By Amorin Mello

… continued from Number IV.



Number V

Mr. Dear Press: – As has been already stated, the land on which Ashland now stands, had not, at the time of its first settlement, in 1854, been surveyed.  The town lines had only been laying off the country into blocks six miles square.

Detail from Sketch of the Public Surveys in Wisconsin and Territory of Minnesota by the Surveyor General’s Office, Dubuque, Oct. 21, 1854 as presented in Senate Executive Document No. 1, 34th Congress, 1st Session.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

When the settlers made their claims, as most of us did, near the town lines, we were able, by the use of pocket compasses approximately to fix the boundaries of our claims.  But no title could be obtained, nor even any safe foundation for a title laid, until the lands should be subdivided into sections, and the returns of that survey made to the Surveyor General’s Office, and by that officer platted or mapped, and then plats and notes sent to the General Land Office at Washington, and from there transmitted to the Local Land office.  At that date the local office was at the town of Hudson, on Lake St. Croix, two hundred miles away.  But early in 1855 an office was established at Superior, at the west end of the Lake, – and though this was nearly a hundred miles from Ashland, – with no roads, compelling settlers in summer to cost in open boats, and winter to walk this distance.  Still it was a very great favor to settlers here, and greatly lessened their hardships, and facilitated the acquisition of their lands.

Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, then were embraced in one Surveyor’s District, with the office at Dubuque, Iowa.  It was the duty of the Surveyor General to provide for the details of the Government Surveys in his district, as fast as the settlement of the country might require.  Gen’l Warner Lewis was then Surveyor General of this District.

Detail of Ashland City, LaPointe County, from the Barber Brother’s survey during the Joel Allen Barber Papers: Summer of 1855.

These memoirs are classic examples of Edwin Ellis, M.D. writing in the third person when crediting himself for achievements during Ashland’s early days.

No steps having been taken or any order given for the survey of the shore of Chequamegon Bay, in June 1855, Dr. Ellis left in an open boat for Superior, then on foot through the wilderness to St. Paul, following not far from the route over which many years later was constructed the Lake Superior & Mississippi R.R., – then by boat down the river to Dubuque.  The situation of our affairs and the people of an early settlement here induced Gen. Lewis to order an immediate subdivision of Towns 47 and 48, North of Range 4 and 5 West, both sides of our bay, and all the lands on which squatters had settled.

Early in September of that year, (1855), Augustus H. Barber began the survey, and pushed the work rapidly, so that he had completed 47 and 48 of Range 4 in October, and the returns had been made and plats prepared and forwarded to the local land office by the first of December.

Joel Allen Barber Papers:
Spring of 1856

Last known letter from Augustus

“There is a conspiracy, or combination of old preemptors here who have no right to make claims.  Their object is to secure each member a claim on the North shore, and to drive off and keep off by knives and pistols any who may wish to make legal preemptions on the lands they choose to appropriate to themselves.
There may be some fighting up here this season and there is certain to be considerable laming before the business is settled.  Let ‘em rip.
“I can send half a dozen to Jehanum in about as many seconds, but don’t want to do it & will avoid trouble if possible but butcher knife companies must not meddle with any claim when I have made one.

The Pre-emptors now, for the first time, could file claims to their lands and receive assurance that they were likely to be the owners of their homes.

During December many pre-emption claims were filed, and during the closing days of the year and in the first days of 1856, quite a number proved up those claims and received duplicates, upon which patents were afterwards issued.  These were the earliest titles to the present site of Ashland.  Unlike many towns in the West at that period our site was not cursed with complicating claims, and it is cause for congratulations that Ashland property has no cloud upon its title and that every buyer may, with little trouble, assure himself of this fact.  The title to a portion of the site of Superior was bitterly contested involving years of delay and thousands of dollars of cost and much acrimony of feeling; and it is possible that this may have had its influence in carrying the railroad to Duluth rather than to Superior.  Quarrels over title are a curse to any town, especially a new one.

“IN MEMORY OF AUGUSTUS H. BARBER of Cambridge, Vt. U.S. Deputy Surveyor who was drowned in Montreal River
Apr. 22. A.D. 1856
Aged 24 yrs. & 8 ms.”

Of Augustus Barber the early Surveyor of this vicinity, who is unknown to a larger part of this generation, a few words ought to be said:

He was a native of Vermont of an excellent family.  At this time he was about 22 years of age, well educated, gentle as a Lady, refined and easy in his manners and very amiable in his temper.  Like many other young men from the east, of active and enterprising habits, he had come into this outer verge of civilization to make this his home and to grow up with its institutions.  He was the nephew of Hon. J. Allen Barber, of Lancaster, in this State, who once represented his District in Congress.  He continued in the surveys of this part of the Lake until in the summer or fall of 1856, when he, with others, conceived of the idea of founding a city at the mouth of the Montreal River – the dividing line between Wisconsin and Michigan about thirty miles east of Ashland.

The iron range approaches nearer the Lake at that point than it does at Ashland.  And though the country is much rougher and more difficult for construction of roads than between Ashland and the Range, yet the shorter route, it was argued, would more than compensate for the heavier grades. – The town was laid out and platted by Mr. Barber.

Joel Allen Barber Papers:
Spring of 1857

“This has been a sorgawful day to me, feeling more impressed with the awful calamity that befel over dear lamented Augustus and all our family in his loss One year ago to day.”
It must remain a sealed book to us, how Augustus was hurried out of the woods, and why it was so ordained if there, was any ordination about it, till we meet him in another world, which I devoutly hope we may do though I am sorry to say more hoping than expecting.

The Montreal, not far from its mouth, leaps down a perpendicular descent of nearly a hundred feet presenting a wild and picturesque view.  Being an enthusiastic lover of the beautiful of nature and desiring to reach a position underneath the falls, Mr. Barber in a canoe with two companions, approaching too close, were drawn in by the eddying whirlpool, the canoe was capsized, and before help could reach him he and one of his boatmen were drowned.  His body was recovered and was buried on a sand hillock near the mouth of the same river in whose waters he met his death.  Ironton has long been deserted, and Barber’s grave with its marble headstone, is the sole make of that civilization, which twenty years ago there essayed to lay the foundation of a mart of commerce.

They Called Him “Gray Devil”:
Summer of 1857

“One man working in the interest of the company the year before, had been discovered, after being missed for some weeks, dead in the forest, near the range. Bruises and other indications of violence on the body gave strong ground for the belief that he had been murdered.

The surf of the waves of the lake in summer and fierce driving snow storms in winter, with solitude presiding over the grand orchestra, are perpetually chanting his mournful requiem, while a fond father and mother on the slopes of the distant Green Mountains are mourning bitterly the early death of their first born son.

To be continued in Number VI


Joseph Nicholas Nicollet 1786-1843 (Wikipedia)  *Not to be confused with Jean Nicolet, the explorer who visited Green Bay 200 years before this.

By Leo

Joseph Nicollet* is a name familiar to many in the Upper Midwest.  The French-born geographer is remembered in numerous place names, particularly in Minnesota.  For followers of Chequamegon History, though, he is best known for his 1843 Map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi.  The map remains very popular for its largely-accurate geography and its retention of original Ojibwe and French placenames for rivers, lakes and other land features.  I’ve always found it an attractive map, and use the Chequamegon portion of it to decorate the side panels of the blog.

So, one can imagine the excitement when Brian Finstad emailed and told me there was another version of the map, and that it was available online from St. Olaf College.  This version, covering the country between the St. Croix and Wisconsin rivers (what is now the northwestern half of Wisconsin) is handwritten and contains information and names that never made it onto the published map.  For those unfamiliar with Brian Finstad’s work, he is a long-time correspondent of Chequamegon History and has a keen and detailed understanding of the Gordon/Upper St. Croix region and the history of the St. Croix-La Pointe trail.

The manuscript is also differs from the published map in that the placement of lakes, rivers, and portages.  At first glance, to those of us used to Google and the modern highway system, to be less accurate in terms of actual fixed latitude and longitude.  Instead, it seems more reflective of how Wisconsin’s geography would have been perceived at the time–as chains of water routes and portages.  I need to look into it further, but my current understanding is that Nicollet did not travel extensively in Wisconsin.  Therefore, one can assume that he got most of this information from his hired Ojibwe and Metis guides and voyageurs.


Zhagobe (Shakopee, Chagobai, Little Six), a Snake River chief worked with Nicollet and may have been an informant for the map.  (Painting by Charles Bird King from James Otto Lewis portrait 1825 or 1826)

The handwritten map is challenging to read.  Parts of it are ripped and faded, and the labels are oriented in all directions, including upside-down.  Perhaps most difficult for me, as a monolingual English speaker, the map is in no fewer than four languages.  French predominates, but there is a great deal of Ojibwe (especially in place names) and some English in descriptions.  Near the mouth of the Chippewa River, there is another language, probably Dakota, but I don’t know Siouan languages well enough to say it is not Ho-Chunk.

After spending a few minutes with the map, I knew that the only way I would be able to engage with it fully would be to make it a project.  So, I set out to reproduce the map, as faithfully as possible to the original, but with more legible text oriented according to more-modern cartographic conventions.  Here is the result:


My hope is that the reproduction will make comparisons with the published map easier for scholars, or at the very least, provide a guide for working with the manuscript.  However, this is where I’ll need help from readers, especially those who are good with Ojibwe and French grammar.

Here are some of the challenges we’re up against:

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Familiarity of Locations

Being most familiar with the parts of Wisconsin within the Lake Superior basin, a map that focuses on the Mississippi watershed is not necessarily in my wheelhouse.  Unfortunately, that’s what this truly is a map.  Locations on the lakeshore are barely shown on the manuscript.  There is far better detail in Nicollet’s published map showing that he must have used different sources to fill in that section of his finished product.  However, because the Chequamegon area is the most ripped, faded, and difficult part to read on the entire map, familiarity was an asset.  In the snippet on the left, I am fairly confident that the ripped part under “Chagwamigon” should read Long Ile ou Lapoint or something very similar.  Whereas, the snippet on the right, showing the Eau Galle River area west of Eau Claire, has much clearer script, but I am far less confident in my transcription because I have not been able to locate any online references to Jolie Butte or Rhewash. Waga online.  So, if there are any French or Dakota speakers out there who live near the mouth of the Chippewa let me know if there is a place called “Pretty Mound” or something similar and if I got my letters correct.

Colloquial Nouns in Poor Handwriting 

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Readers of the blog know that I am a big fan of Google Translate.  Compared with the early days of online translation, it is amazing how close one can to reading text in an unfamiliar language these days.  No online translation is ever perfect, especially with grammar, but Google usually steers me in the right direction for nouns.  That said, there are some problems.  The French language, as translated by Google, is more or less the 20th-century version of what Nicollet was educated in.  However, neither of those is the French that was spoken in this area.  What European visitors called Patois and what Manitobans call Michif or Metis French is truly a language of its own and a product of the fur trade.  The “French” of 19th-century La Pointe contained a great deal of Ojibwe and numerous archaic words from colonial Quebec.  This can create challenges in translation, especially when the handwriting is ambiguous.  The snippet on the left, for example, appears to be the Poplar River in Douglas County.  However, the label doesn’t appear to say anything like peuplier or tremble (aspen).  I played around with “frondes” or considered other river names entirely, until I stumbled across the word liard.  Liard does not seem to have the meaning in modern French, but in colloquial Quebecois, it is regionally used to describe several different species of popple tree.  Riv. aux Soles (right), however, has proved much more difficult.  I initially saw the French name of the Totagatic as Riv. aux Lobes, but after some emails with Brian Finstad, Soles seems like the best guess.  But, what is a Sole?  Is it the sun?  The bottom of a foot?  A flounder?  The same fish name can often be applied to different species in different regions.  Is a sculpin a sole?  Is a bullhead?  Do we need to talk to old fishermen in Quebec to find out?

Lack of Grammatical Knowledge


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If Google Translate is my go-to place for French, the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary is where I go to try to confirm words in Ojibwe.  Again, it’s great for nouns and verb-parts, but unless you speak these languages better than I do, knowing the gist of what the word means doesn’t mean you’ll get the translation right.  In the snippet on the left, I transcribed the Ojibwe name for Cross Lake on the Snake River as Kapemijigonian.  This word has elements of the meaning “flows through” in Ojibwe, but the word is nonsensical grammatically.  Charles Lippert, who works for the Mille Lacs Band and has a wealth of information about Ojibwe linguistics, knew the real name, and was kind enough to offer Kapemijigoman as the correct transcription.  Who knows how many similar errors could have been made? French can be tricky too.  Mistaking ou for on, which is very possible with Nicollet’s handwriting, might not alter the meaning of a large chunk of text on Google Translate, but it sure can make you sound like a two-year old.  Check out the snippet of French on the right.  How can a non-Francophone read that?


I used the Inkscape vector graphics illustration program to trace the reproduction from the original.


As always, thanks for reading and please send feedback.


By Amorin Mello

This is one of several posts on Chequamegon History featuring the original U.S. General Land Office surveys of the La Pointe (Bad River) Indian Reservation.  An earlier post, An Old Indian Settler, features a contentious memoir from Joseph Stoddard contemplating his experiences as a young man working on the U.S. General Land Office’s crew surveying the original boundaries of the Reservation.  In his memoir from 1937, Stoddard asserted the following testimony:

Bad River Headman
Joseph Stoddard
“As a Christian, I dislike to say that the field representatives of the United States were grafters and crooks, but the stories related about unfulfilled treaties, stipulations entirely ignored, and many other things that the Indians have just cause to complain about, seem to bear out my impressions in this respect.”

In the winter of 1854 a general survey was made of the Bad River Indian Reservation.


It did not take very long to run the original boundary line of the reservation.  There was a crew of surveyors working on the west side, within the limits of the present city of Ashland, and we were on the east side.  The point of beginning was at a creek called by the Indians Ke-che-se-be-we-she (large creek), which is located east of Grave Yard Creek.  The figure of a human being was carved on a large cedar tree, which was allowed to stand as one of the corner posts of the original boundary lines of the Bad River Reservation.

After the boundary line was established, the head surveyor hastened to Washington, stating that they needed the minutes describing the boundary for insertion in the treaty of 1854.

We kept on working.  We next took up the township lines, then the section lines, and lastly the quarter lines.  It took several years to complete the survey.  As I grew older in age and experience, I learned to read a little, and when I ready the printed treaty, I learned to my surprise and chagrin that the description given in that treaty was different from the minutes submitted as the original survey.  The Indians today contend that the treaty description of the boundary is not in accord with the description of the boundary lines established by our crew, and this has always been a bone of contention between the Bad River Band and the government of the United States.

The mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek a.k.a. the townsite location of Ironton is featured in our Barber Papers and Penokee Survey Incidents.  Today this location is known as the mouth of Oronto Creek at Saxon Harbor in Iron County, Wisconsin.  The townsite of Ironton was formed at Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek by a group of land speculators in the years immediately following the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe.  Some of these speculators include the Barber Brothers, who were U.S. Deputy Surveyors surveying the Reservation on behalf of the U.S. General Land Office.  It appears that this was a conflict of interest and violation of federal trust responsibility to the La Pointe Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Missionary stationed at Bad River 
Reverend Leonard H. Wheeler

This post attempts to correlate historical evidence to Stoddard’s memoir about the mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek being a boundary corner of the Bad River Indian Reservation.  The following is a reproduction of a petition draft from Reverend Leondard Wheeler’s papers, who often kept copies of important documents that he was involved with.  Wheeler is a reliable source of evidence as he established a mission at Odanah in the 1840s and was intimately familiar with the Treaty and how the Reservation was to be surveyed accordingly. 

Wheeler drafted this petition six years after the Treaty occurred; this petition was drafted more than seventy-five years earlier than when Stoddard’s memoir of the same important matter was recorded.  The length of time between Wheeler’s petition draft and Stoddard’s memoir demonstrates how long this was (and continued to be) a matter of great contemplation and consternation for the Tribe.  Without further ado, we present Wheeler’s draft petition below:



A petition draft selected from the

Wheeler Family Papers:

Folder 16 of Box 3; Treaty of 1854, 1854-1861.



To Hon. C W Thompson

Genl Supt of Indian affair, St Paul, Min-

and Hon L E Webb,

Indian Agent for the Chippewas of Lake Superior

March 30th, 1855 map from the U.S. General Land Office of lands to be withheld from sale for the La Pointe (Bad River) Reservation from the National Archives Microfilm Publications; Microcopy No. 27; Roll 16; Volume 16.  The northeast corner of the Reservation along Lake Superior is accurately located at the mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek (not labeled) on this map.

The undersigned persons connected with the Odanah Mission, upon the Bad River Reservation, and also a portion of those Chiefs who were present and signed the Treaty of Sept 30th, AD 1854, would most respectfully call your attention to a few Statements affecting the interests of the Indians within the limits of the Lake Superior Agency, with a view to soliciting from you such action as will speedily see one to the several Indian Bands named, all of the benefits guaranteed to them by treaty stipulation.

Under the Treaty concluded at La Pointe Sept 30th, 1854 the United States set apart a tract of Land as a Reservation “for the La Pointe Band and such other Indians as may see fit to settle with them” bounded as follows.


Ke-che” (Gichirefers to big, or large.
se-be” (ziibirefers to a river.
we-she” (wishe) refers to rivulets.

Source: Gidakiiminaan Atlas by the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission

“Beginning on the South shore of Lake Superior a few miles west of Montreal River at the mouth of a creek called by the Indians Ke-she-se-be-we-she, running thence South &c.”

Detail of the Bad River Reservation from GLIFWC’s Gidakiiminaan Atlas. This map clearly shows that the northeast boundary of Bad River Reservation is not located at the true location of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek in accordance with the 1854 Treaty.  Red highlights added for emphasis of discrepancies.

Your petioners would represent that at the time of the wording of this particular portion of the Treaty, the commissioner on the part of the United States inquired the number of miles between the mouth of the Montreal River and the mouth of the creek referred to, in reply to which, the Indians said “they had no knowledge of distance by miles” and therefore the commissioner assumed the language of “a few miles west of Montreal River” as discriptive of the creek in mind.  This however, upon actual examination of the ground, does to the Band the greatest injustice, as the mouth of the creek to which the Indians referred at the time is even less than one mile west of the mouth of the Montreal.*

*This creek at the time was refered to as having Deep water inside the Bar” sufficient for Boats which is definitive of the creek still claimed as the starting point, and is not descriptive of the most westerly creek.

The mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek was renamed as Ironton by a group of land speculators in the years immediately following the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe.  Some of these speculators include the Barber Brothers, who were U.S. Deputy Surveyors surveying the Reservation.  Ironton is featured in our Barber Papers and Penokee Survey Incidents.

But White men, whose interests are adverse to those of the Indians now demand that the Reservation boundary commence at an insignificant and at times scarcely visible creek some considerable distance west of the one referred to in the Treaty, which would lessen the aggregate of the Reservation from 3 to 4000 acres.

The Barber Brothers worked on the 1854 survey, 1856 survey, and 1858 survey of the La Pointe (Bad River) Reservation, but these surveys are apparently not available online through the United States General Land Office or the Wisconsin State Cartographers Office websites.

Your petioners, have for years, desired and solicited a settlement of the matter, both for the good of the Indians and of the Whites, but from lack of interest the administrations in power have paid no attention to our appeals, as is also true of other matters to which we now call your attention.

1861 resurvey of Township 47 North of Range 1 West by Elisha S. Norris for the General Land Office relocating Bad River Reservation’s northeast boundary.  Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek was relocated to what is now Graveyard Creek instead of its true location at the Barber Brother’s Ironton townsite location.  Red highlights added for emphasis of discrepancies.

As many heads of families now wish to select (within the portion of Town 47 North of Range 1 West belonging to the Reservation the 80 acre tract assigned to them) we desire that the Eastern Boundary of the Reservation be immediately established so that the subdivisions may be made and and land selected.

