By Amorin Mello

Charles Candee Baldwin ~ Memorial of Charles Candee Baldwin, LL. D.: Late President of the Western Reserve Historical Society, 1896, page iii.

C.C. Baldwin was a friend, colleague, and biographer of Charles Whittlesey.
Memorial of Charles Candee Baldwin, LL. D.: Late President of the Western Reserve Historical Society, 1896, page iii.

This is a reproduction of Colonel Charles Whittlesey’s biography from the Magazine of Western History, Volume V, pages 534-548, as published by his successor Charles Candee Baldwin from the Western Reserve Historical Society.  This biography provides extensive and intimate details about the life and profession of Whittlesey not available in other accounts about this legendary man.

Whittlesey came to Lake Superior in 1845 while working for the Algonquin Mining Company along the Keweenaw Peninsula’s copper region.  His first trip to Chequamegon Bay appears to have been in 1849 while doing do a geological survey of the Penokee Mountains for David Dale Owen.  Whittlesey played a dramatic role in American settlement of the Chequamegon Bay region.  Whittlesey convinced his brother, Asaph Whittlesey Jr., to move from the Western Reserve in 1854 establish what became the City of Ashland at the head of Chequamegon Bay as a future port town for extracting and shipping minerals from the Penokee Mountains.  Whittlesey’s influence can still be witnessed to this day through local landmarks named in his honor:

Whittlesey published more than two hundred books, pamphlets, and articles.  For additional research resources, the extensive Charles Whittlesey Papers are available through the Western Reserve Historical Society in two series:


 

 

COLONEL CHARLES WHITTLESEY.

Map of the Connecticut Western Reserve in Ohio by William Sumner, September 1826. ~ Cleveland Public Library

Map of the Connecticut Western Reserve in Ohio by William Sumner, September 1826.
~ Cleveland Public Library

Asaph Whittlesey [Sr], Late of Tallmadge, Summit Co., Ohio by Vesta Hart Whittlesey and Susan Everett Whittlesey, né Fitch, 1872.

[Father] Asaph Whittlesey [Sr], Late of Tallmadge, Summit Co., Ohio by [mother] Vesta Hart Whittlesey [posthumously] and [stepmother] Susan Everett Whittlesey, né Fitch, 1872.
~ Archive.org

Colonel Charles Whittlesey, late president of the Western Reserve Historical society, was born in Southington, Connecticut, October 4, 1808.  He was the son of Asaph and Vesta (Hart) Whittlesey, who settled in Ohio in 1815.  Asaph Whittlesey was a lad of unusual activity and spirits.  His constitution was fine, but he was, just before he was of age, severely injured by the falling of a tree.  For some time it was thought his back was broken.  The accident so impaired him for farm labor that it changed his life.  He removed from Salisbury, Connecticut, to Southington and became a partner with his brother Chester, as a merchant.  He married in 1807 Vesta Hart of that place.  In the spring of 1813, he started for Tallmadge, Portage county, Ohio, in a four horse wagon, with his wife and two children, one of whom is the subject of this sketch.

War was then in the west, and his neighbors feared they might be the victims of the scalping knife.  But the danger was different.  In passing the Narrows, between Pittsburgh and Beaver, the wagon ran off a bank and turned completely over on the wife and children.  They were rescued and revived, but the accident permanently impaired the health of Mr. Whittlesey.

Mr. Whittlesey was in Tallmadge, justice of the peace from soon after his arrival till near the close of his life, and postmaster from 1814, when the office was first established, to his death.  He was again severely injured, but a strong constitution and unflinching will enabled him to accomplish much.  He had a store, buying goods in Pittsburgh and bringing them in wagons to Tallmadge; and an ashery; and in 1818 he commenced the manufacture of iron on the Little Cuyahoga, below Middlebury.

The times were hard, tariff reduced, and in 1828 he returned to his farm prematurely old.  He died in 1842. Says General Bierce,


“His intellect was naturally of a high order, his religious convictions were strong and never yielded to policy or expediency. He was plain in speech, sometimes abrupt. Those who respected him were more numerous than those who loved him. But for his friends, no one had a stronger attachment. His dislikes were not very well concealed or easily removed. In short, he was a man of strong mind, strong feelings, strong prejudices, strong affections and strong attachments, yet the whole was tempered with a strong sense of justice and strong religious feelings.”


Elisha Whittlesey ~ Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

[Uncle] Elisha Whittlesey
~ Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

“He had,” says the Ohio Observer , “a retentive and accurate memory.”  Colonel Whittlesey’s mother received the best advantages which a New England town afforded, and became herself a teacher.  She was very happy in correspondence, and fond of writing letters, and she left quite a voluminous diary, which is an excellent example of felicity in composition.  His father was brother to Hon. Elisha Whittlesey, a lawyer of Canfield, Ohio, who settled there in 1806.  Having some knowledge of military tactics, in 1808 he was ensign of a company and soon after captain.  He served in the War of 1812, rose to the rank of brigade major and inspector.  He was eight times elected to congress, and long first comptroller in the United States treasury.  Elisha Whittlesey had much taste and great knowledge of western history.

Portrait of David Bacon from ConnecticutHistory.org: "David Bacon (1771 – August 27, 1817) was an American missionary in Michigan Territory. He was born in Woodstock, Connecticut. He worked primarily with the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes, although they were not particularly receptive to his Christian teachings. He founded the town of Tallmadge, Ohio, which later became the center of the Congregationalist faith in Ohio." ~ Wikipedia.org

Portrait of Reverend David Bacon from ConnecticutHistory.org:
“David Bacon (1771 – August 27, 1817) was an American missionary in Michigan Territory. He was born in Woodstock, Connecticut. He worked primarily with the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes, although they were not particularly receptive to his Christian teachings. He founded the town of Tallmadge, Ohio, which later became the center of the Congregationalist faith in Ohio.”
~ Wikipedia.org

Tallmadge was settled in 1808 as a religious colony of New England Congregationalists, by a colony led by Rev. David Bacon, a missionary to the Indians.  This affected the society in which the boy lived, and exercised much influence on the morality of the town and the future of its children, one of whom was the Rev. Leonard Bacon.  Rev. Timlow’s History of Southington says, “Mr. Whittlesey moved to Tallmadge, having become interested in settling a portion of Portage county with Christian families.”  And that he was a man “of surpassing excellence of character.”

If it should seem that I have dwelt upon the parents of Colonel Whittlesey, it is because his own character and career were strongly affected by their characters and history.  Charles, the son, combined the traits of the two.  He commenced school at four years old in Southington; the next year he attended the log school house at Tallmadge until 1819, when the frame academy was finished and he attended it in winter, working on the farm in summer until he was nineteen.

The boy, too, saw early life on foot, horseback and with ox-teams.  He found the Indians still on the Reserve, and in person witnessed the change from savage life and new settlements, to a state of three millions of people, and a large city around him.  One of Colonel Whittlesey’s happiest speeches is a sketch of log cabin times in Tallmadge, delivered at the semi-centennial there in 1857.

Colonel Charles Whittlesey’s military history is detailed in Volume I, pages 495-498 of Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, since its establishment in 1802 by George W. Cullum.  Whittlesey as a graduate from the Class of 1831, along with Henry Clay Jr (son of Senator Henry Clay Sr).  During 1832, Whittlesey was assigned to Fort Howard (located in what is now Green Bay, Wisconsin), where he studied Great Lakes water levels.  The Wisconsin Territory would not become established until 1836.
“In conformity with the spirit of the act authorizing the Geological Survey, the Topographer, Col. Whittlesey, has also been instructed to survey the remains of ancient works, which are so numerous within our territory. The plans and descriptions of these works will be given in the final report. Col. Whittlesey’s slight notice of some of these will be found in his report, which is annexed.”
~ Annual Report on the Geological Survey of the State of Ohio: 1837 by Ohio Geologist William Williams Mather, 1838, page 22.

In 1827 the youngster became a cadet at West Point.  Here he displayed industry, and in some unusual incidents there, coolness and courage.  He graduated in 1831, and became brevet second lieutenant in the Fifth United States infantry, and in November started to join his regiment at Mackinaw.  He did duty through the winter with the garrison at Fort Gratiot.  In the spring he was assigned at Green Bay to the company of Captain Martin Scott, so famous as a shot.  At the close of the Black Hawk War he resigned from the army.  Though recognizing the claim of the country to the services of the graduates of West Point, he tendered his services to the government during the Seminole Mexican war.  By a varied experience his life thereafter was given to wide and general uses.  He at first opened a law office in Cleveland, Ohio, and was fully occupied in his profession, and as part owner and co-editor of the Whig and Herald until the year 1837.  He was that year appointed assistant geologist of the state of Ohio.  Through very uneconomical economy, the survey was discontinued at the end of two years, when the work was partly done and no final reports had been made.  Of course most of the work and its results were lost.  Great and permanent good indeed resulted to the material wealth of the state, in disclosing the rich coal and iron deposit of southeastern Ohio, thus laying the foundation for the vast manufacturing industries which have made that portion of the state populous and prosperous.  The other gentlemen associated with him were Professor William Mather as principal; Dr. Kirtland was entrusted with natural history.  Others were Dr. S. P. Hildreth, Dr. Caleb Briggs, Jr., Professor John Locke and Dr. J. W. Foster.  It was an able corps, and the final results would have been very valuable and accurate.  In 1884, Colonel Whittlesey was sole survivor and said in this Magazine:


“Fifty years since, geology had barely obtained a standing among the sciences even in Europe.  In Ohio it was scarcely recognized.  The state at that time was more of a wilderness than a cultivated country, and the survey was in progress little more than two years.  It was unexpectedly brought to a close without a final report.  No provision was made for the preservation of papers, field notes and maps.”


Professor Newbury, in a brief resume of the work of the first survey (report of 1869), says the benefits derived “conclusively demonstrate that the geological survey was a producer and not a consumer, that it added far more than it took from the public treasury and deserved special encouragement and support as a wealth producing agency in our darkest financial hour.”   The publication of the first board, “did much,” says Professor Newberry, “to arrest useless expenditure of money in the search for coal outside of the coal fields and in other mining enterprises equally fallacious, by which, through ignorance of the teachings of geology, parties were constantly led to squander their means.”   “It is scarcely less important to let our people know what we have not, than what we have, among our mineral resources.”

