Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

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

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

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

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

1843

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1843

Sept 11th            Monday  heading against hard wind all day—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1843

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

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

A.M.F:  American Fur Company

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

24th                   Cold—snow and some ice in the river

26th                   The river froze over at this place.

27th                   Colder the ice makes fast in the river

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

2nd                    Moderate

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

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

9th                     Warm and misty—thawing fort

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

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

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

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

1844

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

March 2nd           New sugar, weather pleasant

3rd                     Cloudy chilly wind

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

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

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

31st                   A cloudy brilliant day—The frogs are singing

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

Afternoon a little cloudy but warm

Evening, moonlight—beautiful and bright

2nd                    Warm morning.  afternoon high wind rain

A pleasant moonlight evening—warm

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

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

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

1844

April

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

7th                     Sunday.  warm rainy day—attended church

8th                     Cloudy morning and warm, afternoon very fair.

9th                     Fair frosty morning, afternoon very warm.

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

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

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

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

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

15th                   Rainy, warm day

16th                   Fair cool morning—after noon warmer

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

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

18th                   Another beautiful day.

19th                   Warm rainy day

20th                   Rainy day

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

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

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

24th                   Fair morning moderately warm—afternoon fair.  Musketoes

25th                   Rainy day

26th                   Cool cloudy morning

27th}                  fair & warm

28th

29th                   Beautiful April day

30th                   Rainy day

May 1st              Warm with high wind

2nd                    Do. a little rain

3rd                     Warm—sunshine and showers

4th}                   Beautiful warm day

5th

6th                     Most beautiful brilliant day

the woods have already a shade of green

1844

May 7th              Warm rainy day

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

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

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

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

23rd                   Sunday, attended church

24th                   Did nothing in particular—weather very warm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29th                   Johnson arrived from La Pointe—Rainy day.

31st                   The farmer and Blacksmith arrived from La Pointe

The weather is very warm—

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

10                     Frosty night

11                     Do.       “

12                     Cloudy and warm

13                     Do.       Do.       “

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

15                     Sunday  foggy morning—very warm fair day

16                     Warm

22                     Do.

29                     fair

Oct 3rd               Warm and fair

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

14-15                Rainy days

19th                   cold

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

21                     fine day

22&23               fair & warm thunder & lightning at night

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

28th                   Cold—snow in the afternoon and night

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

END OF 1843-44 JOURNAL

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

________________________________________________________________

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

____________________________________________________________________________

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

____________________________________________________________________________

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

Sources:

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

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

Sauk Chief Makataimeshekiakiah, or Black Hawk
Sauk Chief Makataimeshekiakiah, or Black Hawk by Charles Bird King (Wikimedia Images)

On the night of August 1, 1831, the section of the Michigan Territory that would become the state of Wisconsin, was a scene of stark contrasts regarding the United States Army’s ability to force its will on Indian people.  In the south, American forces had caught up and skirmished with the starving followers of Black Hawk near the mouth of the Bad Axe River in present-day Vernon County.  The next morning, with the backing of the steamboat Warrior, the soldiers would slaughter dozens of men, women, and children as they tried to retreat across the Mississippi.  The massacre at Bad Axe was the end of the Black Hawk War, the last major military resistance from the Indian nations of the Old Northwest.

Less than 300 miles upstream, Lieutenant James Allen had his bread stolen right out of his fire as he slept. Presumably, it was taken by Ojibwe youths from the Yellow River village on the St. Croix.  Earlier that day, he had been unable to get convince any members of the Yellow River band to guide him up to the Brule River portage.  The next morning, (the same day as the Battle of Bad Axe), Allen was able to buy a new bark canoe to take some load off his leaky fleet.  However, the Ojibwe family that sold it to him was able to take advantage of supply and demand to get twice the amount of flour from the soldiers that they would’ve gotten from the local traders.  Later that day, the well-known chief Gaa-bimabi (Kabamappa), from the upper St. Croix, brought him a desperately-needed map, so not all of his interactions with the Ojibwe that day were negative.  However, each of these encounters showed clearly that the Ojibwe were neither cowed nor intimidated by the presence of American soldiers in their country.

In fact, Allen’s detachment must have been a miserable sight.  They had fallen several days behind the voyageur-paddled canoes carrying Schoolcraft, the interpreter, and the doctor. Their canoes were leaking badly and they were running out of gum (pitch) to seal them up.  Their feet were torn up from wading up the rapids, and one man was too injured to walk.  They were running low on food, didn’t know how to find the Brule, and their morale was running dangerously low.  If the War Department’s plan was for Allen to demonstrate American power to the Ojibwe, the plan had completely backfired.

