By Amorin Mello

A curious series of correspondences from Morgan

… continued from La Pointe.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
August 27, 1845.

EDITOR’S CORRESPONDENCE.

(From our regular correspondent.)

FALLS, ST. CROIX, W. T., Aug. 7, 1845.

We left La Pointe on the afternoon of the day on which my last letter was dated.  We had about 70 miles (English,) or 63 of French voyageur’s miles, to travel westward on the lake, before reaching the Brulé river, which we were to ascend for 75 miles, to make the portage to the St. Croix; the latter river being, from its source to the Mississippi river, including the Lake St. Croix at its mouth, about 300 miles long – thus making a journey before us of about 445 miles to reach the Mississippi.  To La Pointe we had already coasted from Sault St. Marie, including the curves, bends, bays, &c , with the entire circuit of Keweena point, the distance of at least 500 miles.  The two added together, give 945 miles of travel, in open boats by day, and under tents by night, with the exception of the three miles portage between the two rivers.  We left the Sault on the 4th July, and reached this place within 50 miles of the Mississippi, making the whole time consumed one month and about three or four days, by the time we will have reached the “father of waters.”

Detail of the shoreline between La Pointe and the Bois-Brule River from Map of the Mineral Lands Upon Lake Superior Ceded to the United States by the Treaty of 1842 With the Chippeway Indians. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Detail of the shoreline between La Pointe and the Bois Brulé River from Map of the Mineral Lands Upon Lake Superior Ceded to the United States by the Treaty of 1842 With the Chippeway Indians.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

The distance, in a direct line, from the head of the bay opposite La Pointe, to the portage at the head of the Brulé, by land, is only 80 miles; while by the lake and river, it is about 145.  The whole distance, in a direct line, by land, from La Pointe to the falls of St. Anthony, or to the mouth of the St. Peter’s, does not exceed, by the Indian trail alluded to, over 200 miles.

The first day we left La Pointe we were only enabled to reach Raspberry river, a small stream emptying into the lake 15 miles west of La Pointe, inside the group of islands.

Jocko is a variant of the French name “Jaques.”  This individual cannot be identified without further biographical information.
Ribedoux is a variant of the French surname Robideau.”  This individual cannot be identified without further biographical information.

We first encountered a prodigious thick fog, with a head wind.  We had no sooner landed and raised our tent, than a thunder-storm, with a heavy rain, burst upon us.  The voyageurs, as is their custom, had puled the bark canoes out of the water, and turned them over, placing provisions and other articles under them for shelter.  The Indians, in travelling with their canoes, invariably pull them out of the water at night, turn them bottom upwards, and in bad weather, sleep under them; as our voyageurs (especially Jocko, our Indian voyageur) did on the night in question.  In such cases, they turn water like the roof of a house.  We had, late in the afternoon, doubled some frowning sandstone cliffs alluded to in my other letter, with the grottoes, caves, and excavations wrought out near the water’s edge, by the combined action of the waves and frost.  Another high sandstone promontory still lay just ahead of us, which Ribedoux, our head man, said extended for six miles without affording a landing-place for a boat.

Next morning we found a severe gale blowing from the north-northeast, accompanied with rain.  This compelled us to remain where we were till about 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when we set out.  The wind had died away, but the sea was running very high, over which our canoes danced along at a great rate – riding them, however, like swans.  The heaviest rolls would be mounted and slid over with as much ease as though the canoes were feathers, as they were propelled forward by the oars and paddles of our skillful voyageurs.

One canoe being small, only admitted of the use of paddles.  The larger craft allowed a pair of oars to be used in front, while a paddle was employed in the stern.  The usual plan of working canoes is to have only two persons to attend to one canoe.  They are always steered with a paddle.  One voyageur seats himself in the bow; while another does the same thing in the stern – the baggage, provisions, passengers, &c., being stored amidships, low in the hull.  Thus arranged, the men apply their paddles with great skill, driving the canoe forward at a pretty rapid speed.

The Voyageurs (1846) by Charles Deas. ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

The Voyageurs by Charles Deas, 1846.
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

The Indians display a deal of skill in the construction of their bark canoes.  Their hulls have great symmetry of form; and, under careful handling, which the Indians perfectly understand and practise, they are very light and very strong.

The birch bark, from which they are principally made, is found of excellent quality on the shores and tributaries of Lake Superior, and is extensively used by the Indians for building their lodges, &c., as well as for canoes.  In the latter application, the inside of the bark is exposed to the water and weather; while, in the former case, the outside of the bark is turned to the weather.  Their lodges are of a hemispherical shape, with an opening at the top for the escape of smoke, with a door opening on one side of them, before which a blanket is usually suspended.  The floor of the lodge, with the wealthier class, is usually covered with fine large richly-colored rush mats, on which the Indians recline or sit like Turks on them.  The men, when at home, do little else than recline on the mats and smoke, while the squaws and half-grown children perform all the necessary manual labor.  If an Indian brings in game or fish, he throws it down near his lodge, and troubles himself no more about it; or, if it be troublesome to carry, he leaves it in the woods, returns to the lodge, and sends his squaw for it.

The Anishinaabemowin greeting Boozhoo is not a variant of the French greeting Bonjour.”   However, the similarity of these two greetings likely enhanced the development of friendly relations between French fur traders and the Anishinaabe when these two language groups first encountered each other during the 1600’s.  More information on the Anishinaabe oral tradition of the word Boozhoo can be found in a brief summary written by Robert Animikii Horton: Where Does the Word Boozhoo Come From?

The females among the Indians invariable exhibit the most modest and retiring deportment – equally as much so, I have thought, as is seen or met with among the most civilized whites.  Neither males nor females, when you enter their villages or lodges, ever fix upon you that rude glare, or gaze, which white people often do upon the sudden appearance of a stranger.  The usual salutation of the Chippewa, on meeting you, is “Bojour, bojour, bojour,” at the same time extending his hand to you in friendship.  And if there are fifty men in company, they will all do the same thing.  The exclamations they use is a corruption of the French salutation of “bon jour,” “good day;” or, in English parlance, “how d’ye do.”

The Indians are very fond of bathing and swimming, and they do not consider it the least indelicate for all sexes to bathe at the same time in the immediate vicinity of each other.  I am told, on such occasions, the females wear dresses prepared for the purpose.  The men also are partly clad.

Granville T. Sproat was a Catechist and teacher at the La Pointe mission:
“There are indications that Granville served as a teacher in a school unrelated to ABCFM on or near the Mackinaw Island from the fall of 1834 to the fall of 1835. His first connection with ABCFM dates from September 1835, and he was officially appointed by ABCFM as a missionary assistant some time in 1836. Granville took a leave between July 1837 and June 1838, then returned to La Pointe with his newly wed wife, Florantha nee Thompson. After one unsuccessful pregnancy, Florantha had two healthy daughters, in October 1842, and March 1844. Granville and Florantha retired from the mission in the summer of 1846.”
~ The Sproats at La Pointe: From pages of the Missionary Herald, Boston
Mashkikiiwinini: medicine man
The chief introduced by Mr. Sproat to the author cannot be identified without further biographical information.

I was told by Mr. Grote, who has resided at the Presbyterian mission at La Pointe for some 10 or 12 years, that the Indians, during long peace, and when little surrounds them of a nature to arouse or excite their energies, become, in general, very lethargic, and sink apparently (from ennui) into premature old age, few of them attaining to the years of advanced life.  Among the chiefs I saw at La Pointe, was an old man of sixty.  His hair was quite gray.  He was introduced to me by a friend, at his own request.  He wanted to know where I was from, and whether I had been sent to carry off the Indians.  He was told that I had come on no such errand, but merely to visit and see the country, and that I was a “medicine man,” “mushkiwinini:” this announcement put me on a very friendly footing with him.  He bore a strong resemblance to Robert Dale Owen, the lecturer.

The La Pointe Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa were friendly towards American government efforts, such as the delegation in this series, however many members of their leadership still maintained close ties with British-Canadian ties at this time.

I was told by Mr. Grote that this old chief retained very strong predilections in favor of the British; that he frequently spoke of the good old times when they received fine presents and cheap goods from their great father, the King over the water; and that he annually paid a visit to the Hudson Bay Company’s trading-post at Fort William, or at the Sault, and received presents to some small amount.  he nevertheless professed much friendship for the Americans.

"Mainland sea caves from the water." ~ Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

“Mainland sea caves from the water.”  
~ Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

We left Raspberry river between 3 and 4 p.m., and passed one among the most picturesque cliffs of sand-stone it was our lot to see during the voyage.  It spread along the shore for 6 or 7 miles, varying in height from 50 to 100 feet.  Its base was carved into holes and grottoes of every variety of form, into which the heavy rolls of the waves were pitching with a rumbling and heavy sound; while the white spray flew in foaming whiteness about the outward rocks.  Making a beach near dark at the bottom of the bay, beyond the cliffs, we landed and camped.  Early next morning we were again under way.  In the afternoon we passed four Indian canoes loaded with Indians bound for La Pointe.  They were from Fond-du-Lac.

Charles C. Stannard and his brother Benjamin A. Stannard were both Captains of multiple vessels on Lake Superior before 1845.  Both had been in command of the legendary schooner John Jacob Astor before it sunk in 1844 under the command of a new Captain.

Making Cranberry river, we found Capt. Stanard and his party of voyageurs, who had preceded us from La Pointe, and were bound for Fond-du-Lac, had stopped for dinner.  We concluded to land at the same place for the same purpose.

We were told by Capt. S that he had, on his way, visited an encampment of Indians from Fond-du-Lac, who stated that the Chippewas at that place were laboring under a good deal of excitement.  It seemed that two Indians of that place had been on a visit to the falls of St. Croix, where liquor was freely sold to the Indians; that one of the Indians and a white man quarrelled about a dog; that the latter mauled and beat the former most unmercifully, when the other Indian attempted to interfere, whom the white man attacked and commenced beating also.  The last Indian thereupon stabbed the white man in the breast with a knife, the point of which struck a bone and glanced.  The white man then drew a pistol, and fired it at the Indian, wounded him severely in the thigh.  The Indians then left the falls, and returned to Fond-du-Lac highly incensed, and swearing vengeance against the whites; saying their relations numbered thirty warriors, who would aid them, if necessary, in seeing justice done.  They also said that, some time ago, a Sioux Indian had killed a Chippewa, and that the whites did nothing with him for it.  When the brother of the deceased Chippewa went over to St. Peter’s, and killed the Sioux, the whites had taken up two Chippewas, and had them in jail, which they thought very hard of.  It was also said that sometimes, when the Chippewas left their homes to go to the payment, the Sioux followed them, with a view of annoying and harassing them in the rear.

Today the Bois Brulé River is known as one the best trout streams in the United States.
During the 1840s, Joseph Renshaw Brown sold liquor at his trading post near St. Croix Falls, Maurice Mordecai Samuels sold liquor in his trading post at the mouth of Sunrise River, and Alexander Livingston sold liquor at his trading post at the mouth of Wolf Creek.  These could be the same liquor dealers mentioned in this narrative.  Their liquor trade is featured in several books, including Fifty Years in the Northwest by William H. C. Folsom, 1888.  A Chippewa mixed-blood by the name of “Robido” was accused of murdering Livingston in 1849; this could be the same Ribedoux mentioned in this narrative, or one of his relations.
James P. Hays was in charge of the La Point Indian Subagency (1844-1848).

Captain S. said that he had intended to visit the falls of the Brulé, to fish for trout; but that, owing to these reported difficulties, he should proceed directly to Fond-du-Lac.  It seems that the whole foundation of the troubles on the St. Croix, with the Chippewas, has grown out of the circumstance of grog-shops having been opened at different places along that stream – say one at the falls, another at Wolf river, eighteen or twenty miles above, and a third at the Rising Sun, twenty-five miles above the falls – by low and villanous white men, or half-breeds engaged in their service.  It seems that, some years since, the Chippewas made a treaty, ceding all their lands to the United States, south of a line running due south some fifty miles from the extreme west end of Lake Superior, and from that southern point due west to the mouth of Crow-wing river, on the Upper Mississippi, cutting nearly through the centre of Mille Lake in its course.  There is a proviso in the treaty of cession, which authorizes the Indians to remain in the occupancy of the ceded territory till it is wanted by the government.  I understood Mr. Hays (the Indian agent at La Pointe) to say that he had no power to stop the sale of ardent spirits to the Indians, by the white squatters in the ceded country.  These drunken outrages, if not put a stop to on the St. Croix, will, ere long, lead to serious and disastrous consequences.  The Indians and whites will soon become embroiled in a border “guerrilla” war, and the poor savages, in the end, be butchered and driven out of the country – all, too, growing out of the cupidity of a few rascally men, who aim to cheat and rob the Indians of their last blanket, by selling them the hellish poison of whiskey.  What is the massacre of innocent whites, with the ruin and degradation of Indians, to them, provided they can turn a penny by dealing out rum!!  Mr. Hays lives almost too remote from the St. Croix to prevent these outrages, even if he had the power.  But it does seem to me, that the Indian agent at St. Peter’s, who resides within a day or two’s journey of these outrages, might do something to prevent them.

Doctor Amos J. Bruce was in charge of the St. Peter’s Indian Agency on the Fort Snelling military reservation in 1845.

With due vigilance and firmness on his part, it would appear probable, at least, that Indian murders would not transpire within gun-shot of his agency at St. Peter’s.

The War Department should adopt immediate measures to break up the sale of whiskey to the Indians on the St. Croix, and other parts of that ceded territory, or very serious consequences will follow.  One poor Indian from Fond-du-Lac, on a visit to one of the grogeries on the St. Croix, was made beastly drunk, who, in his helplessness, fell with his face on the fire; having his cheek, with one eye, awfully disfigured and burnt; leaving his whole visage an object of loathing and disgust for life.

