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THIS county was the first settled by white people, as it
was also the first organized in the Upper Peninsula. On its southeastern and
eastern boundaries, many of those acts of war, which lend a romance to the
history of Michigan, were performed. Within its confines the French
explorers found savage hospitality, drew their first converts from beyond
the lakes around them, and planted the symbol of their faith on every
elevation of the iron-bound coast. Today a portion of the bones of the
illustrious Marquette and ten thousand other souvenirs, which link its
present with its past history, remain to remind us that there the beginnings
of the great West were organized by men who knew not fear, and who
comprehended fully the future of the new lands which they came to acquire.
The geological formation of the county is noticed in
other pages. The island is made up of the Onondaga salt group of the Upper
Silurian system, and the Upper Helderberg limestone group of the Devonian
system. The former is twenty-five feet in thickness, forming the base, and
the latter is about two hundred and seventy-five feet in depth, forming the
body and cap. The face of the south end of the island is most plainly
terraced. Beginning with the top of Fort Holmes, more than two hundred feet
above the present level of the lake, there are four distinctly marked
terraces before we come to the water level, each bearing the undulating line
of aqueous formation. Another proof is afforded by the fact that, from the
base of Fort Holmes to the present beach, rounded lake pebbles are found two
or three feet beneath the surface of any point, all arranged as on the lake
shore. The existence of the island is not therefore due to volcanic action,
at least in the second place, but rather to a subsidence of the lake water,
which may have been gradual for thousands of years.
The Upper Peninsula, its islands, rivers and lakes are
phenomenal; so much so, that the more they are seen the more they puzzle and
mystify. Nothing is wanting—Nature observes a large scale physically, and
oftentimes resorts to uncommon tactics in entertaining those who may visit
or settle in this portion of her world. The mirage, aurora, meteor,
water-spout, and all such excesses are spread before the inhabitants at
The people of Mackinac were witness to a majestic
spectacle July 17, 1880, a genuine water-spout, the theater of ,whose
gyrations was between Round and Bois Blanc Islands. During the storm, which
began shortly before 2 o'clock of that day, a tornado-like cloud was
observed coming across the country a half mile south of this village. After
it had passed out over the lake, other clouds of ominous blackness were seen
moving with great rapidity toward one point; here and there the water of the
lake was torn up in groat patches and dashed into the finest spray. As the
clouds met, a large cone, as black as jet, projected downward toward the
water, which was boiling and seething in terrific fury. But a few seconds
elapsed before the water and clouds met, and then what every school child
has seen portrayed in his geography was seen here in all its grandeur.
Resting upon the lake was a perfect cone of water, and resting upon this an
inverted cone of cloud. With what force the water was drawn up through the
mysterious spout can only be judged by the foam and spray which filled the
air on every side. The spectacle lasted about ten minutes, and then the
clouds gradually lifted and in a short time all was serene. The storm, which
reached its climax in this peculiar manner here, appears to have passed in a
northeasterly course over a large part of this county at least.
The moon rising on the night of August 5, 1882, presented
one of these scenes, seldom to be observed outside the circle of the
northern lake region. It appeared over the horizon as a sail boat wrapt in
flame from deck to masthead, and was slow to undeceive the witnesses of its
The mirage may be seen here at all hours—sometimes
grotesque and weird, at other times sublime in its appearances.
The county of Michilimackinac was organized under
authority given in the proclamation of Gov. Cass October 26, 1818, in accord
with the power granted by Congressional ordinance of July 13, 1787. The
boundaries of the county, as then organized, commenced at the White Rock on
the shore of Lake Huron, thence with the line of Macomb County to the line
between the United States and Upper Canada, thence with this boundary line
to the western boundary of Michigan Territory; thence southerly along the
western line so far, that a line drawn due west from the dividing ground
between the rivers which flow into Lake Superior and those which flow south
will strike the same; thence east to this dividing ground, and with the same
to a point due north from Sturgeon Bay; thence south to the bay; thence by
the nearest line to the western boundary of territory as established by
Congress January 11, 1805. The seat of justice was established at the
Borough of Michilimackinac by the same proclamation.
Among the first townships was that of St. Ignace.
