Missions--Hard times, consequent on over-speculation--Question of
the rise of the lakes--Scientific theory--Trip to Washington--Trip
to Lake Superior and the Straits of St. Mary--John Tanner--Indian
improvements north of Michilimackinack--Great cave--Isle Nabiquon--Superstitious
ideas of the Indians connected with females--Scotch
royals--McKenzie--Climate of the United States--Foreign coins and
natural history--Antique fort in Adams County, Ohio--Royal Society
of Northern Antiquaries--Statistics of lands purchased from the
Indians--Sun's eclipse--Government payments.
1838. June 18th. W. Lowrie, Esq., Missionary Rooms, N.Y.,
announces the sending of an agent to explore the missionary field,
which it is proposed to occupy by the Presbyterian Board, in the
region of Lake Michigan, bespeaking my friendly offices to the
The plethora of success which has animated every department of life
and business, puffing them up like gas in a balloon, since about '35
has departed and left the fiscal system perfectly flaccid and
lifeless. The rage for speculation in real estate has absorbed all
loose cash, and the country is now groaning for its fast-locked
circulating medium. A friend at Detroit writes: "With fifty thousand
dollars of productive real estate in the city, and as much more in
stocks and mortgages, I am absolutely in want of small sums to pay
my current expenses, and to rid myself of the mortification produced
by this feeling I am prepared to make almost any sacrifice."
27th. Received a communication from the chief engineer of the
New York canal (Alfred Barrett, Esq.) on the subject of the rise of
water in the lakes. "A question of considerable importance," he
says, "has arisen in our State Legislature, in relation to the rise
of water in Lake Erie. The lake has been gradually increasing in its
height for the last ten years, and has gained an elevation of four
feet above that of 1826. The inhabitants along the shores of the
lake as far as Detroit, upon both sides, and many throughout our
State, have been led to attribute this increase to the erection of
the State and the United States pier at the outlet of the lake,
opposite Black Rock, which presents an obstruction to the action of
the river. But this evidently is not the only cause of the rise of
the lake, for, by observation, we find the Niagara River below the
dam, and the surface of Lake Ontario, to have increased in the same
ratio in the same time. Lake Ontario is four feet higher than it was
"Our Legislature has called for information on the subject. And for
many important facts we shall be indebted to the goodness of persons
residing or acquainted at the places where they may exist. The canal
commissioners of the State have desired me to communicate with you,
desiring such data as you may have in your possession relevant to
the subject. And we are induced to trouble you for information
respecting the condition of the water in Lake Superior and other
western waters, believing that your extensive acquaintance and close
observation in that region have put you in possession of facts which
will enable you to determine, with a degree of accuracy, the
fluctuations of these waters, and their present increased or
diminished height, as well as to trace some of the causes which have
an influence in producing the results that are experienced in the
rise and fall of the lakes."
This rise and fall is found to be concurrent in volume and time in
the whole series of lake basins, and is not at all influenced by
artificial constructions. It is believed to be dependent on the
annual fall of water, on the water sheds of the lake basins, and the
comparative evaporation caused by the annual diffusion of solar heat
during the same periods. Nothing less than the accumulation of facts
to illustrate these general laws, for considerable periods of time,
will, it is believed, philosophically account for the phenomena.
Tables of solar heat, rain guages, and scientific measures, to
determine the fall of snow over the large continental era of the
whole series of basins, are, therefore, the scientific means that
should be employed before we can theorize properly. As to periodical
rises, actually observed, they are believed to be the very measure
of these phenomena, namely, the fall of atmospheric moisture, and
the concurrent intensity of solar heat between the unknown
periods of the rise.
The fluctuations in Lake Michigan and the Straits of
Michilimackinack are capable of being accounted for on a separate
theory, namely, the theory of lake winds.
4th July. Letters from Detroit show that the political
agitations respecting Canada still continue. One correspondent
remarks: "The fourth of July passed off here with more apparent
patriotic feeling than I have ever known before. Canada is still
across the river--the pat-riots have not yet removed any part
of it; they are, however, still busy."
Another says: "Times look troublesome, but I am in hopes that it
will all blow over and peace continue, which should be the earnest
wish of every Christian."
23d. Public business calling me to Washington, I left
Mackinack late in June, and, pushing day and night, reached that
city on the 9th of July. The day of my arrival was a hot one, and,
during our temporary stop in the cars between the Relay House and
Bladensburg, some pickpocket eased me of my pocket-book, containing
a treasury-note for $50, about $60 in bills, and sundry papers. The
man must have been a genteel and well-dressed fellow, for I
conversed with none other, and very adroit at his business. I did
not discover my loss till reaching the hotel, and all inquiry was
then fruitless. After four days I again set out for the North in an
immense train of cars, having half of Congress aboard, as they had
just adjourned, and reached Mackinack about the tenth day's travel.