As our course to the Mississippi lay along the St. Croix, directly through the whiskey district, the reports of present and prospective difficulties were not very pleasant.  We nevertheless made up our minds to persevere, and meet whatever might happen.

Three chiefs from the Mille Lacs Band signed both the 1842 Treaty with the Chippewa at La Pointe and the 1844 Isle Royale Agreement at La Pointe:
Negwanebi (Quill)
Wazhashkokon (Muskrat’s Liver, aka Pítad in Dakota);
Noodin (Wind).

Towards sunset, we made the mouth of the Brulé, where we found about thirty Chippewa Indians with two or three chiefs encamped, who were on their way to La Pointe; from Leech Lake and Mille Lake.  They belonged to the band denominated “pillageurs,” so nicknamed from their alleged propensity to steal small matters.  We landed on the opposite side of the river to their camp, on a flat – the stream being about twice as wide as the Tiber in good water at Washington.  We were soon joined by Captain Stanard, whose men pitched his tent near ours, and cooked supper by the same fire.  We had scarcely kindled our camp fire, before the chiefs of the “pillageurs” manned their canoes, and came over, crying out, as they came up; “Bojour,” “bojour,” and giving us their hands, which we accepted.  They looked poor and dirty, some of whom were nearly naked.  They said they had nothing to eat, and were very hungry, and wished us to give them some flour, which we complied with.  No sooner did the rest find out we were dispensing “farine,” as the French voyageurs term it, than the whole [posse?] kept coming over in instalments, till we had the whole camp upon our hands – women, children, and all.

We gave them all round about a pint of flour, from Captain S.’s and our own supply, and then gave them to understand we wished them to retire to their own side of the river; they all left us, except some old chiefs, who were privileged to remain, and appeared desirous of smoking their pipes before our fire, and talking over news with Jocko, our Indian voyageur, and one of Captain S.’s half-breeds.

In their camp opposite – out of joy, I suppose, over the flour we had given them – they commenced beating a drum, and singing in a most wild and monotonous manner, which they kept up till near ten p.m., when all became silent.  We all fell fast asleep; and when I awoke next morning, calling the hands for an early start, all was quiet in the Indian camp.  Captain Stanard prepared to depart at the same time, and before sunrise he was off to Fond-du-Lac, and we to the Mississippi.  Whatever the “pillageurs” may have done elsewhere, we will do them the justice to say that they stole nothing from us; for next morning, on packing up, we missed nothing whatever.  Many of them had pleasing and honest countenances, whatever else may be said about them.

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

Detail of the Bois Brulé River (aka “Wissakude [Wisakoda] or Burnt Wood”) and the portage over the Great Divide (a continential divide between the Lake Superior Basin and Missisippi River Basin) to the Saint Croix River from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River from Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by Joseph Nicolas Nicollet, 1843.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

After going three or four miles, we struck the rapids of this river, over the trap boulders of which the water dashed like a mill-tail.  Our voyageurs had to poke up them with all the strength and skill they could command, for there was constant danger of the canoes being dashed and stove against the rocks, or of being suddenly thrown across the current and capsized.  These rapids were flanked at either side with red sand-stone cliffs; and the darkest and thickest kind of growth, composed of silver fur, or Canadian balsam, white cedars, birch, &c., and wholly unfit for tillage.

At many places the rapids were so powerful, and the channel so crooked and narrow, that the voyageurs had to wade in the water frequently to their waist, and push the canoes forward with their hands.  Sometimes their feet would slip from the spurs of trap-rock boulders, and they would go into holes of deep water, nearly to their arm-pits or chins.

We worked forward in this way over rapids, for about thirty miles; and having passed three portages, around which we had to walk and carry our baggage, with still the fourth and last severe one before us, we finally struck up a camp near the head of the third portage, where all were sufficiently fatigued to sleep most soundly.  At this last portage rapid, there appeared in the bottom of the river a mass of trap crossing it, over which the water fell two or three feet nearly perpendicular.

We were off next morning early, after having examined the bottoms of our canoes, and patched and gummed the leaky places with birch bark and Canada balsam-tree rosin.  The small canoe had to be patched and pitched two or three times, having been punched with holes by the rocks.

1837 Treaty with the Chippewa at St. Peter’s; Article 2:
“In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United States agree to make to the Chippewa nation, annually, for the term of twenty years, from the date of the ratification of this treaty, the following payments.
1. Nine thousand five hundred dollars, to be paid in money.
2. Nineteen thousand dollars, to be delivered in goods.
3. Three thousand dollars for establishing three blacksmiths shops, supporting the blacksmiths, and furnishing them with iron and steel.
4. One thousand dollars for farmers, and for supplying them and the Indians, with implements of labor, with grain or seed; and whatever else may be necessary to enable them to carry on their agricultural pursuits.
5. Two thousand dollars in provisions.
6. Five hundred dollars in tobacco.
The provisions and tobacco to be delivered at the same time with the goods, and the money to be paid; which time or times, as well as the place or places where they are to be delivered, shall be fixed upon under the direction of the President of the United States.
The blacksmiths shops to be placed at such points in the Chippewa country as shall be designated by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, or under his direction.
If at the expiration of one or more years the Indians should prefer to receive goods, instead of the nine thousand dollars agreed to be paid to them in money, they shall be at liberty to do so. Or, should they conclude to appropriate a portion of that annuity to the establishment and support of a school or schools among them, this shall be granted them.”
1842 Treaty with the Chippewa at La Pointe; Article 5:
“Whereas the whole country between Lake Superior and the Mississippi, has always been understood as belonging in common to the Chippewas, party to this treaty; and whereas the bands bordering on Lake Superior, have not been allowed to participate in the annuity payments of the treaty made with the Chippewas of the Mississippi, at St. Peters July 29th 1837, and whereas all the unceded lands belonging to the aforesaid Indians, are hereafter to be held in common, therefore, to remove all occasion for jealousy and discontent, it is agreed that all the annuity due by the said treaty, as also the annuity due by the present treaty, shall henceforth be equally divided among the Chippewas of the Mississippi and Lake Superior, party to this treaty, so that every person shall receive an equal share.”

Towards noon, we began to find the rapids less frequent and difficult, till we finally came into a beautiful low bottom, or meadow land, of elm trees, which lasted us for many miles; when, towards night, we again passed some severe rapids, and then entered a long lake of irregular width, formed by the expansion of the river at this point – in no case being more than from seventy-five to one hundred yards wide, with generally a swamp on one side, and considerable sloping pine hills or bluffs on the other.  We found this river, and especially the lake part of it, to be very full of brook trout, some of which we caught, and found them not only beautiful in color, but most excellent to eat; they were continually jumping above the water.  During this day and yesterday, we met several parties of half-breeds and Indians on their way to La Pointe.  On inquiring of them about the fight at the falls, and the difficulties at St. Peter’s, they gave us the most favorable accounts of the quiet and peaceful disposition of the Indians, and said that we might travel just where we pleased, without the least danger whatever.  At any rate, there was one guarantee of their good conduct for a few weeks to come – and that was the forthcoming payment at La Pointe, to which they go up with as much eagerness as the Jews of old did to the Passover.  Any serious disturbance at the present time, or probably at any time, would jeopard the receipt of their annuity, and likely lead to their expulsion from the country.  Besides, at the payment they have an opportunity of laying their numerous grievances before the father, who has to promise them to speak for them in the ear of the great father at Washington.  So matters progress from one year to another, till many grievances of a minor or trivial nature are forgotten.

We camped on a sloping pine ridge, on the east side of the lake part of the river, about 7 p.m.  We found all the nights on the Brulé cool and pleasant.  The water throughout we found as cold as the best mountain spring-water.

We continued our ascent at an early hour next morning, and by noon found our little stream very much diminished in size and volume of water, dwindling first into a small creek, and afterwards into a mere meadow-brook, nearly choked up by the hanging and interlocked alder bushes, the limbs of which we had to push out of our way to enable us to pass.  The little river on this swampy meadow-land also became very crooked.  In going a mile, we very often had to traverse the meadow nearly a dozen times.

Recreation of a voyageur carriying two 90 lb packs of fur across a portage to avoid rapids or move to another river. ~ Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

“Recreation of a voyageur carrying two 90 lb packs of fur across a portage to avoid rapids or move to another river.”
~ Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

This famous portage through the Brule Bog between the Bois Brulé River and Saint Croix River can be hiked along the North Country Trail within the Brule River State Forest.

About half-past 2 p.m., however, we arrived at the portage, or the place where we were to take our canoes out, transport them, and afterwards their contents, on our backs, across hill-sides, and over the summit of one or two pine, sand, and pebble hills, about one hundred and fifty feet above the level of the swamp in which the St. Croix and Brulé head.  The two rivers are said to have a common origin in one spring.  But the swamp, in which they both head, is no doubt full of springs – some running one way and some running another.  This swamp is wide, extending from one river to the other, nearly north and south.  On the east side of this swamp, and parallel with it, are found the range of pine hills by the sides, and over the summits of which the portage path crosses.  Still to the east of this short range of hills, is a small lake, which empties into the river Brulé at some distance below the portage, called by the voyageurs White-fish lake.  Near the head of streams of the St. Croix river is Upper St. Croix lake, to which our portage path descended at the northeast corner, descending to it down the southern side of the hills spoken of, being three miles from the place of debarkation on the Brulé.  The sources of these rivers are laid down in Mr. Nicollet’s map as being nine hundred feet above the Atlantic.  They are also said to be two hundred and seventy-five feet above the level of the lake; but I am inclined to believe that they are higher than stated – especially so above the level of the lake, if the high land we crossed be included in the estimate.  Most of the maps are in error about the geography of this part of the country, both with regard to the heading of the rivers; as well as to their size and course.

The altitude of the portage is shown as “956” feet above sea level on Nicollet’s map.  The actual altitude is roughly 100 feet higher than Nicollet’s calculation.

The course of the Brulé is from south-southeast to north-northwest from the portage to the lake, being comparatively a small river.  The course of the St. Croix, from its head to the Mississippi is south-southwest, and is by no means so crooked low down as represented.  It is so large, for fifty or seventy-five miles above the falls, as to compare very favorably with the Ohio; which, at some points, it much resembles.  It, and its tributaries, have a deal of fine pine timber growing along its banks; a good deal of which has been cut, to supply the mills below.  Mr. Nicollet’s map, which is generally very correct, lays down hills between the waters of the Brulé and St. Croix, where none exist.  I believe he did not visit the portage in person, but relied on the information of voyageurs.

It was an agreeable reflection to know, when standing on the highest point of hills on the portage, that we could overlook the course of one river sweeping away to the north, on its vast journey to the Gulf of the St. Lawrence; while to the south were seen the waters of the St. Croix, just gathered into a pretty, quiet lake, from its conglomerate of springs near by about to speed its waters to the Mississippi, and down it to the Gulf of Mexico! and when once there, perchance, gathered in the Gulf stream, and be again wafted by it to the banks of Newfoundland, where it may again unite with the water of its kindred Brulé!

What a wonderful continent is this of ours!  What cast rivers and lakes intersect it!  To appreciate their lengths, magnitude, scenery, &c., they must be travelled over to be understood.  In June, I was at the Falls of Niagara; in a few days I shall probably be at the Falls of St. Anthony – passing from one to the other by water, with the exception of three miles!

Having, on August the 2d, succeeded in getting everything over the portage, including canoes, luggage, &c.; and it being towards sundown; we concluded to camp, and get ready for an early start next morning.  Sunday morning, the 3d of August, found us descending the beautiful upper lake St. Croix, bordered in the distance with rolling pine-hills.

Detail of the upper Saint Croix River, Brule Bog portage, and “Chipeway Village” from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River From Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by J.N. Nicollet, 1843.  Also shown is the Grand Footpath (long dotted line) between Chequamegon Bay and Saint Anthony Falls.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

We soon began to meet large parties of Indians in their canoes, bound to La Pointe, to be present at the payment.  As Mr. Hays (the Indian agent at La Pointe) had told us that he expected the Rev. Mr. Ely, who had charge of a Presbyterian missionary station on the Percagaman, or Snake river, to be over at the payment, and thought it probable that we might meet him; and learning that some of the Indians we met were from Snake river, I asked them if they knew whether Mr. Ely had left.  They told me he had, and that he was at his camp down the river, which we would soon reach.

We continued on, amidst fields of wild rice in full bloom, which covered the lake for acres upon acres on each side of the channel.  This wild rice (rizania aquatica) is of great importance to the Indians, who gather large quantities of it when ripe, in autumn, for their winter food.  Its soft stem and watery roots are immersed about 2 to 2½ feet under water, while the blades, head, and stalk reach about a foot to a foot and a half above water.  In flowering, its heads present a singular appearance.  Its pistils, or grain part of the flower, are clustered on a long, sharp-pointed spicular, terminating in a sharp cone at the very head of the stalk; while the pollen appears attached to the stalk below the head.

Why could not this rice be sown and cultivated in the lakes of western New York and in New England?  Besides the value of the grain for poultry and various other purposes, its tops or blades would make the richest and sweetest fodder for cattle.  I chewed the blades, and found them tender, and as sweet as the tender blades of green corn.  The experiment might be worth the trial.

Reverend Edmund Franklin Ely. ~ Duluth Public Library

Reverend Edmund Franklin Ely.
~ Duluth Public Library

Reverend “Rosselle” could not be identified or found in historical records.