The township of Holmes was organized April 12, 1827, and
the first meeting ordered to be held at the court house on thy island in May
following. The boundaries of the township were from the point on the
Cheboygan River, where Latitude 40°, 30', intersects same, west along that
parallel to Lake Michigan; thence north to Latitude 46°; thence Past along
that parallel until it would intersect a line due north from the place of
Michilimackinac County, as established under the act of March 9, 1843,
embraced all the territory within the following boundaries: Beginning at a
point in Lake Huron, south of line between Ranges 2 and 3 east; thence north
to the boundary of Town 41 north; west to the line between Ranges 1 and 2
east; thence to the north boundary of Town 42 north; west to the meridian;
north on meridian line to north boundary of Town 43 north; west
on that town line to line between Ranges 6 and 7 west; north on same town
line to north boundary of Town 44 north; west to line between Ranges 7 and 8
west; north to north boundary of Town 45; west on north boundary of Town 45
north, to line between Ranges 12 and 13 west; south on this line to Lake
Michigan; thence east along lake shore to place of beginning. The islands
attached to the county were Bois Blanc, St. Martin's, St. Helena, the
Chenaux, Round Island and .Michilimackinac. Organic changes have since been-
made; still greater changes are looked forward to, and it is thought that
within a few years several new counties will be organized.
The organized towns of Mackinac County at present are St.
Ignace, Holmes, Brevort, Lakefield, Garfield, Hendricks, Moran and Newton.
The townships of Mackinac in 1860 were Holmes,. Moran and
St. Ignace. The population of the first, in 1860, was 831 whites, 20 colored
and 442 Indians; of the second, in 1860, 104 whites and 140 Indians; and of
the third, 76 whites and 325 Indians. In 1870, the population of Holmes was
938 whites and 99 Indians; of Moran, 373 whites and 54 Indians; and of St.
Ignace, 405 whites, 132 Indians and 19 colored persons.
The question of removing the county seat was definitely
settled April 3, 1882, when the people recorded a full vote.
The whole number of votes given for and against the
removal of the county seat was 607.
The votes that contained the words "for the removal of
the county seat—Yes," were: St. Ignace, 328; Holmes, 6; Moran, 24; Brevort,
47; Hendricks, 22; Garfield, not canvassed; Lakefield, 25; Newton, 27;
Votes that contained the words "against the removal of
the county seat:" St. Ignace, 1; Holmes, 117; Moran, 2; Brevort, 0;
Hendricks, 2; Garfield, not canvassed; Lake-field, 0; Newton, 6; total, 128.
The vote of Garfield Township was not canvassed.
The special election of June, 1882, decided in favor of
the $17,000 loan for the new county buildings at St. Ignace.
The following offers of sites and moneys were made to the
committee on building. They go to'show that enterprise exists at St. Ignace,
and, that the importance of a county seats is fully realized:
Michael Marley offered three bluff sites on Claims 15 and
16; either of these locations to be 300 feet square; and on the four sides
of each, streets 100 feet in width to be laid out—with this exception, that
if the site offered on Portage street be selected, that street being already
of record of a less width, but three sides of the square could have streets
of 100 feet width.
The Murrays offered 300 feet square in the heartof the
village, to which Mr. Hazleton, of the Mackinac Lumber Company, added
$1,000. The Murrays also offered any site the Building Committee might
select on their bluff.
Mrs. Amelia Crain offered two locations—one of from three
to five acres on the Crain Bluff; a second, of 200 feet front by 100 feet
rear on Lake avenue; the first offer commanding a fine view of the Straits
from an eminence of nearly two hundred feet; the second, an altitude of
perhaps sixty feet, both sites in North St. Ignace.
P. W. Hombach's offer was from three to five acres on
Matilda Wendell, per W. P. Preston, agent, offered two
acres on Claim 11.
The Mackinaw Lumber Company, per Manager Hazel-ton,
offered a location 200 feet east of Reagon's shops; also, $1,000 cash if
either of the Crain, Murray or Company's sites were chosen.
After viewing the several locations, the committee
reported to the board favoring the Marley site, corner of Prospect and
Marley streets. The board accepted the report, and subsequently formally
located the new county buildings thereon.
A deed of the square is to be conveyed to the county. The
chosen site is indeed a handsome one, and, though many could have wished the
Crain Bluff had been taken, because a court house there located would be
seen from a great distance lake wards, yet the committee undeniably chose a
square nearest center of the town, having in view the greatest good to the
The corner-stone of the new court house which is now in
course of erection, and which is to cost something like $18,000, was laid
with appropriate ceremonies on the 16th of August, 1882, W. P. Preston,
Chairman of the County Board, presiding, and a large number of people being
in attendance. Various records and documents, together with copies of Upper
Peninsula newspapers, and various coins, were deposited in the box, after
which Judge Charles R. Brown, formerly of Kalamazoo, but now a resident of
St. Ignace, delivered the address: "Science, art and law, illuminated by the
pure precepts of the Gospel of the Old Testament, are keeping step in the
great march for the elevation of humanity; in the development of the highest
type of civilization. Of this truth, illustrations are to be found on every
hand. Two hundred years ago, the pious Father Marquette proclaimed to the
untutored savages of this shore the doctrine of peace and good will to men;
and, almost within a stone's throw of this spot, erected the cross; and his
ashes are today reposing on the shore of our beautiful bay. Who shall say
that his labors were in vain? Who shall say that his was not a prophetic
vision when he predicted for St. Ignace a glorious future? Who shall say
that this is not to be an important center in the world of commerce?
