropriation for such a
purpose. The most safe and judicious course for the government is to
draw private enterprise into the business; and, by holding out proper
inducements, it will be enabled, without a dollar of extra expense, to
derive, before many years, a handsome revenue from this source."
* * * * *
_30th. Trip to Tacquimenon Falls, Lake Superior_.--Accounts from the
Indians represented the falls of the Tacquimenon River of Lake Superior
as presenting picturesque features which were eminently worthy of a
visit. Confined to the house during the winter, I thought an excursion
proper. I determined to take the earliest opportunity, when the ice had
left the lake, and before the turmoil of the summer's business began, to
execute this wish. For this purpose, I took a canoe, with a crew of
Chippewa Indians, with whom I was well acquainted, and who were familiar
with the scene. I provisioned myself well, and took along my office
interpreter. I found this arrangement was one which was agreeable to
them, and it put them perfectly at their ease. They traveled along in
the Indian manner, talking and laughing as they pleased with each other,
and with the interpreter. Nothing could have been better suited to
obtain an insight into their manners and opinions. One of their most
common topics of talk was the flight of birds, particularly the
carnivorous species, to which they addressed talks as they flew. This
subject, I perceived, connected itself with the notions of war and the
On one occasion after we had entered Lake Superior, and were leisurely
paddling, not remote from the shore, one of the Indians fired at, and
wounded a duck. The bird could not rise so as to fly, but swam ashore,
and, by the time we reached land, was completely missing. A white man
would have been nonplused. Not so the Indian. He saw a fallen tree, and
carefully looked for an orifice in the under side, and, when he found
one, thrust in his hand and drew out of it the poor wounded bird.
Frightened and in pain, it appeared to roll its eyeballs
By their conversation and familiar remarks, I observed that they were
habitually under the influence of their peculiar mythology and religion.
They referred to classes of _monetos_, which are spirits, in a manner
which disclosed the belief that the woods and waters were replete with
their agency. On the second day, we reached and entered the Tacquimenon
River. It carried a deep and strong current to the foot of the first
falls, which they call Fairy Rocks. This Indian word denotes a species
of little men or fairies, which, they say, love to dwell on rocks. The
falls are broken into innumerable cascades, which give them a peculiarly
sylvan air. From the brink of these falls to the upper falls, a distance
of about six miles, the channel of the river is a perfect torrent, and
would seem to defy navigation. But before I was well aware of it, they
had the canoe in it, with a single man with a long pole in the bow and
stern. I took my seat between the centre bars, and was in admiration at
the perfect composure and _sangfroid_ with which these two men managed
it--now shooting across the stream to find better water, and always
putting in their poles exactly at the right instant, and singing some
Indian cantata all the while. The upper falls at length burst on our
view, on rounding a point. The river has a complete drop, of some forty
feet, over a formation of sandstone. The water forms a complete curtain.
There is nothing to break the sheet, or intercept it, till it reaches
the deep water below. They said there was some danger of the canoe's
being drawn under the sheet, by a kind of suction. This' stream in fact,
geologically considered, crosses through, and falls over, the high ridge
of sandstone rock which stretches from Point Iroquois to the Pictured
Rocks. I took sketches of both the upper and lower falls.
Being connected by marriage with an educated and intelligent lady, who
is descended, by her mother's side, from the former ruler of the
Chippewa nation--a man of renown--I was received, on this trip, with a
degree of confidence and cordiality by the Indians, which I had not
expected. I threw myself, naked handed, into their midst, and was
received with a noble spirit of hospitality and welcome. And the
incidents of this trip revealed to me some of the most interesting
scenes of Indian domestic life.
Oral tales and legends of the Chippewas--First assemblage of a
legislative council at Michigan--Mineralogy and geology--Disasters of
the War of 1812--Character of the new legislature--Laconic
note--Narrative of a war party, and the disastrous murders committed at
Lake Pepin in July 1824--Speech of a friendly Indian chief from Lake
Superior on the subject--Notices of mineralogy and geology in the
west--Ohio and Erie Canal--Morals--Lafayette's progress--Hooking
minerals--A philosophical work on the Indians--Indian biography by
Samuel L. Conant--Want of books on American archaeology--Douglass's
proposed work on the expedition of 1820.
1824. _May 30th_. Having found, in the circle of the Chippewa wigwams, a
species of oral fictitious lore, I sent some specimens of it to friends
in the lower country, where the subject excited interest. "I am
anxious," writes a distinguished person, under this date, "that you
should bring with you, when you come down, your collection of Indian
tales. I should be happy to see them."  That the Indians should
possess this mental trait of indulging in lodge stories, impressed me as
a novel characteristic, which nothing I had ever heard of the race had
prepared me for. I had always heard the Indian spoken of as a
revengeful, bloodthirsty man, who was steeled to endurance and delighted
in deeds of cruelty. To find him a man capable of feelings and
affections, with a heart open to the wants, and responsive to the ties
of social life, was amazing. But the surprise reached its acme, when I
found him whiling away a part of the tedium of his long winter evenings
in relating tales and legends for the amusement of the lodge circle.
These fictions were sometimes employed, I observed, to convey
instruction, or impress examples of courage, daring, or right action.
But they were, at all times, replete with the wild forest notions of
spiritual agencies, necromancy, and demonology. They revealed abundantly
the causes of his hopes and fears--his notions of a Deity, and his
belief in a future state.
[Footnote 43: This counsel I pursued in the autumn of that year, and
published specimens of the legends in the winter of 1825, in "Travels in
the Central Portions of the Mississippi Valley," and in 1839 submitted
to the public two duodecimo volumes, under the title of "Algie
Researches, Part I."]
_June 18th_. Michigan is gradually assuming steps which are a part of
that train which will in time develop her resources and importance. She
has lately taken measures to enter what is called the second grade of
government. General Charles Larned, of Detroit, writes me that the first
session of the first territorial legislature is now convened, and that
the members acquit themselves with credit.
_22d_. The mineralogy and geology of the region furnish topics of
interest, which help to fill up pauses in the intervals of business. By
making my office a focus for collecting whatever is new in the
unexplored regions, excitement is kept alive, and knowledge in the end
promoted. Lewis Saurin Johnston, of Drummond Island, sends me a box of
specimens from that locality. This gentleman, who occupies a situation
in the British Indian department, is a grandson of the late Waubojeeg, a
celebrated orator and warrior formerly of La Pointe, in Lake Superior.
On the 26th, Mr. Giles Sanford, of Erie in Pennsylvania, contributes a
collection of the minerals of that vicinity.
_July 10th_. The War of 1812 proved disastrous to some individuals on
this frontier. After a delay of ten years, the British government has
announced its intention to indemnify those of its subjects who lost
property. Mr. Johnston, who suffered heavily, determined to visit
Toronto with the view of laying his case before Lieutenant-Governor
Maitland. He writes, on his way down, during a delay at Drummond Island,
in his usual hopeful, warm-hearted strain--full of love to those left
behind, and free forgiveness to all who have injured him. With the
highest purposes of honor, and the soul of hospitality and social
kindness, surely such a man deserves to succeed.
_12th_. Dr. J.J. Bigsby, of England, writes a letter introducing
Lieutenant Bolton of the British engineers, a zealous naturalist, and
Major Mercer of the artillery--both being on an official tour of
_18th_. Judge J.D. Doty announces himself at Michilimackinack, on his
return from Detroit to Green Bay. He says that the members of the
legislative council are disposed to be rather menders of _old_ laws than
makers of _new_ ones, and that they are guided by the spirit
_21st_. John Tanner, the returned captive, dictates from Mackinac this
laconic appeal for employment: "All my property is now made away with,
so that I have nothing left but one old blanket. I am in such a
situation that I am unable to go anywhere--have no money, no clothes,
and nothing to eat."
_Aug. 19th_. Mr. George Johnston writes from the sub-agency of La
Pointe, Lake Superior, that a rumor prevails of a murder lately
committed by a Chippewa war party, on American citizens, on the upper
_31st_. Mr. John Holiday, a trader, arrived from the Ance Kewy-winenon
in Lake Superior, bringing a small coffin painted black, inclosing an
American scalp, with the astounding intelligence that a shocking murder
had been committed by a war party of Chippewas at Lake Pepin, on the
Mississippi. The facts turned out to be these: In the spring of the year
(1824), Kewaynokwut (Returning Cloud), a chief of Lake Vieux Desert, at
the source of the Wisconsin, suffered a severe fit of sickness, and
made, a vow, if he recovered, to collect a war party and lead it against
the Sioux, which he did early in the summer. He passed the trading-post
of Lac du Flambeau, with twenty-nine men in canoes on the 1st of July.
