Missed Kisses, Hedgehog Indigestion, and a Wild Boat Chase: Mystery Journal 1843-1844

July 29, 2013

Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

In my continuing goal to actually add original archival research to this site, rather than always mooching off the labors of others, I present to you another document from the Wheeler Family Papers.   Last week, I popped over to the Wisconsin Historical Society collections at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, and brought back some great stuff.  Unlike the somber Sandy Lake  letters I published July 11th, this first new document is a mysterious (and often hilarious) journal from 1843 and 1844.

It was in the Wheeler papers, but it was neither written by nor for one of the Wheelers.  There is no name on it to indicate an author, and despite a year of entries, very little to indicate his occupation (unless he was a weatherman).  He starts in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, bound for Fond du Lac, Minnesota–though neither was a state yet.  Our guy reaches Lake Superior at a time of great change.  The Ojibwe have just ceded the land in the Treaty of 1842, commercial traffic is beginning to start on Lake Superior, and the old fur-trade economy is dying out.

Our guy doesn’t seem to be a native of this area.  He’s not married.  He doesn’t seem to be strongly connected to the fur trade.  If he works for the government, he isn’t very powerful.  He is definitely not a missionary.  He doesn’t seem to be a land speculator or anything like that. 

Who is he, and why did he come here?  I have some hunches, but nothing solid.  Read it and let me know what you think.

1843

Aug. 24th 1843.  left Taycheedah for Milwaukie on my route to Lake Superior, drove to Cases[?] in Fond du Lac

His ultimate destination is Fond du Lac of Lake Superior (today’s Fond du Lac, MN), but here he’s referring to Fond du Lac of Lake Winnebago (FdL, WI).

25th                   Drove to Cases on Milwaukie road, commenced rowing before we arrived, and we put up for the night.

26th                   Started in the rain, drove to Vinydans[?], rain all the time. wet my carpet bag and clothes—we put out 12 O’clock m. took clothes out of my traveling bag and dried them.

27th sunday         Left early in the morning.  arrived at Milwaukie at 12 O clock M.  stayed at the Fountain house, had good fun.

28th                   Purchased provisions and other articles of outfit and embarked aboard the Steamboat Chesapeake for Mackinac 9 O’clock P. M. had a pleasant time.

30th                   Arrived at Mackinac 6 O’clock A.M. put up at Mr. Wescott’s had excellent fare and good company, charges reasonable.  four Thousand Indian men encamped on the Island for Payment—very warm weather—Slept with windows raised, and uncomfortably warm.  There are a few white families, but the mass of the people are a motley crowd “from snowy white to sooty[?],” I visited the curiosities, the old fort Holmes, the sugar loaf rock the arched rock—heard some good stories well told by Mr. Wescott and a gentleman from Philadelphia.

Sept 4th              Left Mackinac on board the Steamer Gen. Scott 8 O’clock A. M.  arrived at Sault St, Marie same night 6 O’clock—very pleasant weather.  gardens look well.  Put up at Johnsons.  had good fare fish eggs fowls and garden vegetables.

Johnsons is likely Johnston’s, the dominant fur-trading family of the Soo.

7th                     Embarked on board the Brig John Jacob Astor for La Pointe.  Sailed fifty miles.  at midnight the wind shifted suddenly into the N.W. and blew a hurricane and we were obliged to run back into the St. Marie’s river, and lay there at Pine Point until Sunday.

10th                   when we best[?] out of the river, and proceeding on

1843

Sept 11th            Monday  heading against hard wind all day—

Mr. Wheeler: Rev. Leonard H. Wheeler
makak: a semi-rigid or rigid container: a basket (especially one of birch bark), a box (Photo: Smithsonian Institution; Definition: Ojibwe People’s Dictionary).

12th                   Warm cloudless brilliant morning, a perfect calm—10 O’clock fair wind, and with every sail our vessel plows the deep, with majesty.

13th                   cloudy—fair wind, we arrive at La Pointe 9 O’clock P.M. when a cannon fired from on board the vessel announced our arrival.