Ohio’s ‘State Documents’ of 1838 and 1839 were not identified for this reproduction.
"Descriptions of Ancient Works in Ohio. By Charles Whittlesey, of the late Geological Corps of Ohio." ~ Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Vol. III., Article 7,1852.

“Descriptions of Ancient Works in Ohio. By Charles Whittlesey, of the late Geological Corps of Ohio.”
~ Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume III., Article 7, 1852.

The topographical and mathematical parts of the survey were committed to Colonel Whittlesey.  He made partial reports, to be found in the ‘State Documents’ of 1838 and 1839, but his knowledge acquired in the survey was of vastly greater service in many subsequent writings, and, as a foundation for learning, made useful in many business enterprises of Ohio.  He had, during this survey, examined and surveyed many ancient works in the state, and, at its close, Mr. Joseph Sullivant, a wealthy gentleman interested in archaeology, residing in Columbus, proposed that, he bearing the actual expense, Whittlesey should continue the survey of the works of the Mound Builders, with a view to joint publication.  During the years 1839 and 1840, and under the arrangement, he made examination of nearly all the remaining works then discovered, but nothing was done toward their publication.  Many of his plans and notes were used by Messrs. Squier & Davis, in 1845 and 1846, in their great work, which was the first volume of the Smithsonian Contributions, and in that work these gentlemen said:


“Among the most zealous investigators in the field of American antiquarian research is Charles Whittlesey, esq., of Cleveland, formerly topographical engineer of Ohio.  His surveys and observations, carried on for many years and over a wide field, have been both numerous and accurate, and are among the most valuable in all respects of any hitherto made.  Although Mr. Whittlesey, in conjunction with Joseph Sullivant, esq., of Columbus, originally contemplated a joint work, in which the results of his investigations should be embodied, he has, nevertheless, with a liberality which will be not less appreciated by the public than by the authors, contributed to this memoir about twenty plans of ancient works, which, with the accompanying explanations and general observations, will be found embodied in the following pages.

“It is to be hoped the public may be put in possession of the entire results of Mr. Whittlesey’s labor, which could not fail of adding greatly to our stock of knowledge on this interesting subject.”


"Marietta Works, Ohio. Charles Whittlesey, Surveyor 1837." ~ Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume I., Plate XXVI.

“Marietta Works, Ohio. Charles Whittlesey, Surveyor 1837.”
~ Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume I., Plate XXVI.

It will be seen that Mr. Whittlesey was now fairly started, interested and intelligent, in the several fields which he was to make his own.  And his very numerous writings may be fairly divided into geology, archaeology, history, religion, with an occasional study of topographical geology.  A part of Colonel Whittlesey’s surveys were published in 1850, as one of the Smithsonian contributions; portions of the plans and minutes were unfortunately lost.  Fortunately the finest and largest works surveyed by him were published. Among those in the work of Squier & Davis, were the wonderful extensive works at Newark, and those at Marietta.  No one again could see those works extending over areas of twelve and fifteen miles, as he did.  Farmers cannot raise crops without plows, and the geography of the works at Newark must still be learned from the work of Colonel Whittlesey.

“An aged Chippeway, by the name of Kundickan [Okandikan], whom I met on the Ontonagon in 1845, stated that as he was one day sailing along the western shore of the Gogebic (or Akogebe) Lake, at the head of the west branch of that river, he heard an explosion on the face of a rocky cliff that overlooked the water, and saw pieces of something fall at a distance from him, both in the lake and on the beach. When he had found some of them, they proved to be a white metal, like ‘Shuneaw’ [Zhooniyaa(money), which the white man gives to the Indians at La Pointe.”
~ Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume XIII., Article IV., page 2 of “Ancient Mining on the Shores of Lake Superior” by Charles Whittlesey.
Charles Whittlesey’s article about his experience working for the Algonquin Mining Company in 1845A, Two Months in the Copper Region,” was reproduced here on Chequamegon History.

He made an agricultural survey of Hamilton county in 1844.  That year the copper mines of Michigan began to excite enthusiasm.  The next year a company was organized in Detroit, of which Colonel Whittlesey was the geologist.  In August they launched their boat above the rapids of the Sault St. Marie and coasted along the shore to where is now Marquette.  Iron ore was beneath notice, and in truth was no then transportable, and they pulled away for Copper Harbor, and then to the region between Portage lake and Ontonagon, where the Algonquin and Douglas Houghton mines were opened.  The party narrowly escaped drowning the night they landed.  Dr. Houghton was drowned the same night not far from them.  A very interesting and life-like account of their adventures was published by Colonel Whittlesey in the National Magazine of New York City, entitled “Two Months in the Copper Regions.”  From 1847 to 1851 inclusive, he was employed by the United States in the survey of the country around Lake Superior and the upper Mississippi, in reference to mines and minerals.  After that he spent much time in exploring and surveying the mineral district of the Lake Superior basin.  The wild life of the woods with a guide and voyageurs threading the streams had great attractions for him and he spent in all fifteen seasons upon Lake Superior and the upper Mississippi, becoming thoroughly familiar with the topography and geological character of that part of the country.

Okandikan pictograph, reproduced from birch bark by Seth Eastman, and published in Historical and statistical information respecting the history, condition, and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, 1851.

“Pictograph C.  Okundekund [Okandikan] and his Band of Ontonagon – Michigan,” as reproduced from birch bark by Seth Eastman, and published as Plate 62 in Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Volume I., by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, 1851.  This was one of several pictograph petitions from the 1849 Martell delegation:
“By this scroll, the chief Kun-de-kund of the Eagle totem of the river Ontonagon, of Lake Superior, and certain individuals of his band, are represented as uniting in the object of their visit of Oshcabewis. He is depicted by the figure of an eagle, Number 1. The two small lines ascending from the head of the bird denote authority or power generally. The human arm extended from the breast of the bird, with the open hand, are symbolic of friendship. By the light lines connecting the eye of each person with the chief, and that of the chief with the President, (Number 8,) unity of views or purpose, the same as in pictography Number 1, is symbolized. Number 2, 3, 4, and 5, are warriors of his own totem and kindred. Their names, in their order, are On-gwai-sug, Was-sa-ge-zhig, or The Sky that lightens, Kwe-we-ziash-ish, or the Bad-boy, and Gitch-ee-man-tau-gum-ee, or the great sounding water. Number 6. Na-boab-ains, or Little Soup, is a warrior of his band of the Catfish totem. Figure Number 7, repeated, represents dwelling-houses, and this device is employed to deonte that the persons, beneath whose symbolic totem it is respectively drawn, are inclined to live in houses and become civilized, in other words, to abandon the chase. Number 8 depicts the President of the United States standing in his official residence at Washington. The open hand extended is employed as a symbol of friendship, corresponding exactly, in this respect, with the same feature in Number 1. The chief whose name is withheld at the left hand of the inferior figures of the scroll, is represented by the rays on his head, (Figure 9,) as, apparently, possessing a higher power than Number 1, but is still concurring, by the eye-line, with Kundekund in the purport of pictograph Number 1.”

"Studio portrait of geologist Charles Whittlesey dressed for a field trip." Circa 1858. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Studio portrait of geologist Charles Whittlesey dressed for a field trip.” Circa 1858.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Whittlesey’s 1865 report was not immediately identified for this reproduction.

His detailed examination extended along the copper range from the extreme east of Point Keweenaw to Ontonagon, through the Porcupine mountain to the Montreal river, and thence to Long lake in Wisconsin, a distance of two hundred miles.  In 1849, 1850 and 1858 he explored the valley of the Menominee river from its mouth to the Brule.  He was the first geologist to explore the South range.  The Wisconsin Geological Survey (Vol. 3 pp. 490 and 679) says this range was first observed by him, and that he many years ago drew attention to its promise of merchantable ores which are now extensively developed from the Wauceda to the Commonwealth mines, and for several miles beyond.  He examined the north shore from Fond du Lac east, one hundred miles, the copper range of Minnesota and on the St. Louis river to the bounds of our country.  His report was published by the state in 1865, and was stated by Professor Winchill to be the most valuable made.

All his geological work was thorough, and the development of the mineral resources which he examined, and upon which he reported, gave the best proofs of his scientific ability and judgment.

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

“Outline Map Showing the Position of the Ancient Mine Pits of Point Keweenaw, Michigan by Charles Whittlesey.” 
~ Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume XIII., Article IV., frontpiece of “Ancient Mining on the Shores of Lake Superior” by Charles Whittlesey, 1863.

With the important results from his labors in Ohio in mind, the state of Wisconsin secured his services upon the geological survey of that state, carried on in 1858, 1859 and 1860, and terminated only by the war.  The Wisconsin survey was resumed by other parties, and the third volume of the Report for Northern Wisconsin, page 58, says:


The Contract of James Hall with Charles Whittlesey is available from the Journal of the Assembly of Wisconsin, Volume I, pages 178-179, 1862.  Whittlesey was to perform “a careful geological survey of the country lying between the Montreal river on the east, and the westerly branches of [the] Bad River on west”.  This contract was unfulfilled due to the outbreak of the American Civil War.  Whittlesey independently published his survey of the Penokee Mountains in 1865 without Hall.  Some of Whittlesey”s pamphlets have been republished here on Chequamegon History in the Western Reserve category of posts.

“The only geological examinations of this region, however, previous to those on which the report is based, and deserving the name, were those of Colonel Charles Whittlesey of Cleveland, Ohio.  This gentleman was connected with Dr. D. D. Owen’s United States geological survey of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, and in this connection examined the Bad River country, in 1848.  The results are given in Dr. Owen’s final report, published in Washington, in 1852.  In 1860 (August to October) Colonel Whittlesey engaged in another geological exploration in Ashland, Bayfield and Douglass counties, as part of the geological survey of Wisconsin, then organized under James Hall.  His report, presented to Professor Hall in the ensuing year, was never published, on account of the stoppage of the survey.  A suite of specimens, collected by Colonel Whittlesey during these explorations, is at present preserved in the cabinet of the state university at Madison, and it bears testimony to the laborious manner in which that gentleman prosecuted the work.  Although the report was never published, he has issued a number of pamphlet publications, giving the main results obtained by him.  A list of them, with full extracts from some of them, will be found in an appendix to the report.  In the same appendix I have reproduced a geological map of this region, prepared by Colonel Whittlesey in 1860.”


