By Amorin Mello

United States. Works Progress Administration:

Chippewa Indian Historical Project Records 1936-1942  

(Northland Micro 5; Micro 532)

12th President Zachary Taylor gave the 1849 Removal Order while he was still in office. The 1852 meeting in Washington, D.C. was with 13th President Millard Fillmore. ~ 1848 presidential campaign poster from the Library of Congress

12th President Zachary Taylor gave the 1849 Removal Order while he was still in office. During 1852, Chief Buffalo and his delegation met 13th President Millard Fillmore in Washington, D.C., to petition against this Removal Order.
~ 1848 presidential campaign poster from the Library of Congress

Reel 1; Envelop 1; Item 14.

The Removal Order of 1849

By Jerome Arbuckle

After the war of 1812 the westward advance of the people of the United States of was renewed with vigor.  These pioneers were imbued with the idea that the possessions of the Indian tribes, with whom they came in contact, were for their convenience and theirs for the taking.  Any attempt on the part of the aboriginal owners to defend their ancestral homes were a signal for a declaration of war, or a punitive expedition, which invariably resulted in the defeat of the Indians.

“Peace Treaties,” incorporating terms and stipulations suitable particularly to the white man’s government, were then negotiated, whereby the Indians ceded their lands, and the remnants of the dispossessed tribe moved westward.  The tribes to the south of the Great Lakes, along the Ohio Valley, were the greatest sufferers from this system of acquisition.

Another system used with equal, if less sanguinary success, was the “treaty system.”  Treaties of this type were actually little more than  receipt signed by the Indian, which acknowledged the cessions of huge tracts of land.  The language of the treaties, in some instances, is so plainly a scheme for the dispossession and removal of the Indians that it is doubtful if the signers for the Indians understood the true import of the document.  Possibly, and according to the statements handed down from the Indians of earlier days to the present, Indians who signed the treaties were duped and were the victims of treachery and collusion.

By the terms of the Treaties of 1837 and 1842, the Indians ceded to the Government all their territory lying east of the Mississippi embracing the St. Croix district and eastward to the Chocolate River.  The Indians, however, were ignorant of the fact that they had ceded these lands.  According to the terms, as understood by them, they were permitted to remain within these treaty boundaries and continue to enjoy the privileges of hunting, fishing, ricing and the making of maple sugar, provided they did not molest their white neighbors; but they clearly understood that the Government was to have the right to use the timber and minerals on these lands.

Entitled "Chief Buffalo's Petition to the President" by the Wisconsin Historical Society, this famous symbolic petition was made and delivered completely independently of Chief Buffalo from La Pointe. Or anyone else from the La Pointe Band for that matter. See Chequamegon History's original post for more information.

Entitled Chief Buffalo’s Petition to the President by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the story behind this now famous symbolic petition is actually unrelated to Chief Buffalo from La Pointe, and was created before the Sandy Lake Tragedy. It is a common error to mis-attribute this to Chief Buffalo’s trip to Washington D.C., which occurred after that Tragedy.  See Chequamegon History’s original post for more information.

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

Detail of Benjamin Armstrong from a photograph by Matthew Brady (Minnesota Historical Society).  See our Armstrong Engravings post for more information.

Their eyes were opened when the Removal Order of 1849 came like a bolt from the blue.  This order cancelled the Indians’ right to hunt and fish in the territory ceded, and gave notification for their removal westward.  According to Verwyst, the Franciscan Missionary, many left by reason of this order, and sought a refuge among the westernmost of their tribe who dwelt in Minnesota.

Many of the full bloods, who naturally had a deep attachment for their home soil, refused to budge.  The chiefs who signed the treaty were included in this action.  They then concluded that they were duped by the Treaty Commissioners and were given a faulty interpretation of the treaty passages.  Although the Chippewa realized the futility of armed resistance, those who chose to remain unanimously decided to fight it out.  A few white men who were true friends of the Indians, among these was Ben Armstrong, the adopted son of the Head Chief, Buffalo, and he cautioned the Indians against any show of hostility.

See our posts on Chief Buffalo Picture Search and Oshogay for more information about these legendary leaders of the Lake Superior Chippewa.

At a council, Armstrong prevailed upon the chiefs to make a trip to Washington.  Accordingly, preparations for the trip were made, a canoe of special make being constructed for the journey.  After cautioning the tribesmen to remain calm, pending their return, they set out for Washington in April, 1852.  The party was composed of Buffalo, the head Chief, and several sub-chiefs, one of whom was Oshoga, who later became a noted man among the Chippewa.  Armstrong was the interpreter and director of the party.  The delegation left La Pointe and proceeded by way of the Great Lakes as far as Buffalo, N. Y., and then by rail to Washington.  They stopped at the white settlements along the route and their leader, Mr. Armstrong, circulated a petition among the white people.  This petition, which was to be presented to the President, urged that the Chippewa be permitted to remain in their own country and the Removal Order reconsidered.  Many signatures were obtained, some of the signers being acquaintances of the President, whose signatures he later recognized.

Despite repeated attempts of arbitrary agents, who were employed by the government to administer Indian affairs, and who endeavored to return them back or discourage the trip, they resolutely persisted.  The party arrived at Buffalo, New York, practically penniless.  By disposing of some Indian trinkets, and by putting the chief on exhibition, they managed to acquire enough money to defray their expenses until they finally arrived at Washington.

Here it seemed their troubles were to begin.  They were refused an audience with those persons who might have been able to assist them.  Through the kind assistance of Senator Briggs of New York, they eventually managed to arrange for an interview with President Fillmore.

United States Representative George Briggs. ~ Library of Congress

United States Representative George Briggs was helpful in getting an audience with President Millard Fillmore.
~ Library of Congress

At the appointed time they assembled for the interview and after smoking the peace pipe offered by Chief Buffalo, the “Great White Father” listened to their story of conditions in the Northwest.  Their petition was presented and read and the meeting adjourned.  President Fillmore, deeply impressed by his visitors, directed that their expenses should be paid by the Government and that they should have the freedom of the city for a week.

Vincent Roy, Jr., portrait from "Short biographical sketch of Vincent Roy, [Jr.,]" in Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga, by Chrysostom Verwyst, 1900, pages 472-476.

Vincent Roy, Jr., was also on this famous trip to Washington, D.C.  For more information, see this excerpt from Vincent Roy Jr’s biography.

At a second interview the President assured them that their request was granted; that they might remain in the territory in question and that he would countermand the Removal Order.  He, furthermore, instructed them that on their return to their homes they should call an assembly of their people at Madeline Island, and prepare for a new treaty in September, 1854.

Their mission was accomplished and all were happy.  They had achieved what they sought.  An uprising of their people had been averted in which thousands of human lives might have been cruelly slaughtered; so with light hearts they prepared for their homeward trip.  Their fare was paid and they returned by rail by way of St. Paul, Minnesota, which was as near as they could get by rail to their homes.  From St. Paul they traveled overland, a distance of over two hundred miles, overland.  Along the route they frequently met with bands of Chippewa, whom they delighted with the information of the successes of their trip.  These groups they instructed to repair to Madeline Island for the treaty at the time stipulated.

Upon their arrival at their own homes, the successes of the delegation was hailed with joy.  Runners were dispatched to notify the entire Chippewa nation.  As a consequence, many who had left their homes in compliance with the Removal Order now returned.

When the time for the treaty drew near, the Chippewa began to arrive at the Island from all directions.  Finally, after careful deliberations, the treaty of 1854 was concluded.  This treaty provided for several reservations within the ceded territory.  These were Ontonagon and L’Anse, in the present state of Michigan, Lac du Flambeau, Bad River or La Pointe, Red Cliff, and Lac Courte Oreille, in Wisconsin, and Fond du Lac and Grand Portage in Minnesota.

It was at this time that the Chippewa mutually agreed to separate into two divisions, making the Mississippi the dividing line between the Mississippi Chippewa and the Lake Superior Chippewa, and allowing each division the right to deal separately with the Government.

By Amorin Mello

Vincent Roy Jr

Portrait of Vincent Roy, Jr., from “Short biographical sketch of Vincent Roy,” in Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga, by Chrysostom Verwyst, 1900, pages 472-476.

Miscellaneous materials related to Vincent Roy,

1861-1862, 1892, 1921

Wisconsin Historical Society

“Miscellaneous items related to Roy, a fur trader in Wisconsin of French and Chippewa Indian descent including a sketch of his early years by Reverend T. Valentine, 1896; a letter to Roy concerning the first boats to go over the Sault Ste. Marie, 1892; a letter to Valentine regarding an article on Roy; an abstract and sketch on Roy’s life; a typewritten copy of a biographical sketch from the Franciscan Herald, March 1921; and a diary by Roy describing a fur trading journey, 1860-1861, with an untitled document in the Ojibwe language (p. 19 of diary).”


 

St. Agnes’ Church

205 E. Front St.
Ashland, Wis., June 27 1903

Reuben G. Thwaites

Sec. Wisc. Hist Soc. Madison Wis.

Dear Sir,

I herewith send you personal memories of Hon. Vincent Roy, lately deceased, as put together by Rev. Father Valentine O.F.M.  Should your society find them of sufficient historical interest to warrant their publication, you will please correct them properly before getting them printed.

Yours very respectfully,

Fr. Chrysostom Verwyst O.F.M. 

 


 

~ Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy. ~

~ J. Apr. 2. 1896 – Superior, Wis. ~

 

I.

Vincent Roy was born August 29, 1825, the third child of a family of eleven children.  His father Vincent Roy Sen. was a halfblood Chippewa, so or nearly so was his mother, Elisabeth Pacombe.1

Three Generations:
I. Vincent Roy
(1764-1845)
II. Vincent Roy, Sr.
(1795-1872)
III. Vincent Roy, Jr.
(1825-1896)

His grandfather was a french-canadian who located as a trader for the American Fur Company first at Cass Lake Minn, and removed in 1810 to the bank of Rainy River at its junction with Little Fork, which is now in Itasca Co. Minn.2  At this place Vincent saw at first the light of the world and there his youth passed by.  He had reached his twentieth year, when his grandfather died, who had been to him and all the children an unmistakable good fortune.

‘I remember him well,’ such are Vincent’s own words when himself in his last sickness.3  ‘I remember him well, my grandfather, he was a well-meaning, God-fearing frenchman.  He taught me and all of us to say our prayers and to do right.  He prayed a great deal.  Who knows what might have become of us, had he not been.’

The general situation of the family at the time is given by Peter Roy thus:4

“My grandfather must have had about fifty acres of land under cultivation.  About the time I left the place (1839) he used to raise quite a lot of wheat, barley, potatoes and tobacco – and had quite a lot of stock, such as horses, cattle, hogs and chickens.  One winter about twenty horses were lost; they strayed away and started to go back to Cass Lake, where my grandfather first commenced a farm.  The horses came across a band of Indians and were all killed for food. – When I got to be old enough to see what was going on my father was trading with the Bois Forte bands of Chippewa Indians.  he used to go to Mackinaw annually to make his returns and buy goods for a year’s supply.”

This trading of the Roys with the Indians was done in commission from the American Fur Company; that is they were conducting one of the many trading posts of this Company.  What is peculiar is that they were evidently set up to defeat the hostile Hudson Bay Company, which had a post at Fort St. Francis, which was across the river, otherwise within sight.  Yet, the Roys appear to have managed things peaceably, going at pleasure to the Fort at which they sold the farm-products that were of no use to themselves.

 

II.  

LaPointe – School – Marriage

Grandfather Roy died and was buried on the farm in 1845.  Soon after, the family broke away from the old homestead and removed to LaPointe, where a boy had been placed at school already 6 or 7 years before.5

“About the year 1838 or 1839,” says Peter Roy,6 “my father took me down to LaPointe, it then being the headquarters of the American Fur Company.  He left me with my uncle Charles LaRose. (Mr. LaRose was married to his mother’s sister.)  At that time my uncle was United States interpreter for Daniel P. Bushnell, U.S. Indian Agent.  I went to the missionary school (presbyterian), which was under the charge of Rev. Sherman Hall.  Grenville T. Sprout was the teacher.”

1839 official register la pointe agency

Officers | Where employed | Where born | Compensation
~ “War Department – Indian Agencies,” Official Register of the United States, 1839

The family was acting on wise principles.  Where they lived church and school were things unknown and would remain such for yet an indefinite future.  The children were fast growing from under the care of their parents; yet, they were to be preserved to the faith and to civilization.  It was intended to come more in touch with either.  LaPointe was then a frontier-town situated on Madaline Island; opposite to what is now Bayfield Wis.  Here Father Baraga had from upwards ten years attended the spiritual wants of the place.

1843 view of La Pointe

“View of La Pointe,” circa 1842.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Our Vincent came, of course, along etc. etc. with the rest.  Here for the first time in his life, he came within reach of a school which he might have attended.  He was however pretty well past school age.  The fact is he did not get to see the inside of a school a ten months and may be, much less, as there is an opinion he became an employ for salary in 1845, which was the year of his arrival.7  But with his energy of will made up for lack of opportunity.  More than likely his grandfather taught him the first rudiments, upon which he kept on building up his store of knowledge by self-instruction.

‘At any spare moment,’ it is said,8 ‘he was sure to be at some place where he was least disturbed working at some problem or master some language lesson.  He acquired a good control of the English language; his native languages – French and Ojibway – were not neglected, & he nibbled even a little at Latin, applying the knowledge he acquired of that language in translating a few church hymns into his native Ojibway.  Studying turned into a habit of life with him.  When later on he had a store of his own, he drew the trade of the Scandinavians of that locality just because he had picked up quite a few words of their language.  Having heard a word he kept repeating it half loud to himself until he had it well fixed on his memory and the stock laid up in this manner he made use of in a jovial spirit as soon as often as an opportunity was open for it.’

"Boardwalk leading to St. Joseph's Catholic Church in La Pointe." Photograph by Whitney and Zimmerman, circa 1870. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Boardwalk leading to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in La Pointe.” Photograph by Whitney and Zimmerman, circa 1870.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

About three years after his coming to LaPointe, Vincent chose for his life’s companion Elisabeth Cournoyer.  The holy bond of matrimony between them was blessed by Reverend Otto Skolla in the LaPoint catholic church, August 13th, 1848.  They did not obtain the happiness to see children born to them.  Yet, they lived with each other nearly 48 years and looking back over those years there appears nothing which could not permit their marriage to be called a happy one.  Their home had a good ordinary measure of home sunshine in which, in a way, children came yet to do their share and have their part.

 

III.  

His occupation.

Vincent was employed in the interest of the fur trade with little intermission up to the forty third year of his life and thereafter until he retired from business he was engaged in keeping a general store.

“Lapointe was a quiet town in the early days and many Indians lived there. The government pay station was there and the Indians received certain monies from the government.”
The Austrians, a fine Jewish family, established a store and maintained a good Indian trade.”
“Knowing the Indians lack of providing for the future, the Austrians always laid in extra supplies for the winter and these were doled out when necessary.”
~ Tales of Bayfield Pioneers by Eleanor Knight, 2008.

Mr. and Mrs. Julius Austrian were among the first settlers. Splendid people they were and especially kind to the Indians. It was their custom to lay in extra supplies of flour and corn meal for they knew the Indians would be begging for them before the winter was over. On this particular occassion the winter had been extra cold and long. Food supplies were running low. The Indians were begging for food every day and it was hard to refuse them. The flour was used up and the corn meal nearly so. Still Mrs. Austrian would deal it out in small quantities. Finally they were down to the last sack, and then to the last panful. She gave the children half of this for their supper, but went to bed without tasting any herself. About midnight she was awakened by the cry of ‘Steamboat! Steamboat!’ And looking out the window she saw the lights of the North Star approaching the dock. She said that now she felt justified in going downstairs and eating the other half of the corn bread that was left.”
~ The Lake Superior Country in History and in Story by Guy M. Burnham, 1930, pg. 288.

It was but natural that Vincent turned to the occupation of his father and grandfather.  There was no other it may have appeared to him to choose.  He picked up what was lying in his way and did well with it.  From an early age he was his father’s right hand and business manager.9  No doubt, intelligent and clever, as he was, his father could find no more efficient help, who, at the same time, was always willing and ready to do his part.  Thus he grew up.  By the time the family migrated south, he was conversant with the drift of the indian trade knowing all its hooks and crooks; he spoke the language of the indians and had their confidence; he was swift a foot and enduring against the tear and wear in frontier life; and there was no question but that he would continue to be useful in frontier business.

Leopold and Austrian (Jews) doing a general merchandize and fur-trading business at LaPointe were not slow in recognizing ‘their man.’  Having given employment to Peter Roy, who by this time quit going to school, they also, within the first year of his arrival at this place, employed Vincent to serve as handy-man for all kind of things, but especially, to be near when indians from the woods were coming to trade, which was no infrequent occurrence.  After serving in that capacity about two years, and having married, he managed (from 1848 to 1852) a trading post for the same Leopold and Austrian;10 at first a season at Fond du Lac, Minn., then at Vermillion Lake, and finally again at Fond du Lac.11  Set up for the sole purpose to facilitate the exchange trade carried on with the indians, those trading-posts, nothing but log houses of rather limited pretensions, were nailed up for the spring and summer to be reopened in the fall.  Vincent regularly returned with his wife to LaPointe.  A part of the meantime was then devoted to fishing.12

A Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language, Explained in English was published by Bishop Frederic Baraga in 1853.

It was also in these years that Vincent spent a great deal of the time, which was at his disposal, with Father Frederic Baraga assisting him in getting up the books of the Ojibway language, which that zealous man has left.13

In the years which then followed Vincent passed through a variety of experience.

 

IV.  

His first Visit to Washington, D.C. – The Treaty of LaPointe.

Read Chief Buffalo Really Did Meet The President on Chequamegon History for more context about this trip.

At the insistence of Chief Buffalo and in his company Vincent made his first trip to Washington D.C.  It was in the spring of the year 1852. – Buffalo (Kechewaishke), head chief of the Lake Superior Ojibways had seen the day, when his people, according to indian estimation, was wealthy and powerful, but now he was old and his people sickly and starving poor.  Vincent referring once to the incidents of that time spoke about in this way:14

“He (Buffalo) and the other old men of the tribe, his advisors, saw quite well that things could not go on much longer in the way they had done.  The whites were crowding in upon them from all sides and the U.S. government said and did nothing.  It appeared to these indians their land might be taken from them without they ever getting anything for it.  They were scant of food and clothing and the annuities resulting from a sale of their land might keep them alive yet for a while.  The sire became loud that it might be tried to push the matter at Washington admitting that they had to give up the land but insisting they be paid for it.  Buffalo was willing to go but there was no one to go with him.  He asked me to go with him.  As I had no other business just then on hand I went along.”

Ashland, Wisconsin, is named in honor of Henry Clay’s Estate.

They went by way of the lakes.  Arriving at Washington, they found the City and the capitol in a barb of morning and business suspended.15  Henry Clay, the great statesman and orator, had died (June 29) and his body was lying in state.  Vincent said:

“we shook hands and spoke with the President (Fillmore) and with some of the headmen of the government.  They told us that they could not do anything at the moment, but that our petition should be attended to as soon as possible.  Unable to obtain any more, we looked around a few days and returned home”.

The trip had entailed a considerable drain on their private purses and the result towards the point at issue for them, the selling of the land of the indians, was not very apparent.

Henry C. Gilbert ~ Branch County Photographs

Henry C. Gilbert
~ Branch County Photographs

After repeated urging and an interval of over two years, during which Franklin Pierce had become President of the United States, the affairs of these Indians were at last taken up and dealt with at LaPointe by Henry C. Gilbert and David B. Herriman, commissioners on the part of the United States.  A treaty was concluded, September 30th, 1854.  The Lake Superior Ojibways thereby relinquished their last claims to the soil of northwest Michigan, north east Wisconsin and an adjoining part of Minnesota, and, whilst it was understood that the reserves, at L’Anse Michigan, Odanah, and Courte Oreille Wisconsin and Fond du Lac Minnesota, were set apart for them, they received in consideration of the rest the aggregate sum of about four hundred and seventy five thousand dollars, which, specified as to money and material, ran into twenty years rations.

Chief Buffalo, in consideration of services rendered, was allowed his choice of a section of land anywhere in the ceded terrain.

