By Amorin Mello

A curious series of correspondences from Morgan

… continued from Copper Harbor Redux.

 


 

1845 daily union header

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

August 29, 1845.

EDITOR’S CORRESPONDENCE.

[From our regular correspondent.]

ST. LOUIS, Mo.  Aug. 19, 1845.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father Antoine "Louis" Hennepin ~ Wikipedia.org

Father Antoine “Louis” Hennepin
~ Wikipedia.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who were these plagiarizers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

MORGAN.

 


 

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

The End.

By Amorin Mello

A curious series of correspondences from Morgan

… continued from The Copper Region.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
August 9, 1845.

La Pointe, Lake Superior

July 26, 1845

To the Editor of the Union:

1843 View of La Pointe ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

View of La Pointe, circa 1843.
“American Fur Company with both Mission churches. Sketch purportedly by a Native American youth. Probably an overpainted photographic copy enlargement. Paper on a canvas stretcher.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

I have just time to state that, having spent five days at Copper Harbor, examining the copper mine, &c. at that place, and having got everything in readiness, we set off for this place, along the coast, in an open Mackinac boat, travelling by day, and camping out at night.  We reached this post on yesterday, the 25th instant.  We have now been under tents 21 nights.  In coming up the shore of the lake, we on one occasion experienced a tremendous rain accompanied with thunder, which wetted our things to a considerable extent, and partly filled the boat with water.

On our way we spent a good part of a day at Eagle river, and examined the mine in the process of being worked at that place, but found it did not equal our expectations.

We also stopped at the Ontonagon, the mineral region bordering which, some fifteen miles from the lake, promises to be as good as any other portion of the mineral region, if not better.

I have not time at present to enter fully into the results of observations I have made, or to describe the incidents and adventures of the long journey I have performed along the lake shore for the distance of about 500 miles, from Sault Ste. Marie to La Pointe.  There are many things I wish to say, and to describe, &c.; but as the schooner “Uncle Tom,” by which I write, is just about leaving, I have not time at present.  I must reserve these things for a future opportunity.

I am, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

MORGAN.

P.S. – I set off in a day or two for the Mississippi and Falls of St. Anthony, via the Brulé and St. Croix rivers.

Yours, &c., M.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
August 25, 1845

EDITOR’S CORRESPONDENCE

[From our regular Northern correspondant.]

La Pointe, Lake Superior,

July 28, 1845.

Morgan’s last letter of this date was published earlier on Chequamegon History as The Copper Region for continuity after Copper Harbor.

In what I said in my last letter of this date, in relation to the extent, value, and prospects of the copper-mines opened on Lake Superior, I had no wish to dampen the ardor, would the feelings or injure the interest of any one concerned.  My only wish is to state facts.  This, in all cases, I feel it my duty to do; although, in so doing, as in the present case, my individual interest suffers thereby.  Could I have yielded to the impulses and influences prevailing in the copper region, I might have been greatly benefited in a pecuniary point of view by pursuing a different course ; but, knowing those whom I represented, as well as the public and the press for which I write, wanted the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I could do nothing less than make the statement I did.  Previous to visiting the country, I could, of course, know nothing of its real character.  I had to judge, like others, from published reports of its mineral wealth, accompanied with specimens, &c., which appeared very flattering; but which, I am now convinced, have been rather overdrawn, and the mineral region set out larger and richer than it really is.  The authors of the reports were, doubtlessly, actuated by pure motives.  They, no doubt, had a wish, in laying down the boundaries of the mineral region, so to extend it as to leave out no knoll or range of trap-rock, or other formation, if any indicative of mineral deposites, which usually appear in connexion with them, occurred.

I consider, in conclusion, that the result thus far is this: that the mines opened may possibly, in their prosecution, lead to rich and permanent veins; and probably pay or yield something, in some cases, while exploring them.  But, however rich the specimens of one raised, at present there is nothing in them, geologically speaking, that indicates, conclusively, that they have reached a vein, or that the mines will continue permanently as rich as they are at present.  This would be my testimony, according to the best of “my knowledge and belief,” on the witness’s stand, under oath.

