By Amorin Mello

This is a reproduction of a memoir published by Ervin Barnes Leihy, who became known as Nigigoons (Little Otter) by the Chippewas of Bad River.  Leihy is emerging as of the more colorful characters from the post-1842 Treaty of La Pointe era in Chequamegon History, when he was one of the first non-natives to settle on the newly Ceded Territory surrounding La Pointe.  Leihy moved to the Falls of Bad River in 1846 where he built his sawmill.  After the 1854 Treaty, Leihy became associated with the Early Settlement of the Bad River Indian Reservation.  During the post-1860’s era, Leihy moved to Bayfield where he became a successful business person.  Leihy’s general store and brownstone house are still prominent buildings in Bayfield today.

 

Details of settlements on the La Pointe Reservation from Charles Whittlesey's 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.

Details of Ervin Leihy’s sawmill on the La Pointe Reservation from Charles Whittlesey‘s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range from Geology of Wisconsin: Volume III, plate XX-214.  Also shown are the Opinike (or Potatoe) River Property, Ironton, and McEwen’s Sawmill.

 

Bayfield County Press

March 31, 1900

[Transcribed and shared by Robert J. Nelson, 2016]

Incidents of Early Days on Lake Superior

At the Falls of Bad River

By Ervin Leihy

 

“Bayfield, Wis., June 3 [1901].
Ervin Leihy, one of the first white settlers to come to the northern part of Wisconsin died at his home in this city last week. He was born in Oswego county, N. Y., October 12, 1822. His early life was passed on a farm and at 18 moved to Illinois. Later he bought a farm at Bad River, Ashland county, and in 1846 moved onto it. In 1870 he moved to Bayfield, built his present home and opened a general store which he conducted for a number of years. While living at Bad River he was a member of the town and county boards of Ashland county for a number of years and in 1871 and 1872 was a member of the town board of Bayfield. Besides these he held numerous other offices. He was a public-spirited man, had plenty of means and was always ready to assist in anything that would tend to advance the interests of the town in which he resided.”
Wisconsin Weekly Advocate, June 6, 1901.

Next day our arrival at the Falls (October 5, 1846) was spent in looking over the surroundings.  The murmur of the stream, the stream itself and the surrounding scenery, reminded me of the scenes of my earliest recollections on the banks of the Salmon River, Oswego County, New York.  Here to his game in the forest, fish and the stream and sugar in the trees; and the soil is good.

Potatoes are worth one dollar per bushel and corn two dollars per bushel.  Those were my musings as I sat on a big rock at the head of the falls.  Here were many of the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life and all for the taking and no taxes to pay – all as free as air.

Captain Joseph Wood is reportedly the only person wounded during the 1835 Toledo War over the state boundary between Michigan and Ohio.

To say that I was delighted would be putting it mildly.  I asked the captain what were his plans.  He had none; he simply liked to live in the woods.  Here, let me digress.  Captain Wood was a man about 53 years old, had gained perhaps earned the prefix to his name during what was termed the “Toledo War,” early a squabble between the states of Ohio and Michigan for jurisdiction over a strip of land in which Toledo was the principal town.  Wood being deputy sheriff of Monroe County at that time was put in command of a company of Michigan troops to help all the claims of the state of Michigan.  Withal, a genial and agreeable companion.  Not much time was lost.

Detail of Bad River Falls omitted from Barber's second survey of 1856.

Detail of Leihy’s sawmill and Bad River Falls omitted from the Barber brothers’ survey of the La Pointe (Bad River) Reservation.

I have soon acquired a half interest in the “Hermitage” which consisted of a long, hut about 14 feet square, a fireplace in one corner, and covered with shakes; nearly an acre of cleared land, 20 or 30 bushels of potatoes and perhaps as many more of rutabaga; a couple of axes and a hoe or two.

Brother George had gone with his boat and men.  I began to talk to Capt. Wood about LaPointe of which I heard so much.  He finally said, “perhaps you would like to go there?”   I told him I certainly would.

Charles William Wulff Borup and Charles Henry Oakes married into the powerful Beaulieu Family of Ojibwe mixed-bloods traders.
In addition to their fur trade, the American Fur Company began prospecting for copper in 1845.

Well, we found our way to LaPointe, and an interesting place.  It certainly was.  Here the North American fur company was in full bloom, under the efficient management of Messrs. Borup and Oakes.  The traders, had already left with their outfits for their various stations at Lac du Flambeau, Lake Courerille, Sandy Lake, Leech Lake, Grand Portage and other points, not to return until May or June when they were expected to return laden with bear, beaver, otter, Fischer, Martin, mink and other valuable fur.

Reverend Sherman Hall ~ Madeline Island Museum

Reverend Sherman Hall
~ Madeline Island Museum

Here to was established a Catholic mission under the care of father Baraga; also a Presbyterian mission in under the care of Rev. Sherman Hall, and all in flourishing condition.
Fishing was also carried on to a considerable extent among the islands by the Fur company.  The side-wheeler Julia Palmer, have been hauled over the portage at the Soo and had just made one trip as far West as LaPointe.  The rest of the fleet on Lake Superior consisted of five small sail vessels, viz. the Merchant, Swallow, Algonquin, Fur Trader and the Chippewa.

James P. Hays was assigned to the La Pointe Indian sub-Agency in 1844.

A Mr. Hays was subbing in agent and Mr. Van Tassel was the government blacksmith at that time at LaPointe.

We stayed but a few days, procured a few necessary tools, some supplies for the winter and return to the Falls.

There were now [four] in camp.  Captain Joseph Wood, Charlie Rowley, John Smith and myself.  Wood, Smith and I went to work on the second house built in what is now Ashland County outside of LaPointe.

To be continued…

By Amorin Mello

Magazine of Western History Illustrated Volume IX No.1 Pages 12-17

Magazine of Western History Illustrated
November 1888
as republished in
Magazine of Western History: Volume IX, No. 1, pages 12-17.

ASHLAND, WISCONSIN:

ITS EARLY AND PRESENT DAYS.

Detail of Lapointe du Saint Espirit and Mission du Saint Espirit from Claude Allouez Map of New France, 1669. ~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Detail of Lapointe du Saint Espirit and Mission du Saint Espirit from Claude Allouez Map of New France, 1669.
~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

If the reader will look at the map of the United States, he will see on its northern boundary the largest body of fresh water in the world – Lake Superior, called by the Ojibways Kitche Gumi, “The Big Water.” It lies between 46 and 47 degrees north latitude, and stretches east and west through eight degrees of longitude. Its coast-line is nearly two thousand miles in extent, forming some of the finest natural harbors in the world. Its surface is six hundred and thirty feet above the ocean level, while its bottom in the deepest parts is four hundred feet below the level of the tide-waters. As you come from the east end of the lake, St. Mary’s river, approaching its western extremity, you will, from the deck of the steamer, notice a group of beautiful islands – the same islands which, more than two hundred years ago, met the gaze of Fathers Marquette, Allouez and Mesnard, and which, in their religious zeal, they named the “Apostles’ Islands,” thinking that in number they corresponded with the number of our Savior’s disciples. One of these they named “Madeline,” from a favorite saint of their own “Belle France,” and to commemorate one of the most noted churches of Paris.

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

These islands in ancient times were doubtless a part of the main, as was also the land now lying under Ashland bay. Underlying them was sandstone, rising from twenty to one hundred feet above the water, and horizontal. The great glaciers coming from the north, and moving in a southwest direction, cut channels in the sandstone, forming these islands, and scooping out of the solid rock the large basin which, in after years, received the name of Chaquamegon bay, and which is now known as Ashland bay. This was the first prophecy of the city of Ashland. In the times, millions of years before this, the vast deposits of iron ore had been upheaved and stored along the south shore of the lake, to subserve the designs of the Mighty Builder in the development of that commerce of which we now see but the earliest down, and of whose future extent we can form but a faint comprehension. Chaquamegon, Le Anse and Marquette bays are the natural outlets on Lake Superior for the rich mineral deposits which line its southern shore.

The formation of Ashland bay was therefore not accidental, but in harmony with Eternal plans. It is protected from the storms of the lake by a long, low, sandy point, and also by the Apostles’ islands. Into it open from the lake three broad channels, with a depth of water ample for the largest vessels, called the North, Middle and South channels. Under these islands, vessels coming from the wild storms of the open lake are secure. It is the sailor’s haven of safety.

1834 Map of LaPointe by Lyman Warren

1834 Map of LaPointe by Lyman Warren for the American Fur Company.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

The first settlement on the bay was made by the American Fur company in the early part of the present century, on the beautiful Madeline island, and named La Pointe. It continued for many years the headquarters of a flourishing fur and fishing trade. About 1830 a Protestant and, soon after, a Catholic mission were established there, and churches built by them, in which devoted missionaries labored to Christianize and civilize the Indians whose homes were here and in the surrounding country. Here toiled Rev. Sherman Hall, a missionary of the American board, and Rev. L. H. Wheeler, and also that devoted man, now known to us as Bishop Baraga. These have all passed away. La Pointe, then the most populous and active village on the lake, is now, alas, “The deserted village,” and is visited alone in veneration of its past memories.

Map inset of Chequamegon Bay with Houghton, LaPointe, Bayfield, Ashland, and Bay City.

Map inset of Chequamegon Bay with Houghton, LaPointe, Bayfield, Ashland, and Bay City.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

On the west shore of the bay, opposite La Pointe, is the beautiful town of Bayfield, founded by Honorable Henry. M. Rice in 1856. It is the terminus of the C., St. P., M. & O. railroad and the headquarters of a flourishing fish and lumber trade, and one of the most charming summer resorts on the lake.

On the west shore of the bay is also the flourishing town of Washburn – named in honor of Wisconsin’s governor, Cadwallader C. Washburn. It is the favorite town of the Omaha railroad, and has several large saw-mills, and is an active and enterprising town.

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

Asaph Whittlesey circa 1860.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

The first settlement on the spot where Ashland now stands was made, in 1854, by Asaph Whittlesey and George Kilborn, both natives of the Western Reserve, Ohio. The lands were not as yet surveyed, so that they could not preëmpt them, and there was as yet no Homestead law. For this reason they, with Martin Beaser, then living in Ontonagon, Michigan, laid claim, under the “Town Site” law, to about three hundred acres, embracing their log houses and small clearing. They platted this into town lots in 1855, and subsequently were allowed to enter their lands as claimed, and in due course received their title. In February, 1855, Edwin Ellis, a graduate in medicine, in the University of the City of New York, of the class of 1846, came on foot through the woods from St. Paul to the bay. He had been engaged in the practice of his profession in his native state – Maine – till 1854, when, attracted by the prospect of wider fields for enterprise in the new west, and by the advice of Judge D. A. J. Baker, his brother-in-law, then living in St. Paul, he came to Minnesota.

Edwin Ellis, M.D., died in Ashland on May 3rd, 1903. This portrait and a posthumous biography of Dr. Ellis is available on pages 16-18 of Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Lake Region by J.H. Beers & Co., 1905.