The old stockades; the little chapel under the hill; the forty dwellings
upon the margin of the little-bay; the rude fort held by the two hundred
French soldiers of two hundred years ago, have all crumbled into dust. The
glorious men of valor and real worth, who bade farewell to the comforts of
home to plant Christianity and civilization upon these shores, have gone to
their reward, but their spirit goes marching on.' The cleared and cultivated
fields, which, two hundred years ago, for nearly two miles in width and nine
miles in length upon this bay, furnished bread for the savages occupying a
territory of more than four hundred miles square, have, as you observe,
reared a second growth of forest. Here, in the midst of this forest, the
hand of progress, that seemed for so many years to be paralyzed, has again
taken the ax and the plow, and promises, at no distant day, to make these
hills and valleys `bud and blossom as the rose. Already do we hear the busy
hum of commerce at our very doors. Shops, stores, manufacturing
establishments, dwellings, schools and churches are springing into being on
every hand. We may well rejoice that it is our privilege to witness the
beginning of this new temple, where, we trust, justice to our children,
justice to those who may hereafter unite their fortunes with us, will be
meted out with an impartial hand. Let us unite in the hope that it may long
stand a monument to the power, the dignity and the justice of law; that
within its walls the private rights of the humblest citizen maybe secure;
and that he who dares to violate the law xv learn that 'the way of the
transgressor is hard.' "
The annual session of the Circuit Court of the county
began August 15, 1881. Among the lawyers present were Edwin Hadley, St.
Ignace, attorney for D. M. & M. R. R. Co.; Col. John Atkinson, Detroit; R.
E. Frazer, of Sheboygan; T. J. O'Brien, firm of (D. Darwin) Hughes &
O'Brien, Grand Rapids; J. J. Brown and Humphrey & Perkins, Sheboygan
lawyers; Hon. C. R. Brown, of Kalamazoo, Port Huron and St. Ignace, who once
wore the ermine of Circuit Judge, and presided as such at one of the most
famous murder trials ever held in the State; S. S. Olds, of Lansing,
formerly Secretary of the Republican State Central Committee; also, Lawyers
Conner, Cady & Hoffman, and Bennett, of St. Ignace, together with
Prosecuting Attorney Packard, Circuit Court Commissioner Butler, Clerk
Biddle, Sheriff McLaughlin and (his Deputy) A. F. Stuart.
In the history of Marquette County, reference is made to
the courts and bar of early times.
Judge Goodwin retired from the bench August 17, 1881.
This gentleman was first mentioned as a delegate from Wayne County to the
"second convention of assent," which met at Ann Arbor December 14, 1836, and
adopted a resolution giving the assent of the State to the requirement of
the act of Congress establishing the northern boundary line of Ohio (cutting
off Toledo and vicinity from Michigan), and providing for the admission of
the Territory of Michigan as a State. From 1843 to 1846, he was one of the
Supreme Court Judges under the constitution of 1835. He was a delegate to
and elected President of the convention of 1850, which revised the
constitution of 1835, and which is the constitution now in force. He was
also a delegate to the convention of 1867, for the further revision of the
constitution, which revision was submitted to the people and rejected. He
was for many years United States District Attorney for this State. As a
judicial officer and lawyer, he early achieved eminence, and, in 1851, was
called upon to appear for the people in the great "railroad conspiracy
case." He was Judge of this Judicial Circuit for more than twenty years, but
was defeated for re-election in 1880 by Joseph H. Steere, of Chippewa, by a
vote of 1,084 to 619. His extreme age (eighty-five years) was the most
powerful factor contributing to his defeat.
The following is a list of the Clerks of the county from
its organization in 1818:
1818-21—Thomas Lyon. 1855-58—John Becker.
1822-24—F. Hinchman. 1859-63-W. M. Johnston.
1825-46-J. P. King. 1864-Charles O'Malley.
1847-5.2-P. C. Kevan. 1865-82-John Biddle.
1853-54-W. M. Johnston.
The total number of persons within the county in June,
1880, was 2,902. Of this number, 1,698 were males, and 1,209, females: 2,254
were natives, and 648, foreigners. The whites numbered 2,635, and the
Indians, 254, with 13 half-breeds.
