Wisconsin Territory Delegation: Mackinac and Sault Ste Marie

April 7, 2016

By Amorin Mello

A curious series of correspondences from Morgan

… continued from To The Far West.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
July 7, 1845.

MADISON, (W.T.,) June 26, 1845.

To the Editor of the Union:

SIR: Our democratic territorial convention has this day nominated the Hon. Morgan L. Martin, of the county of Brown, as the candidate for the delegacy, to succeed Governor Dodge.  Mr. Martin is one of our ablest and most reliable democrats, and there is but little doubt of his election by a triumphant majority.  Mr. Martin has been fourteen years in the upper branch of our territorial legislature, and has been the presiding officer of that body at four sessions.  The democrats of the Territory will go into the canvass in the best possible spirits, and with the fullest confidence of success; for they are well united, and have a candidate worthy of the cause and their most zealous support.

Henry Dodge ~ Wikipedia.org

Henry Dodge
~ Wikipedia.org

More than twice the number of immigrants are arriving here daily, this season, than have ever come at any previous season.  The administration of Governor Dodge is very popular with all parties, and so are the measures of the national administration, and particularly its course on those two great questions – the annexation of Texas, and the maintenance of our rights to Oregon.

The convention was very fully attended; and, although there was some division when it assembled, as to who the nominee should be, the members left here in the best possible spirits.  In haste.

Yours, truly,

J. A. N.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
July 8, 1845.

[From our regular correspondent.]

MACKINAC, June 29, 1845.

This small town stands on a narrow slip of land sloping from the foot of elevated bluff hills in the rear, to the water.  The second and highest elevation is about three-quarters of a mile in the rear of the town, and is three hundred feet above the level of the lake or straits, and nine hundred feet above the level of the ocean.  The site of the town winds in a crescent form around a small harbor, indented in the southeastern part of the island.

Painting of Fort Mackinacc by Seth Eastman in 1761. ~ United States Army Center of Military History

Painting of Fort Mackinac by Seth Eastman in 1761.
~ United States Army Center of Military History

The old Fort Mackinac stood on an extreme northern point, putting out into the strait from the southern main land, some 10 or 15 miles to the southward of this place.  It was first settled upon as a French missionary station, and a fort erected.  When Carver visited it in 1756-’57, the fort was garrisoned by the English, who came into possession of it with the conquest of Canada, a few years before.  It then contained 30 houses, and had one hundred men in garrison, besides a government-house, &c.  In 1763, the various northwestern tribes of Indians who had long known the French as the first Europeans they had ever formed friendly intercourse with, became highly dissatisfied with the change from French to English rule.  A powerful league was, therefore, formed between the Ottowas, Chippewas, the Hurons, Menomonees, &c.; and the celebrated Pontiac was their leader, who bore a deadly hostility to the English.

"No authentic images of Pontiac [also known as Obwandiyag] are known to exist. This interpretation was painted by John Mix Stanley." ~ Wikipedia.org

“No authentic images of Pontiac [also known as Obwandiyag] are known to exist. This interpretation was painted by John Mix Stanley.”
~ Wikipedia.org

He approached the old Fort Mackinac, followed by a large force, and, at first, with apparently friendly feelings.  he and his followers commenced a [ba??] play in front of the fort.  The English, supposing all was right, ventured out of the fort to see the play; when Pontiac and his men made a sudden run upon the fort, and succeeded in capturing it.  The lives of the English were spared; but they were carried off as prisoners, and afterwards ransomed at Montreal at heavy prices.

After peace was made with Pontiac, the fort came again into the occupancy of the English, who transferred it to us, under the treaty of peace, at the close of the revolutionary war.  When the late war broke out, the British took both old Fort Mackinac and the fort at this town, and held them up to the treaty of Ghent; and if war were to begin soon, they would inevitably fall into their hands again, owing to our neglect to fortify them in a proper manner.  The old site we have abandoned, and erected a small and well-built fort on the hill, just in the rear of the town, on the island, which is about one hundred and fifty feet high above the level of the lake, or strait.  About three-quarters of a mile behind the fort, there is a high hill – the highest on the island – with its steep face looking towards the fort and harbor, while its eastern and northern section extends over a narrow plateau, or level, which could be completely raked by guns stationed on the walls of a fort, which should, by all means, be erected near the brow of the hill.  This high point of land overlooks and completely commands the fort our troops (two companies) at present occupy.