"Geological Map of the Penokie Range" by Charles Whittlesey, December 1860. ~ Geology of Wisconsin. Survey of 1873-1879. Volume III., 1880, Plate XX, page 214.

“Geological Map of the Penokie Range.” by Charles Whittlesey, Dec. 1860.
~ Geology of Wisconsin. Survey of 1873-1879. Volume III., 1880, Plate XX, page 214.

“Foreseeing that the South would resist the declared wish of the nation in the election of Lincoln, Whittlesey promptly enrolled himself in the body-guard which was to escort the President-elect to Washington.”
Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, since its establishment in 1802 by George W. Cullum, page 496.

“The Baltimore Plot was an alleged conspiracy in late February 1861 to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration. Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, played a key role by managing Lincoln’s security throughout the journey. Though scholars debate whether or not the threat was real, clearly Lincoln and his advisors believed that there was a threat and took actions to ensure his safe passage through Baltimore, Maryland.”
Wikipedia.org

Such was Colonel Whittlesey’s employment when the first signs of the civil war appeared.  He abandoned it at once.  He became a member of one of the military companies that tendered its services to President-elect Lincoln, when he was first threatened, in February, 1861.  He became quickly convinced that war was inevitable, and urged the state authorities that Ohio be put at once in preparation for it; and it was partly through his influence that Ohio was so very ready for the fray, in which, at first, the general government relied on the states.  Two days after the proclamation of April 15, 1861, he joined the governor’s staff as assistant quartermaster-general.  He served in the field in West Virginia with the three months’ men, as state military engineer; with the Ohio troops, under General McClellan, Cox and Hill.  At Seary Run, on the Kanawha, July 17, 1861, he distinguished himself by intrepidity and coolness during a severe engagement, in which his horse was shot under him.  At the expiration of the three months’ service, he was appointed colonel of the Twentieth regiment, Ohio volunteers, and detailed by General Mitchell as chief engineer of the department of Ohio, where he planned and constructed the defenses of Cincinnati.

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

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

In December, 1861, he was ordered to Kentucky with four companies of infantry, to suppress the rebel element in several counties, with headquarters at Warsaw.  In the Magazine of Western History for April, 1885, he gives an interesting account of his experiences there.  On the day before Christmas, 1861, loyal citizens from Kentucky represented that several counties in that state were in a condition of anarchy.  Kentucky had not then seceded, and Colonel Whittlesey was sent to protect Union citizens, prevent rebel enlistments, secure all their arms, and preserve order.  The transports reached Warsaw at nine p. m., and within two hours a number of the most active men sustaining the rebellion were arrested and on their way to Camp Chase.  The practice of releasing on taking the oath of allegiance had become a standing joke.  Colonel Whittlesey substituted agreements by which they severally agreed, that, in case they threatened or injured the persons or property of Union men, or committed any act in aid of the present rebellion and the southern confederacy, they were to be held summarily responsible in person and property.  Sometimes security was required.  These agreements were generally kept.  His administration there was very successful, and a Kentucky Union legislator said “his course had effected much good for the Union cause,” and that “his promptness and decision met with universal praise.”  Colonel Whittlesey was in command of his regiment at the taking of Fort Donelson, and was sent north with the prisoners, of whom over ten thousand five hundred were committed to him.  The movement on Donelson was made in February, 1862.  In 1876 was published a letter from Colonel Whittlesey to General Halleck, dated November 20, 1861, as follows:


“SIR: Will you allow me to suggest the consideration of a great movement by land and water, up the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers.

First, Would it not allow of water transportation half way to Nashville?

Second, Would it not necessitate the evacuation of Columbus, by threatening their railway communications?

Third, Would it not necessitate the retreat of General Buckner, by threatening his railway lines?

Fourth, Is it not the most feasible route into Tennessee?”


This plan was adopted, and Colonel Whittlesey’s regiment took part in its execution.

In April, 1862, on the second day of the battle of Shiloh, Colonel Whittlesey commanded the Third brigade of General Wallace’s division — the Twentieth, Fifty-sixth, Seventy-sixth and Seventy-eighth Ohio regiments.  “It was against the line of that brigade that General Beauregard attempted to throw the whole weight of his force for a last desperate charge; but he was driven back by the terrible fire, that his men were unable to face.”  As to his conduct, Senator Sherman said in the United States senate.1


The official report of General Wallace leaves little to be said.  The division commander says, “The firing was grand and terrible.  Before us was the Crescent regiment of New Orleans; shelling us on our right was the Washington artillery of Manassas renown, whose last charge was made in front of Colonel Whittlesey’s command.”


"This is an engraved portrait of Charles Whittlesey, a prominent soldier, attorney, scholar, newspaper editor, and geologist during the nineteenth century. He participated in a geological survey of Ohio conducted in the late 1830s, during which he discovered numerous Native American earthworks. In 1867, Whittlesey helped establish the Western Reserve Historical Society, and he served as the organization's president until his death in 1886. Whittlesey also wrote approximately two hundred books and articles, mostly on geology and Ohio's early history." ~ Ohio History Central

“This is an engraved portrait of Charles Whittlesey, a prominent soldier, attorney, scholar, newspaper editor, and geologist during the nineteenth century. He participated in a geological survey of Ohio conducted in the late 1830s, during which he discovered numerous Native American earthworks. In 1867, Whittlesey helped establish the Western Reserve Historical Society, and he served as the organization’s president until his death in 1886. Whittlesey also wrote approximately two hundred books and articles, mostly on geology and Ohio’s early history.”
~ Ohio History Central

General Force, then lieutenant-colonel under Colonel Whittlesey, fully describes the battle,2 and quotes General Wallace.  “The nation is indebted to our brigade for the important services rendered, with the small loss it sustained and the manner in which Colonel Whittlesey handled it.”

Colonel Whittlesey was fortunate in escaping with his life, for General Force says, it was ascertained that the rebels had been deliberately firing at him, sometimes waiting to get a line shot.

Colonel Whittlesey had for some time been in bad health, and contemplating resignation, but deferring it for a decisive battle.  Regarding this battle as virtually closing the campaign in the southwest, and believing the Rebellion to be near its end, he now sent it in.

General Grant endorsed his application, “We cannot afford to lose so good an officer.”

“Few officers,” it is said, “retired from the army with a cleaner or more satisfactory record, or with greater regret on the part of their associates.”  The Twentieth was an early volunteer regiment.  The men were citizens of intelligence and character.  They reached high discipline without severity, and without that ill-feeling that often existed between men and their officers.  There was no emergency in which they could not be relied upon.  “Between them and their commander existed a strong mutual regard, which, on their part, was happily expressed by a letter signed by all the non-commissioned officers.”


“CAMP SHILOH, NEAR PITTSBURGH LANDING, TENNESSEE,  April 21, 1862.

“COL. CHAS. WHITTLESEY:

Sir — We deeply regret that you have resigned the command of the Twentieth Ohio.  The considerate care evinced for the soldiers in camp, and, above all, the courage, coolness and prudence displayed on the battle-field, have inspired officers and men with the highest esteem for, and most unbounded confidence in our commander.

“From what we have seen at Fort Donelson, and at the bloody field near Pittsburgh, on Monday, the seventh, all felt ready to follow you unfalteringly into any contest and into any post of danger.

“While giving expression to our unfeigned sorrow at your departure from us, and assurance of our high regard and esteem for you, and unwavering confidence as our leader, we would follow you with the earnest hope that your future days may be spent in uninterrupted peace and quiet, enjoying the happy reflections and richly earned rewards of well-spent service in the cause of our blessed country in its dark hour of need.”


Said Mr. W. H. Searles, who served under him, at the memorial meeting of the Engineers Club of Cleveland: “In the war he was genial and charitable, but had that conscientious devotion to duty characteristic of a West Point soldier.”

Since Colonel Whittlesey’s decease the following letter was received:


“CINCINNATI, November 10, 1886.

“DEAR MRS. WHITTLESEY: — Your noble husband has got release from the pains and ills that made life a burden.  His active life was a lesson to us how to live.  His latter years showed us how to endure.  To all of us in the Twentieth Ohio regiment he seemed a father.  I do not know any other colonel that was so revered by his regiment.  Since the war he has constantly surprised me with his incessant literary and scientific activity.  Always his character was an example and an incitement.  Very truly yours,

“M. F. Force.”


Colonel Whittlesey now turned his attention at once again to explorations in the Lake Superior and upper Mississippi basins, and “new additions to the mineral wealth of the country were the result of his surveys and researches.”  His geological papers commencing again in 1863, show his industry and ability.

It happened during his life many times, and will happen again and again, that his labors as an original investigator have borne and will bear fruit long afterwards, and, as the world looks at fruition, of much greater value to others than to himself.

“Geological Report on that Portion of Wisconsin Bordering on the South Shore of Lake Superior Surveyed in the Year 1849, Under the Direction of David Dale Owen, United States Geologist. By Charles Whittlesey, Head of Sub-Corps.”
~ Report of a geological survey of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota: and incidentally of a portion of Nebraska Territory, by David Dale Owen, 1852, page 420.

He prognosticated as early as 1848, while on Dr. Owen’s survey, that the vast prairies of the northwest would in time be the great wheat region.  These views were set forth in a letter requested by Captain Mullen of the Topographical Engineers, who had made a survey for the Northern Pacific railroad, and was read by him in a lecture before the New York Geographical society in the winter of 1863-4.

He examined the prairies between the head of the St. Louis river and Rainy Lake, between the Grand fork of Rainy Lake river and the Mississippi, and between the waters of Cass Lake and those of Red Lake.  All were found so level that canals might be made across the summits more easily than several summits already cut in this country.

In 1879 the project attracted attention, and Mr. Seymour, the chief engineer and surveyor of New York, became zealous for it, and in his letters of 1880, to the Chambers of Commerce of Duluth and Buffalo, acknowledged the value of the information supplied by Colonel Whittlesey.