‘The choice he made,’ it is said,16 ‘were the heights of the city of Duluth; but never complying with the incident law formalities, it matters little that the land became the site of a city, his heirs never got the benefit of it.  Of Vincent who had been also of service to the indians from the first to the last of the deal, it can only be said that he remained not just without all benefit from it.’  

Julius Austrian‘s capitalization of the Mixed Blood clause from the 1854 Chippewa Treaty will be published on Chequamegon History.

A clause was inserted in the treaty (art. 2. n. 7.) 17 by which heads of families and single persons over twenty one years of age of mixed blood were each entitled to take and hold free of further charge eighty acres of the ceded lands.; – this overruled in a simple and direct way the difficulties Vincent had met with of late in trying to make good his claim to such a property.  The advantage here gained was however common to others with him.  For the sacrifices he made of time and money in going with Chief Buffalo to Washington he was not reimbursed, so it is believed, and it is very likely time, judging from what was the case when later on he made the same trip a second time.

 

V.  

The small-pox.

During the two years the Lake Superior indians waited for the United States to settle their claims, important events transpired in which Vincent took part.  In the fall of 1853 those indians were visited by the smallpox which took an epidemic run among them during the following winter.  The first case of that disease appeared in the Roy family and it is made a circumstance somewhat interesting in the way it is given.18  Vincent and his oldest brother John B. were on some business to Madison, Wisconsin.  Returning they went around by way of St. Paul Minnesota to see their brother Peter Roy who was at the time acting representative of a northern district, at the Minnesota territorial legislation which had then, as it seems, convened in extra session.  On the evening previous to their departure from St. Paul, John B. paid a short visit to a family he knew from Madaline Island.  In the house in which that family lived a girl had died about a year before of small-pox, but no one was sick there now at the time of the visit.  If John B.’s subsequent sickness should have to be attributed to infection, it was certainly a peculiar case.  The two brothers started home going by way of Taylor’s Falls, up the St. Croix river on the Wisconsin side, till Yellow Lake river, then through the woods to what is now Bayfield where they crossed over to Madaline Island.  John B. began feeling sick the second day of the journey.  Vincent remembered ever after the anxiety which he experienced on that homeward journey.19  It costed him every effort to keep the energies of his brother aroused.  Had the same been allowed to rest as he desired he had inevitably perished in the woods.  All strengths was however spent and the sick man lay helpless when the boat which carried them from the mainland touched Madaline Island.  Willing hands lifted him from the boat and carried him to his house.  His sickness developed into a severe case of small-pox of which he finally recovered.  The indians of whom the settlement was chiefly made up did not as yet understand the character of that disease which was all the more dangerous with them for their exposed way of living.  Before they were aware of it they were infected.  General sickness soon prevailed.  Deaths followed.  Some fled in dismay from the settlement, but it may be said only to carry the angel of death to other habitations and to die after all.

Several members of the Roy family were laid up with the sickness, none of them died though.20  Vincent had been in close contact with his brother while yet on the road and had been more than any attending his brother and other members of the family in their sickness, yet he passed through the ordeal unscathed.  The visitation cased with the return of spring.

 

VI.  

Superior.

Vincent had barely emerged from the trouble just described when it was necessary for him to exert himself in another direction.  A year or so previously he had taken up a claim of land at the headwaters of Lake Superior and there was improvement now on foot for that part of the country, and danger for his interests.21

Vincent Roy Jr. storage building, circa 1933. The following is a statement by John A. Bardon of Superior accompanying the photography, "Small storehouse building erected by the late Vincent Roy at Old Superior. The timbers are 4' x 8'. After the one mile dike across Superior Bay had served its purpose, it was allowed to gradually go to pieces. The timbers floating in the Bay for a while were a menace to navigation. You would find them drifting when least expected. The U.S. War Department caused the building of this dike from the end of Rice's Point, straight across to Minnesota Point to prevent the waters of the St. Louis River being diverted from the natural entry at Superior, to the newly dug canal, across Minnesota Point in Duluth. The contention was that, if the waters of the St. Louis were diverted, the natural entrance at Superior would become shoaled from lack of the rivers scouring current. However, when the piers were extended into 18 feet of water at both the old entrance and the Duluth Canal, it was found that the currents of the river had no serious effect. The dike was never popular and was always in the way of the traffic between Superior and Duluth. Several openings were made in it to allow the passage of smaller boats. It was finally condemned by the Government Engineers as a menace to navigation. This all happened in the early 70's. This building is now the only authentic evidence of the dike. It is owned by the Superior and Douglas County Historical Society. The writer is the man in the picture." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Vincent Roy Jr. storage building, circa 1933.
The following is a statement by John A. Bardon of Superior accompanying the photography, “Small storehouse building erected by the late Vincent Roy [Jr] at Old Superior. The timbers are 4′ x 8′. After the one mile dike across Superior Bay had served its purpose, it was allowed to gradually go to pieces. The timbers floating in the Bay for a while were a menace to navigation. You would find them drifting when least expected. The U.S. War Department caused the building of this dike from the end of Rice’s Point, straight across to Minnesota Point to prevent the waters of the St. Louis River being diverted from the natural entry at Superior, to the newly dug canal, across Minnesota Point in Duluth. The contention was that, if the waters of the St. Louis were diverted, the natural entrance at Superior would become shoaled from lack of the rivers scouring current. However, when the piers were extended into 18 feet of water at both the old entrance and the Duluth Canal, it was found that the currents of the river had no serious effect. The dike was never popular and was always in the way of the traffic between Superior and Duluth. Several openings were made in it to allow the passage of smaller boats. It was finally condemned by the Government Engineers as a menace to navigation. This all happened in the early 70’s. This building is now the only authentic evidence of the dike. It is owned by the Superior and Douglas County Historical Society. The writer is the man in the picture.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Detail of Superior City townsite at the head of Lake Superior from 1854 Plat Map of Township 49 North Range 14 West.

Read more about Vincent Roy, Jr.’s town-site at Superior City here on Chequamegon History.

The ship canal at Sault St Marie was in course of construction and it was evidently but a question of days that boats afloat on Lakes Huron and Michigan would be able to run up and unload their cargo for regions further inland somewhere on the shore at the further end of Lake Superior, at which a place, no doubt, a city would be built.  The place now occupied by the city of Superior was suitable for the purposes in view but to set it in order and to own the greatest possible part of it, had become all at the same time the cherished idea of too many different elements as that developments could go on smoothly.  Three independent crews were struggling to establish themselves at the lower or east end of the bay when a fourth crew approached at the upper or west end, with which Vincent, his brother Frank, and others of LaPointe had joined in.22  As this crew went directly to and began operations at the place where Vincent had his property it seems to have been guided by him, though it was in reality under the leadership of Wm. Nettleton who was backed by Hon. Henry M. Rice of St. Paul.23  Without delay the party set to work surveying the land and “improving” each claim, as soon as it was marked off, by building some kind of a log-house upon it.  The hewing of timber may have attracted the attention of the other crews at the lower end about two or three miles off, as they came up about noon to see what was going on. The parties met about halfway down the bay at a place where a small creek winds its way through a rugged ravine and falls into the bay.  Prospects were anything but pleasant at first at the meeting; for a time it seemed that a battle was to be fought, which however did not take place but the parceling out of ‘claims’ was for the time being suspended.  This was in March or April 1854.  Hereafter some transacting went on back the curtain, and before long it came out that the interests of the town-site of Superior, as far as necessary for efficient action, were united into a land company of which public and prominent view of New York, Washington, D.C. and other places east of the Mississippi river were the stockholders.  Such interests as were not represented in the company were satisfied which meant for some of them that they were set aside for deficiency of right or title to a consideration.  The townsite of the Superior of those days was laid out on both sides of the Nemadji river about two or three miles into the country with a base along the water edge about half way up Superior bay, so that Vincent with his property at the upper end of the bay, was pretty well out of the way of the land company, but there were an way such as thought his land a desirable thing and they contested his title in spite of his holding it already for a considerable time.  An argument on hand in those days was, that persons of mixed blood were incapable of making a legal claim of land.  The assertion looks more like a bugaboo invented for the purpose to get rid of persons in the way than something founded upon law and reason, yet at that time some effect was obtained with it.  Vincent managed, however, to ward off all intrusion upon his property, holding it under every possible title, ‘preemption’ etc., until the treaty of LaPointe in the following September, when it was settled upon his name by title of United States scrip so called, that is by reason of the clause,as said above, entered into the second article of that treaty.

The subsequent fate of the piece of land here in question was that Vincent held it through the varying fortune of the ‘head of the lake’ for a period of about thirty six years until it had greatly risen in value, and when the west end was getting pretty much the more important complex of Superior, an English syndicate paid the sum of twenty five thousand dollars, of which was then embodied in a tract afterwards known as “Roy’s Addition”.

 

VII.

– On his farm – in a bivonac – on the ice.

Superior was now the place of Vincent’s home and continued to be it for the remaining time of his life.  The original ‘claim’ shanty made room for a better kind of cover to which of course the circumstances of time, place, and means had still prescribed the outlines.24  Yet Vincent is credited with the talent of making a snug home with little.  His own and his wife’s parents came to live with him.  One day the three families being all seated around a well filled holy-day table, the sense of comfort called forth a remark of Vincent’s mother to her husband:25

“Do you remember, man,” she said, “how you made our Vincent frequently eat his meals on the ground apart from the family-table; now see the way he repays you; there is none of the rest of the children that could offer us as much and would do it in the way he does.”

It was during this time of his farming that Vincent spent his first outdoor night all alone and he never forgot it.26  It was about June.  Spring had just clothed the trees with their full new foliage.  Vincent was taking a run down to Hudson, Wisconsin, walking along the military wagon road which lead from Superior to St. Paul.  Night was lowering when he came to Kettle river.  Just above the slope he perceived a big bushy cedar tree with its dense branches like an inscrutable pyramid set off before the evening light and he was quickly resolved to have his night’s quarters underneath it.  Branches and dry leaves being gathered for a bed, his frugal meal taken he rolled up in the blanket carried along for such purposes, and invited sleep to come and refresh his fatigued mortality.  Little birds in the underbrush along the bank had twittered lower and lower until they slept, the frogs were bringing their concert to a close, the pines and cedars and sparse hardwood of the forest around were quiet, the night air was barely moving a twig; Vincent was just beginning to forget the world about him, when his awakening was brought on upon a sudden.  An unearthly din was filling the air about him.  As quick as he could extricate himself from his blanket, he jumped to his feet.  If ever his hair stood up on end, it did it now; he trembled from head to foot.  His first thoughts as he afterwards said, were, that a band of blood-thirsty savages had discovered his whereabouts and were on the point to dispatch him.  In a few moments, everything around was again dead silence.  He waited, but he heard nothing save the beating of his own heart.  He had no other weapon than a muzzle-loaded pistol which he held ready for his defense.  Nothing coming in upon him, he walked cautiously from under his shelter, watching everything which might reveal a danger.  He observed nothing extraordinary.  Facing about he viewed the tree under which he had tried to sleep.  There! – from near the top of that same tree now, as if it had waited to take in the effect of its freak and to ridicule all his excitement, a screeching owl lazily took wing and disappeared in the night.  The screeching of this bird with its echo in the dead of night multiplied a hundred times by an imagination yet confused from sleep had been the sole cause of disturbance.  Vincent used to say that never in his life he had been so upset as on this night and though all had cleared up as a false alarm, he had had but little sleep when at daybreak he resumed his journey.

Another adventure Vincent had in one of these years on the ice of Lake Superior.27  All the family young and old had been on Bass Island near Bayfield for the purpose of making maple-sugar.  That meant, they had been some three weeks in March-April at work gathering day and night the sap tapped from maple-trees and boiling down to a mass which they stored in birch bark boxed of fifty to hundred and fifty pounds each.  At the end of the season Vincent got his horse and sleigh and put aboard the product of his work, himself, his wife and two young persons, relatives of his wife, followed; they were going home to Superior on the ice of the lake along the shore.  When they came however towards Siskowit bay, instead of following the circuit of the shore, they made directly for Bark Point, which they saw standing out before them.  This brought them out on a pretty big field of ice and the ice was not to be trusted so late in spring as it was now.  Being almost coming in upon the point they all at once noticed the ice to be moving from shore – a split was just crossing through ahead of them.  No time was to be lost.  With a providential presence of mind, Vincent whipped his horse, which seemed to understand the peril of the situation; with all the speed it could gather up in a few paces it jumped across the gap.  The sleigh shooting over the open water struck the further ice edge with a thump yet without harm  – they were safe.

By pressure of other ice wedging in at a distance or from the hold which wind and wave get upon it, a considerable area of ice may, sometimes in spring, break loose with a report as that of a cannon and glide apart some ten feet right out upon the start.  That it happened different this time and that our travelers did not drift out into the lake with a cake of ice however large yet, any thawing away or breaking up under them, was their very good fortune.

 

 VIII.

– Superior’s short-lived prosperity – V. at his old profession – a memorable tour.

Built circa 1857, photographed circa 1930. "The trading post was owned by Vincent Roy. The Roy family was prominent in the early history of the Superior area. The father, Frank Roy, and the sons, Vincent and Peter, signed the 1854 treaty." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Built circa 1857, photographed circa 1930.
“The trading post was owned by Vincent Roy [Jr]. The Roy family was prominent in the early history of the Superior area.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Vincent was too near Superior as not to feel the pulsation of her life and to enter into the joys and sorrows of already her infant days.28  The place had fast donned the appearance of a city; streets were graded, lines of buildings were standing, trades were at work.  Indeed, a printing office was putting out at convenient intervals printed matter for the benefit of the commonwealth at home and abroad; then was a transfer of real-estate going on averaging some thousand dollars a week, town lots selling at two to three hundred dollars each; and several stores of general merchandise were doing business.

The scarcity of provision the first winter was but an incident, the last boat which was to complete the supply being lost in a gale.  It did not come to severe suffering and great was the joy, when a boat turned up in spring especially early.

In short, the general outlook had great hopes on the wing for the place, but its misgivings came.  Its life blood ceased to flow in the financial crisis of September 1857, as the capital which had pushed it was no more forthcoming.  It was a regular nor’easter that blew down the young plant, not killing it outright but stunting its growth for many, many years to come.  The place settled down to a mere village of some hundred inhabitants, doing duty of course as county seat but that was not saying much as the whites stood in that part of the country all the way to pretty well up in the eighties.

~ Superior Chronicle, July 7th, 1860.

~ The Superior Chronicle, July 7th, 1860.

About 1856 Vincent embarked again in the profession of his youth, the fur trade.  Alexander Paul who did business in “The Superior Outfit” on Second Street, engaged his services.  After a few years the business passed into the hands of Peter E. Bradshaw; which however did not interfere with Vincent.  He was required to give all his attention to fur and peltry; first to getting them in, then to sorting them and tending to them until they were set off in the east.  His employers had trading posts along the north shore at Grand Marais and Grant Portage, about the border line at the Lakes Basswood, Vermillion and Rainy, then at Lower Red Lake, at Mud Lake east of Leech Lake and at Cross Lake about thirty miles north of Crow Wing Minnesota.  A tour of inspection of these posts was necessary on the average in the fall to see what was needed to be sent out, and in the spring to get home the peltries which had been obtained.29  One tour in which Vincent, Mr. P Bradshaw, Francis Blair, and one or two others, made up the party, was regarded especially memorable.  It was undertaken early in spring, perhaps in February since the calculation was to find brook and lake yet passable on the ice.  The party set out with the usual train of three dogs harnessed to a toboggan which carried as long as the dogs did not give out, the most necessary luggage; to wit, a blanket for each the men to roll up in at night and the supply of food consisting in a packet of cornmeal with a proportionate amount of tallow for the dogs and bacon for the men to add, the Canadian snowshoes being carried in hand any way as long and wherever they would be but an incumbrance to the feet.  Their way led them along the wagon road to Kettle river, then across the country passing Mille lac Lake to Crow Wing, then northward to touch their posts of Cross and Mud Lake, moving nearly always on the ice in that region of lakes in which the Mississippi has its beginning.  After leaving the Mud Lake post a swamp of more than a day in crossing was to be traversed to reach the Red Lake post.  They were taking the usual trail but this time they were meeting more than usual inconvenience.  They had been having a few days soft weather and here where the water would not run off they found themselves walking knee-deep in the slush, to increase their annoyance it set in drizzling.  Still they trudged along till about mid-afternoon when they halted.  The heavens scowling down in a gray threatening way, all around snow, from which looked forth, an occasional tuft of swamp grass, otherwise shrubby browse with only at places dwarfed pine and tamarack, were sticks of an arm’s thickness and but thinly scattered, they were in dread of the night and what it might bring them in such dismal surrounding.  They were to have a fire and to make sure of it, they now began to gather sticks at a place when they were to be had, until they had a heap which they thought would enable them to keep up a fire till morning.  The next thing and not an easy one was to build a fire.  They could not proceed on their usual plan of scraping away the snow and set it up around as a fortification against the cold air, it would have been opening here a pit of clear water.  So they began throwing down layers of sticks across each other until the pile stood in pierform above water and snow and furnished a fire-place.  Around the fire they built a platform of browse-wood and grass for themselves to lie upon.  But the fire would not burn well and the men lay too much exposed.  Luckily the heavens remained clouded, which kept up the temperature.  A severe cold night easily have had serious results in those circumstances.  The party passed a very miserable night, but it took an end, and no one carried any immediate harm from it.

Next morning, the party pushed forward on its way and without further adventure reached the Red Lake post.  Thence they worked their way upwards to the Lake of the Woods, then down the Rainy Lake River and along Rainy Lake, up Crane Lake, to Pelican Lake, and finally across Vermillion Lake to the Vermillion post, about the spot where Tower, Minn. now stands.  Thence back to Superior, following the water courses, chiefly the St. Louis river.  The distance traveled, if it is taken in a somewhat straight line, is from five to six hundred miles, but for the party it must have been more judging from the meandering way it went from lake to lake and along the course of streams.  That tour Messrs. Bradshaw required for their business, twice a year; once in the winter, to gather in the crops of furs of the year and again in the fall to furnish the posts with provision and stock in trade and the managing there lay chiefly upon Mr. Roy.  As to the hardships on these tours, dint of habit went far to help them endure them.  Thus Mr. Bradshaw remarked yet in 1897 – he did not remember that he or any of his employees out on a trip, in the winter, in the open air, day and night, ever they had to be careful or they get a cold then.

“As any who have tried snowshoes will know, there is a trick to using them. The novice will spread his legs to keep the snowshoes from scraping each other, but this awkward position, like attempting too great a distance before conditioning oneself to the strain, will cause lameness. Such invalids, the old voyageur type would say, suffer fromMal de raquette.’
~ Forest & Outdoors, Volume 42, by the Canadian Forestry Assocation, 1946, page 380.

Not infrequently a man’s ingenuity came into action and helped to overcome a difficulty.  An instance in case happened on the above or a similar tour.  Somewhere back of Fond du Lac, Minn, notwithstanding the fact that they were approaching home, one of the men declared himself incapable of traveling any longer, being afflicted most severely with what the “courreurs du bois” called “mal de la raquette.”  This was a trouble consequent to long walks on snow shoes.  The weight and continual friction of the snow-shoe on the forefoot would wear this so much that blood oozed from it and cramps in foot and leg set in.  In this unpleasant predicament, the man was undismayed, he advised his companions to proceed and leave him to his fate, as he would still find means to take care of himself.  So he was left.  After about a week some anxiety was felt about the man and a search-party set out to hunt him up.  Arriving at his whereabouts, they found their man in somewhat comfortable circumstances, he had built for himself a hut of the boughs of trees and dry grass and have lived on rabbits which he managed to get without a gun.  So far from being in need of assistance, he was now in a condition to bestow such for it being about noon and a rabbit on the fire being about ready to be served he invited his would-be-rescuers to dinner and after he had regaled them in the best manner circumstances permitted, he returned home with them all in good spirits.

The following incidents shows how Mr. Roy met an exigency.  Once at night-fall he and the men had pitched for a night’s stay and made preparations for supper.  No game or fish was at hand.  A brook flowed near by but there was nothing in the possession of the crew to catch a fish with.  But Roy was bent upon making the anyway scant fare more savory with a supply of fish, if it could be.  Whilst the rest made a fire, he absented himself and in a very short time he returned with a couple of fish fresh from the water and sufficiently large to furnish a dish for all.  He had managed to get them out from the brook with no other contrivance than the forked twig of a tree.

