By Amorin Mello

 


 

Selected letters from the

Wheeler Family Papers,

Box 3, Folders 11-12; La Pointe County.

 


 

This unsigned letter appears to be from Reverend Sherman Hall, who formerly lived at La Pointe with his family from 1831 until 1853.

Crow-wing, Min. Ter.

Jan. 9th 1854

Brother Wheeler,

Reverend Leonard Hemenway Wheeler ~ In Unnamed Wisconsin by Silas Chapman, 1895, cover image.

Presbyterian Minister Leonard Wheeler and his wife Harriet Wood Wheeler moved to La Pointe in 1841, where they likely witnessed the 1st Treaty at La Pointe in 1842.
The Wheelers relocated to Odanah on Bad River in 1845, where they erected a Protestant mission and invented the iconic Eclipse windmill for pumping water. 
Rev. Wheeler became a signatory of the 2nd Treaty at La Pointe on September 30th, 1854.

Though not indebted to you just now on the score of correspondence, I will venture to intrude upon you a few lines more.  I will begin by saying we are all tolerably well.  But we are somewhat uncomfortable in some respects.  Our families are more subject to colds this winter than usual.  This probably may be attributed in part at least to our cold and open houses.  We were unable last fall to do any thing more than fix ourselves temporarily, and the frosts of winter find a great many large holes to creep in at.  Some days it is almost impossible for us to keep warm enough to be comfortable.

Our prospects for accomplishing much for the Indians here I do not think look more promising than they did last fall.  There are but few Indians here.  These get drunk every time they can get whiskey, of which there is an abundance nearby.  Among the white people here, none are disposed to attend meetings much except Mr. [Welton?].  He and his wife are discontented and unhappy here, and will probably get away as soon as they can.  We hear not a word from the Indian Department.  Why they are minding us in this manner I cannot tell.  But I should like it much better, if they would tell us at once to be gone.  I have got enough of trying to do anything for Indians in connection with the Government.  We can put no dependence upon any thing they will do.  I have tried the experiment till I am satisfied.  I think much more could be done with a boarding school in the neighborhood of Lapointe than here And my opinion is, that since things have turned out as they have here, we had better get out of it as soon as we can.  With such an agent as we now have, nothing will prosper here.  He is enough to poison everything, and will do more moral evil in such a community, as this, than a half a dozen missionaries can do good.  My opinion is, that if they knew at Washington how things are and have been managed here, there would be a change.  But I do not feel certain of this.  For I sometimes am tempted to adopt the opinion that they do not care much there how things go here.  But should there be a change, I have little hope that is would would make things materially better.  The moral and social improvement of the Indians, I fear, has little to do with the appointment of agents and superintendents.  I do not think I ought to remain here very long and keep my family here, as things are now going.  If we were not involved with the Government with regard to the school matter, I would advise the Committee to quit here as soon as we can find a place to go to.  My health is not very good.  The scenes, and labors and attacks of sickness which I have passed through during the past two years have made almost a wreck of my constitution.  It might rally under some circumstances.  But I do not think it will while I stay here, so excluded from society, and so harassed with cares and perplexities as I have been and as I am likely to be in future, should we go on and try to get up a school.  My wife is in no better spirits than I am.  She has had several quite ill turns this winter.  the children all wish to get away from here, and I do not know that I shall have power to keep them here, even if I am to stay.

For more information about Rev. Hall’s role during the 1851 Sandy Lake Tragedy and Ojibwe Removal attempt, read Sandy Lake Letters: Sherman Hall to the Wheelers.

But what to do I do not know.  The Committee say they do not wish to abandon the Ojibwas.  I cannot in future favor the removal of the lake Indians.  I believe that all the aid they will receive from the Government will never civilize or materially benifit them.  I judge from the manner in which things have been managed here.  Our best hope is to do what we can to aid them where they are to live peaceably with the whites, and to improve and become citizens.  The idea of the Government sending infidels and heathens here to civilize and Christianize the Indians is rediculous.

Reverend Hall relocated from La Pointe to Crow Wing during 1853 when he thought Chippewa removal was imminent.

I always thought it doubtful whether the experiment we are trying would succeed.  In that case it was my intention to remove somewhere below here, and try to get a living, either by raising my potatoes or by trying to preach to white people, or by uniting both.  but I do not hardly feel strong enough to begin entirely anew in the wilderness to make me a home.  I suppose my family would be as happy at Lapointe, as they would any where in the new and scattered settlements for fifty or a hundred miles below here.  And if thought I could support myself then, I might think of going back there.  There are our old friends for whose improvement we have laborred so many years.  I feel almost as much attachment for them as for my won children.  And I do not think they ought to be left like sheep upon the mountains without a shepherd.  And if the Board think it best to expend money and labor for the Ojibwas, they had better expend it there than here, as things now are at least.  I think we were exerting much much more influence there before we left, then we have here or are likely to exert.  I have no idea that the lake Indians will ever remove to this place, or to this region.

Reverend Sherman Hall
~ Madeline Island Museum

What do you think of recommending to the Board to day to exert a greater influence on the people in the neighborhood of Lapointe[?/!]  I feel reluctant to give up the Indians.  And if I could get a living at Lapointe, and could get there, I should be almost disposed to go back and live among those few for whom I have labored so long, if things turn out here as I expect they will.  I have not much funds to being life with now, nor much strength to dig with.  But still I shall have to dig somewhere.  The land is easier tilled in this region than that about the lake.  But wood is more scarce.  My family do not like Minesota.  Perhaps they would, if they should get out of the Indian country.  Edwin says he will get out of it in the spring, and Miles says he will not stay in such a lonesome place.  I shall soon be alone as to help from my children.  My boys must take care of themselves as soon as they arrive at a suitable age, and will leave me to take care of myself.  We feel very unsettled.  Our affairs here must assume a different aspect, or we cannot remain here many months longer.  Is there enough to do at Lapointe; or is there a prospect that there will soon be business to draw people enough then, to make it an object to try to establish the institution of the gospel there?  Write me and let me know your views on such subjects as these.

[Unsigned, but appears to be from Sherman Hall]

 


 

Crow-wing Feb. 10th 1854

Brother Wheeler:

I received your letter of jan. 16th yesterday, and consequently did not sleep as much as usual last night. We were glad to hear that you are all well and prosperous. We too are well which we consider a great blessing, as sickness in present situation would be attended with great inconvenience. Our house is exceedingly cold and has been uncomfortable during some of the severe cold weather have had during the last months. Yet we hope to get through the winter without suffering severely. In many respects our missionary spirit has been put to a severer test than at any previous time since we have been in the Indian country, during the past year. We feel very unsettled, and of course somewhat uneasy. The future does not look very bright. We cannot get a word from the Indian Department whether we may go on or not. If we cannot get some answer from them before long I shall be taking measures to retire. We have very little to hope, I apprehend, from all the aid the Government will render to words the civilization and moral and intellectual improvement of the Indians. For missionaries or Indians to depend on them, is to depend on a broken staff.

“In 1831 the family of Sherman Hall, residents of Weathersfield, a secluded Vermont hamlet, bade him farewell as he set out with the purpose of converting the Chippewa Indians about Lake Superior. No doubt they felt that he had gone almost to the ends of the earth and that correspondence from that mysterious region was unique, for they cherished and carefully preserved his letters as they came back slowly from Mackinac, Sault Ste. Marie, and, finally La Pointe, the terminus of his journey.”
~ Minnesota Historical Society
“We have seen that the first La Pointe village was at the southwestern extremity of the island. This was known as the ‘Old Fort’ site, for here had been the original Chippewa village, and later the fur-trading posts of the French and English. Gradually, the old harbor became shallow, because of the shifting sand, and unfit for the new and larger vessels which came to be used in the fur trade.
“The American Fur Company therefore built a ‘New Fort’ a few miles farther north, still upon the west shore of the island, and to this place, the present village, the name La Pointe came to be transferred. Half-way between the ‘Old fort’ and the ‘New fort,’ Mr. Hall erected (probably in 1832) ‘a place for worship and teaching,’ which came to be the centre of Protestant missionary work in Chequamegon Bay.”
~ The Story of Chequamegon Bay
Reverend Sherman Hall’s Protestant mission was located at was is now Middleport; an unincorporated community in the town of La Pointe.

I do not see that our house is so divided against itself, that it is in any great danger of falling at present. My wife never did wish to leave Lapointe and we have ever, both of us, thought that the station ought not to be abandoned, unless the Indians were removed. But this seemed not to be the opinion of the committee or of our associates, if I rightly understood them. I had a hard struggle in my mind whether to retire wholly from the service of the Board among the Indians, or to come here and make a further experiment. I felt reluctant to leave them, till we had tried every experiment which held out any promise of success.  When I remove my family here our way ahead looked much more clear than it does now. I had completed an arrangement for the school which had the approval of Gov. Ramsey, and which fell through only in consequence of a little informality on his part, and because a new set of officers just then coming into power must show themselves a little wiser than their predecessors. Had not any associates come through last summer, so as to relieve me of some of my burdens and afford some society and counsel in my perplexities I could not have sustained the burden upon me in the state of my health at that time. A change of officers here too made quite an unfavorable change in our prospects. I have nothing to reproach myself with in deciding to come here, nor in coming when we did, though the result of our coming may not be what we hoped it would be. I never anticipated any great pleasure in being connected with a school connected in any way with the Government, nor did I suppose I should be long connected with it, even if it prospered. I have made the effort and now if it all falls, I shall feel that Providence has not a work for us to do here. The prospects of the Indians look dark, what is before me in the future I do not know. My health is not good, though relief from some of the pressure I had to sustain for a time last fall and the cold season has somewhat [?????] me for the time being. But I cannot endure much excitement, and of course our present unsettled affairs operate unfavorably upon it. I need for a time to be where I can enjoy rest from everything exciting, and when I can have more society that I have here, and to be employed moderately in some regular business.

Antoine Gordon [Gaudin]
~ Noble Lives of a Noble Race by the St. Mary’s Industrial School (Bad River Indian Reservation), 1909, page 207.

How to decide for the future I do not know. There is home missionary work which might and ought to be done at the Mississippi below here, but it would require more physical labor and hardship that I at present hardly dare to undertake, and the privations for the present at least would be scarcely less that in the Indian country. I have thought some of going back to Lapointe, as it seems to me that if anything can be done for the Indians, there is more hope there than anywhere else, I mean in that neighborhood.  But if I understand you you do not think it best to support a foreign missionary there. I do not see what I could do there to earn my bread by labor, if I were there. I should be glad to complete some of my Indian manuscripts and put them in a shape that they might be useful to future missionaries, if Providence seems so to direct. But if I leave the service of the Board now, I cannot do it. I have spent a vast amount of labor on them, and it must be all lost to everybody, if I must break up now and leave the mission. This was one of the reasons that weighed much with me in deciding to come here. Besides superintending the school we anticipated, I hoped to find considerable time to study. But enough on this subject for the present.

Charles Henry Oakes
~ Findagrave.com

As to your account I have not had time to examine it, but will write you something about it by & by. As to any account which Antoine Gaudin has against me, I wish you would have him send it to me in detail before you pay it. I agreed with Mr. Nettleton to settle with him, and paid him the balance due to Antoine as I had the account. I suppose he made the settlement, when he was last at Lapointe. As to the property at Lapointe, I shall immediately write to Mr. Oakes about it. But I suppose in the present state of affairs, it will be perhaps, a long time before it will be settled so as to know who does own it. It is impossible for me to control it, but you had better keep posession of it at present. I cannot send Edwin [??] through to cultivate the land & take care of it. He will be of age in the spring, and if he were to go there I must hire him. He will probably leave us in the spring. Please give my best regards to all. Write me often.

Yours truly

S. Hall

 


 

Crow-wing, Min. Ter.
Feb. 21st 1854

Brother Wheeler,

Paul Hudon Beaulieu
~ FamilySearch.org

Brothers Paul and Clement Beaulieu were sons of French furtrader Bazil Hudon Beaulieu and grandsons of Ojibwe leader Waubishguauguage (White Raven).  Sisters Elizabeth and Julie Beaulieu were married to Charles Borup and Charles Oakes respectively.
Brothers-in-law Borup and Oakes were the American Fur Company agents at La Pointe when it was relocated from ‘Old Fort’ to ‘New Fort’ during the 1830’s.
Borup and Oakes relocated from La Pointe to St. Paul in 1848, where they established the first bank in Minnesota Territory during 1854.

I wrote you a few days ago, and at the same time I wrote to Mr. Oakes inquiring whether he had got possession of the Lapointe property. I have not yet got a reply from him, but Mr. Beaulieu tells me that he heard the same report which you mentioned in your letter, and that he inquired of Mr. Oakes about it when he saw him on a recent visit to St. Paul, and finds that it is all a humbug. Oakes has nothing to do with it. Mr. Beaulieu said that the sale of last spring has been confirmed, and that Austrian will hold Lapointe. So farewell to all the inhabitants’ claims then, and to anything being done for the prosperity of the peace for the present, unless it gets out of his hands.

I have written to Austrian to try to get something for our property if we can. But I fear there is not much hope. If he goes back to Lapointe in the spring, do the best you can to make him give us something. I feel sorry for the inhabitants there that they are left at his mercy. He may treat them fairly, but it is hardly to be expected.