He pursued down the Waswagon branch into the main Chippewa River, after
a cautious journey, and came to its mouth early in July, at an early
hour in the morning, when a fog prevailed. This river enters the
Mississippi at the foot of the expanse called Lake Pepin, which is a
common place for encampment. It is the usual point of issue for Chippewa
war parties against the Sioux, for which it has been celebrated since
the first migration of the Chippewas into the rice lake region at its
sources. Prom the usual lookout, called Mount Le Gard, they discovered
imperfectly an encampment on the shores of Lake Pepin. On coming to it,
it proved to be an American, a trader of the name of Finley, with three
Canadians, on his way from Prairie du Chien to St. Peter's. One of the
men spoke Chippewa. They were asleep when the advance of the Indian
party arrived. When they awoke they saw the Indians with terror and
surprise. The Indians cried out to their comrades in the rear that they
were not Sioux, that they were white people. The party then all came
up. The war chief Kewaynokwut Said, "Do not be afraid. This party you
see are my young men; and I command them. They will not do you any harm,
nor hurt you." Some of the party soon began to pillage. They appeared to
be half famished, first taking their provisions, which consisted of half
a bag of flour, half a bag of corn, a few biscuits, and half a hog. The
biscuits they immediately eat, and then began to rob the clothing, which
they parted among themselves.
The Indians diligently inquired where the Sioux abroad on the river
were, what number they might be, where they came from, and whither they
were going? to all which judicious replies appear to have been made, but
one, namely, that they consisted of thirty, on their way from St.
Peter's to Prairie du Chien. Being but twenty-nine men, the rencontre
appeared to them to be unequal, and, in fact, alarmed them. They
immediately prepared to return, filing off one after another, in order
to embark in their canoes, which were lying at a short distance. Before
this movement, Kakabika had taken his gun to fire at the whites, but was
prevented by the others. But they went off disappointed, and
grumblingly. This was the case particularly with Kakabika, Okwagin,
Whitehead, Wamitegosh, and Sagito, who began crying they wanted to kill
the whites. Sagito then said that it was a very hard thing that they
should return light--that when one went out a hunting, he did not like
to return without killing something. "What," he said, "did we come here
for? Was it not to kill?" At this Kewaynokwut wavered, who had promised
safety, and did not interpose his authority to check the brooding evil,
although he took no part in it. Whitehead, Okwaykun, and Wamitegosh, who
were in the rear of the party, leveled their arms and fired, killing on
the spot the three men, who were immediately scalped. The wildest fury
was instantly excited.
Finley, in the mean time, had gone to the Indian canoes to recover his
papers, saying they were of no use to them, and of importance to him.
Hearing the report of guns behind him, he perceived that his companions
were killed, and took to flight. He threw himself into the water.
Annamikees, or the Little Thunder, then fired at him and missed. He
quickly reloaded his gun, and fired again, effectively. Finley was
mortally shot. The Indian then threw himself into the water, and cut off
the unfortunate man's head, for the purpose of scalping it, leaving the
body in the water. The party then quickly returned back into the region
whence they had sallied, and danced the scalps in their villages as
Mr. Holliday was also the bearer of a speech from Gitshe Iauba, the
ruling chief of Ance Kewywenon, through whose influence this occurrence
was brought to light. He first addressed his trader in the
"We were deceived. Word was sent to us to come and fetch the scalp of a
Sioux Indian of our enemy. This was my reason for sending for it. But,
ah me! when they brought word that it was the scalp of an American, I
sent for the young man whom you left in charge of your house and store,
and asked him what should be done with the scalp of our friend. It was
concluded to have it buried in the burying-ground."
He then addressed the United States agent at Sault Ste. Marie, in the
following words, accompanying them with a string of wampum:--
"Our father. This wampum was given to me that I might remain in peace. I
shook hands with you when I left St. Mary's. My heart was in friendship.
I have taken no rest since I heard of the foul deed of our friends, the
people of Vieux Desert, and Torch Lake, in killing a citizen of the
American Government, the government that protects me.
"Now, Americans, my situation is to be pitied. My wish is, that we
should live in friendship together. Since I shook hands with you,
nothing on my part shall be wanting to keep us so."
I immediately forwarded the little scalp-coffin received from the
interior, with a report of this high-handed outrage to the Executive of
the Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, at Detroit, that the
occurrence might be reported promptly to the War Office at Washington.
_November 27th_. I determined to spend the winter in New York; to place
the agency, in the interim, in charge of an officer of the garrison, and
to visit Washington from this city during the season. Captain N.S.
Clarke, 2d Infantry, consented to perform the duties of the agency
during my absence. And having obtained leave of absence from my superior
in the department, I embarked, in September, on board a schooner for
Detroit, with Mrs. Schoolcraft, her infant son William Henry, my
sister-in-law, Miss Anna Maria Johnston, and a servant, making a little
group of five. We touched at Michilimackinack.
We were kindly received at Detroit by General and Mrs. Cass, who had
invited us to be their guests, and pursued our way, without accident, to
New York, where we arrived the day prior to the annual celebration of
the Evacuation. New scenes and new situations here rapidly developed
themselves. But before these are named, some letters that followed me
from the Lake may be noticed.
B. F. Stickney, Esq., writes (October 15th) from the foot of the Miami
of the Lakes (now Toledo): "Recently I have had brought to me a specimen
of manganese, the bed of which is located about nine miles south-west of
this. The quantity is represented to be very extensive."
I find that strontian is much more extensively interspersed through the
rock formations of this region than I had heretofore conceived. At the
foot of the rapids of this river, there are extensive strata of
carbonate of lime, sufficiently charged with magnesia to destroy all
vegetation, when converted to the state of quicklime; although Dr.
Mitchell, in his "Notes to Phillips' Mineralogy," denies to magnesian
carbonate of lime this quality. But I have tested it fully. I rather
think the doctor's mistake must have arisen from a supposition that Mr.
Phillips intended to say that the magnesia, when in combination with
carbonate of lime, and _in situ_, was destructive to vegetation.
_Ohio and Erie Canal_.--"A commissioner of the State of Ohio, with
engineers, is taking levels, examining water-courses, and making
estimates of cost, to ascertain the practicability of making a canal
from Cincinnati up the valley of the Big Miami, and Loromier's creek,
across the summit level, to the Auglaize and Miami of Lake Erie, to the
level of the lake water. These surveys will give us much assistance in
judging of the geological formations between the Lake and the
_Geology_.--"As an outline sketch, I should say that, from the rock
basin of the Erie-sea to the Ohio River, by the way of Fort Wayne, there
is a ridge, of about 200 feet elevation, of rock formation, all new
floetz, with a covering of from ten to seventy feet of pulverulent
earth. At the summit this layer is twenty feet. That the Miami and
Wabash have cut their courses down to the rock, with only here and there
a little sand and gravel upon its surface. As far as conjecture will go,
for the levels of the strata on the Wabash and Miami, the same
mineralogical characters are to be found in the strata, at the same
elevation. This would be an important fact to be ascertained, by the
levels accurately taken."
"I am pleased that you have not abated your usual industry in the
pursuit of knowledge in the science of geology and mineralogy, first in
magnitude and first in the order of nature."
_Morals of Green Bay_.--J.D. Doty, Esq., Judge of the District, reports
(Oct. 15th) that the Grand Jury for Brown County, at the late special
session of court, presented forty indictments! Most of these appear to
have been petty affairs; but they denote a lax state of society.
John Johnston, Esq., writes (Oct. 30th): "Since the arrival of the mail,
I have been the constant companion in thought of the great and good
Lafayette, throughout his tour, or rather splendid procession as far as
the account has reached us, and for which history has no parallel. Oh!
how poor, how base, the adulation given by interested sycophants to
kings and despots, compared to the warm affections of the grateful
heart, and spontaneous bursts of admiration and affection from a great,
free, and happy people."
_Hooking Minerals_.--L. Bull, now of Philadelphia, writes respecting the
position of several boxes of minerals left in the Lyceum of Natural
History, of New York, in 1822, which have, been sadly depredated on.
_Plan of a Philosophical Work on the Indians_.--General C. announces to
me (Dec. 5th) that he has settled on a plan for bringing forward the
results of his researches on the subject of the Indian tribes. The
details of this appear to be well selected and arranged, and the
experiment on the popular taste of readers, for as such the work is
designed, cannot but be hailed by every one who has thought upon the
subject. Few men have seen more of the Indians in peace and war. Nobody
has made the original collections which he has, and I know of no man
possessing the capacity of throwing around them so much literary
attraction. It is only to be hoped that his courage will not fail him
when he comes to the sticking point. It requires more courage on some
minds to write a book than to face a cannon.
_14th_. Major Joseph Delafield, of New York, commends to my acquaintance
Samuel S. Conant, Esq., of the city; a gentleman of a high moral
character and literary tone, an occasional writer for the "American"
newspaper, who proposes to compile a work on Indian eloquence. Charles
King, Esq., the editor of the paper, transmits a note to the major,
which is enclosed, speaking of Mr. Conant as "a man of merit and
talents, who in his design is seeking to save a noble but
_19th_. General Cass writes further of his literary plans: "If I am
favorably situated, in some respects, to procure information, as a
drawback upon this, I feel many disadvantages. I have no books to refer
to but what I can purchase, and independently of the means which any one
person can apply to this object, those books which can alone be useful
to me are so rare that nothing but accident can enable a person to
_Lake Superior Copper Mines_.--"I have written to Colonel Benton fully
on the subject of the copper country, and I have referred him to you for
_25th_. _Expedition of_ 1820.--Professor D. B. Douglass, of West Point,
returns a portfolio of sketches and drawings of scenery, made by me on
the expedition to the sources of the Mississippi, in 1820, with several
of which he has illustrated the borders of his map of that expedition.