"The remarkable copper-silver "halfbreed" specimen shown above comes from northern Michigan's Portage Lake Volcanic Series, an extremely thick, Precambrian-aged, flood-basalt deposit that fills up an ancient continental rift valley." ~ Shared from James St. John under the Creative Commons license

“The remarkable copper-silver ‘halfbreed’ specimen shown above comes from northern Michigan’s Portage Lake Volcanic Series, an extremely thick, Precambrian-aged, flood-basalt deposit that fills up an ancient continental rift valley.”
~ Creative Commons from James St. John

That the region, as before said, is rich in copper and silver ores, cannot be denied.  And I think the indications that veins may or do exist somewhere in great richness, are sufficiently evident to justify continued explorations in search of them, by those who have the means and leisure to follow them up  for several years.  To find the veins, and most permanent deposites, must be the work of time; and as the season is short, on Lake Superior, for such operations, several years may be necessary before a proper and practical examination can be made of the country.

The general features of Lake Superior are very striking, and differ very much in appearance from what I have ever met with in any other part of the continent.  The vastness and depth of such a body of pure fresh cold water so far within the continent, is an interesting characteristic.  When we consider it is over 900 feet deep, with an area of over 30,000 square miles, and yet that, throughout its whole extent, it presents as pure and as fresh-tasted water as though it were taken from a mountain brook, the question naturally arises, Where can such a vast supply of pure water come from?  It is true, it has great many streams flowing into it, but they are nearly all quite small, and would seem to be wholly inadequate to supply such a vast mass of water, and preserve it in such a state of purity.  The water supplied by most of the rivers is far less pure than that in the lake itself.  East of Keweena point, we found the water of the rivers discolored, being tinged by pine and other roots, clay, &c., often resembling the hue of New England rum.  Such rivers, or all combined, would seem to be inadequate to supply such a vast quantity of pure clear water as fills this inland ocean!

Uncertainty in the Great Lakes Water Balance (2005)
~ United States Geological Survey

It is possible that this great lake is freely supplied with water from subterranean springs opening into it from below.  The river St. Mary’s also seems inadequate, from its size, to discharge as much water as comes into the lake from the rivers which it receives.  In this case, evaporation may be so great as to diminish the water that would otherwise pass out at it.

As relates to tides in the other lakes, we have nothing to say; but, as far as Lake Superior is concerned, we feel assured, from observation, as well as from the reports of others upon whom we can rely, that there are tides in it – variously estimated at from 8 to 12 inches; influenced, we imagine, by the point of observation, and the season of the year at which such tides are noticed.

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

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

What strikes the voyageur with the most interest, in the way of scenery, is the wild, high, bold, and precipitous coast of the southern shore, for such much of the whole distance between Grand Sable and La Pointe, and, indeed, for some distance beyond La Pointe ; the picturesque appearance of which often seemed heightened to us, as on a clear morning, or late afternoon, or voyageurs would conduct our boat for miles near their bases.  Above us, the cliffs would rise in towering heights, while the bald eagle would be soaring in grand circular flights above their summits; our voyageurs, at the same time, chanting in chorus many of their wildest boat songs, as we glided along on the smooth and silent bosom of the lake.  I have heard songs among various nations, and in various parts of the world; but, whether it was the wild scenery resting in solemn grandeur before me, with the ocean-like waste of water around us, which lent wilderness to the song, I never listened to any which appeared to sing a verse in solo, and then repeat a chorus, in which the whole crew would join.  This would often be continued for several miles at a time, as the boat glided forward over smooth water, or danced along over the gentle swells of a moderate sea; the voyageurs, at the same moment, keeping time with their oars.

Jean Baptiste, our pilot, had an excellent voice, full, loud, and strong.  He generally led off, in singing; the others falling in at the choruses.  All their songs were in French, sometimes sentimental or pathetic, sometimes comic, and occasionally extempore, made, as sung, from the occurrences of the preceding day, or suggested by passing scenes.

The Chippewa Indians are poor singers; yet they have songs (such as they are) among them; one of which is a monotonous air repeated at their moccasin games.