Mr. Wheeler of the Presbyterian Mission was very kind in receiving me to room with him, and I am indebted to him and family for many acts of kindness during my stay at La Pointe, and I fell under [?] for about 15 lbs boiled beef and a small Mokuk of sugar, which they insisted on my taking on my departure for Fond du Lac, and which men[?] very p[?]able while wind on my way upon the shore of Lake Superior.

27th                   Left La Pointe about 4 O clock P. M. in small boat in company with the farmer & Blacksmith stationed at Fond du Lac.  we rowed to Raspberry river and encamped.

Farmer & Blacksmith:  Under the terms of the 1842 Treaty of La Pointe along with annual payments of money and goods, and money to establish schools, the government paid the Ojibwe “two thousand (2,000) dollars for the support of two blacksmiths shops, (including pay of smiths and assistants, and iron steel &c.) one thousand (1,000) dollars for pay of two farmers, twelve hundred (1,200) for pay of two carpenters…”  My working hypothesis is that this journal was written by the government carpenter, but I’ve yet to figure out his name.
Raspberry River:  Flows into Raspberry Bay north of Red Cliff.  Siskiwit Bay:  near modern day Cornucopia, Wisconsin.  Bark Point:   just east of Herbster.  Pukwaekah (Gaa-apakwaanikaa) River is the Flagg River (Port Wing, WI).  For another post on these locations, check out Kah-puk-wi-e-kah: Cornucopia, Herbster, or Port Wing? from March 30th.

28th                   Head wind—rowed to Siscowet Bay and encamped.

29th                   Rain and fair wind, we embarked about 8 O clock in the rain—in doubling Bark Point we got an Ocean more, but our little boat rides it nobly.  the wind and rain increase, and we run into Pukwaekah river, the wind blowing directly on shore and the waves dashing to an enormous height, it was by miracle, our men chose,  that struck the mouth of that small river, and entered in safety, After we had pitched our tent, we saw eight canoes with sails making directly for the river.  they could not strike the entrance at the mouth of the river, and were driven on shore upon the beach and filled. We assisted in hauling our some of the first that came, and they assisted the rest.

1843

Sept 30th            High wind and rain.  We remained at this place until wednesday.

Oct 4th               At 1 O clock A. M. the wind having abated we again embarked and rowed into the mouth of the St. Louis at 1 O clock P. M. I threw myself upon the bank, completely exhausted, and thankful to be once more on Terra firma, and determined to stay there until my strength should be reignited, however having taken dinner upon the bank and a cup of tea, the wind sprang up favorably and we sailed up the river ten miles and encamped upon an island.

A.M.F:  American Fur Company

5th                     Arrived at the A.M.F.’s Trading Post the place of our destination, at 10 O’clock A.M.  (mild and pleasant from this time to the 24th weather has been remarkably.

24th                   Cold—snow and some ice in the river

26th                   The river froze over at this place.

27th                   Colder the ice makes fast in the river

Nov 1st              Crossed the river on the ice—winter weather—

2nd                    Moderate

5th                     Sunday warm the ice is failing in the river dangerous crossing on foot

7th and 8th           Warm and pleasant—the ice is melting

9th                     Warm and misty—thawing fort

20th                   Warm—rains a little—the river is nearly clean of ice—

Dec. 3rd              The weather up to this date has been very mild.  No snow, the ice on the river scarcely sufficient to bear a horse and train—

Although this journal doesn’t have a lot of solid narrative history in it, I love the references to how some of the holidays were celebrated around here 170 years ago.  It prompted me to look up the origins of April Fools Day, for one.  New Years hasn’t changed much, though we have to wonder if our unknown narrator ever got his kiss.

Jan 1st 1844        Warm and misty—more like April fool than New years day

1844

Jan 1st               On this day I must record the honor of being visited by some half dozen pretty squaws expecting a New Years present and a kiss, not being aware of the etiquette of the place, we were rather taken by surprise, in not having presents prepared—however a few articles were mustered, an I must here acknowledge that although, out presents were not very valuable, we were entitled to the reward of a kiss, which I was ungallant enough not to claim, but they’ll never slip through my fingers in that way again.