The population of the county from 1834 to 1880 is set
forth as follows:
*Including twenty-one unorganized counties.
In 1834, according to returns made to the Legislature by
John A. Drew, Sheriff, and by J. P. King, who copied the census returns of
Mackinac County that year, the number of inhabitants was 899.
In 1847, the whole number of Chippewas on the Beaver
Islands was 35; at Manistee River Nation, 73; at Carp River, 75; at Oak
Point—Ance's band—92; at St. Ignace, 42; at Chenaux, Huron Nation, 45.
The population of Mackinac County, by political
divisions, in 1880, was as follows: Hendricks, 434; Holmes Township, 190;
Mackinac Village, in Holmes Township, 720; Moran Township, 306; Newton
Township, 286; St. Ignace Township, including Hamlet settlement, 966. The
actual population of the township was only 32 in 1880, without the
settlement. The total population of the county was 2,902, including 254
In 1878, the only Germans in Mackinac County were John
Becker, of the Island; S. Highstone, P. W. Hombach and John A. Waltz. Mr.
Becker is deceased. His widow is the owner of the Mackinaw House, on the
Island. Today, a large portion of the population is made up of the German
Mackinac County furnished forty-seven men to the Michigan
regiments; ten were produced by draft, eleven drafted men commuted, and
twenty-six enlisted under the enrollment system. In the general history, a
record is given of the private soldiers and officers furnished to the Union
armies from 1861 to 1865.
The aggregate expenditures of Mackinac County for war
purposes up to 1866 was $6,727.50, together with public and private
contributions for the relief of soldiers' families.
The number of acres of land comprised in this county in
1881 was 704,000; number of farms, 43; number of acres improved, 441.
The number of acres of United States lands open for entry
in the county October 1, 1881, was 78,000; of D. M. & M. R. R. lands,
275,666 acres; of State swamp, 120 acres; and of school lands, 34,423 acres.
Mackinac County Sentinel.-The first number of this
journal was issued April 30, 1880, with James K. Fairchild, publisher. It
was published at the old county seat on the Island. In May, 1880, William J.
Trotman, formerly of the Belleview Gazette, was appointed assistant editor.
In August, 1880, the office of the Sentinel was moved from the Island to St.
Ignace. In December, 1880, J. K. Fairchild sold his interest in the paper to
Leonard H. Higgins, of Au Sable, and, on December 31, issued his
P. D. Bissell, of the St. Clair Republican, purchased
this office February 10, 1881.
The Mackinac County Independent was established November
10, 1881, and continued to exist until February 9, 1882, when it was merged
into the Northern Spy. The Northern Spy was first issued February 16, 1882,
with George H. Hombach, publisher and proprietor. March 9, 1882, Henry
Gibson took editorial charge of the Spy, and has conducted the paper up to
the present time.
What the future of these eastern counties of the Upper Peninsula will be
may be easily surmised. With its lumber and agricultural resources, it gives
promise of greatness. Throughout the burnt district, the soil is a clay
loam. It does not bake, but, after plowing, slacks up as mellow ashes. There
is a large percentage of lime mixed with the soil, so much that, if it is
burnt in bricks, the lime will slack and burst the brick, and it is thought
that the lime contained in the soil is the grand secret of the wheat and
other grain crops raised here and on the State road running from Sault Ste.
Marie to Point St. Ignace.
There are hundreds of thousands of acres of this rich,
fertile land waiting for the industrious farmer to develop it into
first-class farms. In the center of this tract of good land there was a
flourishing village, sprung up within the last year, where a saw-mill is now
running, and lumber can be had at reasonable prices for building. There is
also a blacksmith shop in full blast, and a general store, and a good road
running from the village to Palm's Station, on the Detroit, Marquette &
Mackinac Railroad; also a good road running to Lake Huron, a distance of ten
miles. Strongville is the name of the new town. The most of this vast
country belongs to the Detroit, Marquette & Mackinac Railroad. The land is
held at $4 per acre, one-quarter down, the balance in ten years, at 7 per
cent interest. Many acres are passing into the hands of speculators, but
enough remains to furnish ten thousand families with happy homesteads.
This island is situate about four miles east of the
narrow stretch of Mackinac Straits, fifteen miles from Lake Huron, and
thirty from Lake Michigan. The area embraced is 2,221 acres, of which the
National Park contains 911 acres, the Military Reservation 103 acres, the
remainder being held by citizens.
The associations of this island are of great interest to
all searchers after ancient history, and when we look back and recall to our
minds all the black deeds and murders coming from the hands of the Indians,
a panorama is presented of ancient history which is supplied to us by the
Indian historian, difficult to supplant by any other in the Northwest.