Says the Detroit Illustrated News:


“A large part of the distance from the navigable waters of Lake Superior to those of Red river, about three hundred and eight miles, is river channel easily utilized by levels and drains or navigable lakes.  The lift is about one thousand feet to the Cass Lake summit.  At Red river this canal will connect with the Manitoba system of navigation through Lake Winnipeg and the valleys of the Saskatchewan.  Its probable cost is given at less than four millions of dollars, which is below the cost of a railway making the same connections.  And it is estimated that a bushel of wheat may be carried from Red river to New York by water for seventeen cents, or about one-third of the cost of transportation by rail.”


Western Reserve Historical Society

We approach that part of the life of Colonel Whittlesey which was so valuable to our society.  The society was proposed in 1866.3  Colonel Whittlesey’s own account of its foundation is: “The society originally comprised about twenty persons, organized in May, 1867, upon the suggestion of C. C. Baldwin, its present secretary.  The real work fell upon Colonel Whittlesey, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Goodman devoting nearly all of his time until 1872 (the date of his death).”   The statement is a very modest one on the part of Colonel Whittlesey.  All looked to him to lead the movement, and none other could have approached his efficiency or ability as president of the society.

The society seemed as much to him as a child is to a parent, and his affection for it has been as great.  By his learning, constant devotion without compensation from that time to his death, his value as inspiring confidence in the public, his wide acquaintance through the state, he has accomplished a wonderful result, and this society and its collections may well be regarded as his monument.

Mr. J. P. Holloway, in his memorial notice before the Civil Engineer’s club, of which Colonel Whittlesey was an honorary member, feelingly and justly said:


“Colonel Whittlesey will be best and longest remembered in Cleveland and on the Reserve, for his untiring interest and labors in seeking to rescue from oblivion the pioneer history of this portion of the state, and which culminated in the establishment of the present Western Reserve Historical society, of which for many years he was the presiding officer.  It will be remembered by many here, how for years there was little else of the Western Reserve Historical society, except its active, hard working president.  But as time moved on, and one by one the pioneers were passing away, there began to be felt an increasing interest in preserving not only the relics of a by-gone generation, but also the records of their trials and struggles, until now we can point with a feeling of pride to the collections of a society which owes its existence and success to a master spirit so recently called away.”


The colonel was remarkably successful in collecting the library, in which he interested with excellent pecuniary purpose the late Mr. Case.  He commenced the collection of a permanent fund which is now over ten thousand dollars.  It had reached that amount when its increase was at once stopped by the panic of 1873, and while it was growing most rapidly.  The permanent rooms, the large and very valuable museum, are all due in greatest measure to the colonel’s intelligent influence and devotion.

I well remember the interest with which he received the plan; the instant devotion to it, the zeal with which at once and before the society was started, he began the preparation of his valuable book, The Early History of Cleveland, published during the year.

Colonel Whittlesey was author of — I had almost said most, and I may with no dissent say— the most valuable publications of the society.  His own very wide reputation as an archaeologist and historian also redounded to its credit.  But his most valuable work was not the most showy, and consisted in the constant and indefatigable zeal he had from 1867 to 1886, in its prosperity.  These were twenty years when the welfare of the society was at all times his business and never off his mind.  During the last few years Colonel Whittlesey has been confined to his home by rheumatism and other disorders, the seeds of which were contracted years before in his exposed life on Lake Superior, and he has not been at the rooms for years.  He proposed some years since to resign, but the whole society would have felt that the fitness of things was over had the resignation been accepted.  Many citizens of Cleveland recall that if Colonel Whittlesey could no longer travel about the city he could write.  And it was fortunate that he could.  He took great pleasure in reading and writing, and spent much of his time in his work, which continued when he was in a condition in which most men would have surrendered to suffering.

Colonel Whittlesey did not yet regard his labors as finished.  During the last few years of his life religion, and the attitude and relation of science to it, engaged much of his thought, and he not unfrequently contributed an editorial or other article to some newspaper on the subject.  Lately these had taken more systematic shape, and as late as the latter part of September, and within thirty days of his death, he closed a series of articles which were published in the Evangelical Messenger on Theism and Atheism in Science.”  These able articles were more systematic and complete than his previous writings on the subject, and we learn from the Messenger that they will be published in book form.  The paper says:


Colonel Charles Whittlesey of this city, known to our readers as the author of an able series of articles on Theism and Atheism in Sciencejust concluded, has fallen asleep in Jesus.  One who knew the venerable man and loved him for his genuine worth said to us that “his last work on earth was the preparation of these articles . . . which to him was a labor of love and done for Christ’s sake.”


"The Old Whittlesey Homestead, Euclid Avenue [Cleveland, Ohio]." ~ Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes, by Henry Howe, 1907, page 521.

“The Old Whittlesey Homestead, Euclid Avenue.” [Cleveland, Ohio]
~ Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes by Henry Howe, 1907, page 521.

Colonel Whittlesey said when the last was done that his work was finished.  He was then in such a condition that he wrote only while in bed and on his back.  On Sunday morning, October 17, 1886, he was seized with a chill.  He seemed to recover somewhat and appeared no weaker than he had often been within the last few years, but in the morning of the next day he died at the early hour of five.  The writer saw him last on Sunday afternoon, when he spoke as fondly, as anxiously and as thoughtfully of the society as ever, though his mind quickly wandered.

Colonel Whittlesey was married October 4, 1858, to Mrs. Mary E. (Lyon) Morgan4 of Oswego, New York, who survives him; they had no children.

"Char. Whittlesey - Cleveland Ohio, Oct. 30, 1895[?] - Geologist of Ohio." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Charles Whittlesey died on October 18th, 1886, and was never Ohio’s State Geologist.  
“Char. Whittlesey – Cleveland Ohio, Oct. 30, 1895[?] – Geologist of Ohio.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Colonel Whittlesey’s published literary works were very numerous, commencing in 1833, and ending with his death, fifty-three years afterward.  There were four quartos among the Smithsonian Contributions.  Several appear in the various state and United States geological reports.  A collected volume of Fugitive Essays was published in 1855, a History of Cleveland in 1867.  Quite a number appear among the publications of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Colonel Whittlesey was so engaged in what was new, that it was only a few years ago and at my suggestion that he undertook a list.  The list herewith is larger than his, and the number of books and pamphlets is one hundred and nintey-one.  Many of these are double column and small print, but containing much and new information.  He cared little for large print or good paper.  He furnished a great many articles to the newspapers, often as editorials, many of which maybe found in the rooms of our society.  Colonel Whittlesey was fortunate in simple tastes and happy life, but without fault on his part often unfortunate.  We have seen how his work in the Ohio survey of 1837-8 was cut short; how, what would have been the great and leading work on the archaeology of Ohio was lost, how other surveys and enterprises in which he was engaged were stopped by the war, or otherwise by no fault of his.  Prior to 1869 he was pressing zealously, in this state, the project of a geological survey, and when the bill was finally passed, he fondly hoped to be chief of the survey in his own state.  Another was appointed to the first place, and he was unwilling to accept the post of assistant geologist.

Much of his work does not therefore appear in that complete and systematic shape which would make it best known to the general public.  But by scholars in his lines of study in Europe and America, he was well known and very highly respected.  “His contributions to literature,” said the New York Herald,5 “have attracted wide attention among the scientific men of Europe and America.”

Whittlesey Culture:
A.D. 1000 to 1600

“‘Whittlesey Culture’ is an archaeological designation referring to a Late Prehistoric (more appropriately: Late Pre-Contact) North American indigenous group that occupied portions of northeastern Ohio. This culture isdistinguished from other so-called Late Prehistoric societies mainly by distinctive kinds of pottery. Many Whittlesey communities were located on plateaus overlooking stream valleys or the shores of Lake Erie. The villages often were surrounded with a pallisade or a ditch, suggesting a need for defense.

“The Whittlesey culture is named for Charles Whittlesey, a 19th century geologist and archaeologist who was a founder of the Western Reserve Historical Society.”

~ Ohio History Central

As an American archaeologist, Colonel Whittlesey was very learned and thorough.  He had in Ohio the advantage of surveying its wonderful works at an early date.  He had, too, that cool poise and self-possession that prevented his enthusiasm from coloring his judgment.  He completely avoided errors into which a large share of archaeologists fall.  The scanty information as to the past and its romantic interest, lead to easy but dangerous theories, and even suffers the practice of many impositions.  He was of late years of great service in exposing frauds, and thereby helped the science to a healthy tone.  It may be well enough to say that in one of his tracts he exposed, on what was apparently the best evidence, the supposed falsity of the Cincinnati tablet so called.  Its authenticity was defended by Mr. Robert Clarke of Cincinnati, successfully and convincingly, to Colonel Whittlesey himself.  I was with the colonel when he first heard of the successful defense and with a mutual friend who thought he might be chagrined, but he was so much more interested in the truth for its own sake, than in his relations to it, that he appeared much pleased with the result.

Whittlesey Culture: "South Park Village points (above) and pottery fragment (below)" ~ National Park Service

Whittlesey Culture artifacts: “South Park Village points (above) and pottery fragment (below)”
~ Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Among American writers, Mr. Short speaks of his investigations as of “greater value, due to the eminence of the antiquarian who writes them.”  Hon. John D. Baldwin says, “in this Ancient America speaks of Colonel Whittlesey as one of the best authorities.”  The learned Frenchman, Marquis de Nadaillac and writers generally upon such subjects quote his information and conclusions with that high and safe confidence in his learning and sound views which is the best tribute to Colonel Whittlesey, and at the same time a great help to the authors.  And no one could write with any fullness on the archaeology of America without using liberally the work of Colonel Whittlesey, as will appear in any book on the subject.  He was an extensive, original investigator, always observing, thoughtful and safe, and in some branches, as in Ancient Mining at Lake Superior, his work has been the substantial basis of present learning.  It is noticeable that the most eminent gentlemen have best appreciated his safe and varied learning.  Colonel Whittlesey was early in the geological field.  Fifty years ago little was known of paleontology, and Colonel Whittlesey cared little for it, perhaps too little; but in economic geology, in his knowledge of Ohio, its surface, its strata, its iron, its coal and its limestone in his knowledge of the copper and iron of the northwest, he excelled indeed.  From that date to his death he studied intelligently these sections.  As Professor Lapham said he was studying Wisconsin, so did Colonel Whittlesey give himself to Ohio, its mines and its miners, its manufactures, dealings in coal and iron, its history, archaeology, its religion and its morals.  Nearly all his articles contributed to magazines were to western magazines, and anyone who undertook a literary enterprise in the state of Ohio that promised value was sure to have his aid.6

In geology his services were great.  The New York Herald, already cited, speaks of his help toward opening coal mines in Ohio and adds,“he was largely instrumental in discovering and causing the development of the great iron and copper regions of Lake Superior.”  Twenty-six years ago he discovered a now famous range of iron ore.