The following trip of Mr. Roy is remembered for the humorous incidents to which it gave occasion.  One summer day probably in August and in the sixties, a tourist party turned up at Superior.  It consisted of two gentlemen with wives and daughters, some six or seven persons.  They were from the east, probably New York and it was fairly understood that it was the ambition of the ladies to pose as heroines, that had made a tour through the wild west and had seen the wild indian in his own country.  The Bradshaws being under some obligation to these strangers detailed Roy and a few oarsmen to take them by boat along the north shore to Fort William, where they could take passage on a steamer for the continuation of their journey.

Now the story goes that Roy sent word ahead to some family at Grand Marais, Minn. or thereabouts that his crew would make a stop at their house.  The unusual news, however, spread and long before Roy’s boat came in sight, not only the family, which was to furnish hospitality, was getting ready, but also their friends; men, women and children, in quite a number, had come gathering in from the woods, each ready for something, if no more, at least to show their wild indian faces.

Maple sugar in a birch bark container. ~ Minnesota Historical Society

Maple sugar in a birch bark container.
~ Minnesota Historical Society

When Roy and the gentlemen and ladies in his custody had arrived and were seated at table, the women and girls busied themselves in some way or another in order to make sure not to miss seeing, what was going on, above all how the strange ladies would behave at table.  The Indian woman, who had set the table, had put salt on it – simply enough it is said for the boiled eggs served; – but what was peculiar, was that the salt was not put in salt-dishes, but in a coffee cup or bowl.  If sugar was on the table, it was maple-sugar, which any Indian of the country could distinguish from salt, but the ladies at the table were not so versed in the customs of the country through which they were travelling, they mistaking the salt for sugar, reached for it and put a tea-spoonful of it into their tea or coffee.  A ripple of surprise ran over the numerous spectators, the features of the older ones relaxing somewhat from their habitual rigor and a half-suppressed titter of the younger being heard – possibly in their judgement, the strange ladies of the city in the east were the less civilized there.  In fact, the occurrence was never forgotten by those who witnessed it.

Proceeding on their journey, one night Roy and those in his custody had not been able to take their night’s rest at a human habitation and had chanced to pitch their tents on a high embankment of the lake.  During the night the wind arose and blew a gale from the lake, so strong that the pegs of the tents, in which the ladies were lodged, pulled up and the canvass blew away.  When the ladies were thus on a sudden aroused from sleep and without a tent out in the storm they screamed for their life for Roy to come to their aid.  The men helped along with Roy to set up the tent again.  Roy often afterwards amusingly referred to this that the ladies had not screamed for their husbands or fathers, but for Roy.  The ladies gave later on their reasons for acting thus.  Not knowing the real cause of what was transpiring, they in their freight thought the wild Indians were now indeed upon them that they were on the point of being carried off into the woods.  In such a peril they of course thought of Roy as the only one who could rescue them.  After the excitement things were soon explained and set aright and the ladies with their husbands and fathers arrived safely at Fort William and took passage in due season on an east-bound steamer.

A Friend of Roy.

 


 

Sources of Inform:tion

boyz

“Top: Frank Roy, Vincent Roy, E. Roussin, Old Frank D.o., Bottom: Peter Roy, Jos. Gourneau (Gurnoe), D. Geo. Morrison.” The photo is labelled Chippewa Treaty in Washington 1845 by the St. Louis Hist. Lib and Douglas County Museum, but if it is in fact in Washington, it was probably the Bois Forte Treaty of 1866, where these men acted as conductors and interpreters (Digitized by Mary E. Carlson for The Sawmill Community at Roy’s Point).

1 His journal and folks.

2 Pet. Roy’s sketch.

3 Mr. Roy to V.

4 P. R.’s sketch

5 Mr. Geo. Morrison says, the place was in those days always called Madelaine Island.

~ The Superior Chronicle, July 7, 1860.

~ The Superior Chronicle, July 7, 1860.

6 P. Roy’s sketch.

7 His wife.

8 His folks.

9 Cournoyer.

10 Mrs. Roy.

11 See foot-note.

12 Mrs. Roy.

13 Fr. Eustachius said smthng to this effect.

14 Mr. Roy to V.

15 Cournoyer or Mr. Roy to V.

16 Cournoyer.

17 The Treaty doc.t

18 by Geo. Morrison & others.

19 Mr. Roy to V.

20 The family.

21 Mr. Roy to V.

22 Mr. Roy to V.

23 History of Superior as to the substce.

Vincent Cournoyer was Vincent Roy Jr’s brother-in-law.  The Roy brothers, Cournoyer, Morrison, and La Fave were all Mixed-Blood members of the Lake Superior Chippewa, and elected officials in Douglas County, Wisconsin.

24 The family.

25 Cournoyer.

26 Mr Roy to V. – His family also.

27 Mr. Roy to V. – His family also.

28 History aS subst.e

29 Mr. J. Bradshaw and J. La Fave.

 


 

Father Valentine wishes his name to be suppressed in this communication and hence signs himself as above: “A Friend of Roy.”

Fr. Chrysostom Verwyst O.F.M.

 

Reverend Chrysostome Verwyst

Reverend Chrysostome Verwyst, circa 1918. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Rev. Leonard Hemenway Wheeler 1811-1872 (Photo:  In Unnamed Wisconsin)

Bob Nelson recently contacted me with a treasure he transcribed from an 1872 copy of the Bayfield Press.  For those who don’t know, Mr. Nelson is one of the top amateur historians in the Chequamegon area.  He is on the board of the Bayfield Heritage Association, chairman of the Apostle Islands Historic Preservation Conservancy, and has extensively researched the history of Bayfield and the surrounding area.  

The document itself is the obituary of Leonard Wheeler, the Congregational-Presbyterian minister who came to La Pointe as a missionary in 1841.  Over the next quarter-century, spent mostly at Odanah where he founded the Protestant Mission, he found himself in the middle of the rapid social and political changes occurring in this area.  

Generally, my impression of the missionaries has always tended to be negative.  While we should always judge historical figures in the context of the times they lived in, to me there is something inherently arrogant and wrong with going among an unfamiliar culture and telling people their most-sacred beliefs are wrong.  The Protestant missionaries, especially, who tended to demand conversion to white-American values along with conversion to Christianity, generally come off as especially hateful and racist in their writings on the Ojibwe and mix-blooded families of this area.  

Leonard Wheeler, however, is one of my historical heroes.  It’s true that he was like his colleagues Sherman Hall, William T. Boutwell, and Edmund Ely, in believing that practitioners of the Midewiwin and Catholicism were doomed to a fiery hell.  He also believed in the superiority of white culture and education.  However, in his writings, these beliefs don’t seem to diminish his acceptance of his Ojibwe neighbors as fellow human beings.  This is something that isn’t always clear in the writings of the other missionaries.  

Furthermore, Wheeler is someone who more than once stood up for justice and against corruption even when it brought him powerful enemies and endangered his health and safety.  For this, he earned the friendship of some of the  staunchest traditionalists among the Bad River leadership.  He relocated to Beloit by the end of his life, but I am sure that Wheeler’s death in 1872 brought great sadness to many of the older residents of the Chequamegon Bay region and would have been seen as a significant event. 

Therefore, I am very thankful to Bob Nelson for the opportunity to present this important document:      

 

Reverend Leonard H. Wheeler
Missionary to the Ojibway

From the Beloit Free Press
Entered in the Bayfield Press
March 23, 1872

 

The recent death of Reverend Leonard H. Wheeler, for twenty-five years missionary to the Ojibway Indians on Lake Superior and for the last five and one half years a resident of Beloit, Wisconsin and known to many through his church and business relations, seems to call for some notice of his life and character through your paper.

Mr. Wheeler was born at Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, April 13, 1811. His mother dying during his infancy, he was left in charge of an aunt who with his father soon afterward removed to Bridgeport, Vermont, where the father still lives. At the age 17 he went first from home to reside with an uncle at Middlebury, Vermont. Here he was converted into the church in advance of both his father and uncle. His conversion was of so marked a character and was the occasion of such an awakening and putting forth of his mental and spiritual facilities that he and his friends soon began to think of the ministry as an appropriate calling. With this in view he entered Middlebury College in 1832, and soon found a home in the family of a Christian lady with whom he continued to reside until his graduation. For the kindly and elevating influences of that home and for the love that followed him afterwards, as if he had been a son, he was ever grateful. After his graduation he taught for a year or two before entering the theological seminary at Andover.

The wave of evangelical fervor that swept New England in this era, often called the Second Great Awakening, was very much tied to abolitionism, temperance, women’s suffrage, and other reform movements along with foreign and domestic mission work. 

During his theological course the marked traits of character were developed which seem to have determined his future course. One was a deep sympathy with the wronged and oppressed; the other was conscious carefulness in settling his convictions and an un-calculating and unswerving firmness (under a gentle and quiet manner) in following such ripened convictions. These made him a staunch but a fanatical advocate of the enslaved, long before anti-slavery sentiments became popular. And thus was he moved to offer his services as a missionary to the Indians – relinquishing for that purpose his original plan to go on a mission to Ceylon. The turning point of his decision seems to have been the fact that for the service abroad men could readily be found, while few or none offer themselves to the more self-denying and unromantic business of civilizing and Christianizing the wild men within our own borders.

Harriet Wood Wheeler much later in life (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Reverend Wheeler found in Ms. Harriet Woods, of Lowell, Massachusetts, the spirit kindred with his own in these self-denying purposes and labors of love. There married on April 26, 1841, and June of that year they set out, and in August arrived at La Pointe – a fur trading post on Madeline Island in Lake Superior. They spent four years in learning the Ojibway language, in preaching and teaching, and in caring for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Indians and half-breeds at that station. Their fur trading friends held out many inducements to remain at La Pointe but having become fully satisfied that the civilizing of the Indians required their removal to someplace where they might obtain lands and homes of their own; the Wheelers secured their removal to Odanah on the Bad River. Here the humble and slowly rewarded labors of the island were renewed with increased energy and hopefulness, and continued without serious interruption for seven years. Then, the white man’s greed, which has often dictated the policy of the government toward the Indians, and oftener defeated its wise and liberal intentions, clamored for their second removal to the Red Lake region, in Minnesota, and by forged petitions and misrepresentation, an order to this effect was obtained.

Wheeler was a strong opponent of what he perceived as the “Indian Ring,” a corrupt alliance of traders and government officials who exploited to inflow of money during annuity payments.  The details of the obituary are off in places (Red Lake should be Sandy Lake), but it is accurate to say that Wheeler spoke out strongly for both fair interpretation of the treaties and for Ojibwe land rights after the Sandy Lake Tragedy (1850-51) and after the Treaty of 1854.

Mr. Wheeler’s spirit was stirred within him by these iniquitous proceedings, and he set himself calmly but resolutely to work to defeat the measure, even after it had been so far consummated. To make sure of his ground he explored the Red Lake region during the heat of midsummer. Becoming fully satisfied with the temptations to intemperance and other evil thereof, bonding would prove the room of this people. He made such strong and truthful representations of this matter (not without hazards to himself and his family) that the order was at last revoked. But the agitation and delays thus occasioned proved well nigh the ruin of the mission. For two years Mr. Wheeler without help from government, stood between his people and absolute starvation; and had at last the satisfaction of knowing that his course was fully approved. The year 1858 found the mission and Odanah almost prostrate again by unusual labors. Mrs. Wheeler was compelled by order of her physician to return to her eastern home for indispensable rest. Mr. Wheeler, worn by superintending the erection of buildings in addition to his preaching four times on the Sabbath and in other necessary cares and labors, also undertook a journey to the east to bring back his family and partly as a measure of relief to himself.

He started in March on snowshoes and traveled nearly 200 miles in that way. On his way he fell in with the band of Indians whose lands were about to be sold in violation of solemn treaties. He undertook their case and did not abandon it, yet visited Washington and obtained justice in their behalf. He reached Lowell, Massachusetts on his return from Washington, worn in body and mind, and with the severe cold firmly settled on his lungs. Trusting to an iron constitution to right it, he kept on preaching and visiting among his eastern friends. He then set out to return to his beloved people and his eastern home, trusting to find in a quiet journey by water the rest which had now become imperative. But he was not thus to be relieved. Soon after reaching home he was taken with violent hemorrhage and was ever after this a broken man.

Once again he asked to be relieved and a stronger man be sent in his place. But this was not done, and he continued to struggle on doing what he could until the fall of 1866, when the boarding school – which had been his right hand – was denied further support from the government. Mr. Wheeler’s strength not being equal to the task of obtaining for its support from other quarters, he retired from the mission, and he, with his family became residents of Beloit, and for these five years and more he has bravely battled with disease, and, for a sick man, has led a happy and withal useful life.

“ECLIPSE BELOIT:” Originally invented for the Odanah mission, Rev. Wheeler’s patent on the Eclipse Windmill brought wealth to his descendants (Wikimedia Images).

Mr. Wheeler had by nature something of that capacity for being self-reliant and patient, continuous thoughts which marks the inventor. Thrown upon his own resources for as much, and in need of a mill for grinding, he devised, while in his mission, a windmill for that purpose with improvements of his own. Unable to speak or preach as he was when he came among us, and incapacitated for continuous manual laborers, he busied himself with making drawings and a model of his previous invention. He obtained a patent, and with the aid of friends here began the manufacture of windmills. Thus has the sick man proved one of our most useful citizens, and established a business which we hope will do credit to his ingenuity and energy and be a source of substantial advantage to his family in the place.

Debilitated by the heat of last summer he took a journey to the east in September for his health, and to visit their aged parents. His health was for a time improved, but soon after his return hemorrhages began to appear, and after a long and trying sickness, borne with great cheerfulness and Christian resignation, he went to his rest on the Sabbath, February 25, 1872. During the delirium of his disease, and in his clear hours, his thoughts were much occupied with his former missionary cares and labors. Doing well to that people was evidently his ruling passion. It was a great joy in his last sickness to get news from there, to know that the boarding school had been revived and then some whom he had long worn upon his heart had become converts to Christ.

Thus has passed away one whose death will be severely limited by the people for whom he gave his life and whom he longed once more to visit. It will add not a little to the pleasure and richness of life’s recollections that we have known so true a fair and good a man. While we cherish his memory and follow his family with affectionate sympathy for his sake in their own, let us not overlook the simple faith, the utter integrity and soundness of soul which one for him such unbounded confidence from us and from all who knew him, and gave to his character so much gentleness blended with so much dignity and strength. He was an Israelite, indeed in who was no guile, a Nathaniel, given of God, prepared in a crystalline medium through which the light from heaven freely passed to gladden and to bless.

For more on Rev. Leonard Wheeler on this site, check out the People Index, or the Wheeler Papers category.   

Leonard Wheeler’s original correspondence, journals, legal documents and manuscripts can be found in the Wheeler Family Papers at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.

The book In Unnamed Wisconsin (1895) contains several incidents from Wheeler’s time at La Pointe and Odanah from the original writings of his widow, Harriet Wood Wheeler.

Finally, the article White Boy Grew Up Among the Chippewas from the Milwaukee Journal in 1931 is a nice companion to this obituary.  The article, about Wheeler’s son William, sheds unique insight on what it was like to grow up as the child of a missionary.  This article exists transcribed on the internet because of the efforts of Timm Severud, the outstanding amateur historian of the Barron County area. This is just one of many great stories uncovered by Mr. Severud, who passed away in 2010 at age 55.    

 

By Leo Filipczak

When we last checked in with Joseph Austrian, or Doodooshaaboo (milk) as he was known in these parts, we saw some interesting stories and insights about La Pointe in 1851.  The later La Pointe stories, however, are where the really good stuff is.

Austrian’s brief stay on the island came at arguably one of the most important periods in our area’s history, spanning from a few months after the Sandy Lake Tragedy, until just after Chief Buffalo’s return from Washington D.C.  Whether young Joseph realized it or not, he recorded some valuable history.  In his memoir, we see information about white settlement and land speculation prior to the Treaty of 1854, as well as corroborating accounts of the La Pointe and Bayfield stories found in the works of Carl Scherzer and Benjamin Armstrong.

Most importantly, there is a dramatic scene of a showdown between the Lake Superior chiefs and Agent John Watrous, one of the architects of the Sandy Lake removal.  In this, we are privileged to read the most direct and succinct condemnation of the government, I’ve ever seen from Chief Buffalo.  It is a statement that probably deserves to be memorialized alongside Flat Mouth’s scathing letter to Governor Ramsey.    

So, without further ado, here is the second and final installment of Joseph Austrian’s memoirs of La Pointe, and fifth of this series.  Enjoy:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   

 

Memoirs of Doodooshaboo

… continued from La Pointe 1851-1852 (Part 1).

 

Scherzer, Noted Traveller Pays Us a Visit.  1851.

Carl Scherzer and his companion Moritz Wagner recorded their travels in Reisen in Nordamerkia in der Jahren 1852 und 1853.  An e-translation of Chapter 21 appeared in English for the first time this fall on the Chequamegon History website.  You can read it here, here, and here.  The second installment records his time with Joseph Austrian.  From Austrian’s account, it appears Wagner did not accompany Scherzer through the Lake Superior country.  (Wikimedia Images)

During this summer a noted Austrian traveler Carl Scherzer arrived one Sept. night.  He had been commissioned by the “Academy of Science” of Vienna (a Government Institution) to make a tour of America to familiarize himself with the country and gather information to write a book for the Academy. This interesting book which he wrote is called “Scherzer’s Reisen.”  Mr. S. sent me a copy of this book which I have in my library.  In this book, mention is made of me and my cordial reception of him and his travelling companion, an Attache of the French Legation of Washington who accompanied him on his trip.  Scherzer was a highly educated gentleman, cultured and charming, tall and of imposing appearance.  Scherzer arrived at La Pointe at midnight coming from Ontonagan 90 miles in a small row boat.  To his dismay, he found that there was not a hotel in the place.  The boatman told him that he thought that one Austrian might give him shelter for the night, so he came to the house and knocked at the door.  Henry Schmitz, my fellow employee, who roomed with me opened the door and called out “Joe step auf freund von below sind da,” whereupon I cordially invited them to enter and made them as comfortable as possible.  They remained with us about three days and profoundly appreciated our hospitality.  Even making mention of it later on in his book.  Once on going to a fishing boat for our supply of fish, Scherzer went with me and begged the privilege of carrying two of the large fine white fish, one suspended from each hand.  He much enjoyed meeting the good Father Skolla, his country-mate, also an Austrian, and from him obtained more valuable and authentic information concerning that part of Lake Superior country that he could have otherwise gained.  From La Point Scherzer planned to go to St. Paul.  There were no railroads here at that time.  There were but two roads leading to St. Paul.  One was simply a footpath of several hundred miles through the woods.  The other led via St. Croix [Brule?] & St. Croix river shortening the foot travel considerably.  Scherzer chose the latter road.  I fitted out for him, at his request, a birch bark canoe and utensils and all necessary for the trip and Scherzer and his companion started on their way to St. Paul.

In Reisen in Nordamerika, Scherzer contradicts Austrian’s statement that the voyageurs who brought the travel writer from Ontanagon also brought him down the Brule and St. Croix.  The men who departed with him from La Pointe are identified only as Souverain, an older man, and Jean-Baptise, a young man.  Souverain Denis is the likely suspect for the captain, and if Austrian is correct here, it appears Jean-Baptise Belanger (Balange) was his partner.

He had engaged one “Balange” their voyageur who had brought them from Ontonoagan and a friend of his to take them through.  They were well acquainted with the route which at times necessitated their carrying the canoes around through the woods across the portage, where the river was inaccessible through rapids, obstacles and otherwise.  Scherzer arrived at St. Paul safely and wrote thanking me for my assistance and requesting me to send him a copy of the wording of a French rowing song (the oarsmen usually sang keeping time with their oars).  I sent it to him and received a letter of thanks from New Orleans whence he had gone from St. Paul by steamer via the Mississippi River.  This song is embodied in his book also.

