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Determine to Leave the Sault

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Letter from a mother--Cholera--Indian war--Royal Geographical Society--Determine to leave the Sault--Death of Miss Cass--Death of Rev. Mr. Richard--Notice of the establishment of a Methodist Mission at the--The Sault a religious place--Botany and Natural History--New University organized--Algic Society--Canadian boat song--Chaplains in the army--Letter from a missionary--Affairs at Mackinack--Hazards lake commerce--Question of the temperance reform--Dr. D. Houghton--South Carolina resists--Gen. Jackson re-elected President.

1832. Aug. 25th. To clear my table of the correspondence accumulated during my absence, and report my proceedings to government, required my first attention. Among the matters purely personal, was a letter of inquiry from a mother anxious to learn the fate of an apparently wayward son (named George J. Clark). "I had a letter from him, dated 24th June, 1881, in which he stated he was about to start with you on an expedition to the Upper Mississippi, and this is the last intelligence we have ever had of him.

"If he went with you on that expedition, you have, probably some information to give relative to his present condition, if alive, or of his fate, if dead.

"Will you be kind enough to give the information desired by letter to me, at this place (Canandaigua, N. Y.)? By so doing you will confer a favor on a fond mother and many friends." Not a lisp had ever been heard of such a person, at least by that name.

The whole country, it was found, had now been in commotion for a month or more, owing to the ravages of the cholera and the Black Hawk war. The cholera had first broken out, it appears, in the Upper Lakes, on board the steamers Sheldon Thompson and Henry Clay, containing troops for the war. Its ravages on board of both were fearful. One of the boats landed several soldiers at the island of Michilimackinack, who died there. A boatman engaged in the fur trade took the disease and died after he had reached the Little Rapids, and another at Point aux Pins, at the foot of Lake Superior. But the disease did not spread in that latitude. "We have heard," says a correspondent (25th July), "from Chicago, that the ravages of the cholera are tenfold worse than the scalping-knife of the Black Hawk and his party. A great many soldiers died, while on their way to Chicago, on board the steamers."

27th. The agent of the dead-letter post-office, at Washington, transmits me a diploma of membership of the Royal Geographical Society of London, which appears to have been originally misdirected and gone astray to St. Mary's, Georgia. The envelope had on it the general direction of "United States, America"--a wide place to find a man in.

Sept. 11th. A letter, of this date, from the head of the Department, at Washington, leaves it optional with me, under the consolidation of agencies, to choose my place of residence. "You can make your own choice of residence between the Sault and Mackinack, and arrange your subordinate offices as you think proper."

I determined to remove the seat of the agency to Mackinack next spring, and to make this my last winter at the Sault. I have now been ten years a resident of this place.

The most serious inroad upon my circle of friends, made by death during my absence, was the sudden death, at Detroit, of the eldest daughter of the Secretary of War. Miss Elizabeth Selden Cass was a young lady of bright mental qualities, and easy, cultivated manners and deportment, and her sudden removal, though prepared by her moral experience for the change, must leave a blank in social circles which will be long felt and deplored.

Her father writes, upon this irreparable loss: "A breach has been made in our domestic circle which can never be repaired. I can yet hardly realize the change. It has almost prostrated me, and I should abandon office without hesitation were it not that a change of climate seems indispensable to Mrs. C., and I trust she will avoid in Washington those severe attacks to which she has been subject for the last five winters."

12th. Mr. Trowbridge writes: "Mr. Richard is dead. He was attacked by a diarrhoea, and neglected it too long." Mr. R. was the Catholic priest at Detroit, and as such has been a prominent man in the territory for many years. He was elected Delegate to Congress in 1824, I think, and served two years in that capacity. I once heard him preach nearly two hours on the real presence. He finally said, "that if this doctrine was not true, Jesus Christ must be a fool." These, I think, were the precise words. When attending, by rotation, as one of the chaplains for the Legislative Council while I was a member, he used to pray very shrewdly "that the legislators might make laws for the people and not for themselves." He spoke English in a broken manner and with a false accent, which often gave interest to what he said when the matter was not otherwise remarkable.

22d. Rev. John Clark, of Northville, Montgomery Co., N.Y., of the Methodist Connection, writes: "Should it please Divine Providence, I hope to be at your place in May or June next, for the purpose of opening a permanent mission and school among the Chippewas at such place, and as early as may be advisable."

27th. Rev. W. T. Boutwell, of the A. B. Commissioners for Foreign Missions, now at La Pointe, Lake Superior, writes: "I could not, to a degree, help entering into all your anxieties about the cholera, which reports were calculated to beget, but rejoice, not less than yourself, that the Lord has spared those who are dear to us both. My fears, I rejoice to say, have not been realized, in relation to my friends at Mackinack and the Sault, when I heard of the disease actually existing at Mackinack. Were it not that the Lord is righteous and knoweth them that are his, the righteous even might fear and tremble, when judgments are abroad in the land.