Edwin Ellis, M.D.
~ Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Lake Region by J.H. Beers & Co., 1905, pages 16-18.

The years 1853 to 1857 were years of wild speculation. The states of Wisconsin and Minnesota especially were covered with rising cities – at least on paper. Fabulous stories of rich silver, copper and iron mines on the south shore of Lake Superior attracted a multitude of active young men from the eastern states. The city of Superior had been laid out, and its lots were selling for fabulous prices. The penniless young man of to-day became the millionaire to-morrow. The consequent excitement was great, and in the event demoralizing.

The Bay of Ashland, stretching far in-land, the known vast deposits of iron near the Penokee Gap, whose natural route to market was evidently by Chaquamegon bay, indicated with moral certainty that at its head would rise a commercial mart which should command a wide extent of country. The vast forests of pine were then hardly thought of, and no efforts made to obtain them. The lands were unsurveyed, and all the “squatters” were, in the eye of the law, trespassers. Nevertheless, the new-comers ran “spotted” lines around their claims and built log-cabins to hold them, and began to clear up the land. In June, 1855, Dr. Ellis went on foot to St. Paul, and thence to Dubuque, Iowa, and secured from the surveyor-general an order to survey four townships about the bay, embracing the site of the present city of Ashland. In the meantime, many settlers had come in and preëmpted lands in the neighborhood. In the fall of 1855 many of them were enabled to prove up and get titles to their lands.

Portrait and biography of Frederick Prentice, the "first white child born in ... Toledo." ~ History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

Portrait and biography of Frederick Prentice; the “first white child born in … Toledo.”
~ History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

In the winter of 1855 Lusk, Prentice & Company, who had a trading-post within the present limits of Ellis’ division of Ashland, built a dock for the accommodation of the settlers coming to the new town. It was built of cribs, made of round logs sunk in the water about twenty feet apart. From one crib to another were stringers, made of logs, flattened on the upper surface, all covered with small logs to make a roadway. On the docks were piled several hundred cords of wood for the purpose of “holding” the dock from floating away, and to be sold in the summer to the steamboats which should come to bring supplies and begin the commerce of the town. The evening of the second day of April, 1855, saw the bay full of ice, slightly detached for a few feet from the shore, but with no sign of an immediate opening of navigation.

Portrait of Martin Beaser on page 24.

Portrait of Martin Beaser on page 24.

The next morning no ice was in sight, nor a vestige of the dock to be seen. Floating timber and cord-wood covered the bay. Till then the settlers had no idea the power of the floating ice moved by the tide of the bay. But they were not discouraged. The following winter two other docks were constructed – one by Martin Beaser, at the foot of what is now called “Beaser Avenue,” and the other by Edwin Ellis, near where Seyler’s foundry now stands.

These were also crib-docks, but the effort was made to anchor the cribs. There were no rocks to be had on the side of the bay where the docks were built, for which reason Mr. Beaser filled his cribs with clay, dug out of the banks. Dr. Ellis hauled stone across the bay, and filled as many of his cribs as possible, and on the top of the dock also piled several hundred cords of wood, and the settlers with anxious faces watched the departure of the ice. The shock came, and the docks afforded little resistance. The cribs filled with clay were easily carried. Those filled with stone stood better, but that part of those above water, and near the outer end, were swept away. The labors of many weary days and much money was thus swept away. There was, however, enough of the Ellis dock left to afford a landing to the few boats that came with supplies for the people.

The years of 1855-1857 at Bayport, Ashland, Bayfield, Ironton, and Houghton along Chequamegon Bay are captured in the Penokee Survey Incidents and the Barber Papers.

Survey of Frederick Prentice‘s Addition of Ashland near the Gichi-wiikwedong village.
“It is in this addition, that, the Chippewa River and the St. Croix Indian trails reach the Bay, and for the purpose of accomodating the trade, already flowing in on their routes, a commodious store has just been built”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Gichi-wiikwedong
Translates as “Big Bay” in Ojibwemowin.
Traditional place-name for Ashland, WI.
Equadon
Anglicized version of Gichi-wiikwedong.
Prentice Park and Maslowski Beach.
Area is famous for artesian wells.
The Park of a Hundred Flowing Wells
“This was all Indian land then, but [Asaph] Whittlesey believed in take time for the forelock, looking he said, for a place that ‘might prove to be the most available point for a town, at or near Equadon (pronounced E Quay don, the second syllable emphasized.) The word ‘Equadon,’ is the Chippewa word meaning ‘settlement near the head of the bay.'”
The Ashland Daily Press, July 6, 1933, by Guy M. Burnham, reproduced on TurtleTrack.org.  Read the full article for an interesting stories about how the town-site for Ashland was allegedly negotiated between Reverend Wheeler and Little Current.

During the years 1855, ’56 and ’57 many settlers had come to Ashland and built homes, and were all young men full of bright hopes for the future. In the spring of 1856 a township organization was formed, embracing more than forty townships of six miles square, and was called Bayport. The usual township officers were elected. The year 1857 opened with bright prospects. In Ashland streets were cleared and several frame houses were built. A steam saw-mill was begun and brought near completion. But in September of that year the great financial storm came, involving the whole country in ruin. The little village of Ashland was overwhelmed. The people had but little money, and in making their improvements had contracted debts which they could not at once pay. There had been so such speculation that the settlers had paid but little attention to the cultivation of the soil, depending upon supplies brought by water a thousand miles. We had no wagon roads nor railroads within three hundred miles. Winter was coming on, and many of the settlers – in truth, all who could get away – left the place. The few who remained saw hard times, whose memory is not pleasant to recall. Some of them, in making improvements, had assumed liabilities which well-nigh ruined them. If the county had then been organized for judicial purposes, so that judgements and execution could have been easily obtained, scarcely anyone would have saved a dollar from the wreck. But this fortunate circumstance gave them time, and their debts were finally paid, and they had their land left; but it then was without value in the market. Town lots in the village, which are now selling for five thousand to six thousand dollars, could then be sold for enough to buy a barrel of flour. The years following “’57” were hard years, and the settlers, one by one, moved away, so that in 1862 only two remained – Martin Beaser and Martin Roehn. In 1866 Mr. Beaser undertook to come alone from Bayfield to Ashland in an open sail-boat. It was a stormy day, and he never reached home. His boat was found soon afterwards at the head of the bay, and his body was found the following spring on the beach on the west side of the bay. Ashland was now left desolate and alone. Mr. Roehn, with a few cows, migrated backward and forward between Ashland and the Marengo river, finding hay and pasture for his cows, selling his produce and butter at Bayfield and La Pointe, and thus eked out an existence. The first railroad to reach Ashland was the Wisconsin Central, completed in 1877, connecting Ashland with Milwaukee. Work at the Ashland end was begun in 1872, and in 1873 finished to Penokee, twenty-nine miles south from Ashland. It had been built from the south to within about eighty-five miles of Ashland, and then came the panic of 1873, and all work stopped. The building in 1872 in Ashland was quite extensive, and village property sold at good prices, and everybody was hopeful. But the crisis of 1873 coming on, all enterprises at once stopped. Not till 1877 was the railroad completed. Its completion established Ashland on a substantial basis. In 1877 the Wisconsin Central company completed the Chaquamegon hotel, one of the finest in the country, which has added greatly to the attractions of Ashland.

The building of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha road to this place, in 1883, gave a short outlet to the west and southwest, greatly benefiting the lumber trade.

The Northern Pacific, whose eastern terminus is at Ashland, soon after completed, gave it new importance as in the direct line of transcontinental commerce.

But the advent of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western railroad had done more, perhaps to stimulate the growth of Ashland than any one of its great enterprises.

It runs northerly from Milwaukee to Manitowoc, where, turning in northwesterly course, it traverses vast tracts of valuable timber and farming lands, running for fifty miles along the Gogebic range – the richest iron region in the world.

This company has built two large and costly ore docks for the shipment of the vast amount of iron ore which it brings over its road.

Chapter 9
South From Ashland
“The promoters decided to make Ashland the north end of their iron. It was a mere clearing, in the woods in 1870, formerly known as Equadon which was founded in 1854 and abandoned in 1863. The Ashland site was located on the bank of a splendid natural harbor called Cheguamegon Bay.”

“The clearing, grubbing and grading of the 30-mile Ashland-Penokee Gap Division had been practically complete in 1872. The iron rails were not laid into the Gap until October 1873, and there the railroad stopped for 4 long years.”

Penokee Gap, 1000 feet above Lake Superior, is a break in the rough country, a regular gap where the Bad River breaks through the Iron Range Hills on its way to Lake Superior. The Gap is an historic pathway through which the copper workers from Mexico and South America came to Lake Superior centuries ago enroute to the copper deposits on Isle Royal in Lake Superior.”
History of the Soo Line, by James Lyden.

The Wisconsin Central Railroad company has also built a very fine ore dock, over which it ships the iron brought from the same range by its own line – the “Penokee Railroad” – built easterly along the northern base of the Gogebic range to Bessemer, in Michigan.

Notwithstanding the depression in the iron trade, more than a million tons of ore will be shipped from Ashland the present season.

Ashland has also two coal docks – one operated by the Ohio Coal company and the other by the Columbus & Hocking Valley Coal company – both of whom are doing a large business. The Lake Shore railroad and the Wisconsin Central obtain their coal for their engines, on the northern two hundred miles, by their docks at Ashland. The same rates for coal going west prevail as from Duluth and Washburn, and a large trade is springing up over the Omaha & Northern Pacific lines.

Ashland has three National and one private bank, all of which are conservative and carefully managed. It has also a street railway, two miles in length, with six fine cars and about forty horses, and is rendering very satisfactory service. We have also a “Gas and Electric Light Plant,” which affords abundant light for the streets, stores, dwellings and the ore docks. Ashland has also the Holly system of water-works, with about two miles of pipe laid, affording ample protection against fire and an abundant supply of water for domestic purposes. The pump-house has two ponderous engines, one being kept in reserve in case of accident.

As a point for the distribution of manufactured goods of all kinds, Ashland stands among the foremost. With practically the same rates as by the roads leading from Duluth west, it is prepared to compete with that lively town for part of the trade of the great northwest – now in its infancy but destined soon to attain great proportions; whose beginnings we can measure, but whose vast results we cannot now comprehend.

Portrait of Prentice's brownstone quarry at Houghton Point. ~ Ashland Daily Press, circa 1893.

Portrait of Prentice’s brownstone quarries at Houghton Point.
~ Ashland Daily Press, circa 1893.

“A Big Stone Quarry,
A Great Brownstone Industry Established At Houghton Point.
What Frederick Prentice Has Accomplished During The Season.
~ Ashland Daily Press article in the Washburn Itemizer, October 18, 1888, reproduced on BattleAxCamp.tripod.com
Brownstone quarries along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Tour historic buildings in Ashland, Washburn, Bayfield, Superior, Duluth, etc., for examples of The Brownstone Architecture of the Lake Superior Region, 2000, by Kathryn Bishop Eckert.