Clement Hudon Beaulieu
~ TreatiesMatter.org

As to our affairs here, there has been no particular change in their aspects since I wrote a few days ago. There must be a crisis, I think, in a few weeks. We must either go on or break up, I think, in the spring. We are trying to get a decision. I understand our agent has been threatened with removal if he carries on as he has done. I believe there is no hope of reformation in his case, and we may get rid of him. Perhaps God sent us here to have some influence in some such matters, so intimately connected with the welfare of the Indians. I have never thought I [????] can before I was sent in deciding to come here. Some trials and disappointments have grown out of my coming, but I feel conscious of having acted in accordance with my convictions of duty at this time.

If all falls through, I know not what to do in the future. The Home Missionary Society have got more on their hands now than they have funds to pay, if I were disposed to offer myself to labor under them. I may be obliged to build me a shanty somewhere on some little unoccupied piece of land and try to dig out a living. In these matters the Lord will direct by his providence.

Augustus Barber was ‘sent into the Lake’ during 1856, and Albert McEwen was ‘tripped up’ during 1857 by ‘unprincipled fellows’.
The 1868 assassination of Bagone-giizhig (Hole-In-The-Day) the Younger was later revealed to have been led by Clement Beaulieu.

You must be on your guard or some body will trip you up and get away your place. There are enough unprincipled fellows who would take all your improvements and send you and all the Indians into the Lake if they could make a dollar by it. I should not enlarge much, without getting a legal claim to the land. Neither would I advise you to carry on more family than is necessary to keep what team you must have, and to supply your family with milk and vegetables. It will be advantage/disadvantage to you in a pecuniary point of view, it will load you with and tend to make you worldly minded, and give your establishment the air of secularity in the eyes of the world. If I were to go back again to my old field, I would make my establishment as small as I could & have enough to live comfortable. I with others have thought that your tendency was rather towards going to largely into farming. I do not say these things because I wish to dictate or meddle with your affairs. Comparing views sometimes leads to new investigations in regard to duty.

May the Lord bless you and yours, and give you success and abundant prosperity in your labours of love and efforts to Save the Souls around you.

Give my best regards to Mrs. W., the children, Miss S and all.

Yours truly,

S. Hall

Henry Blatchford (aka Francois Decharrault) was a La Pointe Band mixed-blood, a Reverend, and an interpreter at treaties.

I forgot to say that we are all well.  Henry and his family have enjoyed better health here, then they used to enjoy at Lapointe.

 


 

Feb 27

Brother Wheeler.

My delay to answer your note may require an explanation.  I have not had time at command to attend to it conveniently at an earlier period.  As to your first questions.  I suppose there will be no difference of opinion between us as to the correctness of the following remarks.

  1. The Gospel requires the members of a church to exercise a spirit of love, meekness and forbearance towards an offending brother.  They are not to use unnecessary severity in calling him to account for his errors.  Ga. 6:1.
  2. The Object of Church discipline is, not only to [pursue/preserve?] the Church pure in doctrine & morals, that the contrary part may have no evil thing to say of them; but also to bring the offender to a right State of mind, with regard this offense, and gain him back to duty and fidelity.
  3. If prejudice exist in the mind of the offender towards his brethren for any reason, the spirit of the gospel requires that he be so approached if possible as to allay that prejudice, otherwise we can hardly expect to gain a candid hearing with him.

Charles William Wulff Borup, M.D. ~ Minnesota Historical Society

Born in Denmark, Doctor Charles William Wulff Borup married into the powerful Beaulieu Family along with Charles Oakes.
The Borup/Beaulieu/Oakes family participated in and signed multiple American treaties with the Chippewas.  They were the last owners of the American Fur Company outfit at La Pointe when Julius Austrian acquired it in 1853.

I consider that these remarks have some bearing on the case before us.  If it was our object to gain over Dr. B. to our views of the Sabbath, and bring him to a right State of mind with regard this Sabbath breaking, the manner of approaching him would have, in my view, much to do with the offence.  He may be approached in a Kind and [forbearing?] manner, when one of sternness and dictation will only repel him from you.  I think we ought, if possible, and do our duty, avoid a personal quarrel with him.  To have brought the subject before the Church & made a public affair of it, before [this/then?] and more private means have been tried to get satisfaction, would, I am sure, have resulted in this.  I found from my own interviews with him, that there was hope, if the rest of the brethren would pursue a similar course.  I felt pretty sure they would obtain satisfaction.  IF they had [commenced?] by a public prosecution before the church, it would only have made trouble without doing any good.  The peace of our whole community would have been disturbed.  I thought one step was gained when I conversed with him, and another when you met him on the subject.  I knew also that prejudices existed both in his mind towards us, & in our minds towards him which were likely to affect the settlement of this affair, and which as I thought, would be much allayed by individuals going to him and speaking face to face on this subject in private.  He evidently expected they would do so.  Mutual conversations and explanations allay these feelings very much.  At least it has been so in my experience.

Reverend Edmund Franklin Ely.
~ Duluth Public Library

Presbyterian Minister Edmund Ely lived at La Pointe and around Lake Superior from 1833 to 1862.  
Rev. Ely met Dr. Borup in 1833 when Ely required his medical care during a trip to La Pointe.

As to your second question.  I do not say that it was Mr. Ely’s duty to open the subject to Doc. Borup at the preparatory lecture.  If he had done so, it would have been only a private interview; for there [was?] not enough present to transact business.  All I meant to affirm respecting that occasion is, that it afforded a good opportunity to do so, if he wishes, and that Dr. B. expected he would have done so, as I afterwards learnt, if he has any objection to make against his coming to the communion.

As to your third question.  I have no complaint to make of the church, that I have urged them to the performance of any duties in this case they have refused to perform.

And now permit me to ask in my turn.

What “duties” have they urged me to perform in this case, which I “have been unwilling, or manifested a reluctance to perform?”

Did you intend by anything which wrote to me or said verbally, to request me to commence a public prosecution of Doc. Borup before the Church?

Will you have the goodness to state in writing, the substance of what you said to me in your study as to your opinion and that of others suspecting my delinquency in maintaining church discipline.

A reply to these questions would be gratefully received.

Your brother in Christ

S. Hall

 


 

Crow Wing. March 12th 1854

Brother Wheeler:

Read the La Pointe Lands and the James Hughes Affair for primary sources from the Julius Austrian Papers about the fraudulent transfer of La Pointe during 1853 between Julius Austrian and Charles Oakes, et al.
This curious situation of Ministers negotiating with a Jewish merchant to buy back their Churches reveals a radical contrast from the stereotypical power dynamics between Indians, Mixed Bloods, Fur Traders, and Missionaries portrayed in most secondary sources about La Pointe during 1854.  
This curious situation may have been a primary cause of anti-semitic language directed towards Julius Austrian in later primary sources, such as Objections to Mail Route 13780 in 1855. 

Your letter of Feb 17th came to hand by our last mail; and though I wrote you but a short time ago, I will say a few words in relation to one or two topics to which you allude. Shortly after I received your former letter I wrote to Mr. Oakes enquiring about the property at Lapointe. In reply, says that himself and some others purchased Mr. Austrian’s rights at Lapointe of Old Hughes on the strength of a power of attorney which he held. Austrian asserts the power of attorney to be fraudulent, and that they cannot hold the property. Oakes writes as if he did not expect to hold it. Some time ago I wrote to Mr. Austrian on the same subject, and said to him that if I could get our old place back, I might go back to Lapointe. He says in reply —

Julius Austrian
~ Madeline Island Museum

I should feel much gratified to see you back at Lapointe again, and can hold out to you the same inducements and assurances as I have done to all other inhabitants, that is, I shall be at Lapointe early in the spring and will have my land surveyed and laid out into lots, and then I shall be ready to give to every one a deed for the lot he inhabits, at a reasonable price, not paying me a great deal more than cost trouble, and time. But with you, my dear Sir, will be no trouble, as I have always known you a just and upright man, and have provided ways to be kind towards us, therefore take my assurance that I will congratulate myself to see you back again; and it shall not be my fault if you do not come. If you come to Lapointe, at our personal interview, we will arrange the matter no doubt satisfactory.

The property” from the James Hughes Affair is outlined in red.  This encompassed the Church at La Pointe (New Fort) and the Mission (Middleport) of Madeline Island.  1852 PLSS survey map by General Land Office.

I suppose Austrian will hold the property and probably we shall never realize anything for our improvements. You must do the best you can. Make your appeal to his honor, if he has any. It will avail nothing to reproach him with his dishonesty.  I do not know what more I can do to save anything, or for any others whose property is in like circumstances with ours.

Selah B. Treat was Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions back in Boston.

You speak discouragingly of my going back to Lapointe. I do not think the Home Miss. Soc. would send a missionary there only for the few he could reach in the English language. If the people want a Methodist, encourage them to get one. It is painful to me to see the place abandoned to irreligion and vices of every Kind, and the labours I have expended there thrown away. I can hardly feel that it was right to give up the station when we did. If I thought I could support myself there by working one half the time and devoting the rest to ministerial labors for the good of those I still love there, I should still be willing to go back, if could get there & had a shelter for my head, unless there is a prospect of being more useful here. But the land at Lapointe is so hard to subdue that I am discouraged about making an attempt to get a living there by farming. I am not much of a fisherman. There is some prospect that we may be allowed to go on here. Mr. Treat has been to Washington, and says he expects soon to get a decision from the Department. We have got our school farm plowed, and the materials are drawn out of the woods for fencing it. If I have no orders to the contrary, I intend to go on & plant a part of it, enough to raise some potatoes. We may yet get our school established. If we can go ahead, I shall remain here, but if not, I think it is not my duty to remain here another year, as I have the past. In other circumstances, I could do more towards supporting myself and do more good probably.

Old Chief Kibishkinzhugon could not be immediately identified.

I have felt much concerned for the people of Lapointe and Bad River on account of the small pox. May the Lord stay this calamity from spreading among you. Write us every mail and tell us all. It is now posted here today that the Old Chief [Kibishkinzhugon?] is dead. I hardly credit the report, though I should suppose he might be one of the first victims of the disease.

I can write no more now. We are all very well now. Give my love to all your family and all others.

This appears to be Robert Stuart from the 1842 Treaty at La Pointe.

Tell Robert how the matters stands about the land. It stands him in how to be on good terms with the Jew just now.

Yours truly,

S. Hall

The snow is nearly all off the ground and the weather for two or three weeks has been as mild as April.

 


 

Crow Wing M.H. Apr. 1 1854

Dear Br. & Sr. Wheeler.

Reverend Welton and his family could not be immediately identified.
Mrs. P was the wife of Reverend Charles Pulsifer.  They were formerly stationed at Rev. Hall’s mission in La Pointe.

I have received a letter from you since I wrote to you & am therfore in your debt in that matter.  I have also read your letters to Br. & Sr. Welton  I suppose you have received my letter of the 13th of Feb. if so, you have some idea of our situation & I need say no more of that now; & will only say that we are all well as usual & have been during the winter.  Mrs. P_ is considerably troubled with her old spinal difficulty.  She has got over her labors here last summer * fall.  Harriet is not well  I fear never will be, because the necessary means are not likely to be used, she has more or less pain in her back & side all the time, but she works on as usual & appears just as she did at LaPointe, if she could be freed from work so as to do no more than she could without injury & pursue uninterruptedly & proper medical course I think she might regain pretty good health.  (Do not, any of you, send back these remarks it would not be pleasing to her or the family.)  We have said what we think it best to say) –

Br. Hall is pretty well but by no means the vigorous man he once was.  He has a slight – hacking cough which I suppose neither he nor his family have hardly noticed, but Mrs. P_ says she does not like the sound of it.  His side troubles him some especially when he is a good deal confined at writing.  Mr. & Mrs. W_ are in usual health.  Henry’s family have gone to the bush.  They are all quite well.  He stays here to assist br. H_ in the revision & keeps one or two of his children with him.  They are now in Hebrews, with the Revision.  Henry I suppose still intends to return to Lapointe in the spring. –

Now, you ask, in br. Welton’s letter, “are you all going to break up there in the spring.”  Not that I know of.  It would seem to me like running away rather prematurely.  When the question is settled, that we can do nothing here, then I am willing to leave, & it may be so decided, but it is not yet.  We have not had a whisper from Govt. yet.  Wherefore I cannot say.

It looks now as if we must stay this season if no longer.  Dr. Borup writes to br. Hall to keep up good courage, that all will come out right by & by, that he is getting into favor with Gov. Gorman & will do all he can to help us. (Br. Hall’s custom is worth something you know).

