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Descendant of One Spared at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians
 

Descendant of one spared at the massacre of St. Bartholomew's--Death of Gen. Clarke--Massacre of Peurifoy's family in Florida--Gen. Harrison's historical discourse--Death of an emigrant on board a steamboat--Murder of an Indian--History of Mackinack--Incidents of the treaty of 29th July, 1837--Mr. Fleming's account of the missionaries leaving Georgia, and of the improvements of the Indians west--Death of Black Hawk--Incidents of his life and character--Dreadful cruelty of the Pawnees in burning a female captive--Cherokee emigration--Phrenology--Return to Detroit--University--Indian affairs--Cherokee removal--Indians shot at Fort Snelling.


1838. Sept. 20th, COUNT CASTLENEAU, a French gentleman on his travels in America, brings me a note of introduction from a friend. I was impressed with his suavity of manners, and the interest he manifested in natural history, and furnished him some of our characteristic northern specimens in mineralogy. I understood him to say, in some familiar conversation, that he was the descendant of a child saved accidentally at the memorable massacre of St. Bartholomew's; and suppose, of course, that he is of Protestant parentage.

21st. The St. Louis papers are dressed in mourning, on account of the death of Gen. William Clarke. Few men have acted a more distinguished part in the Indian history of the country. He was widely known and respected by the Indians on the prairies, who sent in their delegations to him with all the pomp and pride of so many eastern Rajahs. Gen. Clarke was, I believe, the second territorial governor of Missouri, an office which he held until it became a state, when Congress provided the office of Superintendent of Indian Affairs for him. He contributed largely, by his enterprise and knowledge, to the prosperity of the west. The expedition which he led, in conjunction with Capt. Meriwether Lewis, across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, in 1805 and 1806, first opened the way to the consideration of its resources and occupancy. Without that expedition, Oregon would have been a foreign province.

24th. Letters from Florida indicate the war with the Seminoles to be lingering, without reasonable expectation of bringing it soon to a close. Etha Emathla, however, the chief of the Tallasees, is daily expected to come in, his children being already arrived, and he has promised to bring in his people.

But what a war of details, which are harassing to the troops, whose action is paralyzed in a maze of swamps and morasses; and how many scenes has it given birth to which are appalling to the heart! A recent letter from a Mr. T.D. Peurifoy, Superintendent of the Alachua Mission, describes a most shocking murder in his own family, communicated to him at first by letter:--

"It informed me," he says, "that the Indians had murdered my family! I set out for home, hoping that it might not prove as bad as the letter stated; but, O my God, it is even worse! My precious children, Corick, Pierce and Elizabeth, were killed and burned up in the house. My dear wife was stabbed, shot, and stamped, seemingly to death, in the yard. But after the wretches went to pack up their plunder, she revived and crawled off from the scene of death, to suffer a thousand deaths during the dreadful night which she spent alone by the side of a pond, bleeding at four bullet holes and more than half a dozen stabs--three deep gashes to the bone on her head and three stabs through the ribs, besides a number of small cuts and bruises. She is yet living; and O, help me to pray that she may yet live! My negroes lay dead all about the yard and woods, and my everything else burned to ashes."

Oct. 1st. Mr. Palfrey, Editor of the North American Review, requests me (Sept. 20th) to notice Gen. Harrison's late discourse on the aboriginal history, delivered before the Ohio Historical Society. The difficulty in all these cares is to steer clear of some objectional theory. To the General, the Delawares have appeared to play the key-note. But it has not fallen to his lot, while bearing a distinguished part in Indian affairs in the west, to examine their ancient history with much attention.

The steamer Madison arrived with a crowd of emigrants for the west, one of whom had died on the passage from Detroit. It proved to be a young man named Jesse Cummings, from Groton, N.H., a member of the Congregational Church of that place. Having no pastor, I conducted the religious observance of the funeral, and selected a spot for his burial, in a high part of the Presbyterian burial ground, towards the N.E., where a few loose stones are gathered to mark the place.