Stereographic view of a moccasin game, by J. H. Hamilton, circa 1880. ~ University of Minnesota Duluth

Stereographic view of a moccasin game, by J. H. Hamilton, 1880. 
~ University of Minnesota Duluth

Next to the love of liquor, many of the Indians have a most unconquerable passion for gambling.  While at La Pointe, I had an opportunity of seeing them play their celebrated moccasin game.  They were to the number of two, or three aside, seated on the ground opposite to each other, which a blanket spread out between them, on which were placed four or five moccasins.  The had two lead bullets, one of which was made rough, while the other remained smooth.  Two f the gamesters were quite young men, with their faces painted with broad horizontal red and blue stripes, their eyelashes at the same time being dyed of a dark color.  They played the game, won and lost, with as much sang froid as old and experienced gamblers.  Those who sat opposite, especially one of them, was much older, but no means a match, at the time of my visit, for the young rascals, his antagonists.  One takes the balls in his hands, keeps his eye directly on the countenance of the opposite party, at the same time tossing the balls in his hands, and singing, in a changing voice, words which sound somewhat like “He-he-hy-er-he-he-hy-er-haw-haw-haw-yer.  He-he-hy-er,” &c.  During which he keeps raising, shifting, and putting down the moccasins, till, finally, he raises his hands, having succeeded in concealing the balls under two of the moccasins, for which the other proceeds to search; and if he succeeds, on the first trial, in finding the rough ball, he wins.  Then he takes the balls to hide, and commences singing himself.  If he fails, he loses; and the first party repeats the song and the secretion of the balls.  They hold in their hands small bundles of splinters of wood.  When one loses, he gives to the winner so many sticks of wood.  A certain number of them gained by any one of the party, wins the game.  When I saw them, they had staked up their beads, belts, garters, knife-cases, &c.  Their love of gaming is so strong, as to cause them to bet and lose everything they possess in the world – often stripping the last blanket from their naked backs, to stake on the game.  It is said that some Indians acquire so much dexterity at this game, that others addicted to it refuse to play with them.  In playing the game, they keep up a close watch on each other’s eyes, as being the best index to the movement of the hands.  The song is repeated, no doubt, to diver the attention of the antagonists.

Among other peculiarities of Lake Superior, and one of its greatest recommendations, is the abundance and superiority of its fish, consisting of trout of large size, white fish, siskomit, ( a species of salmon,) and bass.  The trout and siskomit are the finest and noblest fresh-water fish I ever saw.  Almost every day we could catch trout by trailing a hook and line in the water behind out boat.  In this way we caught one fine siskomit.  Its meat, when fresh-cooked, we found about the color of salmon.  The fish itself is about as heavy as a common-sized salmon, but less flat, being more round in form.

Detail of "The 12 Apostles" from Captain Jonathan Carver's journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766. ~ Boston Public Library

Detail of “The 12 Apostles” from Captain Jonathan Carver’s journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766.
~ Boston Public Library

If you will look at a map of Lake Superior, you will find, near its upper end, a labyrinth of islands, called by the early French voyageurs, of whom P. Charlevoix was one, (a Jesuit,) “the Madelaine islands.”  They are sometimes called “the Twelve Apostles.”  The largest island is now generally known as “the Madelaine island” – being the largest of the group.  Just inside, and near its southern extremity, at the head of a large, regular bay, with a sandy beach, with an open and gently-rising scattered pine and spruce land in the rear of the beach, stands La Pointe – one of the most pleasant, beautiful, and desirable places for a residence on Lake Superior, and the very place where Fort Wilkins should have been placed, instead of its present location, which must be conceded, by every impartial person, to be among the very worst that could have been selected on the whole lake.

The garrison at Copper harbor, located, as it is, upon the rocky surface of trap conglomerate, affording a surface so scantily supplied with soil amidst masses of pebbly rock and trap fragments as to be wholly unfit for any sort of cultivation whatever, is altogether out of place.  It is wholly inaccessible by land, and can only be reached by water in summer.  It is at a spot where Indians usually never passed within forty miles of it, till since its occupation.

Detail of the mail route between La Pointe and St. Croix falls. ~ A new map of the State of Wisconsin, by Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1850

Detail of the Indian trail or “mail route” between La Pointe and St. Anthony Falls.
~ A new map of the State of Wisconsin, by Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1850

The very next Congress should direct its prompt removal to La Pointe.  Here, from the foot of the bay in front of the Madelaine island, there is an Indian trail, connecting La Pointe with St. Anthony’s Falls, and over which the mail is carried in winter by voyageurs on foot.  La Pointe is the favorite resort of the Indians.  Their lodges, in villages, bark canoes, &c. are found here the year round.

