The Story of Chequamegon Bay

March 1, 2016

By Amorin Mello

This is a reproduction of Reuben Gold Thwaites’ 1895 “The Story of Chequamegon Bay”  to demonstrate how our local history has been institutionalized and portrayed since the end of the 19th century.  Thwaites’ professional legacy as a journalist is embedded in many institutions, including the following:

  • American Library Association
  • American Antiquarian Society
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin State Journal
  • Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Mississippi Valley Historical Association

According to Wikipedia:

Thwaites was well-known for not being a mere academic, but rather as a historian who attempted to understand history by experiencing those aspects that he could, and bringing those experiences to life. In 1888 he took canoe trips on the Wisconsin, Fox and Rock rivers. In 1892 he took a bicycle trip across England. In 1903 he took a trip down the Ohio River in a rowboat.

Thwaites’ approach and work has been questioned, to some degree by his contemporaries but more so in modern times. His summaries include phraseology such as “[Europeans] left the most luxurious country in Europe to seek shelter in the foul and unwelcome huts of one of the most wretched races of man.” When editing the Jesuit Relations, he included background information that is generally credible and thorough with respect to events and Europe, but is far less thorough in regard to the disruptions from disease and other sources that the indigenous people themselves were facing. In other words, the criticism is that the original works were insensitive, and Thwaites failed to fully account for the prejudicial and inaccurate reporting in the Relations. However, Thwaites is also recognized as being the pioneer in an approach to using the Relations that is continuing to be enriched by modern scholarship, and so in a sense he started a process by which his very work could be corrected and improved as historians learn more about the periods in question.

The purpose of reproducing this story is to serve as an introduction to Chequamegon Bay history, and as a reference point for modern scholarship and primary research about Chequamegon Bay before 1860.

 


Reuben's A Story about Chequamegon History was originally published in Collections of the State Historical Societ of Wisconsin: Volume 13, 1895, pages 397-425. It was also published in American Antiquary , 1895, pages .

The Story about Chequamegon Bay was originally published in Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin: Volume XIII, by Reuben Gold Thwaites, 1895, pages 397-425.

The Story Of Chequamegon Bay.

by the Editor.

Reuben Gold Thwaites ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Reuben Gold Thwaites
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

WE commonly think of Wisconsin as a young State. In a certain sense she is. There are men now living, two or three of whom I meet almost daily, who were blazing paths through the Wisconsin wilderness, only sixty years ago: men who cleared the forests and broke the prairies; who founded frontier communities which have developed into cities; who upon this far away border sowed the seeds of industries which to-day support tens of thousands of their fellows; who threw up their hats when the Territory was erected; and who sat in the convention which gave to the new State a constitution. The Wisconsin of to-day, the Wisconsin which we know, is indeed young; for the lively octogenarians who were in at the birth will not admit that they are now old. But there was an earlier, a less prosaic, a far more romantic Wisconsin,—the French Wisconsin; and it had flourished in its own fashion for full two centuries before the coming of the Anglo-Saxon, who, brusquely crowding the Creole to the wall, made of his old home an American Commonwealth.

In 1634, when the child born upon the Mayflower was but in her fourteenth year, Jean Nicolet, sent out by the enterprising Champlain as far as Wisconsin,— a thousand miles of canoe journey west from Quebec,— made trading contracts, such as they were, with a half-score of squalid tribes huddled in widely-separated villages throughout the broad wilderness lying between Lakes Superior and Michigan. It was a daring, laborious expedition, as notable in its day as Livingstone’s earliest exploits in Darkest Africa ; and although its results were slow of development,—for in the seventeenth century man was still cautiously deliberate,— this initial visit of the forest ambassador of New France to the country of the Upper Lakes broke the path for a train of events which were of mighty significance in American history.1

"Jean Nicolet, landing at the Bay of Green Bay in 1634. Painted by Franz Edward Rohrbeck (1852-1919) in 1910 into the mural in the rotunda of the Brown County Courthouse, Green Bay, Wisconsin. It shows Nicolet wearing a Chinese damask tunic strewn with flowers and birds, and discharging two pistols into the air." ~ Wikipedia.org

Jean Nicolet, landing at the Bay of Green Bay in 1634. Painted by Franz Edward Rohrbeck (1852-1919) in 1910 into the mural in the rotunda of the Brown County Courthouse, Green Bay, Wisconsin. It shows Nicolet wearing a Chinese damask tunic strewn with flowers and birds, and discharging two pistols into the air.”
~ Wikipedia.org

Let us examine the topography of Wisconsin. The State is situated at the head of the chain of Great Lakes. It is touched on the east by Lake Michigan, on the north by Lake Superior, on the west by the Mississippi, and is drained by interlacing rivers which so closely approach each other that the canoe voyager can with case pass from one great water system to the other; he can enter the continent at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and by means of numerous narrow portages in Wisconsin emerge into the south-flowing Mississippi, eventually returning to the Atlantic through the Gulf of Mexico. From Lake Michigan, the Fox-Wisconsin river system was the most popular highway to the great river; into Lake Superior, there flow numerous turbulent streams from whose sources lead short portage trails over to the headwaters .of feeders of the Mississippi. From the western shore of Lake Superior, Pigeon River invites to exploration of the Winnipeg country, whence the canoeist can by a half-hundred easy routes reach the distant regions of Athabasca and the Polar Sea. In their early voyages to the head of lake navigation, it was in the course of nature that the French should soon discover Wisconsin; and having discovered it, learn that it was the key-point of the Northwest — the gateway to the entire continental interior. Thus, through Wisconsin’s remarkable system of interlacing waterways, to which Nicolet led the way, New France largely prosecuted her far-reaching forest trade and her missionary explorations, securing a nominal control of the basin of the Mississippi at a time when Anglo-Saxons had gained little more of the Atlantic slope than could be seen from the mast-head of a caravel. Thus the geographical character of Wisconsin became, early in the history of New France, an important factor. The trading posts and Jesuit missions on Chequamegon Bay2 of Lake Superior, and on Green Bay of Lake Michigan, soon played a prominent part in American exploration. The career of Green Bay is familiar to us all.3 I have thought it well hastily to summarize, in the brief space allowed me, the equally instructive story of Chequamegon Bay.

Outline Map showing the position of the ancient mine-pits of Point Keweenaw, Michigan ~ Ancient Mining on the Shores of Lake Superior, by Charles Whittlesey

“Outline Map showing the position of the ancient mine-pits of Point Keweenaw, Michigan” 
~ Ancient Mining on the Shores of Lake Superior, by Charles Whittlesey

The sandstone cliffs of Lake Superior were, many geologists think, among the first Laurentian islands to arise from the ancient ocean; if this be so, then the rim of our greatest inland sea is one of the oldest spots on earth. In its numerous mines of copper, prehistoric man long delved and wrought with rude hammers and chisels of stone, fashioning those curious copper implements which are carefully treasured in American museums of archaeology;4 and upon its rugged shores the Caucasian early planted his stake, when between him and New England tidewater all was savagery.