"Have you," he says, "seen _Long's Second Expedition?_ We have only one
copy on the Point, and I have only had time to look at the map. It makes
me more than ever desirous to consummate my original views of publishing
relative to that country. I have never lost sight of this matter; and,
if my professional engagements continue to engross as much of my time as
they have done, I will send my map to Tanner, and let him publish it,
Parallelism of customs--Home scenes--Visit to Washington--Indian work
respecting the Western Tribes--Indian biography--Professor
Carter--Professor Silliman--Spiteful prosecution--Publication of Travels
in the Mississippi Valley--A northern Pocahontas--Return to the Lakes--A
new enterprise suggested--Impressions of turkeys' feet in
rock--Surrender of the Chippewa war party, who committed the murders in
1824, at Lake Pepin--Their examination, and the commitment of the actual
1825. _January 1st_. New Year's day here, as among the metif, and also
the pure descendants of the ancient French of Normandy in Michigan, is a
day of friendly visiting from house to house, and cordial
congratulations, with refreshments spread on the board for all. As this
was also the custom of the ancient Hollanders, who, from the Texel and
Scheldt, landed here in 1609, it affords a species of proof of the
wide-spread influence of the customs of the Middle Ages in Western
Europe, which is remarkable. And it would form an interesting topic of
_4th_. Home and its scenes. The sympathy kept up by domestic letters
when absent from home is one of the purest supports of the heart and
mind. Mr. John Johnston, of St. Mary's, writes me one of his
warm-hearted letters of friendship, which breathes the ardor of his
mind, and shows a degree of sympathy that is refreshing, and such as
must ever be a great encouragement in every noble pursuit. The
how-d'ye-do, everyday visitor is satisfied with his "how d'ye do;" but
there is a friend that "sticketh closer than a brother."
_10th_. My position at St. Mary's, and the prominent part I occupied in
the collision of authority between the military and the citizens, on
some points, and between the former and the Indian department, was
anything but agreeable, and would have been intolerable to any one,
having less resources than I had, in an absorbing study, which every day
and every evening turned up some new and fresh point of interest. I had
therefore sources of enjoyment which were a constant support, and this
was particularly the case, after the scenes which were opened up in the
winter of 1824 by my intercourse with the Rev. Mr. Laird. But I resolved
early in the summer to spend the winter in New York, and to visit
Washington, to place some of the official transactions to which I have
referred, in their proper lights. This day I therefore left the city, to
visit the Capitol. During the expected absence; Mrs. Schoolcraft, with
her child, little sister, and nurse, had accepted an invitation to spend
the time with Mr. and Mrs. Samuel S. Conant, who had a pleasant
residence on the Bloomingdale road, some two or three miles from the
Park. My visit was altogether agreeable. So far as the subjects at issue
on the frontier were not of local jurisdiction, in which I was fully and
promptly sustained by the Executive, I was met by Mr. Calhoun in his
usual frank, explicit, and friendly manner. I was authorized to erect
buildings for the agency, and to define the Indian reservation under the
treaty, and counseled to go forward in a firm, cautious, and
conciliatory policy in establishing the intercourses with the bands of
the agency, and to take every proper measure to see that the intercourse
laws were faithfully executed, and a good understanding cultivated with
the tribes. And I returned to New York early in February, with "flying
colors," as a friend wrote.
During my absence, some letters, disclosing matters of literary
interest, were received. General C. writes (January 20th):--
"In investigating the subject before me, agreeably to the views I have
communicated to you, it appears to me that Purchas's _Pilgrimage_, and
Hackluyt's collection are indispensable to my progress. They contain
translations or abstracts of all the earlier voyages and travels to this
country." "In considering the various points which are involved in the
subject I have undertaken, a thousand doubtful facts present themselves,
which require time, labor, and opportunities to solve. For instance, I
strongly suspect that the Eries, who are said to have been destroyed by
the Iroquois, were the Shawnese, who were driven from their ancient seat
upon Lake Erie to the south-west." "Volney mentions two works upon the
Indians. One is Umphraville, and the other Oldmixon."
On the 7th of February, he encloses an extensive list of books, which he
wishes to procure, to aid him in his contemplated examinations of
aboriginal subjects, with discriminating remarks on their character. In
calling my attention to a close examination of them in the various
book-stores and libraries of the Atlantic cities, where they may be
found, he imposes no light nor important labor. "You know my general
object is confined to the Indians of this quarter (the west). Their
particular history, however, will be preceded by a review of the
condition of the Indians in this part of America, at the time it became
known to Europeans. I have myself little doubt but that they were then
pretty much as they are now.
"There is, however, one historical event, the narrator of which
represents the Indians to have been in an entirely different condition
from what they are now, or have been since. This is the account of
Ferdinand de Soto's expedition to Florida. There are two historians of
this expedition. One is Garcilasso de la Vega, and the other is an
anonymous gentleman of Elvas. I believe both are found in Purchas or
Hackluyt. I believe the narrative is almost entirely fabulous. One mode
of ascertaining this is by an examination of the earlier accounts of the
Indians. If they agree with De Soto's history, the latter may be
correct. If not, they must be unworthy of credit, more particularly in
the amount of the Indian population, which was certainly greatly
misrepresented by the Spanish historians, and which has been always
"If any of the above works touch upon these subjects, they may be useful
to me; if not, I do not wish them. Can you find any of the other Spanish
writers describing or alluding to this expedition?
"Is there any account of the expedition of Pamphilo Narvaez into Florida
"Should I go to Prairie du Chien, would you not like the trip? I see
many reasons to induce you to take such a measure. If you come on, as I
hope you will, by the first boat, we can make all the necessary
arrangements; for, if I go, I shall go early, certainly in May. Unless I
am greatly deceived, you would make something interesting out of the
Samuel S. Conant, Esq., informs me (January 21st) that he is making
progress in his contemplated work on Indian biography.
"I shall read," he says, "everything which speaks of Indians, and my
enthusiasm may take the place of ability, and enable me to present not
only honorable testimonials of Indian genius and valor, but some defence
of their character, and an exposition of the slanders and vulgar errors
which, through blind traditions, have obtained the authority of truth."
"It would have pleased me," says he (Feb. 16th), "to have presented Mr.
Theodore Dwight, Jr., to you in person. But this introductory note will
do as well. He is one of those who feel an interest, disinterested and
benevolent, in the fate of the remnants of the Indian tribes, and wishes
some conversation with you relative to their feelings on the subject of
their removal west of the Mississippi."
_March 18th_. Mr. Nathaniel H. Carter, editor of the _Statesman_,
announces his recovery from a dangerous illness, and wishes, in his
usual spirit of friendship, to express the pleasure it will afford him
to aid me in any literary labor I may have in hand.
_20th_. The plan of a magazine devoted to Indian subjects, which has
been discussed between Mr. Conant, Mr. Dwight, and myself, is now
definitely arranged with Messrs. Wilder and Campbell, publishers.
_28th_. Professor Silliman renews his friendly correspondence, and
tenders me the use of the pages of his journal, as the medium of
communicating observations to the public.
_April 8th_. I am officially called on, by the authority of General
Gaines, as a witness in the case of Lieutenant Walter Bicker, U.S.A.,
who is summoned to a court martial in Fort Brady. This is the gentleman
whose family is referred to in a previous part of my journal in the
autumn of 1822, on the occasion of the gentle Mr. Laird's missionary
visit to St. Mary's; and his high moral character and correct deportment
render it a subject of mystery to me what cause of complaint his brother
officers could conjure up against him.
_14th_. The superintendence of the press in the printing of my "Travels
in the Central Portions of the Mississippi Valley," has constituted a
groundwork to my amusements during the winter. The work is this day
published by Collins and Hannay. I immediately prepared to return to the
lakes. About five months had passed away, almost imperceptibly. We had
held a most gratifying intercourse with a highly moral and refined
portion of society. The city had been seen in its various phases of
amusement and instruction. A large part of the interest to others and
attention excited arose manifestly from the presence of a person of
Indian descent, and of refined manners and education, in the person of
Mrs. Schoolcraft, with an infant son of more than ordinary beauty of
lineament and mental promise. There was something like a sensation in
every circle, and often persons, whose curiosity was superior to their
moral capacity of appreciation, looked intensely to see the northern
Pocahontas. Her education had been finished abroad. She wrote a most
exquisite hand, and composed with ability, and grammatical skill and
taste. Her voice was soft, and her expression clear and pure, as her
father, who was from one of the highest and proudest circles of Irish
society, had been particularly attentive to her orthography and
pronunciation and selection of words of the best usage abroad.