Henry C. Gilbert
~ Branch County Photographs

By advise of the Agent, we got out (last month) tamarack rails enough to fence the school farm (which was broke last summer) of some 80 acres & it will be put up immediately.  Our great father turned out the money to pay for the job.  These things look some like our staying awhile  I tell br H_ I think we had better go as far as we can, without incurring expense to the Board (except for our support) & thus show our readiness to do what we can.  if we should quit here I do not know what will be done with us.  Br Hall would expect to have the service of the Board I suppose.  Should they wish us to return to Bad River we should not say nay.  We were much pleased with what we have heard of your last fall’s payment & I am as much gratified with the report of Mr. H. C. Gilbert which I have read in the Annual Report of the Com. of Indian Affairs.  He recommends that the Lake Superior Indians be included in his Agency, that they be allowed to remain where they are & their farmers, blacksmith & carpenter be restored to them.  If they come under his influence you may expect to be aided in your efforts, not thwarted , by his influence.  I rejoice with you in your brightening prospects, in your increased school (day & Sabbath) & the increased inclination to industry in those around you.  May the lord add his blessing, not only upon the Indians but upon your own souls & your children, then will your prosperity be permanent & real. Do not despise the day of small things, nor overlook especially neglect your own children in any respect.  Suffer them not to form idle habits, teach them to be self reliant, to help themselves & especially you, they can as well do it as not & better too, according to their ability & strength, not beyond it, to fear God & keep his commandments & to be kind to one another (Pardon me these words, I every day see the necessity of what I have said.)  We sympathize with you in your situation being alone as you are, but remember you have one friend always near who waits to [commence?] with you, tell Him & all with you from Abby clear down to Freddy.

Affectionately yours

C. Pulsifer

Write when you can.

 


 

Crow wing Min. Ter.

April 3d 1854

Brother Wheeler

George E. Nettleton and his brother William Nettleton were pioneers, merchants, and land speculators at what is now Duluth and Superior.
~ Image from The Eye of the North-west: First Annual Report of the Statition of Superior, Wisconsin by Frank Abial Flower, 1890, page 75.

Since I wrote you a few days ago, I have received a letter from Mr. G. E. Nettleton, in which he says, that when he was at Lapointe in December last, he was very much hurried and did not make a full settlement with Antoine. He says further, that he showed him my account, and told him I had settled with him, and that he would see the matter right with Antoine. A. replied that all was right. I presume therefore all will be made satisfactory when Mr. N. comes up in the Spring, and that you will have need to make yourself no further trouble about this matter.

I have also received a short note from Mr. Treat in which he says,

“I have not replied to your letters, because I have been daily expecting something decisive from Washington. When I was there, I had the promise of immediate action; but I have not heard a word from them”.

“I go to Washington this Feb, once more. I shall endeavor to close up the whole business before I return. I intend to wait till I get a decision. I shall propose to the Department to give up the school, if they will indemnify us. If I can get only a part of what we lose, I shall probably quit the concern”.

Thus our business with the Government stood on March the 9th, I have lost all confidence in the Indian Department of our Government under this administration, to say nothing of the rest of it. If the way they have treated us is an index to their general management, I do not think they stand very high for moral honesty. The prospects for the Indians throughout all our territories look dark in the extreme. The measures of the Government in relation to them are not such as will benefit and save many of them. They are opening the floodgates of vice and destruction upon them in every quarter. The most solemn guarantees that they shall be let alone in the possession of domains expressly granted them mean nothing.

Our prospects here look dark. For some time past I have been rather anticipating that we should soon get loose and be able to go on. But all is thrown into the dark again. What I am to do in future to support my family, I do not know. If we are ordered to quit here and turn over the property, it would turn [illegible] out of doors.

Mr. Austrian expects us back to Lapointe in the Spring & Mr. Nettleton proposes to us to go to Fond du Lac, (at the Entry). He says there will be a large settlement then next season. A company is chartered to build a railroad through from the Southern boundary of this territory to that place. It is probable that Company [illegible] will make a grant of land for that purpose. If so, it will probably be done in a few years. That will open the lake region effectually. I feel the need of relaxation and rest before I do anything to get established anywhere.

We are still working away at the Testament, it is hard work, and we make lately but slow progress. There is a prospect that the Bible Society will publish it but it is not fully decided. I wish I could be so situated that I could finish the grammar.

But I suppose I am repeating what I have said more than once before. We are generally in good health and spirits. We hope to hear from by next mail.

Yours truly

S. Hall

What do you think about the settlements above Lapointe and above the head of the Lake?

 


 

Detroit July 10th 1854

Rev. Dr. Bro.

At your request and in fulfilment of my promise made at LaPointe last fall so after so long a time I write: And besides “to do good & to communicate” as saith the Apostle “forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

We did not close up our Indian payments of last year until the middle of the following January, the labors, exposures and excitements of which proved too much for me and I went home to New York sick & nearly used up about the last of February & continued so for two months.  I returned here about a week ago & am now preparing for the fall pay’ts.

The Com’sr. has sent in the usual amounts of Goods for the LaPointe Indians to Mr. Gilbert & I presume means to require him to make the payment at La P. that he did last fall, although we have received nothing from the Dep’t. on the subject.

George Washington Manypenny (1808-1892) was the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the United States from 1853 to 1857.”
~ Wikipedia.org

In regard to the Treaty with the Chipp’s of La Sup’r & the Miss’i, the subject is still before Congress and if one is made this fall it has been more than intimated that Com’r Manypenny will make it himself, either at LaP’ or at F. Dodge or perhaps at some place farther west.  Of course I do not speak from authority or any of the points mentioned above, for all is rumour & inference beyond the mere arrival here of the Goods to Mr G’s care.

From various sources I learn that you have passed a severe winter and that much sickness has been among the Indians and that many of them have been taken away by the Small Pox.

This is sad and painful intelligence enough and I can but pray God to bless & overrule all to the goods of his creasures and especially to the Missionaries & their families.

Notwithstanding I have not written before be assured that I have often [???] of and prayed for you and yours and while in [Penn.?] you made your case my own so far as to represent it to several of our Christian brethren and the friends of missions there and who being actuated by the benevolent principles of the Gospel, have sent you some substanted relief and they promise to do more.

The Elements of the political world both here and over the waters seem to be in fearful & [?????] commotion and what will come of it all none but the high & holy one can know.  The anti Slavery Excitement with us at the North and the Slavery excitement at the South is augmenting fact and we I doubt not will soon be called upon to choose between Slavery & freedom.

If I do not greatly misjudge the blessed cause of our holy religion is or seems to be on the wane.  I trust I am mistaken, but the Spirit of averice, pride, sensuality & which every where prevails makes me think otherwise.  The blessed Christ will reign [recenth-den?] and his kingdom will yet over all prevail; and so may it be.

Let us present to him daily the homage of a devout & grateful heart for his tender mercies [tousward?] and see to it that by his grace we endure unto the end that we may be saved.

My best regards to Mrs. W. to Miss Spooner to each of the dear children and to all the friends & natives to each of whom I desire to be remembered as opportunity occurs.

The good Lord willing I may see you again this fall.  If I do not, nor never see you again in this world, I trust I shall see and meet you in that world of pure delight where saints immortal reign.

May God bless you & yours always & ever

Richard M. Smith wrote the 1854 Treaty at La Pointe as the Secretary for Indian Agent Gilbert.

I am your brother

In faith Hope & Charity

Rich. M. Smith

 

Rev Leonard H. Wheeler

LaPointe

Lake Superior

 


 

Miss. House Boston

Augt’ 31, 1854

Rev. L. H. Wheeler,

Lake Superior

Dear Brother

Yours of July 31 I laid before the Com’sr at our last meeting.  They have formally authorized the transfer of Mr & Mrs Pulsifer to the Lake, & also that of Henry Blatchford.

Robert Stuart was formerly an American Fur Company agent and Acting Superintendent on Mackinac Island during the first Treaty at La Pointe in 1842.
~ Wikipedia.org

In regard to the “claims” their feeling is that if the Govt’ will give land to your station, they have nothing to say as to the quantity.  But if they are to pay the usual govt’ price, the question requires a little caution.  We are clear that we may authorize you to enter & [???] take up so much land as shall be necessary for the convenience of the [mission?] families; but we do not see how we can buy land for the Indians.  Will you have the [fondness?] to [????] [????] on these points.  How much land do you propose to take up in all?  How much is necessary for the convenience of the mission families?

Perhaps you & others propose to take up the lands with private funds.  With that we have nothing to do, so long as you, Mr P. & H. do not become land speculators; of which, I presume, there is no danger.

As to the La Pointe property, Mr Stuart wrote you some since, as you know already I doubt not, and replied adversely to making any bargain with Austrian.  I took up the opinion of the Com’sr after receiving your letter of July 31, & they think it the wise course.  I hope Mr Stewart will get this matter in some shape in due time.

I will write to him in reference to the Bad River land, asking him to see it once if the gov’ will do any thing.

Affectionate regards to Mrs W. & Miss Spooner & all.

Fraternally Yours

S. B. Treat

P.S. Your report of July 31 came safely to hand, as you will & have seen from the Herald.