"I was happy indeed to learn that you remain at the Sault, the present winter. Happy for brother Porter's sake, and for the sake of those whose hands you may and will strengthen, and hearts encourage. I never think of the Sault but I wish myself there. 'It is now a happy spot--a place favored of heaven,' said one of my Mackinack friends to me once in conversation; 'I once felt as though I could never see that place, as I always associated with it everything wicked, but now I should love to go there--the Lord is there.'"

Oct. 5th. Dr. Torrey writes from N.Y.: "I rejoice to learn that you have returned in safety from your fatiguing and perilous journey to the north-west. Dr. Houghton wrote me a letter which I received a few days ago, dated Sault de St. Marie, stating the general results of the expedition, but I have read, with great satisfaction, the account which was published in the Detroit Journal of Sept. 26th. A kind Providence has preserved you during another absence, and I hope He will cause the results of your labors to prove a blessing to our Red brethren, as well as the United States at large."

"Dr. Houghton sent me some of the more interesting plants which he brought with him last year, but he said the best part of your collections were destroyed by getting wet.

"By all means send Mr. Cooper your shells. He knows more about fresh water shells than any naturalist in New York. By the way, have you seen Mr. Lea's splendid monograph (with colored plates) of Unios, in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society?"

"Are we to have a narrative of the two expeditions in print? I hope you consent to publish, and let us have an appendix containing descriptions of the objects in natural history.

"You have heard, perhaps, something about the University of the City of New York, which was planned about two years ago. It went into operation a few days ago, under the most favorable prospects. The council have given me a place in it (Prof. Chem. Bot. and Mineralogy), the duties of which I can discharge in addition to those which I attend to in the medical college, as the latter occupies only four months in the year."

About the middle of September I embarked at the Sault for Detroit, for the purpose chiefly of meeting the Secretary of War--taking with me thus far, my little sister Anna Maria, on her way to school at Hadley, in Massachusetts. While at Detroit, several meetings of benevolent individuals were held, and the constitution of the Algic Society was signed by many gentlemen of standing and note, and an election of officers made. Having been honored with the presidency, I delivered a brief address at one of these meetings. This, together with the following resolutions, which were passed at the same time, indicate the contemplated mode of action1. It was not intended to be exclusively a missionary or educational society, but also, to collect scientific and statistical information essential to both objects, and to offer facilities to laborers on the frontiers, and answer inquiries made by agents authorized by the General Boards from the old States. The effort was appreciated and warmly approved by the friends of missions and humanity; but it required great and continual personal efforts to enlist a sufficient number of persons in the true objects, and to keep their minds alive in the work. It demanded, in fact, a kind of literary research, which it is always difficult to command on the frontiers. To act, and not to pursue the quiet paths of study, is the tendency of the frontier mind.

I returned to St. Mary's about the middle of October. It was a proof of the care and precision with which my friends looked out for me, that I was met by my "canoe-elege" with a French crew and flag flying at the Detour, before the vessel had dropped anchor, so that I went up the river with the accustomed gayety of a song. These French songs have been often alluded to. One of them, the measure of which is adapted, by its music, to the short stroke of the paddle, is given below2.

1: Resolved, That the thanks of the society be presented to Henry R. Schoolcraft, Esq., for the valuable introductory remarks offered by him, and that he be requested to furnish a copy of the same for publication.

Resolved, That the Domestic Secretary, be directed to prepare and submit for the approbation of the Official Board, a Circular, to be addressed to such persons as have been elected members of this society, and others, setting forth its objects, its organization, constitution, and initial proceedings, which circular, when so prepared, shall be printed for the purpose of distribution.

Resolved, That the Official Board be directed to prepare a succinct Temperance and Peace Circular, suited to the wants and situation of the North-western Tribes, to be addressed, through the intervention of the Hon. the Secretary of War, to the Agents of the Government and Officers commanding posts on the frontiers, and also to persons engaged in the fur trade; to travelers, and to gentlemen residing in the country, requesting their aid in spreading its influence.

Resolved, That it is expedient for this society to procure an exact statistical account of the names, numbers and location of the different bands of Indians, of the Algonquin stock, now living within the limits of the United States:--also, the number of missionaries who are now amongst them, and the extent of the field of labor which they present.

Resolved, That this society will aid in sending a winter express to the missionaries who are now stationed near the western extremity of Lake Superior.

Resolved, That the members of this society residing at Sault St. Marie and at Michilimackinack, shall constitute a standing committee of this society, during the ensuing year, with power to meet for the transaction of business, and shall report from time to time, such measures as they may have adopted to promote the objects of this institution: which proceedings shall be submitted to the society at any stated or special meeting of the same, and if approved by them, shall be entered on the records of the society.

Resolved, That the President of this society be requested to deliver, at such time as shall be convenient to himself, a course of Lectures on the Grammatical construction of the Algonquin language, as spoken by the North-Western Tribes, and to procure, from living and authentic sources, a full and complete Lexicon of that language, for the use of the society.

Resolved, That the Rev. Beriah Green, of the Western Reserve College, be requested to deliver an address before the society at its next annual meeting: and, that Henry R. Schoolcraft, Esq., be requested to deliver a poem on the Indian Character, at the same meeting.

Resolved, That the first anniversary of this society be held at Detroit, on the second Thursday of October, A. D. 1833.

2: Omitted.

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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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