2d. Wakazo, a chief, sent to tell me that an Ottawa Indian, Ishquondaim's son, had killed a Chippewa called Debaindung, of Manistee River. Both had been drinking. I informed him that an Indian killing an Indian on a reserve, where the case occurred, which is still "Indian country," did not call for the interposition of our law. Our criminal Indian code, which is defective, applies only to the murder of white men killed in the Indian country. So that justice for a white man and an Indian is weighed in two scales.

3d. Mrs. Therese Schindler, a daughter of a former factor of the N.W. Company at Mackinack, visited the office. I inquired her age. She replied 63, which would give the year 1775 as her birth. Having lived through a historical era of much interest, on this island, and possessing her faculties unimpaired, I obtained the following facts from her. The British commanding officers remembered by her were Sinclair, Robinson, and Doyle. The interpreters acting under them, extending to a later period, were Charles Gothier, Lamott, Charles Chabollier, and John Asken. The first interpreter here was Hans, a half-breed, and father to the present chief Ance, of Point St. Ignace. His father had been a Hollander, as the name implies. Longlade was the interpreter at old Fort Mackinack, on the main, at the massacre. She says she recollects the transference of the post to the island. If so, that event could not have happened, so as to be recollected by her, till about 1780. Asken went along with the British troops on the final surrender of the island to the Americans in 1796, and returned in the surprise and taking of the island in 1812.

5th. Finished my report on a resolution of Congress of March 19th respecting the interference of the British Indian Department in the Indian affairs of the frontier. The treaty of Ghent terminated the war between Great Britain and the United States, but it did not terminate the feelings and spirit with which the Indian tribes had, from the fall of their French power regarded them.

Mr. Warren (Lyman M.), of La Pointe, Lake Superior, visited the office. Having been long a trader in the north, and well acquainted with Indian affairs in that quarter, I took occasion to inquire into the circumstances of the cession of the treaty of the 29th of July, 1837, and asked him why it was that so little had been given for so large a cession, comprehending the very best lands of the Chippewas in the Mississippi Valley. He detailed a series of petty intrigues by the St. Peter's agent, who had flattered two of the Pillager chiefs, and loaded them with new clothes and presents. One of these, Hole-in-the-Day, came down twenty days before the time. The Pillagers, in fact, made the treaty. The bands of the St. Croix and Chippewa Rivers, who really lived on the land and owned it, had, in effect, no voice. So with respect to the La Pointe Indians. He stated that Gen. Dodge really knew nothing of the fertility and value of the country purchased, having never set foot on it. Governor Dodge thought the tract chiefly valuable for its pine, and natural mill-power; and there was no one to undeceive him. He had been authorized to offer $1,300; but the Chippewas managed badly--they knew nothing of thousands, or how the annuity would divide among so many, and were, in fact, cowed down by the braggadocia of the flattered Pillager war chief, Hole-in-the-Day.

Mr. Warren stated that the Lac Courtorielle band had not united in the sale, and would not attend the payment of the annuities; nor would the St. Croix and Lac du Flambeau Indians. He said the present of $19,000 would not exceed a breech-cloth and a pair of leggins apiece. I have not the means of testing these facts, but have the highest confidence in the character, sense of justice, and good natural judgment of Gov. Dodge. He may have been ill advised of some facts. The Pillagers certainly do not, I think, as a band, own or occupy a foot of the soil east of the Mississippi below Sandy Lake, but their warlike character has a sensible influence on those tribes, quite down to the St. Croix and Chippewa Rivers. The sources of these rivers are valuable only for their pineries, and their valleys only become fertile below their falls and principal rapids.

From Mr. Warren's statements, the sub-agencies of Crow-wing River and La Pointe have been improperly divided by a longitudinal instead of a latitudinal line, by which it happens that the St. Croix and Chippewa River Indians are required to travel from 200 to 350 miles up the Mississippi, by all its falls and rapids, to Crow-wing River, to get their pay. The chief, Hole-in-the-Day, referred to, was one of the most hardened, blood-thirsty wretches of whom I have ever heard. Mr. Aitkin, the elder, told me that having once surprised and killed a Sioux family, the fellow picked up a little girl, who had fled from the lodge, and pitched her into the Mississippi. The current bore her against a point of land. Seeing it, the hardened wretch ran down and again pushed her in.