Your petioners would further [represent?] that under the 3d Section of the 2nd article of the Treaty referred to the Lac De Flabeau, and Lac Court Orelles Bands are entitled to Reservations each equal to 3 Townships, (See article 3d of Treaty.  These Reservations have never been run out, none have any subdivisions been made.) which also were to be subdivided into 80 acre Tracts.

Article 4th promises to furnish each of the Reservations with a Blacksmith and assistant with the usual amount of Stock, where as the Lac De Flambeau Band have never yet had a Blacksmith, though they have repeatedly asked for one.

Wisconsin State Representative
and co-founder of Ashland
Asaph Whittlesey

As the matters have referred to one of vital importance to these several Bands of Indians, we earnestly hope that you will give your influence towards securing to them, all of the benefits named in the Treaty and as the subject named will demand labor entirely outside of the ordinary duties of an Indian Agent, and as it will be important for some one to visit the Reservations Inland, so as to be able to report intelligently upon the actual State of Things, we respectfully suggest that Mr Asaph Whittlesey be specially commissioned (provided you approve of the plan and you regard him as a suitable person to act) to attend to the taking of the necessary depositions and to present these claims, with the necessary maps and Statistics, before the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington, the expense of which must of necessity, be met by the Indian Department.

Asaph Whittlesey was appointed to serve as the Indian Agent at the La Pointe Indian Agency from 1861 until 1869.  We have not yet found any evidence that Whittlesey addressed any discrepancies about Bad River’s northeast boundary corner not being the true location of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek in accordance with the Treaty.

Mr Whittlesey was present at the making of the Treaty to which we refer, and is well acquainted with the wants of the Indians and with what they of right can claim, and in him we have full confidence.

In addition to the points herein named should you favor this commission, we would ask him to attend to other matters affecting the Indians, upon which we will be glad to confer with you at a proper time.

The undersigned L H Wheeler and Henry Blatchford have no hesitency in saying that the representations here made are full in accordance with their understanding of the Treaty, at the time it was drawn up, they being then present and the latter being one of the Interpreters at the time employed by the General Government.

Most Respectfully Yours

Dated Odanah Wis July 1861


Names of those connected with the Odanah Mission

[None identified on this draft petition]


Names of Chiefs who were signers to the Treaty of Sept 30th 1854

[None identified on this draft petition]



Although this draft was not signed by Wheeler or Blatchford, or by the tribal leadership that they appear to be assisting, Chequamegon History believes it is possible that a signed original copy of this petition may still be found somewhere in national archives if it still exists.

By Amorin Mello

Originally published in the March 16, 1878, issue of The Ashland Press. Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number IV.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number V

by Asaph Whittlesey


The order of the County Board creating the Town of Bay Port was made March 11th, 1856, and the store of Schuyler Goff in Bay City was designated as the place for holding the first election for town officers, the election to be held April 1st, 1856.

The journal containing this order (which was in pamphlet form,) was destroyed by fire at the burning of the Webb House in Bayfield, Wis., June 4th, 1874.

Detail of La Pointe County from a map of Wisconsin published by J. H. Colton & Co., New York, 1856.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

The new town comprised all that portion of La Pointe county, Wis., laying south of the north line of town 48 north, in all over sixty eight townships, including the Bad River Indian Reservation, which was, on the 8th of Nov. 1859, made a precinct by itself.

At the election held April 1, 1856, there were twenty-four votes cast, resulting as follows:  For Chairman of Town Board, Schuyler Goff; remaining member of Town Board, J. T. Welton and Asaph Whittlesey.  Schuyler Goff, Chairman elect, was the first to qualify, his oath of office being administered by Asaph Whittlesey, Justice of the Peace.

Photographs of Asaph Whittlesey and Andrew J Barkley reproduced from the Ashland Daily Press – national bicentennial issue (July 1976).

The annual statement made in April, 1857, showed the outstanding indebtedness of the town to be $25.00.  The report submitted in April, 1858, showed highway orders issued during the year previous $57.50.  Town indebtedness in April, 1858, was $22.75, and at that election there was levied the sum of $195.59, to meet the town expenses for the ensuing year.  The following were the bills allowed by the town meeting in April, 1857: The first allowed was the bill of Edwin Ellis for $9.25; 2nd, J. T. Welton, $9.00; 3rd, A. J. Barkley, $5.50.  In those days no bills were allowed nor orders drawn to cover them until the same had been approved at the town meeting.  They had not yet learned to audit accounts with the marvelous rapidity known to Town Boards of more recent dates.  However the Town Clerk comprehending this groans out as follows:  “The vaults of the Treasuring are declared empty, and the servants of the town will therefore be obliged to wait for their pay until money shall be assessed and collected.”

Again.  By referring to the Records of La Pointe, (being two years previous to the organization of the town of Bay Port,) Charles Pulcifer, acting as town treasurer, certifies that “the only unpaid personal property tax was that of J. W. Bell, amounting to $33.00, and that he was unable to find any goods on chattels belonging to the said Bell to enable him to collect the tax.

The assessment for 1857 made by Edwin Ellis for which allowance of $6.00 was made.  At the annual town meeting in 1858 the first bill acted upon was that of Asaph Whittlesey, Superintendent of schools, amounting to 75 cents, though it was not allowed as they claimed it was out of their jurisdiction.  –  Bills of Edwin Ellis and Rev. L. H. Wheeler, for work done on the highway was rejected.  It was resolved at this meeting that thereafter one shilling per hour be allowed for work on the highway.


Railroads did not appear along Chequamegon Bay until the 1870’s, well beyond the scope of Chequamegon History‘s focus on pre-1860s history.  The 1856 Wisconsin Railroad Land Grant scandal did occur before 1860 but is rarely mentioned by historians.

Detail of La Pointe County from a map of Wisconsin published by The Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road, 1857.
~ Library of Congress

We often fall into the habit of complaining because things move so slow, and especially is this system of fault finding associated with the delays usually experienced in the construction of railroads in the west.  However, upon reflecting I find that my time in life embraces the entire history of railroads in the United States, nearly the first roads put into operation, (if not the very first,) were one from Baltimore to Washington and one from Albany to Schenectady, N.Y., over which it was my good fortune to pass before reaching my majority, and about the time I became of age, it was my fortune to ride over not only the first railroad constructed in Illinois, bu the first built in the Mississippi valley, to wit:  from Meredosia, on the Illinois River, to Springfield, a distance of forty miles, which, in its day, was regarded something not to be sneezed at, as the roads I have named were at least suggestions of the great systems of roads today.  Governor Donenn, of Illinois, in his message of 1835-6, referred in the most glowing language to the triumph of the canal boat and the locomotive in almost annihilating time, burden, and space in other parts of the country and wanted to known if the Patriot bosoms of Illinois did not beat high to emulate such examples of internal improvement.

There were at different times two locomotive run over the Illinois roads mentioned, and finally mule power was resorted to. – The following year an Internal Improvement Bill was passed and roads were laid out for every quarter of the State, the results of which was to bankrupt the State.  But the movement was not without its advantages, as by the following spring the forty miles reaching to Springfield was graded and ready for the track to be laid.  The track was laid by putting down a piece of square timber called a mud sill on the top of which cross ties were laid.  On these a wooden rail was laid and flat bars of iron were spiked on the top of the rail.  These bars were tow and one half inches wide and one inch thick, and upon this track turned the wheel of the first locomotive brought into the Mississippi valley.

It might be called a curious contrivance, since the locomotive was simply a piece of clumsiness and of no practical use, the driving wheels being only about two and a half feet in diameter, and the engine itself having very little power.  This road finally passed out of the hands of the State for a consideration of $100,000, in State indebtedness, while the actual cost to the State was $1,000,000.

The Saint Croix and Lake Superior Railroad Company was involved in the 1856 Wisconsin Railroad Land Grant scandal.  More details about this company will be published in later memoirs on Chequamegon History.

I have dwelt somewhat long and in general terms upon the subject of railroads in the United States, to show to my readers that there has been no want of energy in their construction, but on the contrary the rapidity with which they have penetrated the wilderness is simply marvelous, converting Indian wilds into prosperous cities or fields of golden harvest.  My own connection with the building of railroads dates no farther back then the time of my landing here in 1854, since which, I have in my way left no stone unturned looking to the introduction of railroads into this country.  I was for a time a director in the St. Croix and Lake Superior Railroad Company, during which (but for the complications of the road,) Gardner Colby would have undertaken its construction instead of turning his attention to the Wisconsin Central Railroad.

To be continued in Number VI

By Amorin Mello

Originally published in the July 14th, 1877, issue of The Ashland Press. Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number III.



Number IV

Brothers Conrad Goeltz and Adam Goeltz were remembered for providing entertainment at the first Fourth of July celebration in Ashland at Asaph Whittlesey’s home during 1855.

My Dear Press: – In March 1855, Conrad and Adam Goeltz – then young men, came to Ashland.  They were natives of Wittenberg, and Conrad had served six years in the Cavalry of that Kingdom; but liking freedom, he bade adieu to the King, his master, and came to the “Land of the Free.”  They both cleared land near the town site, which they afterwards pre-empted, and bought from the U.S. Government.  For several years both of them lived in Michigan, but upon the revival of Ashland they came back to their early home.  Katy Goeltz, Conrad’s Daughter, was the first white child born in this town, in the fall of 1855.  Henry Dretler, Mrs. Conrad Goeltz’s father, came early and bought a quarter section of land.  He died here in 1858 and was buried near the present residence of Mr. Durfee.

Myron Tompkins, M.D. was married to Asaph’s sister, Nancy Hart Whittlesey.

In June 1855, Dr. Myron Tompkins (brother-in-law of Mr. Whittlsey) came to the bay in search of health.  He had been driven from Illinois by ague and rheumatism.  The climate cured the ague, and accidentally falling off from a raft in the bay – the severe shock cured the rheumatism.  Being thus cured by our climate and water, he has ever since lived on the lake.  He is a well-educated physician.  At present he is the physician of the Silver Islet Mining Company, on the North Shore of the Lake.

Many, many settlers migrated to Lake Superior in 1855 in the wake of Steamboats, Celebrities, Soo Shipping, and Superior Speculation.
Bernard Hoppenjohn was an axeman for the Barber brother’s survey of Ashland during the summer of 1855.
Duncan Sinclair was a businessman from Racine and later worked in the Penokee Survey Incidents.

I recall others who came in 1855; Andrew Scobie, now of Ontonagon, Thomas Danielson, Charles Day, (now farming on Fish Creek,) Joseph Webb, Bernard Hoppenjohn, Duncan Sinclair, Lawrence Farley, and Austin Corser.  Farley died many years ago, but his widow, after years of absence, has again returned to Ashland.  Austin Corser in the summer of 1855 began a farm on the east side of Fish Creek, about half a mile above the mouth.  Remaining only two or three years, he went to Ontonagon and afterwards to Iron River – in a wild lonely glen – where in after years from 1873 to 1876.  He sold his homestead on which the Scranton Mining Company was formed for a snug little fortune, on which he settled down on a farm near Waukegan, Illinois.

John Beck his family arrived at the Town of Bayport in 1856 and later invested in several mining properties along the Penokee Mountains.

John Beck, also coming in the early days of Ashland.  He pre-empted and lived upon the spot now laid out and occupied as our cemetery.  His wife was the first adult person who died in this town.  The remains of the house in which she died may be seen near the Ashland Lumber Company’s store.  He was for many years an active explorer for minerals, was the originator of the Montreal River Copper Mining Company.  Subsequently he discovered silver lodes on the North Shore, in Canada.  He is now engaged in gold mining in California.

Albert Conrad Stuntz. played a prominent role as a surveyor in the Penokee Survey Incidents.

Albert C. Stuntz was also one of our early settlers.  He is a brother of Geo. R. Stuntz, to whom reference has already been made.  He was here engaged in practicing surveying and ran many hundred miles of township and section lines in this and neighboring counties.  The townships embracing our Penoka Iron Range were subdivided by him in 1856 and ’57.  He once represented this district in the Legislature.  His old home is in ruins on the east bank of Bay City creek.  Mrs. Stuntz, who endured much hardship and privation died here in 1862.  Mr. S. at present lives at Monroe, in this State.

George Erastus Stuntz was also known as “Lazarus” during his work in the Penokee Survey Incidents.

Geo. E. Stuntz. nephew of A.C. and great grandson of the old Hessian Soldier mentioned in a former chapter, also came to Ashland early.  In connection with his uncle and on his own account he did a great deal in the subdivision of the lands on the South Shore of the Lake.  Soon after the outbreak of our civil war he enlisted in defense of the Union – was severely wounded and died, as it is supposed, in consequence of his wounds.

Thaddeus Pembroke Sibley was accused during the Penokee Survey Incidents of being a “champion liar” by George a.k.a. Lazarus.  Others accused Sibley as being even lazier than Lazarus.
Thaddeus was born in Ohio in 1828.  He married his first wife, Mary Wright, in Ohio in 1851.  They had a daughter, Lottie, and moved to Wisconsin, where Thaddeus and JT Welton (who was married to Mary’s sister Jane) built a saw mill on the White River.  In July 1866 Thaddeus purchased a 160-acre land patent about 15 miles away from the mill site, near Marengo.  But he didn’t stay to work the land.  I suspect that Mary died around that time, and Thaddeus and Lottie returned home to Ohio. He was living in Lorain County, Ohio in September 1866, when he obtained a U.S. patent on the design for a ‘Combined Sheep Shed and Rack.'”
~ Sarah Adah Ashe – Part IV – San Bernardino by Marta Tilley Belanger
The Connecticut Western Reserve in Ohio published a remarkable amount of early settlers’ history along Chequamegon Bay in Wisconsin; much was written by Charles Whittlesey, brother of Asaph.

Welton’s mill and Sibley’s farm were both located along the trail south from Ashland to the Penokee Mountains on the 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range by Charles Whittlesey.
~ Geology of Wisconsin. Survey of 1873-1879.
Volume III., 1880, Plate XX, page 214.

J. T. Welton and T.P. Sibley, though never living in Ashland, were yet closely identified with its early history.  Mr. Welton came about 1850 to Bad River, where he was Government Farmer among the Indians.  He was an ingenious mechanic, and could build a water mill.  He was on the lookout for a mill site, and finally in 1854 discovered the falls on White River, six miles south of Ashland.  It was an unfailing supply of water, with abundant head and fall, and the river was not subject to great rises.  As a mill site it has few rivals.  His resolution was quickly formed.  The rising town on the bay would afford a ready market for all the lumber he could make.  The mill should be built.  He corresponded with his brother-in-law, Mr. Sibley, and he was eager to come and make his fortune in this new country; and in Nov. 1855, Mr. Sibley and his wife and one little daughter, about a year old, landed upon our shores.  During the summer of 1855 Mr. Welton had built a log house at White River.  It still stands, though in ruins.  Thither late in Nov. 1855, the two families removed.  The sisters were refined, cultivated and Christian ladies from the Western Reserve, in Ohio – a spot itself favored by counting among its early settlers some of the best families of New England, and which had been the new center in the west, whence have validated those influences which have tended to improve and elevate the moral and religious condition of the millions of this new empire.  They were of Puritan stock.  An unbroken wilderness was around them and their nearest neighbors were at Ashland, six miles away.  No time was lost.  The work of opening up a farm and building a mill was at once begun.  They had little money and the labor must be done with their own hands.  The casting for the mill must be brought a thousand miles – from Detroit.  Nearly a year of toil had passed, when in October, 1856, a few days before the election of James Buchanan to the Presidency – all the able bodied men were invited to go the mill raising at White River.  We went and the frame was up, but it was not until 1857 that they could set the mill running.  They were greatly impeded for want of capital in cutting logs and floating down the logs to the mill and sawing a few thousand feet of lumber.  But before anything could be realized from it they must either haul it over bad roads to Ashland (6 miles) or raft it down many miles to the Lake.  But the river was full of jams and “flood wood” – enough to discourage puny men.

The Panic of 1857 led to the bust of the first mining boom in the Penokee Mountains.  The second mining boom would not begin until after the railroads were constructed in the 1870s.

The panic of 1857 and resulting hard times put an end to all building at Ashland, and so their hopes of selling their lumber near home were blasted and after struggling vainly for some time longer, Mr. Welton was finally compelled to abandon his home, which he had labored so hard to establish.  He found friends and employment in the copper mines of Michigan, and after somewhat improving his fortunes finally settled in south western Iowa, where he now resides.

In some subsequent chapter I will, with your leave, recur to Mrs. Sibley and the circumstances connected with her death.

To be continued in Number V

By Leo

Part 1|Part 2

This is part two of, Bemerkungen über die Bekehrung canadischer zum Christenthum und einige Bekehrungsgeschichten (1859) (Remarks on the Conversion of the Canadian Indians and some Stories of Conversion), by Johann Georg Kohl published in the Augsburg-based, German-language magazine, Das Ausland.  For information on the translation process and significance of this article, see part one.  For Chequamegon History’s concluding analysis, scroll to the bottom of this post.


Das Ausland:  Eine Wochenschrift Fur Kunde des geistigen und sittlichen Lebens der Völker

[The Foreign Lands:  A weekly for scholars of the moral and intellectual lives of foreign nations]

Nr. 3 15 January 1859

Remarks on the conversion of Canadian Indians to Christianity and some conversion stories

By J.G. Kohl


 See Ely, Edmund F. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849.  Ed. Theresa Schenck.  U of Nebraska Press. 2012. for many more stories and anecdotes related to the issues Kohl describes here.

Since pagan marriage ties are usually very loose, and can be dissolved under Indian laws and customs at the slightest opportunity, a baptism of a married man is at the same time a re-marriage and a firm Christian marriage. It is all the more necessary to state something about this, since the Indian nations all permit polygamy. Of course, most men have only one wife because they find it difficult to feed several. If this isn’t the case with a baptized man, he must renounce the majority of his wives. The missionaries leave him the choice.  He can keep the one whom he most loves. Usually, these ungrateful husbands then have the cruelty to leave the loyal old ones. Women who have been with them the longest are told goodbye, and the man settles down with the last and youngest in the bosom of the church.

Even in the language of the Indians, some reforms must be made upon baptism. These are often the hardest changes to perform. The pagan language of the Indians has many peculiarities which cannot be used after baptism, and permitting their use in Christianity would violate the dignity of religion.

baraga   From Dr. Rand Valentine via email:  “Many languages in the world have a special grammatical system called Evidentiality, by which one is essentially required to indicate the source of information that one is reporting. Lots of languages make grammatical distinctions between first hand (visually observed, and in some languages, auditorily heard), hearsay (you heard it from someone else, who might have been a first-hand observer), inference (Joe must be sick, he was not feeling well and didn’t come into work today), common knowledge (everyone knows that frogs can’t fly), etc. The Ojibwe definitely have an evidential system grammatically, so when they talked in the 19th century about things from the Bible, they would say, “the alleged Jesus,” meaning, “I didn’t personally see this, and no one I know did,” etc. This hugely annoyed Baraga, who wanted them to treat the Bible as truth.” (Image:  Baraga, F. A Theoretical and Practical Grammar of the Otchipwe Language.  (1850). pg. 95. 

For example, the language is full of expressions of vagueness and uncertainty. One finds in it expressions and final suffixes that designate the degree of knowledge which the speaker has acquired from a thing or a person. For example, the Indians have heard talk of Moses, the great lawgiver, but rumor has only given them a dark idea of ​​him. They have not seen Moses, himself, and have not yet gotten to know him better through his writings or his particular life story. Since their whole conception of “Moses” still hovers in vague outlines like a cloud, they do not even say Moses, but instead attach a certain syllable to the name in order to indicate in the idea we would express by paraphrasing, as follows: “a certain Moses” or “Moses, of whom people speak of so much.” These final suffixes are highly-varied and express different nuances and levels of acquaintance or of the celebrity of the person. With one final suffix, they can express “the famous and universally-vaunted Moses,” with another, the person of which one just speaks is merely notorious. Again, with another, they can express that they themselves still very much doubt the actual existence of this Moses, where we might say, “the often-mentioned but still very doubtful Moses.”