The journey down the Brule was even more difficult for the soldiers than the trip up the St. Croix. I won’t repeat it all here because it’s in the posted pages of Allen’s journal in these four posts, but in the end, it was our old buddy Maangozid (see 4/14/13 post) and some other Fond du Lac Ojibwe who rescued the soldiers from their ordeal.

Allen’s journal entry after finally reaching Lake Superior is telling:

“[T]he management of bark canoes, of any size, in rapid rivers, is an art which it takes years to acquire; and, in this country, it is only possessed by Canadians [mix-blooded voyageurs] and Indians, whose habits of life have taught them but little else.  The common soldiers of the army have no experience of this kind, and consequently, are not generally competent to transport themselves in this way; and whenever it is required to transport troops, by means of bark canoes, two Canadian voyageurs ought to be assigned to each canoe, one in the bow, and another in the stern;  it will then be the safest and most expeditious method that can be adopted in this country.”

The 1830s were the years of Indian Removal throughout the United States, but at that time, the American government had no hope of conquering and subduing the Ojibwe militarily.  When the Ojibwe did surrender their lands (in 1837 and 1842 for the Wisconsin parts), it was due to internal politics and economics rather than any serious threat of American invasion.  Rather than proving the strength of the United States, Allen’s expedition revealed a serious weakness.

The Ojibwe weren’t overconfident or ignorant.  The very word for Americans, chimookomaan (long knife), referred to soldiers.  A handful of Ojibwe and mix-blooded warriors had fought the United States in the War of 1812 and earlier in the Ohio country.  Bizhiki and Noodin, two chiefs whose territory Allen passed through on his ill-fated journey, had been to Washington in 1824 and saw the army firsthand.  The next year, many more chiefs got to see the long knives in person at the Treaty of Prairie du Chien.  Finally, the removal of their Ottawa and Potawatomi cousins and other nations to Indian Territory in the 1830s was a well-known topic of concern in Ojibwe villages.  They knew the danger posed by American soldiers, but the reality of the Lake Superior Country in 1832 was that American power was very limited.

The journal picks up from part 3 with Allen and crew on the Brule River with their canoes in rapidly-deteriorating condition.  They’ve made contact with the Fond du Lac villagers camped at the mouth, but there are still several obstacles to overcome.

pl

Doc. 323, pg. 66

Doc. 323, pg. 65

pl

Doc. 323, pg. 66
Allen’s journal is part of Phillip P. Mason’s edition of Schoolcraft’s Expedition to Lake Itasca: The Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi (1958). However, these Google Books pages come from the original publication as part of the United States Congress Serial Set.

James Allen (1806-1846)
Collections of the Iowa Historical Society

Allen and all of his men survived the ordeal of the 1832 expedition.  He returned to La Pointe on August 11 and left the next day with Dr. Houghton.  The two men returned to the Soo together, stopping at the great copper rock on the Ontonagon River along the way.

On September 13, 1832, he wrote Alexander Macomb, his commander at Fort Brady.  The letter officially complained about Schoolcraft “unnecessarily and injuriously” leaving the soldiers behind at the mouth of the St. Croix.  When the New York American published its review of Schoolcraft’s Narrative on July 19, 1834, it expressed “indignation and dismay” at the “un-Christianlike” behavior of the agent for abandoning the soldiers in the “enemy’s country.”  The resulting controversy forced Schoolcraft to defend himself in the Detroit Journal and Michigan Advertiser where he pointed out Allen’s map’s importance to the Narrative.  He also reminded the public that the Ojibwe and the United States were considered allies.

James Allen went on to serve in Chicago and at the Sac and Fox agency in Iowa Territory.  After the Mexican War broke out in 1846, he traveled to Utah and organized a Mormon Battalion to fight on the American side.  He died on his way back east on August 23, 1846. He was only forty years old.  (John Lindquist has great website about the career of James Allen with much more information about his post-1832 life). 

Sources:
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Loew, Patty. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2001. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, and Philip P. Mason. Expedition to Lake Itasca; the Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi,. [East Lansing]: Michigan State UP, 1958. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.
Witgen, Michael J. An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2012. Print.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Placeholde

Doc. 323; pg 58

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Doc. 323, pg. 59

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

To be continued…

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

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864)

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

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

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

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

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

Allen1

Doc. 323, pg 55

Doc. 323, pg. 56

Doc. 323, pg. 56

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

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

To be continued…