Pierre-Esprit Radisson ~ National Archives of Canada

Pierre d’Esprit Sieur Radisson
~ Dictionary of Canadian Biography

After the coming to Wisconsin of Nicolet, a long period followed, in which the energies of New France were devoted to fighting back the Iroquois, who swarmed before the very gates of Quebec and Montreal. Exploration was for the time impossible. A quarter of a century passes away before we have evidence of another white man upon Wisconsin soil.  In the spring of 1659, the Indians of the valley of the Fox were visited by two French fur-traders from the Lower St. Lawrence – Pierre d’Esprit, Sieur Radisson, and his sister’s husband, Medard Chouart, Sieur de Groseilliers.  In all American history there are no characters more picturesque than these two adventurous Creoles, who, in their fond desire to “travell and see countries,” and “to be known as the remotest people,” roamed at will over the broad region between St. Jame’s seaway and the Wisconsin River, having many curious experiences with wild beasts and wilder men.  They made several important geographical discoveries, – among them, probably, the discovery of the Mississippi River in 1659, fourteen years before the visit of Joliet and Marquette; and from a trading settlement proposed by them to the English, when their fellow-countrymen no longer gave them employment, developed the great establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  The unconsciously-amusing narrative which Radisson afterwards wrote, for the editication of King Charles II, of England, is one of the most interesting known to American antiquaries.5

~ Arrival of Radisson in an Indian camp, 1660, by Charles William Jefferys

“Arrival of Radisson in an Indian camp, 1660” 
by Charles William Jefferys
~ Wikimedia.org

Two years after Radisson and Groseilliers were upon the Fox River, and made their notable trip to the Mississippi, they were again in the Northwest (autumn of 1661), and this time upon Lake Superior, which they had approached by carrying around the Sault Ste. Marie.  Skirting the southern shore of the lake, past the now famous Pictured Rocks, they carried across Keweenaw Point, visited a band of Christino Indians6 not far from the mouth of Montreal River, now the far western boundary between Upper Michigan and Wisconsin, and, portaging across the base of the Chequamegon Island of to-day, – then united to the mainland,- entered beautiful Chequamegon Bay.  Just where they made their camp, it is impossible from Radisson’s confused narrative to say; but that it was upon the mainland no Wisconsin antiquary now doubts, and we have reason to believe that it was upon the southwest shore, between the modern towns of Ashland and Washburn.7

"The First House Built by White Men in Wisconsin Was Erected near this Spot by Radisson and Groselliers in the Fall of 1858." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Close-up of the Radisson and Groseilliers house historic site marker, commemorating the first house built in Wisconsin by white men. The house was believed to have stood in the vicinity of Ashland at the mouth of Fish Creek where it empties into Chequamegon Bay.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Our chronicler writes, with a particularity of detail suggestive of De Foe:

“We went about to make a fort of stakes, w’ was in this manner.  Suppose that the watter-side had ben in one end; att the same end there should be murtherers, and att need we made a bastion in a triangle to defend us from assault.  The doore was neare the watter side, our fire was in the midle, and our bed on the right hand, covered.  There were boughs of trees all about our fort layed acrosse, one uppon an other.  Besides those boughs, we had a long cord tyed w’ some small bells, w’ weare sentereys.  Finally, we made an ende of that fort in 2 dayes’ time.”

"Front view of the Radisson cabin, the first house built by a white man in Wisconsin. It was built between 1650 and 1660 on Chequamegon Bay, in the vicinity of Ashland. This drawing is not necessarily historically accurate." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Front view of the Radisson cabin, the first house built by a white man in Wisconsin. It was built between 1650 and 1660 on Chequamegon Bay, in the vicinity of Ashland. This drawing is not necessarily historically accurate.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Modernize this statement, and in imagination we can see this first dwelling erected by man on the shores of Lake Superior; a small log hut, built possibly on the extremity of a small rocky promontory; the door opens to the water front, while the land side, to the rear of the hut, is defended by a salient of palisades stretching from bank to bank of the narrow promontory; all about the rude structure is a wall of pine boughs piled one upon the other, with a long cord intertwined, and on this cord are strung numbers of the little hawk-bells then largely used in the Indian trade for purposes of gift and barter. It was expected that in case of a night attack from savages, who might be willing to kill them for the sake of their stores, the enemy would stir the boughs and unwittingly ring the bells, thus arousing the little garrison. These ingenious defenses were not put to the test, although no doubt they had a good moral effect; in keeping the thieving Hurons at a respectful distance.

Winter was just setting in. The waters of the noble bay were taking on that black and sullen aspect peculiar to the season. The beautiful islands, later named for the Twelve Apostles,8 looked gloomy indeed in their dark evergreen mantles. From the precipitous edges of the red-sandstone cliffs, which girt about this estuary of our greatest inland sea, the dense pine forests stretched westward and southward for hundreds of miles. Here and there in the primeval depths was a cluster of starveling Algonkins, still trembling from fear of a return of the Iroquois, who had chased them from Canada into this land of swamps and tangled woods, where their safety lay in hiding. At wide intervals, uncertain trails led from village to village, and in places the rivers were convenient highways; these narrow paths, however, beset with danger in a thousand shapes, but emphasized the unspeakable terrors of the wilderness.

"The Search for Wisconsin's First Priest" ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Père René Ménard
“The Search for Wisconsin’s First Priest”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Radisson and Groseilliers, true coureurs de bois, were not daunted by the dangers which daily beset them. After caching their goods, they passed the winter of 1661-62 with their Huron neighbors, upon a prolonged hunt, far into the Mille Lacs region of Minnesota. The season was phenomenally severe, and the Indians could not find game enough to sustain life. A famine ensued in the camp, the tragical details of which are painted by our friend Radisson with Hogarthian minuteness. In the spring of 1662, the traders were back again at Chequamegon, and built another fortified shelter, this time possibly on the sand-spit of Shagawaumikong,9 from which base they once more wandered in search of adventures and peltries, going as far northwest as Lake Assiniboine, and later in the season returning to their home on the Lower St. Lawrence.

When Radisson’s party went to Lake Superior, in the autumn of 1661, they were accompanied as far as Keweenaw Bay by a Jesuit priest. Father Pierre Ménard, who established there a mission among the Ottawas. The following June, disheartened in his attempt to convert these obdurate tribesmen, Ménard set out for the Huron villages on the upper waters of the Black and Chippewa, but perished on the way.10

It was not until August of 1665, three years later, that Father Claude Allouez, another Jesuit, was sent to reopen the abandoned Ottawa mission on Lake Superior. He chose his site on the southwestern shore of Chequamegon Bay, possibly the same spot on which Radisson’s hut had been built, four years previous, and piously called his mission and the locality La Pointe du Saint Esprit, which in time was shortened to La Pointe.11

Detail of La Pointe du Saint Espirit <br/>from Claude Allouez Map of New France, 1669.<br /> ~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Detail of La Pointe du Saint Esprit
from Claude Allouez map’s of New France, 1669.
~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Claude Allouez ~ National Park Service

Portrayal of Claude Allouez
~ National Park Service

At the time of Radisson’s visit, the shores of Chequamegon Bay were uninhabited save by a few half-starved Hurons ; but soon thereafter it became the centre of a considerable Indian population, residents of several tribes having been drawn thither, first, by the fisheries, second, by a fancied security in so isolated a region against the Iroquois of the East and the wild Sioux of the West. When Allouez arrived in this polyglot village, October 1, he found there Chippewas, Pottawattómies, Kickapoos, Sauks, and Foxes, all of them Wisconsin tribes; besides these were Hurons, Ottawas, Miamis, and Illinois,— victims of Iroquois hate who had fled in droves before the westward advances of their merciless tormentors.

Pere_Marquette

Jacques Marquette
aka James (Jim) or Père Marquette
~ Wikipedia

Despite his large congregations, Allouez made little headway among these people, being consoled for his hardships and ill-treatment by the devotion of a mere handful of followers. For four years did he labor alone in the Wisconsin wilderness, hoping against hope, varying the monotony of his dreary task by occasional canoe voyages to Quebec, to report progress to his father superior.  Father James Marquette, a more youthful zealot, was at last sent to relieve him, and in September, 1669, arrived at La Pointe from Sault Ste. Marie, after spending a full month upon, the journey,—so hampered was he, at that early season, by snow and ice. Allouez, thus relieved from a work that had doubtless palled upon him, proceeded upon invitation of the Pottawattomies to Green Bay, where he arrived early in December, and founded the second Jesuit mission in Wisconsin, St. Francis Xavier, on the site of the modern town of Depere.12

Marquette had succeeded to an uncomfortable berth. Despite his strenuous efforts as a peacemaker, his dusky parishioners soon unwisely quarreled with their western neighbors, the Sioux,13 with the result that the La Pointe bands, and Marquette with them, were driven like leaves before an autumn blast eastward along the southern shore of the great lake: the Ottawas taking up their home in the Manitoulin Islands of Lake Huron, the Hurons accompanying Marquette to the Straits of Mackinaw, where he established the mission of St. Ignace.