As long as they are still pagans, Indians never call the saints and holy persons of our religion “Moses” or “Isaiah” or “Mary” or “Christ.” These names are always spoken so that doubt or mere rumor is expressed. Of “Christ,” for example, one would say “a certain Christ,” and they always bring these expressions to Christianity, where they are supposed to believe in the existence of these personalities. I was told that it was very difficult for them to get used to this fixed and definite way of speaking.

All of these external changes are comparatively easy, of course. But while the christianization and remoulding of the inner man may look successful in these conversions, the degree of these successes is always a more-difficult question.

It is a point that is so intimately-connected with so many other great questions about the often-discussed civilizability of the Indian tribes, it could only be adequately illuminated in a great and profound work. Of course, when I share my little experiences about the Indians, I can not engage in the discussion of this great subject; but I would like to say a lot about what I personally saw and heard myself. Many of these experiences may also confirm long-standing remarks.

 As described in the Relations des Jésuites (very similar to the Lettres édifiantes et curieusesClaude Allouez and Jacques Marquette both founded churches on Lake Superior in the 1600s. Both priests died over a century before Frederic Baraga‘s birth in a Slovenian village of the Austrian Empire.

One sad observation that comes to mind when you travel around Lake Superior is that there are so few of missions and churches among the local Indians. It has been more than 200 years since the first Christian missionaries came to this lake.  They announced to the world, in their lettres édifiantes, their beautiful, rapid, and seemingly-great successes among the Indians. 200 years after Charlemagne had defeated the barbarian Saxons and converted them “to prayer,” there were already many flourishing bishoprics, many beautiful churches, and progressive communities in Saxony, fertilized with much martyrdom and heathen blood. Here on Lake Superior, however, one hardly finds any trace of those first chapels and churches which the fathers: Jogues, Raymbaut, Ménard, Allouez, Marquette, and others built here as early as the middle of the 17th century. Their Indian communities have dissolved in the course of time. They were probably restored, but then they are, again, scattered like chaff. Little or nothing of what those men founded held firm root, and nothing has grown.

Nor does it seem that the number of Protestant missions along the lake is any different. Protestant missionary work has only begun here in recent times, but one still encounters many traces of relapses, abandoned attempts, and ruins of redeemed communities.All of the Catholic churches, congregations, and missions that we saw, and which total no more than a dozen, are a completely new work. They are all the products of the devotional efforts of the venerable and noble Father Baraga, an Austrian, who is now elevated to the position of bishop of the tidy new church and bishopric erected around Lake Superior, and who may well be called the new apostle of that lake.

Yes, everywhere the Protestant work seems far-less laid in stone than the works of the Catholics.

  In Greek myth, the Dainaides were punished for killing their husbands and condemned to fill a sieve with water until full for eternity–a task impossible to complete (Painting by John William Waterhouse Wikipedia).

In short, missionary work among the Indians, if followed through the course of the centuries, looks almost like the labors of the Danaides. A lot of water was poured into the sieve, but it kept dribbling out. As in a garden with weeds, they always regained the upper hand without the gardener constantly present to manage and keep watch constantly.

The few successes among the Protestants can be attributed, in part, to the fragmentation of their powers through the disunity of their jealous sects, their lack of sacrificial zeal, and the tendencies of so many missionaries to have less a sense of gaining martyrdom than of gaining a livelihood. It is also very natural that the Protestant conception of Christianity appeals to the Indian less than the Catholic one. But the reason why the Catholics, even with their their vast church, which triumphs in so many wild nations and counts corps of zealous servants, has so often failed in this Indian endeavor and has created so-little independence, must have something to do with the Indians, themselves.

The wild nature-man is in us all.  He lives and works away, even in the most civilized among us. He is a piece of, or rather the basis of, our nature. Civilization is, more or less, just something artificially-constructed and planted. Not only are human civilizations somewhat prone to relapse and recklessness, every individual is as well. Culture requires a constant struggle for renewal and rebirth in all of us. We are often terrified of ourselves as occasionally whole organs and systems of our soul are stunted.  We do not see how recently our nature ossified, how recently we became relaxed, or how each day we either lose our susceptibility or regain it through work and specific attention to becoming cultured. Constantly, we dust ourselves off and pull the forever-proliferating weeds. That, after we leave the schoolmaster, we do not completely degenerate, is less to our individual credit than it is a happy consequence of the fact that everything around us struggles and strives for us. This whole river of influences surrounds us and holds us in suspense like drops of water.

  Here, Kohl is clearly drawing on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other 18th-Century Enlightenment philosophers. German Enlightment poet, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) modified Rosseau’s famous quote, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” to  “Man is created free, and is free, Though he be born in chains.” (Images: Wikipedia)

How easy barbarism is for all men? Or rather, what magic enchants the wild, free, casual nature of this life? How do they easily renounce the artist’s civilization, seen in the lands of the Indians, throughout the entire period of conflict and contact?

Members of the “most civilized nation in the world,” the Frenchmen, quickly and easily become so fierce that one could scarcely distinguish them from the native savages. And it is not only the gruff French voyageurs who say that they prefer their laborious life to all the pleasures of a comfortable urban existence.

Even British officers, in the wilds of Hudson’s Bay, will tell you that they are very content in their wooden barracks. I spoke to one who seemed to talk dispassionately about his beautiful gardened island of England, which he had recently returned to on a visit. “I no longer have any desire,” he said. With a quick and eager step he rushes back to his Hudson’s Bay and will hardly ever return to Britain.

Likewise, I was told by a Protestant missionary on Lake Superior, who had recently seen Paris, Rome, and the other miraculous cities of the ancient world. He said that life there had disgusted him, and that he had now returned to Lake Superior to finish his career there. Even the Catholic missionaries are so absorbed in their work, the lake and in the Indians, that one should not even ask whether they prefer that semi-wild missionary life or a fat benefice in Lombardy. And yet, these same people later wonder why it is so hard to wean the Indian from his wild life.

“Man is free, but he would be been born in chains.” Beautiful words, they are, in the sense that our Schiller pronounced them; but in many other ways, the dear human child is born in chains and remains unfree. The civilized man is the servant of tradition and is a product of civilization.  The wild forest child is a product of nature, and a slave to its overpowering elemental forces. “The Indians,” as stated by the excellent Heckewelder, “consider the whole living creation as one great society. People are indeed placed at the head of the creatures, but nevertheless exist, in intimate relation, among all the animals down to the toad. Humans are, in their opinion, in only the primus inter pares. All of living nature, in their eyes, is one great whole of which they have not dared to break away. Yes, they even go so far as to include the plants and trees, to a certain extent, in their society. Moreover they do not even exclude animals from the spirit world, their paradise, and they intend for them to go with them after death.”

Kohl is citing the American Moravian Church missionary John Heckewelder, who published works on the spiritual beliefs of the Lenape (Delaware) people.   Chequamegon History does not typically analyze questions of Native spirituality (See: About).  In The Four Hills of Life (2011), by Thomas Peacock and Marlene Wisuri, you can find more on these topics, including discussion of the kinship and spiritual connections between the Ojibwe and Lenape. Image result for the four hills of life(Google Books link: includes libraries it can be found in) 

This is not just a philosophical system or theory, but a life-practice. Not only do they think of themselves as an intimate part of all living nature, but since they do think so, they are so, and because they are so, they think so. So, how can one wonder, and how can one still ask, why it is so difficult to civilize a man for whom the bear is “his brother,” the fox “his cousin,” the wolf his “forefather?” He calls the white stag his “prophet” and fears that the beaver, the rattlesnake, or the bullfrog may be angry with him if he betrays one of his religious secrets to a stranger.

Still more, they do not just see these creatures as relatives. No, they identify with them, too. “I have the soul of a buffalo in me,” they may say. But they are not merely content with that. “I am a buffalo,” or “I am a moose,” is often their decisive statement. They do not joke about this, and this is far more than a mere figure of speech, as can be shown by the thoughtful and foolishly-solemn air with which they bring these matters forward.

We have enough examples among ourselves in long-ago civilized Europe, though more-delicate and less-immediately visible, of these extremely strong bonds struck between nature and the human soul. We have the example of the half-wild gypsy tribe in mind. Cultivation conquers him only when it has completely assimilated and destroyed him. Individuals of this tribe are worked and taught by the culture and the school until the education seems to take hold.  However, upon leaving and starting their employment, the overwhelming impressions of the youth, and the peculiarities of the tribes and the blood take supreme power in the fermentation process, and all these restraints are broken.

Yes, even if we want to refrain from using the example of these half-wild children of India, we need only to look around among our own people, and there is sufficient material for comparison to discover. There we find the son of the Scottish Highlands, whom no one can play the bagpipe around for fear he will forget all strict doctrines and all threats of military discipline,* and be swept away by his irresistible instinct for nature, to rush back to his beggars and his little islands. We continue with the child of the Alpine glaciers, well-educated and intelligent. He has become wealthy through speculation and industry.  Suddenly, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, like a tree snatched from its native stand to grow for a time before withering and dying in foreign soil, this seemingly fortunate man is seized with a terrible homesickness after hearing the ghost of a cow’s breath on the wind and he is taken with a mysterious longing pain.

(*The Highland regiments guard with bagpipe music, as we have seen.  D.R.)

If something like this can happen with green wood, how surprising can it be that these people, who for millennia have grown twisted and knotty in the forest, also cannot bend into the yoke? With the above quote I gave from Heckewelder, one could consider the whole question answered and settled, C’est tout dire! one could say. If the Indian thinks of himself as part of a family that includes snakes, fishes, and fir trees, and if this belief is rooted in the whole tribe, is born in the children, and is incorrigibly in the blood, it seems incurable. Civilization seems difficult! Too difficult! –impossible?

I only say; “it seems.” For if psychological questions were all simple, if human nature were not capable of so many contrasts, then one could soon arrive at a simple “yes” or “no.” But this same man, that same “bear’s cousin” who has just quite earnestly assured you that he is descended from the wolf, or that the soul of a buffalo is in him, or that he is a moose, will soon talk to you like a philosopher.  If you lead him to another field, he thinks and opines about the highest matters that you do. He rejects lies and evil with disgust. He recognizes a supreme being. He prays to him. He believes in the immortality of the soul, and in a paradise. He often practices works of unselfish hospitality, love and charity. You believe to recognize a beautiful spirit under the wild mask. You feel very friendly and connected in the soul.  He is already a half Christian. He has only a few quibbles and stumbling blocks. He is like a madman, who has a “fixed idea,” but otherwise speaks like a wise man. You draw new courage and take him to your school, hoping to drive him out of this “obsession,” these “little mosquitoes and pitfalls”. To be completely safe, you take him when he is quite young–from the mother’s breast. You work on him until he grows up. But to your chagrin, even in this child of the mother’s breast, when he has come of age, those pitfalls, those wild elements and juices regain their upper hand, and destroy all your laborious work. With horror, you perceive how your adult pupil begins to suffer, to look melancholy and wistful as he goes out into the great outdoors and returns adorned with wild flowers, as he sits for hours in the garden watching the birds arrive in spring like a kitten that has been innocent up until now, but now that it has become a cat, the innate instincts show. The migratory birds pass above while the captured crane watches from the henhouse and calls to his brothers in the clouds.

One day, you are missing your foster child. He stays out into the evening and all night. Only the next day, he comes back with a concerned expression, and confesses to you that he made a journey in the forest–he could not resist–it’s so beautiful there. Of course, you become angry and admonish him severely.  Your pupil is now closed-off. He loses trust and love for you, the wrathful one. He is now thinking of his complete liberation, and he obtains it on some pretext that you cannot evade–for example, by being reclaimed by his Indian father. He probably takes his right into his own hands, spreads his wings, and transformed back to bird, fish or animal– natura semper recurrit— he flies, floats or runs away from it into his native element and becomes, again, the wild hunter.

If you meet him again later, you will find him wrapped in furs, his face is painted, he is beating the drum, murmuring magic songs, worshiping the “great spirit”, and you do not know him again, since he has forgotten your hymnbook and your catechism, has completely forgotten your writing and computing tablets.

“Something pining”  is left in untranslated English multiple times in the German original text.

It was an English teacher who described to me a case of this kind that had come to him in his practice. I saw, myself, a few parts and pieces of this story, which are often repeated. For example, those suffering, melancholy, thoughtful, and quiet creatures are observed to have something pining in their expression (as the English often express themselves), when Indian captives grow up in the schools of Europeans, or their circumstances force them to live semi-educated among the Europeans.

I vividly recall a visit a friend and I made to an Indian woman in a big city of the American West, and the dim impression that this visit left me. This woman was estranged from the people of her earliest youth and educated in a European institution. She spoke excellent French and conversed with ease about the ordinary occurrences of life. She had been the wife of a French Canadian, who had left her a wealthy widow after his death. She lived in perfectly fortunate circumstances, and was physically well, yet she made me feel that she was a suffering person. She had something very timid in her nature. She spoke very quietly and very slowly. She did not complain, but nevertheless, everything that she said (even when we touched on completely innocuous things, as when she praised the beautiful weather we were enjoying at the time), seemed like a lament. When she talked about her half-grown daughters, the lamentation became clearer. She regretted that her children, who, as half-breeds, could never quite melt into the surrounding world and would never be fully of this world. She nearly had tears in her eyes when she talked about her children.

Those same eyes shone soft and bright as my companion mentioned her old mother, and reminded her that the summer time was already at her door, when she would see her mother out on the prairie. Her mother, an ancient Indian woman of the tribe of Ottowas*, had not decided to move with her daughter to the city, so the good daughter had bought her a piece of prairie, thirty miles from the city, and built her a log cabin. There, the mother lived by some Indian relatives, who had also found each other, and who also partly lived at the expense of the wealthy daughter, throughout the entire year in the Indian way. And in the summer, when her children’s education did not push her to the city, the daughter would go out to the prairie, exchange her pretty townhouse for the Indian bark lodge and turn into a cinderella taking care of the old mother’s domestic affairs.

(*The Ottowas live in the State of Michigan.)

Once we mentioned the mother and the prairies, there was no way around it.  It remained the topic of discussion until the end of the conversation, which, as I mentioned, had felt up until that point like the reading of an elegy.

Western dialects of Ojibwe do not have an “R” sound.  Maanii and Maagid are the way Mary and Margaret are pronounced.

Another time, I received a similar impression during a visit to an institute for the education of Indians on Lake Superior. It was led by a Baptist preacher and his wonderful family. I just started talking to this family when a gentle song, with double-vocals, was heard in the house. “It’s Mani and Magit,” (Maria and Margarethe), I was told, “our two Indian schoolgirls singing their evening duet up in the classroom.”

“Could we not go up to them,” I begged, “and see and hear them from nearby?”

“Oh no, that will not work!” was the answer. “Our girls are as shy as deer. If they knew we were there, they would fall silent at the very least. At the most, we can stand on the stairs.”

The good old preacher and I went to the stairs and listened. The voices were exceedingly delicate and lovely, the notes round and velvety, the intonation extremely accurate, and the sound as of some soft metal. The character of the whole was of a soft, melancholy color.

As my old friend, the preacher, watched me attentively, his face became transfigured into a curious joy, as though he himself were hearing something new. So softly, softly, we crept up the stairs like the beat of a clock until, almost against our will, we stood in the classroom opposite the dark faces of the two girls.

But heavens! What had we done there!?! – Lala la la – like a torn harp string, the sound halted and the girls disappeared like a mist. They had rescued themselves by running into the next room.

“Mani! Magit! You fools! Come back. I have to introduce you to a stranger, a friend of music, who would like to hear you sing!” No answer came, no sound, just deathly silence! I think they had fainted on their sophas. The good daughters of the house went over to console them. After much convincing, they finally brought back the younger, Magit, so that we could give our apology and concern. But the older one, Mani, was unable to move. She could not recover. She disappeared, melted away like the mist, unable to regain her composure and form and did not come down to the tea afterwards, while the younger sister invited herself and later even performed a pretty solo song.

The celebrity surrounding Hanging Cloud, the ogichidaakwe (female warrior),  at the 1855 La Pointe payment, where Kohl was present, may be affecting his view on the participation of girls in warfare.

“Strange,” I thought to myself, “and these are the same bold, wild girls, the cousins of the bears, who, as long as they remain unaffected, they are not afraid to break into the camp of their enemies beside their brothers and lovers, and cut off the scalps from the dead?* Is it that they become twice ashamed and three times shy after having enjoyed the fruit of knowledge?”

(*It is not uncommon for girls to take scalps.)

“Yes,” said one of the daughters of the house, “Mani often makes me very worried. She already has that nature. Her shy manner only increases among men. In the wild she is more than normal. She has such an exaggerated romantic fondness for nature and the forest. She can sit outside for hours and look at the clouds and other things. Then, she’ll come rushing in at once, moved by an almost wild joy, to tell me she just heard the robin singing for the first time this spring, ‘I saw her red plumage shining clearly in the green foliage of the tree!’ But ‘Mani, Mani!’ I reply to her, ‘Calm yourself. It’s only a robin. What’s so special?’ ‘Oh, alas!’ she says, ‘I am so glad, so glad, to have seen the robin.’ Then she sits down at the piano and sings a melancholy song to me.”

This serious melancholy, this something pining, that the Indians adopt when transplanted from their wilderness into the so-called “garden of culture,” never comes out of them again. One notices it in their children and in their children’s children, when they are produced in the midst of whites or after marriage to whites. It stays in the blood and dies only with the blood.

Moreover, this does not only manifest itself in a suffering soul, but it also manifests itself in blood of the body itself, through peculiar diseases and ailments. I have been told many times that the habits and tendencies of civilization are incompatible with the habits and tendencies of the wild state of nature, so that the blood of the whites and the reds is hostile and far too different to amalgamate favorably. Usually, as I have been told, the first mixture still gives a tolerable product, but in the second or third mixture, degeneracy occurs, and the fruits of the tribe sicken. I mean the children become feeble and die prematurely, and in the end the whole mixed race completely loses itself by being unable to reproduce further. “It seems, then,” I replied, “that something quite different from what we see in Europe in mixtures of the related Caucasian tribes. For example, in the case of the English, the mingling of the Britons, the Normans, and the Anglo-Saxons, created such an overwhelmingly good and healthy race.”

“That’s the way it is!” they replied, “Nature, on the one hand, does not want to mix the too-closely related, as is shown in the races of many of your European countries, where through in and in breeding, the cohabitation of the cousins with cousins does not make a strong race. On the other hand, it does not want the distance to be too great. The red and the white race are set too far apart for mixing to complete. It is necessary to have certain contrasts but also certain affinities, and the latter are altogether wanting in this extremity. Therefore, very similar phenomena appears as with other extreme of close kinship: mental retardation, weakness of nerves, scrofulous diseases, and finally, lethargy and idiocy.”

I had several such or similar conversations, before I was able to observe  a few cases and form my own opinion about them.

It is frustrating how few real names Kohl uses for individual people, even when quoting them or describing them in vivid detail.  In Kitchi-Gami, refers to his French-Canadian guide as Du Roy and describes him and his wife in very similar terms to what he uses here.  This could indicate that Jean Picard is a member of the large and widespread Roi/Roy/Roye fur-trade family.  The prominent Roy family of La Pointe was of mixed Ojibwe and French descent, but they had distant relatives throughout the Lake Superior country.  If Jean Picard is a complete pseudonym, then he could be any number of people, but probably not this one:    picardmeme

In the first stage, as it is said, everything seems to be quite beneficial, For example, with my good Canadian, Jean Picard,* he is a Canadian-born thoroughbred Frenchman. His forefathers came from Normandy.  His Canadian ancestor left France as Lieutenant du Roi. He was of an old aristocratic race. Almost all of these Canadian voyageurs on Lake Superior have a head full of aristocratic ancestors, as unpretentious and miserly they must now be obliged to live. Picard’s father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, and so on, were all white, he claims, and his own snow-white complexion and all his being are a sufficient guarantor he is telling the truth.