“ On the Mound Builders and on the geological character and phenomena of the region of the lakes and the northwest he was quoted extensively as an authority in most of the standard geological and anthropological works of America and Europe,” truthfully says the Biographical Cyclopedia.

The St Clair Papers:
Volume 1;
Volume 2.

Colonel Whittlesey was as zealous in helping to preserve new and original material for history as for science.  In 1869 he pushed with energy the investigation, examination and measures which resulted in the purchase by the State of Ohio of the St. Clair papers so admirably, fully and ably edited by Mr. William Henry Smith, and in 1882 published in two large and handsome volumes by Messrs. Robert Clarke and Co. of Cincinnati.

Colonel Whittlesey was very prominent in the project which ended in the publication of the Margry papers in Paris.  Their value may be gathered from the writing of Mr. Parkman (La Salle) and The Narrative and Critical History of America, Volume IV., where on page 242 is an account of their publication.7  In 1870 and 1871 an effort to enlist congress failed.  The Boston fire defeated the efforts of Mr. Parkman to have them published in that city.  Colonel Whittlesey originated the plan eventually adopted, by which congress voted ten thousand dollars as a subscription for five hundred copies, and, as says our history: “at last by Mr. Parkman’s assiduous labors in the east, and by those of Colonel Whittlesey, Mr. O. H. Marshall and others in the west,” the bill was passed.

The late President Garfield, an active member of our society, took a lively interest in the matter, and instigated by Colonel Whittlesey used his strong influence in its favor.  Mr. Margry has felt and expressed a very warm feeling for Colonel Whittlesey for his interest and efforts, and since the colonel’s death, and in ignorance of it, has written him a characteristic letter to announce to the colonel, first of any in America, the completion of the work.  A copy of the letter follows :


“PARIS, November 4, 1886.

“VERY DEAR AND HONORED SIR: It is to-day in France, St. Charles’ day, the holiday I wished when I had friends so called.  I thought it suitable to send you to-day the good news to continue celebrating as of old.  You will now be the first in America to whom I write it.  I have just given the check to be drawn, for the last leaves of the work, of which your portrait may show a volume under your arm.8  Therefore there is no more but stitching to be done to send the book on its way.

“In telling you this I will not forget to tell you that I well remembered the part you took in that, publication as new, as glorious for the origin of your state, and for which you can congratulate yourself, in thanking you I have but one regret, that Mr. Marshall can not have the same pleasure.  I hope that your health as well as that of Madame Whittlesey is satisfactory. I would be happy to hear so.  For me if I am in good health it is only by the intervention of providence.  However, I have lost much strength, though I do not show it.  We must try to seem well.

“Receive, dear and honored sir, and for Madame, the assurance of my profound respect and attachment.

“PIERRE MARGRY.”


Colonel Whittlesey views of the lives of others were affected by his own.  Devoted to extending human learning, with little thought of self interest, he was perhaps a little too impatient with others, whose lives had other ends deemed by them more practical.  Yet after all, the colonel’s life was a real one, and his pursuits the best as being nearer to nature and far removed from the adventitious circumstances of what is ordinarily called polite life.

He impressed his associates as being full of learning, not from books, but nevertheless of all around — the roads the fields, the waters, the sky, men animals or plants.  Charming it was to be with him in excursions; that was really life and elevated the mind and heart.

He was a profoundly religious man, never ostentatiously so, but to him religion and science were twin and inseparable companions.  They were in his life and thought, and he wished to and did live to express in print his sense that the God of science was the God of religion, and that the Maker had not lost power over the thing made.

He rounded and finished his character as he finished his life, by joint and hearty affection and service to the two joint instruments of God’s revelation, for so he regarded them.  Rev. Dr. Hayden testifies: “He had no patience with materialism, but in his mature strength of mind had harmonized the facts of science with the truths of religion.”

charles whittlesey

Charles Whittlesey
~ Magazine of Western History, Volume V, page 536.

Colonel Whittlesey’s life was plain, regular and simple.  During the last few years he suffered much from catarrhal headache, rheumatism and kindred other troubles, and it was difficult for him to get around even with crutches.  This was attributed to the exposure he had suffered for the fifteen years he had been exposed in the Lake Superior region, and his long life and preservation of a clear mind was no doubt due to his simple habits.  With considerable bodily suffering, his mind was on the alert, and he seemed to have after all considerable happiness, and, to quote Dr Hayden, he could say with Byrd, “thy mind to me a kingdom is.”

Colonel Whittlesey was an original member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an old and valued member of the American Antiquarian society, an honorary member of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical society, with headquarters at Columbus.  He was trustee of the former State Archaeological society (making the archaeological exhibition at the Centennial), and although each of these is necessarily to some extent a rival of his pet society, he took a warm interest in the welfare of each.

He was a member of the Society of Americanites of France, and his judgment, learning and communications were much esteemed by the French members of that society.  Of how many other societies he was an honorary or other member I can not tell.

C. C. Baldwin.

 


 

1 – Speech of May 9, 1862.

2 – Cincinnati Commercial, April 9, 1862.

3 – The society was organized under the auspices of the Cleveland Library Association (now Case Library).  The plan occurred to the writer while vice-president of that association.  At the annual meeting in 1867, the necessary changes were made in the constitution, and Colonel Whittlesey was elected to the Case Library board for the purpose of heading the historical committee and movement.  The result appears in a scarce pamphlet issued in 1867 by the library association, containing, among other things, an account of the formation of the society and an address by Colonel Whittlesey, which is an interesting sketch of the successive literary and library societies of Cleveland, of which the first was in 1811.

4 – Mary E. Lyon was a daughter of James Lyon of Oswego, and sister of John E. Lyon, now of Oswego but years ago a prominent citizen of Cleveland.  She m. first Colonel Theophilus Morgan,6 Theophilus,5 Theophilus,4 Theophilus,3 John,2 James Morgan.1  Colonel Morgan was an honored citizen of Oswego.  Colonel Morgan and his wife Mary, had a son James Sherman, a very promising young man, killed in 1864 in a desperate cavalry charge in which he was lieutenant, in Sherman’s march to the sea.  Mrs. Whittlesey survives in Cleveland.

5 – October, 19, 1886.

6 – The Hesperian, American Pioneer, the Western Literary Journal and Review of Cincinnati, the Democratic Review and Ohio Cultivator of Columbus, and later the Magazine of Western History at Cleveland, all received his hearty support.

7 – These papers were also described in an extract from a congressional speech of the late President Garfield. The extract is in Tract No. 20 of the Historical society.

8 – Alluding to a photograph of Colonel Whittlesey
then with a book under his arm.

CAUTION: This translation was made using Google Translate by someone who neither speaks nor reads German. It should not be considered accurate by scholarly standards.

Our last excerpt from Wagner and Scherzer’s Reisen in Nordamerika in den Jahren 1852 und 1853.  The Austrian travelers chronicled their time at La Pointe in September 1852.  In this one, we will read of their adventures in my favorite part of the world, the south shore of Lake Superior between La Pointe and the Brule River.  160 years later, residents of Red Cliff, Little Sand Bay, Cornucopia, Bark Point, Herbster, and Port Wing will still recognize many of the natural features described here, and more interesting anecdotes can add to the small amount of written historical documentation of this part of the world.  Enjoy:

Red Sandstone:  South Shore of Lake Superior:  from David Dale Owen’s Report of a Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota (1852).

XXI

From Ontonagon to the mouth of the Bois-brule River–Canoe ride to Magdalen Island–Porcupine Mountains–Camping in the open air–A dangerous canoe landing at night–A hospitable Jewish family–The island of La Pointe–The American Fur Company–The voyageurs or courriers de bois–Old Buffalo, the 90 year-old Chippewa chief–A schoolhouse and an examination–The Austrian Franciscan monk–Sunday mass and reflections on the Catholic missions–Continuing the journey by sail–Nous sommes degrades–A canoeman and apostle of temperance–Fond du lac–Sauvons-nous!

Since the weather was favorable, we decided prospects were right for our trip to the mouth of the Burnt Wood (Bois-brulé) River. We made all the necessary travel arrangements that evening, and even bought supplies of bacon and salted beef for fourteen days of “wild life.” We were also compelled to buy a new birch canoe*, to allow the two Canadians who will conduct us on the waters of the Bois-brulé and La Croix Rivers, through the wilds of Wisconsin to Stillwater, to make the return journey by water instead of through the woods on foot, and we had not been able to arrange for borrowing a boat.

(*These canoes are the only vehicles used by the Indians to navigate the lake. They are either made of a framework of cedar wood and covered with birch bark, with the individual parts made watertight with pitch, or they can also be carved out of a single spruce trunk hollowed to where two or three can sit. The former are preferred for their greater ease and convenience, but the latter are more durable, safer, and less expensive. Our canoe was made of birch bark and measured 18′ in length and 4′ in width. We bought it for 15 dollars, and we were very pleased when we were able to get rid of it at the end of our trip for five dollars).

Monday, September 20th, 53° F. Overcast weather but the lake completely calm, we left accompanied by the pious blessings of the Island’s Franciscan monk.

This time our boat carried a light burden. The captain stayed back out of concern there would be too many hardships and inconveniences. It was very strange to see such an experienced traveler unwisely refuse to carry a proper thick rain coat. With thin boots, a light Carbonari, and a few underwear tied in a small bundle, he took leave of us to shiver in the elements. Addio Capitano!