"Major Charles Gratiot visited Mackinac Island in 1817, using his trained engineer’s eye to carefully record the design of Fort Holmes in these detailed plans. The fort’s blockhouse, walls, and gun platforms are clearly visible on Gratiot’s drawings" ~ Mackinac State Historic Parks

“Major Charles Gratiot visited Mackinac Island in 1817, using his trained engineer’s eye to carefully record the design of Fort Holmes in these detailed plans. The fort’s blockhouse, walls, and gun platforms are clearly visible on Gratiot’s drawings”
~ Mackinac State Historic Parks

The first news the people heard of the declaration of war in 1812 in Mackinac, was the appearance of a large body of English and Indians on the high hill, who commanded the surrender of the fort, then garrisoned by some fifty or sixty men which was complied with.  The English entrenched this high ground, planted some batteries on its ramparts, and named it “Fort Holmes,” which it still bears.

This point is the main key to those important straits which connect two of the great lakes.  It is now just in the state of ruins in which the British left it in 1814-’15; and why our government have not strongly fortified it, seems inexplicable.  If this hill were strongly fortified, with armed outposts at some other points about the straits, the military defences of this place would be wholly impregnable – even stronger, if anything, than the rock of Gibraltar.  The position is a most important one and government should lose no time in putting it in a complete state of defence.

The only communication by water, between the two great lakes of Michigan and Huron, is directly in view of the heights of this harbor.

From the hill of Fort Holmes, there is  a most magnificent view.  The great sheets of water in the straits, with the islands, distant main-land, &c., are all in full view.  The approach of a steamer or vessel can be seen when from twelve to fifteen miles distant, in the eastern or western offing.

This post was first settled in 1764 – the year after the fall of old Mackinac.  In 1796 it was conveyed by the English to St. Clair.  It has long been a celebrated Indian trading-point, and is so yet; large numbers of whom constantly visit the place in the birch-bark canoes, encamping beneath bark wigwams (or shanties) on the stony beach along the shore.

1843 Drawing of Mission Point Beach at Mackinac Island, Michigan ~ ??

1843 Drawing of Mission Point Beach at Mackinac Island, Michigan
~ Historic Mackinac, Volume 1, facing-page 367.

This is also a great point for catching lake trout, or salmon-trout, white fish, &c., which are salted down in barrels, and shipped to market, selling for about seven dollars per barrel, on average.  This business is in the hands of Indians, half-breed Indians, and French fishermen, who go out into the lakes in Mackinac boats, properly prepared with seines, hooks, &c.

Photograph of Arch Rock on Mackinac Island, by n8huckins, shared under Creative Commons license. ~ Wikipedia.org

Photograph of Arch Rock on Mackinac Island, by n8huckins, shared under Creative Commons.
~ Wikipedia.org

The island of Mackinac is about 9 miles in circumference, and contains several natural curiosities among which, is the Giant’s Arch, or Rock, about a mile northeast of the town.  It is 100 feet high – the natural arch having a span of 45 feet wide.

Nearer the centre of the island is Henry’s cave, at which, it is said, this traveller once saved his life from the fury of drunken Indians, by secreting himself in it.  It was then full of bones, which have since disappeared.

In the town of Mackinac, there are two small churches, the most ancient of which is a Catholic chapel, connected with a Catholic mission at the point.  The other is a small Protestant church, originally built in connexion with an extensive mission-house founded by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.  They have since changed the establishment to the shores of Lake Superior.  The mission-house is now occupied by Mr. Herrick, lately from Detroit, who has converted it into a large and commodious tavern, at which we are staying.  There is also another comfortable hotel in the place.

I know of no place on the continent that can make a more delightful summer residence than Mackinac.  The heat of the summer is scarcely felt here at all.  You can sleep under a blanket every night throughout the summer.

The drinking water is equal to, if not better than, any which ever gushed from the hill-sides of the Alleghany mountains.  The fish are abundant and delicious.  Large steamers running between Buffalo and Chicago pass twice daily, touching in each case.