A Steamer was a rare occurrence at La Point and when one did come, we often got up an Indian war dance or other Indian exhibit for the amusement of its passengers, and which they enjoyed greatly.  In the fall of the year steamers were sometimes driven there by the storms prevailing on the lakes, as the harbor offered the best of shelter.  We kept a good supply of cord wood on the dock which we sold to the steamers when they needed fuel.

 

Indians Decline to be Removed by Gov.  I attend Grand Council.  1851.

Although the Government had botched the previous year’s removal, leading to hundreds of deaths, John Watrous illegally told the Ojibwe chiefs in 1851 that they would have to remove to Sandy Lake again.  The Lake Superior bands adamantly refused.  Some of the details here, however, suggest that this may actually depict the Buffalo-Watrous showdown, over the same issue, that occurred at La Pointe in the summer of 1852.  Scherzer’s visit, described above, was in 1852, but Austrian (writing over fifty years later) puts it in 1851.  For more on the politics of the years following Sandy Lake, read (Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013.), and Bruce White’s section of (McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000).

During the first summer of my stay at La Point, the Indian Agent, Mr. Watrous was directed by the Secretary of the Indian Dept. at Washington to summon the chiefs of that part of the Chippewa tribe residing in the vicinity of Bad River, Bayfield, & Red River for a council.  The Agent accordingly sent runners around to the chiefs of the different lodges some of which were quite remote, summoning them to meet him on a certain day at La Point.  They came in obedience to the summons many bringing their squaws, papooses and their Indians of their lodges with them.  Near the lake shore the put up their wigwams, which were made of birch bark leaving an opening over hung with a blanket which served as a doorway.  It made an interesting Indian settlement.  The meeting was held on the appointed day, in my brother’s store which was a long wooden structure.  When the meeting opened the chiefs sat on the floor arranged along the left side of the room, with their blankets wrapped around them, and each one smoking a long stemmed pipe, which they make themselves, the sign of peace, many ornamented with paint and feathers.  On the other side of the room was seated the Indian Agent with an interpreter who translated what either had said.

I naturally felt greatly interested in witnessing their proceedings.  The President of the U. S. was known by the Indians as the Great Father and the Agent addressed them telling them what the Great Father wanted of them; namely that they remove from their reservations to interior points in order to make room for while settlers; pointing out to them that the proposed location was more suited for them, there being good fishing and hunting grounds.  The government offered to pay them besides certain annuities, partly in money and partly in Indian goods–such as blankets, cotton, beads, provisions, etc.  The proposition of the Government was met with murmurs of disapproval by the chiefs & Indians present, and Chief Buffalo made a most eloquent and impassioned speech saying,

“Go back to the ‘Great Father’ and tell him to keep the money and his goods.  We do not want them but we wish to be left in peace.  Tell him we will not move from the land that is our own, that we have always been peaceable and were always happy until the white man came among our people and sold ‘Matchie Mushkiki [majimashkiki (bad medicine)]’ (poison-whiskey) to them.“

(The real name of whiskey in Indian is “Ushkota wawa [ishkodewaaboo]” – fire water).

The Indians did remain and to this day are still occupying the same land.  I was present at this meeting and it so impressed me, that although it took place over fifty years ago it is still vivid in my mind.  Later on the Government encouraged the same Indians to engage in farming work on the reservation, and furnishing them with implements and seeds for that purpose, and in the course of a few years they had their own little farms on which they raised potatoes and other vegetables easily cultivated.  Schools also were established by the Government.  One of their large settlements today is on Bad River, and not far from Ashland Wis., known by the name of Odana.

 

Brother Marx Experience with Indians.  1851 .

Marx Austrian did not immigrate until 1853, or marry his first wife Malea until a year later.  His received a land patent for this claim from the General Land Office in Superior City during 1857.  This would date his pre-emption to the winter of 1855-1856, a few months before Bayfield was established by the Bayfield Land Company, not 1851.
Exciting research is being done on the land speculation and corruption in this area (much of it involving the Austrian brothers), just before and after the Treaty of 1854.  It was Henry M. Rice, richer and more powerful than even Julius Austrian, who eventually cashed in on the plots that became Bayfield.

Our blind brother Marx Austrian with brother Julius’ assistance at that time, preempted 160 acres of land near Bayfield from La Point, complying with preemption laws.  He built a small log house living there with his wife.  One night during their first winter in their new house, there was a knock at the door, and when opened they were confronted by a number of Indians, who were evidently under the influence of liquor and who swinging their tomahawks vigorously, making all sorts of threatening demands.  An old Indian who knew Marx interceded and enabled him and his wife to escape without injury who thoroughly scared fled panic stricken in the dark about two miles at night, over the ice, on the Bay which was covered with a foot of snow to La Point for safety.  The poor woman having the hazardous task of leading her blind husband over this long and difficult road, not to come back again and glad to escape with their lives and thus abandoning their right of preemption.  This place was later on platted and is now known as the Bayfield Addition.

 

My Experience in Lumbering

Brother Julius had a small saw mill operated by water power about two miles back of Bayfield on Pike’s Creek, near which were Pine lands.  In the winter I was sent with some woodsmen to look after the cutting and hauling of Pine logs for the mill.  These logs were hauled by ox teams to the mill.  In the spring I was again sent there to assist in the sawing of these logs into lumber.  We lived in a little log hut near by.  When the snow melted toward spring time, the creek was high and swollen.  One day the force of the waters burst through the dam, carrying it away and the great volume of water rushing down cut a new channel in the bed of which had become a river, and undermining to foundation of our little log house causing it to topple over into it, also carrying away the logs, many of which floated down into Lake Superior and were lost.

Jewish-immigrant brothers, Julius and Joseph Austrian, were prominent La Pointe residents at this time.

Pg. 218-219 (Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892).

In the winter when logging was going on, once I was sent across from La Point with a heavy load of provisions and supplies for the men.  This was loaded on a so called “Canadian flat sleigh.”  The road on the way to the mill led down a very steep high hill which half way down had a sharp bend and at this curve stood a tree.  After having started down the hill, the horse was not strong enough to hold back the load, which got the better of him, and pushed him swiftly down the hill with his hind legs dragging after him wedging him against and partly into the tree with his front legs up in the air.  I could not move the heavily laden sleigh with the horse wedged in so tightly I found it impossible to extricate him, and had to go to the mill for assistance.  The sled had to be unloaded before we could free the horse.  See Armstrong’s book in which mention and illustration is given of this as “Austrian up the tree.”  The book is in my library.

 

Ferrying Oxen Across the Bay in Row Boat.

My brother Julius had also a large tract of meadow land on Bad River, where he had a number of men employed in making hay, in order to gather this hay for stacking, a span of cattle and a wagon were needed to haul it.  There being no other means of ferrying them across the bay, one of the large Mackinaw boats of about twenty-five feet keel by six feet beam had to be used to get these over to the other side across a distance of about three miles to the mainland from where they could be driven to the meadow.  I was commissioned to attend to this assisted by four competent boatmen, we finally managed with coaxing and skill to get the two big oxen into the boat, standing them crosswise in it.  We tied their horns to the opposite side of the boat.  The width of the boat was not sufficient to allow them to stand in their natural position which made them restless.  The first thing we knew one of the oxen raised his hind leg and stuck it out over the side of the boat into the water, his other leg soon followed and we had aboard an ox half in the boat, with the weight of his body resting on and threatening to capsize the boat.  We quickly cut the rope which held his head and he fell backward overboard floundering in the water.  Little did I think that we would see the ox alive again.  Imagine my surprise on my return to the Island to find he had swam back to shore safe and sound.  When the other ox saw his mate go overboard, he tried to follow and it required much coaxing and extra feeding to restrain him and finally landed him all right on the opposite shore.

 

Lost in the Woods

Ervin Barnes Leihy was one of first American settlers of this area whose primary employment was not specifically the Indian trade or the missions.

I returned to the Island and the next morning I started for the meadow fields in a birch bark canoe with a Mr. Lehigh who had a little saw mill about five miles up Bad River.  We were obliged to sit in the bottom of the little boat in a most uncomfortable and cramped position, having been warned by the boatman in charge not to move as the least motion is apt to cause the frail craft to capsize.  On arrival at the meadow I found the men busily at work.  They were about to take dinner and I gladly consented to join them, and being hungry relished the spread of fried pork, crackers, and tea.  My companion Mr. Lehigh was bound for his little saw mill up the river where he lived, and I having business to attend to there started with him on a foot trail through the woods.  He loitered on the way picking wild raspberries, just ripe and tempting, but musquitos were thick and vicious and pestered us terribly.  I not being accustomed suffered more than my companion.  Asking him the distance we were still to go, and on his telling me three miles, I became impatient and went ahead alone to get away from the musquitos.  After walking on some time I came to a potato field into which the trail led, but was concealed by the high vines.  Crossing the field I struck a trail on the other side and took for granted it was the one leading to the mill.  On and on I went when it struck me that I had gone further than the three miles, and it dawned on me that I must have taken the wrong path from the potato field and I concluded to turn back and try to reach the meadow.  The sun had gone down, it grew dusk very soon amongst the tall pine and maple trees, in the dense forrest.  It grew so dark that I could not see my trail and became entangled in the underbrush and roots of trees, tripping and falling many times.  I had with me my double barrel shot gun, both barrels being loaded I shot these off to attract Lehigh’s attention. I listened breathlessly for some answer but there was no sign of a human soul and I became thoroughly frightened at the prospect of being lost in the woods but resolved to make the best of it.  I stumbled around and found a log hut near by, which had been put up for temporary use by the Indians in sugar making time.  I had neither matches nor ammunition, by feeling around, I discovered that what had been the doorway was closed up with birch bark. By climbing up I also discovered that the roof had been taken off the hut and I let myself down to see what might be inside.  I found there three rolls of birch bark and a rude bench made of rough poles laid along on one side lengthwise about a foot along the floor, which served as seats for the Indians while boiling the maple sap.  Being tired out I laid down on the rough bench and tried to rest, tying a handkerchief over my face, and with each hand up in the boot sleeves to protect myself from large and ravenous musquitos which tortured me nigh to desperation.  Having no matches with me to kindle a fire or create a smoke I was entirely at their mercy.  Presently I heard a noise on the outside as though of something stealthily climbing over the wall.  The moon was then shining brightly, the sky was clear and on looking up I saw the outlines of a young bear sticking his head over the wall looking down on me.  I sprang up and as I did so the bear jumped back and ran off.  No doubt the odor of the sugar attracted him more than I did.  Under these circumstances rest was out of the question.  I climbed out of the hut and made another attempt to find the lost trail by moonlight, crawling on hands and feet in some places.  In doing so, I placed my gun against a tree and had a hard time to find it again.  I decided there was no use to trip further and climbed back in the hut to stay there till day-light, then with renewed effort after repeated disappointment I finally struck a trail, but at this point I was confused and at a loss to know which direction to take.  I reached a steep hill that I did not remember having passed the day before.  As a last resort I ran up this hill and hallowed & yelled.  An answer came from the valley, from me working there.  Following the sound I reached the meadow.  My face was so swollen from the musquito bites that I was a sight to behold.  After resting and partaking of some food, I again started out for Lehigh’s place one of the me volunteering to show me the way and I arrived there a couple of hours after, and found that it was only one mile from the potato field where I had lost the trail.

For many miles in all other directions in this dense forrest there was not a single habitation nor likelihood of meeting with a soul and here a short time ago a man had been lost and never heard from again.  Hence I was lucky indeed to have found my way out of the woods.  Lehigh cooly informed me that when I saw him that he heard the report of my gun, but had paid no heed to it thinking I would eventually turn up.

 

Lost on the Ice and Night

Alexis was a common name among the mix-blooded families of La Pointe.  Alexis Carpenter Sr. was probably Julius Austrian’s trusted Frenchman.  This was probably Alexis Carpenter, Sr.

One time during the winter Brother Julius sent me with his trusted Frenchman Alexis, to look up certain Indians who owed him for goods and whom he thought would have considerable fur.  This tramp meant about ten miles each way through the woods on an Indian trail the ground being covered with snow.  Taking our faithful dog, who had been trained to hauling with the little toboggan sled, on which to bring back the fur which he hoped to get in payment for our debt.  We started from La Point, and I met with good success gathering quite a little fur.  On our return we reached the Bay shore late in the evening from where we had four or five miles to cross on the ice in order to reach the Island.  We rested for about an hour at an Indian wigwam and partook of some tea (such as it was) that the Indian squaw made for us and then started on. Alexis, acting as pilot went ahead, followed by the dog & then by me.  It was a clear cold night the moon shown brightly, but about half an hour afterwards snow clouds sprang up shutting out the moonlight, Still we pushed ahead.  Soon however Alexis lost his bearings and was uncertain as to direction, but on we went for several hours without reaching the Island.  Presently we encountered ice roughly broken and piled high by the force of a gale from the open lake, which indicated that we were too near the open water and that we had gone too far around the Island instead of the straight for La Point.  We stumbled along, and after having been out about two hours on the ice, with continued walking we managed to reach the shore and with guidance of Alexis tramped along toward La Point reaching there two hours afterwards almost exhausted by the hardships we had endured.

 

Trip to Ontonagon in Row Boat for Winter Supplies.  1851

It was in 1851 when brother Julius expected the last boat of the season would touch at La Point which was usually the case and deliver all his supplies but the quantity was not sufficient to induce the Captain to run in there and consequently he skipped La Pointe, thus leaving us short of necessary provisions for the winter, hence it was necessary to procure the same as best we could.  I was commissioned by my brother Julius to undertake the job which I did by manning a mackinaw boat with five voyageurs.  The boat was loaded with as many barrels of fish as we could carry.  We started for Ontonagon about the middle of November, intending to trade the fish for supplies required.  It was cold, the ground frozen and covered with snow. The wind was fair.  We hoisted our two sails and made good time reaching Montreal River late in the evening where we ran in and tied up for the night.  We had no tent with us but found a deserted log house by the river in which we spent the night.  There was a large open fire place, and my man cutting down a dry tree kindled a brisk wood fire in the fire place.  I slipped into a rough bunk in the room wrapped myself in my blankets and tried to sleep, but in vain.  The smoke from the fire was so dense it nearly suffocated me.  My met lighting a few tallow candles amused themselves playing cards until late at night.

The next morning early, we set sail and again had fair wind, reaching Iron River about noon and Ontonagon that night, next day succeeded in exchanging my fish for provisions and the following day started on our return trip to La Point.  We had mostly fair wind and reached there on the third day in good shape.

 

Another Trip to Ontonagon for Provisions.  1852.

The following year, in 1852, I agains made a similar trip for like reasons but did not have nearly as good luck as on the previous trip.  It was fraught with some danger and combined with a great deal of hardship.  The distance from La Point to Ontonagon is nearly 100 miles, all exposed to the storms of Lake Superior which in the Fall are generally very severe.  On our first day out we encountered a severe snow storm, which compelled us to make a landing near the mouth of Bad River to save the boat, which was threatened to be dashed to pieces on the shore or carried out into the open lake.  So she had to be beached and in order to do this her cargo of fish had all to be thrown overboard when we touched the beach, to lighten her and when this was done she was hauled up on the beach with a block and tackle and fastened to stump of a tree.  The boatmen had to go almost waist deep in the water and roll the heavy barrels up on the beach.  After completing the landing we sought shelter in the nearby woods from the raging storm, we were not equipped for camping, so we took the sail from the boat and stretched it over as far as it would reach for our own protection.  As before the men cut down a dead tree kindled a fire, hanging over it our camp kettle, made tea, tried some pork and this together with some crackers with which we were supplied composed our supper.  To get further away from the wind and snow we had gone further back into the woods to find some protection and there we rolled ourselves in our grey blankets and laid down keeping our faces under the protection of the sail as much as possible.  Being very much exhausted, we fell asleep, in spite of unfavorable conditions.  Toward morning when I awoke I tried to pull my blanket over me a little more but found I could not move it, and discovered that the snow had drifted over us to such an extent that we were fairly buried in it, nothing visible but part of our faces, our breath having kept that free for the time.  After daybreak we again started a fire, and this made things worse as the heat melted the snow on the trees around and water dripped down on our blankets, getting them wet.  We had to hang them near the fire to dry as we collected them later on.  They fairly steamed and we were delayed a whole day in getting arrangements completed to start again on our trip.  Toward morning the wind had subsided considerably, and the snow storm had abated somewhat and again we ventured on our trip.  After going through the same routine of reloading as on our previous occasion.  At 10 A.m. we started on our perilous voyage making good head way, the wind being favorable.  We reached Iron River after midnight.  We detected an Indian wigwam near by, thinking we might be able to get something to eat.  We tied up and investigated.  We peeped into the wigwam and found the same occupied with an Indian family.  The Indian squaw and papooses all tight asleep.  Not wishing to arouse them or to lose further time we moved on stopping early the next morning in a small bay on our route.  Kindling a fire as previously described, preparing a meager breakfast , the best scant supplies would permit.  These boatmen were accustomed to cooking (such as it was) as well as boating it being often a necessity, as they were accustomed to make long coasting trips in the pioneer days of the Lake Superior regions, which was sparsely settled and vessels were very scarce.  Supplies and all merchandise had to be transported all the way from Detroit to Lake Superior on those small Mackinaw boats.  After breakfast we set sail and continued our journey with fair wind enabling us to make good time, but it had grown bitterly cold and as we were but poorly protected for such severe weather.  It cost us untold suffering.

We finally reached Ontonagon River after dark, and to our great consternation found that the river was frozen over about an inch thick with ice.  This was not easy to break through with flimsy craft, but desperation gave strength to our men and they were equal to the situation.  With their heavy oars they pounded and broke the ice managing finally to get inside of the river to the dock of the merchant with whom I expected to do my trading in the town of Ontonagon, which was the Lakeport for the Minnesota and other copper mines in that vicinity, at that time being just developed.  On the following morning I attended to the selling of the load of fish, purchased our supplies and intending to start back for La Point the next morning.

 

Ordered to go to Eagle River.  1852.

Closely connected by marriage and business, the Bavarian-Jewish families Austrian and Leopold became titans of Great Lakes shipping.

In the meantime the propeller Napoleon arrived from there bringing for me a letter from brother Julius, instructing me if still in Ontonagon to take this steamer for Eagle River and to enter the employ of Mr. Henry Leopold, who had a small store there.  His man had left suddenly and he was anxious for my services.  I started for Eagle River just as I was and not until the following spring did I get my trunk.  I began working for Mr. Leopold as bookkeeper and general clerk, and thus abruptly terminated my business career at La Point.  My boatmen under direction of Mr. Henry Schmitz started without me on their return trip to La Point as planned when between Montreal River and Bad River, they encountered a terrific gale and snow storm.  It was so severe that to remain outside meant to be lost, and as a last resort, they ran their boat through the breakers, trying to beach her.  She was swamped with all the supplies, and tossed up on the beach and had to be abandoned for the time being.  Later on another boat was sent on from La Point to get the damaged cargo.  The Napoleon got abreast of Eagle River, this place being on the open shore of Lake Superior without any protection, it being too rough there for the boat to make a landing, therefore she went on to Eagle Harbor, about nine miles distant, where she could safely land.  On arrival there I put up at Charley King boarding house for the night.

To be continued after La Pointe 1852-1854

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Special thanks to Amorin Mello and Joseph Skulan for sharing this document and their important research on the Austrian brothers and their associates with me.  It is to their credit that these stories see the light of day.  This is the end of the La Pointe section, but the original handwritten memoir of Joseph Austrian is held by the Chicago History Museum and contains many interesting stories from the life of this brief resident of La Pointe.

By Leo Filipczak

Joseph Oesterreicher was only eighteen years old when he arrived at La Pointe in 1851.  Less than a year earlier, he had left his native Germany for Mackinac, where he’d come to work for the firm of his older brother Julius and their in-laws, the Leopolds, another Bavarian Jewish family trading on Lake Superior.

In America, the Oesterreichers became the Austrians, but in his time at Mackinac, Joseph Austrian picked up very little English and even less of the Ojibwe and Metis-French that predominated at La Pointe.  So, when Joseph made the move to his brother’s store at Madeline Island, it probably felt like he was immigrating all over again.