One industry on Ashland bay is the brown stone, which exists along the water’s edge for many miles on the shore of the mainland and on the islands. It can be quarried in inexhaustible quantities within a few hundred feet of navigable waters of Lake Superior. It is of fine texture and beautiful color, and hardens by exposure. Large quantities have already been shipped and the demand is rapidly increasing. It can be shipped by rail at about four dollars per ton to Cincinnati. This stone, used for trimmings in buildings built of white brick, makes a very beautiful appearance.

The vast quantities of pine and hardwood timber in the vicinity of Ashland, and its advantages as a point of distribution for manufactured articles in wood, render it one of the best locations for manufacturing industries. For tanneries its location is unrivaled; the supply of hemlock bark is ample, while hides can be cheaply brought from Minnesota and the northwest, and the products can be shipped in all directions at low rates.

The schools of Ashland afford the best of opportunities for the education of our youth. Our school buildings are large, new and commodious, with all modern improvements. Our schools are graded and the attendance is large.

In the churches, most denominations are represented. The Catholic is the finest church edifice in the city, built of our own brown stone at a cost of over thirty thousand dollars. There are Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and several Scandinavian churches.

As a summer resort, Ashland and the Apostles’ islands afford unrivaled attractions. Sail-boats, tugs and steamboats make daily excursions in all directions. They busy men from Chicago, St. Louis, St. Paul, Cincinnati and other cities can, in one day, escape from the sweltering heat and sleep on the cool ore of Lake Superior, and with our lines of railroad and telegraph stretching in all directons, they can be in constant and instant communication with their counting-rooms a thousand miles away. Its advantages in this line are already drawing many persons of wealth and leisure, as well as invalids, who come here to spend the hot season and at the close of the summer return home with new health and vigor.

Portrait of Edwin Ellis, M.D. on page 20.

Portrait of Edwin Ellis, M.D. on page 20.

Ashland has just two daily and three weekly newspapers, models of enterprise and very newsy, contributing much to the prosperity of the city.

The population of Ashland is about fifteen thousand, composed principally of persons under thirty-five years of age, and full of push and activity, who have come to stay and built up fortunes.

With all these and many other advantages Ashland seems to have a bright future, and many of us think it bids fair, in the near future, to become the second city in the state of Wisconsin. And we will labor that she shall be worthy of her rank.

EDWIN ELLIS.

By Amorin Mello

This is a reproduction of Reuben Gold Thwaites’ 1895 “The Story of Chequamegon Bay”  to demonstrate how our local history has been institutionalized and portrayed since the end of the 19th century.  Thwaites’ professional legacy as a journalist is embedded in many institutions, including the following:

  • American Library Association
  • American Antiquarian Society
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin State Journal
  • Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Mississippi Valley Historical Association

According to Wikipedia:

Thwaites was well-known for not being a mere academic, but rather as a historian who attempted to understand history by experiencing those aspects that he could, and bringing those experiences to life. In 1888 he took canoe trips on the Wisconsin, Fox and Rock rivers. In 1892 he took a bicycle trip across England. In 1903 he took a trip down the Ohio River in a rowboat.

Thwaites’ approach and work has been questioned, to some degree by his contemporaries but more so in modern times. His summaries include phraseology such as “[Europeans] left the most luxurious country in Europe to seek shelter in the foul and unwelcome huts of one of the most wretched races of man.” When editing the Jesuit Relations, he included background information that is generally credible and thorough with respect to events and Europe, but is far less thorough in regard to the disruptions from disease and other sources that the indigenous people themselves were facing. In other words, the criticism is that the original works were insensitive, and Thwaites failed to fully account for the prejudicial and inaccurate reporting in the Relations. However, Thwaites is also recognized as being the pioneer in an approach to using the Relations that is continuing to be enriched by modern scholarship, and so in a sense he started a process by which his very work could be corrected and improved as historians learn more about the periods in question.

The purpose of reproducing this story is to serve as an introduction to Chequamegon Bay history, and as a reference point for modern scholarship and primary research about Chequamegon Bay before 1860.

 


Reuben's A Story about Chequamegon History was originally published in Collections of the State Historical Societ of Wisconsin: Volume 13, 1895, pages 397-425. It was also published in American Antiquary , 1895, pages .

The Story about Chequamegon Bay was originally published in Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin: Volume XIII, by Reuben Gold Thwaites, 1895, pages 397-425.

The Story Of Chequamegon Bay.

by the Editor.

Reuben Gold Thwaites ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Reuben Gold Thwaites
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

WE commonly think of Wisconsin as a young State. In a certain sense she is. There are men now living, two or three of whom I meet almost daily, who were blazing paths through the Wisconsin wilderness, only sixty years ago: men who cleared the forests and broke the prairies; who founded frontier communities which have developed into cities; who upon this far away border sowed the seeds of industries which to-day support tens of thousands of their fellows; who threw up their hats when the Territory was erected; and who sat in the convention which gave to the new State a constitution. The Wisconsin of to-day, the Wisconsin which we know, is indeed young; for the lively octogenarians who were in at the birth will not admit that they are now old. But there was an earlier, a less prosaic, a far more romantic Wisconsin,—the French Wisconsin; and it had flourished in its own fashion for full two centuries before the coming of the Anglo-Saxon, who, brusquely crowding the Creole to the wall, made of his old home an American Commonwealth.

In 1634, when the child born upon the Mayflower was but in her fourteenth year, Jean Nicolet, sent out by the enterprising Champlain as far as Wisconsin,— a thousand miles of canoe journey west from Quebec,— made trading contracts, such as they were, with a half-score of squalid tribes huddled in widely-separated villages throughout the broad wilderness lying between Lakes Superior and Michigan. It was a daring, laborious expedition, as notable in its day as Livingstone’s earliest exploits in Darkest Africa ; and although its results were slow of development,—for in the seventeenth century man was still cautiously deliberate,— this initial visit of the forest ambassador of New France to the country of the Upper Lakes broke the path for a train of events which were of mighty significance in American history.1

"Jean Nicolet, landing at the Bay of Green Bay in 1634. Painted by Franz Edward Rohrbeck (1852-1919) in 1910 into the mural in the rotunda of the Brown County Courthouse, Green Bay, Wisconsin. It shows Nicolet wearing a Chinese damask tunic strewn with flowers and birds, and discharging two pistols into the air." ~ Wikipedia.org

Jean Nicolet, landing at the Bay of Green Bay in 1634. Painted by Franz Edward Rohrbeck (1852-1919) in 1910 into the mural in the rotunda of the Brown County Courthouse, Green Bay, Wisconsin. It shows Nicolet wearing a Chinese damask tunic strewn with flowers and birds, and discharging two pistols into the air.”
~ Wikipedia.org

Let us examine the topography of Wisconsin. The State is situated at the head of the chain of Great Lakes. It is touched on the east by Lake Michigan, on the north by Lake Superior, on the west by the Mississippi, and is drained by interlacing rivers which so closely approach each other that the canoe voyager can with case pass from one great water system to the other; he can enter the continent at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and by means of numerous narrow portages in Wisconsin emerge into the south-flowing Mississippi, eventually returning to the Atlantic through the Gulf of Mexico. From Lake Michigan, the Fox-Wisconsin river system was the most popular highway to the great river; into Lake Superior, there flow numerous turbulent streams from whose sources lead short portage trails over to the headwaters .of feeders of the Mississippi. From the western shore of Lake Superior, Pigeon River invites to exploration of the Winnipeg country, whence the canoeist can by a half-hundred easy routes reach the distant regions of Athabasca and the Polar Sea. In their early voyages to the head of lake navigation, it was in the course of nature that the French should soon discover Wisconsin; and having discovered it, learn that it was the key-point of the Northwest — the gateway to the entire continental interior. Thus, through Wisconsin’s remarkable system of interlacing waterways, to which Nicolet led the way, New France largely prosecuted her far-reaching forest trade and her missionary explorations, securing a nominal control of the basin of the Mississippi at a time when Anglo-Saxons had gained little more of the Atlantic slope than could be seen from the mast-head of a caravel. Thus the geographical character of Wisconsin became, early in the history of New France, an important factor. The trading posts and Jesuit missions on Chequamegon Bay2 of Lake Superior, and on Green Bay of Lake Michigan, soon played a prominent part in American exploration. The career of Green Bay is familiar to us all.3 I have thought it well hastily to summarize, in the brief space allowed me, the equally instructive story of Chequamegon Bay.

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

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

The sandstone cliffs of Lake Superior were, many geologists think, among the first Laurentian islands to arise from the ancient ocean; if this be so, then the rim of our greatest inland sea is one of the oldest spots on earth. In its numerous mines of copper, prehistoric man long delved and wrought with rude hammers and chisels of stone, fashioning those curious copper implements which are carefully treasured in American museums of archaeology;4 and upon its rugged shores the Caucasian early planted his stake, when between him and New England tidewater all was savagery.

Pierre-Esprit Radisson ~ National Archives of Canada

Pierre d’Esprit Sieur Radisson
~ Dictionary of Canadian Biography

After the coming to Wisconsin of Nicolet, a long period followed, in which the energies of New France were devoted to fighting back the Iroquois, who swarmed before the very gates of Quebec and Montreal. Exploration was for the time impossible. A quarter of a century passes away before we have evidence of another white man upon Wisconsin soil.  In the spring of 1659, the Indians of the valley of the Fox were visited by two French fur-traders from the Lower St. Lawrence – Pierre d’Esprit, Sieur Radisson, and his sister’s husband, Medard Chouart, Sieur de Groseilliers.  In all American history there are no characters more picturesque than these two adventurous Creoles, who, in their fond desire to “travell and see countries,” and “to be known as the remotest people,” roamed at will over the broad region between St. Jame’s seaway and the Wisconsin River, having many curious experiences with wild beasts and wilder men.  They made several important geographical discoveries, – among them, probably, the discovery of the Mississippi River in 1659, fourteen years before the visit of Joliet and Marquette; and from a trading settlement proposed by them to the English, when their fellow-countrymen no longer gave them employment, developed the great establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  The unconsciously-amusing narrative which Radisson afterwards wrote, for the editication of King Charles II, of England, is one of the most interesting known to American antiquaries.5

~ Arrival of Radisson in an Indian camp, 1660, by Charles William Jefferys

“Arrival of Radisson in an Indian camp, 1660” 
by Charles William Jefferys
~ Wikimedia.org

Two years after Radisson and Groseilliers were upon the Fox River, and made their notable trip to the Mississippi, they were again in the Northwest (autumn of 1661), and this time upon Lake Superior, which they had approached by carrying around the Sault Ste. Marie.  Skirting the southern shore of the lake, past the now famous Pictured Rocks, they carried across Keweenaw Point, visited a band of Christino Indians6 not far from the mouth of Montreal River, now the far western boundary between Upper Michigan and Wisconsin, and, portaging across the base of the Chequamegon Island of to-day, – then united to the mainland,- entered beautiful Chequamegon Bay.  Just where they made their camp, it is impossible from Radisson’s confused narrative to say; but that it was upon the mainland no Wisconsin antiquary now doubts, and we have reason to believe that it was upon the southwest shore, between the modern towns of Ashland and Washburn.7

"The First House Built by White Men in Wisconsin Was Erected near this Spot by Radisson and Groselliers in the Fall of 1858." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Close-up of the Radisson and Groseilliers house historic site marker, commemorating the first house built in Wisconsin by white men. The house was believed to have stood in the vicinity of Ashland at the mouth of Fish Creek where it empties into Chequamegon Bay.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Our chronicler writes, with a particularity of detail suggestive of De Foe:

“We went about to make a fort of stakes, w’ was in this manner.  Suppose that the watter-side had ben in one end; att the same end there should be murtherers, and att need we made a bastion in a triangle to defend us from assault.  The doore was neare the watter side, our fire was in the midle, and our bed on the right hand, covered.  There were boughs of trees all about our fort layed acrosse, one uppon an other.  Besides those boughs, we had a long cord tyed w’ some small bells, w’ weare sentereys.  Finally, we made an ende of that fort in 2 dayes’ time.”

