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Death of Mr. Monroe

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Death of Mr. Monroe--Affair of the massacre of the Menomonies by the Foxes--Descent to Galena--Trip in the lead mine country to Fort Winnebago--Gratiot's Grove--Sac and Fox disturbances--Black Hawk--Irish Diggings--Willow Springs--Vanmater's lead--An escape from falling into a pit--Mineral Point--Ansley's copper mine--Gen. Dodge's--Mr. Brigham's--Sugar Creek--Four Lakes--Seven Mile Prairie--A night in the woods--Reach Fort Winnebago--Return to the Sault--Political changes in the cabinet--Gov. Cass called to Washington--Religious changes--G.B. Porter appointed Governor--Natural history--Character of the new governor--Arrival of the Rev. Jeremiah Porter--Organization of a church.

1831, Aug. 14th. One of the first things we heard, on reaching Prairie du Chien, was the death of ex-President Monroe, which happened on the 4th of July, at the City of New York. The demise of three ex-Presidents of the revolutionary era (Jefferson, Adams, and Monroe), on this political jubilee of the republic, is certainly extraordinary, and appears, so far as human judgment goes, to lend a providential sanction to the bold act of confederated resistance to taxation and oppression, made in 1776.

The affray between the Foxes and Menomonies turns out thus. The Foxes had killed a young Menomonie hunter, near the mouth of the Wisconsin, and cut off his head. The Menomonies had retaliated by killing Foxes. The Foxes then made a war party against the Menomonies, and went up the Mississippi in search of them. They did not find them, till their return, when they discovered a Menomonie encampment on the upper part of the Prairie. They instantly attacked them, and killed seven men, five women, and thirteen children. The act was perfectly dastardly, for the Menomonies were some domestic lodges of persons living, as non-combatants, under the guns of the fort and the civil institutions of the town. The Menomonies complained to me. I told them to go to their Agent, and have a proper statement of the massacre drawn up by him, and transmitted to Washington.

I called on the commanding officer, Captain Loomis, and accepted his invitation to dine. He introduced me to Mr. Street, the Indian Agent. At four o'clock in the evening, I embarked for Galena, and, after descending the Mississippi as long as daylight lasted, encamped on a sand bar. The next morning (15th), we were again in motion before 5 o'clock. We passed Cassville and Dubuque at successive points, and, entering the river of Galena, reached the town about half-past eight o'clock, in the evening, and encamped on the banks of the river.

On the following day (16th) I dispatched my canoe back to the Wisconsin in charge of Mr. Johnston, accompanied by Dr. D. Houghton, and Mr. Melancthon Woolsey, with directions to meet me at the portage. I then hired a light wagon to visit the mine country, taking letters from Captain Legate, U.S.A., and Mr. C. Hemstead. Mr. Bennet, the landlord, went with me to bring back the team. We left Galena about ten o'clock in the morning (17th), and, passing over an open, rolling country, reached Gratiot's Grove, at a distance of fifteen miles. The Messrs. Gratiot received me kindly, and showed me the various ores, and their mode of preparing and smelting them, which are, in all respects, similar to the method pursued in Missouri, with which I was familiar.

Mr. Henry Gratiot was the sub-Indian agent for the Winnebagoes, and was present at the late disturbances at the head of Rock Island. His band is the Winnebagoes living on Rock River, which is the residence of their prophet. He says the latter is a half Sauk, and a very shrewd, cunning man. They are peaceable now, and disclaim all connection with Black Hawk, for war purposes. Mr. G. assured me that he places no confidence in these declarations, nor in the stability of the Sacs and Foxes. He deems the latter treacherous, as usual, and related to me several acts of their former villainy--all in accordance with their late attack and murder of the Menomonies at Prairie du Chien. This murder was committed by a part of Black Hawk's band, who had been driven from their villages on the Mississippi below the rapids. They ascended the river to Dubuque--from thence the party set out, and fell on the unsuspicious and defenceless Menomonies.

Having examined whatever was deemed worthy of attention here, I drove on about fifteen miles to Willow Springs. In this drive we had the Platte Mounds, a prominent object, all the afternoon on our left. We stopped at Irish Diggings, and I took specimens of the various spars, ores, and rocks. Lead ore is found here in fissures in the rock. An extraordinary mass of galena was recently discovered, in this geological position, by two men named Doyle and Hanley. It is stated to have been twenty-two feet wide by one hundred feet in length, and weighed many tons. It was of the kind of formation called sheet mineral, which occupies what appears to have once been an open fissure.

The face of the country is exceedingly beautiful, the soil fertile, and bearing oaks and shagbark hickory. Grass and flowers cover the prairies as far as the eye can reach. The hills are moderately elevated, and the roads excellent, except for short distances where streams are crossed. We passed the night at Willow Springs, where we were well accommodated by Mr. Ray.