March 2nd           New sugar, weather pleasant

3rd                     Cloudy chilly wind

Bebiizigindibe (Curly Head) signed the Treaty of 1842 as 2nd Chief from Gull Lake. According to William Warren, he was known as “Little Curly Head.” “Big Curly Head” was a famous Gull Lake war chief who died in 1825 while returning home from the Treaty of Prairie du Chien. The younger chief was the son of Niigaani-giizhig (also killed by the Dakota), and the half-brother of Gwiiwizhenzhish or Bad Boy (pictured). According to Warren, this incident broke a truce between the two nations (Photo by Whitney’s of St. Paul, Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society).

17th                   Pleasant, two Indians arrive and bring the news that the chief of the Gull Lake band of Chippeways has been killed by the Sioux—there appears to be not much excitement among the Indians here upon the subject.  The name of the chief that is killed is Babezegondeba (Curly Head)

The winter has been remarkably mild and pleasant—but little snow—no tedious storms and but two or three cold days.

31st                   A cloudy brilliant day—The frogs are singing

April 1st             A lovely spring morning—warm—the Ducks are flying

Afternoon a little cloudy but warm

Evening, moonlight—beautiful and bright

2nd                    Warm morning.  afternoon high wind rain

A pleasant moonlight evening—warm

3rd                     Briliant morning—warm afternoon appearance of rain.  the ice is moving out of the river  Ducks & Geese are flying and we have fresh fish

4th                     Clean cold morning wind N.E. afternoon high wind chilly.  The clear of ice at this place.

5th                     Cold cloudy morning.  Wind NE. After noon wind and rain from the N.E.

1844

April

6th                     Wind N.E. continues to rain moderately again—thunder and rain during the past night.

7th                     Sunday.  warm rainy day—attended church

8th                     Cloudy morning and warm, afternoon very fair.

9th                     Fair frosty morning, afternoon very warm.

10th                   Cloudy and warm—thunder lightning and rain during the past night, afternoon fair and warm.

11th                   Rainy warm morning, with thunder and lightning afternoon fair and very warm.

12th                   Fair warm morning, after noon, cloudy with a little rain thunder and lightning—Musketoes appear

13th                   Most beautiful spring morning—fair warm day, wind S.W.

14th                   Cool cloudy day—Wind N.E. (Sunday)

15th                   Rainy, warm day

16th                   Fair cool morning—after noon warmer

A striker is a blacksmith’s apprentice, a position accounted for in the Treaty of 1842.  The Belangers (Bellonger, Belangie) were a large mix-blood trading family spread throughout the Ojibwe country. It’s hard to tell which Belanger this is, if he’s the striker, if he accompanied the striker and blacksmith to La Pointe, or if he took over for the striker at Fond du Lac when he went to La Pointe.  

17th                   Fair and warm day (Striker started for La Pointe Bellanger with the Blacksmith)

18th                   Another beautiful day.

19th                   Warm rainy day

20th                   Rainy day

21st                   Sunday fair and cool—high wind from N.E.

22nd                   Cool morning—some cloudy—P.M. high wind and rain

23rd                   High wind and rain from the N.E.—tremendous storm;

24th                   Fair morning moderately warm—afternoon fair.  Musketoes

25th                   Rainy day

26th                   Cool cloudy morning

27th}                  fair & warm

28th

29th                   Beautiful April day

30th                   Rainy day

May 1st              Warm with high wind

2nd                    Do. a little rain

3rd                     Warm—sunshine and showers

4th}                   Beautiful warm day

5th

6th                     Most beautiful brilliant day

the woods have already a shade of green

1844

May 7th              Warm rainy day

farmer, the  Blacksmith & Striker: Again, all that’s missing is the carpenter, right?.  A man named Mis-co-pe-nen-shey (Miskobineshii) or Red Bird signed the Treaty of 1863 as a chief of the Lake Winnibigoshish band.  It’s unclear if this is the same person.

June 21st            Since the last date the weather has been good for the season—during the month of may occasionally a frosty night with sufficient variety of sunshine and shower.  On this day I started for La Pointe in company with the farmer, the Blacksmith & Striker, and Indian, named Red Bird, in a small boat. we rowed to the River Aminicon and encamped.