_20th_. This day we left the mansion of our kind hostess, Mrs. Mann, on
lower Broadway, and ascended the Hudson by daylight, in order to view
its attractive scenery.
We discussed the etymology of some of the ancient Indian names along the
river, which we found to be in the Manhattan or Mohegan dialects of the
Algonquin, and which appeared so nearly identical in the grammatical
principles and sounds with the Chippewa, as to permit Mrs. S. in many
cases to recover the exact meanings. Thus, Coxackie is founded on an
Indian term which means _Falling-in bank_, or cut bank.
We stopped a week or two in Western New York at my brother-in-law's, in
Vernon, Oneida County. I took along to the West, which had been
favorable to me, my youngest brother James, and my sister Maria Eliza.
We pursued our route through Western New York and Buffalo, and reached
Detroit on the 6th of May.
I here found a letter from Dr. J. V. Rensselaer, of New York, written
two days after leaving the city, saying: "I have this morning finished
the perusal of your last work, and consider myself much your debtor for
the new views you have given me of the interesting region you describe.
Nor am I more pleased with the matter than with the simple unpretending
manner in which you have chosen to clothe it."
I also found a note informing me that Gov. Cass had gone to hold a
conference with the Wyandot Indians at Wapakennota, Ohio, that he would
return about the 10th of June, and immediately set out for Prairie du
Chien by the way of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and would have me to
go with him.
"You must calculate the time when I shall probably reach Mackinack, and
I trust you will join us there. I have a thousand reasons why you should
undertake the tour. Many of the Indians will be from your agency, and
such a convocation will never again be seen upon this frontier. You can
return by the Chippewa River, which will give you a fine opportunity of
becoming acquainted with a part of the country very little known."
Leaving my sister with friends temporarily at Detroit, I pursued my way,
without loss of time, to the Sault; where, among the correspondence
accumulated, I found some subjects that may be noticed. Mr. C. C.
Trowbridge gives this testimony respecting Mr. A. E. Wing, a gentleman
then prominent as a politician.
"He is an intelligent, high minded and honorable man, and gifted with
habits of perseverance and industry which eminently qualify him to
represent the Territory in Congress."
On the 1st of June the Executive of the Territory apprizes me of his
return from Wapekennota, and that he is bending all his force for the
contemplated trip to Prairie du Chien.
"I enclose you," he adds, "the copy of a letter from the war department,
by which you will perceive that the Secretary has determined, that the
outrage of last fall shall not go unpunished. His determination is a
wise one, for the apprehension of the Chippewa murderers is essential to
the preservation of our character and influence among the Indians."
_June 17th_. Business and science, antiquities and politics are
curiously jumbled along in the same path, without, however (as I believe
they never do where the true spirit of knowledge is present), at all
mingling, or making turbid the stream of inquiry.
Colonel Thomas L. M'Kenney, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in a letter
of this date says: "At the Little Falls of the Potomac, are to be seen
the prints of turkeys' feet in stone, made just as the tracks of the
animal appear, when it runs upon dust or in the snow."
_22d_. On this day, there suddenly presented themselves, at the office
of Indian Agency, the Chippewa war party who committed the murders at
Lake Pepin, on the Mississippi, last year, who, on the demand made upon
the nation, with a threat of military punishment, surrendered the
murderers. I immediately commenced their examination, after having an
additional special interpreter sworn in (Truman A. Warren), and sending
for a justice of the peace to assist in their examination. The entire
day was devoted in this manner, and at the close, six of the party
against whom an indictment for murder would lay, committed on a
mittimus, with a note requesting the commanding officer to imprison them
in the guard house, until he could have them conveyed to the sheriff of
the county, at Michilimackinack. Their names were, Sagetone, Otagami,
Kakabisha, Annimikence, and Nawa-jiwienoce--to whom was afterwards added
Kewaynokwut, the leader of the party. The incidents of this transaction,
as they appeared in that examination, have been narrated on a
This surrendery was evidently made on representations of the traders,
who acted on strong assurance that it would avert the marching of a
military force against them, and on some mistaken notions of their own
about public clemency.
When the examination was finished, and while preliminary steps were in
process, for their committment, I addressed them as follows:--
Chippewas--I have listened attentively to all that has been said,
either for or against you, and have been careful to have it put upon
paper, that nothing might be forgotten. It appears you went to the
Mississippi, for the purpose of attacking the Sioux, to revenge murders
which they had committed in your country. In an evil hour you
encountered a party of Americans, consisting of four persons, encamped
at the foot of Lake Pepin. It was night. They were all asleep. You went
to their tent in a hostile manner, and were received as friends. They
gave you tobacco and presents; and your war chief told them they need
not fear, that they should not be molested.
On this declaration he withdrew, followed by the whole party, and had
proceeded some distance, when an evil suggestion occurred to one of the
party, who said, "that when he went out hunting he did not like to
return without having killed something." Guns were fired. An electric
effect was produced and a rush towards the tent they had left took place
among those who were in the rear. The strife seemed who should get there
first, and imbrue his hands in blood.
"Of this number _you_ Sagetone, _you_ Kakabisha, _you_ Otagami, _you_
Annimikence, and _you_ Nawajiwienoce, were principal actors, and you
had the meanness to put to death men who had never harmed you, and who,
by your own confession, you had robbed of their arms, but whom you had,
nevertheless, promised their lives. This was not an evidence of courage,
but of cowardice. By this perfidious act you also violated your
promises, and proved yourselves to be the most debased of human
"You have asked me many times in the course of this day to take pity on
you. How have you the hearts to stand up and ask me for pity, when you
have showed no pity yourselves. When those poor disarmed and despairing
men implored you to pity their condition, reminding you of your
promises, and their generosity in making you presents, when you saw them
afterwards submit to be plundered, you gave them not pity but the war
club and scalping knife. Did you suppose the God of white men would
permit you to go unpunished? Did you think you had got so far in the
woods that no person could find you out? Or, did you think your great
father, the President, governed by a pusillanimous principle, would
allow you to kill any of his people, without seeking to be revenged?
"Let this day open your eyes. You have richly deserved death, and not a
man of your nation could complain, if I should order you at this
instant, to be drawn out before my door, and shot. But a less
_honorable_ death awaits you.
"I have before told you, that your Great Father the President is as just
as he is powerful; and that he seeks to take away the life of no man,
without full, just, and clear proof of guilt. For this purpose he has
appointed other chiefs, whose duty it is to hear, try, and punish
"Before these judges you shall now be sent. You will be closely
examined. You will have counsel assigned to defend your cause. You will
have every advantage that one of our own citizens could claim. If any
cause can be shown why one of you is less guilty than another it will
then appear; if not, your bodies will be hung on a gallows."
I then addressed Kewaynockwut. "No person has accused you of murder; but
you have led men who committed murder, and have thereby excited the
anger of your Great Father, who is slow to forgive when any of his
people, even the poorest of them, have been injured, far less when a
murder has been committed. Though I include you with those cowards who
first took away the arms of our people, and then shot them--those mean
dogs who sit trembling before me--I do not forgive you. The blood of our
citizens rests upon you. I can neither take you by the hand, nor smoke
the pipe you offer to me. You lie under the severe censure of your Great
Father, whose anger, like a dark cloud, rests upon you and your people.
"Four of the chief murderers, namely, Okwagun, Pasigwetung, Metakossiga,
and Wamitegosh, yet remain inland. Go, in order to appease his anger;
take your followers with you, and bring them out. You cannot do a more
pleasing act to him and to your own nation. For you must reflect that if
these murderers are not promptly brought out, war will be immediately
made against your villages, and the most signal vengeance taken."
Great alarm was manifested by the murderers, when they saw that the
questions and answers were written down, and a strict course of
accountability taken as the basis of the examination. I had foreseen
something of this alarm, and requested the commanding officer to send me
a detachment of men. Lieutenant C. F. Morton, 2d Infantry, to whom this
matter was entrusted, managed it well. He paraded his men in a hollow
square, in front of the office, in such manner that the office formed
one angle of the square, so that the main issue from the door ushered
the individual into a square bristling with bayonets. He stood himself
with a drawn sword.
It was eleven o'clock in the evening when their examination and the
final arrangements were completed; and when I directed the interpreter
to open the door and lead out the murderers, they were greatly alarmed
by the appearance of the bright array of musquetry, supposing,
evidently, that they were to be instantly shot. They trembled.
Trip to Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi--Large assemblage of
tribes--Their appearance and character--Sioux, Winnebagoes, Chippewas,
&c.--Striking and extraordinary appearance of the Sacs and Foxes, and of
the Iowas--Keokuk--Mongazid's speech--Treaty of limits--Whisky
question--A literary impostor--Journey through the valleys of the Fox
and Wisconsin rivers--Incidents--Menomonies--A big nose--Wisconsin
_June 23d_. The whole village was alive with the excitement of the
surrendery of the murderers. The agency office had been crowded with
spectators during the examination; and both white and red men saw in
their voluntary delivery into the hands of the agent, an evidence of the
power of the government in watching over and vindicating the lives and
interests of its citizens in the wildest wilderness, which was
gratifying to all.