On the 18th it rained in the morning. We stopped at Rocky Branch Diggings, and I obtained here some interesting specimens. We also stopped at Bracken's Furnace, where I procured some organic remains. I examined Vanmater's lead; it runs east and west nearly nine miles. There was so much certainty in tracing the course of this lead, that it was sought out with a compass. The top strata are thirty-six to forty feet--then the mineral clay and galena occur.

While examining some large specimens which had been thrown out of an old pit forty feet deep, whose edges were concealed by bushes, I had nearly fallen in backwards, by which I should have been inevitably killed. The fate that I escaped fell to the lot of Bennet's dog. The poor fellow jumped over the cluster of bushes without seeing the pit beyond. By looking down we could see that he was still living. Mr. Vanmater promised to erect a windlass over the pit and get him out before Mr. Bennet returned.

We reached Mineral Point about eleven o'clock. I immediately called on Mr. Ansley, to whom I had a letter, and went with him to visit his copper ore discovery. On the way he lost his mule, and, after some exertions to catch the animal, being under the effects of a fever and ague, he went back. A Mr. Black went with me to the diggings. Green and blue carbonates of copper were found in rolled lumps in the clay soil, much like that kind of lead ore which is called, from its abraded form, gravel ore. Taking specimens of each kind of ore, I went back to the town to dinner, and then drove on two or three miles to General Dodge's. The General received me with great urbanity. I was introduced to his son Augustus, a young gentleman of striking and agreeable manners. Mrs. Dodge had prepared in a few moments a cup of coffee, which formed a very acceptable appendage to my late dinner. We then continued our way, passing through Dodgeville to Porter's Grove, where we stopped for the night, and were made very comfortable at Morrison's.

On the 19th we drove to breakfast at Brigham's at the Blue Mounds. I here found in my host my old friend with whom I had set out from Pittsburgh for the western world some thirteen or fourteen years before, and whom I last saw, I believe, fighting with the crows on the Illinois bottoms for the produce of a fine field of corn. I went on to the mound with him to view the extraordinary growth of the same grain at this place. The stalks were so high that it really required a tall man to reach up and pull off the ears.

Ten miles beyond Brigham's we came to Sugar Creek and a tree marked by Mr. Lyon. From this point we found the trail measured and mile stakes driven by Mr. Lyon's party, but the Indians have removed several. From Sugar Creek it is ten miles to the head of the Four Lakes. We then crossed the Seven Mile Prairie. To the left as we passed there rose a high point of rocks, on the top of which the Indians had placed image stones. Night overtook us soon after crossing this prairie. We took the horse out of the shafts and tied him to the wagon. My friend Bennet, though au fait on these trips, failed to strike a fire. We ate something, and made shift to pass the night.

Next morning we drove twelve miles to a house (Hasting's), where we got breakfast. We drove through Duck Creek with some ado, the skies threatening rain, and came in to Fort Winnebago by one o'clock, during a pouring rain. The canoes sent from Galena had not yet arrived. I spent the next day at the Winnebago agency, Mr. John H. Kinzie's, where I was received with great kindness. The canoe with Dr. Houghton and his companions did not arrive till the 23d, and I embarked the same day on my return to St. Mary's. It will not be necessary to describe this route. We were three days in descending the Fox River and its portages to Green Bay. It required eight days to traverse the shores and bays to Mackinack, and three more to reach St. Mary's, where I arrived on the 4th of September.

During my absence on this expedition, there were some things in my correspondence that require notice. Gen. Cass had been transferred to the War Office at Washington. He writes to me from Detroit (July 22d): "Very much to my surprise I have found myself called to another sphere of action. The change I am afraid will be not less unfavorable to my health and comfort than it certainly is adverse to my pecuniary interest. But I am forced by irresistible circumstances to accept the appointment. I have no time to detail these now. When I next have the pleasure of meeting you, I will fully lay them open to you. You will then see and say that no other choice was before me."

Gen. Eaton, the former incumbent, goes out as minister to Spain. The most important aspect is, perhaps, that we shall have a new governor, under whose rule we shall be happy, if he does not rashly derange Indian affairs in a too eager zeal to mend them. For a long and eventful era Gen. Cass has presided as an umpire between the Indian tribes and the citizens. His force and urbanity of character have equally inspired the respect of both. He has equally secured the confidence of every class of citizens in a wise civil administration of affairs. He has carried the territory from a state of war and desolation, which it presented at the close of 1815, when the whole population was less than three thousand souls, to a state of sound prosperity, which, in a few years, will develop resources that must class us one of the first of the Lake States.

July 26th. The Rev. Absalom Peters, Sec. Home Miss. Society, holds out the prospect of bringing our remote position, at the foot of Lake Superior, within the pale of the operations of that society. He views and describes a graduate of Dartmouth College, who may, probably, be induced to venture himself on this frontier. He asks: "Please to say whether you desire such a man as I have described? Will it be best for him to go this fall, or wait until next spring? How much can you raise for his support? How much will be necessary to sustain him and his family with suitable economy? What will be his peculiar trials?"