(*It is a very common name in Canada, and I only use it here because it is convenient to have a name to use, and because his name does not matter. My man had another name.)

Despite his white blood, Picard decided to marry a dark red or brown Indian, and despite his aristocratic pretensions, he lives no better than an Indian.  He has a log cabin in the interior, where he spends the winter hunting for the fur trade, and in summer, he builds a bark tent on the lake and catches fish.  His wife is a genuine thoroughbred Indian; she is fat and round, not pretty, almost feisty, and looks much older than he, who is still in the prime of his manhood. But he is very pleased with her, for she is extremely patient and careful, and will spend the whole day diligently working for him in the hut, whether he is at home or not. She nurtures and educates the children with great care and indulgence, and often mends their constantly-torn clothes, sewing them for a long time, and making them so strong and good that the cloth subsequently holds far better where it has been mended than where it hasn’t been.*  She cooks the fish very well for him, and from the venison he brings, she knows how to prepare a strong, nutritious soup. In addition, she has a great deal of home remedies, herbs, decoctions, and tinctures for illnesses–more than he needs, and many of them are the source of infallible relief and healing. Picard firmly believes in the Indian method of healing, and if his wife can not cure something, he turns even more confidently to an Indian doctor than to a French one.** To be sure, he does away with the hocus-pocus of the drum, the calabash, the breaking of the bones, and the necromancy of the spirits. There are Indian doctors who are sensible enough to rely on the power of their remedies and herbs. His wife is especially clever in curing the little wounds that occur daily in the rough pursuits of the husband. She knows how to treat him, excellently, and has all kinds of soothing ointments.*** In short, Mrs. Picard is a true example of an Indian housewife. And the strangest thing is that the American Indian housewives are almost all such examples. Everyone I saw said something similar to what I just described. They are all well-fed, fat, older, soft-spoken, demure, modest, industrious, busy, loyal to their husbands and patient as lambs. Even those whom I did not get to know had been described to me in this way, which is why it happens that the often impatient Frenchmen so gladly take them for their wives. They always find gentle and submissive companions in them.

(*I found out about this myself, for I once had one of these Indian women mend my skirt. Of course, she spent half a day doing this, and I, sitting next to her, smoked my whole tobacco pouch. But it was also good.  The rock never tore me again in the same place, but it did elsewhere.)

(**I have seen more than one sick French-Canadian fisherman being treated by an Indian. Once I met one who had tried changing to a European doctor. He was not satisfied with him at all, so he sent him away, and returned to his Indian.)

(***How clever are the Indian women are in wound healing? I experienced it once myself. I had a sore foot.  The ankle was cut, and I could not walk. It was an Indian woman, from whom I received my advice. She rubbed the wound with a fat ointment, so daintily and so cautiously, that I immediately felt relief from it. Then, out of the softest reindeer she possessed, she made me a velvet-like covering over the whole foot, especially over the wound. This quickly- improvised moccasin fit so tightly, I was able to easily slide it into my boot and walk as comfortably as if she had given me new skin).

Picard already has a half-dozen children with his wife. To me, the marriages of the French with Indian women always seemed quite blessed. The children are all cheerful, well-educated, and indeed petite! In spite of their Indian way of life, they all suggest something of the father rather than the mother. Though in their dark complexions and raven hair, they clearly show the traces of their mixed descent. The eldest Picard daughter, a girl of fourteen, has grown tall, slim and extremely proportionately built.  Yes, she is gracious and moves in and out of the tent like a nimble little nymph. In her new straw cap, decorated with a red ribbon of silk, her tight flowered calico dress, and silk apron, she looks like a little Parisian middle-class girl. If you could move her directly from her hut on Lake Superior to the boulevards in Paris, so, as long as she did not betray herself of course, no discerning dandy would know that she was not born in Rue Ste. Geneviève or otherwise in the neighborhood, but that her maternal fores had been “cousins of bears.”

“Vous êtes si bonne, Mademoiselle, je vous remercie infiniment, Mademoiselle!” I said to her when, for the first time, I entered her hut and received a boiled piece of fish from her dainty hand for my breakfast. She stared at me with wide and questioning eyes, and then turned to her father to find out what I said, and whether I found something wrong with the fish. It was then that I learned that this grazie did not understand a word of French, and that she only spoke Anishinabemong (in Indian).

Many terms have been used throughout history to call the people born into the mixed Native-European culture of the fur trade:  Wiisakoodewininiwag, Boisbrules, Mix-bloods, Halfbreeds, Half-burnt, Chicot, Metis, Michif, Bungee, etc.  It is interesting how Kohl differentiates, using Metif (the term actually used in that dialect of Canadian French) as a collective term, Metis as specific to French ancestry, and halfbreed as specific to Scots or English ancestry.

Of course, these “Metif ladies” have adopted a great deal of European dress. But because the mother, of course, has never been able to learn French, and because the father speaks Indian with the mother, conserving his French as much as possible for outside commerce, Indian is the language of the house, family, and children. This is what I found in all mixed French-Indian households. The little boys then start to go out and study the father’s French, and probably pick up some English as well, because once they are grown up, these Metif sons all speak French. This is their second native language. Most of the time, they also understand English, by the way. And since they have soaked up Indian with mother’s milk, they usually make the best interpreters between Europeans and Indians. In French or English alike, all the interpreters I met, including those of the American Government, were Metifs. As with the French Metis, the English or Scottish halfbreeds also mostly learn the French language and they speak it here better than most full-blood Anglo-Saxons.

I saw such dainty and pretty girls, like Picard’s daughter, quite often in the huts of the French married to Indians. They were no more like their brown, fat mothers than a duckling is to a hen. And even from their dad, they stood out clearly. The apple seemed to have fallen far away from both tribes. It was like a whole new product. For the Metif sons and young men, I did not notice it that much, but that depends more on their later lifestyle and employment. If this throws him more toward the European side, then the Frenchman starts to show more. But if they are driven back toward the Indians, the Indians seems to get the upper hand. If you watch them closely, both types always shine through.

Once, while I was on one of the elegant steamboats of Lake Huron, a young, elegant, very graceful lady, seemingly composed entirely of milk and rose-color, drew all eyes at the table upon herself and decisively won the beauty contest from all present. A friend told me he wanted to show me her birth mother, and I found an old, well-dressed, good-natured, brown, dark-clothed Indian woman. The daughter seemed to me like Preciosa, adopted by a gypsy mother. I am told that this woman has no less than 12 or 13 such lovely biological children, some of whom are more gifted than the daughter present. All are healthy, prosperous and strong. The wife is married to a very wealthy man–I no longer remember whether Scots or Frenchman.

As with Picard, I found it almost everywhere on the first level. Now I wish to show a case from the second stage where the parents both belong to a mixed race. I have known of several such cases, and if I now recall them all, it seems to me that all the children who have come out of such marriages have consistently had a decidedly-similar family resemblance whether they come from the Sioux, Ojibwe, or Iroquois.

I was visiting a Metif who will not mind if I give him the name Monsieur Favard, because he will never know in his thick woods that I have ever spoken of him anywhere. And since no one but myself knows who I mean when I say “Monsieur Favard,” there is nothing indelicate in it when, for the illumination of this subject, I speak of the domestic affairs, of this fictitious Mr. Favard.

“Favard,” though having sprung from two vivacious nationalities:  the gay French and the childlike Indian, is himself neither sanguine nor childlike in character. On the contrary, I would call his bearing almost self-conscious. He seems to me like a man who has sat down between two chairs. Although he has inherited from his French father decidedly more intelligence than the Indians usually possess, and although he feels spiritually superior to the latter, he is far from entirely possessing the French mentality. A good piece of Indian indifferentism shimmers through. This expresses itself in his facial features, for they still present the bony stiffness of the Indian face, and only occasionally, like a piece of embroidery applied to a larger canvas, he shows the jovial French face more like a cruel twitch around his mouth. He speaks Canadian-French but it is mixed with some Indian expressions, and he often fell into his native tongue. He sometimes told me how much he regretted that I do not speak Indian because he explains things much better in Indian. I have been told that once, during a fairly long period of his life, he had been a hopeless and bottomless drinker, but that he had now been healed of this passion and had made a vow of renunciation. Of course, there is still much to be desired in this last relationship with the French Canadians, but it is generally said, and fairly so, that the Metifs very often degenerate into boundless indulgence, and that even if they have lived an exemplary life for a time, they could never be completely certain that the rampant Indian would not prevail in them and do away will all good intentions.

Favard’s wife, also a Metif, was probably petite and pretty as a girl. She has aged early, though, and now seemed almost more Indian than her husband. Presumably, the worries, hardships, and work of the household, which she has always done alone, have contributed to her condition. For though the family is in good circumstances, they live more or less by Indian. laws and customs, according to which, the woman gets the lion’s share of domestic labor. In her essence and nature, she has much of the something pining which, as I said, is inherent in the Indians themselves when one seeks to inculcate them with civilization. As for the rest, while the father and mother seemed physically strong and healthy, this was by no means the case with the children.

A few children (daughters) have died at a young age. Of the living three, who are almost grown, none are very healthy or strong. Two of them are girls. In general, as in this case, when I met a mixed marriage of Metifs, the female sex predominates. I would like to know if, as I suspect there is a natural law behind it. The children are all stunted, and none are very “smart” as the Americans express it. It is as if there is a hostile decomposition processes in their blood, for they all suffer from the scrofula, and have lean muscles and weak nerves.  The girls are particularly shy and timid. They speak or should I say whimper, in a very squeaky, almost whiny voice. They do not talk much at all and avoided me everywhere. They only laugh at French, and are not much better at Indian. Their mental capacities are very limited. Their ideas, thoughts and manners are reminiscent of the nature of imbeciles. The poor parents, who so much want to make something of them, see with deep sorrow the sad fate of their children. The observation of this case astonished me greatly because I remember experiencing something quite similar in another mixed marriage near the Upper Mississippi.

Unfortunately, my own experiences do not go further, and as I well know, how varied nature, (despite its rules) always works and how many exceptions it makes and allows everywhere, I am far from declaring the characters and cases I described above as typical or generally-valid. It is well-known that there are many Metifs who show a superior and great spirit, and especially when they join the Indians, they become famous and imperious tribal chiefs.  Conversely others, when they turn to the European side, have become very useful, honorable and even distinguished members of civil society. It may also be true that such a deterioration of the race, as I have described it, does not always appear so neatly, or perhaps even at all in the second stage.

But I am certain that all observers in the country are of the opinion that this atrophy will prove decisive over time, and that if the mixed-race wish to mingle with the mixed-race, very soon everything will come to a standstill, and end with infertility, sickness, disease, and death.

“If the half-breeds,” the American observers from different parts of the country told me, “do not return to the white or red stem, then it is over for them.” The two pure and unmixed tribes are their pillars, and their lifebloods have to straighten up and refresh.” It is well known that a very similar phenomenon has been observed in this land in cases of continued mixing between negroes and whites. Here, too, the vitality and fertility soon run out.

As I said, I give here only the contributions of a traveler; and I am well aware of how many interesting questions I leave untouched on this occasion. I have no experience of how the case will turn out if a Metif is married to an Indian or a white man, or if a Metif marries an Indian or a white woman, and whether there are particular psychological and physiological manifestations.

Selkirk’s Settlement, or the Red River Colony, was originally conceptualized in 1811 as a Scottish colony centered on what is now Manitoba, northeastern North Dakota, and northwestern Minnesota.  By the time of the Red River Rebellion (1870), its population was primarily Metis of Ojibwe, Cree, Assiniboine, French and Scottish origins.  Scottish Metis were pejoratively called “Bungees,” from the Ojibwe baangi (a little bit).  Many of the Red River families were related to the mix-blood families of Lake Superior:  Cadotte, Roy, Gurnoe, etc.

How interesting would it be to judge the physiology of the various possible mixtures of the Red with the various European peoples? In this respect, I have only noticed how all people here agree that the marriage of a Highland Scot with an Indian gives the strongest and best Metifs. Nowhere else has this mix been stronger than in the well-known colony founded by Lord Selkirk at Pembina on the Red River.  A formal mixed race of Indians and High Scots has almost formed. All the world seems to have a high regard for the substance of this mixed Scottish tribe. Everyone describes these people as vigorous, enterprising, and warlike. One told me that when a general war with the Sioux threatened: “O ho, just let the Scottish half-breeds of Pembina on them once. They are enough to keep all the Sioux in check and cut the tribe in two. They can bring 5000 men or more to arms. In the tribulations of life on the prairies where they roam and hunt buffalo as well as the Indians, they are well-accustomed to the Sioux. They have more intelligence and discipline than the Sioux, and they also have a great national hatred for them for they have each taken enough scalps off the other.”

Since, in the opinion of many, the Indians have the bony physiognomy of the Mongolian race and come from eastern Asia, and that since then, mass immigration has once-again taken place from eastern Asia.  As the Chinese (who have the high-peaked bones and similar skin color as the Indian) have appeared in California, I was very eager to learn what impression these two related races make of one another. I asked about this to a gentleman from California, who had occupied himself much with the article. His answer was so strange and new to me that I cannot refrain from ending by giving it to the German reader, to whom probably seems so novel, “The Californian Indians,” my acquaintance told me, “seem to have immediately recognized the resemblance between themselves and the Eastern Asians who have appeared among them, for they generally call them: the foreign Indians.”  However, they do not love them, and the Chinese have just as little sympathy for the Indians. Both are startled when they meet each other, like enemy brothers. Never does a Chinese marry an Indian, and no Indian woman ever indulges in a Chinese. The Indians harm the Chinese, they attack, they shoot them down wherever they can, which they do not do with the offspring of the other tribes of which we have in so many varieties in California. Even against the Indians of the South Sea Islands, who also come to us, they have no such antipathy. “I suppose,” my friend added, “old Indian traditions are behind it.”


In the first post in this series, I asked: “So, with most of what we know about Johann Kohl coming from Kitchi-Gami, questions remain.  Do his progressive racial and religious attitudes show up in all his writings from that era?  Was he truly as modern and unbiased in his thinking as we have widely been led to believe?”

So, how does he hold up?

Das Ausland billed itself as, “A weekly for scholars of the moral and intellectual lives of foreign nations.”  From a cursory look at other parts of the journal (from a non-German speaker) it featured articles on Russia, Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, and the South Pacific, as well as on American Indians.  Some of the articles are in support of missionary work, but that doesn’t seem to be the primary driving force behind the journal.  More than anything, it feels like an 1850s version of National Geographic, designed to give information on the foreign and exotic.  The word Ausland, itself would literally translate as “Outlands.” This may hold the key to understanding Kohl’s worldview.     

By 1859, America still had to fight a great Civil War before it could reexamine its national character. European intellectuals, however, were already emerging from the beliefs that characterized the Romantic Period and the Second Great Awakening.  Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species saw its first printing that year, and across the continent an emphasis on reason and science would become intellectual main-place again as it had been in 1700s.   

For racists, however, that just meant that they had to use science, rather than the bible, to justify their racism.

Kohl often gets credit for being less racist than his contemporaries, but it may just be that he was just ahead of his time in his style of racism. He was not 150 years ahead of his time, but maybe he was 15 years ahead.  I don’t know if Francis Galton or Herbert Spencer (who twisted Darwin’s theories into ideas of eugenics and social Darwinism) read Das Ausland as they formed the intellectual underpinnings of modern racism over the next few decades, but it’s easy to believe that they did. 

Remember, it was the liberal and educated of their day who gave us Indian boarding schools, colonialism, and eugenics. 

Historians are told to avoid presentism. That is, we should hold people accountable to the standards and ethics of their time and place, not ours.  That is tricky for someone like Kohl, who is lauded for being an especially-modern thinker.

You don’t get to entertain ideas that, “…the blood of the whites and the reds is hostile and far too different to amalgamate favorably” and be considered a modern thinker.  Kohl is gives this as second-hand information and gives disclaimers to the contrary, but he lingers on the subject at length and peppers it with other statements like, “Although he has inherited from his French father decidedly more intelligence than the Indians usually possess…”  Even if Kohl was indeed less racist than his contemporaries, his work here could certainly fuel ideas of biological racism in his own time.

Kohl does not seem especially enlightened with regard to sex.  Looks are clearly his way of defining women.  He lusts after teenagers while deriding their mother’s physical appearance, and generally rates a woman’s competence by the quality of her domestic labor.  In this, he also wasn’t forward-thinking or unusual for his times.

It is also somewhat shocking to the modern reader how Kohl uses convoluted explanations of “natural law” to explain what we in the 21st century would easily ascribe to psychological and family trauma.  Mani’s shyness around men is explained as her need to be in the forest rather than by the simple fact that she had been ripped from her family to live with a strange older clergyman.  Kohl makes no connection between the troubles of the “Favard” children and the depression and  alcoholism of their parents.  Msr. Favard has defective blood even though, as Kohl himself explains, “He seems to me like a man who has sat down between two chairs,” i.e. has been dislocated from the cultures and economies of his own ancestral communities. 

So if Kohl’s worldview and understanding of the differences in people wasn’t especially modern, what is it that does separate Johann Georg Kohl from his contemporaries? Why does his work have such lasting popularity?

He was definitely a thorough and perceptive scholar.  Some of his ideas are odd and outdated, but he never seems overly-wedded to them and always seeks out more information.  His ego doesn’t seem so large that he would ever close himself off. More than that, however, my sense is that he was a kind, trustworthy person who took the time to listen to people.  Let’s go back to line Bieder quoted from Kohl’s Travels in Canada:

“When I was in Europe, and I knew them [Indians] only from books, I must own I considered them rude, cold-blooded, rather uninteresting people, but when I had once shaken hands with them, I felt that they were ‘men and brothers,’ and had a good portion of warm blood and sound understanding, and I could feel as much sympathy for them as for any other human creatures.”

On one hand, this statement is haughty and patronizing.  No modern writer would ever phrase anything this way, and I eagerly await critiques of Kohl from Native feminist authors. On the other hand, though, isn’t this all that really matters when meeting people from unfamiliar cultures:  to listen to them and see their humanity?  Kohl does this, and he does it over and over again in both Kitchi-Gami and Bemerkungen über die Bekehrung canadischer zum Christenthum und einige Bekehrungsgeschichten.  He saw foreigners as fellow human beings: something that was all-too rare in 1855 and remains all-too rare in 2018.  That is why it only took him a few months on Lake Superior to consistently able to earn people’s trust, enter their homes and hear their stories.  He got some good ones.  Lucky for us, he wrote them down. 

Baraga, Frederic, and Albert Lacombe. A Theoretical and Practical Grammar of the Otchipwe Language: for the Use of Missionaries and Other Persons Living among the Indians. Beauchemin & Valois, 1878.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Kohl, J. G. Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings round Lake Superior. Minneapolis:  Minnesota UP, 1985. Print.
Valentine, J. Rand. “Re: J.G. Kohl on Ojibwe Suffixes and Obstacles to Christian Conversion.” Received by Leon T. Filipczak, Re: J.G. Kohl on Ojibwe Suffixes and Obstacles to Christian Conversion, 10 June 2018.


Part 1|Part 2

By Leo

Part 1|Part 2


Four years ago, while searching for buried treasure in the archives of Google Books, I stumbled on an article, Bemerkungen über die Bekehrung canadischer zum Christenthum und einige Bekehrungsgeschichten (1859) (Remarks on the Conversion of the Canadian Indians and some Stories of Conversion), by Johann Georg Kohl published in the Augsburg-based, German-language magazine, Das Ausland.  Since I neither read nor speak German, to understand the content of the article, I used the laborious process of artificial translation.  This was done by pasting the article, paragraph by paragraph, into Google Translate, reinserting the original punctuation, and then clearing up the grammar.  

At the time, I chose to only translate the first 900 words, or so, of the 14,000-word article and published it here on Chequamegon History as the bulk of the April 2014 post Chief Buffalo’s Death and Conversion: A new perspective.   Recently, a friend of the site asked when the rest of the article would appear online.   I resisted, knowing how much work it would be, and used the excuse that the article was not directly about the Chequamegon area. Apparently, I could not resist the lure of Kohl for very long.