Shortly subsequent to the bloody massacre at old Mackinaw and the setting of
the same in flames, the people moved their personal property to the Island
for greater protection from the attacks of the savages. One of the first was
Dr. Mitchell, who transferred his house from the mainland to the Island.
The Indians, from the earliest times, have always
regarded the Island with awe and veneration; and, in connection with giving
the derivation of the name of it, we will also lay before the reader some of
the original causes why they viewed it with these feelings.
Indian mythology relates that three brothers of Giant
Fairies, in olden times, occupied different islands In this section of
country, viz.: The eldest occupied Me-she-nemock-e-nung-gonge (Island of
Mackinac), the second, Tim-au-kin-onge, in Lake Michigan, now called
Pottawatomie Island; the third, Pe-qua-bic-onge, an island situated in Lake
Huron, near the southeastern entrance into Georgian Bay.
The pagan Indians to this day look upon them with awe and
respect, and in passing to and fro by their shores, still offer tobacco to
propitiate the good will of the Giant Fairies.
Tradition further reports that the present garrison gate
overlooks the spot where in olden times an entrance existed to the
subterraneous abode of these great or Giant Fairies. This knowledge was
obtained from an Indian Chessakee or Spiritualist, who once encamped within
the limits of the present garrison garden, which was then a beautiful maple
grove, formed of majestic rock maples, similar to those which now grace the
base of the garrison hill. He stated that some time during the night, after
he had fallen asleep, a fairy or spirit touched him and motioned him to
follow; his spirit or soul immediately left his body; and followed his
unearthly guide, who led him to an entrance directly below the present fort
gate; he was conducted into a beautiful wigwam or dome of vast dimensions,
which was illuminated with a bright, unearthly light, the brilliancy of
which was increased by reflecting upon a thousand stalactites and crystals
of calcareous spar. At the far end of the dome, on a seat of brilliant rock,
sat one who appeared to be the leader of the Giant Fairies; diverging from
him right and left with the form of the amphitheater, sat numerous fairies
or spirits in solemn conclave (the subject was the future fate of the
Indian). The Indian Chessakee stood lost in utter astonishment while
witnessing the unearthly sight. After an interval, the chief fairy directed
that the Indian soul or spirit should be led back to its body, directing
him, if asked, to state the fact of their existence, but not to divulge what
he had heard, which Chessakee faithfully kept to his dying day.
Another proof of our subject matter is the following: An
old Indian chief, upon leaving Mackinac to visit his friends in Lake
Superior, thus soliloquized, as the darkness dimly shadowed forth the dark
outlines of the Island. "Me-she-ne-mock-e-nung-gonge! thou Isle of the deep,
clear watered lake, how pleasant to think of the transparent waters that
surround thee! How soothing it is from amidst the curling smoke of my Opaw-gun
(pipe) as seated on the deck of the fire vessel, to trace thy deep blue
outlines in the distance, and to call from memory's tablets the stones and
traditions connected with thy sacred and mystic character! How sacred the
veneration with which thou halt been once clothed by our Indian seers of
gone by days!—how pleasant for the mind to contemplate, as if now present,
the time when the Great Spirit allowed a peaceful stillness to hang around
thee, when only light and balmy winds were permitted to pass over thee,
hardly ruffling the mirror-like surface of thy deep waters! Nothing then
disturbed thy quiet and deep solitude but the chippering of birds, the
quivering rustling of the leaves of the silver barked birch, and the
trembling whisperings of the leaves of the aspen. It was then, also, by
evening twilight, the rustling sound of the Giant Fairies was heard, as
they, with rapid step and giddy whirl, danced to the strains of sweet,
unearthly music, on thy limestone battlements. It was then that the
untutored mind of the Indian was led by the mystery that surrounded thee, to
look with feelings of awe and veneration to nature's God, and to feel
thankful for his many gifts—then he knew not of the existence of fire-water
to mar the harmony and blight the beauties of Indian life, which the Great
Spirit had surrounded them with."
References are made in other pages to the Indian wars. Here the following
story of Sau-ge-mau is given, as it is archæologically and historically
connected with the Island. The writer, William M. Johnson, accepts the
matter as history. It agrees with the Schoolcraft and other legends. The
harbor of Moneto-wauning on the eastern side of the Great Manitoulin Island,
in Lake Huron, presented in appearance and sound a wild, exciting and novel
spectacle. The drum and she-she-gwon (rattle) of the Ojibway and Ottawa
tribes were assembling and marshaling their forces of painted and athletic
warriors. Above the din of voices, drum and rattle, at intervals, was heard
the sau-sau-quan (yell of defiance) of some young brave who, forgetting all
restraint, gave vent to his overwrought feelings.