"Front view of the Radisson cabin, the first house built by a white man in Wisconsin. It was built between 1650 and 1660 on Chequamegon Bay, in the vicinity of Ashland. This drawing is not necessarily historically accurate." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Front view of the Radisson cabin, the first house built by a white man in Wisconsin. It was built between 1650 and 1660 on Chequamegon Bay, in the vicinity of Ashland. This drawing is not necessarily historically accurate.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Modernize this statement, and in imagination we can see this first dwelling erected by man on the shores of Lake Superior; a small log hut, built possibly on the extremity of a small rocky promontory; the door opens to the water front, while the land side, to the rear of the hut, is defended by a salient of palisades stretching from bank to bank of the narrow promontory; all about the rude structure is a wall of pine boughs piled one upon the other, with a long cord intertwined, and on this cord are strung numbers of the little hawk-bells then largely used in the Indian trade for purposes of gift and barter. It was expected that in case of a night attack from savages, who might be willing to kill them for the sake of their stores, the enemy would stir the boughs and unwittingly ring the bells, thus arousing the little garrison. These ingenious defenses were not put to the test, although no doubt they had a good moral effect; in keeping the thieving Hurons at a respectful distance.

Winter was just setting in. The waters of the noble bay were taking on that black and sullen aspect peculiar to the season. The beautiful islands, later named for the Twelve Apostles,8 looked gloomy indeed in their dark evergreen mantles. From the precipitous edges of the red-sandstone cliffs, which girt about this estuary of our greatest inland sea, the dense pine forests stretched westward and southward for hundreds of miles. Here and there in the primeval depths was a cluster of starveling Algonkins, still trembling from fear of a return of the Iroquois, who had chased them from Canada into this land of swamps and tangled woods, where their safety lay in hiding. At wide intervals, uncertain trails led from village to village, and in places the rivers were convenient highways; these narrow paths, however, beset with danger in a thousand shapes, but emphasized the unspeakable terrors of the wilderness.

"The Search for Wisconsin's First Priest" ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Père René Ménard
“The Search for Wisconsin’s First Priest”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Radisson and Groseilliers, true coureurs de bois, were not daunted by the dangers which daily beset them. After caching their goods, they passed the winter of 1661-62 with their Huron neighbors, upon a prolonged hunt, far into the Mille Lacs region of Minnesota. The season was phenomenally severe, and the Indians could not find game enough to sustain life. A famine ensued in the camp, the tragical details of which are painted by our friend Radisson with Hogarthian minuteness. In the spring of 1662, the traders were back again at Chequamegon, and built another fortified shelter, this time possibly on the sand-spit of Shagawaumikong,9 from which base they once more wandered in search of adventures and peltries, going as far northwest as Lake Assiniboine, and later in the season returning to their home on the Lower St. Lawrence.

When Radisson’s party went to Lake Superior, in the autumn of 1661, they were accompanied as far as Keweenaw Bay by a Jesuit priest. Father Pierre Ménard, who established there a mission among the Ottawas. The following June, disheartened in his attempt to convert these obdurate tribesmen, Ménard set out for the Huron villages on the upper waters of the Black and Chippewa, but perished on the way.10

It was not until August of 1665, three years later, that Father Claude Allouez, another Jesuit, was sent to reopen the abandoned Ottawa mission on Lake Superior. He chose his site on the southwestern shore of Chequamegon Bay, possibly the same spot on which Radisson’s hut had been built, four years previous, and piously called his mission and the locality La Pointe du Saint Esprit, which in time was shortened to La Pointe.11

Detail of La Pointe du Saint Espirit <br/>from Claude Allouez Map of New France, 1669.<br /> ~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Detail of La Pointe du Saint Esprit
from Claude Allouez map’s of New France, 1669.
~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Claude Allouez ~ National Park Service

Portrayal of Claude Allouez
~ National Park Service

At the time of Radisson’s visit, the shores of Chequamegon Bay were uninhabited save by a few half-starved Hurons ; but soon thereafter it became the centre of a considerable Indian population, residents of several tribes having been drawn thither, first, by the fisheries, second, by a fancied security in so isolated a region against the Iroquois of the East and the wild Sioux of the West. When Allouez arrived in this polyglot village, October 1, he found there Chippewas, Pottawattómies, Kickapoos, Sauks, and Foxes, all of them Wisconsin tribes; besides these were Hurons, Ottawas, Miamis, and Illinois,— victims of Iroquois hate who had fled in droves before the westward advances of their merciless tormentors.

Pere_Marquette

Jacques Marquette
aka James (Jim) or Père Marquette
~ Wikipedia

Despite his large congregations, Allouez made little headway among these people, being consoled for his hardships and ill-treatment by the devotion of a mere handful of followers. For four years did he labor alone in the Wisconsin wilderness, hoping against hope, varying the monotony of his dreary task by occasional canoe voyages to Quebec, to report progress to his father superior.  Father James Marquette, a more youthful zealot, was at last sent to relieve him, and in September, 1669, arrived at La Pointe from Sault Ste. Marie, after spending a full month upon, the journey,—so hampered was he, at that early season, by snow and ice. Allouez, thus relieved from a work that had doubtless palled upon him, proceeded upon invitation of the Pottawattomies to Green Bay, where he arrived early in December, and founded the second Jesuit mission in Wisconsin, St. Francis Xavier, on the site of the modern town of Depere.12

Marquette had succeeded to an uncomfortable berth. Despite his strenuous efforts as a peacemaker, his dusky parishioners soon unwisely quarreled with their western neighbors, the Sioux,13 with the result that the La Pointe bands, and Marquette with them, were driven like leaves before an autumn blast eastward along the southern shore of the great lake: the Ottawas taking up their home in the Manitoulin Islands of Lake Huron, the Hurons accompanying Marquette to the Straits of Mackinaw, where he established the mission of St. Ignace.

With La Pointe mission abandoned, and Lake Superior closed to French enterprise by the “raging Sioux,” the mission at Depere now became the centre of Jesuit operations in Wisconsin, and it was a hundred and sixty-four years later (1835), before mass was again said upon the forest-fringed shores of Chequamegon Bay.

"Daniel Greysolon Sieur Dulhut at the Head of the Lakes - 1679." ~ Painted by artist Francis Lee Jaques, c.1922.

“‘Daniel Greysolon Sieur Dulhut at the Head of the Lakes – 1679.’  Painted by artist Francis Lee Jaques, c.1922.”
~ Minnesota Historical Society

Although the missionary had deserted La Pointe, the fur trader soon came to be much in evidence there. The spirit of Radisson and Groseilliers long permeated this out-of-the-way corner of the Northwest. We find (1673), three years after Marquette’s expulsion. La Salle’s trading agent, Sieur Raudin, cajoling the now relentent Sioux at the western end of Lake Superior. In the summer of 1679, that dashing coureur de bois, Daniel Grayson du l’ Hut,14 ascended the St. Louis River, which divides Wisconsin and Minnesota, and penetrated with his lively crew of voyageurs to the Sandy Lake country, being probably the first white trader upon the head-waters of the Mississippi. The succeeding winter, he spent in profitable commerce with the Assiniboines, Crees, and other northern tribes in the neighborhood of Grand Portage,15 on the boundary between Minnesota and Canada. In June, 1680, probably unaware of the easier portage by way of the Mille Lacs and Rum River, Du I’ Hut set out at the head of a small company of employees to reach the Mississippi by a new route. Entering the narrow and turbulent Bois Brulé,16 half-way along the southern shore of Lake Superior, between Red Cliff and St. Louis River, he with difficulty made his way over the fallen trees and beaver dams which then choked its course. From its head waters there is a mile-long portage to the upper St. Croix; this traversed. Du l’ Hut was upon a romantic stream which swiftly carried him, through foaming rapids and deep, cool lakes, down into the Father of Waters. Here it was that he heard of Father Louis Hennepin’s captivity among the Sioux, and with much address and some courage rescued that doughty adventurer, and carried him by way of the Fox-Wisconsin route in safety to Mackinaw.

“Sources vary on the details of Pierre-Charles Le Sueur‘s origins and early life. Some indicate he was a native of France, while others suggest he was born in French Canada.”

“In 1693, Le Sueur founded a trading post on the site of present-day La Pointe on Madeline Island, the largest of Chequamegon Bay’s Apostle Islands. After hearing reports of what he believed were valuable deposits of copper ore south of Lake Superior, he traveled to France in 1697, where the French government granted him permission to mine these resources.”
Encyclopedia of Exploration, vol. 1,  2004.

An adventurous forest trader, named Le Sueur, was the next man to imprint his name on the page of Lake Superior history. The Fox Indians, who controlled the valleys of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, had for various reasons become so hostile to the French that those divergent streams were no longer safe as a gateway from the Great Lakes to the Great River.  The tendency of the prolonged Fox War was to force fur trade travel to the portages of Chicago and St. Joseph’s on the south, and those of Lake Superior on the north.17  It was with a view to keeping open one of Du l’ Hut’s old routes, – the Bois Brulé and St. Croix Rivers,- that Le Sueur was despatched by the authorities of New France in 1693.  He built a stockaded fort on Madelaine island, convenient for guarding the northern approach,18 and another on an island in the Mississippi, below the mouth of the St. Croix, and near the present town of Red Wing, Minnesota.  The post in the Mississippi soon became “the centre of commerce for the Western parts”; and the station in Chequamegon Bay also soon rose to importance, for the Chippewas, who had drifted far inland into Wisconsin and Minnesota with the growing scarcity of game,- the natural result of the indiscriminate slaughter which the fur trade encouraged, – were induced by the new trading facilities to return to their old bay shore haunts, massing themselves in an important village on the southwestern shore.