Our traveling companions were now a young Frenchman and two Canadians, Souverain and Jean Baptiste. The latter two were entrusted with managing the canoe. Souverain, though his thin gray hair, his toothless mouth, and his wrinkled face betrayed the features of advanced age, he was undoubtedly the more able and accomplished of the two voyageurs. Baptiste, however, strong and tireless in his youth, was an excellent complement to the old man.

Indian Sugar Camp (1850) by Seth Eastman, as depicted in Schoolcraft’s Information Respecting the History, Conditions and Prospect of the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1847-1857 (Digitized by Wisconsin Historical Society; Image ID: 9829).

We passed the Apostle Islands, 12 in number, most of which, including “Spook Island” are planted almost exclusively with maple trees (Acer saccharinum), from which the Indians prepare sugar. Every year in March and April, they make deep transverse incisions, from which, like the dripping pitch extracted from pine trees, a fresh green juice flows. Every tree can be tapped 5-6 years, in such a way to be made controllable, before the tree is disabled and is only good for the fire. In La Pointe, about 10 Indian families produce 1000-1500 pounds of sugar every year. In Bad River, there are more than 20 Indian families, who collectively produce 20,000 pounds. A pound of maple sugar is obtained by the traders for one shilling (twelve and one half cents) delivered to the Indians in kind.

Spook Island:  Devil’s Island
Riviere au Sable:  Sand River

We passed several miles of 40-60 foot high red sandstone cliffs, which the lashing tide had formed into the most picturesque architectural forms, among which arch and pillar structures were most prevalent. Several were formed in such a way as to create columned caverns under which a canoe could easily pass. The under-washing of this gigantic mass of rock may explain the gradual extension of the south shore.

Favored by a northwest wind, we had already covered 21 miles in 6 hours, and arrived at Riviere au Sable. We could clearly make out the north shore 50 miles distant, and the mountain chain of the British Territories, whose highest point, according to Dr. Norwood of Cincinnati is 1650 feet.

As with lucky speculators in the trading cities, our canoeists wanted to exploit the favorable wind direction even more. They turned their only protection against the cold, blue and white blankets, into excellent sails. They tied together cloth on one side to secure the oar, while they used green pine branches on the other side to maintain tension against the wind. It always remains dangerous, however, to attach a sail to so volatile a vehicle as a canoe, for a single contrary wind shock can cause the canoe to lose balance and leave the drivers to pay for their daring with terrible flooding.

Bay of Siscawit River:  Siskiwit River (now Cornucopia Beach).

In the evening, just as we were about to pitch our camp at the bay of Siscawit River, we were surprised by a terrible rain that drenched the greater part of our effects and brought great danger to our physical instruments. We were, for a long time, without the benefit of a warm fire, but our perseverance gradually allowed our flickering light to defeat the dampness, and we had flame to cook our modest supper. One often camps at the mouths of these numerous small tributaries of Lake Superior. It has always been this way, and the reason is that during stormy seas on the open water, the bays that surround the mouths of these rivers protect you from the wind and waves.

The small canvas tent, lent to us by the hospitable postmaster in Ontonagon, served us beyond expectation as powerful protection from the cold and wetness. We soon found ourselves under the soaked canvas roof in comfort we hardly thought possible in such harsh camp conditions. We must admit, however, that our foresight in bringing suits made of India rubber to spread on the ground, spared us the rheumatic breaths of the damp earth beneath us.

Tuesday, September 21, 53°F. Persistent rain and completely clouded-over sky with little chance of favorable traveling weather. During the night, the rains became so heavy that they seeped in through the canvas in several areas. Our laundry bags were totally soaked, and there was no opportunity to dry them. When camping like this, one should always keep items requiring special protection in the rear of the tent, and all care should be made to not let them touch the stretched canvas, which once wet will keep everything damp for weeks.

This morning, we had to celebrate wind, that is, a violent northeast wind prevented us from proceeding any further. “Nos sommes dégradés,” the old captain sighed, and told us how he was once stranded by violent storms, and had nothing but a dry biscuit to eat for four days. We held a small war council without a general, but with merely reason to guide us, and decided that due to this delay, we should limit our meals so that we would only enjoy the salted meat every other day. Decreasing to half rations, was necessary, as we were on the treacherous Lake Superior, which as already noted, often makes travel impossible or highly dangerous for weeks on end. Once we reached its desired tributary, the mouth of the Bois-brulé River, we would have no more fear of such a wicked delay from wind and waves.

Around 6 o’clock in the evening, the waves took on a less dangerous character. We quickly pulled down our tent, packed our belongings, and hastily boarded our already-floating boat. In boarding a canoe, caution must always be used to avoid stepping harshly with the whole foot above certain cedar ribs. This can disturb the equilibrium which can have the consequence of losing your effects, or even your life.

After an hour, we had followed a fierce north wind to Pointe aux écorces looking for a refuge. We wandered along the shore until after dark, but the rugged rocky reefs made landing impossible. Finally, we found sandbars, and pitched our tents near a tamarack swamp. Those who travel without a tent can usually find shelter from the rigors of the weather by setting the canoe at the proper angle and finding room underneath it.

Pointe aux ecorces:  Bark Point
Riviere aux Attacas:  Cranberry River (Now Herbster Beach)
Apacha River:  Flagg (Apakwa) River (Now Port Wing).

We camped in a group of pines as tall as the sky. At the foot of these ancient tree trunks, our fire burned like a flaming sacrifice of the ancients. As the two voyageurs fell fast asleep at the entrance of the tent, we continued to feed sticks into the fire so as to not lose its benevolent warmth. Our fire was basically built into the base of a great pine, which gave the whole scene a picturesque backdrop, until the whole thing fell during the night with a heavy crash. This brought us all to our feet, sober and alert. There was no danger, however, as we had put numerous cuts into the tree so that it would fall away from us in the event it gave way.

Wednesday, September 22, 64°F. Northwest wind. The cheerful light of the morning sun woke us weary sleepers early. The seas were pretty rough. Once we had the infamous Point aux écorces at our back, we heard the roar of the busy oncoming waves. The red sandstone remains the predominant formation. The green hills of a moderate height, almost 50′, are embraced by a wide belt of spruce, Scotch Pine, birch, and beech. The more we approach the western end of the lake, Fond du lac, the narrower the space between the southern and northern shores becomes.

At the Riviere aux Attacas, we landed for breakfast. This time, there was bacon, whitefish, tea, butter, and hardtack, all remnants of the past brought from La Pointe. The songs our guides sang to strengthen the heart were far more modest and ethical than the erotic verses of our previous voyageurs who brought us from Ontonagon to La Pointe. The brilliant sunshine gave way to a completely cloudy sky, and a terrible northwest wind blew us into the bay of Apacha River, and there we resignedly made our night camp even though the Bruly River, as the natives call it for short, was only 12 miles away.

In the evening, we unconsciously discovered Souverain’s severe, but honorable, strength of character. We had brought a bottle of franzbranntwein, more for health than to tickle the tongue, and we poured each of our leaders a glass of this invigorating stomach potion. The younger, Baptiste, opened his throat widely and readily, but Souverain steadfastly refused even though he had worked hard all day and had taken little food.

We were curious and asked him about the cause of this refusal. He told us how he was inclined too much toward the spirituous fluids, and that to combat this, as few years ago he joined a temperance society and pledged in writing to abstain for fifty long years from all liquors. Since then, he has had not a drop of wine. His total abstinence went so far that he was not even moved to enjoy a rice broth in which we had mixed a few drops of the franzbranntwein, to give our guides more power.

This incident reminded the Canadians of some humorous anecdotes from living memory. Souverain told of an elder mix-blood who joined him for a limited period of temperance, with the lovely intent of indulging all the more joyously after the “dry” time. Baptiste told of a fisherman in La Pointe, who, since the sale of alcohol is prohibited on the island under penalty of 200 dollars, would get intoxicated almost every day with a bottle of burning hot peppermint water. Since this liquid, when used at low doses, is an excellent and popular remedy for stomach ailments, it was not easy to restrict its sale. Therefore, to save the life of this islander, the magistrate issued a special edict that the sale of peppermint is only allowed in small vials for medicine.

7 o’clock in the evening, 53°F. A gorgeous aurora borealis creates wisps and horizontal streaks of rapidly-changing dreamlike light.

Thursday, September 23, 63°F. We left early, around half past 7 o’clock. The abundant ashes of our extinguished fire, the tree trunk where our kettle hung, and the thin supports, under which our tent assumed its triangular shape, were the only traces left behind as a memorial of our presence.

Galette:  Le Galette (lugalade, “lug”), is known as bannock in Anishinaabe communities with less French influence.

Although a fairly violent south wind blew, he came from the mainland, so the waves on the lake were fairly calm, unlike those of his antagonist the engulfing north wind who yesterday threw the water up on the shore. For breakfast, we had tea, fried bacon, and galette. The latter is a composite made of kneaded flour, water, and compressed yeast dough, that seems extremely difficult to digest. It is usually prepared every morning by a practiced hand, and is gladly enjoyed, even preferred, by the voyageur.

The shotgun of our traveling companions produced a duck that will provide us with an excellent lunch. It is striking how much the forests along the banks are already emptied by Indian rifles. Temporary flocks of ducks and geese, in their autumn migration to a more southerly area, were the only wild species we encountered on our long journey. Likewise, the fishing in this season is extremely sparse, and he who leaves during these journeys to hunt or fish alone, will soon labor hard and bitterly regret his mistake.

Fond du Lac Village, At St. Louis River from David Dale Owen’s Report of a Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota (1852).

From the Bois Brule River to Fond du Lac, it’s about 21 miles, but to the mission and settlement on the St. Louis River, it’s about 42 miles. We could easily see with the naked eye, the contours of those western hills that mark the limit of this huge navigable water. And so, before we sailed up the Bruly, we paused to behold the joyous satisfaction of reaching the end of this enormous water, now reflecting the sky, on which we had spent 23 busy, enjoyable, and instructive days.

At 11 o’clock in the morning, we finally reached the destination we had anxiously waited for, the Bois-brulé River. Its discharge into Lake Superior was unusually low, but its flow was still very powerful. For our canoemen, it was a matter of routine to skillfully avoid a fatal collision with the bare rocky ridges at the landing.