The combined portions of the great tribes of the Ojibways
and Ottawas were under the chieftainship of Ningau-be-on and Sau-ge-mau,
both noted of old in Indian song and story. They had the year previous
selected some of their conquered villages for their future occupancy, and
the present warlike and emigrating expedition was for the object of taking
possession of these sites. Fifty large canoes led the van, filled with
warriors—the center canoes contained the aged, the women and children—the
rear was protected by a like number.
In this order they passed Drummond's Island, and encamped
for several days at the present detour. Here the chiefs consented to divide
their forces—Ning-au-be-on going up the Sault Ste. Marie River, west, and
Sau-gemau following the lake southwest with his warriors, passing the
Chenaux, he finally encamped on the East Moran Bay, and subsequently his
band occupied the West Moran Bay and Oak Point.
Two years previous, the combined bands drove the
Au-se-gun-ugs from Point St. Ignace and from the southeast side of the
present Round Island. These Indians fled from these two points and
concentrated their forces at Pequotonong (Old Mackinac). Sau-ge-mau, after
locating his band, proceeded across the straits, and after a bloody
encounter, drove the Au-se-gun-ugs from Old Mackinac, who fled, following
both shores of Lake Michigan, west and south.
The present Cross and Middle Villages were then occupied
by Indians called Mush-co-de-insh-ug. A delegation of these Indians met him
at Point Waugoschance asking peace and their adoption as brothers.
Sau-ge-mau preceeded to their villages, where he was hospitably received.
After much feasting, ceremony and counciling, peace and their adoption as
brothers was concluded.
The season being well advanced, Sau-ge-mau returned to
Moran Bay. He found that, during his absence, a delegation of Iroquois had
waited upon his chief in charge of the village, asked and obtained
permission to form a settlement upon the extreme point of St. Ignace; their
numbers were considerable, mustering 200 warriors.
The following spring, Sau-ge-mau, with a portion of this
band, took possession of Pequotonong (Old Michilimackinac), making it his
headquarters. From here he sent the wampum war-belt to the Sault,
Manitoulin, and to the Cross and Middle Villages, calling the Indians to a
grand council. In a few days, Pequotonong shook to the tread of hundreds of
plumed warriors, who passed their time in feasting and dancing—while their
aged wise men and chieftains assembled in council and planned the conquest
of the country south of Old Michilimackinac.
These plans Sau-ge-mau carried out with a large number of
warriors; he overran all the country southwest, until he reached the present
site of She-gog-onge (Chicago). Some of his parties reached the Illinois
River, which they descended or followed until they reached the Mis-sis-zebee
(Mississippi) River—extending everywhere. The Iroquois, in the meantime, had
occupied their settlement (Nau-do-wa-qua-au-me-sheeng)—now Point St. Ignace.
A portion of these warriors went East to visit their friends, but, previous
to leaving, they had insulted some of the Ottawas, and two or three of them
had been murdered. The party going East were suspected. Upon their return,
they had reached Point St. Vital, twenty-five miles from Moran Bay, east,
when they were decoyed ashore.
A head-dress, adorned with scalp-locks, had been
presented to Sau-ge-mau by one of his warriors, which he, without
inspection, wore to a feast given by the remaining Iroquois. He thought that
he attracted more observation than usual, especially from the Iroquois
women. This scrutiny was caused by the head-dress of scalps, displaying
light-colored hair; for by this time the Iroquois suspected that their
friends had all been killed. Toward night, Sau-ge-mau came near being
assassinated by them. He, however, managed to escape, and reached East Moran
Bay. But, previous to leaving, he told them, "Who are you, that assume to
control matters on my lands? You live here by my bounty. Tomorrow I will
visit you." Runners were ordered to go that night to West Moran Bay and Oak
Point, directing the warriors to be in attendance on the chief by dawn. On
the morrow, by daylight, the Iroquois were attacked and defeated. Not a
warrior was spared, except the aged, women and children, who were ordered to
embark and leave the country, which they did in haste; but, instead of going
east by the Chenaux, they crossed over, in their fright, to the Island of
In the meantime, the warriors from Old Mackinac had
crossed over, too late, however, to participate in the morning's action;
they felt angry, and, for an excuse, said that their sacred Island was
polluted by the Iroquois dogs. They crossed in pursuit, and found the canoes
on the beach, in the present harbor of Mackinac. They pushed them off, and a
strong west wind carried them out in the lake, and they were destroyed.
