By Amorin Mello

This is a reproduction of Ancient Garden Beds of Michigan from Memorials of a Half Century, by Bela Hubbard, 1887, pages 243-261.

ANCIENT GARDEN BEDS OF MICHIGAN.*

* Read before the State Pioneer Society, February 7, 1877, and published in the American Antiquarian.

Bela Hubbard explored Lake Superior in 1840 as the Assistant State Geologist of Michigan with Douglass Houghton.

A CLASS of works of the Mound-builders exists in Michigan, of unknown age and origin, which have received the name of “Garden-Beds.”

An unusual importance attaches to these remains of a lost race, from the fact that they have been almost entirely overlooked by archæologists, and that of those which were so numerous and prominent forty, or even thirty years ago, nearly every trace has disappeared. For any knowledge beyond the scanty details hitherto recorded we are forced to rely upon the recollections of the “oldest inhabitants.” We know how uncertain this reliance often is, and were it otherwise, we cannot but recognize the rapidity with which we are losing our hold of this kind of testimony, and the very brief period of which it must cease altogether.

Archæology of the United States by Samuel Foster Haven, 1856.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Vérendrye came to Lake Superior in 1726.

The earliest mention of these relics which I find is by Haven, in his “Archæology of the United States.” It is the report of Verandrie, who, with several French associates, explored this region before 1748. He found in the western wilderness

“large tracts free from wood, many of which are everywhere covered with furrows, as if they had formerly been ploughed and sown.”

Schoolcraft was the first to give to the world any accurate and systematic account of these “furrows.” Indeed, he is the only author of note who honors this interesting class of the works of the Mound-Builders with more than the most meagre mention. Observations were made by him as early as 1827. He gives figures of two kinds of beds, and he records the fact, that

“the garden-beds, and not the mounds, form the most prominent, and, by far, the most striking and characteristic antiquarian monuments of this district of country.”

Gazetteer of Michigan by John T. Blois.

Another writer of early date, still resident of our State, John T. Blois, published, in 1839, in his “Gazetteer of Michigan,” a detailed description, with a diagram, of one kind of the beds.

No mention is made of these remains by Priest or by Baldwin. Foster devotes to them less than a single page of his voluminus work, and only says, in effect, that “they certainly indicate a methodical cultivation which was not practised by the red man.”

Increase Allen Lapham wrote about ancient gardens in Antiquities of Wisconsin, and was involved with the Penokee Survey Incidents.

Dr. Lapham describes a few of this kind of remains which were found upon the western shore of Lake Michigan, as

“consisting of low parallel ridges, as if corn had been planted in drills. They average four feet in width, and twenty-five of them have been counted in the space of one hundred feet.”

Ancient gardens are also known to be located at Lac Vieux Desert (‘lake of the old garden’) and Gete Gititaaning (‘at the old gardens’) at Bad River.

Yet these relics constitute a unique feature in the antiquities of our country. They are of especial interest to us, from the fact that they were not only the most prominent of our antiquities, but, with the exception referred to in Wisconsin, they are confined to our State.

Some investigations, by no means thorough, enable me to define more accurately and fully than has been heretofore done the different kinds of these beds, which I shall attempt to classify, according to the most reliable information obtained. But I must first define their situation, extent and character.

The so-called “Garden-Beds” were found in the valleys of the St. Joseph and Grand rivers, where they occupied the most fertile of the prairie land and burr-oak plains, principally in the counties of St. Joseph, Cass and Kalamazoo.

They consist of raised patches of ground, separated by sunken paths, and were generally arrange in plats or blocks of parallel beds. These varied in dimensions, being from five to sixteen feet in width, in length from twelve to more than one hundred feet, and in height six to eighteen inches.

The tough sod of the prairie had preserved very sharply all the outlines. According to the universal testimony, these beds were laid out and fashioned with a skill, order and symmetry which distinguished them from the ordinary operations of agriculture, and were combined with some peculiar features that belong to no recognized system of horticultural art.

In the midst of diversity, sufficient uniformity is discoverable to enable me to group the beds and gardens, as in the following

CLASSIFICATION:

1. Wide convex beds, in parallel rows, without paths, composing independent plats. (Width of beds, 12 feet; paths, none; length, 74 to 115 feet.) Fig. 1.

 

2. Wide convex beds, in parallel rows, separated by paths of same width, in independent plats (Width of bed, 12 to 16 feet; paths same; length, 74 to 132 feet.) Fig. 2.

 

3. Wide and parallel beds, separated by narrow paths, arranged in a series of plats longitudinal to each other (Width of beds, 14 feet; paths, 2 feet; length, 100 feet.) Fig. 3.

 

4. Long and narrow beds, separated by narrower paths and arranged in a series of longitudinal plats, each plat divided from the next by semi-circular heads. (Width of beds, 5 feet; paths, 1½ feet; length, 100 feet; height 18 inches.) Fig. 4.

 

5. Parallel beds, arranged in plats similar to class 4, but divided by circular heads. (Width of beds, 6 feet; paths, 4 feet; length, 12 to 40 feet; height, 18 inches.) Fig. 5.

 

6. Parallel beds, of varying widths and lengths, separated by narrow paths, and arranged in plats of two or more at right angles N. and S., E. and W., to the plats adjacent. (Width of beds, 5 to 14 feet; paths, 1 to 2 feet; length, 12 to 30 feet; height, 8 inches.) Figures a, b, and c are varieties. Fig. 6.

 

7. Parallel beds, of uniform width and length, with narrow paths, arranged in plats or blocks, and single beds, at varying angles. Width of beds, 6 feet; paths, 2 feet; length, about 30 feet; height, 10 to 12 inches.) Fig. 7.

 

8. Wheel-shaped plats, consisting of a circular bed, with beds of uniform shape and size radiating therefrom, all separated by narrow paths. (Width of beds, 6 to 20 feet; paths, 1 foot; length, 14 to 20 feet.) Fig. 8.

 

I present diagrams of each of these classes or kinds of beds. Of these only those numbered 1, 2 and 4 have ever before been delineated, to my knowledge. (See figures 1 to 8, pages 257-261.) Nos. 3 and 5 are described by Schoolcraft and Blois, while the others are figured as well – 1 and 2 by Schoolcraft and 4 by Blois. No. 3, according to the latter, consists of five plats, each 100 feet long, 20 beds in each plat. Schoolcraft does not give the exact localities, and I am unable to state whether beds of the same class have been noticed by other observers. As to their extent, his language is, “The beds are of various sizes, covering generally from 20 to 100 acres.” Some are reported to embrace even 300 acres. Plats of beds are undoubtedly here referred to.

Of the plat figured by Blois (No. 4), the writer says:

“They are found a short distance from Three Rivers, on one side of an oval prairie, surrounded by burr-oak plains. The prairie contains three hundred acres. The garden is judged to be half a mile in length by one-third in breadth, containing about one hundred acres, regularly laid out in beds running north and south, in the form of parallelograms, give feet in width and one hundred in length, and eighteen inches deep.”

The distinctive peculiarity of these beds is what Blois calls the “semi-lunar” head, at the extremity of each bed, separated from them by a path as represented.

Class 6, so far as my own inquiries warrant, represents the form and arrangement which is most common, viz.:

that of a series of parallel beds formed into blocks of two or more, alternating with other similar blocks placed at right angles to them. (See figures a, b, and c.) The prevailing width of the bed is five or six feet, and that of the paths one and a half to two feet. The length of the plats or blocks varies, the average being about twenty feet. Gardens of this kind were found by the early settlers of Schoolcraft, the burr-oak plains at Kalamazoo, Toland’s prairie, Prairie-Ronde, and elsewhere.

Mr. Henry Little says, that in 1831 they were very numerous on the plains where now stands the village of Kalamazoo; and south of the mound, eight or ten acres were entirely covered by them.

Mr. E. Laken Brown confirms this account, and says they reminded him of old New England gardens, being very regular and even, and the beds five feet by twelve or fourteen feet. In 1832 the outlines were very distinct, and the burr-oak trees on them as large as any in the vicinity. Mr. A. T. Prouty concurs as to the extent covered, but thinks the beds were six feet wide by twenty-five to forty long. On the farm of J. T. Cobb, section 7, town of Schoolcraft, the beds were quite numerous as late as 1860. There must have been 15 acres of them on his land. The “sets” would average five or six beds each. Neighbors put the number of acres covered with them in 1830, within the space of a mile, at one hundred.

Fig. 6-b, of class 6, is from a drawing by James R. Cumings, of Galesburg, of a garden in which the beds are of more than usual diversity in width and length. H. M. Shafter and Roswell Ransom, old settlers, say that three or four acres on the edge of the prairie, at this place, were covered with the beds. On the farm of the latter in the town of Comstock, of one hundred acres, there were not less than ten acres of beds, six feet by twenty-five to forty, arranged in alternate blocks, having a north-and-south and east-and-west direction.

Fig. 6-c is from a drawing by Mr. Shafter.

The series represented by Class 7 (fig. 7) were found at Prairie-Ronde. They are platted and described to me by Messrs. Cobb and Prouty. They differ from the more ordinary form of No. 6, in the arrangement of the blocks or sets of beds, which is here not at right angles, but at various and irregular angles, also in the single beds outlying. The number of beds in each block is also greater than usual.

Class 8 is established on the authority of Henry Little and A. T. Prouty, of Kalamazoo. The figure delineated is from the descriptions and dimensions given by the former. The diameter of the circular bed and the length of the radiating ones are each twenty-five to thirty feet. The latter describes two of similar design, but of smaller dimensions, the centre bed being only six feet in diameter, and the radiating ones twenty feet. All occurred at Kalamazoo, and in immediate association with the other forms of beds at that place, represented generally by Class 6.

There is reason for supposing that there may have existed another class of beds, differing altogether from any that I have represented, from expressions used by both Schoolcraft and Blois. The former speaks of “enigmatical plats of variously shaped beds;” and further, “nearly all the lines of each area or sub-area of beds are rectangular and parallel. Others admit of half circles and variously curved beds, with avenues, and are differently grouped and disposed.”

The latter says, the beds “appear in various fanciful shapes.” Some are laid off in rectilineal and curvilineal figures, either distinct or combined in a fantastic manner, in parterres and scolloped work, with alleys between, and apparently ample walks leading in different directions.”

This language is too vague to enable me to construct a diagram, nor have I any confirmation to offer from other sources. The reputation of the writers will not allow us to consider the descriptions fanciful, but it is possible to suppose they were misled by the representations of others.

Lac Vieux Desert (‘lake of the old garden’) and Catakitekon [Gete-gitigaan (‘old gardens’)] from Thomas Jefferson Cram’s 1840 fieldbook.  This is the headwaters of the Wisconsin River, and near those of the Wolf River and Ontonagon River. 
~ School District of Marshfield: Digital Time Travelers

Were these vegetable gardens? To answer this question, we must proceed according to the doctrine of probabilities. All opinions seem to agree, that these relics denote some species of cultivation; and that they are very different from those left by the field culture of any known tribes of Indians. Nor do we find any similar remains in connection with the works of the Mound-Builders, which exist, on so extensive a scale, through the valley of the Mississippi River, although those unknown builders were undoubtedly an agricultural people.

The principal crop of the Indians is maize, and this was never cultivated by them in rows, but in hills often large but always disposed in a very irregular manner. As little do these beds resemble the deserted fields of modern agriculture. On the other hand, the resemblance of many of the plats to the well-laid out garden beds of our own day is very striking; while the curvilinear forms suggest analogies quite as strong to the modern “pleasure garden.”

The Whole & True Discouerye of Terra Florida by Captain Jean Ribault, 1563.

The nearest approach to anything resembling horticultural operations among Indian tribes, with the historic period, is noticed by Jones, who refers to a practice, among some of the southern Indians, of setting apart separate pieces of ground for each family. This author quotes from Captain Ribault’s “Discovery of Terra Florida,” published in London, 1563. “They labor and till the ground, sowing the fields with a grain called Mahis, whereof they make their meal, and in their gardens they plant beans, gourds, cucumbers, citrons, peas, and many other fruits and roots unknown to us. Their spades and mattocks are made of wood, so well and fitly as is possible.”

In the St. Joseph Valley I learned of numerous places, widely apart, where the labor and ksill of our ancient horticulturists were apparent in small gardens, laid out in different styles, and with an eye to the picturesque; as if each family had not only its separate garden patch, but had used it for the display of its own peculiar taste.