22nd                   Three O’clock A.M. Struck our tent and embarked—took the oars, (about 6 O’clock met a large batteau from La Pointe Bound for Fond du Lac with seed Potatoes for the Indians, it also had letters for Fond du Lac, among which was one for my self—The farmer returned to Fond du Lac to attend to the distribution of the Potatoes.  We breakfasted at Burnt wood River.  about 7 O’clock The wind sprang up favorably and blew a steady strong blast all day, and we arrived at La Pointe about sun set.

Burnt wood River: the Brule River.  Burntwood is a translation of the French Bois Brule, which is a translation of the Ojibwe wiisakode.

23rd                   Sunday, attended church

24th                   Did nothing in particular—weather very warm

28th                   Was taken suddenly with crick in the back which laid me up for a week

Charles Wulff Borup, an immigrant doctor from Denmark, was agent for the American Fur Company at La Pointe.  His wife, Elizabeth Beaulieu, was from a prominent mix-blooded trading family.  

July 4th              Independence day—Just able to get about The batteaus were fitted out by Dr. Borup for a pleasure ride, by way of celebrating the birth day of American Independence—These boats were propelled by eight sturdy Canadian voyagers each, nearly all the inhabitants of La Pointe were on board, and I was among the number, we were conveyed , amidst the firing of pocket pistols, rifles, shot guns & the music and mirth of the half-breeds and the mild cadence of the Canadian Boat songs, to one of the Islands of the Apostles about ten miles distant from La Pointe.  Here we disembarked and partook of a sumptuous dinner which had been prepared and brought on board the boats.

The brig John Jacob Astor, named for the fur baron pictured above, was one of the earliest commercial vessels on Lake Superior.  It sank near Copper Harbor about two months after the La Pointe Independence Day celebration (Painting by Gilbert Stuart, Wikimedia Images).

Just as we had finished the repast, having done ample justice to the viands which were placed before us, Some one, by means of a large spy glass discovered the Brig Astor supposed to be about 10 or 15 miles distant beating for La Pointe in thirty minutes we were all on board our boats and bound to meet the Astor. The Canadians were all commotion, and rowed and sung with all their might for about eight miles when finding that we yet a long distance from the vessel, she making little head way, and it being past middle of the afternoon, the question arose whether we should go forward or return to La Pointe.  a vote was taken, but as the chairman was unable to decide which party carried the point, he said he should be under the necessity of dividing the boat.  this was accordingly done, and all those who were desirous to go a head, took one boat, and those who wished to return the other.  I was anxious to go and meet the vessel, but being unwell was advised to return, and did so, and arrived at La Pointe at dusk.

July 11th            Started from La Pointe for Fond du Lac with Mr. Johnson & Lady missionaries at Leech Lake.  Mr. Hunter the Blacksmith, and two Indians, in our small boat. sailed about three miles a squall came up suddenly and drove us back to La Pointe—Started again after noon and rowed to Sandy River and encamped next

12th day              rowed to Burnt wood (Iron) river.

13th                   Arrived at Fond du Lac 9 O’clock P.M.

Aug 6th              Since I arrived the weather has been intensely warm  Yesterday Mr. Hunter started for La Pointe to attend the Payment.  I am alone

Erethizon dorsatum, North American Porcupine: I’m going to assume our author devoured one of these guys. Hedgehogs are exclusively an Old World animal (J. Glover, Wikimedia Images, CC)

Aug 27th            The weather fair, the nights begin to be cooler.  Musketoes and gnats have given up the contest and left us in full and peaceable possession of the country.  Since Mr. hunter left for the payment I have been unwell, no appetite, foul stomac, after trying various remedies, in order to settle my stomac, I succeeded in effecting it at last by devouring a large portion of roast Hedge hog But was immediately taken down with a rheumatism in my back, which has held me to the present time and from which I am just recovering.

An Indian has just arrived from Leech Lake bringing news that the Sioux have killed a chippeway and that the Chippeways in retaliation have killed eight Sioux.

29th                   Johnson arrived from La Pointe—Rainy day.