In the spring of 1851, he would have found at La Pointe, a society in flux.  American settlement intensified as the fur trade economy made its last gasps.  The island’s mix-blooded voyageurs found it harder and harder to make a living, and the Fur Company, and smaller traders like Julius Austrian, began to focus more on getting Ojibwe money from treaty annuity payments than they did from the actual trade in fur.  This competition for Indian money had led to the deaths of hundreds of Ojibwe people in the Sandy Lake tragedy just a few months earlier.  

The uncertainty surrounding Ojibwe removal would continue to hang heavily over the Island for both of Joseph’s years at La Pointe, as the Ojibwe leadership scrambled to process the horror of Sandy Lake and tried to secure a permanent homeland on the lakeshore.

The Austrians, however, found this an opportune time to be at the forefront of all the new business ventures in the Lake Superior country.  They made money in merchandise, real estate, shipping, mining, lumber, government contracts, and every other way they could.  This was not without controversy, and the name of Julius Austrian is frequently attached to documents showing the web of corruption and exploitation of Native people that characterized this era.  

It’s difficult to say whether Joseph realized in 1851, while sweeping out his brother’s store or earning his unfortunate nickname, but he would become a very wealthy man.  He lived into the 20th century and left a long and colorful memoir.  I plan to transcribe and post all the stories from pages 26-66, which consists of Joseph’s time at La Pointe.  Here is the first fourth [our original] installment:  

 

Memoirs of Doodooshaboo

… continued from Mackinac 1850-1851.

 

Left for La Point:  My First Trip on Lake Superior

1851

Julius Austrian ~ Madeline Island Museum

Julius Austrian
~ Madeline Island Museum

Mr. Julius Austrian was stationed at La Pointe, Madaline Island, one of the Apostle Group in Lake Superior, where he conducted an Indian Trading post, buying large quantities of fur and trading in fish on the premises previously occupied by the American Fur Co. whose stores, boats etc. the firm bought.

Julius Austrian, one of the partners had had charge of the store at La Point for five years past, he was at this time expected at Mackinaw and it had been arranged that I should accompany him back to La Pointe when he returned there, on the first boat of the season leaving the Sault Ste. Marie.  I was to work in the store and to assist generally in all I was capable of at the wages of $10 a month.  I gladly accepted the proposition being anxious for steady employment.  Shortly after, brother Julius, his wife (a sister of H. Leopold) and I started on the side wheel steamer Columbia for Sault Ste. Marie, generally called “The Soo,” and waited there five days until the Napoleon, a small propellor on which we intended going to La Point, was ready to sail.  During this time she was loading her cargo which had all to be transported from the Soo River to a point above the rapids across the Portage (a strip of land about ¾ of a mile connecting the two points) on a train road operated with horses.  At this time there were only two propellers and three schooners on the entire Lake Superior, and those were hauled out below the rapids and moved up and over the portage and launched in Lake Superior.  Another propeller Monticello, which was about half way across the Portage, was soon to be added to the Lake Superior fleet, which consisted of Independence & Napoleon and the Schooners Algonquin, Swallow, and Sloop Agate owned by my brother Julius.  Quite different from the present day, where a very large number of steel ships on the chain of Lakes, some as much as 8000 tons capacity, navigate through the canal to Lake Superior from the lower lakes engaged in transporting copper, iron ore, pig iron, grain & flour from the various ports of Marquette, Houghton, Hancock, Duluth, and others.  It was found necessary in later years to enlarge the locks of the canal to accomodate the larger sized vessels that had been constructed.

 

Building Sault Ste. Marie Canal.  1851.

The ship canal at that time had not been constructed, but the digging of it had just been started.  The construction of this canal employed hundreds of laborers, and it took years to complete this great piece of work, which had to be cut mostly through the solid rock.  The State of Michigan appropriated thousands of sections of land for the purpose of building this canal, for the construction of which a company was incorporated under the name of Sault Ste. Marie Ship Canal & Land Co., who received the land in payment for building this canal, and which appropriation entitled the Co. to located in any unsold government land in the State of Michigan.  The company availed itself of this privilege and selected large tracts of the best mineral and timber land in Houghton, Ontonagan & Kewanaw Counties, locating some of the land in the copper district, some of which proved afterwards of immense value, and on which were opened up some of the richest copper mines in the world, namely:  Calumet, Hecla, and Quincy mines, and others.  There were also very valuable timber lands covered by this grant.

The canal improved and enlarged as it now stands, is one of the greatest and most important artificial waterways in the world.  A greater tonnage is transported through it annually that through the Suez or any other canal.  In later years the canal was turned over by the State of Mich. to the General Government, which made it free of toll to all vessels and cargoes passing through it, even giving Canadian vessels the same privilege; whereas when operated by the State of Mich. toll was exacted from all vessels and cargoes using it.

The Napoleon, sailed by Capt. Ryder, had originally been a schooner, it had been turned into a propeller by putting in a small propeller engine.  She had the great (?) speed of 8 miles an hour in calm weather, and had the reputation of beating any boat of the Lake in rolling in rough weather, and some even said she had rolled completely over turning right side up finally.

To return to my trip, after passing White Fish Point, the following day and getting into the open lake, we encountered a strong north wind raising considerable sea, causing our boat to toss and pitch, giving us our first experience of sea sickness on the trip.  Beside the ordinary crew, we had aboard 25 horses for Ontonogan where we arrived the third day out.  The Captain finding the depth of water was not sufficient to allow the boat to go inside the Ontonogan river and there being no dock outside, he attempted to land the horses by throwing them overboard, expecting them to swim ashore, to begin with, he had three thrown overboard and had himself with a few of his men lowered in the yawl boat to follow, he caught the halter of the foremost horse intending to guide him and the others ashore. The lake was exceedingly rough, and the poor horses became panic stricken and when near the shore turned back swimming toward the boat with hard work.  The Captain finally succeeded in land those that had been thrown overboard, but finding it both hazardous to the horses and the men he concluded to give up the attempt to land the other horses in this way, and ordered the life boat hoisted up aboard.  She had to be hoisted up the stern, in doing so a heavy wave struck and knocked it against the stern of the boat before she was clear of the water with such force as to endanger the lives of the Capt. and men in it, and some of the passengers were called on to assist in helping to hoist the life boat owing to its perilous position.  Captain and the men were drenched to the skin, when they reached the deck.  Capt. vented his rage in swearing at the hard luck and was so enraged that he did not change his wet clothing for some time afterward.  The remaining horses were kept aboard to be delivered on the return trip, and the boat started for her point of destination La Point.

 

Arrived at La Point and Started in Employ of Brother Julius.  1851

Next morning we sighted land, which proved to be the outer island of the Apostle Group.  Captain flew into the wheel room and found the wheelsman fast asleep.  He grasped the wheel and steered the boat clear of the rocks, just in time to prevent the boat from striking.  Captain lost no time in changing wheelsman.  We arrived without further incidents at La Point the same afternoon.  When she unloaded her cargo, work was at once begun transferring goods to the store, in which I assisted and thus began my regular business career.  These goods were hauled to the store from the dock in a car, drawn by a horse, on wooden rails.

There were only about 6 white American inhabitants on the Island, about 50 Canadian Frenchmen who were married to squaws, and a number of full blooded Indians, among whom was chief Buffalo who was a descendant of chiefs & who was a good Indian and favorably regarded by the people.

Fr. Otto Skolla (self-portrait contained in History of the diocese of Sault Ste, Marie and Marquette (1906) by Antoine Ivan Rezek; pg.360; Digitized by Google Books)

The most conspicuous building in the place was an old Catholic Church which had been created more than 50 years before by some Austrian missionaries.  This church contained some very fine and valuable paintings by old masters.  The priest in charge there was Father Skolla, an Austrian, who himself was quite an artist, and spent his leisure hours in painting Holy pictures.  The contributions to the church amounted to a mere pittance, and his consequent poverty allowed him the most meager and scant living.  One Christmas he could not secure any candles to light up his church which made him feel very sad, my sister-in-law heard of this and sent me with a box of candles to him, which made him the happiest of mortals.  When I handed them to him, his words were inadequate to express his gratitude and praise for my brother’s wife.

 

Sherman Hall and the other A.B.C.F.M missionaries were actually Congregational-Presbyterian, but they were known to collaborate with Canadian Methodist missionaries.  The Wheeler Family correspondence from 1854 reveals that Julius Austrian and Rev. Hall were not always  on “friendly terms.”  Charles Pulsifer was a teacher in the mission school.

There was also a Methodist church of which a man by the name of Hall was the preacher.  He had several sons and his family and my brother Julius and his wife were on friendly terms and often met.

The principle man of the place was Squire Bell, a very genial gentleman who held most of the offices of the town & county, such as Justice of the Peace & Supervisor.  He also was married to a squaw.  This was the fashion of that time, there being no other women there.

John W. Bell, “King of the Apostle Islands” as described by Benjamin Armstrong (Digitized by Google Books) .

There was a school in the place for the Indians and half breeds, there being no white children there at this time.  I took lessons privately of the teacher of this school, his name was Pulsevor.  I was anxious to perfect myself in English.  I also picked up quite a bit of the Chippewa language and in very short time was able to understand enough to enable me to trade with the Indians.

My brother Julius was a very kind hearted man, of a very sympathetic and indulgent nature, and to his own detriment and loss he often trusted needy and hungry Indians for provisions and goods depending on their promise to return the following year with fur in payment for the goods.  He was personally much liked and popular with the Indians, but his business with them was not a success as the fur often failed to materialize.  The first morning after my arrival, my brother Julius handed me a milk pail and told me to go to the squaws next door, who having a cow, supplied the family with the article.  He told me to ask for “Toto-Shapo” meaning in the Indian language, milk.

Doodooshaaboo:  milk 
Makadewikonaye:  a priest
Gichi-mookomaan:  1. A white person 2.  American
Ishkode-jiimaan:  a steamboat, a ship.  Wiigiwaam:  a wigwam, a lodge
Ishkodewaaboo:  alcohol, liquor
(Ojibwe Peoples Dictionary)

I repeated this to myself over and over again, and when I asked the squaw for “Toto Shapo” she and all the squaws screamed with delight and excitement to think that I had just arrived and could make myself understood in the Indian tongue. This fact was spread among the Indians generally and from that day on while I remained on the Island I was called “Toto Shapo.”  One of the Indian characteristics is to name people and things by their first impression–for instance on seeing the first priest who work a black gown, they called him “Makada-Conyeh,” which means a black gown, and that is the only name retained in their language for priests.  The first soldier who had a sword hanging by his side they called “Kitchie Mogaman” meaning “a big knife” in their language.  The first steamboat they saw struck them as a house with fire escaping through the chimney, consequently they called it “Ushkutua wigwam” (Firehouse) which is also the only name in their language for steamboat.  Whiskey they call “Ushkutua wawa” meaning “Fire Water.”

My brother Julius had the United States mail contract between La Point & St. Croix.  The mail bag had to be taken by a man afoot between these two places via Bayfield a distance of about 125 miles, 2 miles of these being across the frozen lake from the Island to Bayfield.

 

Dangerous Crossing on the Ice.

An Indian named Kitchie (big) Inini (man) was hired to carry it.  Once on the way on he started to cross on the ice but found it very unsafe and turned back.  When my brother heard this, he made up his mind to see that the mail started on its way across the Lake no matter what the consequence.  He took a rope about 25 ft. long tying one end around his body and the other about mine, and he and I each took a long light pole carrying it with two hands crosswise, which was to hold us up with in case we broke through the ice.  Taking the mail bag on a small tobogan sled drawn by a dog, we started out with the Indian.  When we had gone but a short way the ice was so bad that the Indian now thoroughly frightened turned back again, but my brother called me telling me not to pay any attention to him and we went straight on.  This put him to shame and he finally followed us.  We reached the other side in safety, but had found the crossing so dangerous, that we hesitated to return over it and thought best to wait until we could return by a small boat, but the time for this was so uncertain that after all we concluded to risk going back on the ice taking a shorter cut for the Island, and we were lucky to get back all right.

In the summer when the mail carrier returned from these trips, he would build a fire on the shore of the bay about 5 miles distant, as a signal to send a boat to bring him across to the Island.  Once I remember my brother Julius not being at home when a signal was given.  I with two young Indian boys (about 12 yrs. of age) started to cross over with the boat, when about two miles out a terrific thunder and hail storm sprang up suddenly.  The hail stones were so large that it caused the boys to relax their hold on the oars and it was all I could do to keep them at the oars.  I attempted to steer the boat back to the Island, and barely managed to reach there.  The boat was over half full of water when we reached the shore.  When I landed we were met by the boys’ mothers who were greatly incensed at my taking their boys on this perilous trip, nearly resulting in drowning them.  They didn’t consider I had no idea of this terrible thunder storm which so suddenly came up and had I known it for my own safety would not dreamed of attempting the trip.

 

Nearly Capsize in a Small Boat.

Once I went out in a small sail boat with two Frenchmen to collect some barrels of fish near the Island at the fishing ground near La Point.  We got two barrels of fish which they stood up on end, when a sudden gust of wind caused the boat to list to one side so that the barrels fell over on the side and nearly capsized the boat.  By pulling the barrels up the boat was finally righted after being pretty well filled with water.  I could not swim, and as a matter of self-preservation grabbed the Frenchman nearest me.  He was furious, expressing his anger half in French and half in English, saying, “If I had drowned, I would have taken him with me.” which no doubt was true.

 

A Young Indian Locked up for Robbery

Indian Agent John S. Watrous was the most conspicuous villain of the previous year’s Sandy Lake Tragedy.  Despite hundreds of deaths, and the Indian Department’s cancellation of the removal order, Watrous tried to illegally force a second removal in the fall of 1851 by holding the payments in Sandy Lake again.  Very few Ojibwe agreed to return to Sandy Lake, and most went without their payments for a second-straight year.  Joseph’s chronology is a little unclear.  This may be a reference to the cash payments at Fond du Lac in January 1852.
Like Joseph, Henry Schmitz, was an employee and later a business partner of Julius Austrian.

One day brother Julius went to the Indian payment.  During his absence I with another employee, Henry Schmitz, were left in charge.  A young Indian that night burglarized the store stealing some gold coins from the cash drawer.  The same were offered to someone in the town next day who told me, which led to his detection.  He admitted theft and was committed to jail by the Indian agent Mr. Watrous, which the Indians consider a great disgrace.

Some inquisitive boys peering through the window discovered that the young Indian had attempted to commit suicide and spread the alarm.  His father was away at the time and his mother and friends were frenzied and their threats of vengeance were loud.  The jailer was found but he had lost the key to the jail (the jail was in a log hut) the door of which was finally forced open with an axe, and the young culprit with his head bleeding was handed over to his people who revived him in their wigwam.  The next day the money was returned and we and the authorities were glad to call it quits.

To be continued at La Pointe 1851-1852 (Part 2)

 

Special thanks to Amorin Mello and Joseph Skulan for sharing this document and their important research on the Austrian brothers and their associates with me.  It is to their credit that these stories see the light of day.  The original handwritten memoir of Joseph Austrian is held by the Chicago History Museum.    

Symbolic Petition of the Chippewa Chiefs:  This pictographic petition was brought to Washington D.C. by a delegation of Ojibwe chiefs and their interpreter J.B. Martell.  This one, representing the band of Chief Oshkaabewis, is the most famous, but their were several others copied from birch bark by Seth Eastman and published in the works of Henry Schoolcraft.  For more, follow this link.

Henry Schoolcraft.  William W. Warren.  George Copway.  These names are familiar to any scholar of mid-19th-century Ojibwe history.  They are three of the most referenced historians of the era, and their works provide a great deal of historical material that is not available in any other written sources.  Copway was Ojibwe, Warren was a mix-blood Ojibwe, and Schoolcraft was married to the granddaughter of the great Chequamegon chief Waabojiig, so each is seen, to some extent, as providing an insider’s point of view.  This could lead one to conclude that when all three agree on something, it must be accurate.  However, there is a danger in over-relying on these early historians in that we forget that they were often active participants in the history they recorded.

This point was made clear to me once again as I tried to sort out my lingering questions about the 1848-49 “Martell” Delegation to Washington.  If you are a regular reader, you may remember that this delegation was the subject of the first post on this website.  You may also remember from this post, that the group did not have money to get to Washington and had to reach out to the people they encountered along the way. 

The goal of the Martell Delegation was to get the United States to cede back title to the lands surrounding the major Lake Superior Ojibwe villages.  The Ojibwe had given this land up in the Treaty of 1842 with the guarantee that they could remain on it.  However, by 1848 there were rumors of removal of all the bands east of the Mississippi to unceded land in Minnesota.  That removal was eventually attempted, in 1850-51, in what is now called the Sandy Lake Tragedy. 

The Martell Delegation remains a little-known part of the removal story, although the pictographs remain popular.  Those petitions are remembered because they were published in Henry Schoolcrafts’ Historical and statistical information respecting the history, condition, and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States (1851) along with the most accessible primary account of the delegation:

In the month of January, 1849, a delegation of eleven Chippewas, from Lake Superior, presented themselves at Washington, who, amid other matters not well digested in their minds, asked the government for a retrocession of some portion of the lands which the nation had formerly ceded to the United States, at a treaty concluded at Lapointe, in Lake Superior, in 1842. They were headed by Oshcabawiss, a chief from a part of the forest-country, called by them Monomonecau, on the head-waters of the River Wisconsin. Some minor chiefs accompanied them, together with a Sioux and two boisbrules, or half-breeds, from the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The principal of the latter was a person called Martell, who appeared to be the master-spirit and prime mover of the visit, and of the motions of the entire party. His motives in originating and conducting the party, were questioned in letters and verbal representations from persons on the frontiers. He was freely pronounced an adventurer, and a person who had other objects to fulfil, of higher interest to himself than the advancement of the civilization and industry of the Indians. Yet these were the ostensible objects put forward, though it was known that he had exhibited the Indians in various parts of the Union for gain, and had set out with the purpose of carrying them, for the same object, to England. However this may be, much interest in, and sympathy for them, was excited. Officially, indeed, their object was blocked up. The party were not accredited by their local agent. They brought no letter from the acting Superintendent of Indian Affairs on that frontier. The journey had not been authorized in any manner by the department. It was, in fine, wholly voluntary, and the expenses of it had been defrayed, as already indicated, chiefly from contributions made by citizens on the way, and from the avails of their exhibitions in the towns through which they passed; in which, arrayed in their national costume, they exhibited their peculiar dances, and native implements of war and music. What was wanting, in addition to these sources, had been supplied by borrowing from individuals.

Engraving of Henry Schoolcraft by Wellstood an...

Engraving of Henry Schoolcraft by Wellstood and Peters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martell, who acted as their conductor and interpreter, brought private letters from several persons to members of Congress and others, which procured respect. After a visit, protracted through seven or eight weeks, an act was passed by Congress to defray the expenses of the party, including the repayment of the sums borrowed of citizens, and sufficient to carry them back, with every requisite comfort, to their homes in the north-west. While in Washington, the presence of the party at private houses, at levees, and places of public resort, and at the halls of Congress, attracted much interest; and this was not a little heightened by their aptness in the native ceremonies, dancing, and their orderly conduct and easy manners, united to the attraction of their neat and well-preserved costume, which helped forward the object of their mission.

The visit, although it has been stated, from respectable sources, to have had its origin wholly in private motives, in the carrying out of which the natives were made to play the part of mere subordinates, was concluded in a manner which reflects the highest credit on the liberal feelings and sentiments of Congress. The plan of retrocession of territory, on which some of the natives expressed a wish to settle and adopt the modes of civilized life, appeared to want the sanction of the several states in which the lands asked for lie. No action upon it could therefore be well had, until the legislatures of these states could be consulted (pg. 414-416, pictographic plates follow).

I have always had trouble with Schoolcraft’s interpretation of these events.  It wasn’t that I had evidence to contradict his argument, but rather that I had a hard time believing that all these chiefs would make so weighty a decision as to go to Washington simply because their interpreter was trying to get rich.  The petitions asked for a permanent homeland in the traditional villages east of the Mississippi.  This was the major political goal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe leadership at that time and would remain so in all the years leading up to 1854.  Furthermore, chiefs continued to ask for, or go “uninvited” on, diplomatic missions to the president in the years that followed.

I explored some of this in the post about the pictograph, but a number of lingering questions remained:

What route did this group take to Washington?