Advertisements

By Amorin Mello

Wheeler Family Papers: Box 3, Folder 12;
La Pointe County, 1849-1862

Papers Relating to an
Inquest on the Body of
Jerry Sullivan
~~~


 

State of Wisconsin
County of Lapointe

To any Constable of said County.

Judge John William Bell Sr. was the father of a mixed-blood family in the La Pointe Band, and was infamous for his unique applications of law and order.

In the name of the State of Wisconsin you are hereby commanded to Summon Joseph Lapointe Oskinawa and [Cotonse for I have?] son of the little chief named [Jegequaon?]  to be and appear at my office in Lapointe and give Evedince on an Inquest then & there to be held on the body of P Jerry Sullivan found frozen to death how and by what means he came to his death.

Given under my hand this 10th day of March AD 1856.

J. W. Bell
Justice of the Peace

 


 

State  of Wisconsin.

To any Constable of the County of Lapointe

You are hereby required immediately to summon six good and lawfull men of the County of Lapointe to appear forthwith before me at my office in the town of Lapointe to enquire upon the view of the Dead Body of Patrick Jerry Sullivan there being dead, how and by what means he came to his death.

Given under my hand this 10th day of March 1856.

J. W. Bell
Justice of the Peace

 

– – – – – – – – – –

 

Served the within by Summoning the following Individuals and producing them in Court.

Perinier, CochranBono, Mandelbaum, Goslin, and Fornier were settlers of La Pointe County.
Roy and Gordon were mixed-blood members in the La Pointe Band.

Antoine Perrinier
John Cochran
John Bono
Marks Mandelbaum
JB. Roy
Batiste Gaudin
& Edward Fornier

Antoine Cournoyer Sr. was a French-Canadian and father of a mixed-blood family in the La Pointe Band.

A. (his X mark)  Cournier
Constable

Fees 50 cts

 


 

Inquest on the Body of Jerry Sullivan.

 

Patrick Sullivan was known as a real bona fide, unmitigated Irishman and found guilty of illegally selling alcohol at the 1855 Annuity Payments.

Patrick Sullivan

being duly sworn says that last Thursday evening

Captain John Daniel Angus first settled at La Pointe in 1835.
~ Madeline Island Museum

Oskinawa came to my house, and there a pair of Boots and Blanket and two quilts belonging to the deseased and was going away My little Boy seen him do so.  My wife went out of Doors and asked him where the old man was, I heard them talking and I went out.  I asked Oskinawa if the old man had left Angus and if he was coming to night, he replied that he did leave him the old man some where on the Ice.  I went to see Oskinawa the next day and he told me that an Indian had come across and told him that the old man was sick in a house on the opposite side.  I started on Saturday morning in search of the old man and called at the different houses but could get no information of him I also searched along the shore.  John Morrison told me that on thursday he seen him with Oskinawa abreast of his place away a good distance from shore on his way to Lapointe.  I went to Capt Angus that night to Enquire, Capt Angus told me that he had made an arrangement with Joseph Lapointe to bring the old man home with him as he was coming to Lapointe with a horse and train and he would pay him for it. on Monday afternoon after searching I found the Deseased lying on his back frozen lying on the beach about a mile or more from Lapointe and brought him home and requested that an Inquest should be held over him.

Sworn & subscribed to before me this 10th day of March 1856

J W Bell
Justice of the Peace

 


 

Inquest on the Body of Jerry Sullivan

 

Oshkinawe was the son of Dagwagaane and the lineal chief of the La Pointe (White Crane) Band.  They often set up camp along Bay City Creek in what is now the City of Ashland.

Oskinawe

being duly sworn Says that he knows deceased.  Deseased left the Bay to come to lapointe on foot thursday at about half past two o’clock PM.

Stoney Point was another name for Houghton Point, midway across the Bay between Ashland and La Pointe.

I overtook him on the road Shortly after I requested the diseased to come along with me as I wanted to get ahead of  horse that was going to Lapointe.  Mr. Angus had given me the Old Man’s things to bring to Lapointe I had a dog and a train with me the Old Man deseased could not keep up with me and I left him.  I overtook the horse at Stoney point and came home in company with the horse Joseph Lapointe had the horse.  I could still see the Old Man coming after us when I was this side of the Stoney point.

Sworn to March 10th 1856 before me

J W Bell Justice

 

– – – – – – – – – –

 

This person appeared in the summons as the son of Jege qua on.  John Jegequaon could be Jean-Baptiste Buffalo; a son of Jayigwyong (aka Little Buffalo) and grandson of the legendary Chief Buffalo of the La Pointe Band.  However, what looked like a ‘J‘ on the summons looked more like a ‘D‘ on the testimony; suggesting a different pronunciation and identity.  Reading 19th-century handwriting is a challenge for identifying La Pointe Band members in primary sources.

John [Degequaon?]

being duly sworn says, that on Saturday last he went to the Bay & Capt Angus enquired of him if the old Man had got home.

Captains Angus and Butterfield were south of Houghton Point, in what is now the City of Washburn. Detail from the Barber Brothers’ survey during August of 1855.

I answered in the negative.  Capt Angus told me that he had told Joseph Lapointe on his sleigh and that he would pay him for it.  Steven Butterfield told me that he heard Capt Angus tell Joseph Lapointe to take the Old Man on his sleigh.  in the Evening I told Mrs Lapointe the Mother of Joseph and she said her son was very foolish in not taken the old man in his sleigh, but that she had herself told him not to take any person on his sleigh before he was paid for it as he had been cheated so often, and perhaps her son had refused the old man for the reason that the old man had once refused to lend him a bucket to water his horse.

Sworn on March 10th 1856 before me

J W Bell Justice.

 

– – – – –

 

Joseph Lapointe Jr. was a mixed-blood in the La Pointe Band.  His oldest sister Susan was married to the blacksmith William Van Tassel, and his uncle was the interpreter Henry Blatchford (aka Francois Decharrault).

Joseph Lapointe

duly sworn says, that he left the Bay with his horse to come to Lapointe on thursday afternoon that the deseased wanted to come over with him in his sleigh that he offered the deseased to bring him over to Lapointe with his things for half a Dollar but the Deseased would not agree to give it to him.

I then turned my horse and came away, on the road he broke an Iron pin and went back to Mr Angus to get it repaired that the Deseased was still there that Mr Angus did not say any thing to him at all in regard to bringing the old man over.  Mr Angus never asked him to bring the old man over.

Says that the reason that he did not want any thing in his sleigh was because he wanted to get to Lapointe and back the same day.

Sworn to before me this 10th day of March 1856,

J W Bell Justice

 


 

An inquisition taken at Lapointe in the County of Lapointe, on the 10th day of March 1856 before J W Bell one of the Justices of the peace of said County, upon the view of the Body of Jerry Sullivan there dead by the Jurors whose names are hereunto Subscribed, who being duly sworn to Enquire on behalf of the people of this State when, in what manner, and by what means the said Jerry Sullivan came to his death upon their Oaths do say, that from the Evedince produced on their inquest that they Exempt any person from blame, and that owing to the late hour of starting the deceased came to his Death by freezing in making an effort to reach home.

In testimony whereof the said Justice of the Peace and the Jurors of this inquest have hereunto set their hands the day and year aforesaid.

John W. Bell
Justice of the Peace

W. J. Cochran

M. H. Mandelbaum
John Bono
Antoine Perrinier
Edward Fornier
John B. Roy

~ Jury ~

 


 

Patrick Sullivan

Son of the diseased being duly sworn Says that Deseased  was not possesed of any real Estate, and all the personal Estate that he knows of was

Money to the amount of 35.00 which he left with my wife, 7.00 which he lent me, 6 cents was found in his pocket after his disease and 1 Barrel of Flour which I got of him valued at 20.00.  Making $62.06.  He told me that Captain Angus Owed him for some labor, likewise he had some potatoes hid in the ground and some wood in the woods cut.  the Diseased made my house his principal home.  he had a due Bill on Mr J have Austrian for the Sum of 3.75.  Total in Money & due Bills 65.81.  also 5.00 worth of meal.  70.81

Incidental Expenses paid by me out of the above for
holding an Inquest and Burrial rites, Church Rites &c

Expenses of Inquest Jury fees & witnesses &c  $8.37
Paid for Coffin & Outer Box                                 9.38
Paid the Preist for a Mass                                    5.00
To 4 Men looking for Diseased                            4.00
Paid Paul Souliere                                               2.00
Henry Brissette                                                   1.00
Michael Brissette for teaming                            1.00
two Indian Boys for bringing Deseased             2.00
John Cochran two Days.                                    3.00
Hauling Sand for grave                                     4.50
[Bisson?] 1 Day searching for diseased           1.00
Ten Dollars for a Railing round the Grave     10.00
Grave Stone                                                     5.00
To Massers to be said hereafter                   15.00

$70.81 – $71.25 = -$0.44

Decided that Patrick Sullivan is the proper person to collect and settle all affairs of the diseased.  and what remain he is entitled to for his trouble.

The Woman In Stone

March 15, 2016

By Amorin Mello & Leo Filipczak

Portrait of the Wheeler and Wood Families from the Wheeler Family Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The woman dressed in white is Harriet "Hattie" Wheeler, according to the book Woman in the Wilderness: Letters of Harriet Wood Wheeler, Missonary Wife, 1832-1892, by Nancy Bunge, 2010.

Photograph of the Wheeler and Wood Families from the Wheeler Family Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The woman dressed in white is Harriet Martha Wheeler, according to the book about her mother, Woman in the Wilderness: Letters of Harriet Wood Wheeler, Missonary Wife, 1832-1892, by Nancy Bunge, 2010.

Leonard Hemenway Wheeler ~ Unnamed Wisconsin by [????]

Leonard Hemenway Wheeler: husband of Harriet Wood Wheeler, and father of author Harriet Martha Wheeler. 
~ Unnamed Wisconsin, by John Nelson Davidson, 1895.

Harriet Wood Wheeler: wife of Leonard Wheeler, and mother of Harriet Wheeler. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Harriet Wood Wheeler: wife of Leonard Wheeler, and mother of author Harriet Martha Wheeler.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

This is a reproduction of the final chapter from Harriet Martha Wheeler’s 1903 book, The Woman in Stone: A Novel.  If you want to read the entire novel without spoiling the final chapter featured here, you can download it here as a PDF file:  The Woman in Stone: A Novel.  Special thanks to Paul DeMain at Indian Country Today Media Network for making the digitization of this novel possible for the  public to read with convenience.

“Hattie” was named after her mother, Harriet Wood Wheeler; the wife of Reverend Leonard Hemenway Wheeler.  Hattie was born in 1858 at Odanah, shortly after the events portrayed in her novel.  Hattie’s experiences and writings about the Lake Superior Chippewa are summarized in an academic article by Nancy Bunge, published in The American Transcendental Quarterly , Vol. 16, No. 1 , March 2002: Straddling Cultures: Harriet Wheeler’s and William W. Warren’s Renditions of Ojibwe History

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

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

"Mary Warren English, White Earth, Minnesota" ~ University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, NEMHC Collections

“Mary Warren English, White Earth, Minnesota”
~ University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, NEMHC Collections

Harriet Wheeler and William W. Warren not only both lived on Ojibwe reservations in northern Wisconsin during the nineteenth century, but their families had strong bonds between them.  William Warren’s sister, Mary Warren English, writes that her brother returned to La Pointe, Wisconsin, from school on the same boat Harriet’s parents took to begin their mission work. The Wheelers liked him and appreciated his help: “He won a warm and life-long friendship–with these most estimable people–by his genial and happy disposition–and ever ready and kindly assistance–during their long and tedious voyage” (Warren Papers). When Mary Warren English’s parents died, she moved in with the Wheelers, and, long after she and Harriet no longer shared the same household, she began letters to Harriet with the salutation, “Dear Sister.” But William Warren’s History of the Ojibwe People (1885) and Harriet Wheeler’s novel The Woman in Stone (1903) reveal that this shared background could not overcome the cultural differences between them. Even though Wheeler and Warren often describe the same events and people, their accounts have different implications. Wheeler, the daughter of Congregational missionaries from New England, portrays the inevitable and necessary decline of the Ojibwe, as emissaries of Christianity help civilization progress; Warren, who had French and Ojibwe ancestors, as well as Yankee roots, identifies growing Anglo-Saxon influence on the Ojibwe as a cause of moral decay.

Hattie’s book appears to provide some valuable insights about certain events in Chequamegon history, yet it is clearly erroneous about other such events.  According to the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Harriet’s novel is based on discovery of petrified body of Indian woman in northern Wisconsin.”  This statement seems to acknowledge this peculiar event as being somewhat factual.  However, Hattie’s novel is clearly a work of fiction; it appears that some of her references were to actual events.  At this point in time, this mystery of the forest may never be thoroughly confirmed or debunked.  

An incomplete theater screenplay, with the title “Woman in Stone,” was also written by Hattie.  It appears to be based on her novel, can be found at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center Archives, in the Wheeler Family Papers: Northland Mss 14; Box 10; Folder 19.  However, only several pages of this screenplay copy still exist in the archive there.  A complete copy of Hattie’s screenplay may still exist somewhere else yet.


"The Woman in Stone: A Novel" by Harriet Wheeler

The Woman in Stone: A Novel by Harriet Martha Wheeler, 1903.

[Due to the inconsistencies found in Hattie’s novel, we have omitted most of this novel for this reproduction.  We shall skip to the final chapter of Hattie’s novel, to the rediscovery of long lost “Wa-be-goon-a-quace,” the Little Flower Girl.  If you want to read the entire novel first, before spoiling this final chapter, you can download it here:  The Woman in Stone: A Novel, by Harriet Wheeler, 1903.  Special thanks to Paul DeMain at Indian Country Today Media Network for making the digitization of this novel possible for the  public to read with convenience.]

(Pages 164-168)

CHAPTER XX.

THE DISCOVERY OF THE WOMAN IN STONE

A hundred years swept over the island Madelaine, bringing change and decay in their train. But, nature renews the waste of time with a prodigal hand and robed the island in verdant loveliness.

lore dedication

Madelaine still towers the queen of the Apostle group, with rocky dells and pine clad shores and odorous forests, through which murmur the breezes from the great lake, and over all hover centuries of history, romance, and legendary lore.

Jean Michel Cadotte was Madelaine’s father-in-law, not husband.  Madelaine Cadotte’s Ojibwe name was Ikwezewe, and she was still alive at La Pointe, in her ’90s, during Hattie‘s childhood in Odanah.  It’s kind of disturbing how little of this Hattie got right considering Mary Warren (Madeline’s granddaughter) was basically Hattie’s stepsister.

Evolution toward the spiritual is the destiny of humanity and in this trend of progress the Red Men are vanishing before the onward march of the Pale Face. In the place of the blazing Sacred Fire stands the Protestant Mission. The settlers’ cabin supplants the wigwam. No longer are heard the voyageur’s song and the rippling canoes. This is the age of steam, and far and near echoes the shrill whistle. Overgrown mounds mark the sites of the forts of La Ronde and Cadotte. In the spacious log cabin of Jean and Madelaine Cadotte lives their grandson, John Cadotte.

"Dirt trail passing log shack that was probably the home of Michael and Madeline Cadotte, La Pointe." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Dirt trail passing log shack that was probably the home of Michael and Madeline Cadotte, La Pointe,” circa 1897.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Jean and Anastasia Cadotte had several grandsons named John Cadotte or Jean Baptiste Cadotte at La Pointe.  So did Michel and Madelaine Cadotte.