The Nahua peoples (Aztecs) are known to build Chinampas (man-made islands for gardens) in water bodies.
Penokee Gap was also the historic path for the early copper workers from Mexico, who came to Lake Superior and Isle Royale.”
~ Bad River WPA Papers, Envelope 3, Folder 9.
Penokee Gap, 1000 feet above Lake Superior, is a break in the rough country, a regular gap where the Bad River breaks through the Iron Range Hills on its way to Lake Superior. The Gap is an historic pathway through which the copper workers from Mexico and South America came to Lake Superior centuries ago enroute to the copper deposits on Isle Royal in Lake Superior.
~ Railroad History, Issues 54-58, pg. 26

Historians tell us of the Aztecs, that they had gardens in which were cultivated various plants, for medicinal uses, as well as for ornament. Was there something analogous to this in the Michigan Nation? Did the latter also have botanical gardens? May we accord to this unknown people a considerable advance in science, in addition to a cultivated taste, and an eye for symmetry and beauty, which is without precedent among the pre-historic people of this continent, north of Mexico?

These extensive indications of ancient culture necessarily imply a settled and populous community. We are led, therefore, to look for other evidences of the numbers and character of the people who made them. But here an extraordinary fact presents itself; such evidences are almost wanting! The testimony of nearly every one whom I have consulted – men who were among the first of the white race to break up the sod, that for ages had consecrated these old garden lands – agrees in the fact, that almost none of usual aboriginal relics were found; no pottery; no spear- and arrow-heads; no implements of stone; not even the omnipresent pipe. Tumuli, or burial mounds of the red man, are not uncommon, though not numerous, in Western Michigan, but have no recognized association with the garden race.

Upon the St. Joseph and Colorado rivers, and in the town of Prairie-Ronde, exist several small circular and rectangular embankments, resembling the lesser works of the Mound-Builders so numerous in Ohio. But no connection can be traced between these detached earthworks and the garden-beds. None of them seem to have been the bases of buildings, nor do they give indication of any religious origin or rites. There are no traces of dwellings, and the soil which has so sacredly preserved the labor of its occupants, discloses not even their bones!

At Three Rivers, and in Gilead, Branch County, are some ancient embankments, which are probably referable to this people and may pass for works of defence. That at the first named place was notably extensive. It consisted only of an earth embankment, about six feet in height, extending between two forks of a river, a mile apart. It thus enclosed a large area, and with a sufficient garrison might have withstood the siege of a large army of barbarous warriors.

It seems strange, indeed, that these garden beds, suggestive as they are, should be the only memorials of a race which has left such an evidence of civilized advancement, and was worthy of more enduring monuments! We may reasonably conclude, that they were a people of peaceable disposition, of laborious habits, and of æsthetic if not scientific tastes; that they lived in simple and patriarchal style, subsisting on the fruits of the earth, rather than of the chase. Their dwellings and their tools were of wood, and have perished. This simple record of their character and labors is all, it may be, we can ever know.

But is this all? May we not form some reasonable conjecture as to the period in which these gardeners lived?

Detail of “Chippewa Gardens” at Odanah from Narrative journal of travels from Detroit northwest through the great chain of American lakes to the sources of the Mississippi River in the year 1820, in 1820, by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, page 105.  This place is known as Gete Gititaaning (‘at the old gardens’) in Ojibwemowin.

Gishkitawag (‘Cut Ear’) circa 1858:
“My children, I want you to listen to me.  The proposition I am about to present will benefit all of you, and I need your cooperation.  I would like to have you donate your labor to clear land for a large community garden, where every family, or any one who wishes can plant.  The place I would suggest is that swampy flat, near the cemetery.  It will take time to drain it and dry out but I know it will make good garden plats.
~ Early Settlement of the Bad River Indian Reservation

A fact mentioned by Dr. Lapham furnishes a species of evidence, as to the relative antiquity of the garden beds of Wisconsin, as compared with the animal mounds. They were found overlying the latter; from which he infers, of course, a more recent origin. We may also suppose a considerable more recent age, since it is not likely that the race could have thus encroached upon the works of another, until long after these had been abandoned, and their religious or other significance forgotten.

The date of the abandonment of the beds may be approximately fixed, by the age of the trees found growing upon them. One of these mentioned by Schoolcraft, cut down in 1837, had 335 cortical layers. This carries the period back as far as 1502, or some years prior to the discovery of this country by the French. How long these labors were abandoned before this tree commenced its growth may not be susceptible of proof. Early French explorers do not appear to have been interested in the question, and it does not seem to me necessary to go further back than the three centuries during which that tree flourished, for a period quite long enough to have crumbled into indistinguishable dust every trace of wooden dwellings and implements, as well as of the bodies of their fabricators, if the latter received only simple earth burial.

Seven Fires Prophecy
(Anishinaabe Migration Story)
:
In the Third Fire the Anishinabe will find the path to their chosen ground, a land in the west to which they must move their families. This will be the land where food grows upon the waters.
~ The Mishomis Book – The Voice of the Ojibway by Edward Benton-Banai, Chapter 13 – The Seven Fires.
Manoomin (Wild Rice) is the food that grows upon the waters at the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs (Third Fire) of Lake Superior.

At the time of the arrival of the French the country was in possession of Algonquin tribes, who emigrated from the St. Lawrence about the middle of the 16th century. They were ignorant of the authors of these works, and were not more advanced in the arts of culture than the other known tribes.

It is probable that the few defensive works I have mentioned were erected by this settled and peaceful race of gardeners, as places of temporary refuge for the women and children, against the raids of the warlike tribes living eastward of them. The larger one may have served for the general defence in a time of sudden and great emergency. It is probable that on some such occasion they were surprised by their savage and relentless foes, and were overwhelmed, scattered or exterminated.

Most of the facts I have been able to present are gathered, in large part, from the memories – of course not always exact or reliable – of early settlers, and after modern culture had for many years obliterated the old.

It is perhaps useless to regret that these most interesting and unique relics of a lost people have so completely perished, through the greed of the dominant race; or that they could not have received, while they yet remained, the more exact and scientific scrutiny which is now being applied to the antiquities of our land. Much that might then have been cleared up, must now remain forever involved in mystery, or be left to conjecture.

– – – – – – – – – –

In September, 1885, the writer visited the region of the ancient garden beds, in hopes of being so fortunate as to find some remaining. He did discover, near Schoolcraft, on a plat of land which had been recently cleared of its timber, a few traces of beds belonging to a set, most of which had been broken up by the plough.

Four or five beds could be distinctly traced, for the distance of some ten to fifteen feet. The remainder of their lengths, said to be some twenty to thirty feet, had been obliterated by cultivation. Each bed had a width of about ten feet from centre to centre of the intervening paths. The latter had apparently a width of two or three feet, but it was impossible to define the exact outlines.

After much inquiry I could learn of no other place in or near Prairie-Ronde, or the plains of St. Joseph and Kalamazoo Counties, where any traces of the old garden beds remained.

Mr. Cobb informed me that about 1859 he endeavored to preserve portions of a set of these beds, which were well covered by touch, protective prairie sod. But when the white grub took possession of the turf thereabouts his ancient garden reserve did not escape. In a year or two the hogs, in their search for the grub, had so rooted and marred the outlines that he ploughed the beds up.

I found many old residents who well remembered the garden plats as they appeared a half century ago, and all concurred in the admiration excited by their peculiar character and the perfection of their preservation. Mr. Cobb says, he often took his friend to see his “ancient garden,” counted the beds, and speculated upon their object. The set of beds, which is shown only partially in his sketch (Fig. 7), contained thirteen beds, and was the largest of the sets. The others averaged five or six beds each.

All concurred, too, as to the great extent of land, amounting to several hundred acres, covered, wholly or partially, by the beds, chiefly upon the northern edge of the prairie. That all visible evidence of their existence should have so completely disappeared is not surprising to any one who notes their situation, upon the richest portions of the mixed prairies and plains. The lands most esteemed by their garden race were those which first attracted the modern farmer. These lands still constitute fields as beautiful as the eye can anywhere rest upon, and in a region second in loveliness to no other part of our country. The wants of the early settler almost preclude any care for the preservation of what was regarded as mere curiosities. Even when spared from the plough, and left to the care of nature, the absence of the annual fires, which had prevented the growth of timber; the roots of trees upheaving the beds; the decay of fallen timber; the hummocks caused by upturned roots; the destruction of the turf by the forest growth, and by cattle and hogs, all tend to deface the beds, and leave them to be reduced to the general level by the elements. Under these circumstances, a few years even would suffice to obliterate outlines which had remained almost unaltered for centuries.

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An Incident of Chegoimegon

November 26, 2016

By Amorin Mello

Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. For the years 1877, 1878 and 1879. Volume VIII., pages 224-226.

This is a reproduction of “An Incident of Chegoimegon – 1760” from Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin: For the years 1877, 1878 and 1879. Volume VIII., pages 224-226.

AN INCIDENT OF CHEGOIMEGON – 1760.*

We have been permitted to extract the following from the journal of a gentleman who has seen a large portion of the country to the north and west of this place, and to whose industry our readers have been often indebted for information relating to the portion of country over which he has passed, and to transactions among the numerous tribes, within the limits of this territory, which tend to elucidate their characteristics, and lay open the workings of their untaught minds:

Mooningwanekaaning-minis:
Island of the Northern Flicker;
Isle de la Ronde;
Madeline Island.
1744 Belin isle de ronde

Detail of Isle de la Ronde from Carte des lacs du Canada by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin; published in Charlevoix’s Histoire et Description Générale de Nouvelle France, Paris, 1744.

Monecauning (abbreviated for “Monegoinaic-cauning,” the Woodpecker Island, in Chippewa language) – which is sometimes called Montreal Island, Cadott’s Island, or Middle Island, and is one of “the Apostles” mentioned by Charlevoix. it is situated in Lake Superior, about ninety miles from Fond du Lac, at the extremity of La Pointe, or Point Chegoimegon.

On this island the French Government had a fort, long previous to its surrender to the English, in 1763. It was garrisoned by regular soldiers, and was the most northern post at which the French king had troops stationed. It was never re-occupied by the English, who removed everything valuable to the Sault de St. Marie, and demolished the works. It is said to have been strongly fortified, and the remains of the works may yet be seen.

In the autumn of 1760, all of the traders except one, who traded from this post, left it for their wintering grounds. He who remained had with him his wife, who was a lady from Montreal, his child – a small boy, and one servant. During the winter, the servant, probably for the purpose of plunder, killed the trader and his wife; and a few days after their death, murdered the child. He continued at the fort until the spring. When the traders came, they enquired for the gentleman and his family; and were told by the servant, that in the month of March, they left him to go to their sugar camp, beyond the bay, since which time he had neither seen nor heard them. The Indians, who were somewhat implicated by this statement, were not well satisfied with it, and determined to examine into its truth. They went out and searched for the family’s tracks; but found none, and their suspicions of the murderer increased. They remained perfectly silent on the subject; and when the snow had melted away, and the frost left the ground, they took sharp stakes and examined around the fort by sticking them into the ground, until they found three soft spots a short distance from each other, and digging down they discovered the bodies.

Other versions of this tragic incident are cited in The Story of Chequamegon Bay:
“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″
“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.”
William Whipple Warren attributed his version of this story to Michel Cadotte and John Baptiste Corbin.

The servant was immediately seized and sent off in an Indian canoe, for Montreal, for trial. When passing the Longue Saut, in the river St. Lawrence, the Indians who had him in charge, were told of the advances of the English upon Montreal, and that they could not in safety proceed to that place. They at once became a war party, – their prisoner was released, and he joined and fought with them. Having no success, and becoming tired of the war, they sought their own land – taking the murderer with them as one of their war party.

They had nearly reached the Saut de St. Marie, when they held a dance. During the dance, as is usual, each one “struck the post,” and told, in his manner, of his exploits. The murderer, in his turn, danced up to the post, and boasted that he had killed the trader and his family – relating all the circumstances attending the murder. The chief heard him in silence, saving the usual grunt, responsive to the speaker. The evening passed away, and nothing farther occurred.

The next day the chief called his young men aside, and said to them: “Did you not hear this man’s speech last night? He now says that he did the murder with which we charged him. He ought not to have boasted of it. We boast of having killed our enemies – never our friends. Now he is going back to the place where committed the act, and where we live – perhaps he will again murder. He is a bad man – neither we nor our friends are safe. If you are of my mind, we will strike this man on the head.” They all declared themselves of his opinion, and determined that justice should be rendered him speedily and effectually.