J. G. Kohl (1808-1878) was a German travel writer and pioneering ethnographer, best known in the United States for his 1859 work, Kitchi-Gami:  Life Among the Lake Superior Ojibway, a highly-detailed description of travels to La Pointe, L’Anse, and Garden River/Sault Ste. Marie in the summer of 1855.  Regular readers of Chequamegon History will know excerpts of this work from Maangozid’s Family Tree, Blackbird’s Speech at the 1855 PaymentSteamboats, Celebrities, Soo Shipping, and Superior Speculation, and other posts. 

Kohl’s reputation among scholars of American Indian studies is largely positive.  Considering the sheer level of detail he provides in his observations on Ojibwe life, he is perceived as being rare among 19th-century writers for his comparative lack of prejudice of Indian peoples and practices.  Robert E. Bieder, in his introduction to the 1985 reprint published by the Minnesota Historical Society, outlines this perception.

The ethnology of Kohl was a sharp contrast to that of Schoolcraft.  Kohl seemed to have an empathy for Indian cultures that the American lacked.  As Kohl noted in Travels in Canada, “When I was in Europe, and I knew them [Indians] only from books, I must own I considered them rude, cold-blooded, rather uninteresting people, but when I had once shaken hands with them, I felt that they were ‘men and brothers,’ and had a good portion of warm blood and sound understanding, and I could feel as much sympathy for them as for any other human creatures.  (Bieder in Kohl, xxxi)”

Racist is a term that comes with a lot of baggage, complexity, and controversy in 2018.  As a white man whose primary interest is in collecting old documents, I can quickly get in over my head when it comes to questions of philosophy, sociology, and theories of race.  At a bare minimum, however, my definition of non-racist is one who can acknowledge the humanity of other humans when they look or act differently from oneself.    

The contrast between Kohl’s writing and that of his contemporaries:  Schoolcraft, Ely, Boutwell, etc. is what initially attracted me to Kitchi-Gami.  More than once, I have recommended the book to friends as, “The least-racist 19th-century book about the Chequamegon area.”  The German’s unbiased outsider perspective comes as a breath of fresh air, even in comparison to Ojibwe ethnographers like Warren and Copway who were very much caught up in the politics of their times:  

Kohl’s objective was to produce an ethnological account of a rich and unique culture.  In his preface to the German edition of Kitchi-Gami, Kohl explained, “I only take credit for having endeavored to understand them [Ojibway stories and ways of life] correctly and to present them clearly…(xxxii-xxxiii)”

Kohl is especially given credit for his treatment of Ojibwe religion:

The differences between Kohl and Schoolcraft are quickly evident in a comparison of how each described Ojibway religion.  Schoolcraft saw Ojibway religious practices as the “darkest and gloomiest picture of Indian life”… Kohl, in contrast, was willing to see much of value in Ojibway practices that compared favorably with the teachings of Christianity…

Where Schoolcraft found “a body of subtile [sic–noted by Bieder] superstitions, and widely-spread popular error … ” Kohl found merely another way of approaching the unknown…(xxxi-xxxii)

Bieder was clearly struck, as I was the first time reading Kitchi-Gami, by how modern it seemed to be:

In short, people behaved in different ways not only because of racial variations but also because they lived in different environments.  While several of these assumptions today seem rather commonplace, in the mid-nineteenth century, when many believed race determined a people’s culture and capability, such thinking proved controversial (xxxiv).

Bieder does not completely let Kohl off the hook for his racial attitudes–taking particular issue with the romantic and flowery nature of the prose and his speaking of all Indian nations in general terms–but his final assessment of the author is very positive.  This is the same impression I have heard from several others. 

Kohl also sometimes saw cultural traits in racial terms.  This is not surprising, however, when one considers ethnological assumptions at mid-century, when some German ethnologists like Bastian believed in polygenism and others like Ritter could talk about “passive-indolent” races and “active-energetic” ones.  Yet with this said about Kitchi-Gami, one is struck by Kohl’s rather modern notion of the acculturation process.  In general, Kohl portrayed Ojibway culture with great sensitivity and found among the Ojibway people beauty, honor, and integrity (xxxvi).

So, with most of what we know about Johann Kohl coming from Kitchi-Gami, questions remain.  Do his progressive racial and religious attitudes show up in all his writings from that era?  Was he truly as modern and unbiased in his thinking as we have widely been led to believe?

These were the questions I wrestled with while translating Remarks on the Conversion of the Canadian Indians and some Stories of Conversion.  In many ways, it read like an bonus chapter of Kitchi-Gami (the two texts were published in the same year).  In other ways, the reader will have to decide:   

Das Ausland.

Eine Wochenschrift Fur Kunde des geistigen und sittlichen Lebens der Völker

[The Foreign Lands:  A weekly for scholars of the moral and intellectual lives of foreign nations]

Augsburg.  Nr. 2. 8 January 1859

Remarks on the Conversion of the Canadian Indians and some Stories of Conversion

By J.G. Kohl

A few years ago, when I was at “La Pointe,” one of the so-called “Apostle Islands” in the western corner of the great Lake Superior, an old chief of the local Indians, the Chippeway or Ojibbeway people. His name was “Buffalo,” a man “of nearly a hundred years.” He himself was still a pagan, but many of his children, grandchildren and closest relatives, were already Christians.

Kohl’s thoughts on Chief Buffalo’s conversion were covered by Chequamegon History in this post.

I was told that even the aged old Buffalo himself ébranlé, and that his state of mind was wavering. “He thinks highly of the Christian religion,” they told me, “To him, it’s not right that he and his family be of a different faith. He is afraid that they will be separated in death. He knows he will not be near them, and that not only his body should be brought to another cemetery but also he believes his spirit shall go into another paradise away from his children.”

From page 419 of Kohl’s Reisen im Nordwesten der Vereinigten Staaten (1857):  “The chiefs [at La Pointe] seemed to have assumed a kind of supremacy over the rest of the Lake Chippewas. Here was an old chief, called Buffalo, who made pretensions to master a very wide stretch of land. The small tribe led by him was now called the La Pointe Band by the Americans.”

William W. Warren, in his History of the Ojibway People, argued that the Crane Totem provided the hereditary chiefs, and that the Loons were made chiefs by the French.  See page 51 of the 2009 Second Edition edited by Theresa Schenck.

But Buffalo was the main representative of his people, the living embodiment, so to speak, of the old traditions and stories of his tribe, which once ranged over the whole group of the Apostle Islands and far and wide across the hunting grounds of mainland northern Wisconsin. His ancestors and his family, “the Totem of the Loons” (from the diver)* make claim to be the most distinguished chiefly family of the Ojibwes.  Indeed, they believe that from them and their village, a far-reaching dominion once reached across all the tribes of the Ojibbeway Nation. In a word, a kind of monarchy existed with them at the center.

(*The Loon, or Diver, is a well-known large North American bird).

Old Buffalo, or Le Boeuf, as the French call him, or Pishiki, his Indian name, was like the last reflection of that long-vanished glory.  He was stuck too deep in the old superstition. He was too intertwined with the Medä Order, the Wabanos, and the Jossakids, or priesthood, of his people.  A conversion to Christianity would have destroyed his influence in a still mostly-pagan tribe.  It would have been the equivalent of voluntarily stepping down from the throne. Therefore, in spite of his “doubting” state of mind, he could not decide to accept the act of baptism.

One evening, I visited old Buffalo in his bark lodge and found in him grayed and stooped by the years, but nevertheless still quite a sprightly old man. Who knows what kind of fate he had as an old Indian chief on Lake Superior, passing his whole life near the Sioux, and trading with the North West Company, with the British and later with the Americans. With the Wabanos and Jossakids (priests and sorcerers) he conjured for his people, and communed with the sky, but here, people would call him an “old sinner.”

But still, due to his advanced age I harbored a certain amount of respect for him.  He took me in, so kindly, and never forgot afterwards, promising to remember my visit as if it had been an honor for him. He told me much of the old glory of his tribe, of the origin of his people, and of his religion from the East.  I gave him tobacco, and he, much more generously, gave me a beautiful fife. I later learned from the newspapers that my old host, being ill, departed from this earth soon after my departure from the island. I was seized by a genuine sorrow and grieved for him. Those papers, however, reported a certain cause for consolation, in that Buffalo had said on his deathbed that he desired to be buried in a Christian way.  Therefore, shortly before his death, he received Christianity and the Lord’s Supper from the Catholic missionaries, along with the last rites of the Church, a church funeral, and a burial in the Catholic cemetery, where in addition to those already resting, his family would be buried.

On page 383 of Kitchi-GamiKohl expresses very similar sentiments regarding the late-life conversion of the well-known Garden River chief, Zhingwaakoons (Shingwaukonse) to the Anglican faith.  Image Source:  Wikipedia

The story and end of the old Buffalo are not unique. Rather, it was something rather common for the ancient pagan to proceed only on his deathbed to Christianity, and it starts not only with the elderly adults on their deathbeds, but with their Indian families beginning with their young children. The parents are won over by the children. For the children, while they are young and largely without religion, the betrayal of the old gods and laws is not so great. Therefore, the parents allow it more easily. You yourself are probably already convinced that there is something fairly good behind Christianity, and that your children “could do quite well.” They desire for their children to attain the blessing of the great Christian God and therefore often lead them to the missionaries, though, they themselves may not decide to give up their own ingrained heathen beliefs.  The Christians, therefore, also prefer to first contact the youth, and know well that if they have this first, the parents will follow sooner or later because they will not long endure the idea that they are separated from their children in the faith. Because they believe that baptism is “good medicine” for the children, they bring them very often to the missionaries when they are sick.

I was extremely interested in the stories told me about the conversion of children, and then through them, of parents and grandparents. A Protestant clergyman informed me of one instance, which shows it seems to me, that such a conversion often does not take place without fierce resistance in the minds of the Indian converts and other difficulties. It  follows:

A pagan Indian, a man of good mind, had been several times to mission Baptist Church and was attentive and solemn while in attendance at the service. Finally, one day, he presented himself to the head of the Mission, which was also a school for the education of Indian children. He came accompanied by his two sons, boys from 8 to 10 years old.  He expressed the wish that the eldest should be taken to school and educated in Christianity. He thought it would do his son good. At the same time, he requested that the younger brother stay with him for a while. They were so accustomed to each other that he feared the separation might be too difficult for his eldest. For the time being, however, the younger man did not attend school. He wanted to see how the other would get along. After a little while under this arrangement, the younger was supposed to return to his family in the forest, for the father could not spare both boys for long.

So it happened as desired. The father came to the institution from time to time to see how his son was doing and was pleased with his progress in the arts and sciences. After two years, the education in reading, writing, and arithmetic, etc. was considered complete. The father then brought his second son, and at the same time the third, but again only for the time being “for company” but also to give him a small taste.

Thus, in the end, all three of his sons were brought up in Christianity and in all kinds of useful skills. I was assured that the education had lasted. The three Indian boys had not yet forgotten what they learned in the two years and were until the present still quite literate from their reading, which was eagerly made use of by happy fur traders in a trading post by the lake

But before they became that, and while the youngest of them was still at school, once every autumn, the pagan father came to see the teacher and preacher and told them to say goodbye to him for a while, thinking that his approaching hunts would take him far into the woods on a grand expedition and that he would hardly be able to see them before the spring.

He left, but against all expectations, he was back in the middle of winter, a few weeks after Christmas. He brought with him a great wealth of furs and animal skins, all negotiated and sold at good prices. He came to the preacher and told him that he was right all along.  He walked day by day, week after week, in the woods of the interior chasing and checking his traps, alone. He had the fortunate misfortune to have not have killed anything at all. Perhaps, thoughts of his children were disturbing him. He may have continued to think of them and how much good they learned from the Christians. His sleep would be very restless, and he would not have had a good hunting dream. He would have drummed his medicine bag once again, and sang his Wabano songs alone, but no deer, no beaver, no bear, appeared. One evening, having set up his night fire and tent on the bank of a wild stream, and having been taken again by very gloomy and pessimistic ideas, he suddenly jumped up, dug a deep hole for his otter bag and buried it with all its content and magic. Then, he prayed to the Great Spirit, and promised he would become a Christian. That night, he had nothing but bright dreams in which his sons played the leading role, and the next morning, when he was refreshed, he scarcely went a hundred paces and was met by a big moose that he was soon to kill. Driven by longing, he then started on the way back to the mission. On this way back, he shot one animal after the other, day by day, and arrived there with a rich harvest. He now thought that as soon as he could get his wife to baptize herself, he would also be married to his wife in the Christian way. He arranged a time with the preacher, and with this assurance, he took leave of his Christian friend.

It seemed to this good preacher, though, that it took a while before the man reappeared to fulfill his promise. He inquired  after him here and there, and heard his Indian was still undecided in relation to conversion to Christianity.

“What do I hear?” said the preacher to him when he once met him, “Have you changed your mind, you are not coming to baptism, do not see your sons anymore, what is that?” “Give me some time,” replied the Indian seriously. “My mind is not yet completely calm, and after some time, I want to tell you everything. “The thing was that the Indians had decided for themselves in favor of Christianity, for the Christianity of the Baptists. But upon the discovery of this resolution, external obstacles, trials, and conflicts appeared, as they, more or less, occur in every transition from one religion to another, and they do not fail to appear in the conversions of these forest children.

Many of his pagan relatives had sought his resolve, and this made him fickle.

Rev Abel BinghamThe presence of the Baptists suggests this took place at Garden River, Ontario, (one of Kohl’s stops) where the Anglican church was the dominant Protestant sect, but Baptist Rev. Abel Bingham had a nearby mission.  See Chute, Janet E.  The Legacy of Shinguakonse:  A Century of Native Leadership. U of Toronto Press, 1998.  Image Source:

Another, more-powerful Christian Protestant influence, but a non-Baptist one, also appeared. Enemies of the Baptists had told the Indian that he should become a Christian, and a Protestant, but not a Baptist. They even threatened him with confiscation, exclusion from taking part in tribute, and such things, if he would join that sect. The poor man, whose soul was devoted to the Baptists because of his children, had not been able to find his way through everything.

After four weeks, however, he reappeared to his son’s teacher and said that he was now ready. He said that after arranging all his business, he went again to the forest, “to avoid the voices of men,” and to think and pray there alone to the Great Spirit. He went deeper and deeper into the forest, always praying more and more zealously, and became very firm in his convictions. He came directly from the interior, saw and spoke to no one, brought his wife to the preacher, and now wanted to baptize and marry her.

And so it happened, and nobody had cause to regret it afterwards.  In the end, the “enemies” stopped threatening, and the sons, as I have already mentioned, prospered.

The Ven. Bishop Frederic Baraga is Kohl’s likely informant for this and other stories of Catholic mission work in this article.  (St. Peter Cathedral, Marquette)

Another story of conversion was shared with me by an excellent friend* from the rich treasury of his experiences.  It belongs here as well, and is also characteristic, in many respects, of the local conditions.

(*It was a Catholic missionary.)

An Indian family, consisting of a father, mother and five children, lived far north of Lake Superior on the banks of “Long Lake,” which leads to Hudson’s Bay. They were pagans, like most of the Indian of these lands where a missionary is rarely found.

The oldest of the five children, a boy, fell ill, to the great distress and despair of his parents. The illness reached a dangerous crisis. The terrified parents stayed up all night, with the little boy in feverish dreams, in their lap. Finally, he fell asleep. Gently, he opened his eyes the next morning and said that he felt better and was recovering.

“A splendid dream,” said the boy, “healed him.” “A wind,” he said, “came from the north, going down south to Lake Superior,” and from the wind, a soft voice spoke to him: “The drumming* was not good, and the spells  were not good. They do not help. The Indians should refrain from them. The prayer is far better, and only prayer, alone, can help them and comfort them in misfortune, illness, and suffering.”  He had a deep longing for hearing the kind voice of the Christ, whom the whites worshiped, and he fervently vowed to obey him, and immediately thereafter he slept gently, and now he was healed.

(*As the Indians accompany all their magic songs and religious performances with drums, the drumming here represents the pagan faith.)

The parents attentively listened to the miracle of their son as he went hunting with them. After a short time, they decided they wanted to immediately obey the voice in his dream and all be baptized.  For that purpose, the next spring, they went to Lake Superior, descending southwards in the direction of the dream wind. Over the winter, they collected some provisions, and when spring came, they made their journey of several weeks.

For the further explanation of the matter, I will say as an aside, that Indian parents pay much attention to the dreams of their children, who they love so much, and that in many ways they follow them.  For example, it is not uncommon for a good son to assist his father in a bear hunt “with his dreams.” “Father,” the son speaks one morning to the hunter, who may have been unhappy for a long time on the hunt and brought home nothing, “Father I dreamed of a bear for you this night.” “Tell my child.” “Yes, I have only seen him vaguely in the distance, but there by that lake on the banks of that river he must roam about.”  The father goes to the designated area, searches the whole day at the river or lake mentioned by the son, but finds nothing and comes back tired in the evening, without prey. “Dream again my son,” speaks the father, “Dream better my child.” The good son lies down on his ear and speaks the next morning, “Father I have again dreamed of the bear. Now I have seen him quite clearly. Oh, it is a big and beautiful animal. It is a female, and she has a cub.  Now I know the place where they are. You must search on the southern shore of the lake.” The father gets up again and ransacks the whole south shore of the lake, but in the evening, he comes home again and speaks as before, ”I bring nothing yet my child, although I have seen the footprints of a bear. My son’s dreams are getting better!” In the meantime, the little boy has been fasting, his face is painted a jet-black, and he beats the drum all day and sings all the magic songs he knows. He goes back to sleep. Before the sun comes up, he wakes up and cries out, “Father! Father! The bear! The bear! This time, he came very close to me. I collided with him, head to head, and mouth to muzzle.  Run! If you go around here and there and come to that rock, then you will find the bear and her cub on the corner. They dig their roots.” The little one immediately turns his face black again, beats the drum, refuses his breakfast–as hungry as he may be, and again fasts all day to assist his father from afar

In the meantime, the father goes to the corner of the rock. He finds the bears at the ditch, hunts them, brings both home, and now lets his brave and obedient little dreamer have a wonderful meal, and all the rest of the family too:  neighbors and relatives, and so on–in general, the whole village.

longlacLonglac (Long Lake) appears in the upper-right corner of this 1836 Map of British North America, about 100 miles northeast of Nipigon.

Curious as these things may seem to a European, they are not uncommon in Indian life. At least, I heard of such things all along the way. It will therefore be said, quite understandably and naturally, that our Indians of Long Lake, immediately after the dream of their boy, decided to be baptized and undertook the arduous journey to Lake Superior. They had heard that on the north shore of this lake, at a certain time in spring, a Christian priest was passing to see the sheep of his little flock.

This priest–who was the friend who told me this whole story–sometimes travels in his own canoe and sometimes with a small schooner from the Hudson’s Bay Company. He sails to the north shore of the lake, to those from the northern Indians who descend at appointed dates to the various stations to trade their fur supplies. The merchant ship now carries the missionary, because this is the most certain way to meet with the nomadic Indians, who are otherwise hard to locate.

It annoys me that I did not catch the names of those good Long Lake Indians. “The Long Lake family”–unfortunately, I cannot call them anything else–with their five children had been sitting in their hut of birch bark for five or six weeks, on a promontory overlooking the lake from which they could see far. They did not know the date of arrival of the “Black Robe” of whom they regarded like a savior. Their eagerness to miss nothing had brought them down too early. Their small supplies of dried meat and flour were soon consumed and the fishing at the chosen station was not very productive either.

So when my friend, the good black robe*, finally arrived in his own canoe, he found them all very thin and starving. They had only a handful of flour. The missionary, himself, did not have much and could not help them as abundantly as he might have wished.  Yet the people had endured and held fast to their purpose and were glad the expected messenger of God had arrived. In the midst of mutual their poverty, both parties began to work as far as circumstances permitted. The clergyman prepared his catechumens with instruction and prayer, and then at last performed the holy act of baptism on the recovering boy who had the vision, and then on the whole family, leading seven souls at once into the bosom of the church.