This incident strikingly illustrates the important part which the trader early came to play in Indian life.  At first an agriculturalist in a small way, and a hunter and fisher only so far as the daily necessities of food and clothing required, the Indian was induced by the white man to kill animals for their furs, – luxuries ever in great demand in the marts of civilization.  The savage wholly devoted himself to the chase, and it became necessary for the white man to supply him with clothing, tools, weapons, and ornaments of European manufacture; the currency as well as the necessities of the wilderness.19  These articles the savage had heretofore laboriously fashioned for himself at great expenditure of time; no longer was he content with native manufactures, and indeed he quickly lost his old-time facility for making them.  It was not long before he was almost wholly dependent on the white trader for the commonest conveniences of life; no longer being tied to his fields, he became more and more a nomad, roving restlessly to and fro in search of fur-bearing game, and quickly populating or depopulating a district according to the conditions of trade.  Without his trader, he quickly sank into misery and despair; with the advent of the trader, a certain sort of prosperity once more reigned in the tepee of the red man.  In the story of Chequamegon Bay, the heroes are the fur trader and the missionary; and of these the fur trader is the greater, for without his presence on this scene there would have been no Indians to convert.

“1718. – A post was founded at Chequamegon by Paul le Gardeur, sieur de St. Pierre, with Godefroy de Linctot second in command.  A settlement of French traders was this year reported as existing at Green Bay.”
~ State of Wisconsin Blue Book, 1925, page 66.

Although Le Sueur was not many years in command upon Chequamegon Bay,20 we catch frequent glimpses thereafter of stockaded fur trade stations here, – French, English, and American, in turn, – the most of them doubtless being on Madelaine Island, which was easily defensible from the mainland.21 We know that in 1717 there was a French trader at La Pointe – the popular name for the entire bay district—for he was asked by Lt. Robertel de la Noüe, who was then at Kaministiquoya, to forward a letter to a certain Sioux chief. In September, 1718, Captain Paul Legardeur St. Pierre, whose mother was a daughter of Jean Nicolet, Wisconsin’s first explorer, was sent to command at Chequamegon, assisted by Ensign Linctot, the authorities of the lower country having been informed that the Chippewa chief there was, with his fellow-chief at Keweenaw, going to war with the Foxes. St. Pierre was at Chequamegon for at least a year, and was succeeded by Linctot, who effected an important peace between the Chippewas and Sioux.22

“Fort La Pointe was the second French fort on the island; the first, erected by Le Sueur in 1693 and abandoned in 1698, held open the route from Lake Superior to the Mississippi for French trade. Fort La Pointe was established to maintain peace among te Indian tribes in this region. In 1727 Louis Denis, Sieur de la Ronde, was given command of the fort. While La Ronde was in charge, the fort was garrisoned; a dock and probably a mill were built; some agriculture was carried on.
The Indians at La Pointe told the French of an island of copper guarded by spirits; La Ronde, when he heard of the mineral, requested permission from the French Government to combine his duties at the fort with mining. he was not given permission to operate the mines until 1733, and in 1740 his mining activities were halted by an outbreak between the Sioux and the Chippewa. Nonetheless, La Ronde is known as the first practical miner on Lake Superior, and the man who opened this region for settlement by white men.”
~ The WPA Guide to Wisconsin, by Federal Writers’ Project, 2013, page 348.
“After the failure of the mining enterprise, La Ronde sought promotion to commandant of the colonial regular troops in New France, as well as promotions for two of his sons, Philippe and Pierre-François-Paul, both of whom were officers. Philippe had served at Chagouamigon during his father’s absences and took over permanently when La Ronde died in 1741.”
~ Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Whether a garrisoned fort was maintained at Chequamegon Bay, from St. Pierre’s time to the close of the French domination, it is impossible to say; but it seems probable; for the geographical position was one of great importance in the development of the fur trade, and the few records we have mention the fort as one of long standing.23  In 1730, it is recorded, that a nugget of copper was brought to the post by an Indian, and search was at once made for a mine; but October 18, 1731, the authorities of New France wrote to the home office in Paris that, owing to the superstitions of the Indians, which led them to conceal mineral wealth from the whites, no copper mine had thus far been found in the neighborhood of Chequamegon Bay. The commandant of Chequamegon at this time was Sieur La Ronde Denis, known to history as La Ronde,— like his predecessors, for the most part, a considerable trader in these far Western parts, and necessarily a man of enterprise and vigor. La Ronde was for many years the chief trader in the Lake Superior country, his son and partner being Denis de La Ronde.  They built for their trade a boat of 40 tons, which was without doubt “the first vessel on the great lake, with sails larger than an Indian blanket.” 24 On account of the great outlay they had incurred in this and other undertakings in the wilderness, the post of Chequamegon, with its trading monopoly, had been given to the elder La Ronde, according to a despatch of that day, “as a gratuity to defray expenses.” Other allusions to the La Rondes are not infrequent: in 1736,25 the son is ordered to investigate a report of a copper mine at Iron River, not far east of the Bois Brulé; in the spring of 1740, the father is at Mackinaw on his return to Chequamegon from a visit to the lower country, but being sick is obliged to return to Montreal;26 and in 1744, Bellin’s map gives the name “Isle de la Ronde” to what we now know as Madelaine, fair evidence that the French post of this period was on that island.

1744 Belin isle de ronde

Detail of Isle de la Ronde from Carte des lacs du Canada by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, 1744.
Wisconsin Historical Society

Pierre-Joseph Hertel, sieur de Beaubassin: (1715 – ?)
Pierre-Joseph was the son of Joseph Hertel de St.Francois & Catherine Philippe, born in Trois-Rivieres. He married Catherine-Madeleine Jarrot (daughter of Jean Bte.Jarrot, sieur de Vercheres & Madeleine Francoise d’Ailleboust de Manthet) in 1751. [Her father commanded the post at Green Bay in 1747].
Pierre-Joseph followed in his families tradition and was a captain on a raid of Albany in 1756 during the King George’s War. From 1756 to 1758 he was commander of the post of Lapointe (in today’s northern Wisconsin) and sailed for France after the loss of Canada to the British.”
~ [Unknown].

We hear nothing more of importance concerning Chequamegon until about 1756, when Hertel de Beaubassin, the last French commandant there, was summoned to Lower Canada with his Chippewa allies, to do battle against the English.27  For several years past, wandering English fur traders had been tampering with the Chippewas of Lake Superior, who in consequence frequently maltreated their old friends, the French;28 but now that the tribe were summoned for actual fighting in the lower country, with extravagant promises of presents, booty, and scalps, they with other Wisconsin Indians eagerly flocked under the French banner, and in painted swarms appeared on the banks of the St. Lawrence, with no better result than to embarrass the French commissariat and thus unwittingly aid the ambitious English.

New France was tottering to her fall. The little garrison on Madelaine Island had been withdrawn from the frontier, with many another like it, to help in the defense of the lower country ; and the Upper Lakes, no longer policed by the fur trade monopoly, were free plunder for unlicensed traders, or coureurs des bois. Doubtless such were the party who encamped upon the island during the autumn of 1760. By the time winter had set in upon them, all had left for their wintering grounds in the forests of the far West and Northwest, save a clerk named Joseph, who remained in charge of the stores and the local traffic. With him were his little family,—his wife, who was from Montreal, his child, a small boy, and a man-servant, or voyageur. Traditions differ as to the cause of the servant’s action,— some have it, a desire for wholesale plunder; others, the being detected in a series of petty thefts, which Joseph threatened to report; others, an unholy and unrequited passion for Joseph’s wife. However that may be, the servant murdered first the clerk, and then the wife; and in a few days, stung by the piteous cries of the child, the lad himself. When the spring came, and the traders returned to Chequamegon, they inquired for Joseph and his family, but the servant’s reply was unsatisfactory and he finally confessed to his horrid deed. The story goes, that in horror the traders dismantled the old French fort as a thing accursed, sunk the cannon in a neighboring pool, and so destroyed the palisade that to-day naught remains save grassy mounds. Carrying their prisoner with them on their return voyage to Montreal, he is said to have escaped to the Hurons, among whom he boasted of his deed, only to be killed as too cruel a companion even for savages.29

1769 twelve apostle islands jonathan carver

Detail of “The 12 Apostles” from Captain Jonathan Carver’s journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1769. ~ Boston Public Library

Alexander Henry , The Elder. ~ Wikipedia.com

Alexander Henry , The Elder.
~ Wikipedia.com

New France having now fallen, an English trader, Alexander Henry, spent the winter of 1765-66 upon the mainland, opposite the island.30  Henry had obtained from the English commandant at Mackinaw the exclusive trade of Lake Superior, and at Sault Ste. Marie took into partnership with him Jean Baptiste Cadotte,31 a thrifty Frenchman, who for many years thereafter was one of the most prominent characters on the Upper Lakes. Henry and Cadotte spent several winters together on Lake Superior, but only one upon the shores of Chequamegon, which Henry styles “the metropolis of the Chippeways.32

JohnJohnston

John Johnston
~ Homestead.org

The next dweller at Chequamegon Bay, of whom, we have record, was John Johnston, a Scotch-Irish fur trader of some education. Johnston established himself on Madelaine Island, not far from the site of the old French fort; some four miles across the water, on the mainland to the west, near where is now the white town of Bayfield, was a Chippewa village with whose inhabitants he engaged in traffic. Waubojeeg (White Fisher), a forest celebrity in his day, was the village chief at this time, and possessed of a comely daughter whom Johnston soon sought and obtained in marriage. Taking his bride to his island home, Johnston appears to have lived there for a year or two in friendly commerce with the natives, at last retiring to his old station at Sault Ste. Marie.33

Mention has been made of Jean Baptiste Cadotte, who was a partner of Alexander Henry in the latter’s Lake Superior trade, soon after the middle of the century. Cadotte, whose wife was a Chippewa, after his venture with Henry had returned to Sault Ste. Marie, from which point he conducted an extensive trade through the Northwest. Burdened with advancing years, he retired from the traffic in 1796, and divided the business between his two sons, Jean Baptiste and Michel.

Michel Cadotte ~ Findagrave.com

Michel Cadotte
~ Findagrave.com

About the opening of the present century,34 Michel took up his abode on Madelaine Island, and from that time to the present there has been a continuous settlement upon it. He had been educated at Montreal, and marrying Equaysayway, the daughter of White Crane, the village chief of La Pointe,35 at once became a person of much importance in the Lake Superior country. Upon the old trading site at the southwestern corner of the island, by this time commonly called La Pointe,— borrowing the name, as we have seen, from the original La Pointe, on the mainland, and it in turn from Point Chequamegon,—Cadotte for over a quarter of a century lived at his ease; here he cultivated a “comfortable little farm,” commanded a fluctuating, but often far-reaching fur trade, first as agent of the Northwest Company and later of Astor’s American Fur Company, and reared a considerable family, the sons of which were, as he had been, educated at Montreal, and became the heads of families of Creole traders, interpreters, and voyageurs whom antiquarians now eagerly seek when engaged in bringing to light the French and Indian traditions of Lake Superior.36

La Pointe Beaver Money Northern Outfit, American Fur Company ~ Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, volume 54, page 159.