The Iroquois, afraid of their lives, and preferring
rather to die in the woods than have their scalps taken, fled into the
interior of the Island, and found Skull Cave, in which they took shelter.
The warriors of Sau-ge-mau were unable to find them. They, however, kept a
strict watch for many days; but the miserable Iroquois had mysteriously
disappeared forever. Many years afterward, Alexander Henry, after the
massacre of Old Fort Michilimackinac in 1763, happened to be secreted in
this very cave. He says, in his narrative: "I mentioned to my Indian friend
the extraordinary sight that had presented itself in the cave to which I had
commended my slumbers." His Indian friend had never heard of its existence
before, and, upon examining the cave together, they saw reason to believe
that it had been anciently filled with human bones. Wa-wa-tum, Alexander
Henry's friend, belonged to the Sault Ste. Marie branch of the combined
bands, and probably had not heard of this portion of Sau-ge-mau's history,
and of the mysterious disappearance of the Iroquois at this place nearly a
century before, which accounts for his ignorance of being uninformed of
these historical facts as now recorded.
The Iroquois, to avenge their friends, sent two
expeditions into this part of the country. One reached Point Iroquois,
sixteen miles above Sault Ste. Marie, where they were attacked by the
Ojibways, and all killed with the exception of one, who had his ears and
nose cut off, and sent home to inform his tribe of their total destruction.
Their skulls and bones were seen by the first whites who passed Iroquois
Point, bleaching in the sun. The place is called Nau-do-wa-we-gun-ing (Place
of Iroquois' Bones). The other party reached Point Waugoschance, where they
were also totally defeated by the Ottawas, and only one canoe, manned by a
small number, escaped to tell of their loss.
The foregoing appears to be the only reasonable and authentic account for
the human bones being found in the Skull Cave. The translation of these
scraps of tradition solves the enigma which has puzzled scientific
inquirers, travelers and our oldest inhabitants respecting them. The first
American officers who garrisoned the fort speak of masses of bones and
skulls lying at that time upon the surface, but, since first discovered,
two-thirds of the mouth of the cave had fallen in, nature herself covering
the last remains of her sons and daughters of the forest.
The action of St. Lusson at the Sault de Ste. Marie gave
to France a nominal possession of the Northwest. Up to this time, however,
none of her fur-traders—none of her missionaries—none of her agents—had yet
reached the Mississippi—the great river concerning which so many marvels had
been heard. Now, however, the hour was at hand in which would be solved the
problem and be revealed the mystery of the "great water" of the savages. The
Governor of Canada was resolved that the stream should be reached and
explored. He made choice of Louis Joliet, who was with St. Lusson when the
Northwest was for the first time claimed for the King of France, and who had
just returned to Quebec from Lake Superior. This was in the year 1672. Said
the Governor on the 2d of November: "It has been judged expedient to send
Sieur Joliet to the Maskouteins [Mascoutins], to discover the South Sea, and
the great river called the Mississippi, which is supposed to discharge
itself into the Sea of California." "He is a man," continued Frontenac, "of
great experience in these sorts of discoveries, and has already been almost
at the great river, the mouth of which he promises to see."
Joliet passed up the lakes, and, on the 17th of May, 1673
(having with him Father James Marquette and five others), started from the
mission of St. Ignatius, a point north of the Island of Mackinac, in the
present county of that name, in the State of Michigan, journeying in two
bark canoes, firmly resolved to do all and to suffer all for the glory of
re-discovering the Mississippi. Every possible precaution was taken, that,
should the undertaking prove hazardous, it should not be foolhardy; so,
whatever information could be gathered from the Indians who had frequented
those parts, was laid under contribution before paddling merrily over the
waters to the westward, and up Green Bay to the mouth of the Fox River. The
first Indian nation met by Joliet was the Menomonees. He was dissuaded by
them from venturing so far into ulterior regions, assured that he would meet
tribes that never spare strangers, but tomahawked them without provocation;
that the war that had broken out among various nations on his route exposed
him and his men to another evident danger—that of being killed by the war
parties constantly in the path; that the "great river" was very dangerous
unless the difficult parts were known; that it was full of frightful
monsters who swallowed up men and canoes together."
