Reception by the country on my return--Reasons for publishing my
narrative without my reports for a digested scientific account of
the expedition--Delays interposed to this--Correspondents--Locality
of strontian--Letter from Dr. Mitchell--Report on the copper mines
of Lake Superior--Theoretical geology--Indian symbols--Scientific
subjects--Complete the publication of my work--Its reception by the
press and the public--Effects on my mind--Receive the appointment of
Secretary to the Indian Commission at Chicago--Result of the
expedition, as shown by a letter of Dr. Mitchell to General Cass.
1821. Governor Clinton offered me the use of his library while
preparing my journal for the press. Mr. Henry Inman, who was then
beginning to paint, re-drew some of the views. One of the leading
booksellers made me favorable proposals, which I agreed early in
January to accept. I began to transcribe my journal on the 8th of
the month, and very assiduously devoted myself to that object,
sending off the sheets hurriedly as they were written. The
engravings were immediately put in hands. In this way, the work went
rapidly on; and I kept up, at the same time, an industrious
correspondence with scientific men in various places.
It was at this time an object of moment, doubtless, that the results
of this expedition should have been combined in an elaborate and
joint work by the scientific gentlemen of the party. The topography
and astronomy had been most carefully attended to by Captain
Douglass, and the materials collected for an improved map. Its
geology and mineralogy had formed the topic of my daily notes. Its
aboriginal population had been seen under circumstances rarely
enjoyed. Its fresh water conchology had been carefully observed by
Douglass and myself, and fine collections made. Something had been
done respecting its botany, and the whole chain of events was ready
to be linked together in a striking manner.
But there was no one to take the initiative. Governor Cass, who had
led the expedition, did not think of writing. Professor Douglass,
who was my senior, and who occupied the post of topographer, by no
means underrated the subject, but deferred it, and, by accepting the
Professorship of Mathematics at West Point, assumed a duty which
made it literally impossible, though he did not see it immediately,
that he should do justice to his own notes. I simply went forward
because no one of the members of the expedition offered to. I had
kept a journal from the first to the last day, which I believe no
one else had. I had been diligent in the morning and evening in
observing every line of coast and river. I never allowed the sun to
catch me asleep in my canoe or boat. I had kept the domestic, as
well as the more grave and important events. I was importuned to
give them to the public. I had written to Douglass about it, but he
was dilatory in answering me, and when at last he did, and approved
my suggestion for a joint work in which our observations should be
digested, it was too late, so far as my narrative went, to withdraw
it from my publishers. But I pledged to him at once my geological
and mineralogical reports, and I promptly sent him my portfolio of
sketches to embellish his map. This is simply the history of the
publication of my narrative journal.
My position was, at this time, personally agreeable. My room was
daily visited by literary and scientific men. I was invited to the
mansions of distinguished men, who spoke of my recent journey as one
implying enterprise. Nothing, surely, when I threw myself into the
current of western emigration, in 1817, was farther from my thoughts
than my being an instrumental cause, to much extent, in stirring up
and awakening a zeal for scientific explorations and researches. The
diurnal press, however, gave this tone to the thing. The following
is an extract1:--
"During the last year, an expedition was authorized by the National
Government, which left Detroit some time in the month of May, under
the personal orders of Governor Cass, of the Michigan Territory,
provided with the necessary means of making observations upon the
topography, natural history, and aborigines of the country. We have
had an opportunity of conversing with one of the gentlemen who
accompanied Governor Cass in the expedition, Mr. H.R. Schoolcraft,
who has recently returned to this city, bringing a large collection
of mineral and other substances, calculated to illustrate the
natural history of the regions visited. We learn that the party
passed through Lake Superior, and penetrated to the sources of the
Mississippi, which have been, for the first time, satisfactorily
ascertained. In returning, they passed down the Mississippi to
Prairie du Chien, and thence came across to Green Bay, by means of
the Ouisconsin and Fox Rivers. Indian tribes were found in every
part of the country visited, by whom they were generally well
received, except at the Sault St. Marie, where a hostile disposition
was manifested. The country was found to present a great variety in
its soil, climate, productions, and the character of the savages,
and the information collected must prove highly interesting both to
men of business and men of science.
"It will be seen, by referring to an advertisement in our paper of
to-day, that Mr. Schoolcraft contemplates publishing an account of
the expedition, under the form of a personal narrative, embracing
notices of interesting scenery, the Indian tribes, topographical
discoveries, the quadrupeds, mineral productions, and geology of the
country, accompanied by an elegant map and a number of picturesque
views. From an inspection of the manuscript map and views, we are
persuaded that no analogous performances, of equal merit, have ever
been submitted to the hands of the engraver in this country. We have
always been surprised that, while we have had so many travelers
through the Valley of the Ohio and Lower Mississippi, no one should
have thought of filling up the chasm in our north-western geography.
The field is certainly a very ample one--we cannot but felicitate
the public in having a person of the acknowledged talents, industry,
and original views of Mr. S. to supply the deficiency."
At length Professor Douglass (Feb. 9th) responded to my proposition
to club our wits in a general work. "Your propositions relative to a
joint publication, meet my views precisely, and of course I am
inclined to believe we may make an interesting 'work.' In addition
to the usual heads of topographical and geographical knowledge,
which I propose to treat of, in my memoir on that subject, I am
promised by Dr. Torrey some of the valuable aid which it will be in
his power to render for the article 'Botany,' and our collections
should furnish the materials of a description of the fresh water
conchology." His proposition was based on giving a complete account
of the animal and mineral constituents of the country, its
hydrography and resources; the paper on the aboriginal tribes to be
contributed by General Cass.