La Pointe Beaver Money
Northern Outfit, American Fur Company
~ Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, volume 54, page 159.

In the year 1818 there came to the Lake Superior country two sturdy, fairly-educated37 young men, natives of the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts,—Lyman Marcus Warren, and his younger brother, Truman Abraham. They were of the purest New England stock, being lineally descended from Richard Warren, one of the “Mayflower” company. Engaging in the fur trade, the brothers soon became popular with the Chippewas, and in 1821 still further entrenched themselves in the affections of the tribesmen by marrying the two half-breed daughters of old Michel Cadotte,—Lyman taking unto himself Mary, while Charlotte became the wife of Truman. At first the Warrens worked in opposition to the American Fur Company, but John Jacob Astor’s lieutenants were shrewd men and understood the art of overcoming commercial rivals. Lyman was made by them a partner in the lake traffic, and in 1824 established himself at-La Pointe as the company’s agent for the Lac Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreille, and St. Croix departments, an arrangement which continued for some fourteen years. The year previous, the brothers had bought out the interests of their father-in-law, who now, much reduced in means, retired to private life after forty years’ prosecution of the forest trade.38

1834 Map of LaPointe by Lyman Warren

American Fur Company “Map of La Pointe”
by Lyman Marcus Warren, 1834. 
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

The brothers Warren were the last of the great La Pointe fur traders.39 Truman passed away early in his career, having expired in 1825, while upon a voyage between Mackinaw and Detroit. Lyman lived at La Pointe until 1838, when his connection with the American Fur Company was dissolved, and then became United States sub-agent to the Chippewa reservation on Chippewa River, where he died on the tenth of October, 1847, aged fifty-three years.40

1856 ojibwe bible shermal hall

Iu Otoshki-Kikindiuin Au Tebeniminvng Gaie Bemajiinung Jesus Christ, Ima Ojibue Inueuining Giizhitong:
The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
by Sherman Hall and Henry Blatchford, 1856.
~ Archive.org

Lyman Marcus Warren was a Presbyterian, and, although possessed of a Catholic wife, was the first to invite Protestant missionaries to Lake. Superior. Not since the days of Allouez had there been an ordained minister at La Pointe; Warren was solicitous for the spiritual welfare of his Chippewa friends, especially the young, who were being reared without religious instruction, and subject to the demoralizing influence of a rough element of white borderers. The Catholic Church was not just then ready to reenter the long-neglected field; his predilections, too, were for the Protestant faith. In 1830, while upon his annual summer trip to Mackinaw for supplies, be secured the cooperation of Frederick Ayer, of the Mackinaw mission, who returned with him in his batteau as lay preacher and school-teacher, and opened at La Pointe what was then the only mission upon the shores of the great lake. Thither came in Warren’s company, the latter part of August, the following year (1831), Rev. Sherman Hall and wife, who served as missionary and teacher, respectively, and Mrs. John Campbell, an interpreter.41

La Pointe was then upon the site of the old French trading post at the southwest corner of Madelaine Island; and there, on the first Sunday afternoon after his arrival, Mr. Hall preached “the first sermon ever delivered in this place by a regularly-ordained Christian minister.” The missionaries appear to have been kindly received by the Catholic Creoles, several of whom were now domiciled at La Pointe. The school was patronized by most of the families upon the island, red and white, who had children of proper age. By the first of September there was an average attendance of twenty-five. Instruction was given almost wholly in the English language, with regular Sunday-school exercises for the children, and frequent gospel meetings for the Indian and Creole adults.

We have seen that the first La Pointe village was at the southwestern extremity of the island. This was known as the “Old Fort” site, for here had been the original Chippewa village, and later the fur-trading posts of the French and English. Gradually, the old harbor became shallow, because of the shifting sand, and unfit for the new and larger vessels which came to be used in the fur trade.

The American Fur Company therefore built a “New Fort” a few miles farther north, still upon the west shore of the island, and to this place, the present village, the name La Pointe came to be transferred. Half-way between the “Old fort” and the “New fort,” Mr. Hall erected (probably in 1832) “a place for worship and teaching,” which came to be the centre of Protestant missionary work in Chequamegon Bay.

leonard hemenway wheeler from unnamed wisconsin

Leonard Hemenway Wheeler
~ Unnamed Wisconsin by John Nelson Davidson, 1895.

At that time, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists were, in the American Home Missionary Society and the American Board, united in the conduct of Wisconsin missions, and it is difficult for a layman to understand to which denomination the institution of the original Protestant mission at La Pointe may properly be ascribed. Warren was, according to Neill, a Presbyterian, so also, nominally, were Ayer and Hall, although the last two were latterly rated as Congregationalists. Davidson, a Congregational authority, says: “The first organization of a Congregational church within the present limits of Wisconsin took place at La Pointe in August, 1833, in connection with this mission”;42 and certainly the missionaries who later came to assist Hall were of the Congregational faith; these were Rev. Leonard Hemenway Wheeler and wife, Rev. Woodbridge L. James and wife, and Miss Abigail Spooner. Their work appears to have been as successful as such proselyting endeavors among our American Indians can hope to be, and no doubt did much among the Wisconsin Chippewas to stem the tide of demoralization which upon the free advent of the whites overwhelmed so many of our Western tribes.

James’ family did not long remain at La Pointe. Wheeler was soon recognized as the leading spirit there, although Hail did useful service in the field of publication, his translation of the New Testament into Chippewa (completed in 1836) being among the earliest of Western books. Ayer eventually went to Minnesota. In May, 1845, owing to the removal of the majority of the La Pointe Indians to the new Odanah mission, on Bad River, Wheeler removed thither, and remained their civil, as well as spiritual, counselor until October, 1866, when he retired from the service, full of years and conscious of a record of noble deeds for the uplifting of the savage. Hall tarried at La Pointe until 1853, when he was assigned to Crow Wing reservation, on the Mississippi, thus ending the Protestant mission on Chequamegon Bay. The new church building, begun in 1887, near the present La Pointe landing, had fallen into sad decay, when, in July, 1892, it became the property of the Lake Superior Congregational Club, who purpose to preserve it as an historic treasure, being the first church-home of their denomination in Wisconsin.

Not far from this interesting relic of Protestant pioneering at venerable La Pointe, is a rude structure dedicated to an older faith. Widely has it been advertised, by poets, romancers, and tourist agencies, as “the identical log structure built by Père Marquette”; while within there hangs a picture which we are soberly told by the cicerone was “given by the Pope of that time to Marquette, for his mission church in the wilderness.” It is strange how this fancy was born; stranger still that it persists in living, when so frequently proved unworthy of credence. It is as well known as any fact in modern Wisconsin history,— based on the testimony of living eyewitnesses, as well as on indisputable records,—that upon July 27, 1835, five years after Cadotte had introduced Ayer to Madelaine Island, there arrived at the hybrid village of La Pointe, with but three dollars in his pocket, a worthy Austrian priest. Father (afterwards Bishop) Frederic Baraga. By the side of the Indian graveyard at Middleport, he at once erected “a log chapel, 50×20 ft. and 18 ft. high,” and therein he said mass on the ninth of August, one hundred and sixty-four years after Marquette had been driven from Chequamegon Bay by the onslaught of the Western Sioux.43  Father Baraga’s resuscitated mission, still bearing the name La Pointe, as had the mainland missions of Allouez and Marquette,—throve apace. His “childlike simplicity,” kindly heart, and self-sacrificing labors in their behalf, won to him the Creoles and the now sadly-impoverished tribesmen; and when, in the winter of 1836-37, he was in Europe begging funds for the cause, his simpIe-hearted enthusiasm met with generous response from the faithful.

"Bishop Frederic Baraga, three-quarter length portrait, facing three-quarters to right, seated, in clerical robes, holding his Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language" ~ Library of Congress

“Bishop Frederic Baraga, three-quarter length portrait, facing three-quarters to right, seated, in clerical robes, holding his Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language”
~ Library of Congress

Returning to La Pointe in 1837, he finished his little chapel, built log-houses for his half-starved parishioners, and lavished attentions upon them; says Father Verwyst, himself an experienced missionary among the Chippewas : “In fact, he gave them too much altogether—so to say— spoiled them by excessive kindness.” Four years later, his chapel being ill-built and now too small, he had a new one constructed at the modern village of La Pointe, some of the materials of the first being used in the second. This is the building, blessed by Father Baraga on the second Sunday of August, 1841, which is to-day falsely shown to visitors as that of Father Marquette. It is needless to say that no part of the ancient mainland chapel of the Jesuits went into its construction; as for the picture, a “Descent from the Cross,” alleged to have once been in Marquette’s chapel, we have the best of testimony that it was imported by Father Baraga himself from Europe in 1841, he having obtained it there the preceding winter, when upon a second tour to Rome, this time to raise funds for the new church.44 This remarkable man though later raised to a missionary bishopric, continued throughout his life to labor for the uplifting of the Indiana of the Lake Superior country with a self-sacrificing zeal which is rare in the annals of any church, and established a lasting reputation as a student of Indian philology. He left La Pointe mission in 1853, to devote himself to the Menomonees, leaving his work among the Chippewas of Chequamegon Bay to be conducted by others. About the year 1877, the white town of Bayfield, upon the mainland opposite, became the residence of the Franciscan friars who were now placed, in charge. Thus, while the Protestant mission, after a relatively brief career of prosperity, has long, since been removed to Odanah, the Catholics to this day retain possession of their ancient field in Chequamegon Bay.

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

In closing, let us briefly rehearse the changes in the location of La Pointe, and thus clear our minds of some misconceptions into which several historians have fallen.

  1. As name-giver, we have Point Chequamegon (or. Shagawaumikong). Originally a long sand-spit hemming in Chequamegon Bay on the east, it is now an island. The most conspicuous object in the local topography, it gave name to the district; and here, at the time of the Columbian discovery, was the Chippewa stronghold.
  2. The mission of La Pointe du St. Esprit, founded by Allouez, was, it seems well established, on the mainland at the southwestern corner of the bay, somewhere between the present towns of Ashland and Washburn, and possibly on the site of Radisson’s fort. The point which suggested to Allouez the name of his mission was, of course, the neighboring Point Chequamegon.
  3. The entire region of Chequamegon Bay came soon to bear this name of La Pointe, and early within the present century it was popularly attached to, the island which had previously borne many names, and to-day is legally designated Madelaine.
  4. When Cadotte’s little trading village sprang up, on the southwestern extremity of the island, on the site of the old Chippewa village and the old French forts, this came to be particularly designated as La Pointe.
  5. When the American Fur Company established a new fort, a few miles north of the old, the name La Pointe was transferred thereto. This northern village was in popular parlance styled “New Fort,” and the now almost-deserted .southern village “Old Fort”; while the small settlement around the Indian graveyard midway, where Father Baraga built his first chapel, was known as “Middleport.”
La Pointe, Madelaine Island, Chequamegon Bay, circa 1898.<br /> <em>"The large building in the foreground is an old American Fur Company's warehouse. The mainland town of Bayfield rests in a hollow of the opposite hills, which appears to merge into the island. This La Pointe, early established as a French military and trading post, must not be confounded with the still earlier missions of La Pointe served by Allouez and Marquette, which is on the mainland on the southwest shore of Chequamegon Bay, between Washburn and Ashland."</em><br /> ~ <strong><a href="http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/search/collection/whc" target="_blank">Wisconsin Historical Collections</a>, Volume XVI</strong>, page 80.