With La Pointe mission abandoned, and Lake Superior closed to French enterprise by the “raging Sioux,” the mission at Depere now became the centre of Jesuit operations in Wisconsin, and it was a hundred and sixty-four years later (1835), before mass was again said upon the forest-fringed shores of Chequamegon Bay.

"Daniel Greysolon Sieur Dulhut at the Head of the Lakes - 1679." ~ Painted by artist Francis Lee Jaques, c.1922.

“‘Daniel Greysolon Sieur Dulhut at the Head of the Lakes – 1679.’  Painted by artist Francis Lee Jaques, c.1922.”
~ Minnesota Historical Society

Although the missionary had deserted La Pointe, the fur trader soon came to be much in evidence there. The spirit of Radisson and Groseilliers long permeated this out-of-the-way corner of the Northwest. We find (1673), three years after Marquette’s expulsion. La Salle’s trading agent, Sieur Raudin, cajoling the now relentent Sioux at the western end of Lake Superior. In the summer of 1679, that dashing coureur de bois, Daniel Grayson du l’ Hut,14 ascended the St. Louis River, which divides Wisconsin and Minnesota, and penetrated with his lively crew of voyageurs to the Sandy Lake country, being probably the first white trader upon the head-waters of the Mississippi. The succeeding winter, he spent in profitable commerce with the Assiniboines, Crees, and other northern tribes in the neighborhood of Grand Portage,15 on the boundary between Minnesota and Canada. In June, 1680, probably unaware of the easier portage by way of the Mille Lacs and Rum River, Du I’ Hut set out at the head of a small company of employees to reach the Mississippi by a new route. Entering the narrow and turbulent Bois Brulé,16 half-way along the southern shore of Lake Superior, between Red Cliff and St. Louis River, he with difficulty made his way over the fallen trees and beaver dams which then choked its course. From its head waters there is a mile-long portage to the upper St. Croix; this traversed. Du l’ Hut was upon a romantic stream which swiftly carried him, through foaming rapids and deep, cool lakes, down into the Father of Waters. Here it was that he heard of Father Louis Hennepin’s captivity among the Sioux, and with much address and some courage rescued that doughty adventurer, and carried him by way of the Fox-Wisconsin route in safety to Mackinaw.

“Sources vary on the details of Pierre-Charles Le Sueur‘s origins and early life. Some indicate he was a native of France, while others suggest he was born in French Canada.”

“In 1693, Le Sueur founded a trading post on the site of present-day La Pointe on Madeline Island, the largest of Chequamegon Bay’s Apostle Islands. After hearing reports of what he believed were valuable deposits of copper ore south of Lake Superior, he traveled to France in 1697, where the French government granted him permission to mine these resources.”
Encyclopedia of Exploration, vol. 1,  2004.

An adventurous forest trader, named Le Sueur, was the next man to imprint his name on the page of Lake Superior history. The Fox Indians, who controlled the valleys of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, had for various reasons become so hostile to the French that those divergent streams were no longer safe as a gateway from the Great Lakes to the Great River.  The tendency of the prolonged Fox War was to force fur trade travel to the portages of Chicago and St. Joseph’s on the south, and those of Lake Superior on the north.17  It was with a view to keeping open one of Du l’ Hut’s old routes, – the Bois Brulé and St. Croix Rivers,- that Le Sueur was despatched by the authorities of New France in 1693.  He built a stockaded fort on Madelaine island, convenient for guarding the northern approach,18 and another on an island in the Mississippi, below the mouth of the St. Croix, and near the present town of Red Wing, Minnesota.  The post in the Mississippi soon became “the centre of commerce for the Western parts”; and the station in Chequamegon Bay also soon rose to importance, for the Chippewas, who had drifted far inland into Wisconsin and Minnesota with the growing scarcity of game,- the natural result of the indiscriminate slaughter which the fur trade encouraged, – were induced by the new trading facilities to return to their old bay shore haunts, massing themselves in an important village on the southwestern shore.

This incident strikingly illustrates the important part which the trader early came to play in Indian life.  At first an agriculturalist in a small way, and a hunter and fisher only so far as the daily necessities of food and clothing required, the Indian was induced by the white man to kill animals for their furs, – luxuries ever in great demand in the marts of civilization.  The savage wholly devoted himself to the chase, and it became necessary for the white man to supply him with clothing, tools, weapons, and ornaments of European manufacture; the currency as well as the necessities of the wilderness.19  These articles the savage had heretofore laboriously fashioned for himself at great expenditure of time; no longer was he content with native manufactures, and indeed he quickly lost his old-time facility for making them.  It was not long before he was almost wholly dependent on the white trader for the commonest conveniences of life; no longer being tied to his fields, he became more and more a nomad, roving restlessly to and fro in search of fur-bearing game, and quickly populating or depopulating a district according to the conditions of trade.  Without his trader, he quickly sank into misery and despair; with the advent of the trader, a certain sort of prosperity once more reigned in the tepee of the red man.  In the story of Chequamegon Bay, the heroes are the fur trader and the missionary; and of these the fur trader is the greater, for without his presence on this scene there would have been no Indians to convert.

“1718. – A post was founded at Chequamegon by Paul le Gardeur, sieur de St. Pierre, with Godefroy de Linctot second in command.  A settlement of French traders was this year reported as existing at Green Bay.”
~ State of Wisconsin Blue Book, 1925, page 66.

Although Le Sueur was not many years in command upon Chequamegon Bay,20 we catch frequent glimpses thereafter of stockaded fur trade stations here, – French, English, and American, in turn, – the most of them doubtless being on Madelaine Island, which was easily defensible from the mainland.21 We know that in 1717 there was a French trader at La Pointe – the popular name for the entire bay district—for he was asked by Lt. Robertel de la Noüe, who was then at Kaministiquoya, to forward a letter to a certain Sioux chief. In September, 1718, Captain Paul Legardeur St. Pierre, whose mother was a daughter of Jean Nicolet, Wisconsin’s first explorer, was sent to command at Chequamegon, assisted by Ensign Linctot, the authorities of the lower country having been informed that the Chippewa chief there was, with his fellow-chief at Keweenaw, going to war with the Foxes. St. Pierre was at Chequamegon for at least a year, and was succeeded by Linctot, who effected an important peace between the Chippewas and Sioux.22

“Fort La Pointe was the second French fort on the island; the first, erected by Le Sueur in 1693 and abandoned in 1698, held open the route from Lake Superior to the Mississippi for French trade. Fort La Pointe was established to maintain peace among te Indian tribes in this region. In 1727 Louis Denis, Sieur de la Ronde, was given command of the fort. While La Ronde was in charge, the fort was garrisoned; a dock and probably a mill were built; some agriculture was carried on.
The Indians at La Pointe told the French of an island of copper guarded by spirits; La Ronde, when he heard of the mineral, requested permission from the French Government to combine his duties at the fort with mining. he was not given permission to operate the mines until 1733, and in 1740 his mining activities were halted by an outbreak between the Sioux and the Chippewa. Nonetheless, La Ronde is known as the first practical miner on Lake Superior, and the man who opened this region for settlement by white men.”
~ The WPA Guide to Wisconsin, by Federal Writers’ Project, 2013, page 348.
“After the failure of the mining enterprise, La Ronde sought promotion to commandant of the colonial regular troops in New France, as well as promotions for two of his sons, Philippe and Pierre-François-Paul, both of whom were officers. Philippe had served at Chagouamigon during his father’s absences and took over permanently when La Ronde died in 1741.”
~ Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Whether a garrisoned fort was maintained at Chequamegon Bay, from St. Pierre’s time to the close of the French domination, it is impossible to say; but it seems probable; for the geographical position was one of great importance in the development of the fur trade, and the few records we have mention the fort as one of long standing.23  In 1730, it is recorded, that a nugget of copper was brought to the post by an Indian, and search was at once made for a mine; but October 18, 1731, the authorities of New France wrote to the home office in Paris that, owing to the superstitions of the Indians, which led them to conceal mineral wealth from the whites, no copper mine had thus far been found in the neighborhood of Chequamegon Bay. The commandant of Chequamegon at this time was Sieur La Ronde Denis, known to history as La Ronde,— like his predecessors, for the most part, a considerable trader in these far Western parts, and necessarily a man of enterprise and vigor. La Ronde was for many years the chief trader in the Lake Superior country, his son and partner being Denis de La Ronde.  They built for their trade a boat of 40 tons, which was without doubt “the first vessel on the great lake, with sails larger than an Indian blanket.” 24 On account of the great outlay they had incurred in this and other undertakings in the wilderness, the post of Chequamegon, with its trading monopoly, had been given to the elder La Ronde, according to a despatch of that day, “as a gratuity to defray expenses.” Other allusions to the La Rondes are not infrequent: in 1736,25 the son is ordered to investigate a report of a copper mine at Iron River, not far east of the Bois Brulé; in the spring of 1740, the father is at Mackinaw on his return to Chequamegon from a visit to the lower country, but being sick is obliged to return to Montreal;26 and in 1744, Bellin’s map gives the name “Isle de la Ronde” to what we now know as Madelaine, fair evidence that the French post of this period was on that island.