They delight to paddle and sail their canoes about the beautiful bays, harbors, &c. of these islands, employing their time in canoe building, hunting, fishing, &c.  At every annual payment of their annuities, they flock to La Pointe in great numbers.  Not only is that section of the great Chippewa nation sharing in the annuities brought together, but large parties of the same tribe, who receive no annuity, come at the same time from the British possessions to the north of Pigeon river.  The Chippewas, called the “Pillageurs,” (so called from their thievish propensities,) inhabiting the country about Mille and Leech lakes, also attend – to meet relations, to traffic , and, perhaps, to steal a little.  The great advantage of a government outpost is felt in the moral effect it exercises over the Indians.  I know of no place where this influence would be more decidedly and beneficially exerted than at La Pointe.  here should be daily unfurled the “stars and stripes,” and the sound of the evening gun be heard over the beautiful bays, and along the shores of the Twelve Apostles, which the Indians would learn to reverence with little less respect than they do the voice of the Manitou – the guardian spirit of the mines, embowelled in the dark trap hills of the lake.

Here, too, is an exceedingly healthy place, a good soil, and every convenience for raising the finest potatoes, turnips, and every kind of garden stuff.

borup

1856 oil painting of Doctor Charles William Wulff Borup, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark.  Borup married Elizabeth Beaulieu, a Lake Superior Chippewa daughter of Bazil Hudon Beaulieu and Ogimaagizzhigokwe.  Borup and his brothers-in-law Charles Henry Oakes and Clement Hudon Beaulieu were co-signers of the 1842 Treaty with the Chippewa at La Pointe.  Borup and Oakes became the first bankers of Minnesota.

Dr. Borup, the agent for the American Fur Company, (who have an extensive trading-post at this place,) has a superb garden.  In walking through it with him, I saw very fine crops of the usual garden vegetables growing in it.  His red currant bushes were literally bent down beneath their weight of ripe fruit.  His cherry-trees had also borne well.  Gooseberries also succeed well.  The doctor also had some young apple-trees, that were in a thriving condition.  Poultry, likewise, does well.  Mrs. B. had her yard well stocked with turkeys, geese, ducks, and chickens.  There was also a good garden at the mission-house of the American board.

However infinitely better is such a place for a United States garrison than Copper harbor, located, as it were, on a barren rock, where no Indians are seen, unless induced to go there by the whites – where there is nothing to protect – where intercourse is cut off in winter, and food can only reach it in summer – where there is no soil on which to raise a potato or a cabbage.  I can only say that a greater blunder, in the location of a military post, was probably never committed.  And if made (of which I am assured it was not) by a military man, he ought to be court-martialed and cashiered.

The mouth of the Ontonagon river is a far better spot for the fort than Copper harbor.  It has a good soil, and a beautiful site for a fort.  Furthermore, the country between it and Fort Winnebago, on the Wisconsin river, is favorable to the construction of a military road, which ought, at no distant day, to be opened.  Another road should be cut from Fort Snelling, near the falls of St. Anthony, to La Pointe.  In cutting these roads, it would seem to me as if the United States soldiers themselves might be usefully employed.

Fort Wilkins (1844-1870) – First established in 1844 at Copper Harbor in Keweenaw County, Michigan. Constructed by two companies of the 5th U.S. Infantry under General Hugh Brady and Captain R.E. Cleary. Named after Secretary of War William Wilkins. Abandoned in 1870.”
~ FortWiki.com

While at Copper harbor, I frequently visited Fort Wilkins, in command of Captain Cleary, whom I consider in every way an ornament and an honor to the service.  In the brief space of time he has been at this post, and with the slender materials at command afforded by the country, he has nevertheless succeeded in making an “oasis” in a wilderness.  He has erected one of the neatest, most comfortable, and best-planned garrisons it has been my lot to enter on the western frontier.  He keeps all in excellent condition.  His men look clean, healthy, and active.  He drills them daily, and keeps them under most excellent discipline.  He seems to take both pleasure and ride in the service.  He says he never has any difficulty with is soldiers while he can exclude ardent spirits from them, as he succeeds in doing here, notwithstanding the great number of visitors to Copper harbor this summer.