About the middle of the afternoon we reached the first rapids in descending the St. Croix, now contracted from a lake into a narrow river, strewed here and there with black boulders of trap.  We here had the pleasure of finding Mr. Ely encamped on the west bank of the river, who had remained still all day, as it was Sunday.  He had in company with him the Rev. Mr. Rosselle, a young clergyman from Ogdensburg, New York, to whom he introduced me.  Mr. Rosselle informed me that he had been to the falls of St. Anthony, from whence he had gone on a steamboat “Still-water,” at the head of the lower Lake St. Croix, and from thence to the missionary station on the Pergacaman, or Snake river, where he concluded to accompany the Rev. Mr. Ely to La Pointe, and be present at the Indian payment.  From La pointe he expected to make his way home by the Sault St. Marie, Mackinac, &c.  Mr. Ely had some Indians along with him, who were evidently attached to the mission.  He said the success of the mission had been interfered with, to some extend, by the dread in which the Chippewas held the Sioux in that part of the country; that in constant fear of their natural enemy, they disliked making permanent settlements and to improve them.  After some other general conversation, we continued our journey over rapids, till near night, when we camped (as was often the case) on an old Indian camping-ground, and saw lying about us dog bones, on the meat of which the Indians had feasted.  An innumerable swarm of horseflies surrounded our tent and camp-fire, which the voyageurs at first mistook for bumble bees, whose nest, they conceived, they had disturbed, and, for fear of being stung, they fled; but, on ascertaining they were merely noisy flies, they came back again.

We made an early start next morning, to resume our descent over rapids dashing over trap and granite boulders.  We met a half-breed and his wife, who had a keg of whiskey in his canoe.  They were going to La Pointe, where Mr. Hays suffers no liquor to land.  The man offered to treat my voyageurs, one of whom was known to him.  I consented that they might take one dram each, but no more. This being given them, we thanked him, and proceeded on our journey.  About noon, we passed the last severe rapids, and the mouth of a large tributary from the east, called the Macagon, about 100 miles above the falls, and within 50 miles of Snake river.

Detail of the St. Croix River with tributaries Snake River and Kettle River from Nicollet's map.

Detail of the Saint Croix River with tributaries Snake River and Kettle River from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River From Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by J.N. Nicollet, 1843. Also shown is the Grand Footpath (long dotted line) between Chequamegon Bay and Saint Anthony Falls.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

The St. Croix, from this point down, became a larger, more beautiful, and more interesting stream.  The bottoms, too, became wide and rich, but subject to inundation at very high water.  The stratified red sandstone was seen to skirt the margins of the river, all along the rapids; while boulders of trap and granite were strewn over the centre of the channel.  But, as we approached Kettle and Snake rivers, we began to notice the appearance of white sandstone on the shores of the river, which continued to appear till near the falls, and again rose in high cliffs below them, and continued to the Mississippi.  At night, we camped on a high pine bluff on the right bank of the river, a large swamp being on the opposite side.  Here we were nearly devoured by mosquitoes, and were glad to make our escape next morning without breakfast – intending to stop and cook at a place, if possible, less infested by them; which we did, on the pebbly beach of an island.

We had a showery forenoon, but continued our journey.  We met with several long rapids, and, passing Kettle river, reached the mouth of Snake river, about 10 a.m. – where we found a body of Indians encamped, going to La Pointe.  We exchanged some meal for some fish, and gave an old woman some sugar for a sick child.  Then, wishing them a “bon voyage,” we put off.  About 25 miles above the falls, we passed Sunrise river, with splendid and extensive bottom-land opposite to it on the left bank, lying high and dry above high-water mark.

The next place we made was Wolf river, about 18 or 20 miles above the falls.  Here we found a rude village, on a rich piece of land, settled by half-breeds, Indians, and a Frenchman or two.  They had lots of liquor, and offered to sell me some; but I declined to purchase, or to let my voyageurs buy any; and, though late in the afternoon, moved for some 8 or 10 miles further, and camped just within the first rapid or two, at the commencement of the falls.  From the head of the rapids to the falls is 9 miles.

Detail of the St. Croix River with tributaries Snake River and Kettle River from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River From Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by J.N. Nicollet, 1843. ~ David Rumsey Map Collection

Detail of Saint Croix Falls with tributaries Sunrise River (“Memokage”) and Wolf Creek (“Attanwa”) from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River From Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by J.N. Nicollet, 1843. Also shown is the Grand Footpath (long dotted line) between Chequamegon Bay and Saint Anthony Falls.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

“The first deed recorded in the county of old St. Croix was Sept. 29, 1845, from James Purinton, of St. Croix Falls, to John H. Ferguson, of the city of St. Louis, Missouri, – consideration $1,552, – of St. Croix Falls water power property.”
~ Fifty Years in the Northwest by William H. C. Folsom, 1888, page 87.

We reached the falls next morning to breakfast, where I made the acquaintance of Mr. Purinton, to whom I bore a letter of introduction, and found him a very clever and enterprising man.  He has done more to develop this part of the country, and to enhance its value and settlement, than any other man in it.  The falls afford a splendid water-power, fully equal to that yielded by the falls of the Merrimac at Lowell.  Mr. Purinton is the proprietor, and has a saw-mill running with five saws, in separate frames.  His logs come down the St. Croix.

There is a trap formation in place, crossing the river at the falls, obliquely from northwest to southeast.  It is lost a short distance to the northwest of the river, but runs off in a range of 20 miles to the southeast of the falls.  It differs a good deal from the trap-formation on Lake Superior.  It is of a bluish and lighter color than the trap on the lake in the high perpendicular cliffs of this stone, which faces the river at, and for some little distance below the falls, may be seen strong indications of a columnar structure in its form; while in the trap on Lake Superior, the same rock is uniformly amorphous in its form.

Besides, the trap on Lake Superior appears uniformly to have had an upheaval through red sandstone; while that at the falls has been borne up through white sandstone, very distinct in its character from the red sandstone of the lake.  It is probable, therefore, that there is no continuous connexion or homogeneousness of character between the trap-rock of the falls, and that on Lake Superior; and that they may have been raised at far different and distinct periods.  Be this as it may, however, I found the trap at the falls of St. Croix to give very favorable indications of the existence of copper ore.  Mr. Purinton gave me some very interesting specimens of the ore found in the vicinity of his mill.

While rambling about the falls, I discovered, also, one or two very fine mineral chalybeate springs.

Detail of the St. Croix River from the Falls to  the head of St. Croix Lake (Stillwater) from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River From Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by J.N. Nicollet, 1843. Also shown is the Grand Footpath (long dotted line) between Chequamegon Bay and St. Anthony's Falls.~ David Rumsey Map Collection

Detail of the Saint Croix River from the Falls to the head of Saint Croix Lake (Stillwater, Minnesota) from Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River From Astronomical and Barometrical Observations Surveys and Information by J.N. Nicollet, 1843. Also shown is the Grand Footpath (long dotted line) between Chequamegon Bay and Saint Anthony Falls (Minneapolis, Minnesota.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

Having paid off my voyageurs at the falls, and sent them back in one of the canoes, I prepared to descend the river to the head of the lake, or to Stillwater, in the other; which I reached next day.  There is a saw-mill at this place, and two others between it and the falls – all being turned by streams which enter the river on one side or the other.  At Stillwater, a town not quite a year old, there is a tavern, two stores, a blacksmith-shop, one lawyer, one doctor, no preacher, no schoolmaster, no justice of the peace or mayor, one saw-mill, no school, a large cool spring, and a very pretty place for the town to grow on.  We here met the steamboat Lynx, on which we took passage, after disposing of my canoe.

The land on the west side of Lake St. Croix is beautiful all the way to the Mississippi, and is fast settling up.  This beautiful sheet of water is 22 miles long, and from one and a half to two miles wide.

I am, very respectfully and sincerely, yours,

MORGAN.

 


 

To be continued in Copper Harbor Redux

By Amorin Mello

In our Penoka Survey Incidents series earlier this year, we followed some of the adventures and schemes of Albert Conrad Stuntz circa 1857.  The legacy of Albert’s influential survey still defines the geopolitical landscape of the Penokee Mountains to this day.  However, Albert’s work during the late 1850s was relatively minor in comparison to that of his brother, George Riley Stuntz, during the early 1850s.  The surveying work of George and his employees started in 1852 and enabled the infamous land speculators and townsite promotors of Superior City to manifest their schemes by early 1854 (months before the Treaty of La Point occurred later that year).  

Among the men that worked with George was Augustus Hamilton Barber.  Sometime around 1850, Augustus had followed his Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins from the Barber family of Lamoille County, Vermont, to Lancaster in Grant County, Wisconsin.  After a short career as a school teacher in Grant County, Augustus came to Lake Superior in 1852 employed by George as a Chainman under his contract with the United States General Land Office to survey lands at the Head of Lake Superior.

Before taking a closer look at the Barber Papers, let’s examine the lives and affairs of other surveyors and speculators along the southwest shore of Lake Superior, starting with George Riley Stuntz and his production of these Exterior Field Notes (June of 1852):

1852 affidavit 1 1852 affidavit 2 1852 affidavit 3

Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota;
Their Story and People

By Walter Van Brunt, 1921, pages 64-65.

Page 75.

Portrait of George Nettleton’s cabin on Minnesota Point in 1852 on page 75.

William Rainey Marshall was a Democrat in Wisconsin and as a Republican in Minnesota.
A biography of the brothers George and William Nettleton is available at ZenithCity.com.

First Settler.– The honor, for both Superior and Duluth, must presumably go to George R. Stuntz. He came in 1852, and settled in 1853. Several were earlier of course, but can hardly be considered to have been legitimate independent settlers. Carlton had been on the ground, at Fond du Lac, for some years, but he was Indian agent; Borup and Oaks had spent their time between La Pointe and Fond du Lac, but were then at St. Paul, and mainly interested in the development of that city, and in fur trading. Wm. R. Marshall stated that he “was on the lake as early as 1848,” but not to settle and he did not come again until 1857. Wm. R. Marshall and George R. Stuntz were fellow-surveyors, in federal pay, “back in the ’40s,” but Marshall did not seek to take the place of Stuntz as premier pioneer at the head of Lake Superior. As a matter of fact, although “on the lake as early as “1848,” Marshall did not then get nearer to Duluth than La Pointe, where he met “Borup and Oaks, the principal traders, Truman Warren, George Nettleton, Cruttenden, Wattrous, Rev. Sherman Hall, E. F. Ely and others.” It is quite possible that Stuntz was with Marshall in 1848, for that was the year in which Stuntz first entered Minnesota territory “having charge of a surveying party that was working near Lake Pepin and in what is now Washington County.”

A biography of George B. Sargent is available at ZenithCity.com.

The “Heart of the Continent.”– George R. Stuntz prepared the way for the first attempt at white settlement at the head of Lake Superior. He surveyed the land on the Wisconsin side, within a year of beginning which survey, in 1852, the first settlers began to appear. George R. Stuntz came by direction of George B. Sargent, who at the time was surveyor-general of the Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota district for the federal government, his headquarters being at Davenport, Iowa. In that year, states Carey, “he surveyed and definitely located a portion of the northeastern boundary line between Minnesota and Wisconsin, starting from the head of navigation on the St. Louis River, at Fond du Lac, and running south to the St. Croix River.Stuntz himself stated: “I came in 1852. I saw the advantages of this point (Minnesota Point) as clearly then as I do now (1892). On finishing the survey for the government, I went away to make a report, and returned the next spring and came for good. I saw as surely then as I do now that this was the heart of the continent commercially, and so I drove my stakes.”

Group of people, including a number of Ojibwe at Minnesota Point, Duluth, Minnesota [featuring William Howenstein] ~ University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library

Group of people, including a number of Ojibwe at Minnesota Point, Duluth, Minnesota [featuring William Howenstein in 1872?] ~ University of Minnesota Duluth

Stuntz and Howenstein competed with Nettleton and others for fame as the first settlers on Minnesota Point after Stuntz’s 1852 survey with Augustus Barber.

The Vanguard.– He did not come alone, needing of course assistants in the work of surveying, but he was in charge of the work, Gand necessarily takes first place in the accounting. William C. Sargent, son of George B. Sargent, stated in 1916, that his father “came here (Duluth) first in 1852 with George R. Stuntz and Bill Howenstein,” and goes on to state “a word of those two grand men, George R. Stuntz and Bill Howenstein.” He believed that “to George R. Stuntz, more than to any other man belongs the honor (of) opening up that region,” and of Howenstein, he said: “And old Bill Howenstein, one of the best ever, and always my very good friend, a kindly body, with a quaint dry humor unsurpassed and seldom met with in these later days. I had many an interesting chat with him, in his home on Minnesota Point, that he built in 1852, and lived in until his death, some years ago.” Bill Howenstein, undoubtedly was of Stuntz’ party in 1852, but it is doubtful whether he built a log house on Minnesota Point in that year. As to General Sargent’s visit in 1852. If he did come then, it was probably only a flying visit. His interest in the head of Lake Superior in 1852 reached only to the extent of directing Stuntz to survey it. He, himself, had the surveying business of three states to attend to.


The New York Times

[December 11, 1852]

The Region about the Southwest End of Lake Superior.

Augustus H. Barber also lived in Grant County, where George R. Stuntz was the County Sheriff during 1851-52.

Mr. Stuntz, of Grant County, Wis., has been deputed by the general Land Surveyor of this Northwest District to lay off such a tract of land about the southwest point of the lake into townships and sections, as emigrants will earliest require.  He returned via La Pointe and Stillwater last week. We have obtained from him some new views of that region. From Fond du Lac, a trading post situated 11 miles inland on the St. Louis River, eastward, for perhaps 50 miles, the margin of the lake is a flat strip of land reaching back to a rocky ridge about 11 miles off. The soil of this flat land is a rich red clay. The wood is white cedar and pine of the most magnificent growth. The American line is beyond the mouth of the St. Louis and Pigeon rivers. It evidently abounds in copper, iron and silver. The terrestrial compass cannot be used there, so strong is the attraction to the earth. The needle rears and plunges “like mad.” Points of survey have to be fixed by the solar compass.