A practical man is John. He tills his garden, strings his fish-net in the bay, and acts as guide, philosopher and friend for all the tourists who visit the island.

Hildreth Huntington and his father may have been fictionalized, or they may be actual people from the Huntington clan:

The Huntington Family in America: A Genealogical Memoir of the Known Descendants of Simon Huntington from 1633 to 1915, Including Those who Have Retained the Family Name, and Many Bearing Other Surnames

by the Huntington Family Association, 1915.

On a June morning of the year 1857, John sat beneath a sheltering pine mending his fish-net. he smoked a cob-pipe, which he occasionally laid by to whistle a voyageur’s song. A shrill whistle sounded and a tug steamed around the bend to the wharf. John laid aside his fish-net and pipe and strolled to the beach. Two gentlemen, clad in tourist’s costume, stepped from the tug and approached John.

“Can you direct us to Mr. John Cadotte?” said the elder man.

“I am your man,” responded John.

Augustus Hamilton Barber had copper and land claims around the Montreal and Tyler Forks Rivers before his death in 1856.  It is possible that this father and son pair in Hattie’s novel actually represent Joel Allen Barber and his father, Giles Addison Barber.  They were following up on their belated Augustus’ unresolved business in this area during June of 1857.  This theory about the Barber family is explored in more details with Legend of the Montreal River,” by George Francis Thomas.

“My name is Huntington. This young man is my son, Hildreth. We came from New York, and are anxious to explore the region about Tyler’s fork where copper has been discovered. We were directed to you as a guide on whom we might depend. Can we secure your services, sir?” asked the stranger.

“It is also proper to state in addition to what has been already mentioned, that at, or about this time [1857], a road was opened by Mr. Herbert’s order, from the Hay Marsh, six miles out from Ironton, to which point one had been previously opened, to the Range [on the Tyler Forks River], which it struck about midway between Sidebotham’s and Lockwood’s Stations, over which, I suppose, the 50,000 tons as previously mentioned, was to find its way to Ironton, (in a horn).
~ Penokee Survey Incidents: IV

“I am always open to engagement,” responded John.

“Very well, we will start at once, if agreeable to you.”

“I will run up to the house and pack my traps,” said John.

The stranger strolled along the beach until John’s return. Then all aboard the tug and steamed away towards Ashland. John entertained the strangers with stories and legends of those romantic and adventurous days which were fading into history.

“The company not being satisfied with Mr. Herbert as agent, he was removed and Gen. Cutler appointed in his place, who quickly selected Ashland as headquarters, to which place all the personal property, consisting of merchandise principally, was removed during the summer by myself upon Gen. C.’s order – and Ironton abandoned to its fate.”
~ Penokee Survey Incidents: I

The party left the tug at Ashland and engaged a logger’s team to carry them to Tyler’s Forks, twenty miles away. A rough road had been cut through the forest where once ran an Indian trail. Over this road the horses slowly made their way. Night lowered before they had reached their destination and they pitched their tents in the forest. John kindled a camp-fire and prepared supper. The others gathered wood and arranged bough beds in the tent. They were wearied with the long and tedious journey and early sought this rude couch.

John’s strident tones summoned them to a sunrise breakfast. They broke camp and resumed their journey, arriving at the Forks at noon.

The tourists sat down on the banks of the river and viewed the beautiful falls before them.

“This is the most picturesque spot I have seen, Hildreth. It surpasses Niagara, to my mind,” said Mr. Huntington.

Preface

The preface to this novel is a photograph of Brownstone Falls, where the Tyler Forks River empties into the Bad River at Copper Falls State Park.  George Francis Thomas’ “A Mystery of the Forest” was originally published as Legend of the Montreal River (and republished here).  It suggests that the legend takes place at the Gorge on the Tyler Forks River, where it crosses the Iron Range; not where it terminates on Bad River along the Copper Range.

They gazed about them in wondering admiration. The forest primeval towered above them. Beyond, the falls rolled over their rocky bed. The ceaseless murmur of the rapids sounded below them and over all floated the odors of the pines and balsam firs.

“This description will, I think, give your readers a very good understanding of the condition as well as the true inwardness of the affairs of the Wisconsin & Lake Superior Mining and Smelting Co., in the month of June, 1857.”
[…]
“Rome was not built in a day, but most of these cabins were.  I built four myself near the Gorge [on Tyler Forks River], in a day, with the assistance of two halfbreeds, but was not able to find them a week afterwards.  This is not only a mystery but a conundrum.  I thinksome traveling showman must have stolen them; but although they werenon est we could swear that we had built them, and did.
~ Penokee Survey Incidents: IV

After dinner the party began their explorations under John’s leadership. Two days were spent in examining the banks of Bad River. On the third morning they came to the gorge. Here, the river narrowed to a few feet and cut its way through high banks of rock. The party examined the rocks on both sides. John climbed to the pool behind the gorge and examined the rocks lying beneath the shallow water. He rested his hand on what seemed to be a water-soaked log and was surprised to find the log a solid block of stone. He examined it carefully. The stone resembled a human form.

“Mr. Huntington, come down here,” he called.

“Have you struck a claim, John?” asked Mr. Huntington.

“Not exactly. Look at this rock. What do you call it, sir?”

Mr. Huntington, his son and the teamster climbed down to the pool and examined the rock.

“A petrification of some sort,” exclaimed Mr. Huntington. “Let us lift it from the water.”

The men struggled some time before they succeeded in raising the solid mass. They rested it against the rocky bank.

Wabigance: Little Flower Girl

Hattie identified this character as “Wa-be-goon-a-quace.”  In the Ojibwemowin language, Wabigance is a small flower. Wabigon or Wabegoon is a flower. Wabegoonakwe is a flower that is female.

 In Ojibwemowin, a lot of female names have qwe, kwe, quay, on the end of them to make them female. (Kwe is in reference to the head or literally “of the head”). But is is not aways necessary.

“A petrified Indian girl,” exclaimed Mr. Huntington.

The men bent low over the strange figure, examining it carefully.

“Look at her moccasins, father,” exclaimed Hildreth, “and her long hair. Here is a rosary and cross about her neck. Evidently she was a good Catholic.”

 “Holy Mother,” exclaimed John, “it is the Little Flower Girl.”“And who was she?” asked Mr. Huntington.

“She was my grandmother Madelaine’s cousin. I have heard my grandmother tell about her many times when I was a boy. The Little Flower Girl lost her mind when her pale-faced lover died in battle. She was always hunting for him in the island woods. One evening she disappeared in her canoe and never returned.”

“How came she by this cross?”

Jacques Marquette aka Pere Marquette aka James (Jim) Marquette ~ Wikipedia.org

Portrait of Jacques Marquette
~ Wikipedia.org

Father Marquette was stationed at the Jesuit mission at La Pointe du Saint Esprit on Madeline Island during 1669-1670.

“The Holy Father Marquette gave it to her grandmother, Ogonã. The Little Flower Girl wore it always. She thought it protected her from evil and would lead her to her lover, Claude.”

And so it has. The cross has led the Little Flower Girl up yonder where she has found her Claude and life immortal.

“A touching romance, worthy to be embalmed in stone,” said Hildreth.

"Barnum's Museum Fire, New York City, 1868 Incredible view of the frozen ruins of Barnum's 'American Museum' just after the March, 1868 fire. 3-1/4x6-3/4" yellow-mount view published by E & HT Anthony; #5971 in their series of 'Anthony's Stereoscopic Views.' Huge ice formations where the water sprays hit the building; burned out windows and doors. ~ CraigCamera.com

“Barnum’s Museum Fire, New York City, 1868 Incredible view of the frozen ruins of Barnum’s ‘American Museum’ just after the March, 1868 fire. 3-1/4×6-3/4″ yellow-mount view published by E & HT Anthony; #5971 in their series of ‘Anthony’s Stereoscopic Views.’ Huge ice formations where the water sprays hit the building; burned out windows and doors.”
~ CraigCamera.com

“Yes, and worthy of a better resting place,” responded Mr. Huntington. “We must take the Little Flower Girl with us, Hildreth. Her life belongs to the public. Our great city will be better for this monument of her romantic, tragic, sorrowing life.”

Over the forest road, where her moccasined feet had strayed one hundred years before, they bore the Little Flower Girl. And the eyes of the Holy Father shone on her as she crossed the silvery water where her “Ave Maria” echoed long ago. Back to the island Madelaine they carried her, and on, down the great lakes, the Little Flower Girl followed in the wake of her lover, Claude. To the great city of New York they bore her. In one of that great city’s museum rests the Woman in Stone.

Rare sighting of Wabigance at the Tyler Forks Gap. (M. Matusewic © 2013)

Wabigance below the Gorge on the Tyler Forks River.
~ Photograph by M. Matusewic © December 2013.
Reproduced with permission.

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.    

 

Indian Sugar Camp by Seth Eastman c.1850 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Since we’re into the middle of March 2014 and a couple of warm days have had people asking, “Is it too early to tap?” I thought it might be a good time to transcribe a document I’ve been hanging onto for a while.

170 years ago, that question would have been on everyone’s mind.  The maple sugar season was perhaps the most joyous time of the year.  The starving times of February and early March were on the way out, and food would be readily available again.  Friends and relatives, separated during the winter hunts, might join back together in sugar camp, play music around the fire as the sap boiled, and catch up on the winter’s news.

Probably the only person around here who probably didn’t like the sugar season was the Rev. Sherman Hall.  Hall, who ran the La Pointe mission and school, aimed to convert Madeline Island’s Native and non-Native inhabitants to Protestantism.  To him, Christianity and “civilization” went hand and hand with hard labor and settling down in one place to farm the land.  When, at this time of the year, all his students abandoned the Island with everyone else, for sugar camps at Bad River and elsewhere on the mainland and other islands, he saw it as an impediment to their progress as civilized Christians.

Rev. Leonard Wheeler, who joined Hall in 1841, shared many of his ethnocentric attitudes toward Ojibwe culture.  However, over the next two decades Wheeler would show himself much more willing than Hall and other A.B.C.F.M. missionaries to meet Ojibwe people on their own cultural turf.  It was Wheeler who ultimately relocated from La Pointe to Bad River, where most of the La Pointe Band now stayed, partly to avoid the missionaries, where he ultimately befriended some of the staunchest traditionalists among the Ojibwe leadership.  And while he never came close to accepting the validity of Ojibwe religion and culture, he would go on to become a critical ally of the La Pointe Band during the Sandy Lake Tragedy and other attempted land grabs and broken Government promises of the 1850s and ’60s.

In 1844, however, Wheeler was still living on the island and still relatively new to the area.  Coming from New England, he knew the process and language of making sugar–it’s remarkable how little the sugar-bush vocabulary has changed in the last 170 years–but he would see some unfamiliar practices as he followed the people of La Pointe to camp in Bad River.  Although there is some condescending language in his written account, not all of his comparisons are unfavorable to his Ojibwe neighbors.  

Of course, I may have a blind spot for Wheeler.  Regular readers might not be surprised that I can identify with his scattered thoughts, run-on sentences, and irregular punctuation.  Maybe for that reason, I thought this was a document that deserved to see the light of day.  Enjoy:             

Bad River  Monday  March 25, 1844

We are now comfortably quartered at the sugar camps, Myself, wife, son and Indian Boy.  Here we have been just three weeks today.

Leonard (Lenny) Wheeler, the oldest son of missionaries Leonard and Harriet Wheeler, was just a baby in 1844.  The Wheelers had several more children after settling at Odanah.  I don’t know who “Indian Boy” is.  It may be one of the sons or nephews of Lyman and Marie Warren.

I came myself the middle of the week previous and commenced building a log cabin to live in with the aid of two men , we succeeded in putting up a few logs and the week following our house was completed built of logs 12 by 18 feet long and 4 feet high in the walls, covered with cedar birch bark of most miserable quality so cracked as to let in the wind and rain in all parts of the roof.  We lived in a lodge the first week till Saturday when we moved into our new house.  Here we have, with the exception of a few very cold days, been quite comfortable.  We brought some boards with us to make a floor–a part of this is covered with a piece of carpeting–we have a small cooking stove with which we have succeeded in warming our room very well.  Our house we partitioned off putting the best of the bark over the best part we live in, the other part we use as a sort of storeroom and woodhouse.

Bob Boyd, who married Julia Cadotte in 1847 and was the first Justice of the Peace for La Pointe County after Wisconsin’s statehood, came into the area around this time. The scale of his ambition and other context clues make him my prime suspect for Wheeler’s “Robert.”   

We have had meetings during on the Sabbath and those who have been accustomed to meet with us have generally been present.  We have had a public meeting in the foreroom at Roberts sugar bush lodge immediately after which my wife has had a meeting with the women or a sabbath school at our house.  Thus far our people have seemed to keep up their interest in Religion.

They have thus far generally remembered the Sabbath and in this respect set a good example to their neighbors, who both (pagan) Indians and Catholics generally work upon the Sabbath as upon other days.  If our being here can be the means of preventing these from declension in respect to religion and from falling into temptation, (especially) in respect to the Sabbath, an important end will be gained.

Of all the Christian commandments they wanted the Ojibwe to keep, the A.B.C.F.M. missionaries were especially obsessed with keeping the Sabbath holy.  See the writings of William T. Boutwell and Edmund F. Ely for more extreme examples.

The sugar making season is a great temptation to them to break the sabbath.  It is quite a test upon their faith to see their sap buckets running over with sap and they yet be restrained from gathering it out of respect to the sabbath, especially should their neighbors work in the same day.  Yet they generally abstain from Labor on the Sabbath.  In so doing however they are not often obliged to make much sacrifice.  By gathering all the sap Saturday night, their sap buckets do not ordinarily make them fill in one day, and when the sap is gathered monday morning.

N.E.=New England: The Wheelers were natives of Massachusetts.

They do not in this respect suffer much loss.  In other respects, they are called to make no more sacrifice by observing the sabbath than the people of N.E. do during the season of haying.  We are now living more strictly in the Indian country among an Indian community than ever before.  We are almost the only persons among a population of some 5 or 600 people who speak the English language.  We have therefore a better opportunity to observe Indian manners and customs than heretofore, as well as to make proficiency in speaking the language.

Process of making sugar and skillful use of birch bark.

The process of making sugar from the (maple) sap is in general as that practiced elsewhere where this kind of sugar is make, and yet in some respects the modus operandi is very different.  The sugar making season is the most an important event to the Indians every year.  Every year about the middle of March the Indians, French and halfbreeds all leave the Islands for the sugar camps.  As they move off in bodies from the La Pointe, sometimes in companies of 8, 10, 12 or 20 families, they make a very singular appearance.

Apakwe (apuckwais) is one of the Ojibwe words most often left untranslated in English records of this era.  Generally meaning “covering,” it usually refers to woven rush (flagg) mats as in this post, or to the wide birch bark rolls used to cover a wigwam.  Wheeler uses the word for both types of covering in this account.