To all travellers who are interested in objects of leading curiosity, the character of the Indians they fall in with cannot fail to arrest a share of attention.

The Chippewas are the only Indians now met with from the Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac, extending from thence west along the southern shore of Lake Superior, to Fond du Lac, and from thence, in the same direction, to the Mississippi river.  Within the United States they extend over the country south from the British boundary, to the country low down on the St. Croix and Chippewa rivers.  The same tribe extends from our boundary northwest of the lake, entirely around its northern shore on British territory, till they reach the Sault Ste. Marie, opposite the American shore.  It is said this tribe, spread over such a vast tract of country, is a branch of the powerful race of the Algonquins.  They are sometimes called O-jib-was.  They do not exist as a consolidated nation, or strictly as a confederation of bands.  The entire nation on both sides of the line is divided into a great number of bands, with a chief at the head of each, which not uncommonly go by his name, such as “Old Martin’s band,” “Hole in the Day’s band,” &c.

Big Marten (Gichi-waabizheshi ), his son(?) Little Marten (Waabizheshiins), and their band(s) were featured in The Copper Region.
Hole-In-The-Day the Elder (Bagone-giizhig) (1801-1847) was the father of Hole-In-The-Day the Younger (1825-1868).  They and their band(s) were among the Pillageurs.

The chief’s son, especially if he exhibits the right qualities, is expected to succeed his father at the head of the band; but very frequently the honor is reached by usurpation.  The whole nation, which widely differ in circumstances, according to the part of the country they inhabit, nevertheless all speak the Chippewa language, and have extensive connexion by marriage, &c.  The bands inhabiting the southern shore of Lake Superior are by far the best of any others.  Though polygamy still prevails among them, and especially among their chiefs, it is nevertheless said to be becoming less common, especially where they are much influenced by Catholic and other missions.  While at La Pointe, an Indian wedding was consummated, being conducted according to the ceremonies of the Catholic church, and performed by the missionary priest of that persuasion stationed at the Pointe.

There is one trait of character possessed by the Chippewas, (if we except, perhaps, the band of “pillageurs,” who have a kind of “Bedouin Arab” reputation among their countrymen,) which, I am sorry to say, the whites do not possess in an equal degree – that is, “very great honesty.”

White men can travel among them with the most perfect safety as to life and property.  I will venture to say, that a man may carry baskets filled with gold and silver, and set them down in Indian villages, or leave them lying where he likes, or go to sleep by them, with Indians encamped all around him, and not one cent will be touched.  Such a thing as a house being broken open and robbed at a Chippewa Indian trading-post was never heard of – within between two and three years’ intercourse with them – in time of peace.  Dr. Borup said he would not be afraid, if concealed to look on, to leave his store door open all night; and the fact alone of its being left open, might be made known to the Indians at the Pointe.  He would expect to see no Indian enter the store, nor would he expect to lose anything; such was his confidence in their honesty!!

Prices of goods at La Pointe were artificially inflated by Indian traders because they lacked competition in this remote region and could be reimbursed with treaty annuities.  Read the 1848 La Pointe Annuity Payments to learn more about Borup’s role in these corrupt affairs.

Last winter, flour at the Pointe rose to $40 per barrel.  The poor Indians were nearly famished for bread, but were unable to purchase it at such a price.  They knew the American Fur Company had a considerable lot in store, guarded by nothing stronger than a padlock, yet they never offered the least violence towards the company’s agents or store!  Would white people have acted as honestly?  The poor Indians, by nature honest, have too often known the whites by the wrongs inflicted upon them, which God can forgive, but time can never blot out!  They are very superstitious, but not as basely and insanely so, but a great deal, as the Mormons, Millerites, and other moon-stricken sects among the whites.  They believe in one Great and Good Spirit, or a Being who can at will inflict good or evil on mankind; and there’s an end of it.  They often denominate the mysterious spirit of evil import the Manitou, making him to dwell in the wild hills, islands, grottoes, and caves of Lake Superior.