To Gitche Iauba, the chief at the bay of Kewywenon, in Lake Superior,
who had been instrumental in producing the delivery, I presented a
silver medal of the first class, with a written speech approbatory of
the act, and complimentary of himself. In the meantime, my preparations
for attending the general convocation of tribes, at Prairie du Chien,
were completed. I placed the agency under the charge of Captain N. S.
Clark, 2d Infantry, who had satisfactorily and ably performed its duties
during my absence at New York. I had selected a delegation of the most
influential chiefs to attend the contemplated council. And all things
being ready, and my _canoe-allege_ in the water, with its flag set, I
embarked for the trip on the 24th. I descended the straits that day, and
having turned Point Detour reached Michilimackinack the next morning.
The party from Detroit had reached that point the same morning, after
traversing the Huron coasts for upwards of 300 miles, in a light canoe.
Congratulations on the success that had attended the demand for the
Chippewa murderers, awaited me. Some practical questions, deemed
indispensable respecting that transaction, required my immediate return
to St. Mary's, which was effected on the 27th, and I again embarked at
St. Mary's on the 28th, and rejoined the party at Mackinack on the 30th.
The distance traversed is about ninety miles, which was four times
passed and repassed in six days, a feat that could only have been
accomplished in the calms of summer.
We finally left Mackinack for our destination on the Mississippi, on the
1st of July. The convocation to which we were now proceeding was for the
purpose of settling internal disputes between the tribes, by fixing the
boundaries to their respective territories, and thus laying the
foundation of a lasting peace on the frontiers. And it marks an era in
the policy of our negotiations with the Indians, which is memorable. No
such gathering of the tribes had ever before occurred, and its results
have taken away the necessity of any in future, so far as relates to the
lines on the Mississippi.
We encountered head winds, and met with some delay in passing through
the straits into Lake Michigan, and after escaping an imminent hazard of
being blown off into the open lake, in a fog, reached Green Bay on the
4th. The journey up the Fox River, and its numerous portages, was
resumed on the 14th, and after having ascended the river to its head, we
crossed over the Fox and Wisconsin portage, and descending the latter
with safety, reached Prairie du Chien on the 21st, making the whole
journey from Mackinack in twenty-one days.
We found a very large number of the various tribes assembled. Not only
the village, but the entire banks of the river for miles above and below
the town, and the island in the river, was covered with their tents. The
Dakotahs, with their high pointed buffalo skin tents, above the town,
and their decorations and implements of flags, feathers, skins and
personal "braveries," presented the scene of a Bedouin encampment. Some
of the chiefs had the skins of skunks tied to their heels, to symbolize
that they never ran, as that animal is noted for its slow and
Wanita, the Yankton chief, had a most magnificent robe of the buffalo,
curiously worked with dyed porcupine's quills and sweet grass. A kind of
war flag, made of eagles' and vultures' large feathers, presented quite
a martial air. War clubs and lances presented almost every imaginable
device of paint; but by far the most elaborate thing was their pipes of
red stone, curiously carved, and having flat wooden handles of some four
feet in length, ornamented with the scalps of the red-headed woodpecker
and male duck, and tail feathers of birds artificially attached by
strings and quill work, so as to hang in the figure of a quadrant. But
the most elaborately wrought part of the devices consisted of dyed
porcupines' quills, arranged as a kind of aboriginal mosaic.
The Winnebagoes, who speak a cognate dialect of the Dacotah, were
encamped near; and resembled them in their style of lodges, arts, and
The Chippewas presented the more usually known traits, manners and
customs of the great Algonquin family--of whom they are, indeed, the
best representative. The tall and warlike bands from the sources of the
Mississippi--from La Point, in Lake Superior--from the valleys of the
Chippewa and St. Croix rivers, and the Rice Lake region of Lac du
Flambeau, and of Sault Ste. Marie, were well represented.
The cognate tribe of the Menomonies, and of the Potawattomies and
Ottowas from Lake Michigan, assimilated and mingled with the Chippewas.
Some of the Iroquois of Green Bay were present.
But no tribes attracted as intense a degree of interest as the Iowas,
and the Sacs and Foxes--tribes of radically diverse languages, yet
united in a league against the Sioux. These tribes were encamped on the
island, or opposite coast. They came to the treaty ground, armed and
dressed as a war party. They were all armed with spears, clubs, guns and
knives. Many of the warriors had a long tuft of red-horse hair tied at
their elbows, and bore a neck lace of grizzly bears' claws. Their
head-dress consisted of red dyed horse-hair, tied in such manner to the
scalp lock as to present the shape of the decoration of a Roman helmet.
The rest of the head was completely shaved and painted. A long iron shod
lance was carried in the hand. A species of baldric supported part of
their arms. The azian, moccason and leggins constituted a part of their
dress. They were, indeed, nearly nude, and painted. Often the print of a
hand, in white clay, marked the back or shoulders. They bore flags of
feathers. They beat drums. They uttered yells, at definite points. They
landed in compact ranks. They looked the very spirit of defiance. Their
leader stood as a prince, majestic and frowning. The wild, native pride
of man, in the savage state, flushed by success in war, and confident in
the strength of his arm, was never so fully depicted to my eyes. And the
forest tribes of the continent may be challenged to have ever presented
a spectacle of bold daring, and martial prowess, equal to their landing.
Their martial bearing, their high tone, and whole behavior during their
stay, in and out of council, was impressive, and demonstrated, in an
eminent degree, to what a high pitch of physical and moral courage,
bravery and success in war may lead a savage people. Keokuk, who led
them, stood with his war lance, high crest of feathers, and daring eye,
like another Coriolanus, and when he spoke in council, and at the same
time shook his lance at his enemies, the Sioux, it was evident that he
wanted but an opportunity to make their blood flow like water. Wapelo,
and other chiefs backed him, and the whole array, with their shaved
heads and high crests of red horse-hair, told the spectator plainly,
that each of these men held his life in his hand, and was ready to
spring to the work of slaughter at the cry of their chief.
General William Clark, from St. Louis, was associated with General Cass
in this negotiation. The great object was to lay the foundation of a
permanent peace by establishing boundaries. Day after day was assigned
to this, the agents laboring with the chiefs, and making themselves
familiar with Indian bark maps and drawings. The thing pleased the
Indians. They clearly saw that it was a benevolent effort for their
good, and showed a hearty mind to work in the attainment of the object.
The United States asked for no cession. Many glowing harangues were made
by the chiefs, which gave scope to their peculiar oratory, which is well
worth the preserving. Mongazid, of Fond du Lac, Lake Superior, said:
"When I heard the voice of my Great Father, coming up the Mississippi
Valley calling me to this treaty, it seemed as a murmuring wind; I got
up from my mat where I sat musing, and hastened to obey it. My pathway
has been clear and bright. Truly it is a pleasant sky above our heads
this day. There is not a cloud to darken it. I hear nothing but pleasant
words. The raven is not waiting for his prey, I hear no eagle
cry--'Come, let us go. The feast is ready--the Indian has killed his
When nearly a whole month had been consumed in these negotiations, a
treaty of limits was signed, which will long be remembered in the Indian
reminiscences. This was on the 19th of August (1825), _vide_ Indian
Treaties, p. 371. It was a pleasing sight to see the explorer of the
Columbia in 1806, and the writer of the proclamation of the army that
invaded Canada in 1812, uniting in a task boding so much good to the
tribes whose passions and trespasses on each other's lands keep them
perpetually at war.
'Tis war alone that gluts the Indian's mind,
As eating meats, inflames the tiger kind.
At the close of the treaty, an experiment was made on the moral sense of
the Indians, with regard to intoxicating liquors, which was evidently of
too refined a character for their just appreciation. It had been said by
the tribes that the true reason for the Commissioners of the United
States government speaking against the use of ardent spirits by the
Indians, and refusing to give them, was not a sense of its bad effects,
so much, as the fear of the expense. To show them that the government
was above such a petty principle, the Commissioners had a long row of
tin camp kettles, holding several gallons each, placed on the grass,
from one end of the council house to the other, and then, after some
suitable remarks, each kettle was spilled out in their presence. The
thing was evidently ill relished by the Indians. They loved the whisky
better than the joke.
_Impostor_.--Among the books which I purchased for General Cass, at New
York, was the narrative of one John Dunn Hunter. I remember being
introduced to the man, at one of my visits to New York, by Mr. Carter.