This individual is likely Joseph B. Houle from Lac Courte Oreilles who became an early settler of Superior City with his Roy brothers-in-law.  Big Joewas featured in the Penoka Survey Incidents memoirs by James Smith Buck, and may also beKitchie Ininifrom Joseph Austrian’s memoirs.

The Indian and half breed packmen have astonishing strength. One Indian, who is described by the others as being as large as two men, carried for a company of 11 men provisions for ten days, viz: one barrel of flour, half barrel of pork and something else, beside the utensils. Mirage is a common phenomenon is Spring and Summer. For the bays not opening as soon as the main lake, or not cooling so early, an object out on the lake, is viewed from the shore, through a dense medium of air and a thin medium. Hence is a refraction of rays which gives so many wonderful sights that the Chippewas call that the spirit or enchanted land. Sail vessels which are really 40 miles off, are seen flapping and bellying about almost within touch. Turreted Islands, look heavy and toppling towards the zenith. Forests seem to leap from their stems and go a soaring like thistles for the very sport of it.

Born in Denmark, Doctor Charles William Wulff Borup intermarried with the Beaulieu Family of La Pointe Chippewa during the 1830’s.  As an employee of the American Fur Company, Borup relocated the village of La Pointe from the Old Fort location to the modern site in 1836.  The Borup/Beaulieu/Oakes Family appear to be the last owners of the defunct American Fur Company outfit at La Pointe before Julius Austrian purchased all of La Pointe in 1853, including Borup’s residence and garden. By then, Borup was absent from La Pointe, and engaged in the earliest banking and Freemasonry activities of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The ice did not leave some of the bays till the 10th of June. The fish are delicious, especially the salmon trout. But little land game. Mr. Stunts calculates on wonderful enterprises in that country after the opening of the Saut Canal.

Mr. S. describes La Pointe a town of the Lake, as being situated at the head of a bay some 25 miles from the high lake, and secluded from the lake by several islands. He saw there a warehouse 300 feet long, built of tamarac poles, and roofed with bark. This building is very much warped by the pressure of age ; it is entered by a wooden railway. The town is dingy and dreary. He saw a most luxurious garden by the former residence of Dr. Borup. It contained a variety of fruit trees and shrubs, such as plums, cherries, apples, pears, currants, &c.


1852

Cover of Stuntz’s Exterior Field Notes (August-October 1852) ~ Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records: Original Field Notes and Plat Maps

Title page.

1852 Iron River assistants

George Riley Stuntz was also assisted by his brother Albert Conrad Stuntz as well as the African-Chippewa mixed-blood Stephen Bonga employed as an Axeman. To learn more about the interesting Bonga (Bonza) family and Stephen as “the first white child born at the head of Lake Superior,” read pages 39-41 of The Black West by William Loren Katz (1971), and pages 131-34 of Black Indians also by Katz (2012).


The Eye of the North-west: First Annual Report of the Statistician of Superior, Wisconsin

By Frank Abial Flower, 1890

Portrait of Steven Bonga, pg. 7

Portrait of Stephen Bonga, page 7.

GEORGE R. STUNTZ, DEPUTY U. S. SURVEYOR [pages 50-52]

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, pg.

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, page 26.

In 1852 George R. Stuntz took a contract to run the township lines in this part of the country, including the state boundary, and filed with the land-office at Dubuque a rude map of the head of the lake, on the Wisconsin side, in December of that year. He took a new contract and returned in the spring of 1853 to survey the copper range around Black River, a few miles south of Superior. He brought seeds with him and planting them on the Namdji, raised a quantity of vegetables; they grew to great size. he also built a trading-post on Minnesota point near the present light-house, and a mill on Iron River in Bayfield county. In respect of these operations W. W. Ward writes from Morley, Mo.:

W. W. Ward also came to Lake Superior employed as a Chainman with Augustus H. Barber for George R. Stuntz’s first contract in June of 1852.  Was he related to Matt Ward from the Penoka Survey Incidents?
FIRST SAW MILLS AT THE HEAD OF LAKE SUPERIOR
The first lumber of any description produced locally, other than by “Whip sawing”, was at Iron River, Wisconsin about forty miles from Superior on the South Shore of Lake Superior.
George R. Stuntz with William C. Howenstein, Andrew Reefer and George Falkner built and operated a water power “up and down” sawmill at the falls on Iron River about a half a mile from the Lake, capable of cutting three thousand feet of lumber a day. The writer has several 1 1/4 inch absolutely “clear” White Pine boards 24 and 26 inches wide and 18 feet long that were originally stored in a loft to be used in building a skiff. This mill was built in 1854 and the lumber was floated up the Lake to Superior, Oneota and Fond du Lac…
~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])
SUPERIOR TOURIST SEASON OF 1854
From “A Pioneer of Old Superior” by Lillian Kimball Stewart
“In the summer of ’54 the Sam Ward plying between the Sault and any port on Lake Superior, brought on every trip a goodly number of emigrants, speculators, and tourists, bent on seeing the new “city” of Superior. Stuntz’s dock was located near an Indian village, so that every traveler as well as every piece of freight or baggage was subject to inspection by braves, squaws, and papooses before receiving a passport to the shore across the bay…”
~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])

“It was in the spring of 1853 that Mr. Stuntz, Deputy U. S. Surveyor, received his second contract to survey and run the township lines taking in the range around Black River Falls, a portion of Left-hand River country and that part where Superior now is. In the latter part of April that year he organized a party – viz., Nat. W. Kendall, James McKinzie, Pain Bradt, James McBride, Harvey Fargo, Wm. H. Reed, John Chisholm, Joseph Latham, Augustus Barber, and your humble servant. Procured three birch-bark canoes and supplies at Stillwater, Minn.: left there the first day of May, passed up the St. Croix River to its head, made a portage of about two and a half miles into the headwaters of the Brule River, down said river into Lake Superior, thence up the lake to what was called the entry of St. Louis Bay [now Superior Bay], and landed on Minnesota Point in the early part of June. At that time there were no white settlers in this end of the lake – all Chippewa Indians and ‘breeds’ – scarcely a stick missing on that side of the bay where Superior City now stands. We finished the surveying contract and went in early fall down to Iron River, built a double log-shanty, and made other preparations for the construction of a saw mill. Here the first lumber was made at the head of the lake and the first road opened through to the settlement on the St. Croix. The following February, Mr. Stuntz having a trading-post on Minnesota Point [then Stuntz’s Point], I went there and assisted in building a block-house and steamboat pier, and found improvements and a few log-shanties built where old Superior now is located.”

[…]

HUSTLING FOR TOWNSITES [pages 58-60]

Vincent Roy Jr. (From Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst

Vincent Roy Jr.  ~ Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst,

VI. – Superior.

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

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

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

Up to the time of the survey in the spring of 1854 all was chaos as to lands west of the claims of Robertson, Nelson, Baker and their party. There could be no titles or bona fide purchases, as only the mouth of the Nemadji had been surveyed. There were really three “townsite” companies— Robertson, Nelson and Baker, with their associates J. A. Bullen, J. T. Morgan, E. Y. Shelly, August Zachau, C. G. Pettys, Abraham Emmett, and perhaps others, forming one which had the surveyed lands next to the Nemadji. West of them were Francis Roy, Benjamin Cadotte, Robert Bothwick, Basil Dennis, Charles Knowlton and nearly a dozen half-breeds, mostly brought from Crow Wing by Nettleton in the interest of what was known as the “Hollinshead crowd”—Edmund and Henry M. Rice, George L. Becker, Wm. and George W. Nettleton, Benjamin Thompson, James Stinson and W. H. Newton. Still farther west were Benjamin W. Brunson, A. A. Parker, R. F. Slaughter, C. D. Kimball, Rev. E. F. Ely, George R. Stuntz, Bradley Salter, Joseph Kimball, Calvin Hood, and others who proposed to call their town Endion—”Ahn-dy-yon,” the Chippewa for “home.”

B. W. Brunson, still a resident of St. Paul, has described the contest in writing. He says:

Believing Superior would become of importance I went there in February, 1854, with R. F. Slaughter. We found some Ontonagon parties had claimed on the bay and we bought an interest in their claims and began to lay out a city and make improvements. While surveying the town, and when we had the same so far completed as to make a plat of it, the township having been subdivided by a good surveyor, then it was that Vincent Roy, Basil Dennis, Charles Brissette and Antoine Warren, accompanied by twenty-one other half-breeds and some four or five white men, headed, led and directed by one Stinson and one Thompson, who were acting for themselves and as agents of the company, came upon the lands to make their claims and avail themselves of pre-emption rights as citizens of the United States. These men were in the employ of the company for the purpose of making claims, and there was a claimant for each and every quarter-section as fast as the surveyor set the quarter-post. They had commenced the day before, with or at the same time the surveyor commenced his work. The timber being dense and there being a strong force, they were able to build an 8×10 cabin and cover it with boughs, upon each quarter, and then overtake the surveyor before he could establish the next quarter, thus taking the land as they went, and in that manner were progressing when they came upon the land marked out and occupied by us.

The meeting of the two hostile parties occurred on the banks of the deep slough in what is now called Central Park. Nothing but the timidity of the half-breeds prevented bloodshed. Brunson was armed and intended to, and did stand his ground. Thompson, one of the pluckiest of men, was also armed, having two revolvers, and was prepared and intended to proceed. The Indians, not being armed, did not wish to engage in a battle where the leaders only were prepared to fight; and so there was no physical conflict, though a state of chaos and bad feeling continued for some time. Several cabins were demolished, Brunson’s party entirely cutting in pieces a house built by Basil Dennis on the ground now occupied by Dr. Conan’s fine residence.

A long legal contest followed. Finally in 1862-63 patents issued from the government to three men—S. W. Smith, Lars Lenroot and Oliver Lemerise—chosen as trustees of the townsite for the benefit of actual occupants. Thus those who claimed to be proprietors of, but not settlers on the townsite, lost their lands as well as their labor. In the winter of 1853-54 Henry M. Rice asked the Commissioner of the General Land Office whether, when lands which had not been surveyed were claimed for a townsite they would be liable to pre-emption as soon as the survey should be made. The answer was in favor of pre-emption; and that is how those who with Brunson put money into Superior City townsite lost it. The actual settlers got the townsite, the patent being made to the three trustees named who divided the plat, containing 240 acres with riparian rights in Superior Bay, and deeded lots to occupants and purchasers. It may be proper to mention here that a little plat of thirty-four acres, with riparian rights in the bay, and known as Middletown, went through a similar siege of litigation and was finally patented to three trustees —Urguelle Gouge, Louis Morrisette and Nicholas Poulliott—for the benefit of actual occupants. These decisions did not come until the “city” had collapsed and the land become nearly worthless.


The New York Times

[June 19th, 1858]

WESTERN LAND FRAUDS.

More Blood in the Body than Shows in the Face – Land Frauds in the Northwest – The Superior City Controversy – Pre-emptions by Swedes and Indians

Washington, Thursday, June 17, 1858.

Senator Henry Mower Rice ~ United States Senate Historical Office

Senator Henry Mower Rice
~ United States Senate Historical Office

There are some interesting matters here besides what takes place in Congress, and I propose from time to time to touch upon them. An expenditure of $60,000,000 per annum does not cover all the pickings and stealings that “prevail” in our hereabouts. Senator RICE did not tell all he knew about land-office operations, when he testified to the value of the Fort Snelling property. Nobody is better aware than he that the tract would be much better to cut up into town lots than Bayfield was when he bought it for a few cents an acre, and sold it for hundreds of dollars. If we could find out all that Senator BRIGHT knows of these matters, one could learn how to become a millionaire at very small expense of brains or labor. Indian treaties and land-office jobbing have made more men rich than care to tell of it – ask General CASS if this is not so.

Attorney-General Caleb Cushing had previously invested with other Bostonians in the St. Croix River Valley copper mining and land speculation as the St. Croix and Lake Superior Mineral Company during 1845.

Seeing a bushel-basket of papers in the Interior Department the other day, I was curious to know what the kernel might be to all that rind, and made inquiry in the premises. I was told that they enveloped the case of Superior City. I cast my eye over some of them, and noticed that an argument was filed on behalf of one of the parties by Mr. Senator BRIGHT – or rather with Senator BRIGHT’S indorsement. This whetted my desire of knowledge, and I ran my eye over the paper in question, which was from the pen of a Minnesota Judge and was without exception the richest document I ever saw intended for a judicial or administrative tribunal. The substance of it was that the opinion of the Attorney-General CUSHING in the case was absurd, the adoption of his views by the Interior Department preposterous, and the action of the local Land office at Superior, in defining the status of certain half-breed Indians on the most abundant testimony, corrupt. It was clear enough that such a document required at least a senatorial indorsement to justify its reception. Nobody can suppose for a moment that Senator BRIGHT has any interest in the result of the case, or that he expected to influence the judgement of his friend, HENDRICKS, (Commissioner of the General Land Office,) by appearing in it. That would be too strong an inference to draw from so meek a fact ; and yet the malicious might suggest it as an apprehension.

Eye of the Northwest, pg. 8

Original Proprietors of Superior featuring James Stinson, Benjamin Thomson, Dr. W.W. Coran, U.S. Senator Robert J Walker, George W. Cass, and Horace Bridge.  Featured in The Eye of the North-west, pg. 8.