Aug. 23d. It is announced that Mr. Geo. B. Porter, of Lancaster, Penn., is to be the new governor.

Oct. 4th. The last mail brings me a letter from an early and esteemed friend, a Prof. in the Med. Col. at New York, offering me congratulations on the moral stand recently taken by me. Approvals, indeed, of this act reach me from many quarters. The way seemed open, with very little exertion on my part, to run a political course. But my impressions were averse to it. There is so much of independent honest opinion to be offered up by politicians--such continual calls to forsake the right for the expedient--such large sacrifices to be made in various ways to the god of public opinion, that a political career is rather startling to a quiet, unambitious, home-loving individual like myself, one, too, who is largely interested in other studies and pursuits, the rewards of which are not, indeed, very prompt, very sure, nor very full; but they are fraught with gratifications of a more enduring kind, and furnish aliment to moral conceptions which exalt and purify the soul.

Dr. Torrey also alludes, in the same letter, to my recent journey in the Indian country: "I am anxious to make some inquiries of you concerning your expedition to the Falls of St. Anthony, &c. Though your principal object was more important, perhaps, than natural science, I hope the latter was not entirely neglected. I know that you have heretofore devoted as much of your attention as possible to the observation of natural objects, and the preservation of specimens, and your last expedition was through a country well deserving of your highest exertions. I know that part of it is the same as that explored while you attended Gov. Cass, many years ago; but much of the ground, if I am rightly informed, is new. You know that I have long devoted much of my time to the study of N. American botany, and that I am collecting materials for a general Flora of our country. Now, my dear sir, if you or Mr. Houghton (the young gentleman whom, I am informed, accompanied you) have made any collections in botany, I should esteem it a peculiar favor to have the examination of the specimens.

"Our Lyceum prospers. We have removed to the N.Y. Dispensatory, a new building lately erected in White Street, where we have excellent accommodations. The Corporation of the city had use for the N.Y. Institution, and nearly all the societies who occupied it have been obliged to decamp. You doubtless have heard of the death of Dr. Mitchell. Dr. Akerly will pronounce his eulogy soon, and probably Dr. Hosick will give a more elaborate account of his life.

"Mr. Cooper now devotes himself to shells and birds. If you have anything rare or new in these departments, we should be greatly obliged to you for such specimens as you can spare.

"Dr. Dekay went to Russia with his father, Mr. Eckford, last summer."

23d. A friend and shrewd observer from Detroit, writes: "You ask how we like our new Governor. Very well. He is a well-informed plain man, unassuming in his manners and conciliatory, always ready for business, and accustomed to do everything en ordre. His wife is a fine-looking agreeable woman, with several pretty well-behaved children."

Another correspondent says: "Mr. Porter is very much such a man as A. E. Wing, and will, no doubt, generally suit the citizens of the territory,"

30th. W. Ward, Esq., says: "I remove hence to Washington, with no certain prospects, only hopes. I cannot go without thanking you for much enjoyment in the hours passed with you, and for the manifestations of interest and friendship."

Nov. 12th. Rev. W. S. Boutwell says: "I am happy to hear that my friend and classmate, Porter, is at Mackinack, on his way to this people. The Lord speed him on his way."

22d. Dr. Houghton writes from Fredonia, communicating the results of his analyses of the Lake Superior copper-ores.

Dec. 31st. The person named in a prior letter from the Home Missionary Society, prefers a more southerly location, in consequence of which a new selection has been made by Dr. Peters, in the person of Rev. Jeremiah Porter, a graduate of Princeton and Andover, and a lineal descendant, I understand, by the mother's side, of the great Dr. Edwards. We have been favorably impressed by the manner and deportment, and not less so by the piety and learning of the man. I felt happy, the moment of his landing, in offering him a furnished chamber, bed and plate, at Elmwood, while residing on this frontier. He has taken steps to organize a church. He preaches in an animated and persuasive style, and has commenced a system of moral instruction in detail, which, in our local history, constitutes an era. It has been written that "where vice abounds, grace shall much more abound," and St. Mary's may now be well included in the list of favorable examples. The lordly "wassail" of the fur-trader, the long-continued dance of the gay French "habitant," the roll of the billiard-ball, the shuffle of the card, and the frequent potations of wine "when it is red in the cup," will now, at least, no longer retain their places in the customs of this spot on the frontier without the hope of having their immoral tendencies pointed out. Some of the soldiers have also shown a disposition to attend the several meetings for instruction. The claims of temperance have likewise led to an organized effort, and if the pious and gentle Mr. Laird were permitted once again to visit the place, after a lapse of seven years, he might fervently exclaim, in the language of the Gospel, "What hath God wrought?"

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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

Thirty Years with the Indians


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