They continued encamped, and made a feast, to which the murderer was invited to partake. They filled his dish with an extravagant quantity, and when he commenced his meal, the chief informed him, in a few words, of the decree in council, and that as soon as he had finished his meal, either by eating the whole his dish contained, or as much as he could, the execution was to take place. The murderer, now becoming sensible of his perilous situation, from the appearance of things around him, availed himself of the terms of the sentence he had just heard pronounced, and did ample justice to the viands. He continued, much to the discomfiture of the “phiz” of justice (personified by the chief, who all the while sat smoking through his nose), eating and drinking until he had sat as long as a modern alderman at a corporation dinner. But it was of no avail – when he ceased eating he ceased breathing.

The chief cut up the body of the murderer, and boiled it for another feast – but his young men would touch none of it – they said, “he was not worthy to be eaten – he was worse than a bad dog. We will not taste him, for if we do, we shall be worse than dogs ourselves.”

William Morrison and his younger brother, Allen Morrison, were both employed at Fond du Lac by John Jacob Astor for the American Fur Company.

Mr. Morrison, who gave me the above relation, told me he had it from a very old Indian, who was present at the death of the murderer.

 


L’Anse Qui-wy-we-nong
L’anse Keweenaw;
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

* – This paper was originally published in the Detroit Gazette, Aug. 30, 1822. Hon. C. C. Throwbridge of Detroit, a resident of that place for sixty years, states that Mr. Schoolcraft, without doubt, contributed this sketch to the Gazette; that Mr. Schoolcraft, at the time of its publication, was residing at the Saut St. Marie: and Mr. Morrison, who was one of Mr. Astor’s most trusted agents at “L’Anse Qui-wy-we-nong,” came down to Mackinaw every summer, and thus gave Mr. Schoolcraft the information.

L. C. D.

By Amorin Mello

Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. For the years 1877, 1878 and 1879. Volume VIII., pages 224-226.

Historical Sites on Chequamegon Bay was originally published in Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin: Volume XIII, by Reuben Gold Thwaites, 1895, pages 426-440.

HISTORIC SITES ON CHEQUAMEGON BAY.1

BY CHRYSOSTOM VERWYST, O.S.F.

Reverend Chrysostome Verwyst, circa 1918. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Reverend Chrysostome Verwyst, circa 1918.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

One of the earliest spots in the Northwest trodden by the feet of white men was the shore of Chequamegon Bay.  Chequamegon is a corrupt form of Jagawamikong;2 or, as it was written by Father Allouez in the Jesuit Relation for 1667, Chagaouamigong.  The Chippewas on Lake Superior have always applied this name exclusively to Chequamegon Point, the long point of land at the entrance of Ashland Bay.  It is now commonly called by whites, Long Island; of late years, the prevailing northeast winds have caused Lake Superior to make a break through this long, narrow peninsula, at its junction with the mainland, or south shore, so that it is in reality an island.  On the northwestern extremity of this attenuated strip of land, stands the government light-house, marking the entrance of the bay.

William Whipple Warren (c. 1851) ~ Wikimedia.org

William Whipple Warren, circa 1851.
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

Castoroides (giant beaver) were abundant around the Great Lakes util their extinction around 10,000 years ago.

W. W. Warren, in his History of the Ojibway Nation3, relates an Indian legend to explain the origin of this name.  Menabosho, the great Algonkin demi-god, who made this earth anew after the deluge, was once hunting for the great beaver in Lake Superior, which was then but a large beaver-pond.  In order to escape his powerful enemy, the great beaver took refuge in Ashland Bay.  To capture him, Menabosho built a large dam extending from the south shore of Lake Superior across to Madelaine (or La Pointe) Island.  In doing so, he took up the mud from the bottom of the bay and occasionally would throw a fist-full into the lake, each handful forming an island, – hence the origin of the Apostle Islands.  Thus did the ancient Indians, the “Gété-anishinabeg,” explain the origin of Chequamegon Point and the islands in the vicinity.  His dam completed, Menabosho started in pursuit of the patriarch of all the beavers ; he thinks he has him cornered.  But, alas, poor Menabosho is doomed to disappointment.  The beaver breaks through the soft dam and escapes into Lake Superior.  Thence the word chagaouamig, or shagawamik (“soft beaver-dam”), – in the locative case, shagawamikong (“at the soft beaver-dam”).

Reverend Edward Jacker ~ FindAGrave.com

Reverend Edward Jacker
~ FindAGrave.com

Rev. Edward Jacker, a well-known Indian scholar, now deceased, suggests the following explanation of Chequamegon:  The point in question was probably first named Jagawamika (pr. shagawamika), meaning “there are long, far-extending breakers;” the participle of this verb is jaiagawamikag (“where there are long breakers”).  But later, the legend of the beaver hunt being applied to the spot, the people imagined the word amik (a beaver) to be a constituent part of the compound, and changed the ending in accordance with the rules of their language, – dropping the final a in jagawamika, making it jagawamik, – and used the locative case, ong (jagawamikong), instead of the participial form, ag (jaiagawamikag).4

The Jesuit Relations apply the Indian name to both the bay and the projection of land between Ashland Bay and Lake Superior.  our Indians, however, apply it exclusively to this point at the entrance of Ashland Bay.  It was formerly nearly connected with Madelaine (La Pointe) Island, so that old Indians claim a man might in early days shoot with a bow across the intervening channel.  At present, the opening is about two miles wide.  The shores of Chequamegon Bay have from time immemorial been the dwelling-place of numerous Indian tribes.  The fishery was excellent in the bay and along the adjacent islands.  The bay was convenient to some of the best hunting grounds of Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.  The present writer was informed, a few years ago, that in Douglas county alone 2,500 deer had been killed during one short hunting season.5  How abundant must have been the chase in olden times, before the white had introduced to this wilderness his far-reaching fire-arms!  Along the shores of our bay were established at an early day fur-trading posts, where adventurous Frenchmen carried on a lucrative trade with their red brethren of the forest, being protected by French garrisons quartered in the French fort on Madelaine Island.

Reverend Henry Blatchford, born as Francois Decarreaux, Jr., was a grandson of Chief Waabojiig from the La Pointe Band.

From Rev. Henry Blatchford, an octogenarian, and John B. Denomie (Denominé), an intelligent half-breed Indian of Odanah, near Ashland, the writer has obtained considerable information as to the location of ancient and modern aboriginal villages on the shores of Chequamegon Bay.  Following are the Chippewa names of the rivers and creeks emptying into the bay, where there used formerly to be Indian villages:

Charles Whittlesey documented the pictographs of Bad River.

Charles Whittlesey documented several pictographs along the Bad River.

Mashki-Sibi (Swamp River, misnamed Bad River): Up this river are pictured rocks, now mostly covered with earth, on which in former times Indians engraved in the soft stone the images of their dreams, or the likenesses of their tutelary manitous.  Along this river are many maple-groves, where from time immemorial they have made maple-sugar.

Makodassonagani-Sibi (Bear-trap River), which emptties into the Kakagon.  The latter seems in olden times to have been the regular channel of Bad River, when the Bad emptied into Ashland Bay, instead of Lake Superior, as it now does.  Near the mouth of the Kakagon are large wild-rice fields, where the Chippewas annually gather, as no doubt did their ancestors, great quantities of wild rice (Manomin).  By the way, wild rice is very palatable, and the writer and his dusky spiritual children prefer it to the rice of commerce, although it does not look quite so nice.

Bishigokwe-Sibiwishen is a small creek, about six miles or so east of Ashland.  Bishigokwe means a woman who has been abandoned by her husband.  In olden times, a French trader resided at the mouth of this creek.  He suddenly disappeared, – whether murdered or not, is not known.  His wife continued to reside for many years at their old home, hence the name.

Nedobikag-Sibiwishen is the Indian name for Bay City Creek, within the limits of Ashland.  Here Tagwagané, a celebrated Indian chief of the Crane totem, used occasionally to reside.  Warren6 gives us a speech of his, at the treaty of La Pointe in 1842.  This Tagwagané had a copper plate, an heirloom handed down in his family from generation to generation, on which were rude indentations and hieroglyphics denoting the number of generations of that family which had passed away since they first pitched their lodges at Shagawamikong and took possession of the adjacent country, including Madelaine Island.  From this original mode of reckoning time, Warren concludes that the ancestors of said family first came to La Pointe circa A. D. 1490.

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

Detail of “Ici était une bourgade considerable” from Carte des lacs du Canada by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, 1744.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Metabikitigweiag-Sibiwishen is the creek between Ashland and Ashland Junction, which runs into Fish Creek a short distance west of Ashland.  At the junction of these two creeks and along their banks, especially on the east bank of Fish Creek, was once a large and populous Indian village of Ottawas, who there raised Indian corn.  It is pointed out on N. Bellin’s map (1744)7, with the remark, Ici était une bourgade considerable (“here was once a considerable village”).  We shall hereafter have occasion to speak of this place.  The soil along Fish Creek is rich, formed by the annual overflowage of its water, leaving behind a deposit of rich, sand loam.  There a young growth of timber along the right bank between the bay and Ashland Junction, and the grass growing underneath the trees shows that it was once a cultivated clearing.  It was from this place that the trail left the bay, leading to the Chippewa River country.  Fish Creek is called by the Indians Wikwedo-Sibiwishen, which means “Bay Creek,” from wikwed, Chippewa for bay; hence the name Wikwedong, the name they gave to Ashland, meaning “at the bay.”

"Asaph Whittlesey dressed for his journey from Ashland to Madison, Wisconsin, to take up his seat in the state legislature. Whittlesey is attired for the long trek in winter gear including goggles, a walking staff, and snowshoes." Circa 1860. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Whittlesey Creek (National Wildlife Refuge) was named after Asaph Whittlesey, brother of Charles Whittlesey.  Photo of Asaph, circa 1860.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

According to Blatchford, there was formerly another considerable village at the mouth of Whittlesey’s Creek, called by the Indians Agami-Wikwedo-Sibiwishen, which signifies “a creek on the other side of the bay,” from agaming (on the other side of a river, or lake), wikwed (a bay), and sibiwishen (a creek).  I think that Fathers Allouez and Marquette had their ordinary abode at or near this place, although Allouez seems also to have resided for some time at the Ottawa village up Fish Creek.

A short distance from Whittlesey’s Creek, at the western bend of the bay, where is now Shore’s Landing, there used to be a large Indian village and trading-post, kept by a Frenchman.  Being at the head of the bay, it was the starting point of the Indian trail to the St. Croix country.  Some years ago the writer dug up there, an Indian mound.  The young growth of timber at the bend of the bay, and the absence of stumps, indicate that it had once been cleared.  At the foot of the bluff or bank, is a beautiful spring of fresh water.  As the St. Croix country was one of the principal hunting grounds of the Chippewas and Sioux, it is natural there should always be many living at the terminus of the trail, where it struck the bay.

From this place northward, there were Indian hamlets strung along the western shore of the bay.  Father Allouez mentions visiting various hamlets two, three, or more (French) leagues away from his chapel.  Marquette mentions five clearings, where Indian villages were located.  At Wyman’s place, the writer some years ago dug up two Indian mounds, one of which was located on the very bank of the bay and was covered with a large number of boulders, taken from the bed of the bay.  In this mound were found a piece of milled copper, some old-fashioned hand-made iron nails, the stem of a clay pipe, etc.  The objects were no doubt relics of white men, although Indians had built the mound itself, which seemed like a fire-place shoveled under, and covered with large boulders to prevent it from being desecrated.

Robert Dundas Boyd, nephew of President John Quincy Adams, married into the Cadotte family of the La Pointe Band.

Boyd’s Creek is called in Chippewa, Namebinikanensi-Sibiwishen, meaning “Little Sucker Creek.”  A man named Boyd once resided there, married to an Indian woman.  He was shot in a quarrel with another man.  One of his sons resides at Spider Lake, and another at Flambeau Farm, while two of his grand-daughters live at Lac du Flambeau.

John Bono was the owner of the Bayfield Exchange hotel.

Further north is Kitchi-Namebinikani-Sibiwishen, meaning “Large Sucker Creek,” but whites now call it Bonos Creek.  These two creeks are not far apart, and once there was a village of Indians there.  It was noted as a place for fishing at a certain season of the year, probably in spring, when suckers and other fish would go up these creeks to spawn.

Peter B. Vanderventer married into the Lamoreaux family of the La Pointe Band.

At Vanderventer’s Creek, near Washburn, was the celebrated Gigito-Mikana, or “council-trail,” so called because here the Chippewas once held a celebrated council; hence the Indian name Gigito-Mikana-Sibiwishen, meaning “Council-trail Creek.”  At the mouth of this creek, there was once a large Indian village.

There used also to be a considerable village between Pike’s Bay and Bayfield.  It was probably there that the celebrated war chief, Waboujig, resided.