8th. The Rev. Mr. Fleming and the Rev. Mr. Dougherty arrived as missionaries under the Presbyterian Board at New York. Mr. Fleming stated that he had been one of the expelled missionaries from the Creek country, Georgia. That he had labored four years there, under the American Board of Commissioners, and had learned the Creek language so as to preach in it, by first writing his discourse. The order to have the missionaries quit the Creek country was given by Capt. Armstrong (now Act. Supt. Western Territory), who then lived at the Choctaw agency, sixty miles off, and was sudden and unexpected. He went to see him for the purpose of refuting the charges, but found Gen. Arbuckle there, as acting agent, who told him that, in Capt. Armstrong's absence, he had nothing to do but to enforce the order.

Mr. Fleming said that he had since been in the Indian country, west, in the region of the Osage, &c., and spoke highly in favor of the fertility of the country, and the advanced state of the Indians who had emigrated. He said the belt of country immediately west of Missouri State line, was decidedly the richest in point of natural fertility in the region. That there was considerable wood on the streams, and of an excellent kind, namely: hickory, hackberry, cottonwood, cypress, with blackjack on the hills, which made excellent fire-wood.

As an instance of the improvement made by the Indians in their removal, he said that the first party of Creeks who went west, immediately after Mackintosh's Treaty, were the most degraded Indians in Georgia; but that recently, on the arrival of the large body of Creeks at the west, they found their brethren in the possession of every comfort, and decidedly superior to them. He said that the Maumee Ottawas, so besotted in their habits on leaving Ohio, had already improved; were planting; had given up drink, and listened to teachers of the Gospel. He spoke of the Shawnese as being in a state of enviable advancement, &c.

11th. First frost at Mackinack for the season.

A friend at Detroit writes: "The Rev. Mr. Duffield (called as pastor here) preached last Sabbath. In the morning, when he finished, there was scarce a dry eye in the house. He excels in the pathetic--his voice and whole manner being suited to that style. He is clear-headed, and has considerable power of illustration, though different from Mr. Cleaveland. I like him much on first hearing."

13th. Finished grading and planting trees in front of the dormitory.

12th. The Iowa Gazette mentions the death of Black Hawk, who was buried, agreeably to his own request, by being placed on the surface of the earth, in a sitting posture, with his cane clenched in his hands. His body was then enclosed with palings, and the earth filled in. This is said to be the method in which Sac chiefs are usually buried. The spectacle of his sepulchre was witnessed by many persons who were anxious to witness the last resting place of a man who had made so much noise and disturbance.

He was 71 years of age, having, by his own account, published in 1833, been born in the Sac village on Rock River, in 1767--the year of the death of Pontiac. In his indomitable enmity to the (American type of the) Anglo-Saxon race, he was animated with the spirit of this celebrated chief, and had some of his powers of combination. His strong predilections for the British Government were undoubtedly fostered by the annual visits of his tribe to the depot of Malden. His denial of the authority of the men who, in 1804, sold the Sac and Fox country, east of the Mississippi, may have had the sanction of his own judgment, but without it he would have found it no difficult matter to hatch up a cause of war with the United States. That war seems to have been brooded over many years: it had been the subject of innumerable war messages to the various tribes, a large number of whom had favored his views. And when it broke out in the spring of 1832, the suddenness of the movement, the great cruelties of the onset, and the comparatively defenceless state of the frontier, gave it all its alarming power. As soon as the army could be got to the frontiers, and the Indian force brought to action, the contest was over. The battle of the Badaxe annihilated his forces, and he was carried a prisoner to Washington. But he was more to be respected and pitied than blamed. His errors were the result of ignorance, and none of the cruelties of the war were directly chargeable to him. He was honest in his belief--honest in the opinion that the country east of the Mississippi had been unjustly wrested from him; and there is no doubt but the trespasses and injuries received from the reckless frontier emigrants were of a character that provoked retaliation. He has been compared, in some things, to Pontiac. Like him, he sought to restore his people to a position and rights, which he did not perceive were inevitably lost. He possessed a degree of intellectual vigor and decision of character far beyond the mass, and may be regarded as one of the principal minds of the Indians of the first half of the 19th century.


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

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