A difficulty is, however, denoted. "My duties here," he writes, "as
they engross everything at present, will force me to delay a little,
and I am in hopes, by so doing, to obtain some further data. I
enter, in a few days, on the discharge of my professional duties,
under considerable disadvantages, owing to the late introduction
into our courses of some French works on the highest branches of
mathematics, which it falls to my lot first to teach. Between
French, therefore, and fluxions, and moreover, the French method of
fluxions, which is somewhat peculiar, I have had my hands pretty
full. I look forward to a respite in April."
The professor had, in fact, to teach his class as he taught himself,
and just kept ahead of them--a very hard task.
In the mean time, while this plan of an enlarged publication was
kept in view, I pushed my narrative forward. While it was going
through the press, almost every mail brought me something of
interest respecting the progress of scientific discovery. A few
items may be noticed.
Discovery of Strontian on Lake Erie.--Mr. William A. Bird, of
Troy, of the Boundary Survey, writes (Jan. 22d):--
"On our return down the lake, last fall, we were becalmed near the
islands in Lake Erie. I took a boat, and, accompanied by Major
Delafield, Mr. A. Stevenson, and Mr. De Russey (who was to be our
guide), went in search of the strontian to the main shore, where
Mr. De Russey says it was found in the summer of 1819. After an
unsuccessful search of an hour, we gave it up, and determined to
return to our vessel. On our way we stopped at Moss Island, when,
immediately on landing, we found the mineral in question. I wandered
a little from the others, and found the large bed of which I spoke
to you. We there procured large quantities, and some large crystals.
"This strontian was on the south side of Moss Island, in a
horizontal vein of three feet in thickness, and from forty to fifty
feet in length. I had no means of judging its depth into the rock.
The base of the island is wholly composed of limestone, in which
shells scarcely, if ever, appear."
Conchology--Mineralized Fungus, &c.--Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell, of
New York, writes (Jan. 30th): "I was glad to receive your letter and
the accompanying articles, by the hand of Colonel Gardiner; but I am
sorry your business is such as to prevent your meditated visit to
the city until spring.
"I had a solemn conference with Mr. Barnes, our distinguished
conchologist, on the subject of your shells. We had Say's
publication on the land and fresh water molluscas before us. We
believed the univalves had been chiefly described by him; one, or
probably two of the species were not contained in his memoir. It
would gratify me very much to possess a complete collection of those
molluscas. I gave Mr. Barnes, who is an indefatigable collector,
such duplicates as I could spare.
"I showed your sandy fungus to my class at the college yesterday.
Our medical school was never so flourishing, there being nearly two
hundred students. In the evening, I showed it to the lyceum. All the
members regretted your determination to stay the residue of the
winter in Albany.
"The little tortoise is referred, with a new and singular bird, to a
zoological committee for examination. The sulphate of strontian is
"I am forming a parcel for Professor Schreibers, curator of the
Austrian emperor's cabinet at Vienna; the opportunity will be
excellent to send a few."
Report on the Copper of Lake Superior.--Professor Silliman, in
announcing a notice of my work on the mines, for the next number of
the Journal of Science, Feb. 5th, says: "I have written to the
Secretary of War, and he has given his consent to have your report
appear in the Journal of Science."
Governor Cass, of Michigan (Feb. 20th), expresses his thanks for a
manuscript copy of the MS. report. "I trust," he adds, "the report
will be published by the government. It would be no less useful and
satisfactory to the public than honorable to yourself." Geology of
Western New York.--Mr. Andrew McNabb, of Geneva (Feb. 26th), sends
me two separate memoirs on the mineralogy and geology of the
country, to be employed as materials in my contemplated memoir. The
zeal and intelligence of this gentleman have led him to outstrip
every observer who has entered into this field of local knowledge.
Its importance to the value of the lands, their mines, ores,
resources, water power, and general character, has led him to take
the most enlarged views of the subject.
"Pursue," he says, "my dear sir, your career, for it is an honorable
one. The world, bad as it is, has been much worse than now for
authors; and through the great reading public, there are many
generous souls, whose views are not confined to sordidness and self.
May all your laudable exertions be crowned with ample success--with
pleasure and profit to yourself and fellow-citizens!"
Boulder of Copper.--A large specimen of native copper from Lake
Superior, procured by me, forwarded to Mr. Calhoun, by General
Stephen Van Rensselaer, representative in Congress, was cut up by
his directions, and presented to the foreign ministers and gentlemen
from abroad; and thus the resources of the country made known. In a
letter of Feb. 27th, Mr. Calhoun acknowledges the receipt of it.
Theoretical Geology.--Mr. McNabb, in forwarding additional papers
relative to western geology, observes: "Have you seen Greenough's
Essays on Geology? The reviewers speak of it as well as critics
usually do on such occasions. President Greenough has given a shock
to the 'Wernerian system;' his battery is pretty powerful, but he
seems more intent on leveling than on building. The Wernerian
system is very beautiful, ingenious, and plausible, and I would
almost regret its demolition, unless it should be found to stand in
the way of truth.
1: A New York Statesman, Jan. 1821.
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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 |