(*”Black Robes” is the name the Indians often give to Catholic missionaries.)

Because his labors soon ordered him to hurry along the shore, where still others longed for his soul’s appetite, he had to leave his new candidates after a short time. But when he said goodbye, he did not forget to give them a piece of paper on which a Christian calendar was printed, and a pin.

This gift is common in Catholic conversions and its meaning and purpose can be said as follows.  The baptized go right back into the woods, in groups of a few families, to hunt and fish all year round for food and to win some furs for the next trading period with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Since it is naturally impossible for them to meet their pastor before the next year, when they return to the Lake, a calendar serves them as a magnet and guidepost through the passage of a year in the Christian version, and a way to set up an ecclesiastical way of life. I own such a curious calendar page or “Book of Days*,” as the Indians call it, and want to describe it.

makadewikonaye: priest “black robe/habit noir” giizisoo-mazina’igan:  a calendar “paper of months”  anishinaabemo:  speak Ojibwe wemitigoozhiimo: speak French zhaaganaashiimo:  speak English (Ojibwe People’s Dictionary)

(*Gijiyado masinai yan, literally, “paper of the days”)

It is, on one hand, a scheme or a brief survey of all the days of the year, with the outline of the months, and with the description of the ordinary and extraordinary festive or high-festive significance of each day. Every Sunday, or as they say here every “day of prayer” (jour de prière) has a cross (a crooked cross). Every typical day of everyday life has a dash. Every high-feast day of the church has two crooked crosses. Every fasting Friday has a zero, every other ordinary fasting day an asterisk, every other strict fasting day two asterisks, etc. On the other side of the paper, these signs and the names of the months are explained in Anishinabemong (Indian), Wemitikoschimong (French), and Jaganaschimong (English).

Of course, for the full use of such a calendar, an Indian should also be able to at least read what is given.  However, during the course of the year, the calendar owner comes in contact with Frenchmen, Englishmen and half-Indians who help him interpret the signs, if he forgot them, from the instructions of the printed reminder.

Partly, however, it helps the Indian to have the same pin that was given to him along with the calendar. With this, the clergyman dabs the day when he had to leave his converts to themselves, and then instructs them in a similar way, to punctuate or stroke each succeeding day, and thus mark through the whole year, from Sunday to Sunday, from feast day to feast day.

Usually, the Indians conscientiously carry out this laborious way of determining the date while in their forests, and find their way to fast at the right time, and pray at the right hour.

But sometimes, it happens that their calendars get out of order. An example was told to me that two days had been lost to an Indian family, and that when they returned to the lake in the spring, it turned out that for the previous six months, they had taken Friday for Sunday and Sunday for Tuesday. Something like this happens to sailors when they arrive at the antipodes after circling the world.

Image result for bruegel look through fingers
As shown here in Bruegel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs (1559) “looking through your fingers” is a proverb in several European languages that is equivalent to the English, “turn a blind eye.”  According to this article from the Catholic News Agency, the Vatican has historically “looked through its fingers” by labeling several semi-aquatic American tetrapods: beaver, muskrat, capybara, iguana, alligator, and puffin as fish for Lenten purposes (Wikipedia).

The Catholic clergy should not be overly strict about observing fasts here. You have to “look through your fingers.” For example, they can not make a crime of it if Indians, during Lent, enjoy various animals instead of only fish, because sometimes they have nothing else, and cannot catch any fish. Our fasting rules are made in cities where the markets offer a wealth of things. Also, our fasting rules are made only in reference to our European animals and food. For some American animals, an appeal had to be made to Rome for an interpretation. And if I am not mistaken, this happened in particular with regard to the frequently-consumed water animal, the beaver, which was then equated by the pope with the fish. The Loon and the Canadian duck were allowed during fast, but not the Canards de France (the common French duck which also occurs in America). Also, one must allow the Indians to check their beaver traps on Sunday because such an omission could bring substantial harm.

In the manner I described, my good Indian family was taught and equipped. They took leave of their stalwart teacher, the Black Robe, and returned to their northern deserts. They roamed the woods, hunting. Through the following year and a second year, they roamed to Hudson’s Bay and on. They were unhappy in the hunt, and had not been able to gain enough furs to make a journey south to Lake Superior rewarding or even possible. They were only able to happily make a return journey after two years, and by the second spring, they were sitting on their promontory again. After waiting for several weeks, their Habit Noir returned to examine them.

Now the missionary wanted them to confess their sins. First they did not understand what that meant, and the father had to explain to them that he wanted to know if they had done any harm in the meantime.They had not seen a priest in all that time. Nonetheless, the calendar, was dotted twice a day for two years of days was completely in line with that of the priest. They had precisely marked every half and every whole fast day and every day of prayer. Even the Ten Commandments, which they had to learn before their baptism, were memorized word for word, and they had taught them to all their children and often repeated them for themselves.

“Did you,” said he, “speak nothing wrong of your neighbor?” “No!” they said, “We have no neighbors. Only a couple of times, in the two years, did hunters come to us who were even poorer and more hungry than we were, and we gave them plenty to eat.”

“Did not you rob or steal something from someone else?” “What?” they said quite indignantly, “that would be most disgusting! Father, how is it possible that you can ask such things to us? Are there any people who could do such things after you gave them teachings and laws, and after they had known Christ? How can you do this to us?”

In short, the Father had to give up his attempt to hold confession, so that he would not discredit himself with his children. He left them quite content, conversing with them on other Christian matters during the following evenings, telling them some new beautiful, unforgettable stories of Christ, the apostles and the prophets, Moses, and Adam, sending them back to the forest with them so that the seeds of divinity might make their way through their simple minds.

   Both Kohl (Kitch-Gami, pg. 420-21) and William Warren (History of the Ojibways 2nd ed. pg. 50) claimed that the Southern Ojibwe also stereotyped the Ojibwe and Cree-speaking peoples north of Lake Superior as mild-mannered and naive.

This remarkable story is by no means isolated. The missionaries, could otherwise still tell some similar ones. Of course, one has to keep in mind, as I do, that these stories play out in the north of the big freshwater sea. There, the Indians are more frank than ever, as frank, true, open, and– “as impartial as children.”

Taken as a whole, it can be said that the farther away they are from the whites, the more indigenous and better all Indians are. Yes, they are more receptive to Christianity and more pious. I have heard it from many Catholic and Protestant missionaries here, as well as from the Mississippi, that they greatly prefer the conversion of a wild and untouched tribe to the further cultivation of a field which is already riddled or “infected” with so-called civilization.  Examples, especially from earlier times, were told of entire Indian tribes that adopted Christianity with eagerness and jubilation, and even more so than the Christian doctrine itself, the Christian legends and stories, especially those of the Old Testament. They were at times so engrossed in these stories that greedy Canadian voyageurs or fur traders charged considerable prices for narrating such a story. For “the story of Adam” they charged a few beaver pelts. If the Indians were charmed by it and demanded more, they took advantage of this excited passion, and “the story of Noah” cost some more beaver-skins or a few gracefully-designed decorated pipes. If the Indians wanted more stories, they would have to give a horse. The story of Joseph’s imprisonment in Egypt cost a horse. It went just the same in the trade with fire water. The inebriated would have to pay for each subsequent glass twice the price of the previous cup.

Indeed, those vile traders even went as far, as I have been told by distinguished men, that at times they made a shameful usury, selling single sayings and words from the Bible. They wrote the name “Noah” or “Adam” or “Mani” (Mary) on a piece of paper and took the furs, while the Indians carried around the paper with the name in an amulet.

But these are probably events of comparatively old age. I have already given an example of how these names and stories then remain as traditions–of course as altered and highly-distorted traditions among the Indians.

From the history of the ancient missions of Canada, it is well-known, that heartfelt and touching desires have sometimes been expressed by Indian tribes to have a missionary among them, and that Indians have undertaken laborious journeys to Montreal and Quebec to invite a Habit noir to lead them into triumph.

Pierre-Jean De Smet - Brady-Handy.jpg A quick glance through online published works of Fr. Pierre De Smet mention the request by the Bitterroot Salish (Flathead) for a Jesuit missionary, but I was unable to locate any mention of the dream of the white stag (Wikipedia).

But even in recent times, there have been isolated instances of this kind, and it is not uncommon for the desire for a clergyman to be instilled into a whole tribe through a dream, as was the case with my just-described Long Lake family. I was told, as a completely new example, the case of the well-known missions donated by the Jesuit father De Smett in the Rocky Mountains and Oregon among the Flatheads. Even when these dreams occur, though, the missions have much to do.

The so-called Flatheads are one of the most well-educated Indian tribes. They are faithful to the whites, and even other Indians praise them as one of the best tribes. Twenty-five years ago, among these Flatheads, there was an old Jossakid*, who in a dream visited a ghost in the form of a white stag who revealed that the Flatheads were to become Christians and to invite a missionary to join them. As the white stag often repeated this admonition, they finally held a council and sent a deputation to travel across the Rocky Mountains, and all the way down the Missouri to St. Louis to request that the authorities inform the Jesuit Collegium. But the deputies did not come down. On the way they endured so much distress, hunger, misery, and bad winter weather, that as a group, they succumbed to their tribulations.

(*Prophet, sorcerer)

After some time, as the white deer continued to admonish, they sent a second deputation over the 2,000-mile road. But even this did not reach the destination. The enemies of the Flatheads, the Blackfeet, took them by surprise and killed them all.

The whole nation of the Flatheads, however, was inspired by such a longing for a Christian missionary that they still had a counsel, and once again, six young people came forward under the guidance of an elder, and again– of such true martyrs one can hardly speak of in Christianity–offered to go down the thorny path to St. Louis out of the desire for these untasted blessings.

This third deputation finally arrived in that city, bringing their yearning, and that famous father, De Smett, decided to go up to them and become their apostle. That they had really arrived, and that “the missionary” in his suit was coming, was hard-baked into this tribe of the mountains, for one night the white stag reappeared to that old Jossakid and told him he was coming for the last time. He would not return because he clearly saw the Habits Noirs on the Missouri and that salvation was close to them.

It is scarcely necessary, however, to remark that such a desire among an Indian people is not merely a pure thirst for the salvation of their souls, and that no other account is added to it. Sometimes, there are a lot of politics and selfish considerations in the game. The Catholic missionaries, especially the French, know how to conform to the customs and habits of the Indians to a high degree. They live entirely among and with them. They walk with them around the prairies. They go with them on the buffalo hunts. They pray with them for rain or sunshine if either is missing. They perform their masses and devotions with them on the prairies, and ask Heaven for auspicious success and a rich harvest before attacking the buffaloes. They mingle in their tribal and family disputes and seek to balance and reconcile them with much care and effort. They have all the women, children, and elders on their side because with the appearance of a missionary in the village, the lot of these classes always improves significantly. By virtue of the institution of the confessional in their church, they conveniently know everything in advance and are in a position to head off impending threats.

missionaries   De Smet seems like most likely suspect as the author of this diary.  His Bitterroot St. Mary’s Mission was initially successful, but the Salish (Flathead) became disillusioned with the Jesuit, in part due to his attempts to convert the Blackfeet.  It’s possible, that De Smet’s contemporary, Baraga, allowed Kohl to view the manuscript diary but did not give permission for Kohl to share it with the public.  Image Source:  National Park Service

Once, I read an excellent unpublished diary of a Catholic missionary of his 10 years of missionary work and deeds among the Indians. It was full of the most admirable traits and was evidence of the dedication and sacrifice of the author to his profession, and full of the strangest and most interesting contributions to the knowledge of the traits of the Indian character. The good father also illustrated the whole thing with cute pictures and depictions of the Mariancapelle he built, the tents the Flatheads built and adorned, with “flower altars” he erected on the prairies, of the masses and blessings which he gave to the tribe when they went out with him to attack the buffaloes, and of his consultations with hostile tribes with whom he smoked the peace-pipe. I have never seen such nice printed matter, and would still share more if I did not consider it inappropriate for a variety of reasons.

How well the Catholic missionaries, through the means of their confessional, had an effect upon the Indians, I was told of many colorful examples by a Protestant gentleman. Once an Indian woman had lost a richly-embroidered and variegated shawl. No one could discover where it had been. Finally, after many years, one day she found to her great joy her precious cloth again in her tent on her bed. Soon afterwards, her neighbor asked her for a silent and secret conversation in which she confessed to being the thief. The beautiful cloth had her eyes so blinded, she wished very much to possess it.  She had stolen it from her at that time, but had never been able to use it for fear of being discovered. She kept it locked in her box and only looked at it at times. Recently, however, she had become ill and had to make such a cumbersome confession to the Catholic priest of all her previous actions that she could no longer conceal the theft. He must have reproached her severely, punished her with a severe penance, and at the same time ordered the cloth to be returned to her neighbor to try to win her forgiveness and otherwise offer her compensation. The Protestant clergyman could hardly have resolved this whole affair so quietly and easily.

Now, if an Indian sees that a neighboring tribe has a beneficial-seeming missionary, under whose mediation things flourish, wandering with his people for weeks in the prairies and praying until the buffalos finally appear, he would like also have something like that. Often, they are even inclined to take away the missionaries from each other, and cases of war for the possession of missionaries have actually occurred.

   As early as the mid 17th century, the term “Praying Indian” was used to describe the Christian Algonquian and Iroquoian inhabitants of the mission towns of New England and New France.
anami’aa– to pray or be a Christian.    nindanami’aa– I pray/am a Christian.     anami’aad-  they pray.   anami’aasiig-  they do not pray.  (Ojibwe People’s Dictionary)

A baptized Indian is usually called by the Canadians un Indian de la prière (a praying Indian). Originally the expression was probably invented by the Indians themselves. The silent reading of the breviary and solitary prayer on the knees, were the first religious acts they observed among their missionaries. The first acts that were required of them when they were converted were the bending of the knee, the folding of the hands, and the worship of God before the cross and before the images of the saints. Therefore they called the Christians “the praying men” (in the Ojibwe, anamiad*) and their religion “the praying” (anamiawin). In contrast to this, the pagans afterward called themselves the “non-praying” (anamiassig).

(*The word comes from nind anamia, “I pray.”)

The French Canadians have faithfully translated and used this saying of the Indians. Of a convert, they say, il s’est mis prière, (he has joined the prayer) and of a pagan, il n’est pas de la prière (he is not yet of the prayers). I have also heard the phrase the praying Indians from the English.

For a long time (probably 150 years), the Indians of these areas saw only one Christian religion. But when the British conquered Canada (in the middle of the last century), they became acquainted with a different kind of Christian with completely different religious customs and ceremonies. They therefore made a distinction between the “French” and the “English” religion. With the first name, they call the Catholics, and with the second, the Protestants.*

(*In Ojibwe, the first is Wemitigodschi-anamiewin, and the second is Jaganashi-anamiewin.)

If an Indian “joins the prayer,” that is to say, is baptized, he is first of all required to renounce all his old pagan superstition. His “medicine bag” and its whole content of magic remedies, amulets, and birchbark scriptures, if not already burned or buried, is destroyed when his decision to become a worshiper is fulfilled.

At times, the clergy have the opportunity to gather up many of these pagan curiosities, but they burn up or eliminate them quickly, often too quickly for the avid ethnographer. I have rarely been able to find any of these things in the places where I visited, not even of the interesting pictures Indians put on birch bark. These should be kept, collected, and donated to science.

  At Garden River, Kohl asked the sons of Zhingwaakoons (above) for their late father’s bark scrolls, only to be told they had been destroyed (Kitchi-Gami, pg 384).

But of course, this is easier said than done. In the first place, the Indians, when they become Christians, quite often give their old bark-books to their pagan friends, as they are eager to trade them or give them away. And then, when a clergyman gets his hands on them, it’s not up to him to collect objects that he considers unholy and evil, and are the very thing he takes away from the Indians. A conscientious clergyman must not subordinate the serious demands of religion to the desires of science, and he is almost forced to burn such things. This is how, at the mercy of those bishops in Mexico, the whole heap of splendid old Aztec writings was burned.

Usually the conversion of an Indian “to prayer” is associated with some changes in his personal appearance. In particular, he must renounce the coloring and painting of his face. This coloring cannot be considered as meaningless a pleasure as the makeup of our ladies. Their wild warriors prefer to paint for their religious ceremonies and magic dances. The colors, therefore, are too reminiscent of paganism, and it is de rigueur that a praying Indian should wash himself, and deliver his “vermillion tin,”  his green, blue, and yellow paint-powder, and his brush and pallet to the priest.

Finally, he has to wear and comb his hair like a Christian. The pagan Indians have their hair arranged differently. Some cut all around except for a tuft or knotted tuft (a scalp lock) in the middle. The local Ojibwes mostly wear two long thick braids like our Croats. The Canadians call these braids cornettes. Our Croats and Slavonians, when they became Christians, were not asked to renounce this ornament. That one requires it of the Indians may have its reason in that those hairstyles are not of so innocent a nature. They were most likely grown to hold the bloody eagle feathers, the scalps of their enemies, and other military badges reminiscent of their unchristian deeds. Therefore, they must be cut off at baptism, as a sign of the renunciation of the pagan warrior craft.*

   Lacelles Wraxall, Kohl’s translator, leaves the French text in Kitchi-Gami untranslated.  I’ll put it here in the sidebar rather than in the main body of the text:  1) They cut the “cornettes,” the two tails they wear to the head, which they call in their language “Otokoschaman.” 2) They are made to give up their Vermilion and all other earth and color. 3) Also savage dances and gambling. 4) Everything that goes into their bags and any other harmful medicine. 5) Finally, they a give up following their leaders in war and for medicine: but not for annuities or for the police.

(*A Canadian, with whom I discussed these things, told in the following unique way of the changes that a pagan must make to his person upon baptism:

1) On leur coupe les “cornettes” les deux queues qu’ils portent à la tête, et qu’ils appellent dans leur language “Otokoschaman.”

2) On les fait renoncer au Vermillon et à toute autre terre et couleur.

3) Aussi a la danse sauvage et aux jeux payens.

4) De méme à tout ce quientre dans leurs sacs et à toute autre médicine, qui fait du tort à leurs semblables.

5) Finalement ils renoncent aussi au commandement de leurs chefs, c’est à dire quant à la guerre et pour la médicine: mais pas pour les annuités et pas pour la police.)

(To be continued)

Remarks on the Conversion of the Canadian Indians and some Stories of Conversion was published in two consecutive issues of Das Ausland.  Each section is about 7000 words.  Read Part 2 for the rest of the article and some final thoughts.

Part 1|Part 2


By Amorin Mello

This is one of several posts on Chequamegon History featuring the Mixed-Blood Allotments of the Penokee Mountains overlooking Chequamegon Bay, such as the Sioux Scrip scams during the Penokee Survey Incidents.  This post illustrates the curious circumstances that occurred at the U.S. General Land Office in the City of Superior during 1858 as a large group of Chippewa Mixed-Blood Allotments were located along the Penokee Mountains via the seventh clause of the second article of the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe:

The United States agree to set apart and withhold from sale, for the use of the Chippewas of Lake Superior, the following-described tracts of land, viz:
7th. Each head of a family, or single person over twenty-one years of age at the present time of the mixed bloods, belonging to the Chippewas of Lake Superior, shall be entitled to eighty acres of land, to be selected by them under the direction of the President, and which shall be secured to them by patent in the usual form.



Selected affidavits from the National Archives:

Interior Department appointment papers, 1849-1907.

Roll 6, Superior Land Office 1854-1860.



May 1, 1858

State of Wisconsin
County of Douglas

John Dow Howard (photograph from the Duluth Public Library) later owned large areas of land in both Superior and Duluth.

Eliab Byram Dean, Jr. (photo from Wisconsin Historical Society) was a Madison businessman and Wisconsin State Senator.