He appeared to be one of those anomalous persons, of easy good nature,
without much energy or will, and little or no moral sense, who might be
made a tool of. It seems no one at New York was taken in by him, but
having wandered over to London, the booksellers found him a good subject
for a book, and some hack there, with considerable cleverness, made him
a pack-horse for carrying a load of stuff about America's treatment of
the Indians. It was called a "captivity," and he was made to play the
part of an adventurer among the Indians--somewhat after the manner of
John Tanner. C. reviewed the book, on our route and at the Prairie, for
the _North American_, in an article which created quite a sensation, and
will be remembered for its force and eloquence. He first read to me some
of these glowing sentences, while on the portages of the Fox. It was
continued, during the leisure hours of the conferences, and finally the
critique was finished, after his visiting the place and the person, in
Missouri, to which Hunter had alluded as his sponsor in baptism. The man
denied all knowledge of him. Hunter was utterly demolished, and his book
shown to be as great a tissue of misrepresentation as that of
_August 21st_. The party separates. I had determined to return to the
Sault by way of Lake Superior, through Chippewa River. But, owing to the
murder of Finley and his men at its mouth in 1824, I found it impossible
to engage men at Prairie du Chien, to take that route. I determined
therefore to go up the Wisconsin, and by the way of Green Bay. For this
purpose, I purchased a light canoe, engaged men to paddle it, and laid
in provisions and stores to last to Green Bay. Having done so, I
embarked about 3 o'clock P.M., descending the majestic Mississippi, with
spirits enlivened by the hope of soon rejoining friends far away. At the
same time, Mr. Holliday left for the same destination in a separate
canoe. On reaching the mouth of the Wisconsin, we entered that broad
tributary, and found the current strong. We passed the point of rocks
called _Petite Gres_, and encamped at _Grand Gres_.
Several hours previous to leaving the prairie, a friend handed me an
enveloped packet, saying, "Read it when you get to the mouth of the
Wisconsin." I had no conception what it related to, but felt great
anxiety to reach the place mentioned. I then opened it, and read as
follows: "I cannot separate from you without expressing my grateful
acknowledgments for the honor you have done me, by connecting my name
with your _Narrative of Travels in the Central Portions of the
Mississippi Valley, &c._" Nothing could have been more gratifying or
_22d_. A fog in the valley detained us till 5 o'clock A.M. After
traveling about two hours, Mr. Holliday's canoe was crushed against a
rock. While detained in repairing it, I ordered my cook to prepare
breakfast. It was now 9 o'clock, when we again proceeded, till the heat
of noon much affected the men. We pushed our canoes under some
overhanging trees, where we found fine clusters of ripe grapes.
In going forward we passed two canoes of Menomonies, going out on their
fall hunt, on the Chippewa River. These people have no hunting grounds
of their own, and are obliged to the courtesy of neighboring nations for
a subsistence. They are the most erratic of all our tribes, and may be
said to be almost nomadic. We had already passed the canoes, when Mr.
Lewis, the portrait painter, called out stoutly behind us, from an
island in the river. "Oh! ho! I did not know but there was some other
breaking of the canoe, or worse disaster, and directed the men to put
back. See, see," said he, "that fellow's nose! Did you ever see such a
protuberance?" It was one of the Menomonies from _Butte des Morts_, with
a globular irregular lump on the end of his nose, half as big as a man's
fist. Lewis's artistic risibles were at their height, and he set to work
to draw him. I could think of nothing appropriate, but Sterne and
_23d_. A heavy fog detained us at Caramani's village, till near 6 A.M.
The fog, however, still continued, so thick as to conceal objects at
twenty yards distance. We consequently went cautiously. Both this day
and yesterday we have been constantly in sight of Indian canoes, on
their return from the treaty. Wooden canoes are exclusively used by the
Winnebagoes. They are pushed along with poles.
We passed a precipitous range of hills near Pine Creek, on one of which
is a cave, called by our boatmen _L'diable au Port_. This superstition
of peopling dens and other dark places with the "arch fiend," is common.
If the "old serpent" has given any proofs to the French boatmen of his
residence here, I shall only hope that he will confine himself to this
river, and not go about troubling quiet folks in the land of the Lakes.
At Pine River we went inland about a mile to see an old mine, probably
the remains of French enterprise, or French credulity. But all its
golden ores had flown, probably frightened off by the old fellow of
_L'diable au Port_. We saw only pits dug in the sand overgrown
Near this spot in the river, we overtook Shingabowossin and his party
of Chippewas. They had left the prairie on the same day that we did, but
earlier. They had been in some dread of the Winnebagoes, and stopped on
the island to wait for us.
In passing the channel of _Detour_, we observed many thousand tons of
white rock lying in the river, which had lately fallen from the bank,
leaving a solid perpendicular precipice. This rock, banks and ruins, is,
like all the Wisconsin Valley rocks, a very white and fine sandstone.
We passed five canoes of Menomonies, on their way to hunt on Chippewa
River, to whom I presented some powder, lead, and flour. They gave me a
couple of fish, of the kind called _pe-can-o_ by the Indians.
_24th_. We were again detained by the fog, till half past five A.M., and
after a hard day's fatiguing toil, I encamped at eight o'clock P.M. on a
sandy island in the centre of the Wisconsin. The water in the river is
low, and spreads stragglingly over a wide surface. The very bed of the
river is moving sand. While supper was preparing, I took from my trunk a
towel, clean shirt, and cake of soap, and spent half an hour in bathing
in the river upon the clean yellow sand. After this grateful
refreshment, I sank sweetly to repose in my tent.
_25th_. The fog dispersed earlier this morning than usual. We embarked a
few minutes after four A.M., and landed for breakfast at ten. The
weather now, was quite sultry, as indeed it has been during the greater
part of every day, since leaving _Tipesage_--i.e. the Prairie. Our route
this day carried us through the most picturesque and interesting part of
the Wisconsin, called the Highlands or River Hills. Some of these hills
are high, with precipitous faces towards the river. Others terminate in
round grassy knobs, with oaks dispersed about the sides. The name is
supposed to have been taken from this feature. Generally speaking,
the country has a bald and barren aspect. Not a tree has apparently been
cut upon its banks, and not a village is seen to relieve the tedium of
an unimproved wilderness. The huts of an Indian locality seem "at random
cast." I have already said these conical and angular hills present
masses of white sandstone, whereever they are precipitous. The river
itself is almost a moving mass of white and yellow sand, broad, clear,
shallow, and abounding in small woody islands, and willowy sandbars.
[Footnote 44: _Sin_, the terminal syllable, is clearly from the
Algonquin, _Os-sin_, a stone. The French added the letter _g_, which is
the regular _local_ form of the word, agreeably to the true Indian.]
While making these notes I have been compelled to hold my book, pencil
and umbrella, the latter being indispensable to keep off the almost
tropical fervor of the sun's rays. As the umbrella and book must be held
in one hand, you may judge that I have managed with some difficulty; and
this will account to you for many uncouth letters and much disjointed
orthography. Between the annoyance of insects, the heat of the sun, and
the difficulties of the way, we had incessant employment.
At three o'clock P.M. we put ashore for dinner, in a very shaded and
romantic spot. Poetic images were thick about us. We sat upon mats
spread upon a narrow carpet of grass between the river and a high
perpendicular cliff. The latter threw its broad shade far beyond us.
This strip of land was not more than ten feet wide, and had any
fragments of rock fallen, they would have crushed us. But we saw no
reason to fear such an event, nor did it at all take from the relish of
our dinner. Green moss had covered the face of the rock, and formed a
soft velvet covering, against which we leaned. The broad and cool river
ran at our feet. Overhanging trees formed a grateful bower around us.
Alas, how are those to be pitied who prefer palaces built with human
hands to such sequestered scenes. What perversity is there in the human
understanding, to quit the delightful and peaceful abodes of nature, for
noisy towns and dusty streets.
"To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm than all the gloss of art."
At a late hour in the evening we reached the Wisconsin portage, and
found Dr. Wood. U.S.A., encamped there. He had arrived a short time
before us, with four Indians and one Canadian in a canoe, on his way to
St. Peter's. He had a mail in his trunk, and I had reasons to believe I
should receive letters, but to my sore disappointment I found nothing. I
invited Dr. Wood to supper, having some ducks and snipes to offer in
addition to my usual stock of solids, such as ham, venison and
Descent of Fox River--Blackbirds--Menomonies--Rice fields--Starving
Indians--Thunder storm--Dream--An Indian struck dead with
lightning--Green Bay--Death of Colonel Haines--Incidents of the journey
from Green Bay to Michilimackinack--Reminiscences of my early life and
travels--Choiswa--Further reminiscences of my early life--Ruins of the
first mission of Father Marquette--Reach Michilimackinack.
1825. _August 26th_. A PORTAGE of about one mile and a quarter was
At day-break two ox carts, which I had ordered in the evening, came, and
took our baggage across to the banks of Fox River. The canoes were
carried over by the different crews. On reaching the banks of the Fox
River, I concluded to stay for the purpose of breakfasting. I added to
my stock of eatables, a bag of potatoes, and some butter and milk,
purchased from a Frenchman, who resided here. It was about nine o'clock
A.M. when we embarked on the Fox, and we began its descent with feelings
not widely different from those of a boy who has carried his sled, in
winter, _up_ the steep side of a hill, that he may enjoy the pleasure of
riding _down_. The Fox River is serpentine, almost without a parallel;
it winds about like a string that doubles and redoubles, and its channel
is choked with fields of wild rice; from which rose, continually,
immense flocks of blackbirds. They reminded me very forcibly of the
"The birds of heaven shall vindicate their grain."