1744 Belin isle de ronde

Detail of Isle de la Ronde from Carte des lacs du Canada by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, 1744.
Wisconsin Historical Society

Pierre-Joseph Hertel, sieur de Beaubassin: (1715 – ?)
Pierre-Joseph was the son of Joseph Hertel de St.Francois & Catherine Philippe, born in Trois-Rivieres. He married Catherine-Madeleine Jarrot (daughter of Jean Bte.Jarrot, sieur de Vercheres & Madeleine Francoise d’Ailleboust de Manthet) in 1751. [Her father commanded the post at Green Bay in 1747].
Pierre-Joseph followed in his families tradition and was a captain on a raid of Albany in 1756 during the King George’s War. From 1756 to 1758 he was commander of the post of Lapointe (in today’s northern Wisconsin) and sailed for France after the loss of Canada to the British.”
~ [Unknown].

We hear nothing more of importance concerning Chequamegon until about 1756, when Hertel de Beaubassin, the last French commandant there, was summoned to Lower Canada with his Chippewa allies, to do battle against the English.27  For several years past, wandering English fur traders had been tampering with the Chippewas of Lake Superior, who in consequence frequently maltreated their old friends, the French;28 but now that the tribe were summoned for actual fighting in the lower country, with extravagant promises of presents, booty, and scalps, they with other Wisconsin Indians eagerly flocked under the French banner, and in painted swarms appeared on the banks of the St. Lawrence, with no better result than to embarrass the French commissariat and thus unwittingly aid the ambitious English.

New France was tottering to her fall. The little garrison on Madelaine Island had been withdrawn from the frontier, with many another like it, to help in the defense of the lower country ; and the Upper Lakes, no longer policed by the fur trade monopoly, were free plunder for unlicensed traders, or coureurs des bois. Doubtless such were the party who encamped upon the island during the autumn of 1760. By the time winter had set in upon them, all had left for their wintering grounds in the forests of the far West and Northwest, save a clerk named Joseph, who remained in charge of the stores and the local traffic. With him were his little family,—his wife, who was from Montreal, his child, a small boy, and a man-servant, or voyageur. Traditions differ as to the cause of the servant’s action,— some have it, a desire for wholesale plunder; others, the being detected in a series of petty thefts, which Joseph threatened to report; others, an unholy and unrequited passion for Joseph’s wife. However that may be, the servant murdered first the clerk, and then the wife; and in a few days, stung by the piteous cries of the child, the lad himself. When the spring came, and the traders returned to Chequamegon, they inquired for Joseph and his family, but the servant’s reply was unsatisfactory and he finally confessed to his horrid deed. The story goes, that in horror the traders dismantled the old French fort as a thing accursed, sunk the cannon in a neighboring pool, and so destroyed the palisade that to-day naught remains save grassy mounds. Carrying their prisoner with them on their return voyage to Montreal, he is said to have escaped to the Hurons, among whom he boasted of his deed, only to be killed as too cruel a companion even for savages.29

1769 twelve apostle islands jonathan carver

Detail of “The 12 Apostles” from Captain Jonathan Carver’s journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1769. ~ Boston Public Library

Alexander Henry , The Elder. ~ Wikipedia.com

Alexander Henry , The Elder.
~ Wikipedia.com

New France having now fallen, an English trader, Alexander Henry, spent the winter of 1765-66 upon the mainland, opposite the island.30  Henry had obtained from the English commandant at Mackinaw the exclusive trade of Lake Superior, and at Sault Ste. Marie took into partnership with him Jean Baptiste Cadotte,31 a thrifty Frenchman, who for many years thereafter was one of the most prominent characters on the Upper Lakes. Henry and Cadotte spent several winters together on Lake Superior, but only one upon the shores of Chequamegon, which Henry styles “the metropolis of the Chippeways.32

JohnJohnston

John Johnston
~ Homestead.org

The next dweller at Chequamegon Bay, of whom, we have record, was John Johnston, a Scotch-Irish fur trader of some education. Johnston established himself on Madelaine Island, not far from the site of the old French fort; some four miles across the water, on the mainland to the west, near where is now the white town of Bayfield, was a Chippewa village with whose inhabitants he engaged in traffic. Waubojeeg (White Fisher), a forest celebrity in his day, was the village chief at this time, and possessed of a comely daughter whom Johnston soon sought and obtained in marriage. Taking his bride to his island home, Johnston appears to have lived there for a year or two in friendly commerce with the natives, at last retiring to his old station at Sault Ste. Marie.33

Mention has been made of Jean Baptiste Cadotte, who was a partner of Alexander Henry in the latter’s Lake Superior trade, soon after the middle of the century. Cadotte, whose wife was a Chippewa, after his venture with Henry had returned to Sault Ste. Marie, from which point he conducted an extensive trade through the Northwest. Burdened with advancing years, he retired from the traffic in 1796, and divided the business between his two sons, Jean Baptiste and Michel.

Michel Cadotte ~ Findagrave.com

Michel Cadotte
~ Findagrave.com

About the opening of the present century,34 Michel took up his abode on Madelaine Island, and from that time to the present there has been a continuous settlement upon it. He had been educated at Montreal, and marrying Equaysayway, the daughter of White Crane, the village chief of La Pointe,35 at once became a person of much importance in the Lake Superior country. Upon the old trading site at the southwestern corner of the island, by this time commonly called La Pointe,— borrowing the name, as we have seen, from the original La Pointe, on the mainland, and it in turn from Point Chequamegon,—Cadotte for over a quarter of a century lived at his ease; here he cultivated a “comfortable little farm,” commanded a fluctuating, but often far-reaching fur trade, first as agent of the Northwest Company and later of Astor’s American Fur Company, and reared a considerable family, the sons of which were, as he had been, educated at Montreal, and became the heads of families of Creole traders, interpreters, and voyageurs whom antiquarians now eagerly seek when engaged in bringing to light the French and Indian traditions of Lake Superior.36

La Pointe Beaver Money Northern Outfit, American Fur Company ~ Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, volume 54, page 159.

La Pointe Beaver Money
Northern Outfit, American Fur Company
~ Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, volume 54, page 159.