John D. Howard being duly sworn says, that he resides in Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, and that he is acquainted with Eliab B. Dean Jr, the Receiver of the U. S. Land office at Superior aforesaid; that sometime during the month of January or February 1858 the said Dean stated to affiant that he said Dean had an object in view whereby an investment could be made at a profitable rate, and if affiant could command the sum of one thousand or fifteen hundred dollars, he said Dean would give the affiant a proportion of the profits that might accrue therefrom, representing to the affiant that it was a matter he did not feel disposed to disclose fully the substance of [tile?] a future period, and that in the mean time affiant should follow his, Dean’s, instructions to -not- provide means to purchase Half-Breed Scrip and hold his Dean’s proportion secretly – saying he Dean did not wish to be known in the transaction. Subsequently, affiant was informed by Dean that the Half Breed Scrip was to be laid by affiant under power of attorney from Half-Breeds on lands in the Superior Land District, known as the “Iron Range” near Ashland, which lands had been filed upon by settlers under a pre-emption law of the United States that said Dean showed the affiant a list of the persons claiming the said land by pre emption which list was contained in the Register’s abstract of Declaratory statements, and told the affiant that these were the land he proposed to enter with the said scrip. For the purpose of enabling affiant to purchase genuine scrip the said Dean showed to affiant an official list of the Half-Breeds who were entitled to receive scrip from the Government. In this arrangement Dean proposed to affiant that he Dean and affiant should enter into a combination to contest the right to the land with the pre-emption. The said Dean further informed affiant that he had secured such influence at Washington that beyond a doubt he and affiant would be able to secure the land. And the said Dean wished affiant to keep Dean’s interest in the location of the Scrip a secret; and to do all the business in affiant’s name and after the title of the lands was secured, affiant was to convey to Dean, or for Dean’s benefit such portion of the lands as Dean by the agreement should be entitled to.

Ad from the Superior Chronicle, July 10, 1855.

And this affiant further says that said arrangement was not consummated in consequence of affiant’s determination not to purchase the scrip, and further says not.

J. D. Howard

Sworn to & subscribed before me this 1st day of May A.D. 1858

Geo. W. Perry

Notary Public
Douglas County



May 2 1858

State of Wisconsin
County of Douglas

Julius Austrian (photo from the Madeline Island Museum) was accused of obtaining fraudulent power-of-attorney over Chippewa Mixed-Bloods as the U.S. Postmaster at La Pointe.

Joel Allen Barber, Oct. 12, 1858:
“I think I have told you that E. B. Dean 
is removed.  For this we must thank Austrian.  The Com. gave him 30 days in which to answer the charge against him, and he was round here a long time trying to get Austrian to retract and even offered him $2000.00 to clear him but no go The Jew was determined to 
have his revenge.”

Julius Austrian being duly sworn says that he resides in the County of LaPointe, Wisconsin and that he is acquainted with Eliab B. Dean Jr Receiver of the U. S. Land Office at Superior Wisconsin; that on the first day of March A.D. 1858, this affiant applied at said Land Office to locate certain Chippewa Half Breed Scrip, under Power of Attorney to this affiant from the Half Breeds to whom said Scrip was issued, that the application of this affiant under such Power of Attorney was made in due and proper form, and signed by the Register of said Land Office, who told and that this affiant requested the Receiver (the said Dean) to sign the same, but that said Dean delayed signing the same, and would not talk with the affiant in the Land Office, but compelled this affiant to meet him said Dean at various places under various pretexts, until finally the said Dean told this affiant that he (Dean) would not sign the said applications unless this affiant should first pay him (the said Dean) the sum of Five hundred Dollars, and that this affiant being pressed for time and anxious to perfect the location of the said Scrip, after some demur, paid to the said Dean the said sum of $500.00 so demanded to the said Land Office, and signed the said applications as Receiver of said Land Office.

Julius Austrian

Sworn and subscribed before me
this 2nd day of May A.D. 1858

Geo. W. Perry

Notary Public
Douglas County



General Land Office
May 21, 1858


New York Times, Dec. 9, 1858:
Land Office Frauds
“If Congress would amuse their leisure a little by looking at these land office operations on the verge of civilization, they would strike a placer of corruption.  […]  Let them find out what Receiver DEAN said of Register SHAW, and what Register SHAW said of Receiver DEAN, and why DEAN was dismissed and why SHAW was retained.  It will be rare fun for somebody.  The country ought to know something about the Land Offices, and such an investigation as this would enlighten the country very materially.  I hope it will be made, and that the country will learn how it is that more land has been entered in this district by Indians, foreigners, and minors than by qualified preëmptors, and all for the benefit of a few favored speculators.”

I have the honor to submit herewith a letter from Daniel Shaw Esq.~ Register at Superior Wisconsin, covering charges against E. B. Dean Jr., Receiver at that place, as follows:

1) Refusing to sign an application of Julius Austrian to locate certain Half breed scrip, under power of Attorney, said Dean refused to sign the applications unless Austrian paid $500, after some demur A. paid the $500 and Dean signed the papers in his official capacity as Receiver.

2) Agreeing to permit one Honsinger, for a consideration, to enter the pre-emption claim of a man named Cotas advising Honsinger what means to take to enter Cotas claim; these measures however were defeated by the Register.

3) Making an agreement with Jas. D. Ray, to purchase land of a pre-emption after he had proved up, and furnishing funds from the public safe to pay for the land so purchased.

4) Proposing to John D. Howard, a secret partnership for the purpose of speculating in half breed Scrip, and entering lands therewith, which Lands had been filed upon by settlers under the pre-emption law. Dean exhibited to Howard a list of persons claiming these lands, also exhibiting the Official list of half breeds; which list this Office directed should be kept confidentially from all persons.



Superior, Wisconsin
May 22, 1859


Julius Austrian succeeded in securing several thousand acres of Chippewa Mixed-Blood Allotments along the Penokee Iron Range for his benefit, not the Tribe’s.  The Austrian family and their business partners co-founded the LaPointe Iron Company with these lands via a charter enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature in March of 1859. 
Today the LaPointe Iron Company continues to claim title to several thousand acres of Chippewa Mixed-Blood Allotments.

You will oblige me by informing me whether my removal from the Office of Register at this place was in consequence of any charges [referred?] against me; and, if so; whether it appears from the record that I have have an opportunity for defence.

Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Servt,

Daniel Shaw.

Hon. Thos. A. Hendricks,
Comr. Genl. Land Office,
Washington, D.C.

By Amorin Mello

Early life among the Indians
by Benjamin Green Armstrong
continued from Chapter I.


In Washington.—Told to Go Home.—Senator Briggs, of New York.—The Interviews with President Fillmore.—Reversal of the Removal Order.—The Trip Home.—Treaty of 1854 and the Reservations.—The Mile Square.—The Blinding. »

After a fey days more in New York City I had raised the necessary funds to redeem the trinkets pledged with the ‘bus driver and to pay my hotel bills, etc., and on the 22d day of June, 1852, we had the good fortune to arrive in Washington.

Washington Delegation, June 22, 1852
Engraved from an unknown photograph by Marr and Richards Co. for Benjamin Armstrong’s Early Life Among the Indians.  Chief Buffalo, his speaker Oshogay, Vincent Roy, Jr., two other La Pointe Band members, and Armstrong are assumed to be in this engraving.

I took my party to the Metropolitan Hotel and engaged a room on the first floor near the office for the Indians, as they said they did not like to get up to high in a white man’s house. As they required but a couple mattresses for their lodgings they were soon made comfortable. I requested the steward to serve their meals in their room, as I did not wish to take them into the dining room among distinguished people, and their meals were thus served.

Undated postcard of the Metropolitan Hotel, formerly known as Brown’s India Queen Hotel.

The morning following our arrival I set out in search of the Interior Department of the Government to find the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, to request an interview with him, which he declined to grant and said :

“I want you to take your Indians away on the next train west, as they have come here without permission, and I do not want to see you or hear of your Indians again.”

I undertook to make explanations, but he would not listen to me and ordered me from his office. I went to the sidewalk completely discouraged, for my present means was insufficient to take them home. I paced up and down the sidewalk pondering over what was best to do, when a gentleman came along and of him I inquired the way to the office of the Secretary of the Interior. He passed right along saying,

Secretary of the Interior
Alexander Hugh Holmes Stuart
~ Department of the Interior

“This way, sir; this way, sir;” and I followed him.

He entered a side door just back of the Indian Commissioner’s office and up a short flight of stairs, and going in behind a railing, divested himself of hat and cane, and said :

“What can I do for you sir.”

I told him who I was, what my party consisted of, where we came from and the object of our visit, as briefly as possible. He replied that I must go and see the Commissioner of Indian Affairs just down stairs. I told him I had been there and the treatment I had received at his hands, then he said :

“Did you have permission to come, and why did you not go to your agent in the west for permission?”

I then attempted to explain that we had been to the agent, but could get no satisfaction; but he stopped me in the middle of my explanation, saying :

“I can do nothing for you. You must go to the Indian Commissioner,”

and turning, began a conversation with his clerk who was there when we went in.

I walked out more discouraged than ever and could not imagine what next I could do. I wandered around the city and to the Capitol, thinking I might find some one I had seen before, but in this I failed and returned to the hotel, where, in the office I found Buffalo surrounded by a crowd who were trying to make him understand them and among them was the steward of the house. On my entering the office and Buffalo recognizing me, the assemblage, seeing I knew him, turned their attention to me, asking who he was, etc., to all of which questions I answered as briefly as possible, by stating that he was the head chief of of the Chippewas of the Northwest. The steward then asked:

“Why don’t you take him into the dining room with you? Certainly such a distinguished man as he, the head of the Chippewa people, should have at least that privilege.”

United States Representative George Briggs
~ Library of Congress

I did so and as we passed into the dining room we were shown to a table in one corner of the room which was unoccupied. We had only been seated a few moments when a couple of gentlemen who had been occupying seats in another part of the dining room came over and sat at our table and said that if there were no objections they would like to talk with us. They asked about the party, where from, the object of the visit, etc. I answered them briefly, supposing them to be reporters and I did not care to give them too much information. One of these gentlemen asked what room we had, saying that himself and one or two others would like to call on us right after dinner. I directed them where to come and said I would be there to meet them.

About 2 o’clock they came, and then for the first time I knew who those gentlemen were. One was Senator Briggs, of New York, and the others were members of President Filmore’s cabinet, and after I had told them more fully what had taken me there, and the difficulties I had met with, and they had consulted a little while aside. Senator Briggs said :

“We will undertake to get you and your people an interview with the President, and will notify you here when a meeting can be arranged. ”

During the afternoon I was notified that an interview had been arranged for the next afternoon at 3 o’clock. During the evening Senator Briggs and other friends called, and the whole matter was talked over and preparations made for the interview the following day, which were continued the next day until the hour set for the interview.

United States President
Millard Fillmore.
~ Library of Congress

When we were assembled Buffalo’s first request was that all be seated, as he had the pipe of peace to present, and hoped that all who were present would partake of smoke from the peace pipe. The pipe, a new one brought for the purpose, was filled and lighted by Buffalo and passed to the President who took two or three draughts from it, and smiling said, “Who is the next?” at which Buffalo pointed out Senator Briggs and desired he should be the next. The Senator smoked and the pipe was passed to me and others, including the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Secretary of the Interior and several others whose names I did not learn or cannot recall. From them, to Buffalo, then to O-sho-ga, and from him to the four braves in turn, which completed that part of the ceremony. The pipe was then taken from the stem and handed to me for safe keeping, never to be used again on any occasion. I have the pipe still in my possession and the instructions of Buffalo have been faithfully kept. The old chief now rose from his seat, the balance following his example and marched in single file to the President and the general hand-shaking that was began with the President was continued by the Indians with all those present. This over Buffalo said his under chief, O-sha-ga, would state the object of our visit and he hoped the great father would give them some guarantee that would quiet the excitement in his country and keep his young men peaceable. After I had this speech thoroughly interpreted, O-sha-ga began and spoke for nearly an hour. He began with the treaty of 1837 and showed plainly what the Indians understood the treaty to be. He next took up the treaty of 1842 and said he did not understand that in either treaty they had ceded away the land and he further understood in both cases that the Indians were never to be asked to remove from the lands included in those treaties, provided they were peaceable and behaved themselves and this they had done. When the order to move came Chief Buffalo sent runners out in all directions to seek for reasons and causes for the order, but all those men returned without finding a single reason among all the Superior and Mississippi Indians why the great father had become displeased. When O-sha-ga had finished his speech I presented the petition I had brought and quickly discovered that the President did recognize some names upon it, which gave me new courage. When the reading and examination of it had been concluded the meeting was adjourned, the President directing the Indian Commissioner to say to the landlord at the hotel that our hotel bills would be paid by the government. He also directed that we were to have the freedom of the city for a week.

Read Biographical Sketch of Vincent Roy, Jr. manuscript for a different perspective on their meeting the President.

The second day following this Senator Briggs informed me that the President desired another interview that day, in accordance with which request we went to the White House soon after dinner and meeting the President, he told the, delegation in a brief speech that he would countermand the removal order and that the annuity payments would be made at La Pointe as before and hoped that in the future there would be no further cause for complaint. At this he handed to Buffalo a written instrument which he said would explain to his people when interpreted the promises he had made as to the removal order and payment of annuities at La Pointe and hoped when he had returned home he would call his chiefs together and have all the statements therein contained explained fully to them as the words of their great father at Washington.

The reader can imagine the great load that was then removed from my shoulders for it was a pleasing termination of the long and tedious struggle I had made in behalf of the untutored but trustworthy savage.

Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, circa 1857.
~ Minnesota Historical Society

On June 28th, 1852, we started on our return trip, going by cars to La Crosse, Wis., thence by steamboat to St. Paul, thence by Indian trail across the country to Lake Superior. On our way from St. Paul we frequently met bands of Indians of the Chippewa tribe to whom we explained our mission and its results, which caused great rejoicing, and before leaving these bands Buffalo would tell their chief to send a delegation, at the expiration of two moons, to meet him in grand council at La Pointe, for there was many things he wanted to say to them about what he had seen and the nice manner in which he had been received and treated by the great father.

At the time appointed by Buffalo for the grand council at La Pointe, the delegates assembled and the message given Buffalo by President Filmore was interpreted, which gave the Indians great satisfaction. Before the grand council adjourned word was received that their annuities would be given to them at La Pointe about the middle of October, thus giving them time to get together to receive them. A number of messengers was immediately sent out to all parts of the territory to notify them and by the time the goods arrived, which was about October 15th, the remainder of the Indians had congregated at La Pointe. On that date the Indians were enrolled and the annuities paid and the most perfect satisfaction was apparent among all concerned. The jubilee that was held to express their gratitude to the delegation that had secured a countermanding order in the removal matter was almost extravagantly profuse. The letter of the great father was explained to them all during the progress of the annuity payments and Chief Buffalo explained to the convention what he had seen; how the pipe of peace had been smoked in the great father’s wigwam and as that pipe was the only emblem and reminder of their duties yet to come in keeping peace with his white children, he requested that the pipe be retained by me. He then went on and said that there was yet one more treaty to be made with the great father and he hoped in making it they would be more careful and wise than they had heretofore been and reserve a part of their land for themselves and their children. It was here that he told his people that he had selected and adopted, me as his son and that I would hereafter look to treaty matters and see that in the next treaty they did not sell them selves out and become homeless ; that as he was getting old and must soon leave his entire cares to others, he hoped they would listen to me as his confidence in his adopted son was great and that when treaties were presented for them to sign they would listen to me and follow my advice, assuring them that in doing so they would not again be deceived.

Map of Lake Superior Chippewa territories ceded in 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854.
~ Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission

After this gathering of the Indians there was not much of interest in the Indian country that I can recall until the next annual payment in 1853. This payment was made at La Pointe and the Indians had been notified that commissioners would be appointed to make another treaty with them for the remainder of their territory. This was the territory lying in Minnesota west of Lake Superior; also east and west of the Mississippi river north to the territory belonging to the Boisfort and Pillager tribe, who are a part of the Chippewa nation, but through some arrangement between themselves, were detached from the main or more numerous body. It was at this payment that the Chippewa Indians proper desired to have one dollar each taken from their annuities to recompense me for the trouble and expense I had been to on the trip to Washington in their behalf, but I refused to accept it by reason of their very impecunious condition.

It was sometime in August, 1854, before the commissioners arrived at LaPointe to make the treaty and pay the annuities of that year. Messengers were despatched to notify all Indians of the fact that the great father had sent for them to come to La Pointe to get their money and clothing and to meet the government commissioners who wished to make another treaty with them for the territory lying west of Lake Superior and they were further instructed to have the Indians council among themselves before starting that those who came could be able to tell the wishes of any that might remain away in regards to a further treaty and disposition of their lands. Representatives came from all parts of the Chippewa country and showed a willingness to treat away the balance of their country. Henry C. Gilbert, the Indian agent at La Pointe, formerly of Ohio, and David B. Herriman, the agent for the Chippewas of the Mississippi country, were the commissioners appointed by the government to consumate this treaty.

Mackinac Indian Agent
Henry C. Gilbert
~ Branch County Photographs

While we were waiting the arrival of the interior Indians I had frequent talks with the commissioners and learned what their instructions were and about what they intended to offer for the lands which information I would communicate to Chief Buffalo and other head men in our immediate vicinity, and ample time was had to perfect our plans before the others should arrive, and when they did put in an appearance we were ready to submit to them our views for approval or rejection. Knowing as I did the Indians’ unwillingness to give up and forsake their old burying grounds I would not agree to any proposition that would take away the remainder of their lands without a reserve sufficient to afford them homes for themselves and posterity, and as fast as they arrived I counselled with them upon this subject and to ascertain where they preferred these reserves to be located. The scheme being a new one to them it required time and much talk to get the matter before them in its proper light. Finally it was agreed by all before the meeting of the council that no one would sign a treaty that did not give them reservations at different points of the country that would suit their convenience, that should afterwards be considered their bona-fide home. Maps were drawn of the different tracts that had been selected by the various chiefs for their reserve and permanent home. The reservations were as follows :

One at L’Anse Bay, one at Ontonagon, one at Lac Flambeau, one at Court O’Rilles, one at Bad River, one at Red Cliff or Buffalo Bay, one at Fond du Lac, Minn., and one at Grand Portage, Minn.

Joseph Stoddard (photo c.1941) worked on the 1854 survey of the Bad River Reservation exterior boundaries, and shared a different perspective about these surveys.
~ Bad River Tribal Historic Preservation Office

The boundaries were to be as near as possible by metes and bounds or waterways and courses. This was all agreed to by the Lake Superior Indians before the Mississippi Chippewas arrived and was to be brought up in the general council after they had come in, but when they arrived they were accompanied by the American Fur Company and most of their employees, and we found it impossible to get them to agree to any of our plans or to come to any terms. A proposition was made by Buffalo when all were gathered in council by themselves that as they could not agree as they were, a division should be drawn, dividing the Mississippi and the Lake Superior Indians from each other altogether and each make their own treaty After several days of counselling the proposition was agreed to, and thus the Lake Superiors were left to make their treaty for the lands mouth of Lake Superior to the Mississippi and the Mississippis to make their treaty for the lands west of the Mississippi. The council lasted several days, as I have stated, which was owing to the opposition of the American Fur Company, who were evidently opposed to having any such division made ; they yielded however, but only when they saw further opposition would not avail and the proposition of Buffalo became an Indian law. Our side was now ready to treat with the commissioners in open council. Buffalo, myself and several chiefs called upon them and briefly stated our case but were informed that they had no instructions to make any such treaty with us and were only instructed to buy such territory as the Lake Superiors and Mississippis then owned. Then we told them of the division the Indians had agreed upon and that we would make our own treaty, and after several days they agreed to set us off the reservations as previously asked for and to guarantee that all lands embraced within those boundaries should belong to the Indians and that they would pay them a nominal sum for the remainder of their possessions on the north shores. It was further agreed that the Lake Superior Indians should have two- thirds of all money appropriated for the Chippewas and the Mississippi contingent the other third. The Lake Superior Indians did not seem, through all these councils, to care so much for future annuities either in money or goods as they did for securing a home for themselves and their posterity that should be a permanent one. They also reserved a tract of land embracing about 100 acres lying across and along the Eastern end of La Pointe or Madeline Island so that they would not be cut off from the fishing privilege.