There was once an Indian village where Bayfield now stands, also at Wikweiag (Buffalo Bay), at Passabikang, Red  Cliff, and on Madelaine Island.  The writer was informed by John B. Denomie, who was born on the island in 1834, that towards Chabomnicon Bay (meaning “Gooseberry Bay”) could long ago be seen small mounds or corn-hills, now overgrown with large trees, indications of early Indian agriculture.  There must have been a village there in olden times.  Another ancient village was located on the southwestern extremity of Madelaine Island, facing Chequamegon Point, where some of their graves may still be seen.  It is also highly probable that there were Indian hamlets scattered along the shore between Bayfield and Red Cliff, the most northern mainland of Wisconsin.  There is now a large, flourishing Indian settlement there, forming the Red Cliff Chippewa reservation.  There is a combination church and school there at present, under the charge of the Franciscan Order.  Many Indians also used to live on Chequamegon Point, during a great part of the year, as the fishing was good there, and blueberries were abundant in their season.  No doubt from time immemorial Indians were wont to gather wild rice at the mouth of the Kakagon, and to make maple sugar up Bad River.

We thus see that the Jesuit Relations are correct when they speak of many large and small Indian villages (Fr. bourgades) along the shores of Chequamegon Bay.  Father Allouez mentions two large Indian villages at the head of the bay – the one an Ottawa village, on Fish Creek; the other a Huron, probably between Shore’s Landing and Washburn.  Besides, he mentions smaller hamlets visited by him on his sick-calls.  Marquette says that the Indians lived there in five clearings, or villages.  From all this we see that the bay was from most ancient times the seat of a large aboriginal population.  Its geographical position towards the western end of the great lake, its rich fisheries and hunting grounds, all tended to make it the home of thousands of Indians.  Hence it is much spoken of by Perrot, in his Mémoire, and by most writers on the Northwest of the last century.  Chequamegon Bay, Ontonagon, Keweenaw Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie (Baweting) were the principal resorts of the Chippewa Indians and their allies, on the south shore of Lake Superior.

"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

The first white men on the shores of Chequamegon Bay were in all probability Groseilliers and Radisson.  They built a fort on Houghton Point, and another at the head of the bay, somewhere between Whittlesey’s Creek and Shore’s Landing, as in some later paper I hope to show from Radisson’s narrative.8  As to the place where he shot the bustards, a creek which led him to a meadow9, I think this was Fish Creek, at the mouth of which is a large meadow, or swamp.10

After spending six weeks in the Sioux country, our explorers retraced their steps to Chequamegon Bay, arriving there towards the end of winter.  They built a fort on Houghton Point.  The Ottawas had built another fort somewhere on Chequamegon Point.  In travelling towards this Ottawa fort, on the half-rotten ice, Radisson gave out and was very sick for eight days; but by rubbing his legs with hot bear’s oil, and keeping them well bandaged, he finally recovered.  After his convalescence, our explorers traveled northward, finally reaching James Bay.

The next white men to visit our bay were two Frenchmen, of whom W. W. Warren says:11

“One clear morning in the early part of winter, soon after the islands which are clustered in this portion of Lake Superior, and known as the Apostles, had been locked in ice, a party of young men of the Ojibways started out from their village in the Bay of Shag-a-waum-ik-ong [Chequamegon], to go, as was customary, and spear fish through holes in the ice, between the island of La Pointe and the main shore, this being considered as the best ground for this mode of fishing.  While engaged in this sport, they discovered a smoke arising from a point of the adjacent island, toward its eastern extremity.

“The island of La Pointe was then totally unfrequented, from superstitious fears which had but a short time previous led to its total evacuation by the tribe, and it was considered an act of the greatest hardihood for any one to set foot on its shores.  The young men returned home at evening and reported the smoke which they had seen arising from the island, and various were the conjectures of the old people respecting the persons who would dare to build a fire on the spirit-haunted isle.  They must be strangers, and the young men were directed, should they again see the smoke, to go and find out who made it.

“Early the next morning, again proceeding to their fishing-ground, the young men once more noticed the smoke arising from the eastern end of the unfrequented island, and, again led on by curiosity, they ran thither and found a small log cabin, in which they discovered two white men in the last stages of starvation.  The young Ojibways, filled with compassion, carefully conveyed them to their village, where being nourished with great kindness, their lives were preserved.

“These two white men had started from Quebec during the summer with a supply of goods, to go and find the Ojibways who every year had brought rich packs of beaver to the sea-coast, notwithstanding that their road was barred by numerous parties of the watchful and jealous Iroquois.  Coasting slowly up the southern shores of the Great Lake late in the fall, they had been driven by the ice on to the unfrequented island, and not discovering the vicinity of the Indian village, they had been for some time enduring the pangs of hunger.  At the time they were found by the young Indians, they had been reduced to the extremity of roasting and eating their woolen cloth and blankets as the last means of sustaining life.

“Having come provided with goods they remained in the village during the winter, exchanging their commodities for beaver skins.  They ensuing spring a large number of the Ojibways accompanied them on their return home.

“From close inquiry, and judging from events which are said to have occurred about this period of time, I am disposed to believe that this first visit by the whites took place about two hundred years ago [Warren wrote in 1852].  It is, at any rate, certain that it happened a few years prior to the visit of the ‘Black-gowns’ [Jesuits] mentioned in Bancroft’s History, and it is one hundred and eighty-four years since this well-authenticated occurrence.”

So far Warren; he is, however, mistaken as to the date of the first black-gown’s visit, which was not 1668 but 1665.

Claude Allouez ~ National Park Service

Portrayal of Claude Allouez
~ National Park Service

The next visitors to Chequamegon Bay were Père Claude Allouez and his six companions in 1665.  We come now to a most interesting chapter in the history of our bay, the first formal preaching of the Christian religion on its shores.  For a full account of Father Allouez’s labors here, the reader is referred to the writer’s Missionary Labors of Fathers Marquette, Allouez, and Ménard in the Lake Superior Region.  Here will be given merely a succinct account of their work on the shores of the bay.  To the writer it has always been a soul-inspiring thought that he is allowed to tread in the footsteps of those saintly men, who walked, over two hundred years ago, the same ground on which he now travels; and to labor among the same race for which they, in starvation and hardship, suffered so much.

In the Jesuit Relation for 1667, Father Allouez thus begins the account of his five years’ labors on the shores of our bay:

“On the eight of August of the year 1665, I embarked at Three Rivers with six Frenchmen, in company with more than four hundred Indians of different tribes, who were returning to their country, having concluded the little traffic for which they had come.”

Marquis Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy ~ Wikipedia.org

Marquis Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy
~ Wikipedia.org

His voyage into the Northwest was one of the great hardships and privations.  The Indians willingly took along his French lay companions, but him they disliked.  Although M. Tracy, the governor of Quebec, had made Father Allouez his ambassador to the Upper Algonquins, thus to facilitate his reception in their country, nevertheless they opposed him accompanying them, and threatened to abandon him on some desolate island.  No doubt the medicine-men were the principal instigators of this opposition.  He was usually obliged to paddle like the rest, often till late in the night, and that frequently without anything to eat all day.

“On a certain morning,” he says, “a deer was found, dead since four or five days.  It was a lucky acquisition for poor famished beings.  I was offered some, and although the bad smell hindered some from eating it, hunger made me take my share.  But I had in consequence an offensive odor in my mouth until the next day.  In addition to all these miseries we met with, at the rapids I used to carry packs as large as possible for my strength; but I often succumbed, and this gave our Indians occasion to laugh at me.  They used to make fun of me, saying a child ought to be called to carry me and my baggage.”

August 24, they arrived at Lake Huron, where they made a short stay; then coasting along the shores of that lake, they arrived at Sault Ste. Marie towards the beginning of September.  September 2, they entered Lake Superior, which the Father named Lake Tracy in acknowledgement of the obligations which the people of those upper countries owed to the governor.  Speaking of his voyage on Lake Superior, Father Allouez remarks:

“Having entered Lake Tracy, we were engaged the whole month of September in coasting along the south shore.  I had the consolation of saying holy mass, as I now found myself alone with our Frenchmen, which I had not been able to do since my departure from Three Rivers. * * * We afterwards passed the bay, called by the aged, venerable Father Ménard, Sait Theresa [Keweenaw] Bay.”

Speaking of his arrival at Chequamegon Bay, he says:

“After having traveled a hundred and eighty leagues on the south shore of Lake Tracy, during which our Saviour often deigned to try our patience by storms, hunger, daily and nightly fatigues, we finally, on the first day of October, 1665, arrived at Chagaouamigong, for which place we had sighed so long.  It is a beautiful bay, at the head of which is situated the large village of the Indians, who there cultivate fields of Indian corn and do not lead a nomadic life.  There are at this place men bearing arms, who number about eight hundred; but these are gathered together from seven different tribes, and live in peacable community.  This great number of people induced us to prefer this place to all others for our ordinary abode, in order to attend more conveniently to the instruction of these heathens, to put up a chapel there and commence the functions of Christianity.”

Further on, speaking of the site of his mission and its chapel, he remarks:

“The section of the lake shore, where we have settled down, is between two large villages, and is, as it were, the center of all the tribes of these countries, because the fishing here is very good, which is the principal source of support of these people.”

To locate still more precisely the exact site of his chapel, he remarks, speaking of the three Ottawa clans (Outaouacs, Kiskakoumacs, and Outaoua-Sinagonc):

“I join these tribes [that is, speaks of them as one tribe] because they had one and the same language, which is the Algonquin, and compose one of the same village, which is opposite that of the Tionnontatcheronons [Hurons of the Petun tribe] between which villages we reside.”

But where was that Ottawa village?  A casual remark of Allouez, when speaking of the copper mines of Lake Superior, will help us locate it.

“It is true,” says he, “on the mainland, at the place where the Outaouacs raise Indian corn, about half a league from the edge of the water, the women have sometimes found pieces of copper scattered here and there, weighing ten, twenty or thirty pounds.  It is when digging into the sand to conceal their corn that they make these discoveries.”

Detail of Fish Creek Slough (T47N R5W).

Detail of Fish Creek from Township 47 North Range 5 West.
~ Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records

Allouez evidently means Fish Creek.  About a mile or so from the shore of the bay, going up this creek, can be seen traces of an ancient clearing on the left-hand side, where Metabikitigweiag Creeek empties into Fish Creek, about half-way between Ashland and Ashland Junction.  The writer examined the locality about ten years ago.  This then is the place where the Ottawas raised Indian corn and had their village.  In Charlevoix’s History of New France, the same place is marked as the site of an ancient large village.  The Ottawa village on Fish Creek appears to have been the larger of the two at the head of Chequamegon Bay, and it was there Allouez resided for a time, until he was obliged to return to his ordinary dwelling place, “three-fourths of a league distant.”  This shows that the ordinary abode of Father Allouez and Marquette, the site of their chapel, was somewhere near Whittlesey’s Creek or Shore’s Landing.  The Huron village was most probably along the western shore of the bay, between Shore’s Landing and Washburn.

Detail of Ashland City, LaPointe County (T47N R4W).

Detail of Ashland next to an ancient large village (unmarked) in Township 47 North Range 4 West.
~ Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records

Father Allouez did not confine his apostolic labors to the two large village at the head of the bay.  He traveled all over the neighborhood, visiting the various shore hamlets, and he also spent a month at the western extremity of Lake Superior – probably at Fond du Lac – where he met with some Chippewas and Sioux.  In 1667 he crossed the lake, most probably from Sand Island, in a frail birch canoe, and visited some Nipissirinien Christians at Lake Nepigon (Allimibigong).  The same year he went to Quebec with an Indian flotilla, and arrived there on the 3d of August, 1667.  After only two days’ rest he returned with the same flotilla to his far distant mission on Chequamegon Bay, taking along Father Louis Nicholas.  Allouez contained his missionary labors here until 1669, when he left to found St. Francis Xavier mission at the head of Green Bay.  His successor at Chequamegon Bay was Father James Marquette, discoverer and explorer of the Mississippi.  Marquette arrived here September 13, 1669, and labored until the spring of 1671, when he was obliged to leave on account of the war which had broken out the year before, between the Algonquin Indians at Chequamegon Bay and their western neighbors, the Sioux.


1 – See ante, p. 419 for map of the bay. – ED.

2 – In writing Indian names, I follow Baraga’s system of orthography, giving the French quality to both consonants and vowels.

3 – Minn. Hist. Colls., v. – ED.

4 – See ante, p. 399, note. – ED.

5 – See Carr’s interesting and exhaustive article, “The Food of Certain American Indians,” in Amer. Antiq. Proc., x., pp. 155 et seq. – ED.

6 – Minn. Hist. Colls., v. – ED.

7 – In Charlevoix’s Nouvelle France.  – ED.