From the printed argument of Senator BRIGHT’S friend, and from a private abstract of the testimony in the case, and a few items I have picked up in the Land Office, I think it will be in my power to indite an epistle that may excite some attention. At the Southwestern extremity of Lake Superior, there is a tract of land, which is expected some day to become the cite of a large city. Being aware of its great advantages for this purpose, a St. Paul speculator by the name of THOMPSON, and a Canadian operator by the name of STINSON, undertook to possess themselves of it as long as as in the early part of General PIERCE‘S administration, by vicarious preemptions. In this plan they were assisted by some official gentlement, who shared in the spoils, and patents were ground out in double-quick time, or certificates issued to Swedes and Indians for the benefit of this STINSON and THOMPSON, and their associate speculators.

More Proprietors of Supeior from The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

More Proprietors of Supeior from The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

In the Summer of 1854, this Mr. STINSON, headed a gang of Swedes and led them from Swede Lake, in the Territory of Minnesota, to Lake Superior, guiding them in person to the tracts he wished them to preempt. These men were ignorant of our language and of our laws, and were used by STINSON to “settle” their tracts, “prove up” their claims, and “convey” to him, the said STINSON, without knowing either the frauds they were practicing, or the rights which they might have secured to themselves if they had been acting in good faith. In the Land Office at Hudson, where these frauds were perpetrated, there was a notary public, who drew the deeds to STINSON, got the signatures of the Swedes to them and took the acknowledgements, immediately after the preemption oath had been administered – the Swedes thinking the whole operation a part of the preemption process. The terms were said to be $30 a month, and a bonus of $15 on the consummation of the bargain. The names of these Swedes were Aaron Peterson, Martin Larson, Peter Nelson, John Johnson, Sven Magnassan, Lorenz Johnson, Peter Norell, Sven Larson, Andreas Senson, Johannes Helon, Johannes Peterson, and Peter Erickson. These “preemptors,” for their own benefit, all “proved up” at Hudson, and the very same day they made conveyances to STINSON. The same thing is true of another Swedish invasion that was made in the Summer of 1855. In that year three Swedes – Old Westerland, Andrew Walmart, and Israel Janssen – commenced their settlements June 11, proved up June 22, and conveyed to STINSON June 22 – eleven days being sufficient for the whole operation. The records of the Land Office at Superior, and of the Register of Deeds of Douglas County, show these facts. They are well known in the General Land Office.

But Mr. STINSON did not operate through Swedes alone. He and his friend THOMPSON worked with half-breed Indians also. In March, 1854, he and THOMPSON followed up the Government Surveys with a gang of Chippewa half-breed Indians. The whole gang made preemptions in Douglas County, under the guidance of THOMPSON and STINSON, who hired them at La Pointe, and convered a large portion of a township with their fraudulent pre-emptions, which were proved up simultaneously, and simultaneously conveyed to the attorney of THOMPSON and STINSON. The names of all of this gang appear on the tract books in the General Land Office. These were Joseph Lamoureaux, Joseph Defaut, Joseph Dennis, Joseph Gauthier, Francis Decoteau, John B. Goslin, George D. Morrison and Levi B. Coffee, all preemptors for these land-sharks. There were three or four more half-breeds in the gang, who ran foul of some eight or ten American citizens who were seeking to save a slice of this Territory from Swedish and Indian preemption, and lay out a town site there under the law. This was the origin of the Superior City controversy, which has been pending some three or four years in the various land offices, and which has accumulated the basket of papers which first drew my attention to a case of such interesting dimensions. The contest is nominally between three or four Chippewa half-breeds claiming some three hundred acres as a town site. But the Indians are not merely bogus citizens, they are bogus pre-emptors in the bargain, for they were the hired men of THOMPSON & STINSON.

The Dred Scott v. Sandford case influenced whether former (non-white) slaves residents of the United States could ever achieve status and rights (such as acquiring land) as citizens of America or not.  It is safe to presume that Cushing was quite familiar with the status and politics of Lake Superior Chippewa mixed acting as quasi-citizens of the United States from his time there during the 1840s.

Mr. CUSHING decided in this controversy, before it was so settled by the Dred Scott case, that a half-breed Indian, receiving annuities as such, recognized as a dependent of a tribe, and the beneficiary of treaty stipulations, could become a citizen of the United States only by some positive act of Federal legislation ; that he could not, of his own volition, or by the laws of a State, change his condition from that of an Indian to that of a Federal citizen. Strange as it may seem, it appears that this part of the Dred Scott is repudiated by Mr. Commissioner HENDRICKS, who thinks a state cannot make a Federal citizen of a man with a drop of negro blood in his veins, but that the Commissioner of the General Land Office may naturalize Indians, ad libitum, without statute or judgement to sustain him.

I am curious to see how this controversy will be decided. The General Land Office upheld STINTSON’S Swedish preemption, on the ground that the frauds were discovered too late for the Commissioner to interefere. Whether or not STINSON hasmade any negro preemptions does not appear. It was too cold at the end of the lake for negroes to flourish much. But now it is to be settled in a case where the attempted frauds have been seasonably discovered, whether or not a Canadian adventurer can preempt whole townships of the Public Lands by the agency of a gang of half-breed Indians, and procure patents for them when the facts are known to the Federal authorities.


The pre-emptive right. Homesteads.

~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])

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

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

Early history of Superior should make mention of this right of acquisition, since there under, titles to government land were derived. Any qualified person might acquire title to one hundred and sixty acres of land by settling thereon, erecting a dwelling and making other improvements. Such person was to be twenty-one years of age, either male or female, or the head of a family whether man or woman.

Proof of each settlement was required to be made on a certain day at the United State Land Office and upon the payment of two hundred dollars with the taking of a required oath, the preemptioner got his one hundred and sixty acres of land.

But the whole proceeding, was far from straight, as a general thing, and in fact often amounted to a fraud.

In the words of George R. Stuntz:
“In the first place, Superior was backed by a powerful company of Democratic politicians and Government bankers in Washington, while the northern and northeastern portions of the state were still held by the Indians. This Superior company sought a connection with the Mississippi river, to obtain which they urged in congress the passage of a land grant bill, offering ten sections to the mile to aid in the construction of a railroad from Milwaukee to some point on Lake St. Croix, on the western boundary of the state of Wisconsin.”
History of Duluth and St. Louis County, Past and Present,
Volume 1, page 230.
U.S. Representative John Cabell Breckinridge of Kentucky and U.S. Congressman Henry Mower Rice of Minnesota were both Democrats and both invested in land claims near Superior City.
The Barber familiy members appear to have been Republicans.

Hence the whole country, in and about Superior, was dotted with preemption cabins, which were little more than logs piles up in walls, without floors, or windows, often with brush for a roof, a hole therein for a chimney and perhaps for a door. A slashing of half an acre or so of trees was the “improvement” so called. A very barbarous travesty, it was, upon a white man’s home and farm. Here is an instance, where as was said, a certain doctor of divinity laid claim to a quarter section of land, now in the midst of this city.

One day he sought “to prove up” his preemption, and one Alfred Allen was his witness, and they asked Allen, “Was the pre-emptions shanty good to live in?“, the law requiring a good habitable house on the claim.  And Alf said “Yes, good for mosquitoes.” The Reverend said “Pshaw! Pshaw!” Meanding to upbraid or caution the witness who thereupon only protested and adjured the harder. The difficulty was somehow smoothed over, through some mending of the proofs, and perhaps connivance on the part of persons charged with administration of the United States land laws.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to member that upon rude and rough proceedings, such as are herein alluded to, rest at bottom the titles and claims to everything we own in the nature of lots, blocks, and land.

From: Statements of Hiram Hayes. Mr. Hayes came to Superior in 1854.


History of Duluth and St. Louis County, Past and Present, Volume 1

By Dwight Edwards Woodbridge, et al, 1910

GEORGE R. STUNTZ. [pages 229-231]

One of the earliest settlers at the head of the lakes was Mr. George E. Stuntz, who a short time ago joined the great majority. Before his death Mr. Stuntz wrote of his pioneer experiences as follows:

“In July, 1852, I came to the head of Lake Superior to run the land lines and subdivide certain townships. When I arrived at the head of the lakes there was nothing in Duluth or Superior. There was no settlement. The old American Fur Company had a post at La Pointe, at the west side of Madeline Island.

Detail of Minnesota Point during Stuntz's survey contract during August-October of 1852.

Detail of Minnesota Point from Stuntz’s Exterior Field Notes (August-October of 1852).

“In 1853 I got the range subdivided, and also in Superior, townsite 49, range 13. During the same year, later, in my absence, there came parties from the copper district of upper Michigan and located claims upon the range. They were principally miners. During the same year I built a residence on Minnesota Point under treaty license before the territory was sold to the Government. At that time there were only missionaries or license traders in the tract, as it belonged to the original Indian territory. In 1852, at Fond du Lac, there was a trading post and warehouse, in which I stored my goods on my arrival. In the fall of 1853 I bought three yoke of cattle and two cows at St. Croix Falls and brought them to the mouth of the Iron river, and had to cut a road thirty miles through the dense forest so as to get the oxen, cows and cart through. Later in the fall of 1853 I came through with an extra yoke of oxen, buying provisions, etc., and on coming up to Superior I found quite a settlement of log cabins. These settlers were anxious to get to the United States land office, then at Hudson, Wis. A dense forest intervened. We organized a volunteer company in January, 1854, to cut a road from old Superior to the nearest lumber camp on the St. Croix river, I furnishing two barrels of flour, provisions, pony and dog train, necessary to carry the provisions for a gang of seventeen men. The road was completed in twenty days, the snow being at that time two feet deep. This cut through a direct road to Taylor’s Falls and Stillwater. In 1854 I completed a mill on the Iron river and employed a man to superintend it, and I remained at Minnesota Point, my trading post, where I had first taken out the license. In the same year I took a contract to subdivide two townships located in Superior, townships 48-49, range 15, and afterward I attended the treaty at the time the Indians sold this country to the Government.

Before the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe could be ratified in Washington, D.C., the oral description agreed upon during the negotiations for exterior boundaries of the Chippewa treaties had to be surveyed with the tribe, documented, and delivered to Washington, D.C. before 1855.  It is not clear who was involved with the exterior boundaries of these reservations; whether it was Stuntz, Barber, and/or others from their party.

“There were 5,000 Indians present with their chiefs. It was the biggest assemblage of Indians ever held at Lake Superior at this period of the country’s history. It took a month to pacify the troubles that grew among the different tribes in regard to their proportionate rights. This treaty was sent to congress September [30], 1854, and was ratified and became law in January, 1855.


 To be continued in 1854

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reverend Leonard H. Wheeler
Missionary to the Ojibway

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad River  Monday  March 25, 1844

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

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

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

Bob Boyd, who married Julia Cadotte in 1847 and was the first Justice of the Peace for La Pointe County after Wisconsin’s statehood, came into the area around this time. The scale of his ambition and other context clues make him my prime suspect for Wheeler’s “Robert.”  Robert Morrin, worked for the Protestant mission.  His sugar camp is described by his daughter, Eliza Morrison, in A Little History of My Forest Life.  Ed. Victoria Brehm.  Ladyslipper Press, 2002.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

Process of making sugar and skillful use of birch bark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was Blackbird?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mushkesebe River Oct. 1855

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

  

example not to meddle with other peoples business.

Mushkisibi River Oct. 1855

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

So, what did happen here?

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

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

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

So who are the good guys in this situation?

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

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

Henry Mower Rice (Wikimedia Images)

Henry M. Rice

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

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

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

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

Antoine Gordon 

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

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

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

Naaganab

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

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

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

Leonard H. Wheeler

L. H. Wheeler (WHS Image ID 66594)

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

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

Blackbird

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

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

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

Final word for now…

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

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

Sources:
Davidson, J. N., and Harriet Wood Wheeler. In Unnamed Wisconsin: Studies in the History of the Region between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. Milwaukee, WI: S. Chapman, 1895. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print. 
McElroy, Crocket.  “An Indian Payment.”  Americana v.5.  American Historical Company, American Historical Society, National Americana Society Publishing Society of New York, 1910 (Digitized by Google Books) pages 298-302.
Morse, Richard F. “The Chippewas of Lake Superior.” Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Ed. Lyman C. Draper. Vol. 3. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1857. 338-69. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Pupil’s of St. Mary’s, and Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Noble Lives of a Noble Race. Minneapolis: Brooks, 1909. Print.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.

The banner at the top of this website reads “Primary history of the Chequamegon Region before 1860.  In the About page, I explain that 1860 is really an arbitrary round number, and what I’m really focusing on is this area before it became dominated by an English-speaking American society.  This is not an easy date to pinpoint, though I think most would argue it happened between 1842 and 1855.  While the Treaty of La Pointe in 1854 is an easy marker of separation between the two eras, I would argue that the annuity payments that took place on the island the next summer, can also be seen as a watershed moment in history.

The 1855 payment, in many ways, illustrates the change in the relationship between the United States and the Ojibwe people that would characterize the rest of the 19th century and early 20th century.  The threats of Ojibwe removal or military conflict  between the two nations largely ended with the treaty and the establishment of reservations.  However, in their place was a paternalistic and domineering government that felt a responsibility to “civilize the Indian.”  No one at this time embodied this idea more than George Manypenny, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and it was Manypenny, himself, who presided over the 1855 payment.

The days were over when master politicians like Buffalo and Flat Mouth could try to negotiate with the Americans as equals while playing them off of the British in Canada at the same time.  In fact, Buffalo died during the 1855 payment, and the new generation of chiefs were men who had spent their youth in a time of Ojibwe power, but who would grow old in an era where government Indian Agents would rule the reservations like petty dictators.  The men of this generation, Jayjigwyong (“Little Buffalo”) of Red Cliff, Blackbird of Bad River, and Naaganab of Fond du Lac, were the ones who were prominent during the summer of 1855.