Upon some pleasant morning about sunrise you will see these, by families, first perhaps a Frenchman with his horse team carrying his apuckuais for his lodge–provisions kettles, etc., and perhaps in addition some one or two of the [squaw?] helpers of his family.  The next will be a dog train with two or three dogs with a similar load driven by some Indians.  The next would be a similar train drawn by a man with a squaw pushing behind carrying a little child on her back and two or three little children trudging behind on foot.  The next load in order might be a squaw drawn by dogs or a man upon a sled at each end.  This forms about the variety that will be witnessed in the modes of conveyance.  To see such a ([raucous?] company) [motley process?] moving off, and then listen to the Frenchmen whipping his horse, which from his hard fare is but poorly able to carry himself, and to hear the yelping of the dogs, the (crying of) the children, and the jabbering in french and Indian.  And if you never saw the like before you have before you the loud and singular spectacle of the Indians going to the sugar bush.

“Frame of Lodge Used For Storage and Boiling Sap;” undated (Densmore Collection: Smithsonian)

One night they are obliged to camp out before they reach the place of making sugar.  This however is counted no hardship the Indian carries his house with him.  When they have made one days march it might when they come to a place where they wish to camp, all hands set to work to make to make a lodge.  Some shovel away the snow another cut a few poles.  Another cuts up some wood to make a fire.  Another gets some pine, cedar or hemlock (boughs) to spread upon the ground for floor and carpet.  By the time the snow is shoveled away the poles are ready, which the women set around in a circular form at the bottom–crossed at the top.  These are covered with a few apuckuais, and while one or two are covering the putting up the house another is making a fire, & perhaps is spreading down the boughs.  The blankets, provisions, etc. are then brought in the course of 20 or ½ an hour from the time they stop, the whole company are seated in their lodge around a comfortable fire, and if they are French men   you will see them with their pipes in their mouths.  After supper, when they have anything to eat, each one wraps himself in a blanket and is soon snoring asleep.  The next day they are again under way and when they arrive at the sugar camp they live in their a lodge again till they have some time to build a more substantial (building) lodge for making sugar.  A sugar camp is a large high lodge or a sort of a frame of poles covered with flagg and Birch apuckuais open at the top.  In the center is a long fire with two rows of kettles suspended on wooden forks for boiling sap.  As Robert (our hired man) sugar makes (the best kind of) sugar and does business upon rather a large scale in quite a systematic manner.  I will describe his camp as a mode of procedure, as an illustration of the manner in which the best kind of sugar is made.  His camp is some 25 or 30 feet square, made of a sort of frame of poles with a high roof open at the (top) the whole length coming down with in about (4 feet) of the ground.  This frame is covered around the sides at the bottom with Flag apukuais.  The outside and roof is covered with birch (bark) apukuais.  Upon each side next to the wall are laid some raised poles, the whole length of the (lodge) wall.  Upon these poles are laid some pine & cedar boughs.  Upon these two platforms are places all the household furniture, bedding, etc.  Here also they sleep at night.  In the middle of the lodge is a long fire where he has two rows of kettles 16 in number for boiling sap.  He has also a large trough, one end of it coming into the lodge holding several Barrels, as a sort of reservoir for sap, beside several barrels reserved for the same purpose.  The sap when it is gathered is put into this trough and barrels, which are kept covered up to prevent the exposure of the sap to the wind and light and heat, as the sap when exposed sours very quick.  For the same reason also when the sap and well the kettles are kept boiling night and day, as the sap kept in the best way will undergo some changes if it be not immediately boild.  The sap after it is boild down to about the consistency of molases it is strained into a barrel through a wollen blanket.  After standing 3 or 4 days to give it an opportunity to settle, some day, when the sap does not run very well, is then set aside for sugaring off.  When two or 3 kettles are hung over the fire a small fire built directly under the bottom.  A few quarts of molasses are then put into the kettles.  When this is boiled enough to make sugar one kettle is taken off by Robert, by the side of which he sets down and begins to stir it with a small paddle stick.  After stirring it a few moments it begins to grow all white, swells up with a peculiar tenacious kind of foam.  Then it begins to grain and soon becomes hard like [?] Indian pudding.  Then by a peculiar moulding for some time with a wooden large wooden spoon it becomes white as the nicest brown sugar and very clean, in this state, while it is yet warm, it is packed down into large birch bark mukoks made of holding from 50 to a hundred lbs.

Makak:  a semi-rigid or rigid container: a basket (especially one of birch bark), a box (Ojibwe People’s Dictionary) Photo:  Densmore Collection; Smithsonian

Certainly no sugar can be more cleaner than that made here, though it is not all the sugar that is made as nice.  The Indians do not stop for all this long process of making sugar.  Some of (their) sorup does not pass through anything in the shape of a strainer–much less is it left to stand and settle after straining, but is boiled down immediately into sugar, sticks, soot, dirt and all.  Sometimes they strain their sorup through the meshes of their snow shoe, which is but little better than it would be to strain it through a ladder.  Their sugar of course has rather a darker hue.  The season for making sugar is the most industrious season in the whole year.  If the season be favorable, every man wom and child is set to work.  And the departments of labor are so various that every able bodied person can find something to do.

The British missionary John Williams describes the coconut on page 493 of his A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands (1837).   (Wikimedia Commons)

In the business of making sugar also we have a striking illustration of the skillful and varied use the Indians make of birch bark.  A few years since I was forcibly struck, in reading Williams missionary enterprises of the South Seas, with some annals of his in regard to the use of the cocoanut tree illustrated of the goodness and wisdom of God in so wonderfully providing for their condition and wants (of men).  His remarks as near as I can recollect are in substance as follows.  The cocoanut tree furnishes the native with timber to make his house, canoe, his fire and in short for most of the purposes for which they want wood.  The fruit furnishes his most substantial article of food, and what is still more remarkable as illustrating that principle of compensation by which the Lord in his good providence suplies the want of one blessing by the bestowment of another to take its place.  On the low islands their are no springs of water to supply the place of this.  The native has but to climb the cocoanut tree growing near his door and pluckes the fruit where in each shall he find from ¼ a pint to a kind of a most agreeable drink to slake his thirst.  His tree bearing fruit every month in year, fresh springs of water are supplied the growing upon  the trees before his own door.  Although the birch bark does not supply the same wants throughout to the Indian, yet they supply wants as numerous and in some respects nearly as important to their mode of living as does the cocoanut to the Inhabitants of the South Sea Islands.

Biskitenaagan:  a sap bucket of folded birch bark (Ojibwe People’s Dictionary) Photo:  Waugh Collection; Smithsonian

It is with the bark he covers his house.  With this bark he makes his canoe.  What could the Indian do without his wigwam and his canoe?  The first use (of the bark) we notice in the sugar making business what is called the piscatanagun, or vessel for catching sap in.  The Indian is not to the expence or trouble of making troughs or procuring buckets to catch the sap at the trees.  A piece of birch bark some 14 inches wide and 18 or 20 inches wide in the shape of a pane of glass by a peculiar fold at each end kept in place by a stitch of bark string makes a vessel for catching sap called a piskitenagun.  These are light, cheap, easily made and with careful usage will last several years.  When I first saw these vessels, it struck me as being the most skillful use of the bark I had seen.  It contrasted so beautifully with the clumsy trough or the more expensive bucket I had seen used in N.E.  This bark is not only used to catch the sap in but also to carry it in to the sugar camps, a substitute for pails, though lighter and much more convenient for this purpose than a pail.

“Chippewa Bucket and Trays Made of Birch Bark”  (Smithsonian)

In making a sap bucket bark of a more substantial kind is used than for the piskatanaguns.  They made large at the bottom small at the top, to prevent the sap from spilling out by the motion of carrying.  They are sewed up with bark the seams gummed and a hoop about the top to keep them in shape and a lid.  But we are not yet done with the bark at the sugar bush.  In boiling sap in the evening thin strips are rolled tight together, which is a good substitute for a candle.  Every once in a little while the matron of the lodge may be seen with her little torch in hand walking around the fire taking a survey of her kettles.  Lastly when the sugar is made it is finally deposited in large firmly wrought mukuks, which are made of bark.  This however is not the end of bark.  It is used for a variety of other purposes.  Besides being a substitute in many cases for plates, [bearers & etc.?], it is upon birch bark that the most important events in history are recorded–National records–songs, & etc. are written in hieroglific characters (upon this article) and carefully preserved by many of the Indians.

In Red Cliff, Wisconsin (2013), Howard Paap dismantles the still widely-held belief that shortly after the start of the fur trade the Ojibwe lost their traditional methods of making goods and became dependent on Europeans.  In 1844, two centuries after the first Ojibwe trade canoes probably reached Montreal, the use of birch bark kettles was still in living memory.

And finally the most surprising use of bark of which I have heard or could conceive of, is before the acquaintance of the Indians with the whites, the bark was used as a substitute for kettles in cooking, not exactly for bake kettles but for (kettles for) boiling fish, potatoes, & etc.  This fact we have from undoubted authority.  Some of the Indians now living have used it for this purpose themselves, and many of them say their fathers tell them it was used by their ancestors before iron kettles were obtained from the whites.  One kettle of bark however would not answer but for a single use.

Transcription note:  Spelling and grammatical errors have been maintained except where ambiguous in the original text.  Original struck out text has been maintained, when legible, and inserted text is shown in parentheses.  Brackets indicate illegible or ambiguous text and are not part of the original nor are the bolded words and phrases, which were added to draw attention to the sidebars.

The original document is held by the Wisconsin Historical Society in the Wheeler Family Papers at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland.

To mark the new year 2014, today we’ll go back 170 years and look at New Year’s 1844.  .  I haven’t researched this specific topic,  but a study could certainly be done on celebrations of the first of January in the Lake Superior country before 1850.  My impressions are that New Years was one of the most joyously-celebrated holidays of the era.  In the journals and records, it stands out as an occasion with plenty of food, drink, kissing, and visiting.  I would be interested to know the origins of the New Year customs described below. Obviously, the observation of January 1st comes from the Christian rather than the Ojibwe calendar, but these celebrations seem well established by 1844, and are somewhat alien to the two Anglo-American authors.  These are customs that certainly date back to the British fur-trade era, probably stretch back to the French era, and pull in practices that are much older than either.   

Although, the celebration of the New Year on January 1st didn’t originate with the Ojibwe, in this part of the the world, it integrated several elements of Ojibwe and French-Ojibwe mix-blood culture.  This is what our two American authors, Rev. Leonard Wheeler at La Pointe, and the unidentified carpenter at Fond du Lac, cannot seem to figure out.

Wheeler, having been at La Pointe for a few years, is prepared with gifts and knows to honor the chiefs and elders, but he still hasn’t wrapped his head around the concept that the Ojibwe at his house are engaged in a tribal tradition of “feasting” door to door, rather than begging (as his Protestant ethic of “individual initiative” demands).  

The carpenter, who we met in this post, wants to participate in all the festivities but he freezes at a key moment and doesn’t know what to do when a group of pretty girls shows up at his door.  Let’s hope that by New Year 1845, he made good on his promise that “they’ll never slip through my fingers in that way again.”   

La Pointe, January 1, 1844:

Missionary Journal                 Jan 1, 1844.                                L. H. Wheeler

Jan 1. 1844. To day the Indians called as usual for their presents.  By keeping our doors locked we were able to have a quiet house till after the customary duties & labors of the morning were through, when our house was soon thronged with visitors very happy to see us, and especially when they received their two cakes apiece as a reward for their congratulations.  Nearly all our ladies received a kiss and some of them were, in this respect highly favored.  At 9 o’clock the bell was rung to give notice that we were ready to receive the Chief and his suit.  When Buffalow and Blackbird with the elderly men entered, followed by the principle men of influence in the Band–and these were succeeded by the young men.  The Indians seated in chairs and on the floor had a short smoke, after which they took their presents and departed.  Then came the Sabbath and day school scholars, who received in addition to their cakes, some little books, work bags and other present from their teachers when they sang fun little hymns and departed.  Our next company at about 11, consisted of our Christian Indians.  Embracing 6 families.  They received their presents of flour, pork, corn potatoes, and turnips and went away very much pleased.  At dinner we were favored with the company of Mrs La Pointe, Francis & Mary [St. Amo?].  At Supper, we had Miss Gates–and all her scholars and some of Mrs Spooners larger Scholars.  At 8 o’clock we had a full meeting of the Indians at the school room after which our tea party returned again to our house, and spent the evening in singing, visiting and in other ways highly gratifying to their juvenile feelings, and adapted to make a good impression upon their minds.  We had the privilege of giving away all our cakes and of receiving nearly all the the expressions of gratitude we expect during the year, except where similar favors are again bestowed.

The same night at Fond du Lac of Lake Superior:

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

1844

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

Happy New Year!

(Both of these journals are from the Wheeler Family Papers, held by the Wisconsin Historical Society at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland.)

Identified by the Minnesota Historical Society as “Scene at Indian payment, probably at Odanah, Wisconsin. c. 1865.”  by Charles Zimmerman.  Judging by the faces in the crowd, this is almost certainly the same payment as the more-famous image that decorates the margins of the Chequamegon History site (Zimmerman MNHS Collections)

A staunch defender of Ojibwe sovereignty, and a zealous missionary dedicating his life’s work to the absolute destruction of the traditional Ojibwe way of life, may not seem like natural political allies, but as Shakespeare once wrote, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

In October of 1855, two men who lived near Odanah, were miserable and looking for help.  One was Rev. Leonard Wheeler who had founded the Protestant mission at Bad River ten years earlier.  The other was Blackbird, chief of the “Bad River” faction of the La Pointe Ojibwe, that had largely deserted La Pointe in the 1830s and ’40s to get away from the men like Wheeler who pestered them relentlessly to abandon both their religion and their culture.  