8 – See Radisson’s Journal, in Wis. Hist. Colls., xi.  Radisson and Groseilliers reached Chequamegon Bay late in the autumn of 1661. – ED.

9 – Ibid., p. 73: “I went to the wood some 3 or 4 miles.  I find a small brooke, where I walked by ye sid awhile, wch brought me into meddowes.  There was a poole, where weare a good store of bustards.” – ED.

10 – Ex-Lieut. Gov. Sam. S. Fifield, of Ashland, writes me as follows:

“After re-reading Radisson’s voyage to Bay Chewamegon, I am satisfied that it would by his description be impossible to locate the exact spot of his camp.  The stream in which he found the “pools,” and where he shot fowl, is no doubt Fish Creek, emptying into the bay at its western extremity.  Radisson’s fort must have been near the head of the bay, on the west shore, probably at or near Boyd’s Creek, as there is an outcropping of rock in that vicinity, and the banks are somewhat higher than at the head of the bay, where the bottom lands are low and swampy, forming excellent “duck ground” even to this day.  Fish Creek has three outlets into the bay, – one on the east shore or near the east side, one central, and one near the western shore; for full two miles up the stream, it is a vast swamp, through which the stream flows in deep, sluggish lagoons.  Here, in the early days of American settlement, large brook trout were plenty; and even in my day many fine specimens have been taken from these “pools.”  Originally, there was along these bottoms a heavy elm forest, mixed with cedar and black ash, but it has now mostly disappeared.  An old “second growth,” along the east side, near Prentice Park, was evidently once the site of an Indian settlement, probably of the 18th century.

“I am of the opinion that the location of Allouez’s mission was at the mouth of Vanderventer’s Creek, on the west shore of the bay, near the present village of Washburn.  It was undoubtedly once the site of a large Indian village, as was the western part of the present city of Ashland.  When I came to this locality, nearly a quarter of a century ago, “second growth” spots could be seen in several places, where it was evident that the Indians had once had clearings for their homes.  The march of civilization has obliterated these landmarks of the fur-trading days, when the old French voyageurs made the forest-clad shores of our beautiful bay echo with their boat songs, and when resting from their labors sparked the dusky maidens in their wigwams.”

Rev. E. P. Wheeler, of Ashland, a native of Madelaine Island, and an authority on the region, writes me:

“I think Radisson’s fort was at the mouth of Boyd’s Creek, – at least that place seems for the present to fulfill the conditions of his account.  it is about three or four miles from here to Fish Creek valley, which leads, when followed down stream, to marshes ‘meadows, and a pool.’  No other stream seems to have the combination as described.  Boyd’s Creek is about four miles from the route he probably took, which would be by way of the plateau back from the first level, near the lake.  Radisson evidently followed Fish Creek down towards the lake, before reaching the marshes.  This condition is met by the formation of the creek, as it is some distance from the plateau through which Fish Creek flows to its marshy expanse.  Only one thing makes me hesitate about coming to a final decision, – that is, the question of the age of the lowlands and formations around Whittlesey Creek.  I am going to go over the ground with an expert geologist, and will report later.  Thus far, there seems to be no reason to doubt that Fish Creek is the one upon which Radisson hunted.”  – ED.

11 – Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 121, 122, gives the date as 1652. – ED.

By Amorin Mello

A curious series of correspondences from Morgan

… continued from Copper Harbor Redux.

 


 

1845 daily union header

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

August 29, 1845.

EDITOR’S CORRESPONDENCE.

[From our regular correspondent.]

ST. LOUIS, Mo.  Aug. 19, 1845.

One of the most interesting sections of the North American continent is the basin of the Upper Mississippi, being, as it is, greatly diversified by soil, climate, natural productions, &c.  It embraces mineral lands of great extent and value, with immense tracts of good timber, and large and fertile bodies of farming land.  This basin is separated by elevated land o the northeast, which divides the headwaters of rivers emptying into the Mississippi from those that flow into the lakes Superior and Michigan, Green Bay, &c.  To the north and northwest, it is separated near the head of the Mississippi, by high ground, from the watercourses which flow towards Hudson’s bay.  To the west, this extensive basin is divided from the waters of the Missouri by immense tracts of elevated plateau, or prairie land, called by the early French voyageurs “Coteau des Prairies,” signifying “prairie coast,” from the resemblance the high prairies, seen at a great distance, bear to the coast of some vast sea or lake.  To the south, the basin of the Upper Mississippi terminates at the junction of the Mississippi with the Des Moines river.

The portion of the valley of the Mississippi thus described, if reduced to a square form, would measure about 1,000 miles each way, with St. Anthony’s falls near the centre.

Detail of Saint Anthony's Falls and Lake Superior from Amerique Septentrionalis Carte d'un tres grand Pays entre le Nouveau Mexique et la Mer Glaciace Dediee a Guilliaume IIIe. Roy de La Grand Bretagne Par le R. P. Louis de Hennepin Mission: Recol: et Not: Apost: Chez c. Specht a Utreght 1698. ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

1698 detail of Saint Anthony’s Falls and Lake Superior from Amerique Septentrionalis Carte d’un tres grand Pays entre le Nouveau Mexique et la Mer Glaciace Dediee a Guilliaume IIIe. Roy de La Grand Bretagne Par le R. P. Louis de Hennepin Mission: Recol: et Not: Apost: Chez c. Specht a Utreght 1698.
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

For a long time, this portion of the country remained unexplored, except by scattered parties of Canadian fur-traders, &c.  Its physical and topographical geography, with some notions of its geology, have, as it were, but recently attracted attention.

Douglas Volk painting of Father Louis Hennepin at Saint Anthony Falls. ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

Douglas Volk painting of Father Hennepin at Saint Anthony Falls.
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

Father Antoine "Louis" Hennepin ~ Wikipedia.org

Father Antoine “Louis” Hennepin
~ Wikipedia.org

Father Hennepin was no doubt the first white man who visited St. Anthony’s falls.  In reaching them, however, he passed the mouth of St. Peter’s river, a short distance below, without noticing it, or being aware of its existence.  This was caused by the situation of an island found in the Mississippi, directly in front of the mouth of St. Peter’s, which, in a measure, conceals it from view.

After passing the falls, Father Hennepin continued to ascend the Mississippi to the St. Francis river, but went no higher.

Portrait of Jonathan Carver from his book, Travels through the interior parts of North America in the years 1766, 1767 and 1768. ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

Portrait of Jonathan Carver from his book, Travels through the interior parts of North America in the years 1766, 1767 and 1768.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

In the year 1766, three years after the fall of Canada, Captain Johnathan Carver, who had taken an active part as an officer in the English service, and was at the surrender of Fort William Henry, where (he says) 1,500 English troops were massacred by the Indians, (he himself narrowly escaping with his life,) prepared for a tour among the Indian tribes inhabiting the shores of the upper lakes and the upper valley of the Mississippi.  He left Boston in June of the year stated, and, proceeding by way of Albany and Niagara, reached Mackinac, where he fitted out for the prosecution of his journey to the banks of the Mississippi.

From Mackinac, he went to Green Bay; ascended the Fox river to the country of the Winnebago Indians; from thence, crossing some portages, and passing through Lake Winnebago, he descended the Wisconsin river to the Mississippi river; crossing which, he came to a halt at Prairie du Chien, in the country of the Sioux Indians.  At the early day, this was an important trading-post between French traders and the Indians.  Carver says: “It contains about three hundred families; the houses are well built, after the Indian manner, and well situated, on a very rich soil, from which they raise every necessary of life in great abundance.  This town is the great mart whence all the adjacent tribes – even those who inhabit the most remote branches of the Mississippi – annually assemble about the latter end of May, bringing with them their furs to dispose of to the traders.”  Carver also noticed that the people living there had some good horses.

Detail of Prairie du Chien from the 1769 Map showing Jonathan Carver's travels west of the Great Lakes. ~ Boston Public Library

Detail of Prairie du Chien from Carver [Jonathan], Captain. Journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766.
~ Boston Public Library

Prairie du Chien continues to be a place of some note, though, from its present appearance, it is not much larger than it was at the time of Carver’s visit.

Saint Peter’s River is now known as the Minnesota River.

The fur-trade, which at one time centred here, and gave it much consequence, has been removed to St. Peter’s river.  Indeed, this trade, which formerly gave employment to so many agents, traders, trappers, &c., conferring wealth upon those prosecuting it, is rapidly declining on this continent; in producing which, several causes conspire.  The first is, the animals caught for their furs have greatly diminished; and the second is, that competition in the trade has become more extensive and formidable, increasing as the white settlements continue to be pushed out to the West.

"John Jacob Astor portrait by John Wesley Jarvis, circa 1825." ~ Wikipedia.com

John Jacob Astor established the American Fur Company.
~ Wikipedia.com

At Prairie du Chien is still seen the large stone warehouse erected by John Jacob Astor, at a time when he ruled the trade, and realized immense profits by the business.  The United States have a snug garrison at this place, which imparts more or less animation to the scene.  It stands on an extensive and rather low plain, with high hills in the rear, running parallel with the Mississippi.

The house in which Carver lodged, when he visited this place, is still pointed out.  There are some men living at this post, whose grandfather acted as interpreter to Carver.  The Sioux Indians, whom Carver calls in his journal “the Nadowessies,” which is the Chippewa appellation for this tribe of Indians, keep up the tradition of Carver’s visit among them.  The inhabitants, descendants of the first settlers at Prairie du Chien, now living at this place, firmly believe in the truth of the gift of land made to Carver by the Sioux Indians.

From this point Carver visited St. Anthony’s falls, which he describes with great accuracy and fidelity, accompanying his description with a sketch of them.

Detail of Saint Anthony's Falls from Carver [Jonathan], Captain. Journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766. ~ Boston Public Library

Detail of Saint Anthony’s Falls from Carver [Jonathan], Captain. Journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766.
~ Boston Public Library

From St. Anthony’s falls, he continued to ascend the Mississippi till he reached, late in the season, the mouth of St. Francis river; when, returning from which, he repassed the falls, and entered the mouth of the St. Peter’s, up which he ascended to an extensive Sioux village, where he wintered with them.  The following spring he returned to them Mississippi with the Sioux, accompanying them to an extensive cave not far below the falls; to which point this tribe of Indians conveyed their dead to be buried.  This cave now goes by the name of “Carver’s cave.”  Mr. J. N. Nicollet visited it, and has given a description of it in his valuable “Report on the Upper Basin of the Upper Mississippi.”

The Bois Brulé River was featured in Saint Croix Falls of this series.

From the Mississippi river Carver crossed over to the Chippewa river; up which he ascended to its source, and then crossed a portage to the head of the Bois Brulé, which he called “Goddard’s river.”  Descending this latter stream to Lake Superior, he travelled around the entire northern shore of that lake from west to east, and accurately described the general appearance of the country, including notices of the existence of the copper rock on the Ontonagon, with copper-mineral ores at points along the northeastern shore of the lake, &c.

Detail of "Goddard's River," La Pointe, and Ontonagon from Carver [Jonathan], Captain. Journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766. ~ Boston Public Library

Detail of “Goddard River,” La Pointe, and Ontonagon from Carver [Jonathan], Captain. Journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766.
~ Boston Public Library

Jean-Baptiste Cadot, Sr. did business with Alexander Henry, the Elder.

He finally reached the Sault St. Marie, where he found a French Indian trader, (Monsieur Cadot,) who had built a stockade fort to protect him in his trade with the Indians.

Detail of Sault Ste Marie from Carver [Jonathan], Captain. Journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766. ~ Boston Public Library

Detail of Sault Ste Marie from Carver [Jonathan], Captain. Journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766.
~ Boston Public Library

Michel Cadotte (a son of Jean-Baptiste Cadot,Sr.) and his family became famous while living at La Pointe and working for the American Fur Company.

Descendants of this Monsieur Cadot are still living at the Sault and at La Pointe.  We met one of them returning to the latter place, in the St. Croix river, as we were descending it.  They, no doubt, inherit strong claims to land at the falls of the St. Mary’s river, which must ere long prove valuable to them, if properly prosecuted.

From the Sault St. Marie, Carver went to Mackinac, then garrisoned by the English, where he spent the winter.  The following year he reached Boston, having been absent about two years.

From Boston he sailed for England, with a view of publishing his travels, and securing his titles to the present of land the Sioux Indians have made him, and which it is alleged the English government pledged itself to confirm, through the command of the King, in whose presence the conveyance made to Carver by the Sioux Indians was read.  He not only signified his approval of the grant, but promised to fit out an expedition with vessels to sail to New Orleans, with the necessary men, &c., which Captain Carver was to head, and proceed from thence to the site of this grant, to take possession of it, by settling his people on it.  The breaking out of the American revolution suspended this contemplated expedition.

