Population of Michilimackinack--Notices of the weather--Indian
name of the Wolverine--Harbor closed--Intensity of temperature which
can be borne--Domestic incidents--State of the weather--Fort
Mackinack unsuccessfully attacked in 1814--Ossiganoc--Death of an
Indian woman--Death of my sister--Harbor open--Indian name of the
Sabbath day--Horticultural amusement--Tradition of the old church
door--Turpid conduct of Thomas Shepard, and his fate--Wind,
tempests, sleet, snow--A vessel beached in the harbor--Attempt of
the American Fur Company to force ardent spirits into the country,
against the authority of the Agent.
1834. Jan. 1st. My journal for this winter will be almost
purely domestic. It is intended to exhibit a picture of men and
things, immediately surrounding a person isolated from the world, on
an island in the wide area of Lake Huron, at the point where the
current, driven by the winds, rushes furiously through the straits
connected with Lake Michigan. Where the ice in the winter freezes
and breaks up continually, where the temperature fluctuates greatly
with every wind, and where the tempests of snow, rain and hail
create a perpetual scene of changing phenomena.
Society here is scarcely less a subject of remark. It is based on
the old French element of the fur trade--that is, a commonalty who
are the descendants of French or Canadian boatmen, and clerks and
interpreters who have invariably married Indian women. The English,
who succeeded to power after the fall of Quebec, chiefly withdrew,
but have also left another element in the mixture of Anglo-Saxons,
Irishmen or Celts, and Gauls, founded also upon intermarriages with
the natives. Under the American rule, the society received an
accession of a few females of various European or American lineage,
from educated and refined circles. In the modern accession, since
about 1800, are included the chief factors of the fur trade, and the
persons charged by benevolent societies with the duties of education
and of missionaries; and, more than all, with the families of the
officers of the military and civil service of the government.
In such a mass of diverse elements the French language, the
Algonquin, in several dialects, and the English, are employed. And
among the uneducated, no small mixture of all are brought into vogue
in the existing vocabulary. To fouchet, and to chemai,
were here quite common expressions.
The continued mildness of the weather enabled the Indians from the
surrounding shore to approach the island, not less than fifty-four
of whom, in different parties, visited the office during the day.
This day is a sort of carnival to these people, who are ever on the
qui vive for occasions "to ask an alms." I had prepared for
this. To each person a loaf of bread.
To adult males a plug of tobacco. No drink of any kind, but water,
to a soul.
Snow fell during the day, rendering it unpleasant.
Jan. 2d. Shabowawa, a Chippewa chief, and part of his band,
with the remainder of the Point St. Ignace band, got across the
Traverse this morning. The whole number who visited the office
during the day was thirty. Shabowawa said we might soon expect cold
3d. Visits from a number of Indians (about twenty), who had
not before called, to offer the bon jour of the season. Among
them were several widows and disabled old people, to whom presents
of clothing were given.
The atmosphere has been severely cold. A hard frost last night. I
killed an ox for winter beef, and packed it, when cut into pieces,
in snow. There has been floating ice, for the first time, in the
harbor. The severe weather prevented the St. Ignace Indians from
One of the St. Ignace Indians, referring to the meteoric phenomenon
of the morning of the 13th of November, said that the stars shot
over in the form of a bow, and seemed to drop into the lake. Such a
display, he added, was never before seen. He says that the Chippewa
Indians called the Wolverine "Gween-guh-auga," which means
underground drummer. This animal is a great digger or burrower.
4th. Stormy and cold.
5th. S. Cold. Mr. Barber preached on the character and trials
of Noah. The old N.E. divines loved to preach from texts in the Old
6th. A change of wind from N. to S.W. created a very
perceptible increase of temperature. Indians, who had been detained
by floating ice since New Year's day, got over to Point St. Ignace.
The postmaster sends me word that the second express will start
to-morrow, without awaiting the return of the first.
On visiting the monthly concert in the evening, I was reminded that
this day had been set apart by various churches for imploring a
special blessing on the Word of God, in the conversion of the world.
7th. Yesterday afternoon the harbor filled with floating ice.
This morning it is frozen over into a solid body, completely closing
up the harbor. But the passage between it and Round Island is open,
and the lake in other directions. Wind northerly and westwardly;
thermometer as on the 3d, 4th, and 5th; but the air does not feel
to be as cold as those days. This is the effect of its having
remained about a week of nearly the same temperature. It is, in
truth, the range of the thermometer between given points, and not
the absolute degree of it, that creates the sensation of intense
change. And herein must be sought the secret of people's standing a
great degree of cold in the north, without being duly sensible of
the extreme degree of it. This remark ought, perhaps, to be limited
to such severe degree of cold (say 40 deg. below zero), as a man can
withstand or live in.
The ice, being only glued together, separated about 2 o'clock, and
left the harbor free again before night.