Until this point, our knowledge of the 1855 payment cams largely from the essay The Chippewas of Lake Superior  by a witness named Richard Morse.  Dr. Morse’s writing includes a number of speeches by the Ojibwe leadership and a number of smaller accounts of items that piqued his interest, including the story of Hanging Cloud the female warrior, and the deaths of Buffalo and Oshogay.  However, when reading Morse, one gets the sense that he or she is not getting stray observations of an uninformed visitor rather than a complete story.

It was for this reason that I got excited today when I stumbled across a second memoir of the 1855 payment.  It comes from Volume 5 of Americana, a turn-of-the-century historical journal.  Crocket McElroy, the author, is writing around fifty years after he witnessed the 1855 payment as a young clerk in Bayfield.

We still do not have a full picture of the 1855 payment, since we will never have full written accounts from Blackbird, Naaganab, and the rest of the Ojibwe leadership, but McElroy’s essay does provide an interesting contrast to Morse’s.  The two men saw many of the same events but interpreted them very differently.  And while McElroy’s racist beliefs skew his observations and make his writing hard to stomach, in some ways his observations are as informative as Morse’s even though his work is considerably shorter: 

From Americana v.5 American Historical Company, American Historical Society, National Americana Society Publishing Society of New York, 1910 (Digitized by Google Books) pages 298-302.

 

AN INDIAN PAYMENT

By Crocket McElroy

Morse describes Blackbird as “ugly”, “cunning”, and skilled at “rascality,” while Naaganab is “wise,” “judicious” and “intelligent.”  To McElroy, Blackbird is “modest” and speaks with a “clear head” and “ingenuity”, while Naaganab is “shrewd.”  Blackbird wanted the payments to go directly to the chiefs for distribution, while Naaganab supported the Agent’s plan to distribute the money to the Ojibwe and their creditors.

In August 1855 about three thousand Chippewa Indians gathered at the village of Lapointe, on Lapointe Island, Lake Superior, for an Indian Payment and also to hold a council with the commissioner of Indian affairs, who at that time was George W. Monypenny of Ohio. The Indians selected for their orator a chief named Blackbird, and the choice was a good one, as Blackbird held his own well in a long discussion with the commissioner. Blackbird was not one of the haughty style of Indians, but modest in his bearing, with a good command of language and a clear head. In his speeches he showed much ingenuity and ably pleaded the cause of his people. He spoke in Chippewa stopping frequently to give the interpreter time to translate what he said into English. In beginning his address he spoke substantially as follows:

“My great white father, we are pleased to meet you and have a talk with you We are friends and we want to remain friends. We expect to do what you want us to do, and we hope that you will deal kindly with us. We wish to remind you that we are the source from which you have derived all your riches. Our furs, our timber, our lands, everything that we have goes to you; even the gold out of which that chain was forged (pointing to a heavy watch chain that the commissioner carried) came from us, and now we hope that you will not use that chain to bind us.”

Buffalo’s death in 1855 marked the end of an era.  Jayjigwyong (Young Buffalo) was no young man when he took over from his father.  The connection between Buffalo and Buffalo, New York also appears in Morse on page 368, although he says the names are not connected.  If Buffalo did indeed live in the Niagara region, it may lend credence to the hypothesis explored in Paap’s Red Cliff Wisconsin, that Buffalo fought the Americans in the Indian Wars of the 1790s and signed the Treaty of Greenville (Photo:  Wikimedia Images).

The commissioner was an amiable man and got along pleasantly with his savage friends, besides managing the council skilfully.

Among the prominent chiefs attending the payment was Buffalo, then called “Old Buffalo,” as he had a son called “Young Buffalo” who was also an old man. Old Buffalo was said to be over one hundred years old. He died during the council and the writer witnessed the funeral. He was buried in the Indian grave yard near the Indian church in Lapointe village. The body was laid on a stretcher formed of two poles laid lengthwise and several poles laid crosswise. The stretcher was carried on the shoulders of four Indians. Following the corpse was a long procession of Indians in irregular order. It was claimed for Buffalo, that he maintained a camp many years before at the mouth of Buffalo Creek on the Niagara River, and that the creek and the present large and flourishing city of Buffalo were named after him.

Naaganab’s (above) comments about Wheeler being ungenerous with food echoed a common Ojibwe complaint about the ABCFM missionaries.  Wheeler’s Protestant Ethic of upward mobility and self-reliance made little sense in a tribal society where those who had extra were expected to share.  Read The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, edited by Theresa Schenck, for Naaganab’s experience with another missionary two decades earlier.  Read this post if you don’t understand why the Ojibwe resented the missionaries over the issue of food (Photo from Newberry Library Collections, Chicago).

Another prominent chief attending the conference was Ne-gon-up, head chief of the Fond du lac Indians. Negonup’s camp was on the south side of the St Louis River in Wisconsin, about where the city of Superior now stands. Negonup was a shrewd, practical Indian and had considerable influence. The writer saw him going to the Indian church one Sunday, there was a squaw on each side of him and one behind, they were said to be his wives. A good and zealous Methodist minister named Wheeler desired to talk to Negonup and his tribe about the Great Spirit. Negonup it is said expressed himself in regard to Mr. Wheeler in this manner:

“Mr. Wheeler comes to us and says he wants to do us good. He looks like a good man and we think he is and we believe his intentions are good, but he does not bring us any proof. Now if Mr. Wheeler will bring to me a good supply of barrels of flour and barrels of pork, for distribution among my people, then I shall be convinced that he is a good man.”

The sessions of the council began on August 30th and were held in the open air on a grass common. On the second day the special police acting under directions from the Indian agent H. Gilbert, seized two barrels of whisky that was being secretly sold to the half-breeds and Indians. The proceedings of the council were suspended and the two barrels of whisky were rolled into the center of the common. Mr. Gilbert then took a hatchet, chopped a hole into each barrel and poured the whiskey out on the ground. A few half-breeds and Indians in the outer edge of the crowd dropped on their knees and sucked some of the whisky out of the grass.

In accordance with the stipulations of a treaty, the government was distributing among the Indians a large quantity of blankets, cotton cloth, calico, and other kinds of cloth to be used for clothing or bedding. Also provisions, farming implements, cooking utensils, and other articles supposed to be useful to the Indians The Indians were entitled to a certain value per head in goods and also in cash. The cash payment was I think two dollars and fifty cents per head. The goods were distributed first to the heads of families. After the goods were disposed of the money was paid in gold and silver.

“Either the laws of the United States give the Indian agent in such cases arbitrary power, or the agent assumed it…”   There are many references to agents of the OIA/BIA acting with absolute power on reservations in the 19th-century.  What makes this one stand out is how early (1855) it is.

Notwithstanding the care exercised by the Indian agent to prevent the sale of liquor to Indians they were still able to find it, and occasionally some would be found drunk. One who was acting badly was arrested and confined in a log lockup, and while there created a great disturbance. He pounded his head against the logs and yelled so loud and continuously as to excite the other Indians and some of them became very angry. It was feared they would make trouble and a rumor spread through the village that the Indians would rise that night, break into the jail, release the prisoner and then murder all the white people on the island. As the Indians outnumbered the whites ten to one the excitement became painfully intense and a meeting of whites and half breeds was called to take action. A company of volunteers was organized to assist the Indian agent in searching for and destroying liquors. A systematic and thorough search was made of nearly every building in the village, from attic to cellar. A good deal of liquor was found and promptly destroyed. After two days of this kind of work the danger of murders being committed by drunken Indians was supposed to be past and quiet was restored. Either the laws of the United States give the Indian agent in such cases arbitrary power, or the agent assumed it at any rate it was courageously exercised.

Rev. Leonard Wheeler’s mission was Congregational-Presbyterian, not Methodist as McElroy states.  The Fond du Lac Indians were familiar with both Protestant sects, but the “civilized” Fond du Lac chiefs Zhingob (Nindibens) and Naaganab, much like Jayjigwyong in Red Cliff, aligned with the Catholics.  This represented a major threat to Wheeler and his virulently anti-Catholic colleagues who envisioned a fully-assimilated  Protestant future for the Ojibwe (Photo:  Wisconsin Historical Society). 

A good many of the Indians were warriors, who were frequently, in fact, almost constantly at war with the Sioux. They were pure savages, totally uncivilized, and the faces of some of them had an expression as utterly destitute of human kindness as I have ever seen in wild beasts. A small portion of them were partially civilized and a very few could talk a little English.  Nearly all the Indians came to the island in their own canoes bringing along the entire family.

The agent completed his work in about twenty-five days.

There is hardly anything that a savage Indian has less use for than money and when it comes into his hands he hastens to spend it. It goes quickly into the hands of traders, half-breeds and the partially civilized Indians.

A few days previous to the opening of the council, the Indians gave a war dance which was attended by a large crowd of Indians and whites. A ring about twenty feet in diameter was formed by male Indians and squaws sitting cross legged around it, a number of whom had small unmusical drums. The ceremony commenced with the Indians in the circle singing: “Hi yi yi, i e, i o.” This was the whole song and it was repeated over and over with tiresome monotony, and the drums were beaten to keep time with the singing. After the singing had been going on for some minutes a warrior bounced into the ring and began to talk. Instantly the singing stopped. The orator showed great agitation, no doubt for the purpose of convincing his hearers that he was a brave warrior. He hopped and jumped about the ring, swung his arms violently and pointed toward his enemies in the west. He was apparently telling how badly the Sioux had been beaten in the last fight, or how they would be whipped in the next one, and perhaps also how many scalps he had taken. So soon as the talking stopped the singing would begin again and after a little more of the ridiculous music, another warrior would bounce into the ring and begin his speech.

For this occasion some of the Indians were painted with different colored paints, made out of clay and other coarse materials daubed on without much regard to order or taste. A good many males were entirely naked except that they wore breech clouts. One Indian had one leg painted black and the other red, and his face was daubed with various colored paints, so that except in the form of his body, he looked like anything but a human being. When a few speeches had been made the war dance ended.

As with the Naaganab-Blackbird debate and Buffalo’s funeral, the dance, the woman with the dog, and the experiences of Mr. and Mrs. Lippincott are all covered in Morse with differing details and interpretations.

During the council a begging party of Indians went the rounds of the camps to solicit donations for a squaw widow with four children, whose husband had been killed by the Sioux. At every tent something was given and the articles were carried along by the party. One of the presents was a dead dog, a rope was tied to the dog’s legs and an Indian put the rope over his head and let the dog hang on his back. The widow marched in the procession she was a large strong woman with long hair in a single braid hanging down her back. To the end of the braid was tied two scalps which dangled about one foot below. It was said she had killed two Sioux in revenge for their killing her husband and had taken their scalps.

Among the notable persons in attendance at the council, was a lady distinguished as a writer of fiction under the pen name of Grace Greenwood. She had been recently married to a Mr. Lippincott and was accompanied by her husband. Mrs. Lippincott. did not look like a healthy woman, but she lived to be forty-nine years older and to be highly respected and honored before she died in the year 1904.

Hopefully this document will contribute to the understanding of our area in the earliest years after the Treaty of 1854.  Look for an upcoming post with a letter from Blackbird himself on issues surrounding the payment.

Sources:
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print. 
McElroy, Crocket.  “An Indian Payment.”  Americana v.5.  American Historical Company, American Historical Society, National Americana Society Publishing Society of New York, 1910 (Digitized by Google Books) pages 298-302.
Morse, Richard F. “The Chippewas of Lake Superior.” Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Ed. Lyman C. Draper. Vol. 3. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1857. 338-69. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Western Publishing and Engraving.  Cyclopedia of Michigan: historical and biographical, comprising a synopsis of general history of the state, and biographical sketches of men who have, in their various spheres, contributed toward its development.  John Bersey Ed. Western Publishing and Engraving Co., 1890.

Oshogay

August 12, 2013

At the most recent count, Chief Buffalo is mentioned in over two-thirds of the posts here on Chequamegon History.  That’s the most of anyone listed so far in the People Index.  While there are more Buffalo posts on the way, I also want to draw attention to some of the lesser known leaders of the La Pointe Band.  So, look for upcoming posts about Dagwagaane (Tagwagane), Mizay, Blackbird, Waabojiig, Andeg-wiiyas, and others.  I want to start, however, with Oshogay, the young speaker who traveled to Washington with Buffalo in 1852 only to die the next year before the treaty he was seeking could be negotiated.

Two hundred years before Oshogay went to Washington D. C., the Jesuits of New France recorded the Outchougai (Atchougue) as a distinct nation among the many Anishinaabe peoples of the Western Great Lakes along with the Amikouet (Beavers), Nikikouet (Otters), Noquet (Bears), Monsoni (Moose), Marameg (Catfish), and several others.  By the 19th century, these nations were seen no longer seen as distinct nations but as clans of the Otchipoek (Cranes).  According to Schoolcraft and others, the Outchougai (Oshogays) were the Osprey or Fish Hawk clan.  However, others identified them with the Heron (zhashagi  in Ojibwe; Osprey is piichigiigwane).  I am far from being an expert on the Ojibwe clan system, but it seems by the 1800s, the Oshogay clan was either gone from the Anishinaabe of the Lake Superior country or had been absorbed into the Cranes. However, the word Oshogay continued to be a personal name. 

I debated whether to do this post, since I don’t know a lot about Oshogay.  I don’t know for sure what his name means, so I don’t know how to spell or pronounce it correctly (in the sources you see Oshogay, O-sho-ga, Osh-a-ga, Oshaga, Ozhoge, etc.).  In fact, I don’t even know how many people he is.  There were at least four men with that name among the Lake Superior Ojibwe between 1800 and 1860, so much like with the Great Chief Buffalo Picture Search, the key to getting Oshogay’s history right is dependent on separating his story from those who share his name.