Who was Major John Baptiste Martell?

Did he manipulate the chiefs into working for him, or was he working for them? 

Was the Naaganab who went with this group the well-known Fond du Lac chief or the warrior from Lake Chetek with the same name?

Did any chiefs from the La Pointe band go?

Why was Martell criticized so much?  Did he steal the money?

What became of Martell after the expedition?

How did the “Martell Expedition” of 1848-49 impact the Ojibwe removal of 1850-51?

Lacking access to the really good archives on this subject, I decided to focus on newspapers, and since this expedition received so much attention and publicity, this was a good choice.  Enjoy:

Indiana Palladium.  Vevay, IN.  Dec. 2, 1848

Capt. Seth Eastman of the U.S. Army took note of the delegation as it traveled down the Mississippi from Fort Snelling to St. Louis.  Eastman, a famous painter of American Indians, copied the birch bark petitions for publication in the works of his collaborator Henry Schoolcraft.  At least one St. Louis paper also noticed these unique pictographic documents.

Lafayette Courier.  Lafayette, IN.  Dec. 8, 1848.

The delegation made its way up the Ohio River to Cincinnati, where Gezhiiyaash’s illness led to a chance encounter with some Ohio Freemasons.  I won’t repeat it here, but I covered this unusual story in this post from August.

At Cincinnati, they left the river and headed toward Columbus.  Just east of that city, on the way to Pittsburgh, one of the Ojibwe men offered some sound advice to the women of Hartford, Ohio, but he received only ridicule in return.

Madison Weekly Courier.  Madison, IN.  Jan. 24, 1849

It’s unclear how quickly reports of the delegation came back to the Lake Superior country.  William Warren’s letter to his cousin George, written in March after the delegation had already left Washington, still spoke of St. Louis:

William W. Warren (Wikimedia Images)

“…About Martells Chiefs.  They were according to last accounts dancing the pipe dance at St. Louis.  They have been making monkeys of themselves to fill the pockets of some cute Yankee who has got hold of them.  Black bird returned from Cleveland where he caught scarlet fever and clap.  He has behaved uncommon well since his return…” (Schenck, pg. 49)

From this letter, we learn that Blackbird, the La Pointe chief, was originally part of the group.  In evaluating Warren’s critical tone, we must remember that he was working closely with the very government officials who withheld their permission.  Of the La Pointe chiefs, Blackbird was probably the least accepting of American colonial power.  However, we see in the obituary of Naaganab, Blackbird’s rival at the 1855 annuity payment, that the Fond du Lac chief was also there.

New York World.  New York.  July 22, 1894

Before finding this obituary, I had thought that the Naaganab who signed the petition was more likely the headman from Lake Chetek.  Instead, this information suggests it was the more famous Fond du Lac chief.  This matters because in 1848, Naaganab was considered the speaker for his cousin Zhingob, the leading chief at Fond du Lac.  Blackbird, according to his son James, was the pipe carrier for Buffalo.  While these chiefs had their differences with each other, it seems likely that they were representing their bands in an official capacity.  This means that the support for this delegation was not only from “minor chiefs” as Schoolcraft described them, or “Martells Chiefs” as Warren did, from Lac du Flambeau and Michigan.  I would argue that the presence of Blackbird and Naaganab suggests widespread support from the Lake Superior bands.  I would guess that there was much discussion of the merits of a Washington delegation by Buffalo and others during the summer of 1848, and that the trip being a hasty money-making scheme by Martell seems much less likely.

Madison Daily Banner.  Madison, IN.  Jan. 3, 1849.

From Pittsburgh, the delegation made it to Philadelphia, and finally Washington.  They attracted a lot of attention in the nation’s capital.  Some of their adventures and trials:  Oshkaabewis and his wife Pammawaygeonenoqua losing an infant child, the group hunting rabbits along the Potomac, and the chiefs taking over Congress, are included this post from March, so they aren’t repeated here.

Adams Sentinel.  Gettysburg, PA.  Feb. 5, 1849.

According to Ronald Satz, the delegation was received by both Congress and President Polk with “kindly feelings” and the expectation of “good treatment in the future” if they “behaved themselves (Satz 51).”  Their petition was added to the Congressional Record, but the reservations were not granted at the time.  However, Congress did take up the issue of paying for the debts accrued by the Ojibwe along the way.

George Copway (Wikimedia Commons)

Kah-Ge-Ga-Gah-Bowh (George Copway), a Mississauga Ojibwe and Methodist missionary, was the person “belonging to one of the Canada Bands of Chippewas,” who wrote the anti-Martell letter to Indian Commissioner William Medill.  This is most likely the letter Schoolcraft referred to in 1851.  In addition to being upset about the drinking, Copway was against reservations in Wisconsin.  He wanted the government to create a huge pan-Indian colony at the headwaters of the Missouri River.

William Medill (Wikimedia Commons)

Iowa State Gazette.  Burlington, IA.  April 4, 1849

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Weekly Wisconsin.  Milwaukee.  Feb. 28, 1849.

With $6000 (or did they only get $5000?), a substantial sum for the antebellum Federal Government,  the group prepared to head back west with the ability to pay back their creditors.

martellcongressspeech

It appears the chiefs returned to their villages by going back though the Great Lakes to Green Bay and then overland.

The Chippewa Delegation, who have been on a visit to see their “great fathers” in Washington, passed through this place on Saturday last, on their way to their homes near Lake Superior.  From the accounts of the newspapers, they have been lionized during their whole journey, and particularly in Washington, where many presents were made them, among the most substantial of which was six boxed of silver ($6,000) to pay their expenses.  They were loaded with presents, and we noticed one with a modern style trunk strapped to his back.  They all looked well and in good spirits (qtd. in Paap, pg. 205)

Green Bay Gazette.  April 4, 1849

So, it hardly seems that the Ojibwe chiefs returned to their villages feeling ripped off by their interpreter.  Martell himself returned to the Soo, and found a community about to be ravaged by a epidemic of cholera.

Weekly Wisconsin.  Milwaukee.  Sep. 5, 1849.

Martell appears in the 1850 census on the record of those deceased in the past year.  Whether he was a major in the Mexican War, whether he was in the United States or Canadian military, or whether it was even a real title, remains a mystery.  His death record lists his birthplace as Minnesota, which probably connects him to the Martells of Red Lake and Red River, but little else is known about his early years.  And while we can’t say for certain whether he led the group purely out of self-interest, or whether he genuinely supported the cause, John Baptiste Martell must be remembered as a key figure in the struggle for a permanent Ojibwe homeland in Wisconsin and Michigan.  He didn’t live to see his fortieth birthday, but he made the 1848-49 Washington delegation possible.

So how do we sort all this out?

To refresh, my unanswered questions from the other posts about this delegation were:

1)  What route did this group take to Washington?

2)  Who was Major John Baptiste Martell?

3) Did he manipulate the chiefs into working for him, or was he working for them? 

4)  Was the Naaganab who went with this group the well-known Fond du Lac chief or the warrior from Lake Chetek with the same name?

5)  Did any chiefs from the La Pointe band go?

6)  Why was Martell criticized so much?  Did he steal the money?

7)  What became of Martell after the expedition?

8)  How did the “Martell Expedition” of 1848-49 impact the Ojibwe removal of 1850-51?

We’ll start with the easiest and work our way to the hardest.  We know that the primary route to Washington was down the Brule, St. Croix, and Mississippi to St. Louis, and from there up the Ohio.  The return trip appears to have been via the Great Lakes.

We still don’t know how Martell became a major, but we do know what became of him after the diplomatic mission.  He didn’t survive to see the end of 1849.

The Fond du Lac chief Naaganab, and the La Pointe chief Blackbird, were part of the group.  This indicates that a wide swath of the Lake Superior Ojibwe leadership supported the delegation, and casts serious doubt on the notion that it was a few minor chiefs in Michigan manipulated by Martell.

Until further evidence surfaces, there is no reason to support Schoolcraft’s accusations toward Martell.  Even though these allegations are seemingly validated by Warren and Copway, we need to remember how these three men fit into the story.  Schoolcraft had moved to Washington D.C. by this point and was no longer Ojibwe agent, but he obviously supported the power of the Indian agents and favored the assimilation of his mother-in-law’s people.  Copway and Warren also worked closely with the Government, and both supported removal as a way to separate the Ojibwe from the destructive influences of the encroaching white population.  These views were completely opposed to what the chiefs were asking for:  permanent reservations at the traditional villages.  Because of this, we need to consider that Schoolcraft, Warren, and Copway would be negatively biased toward this group and its interpreter.

Finally there’s the question Howard Paap raises in Red Cliff, Wisconsin.  How did this delegation impact the political developments of the early 1850s?  In one sense the chiefs were clearly pleased with the results of the trip.  They made many friends in Congress, in the media, and in several American cities.  They came home smiling with gifts and money to spread to their people.  However, they didn’t obtain their primary goal:  reservations east of the Mississippi, and for this reason, the following statement in Schoolcraft’s account stands out:

The plan of retrocession of territory, on which some of the natives expressed a wish to settle and adopt the modes of civilized life, appeared to want the sanction of the several states in which the lands asked for lie. No action upon it could therefore be well had, until the legislatures of these states could be consulted.

“Kindly feelings” from President Polk didn’t mean much when Zachary Taylor and a new Whig administration were on the way in.  Meanwhile, Congress and the media were so wrapped up in the national debate over slavery that they forgot all about the concerns of the Ojibwes of Lake Superior.  This allowed a handful of Indian Department officials, corrupt traders, and a crooked, incompetent Minnesota Territorial governor named Alexander Ramsey to force a removal in 1850 that resulted in the deaths of 400 Ojibwe people in the Sandy Lake Tragedy.

It is hard to know how the chiefs felt about their 1848-49 diplomatic mission after Sandy Lake.  Certainly their must have been a strong sense that they were betrayed and abandoned by a Government that had indicated it would support them, but the idea of bypassing the agents and territorial officials and going directly to the seat of government remained strong.  Another, much more famous, “uninvited” delegation brought Buffalo and Oshogay to Washington in 1852, and ultimately the Federal Government did step in to grant the Ojibwe the reservations.  Almost all of the chiefs who made the journey, or were shown in the pictographs, signed the Treaty of 1854 that made them.

Sources:
McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, and Seth Eastman. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Collected and Prepared under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs per Act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, 1851. Print.

         

             Vincent Roy Jr.                    (From Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst: Digitized by Google Books)

Chief Buffalo’s 1852 delegation to Washington D.C. is an iconic moment in the history of the Chequamegon region. As the story goes, the 92 year-old chief made the difficult journey by canoe, steamship, rail and foot all the way to the capital city, met with President Millard Fillmore, and came back with an order to stop the removal of the Wisconsin Ojibwe. Despite its continuing popularity, and its special importance to the Red Cliff community, recent scholarship has called into question several key details of this story.  Central to this controversy is whether or not Buffalo actually met the president.  However, I recently found a document in the archives of an early Red Cliff resident, Vincent Roy Jr.  It confirms what Red Cliff residents already know.  Chief Buffalo did travel to Washington and met the president in June of 1852.     

Benjamin Armstrong

According to the popular Buffalo story, some of the young men of the La Pointe Band were ready to fight the United States in early 1852.  The government removal efforts that led to the Sandy Lake Tragedy in the fall of 1850 were ongoing, and the future of the Ojibwe bands in Wisconsin was in doubt.  To maintain the peace, and gain title to reservations in Wisconsin, Buffalo and a small group of chiefs and headmen (including Oshogay Buffalo’s speaker and  Benjamin Armstrong his interpreter), left La Pointe that spring.  They encountered bad weather and negative government officials along the way, but they were able to gather signatures on their petition from several prominent Lake Superior whites.  In New York and Washington, they ran short on money and had to count on the kindness of wealthy Americans who were amazed by the culture and appearance of the Ojibwe from the western country. In Washington, the Indian Affairs department refused to hear their petition and ordered them to return to La Pointe, but through luck, they met a congressman who arranged a special meeting with the president.  As the story goes, Buffalo smoked with Fillmore and Oshogay delivered a long speech laying out the Ojibwe grievances.  In a second meeting, Fillmore declared the removal efforts over.  The delegation then returned to La Pointe via St. Paul and stopped at several Ojibwe villages causing “great rejoicing” as they announced the news.  Two years later the Treaty of La Pointe (1854) confirmed forever the promises made to Buffalo by Fillmore.

Washington Delegation, June 22 1852:  The man in the upper right is assumed to be Armstrong. (Engraved from unknown photograph by Marr and Richards Co. for B. Armstrong Early Life Among the Indians). Look for an upcoming post about this image

The hero, along with Buffalo, in this version story is often Benjamin Armstrong.  That shouldn’t be too surprising because all the details of it come from Armstrong’s 1891 memoir Early Life Among the Indians.  This entire work is freely available online on the website of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Another well-made website, chiefbuffalo.com, has several additional primary documents related to Buffalo and Armstrong. I consider Early Life required reading for anyone who lives in the Chequamegon Bay area.  However, the reader has to be careful with Armstrong.  As I mentioned in the post on Hanging Cloud, the female warrior of the Chippewa River country, the memoir should be treated like a work of literature rather than scholarly piece.  It wasn’t unusual for 19th-century autobiographies to contain fictional parts, and Early Life is no exception.  The details that the elderly Armstrong (who admitted to a fuzzy memory) dictated to Thomas P. Wentworth in 1891, don’t always match the details found in the documents of the 1850s.  This is the case with the Buffalo-Fillmore story.  

Recent Scholarly Work and Primary Sources about the 1852 Delegation

 In his extremely thorough scholarly overview of the pro-Treaty Rights position, Chippewa Treaty Rights (1991), Ronald Satz admitted that “Armstrong’s reminiscences contain some factual errors” and that anti-Treaty Rights anthropologist James Clifton attacked Armstrong’s credibility in an attempt to undermine the Treaty Rights argument.  Still, Satz’ story of the 1852 delegation is straight out of Armstrong with the admission that “Scholars have not located a decree by Fillmore specifically rescinding President Taylor’s removal order.”  Patty Loew’s Indian Nations of Wisconsin (2001) also gives the story Chief Buffalo’s journey largely the way it appeared in Armstrong.  At that time, it appeared that the popular story, the Armstrong story, and the mainstream scholarship all matched up.

However, recent years have seen a shift in the interpretation of the Buffalo story  Bruce M. White’s The Regional Context of the Removal Order of 1850, published in Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance:  Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights (2000; Michigan State University Press), is a highly comprehensive account of the time period and the players involved.  He devotes an entire chapter to the 1852 delegation.  He does not dismiss Armstrong entirely, writing:

Some questions have been raised about the accuracy of Armstrong’s account.  Some details, including dates, in Armstrong’s memories of events that had occurred 40 years before, appear to be mistaken.  This, of course, is true of many autobiographical accounts written without the benefit of written documentation.  Nonetheless, many key features of Armstrong’s account find corroboration in Indian office records, though not always in the exact way or order in which Armstrong describes them.  (pg. 245)

Despite this nod to Armstrong, White’s examination of historical records from the National Archives, the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, Minnesota Territorial records, and other sources, paint a different picture from that in Early Life Among the Indians.  He produces letters from federal officials saying the Indian Office sent the delegation home “with a flea in their ear,” while John Watrous, the Indian Agent the delegation came to complain about, received “flying colors.”  White also uncovered a letter that Bad River missionary Leonard Wheeler wrote after Buffalo’s return to La Pointe.  It stated the delegation “accomplished nothing.”  Most significantly, on page 253, White reproduces a letter from Buffalo and Oshogay to Minnesota Territorial governor Alexander Ramsey.  The letter is written in July 1852, after the delegation returned.  The chiefs inform the governor that the decision is his whether or not to remove the Ojibwe.  They plead with Ramsey to let them stay on the lake shore.  This a far cry from the situation described by Armstrong where Buffalo received a promise from Fillmore and spread “rejoicing” to all the Ojibwe bands. 

In fact, the very existence of the Buffalo-Fillmore meeting is called into question.  For all the documents White produces saying the delegation was unsuccessful, he fails to produce one that even speaks of a meeting with the president.  He leaves the possibility open for such a meeting, using some notations indicating chain of custody of the delegation’s petition as circumstantial evidence.  However he uses language like “Whether or not the Ojibwe actually met with Fillmore…” for an important symbolic event taken for granted in Ojibwe history up until that point.

If White’s investigation of the original sources calls into question the success of the delegation and its ability to meet the president, Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren:  The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader (2007; U. of Nebraska Press) makes one question Armstrong’s importance in the group.  In Early Life Among the Indians, Armstrong is the star of the show.  He claims the delegation was his idea, that he conducted it, made all the arrangements along the way, and was generally responsible for its success.  The historical record does not back these claims up.  Even before the Sandy Lake Tragedy, Ojibwe chiefs were doubting the truth of the removal order as stated by Agent Watrous and Governor Ramsey.  They demanded to hear it directly from the president himself.  By the end of 1852, after seeing hundreds of their fellow Ojibwe die in two botched removal attempts, and having missed out on two crucial years of annuity payments, the demands of the chiefs for a meeting with the president grew louder.  It was William Warren who wanted to lead and interpret for an officially-sanctioned delegation.  As Ramsey used stalling tactics, Warren’s health failed, and the hope of official approval waned, Buffalo took matters into his own hands and arranged his own delegation.  The elderly chief wanted to bring Leonard Wheeler along, but the missionary objected to the inclusion of a certain “half-breed” who was “incapable of doing justice to their affairs.”  White speculates that Wheeler meant Armstrong, but Armstrong was a white man from Alabama.  A June 24, 1852 letter, from William Warren to his cousin George, reveals who the mix-blooded interpreter likely was.  This letter, as quoted in Schenck (2007) reads:

…Old Beauf [Buffalo] with others having V. Roy Jr for Intpr have gone on to Washington.  All nonsense.  They can effect nothing going off like fools with poor interpreters and representing only the Lapointe band (pg. 162).

Warren had included Vincent Roy Jr. in his original plan for a Washington delegation, so it seems his objections to Buffalo’s choice of interpreter have more to do with the chief not following Warren’s plan than on any reflection on the merits of Roy himself.  Roy, who later in life was described as a man of outstanding character, may have earned the enmity of Wheeler because he was a strong Catholic.  Wheeler and the other ABCFM missionaries were working intensely at this time to counter Roman Catholic influence in the area.  In either case, Armstrong isn’t even mentioned.  Though his presence isn’t supported by these documents, I believe the details of Armstrong’s memoir show he was part of the delegation.  However, the claims that he “conducted” it seem grossly exaggerated. 

Local Response to the Questioning of the Chief Buffalo Story

Bruce White’s primary goal was to argue the Mille Lacs Treaty-Rights case rather than maintain the popular history of this area, and Theresa Schenck has never been one to shy away from challenging long-cherished myths, but what do scholars with a bigger stake in the Chief Buffalo story say?

On the Chequamegon History website, I’ve written a lot on Buffalo, and I’ve taken part in various projects related to Buffalo’s trip, so I was disappointed when I first heard from Dr. Schenck that our region’s defining historical event may have never happened.  Unfortunately, my primary research only seemed to confirm that the 1852 trip was a failure.  The only new document I could find was an untranslated German travelogue Reisen in Nordamerika in den Jahren 1852 and 1853 (Travels in North America in the Years 1852 and 1853) by the noted Austrian travel writers Moritz Wagner and Karl Ritter von Scherzer.  On page 336 of Volume 2, Wagner and Scherzer describe meeting Buffalo.  I don’t read German, so I had to work through Google Translate:

From page 336 of Reisen in Nordamerika Vol. 2 by Wagner and Scherzer. Look for an upcoming post with more from this obscure 19th-century travelogue (Digitized by Google Books).

 “The Indian chief, worthy by his age, heredity, and his imposing figure, told us he was born near the island and left the area only once to travel in the matters of his tribe to the Great Father [president] in Washington.  His stay was accompanied by words of comfort but little success.”   (My rough Google-aided translation of above)

This source, combined with the work of Schenck and White, and other issues I’ve had with Armstrong, led me to believe that perhaps the Chief Buffalo story was just a myth.  Then, this summer saw two locally-linked authors publish works.