In the year 1818 there came to the Lake Superior country two sturdy, fairly-educated37 young men, natives of the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts,—Lyman Marcus Warren, and his younger brother, Truman Abraham. They were of the purest New England stock, being lineally descended from Richard Warren, one of the “Mayflower” company. Engaging in the fur trade, the brothers soon became popular with the Chippewas, and in 1821 still further entrenched themselves in the affections of the tribesmen by marrying the two half-breed daughters of old Michel Cadotte,—Lyman taking unto himself Mary, while Charlotte became the wife of Truman. At first the Warrens worked in opposition to the American Fur Company, but John Jacob Astor’s lieutenants were shrewd men and understood the art of overcoming commercial rivals. Lyman was made by them a partner in the lake traffic, and in 1824 established himself at-La Pointe as the company’s agent for the Lac Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreille, and St. Croix departments, an arrangement which continued for some fourteen years. The year previous, the brothers had bought out the interests of their father-in-law, who now, much reduced in means, retired to private life after forty years’ prosecution of the forest trade.38

1834 Map of LaPointe by Lyman Warren

American Fur Company “Map of La Pointe”
by Lyman Marcus Warren, 1834. 
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

The brothers Warren were the last of the great La Pointe fur traders.39 Truman passed away early in his career, having expired in 1825, while upon a voyage between Mackinaw and Detroit. Lyman lived at La Pointe until 1838, when his connection with the American Fur Company was dissolved, and then became United States sub-agent to the Chippewa reservation on Chippewa River, where he died on the tenth of October, 1847, aged fifty-three years.40

1856 ojibwe bible shermal hall

Iu Otoshki-Kikindiuin Au Tebeniminvng Gaie Bemajiinung Jesus Christ, Ima Ojibue Inueuining Giizhitong:
The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
by Sherman Hall and Henry Blatchford, 1856.
~ Archive.org

Lyman Marcus Warren was a Presbyterian, and, although possessed of a Catholic wife, was the first to invite Protestant missionaries to Lake. Superior. Not since the days of Allouez had there been an ordained minister at La Pointe; Warren was solicitous for the spiritual welfare of his Chippewa friends, especially the young, who were being reared without religious instruction, and subject to the demoralizing influence of a rough element of white borderers. The Catholic Church was not just then ready to reenter the long-neglected field; his predilections, too, were for the Protestant faith. In 1830, while upon his annual summer trip to Mackinaw for supplies, be secured the cooperation of Frederick Ayer, of the Mackinaw mission, who returned with him in his batteau as lay preacher and school-teacher, and opened at La Pointe what was then the only mission upon the shores of the great lake. Thither came in Warren’s company, the latter part of August, the following year (1831), Rev. Sherman Hall and wife, who served as missionary and teacher, respectively, and Mrs. John Campbell, an interpreter.41

La Pointe was then upon the site of the old French trading post at the southwest corner of Madelaine Island; and there, on the first Sunday afternoon after his arrival, Mr. Hall preached “the first sermon ever delivered in this place by a regularly-ordained Christian minister.” The missionaries appear to have been kindly received by the Catholic Creoles, several of whom were now domiciled at La Pointe. The school was patronized by most of the families upon the island, red and white, who had children of proper age. By the first of September there was an average attendance of twenty-five. Instruction was given almost wholly in the English language, with regular Sunday-school exercises for the children, and frequent gospel meetings for the Indian and Creole adults.

We have seen that the first La Pointe village was at the southwestern extremity of the island. This was known as the “Old Fort” site, for here had been the original Chippewa village, and later the fur-trading posts of the French and English. Gradually, the old harbor became shallow, because of the shifting sand, and unfit for the new and larger vessels which came to be used in the fur trade.

The American Fur Company therefore built a “New Fort” a few miles farther north, still upon the west shore of the island, and to this place, the present village, the name La Pointe came to be transferred. Half-way between the “Old fort” and the “New fort,” Mr. Hall erected (probably in 1832) “a place for worship and teaching,” which came to be the centre of Protestant missionary work in Chequamegon Bay.

leonard hemenway wheeler from unnamed wisconsin

Leonard Hemenway Wheeler
~ Unnamed Wisconsin by John Nelson Davidson, 1895.

At that time, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists were, in the American Home Missionary Society and the American Board, united in the conduct of Wisconsin missions, and it is difficult for a layman to understand to which denomination the institution of the original Protestant mission at La Pointe may properly be ascribed. Warren was, according to Neill, a Presbyterian, so also, nominally, were Ayer and Hall, although the last two were latterly rated as Congregationalists. Davidson, a Congregational authority, says: “The first organization of a Congregational church within the present limits of Wisconsin took place at La Pointe in August, 1833, in connection with this mission”;42 and certainly the missionaries who later came to assist Hall were of the Congregational faith; these were Rev. Leonard Hemenway Wheeler and wife, Rev. Woodbridge L. James and wife, and Miss Abigail Spooner. Their work appears to have been as successful as such proselyting endeavors among our American Indians can hope to be, and no doubt did much among the Wisconsin Chippewas to stem the tide of demoralization which upon the free advent of the whites overwhelmed so many of our Western tribes.

James’ family did not long remain at La Pointe. Wheeler was soon recognized as the leading spirit there, although Hail did useful service in the field of publication, his translation of the New Testament into Chippewa (completed in 1836) being among the earliest of Western books. Ayer eventually went to Minnesota. In May, 1845, owing to the removal of the majority of the La Pointe Indians to the new Odanah mission, on Bad River, Wheeler removed thither, and remained their civil, as well as spiritual, counselor until October, 1866, when he retired from the service, full of years and conscious of a record of noble deeds for the uplifting of the savage. Hall tarried at La Pointe until 1853, when he was assigned to Crow Wing reservation, on the Mississippi, thus ending the Protestant mission on Chequamegon Bay. The new church building, begun in 1887, near the present La Pointe landing, had fallen into sad decay, when, in July, 1892, it became the property of the Lake Superior Congregational Club, who purpose to preserve it as an historic treasure, being the first church-home of their denomination in Wisconsin.

Not far from this interesting relic of Protestant pioneering at venerable La Pointe, is a rude structure dedicated to an older faith. Widely has it been advertised, by poets, romancers, and tourist agencies, as “the identical log structure built by Père Marquette”; while within there hangs a picture which we are soberly told by the cicerone was “given by the Pope of that time to Marquette, for his mission church in the wilderness.” It is strange how this fancy was born; stranger still that it persists in living, when so frequently proved unworthy of credence. It is as well known as any fact in modern Wisconsin history,— based on the testimony of living eyewitnesses, as well as on indisputable records,—that upon July 27, 1835, five years after Cadotte had introduced Ayer to Madelaine Island, there arrived at the hybrid village of La Pointe, with but three dollars in his pocket, a worthy Austrian priest. Father (afterwards Bishop) Frederic Baraga. By the side of the Indian graveyard at Middleport, he at once erected “a log chapel, 50×20 ft. and 18 ft. high,” and therein he said mass on the ninth of August, one hundred and sixty-four years after Marquette had been driven from Chequamegon Bay by the onslaught of the Western Sioux.43  Father Baraga’s resuscitated mission, still bearing the name La Pointe, as had the mainland missions of Allouez and Marquette,—throve apace. His “childlike simplicity,” kindly heart, and self-sacrificing labors in their behalf, won to him the Creoles and the now sadly-impoverished tribesmen; and when, in the winter of 1836-37, he was in Europe begging funds for the cause, his simpIe-hearted enthusiasm met with generous response from the faithful.

"Bishop Frederic Baraga, three-quarter length portrait, facing three-quarters to right, seated, in clerical robes, holding his Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language" ~ Library of Congress

“Bishop Frederic Baraga, three-quarter length portrait, facing three-quarters to right, seated, in clerical robes, holding his Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language”
~ Library of Congress

Returning to La Pointe in 1837, he finished his little chapel, built log-houses for his half-starved parishioners, and lavished attentions upon them; says Father Verwyst, himself an experienced missionary among the Chippewas : “In fact, he gave them too much altogether—so to say— spoiled them by excessive kindness.” Four years later, his chapel being ill-built and now too small, he had a new one constructed at the modern village of La Pointe, some of the materials of the first being used in the second. This is the building, blessed by Father Baraga on the second Sunday of August, 1841, which is to-day falsely shown to visitors as that of Father Marquette. It is needless to say that no part of the ancient mainland chapel of the Jesuits went into its construction; as for the picture, a “Descent from the Cross,” alleged to have once been in Marquette’s chapel, we have the best of testimony that it was imported by Father Baraga himself from Europe in 1841, he having obtained it there the preceding winter, when upon a second tour to Rome, this time to raise funds for the new church.44 This remarkable man though later raised to a missionary bishopric, continued throughout his life to labor for the uplifting of the Indiana of the Lake Superior country with a self-sacrificing zeal which is rare in the annals of any church, and established a lasting reputation as a student of Indian philology. He left La Pointe mission in 1853, to devote himself to the Menomonees, leaving his work among the Chippewas of Chequamegon Bay to be conducted by others. About the year 1877, the white town of Bayfield, upon the mainland opposite, became the residence of the Franciscan friars who were now placed, in charge. Thus, while the Protestant mission, after a relatively brief career of prosperity, has long, since been removed to Odanah, the Catholics to this day retain possession of their ancient field in Chequamegon Bay.