Our captain had now thrown aside the oars as the long boat poles served better to find the sandy gaps among the rocks. Souverain stood at the upper end of the canoe and directed. He watched with a sharp eye for the moment when the perfect wave would come to our aid and carry us to the landing, and with the signal cry of, “Sauvons-nous!” it came suddenly, and we were borne to shore. We were at the mouth of the Bois-brulé River.

The End, for now…

CAUTION: This translation was made using Google Translate by someone who neither speaks nor reads German. It should not be considered accurate by scholarly standards.

CAUTION:  This translation was made using Google Translate by someone who neither speaks nor reads German.  It should not be considered accurate by scholarly standards.

When we last left Moritz Wagner and Carl Scherzer, the two Austrian adventurers who traveled across Lake Superior in 1852, they had avoided certain death when caught in a storm halfway through the crossing between Bad River and La Pointe.  In this post, we find them on Madeline Island in the wee hours of the morning, looking for a place to stay.

In the three days they spent in La Pointe, they produced a description of the island as colorful as any I’ve come across.  Enjoy: 

A View of La Pointe from Report of a Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowas, and Minnesota (1852) by David Dale Owen (Digitized by Google Books)

XXI

From Ontonagon to the mouth of the Bois-brule River–Canoe ride to Magdalen Island–Porcupine Mountains–Camping in the open air–A dangerous canoe landing at night–A hospitable Jewish family–The island of La Pointe–The American Fur Company–The voyageurs or courriers de bois–Old Buffalo, the 90 year-old Chippewa chief–A schoolhouse and an examination–The Austrian Franciscan monk–Sunday mass and reflections on the Catholic missions–Continuing the journey by sail–Nous sommes degrades–A canoeman and apostle of temperance–Fond du lac–Sauvons-nous!

It was 1 o’clock in the morning, and the whole settlement was in a deep sleep. We were at a loss as to which door to knock at. Among 200 Indians, only a few white families live there. One of the boatmen gave us a name, with which we found Mr. Austrian (a name meaning Oestreicher) a descendent of the Mosaic.

We knocked confidently by rattling at the window showing the distinguishing hemp of Austrian. We have always had a favorable bias for our Jewish countrymen in this nation. They have brought over so many ancient patriarchal customs of antiquity unadulterated, faithful, and pure in their sympathetic breasts. Here the noble manners of hospitality sweep away the cold breath of selfishness found among the Americans. The Jews are always ready to welcome strangers and donate a warm and magnanimous hand with every occasion.

They opened and the young doorman yelled out to the person in the next room, “Joe, steh auf, Leut from below, sind da!” and because it could not be doubted that we were, “One of our people!” We were then bombarded with all the tastes of the kosher delicatessen: belek, kugel, kindeln, and other tidbits of the Jewish frying pan. We were offered a nice, clean room and did not suspect that the close Yom Kippur (Jewish fast day) should frustrate our feast.

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

Jewish-immigrant brothers, Julius and Joseph Austrian, were prominent La Pointe residents at this time.  This image depicts an incident from Benjamin Armstrong’s Early Life Among the Indians (Engraving by Marr & Richards Co.).

17 September, early, 61° Fahr. The actual owner of the home was absent. However, his younger brother received us with all the warmth of a Bayreuth Jew. He had only been in the country a short time, and spoke English with a Spanish-sounding accent as he called to us in the room, “Waken sie!” He showed us a pair of Indian snowshoes, and asked, “Haben sie snow shoes noch nie geused?*” He finally told of the fish trade in the same mixed gibberish, “Below werden die Fische umgepakt, inspected, und dann weider vereignepakt again.”

(*German immigrants all have a peculiar manner of acquiring the English language. As they hear a strange new name, they mix it together immediately with the words of their native language, without regard for how the expression works in English. A carpenter told us, “Wenn sie ein loghouse bauen wollen un dasselbe inwendig geplastered und von außen geclapboarded wird, so wird es 700 dollars kosten!”

In Pennsylvania, all counties speak an unintelligible German-English slang. It may be that after a few generations, a whole new language is emerging. So, some German immigrants are a tragic example of how one can forget his native language without having to learn another language as a substitute.)

La Pointe is the largest of several islands known under the collective name of Isles des Apotres. It has an unusual history. One of the earliest points on Lake Superior where men of faith planted the cross of salvation in 1665, it wasn’t until a century later that the progress of civilization began to push the two and four-legged forest dwellers further and further west . For several years it was the home depot (post) of the Fur Trading Company. This trading company was founded in 1808 by John Jacob Astor as the American Fur Trading Company, by an act of law of the State of New York. It granted exclusive right of trade and intercourse with the Indians, and in earlier times, provided an immense source of power and wealth. Currently, the business is divided between a Company of the West and the North West, of which the latter united with the Hudson’s Bay Company* and created unrestricted competition and limited the field of activity. The company of the west, currently under the leadership of J. Chouteau and Company, trades with the Indians of the Missouri and Mississippi. Its headquarters are at the upper Mississippi. The company owns 25 stations (trading posts) employing 200 voyageurs who take care of transporting commodities in the business season and bring the furs to the businesses located in St. Paul, Mendota, and Crow Wing in the Minnesota Territory.

(*[This footnote goes on for several pages on the history and structure of the Hudson Bay Company. As it interrupts the narrative, and can be found in other sources, I’ve omitted it.])

The different Indian tribes will kill the animals of the forest in the course of the year and then gather at certain points for the individual bands. Every year there is a caravan of agents (traders) of the fur company who obtain this rich quantity of valuable animal skins from the ignorant Indians for a lowly price of trade items.

This commercial agent will bring birch canoes full of presents across Lake Superior, and usually in 26 to 30 days will bring back the skins of bears, wolves, silver and other foxes, beavers, raccoon, martens, wolverine, otters, muskrats, weasels, and buffalos. Whether their fate is to be a winter covering for the delicate lady’s hands or the lining of a skirt in the princely salons is yet to be determined.

Next door, in perhaps richer numbers and selection, but certainly of far less value, are items of the clever broker. The eyes glare as he flaunts his manufactures. One sees, woolen blankets, cloth fabrics, firearms, ammunition, tin kettles, earrings, finger rings, brass buttons, breastplates, wampum, chopping knives, birch canoes, and mirrors. There is makeup of red, blue, black, and green color, but all the items together carry only one color, that of speculation and dizzying purpose.

Although the furs are barter items, they have an adopted value determined so that the price of the animal fur always corresponds with a certain number of exchanged wares. But the furs are usually valued very low and in contrast, the reverse items are priced very high. The total traffic area with the Indians in the West should produce 1 million dollars annually. Together, the furs are shipped, via New York, to London which is the main market for the American fur trade.

Since we did not visit these remote areas during the season of barter, we could not bear witness to this certainly most-interesting and instructive spectacle, but we cannot omit some words and impart some pressure as we become aware of the facts which throw a sad light on the business of the whites with the Indians. We believe it is the same, and more truthful, to be told as it is by Schoolcraft, the highly-respected American historian, on his travels among the tribes on Lake Superior.

A shotgun worth 10 guineas was sold by an agent to an Indian chief for 120 pounds of beaver skins, or 480 dollars of value. A caravan of 6 bales of barter commodities was traded for $2000. In Athabasca, 96 sacks of beaver skins weighing 8640 pounds brought back four dollars of value when their real worth was $34,560!

Another scholarly researcher, Coldon,writing in 1741 in the area of the Five Nations, describes how the whites in general and the traders in particular, create debts. The vice of drunkenness among the wild Indians occurs so frequently because the greed of the traders allows them to shrink to the lowest means and intentionally put the foolish aborigines in a state of intoxication causing an even more advantageous position for fraud. This evil passion has wreaked more havoc among the Indians than disease or war. It has destroyed more than instruction in Christianity could ever be capable of building up.

Among the Indian tribes there is a strongly-held opinion that if you murder a fur trader, he will retaliate by intentionally bringing back infected goods.* This belief probably arose from the sensitivity caused by the way the whiteskins associate with the redskins. They treat the actual natives of American soil as their subjects and servants, and consider it their privilege to satisfy their greed and passion and claim material and bodily impunity.**

(*[Here the authors insert an extensive footnote about smallpox infections in the Lake Superior region. As it disrupts the narrative and is information that can be found in Schoolcraft’s Narrative of an Expedition Through the Upper Mississippi River to Itasca Lake, I’ve omitted it here.])

(**Two residents of La Pointe told us how a former agent convinced several Indians and mix-bloods to entrust him with their savings due to them from the sale of the Indian country to the government. He used the advantage of his position to gain their trust and did not issue receipts for the borrowed. He had about $800 from everyone but when it was claimed, the fraudulent agent told them they would have to be content with repayment in commodities, flour, sausage, and potatoes, for which the he charged an exorbitant price. We started this narrative not wanting to believe it, but two good Catholics swore on the host. The agent has since left this island, to general contempt, taking the gold pieces of the Indians with him.)

The Voyageurs (1846) by Charles Deas (Wikimedia Images)

After this discussion of the of the rates of the American Fur Company and its agents, we want to add some details about the men whose labor and time exerted such a great influence on the fate and culture of the Indian tribes. We wish to add a few explanatory words about the sad presence on La Pointe of the voyageurs or courriers du bois.

This peculiar class of people, which is like a vein of metal that suddenly disappears within the bedrock and reappears many hundreds of miles away under the same geological conditions, their light reaches the borders of the eastern Canadas. The British people, with their religion and customs, reappeared on the shores of these northern lakes only in 1808 with the Fur Company. For labor they drew on those who could carry their wares across the lakes and communicate with the Indians.

Many young men of adventurous natures left the old wide streets of Montreal and moved into the trackless primeval forests of the West. Young and strong as laborers, they soon started to adopt the lifestyle and language of the aborigines. They married with the Indians and inhabit small settlements scattered throughout those mighty lands which begin at Mackinow Island and come up the upper lake to the region of Minnesota. They almost all speak the Canadian patois along with the language of the Chippewas, the tribe with which they came into kinship. We found only a few, even among the younger generation, who understood English.