This summer, Patty Loew released an updated version of her fantastic introduction to Wisconsin Indian history, Indian Nations of Wisconsin.  It revises the Armstrong-based section on the 1852 trip from the first edition to admit that Buffalo may not have met the president.  Loew lives in Madison but is a Bad River tribal member and a Chief Buffalo fan.

Howard Paap, who is married into the Red Cliff community, has written extensively about it.  His new book, Red Cliff, Wisconsin:  A History of an Ojibwe Community, also came out this summer He extends White’s arguments and thoroughly evaluates Armstrong’s story against the other primary sources.  Paap’s conclusions are bold for someone writing a history on behalf of a reservation community established for Buffalo’s descendants:

We are left with the question of whether or not the Buffalo and Oshaga delegation really did have an audience with President Fillmore in the summer of 1852, and if so, what actually transpired during such a meeting…  

…perhaps the easiest solution to the question of whether or not such a meeting occurred is to believe Benjamin Armstrong’s recollections, along with contemporary Ojibwe oral traditions about the trip, and leave it at that.

However, given the reality of the errors in Armstrong’s memoir, and much more importantly, the hard evidence of the trip’s paper trail as recently uncovered by Charles Cleland and Bruce White, we are confronted with a dilemma.  In today’s popular history the scene of Buffalo and President Fillmore standing eye to eye, as crafted in the Carl Gawboy painting wherein Fillmore is handing Buffalo a paper canceling the removal order, is compelling, but the surviving papers that document another scenario cannot be ignored (pg. 241).

Paap goes on to describe the Buffalo story as “folkloric,” but he suggests that while the 1852 delegation did not single-handedly end the threat of Ojibwe removal, the most symbolic part of the myth remains the meeting with the president.  Following White, Paap admits the possibility that the Buffalo-Fillmore meeting happened, reiterating that primary sources suggested the delegation did not achieve its objectives, but there was nothing that explicitly said there was no meeting with the president.

The Vincent Roy Jr. Account of the 1852 Trip   

In browsing the online catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Society archives this spring, I discovered the society had some of Vincent Roy Jr.’s papers.  The catalog description mentioned a fur trade journal, a description of early ships on Lake Superior, and some manuscript biographies of Roy from some Catholic priests.  Roy, who was raised in an Ojibwe-French mix-blood family, was a fur trader and government interpreter in his early years.  Still a young man at the time of the Treaty of 1854, he lived into the 20th century and was notable for several reasons including making multiple trips to Washington with Ojibwe delegations, being the namesake of Roy’s Point in Red Cliff, leading area mix-blooded Ojibwe in the cause of the “half-breed land claims,” and being one of the earliest and wealthiest settlers of Superior.  He was a commanding figure in the Catholic Church and Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and there is a lot out there about him.  

The wonderful staff at Wisconsin Historical Society Research Center in Ashland agreed to have the papers sent up from Madison for me.  The arrived in early August, mere days after I had the chance to read Paap and Loew.  Since the scope of Chequamegon History is pre-1860, I went in mostly interested in seeing the fur trade journal.  I assumed the biography would be identical to the biographical information about Roy published in Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst.  The Holland-born Verwyst was a priest who knew Roy personally and considered him “The Greatest Indian of the Northwest.”  I didn’t think there would be anything new in this part of the archive, but I was wrong:

[Letter accompanying manuscript biography written in Verwyst’s hand]

St. Agnes’ Church

205 E. FRONT ST.

Ashland, Wis., June 27, 1903

Reuben G. Thwaites,

Sec.  Wis. Hist. Soc.  Madison, Wis.

Dear Sir,

I herewith send you personal memories of Hon. Vincent Roy, lately deceased, as put together by Rev. Father Valentine O.F.M.  Should your society find them of sufficient historical interest to warrant their publication, you will please correct them properly before getting them printed.

Yours very respectfully,

Fr Chrysostom Verwyst O.F.M.

[From Page one of manuscript biography in Valentine’s handwriting]

~ Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy ~

~ T. Apr. 2. 1896 – Superior Wis. ~

[Sections 1-3 (Roy’s early years) omitted.  Transcription picks up on page 5 (section 4).  Valentine lists his sources in the left margin.  I will put them in parentheses before each paragraph]. 

(Mr. Roy to V.)           

IV.            His first Visit to Washington, D.C. – The Treaty of La Pointe.

At the instance of Chief Buffalo and in his company Vincent made his first trip to Washington, D.C.  It was in the spring of the year 1852.  Buffalo (Kechewaishke), head chief of the Lake Superior Ojibways had seen the day when his people, according to indian estimation, was wealthy and powerful, but now he was old and his people sickly and starving poor.  Vincent referring once to the incidents of that time spoke about in this way “He (Buffalo) and the other old men of the tribe, his advisers, saw quite well that things could not go on much longer in the way they had done.  The whites were crowding in upon them from all sides and the U.S. government said and did nothing.  It appeared to these indians their land might be taken from them without they ever getting anything for it.  They were scant of food and clothing and the annuities resulting from the sale of their land might keep them alive yet for a while.  The desire became loud that it might be tried to push the matter at Washington admitting that they had to give up the land but insisting they be paid for it.  Buffalo was willing to go but there was no one to go with him.  He asked me to go with him.  As I had no other business just then on hand I went along.”

(Sources: Cournoyer or Mr. Roy to V.) [Vincent Cournoyer was V. Roy’s brother-in-law]

They went by way of the lakes.  Arriving in Washington, they found the City and the capitol in a garb of mourning and business suspended.  Henry Clay, the great statesman and orator, had died (June 29) and his body was lying in state.  Vincent said:  “we shook hands and spoke with the President (Fillmore) and with some of the headmen of the government.  They told us that they could not do anything at the moment, but that our petition should be attended to as soon as possible.  Unable to obtain any more, we looked around a few days and returned home.”  The trip had entailed a considerable drain on their private purses and the result towards the point at issue for them, the selling of the land of the indians, was not very apparent.

(the treaty doct.)

After repeated urging and an interval of over two years, during which Franklin Pierce had become President of the United States, the affairs of these Indians were at last taken up and dealt with at La Pointe by Henry C. Gilbert and David B. Herriman, commissioners on the part of the United States.  A treaty was concluded, September 30th 1854.  The Lake Superior Ojibways thereby relinquished their last claims to the soil of north west Michigan, north east Wisconsin, and an adjoining part of Minnesota, and, whilst it was understood that the reserves at L’Anse Michigan, Odanah, Court Oreille Wisconsin and Fondulac Minnesota were set apart for them, they received in consideration of the rest the aggregate sum of about four hundred and seventy five thousand dollars, which, specified as to money and material, ran into twenty years rations.

(Cournoyer)

Chief Buffalo in consideration of services rendered was allowed his choice of a section of land anywhere in the ceded terrain.  The choice he made, it is said, were the heights of the city of Duluth, but never complying with the incident law formalities, it matters little that the land became the site of a city, his heirs never got the benefit of it.  Of Vincent who had been also of service to the indians from the first to the last of the deal, it can only be said that he remained not just without all benefit from it.  A clause was inserted in the treaty (Art. 2. n. 7.) by which heads of families and single persons over twenty one years of mixed blood were each entitled to take and hold free of further charge eighty acres of the ceded lands:- this overruled in a simple and direct way the difficulties Vincent had met with of late in trying to make good his claim to such a property.  The advantages here gained was however common to others with him.  For the sacrifices he made of time and money in going with Chief Buffalo to Washington he was not reimbursed, so it is believed, and is very likely true judgeing from what was the case when later on he made the same trip a second time.

[End of Section 4, middle of page 7 of Valentine’s manuscript]

In my mind, this document is proof that the Buffalo-Fillmore meeting did happen.  We know Roy went on the trip, and his account (unlike Armstrong’s) supports rather than contradicts the documents from the time period.  It wasn’t two scheduled ceremonial meetings that permanently settled the removal question.  In fact, it may have only been a handshake and a few words, but the central image of the two leaders, ogimaa and president, meeting remains part of the Chief Buffalo story.

Vincent Cournoyer and Vincent Roy Jr. c. 1880 (Charles Bell, Washington:  Collections of the Smithsonian Institution)

Identified as Vincent Cournoyer and Vincent Roy Jr. c. 1880 in photo at Bayfield Library.  See the Photos, Photos, Photos post for an alternative identification. (Charles Bell, Washington: Collections of the Smithsonian Institution)

For Vincent Roy Jr., I hope this inquiry will lead to more attention.  His life spanned two key eras in Ojibwe history and he was often at the center of it.  His name is all over the primary sources, but compared with Armstrong, the Warrens, and the Beaulieus, we don’t see him much in the secondary scholarship.

For Benjamin Armstrong, I think the Roy documents require us to take a fresh look at Early Life Among the Indians.  If the Fillmore meeting can be verified after a long look, there’s a good chance some of the other details in the memoir can be as well.  I’m a Benjamin Armstrong fan, and he’s taken a beating in this post and some of the recent scholarship, but I still maintain that there is a lot of truth in Early Life.

For Chief Buffalo, it is gratifying to find out that the 1852 meeting with the president isn’t complete fiction.  Buffalo may not have been satisfied with the results of his trip, but I feel the ultimate appeal of his story is the fight to keep an Ojibwe homeland in Wisconsin.  We may not be able to point to a single event and say, “That’s where the removal died,” but ultimately, the Ojibwe leadership prevailed.  For that reason, we should continue to celebrate the 1852 delegation, all the people who were part of it, and all those who were part of the larger struggle for justice it represented.

Sources:
Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892. Print.
Loew, Patty. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2001. Print.
———— Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal. 2nd ed.  Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2013. Print.
McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Verwyst, Chrysostom and Father Valentine.  Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy Jr. 1896-1903. MS. Vincent Roy Jr. Papers. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, n.p.
Verwyst, Chrysostom. Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga: First Bishop of Marquette, Mich., to Which Are Added Short Sketches of the Lives and Labors of Other Indian Missionaries of the Northwest. Milwaukee, WI: M.H. Wiltzius, 1900. Print.
Wagner, Moritz, and Karl Von Scherzer. Reisen in Nordamerika in Den Jahren 1852 Und 1853. Leipzig: Arnold, 1854. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

Thank you to Theresa Schenck, Howard Paap, Linda Mittlestadt, Pam Ekholm, Larry Balber, and Betty Johnson for help and encouragement in this research.

KAIZHEOSH, and his band from Lake Vieu Desert.  Michigan and Wisconsin: Copied from the original birch bark by Seth Eastman and published in Schoolcraft, Henry R. Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Volume 1. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, and Company, 1853. (Digitized by the University of Nebraska Libraries)

In the fall of 1848, a group of Ojibwe Indians led by a charismatic mix-blooded interpreter, arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio.  They were bound for Washington D.C., but didn’t have the money to get there because they didn’t have “permission” from the Indian Agent for the trip. They had to raise funds along the way by putting on dances for the curious public.  Those who read Chequamegon History might remember this post and recognize them as John Baptiste Martell, Oshkaabewis, Gezhiiyaash, and the other chiefs from the Lac du Flambeau/Ontonagon region who carried the famous pictographic birch bark petitions to Washington.  The pictographs showing the united Ojibwe clans, and the written petition that accompanied them, asked the government to create reservations in Michigan and Wisconsin, and not remove the Oijbwe.

When Gezhiiyaash got sick in Cincinnati, the doctor he was seeing noticed that the petitions were not the only birch bark documents carried by the party.  The ill Lac Vieux Desert chief was a leader in the Midewiwin Society, and he had brought a Mide scroll.  His doctor, like many prominent American men in the middle of the 19th century, was a Freemason, and this is where things got interesting.  And, I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to spoil any more of this story.  It’s a good one.

Masonic Voice Review, Volume 4.  J. Ernst., 1849.  Digitized by Google Books

There isn’t a whole lot to add to this other than to say the 1848-49 “Martell Expedition” gets weirder and more interesting with each new source that surfaces. Please read …a donation of twenty-four sections of land covering the graves of our fathers, our sugar orchards, and our rice lakes and rivers… and Reconstructing the “Martell” Delegation through Newspapers, for an explanation of the goals and accomplishments of these chiefs and the obstacles they faced along the way.

Sources:
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, and Seth Eastman. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Collected and Prepared under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs per Act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, 1851. Print.

“Chippewa Indians Fishing on the Ice” (Digitized by New York Public Library from Heroes and hunters of the West : comprising sketches and adventures of Boone, Kenton, Brady, Logan, Whetzel, Fleehart, Hughes, Johnston, etc. Philadelphia : H. C. Peck & Theo. Bliss, 1859.)

On June 9th, I transcribed and posted two letters related to the Sandy Lake Tragedy (the attempted removal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe in the fall of 1850, which claimed as many as 400 innocent lives). The letters, digitized by the Wisconsin Historical Society, were from the Warren Family Papers. One was from missionary Leonard Wheeler to William Warren before the tragedy, and another was from Indian Agent John Watrous to Warren during a second removal attempt a year later.

That post sought to assess how much responsibility Warren and Watrous bear for the 400 deaths. It also touched on the role of the Protestant A.B.C.F.M. missionaries in the region. This post continues those thoughts. This time, we’re looking at two more letters and evaluating one of the missionaries himself.

Both of these letters are from the Wheeler Family Papers, held by the Wisconsin Historical Society at the Ashland Area Research Center. I went directly to the original documents for these, and while I’ve seen them referenced in published works, I believe this is the first time these particular letters have been transcribed or posted online.

The first is from Sherman Hall, the founder of the La Pointe Mission, to his colleague Leonard Wheeler, who operated the satellite mission at Odanah. Hall traveled to Sandy Lake for the annuity payments and sent this letter to Wheeler, who was visiting family back in Massachusetts, after returning to La Pointe.


Lapointe. Dec. 28th 1850

Brother Wheeler:

I wrote you while at Sandy Lake and promised to write again when I should reach Lapointe. That promise I now redeem. I started from Sandy Lake on the fourth inst. and reached home on the 16th having been absent from home just eight weeks. I was never more heartily glad to leave a place than I was Sandy Lake, nor more glad to reach home after an absence. Of course winter here has justly begun. The snow was some ten inches deep on the Savannah Portage. On reaching the East Savannah River we found the ice good and clear of snow and water. This continued to be the case most of the way to the Grand Portage at Fond du Lac. From Fond du Lac to Lapointe the traveling most of the way was hard, and it was not till the seventh day from F. du L. that I reached home. Besides bad traveling I had to carry a pack which I found, when I got home weighed 60 pounds. With this however I found it not difficult to keep up with most of my traveling companions who were much heavier loaded than I. This is my first experience of carrying a heavy pack on a long journey and I am fully satisfied with the experiment. I had no alternative however, bet either to throw away my blankets and clothes, or carry them. Every body was loaded with a heavy pack, and I could employ no one. I however got through well—did not get lame as many others did, nor do I feel any furious[?] by ill effects of my journey since my arrival.

I found the mission family well on my arrival. They had felt somewhat lonesome while so many were absent from this place. Things in the community here are generally in a quiet state at present. I apprehend that there will be considerable pinching for provisions before spring. It has been a very windy and stormy fall. The people have taken but little fish. Many nets have been lost. The traders have but a small quantity of provisions, and if they had the people have but little to buy with. The bay opposite to this island is now principally covered with ice so that the Indians are on the ice some to spear fish. The ice has once broken up since it first closed, and a heavy wind would break it up again, as it is yet very thin, and the weather mild. If the lake is frozen the Inds will probably get considerable fish; but if it should be open they must suffer.

Our Indian meetings are pretty well attended, and I feel that there is ground for encouragement. Simon I think is exerting a good influence. His Catholic friends have tried to draw him back to their church; but seems stable. His oldest brother, who has recently lost his wife, has expressed a wish to hear the word of God. I hope he will yet become a sincere listener.

Our English exercises are attended by a smaller number than formerly since many have left this place. I think however for our own good, as well as on account of others, we ought to keep them up. Mr. Van Tassel has returned to remain here till spring. I have heard nothing from Bad River for some time past. I had formed a design to go there this week, but have been prevented by the state of the ice. I intend going as soon as the ice gets a little stronger. I suppose there are very few Indians there. More are about the Lake.

I heard that Mr. Leihy has lost both his horses which will be a serious inconvenience to him in this mill enterprise I presume.

Mr. Pulsifer has received one letter from you, and by our last mail he heard through his correspondent at Lowell that you had arrived at that place.

I suppose you find some changes have taken place in the wide world during the times you have been shut up in the wilderness. Do you find calls enough to keep you busy? I have been expecting a letter from you. I want to hear what you have to say about the things you see, and how you like visiting, etc.

I have just had a letter from Mr. Ely, who says, “We are [snugly by quarters?] in St. Paul. My home is full of music—am employed as choir leader in Mr. [Mill’s?] (Prs.) church—sing two evenings a week at Stillwater, and the rest of my time is well filled with the private scholars & tuning Pianos, of which there are 7 or 8 at St. Paul.” Perhaps Br. Ely will find this a more lucrative business than cutting and hauling pine logs. I am glad he has found employment.

Our children all attend school except Harriet. Marydoes very well. Please give my regards to your friends at Lowell. I am writing to Mr. Treat by this opportunity. [Wish?] kind regards to Mrs. W. I remain

yours

S. Hall.

“I was never more heartily glad to leave a place…” According to Chief Buffalo, 150 Ojibwe died at Sandy Lake that fall, and as many as 250 more died returning home along the route Hall describes. While still a very harsh journey, La Pointe would have been easier to reach alive than other Ojibwe villages inland from Lake Superior.
The Savannah Portage connects the West Savannah River (Mississippi watershed) to the East Savannah River (Lake Superior watershed). It was one of the most difficult parts of the route from Sandy Lake to Fond du Lac.
The Old Mission Church, La Pointe, Madeline Island. (Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: 24827)
“…and if they had the people have but little to buy with.” This is because the government failed to honor its treaty obligations and pay the annuities at Sandy Lake as promised.
The Indian meetings were prayer services conducted in Ojibwe. The ABCFM put a lot of effort into translating scriptures and hymns, and missionaries like Hall produced many of the earliest published works in the Ojibwe language. Simon is mentioned in both of the letters in this post. Rather than guess who he is, I will do more research and find out. From context, it seems he was one of the small number of mix-blood converts, or even fewer Ojibwe converts.
The 1850 US Census and 1855 Wisconsin State Census list William Van Tassel a blacksmith, Charles Pulsifer a teacher in the mission, and Erwin Leihy among the early American settlers of the Chequamegon Region.
A former colleague of Wheeler and Hall, Edmund F. Ely had left the missionary business by this time. His journals, edited and published by Theresa Schenck in 2012, provide some of the best insight available about this area in the 1830s.
Selah B. Treat was Secretary of the A.B.C.F.M. back in Boston.
Two months later, Hall is compelled to write the Wheelers in Massachusetts again. The reverend’s December predictions of “considerable fish” have not materialized, and the Ojibwe of La Pointe without their annuity payments, are starving.
This time, Hall addressed the letter to Harriet Wheeler, Leonard’s wife. She apparently had written to Hall’s teenage daughter (also named Harriet). It is unclear if Harriet Wheeler had expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the missionary efforts in that letter, but Reverend Hall’s letter back seems to suggest it does. In trying to convince Wheeler to “come back home,” Hall reveals his own doubts and beliefs. Taken in the context of the recent horrors of Sandy Lake and the continued starvation and suffering in the winter of 1851, it is a chilling letter to read–as much for Hall’s statements about the people he’s trying to “save” as it is for the hardships it describes.

Harriet Wheeler, pictured about forty years after receiving this letter. (Wisconsin Historical Society: Image ID 36771)

…your note to Harriet” Harriet Hall was Sherman’s oldest daughter, about 19 years old at this time.