Their troubles came in the aftermath of the visit to La Pointe by George Manypenny, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, to oversee the 1855 annuity payments.  Many readers may be familiar with these events, if they’ve read Richard Morse’s account, Chief Buffalo’s obituary (Buffalo died that September while Manypenny was still on the island), or the eyewitness account by Crockett McElroy that I posted last month. Taking these sources together, some common themes emerge about the state of this area in 1855: 

  1. After 200 years, the Ojibwe-European relationship based on give and take, where the Ojibwe negotiated from a position of power and sovereignty, was gone.  American government and society had reached the point where it could by impose its will on the native peoples of Lake Superior.  Most of the land was gone and with it the resource base that maintained the traditional lifestyle, Chief Buffalo was dead, and future chiefs would struggle to lead under the paternalistic thumb of the Indian Department.  
  2. With the creation of the reservations, the Catholic and Protestant missionaries saw an opportunity, after decades of failures, to make Ojibwe hunters into Christian farmers.
  3. The Ojibwe leadership was divided on the question of how to best survive as a people and keep their remaining lands.  Some chiefs favored rapid assimilation into American culture while a larger number sought to maintain traditional ways as best as possible.
  4. The mix-blooded Ojibwe, who for centuries had maintained a unique identity that was neither Native nor European, were now being classified as Indians and losing status in the white-supremacist American culture of the times.  And while the mix-bloods maintained certain privileges denied to their full-blooded relatives, their traditional voyageur economy was gone and they saw treaty payments as one of their only opportunities to make money.
  5. As with the Treaties of 1837 and 1842, and the tragic events surrounding the attempted removals of 1850 and 1851, there was a great deal of corruption and fraud associated with the 1855 payments.

This created a volatile situation with Blackbird and Wheeler in the middle.  Before, we go further, though, let’s review a little background on these men.

This 1851 reprint from Lake Superior Journal of Sault Ste. Marie shows how strongly Blackbird resisted the Sandy Lake removal efforts and how he was a cultural leader as well as a political leader. (New Albany Daily Ledger, October 9, 1851. Pg. 2).

Who was Blackbird?

Makadebineshii, Chief Blackbird, is an elusive presence in both the primary and secondary historical record.  In the 1840s, he emerges as the practical leader of the largest faction of the La Pointe Band, but outside of Bad River, where the main tribal offices bear his name, he is not a well-known figure in the history of the Chequamegon area at all.  

Unlike, Chief Buffalo, Blackbird did not sign many treaties, did not frequently correspond with government officials, and is not remembered favorably by whites.  In fact, his portrayal in the primary sources is often negative.  So then, why did the majority of the Ojibwe back Blackbird at the 1855 payment?  The answer is probably the same reason why many whites disliked him.  He was an unwavering defender of Ojibwe sovereignty, he adhered to his traditional culture, and he refused to cooperate with the United States Government when he felt the land and treaty rights of his people were being violated.     

One needs to be careful drawing too sharp a contrast between Blackbird and Buffalo, however.  The two men worked together at times, and Blackbird’s son James, later identified his father as Buffalo’s pipe carrier.  Their central goals were the same, and both labored hard on behalf of their people, but Buffalo was much more willing to work with the Government.  For instance, Buffalo’s response in the aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy, when the fate of Ojibwe removal was undecided, was to go to the president for help.  Blackbird, meanwhile, was part of the group of Ojibwe chiefs who hoped to escape the Americans by joining Chief Zhingwaakoons at Garden River on the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie. 

Still, I hesitate to simply portray Blackbird and Buffalo as rivals.  If for no other reason, I still haven’t figured out what their exact relationship was.  I have not been able to find any reference to Blackbird’s father, his clan, or really anything about him prior to the 1840s.  For a while, I was working under the hypothesis that he was the son of Dagwagaane (Tugwaganay/Goguagani), the old Crane Clan chief (brother of Madeline Cadotte), who usually camped by Bad River, and was often identified as Buffalo’s second chief.  

However, that seems unlikely given this testimony from James Blackbird that identifies Oshkinawe, a contemporary of the elder Blackbird, as the heir of Guagain (Dagwagaane):

Statement of James Blackbird: Condition of Indian affairs in Wisconsin: hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs, United States Senate, [61st congress, 2d session], on Senate resolution, Issue 263.  pg 203.  (Digitized by Google Books).

But whether James’ grandfather was a prominent chief or not, his father Blackbird certainly had become one by 1855.  Both Morse and McElroy record him as speaking for the majority of the assembled Ojibwe.  The big issue of debate at that council was how to distribute the payments and how to handle the claims of traders who said they were owed money by the Ojibwe for debts.  The agent, Henry Gibert, asked that all the money go to him so he could evaluate the claims and then distribute the money to individual families.  Some chiefs, including Naaganab of Fond du Lac and Jayjigwyong (Little Buffalo) of La Pointe, along with most of the mix-blooded Ojibwe favored this plan. Blackbird’s larger group wanted to see the money go directly to the chiefs for distribution.

It seems Commissioner Manypenny left La Pointe before the issue was entirely settled, because a month later, we find a draft letter from Blackbird to the Commissioner transcribed in Wheeler’s hand: 

Mushkesebe River Oct. 1855

Blackbird.  Principal chief of the Mushkisibi-river Indians to Hon. G. Manepenny Com. of Indian Affairs  Washington City.

Father;  Although I have seen you face to face, & had the privilege to talking freely with you, we did not do all that is to be attended to about our affairs.  We have not forgotten the words you spoke to us, we still keep them in our minds.  We remember you told us not to listen to all the foolish stories that was flying about–that we should listen to what was good, and mind nothing about anything else.  While we listened to your advice we kept one ear open and the other shut, & [We?] kept retained all you spoke said in our ears, and.  Your words are still ringing in our ears. The night that you left the sound of the paddles in boat that carried you away from us was had hardly gone ceased before the minds of some of the chiefs was were tuned by the traders from the advice you gave, but we did not listen to them.  Ja-jig-wy-ong, (Buffalo’s son) son says that he & Naganub asked Mr. Gilbert if they could go to Washington to see about the affairs of the Indians.  Now father, we are sure you opened your heart freely to us, and did not keep back anything from us that is for our good.  We are sure you had a heart to feel for us & sympathise with us in our trials, and we think that if there is any important business to be attended to you would not have kept it secret & hid it from us, we should have knew it.  If I am needed to go to Washington, to represent the interests of our people, I am ready to go.  The ground that we took against about our old debts, I am ready to stand shall stand to the last. We are now in Mr. Wheelers house where you told us to go, if we had any thing to say, as Mr. W was our friend & would give us good advice.  We have done so.  All the chiefs & people for whom I spoke, when you were here, are of the same mind.  They all requested before they left that I should go to Washington & be sure & hold on to Mr. Wheeler as one to go with me, because he has always been our steadfast friend and has al helped us in our troubles. There is another thing, my father, which makes us feel heavy hearted.  This is about our reservation.  Although you gave us definite instructions about it, there are some who are trying to shake our reserve all to pieces.  A trader is already here against our will & without any authority from Govt, has put him up a store house & is trading with our people.  In open council also at La Pointe when speaking for our people, I said we wanted Mr. W to be our teacher, but now another is come which whom we don’t want, and is putting up a house.  We supposed when you spoke to us about a teacher being permitted to live among us, you had reference to the one we now have, one is enough, we do not wish to have any more, especially of the kind of him who has just come.  We forbid him to build here & showed him the paper you gave us, but he said that paper permitted him rather than forbid him to come.  If the chiefs & young men did not remember what you told them to keep quiet there would already be have been war here.  There is always trouble when there two religions come together.  Now we are weak and can do nothing and we want you to help us extend your arms to help us.  Your arms can extend even to us.  We want you to pity & help us in our trouble.  Now we wish to know if we are wanted, or are permitted, three or four of us to come to which Washington & see to our interests, and whether our debts will be paid.  We would like to have you write us immediately & let us know what your will is, when you will have us come, if at all. One thing further.  We do not want any account to be allowed that was not presented to us for us to pass our opin us to pass judgement on, we hear that some such accounts have been smuggled in without our knowledge or consent.

 

 

The letter is unsigned, lacks a specific date, and has numerous corrections, which indicate it was a draft of the actual letter sent to Manypenny.  This draft is found in the Wheeler Family Papers in the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center. As interesting as it is, Blackbird’s letter raises more questions than answers.  Why is the chief so anxious to go to Washington?  What are the other chiefs doing? What are these accounts being smuggled in?  Who are the people trying to shake the reservation to pieces and what are they doing?  Perhaps most interestingly, why does Blackbird, a practitioner of traditional religion, think he will get help from a missionary?

For the answer to that last question, let’s take a look at the situation of Leonard H. Wheeler. When Wheeler, and his wife, Harriet came here in 1841, the La Pointe mission of Sherman Hall was already a decade old.  In a previous post, we looked at Hall’s attitudes toward the Ojibwe and how they didn’t earn him many converts.  This may have been part of the reason why it was Wheeler, rather than Hall, who in 1845 spread the mission to Odanah where the majority of the La Pointe Band were staying by their gardens and rice beds and not returning to Madeline Island as often as in the past.

When compared with his fellow A.B.C.F.M. missionaries, Sherman Hall, Edmund Ely, and William T. Boutwell, Wheeler comes across as a much more sympathetic figure.  He was as unbending in his religion as the other missionaries, and as committed to the destruction of Ojibwe culture, but in the sources, he seems much more willing than Hall, Ely, or Boutwell to relate to Ojibwe people as fellow human beings.  He proved this when he stood up to the Government during the Sandy Lake Tragedy (while Hall was trying to avoid having to help feed starving people at La Pointe).  This willingness to help the Ojibwe through political difficulties is mentioned in the 1895 book In Unnamed Wisconsin by John N. Davidson, based on the recollections of Harriet Wheeler: 

From In Unnamed Wisconsin pg. 170 (Digitized by Google Books).

So, was Wheeler helping Blackbird simply because it was the right thing to do?  We would have to conclude yes, if we ended it here.  However, Blackbird’s letter to Manypenny was not alone. Wheeler also wrote his own to the Commissioner. Its draft is also in the Wheeler Family Papers, and it betrays some ulterior motives on the part of the Odanah-based missionary:   

  

example not to meddle with other peoples business.

Mushkisibi River Oct. 1855

L.H. Wheeler to Hon. G.W. Manypenny

Dear Sir. In regard to what Blackbird says about going to Washington, his first plan was to borrow money here defray his expenses there, & have me start on.  Several of the chiefs spoke to me before soon after you left. I told them about it if it was the general desire. In regard to Black birds             Black Bird and several of the chiefs, soon after you left, spoke to me about going to Washington.  I told them to let me know what important ends were to be affected by going, & how general was the desire was that I should accompany such a delegation of chiefs.  The Indians say it is the wish of the Grand Portage, La Pointe, Ontonagun, L’anse, & Lake du Flambeaux Bands that wish me to go.  They say the trader is going to take some of their favorite chiefs there to figure for the 90,000 dollars & they wish to go to head them off and save some of it if possible.  A nocturnal council was held soon after you left in the old mission building, by some of the traders with some of the Indians, & an effort was made to get them Indians to sign a paper requesting that Mr. H.M. Rice be paid $5000 for goods sold out of the 90,000 that be the Inland Indians be paid at Chippeway River & that the said H.M. Rice be appointed agent.  The Lake du Flambeau Indians would not come into the [meeting?] & divulged the secret to Blackbird.  They wish to be present at [Shington?] to head off [sail?] in that direction.  I told Blackbird I thought it doubtful whether I could go with him, was for borrowing money & starting immediately down the Lake this fall, but I advised him to write you first & see what you thought about the desirability of his going, & know whether his expenses would be born.  Most of the claimants would be dread to see him there, & of course would not encourage his going.  I am not at all certain certain that I will be [considered?] for me to go with Blackbird, but if the Dept. think it desirable, I will take it into favorable consideration.  Mr. Smith said he should try to be there & thought I had better go if I could.  The fact is there is so much fraud and corruption connected with this whole matter that I dread to have anything to do with it.  There is hardly a spot in the whole mess upon which you can put your finger without coming in contact with the deadly virus.  In regard to the Priest’s coming here, The trader the Indians refer to is Antoine [Gordon?], a half breed.  He has erected a small store house here & has brought goods here & acknowledges that he has sold them and defies the Employees.  Mssrs. Van Tassel & Stoddard to help [themselves?] if they can.  He is a liquer-seller & a gambler.  He is now putting up a house of worship, by contract for the Catholic Priest.  About what the Indians said about his coming here is true.  In order to ascertain the exact truth I went to the Priest myself, with Mr. Stoddard, Govt [S?] man Carpenter.  His position is that the Govt have no right to interfere in matters of religion.  He says he has a right to come here & put up a church if there are any of his faith here, and they permit him to build on his any of their claims.  He says also that Mr. Godfrey got permission of Mr. Gilbert to come here.  I replied to him that the Commissioner told me that it was not the custom of the Gov. to encourage but one denomination of Christians in a place.  Still not knowing exactly the position of Govt upon the subject, I would like to ask the following questions.

1.  When one Missionary Society has already commenced labors a station among a settlement of Indians, and a majority of the Indians people desire to have him for their religious teacher, have missionaries of another denomination a right to come in and commence a missionary establishment in the same settlement?

Have they a right to do it against the will of a majority of the people?

Have they a right to do it in any case without the permission of the Govt?

Has any Indian a right, by sold purchase, lease or otherwise a right to allow a missionary to build on or occupy a part of his claim?  Or has the same missionary a right to arrange with several missionaries Indians for to occupy by purchase or otherwise a part of their claims severally? I ask these questions, not simply with reference to the Priest, but with regard to our own rights & privileges in case we wish to commence another station at any other point on the reserve. The coming of the Catholic Priest here is a [mere stroke of policy, concocted?] in secret by such men as Mssrs. Godfrey & Noble to destroy or cripple the protestant mission.  The worst men in the country are in favor of the measure.  The plan is under the wing of the priest.  The plan is to get in here a French half breed influence & then open the door for the worst class of men to come in and com get an influence.  Some of the Indians are put up to believe that the paper you gave Blackbird is a forgery put up by the mission & Govt employ as to oppress their mission control the Indians.  One of the claimants, for whom Mr. Noble acts as attorney, told me that the same Mr. Noble told him that the plan of the attorneys was to take the business of the old debts entirely out of your hands, and as for me, I was a fiery devil they when they much[?] tell their report was made out, & here what is to become of me remains to be seen.  Probably I am to be hung.  If so, I hope I shall be summoned to Washington for [which purpose?] that I may be held up in [t???] to all missionaries & they be [warned?] by my […]

 