1843 View of La Pointe ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

View of La Pointe, circa 1843.  
“American Fur Company with both Mission churches. Sketch purportedly by a Native American youth. Probably an overpainted photographic copy enlargement. Paper on a canvas stretcher.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

In closing, let us briefly rehearse the changes in the location of La Pointe, and thus clear our minds of some misconceptions into which several historians have fallen.

  1. As name-giver, we have Point Chequamegon (or. Shagawaumikong). Originally a long sand-spit hemming in Chequamegon Bay on the east, it is now an island. The most conspicuous object in the local topography, it gave name to the district; and here, at the time of the Columbian discovery, was the Chippewa stronghold.
  2. The mission of La Pointe du St. Esprit, founded by Allouez, was, it seems well established, on the mainland at the southwestern corner of the bay, somewhere between the present towns of Ashland and Washburn, and possibly on the site of Radisson’s fort. The point which suggested to Allouez the name of his mission was, of course, the neighboring Point Chequamegon.
  3. The entire region of Chequamegon Bay came soon to bear this name of La Pointe, and early within the present century it was popularly attached to, the island which had previously borne many names, and to-day is legally designated Madelaine.
  4. When Cadotte’s little trading village sprang up, on the southwestern extremity of the island, on the site of the old Chippewa village and the old French forts, this came to be particularly designated as La Pointe.
  5. When the American Fur Company established a new fort, a few miles north of the old, the name La Pointe was transferred thereto. This northern village was in popular parlance styled “New Fort,” and the now almost-deserted .southern village “Old Fort”; while the small settlement around the Indian graveyard midway, where Father Baraga built his first chapel, was known as “Middleport.”
La Pointe, Madelaine Island, Chequamegon Bay, circa 1898.<br /> <em>"The large building in the foreground is an old American Fur Company's warehouse. The mainland town of Bayfield rests in a hollow of the opposite hills, which appears to merge into the island. This La Pointe, early established as a French military and trading post, must not be confounded with the still earlier missions of La Pointe served by Allouez and Marquette, which is on the mainland on the southwest shore of Chequamegon Bay, between Washburn and Ashland."</em><br /> ~ <strong><a href="http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/search/collection/whc" target="_blank">Wisconsin Historical Collections</a>, Volume XVI</strong>, page 80.

La Pointe, Madelaine Island, Chequamegon Bay, circa 1898.
“The large building in the foreground is an old American Fur Company’s warehouse. The mainland town of Bayfield rests in a hollow of the opposite hills, which appears to merge into the island. This La Pointe, early established as a French military and trading post, must not be confounded with the still earlier missions of La Pointe served by Allouez and Marquette, which is on the mainland on the southwest shore of Chequamegon Bay, between Washburn and Ashland.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Collections, Volume XVI, page 80.

La Pointe has lost much of its old-time significance. No longer is it the refuge of starveling tribes, chased thither by Iroquois, harassed by unneighborly Sioux, and consoled in a measure by the ghostly counsel of Jesuit fathers; no longer a centre of the fur-trade, with coureurs de bois gayly dight, self-seeking English and American factors, Creole traders dispensing largesse to the dusky relatives of their forest brides, and rollicking voyageurs taking no heed of the morrow. Its forest commerce has departed, with the extinction of game and the opening of the Lake Superior country to industrial and agricultural occupation; the Protestant mission has followed the majority of the Indian islanders to mainland reservations; the revived mission of Mother Church has also been quartered upon the bay shore. But the natural charms of Madelaine island, in rocky dell, and matted forest, and sombre, pine-clad shore, are with us still, and over all there floats an aroma of two and a half centuries of historic association, the appreciation of which we need to foster in our materialistic West, for we have none too much of it.


 

The chief authority on Nicolet is Butterfield’s Discovery of the Northwest (Cincinnati, 1881).  See also Wis. Hist. Colls., xi, pp. 1-25.

2 In his authoritative History of the Ojibway Nation, in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., Warren prefers the spelling “Chagoumigon,” although recognizing “Shagawaumikong” and “Shaugahwaumikong.”  “Chequamegon” is the current modern form.  Rev.  Edward P. Wheeler, of Ashland, an authority on the Chippewa tongue and traditions, says the pronunciation should be “Sheh-gu-wah-mi-kung,” with the accent on the last syllable.

See Nevill and Martin’s Historic Green Bay (Milwaukee,1894); and various articles in the Wisconsin Historical Collections.

See Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp.98, 99, note, for account of early copper mining on Lake Superior by Indians.  In the summer of 1892, W. H. Holmes, of the Smithsonian Institution, found on Isle Royale no less than a thousand abandoned shafts which had been worked by them; and “enough stone implements lay around, to stock every museum in the country.”

Radisson’s Voyages was published by the Prince Society (Boston, 1895); that portion relation to Wisconsin is reproduced, with notes, in Wis. Hist. Colls., xi.  See also Jesuit Relations, 1660, for Father Lallemant’s report of the discoveries of the “two Frenchmen,” who had found “a fine river, great, broad, deep, and comparable, they say, to our great St. Lawrence.”
In Franquelin’s map of 1688, what is now Pigeon River, a part of the international boundary between Minnesota and Canda, is called Groseilliers.  An attempt was made by members of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, in the Wisconsin Legislature,during the session of 1895, to have a proposed new county called Radisson; the name was adopted by the friends of the bill, but the measure itself failed to pass.

Now called Crees.

Radisson’s Voyages plainly indicates that the travelers portaged across the long, narrow sand-spit formerly styled Shagawaumikong, in their day united with the mainland, but now insular, and bearing the name Chequamegon Island; this Radisson describes as “a point of 2 leagues long and some 60 paces broad,”and later he refers to it as “the point that forms that Bay, wch resembles a small lake.”  After making this portage of Shagawaumikong, they proceeded in their boats, and “att the end of this bay we landed.”  The Ottawas of the party desired to cross over to their villages on the head-waters of the Black and Chippewa, and no landing-place was so advantageous for this purpose as the southwest corner of the bay.  It is plain from the narrative that the Frenchmen, now left to themselves, built their fortified hut at or near the place of landing, on the mainland.  The Chippewa tradition of the coming of Radisson and Groseilliers, as given by Warren in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 121, 122, places the camp of the first white men on the eastern extremity of Madeline (or La Pointe) Island.  The tradition runs close to the fact in most other particulars; but in the matter of location, Radisson’s journal leaves no room to doubt that the tradition errs.
See post, Father Verwyst’s article, “Historic Sites on Chequamegon Bay,”with notes on the site of Radisson’s fort, by Sam. S. Fifield and Edward P. Wheeler.  Verwyst thinks the location to have been “somewhere between Whittlesey’s Creek and Shore’s Landing;”  Fifield and Wheeler are confident that it was at Boyd’s Creek.

Apparently by Johnathan Carver, in the map accompanying his volume of Travels.