La Pointe, Madelaine Island, Chequamegon Bay, circa 1898.
“The large building in the foreground is an old American Fur Company’s warehouse. The mainland town of Bayfield rests in a hollow of the opposite hills, which appears to merge into the island. This La Pointe, early established as a French military and trading post, must not be confounded with the still earlier missions of La Pointe served by Allouez and Marquette, which is on the mainland on the southwest shore of Chequamegon Bay, between Washburn and Ashland.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Collections, Volume XVI, page 80.

La Pointe has lost much of its old-time significance. No longer is it the refuge of starveling tribes, chased thither by Iroquois, harassed by unneighborly Sioux, and consoled in a measure by the ghostly counsel of Jesuit fathers; no longer a centre of the fur-trade, with coureurs de bois gayly dight, self-seeking English and American factors, Creole traders dispensing largesse to the dusky relatives of their forest brides, and rollicking voyageurs taking no heed of the morrow. Its forest commerce has departed, with the extinction of game and the opening of the Lake Superior country to industrial and agricultural occupation; the Protestant mission has followed the majority of the Indian islanders to mainland reservations; the revived mission of Mother Church has also been quartered upon the bay shore. But the natural charms of Madelaine island, in rocky dell, and matted forest, and sombre, pine-clad shore, are with us still, and over all there floats an aroma of two and a half centuries of historic association, the appreciation of which we need to foster in our materialistic West, for we have none too much of it.


 

The chief authority on Nicolet is Butterfield’s Discovery of the Northwest (Cincinnati, 1881).  See also Wis. Hist. Colls., xi, pp. 1-25.

2 In his authoritative History of the Ojibway Nation, in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., Warren prefers the spelling “Chagoumigon,” although recognizing “Shagawaumikong” and “Shaugahwaumikong.”  “Chequamegon” is the current modern form.  Rev.  Edward P. Wheeler, of Ashland, an authority on the Chippewa tongue and traditions, says the pronunciation should be “Sheh-gu-wah-mi-kung,” with the accent on the last syllable.

See Nevill and Martin’s Historic Green Bay (Milwaukee,1894); and various articles in the Wisconsin Historical Collections.

See Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp.98, 99, note, for account of early copper mining on Lake Superior by Indians.  In the summer of 1892, W. H. Holmes, of the Smithsonian Institution, found on Isle Royale no less than a thousand abandoned shafts which had been worked by them; and “enough stone implements lay around, to stock every museum in the country.”

Radisson’s Voyages was published by the Prince Society (Boston, 1895); that portion relation to Wisconsin is reproduced, with notes, in Wis. Hist. Colls., xi.  See also Jesuit Relations, 1660, for Father Lallemant’s report of the discoveries of the “two Frenchmen,” who had found “a fine river, great, broad, deep, and comparable, they say, to our great St. Lawrence.”
In Franquelin’s map of 1688, what is now Pigeon River, a part of the international boundary between Minnesota and Canda, is called Groseilliers.  An attempt was made by members of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, in the Wisconsin Legislature,during the session of 1895, to have a proposed new county called Radisson; the name was adopted by the friends of the bill, but the measure itself failed to pass.

Now called Crees.

Radisson’s Voyages plainly indicates that the travelers portaged across the long, narrow sand-spit formerly styled Shagawaumikong, in their day united with the mainland, but now insular, and bearing the name Chequamegon Island; this Radisson describes as “a point of 2 leagues long and some 60 paces broad,”and later he refers to it as “the point that forms that Bay, wch resembles a small lake.”  After making this portage of Shagawaumikong, they proceeded in their boats, and “att the end of this bay we landed.”  The Ottawas of the party desired to cross over to their villages on the head-waters of the Black and Chippewa, and no landing-place was so advantageous for this purpose as the southwest corner of the bay.  It is plain from the narrative that the Frenchmen, now left to themselves, built their fortified hut at or near the place of landing, on the mainland.  The Chippewa tradition of the coming of Radisson and Groseilliers, as given by Warren in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 121, 122, places the camp of the first white men on the eastern extremity of Madeline (or La Pointe) Island.  The tradition runs close to the fact in most other particulars; but in the matter of location, Radisson’s journal leaves no room to doubt that the tradition errs.
See post, Father Verwyst’s article, “Historic Sites on Chequamegon Bay,”with notes on the site of Radisson’s fort, by Sam. S. Fifield and Edward P. Wheeler.  Verwyst thinks the location to have been “somewhere between Whittlesey’s Creek and Shore’s Landing;”  Fifield and Wheeler are confident that it was at Boyd’s Creek.

Apparently by Johnathan Carver, in the map accompanying his volume of Travels.

Says Warren (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 102): “Shag-a-waum-ik-ong is a narrow neck or point of land about our miles long, and lying nearly parallel to the island of La Pointe, toward the western end of which it converges, till the distance from point to point is not more than two miles.”  In first entering the bay, the previous autumn, Radisson describes the point of Shagawaumikong, and says: “That point should be very fitt to build & advantageous for the building of a fort, as we did the spring following.”  But later on in his journal, in describing the return to the bay from their winter with the Indians in the Mille Lacs region, he does not mention the exact location of the new “fort.”  While in this fort, they “received [news] that the Octanaks [Ottawas] [had] built a fort on the ponit that forms that Bay, wcresembles a small lake.  We went towards it with all speede,” – and had a perilous trip thither, across thin ice.  This would indicate that the French camp was not on the point.  As with many other passages in the journal, it is impossible to reconcile these two statements.  Verwyst thinks that the traders were stationed on Houghton Point.
Warren, who had an intimate acquaintance with Chippewa traditions’ believed that that tribe, driven westward by degrees from the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, reached Lake Superior about the time of the Columbian discovery, and came to a stand on Shagaqaumikong Point.  “On this spot they remained not long, for they were harassed daily by their warlike foes, and for greater security they were obliged to move their camp to the adjacent island of Mon-in-wun-a-kauning (place of the golden-breasted woodpecker, but known as La Pointe).  Here, they chose the site of their ancient town, and it covered a space about three miles long and two broad, comprising the western end of the island.” – (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 96).  They remained in this large town “for the space of three generations, or one hundred and twenty years,” but for various reasons (see Ibid, p. 108 et seq., for the details) evacuated the place, and settling on the adjacent mainland came to regard La Pointe Island (now Madeline) as an abode of evil spirits, upon which, it is said, until the days of Cadotte, no Indian dare stay over night alone.  Gradually, as the beaver grew more scarce, the Chippewas radiated inland, so that at the time of Radisson’s visit the shores of the bay were almost unoccupied, save during the best fishing season, when Chippewas, Ottawas, Hurons, and others congregated there in considerable numbers.

10 The route which Ménard took, is involved in doubt.  Verwyst, following the Jesuit Relations, thinks he ascended some stream flowing into Lake Superior, and portaged over to the head-waters of Black river.  Others, following Tailhan’s Perrot, believe that he crossed over to Green Bay, then ascended the Fox, descended the Wisconsin, and ascended the Mississippi to the mouth of the black.  If the latter was his route, his visit to the Mississippi preceded Joliet’s by eleven years.

11 Neill (in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 116) is of the opinion that Allouez “built a bark chapel on the shores of the bay, between a village of Petun Hurons and a village composed of three bands of Ottawas.”  That Allouez was stationed upon the mainland, where the Indians now were, is evident from his description of the bay (Jesuit Relations for 1666-67): “A beautiful bay, at the bottom of which is situated the great village of the savages, who there plant their fields of Indian corn, and lead a stationary life.  There are there, to the number of eight hundred men bearing arms, but collected from seven different nations, who dwell in peace with each other.”  Verwyst, whose local knowledge is thorough, thinks that Allouez’s mission was at the mouth of Vanderventer’s Creek, and I have followed him in this regard.
There has always been some confusion among antiquarians as to what particular topographical feature gave name to the region.  In christening his mission “La Pointe,” he had reference, I think, not to the particular plot of ground on which his chapel lay, but to the neighboring sandy point of Shagawaumikong, hemming in the bay on the east, in which he must have had a poetic interest, for tradition told him that it was the landfall of the Chippewas, and the place where, perhaps a century before, had been fought a great battle between them and the Dakotah’s (or Sioux), relics of which were to be found in our own day, in the human bones scattered freely through the shifting soil; doubtless in his time, these were much in evidence.
The map of in the Jesuit Relations for 1670-71 styles the entire Bayfield peninsula, forming the west shore of the bay, “La Pointe du St. Esprit,” of 1688, more exact in every particular, places a small settlement near the southwestern extremity of the bay. See also Verwyst’s Missionary Labors of Fathers Marquette, Ménard, and Allouez (Milwaukee, 1886), p. 183.
In 1820, Cass and Schoolcraft visited Chequamegon Bay, and the latter, in his Narrative, says: “Passing this [Bad] River, we continued along the sandy formation to its extreme termination, which separates the Bay of St. Charles [Chequamegon] from that remarkable group of islands called the Twelve Apostles by Carver.  It is this sandy point which is called La Pointe Chagoimegon by the old French authors, a term no shortened to La Pointe.”

12 By this time, fear of the Iroquois had subsided, and many Hurons had lately returned with the Pottawattomies, Sauks, and Foxes, to the oldhaunts of the latter, on Fox River.  Cadillac, writing in 1703 from Detroit, says (Margry, v., p. 317): “It is proper that you should be informed that more than fifty years since [about 1645] the Iroquois by force of arms drove nearly all of the other Indian nations from this region [Lake Huron] to the extremity of Lake Superior, a country north of this post, and frightfully baren and inhispitable.  About thirty-two years ago [1671] these exiled tribes collected themselves together at Michillimakinak.”

13 “The cause of the perpetual war, carried on between these two nations, is this, that both claim, as their exclusive hunting ground, the tract of country which lies between them, and uniformly attack each other when they meet upon it.” – Henry’s Travels and Adventures (N. Y., 1809), pp. 197, 198.

14 From whom the city of Duluth, Minn. was named.

15 For an account of Grand Portage see Wis. Hist. Colls., xi., pp. 123-125.

16 See ante, p. 203, note, for description of the Bois Brulé-St. Croix route.

17 See Parkman’s Half Century of Conflict, and Hebberd’s Wisconsin under French Domination (Madison, 1890).

18 Neill, in Minn. Hist. Colls., v. p 140, says that soon after St. Lusson’s taking possession of the Northwest for France, at Sault. Ste. Marie (1671), French traders built a small fort set about with cedar palisades, on which a cannon was mounted, “at the mouth of a small creek or pond midway between the present location of the American Fur Company’s establishment and the mission-house of the American Board of Foreign Missions.”