The dramatic ending to this letter certainly reveals the intensity of the situation here in the fall of 1855.  It also reveals the intensity of Wheeler’s hatred for the Roman Catholic faith, and by extension, the influence of the Catholic mix-blood portion of the La Pointe Band.  This makes it difficult to view the Protestant missionary as any kind of impartial advocate for justice.  Whatever was going on, he was right in the middle of it.

So, what did happen here?

From Morse, McElroy, and these two letters, it’s clear that Blackbird was doing whatever he could to stop the Government from paying annuity funds directly to the creditors.  According to Wheeler, these men were led by U.S. Senator and fur baron Henry Mower Rice.  It’s also clear that a significant minority of the Ojibwe, including most of the La Pointe mix-bloods, did not want to see the money go directly to the chiefs for disbursement.  

I haven’t uncovered whether the creditors’ claims were accepted, or what Manypenny wrote back to Blackbird and Wheeler, but it is not difficult to guess what the response was.  Wheeler, a Massachusetts-born reformist, had been able to influence Indian policy a few years earlier during the Whig administration of Millard Fillmore, and he may have hoped for the same with the Democrats. But this was 1855.  Kansas was bleeding, the North was rapidly turning toward “Free Soil” politics, and the Dred Scott case was only a few months away. Franklin Pierce, a Southern-sympathizer had won the presidency in a landslide (losing only Massachusetts and three other states) in part because he was backed by Westerners like George Manypenny and H. M. Rice.  To think the Democratic “Indian Ring,” as it was described above, would listen to the pleas coming from Odanah was optimistic to say the least.

“[E]xample not to meddle with other peoples business”  is written at the top of Wheeler’s draft.  It is his handwriting, but it is much darker than the rest of the ink and appears to have been added long after the fact.  It doesn’t say it directly, but it seems pretty clear Wheeler didn’t look back on this incident as a success.  I’ll keep looking for proof, but for now I can say with confidence that the request for a Washington delegation was almost certainly rejected outright.

So who are the good guys in this situation?

If we try to fit this story into the grand American narrative of Manifest Destiny and the systematic dispossession of Indian peoples, then we would have to conclude that this is a story of the Ojibwe trying to stand up for their rights against a group of corrupt traders.  However, I’ve never had much interest in this modern “Dances With Wolves” version of Indian victimization.  Not that it’s always necessarily false, but this narrative oversimplifies complex historical events, and dehumanizes individual Indians as much as the old “hostile savages” framework did.  That’s why I like to compare the Chequamegon story more to the Canadian narrative of Louis Riel and company than to the classic American Little Bighorn story.  The dispossession and subjugation of Native peoples is still a major theme, but it’s a lot messier.  I would argue it’s a lot more accurate and more interesting, though.

So let’s evaluate the individuals involved rather than the whole situation by using the most extreme arguments one could infer from these documents and see if we can find the truth somewhere in the middle:

Henry Mower Rice (Wikimedia Images)

Henry M. Rice

The case against:  H. M. Rice was businessman who valued money over all else. Despite his close relationship with the Ho-Chunk people, he pressed for their 1847 removal because of the enormous profits it brought. A few years later, he was the driving force behind the Sandy Lake removal of the Ojibwe.  Both of these attempted removals came at the cost of hundreds of lives.  There is no doubt that in 1855, Rice was simply trying to squeeze more money out of the Ojibwe.

 The case for:  H. M. Rice was certainly a businessman, and he deserved to be paid the debts owed him.  His apparent actions in 1855 are the equivalent of someone having a lien on a house or car.  That money may have justifiably belonged to him.  As for his relationship with the Ojibwe, Rice continued to work on their behalf for decades to come, and can be found in 1889 trying to rectify the wrongs done to the Lake Superior bands when the reservations were surveyed.

From In Unnamed Wisconsin pg. 168.  It’s not hard to figure out which Minnesota senator is being referred to here in this 1895 work informed by Harriet Wheeler. (Digitized by Google Books).

Antoine Gordon from Noble Lives of a Noble Race (pg. 207) published by the St. Mary’s Industrial School in Odanah.

Antoine Gordon 

The case against:  Antoine Gaudin (Gordon) was an unscrupulous trader and liquor dealer who worked with H. M. Rice to defraud his Ojibwe relatives during the 1855 annuities.  He then tried to steal land and illegally squat on the Bad River Reservation against the expressed wishes of Chief Blackbird and Commissioner Manypenny.

The case for:  Antoine Gordon couldn’t have been working against the Ojibwe since he was an Ojibwe man himself. He was a trader and was owed debts in 1855, but most of the criticism leveled against him was simply anti-Catholic libel from Leonard Wheeler.  Antoine was a pious Catholic, and many of his descendants became priests.  He built the church at Bad River because there were a number of people in Bad River who wanted a church.  Men like Gordon, Vincent Roy Jr., and Joseph Gurnoe were not only crucial to the development of Red Cliff (as well as Superior and Gordon, WI) as a community, they were exactly the type of leaders the Ojibwe needed in the post-1854 world.

Portrait of Naw-Gaw-Nab (The Foremost Sitter) n.d by J.E. Whitney of St. Paul (Smithsonian)

Naaganab

The case against: Chiefs like Naaganab and Young Buffalo sold their people out for a quick buck.  Rather than try to preserve the Ojibwe way of life, they sucked up to the Government by dressing like whites, adopting Catholicism, and using their favored position for their own personal gain and to bolster the position of their mix-blooded relatives.

The case for: If you frame these events in terms of Indians vs. Traders, you then have to say that Naaganab, Young Buffalo, and by extension Chief Buffalo were “Uncle Toms.”  The historical record just doesn’t support this interpretation.  The elder Buffalo and Naaganab each lived for nearly a century, and they each strongly defended their people and worked to preserve the Ojibwe land base.  They didn’t use the same anti-Government rhetoric that Blackbird used at times, but they were working for the same ends.   In fact, years later, Naaganab abandoned his tactic of assimilation as a means to equality, telling Rice in 1889:

“We think the time is past when we should take a hat and put it on our heads just to mimic the white man to adopt his custom without being allowed any of the privileges that belong to him. We wish to stand on a level with the white man in all things. The time is past when my children should stand in fear of the white man and that is almost all that I have to say (Nah-guh-nup pg. 192).”   

Leonard H. Wheeler

L. H. Wheeler (WHS Image ID 66594)

The case against:  Leonard Wheeler claimed to be helping the Ojibwe, but really he was just looking out for his own agenda.  He hated the Catholic Church and was willing to do whatever it took to keep the Catholics out of Bad River including manipulating Blackbird into taking up his cause when the chief was the one in need.  Wheeler couldn’t mind his own business.  He was the biggest enemy the Ojibwe had in terms of trying to maintain their traditions and culture.  He didn’t care about Blackbird.  He just wanted the free trip to Washington. 

The case for:  In contrast to Sherman Hall and some of the other missionaries, Leonard Wheeler was willing to speak up forcefully against injustice.  He showed this during the Sandy Lake removal and again during the 1855 payment.  He saw the traders trying to defraud the Ojibwe and he stood up against it.  He supported Blackbird in the chief’s efforts to protect the territorial integrity of the Bad River reservation.  At a risk to his own safety, he chose to do the right thing.

Blackbird

The case against:  Blackbird was opportunist trying to seize power after Buffalo’s death by playing to the outdated conservative impulses of his people at a time when they should have been looking to the future rather than the past.  This created harmful factional differences that weakened the Ojibwe position.  He wanted to go to Washington because it would make him look stronger and he manipulated Wheeler into helping him.

The case for:  From the 1840s through the 1860s, the La Pointe Ojibwe had no stronger advocate for their land, culture, and justice than Chief Blackbird.  While other chiefs thought they could work with a government that was out to destroy them, Blackbird never wavered, speaking consistently and forcefully for land and treaty rights.  The traders, and other enemies of the Ojibwe, feared him and tried to keep their meetings and Washington trip secret from him, but he found out because the majority of the people supported him.

I’ve yet to find a picture of Blackbird, but this 1899 Bad River delegation to Washington included his son James (bottom right) along with Henry and Jack Condecon, George Messenger, and John Medegan–all sons and/or grandsons of signers of the Treaty of 1854 (Photo by De Lancey Gill; Smithsonian Collections).

Final word for now…

An entire book could be written about the 1855 annuity payments, and like so many stories in Chequamegon History, once you start the inquiry, you end up digging up more questions than answers.  I can’t offer a neat and tidy explanation for what happened with the debts.  I’m inclined to think that if Henry Rice was involved it was probably for his own enrichment at the expense of the Ojibwe, but I have a hard time believing that Buffalo, Jayjigwyong, Naaganab, and most of the La Pointe mix-bloods would be doing the same.  Blackbird seems to be the hero in this story, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a political component to his actions as well.  Wheeler deserves some credit for his defense of a position that alienated him from most area whites, but we have to take anything he writes about his Catholic neighbors with a grain of salt.

As for the Blackbird-Wheeler relationship, showcasing these two fascinating letters was my original purpose in writing this post.  Was Blackbird manipulating Wheeler, was Wheeler manipulating Blackbird, or was neither manipulating the other?  Could it be that the zealous Christian missionary and the stalwart “pagan” chief, were actually friends? What do you think?  

Sources:
Davidson, J. N., and Harriet Wood Wheeler. In Unnamed Wisconsin: Studies in the History of the Region between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. Milwaukee, WI: S. Chapman, 1895. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print. 
McElroy, Crocket.  “An Indian Payment.”  Americana v.5.  American Historical Company, American Historical Society, National Americana Society Publishing Society of New York, 1910 (Digitized by Google Books) pages 298-302.
Morse, Richard F. “The Chippewas of Lake Superior.” Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Ed. Lyman C. Draper. Vol. 3. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1857. 338-69. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Pupil’s of St. Mary’s, and Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Noble Lives of a Noble Race. Minneapolis: Brooks, 1909. 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.

Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

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

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

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

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

1843

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1843

Sept 11th            Monday  heading against hard wind all day—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1843

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

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

A.M.F:  American Fur Company

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

24th                   Cold—snow and some ice in the river

26th                   The river froze over at this place.

27th                   Colder the ice makes fast in the river

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

2nd                    Moderate

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

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

9th                     Warm and misty—thawing fort

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

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

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

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

1844

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

March 2nd           New sugar, weather pleasant

3rd                     Cloudy chilly wind

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

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

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

31st                   A cloudy brilliant day—The frogs are singing

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

Afternoon a little cloudy but warm

Evening, moonlight—beautiful and bright

2nd                    Warm morning.  afternoon high wind rain

A pleasant moonlight evening—warm

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

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

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

1844

April

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

7th                     Sunday.  warm rainy day—attended church

8th                     Cloudy morning and warm, afternoon very fair.

9th                     Fair frosty morning, afternoon very warm.

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

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

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

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

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

15th                   Rainy, warm day

16th                   Fair cool morning—after noon warmer

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

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

18th                   Another beautiful day.

19th                   Warm rainy day

20th                   Rainy day

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

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

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

24th                   Fair morning moderately warm—afternoon fair.  Musketoes

25th                   Rainy day

26th                   Cool cloudy morning

27th}                  fair & warm

28th

29th                   Beautiful April day

30th                   Rainy day

May 1st              Warm with high wind

2nd                    Do. a little rain

3rd                     Warm—sunshine and showers

4th}                   Beautiful warm day

5th

6th                     Most beautiful brilliant day

the woods have already a shade of green

1844

May 7th              Warm rainy day

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

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

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

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

23rd                   Sunday, attended church

24th                   Did nothing in particular—weather very warm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29th                   Johnson arrived from La Pointe—Rainy day.

31st                   The farmer and Blacksmith arrived from La Pointe

The weather is very warm—

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

10                     Frosty night

11                     Do.       “

12                     Cloudy and warm

13                     Do.       Do.       “

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

15                     Sunday  foggy morning—very warm fair day

16                     Warm

22                     Do.

29                     fair

Oct 3rd               Warm and fair

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

14-15                Rainy days

19th                   cold

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

21                     fine day

22&23               fair & warm thunder & lightning at night

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

28th                   Cold—snow in the afternoon and night

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

END OF 1843-44 JOURNAL

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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