Mr. Holliday the elder and his son made several unsuccessful shots at
them. I did not regret their ill success, and was pleased to hear
"As sweetly and gayly as ever before."
We met several canoes of Menomonies. We stopped for dinner near a lodge
of them, who were in a starving condition. I distributed bread and corn
among them. They presented me a couple of dishes of a species of berry,
which they call _Neekimen-een_, or Brant-berry. It is a black, tasteless
berry, a little larger than the whortleberry. We encamped at the head of
_27th_. A very severe shower of rain fell about three o'clock A.M.; it
detained us in our camp until five, when we embarked. Why should I
relate to you our dull progress through fields of rice--through
intricate channels, and amidst myriads of ducks and wild water fowl.
This day has been hot, beyond any experience on the journey. I sank back
in my canoe, in a state of apathy and lassitude, partly from the heat,
and partly from indisposition. My thoughts were employed upon home. A
thousand phantoms passed through my head. I tried to imagine how you
were employed at this moment, whether busy, or sick in your own room. It
would require a volume to trace my wandering thoughts. Let it suffice
that another day is nearly gone, and it has lessened the distance which
separated us, about seventy miles.
_28th_. I encamped, last night, near a large village of Winnebagoes and
Menomonies. They complained to me of want of food and ammunition. I
distributed among them a quantity of powder, ball, and shot, and some
bread, hard biscuit, pork, and tobacco. Never were people more grateful,
and never, I believe, was a more appropriate distribution made. I had
purchased these articles for the Chippewa Nation, to be used on my
contemplated voyage home, from the Prairie, through Chippewa River and
Lake Superior, before the design of going that way was relinquished. The
fact was, I could get no men to go that way, so alarmed were they by the
recent murder of Finley and his party.
About two o'clock A.M. I was awoke by a very heavy storm of rain and
wind, attended with loud peals of thunder. The violence of the wind blew
down my tent, and my blankets, &c. received some damage. After this
mishap the wind abated, and having got my tent re-arranged, I again went
to sleep. I dreamt of attending the funeral of an esteemed friend, who
was buried with honors, attended to the grave by a large train. I have
no recollection of the name of this friend, nor whether male or female.
I afterwards visited the house of this person, and the room in which he
(or she) died. I closed the door with dread and sorrow, afflicted by the
views of the couch where one so much esteemed had expired. The mansion
was large, and elegantly furnished. I lost my way in it, and rung a
large bell that hung in the hall. At this, many persons, male and
female, came quickly into the hall from folding doors, as if, I thought,
they had been summoned to dinner. As you have sometimes inclined to
believe in these fantastic operations of the human mind, when asleep, I
record them for your amusement, or reflection. Was this an allegory of
the destructive effects of the storm, mixed with my banquet to my Indian
friends, the Menomonies and Winnebagoes?
After descending the river more than twenty miles we landed at _la Butte
des Morts_ to cook breakfast. Immediately on landing my attention was
attracted by a small white flag hanging from a high pole. I went to It
and found a recent Indian grave, very neatly and carefully covered with
boards. The Indian had been struck dead by lightning a few days
previous. Is this the interpretation of my dream, or must I follow my
fears to St. Mary's, to witness some of our family suffering on the bed
of sickness. God, in his mercy, forbid!
This day was comparatively cool. On the previous days it was my custom
to sit in my shirt and sleeves. To-day, I kept on my surtout all day,
and my cloak over it until twelve. Such sudden changes in the
temperature of the seasons are the reproach of our climate. My health
has been better than for a few days back, owing, I believe, solely to my
abstinence both yesterday and the day before. How much illness would be
prevented by a proper attention to regimen. It is now eight o'clock in
the evening, I am sitting in my tent with a candle standing on a rush
mat, and my black trunk for a writing desk. I am interrupted by the news
that my supper is ready to be brought in. How happy I should be if you
could participate in my frugal meal. In the language of Burns--
"Adieu a heart-warm fond adieu."
_29th_. I encamped last night, at the foot of the Winnebago Rapids, one
mile below Winnebago Lake. I found the rapids of Fox River, which begin
here, more difficult to pass than on our ascent, the water being much
lower. We were necessarily detained many hours, and most of the men
compelled to walk. About six o'clock, P.M. we reached the upper part of
the settlement of Green Bay. I stopped a few moments at Judge Doty's,
and also a little below at Major Brevoort's, the Indian agent of the
post. We then proceeded to the lower settlements, and encamped near the
fort at Arndt's. Dr. Wheaton met me on the beach, with several others. I
supped and lodged at Arndt's, having declined Dr. Wheaton's polite
invitation to sup, and take a bed with him. At tea I saw Mrs. Cotton,
whom you will recollect as Miss Arndt, and was introduced to her
husband, Lieutenant Cotton, U.S.A. I was also introduced to the Rev. Mr.
Nash, a clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal order, on missionary duty
here. I went to my room, as soon as I could disentangle myself from
these greetings, with a bundle of papers, to read up the news, and was
truly pained to hear of the death of my early friend Colonel Charles G.
Haines of New York, an account of which, with the funeral honors paid to
him, I read in the papers.
_30th_. The repair of my canoe, and the purchase of provisions to
recruit my supplies, consumed the morning, until twelve o'clock, when I
embarked, and called at the fort to pay my respects to Dr. Wheaton. I
found the dinner-table set. He insisted on my stopping with Mr. H. to
dinner, which, being an old friend and as one of my men had absconded,
and I was, therefore, delayed, I assented to. The doctor and family
evinced the greatest cordiality, and he sent down to my canoe, after
dinner, a quantity of melons, some cabbages, and a bag of new potatoes.
Before I could obtain another man and set out again, it was three
o'clock. I was obliged to forego the return of some visits. We continued
our voyage down the bay about 40 miles, and encamped at 8 o'clock,
having run down with a fair wind.
_31st_. Soon after quitting our camp this morning, a heavy wind arose.
It was partly fair, so as to permit our hoisting sail for a few hours,
but then shifted ahead, and drove us ashore. We landed on a small island
called Vermilion, off the south cape of Sturgeon Bay. Here we remained
all the remainder of the day and night. While there detained I read
"China, its Arts, Manufactures, &c.," a work translated from the French,
and giving a lively, and apparently correct account of that
About two o'clock, P.M., we cut some of the water and musk-melons
presented by Dr. Wharton, and found them delicious. About 6 o'clock,
P.M., my cook informed me that he had prepared a supper, agreeably to my
directions, and we found his skill in this way by no means despicable.
Such are the trifles which must fill up my journal, for did I only write
what was fit for grave divines, or the scrutinizing eye of philosophy to
read, I fear I should have but a few meagre sheets to present you on my
return, and perhaps not a single syllable witty or wise.
_Sept. 1st_. The wind abated during the night, and we were early on the
waters, and went on until eleven o'clock, when we landed for breakfast.
At twelve o'clock we went forward again, with a fair wind. I read
another volume of "China." "The Chinese ladies," says the author, "live
very retired, wholly engaged in their household affairs, and how to
please their husbands. They are not, however, confined quite so closely
as is commonly supposed. The females visit entirely amongst each other.
There is no society or circles in China to which the women are admitted.
Marriages are a mere matter of convenience, or, to speak with greater
propriety, a kind of bargain settled between the parents and relatives."
We came on very well, and encamped at the Little Detroit, or strait, so
called, in the Grand Traverse. This traverse separates Green Bay from
Lake Michigan. It is computed to be twenty miles over. A cluster of
islands enables canoes to pass. There are some hieroglyphics on
_2d_. We embarked at three o'clock, A.M., and went on very well, until
ten, when we stopped on one of the islands for breakfast, having nearly
completed the traverse. In the meantime the wind arose in our favor, and
we went on along the north shore of Lake Michigan gayly. We passed the
mouth of the Manistee River, which interlocks with the Tacquimenon of
Lake Superior, where some of our St. Mary's Chippewas make their
gardens. An aft wind and light spirits are inseparable, whether a man be
in a frigate or a canoe. There is something in the air exhilarating. I
have been passing in retrospect, the various journeys I have made, but
during none has my anxieties to return been so great as this. What a
wonderful destiny it is that makes one man a traveler and another a
poet, a mathematician, &c. We appear to be guided by some innate
principle which has a predominating force. No man was more unlikely to
be a traveler than myself. I always thought myself to be domestic in my
feelings, habits, and inclinations, and even in very early youth,
proposed to live a life of domestic felicity. I thought such a life
inseparable from the married state, and resolved, therefore, to get
married, as soon as prudence and inclination would permit.
