Lake shores--Sub-Indian agency--Indian transactions--Old fort,
site of a tragedy--Maskigo River; its rapids and character--Great
Wunnegum Portage--Botany--Length of the Mauvais--Indian
carriers--Lake Kagenogumaug--Portage lakes--Namakagun River, its
character, rapids, pine lands, &c.--Pukwaewa village--A new species
of native fruit--Incidents on the Namakagun; its birds, plants, &c.
1831. LAKE SHORES.--I had a final conference with the Indians of
the Ontanagon on the morning of the 14th July, and at its conclusion
distributed presents to all. I sent Germain with a canoe and men for
St. Mary's with dispatches, and embarked for La Pointe at half past
eight, A.M. After keeping the lake for two hours, we were compelled
by adverse winds to put ashore near Iron River; we were detained
here the rest of the day. After botanizing at this spot, Dr.
Houghton remarks, that since arriving at the Ontanagon, he finds
plants which belong to a more southerly climate.
The next morning (15th) we embarked at three o'clock and went on
finely--stopped for breakfast at Carp River, under the Porcupine
Mountains--the Pesabic of the Indians. On coming out into the
lake again the wind was fair, and increased to blow freshly. We went
on to Montreal River, where it became a side wind, and prevented our
keeping the lake. I took this occasion to walk inland eleven
pauses on the old portage path to Fountain Hill, for the purpose
of enjoying the fine view of the lake, which is presented from that
elevation. The rocks are pudding-stone and sandstone, and belong to
the Porcupine Mountain development.
Returned from this excursion at seven o'clock--took a cup of tea,
and finding the wind abated, re-embarked. By ten o'clock at night we
reached and entered the Mauvaise or Maskigo River, where we found
Lieut. Clary encamped. After drying our clothes, we went on to La
Pointe, which we reached at one o'clock in the morning (16th), and
immediately went to Mr. Johnston's buildings.
SUB-AGENCY.--Mr. George Johnston was appointed Sub-agent of Indian
Affairs at this point in 1826, after the visit of that year of Gen.
Cass and Col. McKenney to this remote section of the country. It has
proved a useful office for acquiring information of the state and
views of the interior Indians, and as supervising the Indian trade.
We were made very comfortable in his quarters.
INDIAN TRANSACTIONS.--Pezhike, with the secondary chief,
Tagwaugig and his band, visited me. Conferred with them on the
state of the Indians on the St. Croix and Chippewa Rivers at Lac
Courtorielle, &c., the best route for entering the region
intermediate between Lake Superior and the Mississippi.
Pezhike thought my canoes too large to, pass the small bends on the
route of the Lac du Flambeau: he said the waters of the Broule,
or Misakoda River, were too low at this time to ascend that stream.
He said that Mozojeed, the chief of Lac Courtorielle, had
been here awaiting me, but, concluding I would not come, had
returned. His return had been hastened by a report that the Sioux
had formed a league with the Winnebagoes and Menomonies to attack
Pezhike gave in his population at eighty souls, of which
number eighteen were men, twenty-six women, and the remainder
children. He made a speech responding to the sentiments uttered by
me, and promising the aid of his band in the pacification of the
country. As an evidence of his sincerity he presented a peace-pipe.
I concluded the interview by distributing presents of ammunition and
iron works to each man, agreeably to his count. I then sent Indian
runners with messages to Bwoinace at Yellow River, on the St.
Croix, to be forwarded by hand to Chacopee, on Snake River, to meet
me at Yellow River in twelve days. Sent a message to the same chief,
to be forwarded to Mozojeed at Lac Courtorielle, to meet me
at that place with his band on the 1st August, and another message
to be forwarded by him to Lac du Flambeau, at the head of the
Chippewa River, with directions for the Indians to meet me at their
principal village, as soon after the 1st August as I can get there,
of which they will be the best judges. I determined to enter the
country myself, by the Mauvais or Maskigo River, notwithstanding the
numerous rafts of trees that embarrass the navigation--the water
OLD FORT, SITE OF A TRAGEDY.--The military barge, Lieut. Clary,
started for the Maskigo, with a fair wind, on the 18th. A soldier
had previously deserted. I sent to the chief, Pezhike, to dispatch
his young men to catch him, and they immediately went. After setting
out, the wind was found too strong to resist with paddies, and I
turned into the sheltered bay of the old French fort. The site and
ground lines are only left.
It was a square with bastions. The site is overgrown with red haw
and sumac. The site of a blacksmith shop was also pointed out. This
is an evidence of early French and Missionary enterprise, and dates
about 1660. There is a tale of a tragedy connected with a female, at
its abandonment. The guns, it is said, were thrown in the bay. The
wind having abated, we again put out at eight o'clock in the
evening, and went safely into the Maskigo and encamped.