The American Fur Company have an agent here.  The United States government have an Indian sub-agent, also resident at this place.

I went to a small Catholic church to-day, where I heard a short sermon in French.  The auditory consisted of French descendants, Indians, half-breeds, and some few Americans.

This island is called the county of Mackinac and Sate of Michigan.  I believe, in addition to a State court, the United States district judge occasionally holds a court here.

We leave to-morrow, on the steamboat General Scott, expected up to-night from Green bay, for the Sault de Ste. Marie – the place of rendezvous for persons bound up Lake Superior, on which then is no craft at present, except two or three schooners sailing up the lake from the Sault to Copper Harbor, &c.

When I arrive at the Sault (pronounced Soo) Ste. Marie, I will write you again.

I remain yours, very respectfully.

MORGAN.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
July 16, 1845.

EDITOR’S CORRESPONDENCE.

[From our regular correspondent.]

SAULT STE. MARIE,

Near Lake Superior, July 2, 1845.

We left Mackinaw yesterday, the 1st July, about a quarter-past eight , a.m.; our course for forty miles to the “detour” lying through the open and upper part of Lake Huron, which exposed our little boat to a very heavy rolling sea- the result of the previous day or two’s severe blow on the lakes.  Many of the passengers, as usual on such occasions, became severely sea-sick.  At half-past 12, p.m., we rounded into St. Mary’s river, where we had smoother water.

"A painting by Paul Kane depicts an encampment on the shores of Lake Huron in about 1845." ~ The Granger Collection, New York

“A painting by Paul Kane depicts an encampment on the shores of Lake Huron in about 1845.”
~ The Granger Collection, New York

The river at first appeared very wide, with a low and sandy beach on each side, and a flat swampy country running back into the interior.  As we progressed, however, the stream grew more narrow, and again expanded into two smart lakes – the first called Great George, and the latter Little George’s lake.  Leaving these lakes, the river fifteen or twenty miles below the Sault again contracted, and turned about among high hills a little distance off, while its margin was skirted with low, falt, gravelly ground, covered with white cedar and other rather dwarfed forest trees.  These highlands showed steep hills or knobs of old red sandstone.

It was not long after passing the hills, before we hove in sight of the white and frothy rapids, at the foot of which stands the small village of the Sault, at the principal pier of which we landed – it being 60 miles from the lake.

The town exhibits a collection of wooden log-houses, roofed and weather-boarded with birch bark, gathered along the river at the foot of the falls, here and there showing small framed painted houses, one of which is an hotel, at present overflowing with people bound for the mineral lands of Lake Superior.

The Sault contains, besides the houses noticed, a small United States garrison; the slender wooden stockade defences of which, with officers’ quarters, are almost in a state of dilapidation.  There is also a small missionary station and school-house belonging to the Methodists, and a U. S. Indian agency.

"Ojibwa village near Sault Ste Marie" by Paul Kane in 1845. ~ Wikipedia.org

A painting of an Ojibwa village near Sault Ste Marie; also by Paul Kane in 1845.
~ Wikipedia.org

There is a collector of the port on each side of the river, which is here about a mile wide, between us and Canada.  I imagine there is very little business to do by either functionary.  The American Fur Company have a station at the Sault.  The Hudson Bay Company have a factory, or station, on the opposite side of the river.  I paid a visit to the latter yesterday, having a note of introduction to a Mr. Blenden, their agent, whom I found busy in packing up for a voyage up the Canada side of Lake Superior.  He is bound on a tour among the posts towards Hudson’s Bay to the north.  Mr. B. received me very politely.  He informed me that he intended to carry his children with him, whom he expected to send in the care of friends across to Hudson’s Bay, where they would embark on one of the company’s ships for London, and be from thence conveyed to Edinburgh, to be placed at school.  He told me Sir George Simpson, the governor of the company, had passed up the lake not long since, accompanied by his boats, &c.  he was bound for the valley of the Red river of the North, where he expected to meet a kind of convention of the authorities of the company’s territories in that quarter – among whom would be the representatives of Selkirk’s colony, the population of which is about 5,000.  They produce more grain, &c., than they can find means of having conveyed to market: hence there is some emigration from their colony to the valley of the Mississippi, within the States.