Says Warren (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 102): “Shag-a-waum-ik-ong is a narrow neck or point of land about our miles long, and lying nearly parallel to the island of La Pointe, toward the western end of which it converges, till the distance from point to point is not more than two miles.”  In first entering the bay, the previous autumn, Radisson describes the point of Shagawaumikong, and says: “That point should be very fitt to build & advantageous for the building of a fort, as we did the spring following.”  But later on in his journal, in describing the return to the bay from their winter with the Indians in the Mille Lacs region, he does not mention the exact location of the new “fort.”  While in this fort, they “received [news] that the Octanaks [Ottawas] [had] built a fort on the ponit that forms that Bay, wcresembles a small lake.  We went towards it with all speede,” – and had a perilous trip thither, across thin ice.  This would indicate that the French camp was not on the point.  As with many other passages in the journal, it is impossible to reconcile these two statements.  Verwyst thinks that the traders were stationed on Houghton Point.
Warren, who had an intimate acquaintance with Chippewa traditions’ believed that that tribe, driven westward by degrees from the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, reached Lake Superior about the time of the Columbian discovery, and came to a stand on Shagaqaumikong Point.  “On this spot they remained not long, for they were harassed daily by their warlike foes, and for greater security they were obliged to move their camp to the adjacent island of Mon-in-wun-a-kauning (place of the golden-breasted woodpecker, but known as La Pointe).  Here, they chose the site of their ancient town, and it covered a space about three miles long and two broad, comprising the western end of the island.” – (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 96).  They remained in this large town “for the space of three generations, or one hundred and twenty years,” but for various reasons (see Ibid, p. 108 et seq., for the details) evacuated the place, and settling on the adjacent mainland came to regard La Pointe Island (now Madeline) as an abode of evil spirits, upon which, it is said, until the days of Cadotte, no Indian dare stay over night alone.  Gradually, as the beaver grew more scarce, the Chippewas radiated inland, so that at the time of Radisson’s visit the shores of the bay were almost unoccupied, save during the best fishing season, when Chippewas, Ottawas, Hurons, and others congregated there in considerable numbers.

10 The route which Ménard took, is involved in doubt.  Verwyst, following the Jesuit Relations, thinks he ascended some stream flowing into Lake Superior, and portaged over to the head-waters of Black river.  Others, following Tailhan’s Perrot, believe that he crossed over to Green Bay, then ascended the Fox, descended the Wisconsin, and ascended the Mississippi to the mouth of the black.  If the latter was his route, his visit to the Mississippi preceded Joliet’s by eleven years.

11 Neill (in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 116) is of the opinion that Allouez “built a bark chapel on the shores of the bay, between a village of Petun Hurons and a village composed of three bands of Ottawas.”  That Allouez was stationed upon the mainland, where the Indians now were, is evident from his description of the bay (Jesuit Relations for 1666-67): “A beautiful bay, at the bottom of which is situated the great village of the savages, who there plant their fields of Indian corn, and lead a stationary life.  There are there, to the number of eight hundred men bearing arms, but collected from seven different nations, who dwell in peace with each other.”  Verwyst, whose local knowledge is thorough, thinks that Allouez’s mission was at the mouth of Vanderventer’s Creek, and I have followed him in this regard.
There has always been some confusion among antiquarians as to what particular topographical feature gave name to the region.  In christening his mission “La Pointe,” he had reference, I think, not to the particular plot of ground on which his chapel lay, but to the neighboring sandy point of Shagawaumikong, hemming in the bay on the east, in which he must have had a poetic interest, for tradition told him that it was the landfall of the Chippewas, and the place where, perhaps a century before, had been fought a great battle between them and the Dakotah’s (or Sioux), relics of which were to be found in our own day, in the human bones scattered freely through the shifting soil; doubtless in his time, these were much in evidence.
The map of in the Jesuit Relations for 1670-71 styles the entire Bayfield peninsula, forming the west shore of the bay, “La Pointe du St. Esprit,” of 1688, more exact in every particular, places a small settlement near the southwestern extremity of the bay. See also Verwyst’s Missionary Labors of Fathers Marquette, Ménard, and Allouez (Milwaukee, 1886), p. 183.
In 1820, Cass and Schoolcraft visited Chequamegon Bay, and the latter, in his Narrative, says: “Passing this [Bad] River, we continued along the sandy formation to its extreme termination, which separates the Bay of St. Charles [Chequamegon] from that remarkable group of islands called the Twelve Apostles by Carver.  It is this sandy point which is called La Pointe Chagoimegon by the old French authors, a term no shortened to La Pointe.”

12 By this time, fear of the Iroquois had subsided, and many Hurons had lately returned with the Pottawattomies, Sauks, and Foxes, to the oldhaunts of the latter, on Fox River.  Cadillac, writing in 1703 from Detroit, says (Margry, v., p. 317): “It is proper that you should be informed that more than fifty years since [about 1645] the Iroquois by force of arms drove nearly all of the other Indian nations from this region [Lake Huron] to the extremity of Lake Superior, a country north of this post, and frightfully baren and inhispitable.  About thirty-two years ago [1671] these exiled tribes collected themselves together at Michillimakinak.”

13 “The cause of the perpetual war, carried on between these two nations, is this, that both claim, as their exclusive hunting ground, the tract of country which lies between them, and uniformly attack each other when they meet upon it.” – Henry’s Travels and Adventures (N. Y., 1809), pp. 197, 198.

14 From whom the city of Duluth, Minn. was named.

15 For an account of Grand Portage see Wis. Hist. Colls., xi., pp. 123-125.

16 See ante, p. 203, note, for description of the Bois Brulé-St. Croix route.

17 See Parkman’s Half Century of Conflict, and Hebberd’s Wisconsin under French Domination (Madison, 1890).

18 Neill, in Minn. Hist. Colls., v. p 140, says that soon after St. Lusson’s taking possession of the Northwest for France, at Sault. Ste. Marie (1671), French traders built a small fort set about with cedar palisades, on which a cannon was mounted, “at the mouth of a small creek or pond midway between the present location of the American Fur Company’s establishment and the mission-house of the American Board of Foreign Missions.”

19 Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 125.  Originally, the Indians of Lake Superior went to Quebec to trade; but, as the whites penetrated westward by degrees, these commercial visits were restricted to Montreal, Niagara, Detroit, Mackinaw, Sault Ste. Marie, as each in turn became the outpost of French influence; finally trading-posts were opeend at La Pointe, St. Louis River, and Pigeon River, and in time traders even followed the savages on their long hunts after the ever-decreasing game.

20 In July, 1695, Chingouabé, Chief of the Chippewas, voyaged with Le Sueur to Montreal, to “pay his respects to Onontio, in the name of the young warriors of Point Chagouamigon, and to thank him for having given them some Frenchmen to dwell with them; and to testify their sorrow for one Jobin, a Frenchmen killed at a feast.  It occurred accidentally, not maliciously.”  In his reply (July 29), Governor Frontenac gave the Chippewas some good advice, and said that he would again send Le Sueur “to command at Chagouamigon.”  – Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 421.

21 It is evident that hereafter Madelaine Island was the chief seat of French power in Chequamegon Bay, but it was not until the present century that either the name La Pointe or Madelaine was applied to the island.  Franquelin’s map (1688) calls it “Isle Detour ou St Michel.”  Bellin’s French map of Lake Superior (in Charlevoix’s Histoire et Description Générale de Nouvelle France, Paris, 1744) calls the long sand-point of Shagawaumikong (now Chequamegon Island), “Pointe de Chagauamigon,” and styles the present Madelain Island “Isle La Ronde” after the trader La Ronde; what is now Basswood Island, he calls “Isle Michel,” and at the southern extremity of the bay indicates that at that place was once an important Indian village.  In De l’ Isle’s map, of 1745, a French trading house (Maison Francoise) is shown on Shagawaumikong Point itself.  Madelaine Island has at various times been known as Monegoinaiccauning (or Moningwnakauning, Chippewa for “golden-breasted woodpecker”), St. Michel, La Ronde, Woodpecker, Montreal, Virginia (Schoolcraft, 1820), Michael’s (McKenney, 1826), Middle (because midway between the stations of Saulte Ste. Marie and Fort William, at Pigeon River), Cadotte’s, and La Pointe (the latter because La pointe village was situated thereon).

22 Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 423-425.

23 It was during this period the only fur-trading station on the south shore of Lake Superior, and was admirably situated for protecting not only the west end of the lake, but the popular portage route between Lake Superior and the Mississippi River, – the Bois Brulé and the St. Croix Rivers.