This was a toilsome trip, the whole journey to the seat of
government and back, say 2,000 miles, being made in some twenty-five
days, all stops inclusive.
31st. I set out this day from Mackinack in a boat for Lake
Superior and the Straits of St. Mary, for the purpose of estimating
the value of the Indian improvements North, under the eighth art. of
the treaty of March 28th, 1836. The weather being fine, and
anticipating no high winds at this season, I determined, as a means
of health and recreation, to take Mrs. S. and her niece, Julia, a
maid, and the children along, having tents and every camping
apparatus to make the trip a pleasant one. My boat was one of the
largest and best of those usually employed in the trade, manned with
seven rowers and provided with a mast and sails. An awning was
prepared to cover the centre-bar, which was furnished with seats
made of our rolled-up beds. Magazines, a spy-glass, &c., &c., served
to while away the time, and a well-furnished mess-basket served to
make us quite easy in that department. At Sault St. Marie I took on
board Mr. Placidus Ord to keep, the record of appraisements.
While here, the notorious John Tanner, who had been on very ill
terms with the civilized world for many years--for no reason, it
seems, but that it would not support him in idleness--this man,
whose thoughts were bitter and suspicious of every one, followed me
one day unperceived into a canoe-house, where I had gone alone to
inspect a newly-made canoe. He began to talk after his manner, when,
lifting my eyes to meet his glance, I saw mischief evidently in
their cold, malicious, bandit air, and, looking him determinedly in
the eyes, instantly raising my heavy walking-cane, confronted him
with the declaration of his secret purpose with a degree of decision
of tone and manner which caused him to step back out of the open
door and leave the premises. I was perfectly surprised at his
dastardly movement, for I had supposed him before to be a brave man,
and I heard or saw no more of him while there1.
Tanner was stolen by old Kishkako, the Saginaw, from Kentucky, when
he was a boy of about nine years old. He is now a gray-headed,
hard-featured old man, whose feelings are at war with every one on
earth, white and red. Every attempt to meliorate his manners and
Indian notions, has failed. He has invariably misapprehended them,
and is more suspicious, revengeful, and bad tempered than any Indian
I ever knew. Dr. James, who made, by the way, a mere pack-horse of
Indian opinions of him, did not suspect his fidelity, and put many
things in his narrative which made the whites about St. Mary's call
him an old liar. This enraged him against the Doctor, whom he
threatened to kill. He had served me awhile as an interpreter, and,
while thus employed, he went to Detroit, and was pleased with a
country girl, who was a chambermaid at old Ben. Woodworth's hotel.
He married her, but, after having one child, and living with him a
year, she was glad to escape with life, and, under the plea of a
visit, made some arrangement with the ladies of Fort Brady to slip
off, on board of a vessel, and so eluded him. The Legislature
afterwards granted her a divorce. He blamed me for the escape,
though I was entirely ignorant of its execution, and knew nothing of
it, till it had transpired.
In this trip to the North, I called on the Indians to show me their
old fields and gardens at every point.
It was found that there were eight geographical bands,
consisting of separate villages, living on the ceded tract. The
whole population of these did not exceed, by a close count, 569
souls. The population had evidently deteriorated from the days of
the French and British rule, when game was abundant. This was the
tradition they gave, and was proved by the comparatively large old
fields, not now in cultivation, particularly at Portagunisee, at
various points on the Straits of St. Mary's, and at Grand Island and
its coasts on Lake Superior.
They cultivate chiefly, the potato, and retire in the spring to
certain points, where the Acer saccharinum abounds, and all
rely on the quantity of maple sugar made. This is eaten by all, and
appears to have a fattening effect, particularly on the children.
The season of sugar-making is indeed a sort of carnival, at which
there is general joy and hilarity. The whole number of acres found
in cultivation by individuals, was 125-1/2 acres; and by bands, and
in common, 100-3/4 acres, which would give an average of a little
over 1/3 of an acre per soul. Even this is thought high. There were
1459 acres of old fields, partly run up in brush. There were also
3162 acres of abandoned village sites, where not a soul lived. I
counted 27 dwellings which had a fixity, and nineteen apple trees in
the forest. In proportion as they had little, they set a high value
on it, and insisted on showing everything, and they gave me a good
deal of information. The whole sum appraised to individuals was
$3,428 25; and to collective bands, $11,173 $11,173 50.