“Generally they do not want to improve their condition.” This paragraph highlights, in part, why the missionaries gained so few converts. For them, conversion didn’t just demand a change in faith. It required that Indians fully adopt a particular kind of American Protestant worldview.
“But as long as they continue to waste their summers in idleness they must starve in the winter.” Hall neglects to mention that the government actively discouraged the Ojibwe from planting gardens or gathering wild rice in the summer of 1850, saying they would be removed to Sandy Lake and the annuity payments (which never arrived) would see them through the winter.
Many Ojibwe leaders, including Hole in the Day, blamed the rotten pork and moldy flour distributed at Sandy Lake for the disease that broke out. The speech in St. Paul is covered on pages 101-109 of Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader, my favorite book about this time period. (Photo from Whitney’s Gallery of St. Paul: Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID 27525)
Naw-waw-ge-waw-nose, the Little Current, was one of nine men from the La Pointe Band to sign the Treaty of 1854 as a “2nd Chief (Buffalo was the only member of the band to sign as a “1st Chief). According to Charles Lippert on Wikipedia, the modern spelling would be Naawajiwanose, translated as “Walks through the Middle of the Current.” In History of the Ojibways, William Warren mentions a man named the Little Eddy living at La Pointe in the early 1850s. According to Warren, he was part of the war party that killed trader John Findley and a group of voyageurs in 1824 at Lake Pepin.
“Such are the methods the heathens & Catholics take to deceive us. We could make many converts with flour and pork, especially at this time.” This statement brings to mind the Great Famine in Ireland, also going on at this time. Some Protestant aid societies would only serve soup to starving Catholics who gave up their faith. This phenomenon, known as “souperism,” continues to weigh heavily on the Irish popular imagination.
Mary Warren (1835-1925), was a teenager at the time of the Sandy Lake Tragedy. She is pictured here over seventy years later. Mary, the sister of William Warren, had been living with the Wheelers but stayed with Hall during their trip east. (Photo found on University of Connecticut Radio website, scanned from Frances Densmore photos in the Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology)

Lapointe, Feb. 24th 1851.

Mrs. Wheeler,

By our last mail I wrote to Mr Wheeler, and by this I will address a few lines to you. From your note to Harriet I suppose you are happy among your friends. I am glad you are so, and hope you will not only spend your winter pleasantly, but that you will find the present season of relaxation from the severe duties of your station here, the occasion of reconnecting[?] your health and spirits.

I do not feel that the time has yet come when the churches ought to close their efforts to save these Indians. I do not think they are entirely beyond the reach of hope. The prospect however looks dark. But I think the greatest cause of discouragement arises from their character, and not from their present political condition. Generally they do not want to improve their condition. They are satisfied with their ignorance and degradation. All they think of is to supply for their present wants without their own exertions, while they wish to live in idleness and sin. This is the cause of their keeping so much aloof from the influence of the missions. Their minds are dreadfully dark respecting the things of the future world. They seem to have no ideas of happiness superior to that derives from the gratification of the lowest animal appetites and passions. This is the reason why the truths of the gospel so little effect on them. These things present to my mind much stronger grounds of discouragement than their present political difficulties, though those at present are not inconsiderable.

But as stupid as is the conscience, and as dark as is the understanding and the heart, and as much as they are given up to [?]ality and sin, I believe there is a Power that can quicken them into life. My only hope is that He who has made them, and has power to save them, will come and add his blessing to the preaching of his own gospel, and make it to them the power and wisdom of God. Thousands of others as dead in trespasses and sins, have been saved. Why may not they be saved? Come back home and let us try still to do something for them. Tell Christians to remember them and pray for them, that the word of God among them may have free course and be glorified.

It is a time of great scarcity of food among the Indians. There is some one in our houses almost every hour of the day begging for food. Very few get more than a meal a day; many not half of one. I have been told by several individuals, that they have tried three or four days in succession to catch fish, and have been obliged to return to their starving families each night with nothing for them. I am frequently importuned to spare a little provisions till I am obliged to go away out of sight to get rid of their pleading. I have spared the last potatoes I dare let go. Corn we have none. We have but a small quantity of flour over what will be required to sustain our families till we can expect to obtain a new supply. For a long time I have not known fish so scarce as the present winter. That is almost the only dependence of this people. For a month to come there will be many hungry ones. Many of the French and half-breeds are but little better off than the Indians. All we can do is to divide a little morsel with the hungry ones who come to beg. We have not much to give to those who importune for something to carry to their families. But as long as they continue to waste their summers in idleness they must starve in the winter.

The young Hole-in-the-day has been down to St Paul and there made a public speech in which he attributes the sickness at the payment last fall to the bad provisions which were dealt out to the Indians, and imparts much blame to the officers of the government for the way in which they [were with?]. In time they had some flour dealt out to them which was much damaged. But I think there were other causes for the sickness which prevailed besides the bad provisions. I think however that in some [aspects?] the Indians were wronged. Treaty stipulations were not carried out. H is very confident that many of the Indians are not satisfied with the manner in which they have been dealt with, and recent events have not served to strengthen their attachment to the Government.

We had our communion yesterday. I think there is a [?]ably good state of feeling among the native church members at this time. Simon has been frequently sick this winter. But his trials appear to bring nearer to God. He appears to be growing in the knowledge of God and in piety.

You will probably recollect Mo-ko-kun-ens-ish, an Indian with a bunch[?] between his shoulders, married into the family of the Little-current. He is, by profession, a Catholic. About a week ago, he made me a visit, and said his priest had offended him, and he wished to join us. A short time since he lost a child, and when the priest came to bury it, he said he “scolded him” because he had not cleaned away the snow from the gate of the burying yard, and made a better path for him to come to the grave. He told a long story. I suspected his object was to get some provisions of me. I told him we should be happy to see him at our meetings, and told him where and when they would be held. He said he should attend only sometimes he might be obliged to fish to get something to eat, and be occasionally away. I said a few words to him on religious subjects, and he left without asking for anything. The next day he came with a small piece of cloth and asked me to give him provisions for it. I told I had not provisions to trade. He then enquired about meeting. I told him we were to hold one that evening in the school-house. He said he should attend. The evening came, the meeting was held—but he was not there. Nor have we seen him at any other meeting. Such are the methods the heathens & Catholics take to deceive us. We could make many converts with flour and pork, especially at this time.

Yours Truly,

S. Hall

[Written in margins]

All send love though I have not room to write it.

Mary goes to school and is doing very well.

 

 

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These are the originals of the paragraph about Hole in the Day’s speech in St. Paul. I couldn’t quite decipher all of it. Let me know what you see (Wheeler Family Papers, Personal Correspondence 1851, Wisconsin Historical Society Ashland Area Research Center).

In the June 9th post, we tried to determine how much William Warren and John S. Watrous were at fault for the deaths resulting from the 1850 Sandy Lake removal attempt. In this post, we will do the same for Sherman Hall.

Before we begin, it’s worth reviewing the facts. By 1850, Hall had lived at La Pointe for twenty years. He knew the people who lived here, and he knew the promises the Ojibwe were given at the Treaty of 1842. He was certainly aware of the Ojibwe position on the removal.

Rev. Hall did not order the removal. Compared with the government and Fur Company officials, he was fairly powerless within the Lake Superior region. However, he had a power of a different sort. As the primary voice of the ABCFM in Ojibwe country, he had powerful friends in the eastern states. Many Americans perceived the missionaries as the only neutral voice in the area. Hall admits in the December 28th letter that the Ojibwe were wronged. He could have advocated for their cause in the summer of 1850 as the illegal removal was unfolding. Instead, he largely went along with government efforts.

To his credit, in other letters Hall did blame the government for the failure of the Sandy Lake payment. The best book I’ve encountered about this time period is William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader by Theresa Schenck (Nebraska UP, 2007). On page 94, Dr. Schenck quotes a letter from Hall to ABCFM Secretary S.B. Treat. It is dated December 30, and is probably the letter referred to in the letter to Leonard Wheeler above. Hall is honest about Ojibwe feelings on the removal and seems to empathize somewhat. On page 155, Schenck details how the La Pointe mission did eventually turn against government removal efforts later in 1851.

So, it probably seems that I am defending Sherman Hall. Why? Truthfully, it’s because I want to have some balance in this post because, quite frankly, these two letters are some of the most disgusting, horrifying documents I’ve ever read. I felt especially sick typing up the February 24th letter to Harriet Wheeler. For a man who claimed to be “saving” the Ojibwe to be so heartless in the midst of so much suffering is appalling.

Was the mission running low on food? Sure, but doesn’t true Christian charity demand sharing to the last?

Should Hall’s language be judged by the standards of the racist times he lived in? Absolutely, but to say the things he says about human beings, his neighbors of twenty years, is inexcusable in any time period.

Is it possible he was traumatized by his experience at Sandy Lake, and this was a way of dealing with his personal guilt? This is possible. He does seem to be speaking to himself in the letter as much as he is to the Wheelers.

There is a danger in judging too much from just two letters, but I think Hall needs to be held to the same standard as Warren and Watrous were in the June 9th post. He could have spoken out against the removal to begin with. He didn’t. He was an eyewitness to Sandy Lake. He knew what the Ojibwe had been promised, and he saw the consequences of the government breaking those promises. His letters to the Wheelers in Boston could have been used to help right those wrongs by uniting the missions behind the Ojibwe cause. Instead, he chose to blame the people who had been wronged to the point of 400 deaths. For these reasons, I think when we list the villains of Sandy Lake, the Reverend Sherman Hall needs to be among them.

Sources:
Densmore, Frances. Chippewa Customs. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1929. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
KAPPLER’S INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES. Ed. Charles J. Kappler. Oklahoma State University Library, n.d. Web. 21 June 2012. <http:// digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/>.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

In the Fall of 1850, the Lake Superior Ojibwe (Chippewa) bands were called to receive their annual payments at Sandy Lake on the Mississippi River.  The money was compensation for the cession of most of northern Wisconsin,  Upper Michigan, and parts of Minnesota in the treaties of 1837 and 1842.  Before that, payments had always taken place in summer at La Pointe.  That year they were switched to Sandy Lake as part of a government effort to remove the entire nation from Wisconsin and Michigan in blatant disregard of promises made to the Ojibwe just a few years earlier.

There isn’t enough space in this post to detail the entire Sandy Lake Tragedy (I’ll cover more at a later date), but the payments were not made, and 130-150 Ojibwe people, mostly men, died that fall and winter at Sandy Lake.  Over 250 more died that December and January, trying to return to their villages without food or money.

George Warren (b.1823) was the son of Truman Warren and Charlotte Cadotte and the cousin of William Warren. (photo source unclear, found on Canku Ota Newsletter)

If you are a regular reader of Chequamegon History, you will recognize the name of William Warren as the writer of History of the Ojibway People.  William’s father, Lyman, was an American fur trader at La Pointe.  His mother, Mary Cadotte was a member of the influential Ojibwe-French Cadotte family of Madeline Island.  William, his siblings, and cousins were prominent in this era as interpreters and guides.  They were people who could navigate between the Ojibwe and mix-blood cultures that had been in this area for centuries, and the ever-encroaching Anglo-American culture.

The Warrens have a mixed legacy when it comes to the Sandy Lake Tragedy.  They initially supported the removal efforts, and profited from them as government employees, even though removal was completely against the wishes of their Ojibwe relatives.  However, one could argue this support for the government came from a misguided sense of humanitarianism.  I strongly recommend William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader by Theresa Schenck if you are interested in Warren family and their motivations.  The Wisconsin Historical Society has also digitized several Warren family letters, and that’s what prompted this post.  I decided to transcribe and analyze two of these letters–one from before the tragedy and one from after it.

The first letter is from Leonard Wheeler, a missionary at Bad River, to William Warren.  Initially, I chose to transcribe this one because I wanted to get familiar with Wheeler’s handwriting.  The Historical Society has his papers in Ashland, and I’m planning to do some work with them this summer.  This letter has historical value beyond handwriting, however.  It shows the uncertainty that was in the air prior to the removal.  Wheeler doesn’t know whether he will have to move his mission to Minnesota or not, even though it is only a month before the payments are scheduled.     

Bad River

Sept 6, 1850

Dear Friend,

I have time to write you but a few lines, which I do chiefly to fulfill my promise to Hole in the Day’s son. Will you please tell him I and my family are expecting to go Below and visit our friends this winter and return again in the spring. We heard at Sandy Lake, on our way home, that this chief told [Rev.?] Spates that he was expecting a teacher from St. Peters’ if so, the Band will not need another missionary. I was some what surprised that the man could express a desire to have me come and live among his people, and then afterwards tell Rev Spates he was expecting a teacher this fall from St. Peters’. I thought perhaps there was some where a little misunderstanding. Mr Hall and myself are entirely undecided what we shall do next Spring. We shall wait a little and see what are to be the movements of gov. Mary we shall leave with Mr Hall, to go to school during the winter. We think she will have a better opportunity for improvement there, than any where else in the country. We reached our home in safety, and found our families all well. My wife wishes a kind remembrance and joins me in kind regards to your wife, Charlotte and all the members of your family. If Truman is now with you please remember us to him also. Tomorrow we are expecting to go to La Pointe and take the Steam Boat for the Sault monday. I can scarcely realize that nine years have passed away since in company with yourself and Pa[?] Edward[?] we came into the country.

Mary is now well and will probably write you by the bearer of this.

Very truly yours

L. H. Wheeler

By the 1850s, Young Hole in the Day was positioning himself to the government as “head chief of all the Chippewas,” but to the people of this area, he was still Gwiiwiizens (Boy), his famous father’s son. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Samuel Spates was a missionary at Sandy Lake.  Sherman Hall started as a missionary at La Pointe and later moved to Crow Wing.

Mary, Charlotte, and Truman Warren are William’s siblings.

The Wheeler letter is interesting for what it reveals about the position of Protestant missionaries in the 1850s Chequamegon region.   From the 1820s onward, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent missionaries, mostly Congregationalists and Presbyterians from New England, to the Lake Superior Country.  Their names, Wheeler, Hall, Ely, Boutwell, Ayer, etc. are very familiar to historians, because they produced hundreds of pages of letters and diaries that reveal a great deal about this time period.  

Leonard H. Wheeler (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Ojibwe people reacted to these missionaries in different ways.  A few were openly hostile, while others were friendly and visited prayer, song, and school meetings. Many more just ignored them or regarded them as a simple nuisance.  In forty-plus years, the amount of Ojibwe people converted to Protestantism could be counted on one hand, so in that sense the missions were a spectacular failure.  However, they did play a role in colonization as a vanguard for Anglo-American culture in the region. Unlike the traders, who generally married into Ojibwe communities and adapted to local ways to some degree, the missionaries made a point of trying to recreate “civilization in the wilderness.”  They brought their wives, their books, and their art with them.  Because they were not working for the government or the Fur Company, and because they were highly respected in white-American society, there were times when certain missionaries were able to help the Ojibwe advance their politics.  The aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy was such a time for Wheeler.

This letter comes before the tragedy, however, and there are two things I want to point out.  First, Wheeler and Sherman Hall don’t know the tragedy is coming.  They were aware of the removal, and tentatively supported it on the grounds that it might speed up the assimilation and conversion of the Ojibwe, but they are clearly out of the loop on the government’s plans. 

Second, it seems to me that Hole in the Day is giving the missionaries the runaround on purpose.  While Wheeler and Spates were not powerful themselves, being hostile to them would not help the Ojibwe argument against the removal.  However, most Ojibwe did not really want what the missionaries had to offer.  Rather than reject them outright and cause a rift, the chief is confusing them.  I say this because this would not be the only instance in the records of Ojibwe people giving ambiguous messages to avoid having their children taken.

Anyway, that’s my guess on what’s going on with the school comment, but you can’t be sure from one letter.  Young Hole in the Day was a political genius, and I strongly recommend Anton Treuer’s The Assassination of Hole in the Day if you aren’t familiar with him.

c

I read this as “passed away since in company with yourself and Pa[?] Edward we came into the country.”  Who was Wheeler’s companion when a young William guided him to La Pointe?  I intend to find out and fix this quote.  (from original in the digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

The second letter I transcribed from the Warren Papers is from La Pointe Indian Agent John Watrous to William in August 1851.  This was the summer after the tragic removal attempt, which Watrous had been in charge of.  The government was trying to force the Ojibwe to remove again less than a year after the first removal attempt claimed 400 lives.  Needless to say, the Ojibwe were refusing to go back to Sandy Lake.

In 1851, Warren was in failing health and desperately trying to earn money for his family.  He accepted the position of government interpreter and conductor of the removal of the Chippewa River bands.   He feels removing is still the best course of action for the Ojibwe, but he has serious doubts about the government’s competence.  He hears the desires of the chiefs to meet with the president, and sees the need for a full rice harvest before making the journey to La Pointe.   Warren decides to stall at Lac Courte Oreilles until all the Ojibwe bands can unite and act as one, and does not proceed to Lake Superior as ordered by Watrous.  The agent is getting very nervous.

Clement and Paul (pictured) Hudon Beaulieu, and Edward Conner, were mix-blooded traders who like the Warrens were capable of navigating Anglo-American culture while maintaining close kin relationships in several Ojibwe communities.  Clement Beaulieu and William Warren had been fierce rivals ever since Beaulieu’s faction drove Lyman Warren out of the American Fur Company.  (Photo original unknown:  uploaded to findadagrave.com by Joan Edmonson)

For more on Cob-wa-wis (Oshkaabewis) and his Wisconsin River band, see this post.

Perish?

“Perish” is what I see, but I don’t know who that might be.  Is there a “Parrish”, or possibly a “Bineshii” who could have carried Watrous’ letter?  I’m on the lookout.  (from original in the digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

La Pointe

Aug 9th 1851

Friend Warren

I am now very anxiously waiting the arrival of yourself and the Indians that are embraced in your division to come out to this place.

Mr. C. H. Beaulieu has arrived from the Lake Du Flambeau with nearly all that quarter and by an express sent on in advance I am informed that P. H. Beaulieu and Edward Conner will be here with Cob-wa-wis and they say the entire Wisconsin band, there had some 32 of the Pillican Lake band come out and some now are in Conner’s Party.

I want you should be here without fail in 10 days from this as I cannot remain longer, I shall leave at the expiration of this time for Crow Wing to make the payment to the St. Croix Bands who have all removed as I learn from letters just received from the St. Croix.  I want your assistance very much in making the Crow Wing payment and immediately after the completion of this, (which will not take over two days[)] shall proceed to Sandy Lake to make the payment to the Mississippi and Lake Bands.

The goods are all at Sandy Lake and I shall make the entire payment without delay, and as much dispatch as can be made it; will be quite lots enough for the poor Indians.  Perish[?] is the bearer of this and he can tell you all my plans better then I can write them.  give My respects to your cousin George and beli[e]ve me

Your friend

       J. S. Watrous

W. W. Warren Esq.}

P. S.     Inform the Indians that if they are not here by the time they will be struck from the roll.  I am daily expecting a company of Infantry to be stationed at this place.

                                                                                                                        JSW

As far as we can tell, no one set out to murder 400 people during the Sandy Lake annuity payments in the winter of 1850-51.  Mistakes and oversights were made by various government officials during the process with deadly consequences.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we can call the Sandy Lake Tragedy an accident.  The Ojibwe were lied to, manipulated, and their wishes were ignored throughout the process.  The removal was not only unethical, it was probably also illegal.  However, no one served time for it, no one was fired for it, and while accusations and criticisms were leveled, no one was ever officially reprimanded.  

There are individuals who history needs to hold accountable for what happened.  Minnesota Territorial governor Alexander Ramsey has been justifiably given a large portion of the blame, but what about the people who were directly involved in carrying out the removal?  How much blame does William Warren deserve for being on the government payroll?  What about Watrous?  Chief Buffalo of La Pointe and other prominent Ojibwe leaders put the fault squarely on him, but others (including Warren) defended the agent’s actions in that horrible winter.  Watrous didn’t order the removal.  He didn’t cause congress to send the payments late.  He wasn’t even hired until the removal was already in the works, so how do we judge him?
Ultimately, we have to determine guilt by the way these men acted during the second removal attempt in the summer and fall of 1851.  Letters like the one transcribed above show that Warren was attempting to do right by his Ojibwe relatives even though he was working for the government.  His hands aren’t completely clean, but he maintained the trust of the Ojibwe leadership and ultimately worked to get them their desired audience with the president.  Watrous, however, was calling for troops and threatening to kick people off the annuity rolls less than a year after all that death occured under his watch.  To me, that has to put him among the most guilty in this dark chapter of history.   
Sources:
Schenck, Theresa M., William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Treuer, Anton. The Assassination of Hole in the Day. St. Paul, MN: Borealis, 2010. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.