John Ballenden was a Scottish fur trader for Hudson’s Bay Company.
William E Logan’s 1845 survey.

Mr. B. states that the Hudson Bay Company employ about seven ships in their trade – two or three of which, every summer, visit Hudson’s Bay; three double Cape Horn, and ascent the Columbia river; and one or two others are employed at other points.  He states that their charter gives them ample territorial jurisdiction over all the lands, mines, &c., on the high lands to the north and west of Lake Superior, but not over the lands immediately along the shore.  He states that a geologist, Dr. Logan, is engaged in surveying the country of Upper Canada, and is now employed between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron, or the inlet of the latter lake, called Lake Georgina Bay.  He is expected up this summer, to examine the northern shore of Lake Superior, which is supposed to be as rich in copper ore, at certain points, as the southern shore.

The two fur companies (American and Hudson Bay) are on the best possible understanding; which has a very favorable influence on the northwestern tribe of Indians.

In 1830, they mutually agreed to exclude all intoxicating drinks, in their traffic and intercourse, from them.  The Indians, in consequence of this wise and humane compact, are everywhere, within their bounds more inoffensive and peaceable.  It is just as safe, if not more so, to travel among them, than among the whites.  They have a considerable number of birch-bark lodges at the Sault, employing their time in catching fish at the foot of the falls, in their gill-nets.  They belong almost exclusively to the Chippewa tribe.  The Sault is the greatest place for catching fish I ever saw.  They can take ten times as many white fish, salmon-trout, brook-trout, bass, &c., as can be disposed of.  The Indians push their canoes up into the foam of the falls, cast forward their nets, and draw it as the current carries the boat down again.  Our staple article of food at the Sault is fresh fish.

The falls here, or rapids, have only a descent of about 18 to 21 feet in a mile; while the ground is very favorable to the construction of a ship-canal – the length of which need only be a mile.  On the Canada side, the length of the rapids is only about three-quarters of a mile long.  It is very likely, if our government refuses to construct a canal on our side, that the English may, ere long, make one on their side; which will be only three-quarters of a mile long.

"Hudson Bay Fort, Sault Ste. Marie. By J.S. Hallam." ~ Sault Ste. Marie Public Library

“Hudson Bay Fort, Sault Ste. Marie. By J.S. Hallam.”
~ Sault Ste. Marie Public Library

The fort at this place, in time of war, should be erected on a considerable hill, about three-quarters of a mile in the rear of the Sault, called Coal-pit hill; which commands a fine view of the falls, river, &c.

There are several schooners (say three or four) on Lake Superior, plying between the head of the falls and Lapointe, Copper Harbor, &c.  They have been drawn around the falls on rollers.  There is some talk of having a steamer carried around by the same means.  A fine new vessel is on the stocks at the head of the falls, which is about half done.  It will be launched about the 1st of August.  She is building by Newbury & Co.; to be rigged as a fore-and-aft schooner.

At the Sault, a Catholic station was founded from one to two centuries ago, being fixed upon as a missionary station.  next to Quebec and Montreal, it is said to be the oldest point settled upon by Europeans in Canada.  It has always been an important point for the Indian trade.  Here goods are carried round the falls, and sent up Lake Superior to be distributed to various Indian trading-posts, far in the northwestern region of the continent.

The early Catholic Jesuits, or priests, who first explored the far distant, cold, and deary regions bordering the shores and streams of the upper lakes, must have been animated with a deal of perseverance, and influenced by the dictates (to them) of an all-powerful religion.  They at every prominent point throughout this vast country erected the cross among the savage tribes, and impressed their minds with the solemn and imposing ceremonies of the religion they professed.  Their success among the savage tribes of North America has never been surpassed, if equalled, by more modern and persevering denominations.  They acquired an influence over the Indians, which nearly a century of British and American domination has not been sufficeint to efface.  Even at this day, the frail wooden cross seen standing in the humble grave-yards of the Indians, sufficiently attests the remaining influence of the Catholic religion.  French and Indian have also intermarried more than the Anglo-Saxon and Indian.  The latter also more commonly speak French.  Indians never, in early times, fought Frenchmen.  Our earliest accounts of the vast interior western and northwester regions of this continent were derived from Catholic priests, such as Father Hennespin, &c.