“In the rugged mountains of the Penokee Iron Range near Hurley in Iron County, in the former domain of the Chippewa Indians, were the reputed nesting places of the Thunderers (wassamowin lightning makers).
From these huge birds the Indians obtained their first knowledge of fire, which they kindled with fire-sticks. These mythical birds were the most powerful of the animal deities of the Indians of the woodlands and of the plains. When the weather was stormy they flew about high in the heavens. When they flapped their great wings, one heard the crashes of thunder, when they opened and closed their eyes flashes of lightning were seen. Some carried lakes of water on their backs, these slopped over and caused downpours of rain.  Their arrows, or thunderbolts, were the eggs which they dropped in their flight. These shattered the rocks and set fire to the forests and prairies.
A Chippewa Indian hunter, who was carried away to his nest by a Thunderer, saved his life by killing one of the young birds and flying back to earth in its feathered hide.
In the Smoky Mountains, a wild and rugged region in the southwestern part of Bayfield County, was the home of Winneboujou (Nenebozho), the fabled hero of the Ojibwa Indians. This all-powerful manitou was a blacksmith, and had his forge on the flat top of the highest mountain. Here he shaped the native copper of the Lake Superior region into useful implements for his Indian children. Much of his work at his forge was done at night, and the ringing blows of his great hammer could be heard throughout the Brule Valley and Lake Superior region. The fire of his forge reddened the sky. When he was not busy at his forge he was away hunting or seeking other adventures. Many stories of the exploits of this giant manitou have been told by the Chippewa and other Wisconsin Algonquian tribes.”
~ Legends of the Hills of Wisconsin by Dorothy Moulding Brown; The Wisconsin Archaeologist, Volume 18, Number 1, 1937, pages 20-21.

At times, it is said, a peculiar noise issues from the Porcupine mountains, and from the high hills on the main land, both east and west of La Pointe, some distance off.  It is said to resemble the distant discharge of ordnance, or thunder.  At one time, they said it was so loud and frequent, that they mistook it for signal guns fired from the brig Astor, which they thought might be in distress, and actually sent out a boat in search of her.

"Ojibwe shoulder pouch depicting two thunderbirds in quillwork, Peabody Museum Harvard." ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

“Ojibwe shoulder pouch depicting two thunderbirds in quillwork, Peabody Museum, Harvard University.”
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

These sounds the Indians believe to be the voice of the spirit “Manitou,” who guards the deposites of mineral wealth embowelled beneath the hills, and to whom any attempt made to dig them up, and carry them off, would be highly offensive, and followed by some kind of punishment.  I have never yet heard of an Indian’s leading a white man to a locality of copper, or telling where he has found a piece when picked up!

Some have supposed that the noise in question arises from volcanic action; but, as no vibration is felt in the earth, and no other proof exists of such being the case, we are led to believe that the noise is produced by the lashing of the waves of the lake after a storm, as they are driven forward into the grottoes, caves, &c. of the tall sandstone cliffs, formed at their bases by the disintegrating effects of water and ice.  Some distance east of La Pointe, about the Little Girl’s Point and Montreal river, as well as west of the same place, some fifteen or twenty miles, high red sandstone cliffs occur.  At their bases, near the water’s edge, a great many curiously-shaped caves and grottoes appeared.  In places, the sandstone had been so cut away, that only pillars remained standing at some ten or fifteen feet in the lake, from the top of which a high rude arch would extend to the main shore, and beneath which boats could  easily pass.  This was particularly the case near where the islands are parted with going west up the southern shore of the lake.  Some caves, with small openings for mouths, run for a long distance back beneath the hills, expanding, likely, into large halls with high vaulted roofs, &c.  After a storm, a heavy sea continues to roll into these grottoes and caverns, the waves lashing themselves against their sides and roofs – thus producing sounds resembling those heard at La Pointe, &c.

As the weather is generally calm after a storm, before the sea goes down, it is likely at such times these sounds are heard.

We had occasion to pass these places when a considerable sea would be on, close to the cliffs, and could hear the hollow heavy sounds of the waves as they broke into the caverns within the cliffs and hills.  Every day, while we remained, parties of Indians continued to arrive, to be present at the payment.