31st                   The farmer and Blacksmith arrived from La Pointe

The weather is very warm—

Sept 5               Weather continues warm.  Mr. Wright Mr Coe and wife start for Red Lake (they are Missionaries)

10                     Frosty night

11                     Do.       “

12                     Cloudy and warm

13                     Do.       Do.       “

14                     Do.       Do.       Do. Batteau arrived from La Pointe

15                     Sunday  foggy morning—very warm fair day

16                     Warm

22                     Do.

29                     fair

Oct 3rd               Warm and fair

Sunday 13th        fair days & frosty nights, this month, thus far

14-15                Rainy days

19th                   cold

20                     Snow covers the ground—the river is nightly frozen over at some places—

21                     fine day

22&23               fair & warm thunder & lightning at night

24th                   Do.       Do.       (Agent arrived from La Pointe 28th)

28th                   Cold—snow in the afternoon and night

—————————————————————————————————————–

END OF 1843-44 JOURNAL

The last two pages of the document are written in the same handwriting, a few years later in 1847, and take the form of a cash ledger.

________________________________________________________________

1847 Madam Defoe [?][?] 1847
Dec 3rd [?] [?]
p/o 4 lbs Butter 1 00
“ 3 Gallons Soap 1 00
15th By Making 2 pr Moccasins 50
[Washing 2 Down pieces ?] 1 00
Mending pants [?] 25
Joseph Defoe Jr
p/o 50 lbs Candles 1 50
“ 10 “ Pork 1 50
“ 20 “ flour 1 25
By three days work by self and son 3 75
p/o Pork 4 lbs 50
Then, as now, the Defoe (Dufault, DeFaut) family was widespread and numerous.  There were multiple Joseph Defoes living in both La Pointe and Fond du Lac at this time.  More than one was married to a woman named Julia.  My instinct is that this Joseph was the one born in the 1790s.
[?]:  There are experts out there on 19th-century account book shorthand.  I am not one of them.

____________________________________________________________________________

1847 Memorandum
Aug Went to La Pointe with Carleton
Staid four days
Oct 9th Went to La Pointe (Monday)
12 Returned 4 O’clock P.M.
16 Went to La Pointe. returned same night
24th Do.     Do.
25th Returned
Nov. 28th Lent Mr. Wood 10 lbs nails–
5 lbs 4[?] 5 lbs 10[?] previous to this time 12 lbs
4[?]  Total= 22 lbs
By three days work by self and son
p/o Pork 4 lbs
Nov T.A. Warren Due to Cash 2 00
Lent 10 lbs nails: Is he the government carpenter?
Truman A. Warren, son of Lyman Warren and Marie Cadotte Warren, brother of Willam W. (Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: 28289)

____________________________________________________________________________

While not overly significant historically, I enjoyed typing up this anonymous journal.  The New Years, Independence Day, and “Hedge Hog” stories made me laugh out loud.  You just don’t get that kind of stuff from an uptight missionary, greedy trader, or boring government official.  It really makes me want to know who this guy was.  If you can identify him, please let me know.

Sources:

Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
KAPPLER’S INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES. Ed. Charles J. Kappler. Oklahoma State University Library, n.d. Web. 21 June 2012. <http:// digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/>.
Nichols, John, and Earl Nyholm. A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1995. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1853. Print.
Warren, William W., and Edward D. Neill. History of the Ojibway Nation. Minneapolis: Ross & Haines, 1957. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.
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One Response to “Missed Kisses, Hedgehog Indigestion, and a Wild Boat Chase: Mystery Journal 1843-1844”

  1. Amorin Mello said

    Benjamin F. Smith began working as a Carpenter for the La Pointe Sub-agency on July 1st, 1843.

    Source:
    Thirtieth Congress – First Session. Ex. Doc. No. 26. House of Representatives.
    Persons Employed In The Indian Department.
    Letter from The Secretary of War,
    Transmitting a statement of persons employed in the Indian Department.
    January 26, 1848.
    Read, and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.
    https://shareok.org/bitstream/handle/11244/36689/House-30-1-Executive-26-Serial-516.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

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