24 J. D. Butler’s “Early Shipping on Lake Superior,” in Wis. Hist. Soc. Proc., 1894, p. 87.  The rigging and material were taken in canoes from the lower country to Sault Ste. Marie, the vessel being built at Point aux Pins, on the north shore, seven miles above the Sault.  Butler shows that Alexander Henry was interested with a mining company in launching upon the lake in May, 1771, a sloop of 70 tons.  After this, sailing vessels were regularly employed upon Superior, in the prosecution of the fur trade and copper mining.  The Hudson’s Bay Company’s “Speedwell” was upon the lake as early as 1789; the Northwest Company’s principal vessel was the “Beaver.”

25 In this year there were reported to be 150 Chippewa braves living on Point Chagouamigon. — N. Y. Colon. Docs., ix.

26 Martin MSS., Dominion Archives, Ottawa, – letter of Beauharnois.  For much of the foregoing data, see Neill’s “History of the Ojibways,” Minn. Hist. Colls., v.

27 N. Y. Colon. Docs., x., p. 424

28 Says Governor Galissoniére, in writing to the colonial office at Paris, under date of October, 1748: “Voyageurs robbed and maltreated at Sault Ste. Marie, and elsewhere on Lake Superior; in fine there appears to be no security anywhere.” – N. Y. Colon. Docs., x. p. 182.

29 See the several versions of this tale, Wis. Hist. Colls., viii., pp. 224 et seq.; and Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 141-145, 431-432.  Warren says that some Chippewa traditions ascribe this tragedy to the year 1722, but the weight of evidence is as in the text above.

30 “My house, which stood in the bay, was sheltered by an island of fifteen miles in length, and betwen which and the main the channel is four miles broad.  On the island there was formerly a French trading post, much frequented; and in its neighborhood a large Indian village.” – Henry’s Travels, p. 199.  Henry doubtless means that formerly there was an Indian village on the island; until after the coming of Cadotte, Warren says, the island was thought by the natives to be bewitched.

31 Jean Baptiste Cadotte (formerly spelled Cadot) was the son of one Cadeau, who is said to have come to the Northwest in the train of Sieur de St. Lusson, who took possession of the region centring at Sault Ste. Marie, in 1671.  See St. Lusson’s procés verbal in Wis. Hist. Colls., xi., p. 26.  Jean Baptiste, who was legally married to a Chippewa woman, had two sons, Jean Paptiste and Michel, both of whom were extensive traders and in their turn married Chippewas.  See Minn. Hist. Colls., v., index.

32 “On my arrival at Chagouenig, I found fifty lodges of Indians there.  These people were almost naked, their trade having been interrupted first by the English invasion of Canada, and next by Pontiac’s war.” – Travels, p. 193.

33 McKenny, in History of the Indian Tribes (Phila., 1854), i., pp. 154, 155, tells the story.  He speaks of Johnston as “the accomplished Irish gentleman who resided so many years at the Sault de Ste. Marie, and who was not better known for his intelligence and polished manners than for his hospitality.”  See also, ante, pp. 180, 181, for Schoolcraft and Doty’s notices of Johnston, who died ([ae]t. 66) at Sault Ste. Marie, Sept. 22, 1828.  His widow became a Presbyterian, and built a church of that denomination at the Sault.  Her daughter married Henry B. Schoolcraft, the historian of the Indian tribes.  Waubojeeg died at an advanced age, in 1793.

34 Warren thinks he settled there about 1792 (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p.111), but there is good evidence that it was at a later date.

35 “The Cranes claim the honor of first having pitched their wigwam and lighted the fire of the Ojibways, at Shaug-ah-waum-ik-ong, a sand point or peninsula lying two miles immediately opposite the Island of La Pointe.” – Warren in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 86.

36 “Kind-hearted Michel Cadotte,” as Warren calls him, also had a trading-post at Lac Courte Oreille.  He was, like the other Wisconsin Creole traders, in English employ during the War of 1812-15, and was at the capture of Mackinaw in 1812.  He died on the island, July 8, 1837, aged 72 years, and was buried there.  As with most of his kind, he made money freely and spent it with prodigality, partly in high living, but mainly in supporting his many Indian relatives; as a consequence, he died poor, the usual fate of men of his type. – (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 449.)  Warren says (Ibid., p. 11), the death occurred “in 1836,” but the tombstone gives the above date.
Cass, Schoolcraft, and Doty visited Chequamegon Bay in 1820.  Schoolcraft says, in his Narrative, pp. 192, 193: “Six mile beyond the Mauvaise is Pointe Che-goi-me-gon, once the grand rendezvous of the Chippeway tribe, but now reduced to a few lodges.  Three miles further west is the island of St. Michel (Madelaine), which lies in the traverse across Chegoimegon Bay, where M. Cadotte has an establishment.  This was formerly an important trading post, but is now dwindled to nothing.  There is a dwelling of logs, stockaded in the usual manner of trading-housess, besides several out-buildings, and some land in cultivation.  We here also found several cows and horses, which have been transported with great labor.”  See ante, pp. 200, 201, for Doty’s account of this visit.

37 Alfred Brunson, who visited Lyman Warren at La Pointe, in 1843, wrote: “Mr. Warren had a large and select library, an unexpected sight in an Indian country, containing some books that I had never before seen.” – Brunson, Western Pioneer (Cincinnati, 1879), ii., p. 163.

38 Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 326, 383, 384, 450.  Contemporaneously with the settlement of the Warrens at La Pointe, Lieutenant Bayfield of the British navy made (1822-23) surveys from which he prepared the first accurate chart of Lake Superior; his name is preserved in Bayfield peninsula, county, and town.

39 Borup had a trading-post on the island in 1846; but the forest commence had by this time sadly dwindled.

40 He left six children, the oldest son being William Whipple Warren, historian of the Chippewa tribe.  See William’s “Memoir of William W. Warren,” in Minn. Hist. Colls., v.

41 See Davidson’s excellent “Missions on Chequamegon Bay,” in Wis. Hist. Colls., xii., to which I am chiefly indebted for information concerning the modern La Pointe missions.  Mr. Davidson has since given us, in his Unnamed Wisconsin (Milw., 1895), fuller details of this mission work.

42 Wis. Hist. Colls., xii., p. 445.  Mr. Davidson writes to me that in his opinion Ayer leaned to independency, and was really a Congregationalist; Hall is registered as such in the Congregational Year Book for 1859.  “As to the La Pointe-Odanah church,” continues Mr. Davidson, in his personal letter, “its early records make no mention of lay elders, – of organization it was independent, rather than strictly Congregational.  This could not be otherwise, with no church nearer than the one at Mackinaw.  That was Presbyterian, as was its pastor, Rev. William M. Ferry.  The La Pointe church adopted articles of faith of its own choosing, instead of holding itself bound by the Westminster confession.  Moreover, the church was reorganized after the mission was transferred to the Presbyterian board.  For this action there may have been some special reason that I know nothing about.  But it seems to me a needless procedure if the church were Presbyterian before.”

43 See Verwyst’s Missionary Labors, pp. 146-149.  This chapel was built partly of new logs, and partly of material from an old building given to Father Baraga by the American Fur Company

44 See Wis. Hist. Colls., xii., pp. 445, 446, note, also, Verwyst’s Missionary Labors, pp. 183, 184.  Father Verwyst also calls attention to certain vestments at La Pointe, said to be those of Marquette: “That is another fable which we feel it our duty to explode.  The vestments there were procured by Bishop Baraga and his successors; not one of them dates from the seventeenth century.”

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4 Responses to “The Story of Chequamegon Bay”

  1. Leo said

    Good stuff Amorin,

    In “Red Cliff, Wisconsin,” Howard Paap talks quite a bit about Reuben Gold Thwaites’ perspective and its impact on framing Chequamegon history. I always find it bizarre what late 19th century and early 20th century historians chose to use from Warren and Schoolcraft.

    Great pictures, but I think your Jean Nicolet the coureur de bois is actually Joseph Nicollet the mapmaker, and your Truman Warren is Lyman’s son Truman (named for his deceased uncle) rather than his brother Truman.

  2. Eric said

    Wonderful literature here Amorin. I hope to see more!!

  3. Sandra said

    Wow. This is wonderful! What a treasure to find on WordPress! Thank you for the time it took you to post this (and do all of the research). Just wow. http://sandramathews.wordpress.com

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