Notwithstanding this way of thinking my life has been a series of active
employment and arduous journeyings. I may say my travels began even in
childhood, for when only six or seven years old, I recollect to have
wandered off a long distance into the pine plains of my native town, to
view Honicroisa Hill, a noted object in that part of the country, to the
great alarm of all the family, who sent out to search for me. My next
journey was in my eleventh year, when I accompanied my father, in his
chaise, he dressed out in his regimentals, to attend a general
court-martial at Saratoga. I had not then read any history of our
Revolution, but had heard its battles and hardships, told over by my
father, which created a deep interest, and among the events was
Burgoyne's surrender. My mind was filled with the subject as we
proceeded on our way, and I expected to see a field covered with skulls,
and guns, and broken swords.
In my fifteenth year I accompanied my father, in his chaise, up the
Valley of the Mohawk to Utica. This gave me some idea of the western
country, and the rapid improvements going on there. I returned with some
more knowledge of the world, and with my mind filled with enthusiastic
notions of new settlements and fortunes made in the woods. I was highly
pleased with the frank and hospitable manners of the west. The next
spring I was sent by a manufacturing company to Philadelphia, as an
agent to procure and select on the banks of the Delaware, between
Bristol and Bordentown, a cargo of crucible clay. This journey and its
incidents opened a new field to me, and greatly increased my knowledge
of the world; of the vastness of commerce; and of the multifarious
occupations of men. I acquitted myself well of my agency, having made a
good selection of my cargo. I was a judge of the mineralogical
properties of the article, but a novice in almost everything else. I
supposed the world honest, and every man disposed to act properly and to
do right. I now first witnessed a theatre. It was at New York. When the
tragedy was over, seeing many go out, I also took a check and went home,
to be laughed at by the captain of the sloop, with whom I was a
passenger. At Philadelphia I fell into the hands of a professed
sharper; He was a gentleman in dress, manners, and conversation. He
showed me the city, and was very useful in directing my inquiries. But
he borrowed of me thirty dollars one day, to pay an unexpected demand,
as he said, and that was the last I ever saw of my money. The lesson was
not, however, lost upon me. I have never since lent a stranger or casual
_3d_. I was compelled to break off my notes yesterday suddenly. A storm
came on which drove us forward with great swiftness, and put us in some
peril. We made the land about three o'clock, after much exertion and
very considerable wetting. After the storm had passed over, a calm
succeeded, when we again put out, and kept the lake till eight o'clock.
We had a very bad encampment--loose rough stones to lie on, and scarcely
wood enough to make a fire. To finish our misery, it soon began to rain,
but ceased before ten. At four o'clock this morning we arose, the
weather being quite cold. At an early hour, after getting afloat, we
reached and passed a noted landing for canoes and boats, called
_Choishwa_ (Smooth-rock.) This shelter, is formed by a ledge of rock
running into the lake. On the inner, or perpendicular face, hundreds of
names are cut or scratched upon the rock. This _cacoethes scribendi_ is
the pest of every local curiosity or public watering-place. Even here,
in the wilderness, it is developed.
Wise men ne'er cut their names on doors or rock-heads,
But leave the task to scribblers and to blockheads;
Pert, trifling folks, who, bent on being witty,
Scrawl on each post some fag-end of a ditty,
Spinning, with spider's web, their shallow brains,
O'er wainscots, borrowed books, or window panes.
At one o'clock the wind became decidedly fair, and the men, relieved
from their paddles, are nearly all asleep, in the bottom of the canoe.
While the wind drives us forward beautifully I embrace the time to
resume my narrative of early journeyings, dropt yesterday.
In the year 1808, my father removed from Albany to Oneida County. I
remained at the old homestead in Guilderland, in charge of his affairs,
until the following year, when I also came to the west. The next spring
I was offered handsome inducements to go to the Genesee country, by a
manufacturing company, who contemplated the saving of a heavy land
transportation from Albany on the article of window-glass, if the rude
materials employed in it could be found in that area of country. I
visited it with that view; found its native resources ample, and was
still more delighted with the flourishing appearance of this part of the
Western country than I had been with Utica and its environs. Auburn,
Geneva, Canandaigua, and other incipient towns, seemed to me the germs
of a land "flowing with milk and honey."
In 1811, I went on a second trip to Philadelphia, and executed the
object of it with a success equal to my initial visit. On this trip I
had letters to some gentlemen at Philadelphia, who received me in a most
clever spirit, and I visited the Academy of Arts, Peale's Museum, the
Water Works, Navy Yard, &c. I here received my first definite ideas of
painting and sculpture. I returned with new stores of information and
new ideas of the world, but I had lost little or nothing of my primitive
simplicity of feeling or rustic notions of human perfection. And, as I
began to see something of the iniquities of men, I clung more firmly to
my native opinions.
My personal knowledge of my native State, and of the States of New
Jersey and Pennsylvania, was now superior to that of most men with whom
I was in the habit of conversing, and I subsequently made several little
journeys and excursions that furthered me in the knowledge.
As yet, I knew nothing by personal observation of New England. In the
early part of 1813, having completed my nineteenth year, I went to
Middlebury, in Vermont, on the banks of Otter Creek, where, I
understand, my great-grandfather, who was an Englishman, to have died.
Soon after I accompanied Mr. Ep. Jones, a man of decided enterprise, but
some eccentricities of character, on an extensive tour through the New
England States. We set out from Lake Dunmore, in Salisbury, in a chaise,
and proceeding over the Green Mountains across the State of Vermont, to
Bellows' Falls, on the Connecticut River, there struck the State of New
Hampshire, and went across it, and a part of Massachusetts, to Boston.
Thence, after a few days' stop, we continued our route to Hartford, the
seat of government of Connecticut, and thence south to the valley of the
Hudson at Rhinebeck. Here we crossed the Hudson to Kingston (the Esopus
of Indian days), and proceeded inland, somewhat circuitously, to the
Catskill Mountains; after visiting which, we returned to the river, came
up its valley to Albany, and returned, by way of Salem, to Salisbury.
All this was done with one horse, a compact small-boned animal, who was
a good oats-eater, and of whom we took the very best care. I made this
distich on him:--
Feed me well with oats and hay,
And I'll carry you forty miles a-day.
This long and circuitous tour gave me a general idea of this portion of
the Union, and enabled me to institute many comparisons between the
manners and customs and advantages of New York and New England.
I am again compelled to lay my pencil aside by the quantity of water
thrown into the canoe by the paddles of the men, who have been roused up
by the increasing waves.
_4th_. We went on under a press of sail last evening until eight
o'clock, when we encamped in a wide sandy bay in the Straits of
Michigan, having come a computed distance of 80 miles. On looking about,
we found in the sand the stumps of cedar pickets, forming an antique
enclosure, which, I judged, must have been the first site of the Mission
of St. Ignace, founded by Pierre Marquette, upwards of a hundred and
eighty years ago. Not a lisp of such a ruin had been heard by me
previously. French and Indian tradition says nothing of it. The
inference is, however, inevitable. Point St. Ignace draws its name from
it. It was afterwards removed and fixed at the blunt peninsula, or
headland, which the Indians call _Peekwutino_, the old Mackinac of
Leaving this spot at an early hour, we went to Point St. Ignace to
breakfast, and made the traverse to the Island of Michilimackinac by
eleven o'clock. We were greeted by a number of persons on the beach;
among them was Mr. Agnew, of the _Sault_, who reported friends all well.
This was a great relief to my mind, as I had been for a number of days
under the impression that some one near and dear to me was ill. It was
Sunday morning; many of the inhabitants were at church, and appearances
indicated more respect for the day than I recollect to have noticed
before. The good effect of the mission established in the island, under
the auspices of the Rev. Mr. Ferry, are clearly visible. Mr. Robert
Stuart invited me to take a room at the company's house, which I
declined, but dined and supped there.
Journey from Mackinac to the Sault Ste. Marie--Outard Point--Head
winds--Lake Huron in a rage--Desperate embarkation--St. Vital--Double
the Detour--Return to St. Mary's--Letters--"Indian girl"--New volume of
travels--Guess' Cherokee alphabet--New views of the Indian languages and
their principles of construction--Georgia question--Post-office
difficulties--Glimpses from the civilized world.
1825. _Sept. 5th_. I arose at seven, and we had breakfast at half-past
seven. I then went to the Company's store and ordered an invoice of
goods for the Indian department. This occupied the time till dinner was
announced. I then went to my camp and ordered the tent to be struck and
the canoe to be put into the water; but found two of my men so ill with
the fever and ague that they could not go, and three others were much
intoxicated. The atmosphere was very cloudy and threatening, and to
attempt the traverse to Goose Island, under such circumstances, was
deemed improper. Mr. Robert and David Stuart, men noted in the Astoria
enterprise; Mr. Agnew, Capt. Knapp, Mr. Conner, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Currey,
&c., had kindly accompanied me to the beach, but all were very urgent in
their opinion that I should defer the starting. I ordered the men to be
ready at two o'clock in the morning should the weather not prove
_6th_. I arose at three o'clock, but found a heavy fog enveloping the
whole island, and concealing objects at a short distance. It was not
till half-past six that I could embark, when the fog began to disperse,
but the clearing away of the fog introduced a light head wind. I reached
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