It was about in the midst of the councils leading up to the treaty of 1854 that Buffalo stated to his chiefs that I had rendered them services in the past that should be rewarded by something more substantial than their thanks and good wishes, and that at different times the Indians had agreed to reward me from their annuity money but I had always refused such offers as it would be taking from their necessities and as they had had no annuity money for the two years prior to 1852 they could not well afford to pay me in this way.

“And now,” continued Buffalo, “I have a proposition to make to you. As he has provided us and our children with homes by getting these reservations set off for us, and as we are about to part with all the lands we possess, I have it in my power, with your consent, to provide him with a future home by giving him a piece of ground which we are about to part with. He has agreed to accept this as it will take nothing from us and makes no difference with the great father whether we reserve a small tract of our territory or not, and if you agree I will proceed with him to the head of the lake and there select the piece of ground I desire him to have, that it may appear on paper when the treaty has been completed.”

The chiefs were unanimous in their acceptance of the proposition and told Buffalo to select a large piece that his children might also have a home in future as has been provided for ours.

Kiskitawag (Giishkitawag: “Cut Ear”) signed earlier treaties as a warrior of the Ontonagon Band and became associated with the La Pointe Band at Odanah.
~C.M. Bell, Smithsonian Digital Collections

This council lasted all night and just at break of day the old chief and myself, with four braves to row the boat, set out for the head of Lake Superior and did not stop anywhere only long enough to make and drink some tea, until we reached the head of St. Louis Bay. We landed our canoe by the side of a flat rock quite a distance from the shore, among grass and rushes. Here we ate our lunch and when completed Buffalo and myself, with another chief, Kish-ki-to-uk, waded ashore and ascended the bank to a small level plateau where we could get a better view of the bay. Here Buffalo turned to me, saying: .

“Are you satisfied with this location? I want to reserve the shore of this bay from the mouth of St. Louis river. How far that way do you you want it to go?” pointing southeast, or along the south shore of the lake.

I told him we had better not try to make it too large for if we did the great father’s officers at Washington might throw it out of the treaty and said:

“I will be satisfied with one mile square, and let it start from the rock which we have christened Buffalo rock, running easterly in the direction of Minnesota Point, taking in a mile square immediately northerly from the head of St. Louis Bay”

As there was no other way of describing it than by metes and bounds we tried to so describe it in the treaty, but Agent Gilbert, whether by mistake or not I am unable to say, described it differently. He described it as follows: “Starting from a rock immediately above and adjoining Minnesota Point, etc.”

We spent an hour or two here in looking over the plateau then went back to our canoe and set out for La Pointe. We traveled night and day until we reached home.

During our absence some of the chiefs had been talking more or less with the commissioners and immediately on our return all the Indians met in a grand council when Buffalo explained to them what he had done on the trip and how and where he had selected the piece of land that I was to have reserved in the treaty for my future home and in payment for the services I had rendered them in the past. The balance of the night was spent in preparing ourselves for the meeting with the treaty makers the next day, and about 10 o’clock next morning we were in attendance before the commissioners all prepared for a big council.

Mackinac Indian Agent
Henry Clark Gilbert
~ Branch County Photographs

Agent Gilbert started the business by beginning a speech interpreted by the government interpreter, when Buffalo interrupted him by saying that he did not want anything interpreted to them from the English language by any one except his adoped son for there had always been things told to the Indians in the past that proved afterwards to be untrue, whether wrongly interpreted or not, he could not say;

“and as we now feel that my adopted son interprets to us just what you say, and we can get it correctly, we wish to hear your words repeated by him, and when we talk to you our words can be interpreted by your own interpreter, and in this way one interpreter can watch the other and correct each other should there be mistakes. We do not want to be deceived any more as we have in the past. We now understand that we are selling our lands as well as the timber and that the whole, with the exception of what we shall reserve, goes to the great father forever.”

Bureau of Indian Affairs Director
George Washington Manypenny

Commissioner of Indian affairs. Col. Manypenny, then said to Buffalo:

“What you have said meets my own views exactly and I will now appoint your adopted son your interpreter and John Johnson, of Sault Ste. Marie, shall be the interpreter on the part of the government,” then turning to the commissioners said, “how does that suit you, gentlemen.”

They at once gave their consent and the council proceeded.

Buffalo informed the commissioners of what he had done in regard to selecting a tract of land for me and insisted that it become a part of the treaty and that it should be patented to me directly by the government without any restrictions. Many other questions were debated at this session but no definite agreements were reached and the council was adjourned in the middle of the afternoon. Chief Buffalo asking for the adjournment that he might talk over some matters further with his people, and that night the subject of providing homes for their half-breed relations who lived in different parts of the country was brought up and discussed and all were in favor of making such a provision in the treaty. I proposed to them that as we had made provisions for ourselves and children it would be only fair that an arrangement should be made in the treaty whereby the government should provide for our mixed blood relations by giving to each person the head of a family or to each single person twenty-one years of age a piece of land containing at least eighty acres which would provide homes for those now living and in the future there would be ample room on the reservations for their children, where all could live happily together. We also asked that all teachers and traders in the ceded territory who at that time were located there by license and doing business by authority of law, should each be entitled to 160 acres of land at $1.25 per acre. This was all reduced to writing and when the council met next morning we were prepared to submit all our plans and requests to the commissioners save one, which we required more time to consider. Most of this day was consumed in speech-making by the chiefs and commissioners and in the last speech of the day, which was made by Mr. Gilbert, he said:

“We have talked a great deal and evidently understand one another. You have told us what you want, and now we want time to consider your requests, while you want time as you say to consider another matter, and so we will adjourn until tomorrow and we, with your father. Col. Manypenny, will carefully examine and consider your propositions and when we meet to-morrow we will be prepared to answer you with an approval or rejection.”

Julius Austrian purchased the village of La Pointe and other interests from the American Fur Company in 1853.  He entered his Town Plan of La Pointe on August 29th of 1854. He was the highest paid claimant of the 1854 Treaty at La Pointe.  His family hosted the 1855 Annuity Payments at La Pointe.
~ Photograph of Austrian from the Madeline Island Museum

That evening the chiefs considered the other matter, which was to provide for the payment of the debts of the Indians owing the American Fur Company and other traders and agreed that the entire debt could not be more than $90,000 and that that amount should be taken from the Indians in bulk and divided up among their creditors in a pro-rata manner according to the amount due to any person or firm, and that this should wipe out their indebtedness. The American Fur Company had filed claims which, in the aggregate, amounted to two or three times this sum and were at the council heavily armed for the purpose of enforcing their claim by intimidation. This and the next day were spent in speeches pro and con but nothing was effected toward a final settlement.

Col. Manypenny came to my store and we had a long private interview relating to the treaty then under consideration and he thought that the demands of the Indians were reasonable and just and that they would be accepted by the commissioners. He also gave me considerable credit for the manner in which I had conducted the matter for Indians, considering the terrible opposition I had to contend with. He said he had claims in his possession which had been filed by the traders that amounted to a large sum but did not state the amount. As he saw the Indians had every confidence in me and their demands were reasonable he could see no reason why the treaty could not be speedily brought to a close. He then asked if I kept a set of books. I told him I only kept a day book or blotter showing the amount each Indian owed me. I got the books and told him to take them along with him and that he or his interpreter might question any Indian whose name appeared thereon as being indebted to me and I would accept whatever that Indian said he owed me whether it be one dollar or ten cents. He said he would be pleased to take the books along and I wrapped them up and went with him to his office, where I left them. He said he was certain that some traders were making claims for far more than was due them. Messrs. Gilbert and Herriman and their chief clerk, Mr. Smith, were present when Mr. Manypenny related the talk he had with me at the store. He considered the requests of the Indians fair and just, he said, and he hoped there would be no further delays in concluding the treaty and if it was drawn up and signed with the stipulations and agreements that were now understood should be incorporated in it, he would strongly recommend its ratification by the President and senate.

Naagaanab of Fond Du Lac
~ Minnesota Historical Society

The day following the council was opened by a speech from Chief Na-gon-ab in which he cited considerable history.

“My friends,” he said, “I have been chosen by our chief, Buffalo, to speak to you. Our wishes are now on paper before you. Before this it was not so. We have been many times deceived. We had no one to look out for us. The great father’s officers made marks on paper with black liquor and quill. The Indian can not do this. We depend upon our memory. We have nothing else to look to. We talk often together and keep your words clear in our minds. When you talk we all listen, then we talk it over many times. In this way it is always fresh with us. This is the way we must keep our record. In 1837 we were asked to sell our timber and minerals. In 1842 we were asked to do the same. Our white brothers told us the great father did not want the land. We should keep it to hunt on. Bye and bye we were told to go away; to go and leave our friends that were buried yesterday. Then we asked each other what it meant. Does the great father tell the truth? Does he keep his promises? We cannot help ourselves! We try to do as we agree in treaty. We ask you what this means? You do not tell from memory! You go to your black marks and say this is what those men put down; this is what they said when they made the treaty. The men we talk with don’t come back; they do not come and you tell us they did not tell us so! We ask you where they are? You say you do not know or that they are dead and gone. This is what they told you; this is what they done. Now we have a friend who can make black marks on paper When the council is over he will tell us what we have done. We know now what we are doing! If we get what we ask our chiefs will touch the pen, but if not we will not touch it. I am told by our chief to tell you this: We will not touch the pen unless our friend says the paper is all right.”

Na-gon-ab was answered by Commissioner Gilbert, saying:

“You have submitted through your friend and interpreter the terms and conditions upon which you will cede away your lands. We have not had time to give them all consideration and want a little more time as we did not know last night what your last proposition would be. Your father. Col. Manypenny, has ordered some beef cattle killed and a supply of provisions will be issued to you right away. You can now return to your lodges and get a good dinner and talk matters over among yourselves the remainder of the day and I hope you will come back tomorrow feeling good natured and happy, for your father, Col. Manypenny, will have something to say to you and will have a paper which your friend can read and explain to you.”

When the council met next day in front of the commissioners’ office to hear what Col. Manypenny had to say a general good feeling prevailed and a hand-shaking all round preceded the council, which Col. Manypenny opened by saying:

“My friends and children: I am glad to see you all this morning looking good natured and happy and as if you could sit here and listen to what I have to say. We have a paper here for your friend to examine to see if it meets your approval. Myself and the commissioners which your great father has sent here have duly considered all your requests and have concluded to accept them. As the season is passing away and we are all anxious to go to our families and you to your homes, I hope when you read this treaty you will find it as you expect to and according to the understandings we have had during the council. Now your friend may examine the paper and while he is doing so we will take a recess until afternoon.”

Detail of Benjamin Armstrong from a photograph by Matthew Brady
~ Minnesota Historical Society

Chief Buffalo, turning to me, said:

“My son, we, the chiefs of all the country, have placed this matter entirely in your hands. Go and examine the paper and if it suits you it will suit us.”

Then turning to the chiefs, he asked,

“what do you all say to that?”

The ho-ho that followed showed the entire circle were satisfied.

I went carefully through the treaty as it had been prepared and with a few exceptions found it was right. I called the attention of the commissioners to certain parts of the stipulations that were incorrect and they directed the clerk to make the changes.

The following day the Indians told the commissioners that as their friend had made objections to the treaty as it was they requested that I might again examine it before proceeding further with the council. On this examination I found that changes had been made but on sheets of paper not attached to the body of the instrument, and as these sheets contained some of the most important items in the treaty, I again objected and told the commissioners that I would not allow the Indians to sign it in that shape and not until the whole treaty was re-written and the detached portions appeared in their proper places. I walked out and told the Indians that the treaty was not yet ready to sign and they gave up all further endeavors until next day. I met the commissioners alone in their office that afternoon and explained the objectionable points in the treaty and told them the Indians were already to sign as soon as those objections were removed. They were soon at work putting the instrument in shape.

“One version of the boundaries for Chief Buffalo’s reservation is shown at the base of Minnesota Point in a detail from an 1857 map preserved in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Other maps show a larger and more irregularly shaped versions of the reservation boundary, though centered on the same area.”

The next day when the Indians assembled they were told by the commissioners that all was ready and the treaty was laid upon a table and I found it just as the Indians had wanted it to be, except the description of the mile square. The part relating to the mile square that was to have been reserved for me read as follows:

“Chief Buffalo, being desirous of providing for some of his relatives who had rendered them important services, it is agreed that he may select one mile square of the ceded territory heretofore described.”

“Now,” said the commissioner,

“we want Buffalo to designate the person or persons to whom he wishes the patents to issue.”

Buffalo then said:

“I want them to be made out in the name of my adopted son.”

This closed all ceremony and the treaty was duly signed on the 30th day of September, 1854. This done the commissioners took a farewell shake of the hand with all the chiefs, hoping to meet them again at the annuity payment the coming year. They then boarded the steamer North Star for home. In the course of a few days the Indians also disappeared, some to their interior homes and some to their winter hunting grounds and a general quiet prevailed on the island.

Portrait of the Steamer North Star from American Steam Vessels, by Samuel Ward Stanton, page 40.

About the second week in October, 1854, I went from La Pointe to Ontonagon in an open boat for the purpose of purchasing my winter supplies as it had got too late to depend on getting them from further below. While there a company was formed for the purpose of going into the newly ceded territory to make claims upon lands that would be subject to entry as soon as the late treaty should be ratified. The company consisted of Samuel McWaid, William Whitesides, W. W. Kingsbury, John Johnson, Oliver Melzer, John McFarland, Daniel S. Cash, W. W. Spaulding, all of Ontonagon, and myself. The two last named gentlemen, Daniel S. Cash and W. W. Spaulding, agreeing to furnish the company with supplies and all necessaries, including money, to enter the lands for an equal interest and it was so stipulated that we were to share equally in all that we, or either of us, might obtain. As soon as the supplies could be purchased and put aboard the schooner Algonquin we started for the head of the lake, stopping at La Pointe long enough for me to get my family aboard and my business matters arranged for the winter. I left my store at La Pointe in charge of Alex. Nevaux, and we all sailed for the head of Lake Superior, the site of which is now the city of Duluth. Reaching there about the first week in December—the bay of Superior being closed by ice—we were compelled to make our landing at Minnesota Point and take our goods from there to the main land on the north’ shore in open boats, landing about one and-one half miles east of Minnesota Point at a place where I desired to make a preemption for myself and to establish a trading post for the winter. Here I erected a building large enough for all of us to live in, as we expected to make this our headquarters for the winter, and also a building for a trading post. The other members of the company made claims in other places, but I did no more land looking that winter.

Detail of Superior City townsite at the head of Lake Superior from the 1854 U.S. General Land Office survey by Stuntz and Barber.

About January 20th, 1855, I left my place at the head of the lake to go back to La Pointe and took with me what furs I had collected up to that time, as I had a good place at La Pointe to dry and keep them. I took four men along to help me through and two dog trains. As we were passing down Superior Bay and when just in front of the village of West Superior a man came to us on the ice carrying a small bundle on his back and asked me if I had any objections to his going through in my company. He said the snow was deep and the weather cold and it was bad for one man to travel alone. I told him I had no objections provided he would take his turn with the other men in breaking the road for the dogs. We all went on together and camped that night at a place well known as Flag River. We made preparations for a cold night as the thermometer must have been twenty-five or thirty degrees below zero and the snow fully two feet deep. As there were enough of us we cut and carried up a large quantity of wood, both green and dry, and shoveled the snow away to the ground with our snow shoes and built a large fire. We then cut evergreen boughs and made a wind break or bough camp and concluded we could put in a very comfortable night. We then cooked and ate our supper and all seemed happy. I unrolled a bale of bear skins and spread them out on the ground for my bed, filled my pipe and lay down to rest while the five men with me were talking and smoking around the camp fire. I was very tired and presume I was not long in falling asleep. How long I slept I cannot tell, but was awakened by something dropping into my face, which felt like a powdered substance. I sprang to my feet for I found something had got into my eyes and was smarting them badly. I rushed for the snow bank that was melting from the heat and applied handful after handful to my eyes and face. I found the application was peeling the skin off my face and the pain soon became intense. I woke up the crew and they saw by the firelight the terrible condition I was in. In an hour’s time my eyeballs were so swollen that I could not close the lids and the pain did not abate. I could do nothing more than bathe my eyes until morning, which I did with tea-grounds. It seemed an age before morning came and when it did come I could not realize it, for I was totally blind. The party started with me at early dawn for La Pointe. The man who joined us the day before went no further, but returned to Superior, which was a great surprise to the men of our party, who frequently during the day would say:

“There is something about this matter that is not right,”

and I never could learn afterward of his having communicated the fact of my accident to any one or to assign any reason or excuse for turning back, which caused us to suspect that he had a hand in the blinding, but as I could get no proof to establish that suspicion, I could do nothing in the matter. This man was found dead in his cabin a few months afterwards.

At La Pointe I got such treatment as could be procured from the Indians which allayed the inflamation but did not restore the sight. I remained at La Pointe about ten days, and then returned home with dog train to my family, where I remained the balance of the winter, when not at Superior for treatment. When the ice moved from the lake in the spring I abandoned everything there and returned to La Pointe and was blind or nearly so until the winter of 1861.

Returning a little time to the north shore I wish to relate an incident of the death of one of our Ontonagon company. Two or three days after I had reached home from La Pointe, finding my eyes constantly growing worse I had the company take me to Superior where I could get treatment. Dr. Marcellus, son of Prof. Marcellus, of an eye infirmary in Philadelphia, who had just then married a beautiful young wife, and come west to seek his fortune, was engaged to treat me. I was taken to the boarding house of Henry Wolcott, where I engaged rooms for the winter as I expected to remain there until spring. I related to the doctor what had befallen me and he began treatment. At times I felt much better but no permanent relief seemed near. About the middle February my family required my presence at home, as there was some business to be attended to which they did not understand. My wife sent a note to me by Mr. Melzer, stating that it was necessary for me to return, and as the weather that day was very pleasant, she hoped that I would come that afternoon. Mr. Melzer delivered me the note, which I requested him to read. It was then 11 a. m. and I told him we would start right after dinner, and requested him to tell the doctor that I wished to see him right away, and then return and get his dinner, as it would be ready at noon, to which he replied:

“If I am not here do not wait for me, but I will be here at the time you are ready for home.”

Mr. Melzer did return shortly after we had finished our dinner and I requested him to eat, as I would not be ready to start for half an hour, but he insisted he was not hungry. We had no conveyance and at 1 p. m. we set out for home. We went down a few steps to the ice, as Mr. Wolcott’s house stood close to the shore of the bay, and went straight across Superior Bay to Minnesota Point, and across the point six or eight rods and struck the ice on Lake Superior. A plain, hard beaten road led from here direct to my home. After we had proceeded about 150 yards, following this hard beaten road, Melzer at once stopped and requested me to go ahead, as I could follow the beaten road without assistance, the snow being deep on either side.

“Now,” he says go ahead, for I must go back after a drink.”

I followed the road quite well, and when near the house my folks came out to meet me, their first inquiry being:

“Where is Melzer?”

I told them the circumstances of his turning back for a drink of water. Reaching the bank on which my house stood, some of my folks, looking back over the road I had come, discovered a dark object apparently floundering on the ice. Two or three of our men started for the spot and there found the dead body of poor Melzer. We immediately notified parties in Superior of the circumstances and ordered a post-mortem examination of the body. The doctors found that his stomach was entirely empty and mostly gone from the effects of whisky and was no thicker than tissue paper and that his heart had burst into three pieces. We gave him a decent burial at Superior and peace to his ashes, His last act of kindness was in my behalf.

To be continued in Chapter III