Since then, every day the population of the otherwise deserted shore of Lake Superior increases with the discovery of copper mines. The animals driven away by the whirlwind of civilization toward the west, attract the Indians with their sensitive guns, leaving La Pointe, abandoned by the Company for their headquarters at St. Paul in Minnesota. Most voyageurs left the island, having seen their business in ruins and lacking their former importance. Just a few families remain here, making a meager livelihood of hunting, fishing, and the occasional convoy of a few travelers led by business, science, or love of nature who purchase their limited resources.*

(*Except for us, this year they had only two travelers visit this area for scientific interest. The scarcity of this type of tourist seems to be the reason why the price the voyageurs and their companions ask is high. We paid all our leaders one and one half dollars a day and just as many for the days necessary for their return. The voyageurs are democratic and truly similar to those Alpine villagers who charged the emperor two Louis d’or for a breakfast of two eggs.)

A devout Franciscan friar, the family of a Methodist preacher, a school teacher, and a skilled tradesman, together with some old canoe houses, remains of the once large voyageur legion, make up the small numbers of the white population.

The island is 15 miles long, 5.6 miles wide, and has 30 miles in circumference. The main formation is sandstone and red clay. Vegetation proliferates in spruce, pine, cedar, birch, tamarack (Larix americana), etc. The oval horseshoe shape of the island makes it one of the best ports of the entirety of Lake Superior, and this, despite current unemployment, promises hope for a comfortable future.

Add to that, the infinite abundance of fish on their shores. Delicious, but only edible in the spring, are the Siscawit (Salmo siscowet), and the trout (Salmo amethystus). The whitefish (Coregonus albus) are available in uncommon quantities. The most successful fishmonger here sent during the past years, 300 barrels of various species of fish, each 200 pounds, to the markets of Cleveland and Detroit.

The Siscowet, or Fat Trout, is a subspecies of Lake Trout (Drawn by David Starr Jordan, and Barton Warren Evermann, 1911; Digitized by University of Washington)

At the invitation of the zealous schoolteacher*, we toured the schoolhouse. Here we met Old Buffalo (Chi Waishki or Pezhickee), the 90-year-old hereditary chief of the Chippewa band. He was wrapped in a blue striped shirt and a wool blanket. He carried a royal scepter made from a broken wooden base of a bed as a symbol of his authority. He was looking for some glue to repair a garment for a young Indian. We find it necessary here to mention that of the many Chippewas on this island, very few are full-blood Indians. Having crossed frequently with the European race, and through the efforts of Christian missionaries, they have adopted the habits of civilization. They inhabit the abandoned wooden shacks of the Fur Company, and are even given to industrial employment.

(*Mr. Pulcifer, the schoolmaster is a highly-educated teacher. He gives the Sabbath service in the absence of the Methodist preacher. The Methodist mission on the island of La Pointe was founded in 1831).

The Indian chief, worthy by his age, heredity, and his imposing figure, told us he was born near the island and left the area only once to travel in the matters of his tribe to the Great Father* in Washington. His stay was accompanied by many consoling words but little actual success. Since then, he’s been back to the chase. One winter, he brought in 150 fox skins. Despite this wealth of skins in a game-rich area, he is now poor. Here we have the hereditary Chippewa chief, whose generations (totem) are carved in the ancient birch bark,** giving us profuse thanks for just a modest silver coin and a piece of dry cloth. What time can bring to a ruler!

(*”Great Father” is what the Indians call the President and other agents of the United States government.)

(**Almost all Indian tribes have the custom of preserving their lineage from oblivion by carving characters, that correspond to the names of their tribe, on trees, canoes, weapons and everywhere else.

Strangely, we later learned that the majestic Old Buffalo was violently opposed for years to the education and spiritual progress of the Indians. Probably, it’s because he suspected a better instructed generation would no longer obey. Presently, he tacitly accepts the existence of the school and even visits sometimes, where like ourselves, he has the opportunity to see the gains made in this school with its stubborn, fastidious look of an old German high council.)

Although made of simple planks, the school hall is clean and well-ventilated. The youth, consisting of 25 mix-blooded children, are instructed by the Methodist teachers in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and natural history. The teacher takes 6 to 8 children to the teacher’s desk and tells them to read their lessons or recite them from memory. Most often, there are questions which are subjected to discussion, questions that relate to the everyday world. This gives the youth the advantage of preparation for practical life.*

(*One of these practical textbooks is similar to Guide to Knowledge, a popular textbook in England: Conversations on common things by a teacher. Boston, Munroe and Francis. 1849.)

For example, a student may read a sentence in which the word “lead” occurs. This immediately gives rise to an instructive conversation about this noble metal, such as where lead is most found, what it is used for, the compounds in which it is used, etc. The youth, by learning this way about various natural phenomena, learns at the same time to know and admire the sources of a country’s wealth. It is an early and delicate way to teach the students the important parts of the geographical, physical, and political history of the country before their own history.

The front page of the Kladderadatsh, a German-languague satirical newspaper published in Berlin. Despite it’s popularity among the masses in Europe, I’m not sure the kids in La Pointe had subscriptions (Wikimedia Images).

At the conclusion of the lesson, the older children, by their own reflection but encouraged by their teacher, asked us several questions about European life: if many European children went to school, and what they learned there…

It was shamefully difficult answering these simple questions asked by the children.

We told these smart young half-Indians that here in Europe the same God lives and moves as in their hemisphere, and that His sun is the only true light that rises for the peoples of the East. We replied further that children learn a tremendous amount but usually know incredibly little, and finally, that the Berliner Kladderadatsch is the most widely read political journal. This last answer left the little indigene who asked the pointed questions bewildered and seemed to discourage the asking of any further information about Europe. At that point, the school meeting was cancelled to our great relief.

Another no-less worthy host received us with warm greetings of the heart. It was the worthy Franciscan monk, Father Scolla, from Rudolphswerth in Carinthia. We went to deliver the pleasure of a recommendation to our pious countryman. We knocked at the meager gate of the little boarded house that grew out from the rear part of the church. We are now almost ashamed of the worldly manner in which we approached, given the distinguished reception we received at the hands of such a pious priest.

Alternate translation of this passage found in History of the diocese of Sault Ste, Marie and Marquette  (1906) by Antoine Ivan Rezek pg.367 (Digitized by Google Books)

Our traveling way of life often finds us witness to scenes of parting, separation, and reunion, but we have never seen any man become so pale, taken, and overcome with intimate emotion as this Franciscan when he learned through language and handshake that we were compatriots from the Imperial City.

We can reasonably account for this surprise in that almost 20 years had passed since the lone missionary had seen a countryman “of the Imperial City” and had been addressed in his language, and felt the warm shake of an Austrian hand. His whole religious intercourse with the faithful, be it preaching the gospel at the pulpit, forgiving sin in confessional, or donating food for the journey to the deathbed, happens in a foreign tongue, in French and Indian language.

What troubled us most about his monastic life was the poverty and helplessness with which this devout priest remains continually fights to preach the Way. The greater part of his church consists of converted Indians and mix-bloods, who all live in such poor circumstances that there is no thought of support for this priest. The maintenance costs for the church and its priests must therefore be restricted to those means which fall from the general missionary funds of the Catholic Church.

The quota, that makes its way to the Church of Our Lady of La Pointe, is extremely low, and sometimes isn’t received for so many years that one gets the impression that the bishop in Milwaukee has forgotten the lonely forests of Madeline Island, its Lady, and Father Scolla. The pious Franciscan, whose destitution has denied him any assistance in church and house, must therefore do as priests and lay ministers do. He decorates and adorns the high altar, paints the images of saints, rings the bell, and worries about the upkeep of his small house at the same time.

cntd. translation in Rezek pg.368

On the Sunday before we left, we attended the service. The small church was quite filled with Indian women, mix-bloods, and Canadian voyageurs. The women wore long cloth of dark green, blue, and black covering them from hips to head and wrapping them in one whole soft shape. The men were all dressed in European clothing. During the vicarious sacrifice of the mass, four half-Indians in white surplices sang the Latin text shouldering such edification that you would have sworn they understood every word.

The sermon was held in French, the most common language of the island, and it was appropriate for the comprehension of the people in the audience. In the afternoon, the tireless Franciscan monk preaches in Indian for his neophytes, which prevents age from weakening his intellectual ability to learn a foreign tongue.

Much more edification of the faithful would have prevailed if not for the wailing cries of the infants disturbed by the devotion, who were brought along on the backs of the countless “squaws.” But these grumpy little citizens of the world seemed to understand even less than the adult choir of the plot of the Latin score.

Fr. Otto Skolla was from Novo Mesto (Rudolfswert) in today’s Slovenia not far from the Slovenian homeland of his fellow Lake Superior priest, Bishop Frederick Baraga (Rezek pg. 360)

When we speak of the conviction in his calling and pure enthusiasm of the priest’s benediction, of the faithful community dropping to their knees, covering their faces, and reverently making the sign of the cross, we could not help but feel sadness that such a worthy and pious work could not flourish better due to a lack of temporal goods.

What ability to spread blessings the Catholic missionary would have if equipped with the necessary material resources: a teacher for the youth, a doctor for the sick, a support for the poor. How can the Church win over humanity when right now the distressing spectacle is such that the Catholic youth, lacking the funds for a teacher, get no education, and the narrow-minded principles of their spiritual board keep them from getting permission to attend the Methodist school?

If you watch the incredible speed of the other religious sects, such as the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, and the extraordinary sums taken in and put out for education and missionary purposes– they have missionaries in all ports in the Union–and how without consideration of their religion, they receive immigrants, comfort the sick, the suffering, and take care of the children, while the Herald of Catholic teaching to foreign lands moves slowly. It may not surprise you, especially here in the United States that foreign religious sects are gaining converts while the ranks of the Catholic Church, despite the massive influx of Catholic populations from Ireland and Germany, not only aren’t increasing, but are actually seeing a decrease in numbers.

The Catholic church on Madeline Island as drawn by Skolla (Rezek pg.361).

CAUTION:  This translation was made using Google Translate by someone who neither speaks nor reads German.  It should not be considered accurate by scholarly standards.

TO BE CONTINUED…