Captain Carver died poor, in London, in the year 1780, leaving two sons and five daughters.  I consider his description of the Indians among whom he travelled, detailing their customs, manners, and religion, the best that has ever been published.

Captain Duncan Graham was born in Scotland and married to Susanne Istagiwin “Ha-za-ho-ta-win” Pennishon.

In this opinion I am sustained by others, and especially by old Mr. Duncan Graham, whom I met on the Upper Mississippi.  He has lived among the Indians ever since the year 1783.  He is now between 70 and 80 years old.  He told me Carver’s book contained the best account of the customs and manners of the Indians he had ever read.

His valuable work is nearly out of print, it being rather difficult to obtain a copy.  It went through three editions in London.  Carver dedicated it to Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society.  Almost every winter on the Indians and Indian character, since Carver’s time, has made extensive plagiarisms from his book, without the least sort of acknowledgement.  I could name a number of authors who have availed themselves of Carver’s writings, without acknowledgement; but as they are still living, I do not wish to wound the feelings of themselves or friends.

Who were these plagiarizers?

One of the writers alluded to, gravely puts forth, as a speculation of his own, the suggestion that the Winnebagoes, and some other tribes of Indians now residing at the north, had, in former times, resided far to the south, and fled north from the wars and persecutions of the bloodthirsty Spaniards; that the opinion was strengthened from the fact, that the Winnebagoes retained traditions of their northern flight, and of the subsequent excursions of their war parties across the plains towards New Mexico, where, meeting with Spaniards, they had in one instance surprised and defeated a large force of them, who were travelling on horseback.

Now this whole idea originated with Carver; yet Mr. ——— has, without hesitation, adopted it as a thought or discovery as his own!

The next Englishman who visited the northwest, and explored the shores of Lake Superior, was Mr. Henry, who departed from Montreal, and reached Mackinac through Lake Huron, in a batteau laden with some goods.  His travels commenced, I believe, about 1773-‘4, and ended about 1776-‘7.  Mr. Henry’s explorations were conducted almost entirely with the view of opening a profitable trade with the Indians.  He happened in the country while the Indians retained a strong predilection in favor of the French, and strong prejudices against the English.  It being about the period of the Pontiac war, he had some hazardous adventures among the Indians, and came near losing his life.  He continued, however, to prosecute his trade with the Indians, to the north and west of Lake Superior.  Making voyages along the shores of this lake, he became favorably impressed with the mineral appearances of the country.  Finding frequently, through is voyageurs, or by personal inspections, rich specimens of copper ore, or of the metal in its native state, he ultimately succeeded in obtaining a charter from the English government, in conjunction with some men of wealth and respectability in London, for working the mines on Lake Superior.  The company, after making an ineffectual attempt to reach a copper vein, through clay, near the Ontonagon, the work was abandoned, and was not afterwards revived.

Lieutenant James Allen’s expedition on the Brule and Saint Croix Rivers was reproduced earlier on Chequamegon History.

General Cass, with Colonel Allen, &c., were the next persons to pass up the southern coast of Lake Superior, and, in going to the west and northwest of the lake, they travelled through Indian tribes in search of the head of the Mississippi river.  Their travels and discoveries are well known to the public, and proved highly interesting.

Mr. Schoolcraft’s travels, pretty much over the same ground, have also been given to the public; as also the expedition of General Pike on the Upper Mississippi.

More lately, the basin of the Upper Mississippi has received a further and more minute examination under the explorations directed by Major Long, in his two expeditions authorized by government.

Lastly, Mr. J. N. Nicollet, a French savan, travelling for some years through the United States with scientific objects in view, made an extensive examination of the basin of the Upper Mississippi.

He ascended the Missouri river to the Council Bluffs; where, arranging his necessary outfit of men, horses, provisions, &c., (being supplied with good instruments for making necessary observations,) he stretched across a vast tract of country to the extreme head-waters of the St. Peter’s, determining, as he went, the heights of places above the ocean, the latitude and longitude of certain points, with magnetic variations.  He reached the highland dividing the waters of the St. Peter’s from those of the Red river of the North.  He descended the St. Peter’s to its mouth; examined the position and geology of St. Anthony’s falls, and then ascended the same river as high as the Crow-wing river.  The secondary rock observed below the falls, changes for greenstone, sienite, &c., with erratic boulders.  On the east side of the river, a little below Pikwabik, is a large mass of sienitic rock with flesh-colored feldspar, extending a mile in length, half a mile in width, and 80 feet high.  This is called the Little Rock.  Higher up, on the same side, at the foot on the Knife rapids, there are sources that transport a very fine, brilliant, and bluish sand, accompanied by a soft and unctuous matter.  This appears to be the result of the decomposition of a steachist, probably interposed between the sienitic rocks mentioned.  The same thing is observed at the mouths of the Wabezi and Omoshkos rivers.

from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River from Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by Joseph Nicolas Nicollet, 1843. ~ David Rumsey Map Collection

Detail of Saint Anthony’s Falls and Saint Peter’s River from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River from Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by Joseph Nicolas Nicollet, 1843.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

Ascending the Crow-wing river a short distance, Mr. Nicollet turned up Gull river, and proceeded as far as Pine river, taking White Fish lake in his way; and again ascended the east fork of Pine river, and reached Little Bay river, which he descended over rapids, &c., to Leech lake, where he spent some days in making astronomical observations, &c.  From Leech lake, he proceeded, through small streams and lakes, to that in which the Mississippi heads, called Itasca.  Having made all necessary observations at this point, he set out on his return down the Mississippi; and finally, reaching Fort Snelling at St. Peter’s, he spent the winter there.

Detail of Leech Lake and Lake Itasca from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River from Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by Joseph Nicolas Nicollet, 1843. ~ David Rumsey Map Collection

Detail of Leech Lake and Lake Itasca from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River from Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by Joseph Nicolas Nicollet, 1843.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

Lake Itasca, in which the Mississippi heads, Mr. Nicollet found to be about 1,500 feet above the level of the ocean, and lying in lat. about 47° 10′ north, and in lon. 95° west of Greenwich.

This vast basin of the Upper Mississippi forms a most interesting and valuable portion of the North American continent.  From the number of its running streams and fresh-water lakes, and its high latitude, it cannot fail to prove a healthy residence for its future population.

It also contains the most extensive body of pine timber to be found in the entire valley of the Mississippi, and from which the country extending from near St. Anthony’s falls to St. Louis, for a considerable distance on each side of the river, and up many of its tributaries, must draw supplies of lumber for building purposes.

In addition to these advantages, the upper basin is rich in mines of lead and copper; and it is not improbable that silver may also be found.  Its agricultural resources are also very great.  Much of the land is most beautifully situated, and fertile in a high degree.  The climate is milder than that found on the same parallel of latitude east of the Alleghany mountains.  Mr. Nicollet fixes the mean temperature at Itasca lake at 43° to 44°; and at St. Peter’s near St. Anthony’s falls, at 45° to 46°

"Maiden Rock. Mississippi River." by Currier & Ives. Maiden's Rock Bluff. This location is now designated as Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area. ~ Springfield Museums

Maiden Rock. Mississippi River. by Currier & Ives. Maiden’s Rock Bluff. This location is now designated as Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area.
~ SpringfieldMuseums.org

Every part of this great basin that is arable will produce good wheat, potatoes, rye, oats, Indian corn to some extent, fine grasses, fruits, garden vegetables, &c.  There is no part of the Mississippi river flanked by such bold and picturesque ranges of hills, with flattened, broad summits, as are seen extending from St. Anthony’s falls down to Prairie du Chien, including those highlands bordering Lake Pepin, &c.  Among the cliffs of sandstone jutting out into perpendicular bluffs near the river, (being frequently over 100 feet high,) is seen one called Maiden’s rock.  it is said an Indian chief wished to force his daughter to marry another chief, while her affections were placed on another Indian; and that, rather than yield to her father’s wishes, she cast herself over this tall precipice, and met an instant death.  On hearing of which, her real lover, it is said, also committed suicide.  Self-destruction is very rare among the Indians; and we imagine, when it does occur, it must be produced by the strongest kind of influence over their passions.  Mental alienation, if not entirely unknown among them, must be exceedingly rare.  I have no recollection of ever having heard of a solitary case.

From St. Anthony’s falls to St. Louis is 900 miles.  The only impediment to the regular navigation of the river by steamboats, is experienced during low water at the upper and lower rapids.

"St. Louis Map circa 1845" ~ CampbellHouseMuseum.org

“St. Louis Map circa 1845”
~ CampbellHouseMuseum.org

The first are about 14 miles long, with a descent of only about 25 feet.  The lower rapids are 11 miles long, with a descent of 24 feet.  In each case, the water falls over beds of mountain or carboniferrous limestone, which it has worn into irregular and crooked channels.  By a moderate expenditure of money on the part of the general government, which ought to be made as early as practicable, these rapids could be permanently opened to the passage of boats.  As it is at present, boats, in passing the rapids at low water, and especially the lower rapids, have to employ barges and keel-boats to lighten them over, at very great expense.

From the rapid settlement of the country above, with the increasing trade in lumber and lead, the business on the Upper Mississippi is augmenting at a prodigious rate.  When the river is sufficiently high to afford no obstruction on the lower rapids, not less than some 28 or 30 boats run regularly between Galena and St. Louis – the distance being 500 miles.  Besides these, two or three steam packets run regularly to St. Anthony’s falls, or to St. Peter’s, near the foot of them.  Every year will add greatly to the number of these boats.  Other fine large and well-found packets run from St. Louis to Keokuk, at the foot of the lower rapids, four miles below which the Des Moines river enters the Mississippi river.  It is the opinion of Mr. Nicollet, that this river can be opened, by some slight improvements, for 100 miles above its mouth.  It is said the extensive body of land lying between the Des Moines and the Mississippi, and running for a long distance parallel with the left bank of the latter, contains the most lovely,rich and beautiful land to be found on the continent, if not in the world.  It is already pretty thickly settled.  Splendid crops of wheat and corn have been raised on farms opened upon it, the present year.  Much of the former we found had already arrived at depots on the river, in quantities far too great to find a sufficient number of boats, at the present low water, to carry it to market.

I do not see but the democratic party are regularly gaining strength throughout the great West, as the results of the recent elections, which have already reached you, sufficiently indicate.

Those who wish to obtain more general, as well as minute information, respecting the basin of the Upper Mississippi, I would recommend to consult the able report, accompanied with a fine map of the country, by Mr. J. N. Nicollet, and reprinted by order of the Congress at their last session.

I am, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

MORGAN.

 


 

This curious series of correspondences from “Morgan” is continued in the September 1 and September 5 issues of The Daily Union, where he arrived in New York City again after 4,200 miles and two and a half months on this delegation.  As those articles are not pertinent to the greater realm of Chequamegon History, this concludes our reproduction of these curious correspondences.

The End.

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.”

Fun With Maps

June 28, 2013

I’m someone who loves a good historical map, so one of my favorite websites is memory.loc.gov, the digital collections of the Library of Congress.  You can spend hours zooming in on neat vintage maps.  This post has snippets from eleven of them, stretching from 1674 to 1843.  They are full of cool old inaccuracies, but they also highlight important historical trends and eras in our history.  This should not be considered an exhaustive survey of the best maps out there, nor is it representative of all the LOC maps.  Really, it’s just 11 semi-random maps with my observations on what I found interesting.  Click on any map to go to the Library of Congress site where you can browse more of it.  Enjoy:

French 1674

Nouvelle decouverte de plusieurs nations dans la Nouvelle France en l’année 1673 et 1674 by Louis Joliet.  Joliet famously traveled from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi with the Jesuit Jacques Marquette in 1673.

  • Cool trees.
  • Baye des Puans: The French called the Ho-Chunk Puans, “Stinky People.”  That was a translation of the Ojibwe word Wiinibiigoo (Winnebago), which means “stinky water people.”  Green Bay is “green” in summer because of the stinky green algae that covers it.  It’s not surprising that the Ho-Chunk no longer wish to be called the Winnebago or Puans.
  • 8tagami:  The French used 8 in Indian words for the English sound “W.”  8tagami (Odagami) is the Ojibwe/Odawa/Potawatomi word for the Meskwaki (Fox) People.
  • Nations du Nord:  To the French, the country between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay was the home of “an infinity of nations,” (check out this book by that title) small bands speaking dialects of Ojibwe, Cree, and Assiniboine Sioux.
  • The Keweenaw is pretty small, but Lake Superior has generally the right shape.