James P. Hays was in charge of the La Point Indian Subagency (1844-1848).

We finally became prepared to leave for the Mississippi, having bought two bark canoes, and hired four new voyageurs – two for each canoe – one Indian, one half-breed, and two descendants of Canadian French; and, with a stock of provisions, we were ready to be off.  From this place, I sent back three voyageurs to the Sault Ste. Marie, all that I hired to come as far as La Pointe.  So, after paying our respects to Mr. Hays, our worthy Indian agent, and to Dr. Borup, (to both of whom I had borne letters of introduction,) and having many “bon voyages” heaped upon us by our friends and the friends of the voyageurs, we bade adieu to La Pointe.

You will not hear from me again till I reach the Falls of St. Croix.

I am yours, very truly, &c.

MORGAN.

 


 

To be continued in Saint Croix Falls

Note:  This is the second of four posts about Lt. James Allen, his ten American soldiers and their experiences on the St. Croix and Brule rivers.  They were sent from Sault Ste. Marie to accompany the 1832 expedition of Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft to the source of the Mississippi River.  Each of the posts will give some general information about the expedition and some pages from Allen’s journal.   

The expedition made good time along the south shore of Lake Superior, with the soldiers in the larger Mackinac boats and the rest of the group in smaller and faster canoes.  At the mouth of the Brule River, they got lucky.  They met an Ojibwe named Ozaawindib (Yellow Head) who was part of the Cass Lake band and who considered the headwaters of the Mississippi part of his hunting territory.

He agreed to guide the group all the way past Fond du Lac, across the portages to Sandy Lake, and up the Mississippi to what the Ojibwe called Omashkooz (Elk) Lake and the French called Lac la Biche.  Possibly thinking that a lake already possessing an indigenous and a European name wouldn’t need to be “discovered,” Schoolcraft renamed it Lake Itasca and told the world he had found the source of the Mississippi (Ozaawindib’s hunting camp).

  • (Side note:  if the last paragraph seemed a little cynical, I apologize.  I hate stories about “discoveries” that aren’t really discoveries.  I’m pretty sure that’s why it took me so long to read this book.  I need to get over this prejudice, or I’m going to miss something good.  Still, you won’t see many “First [insert name of WASP] to visit [insert natural feature well known to Native, nonwhite, or Catholic people]stories on this site).    

Eshkibagikoonzhe (Guelle Platte; Flatmouth), chief of Leech Lake band is a towering figure in the history of the upper Mississippi country in the early 19th century. He gave Schoolcraft and company a friendly but clear demonstration of the limits of American power (Minnesota Historical Society).

Schoolcraft’s relative ease (due to having mix-blood and Ojibwe guides and paddlers) in reaching Elk Lake caused him to remark that the Ojibwe would have to accept American authority now that Government officials and soldiers could penetrate that far into their territory.  Of particular concern to him was the Leech Lake band.  Eshkibagikoonzhe (Flat Mouth) the chief was powerful and independent, and so was the rest of the band. When the expedition returned through Leech Lake, Allen had his dozen soldiers drill and parade, but Flat Mouth put it in friendly but very clear terms.  They were guests in his house.  (The expedition’s experiences in Leech Lake are great reading.  A short rundown here wouldn’t do them justice.  Read the introduction to Witgen’s An Infinity of Nations to get a very good analysis).

Schoolcraft and company took the Crow Wing route to the Mississippi and Fort Snelling (later Minneapolis), and met with more Ojibwe and Dakota bands along the way.  He came back north through the St. Croix and Brule to Lake Superior, returned to the Sault, and sent off a positive report of an efficient and effective trip to bring the Ojibwe under American domination.  All had gone according to plan, right?  Read on.

Pee-Che-Kir: a Chippewa Chief by Charles Bird King: This image of Bizhiki (the “Pee-ghee-kee” mentioned below) was originally painted in 1824 while the Snake River chief was part of a delegation to Washington D.C.  Bizhiki (Buffalo) is a name shared with a famous contemporary, Chief Buffalo of La Pointe (Wikimedia Commons).

The journal picks up July 29, 1832 on the St. Croix River.  The expedition has already reached the source of the Mississippi, proceeded downriver to Fort Snelling (Minneapolis) and was on its way back to Lake Superior. 