19 Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 125.  Originally, the Indians of Lake Superior went to Quebec to trade; but, as the whites penetrated westward by degrees, these commercial visits were restricted to Montreal, Niagara, Detroit, Mackinaw, Sault Ste. Marie, as each in turn became the outpost of French influence; finally trading-posts were opeend at La Pointe, St. Louis River, and Pigeon River, and in time traders even followed the savages on their long hunts after the ever-decreasing game.

20 In July, 1695, Chingouabé, Chief of the Chippewas, voyaged with Le Sueur to Montreal, to “pay his respects to Onontio, in the name of the young warriors of Point Chagouamigon, and to thank him for having given them some Frenchmen to dwell with them; and to testify their sorrow for one Jobin, a Frenchmen killed at a feast.  It occurred accidentally, not maliciously.”  In his reply (July 29), Governor Frontenac gave the Chippewas some good advice, and said that he would again send Le Sueur “to command at Chagouamigon.”  – Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 421.

21 It is evident that hereafter Madelaine Island was the chief seat of French power in Chequamegon Bay, but it was not until the present century that either the name La Pointe or Madelaine was applied to the island.  Franquelin’s map (1688) calls it “Isle Detour ou St Michel.”  Bellin’s French map of Lake Superior (in Charlevoix’s Histoire et Description Générale de Nouvelle France, Paris, 1744) calls the long sand-point of Shagawaumikong (now Chequamegon Island), “Pointe de Chagauamigon,” and styles the present Madelain Island “Isle La Ronde” after the trader La Ronde; what is now Basswood Island, he calls “Isle Michel,” and at the southern extremity of the bay indicates that at that place was once an important Indian village.  In De l’ Isle’s map, of 1745, a French trading house (Maison Francoise) is shown on Shagawaumikong Point itself.  Madelaine Island has at various times been known as Monegoinaiccauning (or Moningwnakauning, Chippewa for “golden-breasted woodpecker”), St. Michel, La Ronde, Woodpecker, Montreal, Virginia (Schoolcraft, 1820), Michael’s (McKenney, 1826), Middle (because midway between the stations of Saulte Ste. Marie and Fort William, at Pigeon River), Cadotte’s, and La Pointe (the latter because La pointe village was situated thereon).

22 Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 423-425.

23 It was during this period the only fur-trading station on the south shore of Lake Superior, and was admirably situated for protecting not only the west end of the lake, but the popular portage route between Lake Superior and the Mississippi River, – the Bois Brulé and the St. Croix Rivers.

24 J. D. Butler’s “Early Shipping on Lake Superior,” in Wis. Hist. Soc. Proc., 1894, p. 87.  The rigging and material were taken in canoes from the lower country to Sault Ste. Marie, the vessel being built at Point aux Pins, on the north shore, seven miles above the Sault.  Butler shows that Alexander Henry was interested with a mining company in launching upon the lake in May, 1771, a sloop of 70 tons.  After this, sailing vessels were regularly employed upon Superior, in the prosecution of the fur trade and copper mining.  The Hudson’s Bay Company’s “Speedwell” was upon the lake as early as 1789; the Northwest Company’s principal vessel was the “Beaver.”

25 In this year there were reported to be 150 Chippewa braves living on Point Chagouamigon. — N. Y. Colon. Docs., ix.

26 Martin MSS., Dominion Archives, Ottawa, – letter of Beauharnois.  For much of the foregoing data, see Neill’s “History of the Ojibways,” Minn. Hist. Colls., v.

27 N. Y. Colon. Docs., x., p. 424

28 Says Governor Galissoniére, in writing to the colonial office at Paris, under date of October, 1748: “Voyageurs robbed and maltreated at Sault Ste. Marie, and elsewhere on Lake Superior; in fine there appears to be no security anywhere.” – N. Y. Colon. Docs., x. p. 182.

29 See the several versions of this tale, Wis. Hist. Colls., viii., pp. 224 et seq.; and Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 141-145, 431-432.  Warren says that some Chippewa traditions ascribe this tragedy to the year 1722, but the weight of evidence is as in the text above.

30 “My house, which stood in the bay, was sheltered by an island of fifteen miles in length, and betwen which and the main the channel is four miles broad.  On the island there was formerly a French trading post, much frequented; and in its neighborhood a large Indian village.” – Henry’s Travels, p. 199.  Henry doubtless means that formerly there was an Indian village on the island; until after the coming of Cadotte, Warren says, the island was thought by the natives to be bewitched.

31 Jean Baptiste Cadotte (formerly spelled Cadot) was the son of one Cadeau, who is said to have come to the Northwest in the train of Sieur de St. Lusson, who took possession of the region centring at Sault Ste. Marie, in 1671.  See St. Lusson’s procés verbal in Wis. Hist. Colls., xi., p. 26.  Jean Baptiste, who was legally married to a Chippewa woman, had two sons, Jean Paptiste and Michel, both of whom were extensive traders and in their turn married Chippewas.  See Minn. Hist. Colls., v., index.

32 “On my arrival at Chagouenig, I found fifty lodges of Indians there.  These people were almost naked, their trade having been interrupted first by the English invasion of Canada, and next by Pontiac’s war.” – Travels, p. 193.

33 McKenny, in History of the Indian Tribes (Phila., 1854), i., pp. 154, 155, tells the story.  He speaks of Johnston as “the accomplished Irish gentleman who resided so many years at the Sault de Ste. Marie, and who was not better known for his intelligence and polished manners than for his hospitality.”  See also, ante, pp. 180, 181, for Schoolcraft and Doty’s notices of Johnston, who died ([ae]t. 66) at Sault Ste. Marie, Sept. 22, 1828.  His widow became a Presbyterian, and built a church of that denomination at the Sault.  Her daughter married Henry B. Schoolcraft, the historian of the Indian tribes.  Waubojeeg died at an advanced age, in 1793.

34 Warren thinks he settled there about 1792 (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p.111), but there is good evidence that it was at a later date.

35 “The Cranes claim the honor of first having pitched their wigwam and lighted the fire of the Ojibways, at Shaug-ah-waum-ik-ong, a sand point or peninsula lying two miles immediately opposite the Island of La Pointe.” – Warren in Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 86.

36 “Kind-hearted Michel Cadotte,” as Warren calls him, also had a trading-post at Lac Courte Oreille.  He was, like the other Wisconsin Creole traders, in English employ during the War of 1812-15, and was at the capture of Mackinaw in 1812.  He died on the island, July 8, 1837, aged 72 years, and was buried there.  As with most of his kind, he made money freely and spent it with prodigality, partly in high living, but mainly in supporting his many Indian relatives; as a consequence, he died poor, the usual fate of men of his type. – (Minn. Hist. Colls., v., p. 449.)  Warren says (Ibid., p. 11), the death occurred “in 1836,” but the tombstone gives the above date.
Cass, Schoolcraft, and Doty visited Chequamegon Bay in 1820.  Schoolcraft says, in his Narrative, pp. 192, 193: “Six mile beyond the Mauvaise is Pointe Che-goi-me-gon, once the grand rendezvous of the Chippeway tribe, but now reduced to a few lodges.  Three miles further west is the island of St. Michel (Madelaine), which lies in the traverse across Chegoimegon Bay, where M. Cadotte has an establishment.  This was formerly an important trading post, but is now dwindled to nothing.  There is a dwelling of logs, stockaded in the usual manner of trading-housess, besides several out-buildings, and some land in cultivation.  We here also found several cows and horses, which have been transported with great labor.”  See ante, pp. 200, 201, for Doty’s account of this visit.

37 Alfred Brunson, who visited Lyman Warren at La Pointe, in 1843, wrote: “Mr. Warren had a large and select library, an unexpected sight in an Indian country, containing some books that I had never before seen.” – Brunson, Western Pioneer (Cincinnati, 1879), ii., p. 163.

38 Minn. Hist. Colls., v., pp. 326, 383, 384, 450.  Contemporaneously with the settlement of the Warrens at La Pointe, Lieutenant Bayfield of the British navy made (1822-23) surveys from which he prepared the first accurate chart of Lake Superior; his name is preserved in Bayfield peninsula, county, and town.

39 Borup had a trading-post on the island in 1846; but the forest commence had by this time sadly dwindled.

40 He left six children, the oldest son being William Whipple Warren, historian of the Chippewa tribe.  See William’s “Memoir of William W. Warren,” in Minn. Hist. Colls., v.

41 See Davidson’s excellent “Missions on Chequamegon Bay,” in Wis. Hist. Colls., xii., to which I am chiefly indebted for information concerning the modern La Pointe missions.  Mr. Davidson has since given us, in his Unnamed Wisconsin (Milw., 1895), fuller details of this mission work.

42 Wis. Hist. Colls., xii., p. 445.  Mr. Davidson writes to me that in his opinion Ayer leaned to independency, and was really a Congregationalist; Hall is registered as such in the Congregational Year Book for 1859.  “As to the La Pointe-Odanah church,” continues Mr. Davidson, in his personal letter, “its early records make no mention of lay elders, – of organization it was independent, rather than strictly Congregational.  This could not be otherwise, with no church nearer than the one at Mackinaw.  That was Presbyterian, as was its pastor, Rev. William M. Ferry.  The La Pointe church adopted articles of faith of its own choosing, instead of holding itself bound by the Westminster confession.  Moreover, the church was reorganized after the mission was transferred to the Presbyterian board.  For this action there may have been some special reason that I know nothing about.  But it seems to me a needless procedure if the church were Presbyterian before.”

43 See Verwyst’s Missionary Labors, pp. 146-149.  This chapel was built partly of new logs, and partly of material from an old building given to Father Baraga by the American Fur Company

44 See Wis. Hist. Colls., xii., pp. 445, 446, note, also, Verwyst’s Missionary Labors, pp. 183, 184.  Father Verwyst also calls attention to certain vestments at La Pointe, said to be those of Marquette: “That is another fable which we feel it our duty to explode.  The vestments there were procured by Bishop Baraga and his successors; not one of them dates from the seventeenth century.”

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

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

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

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

XXI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cntd. translation in Rezek pg.368

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO BE CONTINUED…

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

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

Benjamin Armstrong

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

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

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

Recent Scholarly Work and Primary Sources about the 1852 Delegation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Response to the Questioning of the Chief Buffalo Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vincent Roy Jr. Account of the 1852 Trip   

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

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

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

St. Agnes’ Church

205 E. FRONT ST.

Ashland, Wis., June 27, 1903

Reuben G. Thwaites,

Sec.  Wis. Hist. Soc.  Madison, Wis.

Dear Sir,

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

Yours very respectfully,

Fr Chrysostom Verwyst O.F.M.

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

~ Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy ~

~ T. Apr. 2. 1896 – Superior Wis. ~

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

(Mr. Roy to V.)           

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

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

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

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

(the treaty doct.)

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

(Cournoyer)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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