French 1688

Carte de l’Amerique Septentrionnale by Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin:  Franquelin created dozens of maps as the royal cartographer and hydrographer of New France.

  • Lake Superior is remarkably accurate for this time period.
  • Nations sous le nom d’Outouacs:  “Nations under the name of Ottawas”–the French had a tendency to lump all Anishinaabe peoples in the west (Ojibwe, Ottawa, Potawatomi, etc.) under the name Outouais or Outouacs.
  • River names, some are the same and some have changed.  Bois Brule (Brule River) in French is “burnt wood” a translation of the Ojibwe wiisakode.  I see ouatsicoto inside the name of the Brule on this map (Neouatsicoton), but I’m not 100% sure that’s wiisakode. Piouabic (biwaabik is Ojibwe word for Iron) for the Iron River is still around.  Mosquesisipi (Mashkiziibi) or Swampy River is the Ojibwe for the Bad River.
  • Madeline Island is Ile. St. Michel, showing that it was known at “Michael’s Island” a century before Michel Cadotte established his fur post.
  • Ance Chagoüamigon:  Point Chequamegon

French 1703

Carte de la riviere Longue : et de quelques autres, qui se dechargent dans le grand fleuve de Missisipi [sic] … by Louis Armand the Baron de Lahontan.  Baron Lahontan was a military officer of New France who explored the Mississippi and Missouri River valleys.

  • Lake Superior looks quite strange.
  • “Sauteurs” and Jesuits at Sault Ste. Marie:  the French called the Anishinaabe people at Sault Ste. Marie (mostly Crane Clan) the Sauteurs or Saulteaux, meaning “people of the falls.”  This term came to encompass most of the people who would now be called Ojibwe.
  • Fort Dulhut:  This is not Duluth, Minnesota, but rather Kaministiquia (modern-day Thunder Bay).  It is named for the same person–Daniel Greysolon, the Sieur du Lhut (Duluth).
  • Riviere Du Tombeau:  “The River of Tombs” at the west end of the Lake is the St. Croix River, which does not actually flow into Lake Superior but connects it to the Mississippi over a short portage from the Brule River.
  • Chagouamigon (Chequamegon) is placed much too far to the east.
  • The Fox River is gigantic flowing due east rather than north into Green Bay.  We see the “Savage friends of the French:” Outagamis (Meskwaki/Fox), Malumins (Menominee), and Kikapous (Kickapoo).

French 1742

Carte des lacs du Canada by Jacques N. Bellin 1742.  Bellin was a famous European mapmaker who compiled various maps together.  The top map is a detail from the Carte de Lacs.  The bottom one is from a slightly later map.

  • Of the maps shown so far, this has the best depiction of Chequamegon, but Lake Superior as a whole is much less accurate than on Franquelin’s map from fifty years earlier.
  • The mysterious “Isle Phillipeaux,” a second large island southeast of Isle Royale shows prominently on this map.  Isle Phillipeaux is one of those cartographic oddities that pops up on maps for decades after it first appears even though it doesn’t exist.
  • Cool river names not shown on Franquelin’s map:  Atokas (Cranberry River) and Fond Plat “Flat-bottom” (Sand River)
  • The region west of today’s Herbster, Wisconsin is lablled “Papoishika.”  I did an extensive post about an area called Ka-puk-wi-e-kah in that same location.
  • Ici etoit une Bourgade Considerable:  “Here there was a large village.”  This in reference to when Chequamegon was a center for the Huron, Ottawa (Odawa) and other refugee nations of the Iroquois Wars in the mid-1600s.
  • “La Petite Fille”:  Little Girl’s Point.
  • Chequamegon Bay is Baye St. Charles
  • Catagane: Kakagon, Maxisipi: Mashkizibi
  • The islands are “The 12 Apostles.”

British 1778

A new map of North America, from the latest discoveries 1778. Engrav’d for Carver’s Travels.  In 1766 Jonathan Carver became one of the first Englishmen to pass through this region.  His narrative is a key source for the time period directly following the conquest of New France, when the British claimed dominion over the Great Lakes.

  • Lake Superior still has two giant islands in the middle of it.
  • The Chipeway (Ojibwe), Ottaway (Odawa), and Ottagamie (Meskwaki/Fox) seem to have neatly delineated nations. The reality was much more complex.  By 1778, the Ojibwe had moved inland from Lake Superior and were firmly in control of areas like Lac du Flambeau and Lac Courte Oreilles, which had formerly been contested by the Meskwaki.

Dutch 1805

Charte von den Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-America nebst Louisiana by F.L. Gussefeld:  Published in Europe.

  • The Dutch never had a claim to this region.  In fact, this is a copy of a German map.  However, it was too cool-looking to pass up.
  • Over 100 years after Franquelin’s fairly-accurate outline of Lake Superior, much of Europe was still looking at this junk.
  • “Ober See” and Tschippeweer” are funny to me.
  • Isle Phillipeau is hanging on strong into the nineteenth century.

American 1805

A map of Lewis and Clark’s track across the western portion of North America, from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean : by order of the executive of the United States in 1804, 5 & 6 / copied by Samuel Lewis from the original drawing of Wm. Clark.   This map was compiled from the manuscript maps of Lewis and Clark.

  • The Chequamegon Region supposedly became American territory with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  The reality on the ground, however, was that the Ojibwe held sovereignty over their lands. The fur companies operating in the area were British-Canadian, and they employed mostly French-Ojibwe mix-bloods in the industry.
  • This is a lovely-looking map, but it shows just how little the Americans knew about this area.  Ironically, British Canada is very well-detailed, as is the route of Lewis and Clark and parts of the Mississippi that had just been visited by the American, Lt. Zebulon Pike.
  • “Point Cheganega” is a crude islandless depiction of what we would call Point Detour.
  • The Montreal River is huge and sprawling, but the Brule, Bad, and Ontonagon Rivers do not exist.
  • To this map’s credit, there is only one Isle Royale.  Goodbye Isle Phillipeaux.  It was fun knowing you.
  • It is striking how the American’s had access to decent maps of the British-Canadian areas of Lake Superior, but not of what was supposedly their own territory.

English 1811

A new map of North America from the latest authorities By John Cary of London.  This map was published just before the outbreak of war between Britain and the United States.

  • These maps are starting to look modern.  The rivers are getting more accurate and the shape of Lake Superior is much better–though the shoreline isn’t done very well.
  • Burntwood=Brule, Donagan=Ontonagon
  • The big red line across Lake Superior is the US-British border.  This map shows Isle Royale in Canada.  The line stops at Rainy Lake because the fate of the parts of Minnesota and North Dakota in the Hudson Bay Watershed (claimed by the Hudson Bay Company) was not yet settled.
  • “About this place a settlement of the North West Company”:  This is Michel Cadotte’s trading post at La Pointe on Madeline Island.  Cadotte was the son of a French trader and an Anishinaabe woman, and he traded for the British North West Company.
  • It is striking that a London-made map created for mass consumption would so blatantly show a British company operating on the American side of the line.  This was one of the issues that sparked the War of 1812.  The Indian nations of the Great Lakes weren’t party to the Treaty of Paris and certainly did not recognize American sovereignty over their lands.  They maintained the right to have British traders. America didn’t see it that way.

American 1820

Map of the United States of America : with the contiguous British and Spanish possessions / compiled from the latest & best authorities by John Melish

  • Lake Superior shape and shoreline are looking much better.
  • Bad River is “Red River.”  I’ve never seen that as an alternate name for the Bad.  I’m wondering if it’s a typo from a misreading of “bad”
  • Copper mines are shown on the Donagon (Ontonagon) River.  Serious copper mining in that region was still over a decade away.  This probably references the ancient Indian copper-mining culture of Lake Superior or the handful of exploratory attempts by the French and British.
  • The Brule-St. Croix portage is marked “Carrying Place.”
  • No mention of Chequamegon or any of the Apostle Islands–just Sand Point.
  • Isle Phillipeaux lives!  All the way into the 1820s!  But, it’s starting to settle into being what it probably was all along–the end of the Keweenaw mistakenly viewed from Isle Royale as an island rather than a peninsula.

American 1839 

From the Map of Michigan and part of Wisconsin Territory, part of the American Atlas produced under the direction of U.S. Postmaster General David H. Burr.

  • Three years before the Ojibwe cede the Lake Superior shoreline of Wisconsin, we see how rapidly American knowledge of this area is growing in the 1830s.
  • The shoreline is looking much better, but the islands are odd.  Stockton (Presque Isle) and Outer Island have merged into a huge dinosaur foot while Madeline Island has lost its north end.
  • Weird river names:  Flagg River is Spencer’s, Siskiwit River is Heron, and Sand River is Santeaux. Fish Creek is the gigantic Talking Fish River, and “Raspberry” appears to be labeling the Sioux River rather than the farther-north Raspberry River.
  • Points:  Bark Point is Birch Bark, Detour is Detour, and Houghton is Cold Point. Chequamegon Point is Chegoimegon Point, but the bay is just “The Bay.”
  • The “Factory” at Madeline Island and the other on Long Island refers to a fur post.  This usage is common in Canada:  Moose Factory, York Factory, etc.  At this time period, the only Factory would have been on Madeline.
  • The Indian Village is shown at Odanah six years before Protestant missionaries supposedly founded Odanah. A commonly-heard misconception is that the La Pointe Band split into Island and Bad River factions in the 1840s. In reality, the Ojibwe didn’t have fixed villages.  They moved throughout the region based on the seasonal availability of food.  The traders were on the island, and it provided access to good fishing, but the gardens, wild rice, and other food sources were more abundant near the Kakagon sloughs.  Yes, those Ojibwe married into the trading families clustered more often on the Island, and those who got sick of the missionaries stayed more often at Bad River (at least until the missionaries followed them there), but there was no hard and fast split of the La Pointe Band until long after Bad River and Red Cliff were established as separate reservations.

American 1843

Hydrographical basin of the upper Mississippi River from astronomical and barometrical observations, surveys, and information by Joseph Nicollet.  Nicollet is considered the first to accurately map the basin of the Upper Mississippi.  His Chequamegon Region is pretty good also.

  • You may notice this map decorating the sides of the Chequamegon History website.
  • This post mentions this map and the usage of Apakwa for the Bark River.
  • As with the 1839 map, this map’s Raspberry River appears to be the Sioux rather than the Miskomin (Raspberry) River.
  • Madeline Island has a little tail, but the Islands have their familiar shapes.
  • Shagwamigon, another variant spelling
  • Mashkeg River:  in Ojibwe the Bad River is Mashkizibi (Swamp River).  Mashkiig is the Ojibwe word for swamp.  In the boreal forests of North America, this word had migrated into English as muskeg.  It’s interesting how Nicollet labels the forks, with the White River fork being the most prominent.

That’s all for now folks.  Thanks for covering 200 years of history with me through these maps.  If you have any questions, or have any cool observations of your own, go ahead and post them in the comments.

Official railroad map of Wisconsin, 1900 / prepared under the direction of Graham L. Rice, Railroad Commissioner. Library of Congress.Check out Steamboat Island in the upper right.  According to the old timers, that's the one that washed away.

Official railroad map of Wisconsin, 1900 / prepared under the direction of Graham L. Rice, Railroad Commissioner. (Library of Congress)  Check out Steamboat Island in the upper right. According to the old timers, that’s the one that washed away.

Not long ago, a long-running mystery was solved for me.  Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I got to learn a new Ojibwe word and a new English word, so I’ll call it a victory.  Plus, there will be a few people–maybe even a dozen who will be interested in what I found out.

Go Big Red!

First a little background for those who haven’t spent much time in Cornucopia, Herbster, or Port Wing.  The three tiny communities on the south shore have a completely friendly but horribly bitter animosity toward one another.  Sure they go to school together, marry each other, and drive their firetrucks in each others’ parades, but every Cornucopian knows that a Fish Fry is superior to a Smelt Fry, and far superior to a Fish Boil.  In the same way, every Cornucopian remembers that time the little league team beat PW.  Yeah, that’s right.  It was in the tournament too!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, my sympathies lie with Cornucopia, and most of the animosity goes to Port Wing (after all, the Herbster kids played on our team). That’s why I’m upset with the outcome of this story even though I solved a mystery that had been nagging me.

“A bay on the lake shore situated forty miles west of La Pointe…”

This all began several years ago when I read William W. Warren’s History of the Ojibway People for the first time.  Warren, a mix-blood from La Pointe, grew up speaking Ojibwe on the island.  His American father sent him to the East to learn to read and write English, and he used his bilingualism to make a living as an interpreter when he returned to Lake Superior.  His mother was a daughter of Michel and Madeline Cadotte, and he was related to several prominent people throughout Ojibwe country.  His History is really a collection of oral histories obtained in interviews with chiefs and elders in the late 1840s and early 1850s.  He died in 1853 at age 28, and his manuscript sat unpublished for several decades.  Luckily for us, it eventually was, and for all its faults, it remains the most important book about the history of this area.