These pages document Allen’s journey up the St. Croix.  Schoolcraft, along with the expedition’s interpreter and doctor, are in canoes paddled by mix-blooded voyageurs and are making good time.  The soldiers are a few days back and falling farther behind each day.  They pass through the villages of the “St. Croix band.” The St. Croix Ojibwe are not a single unit, but have several villages and camps.  Their biggest villages are at Snake River and Yellow River, but the account also mentions the small village of the prominent chief  Gaa-bimabi (Keppameppa).  This was near present-day Gordon, Wisconsin.

Section of Allen’s map showing the St. Croix around Yellow River and Namakagon River. Ottawa Lake is Lac Courte Oreilles (reproduced by John Lindquist)

At this point, Allen is becoming increasingly angry at Schoolcraft for ditching the soldiers.  As he passes through the three Ojibwe villages, his racism towards Indians shifts from a comfortable sense of superiority to a fearful paranoia.

Placeholde

Doc. 323; pg 58

pl

Doc. 323, pg. 59

pl

Doc. 323, pg. 60
Allen’s journal is part of Phillip P. Mason’s edition of Schoolcraft’s Expedition to Lake Itasca: The Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi (1958). However, these Google Books pages come from the original publication as part of the United States Congress Serial Set.

To be continued…

Note:  This is the first of four posts about Lt. James Allen, his ten American soldiers and their experiences on the St. Croix and Brule rivers.  They were sent from Sault Ste. Marie to accompany the 1832 expedition of Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft to the source of the Mississippi River.  Each of the posts will give some general information about the expedition and some pages from Allen’s journal.  The journal picks up July 26, 1832, after the expedition has already reached the source, proceeded downriver to Fort Snelling (Minneapolis) and was on its way back to Lake Superior.   

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864)

Although I’ve been aware of it for some time, and have used parts of it before, I only recently read Henry Schoolcraft’s, Narrative of an Expedition Through the Upper Mississippi to Itasca Lake: The Actual Source of this River from cover to cover.  The book, first published in 1834, details Schoolcraft’s 1832 expedition through northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.  As Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie, he was officially sent by the Secretary of War, Lewis Cass, to investigate the ongoing warfare between the Ojibwe and Dakota Sioux.  His personal goal, however, was to reach the source of the Mississippi River and be recognized as its discoverer.

Schoolcraft’s expedition included a doctor to administer smallpox vaccinations, an interpreter (Schoolcraft’s brother-in-law), and a protestant missionary.  Having been west before, Schoolcraft knew what it would take to navigate the country.  He hired several mix-blooded voyageurs who are hardly mentioned in the narrative, but who paddled the canoes, carried the portage loads, shot ducks, and did the other work along the way.

Ozhaawashkodewekwe (Susan Johnston) was the mother-in-law of Schoolcraft and the mother of expedition interpreter George Johnston. Born in the Chequamegon region, she is a towering figure in the history of Lake Superior during the late British and early American periods.

Attached the the expedition was Lt. James Allen and a detachment of ten soldiers, whose purpose was to demonstrate American power over the Ojibwe lands.  The United States had claimed this land since the Treaty of Paris, but it was only after the War of 1812 that the British withdrew allowing American trading companies to move in.  Still, by 1832 the American government had very little reach beyond its outposts at the Sault, Prairie du Chien, and Fort Snelling.  The Ojibwe continued to trade with the British and war with the Dakota in opposition to their “Great Father” in Washington’s wishes.

This isn’t to say the Ojibwe were ignorant of the Americans and their military.  By 1832, the Ojibwe were well aware of and concerned about the chimookomaanag (long knives) and what they were doing to other Indian nations to the south and east.  However, the reality on the ground was that the Ojibwe were still in power in their lands.

Allen1

Doc. 323, pg 55

Doc. 323, pg. 56

Doc. 323, pg. 56

Doc. 323, pg. 57 Allen's journal is

Doc. 323, pg. 57
Allen’s journal is part of Phillip P. Mason’s edition of Schoolcraft’s Expedition to Lake Itasca:  The Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi (1958).  However, these Google Books pages come from the original publication as part of the United States Congress Serial Set.

To be continued…