The express from St. Mary's came in, about two hours after our
Detroit express left. By letters brought by it, I learn that letters
of recall have recently passed the Sault for Capt. Back. It
is stated that Capt. Ross has unexpectedly returned to England,
after an absence of four years, great part of which time he had
passed among the Esquimaux, or in an open boat on the sea. That he
had made observations to fix the magnetic meridian, and had
discovered a large island, almost the size of Great Britain, which
he named Boothea.
Mr. Ferry, Lieut. Kingsbury, and Mr. P. passed the evening with us.
Fires were seen on the main land, which are supposed to be signals
from our express men.
8th. Snow--blustering--cold. Our first express to Detroit has so
far overstayed its time, that it is impossible to say when it may
now be expected. Fires again seen on the main land, and an
unsuccessful attempt made to reach them, the floating ice
9th. Maternal Association meets at my house, which, Mrs. S.
reports, is well attended. In the evening, Mr. H., Mr. J., Miss McF.,
and Miss S.
Floating ice in the straits, and no crossing.
11th. Snowing--blustering. Expecting the mail soon, I prepared my
letters, and, being Saturday, sent them to the post-office, lest the
mail should arrive and depart on Sunday.
13th, Deep snow drifts, stormy--cold. Very difficult, in
consequence of the drifts, to reach the teacher's concert, in the
evening, which met at the Court House. Meeting between Mr. D. and
Mr. Ferry at my house, to try the effects of conciliation.
14th. High wind died away last night: the sun rose, this morning,
clear and pleasant, but the air still cold. Ice completely fills the
channel between Boisblanc and the main harbor; the outer channel is
Mrs. Kingsbury passed the day with us. The church session on
examination accepts her, and Mr. D. Stuart, the gentleman named in
15th. The express from Detroit arrives, having crossed from the
main to Boisblanc on the ice, and from thence in a boat. By this
mail we have a week's later dates than were brought by the "Warren."
No political intelligence of importance. I received a number of
printed sheets of the appendix to the narrative of my tour to
Itasca Lake. Heard also from LeConte, the engraver, at New York.
16th. Took Mr. D. in my cariole to Mr. Ferry's, to further the
object of a reconciliation of the matters in difference between
them. It commenced raining, soon after we got there, and continued
steadily all evening. Got a complete wetting in coming home, and in
driving to the fort Mrs. Kingsbury, whom I found there.
17th. Yesterday's fain has much diminished the quantity of snow;
bare ground is to be seen in some spots. Atmosphere murky, and
surcharged with moisture, rendering it disagreeable to be out of
The soldiery of the garrison invite Mr. F. to hold a meeting in the
garrison every Sabbath afternoon, showing an awakened moral sense
18th. Depression of the atmospheric temperature. Frost renders the
walking slippery, and the snow crusted and hard. This condition of
things, in the forest, is fatal to wild hoofed animals, which at
every step are subject to break through, and cut their ankles. In
this way the Indians successfully pursue and take the moose and
reindeer of our region.
19th. Mr. David S. and Mrs. K. are admitted to the communion, on a
profession of faith, and Mr. Seymour, Miss Owen, and Miss Leverett,
by letter. The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Barber were also, for the first
Snow fell upon the previous glare surface, and, being attended with
wind, rendered the day very blustering and boisterous. The wind
being from the west, was very strong--so strong as to blow some
persons down. The temperature at the same time was quite cold.
20th. Coldness continued; the thermometer stood at only 2 deg.
above zero at 8 o'clock in the morning; the west wind continuing.
The air, in consequence of this depression, became colder than the
water of the lake, producing an interchange of temperature, and the
striking phenomenon of rising vapor. The open lake waters gave out
their latent heat, like a boiling pot, till the equilibrium was
restored. This singular phenomenon I had seen before in the North,
and it is to be observed, in the basin of the upper lakes, some days
I received a visit from Mr. Barber. Conversation on the state of
religious knowledge. Do geology and the natural sciences afford
external evidence of the truth of God's word?
21st. Atmospheric temperature still low; the thermometer at 8
o'clock A.M. standing at 9 deg. above zero. The harbor and straits,
between the island and Point St. Ignace, frozen over; but the
channel, in which, there is a strong current, between the outer edge
of the harbor and Round Island, still open. Along this edge very
deep water is immediately found, and these waters, under the
pressure of lake causes, rush with the force of a mill-race. 22d.
The air is slightly warmer, the thermometer standing at 8 o'clock,
A.M., at 16 deg. above zero. The soldiery further request of Mr. F.
to hold a Bible class in the fort.
23d. The temperature still rises a few degrees, the thermometer
standing at 21 deg. at 8 o'clock, A.M. The express from the Sault
arrives. Prepared my mail matter and dispatched it to the office.
This site includes some historical
materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language
of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the
historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in
any way endorse the stereotypes implied.
Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the
Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851
Years with the Indians |