While off the mural coast of the Pictured Rocks, the lake was
perfectly calm, and the wind hushed. I directed the men to row in to
the cave or opening of the part where the water has made the most
striking inroad upon the solid coast. This coast is a coarse
sandstone, easily disintegrated. I doubted if the oarsmen could
enter without pulling in their oars. But nothing seemed easier when
we attempted it. They, in fact, rowed us, in a few moments, masts
standing, into a most extraordinary and gigantic cave, under the
loftiest part of the coast. I thought of the rotunda in the Capitol
at Washington, as giving some idea of its vastness, but nothing of
its dark and sombre appearance; its vast side arches, and the
singular influence of the light beaming in from the open lake. I
took out my note-book and drew a sketch of this very unique view2.
The next day the calmness continued on the lake, and I took
advantage of it to visit the dimly seen island in the lake, off
Presque Isle and Granite Point, called Nabikwon by the
Indians, from the effects of mirage. Its deep volcanic chasms, and
upheaved rocks, tell a story of mighty elemental conflicts in the
season of storms; but it did not reward me with much in the way of
natural history, except in geological specimens.
Aug. 7th. The Chippewas have some strange notions. Articles
which have been stepped over by Indian females are considered
unclean, and are condemned by the men. Great aversion is shown by
the females at finding hairs drawn out by the comb, which they roll
up, and, making a hole in the ashes, bury.
Indian females never go before a man: they never walk in front in
the path, or cross in front of the place where a sachem is sitting.
A man will never eat out of the same dish with a woman. The
lodge-separation, at the period of illness, is universally observed,
where the original manners have not been broken down. If she have no
barks, or apukwas to make a separate lodge, a mere booth or bower of
branches is made near by.
10th. Mrs. Deborah Schoolcraft Johnson died at Albany, aged
fifty-four years. The father of this lady (John McKenzie, usually
called McKenny) was a native of Scotland, and served with credit in
the regiment of Royal Highlanders, before the Revolutionary War, of
whose movements he kept a journal. He was present during the siege
of Fort Niagara, in 1759, witnessed the death of Gen. Prideau, and
participated in the capture of the works, under Sir William Johnson.
He was also engaged in the movements of Gen. Bradstreet, to relieve
the fort of Detroit from the hosts brought against it by Pontiac and
his confederates three or four years after. He settled, after the
war, as a merchant at Anthony's Nose, on the Mohawk, where he was
surprised, his store and dwelling-house pillaged, and himself
scalped. He recovered from this, as the blow he received had only
been stunning, and the copious bleeding, as is usual in such cases,
had soon restored consciousness. He then settled at Albany, a place
of comparative safety, and devoted himself in old age to
instruction. He left a numerous family. His son John, who embraced
the medical profession, became a distinguished man in Washington
County (N.Y.), where his science, as a practitioner, and his talents
as a politician, rendered him alike eminent. But he embraced the
politics of Burr, a man whose talents he admired, when that erratic
man ran for Governor of the State, and shortly after died. Five
daughters married respectable individuals in the county, all of whom
have left families. Of such threads of genealogy is the base of
society in all parts of America composed. One of her granddaughters,
now living in Paris, is a lady entitled to respect, on various
accounts. Deborah, whose death is announced, married in early life,
as her first husband, John Schoolcraft, Jr., Esq., a most gifted son
of one of the actors and patriots of the revolution--a man who was
engaged in one of its earliest movements; who shared its deepest
perils, and lived long to enjoy its triumphs. The early death of
this object of her choice, induced her in after years to contract a
second marriage with an enterprising son of Massachusetts (R.
Johnson), with whom she migrated to Detroit. Death here again, in a
few years, left her free to rejoin her relatives in Albany, where,
at last at ease in her temporal affairs, she finally fell a victim
to consumption, at a not very advanced age, meeting her death with
the calmness and preparedness of a Christian.
"As those we love decay, we die in part."
25th. Returned to Michilimackinack, at a quarter past one
o'clock, A.M., from my trip to the north, for the appraisal of the
31st. According to observations kept, the average temperature
of the month of August (lat. 42 deg.) was 69.16 degrees. Last year
the average temperature of the same month was sixty-five degrees.
The average temperature of the entire summer of 1838 was 70.85;
while that of the summer of 1837 was but 65.48. Our lakes must sink
with such a temperature, if the comparative degree of heat has been
kept up in the upper lakes during the year.