In the end, I felt that challenge was worth a post in its own right, so here it is.

Getting Started

According to his gravestone, Oshogay was 51 when he died at La Pointe in 1853.  That would put his birth around 1802.  However, the Ojibwe did not track their birthdays in those days, so that should not be considered absolutely precise.  He was considered a young man of the La Pointe Band at the time of his death.  In my mind, the easiest way to sort out the information is going to be to lay it out chronologically.  Here it goes:

1)  Henry Schoolcraft, United States Indian Agent at Sault Ste. Marie, recorded the following on July 19, 1828:

Oshogay (the Osprey), solicited provisions to return home. This young man had been sent down to deliver a speech from his father, Kabamappa, of the river St. Croix, in which he regretted his inability to come in person. The father had first attracted my notice at the treaty of Prairie du Chien, and afterwards received a small medal, by my recommendation, from the Commissioners at Fond du Lac. He appeared to consider himself under obligations to renew the assurance of his friendship, and this, with the hope of receiving some presents, appeared to constitute the object of his son’s mission, who conducted himself with more modesty and timidity before me than prudence afterwards; for, by extending his visit to Drummond Island, where both he and his father were unknown, he got nothing, and forfeited the right to claim anything for himself on his return here.

I sent, however, in his charge, a present of goods of small amount, to be delivered to his father, who has not countenanced his foreign visit.

Oshogay is a “young man.”  A birth year of 1802 would make him 26.  He is part of Gaa-bimabi’s (Kabamappa’s) village in the upper St. Croix country.

2) In June of 1834, Edmund Ely and W. T. Boutwell, two missionaries, traveled from Fond du Lac (today’s Fond du Lac Reservation near Cloquet) down the St. Croix to Yellow Lake (near today’s Webster, WI) to meet with other missionaries. As they left Gaa-bimabi’s (Kabamappa’s) village near the head of the St. Croix and reached the Namekagon River on June 28th, they were looking for someone to guide them the rest of the way.  An old Ojibwe man, who Boutwell had met before at La Pointe, and his son offered to help. The man fed the missionaries fish and hunted for them while they camped a full day at the mouth of the Namekagon since the 29th was a Sunday and they refused to travel on the Sabbath.  On Monday the 30th, the reembarked, and Ely recorded in his journal:

The man, whose name is “Ozhoge,” and his son embarked with us about 1/2 past 9 °clk a.m. The old man in the bow and myself steering.  We run the rapids safely.  At half past one P. M. arrived at the mouth of Yellow River…  

Ozhoge is an “old man” in 1834, so he couldn’t have been born in 1802.  He is staying on the Namekagon River in the upper St. Croix country between Gaa-bimabi and the Yellow Lake Band.  He had recently spent time at La Pointe.

3)  Ely’s stay on the St. Croix that summer was brief.  He was stationed at Fond du Lac until he eventually wore out his welcome there. In the 1840s, he would be stationed at Pokegama, lower on the St. Croix.  During these years, he makes multiple references to a man named Ozhogens (a diminutive of Ozhoge).  Ozhogens is always found above Yellow River on the upper St. Croix.

Ozhogens has a name that may imply someone older (possibly a father or other relative) lives nearby with the name Ozhoge.  He seems to live in the upper St. Croix country.  A birth year of 1802 would put him in his forties, which is plausible.

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Ke-che-wask keenk (Gichi-weshki) is Chief Buffalo.  Gab-im-ub-be (Gaa-bimabi) was the chief Schoolcraft identified as the father of Oshogay.  Ja-che-go-onk was a son of Chief Buffalo.

4) On August 2, 1847, the United States and the Mississippi and Lake Superior Ojibwe concluded a treaty at Fond du Lac.  The US Government wanted Ojibwe land along the nation’s border with the Dakota Sioux, so it could remove the Ho-Chunk people from Wisconsin to Minnesota.

Among the signatures, we find O-sho-gaz, a warrior from St. Croix.  This would seem to be the Ozhogens we meet in Ely.

Here O-sho-gaz is clearly identified as being from St. Croix.  His identification as a warrior would probably indicate that he is a relatively young man.  The fact that his signature is squeezed in the middle of the names of members of the La Pointe Band may or may not be significant.  The signatures on the 1847 Treaty are not officially grouped by band, but they tend to cluster as such. 

5)  In 1848 and 1849 George P. Warren operated the fur post at Chippewa Falls and kept a log that has been transcribed and digitized by the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.  He makes several transactions with a man named Oshogay, and at one point seems to have him employed in his business.  His age isn’t indicated, but the amount of furs he brings in suggests that he is the head of a small band or large family.  There were multiple Ojibwe villages on the Chippewa River at that time, including at Rice Lake and Lake Shatac (Chetek).  The United States Government treated with them as satellite villages of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band.

Based on where he lives, this Oshogay might not be the same person as the one described above.

6)  In December 1850, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in the case Oshoga vs. The State of Wisconsin, that there were a number of irregularities in the trial that convicted “Oshoga, an Indian of the Chippewa Nation” of murder.  The court reversed the decision of the St. Croix County circuit court.  I’ve found surprisingly little about this case, though that part of Wisconsin was growing very violent in the 1840s as white lumbermen and liquor salesmen were flooding the country.

Pg 56 of Containing cases decided from the December term, 1850, until the organization of the separate Supreme Court in 1853: Volume 3 of Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin: With Tables of the Cases and Principal Matters, and the Rules of the Several Courts in Force Since 1838, Wisconsin. Supreme Court Authors: Wisconsin. Supreme Court, Silas Uriah Pinney (Google Books).

The man killed, Alexander Livingston, was a liquor dealer himself.

Alexander Livingston, a man who in youth had had excellent advantages, became himself a dealer in whisky, at the mouth of Wolf creek, in a drunken melee in his own store was shot and killed by Robido, a half-breed. Robido was arrested but managed to escape justice.

~From Fifty Years in the Northwest by W.H.C Folsom

Several pages later, Folsom writes:

At the mouth of Wolf creek, in the extreme northwestern section of this town, J. R. Brown had a trading house in the ’30s, and Louis Roberts in the ’40s. At this place Alex. Livingston, another trader, was killed by Indians in 1849. Livingston had built him a comfortable home, which he made a stopping place for the weary traveler, whom he fed on wild rice, maple sugar, venison, bear meat, muskrats, wild fowl and flour bread, all decently prepared by his Indian wife. Mr. Livingston was killed by an Indian in 1849.

Folsom makes no mention of Oshoga, and I haven’t found anything else on what happened to him or Robido (Robideaux?).

It’s hard to say if this Oshoga is the Ozhogen’s of Ely’s journals or the Oshogay of Warren’s.  Wolf Creek is on the St. Croix, but it’s not far from the Chippewa River country either, and the Oshogay of Warren seems to have covered a lot of ground in the fur trade.  Warren’s journal, linked in #4, contains a similar story of a killing and “frontier justice” leading to lynch mobs against the Ojibwe.  To escape the violence and overcrowding, many Ojibwe from that part of the country started to relocate to Fond du Lac, Lac Courte Oreilles, or La Pointe/Bad River.  La Pointe is also where we find the next mention of Oshogay. 

7)  From 1851 to 1853, a new voice emerged loudly from the La Pointe Band in the aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy.  It was that of Buffalo’s speaker Oshogay (or O-sho-ga), and he spoke out strongly against Indian Agent John Watrous’ handling of the Sandy Lake payments (see this post) and against Watrous’ continued demands for removal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.  There are a number of documents with Oshogay’s name on them, and I won’t mention all of them, but I recommend Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren and Howard Paap’s Red Cliff, Wisconsin as two places to get started. 

Chief Buffalo was known as a great speaker, but he was nearing the end of his life, and it was the younger chief who was speaking on behalf of the band more and more.  Oshogay represented Buffalo in St. Paul, co-wrote a number of letters with him, and most famously, did most of the talking when the two chiefs went to Washington D.C. in the spring of 1852 (at least according to Benjamin Armstrong’s memoir).  A number of secondary sources suggest that Oshogay was Buffalo’s son or son-in-law, but I’ve yet to see these claims backed up with an original document.  However, all the documents that identify by band, say this Oshogay was from La Pointe.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has digitized four petitions drafted in the fall of 1851 and winter of 1852.  The petitions are from several chiefs, mostly of the La Pointe and Lac Courte Oreilles/Chippewa River bands, calling for the removal of John Watrous as Indian Agent.  The content of the petitions deserves its own post, so for now we’ll only look at the signatures.

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November 6, 1851 Letter from 30 chiefs and headmen to Luke Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs:  Multiple villages are represented here, roughly grouped by band.  Kijiueshki (Buffalo), Jejigwaig (Buffalo’s son), Kishhitauag (“Cut Ear” also associated with the Ontonagon Band), Misai (“Lawyerfish”),  Oshkinaue (“Youth”), Aitauigizhik (“Each Side of the Sky”), Medueguon, and Makudeuakuat (“Black Cloud”) are all known members of the La Pointe Band.  Before the 1850s, Kabemabe (Gaa-bimabi) and Ozhoge were associated with the villages of the Upper St. Croix.

antiwatrous2

November 8, 1851, Letter from the Chiefs and Headmen of Chippeway River, Lac Coutereille, Puk-wa-none, Long Lake, and Lac Shatac to Alexander Ramsey, Superintendent of Indian Affairs:  This letter was written from Sandy Lake two days after the one above it was written from La Pointe.  O-sho-gay the warrior from Lac Shatac (Lake Chetek) can’t be the same person as Ozhoge the chief unless he had some kind of airplane or helicopter back in 1851.

antiwatrous3

Undated (Jan. 1852?) petition to “Our Great Father”:  This Oshoga is clearly the one from Lake Chetek (Chippewa River). 

antiwatrous4

Undated (Jan. 1852?) petition:  These men are all associated with the La Pointe Band.  Osho-gay is their Speaker.

In the early 1850s, we clearly have two different men named Oshogay involved in the politics of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.  One is a young warrior from the Chippewa River country, and the other is a rising leader among the La Pointe Band.

Washington Delegation July 22, 1852 This engraving of the 1852 delegation led by Buffalo and Oshogay appeared in Benjamin Armstrong’s Early Life Among the Indians.  Look for an upcoming post dedicated to this image.

8)  In the winter of 1853-1854, a smallpox epidemic ripped through La Pointe and claimed the lives of a number of its residents including that of Oshogay.  It had appeared that Buffalo was grooming him to take over leadership of the La Pointe Band, but his tragic death left a leadership vacuum after the establishment of reservations and the death of Buffalo in 1855.

Oshogay’s death is marked in a number of sources including the gravestone at the top of this post.  The following account comes from Richard E. Morse, an observer of the 1855 annuity payments at La Pointe:

The Chippewas, during the past few years, have suffered extensively, and many of them died, with the small pox.  Chief O-SHO-GA died of this disease in 1854.  The Agent caused a suitable tomb-stone to be erected at his grave, in La Pointe.  He was a young chief, of rare promise and merit; he also stood high in the affections of his people.   

Later, Morse records a speech by Ja-be-ge-zhick or “Hole in the Sky,” a young Ojibwe man from the Bad River Mission who had converted to Christianity and dressed in “American style.” Jabegezhick speaks out strongly to the American officials against the assembled chiefs:

…I am glad you have seen us, and have seen the folly of our chiefs; it may give you a general idea of their transactions.  By the papers you have made out for the chiefs to sign, you can judge of their ability to do business for us.  We had but one man among us, capable of doing business for the Chippewa nation; that man was O-SHO-GA, now dead and our nation now mourns.  (O-SHO-GA was a young chief of great merit and much promise; he died of small-pox, February 1854).  Since his death, we have lost all our faith in the balance of our chiefs…

This O-sho-ga is the young chief, associated with the La Pointe Band, who went to Washington with Buffalo in 1852.

9)  In 1878, “Old Oshaga” received three dollars for a lynx bounty in Chippewa County.

It seems quite possible that Old Oshaga is the young man that worked with George Warren in the 1840s and the warrior from Lake Chetek who signed the petitions against Agent Watrous in the 1850s.

10) In 1880, a delegation of Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Lac du Flambeau chiefs visited Washington D.C.  I will get into their purpose in a future post, but for now, I will mention that the chiefs were older men who would have been around in the 1840s and ’50s. One of them is named Oshogay.  The challenge is figuring out which one.

Ojibwe Delegation c. 1880 by Charles M. Bell.   [Identifying information from the Smithsonian] Studio portrait of Anishinaabe Delegation posed in front of a backdrop. Sitting, left to right: Edawigijig; Kis-ki-ta-wag; Wadwaiasoug (on floor); Akewainzee (center); Oshawashkogijig; Nijogijig; Oshoga. Back row (order unknown); Wasigwanabi; Ogimagijig; and four unidentified men (possibly Frank Briggs, top center, and Benjamin Green Armstrong, top right). The men wear European-style suit jackets and pants; one man wears a peace medal, some wear beaded sashes or bags or hold pipes and other props.(Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian).