As I read Warren that first time, one story in particular jumped out at me:

Warren1

Warren, William W. History of the Ojibway Nation. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1885. Print.  Pg. 127  Available on Google Books.

Warren2

Pg. 128

Warren3

Pg. 129 Warren uses the sensational racist language of the day in his description of warfare between the Fox and his Ojibwe relatives.  Like most people, I cringe at lines like “hellish whoops” or “barbarous tortures which a savage could invent.”  For a deeper look at Warren the man, his biases, and motivations, I strongly recommend William W. Warren:  the life, letters, and times of an Ojibwe leader by Theresa Schenck (University of Nebraska Press, 2007)

I recognized the story right away:

Cornucopia, Wisconsin postcard image by Allan Born. In the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHI Image ID: 84185)

This marker, put up in 1955, is at the beach in Cornucopia.  To see it, go east on the little path by the artesian well. 

It’s clear Warren is the source for the information since it quotes him directly.  However, there is a key difference.  The original does not use the word “Siskiwit” (a word derived from the Ojibwe for the “Fat” subspecies of Lake Trout abundant around Siskiwit Bay) in any way.  It calls the bay Kah-puk-wi-e-kah and says it’s forty miles west of La Pointe.  This made me suspect that perhaps this tragedy took place at one of the bays west of Cornucopia.  Forty miles seemed like it would get you a lot further west of La Pointe than Siskiwit Bay, but then I figured it might be by canoe hugging the shoreline around Point Detour. This would be considerably longer than the 15-20 miles as the crow flies, so I was somewhat satisfied on that point.

Still, Kah-puk-wi-e-kah is not Siskiwit, so I wasn’t certain the issue was resolved.   My Ojibwe skills are limited, so I asked a few people what the word means.  All I could get was that the “Kah” part was likely “Gaa,” a prefix that indicates past tense.  Otherwise, Warren’s irregular spelling and dropped endings made it hard to decipher.

Then, in 2007, GLIFWC released the amazing Gidakiiminaan (Our Earth):  An Anishinaabe Atlas of the 1836, 1837, and 1842 Treaty Ceded Territories.  This atlas gives Ojibwe names and translations for thousands of locations.  On page 8, they have the south shore.  Siskiwit Bay is immediately ruled out as Kah-puk-wi-e-kah, and so is Cranberry River (a direct translation of the Ojibwe Mashkiigiminikaaniwi-ziibi.  However, two other suspects emerge.  Bark Bay (the large bay between Cornucopia and Herbster) is shown as Apakwaani-wiikwedong, and the mouth of the Flagg River (Port Wing) is Gaa-apakwaanikaaning.

On the surface, the Port Wing spelling was closer to Warren’s, but with “Gaa” being a droppable prefix, it wasn’t a big difference.  The atlas uses the root word apakwe to translate both as “the place for getting roofing-bark,” Apakwe in this sense referring to rolls of birch bark covering a wigwam.  For me it was a no-brainer.  Bark Bay is the biggest, most defined bay in the area.  Port Wing’s harbor is really more of a swamp on relatively straight shoreline.  Plus, Bark Bay has the word “bark” right in it.  Bark River goes into Bark Bay which is protected by Bark Point. Bark, bark, bark–roofing bark–Kapukwiekah–done.

Cornucopia had lost its one historical event, but it wasn’t so bad.  Even though Bark Bay is closer to Herbster, it’s really between the two communities.  I was even ready to suggest taking the word “Siskiwit” off the sign and giving it to Herbster.  I mean, at least it wasn’t Port Wing, right?

Over the next few years, it seemed my Bark Bay suspicions were confirmed.  I encountered Joseph Nicollet’s 1843 map of the region:

Nicollet

That’s clearly Bark Bay being fed by the Apakwa River. (Library of Congress)

Then in 2009, Theresa Schenck of the University of Wisconsin-Madison released an annotated second edition of Warren’s History.  Dr. Schenck is a Blackfeet tribal member but is also part Ojibwe from Lac Courte Oreilles.  She is, without doubt, the most knowledgeable and thorough researcher currently working with written records of Ojibwe history.  In her edition of Warren, the story begins on page 83, and she clearly has Kah-puk-wi-e-kah footnoted as Bark Bay–mystery solved!

But maybe not.  Just this past year, Dr. Schenck edited and annotated the first published version of The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely 1833-1849.  Ely was a young Protestant missionary working for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in the Ojibwe communities of Sandy Lake, Fond du Lac, and Pokegama on the St. Croix.  He worked under Rev. Sherman Hall of La Pointe, and made several trips to the island from Fond du Lac and the Brule River.  He mentions the places along the way by what they were called in the 1830s and 40s.  At one point he gets lost in the woods northwest of La Pointe, but he finds his way to the Siscoueka sibi (Siskiwit River).  Elsewhere are references to the Sand, Cranberry, Iron, and “Bruley” Rivers, sometimes by their Ojibwe names and sometimes translated.

On almost all of these trips, he mentions passing or stopping at Gaapukuaieka, and to Ely and all those around him, Gaapukuaieka means the mouth of the Flagg River (Port Wing).

There is no doubt after reading Ely.  Gaapukuaieka is a well-known seasonal camp for the Fond du Lac and La Pointe bands and a landmark and stopover on the route between those two important Ojibwe villages.  Bark Bay is ruled out, as it is referred to repeatedly as Wiigwaas Point/Bay, referring to birch bark more generally.  The word apakwe comes up in this book not in reference to bark, but as the word for rushes or cattails that are woven into mats.  Ely even offers “flagg” as the English equivalent for this material.  A quick dictionary search confirmed this meaning.  Gaapukuaieka is Port Wing, and the name of the Flagg River refers to the abundance of cattails and rushes.

My guess is that the good citizens of Cornucopia asked the State Historical Society to put up a historical marker in 1955.  Since no one could think of any history that happened in Cornucopia, they just pulled something from Warren assuming no one would ever check up on it.  Now Cornucopia not just faces losing its only historical event, it faces the double-indignity of losing it to Port Wing.

William Whipple Warren (1825-1853) wrote down the story of Bayaaswaa from the oral history of the chief’s descendents.

So what really happened here?

Because the oral histories in Warren’s book largely lack dates, they can be hard to place in time.  However, there are a few clues for when this tragedy may have happened.  First, we need a little background on the conflict between the “Fox” and Ojibwe.

The Fox are the Meskwaki, a nation the Ojibwe called the Odagaamiig or “people on the other shore.”  Since the 19th-century, they have been known along with the Sauk as the “Sac and Fox.”  Today, they have reservations in Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Warfare between the Chequamegon Ojibwe and the Meskwaki broke out in the second half of the 17th-century.  At that time, the main Meskwaki village was on the Fox River near Green Bay.  However, the Meskwaki frequently made their way up the Wisconsin River to the Ontonagon and other parts of what is now north-central Wisconsin.  This territory included areas like Lac du Flambeau, Mole Lake, and Lac Vieux Desert.  The Ojibwe on the Lake Superior shore also wanted to hunt these lands, and war broke out.  The Dakota Sioux were also involved in this struggle for northern Wisconsin, but there isn’t room for them in this post.

In theory, the Meskwaki and Ojibwe were both part of a huge coalition of nations ruled by New France, and joined in trade and military cooperation against the Five Nations or Iroquois Confederacy.  In reality, the French at distant Quebec had no control over large western nations like the Ojibwe and Meskwaki regardless of what European maps said about a French empire in the Great Lakes.  The Ojibwe and Meskwaki pursued their own politics and their own interests.  In fact, it was the French who ended up being pulled into the Ojibwe war.

What history calls the “Fox Wars” (roughly 1712-1716 and 1728-1733) were a series of  battles between the Meskwaki (and occasionally their Mascouten, Kickapoo, and Sauk relatives) against everyone else in the French alliance.  For the Ojibwe of Chequamegon, this fight started several decades earlier, but history dates the beginning at the point when everyone else got involved.

By the end of it, the Meskwaki were decimated and had to withdraw from northern Wisconsin and seek shelter with the Sauk.  The only thing that kept them from being totally eradicated was the unwillingness of their Indian enemies to continue the fighting (the French, on the other hand, wanted a complete genocide).  The Fox Wars left northern Wisconsin open for Ojibwe expansion–though the Dakota would have something to say about that.

So, where does this story of father and son fit?  Warren, as told by the descendents of the two men, describes this incident as the pivotal event in the mid-18th century Ojibwe expansion outward from Lake Superior.  He claims the war party that avenged the old chief took possession of the former Meskwaki villages, and also established Fond du Lac as a foothold toward the Dakota lands.

According to Warren, the child took his father’s name Bi-aus-wah (Bayaaswaa) and settled at Sandy Lake on the Mississippi.  From Sandy Lake, the Ojibwe systematically took control of all the major Dakota villages in what is now northern Minnesota.  This younger Bayaaswaa was widely regarded as a great and just leader who tried to promote peace and “rules of engagement” to stop the sort of kidnapping and torture that he faced as a child.  Bayaaswaa’s leadership brought prestige to his Loon Clan, and future La Pointe leaders like Andeg-wiiyaas (Crow’s Meat) and Bizhiki (Buffalo), were Loons.

So, how much of this is true, and how much are we relying on Warren for this story?  It’s hard to say.  The younger Bayaaswaa definitely appears in both oral and written sources as an influential Sandy Lake chief.  His son Gaa-dawaabide (aka. Breche or Broken Tooth) became a well-known chief in his own right. Both men are reported to have lived long lives.  Broken Tooth’s son, Maangozid (Loon’s Foot) of Fond du Lac, was one of several grandsons of Bayaaswaa alive in Warren’s time and there’s a good chance he was one of Warren’s informants.

Caw-taa-waa-be-ta, Or The Snagle’d Tooth by James Otto Lewis, 1825 (Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-26732) “Broken Tooth” was the son of Bayaaswaa the younger and the grandson of the chief who gave his life.  Lewis was self-taught, and all of his portraits have the same grotesque or cartoonish look that this one does.

Within a few years of Warren’s work, Maangozid described his family history to the German travel writer Johann Kohl. This family history is worth its own post, so I won’t get into too much detail here, but it’s important to mention that Maangozid knew and remembered his grandfather.  Broken Tooth, Maangozid’s father and Younger Bayaaswaa’s son, is thought to have been born in the 1750s.  This all means that it is totally possible that the entire 130-year gap between Warren and the Fox Wars is spanned by the lifetimes of just these three men. This also makes it totally plausible that the younger Bayaaswaa was born in the 1710s or 20s and would have been a child during the Fox Wars.

My guess is that the attack at Gaapukuaieka and the death of the elder Bayaaswaa occurred during the second Fox War, and that the progress of the avenging war party into the disputed territories coincides with the decimation of the Meskwaki as described by the French records.  While I don’t think the entire Ojibwe expansion of the 1700s can be attributed to this event, Ojibwe people in the 1850s, over a century later still regarded it as a highly-significant symbolic moment in their history.

So what’s to be done?

[I was going to do some more Port Wing jokes here, but writing about war, torture, and genocide changes the tone of a post very quickly.]

I would like to see the people of Cornucopia and Port Wing get together with the Sandy Lake, Fond du Lac, and Red Cliff bands and possibly the Meskwaki Nation, to put a memorial in its proper place.  It should be more than a wooden marker.  It needs to recognize not only the historical significance, but also the fact that many people died on that day and in the larger war.  This is a story that should be known in our area, and known accurately.

If Cornucopia still needs a history, we can put up a marker for the time we beat Port Wing in the tournament.

Sources:
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Gidakiiminaan = Our Earth. Odanah, WI: Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, 2007. Print.
Kohl, J. G. Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings round Lake Superior. London: Chapman and Hall, 1860. Print.
Loew, Patty. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal.
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2001. Print.
Nichols, John, and Earl Nyholm. A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1995. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. The Voice of the Crane Echoes Afar: The Sociopolitical Organization of the Lake Superior Ojibwa, 1640-1855. New York: Garland Pub., 1997. Print.
———— William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1853. Print.
Warren, William W., and Edward D. Neill. History of the Ojibway Nation. Minneapolis: Ross & Haines, 1957. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.
White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.
“Wisconsin Historical Images.” Wisconsin Historical Society, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.
Witgen, Michael J. An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2012. Print.