Sept. 4th. Troops arrive at Fort Mackinack to attend the
An officer of the army, who has spent a year or so in Florida, and
has just returned to Michigan, says: "I have seen much that was well
worth seeing, am much wiser than I was before, and am all the better
contented with a lot midway of the map. The climate of Florida,
during the winter, was truly delicious, but the summers, a part of
one of which I saw and felt, are uncomfortable, perhaps more so than
our winters. This puts the scales even, if, it do not incline the
balance in our favor. The summer annoyances of insects, &c., are
more than a counterbalance for our ice and snow, especially when we
can rectify their influences by a well-warmed house."
6th. A literary friend in Paris writes: "I send a box to
Detroit to-day, to the address of Mr. Trowbridge. It contains, for
you, upwards of 200 coins, among which is one Chinese, and the rest
ancient. You must busy yourself in arranging and deciphering them. I
send you, also, some specimens, one from the catacombs of Paris,
others from the great excavations of Maestricht, where such large
antediluvian remains have been found, also relics from the field of
Waterloo. The petrifactions are from Mount Lebanon."
Mr. Palfrey writes in relation to the expected notice of Stone's
"Brant," but my engagements have not permitted me to write a line on
10th. Dr. John Locke, of Ohio, announces the discovery in
Adams County, in that State, of the remains of an antique fort,
supposed to be 600 years old. It is on a plateau 500 feet above
Brush Creek, and is estimated at 800 to 1000 feet above the Ohio at
low water. It is covered by soil, forest, and trees. Some of the
trees in the vicinity are twenty-one feet in diameter. He infers the
age from a large chestnut in the enclosure. His data would give A.D.
1238, as the date of the abandonment. We must approach the subject
of our western antiquities with great care and not allow hasty and
warm fancies to run away with us.
12th. A communication from Mr. Rafn informs me that the Royal
Society of Antiquaries of Copenhagen, Denmark, have honored me by
enrolling my name as one of its members.
12th. Congress publishes a statement submitted by the Indian
Bureau, showing, 1. That upwards of fifty treaties have been
concluded with various tribes since Jan. 1, 1830, for their removal
to the west, in accordance with the principles of the organic act of
May 28th, 1830. 2. That by these treaties 109,879,937 acres of land
have been acquired. 3. That the probable value of this land to the
United States is $137,349,946. 4. That the total cost of these
cessions, including the various expenses of carrying the treaties
into effect, is $70,059,505.
13th. Major Chancy Bush, Assistant to Major Garland, the
Disbursing Agent, arrives with funds to make the annuity payments.
14th. The Cherokees West, meet in general council to consult
on their affairs, and adopt some measures preparatory to the arrival
of the eastern body of the nation. John Ridge, a chief of note of
the Cherokees West, states, that this meeting is entirely
pacific--entirely deliberative--and by no means of a hostile
character, as has been falsely reported.
18th. The obscurity which attends an Indian's power of
ratiocination may be judged of by the following claim, verbally made
to me and supported by some bit of writing, this day, by Gabriel
Muccutapenais, an Ottawa chief of L'Arbre Croche. He states that, at
one time, a trader took from him forty beavers; at another, thirty
beavers and bears; at another, ten beavers, and at another, thirty
beavers, and four carcasses of beavers, for all which he received no
pay, although promised it. He also served as a clerk or sub-trader
for a merchant, for which he was to have received $500, and never
received a cent. He requests the President of the United States to
pay for all these things. On inquiry, the skins were hunted, and the
service rendered, and the wrong received at Athabasca Lake, in the
Hudson's Bay Territory, when he was a young man. He is now about
sixty-six years old.
18th. The sun's eclipse took place, and was very plainly
visible to the naked eye, agreeably to the calculation for its
commencement and termination. I took the occasion of its termination
(four o'clock, fifty minutes) to set my watch by astronomical time.
18th. The Indian payments were completed by Major Bush this
day. These payments included the full annuity for 1838, and the
deferred half annuity for 1837, making a total of $47,000, which was
paid in coin per capita.
The whole number of Indians on the pay rolls this year amounted to
4,872, of whom 1,197 were in the Grand River Valley. Last year they
numbered, in all, 4,561, denoting an increase of 311. This increase,
however, is partly due to emigrations from the south, and partly to
imperfect counts last season, and but partially to the increase of
births over deaths. The annuity divided $12 57 on the
North, $22 50 in the Middle, or Thunder Bay district, and $11 50 on
the Southern pay list. The Indians requested that these per
capita divisions might be equalized, but the terms in the treaty
itself create the geographical districts.
1: Eight years afterwards, namely, in July, 1846,
this lawless vagabond waylaid and shot my brother James, having
concealed himself in a cedar thicket.
2: See Ethnological Researches, vol. i., plate
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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