This same image is on display at the Bayfield Public Library.  The men in the picture are identified, presumably by someone in the early 20th century with some firsthand knowledge, but the identification doesn’t correspond to the names identified by the Smithsonian.  Osho’gay is the only name common to the Smithsonian’s information (in bold for reference) and the library’s information as follows:

Upper row reading from the left.
1.  Vincent Conyer- Interpreter 1,2,4,5 ?, includes Wasigwanabi and Ogimagijig
2.  Vincent Roy Jr.
3.  Dr. I. L. Mahan, Indian Agent   Frank Briggs
4.  No Name Given
5.  Geo P. Warren (Born at LaPointe- civil war vet.
6.  Thad Thayer      Benjamin Armstrong
Lower row
1.  Messenger    Edawigijig
2.  Na-ga-nab (head chief of all Chippewas)   Kis-ki-ta-wag
3.  Moses White, father of Jim White          Waswaisoug
4.  No Name Given         Akewainzee
5.  Osho’gay- head speaker     Oshawashkogijig or Oshoga
6.  Bay’-qua-as’ (head chief of La Corrd Oreilles, 7 ft. tall) Nijogijig or Oshawashkogijig
7.  No name given  Oshoga or Nijogijig

The Smithsonian lists Oshoga last, so that would mean he is the man sitting in the chair at the far right.  However, it doesn’t specify who the man seated on the right on the floor is, so it’s also possible that he’s their Oshoga.  If the latter is true, that’s also who the unknown writer of the library caption identified as Osho’gay.  Whoever he is in the picture, it seems very possible that this is the same man as “Old Oshaga” from number 9.

11) There is one more document I’d like to include, although it doesn’t mention any of the people we’ve discussed so far, it may be of interest to someone reading this post.  It mentions a man named Oshogay who was born before 1860 (albeit not long before).

For decades after 1854, many of the Lake Superior Ojibwe continued to live off of the reservations created in the Treaty of La Pointe.  This was especially true in the St. Croix region where no reservation was created at all.  In the 1910s, the Government set out to document where various Ojibwe families were living and what tribal rights they had.  This process led to the creation of the St. Croix and Mole Lake reservations.  In 1915, we find 64-year-old Oshogay and his family living in Randall, Wisconsin which may suggest a connection to the St. Croix Oshogays.  As with number 6 above, this creates some ambiguity because he is listed as enrolled at Lac Courte Oreilles, which implies a connection to the Chippewa River Oshogay.  For now, I leave this investigation up to someone else, but I’ll leave it here for interest.

This is not any of the Oshogays discussed so far, but it could be a relative of any or all of them.

In the final analysis

These eleven documents mention at least four men named Oshogay living in northern Wisconsin between 1800 and 1860.  Edmund Ely met an old man named Oshogay in 1834.  He is one.  A 64-year old man, a child in the 1850s, was listed on the roster of “St. Croix Indians.”  He is another.  I believe the warrior from Lake Chetek who traded with George Warren in the 1840s could be one of the chiefs who went to Washington in 1880.  He may also be the one who was falsely accused of killing Alexander Livingston.  Of these three men, none are the Oshogay who went to Washington with Buffalo in 1852.

Credit where credit is due, Theresa Schenck is the person who first told me about the strong St. Croix-La Pointe connection and the movement of many St. Croix families to Bad River in the 1850s. In his 2012 dissertation, The Murder of Joe White: Ojibwe Leadership and Colonialism in Wisconsin, Erik M. Redix identifies the “La Pointe” Oshoge as being a “St. Croix chief.”

That leaves us with the last mystery.  Is Ozhogens, the young son of the St. Croix chief Gaa-bimabi, the orator from La Pointe who played such a prominent role in the politics of the early 1850s?  I don’t have a smoking gun, but I feel the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests he is.  If that’s the case, it explains why those who’ve looked for his early history in the La Pointe Band have come up empty. 

However, important questions remain unanswered.  What was his connection to Buffalo? If he was from St. Croix, how was he able to gain such a prominent role in the La Pointe Band, and why did he relocate to La Pointe anyway?  I have my suspicions for each of these questions, but no solid evidence.  If you do, please let me know, and we’ll continue to shed light on this underappreciated Ojibwe leader.

 

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Folsom, William H. C., and E. E. Edwards. Fifty Years in the Northwest. St. Paul: Pioneer, 1888. Print.
KAPPLER’S INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES. Ed. Charles J. Kappler. Oklahoma State University Library, n.d. Web. 12 August 2013. <http:// digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/>.
Nichols, John, and Earl Nyholm. A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1995. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Redix, Erik M. “The Murder of Joe White: Ojibwe Leadership and Colonialism in Wisconsin.” Diss. University of Minnesota, 2012. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. The Voice of the Crane Echoes Afar: The Sociopolitical Organization of the Lake Superior Ojibwa, 1640-1855. New York: Garland Pub., 1997. Print.
———–William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers: With Brief Notices of Passing Events, Facts, and Opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842. Philadelphia, [Pa.: Lippincott, Grambo and, 1851. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

      

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

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

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

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

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


Lapointe. Dec. 28th 1850

Brother Wheeler:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yours

S. Hall.

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

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

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

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

Lapointe, Feb. 24th 1851.

Mrs. Wheeler,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours Truly,

S. Hall

[Written in margins]

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

Mary goes to school and is doing very well.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad River

Sept 6, 1850

Dear Friend,

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

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

Very truly yours

L. H. Wheeler

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

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

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

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

Leonard H. Wheeler (Wisconsin Historical Society)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perish?

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

La Pointe

Aug 9th 1851

Friend Warren

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

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

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

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

Your friend

       J. S. Watrous

W. W. Warren Esq.}

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

                                                                                                                        JSW

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

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

Maangozid’s Family Tree

April 14, 2013

(Amos Butler, Wikimedia Commons) I couldn’t find a picture of Maangozid on the internet, but loon is his clan, and “loon foot” is the translation of his name. The Northeast Minnesota Historical Center in Duluth has a photograph of Maangozid in the Edmund Ely papers. It is reproduced on page 142 of The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely 1833-1849 (2012) ed. Theresa Schenck.

In the various diaries, letters, official accounts, travelogues, and histories of this area from the first half of the nineteenth century, there are certain individuals that repeatedly find their way into the story. These include people like the Ojibwe chiefs Buffalo of La Pointe, Flat Mouth of Leech Lake, and the father and son Hole in the Day, whose influence reached beyond their home villages. Fur traders, like Lyman Warren and William Aitken, had jobs that required them to be all over the place, and their role as the gateway into the area for the American authors of many of these works ensure their appearance in them. However, there is one figure whose uncanny ability to show up over and over in the narrative seems completely disproportionate to his actual power or influence. That person is Maangozid (Loon’s Foot) of Fond du Lac.

Naagaanab, a contemporary of Maangozid (Undated, Newberry Library Chicago)

In fairness to Maangozid, he was recognized as a skilled speaker and a leader in the Midewiwin religion. His father was a famous chief at Sandy Lake, but his brothers inherited that role. He married into the family of Zhingob (Shingoop, “Balsam”) a chief at Fond du Lac, and served as his speaker. Zhingob was part of the Marten clan, which had produced many of Fond du Lac’s chiefs over the years (many of whom were called Zhingob or Zhingobiins). Maangozid, a member of the Loon clan born in Sandy Lake, was seen as something of an outsider. After Zhingob’s death in 1835, Maangozid continued to speak for the Fond du Lac band, and many whites assumed he was the chief. However, it was younger men of the Marten clan, Nindibens (who went by his father’s name Zhingob) and Naagaanab, who the people recognized as the leaders of the band.

Certainly some of Maangozid’s ubiquity comes from his role as the outward voice of the Fond du Lac band, but there seems to be more to it than that.  He just seems to be one of those people who through cleverness, ambition, and personal charisma, had a knack for always being where the action was.  In the bestselling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks all about these types of remarkable people, and identifies Paul Revere as the person who filled this role in 1770s Massachusetts. He knew everyone, accumulated information, and had powers of persuasion.  We all know people like this.  Even in the writings of uptight government officials and missionaries, Maangozid comes across as friendly, hilarious, and most of all, everywhere.

Recently, I read The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely 1833-1849 (U. of Nebraska Press; 2012), edited by Theresa Schenck. There is a great string of journal entries spanning from the Fall of 1836 to the summer of 1837.  Maangozid, feeling unappreciated by the other members of the band after losing out to Nindibens in his bid for leadership after the death of Zhingob, declares he’s decided to become a Christian.  Over the winter, Maangozid visits Ely regularly, assuring the stern and zealous missionary that he has turned his back on the Midewiwin.  The two men have multiple fascinating conversations about Ojibwe and Christian theology, and Ely rejoices in the coming conversion.  Despite assurances from other Ojibwe that Maangozid has not abandoned the Midewiwin, and cold treatment from Maangozid’s wife, Ely continues to believe he has a convert.  Several times, the missionary finds him participating in the Midewiwin, but Maangozid always assures Ely that he is really a Christian.

J.G. Kohl (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s hard not to laugh as Ely goes through these intense internal crises over Maangozid’s salvation when its clear the spurned chief has other motives for learning about the faith.  In the end, Maangozid tells Ely that he realizes the people still love him, and he resumes his position as Mide leader.  This is just one example of Maangozid’s personality coming through the pages.

If you’re scanning through some historical writings, and you see his name, stop and read because it’s bound to be something good.  If you find a time machine that can drop us off in 1850, go ahead and talk to Chief Buffalo, Madeline Cadotte, Hole in the Day, or William Warren. The first person I’d want to meet would be Maangozid.  Chances are, he’d already be there waiting.

Anyway, I promised a family tree and here it is.  These pages come from Kitchi-Gami: wanderings round Lake Superior (1860) by Johann Georg Kohl.  Kohl was a German adventure writer who met Maangozid at La Pointe in 1855.

pl

When Kitchi-Gami was translated from German into English, the original French in the book was left intact.  Being an uncultured hillbilly of an American, I know very little French.  Here are my efforts at translating using my limited knowledge of Ojibwe, French-Spanish cognates, and Google Translate.  I make no guarantees about the accuracy of these translations.  Please comment and correct them if you can.

1) This one is easy. This is Gaadawaabide, Maangozid’s father, a famous Sandy Lake chief well known to history.  Google says “the one with pierced teeth.” The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary translates it as “he had a gap in his teeth.”  Most 19th-century sources call him Broken Tooth, La Breche, or Katawabida (or variants thereof).

2) Also easy–this is the younger Bayaaswaa, the boy whose father traded his life for his when he was kidnapped by the Meskwaki (Fox) (see post from March 30, 2013).  Bayaaswaa grew to be a famous chief at Sandy Lake who was instrumental in the 18th-century Ojibwe expansion into Minnesota.  Google says “the man who makes dry.”  The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary lists bayaaswaad as a word for the animate transitive verb “dry.”

3) Presumably, this mighty hunter was the man Warren called Bi-aus-wah (Bayaaswaa) the Father in History of the Ojibways.  That isn’t his name here, but it was very common for Anishinaabe people to have more than one name.  It says “Great Skin” right on there.  Google has the French at “the man who carries a large skin.”  Michiiwayaan is “big animal skin” according to the OPD.

4)  Google says “because he had very red skin” for the French.  I don’t know how to translate the Ojibwe or how to write it in the modern double-vowel system.

5)  Weshki is a form of oshki (new, young, fresh).  This is a common name for firstborn sons of prominent leaders.  Weshki was the name of Waabojiig’s (White Fisher) son, and Chief Buffalo was often called in Ojibwe Gichi-weshki, which Schoolcraft translated as “The Great Firstborn.”

6) “The Southern Sky” in both languages.  Zhaawano-giizhig is the modern spelling.  For an fascinating story of another Anishinaabe man, named Zhaawano-giizhigo-gaawbaw (“he stands in the southern sky”), also known as Jack Fiddler, read Killing the Shamen by Thomas Fiddler and James R. Stevens.  Jack Fiddler (d.1907), was a great Oji-Cree (Severn Ojibway) chief from the headwaters of the Severn River in northern Ontario.  His band was one of the last truly uncolonized Indian nations in North America.  He commited suicide in RCMP custody after he was arrested for killing a member of his band who had gone windigo.

7) Google says, “the timber sprout.”  Mitig is tree or stick.  Something along the lines of sprouting from earth makes sense with “akosh,” but my Ojibwe isn’t good enough to combine them correctly in the modern spelling.  Let me know if you can.

8) Google just says, “man red head.” Red Head is clearly the Ojibwe meaning also–miskondibe (OPD).

9) “The Sky is Afraid of the Man”–I can’t figure out how to write this in the modern Ojibwe, but this has to be one of the coolest names anyone has ever had.

**UPDATE** 5/14/13

Thank you Charles Lippert for sending me the following clarifications:
“Kadawibida    Gaa-dawaabide    Cracked Tooth
Bajasswa    Bayaaswaa    Dry-one
Matchiwaijan    Mechiwayaan    Great Hide
Wajki        Weshki    Youth
Schawanagijik    Zhaawano-giizhig    Southern Skies
Mitiguakosh    Mitigwaakoonzh    Wooden beak
Miskwandibagan    Miskwandibegan    Red Skull
Gijigossekot    Giizhig-gosigwad    The Sky Fears

“I am cluless on Wajawadajkoa. At first I though it might be a throat word (..gondashkwe) but this name does not contain a “gon”. Human skin usually have the suffix ..azhe, which might be reflected here as aja with a 3rd person prefix w.”

pl

Kohl’s Kitchi-Gami is a very nice, accessible introduction to the culture of this area in the 1850s.  It’s a little light on the names, dates, and events of the narrative political history that I like so much, but it goes into detail on things like houses, games, clothing, etc.

There is a lot to infer or analyze from these three pages.  What do you think?  Leave a comment, and look out for an upcoming post about Tagwagane, a La Pointe chief who challenges the belief that “the Loon totem [is] the eldest and noblest in the land.”

Sources:
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Kohl, J. G. Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings round Lake Superior. London: Chapman and Hall, 1860. Print.
Miller, Cary. Ogimaag: Anishinaabeg Leadership, 1760-1845. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2010. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.