MASKIGO RIVER.--We began the ascent of this stream on the 19th, at
half-past four A.M.; landed at seven for breakfast, at the old
Indian gardens; at eight went on; at ten reached the first portage,
passed it in an hour; went on till one o'clock; afterwards passed
two other portages of about three hundred yards each; and went on to
the great raft of flood wood, being the fourth portage, where we
encamped at three o'clock, at its head. Mosquitoes very annoying.
Estimate our distance at thirty miles.
On the next morning (20th) we embarked in good deep water at eight
o'clock. We reached rapids at eleven o'clock. Passed a portage of
two pauses, and took dinner at the terminus. Sandstone forms the
bed of the river at the rapids here. It inclined E.S.E. about 75
deg.. A continual rapid, called the Galley, being over a brown
sandstone rock, succeeds, in which rapids follow rapids at short
intervals. We encamped at the Raft rapids. The men toiled like dogs,
but willingly and without grumbling. Next day (21st) we were early
on the water, and passed the crossing of the Indian portage path
from St. Charles Bay, at La Pointe, to the Falls of St. Anthony. We
followed a wide bend of the river, around the four pause
portage. This was a continued rapid. The men toiled incessantly,
being constantly in the water. The bark of the canoes became so
saturated with water that they were limber, and bent under the
weight of carrying them on the portages. We encamped, very much
tired, but the men soon rallied, and never complained. It was
admirable to see such fidelity and buoyancy of character.
We were now daily toiling up the ascent of the summit which
separates the basin of Lake Superior from the valley of the upper
Mississippi. The exertion was incredible. I expected every day some
of the men to give out, but their pride to conquer hardships was,
with them, the point of honor. They gloried in feats under which
ordinary men would have fainted. To carry a horse load over a
portage path which a horse could not walk, is an exploit which none
but a Canadian voyageur would sigh for the accomplishment of.
On the 22d, we came to a short portage, after going about six miles,
during a violent rain storm. Then three portages of short extent,
say fifty to three hundred yards each, in quick succession. After
the last, some comparatively slight rapids. Finally, smooth water
and a sylvan country, level and grassy. We were evidently near the
summit. Soon came to the forks, and took the left hand. Came
afterwards to three branches, and took the south. Followed a
distance through alder bushes bending from each side; this required
skill in dodging, for the bushes were covered with caterpillars. We
formed an encampment on this narrow stream by cutting away bushes,
and beating down high grass and nettles. Here was good soil capable
of profitable agriculture.
GREAT WUNNEGUM PORTAGE.--The next morning we resumed the ascent of
this branch at six o'clock, and reached the beginning of the Gitchy
Wun-ne-gum portage at nine o'clock A.M. This was the last great
struggle in the ascent. We spent about three hours in drying
baggage, corn, tents, beds, &c. Then went on four pauses over
the portage and encamped in sight of a pond. The next day we
accomplished ten pauses, a hard day's work. We encamped near
a boulder of granite of the drift stratum, which contained brilliant
plates of mica. Water scarce and bad. Our tea was made of a brown
pondy liquid, which looked like water in a tanner's vat.
We passed, and stopped to examine, Indian symbols on the blazed side
of a tree, which told a story to our auxiliary Indians of a moose
having been killed; by certain men, whose family name, or mark, was
denoted, &c. We had previously passed several of these hunting
inscriptions in our ascent of the Mauvais, and one in particular at
the eastern end of the four pause portage. We were astonished
to perceive that these figures were read as easy as perfect gazettes
by our Indian guides.
We were also pleased, notwithstanding the severe labor of the
apecun, to observe the three auxiliary Chippewas, with us,
playing in the evening at the game of the bowl, an amusement in
which some of the men participated.
On the 25th we went three pauses to breakfast, in a hollow or
ravine, and pushing on, crossed the last ridge, and at one o'clock
reached the foot of Lake Ka-ge-no-gum-aug, a beautiful and elongated
sheet of water, which is the source of this branch of the Maskigo
River. Thus a point was gained. An hour after, the baggage arrived,
and by six o'clock in the evening, the canoes all arrived. This lake
is about nine miles long.
BOTANY.--In the ascent of this stream, Dr. Houghton has collected
about two hundred plants. The forest trees are elm, pine, spruce,
maple, ironwood, linden, cherry, oak, and beach. Leatherwood is a
shrub common on the portage.
The length of this river, from the mouth of the river to the point
at which we left it, we compute at one hundred and four miles.
The three young Indians, sent from La Pointe, by Pezhike, to help us
on the portages, having faithfully attended us all the way, were
dismissed to go back, at seven o'clock this morning--after being
abundantly and satisfactorily paid for their services in ammunition
and provisions. On parting, they expressed a design of visiting at
the agency, next spring.
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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the
Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851
Years with the Indians |