Alexander Henry the Elder and Captain Jonathan Carver were featured in The Story of Chequamegon Bay.

The first Englishmen who explored the upper lakes after the fall of Canada, were Henry and Carver, between the years 1766 and 1775-’76.  Their works contain many interesting details relative to the country.

In alluding, in a former letter, to our loss of Hunters’ island by the treaty of Washington, I underrated its size.  It is greater in area than the vaunted Isle Royale; being about 50 miles long, instead of 40, and about 40 wide.

A gross error prevails with regard to Isle Royale.  It is supposed by some that we acquired it by the Lake Washington treaty, when it has always been ours, since the treaty of peace after the revolution.  We have, therefore, given away important territory on Pigeon river, without receiving any equivalent, that I know of.

We have been wind-bound at the Sault for two or three days, by reason of a strong northwester, blowing directly down the river.  It has been blowing about a half a gale on the upper lakes for nearly two months past; and, from all indications, the gale may last all summer.  The weather in this latitude 46 degrees 30 minutes) is very cold.  We have to wear thick woollens and sleep under blankets – it being difficult, on the 2d day of July, 1845, to keep warm at that!  The soil produces fine Irish potatoes – better than I have tasted anywhere else – some oats, barley, turnips, rye, and wheat, &c.  The soil is miserably bad, back in the interior.  The population depends chiefly upon fishing, for a support; which, to all appearance, is a never-failing resource.

From this point, I expect to coast the southern lake shore in an open boat, with five or six “voyageurs;” or send them on, and go up to Copper Harbor in the schooner Swallow.

I shall pass to where mail facilities cease, and where the reduction of postage affords no benefit; and it may be some days before you can get another letter from me.

For more information about Major Arthur Holmes, see chapter 3 of War 1812 by George S. May.

During the late war, the Americans, under command of Major Holmes, burnt down the Hudson Bay Company’s fur agency, or factor, on the opposite site of the river.

Almost the only tribe of Indians visiting or living about the Sault, belong to the Chippewa tribe – which, on the average, are good-locking Indians, and apparently comfortably clad, &c.  Many of the half-breeds are really beautiful; and, in regularity of features, figure, and size of hands and feet, would do credit to more civilized life.  They seem to me to be more industrious than more southern tribes of Indians among whom I have travelled, and far more inoffensive and civil to the whites.  Some of the men are exceedingly tall and fine-looking fellows.  I saw yesterday the son of a chief from the Canada side, who stood between six and seven feet high, and was as straight as an arrow.  He could not speak a syllable of English.  I saw him examining, with much attention, the new schooner building at the head of the falls.

The USS Michigan was launched in 1843, and later renamed as the USS Wolverine in 1905. ~ Wikipedia.org

The USS Michigan was launched in 1843, and later renamed as the USS Wolverine in 1905.
~ Wikipedia.org

The names of Indians are often very curious, and, in a measure, put at defiance the power of the English language to express them.  I saw a tall man of the Chippewas at Mackinac, as he stood gazing at the United States steamship Michigan.  Mr. Biddle, an old resident trader of the place, who spoke Chippewa, was standing near him.  he wished to know of Mr. Biddle what sort of a vessel she was; who explained to him that she belong to “his great father, the President, who, if necessary, would use it against his enemies.”  This Indian’s name, translated into English, was nothing less than “A Corpse,” or “A Dead Man” – an unusual name, I should think, even for an Indian!

The Indians always keep an abundant supply of dogs, which, about the Sault, seem uniformly to be a cross of the common cur with the wolf, and seem of little use, except to keep up an eternal barking at night about their bark lodges.  This is a remarkably fine climate for the Newfoundland dog, some fine specimens of which I have seen in the possession of the whites about the Sault.  At Mackinac, and other places in the northwest, the half-breeds especially make draught animals of dogs, in drawing water on trucks, and in performing other labor.

The dogs used by the Indians about Hudson’s Bay are said to be larger and more savage, and used to a greater extent as animals of labor.

The Chippewas, it is said, make no scruple of eating dogs, which they often esteem as a delicacy.  This, however, I cannot vouch for.

Yours, very respectfully,

MORGAN.

 


 

To be continued in Copper Harbor

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