We know the result of that journey; while the fatefulness
of an accident has left a cloud which envelops the deserved fame of Louis
Joliet, the lovely character of Pere Marquette, his story of their tour to
the Mississippi, his struggles and death, has also led us to forget that
Joliet was first entitled to the laurel wreath for that exploration and
discovery. The reward bestowed by the French sovereign upon Joliet for that
distinguished service was rather a barren one, being the Island of
Anticosti, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The gift proved an unlucky one; his
island, in 1691, was captured, and himself and family made prisoners, by a
British fleet under Sir William Phipps, suffering the entire loss of his
estate. Shea says: "He died apparently in the last year of the seventeenth
century." Louis Joliet, the son of a wheelwright, was born in Quebec in
1645. He was educated at the Jesuit College of Quebec, but afterward engaged
in the fur trade in the West, and was selected by the Government to lead the
expedition in 1673, for the exploration of the Mississippi.
The most remarkable character among the explorers of the
Mississippi Valley, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, was
Robert Cavelier de La Salle. Viewed in the light and sense of worldly
enterprise, he is to be considered as surpassing all others in lofty and
comprehensive aims, in determined energy and unyielding courage, both moral
and physical. He faltered at no laborious undertaking; no distrust by
nerveless friends; no jealous envy or schemes of active enemies, no
misfortune damped the ardor of his plans and movements. If there was a
mountain in his track, he could scale it; if a lion beset his path, he could
crush it. Nothing but the hand of the lurking assassin could quench the fire
of that brave heart. We may briefly say that La Salle was born in the city
of Rouen, France, November 22, 1643. The name La Salle was borrowed from an
estate, in the neighborhood of Rouen, belonging to his family, the Caveliers.
Robert was educated at one of the Jesuit seminaries, and as one of that
order he continued a short time; but, in 1666, he came to America, and it is
said that he made early exploration to the Ohio, and was possibly near the
Mississippi before Joliet and Marquette's voyage hither. We can here only
allude to a few items and facts in La Salle's career. It was a marked
incident, and so appears on the historic page, when La Salle, in 1679,
voyaged to Green Bay on the Griffon, the first sail vessel of the lakes
above the falls, which he had built on the bank of Cayuga Creek, a tributary
of the Niagara. But that business trip was a mere pleasure excursion when
compared with the efforts required of him to engineer and bring about
certain indispensable preparations, involving ways and means, before the
keel of that renowned craft should be laid, and before she spread her wings
to the breeze and departed outward from Buffalo Harbor of the future. And
what an unhesitating morning walk was that of his, in 1680, when he set out
on foot from the fort, which (not him) they termed "Broken Heart," where
Peoria is, to go some twelve hundred miles, perhaps, to Fort Frontenac,
where Kingston is, at the lower end of Lake Ontario. His unyielding purpose
was not to be delayed, but accelerated, by the avalanche of misfortune which
had fallen on him. He could not wait for railroads, nor turnpikes, nor
civilization; he could not even wait for canoe navigation, for it was early
spring—in the month of March—when the ice still lingered by the lake shores,
and was running thickly in the streams. So, with one Indian and four white
men, with small supply of edibles, yet with a large stock of resolution, he
took his way. The journey was accomplished, and he was back on Lake Michigan
in the autumn ensuing. It has been suggested that his own enduring, iron
nature, as it might be called—unbending as it was in its requirements of
others—served, perhaps, to create enmities and to occasion the final
catastrophe. It may have been so; but whatever view may be taken, the doings
of La Salle must be called wonderful, his misfortunes numberless, and his
death sad. The day on which La Salle was killed is said to have been March
There is much of romantic interest in the life of Henry de Tonty which
will ever attract attention to the story of his experience in the wilds of
America. He was born in Naples, Italy, in or near the year 1650. In a
memoir, said to be written by him in 1693, he says: "After having been eight
years in the French service, by land and by sea, and having had a hand shot
off in Sicily by a grenade, I resolved to return to France to solicit
employment." It was at the time when La Salle had returned from America, and
was getting recruits of means for his Western enterprise. The prime minister
of Louis XIV, he that was called the great Colbert, knowing the soldier
Tonty well, specially provided that the important project to be undertaken
by La Salle should have the benefit of the personal aid of Tonty, who,
though maimed and single-handed, was yet ready to go forth to dare and to
do. He sailed from Rochelle on the 14th of July, 1678, and arrived at Quebec
on the 15th of September following. His death occurred at Fort St. Louis,
Mobile Bay, in 1704.
Marquette's Visit to the Island.—Father Marquette
thus described the Island in 1671:
"Michilimackinac is an island, famous in these regions,
of more than a league in diameter, and elevated in some places by such high
cliffs as to be seen more than twelve leagues off. It is situated just in
the strait forming the communication between Lake Huron and Illinois
(Michigan). It is the key and, as it were, the gate for all the tribes from
the south, as the Sault is for those of the north, there being in this
section of the country only those two passages by water; for a great number
of nations have to go by one or other of these channels in order to reach
the French settlements.
"This presents a peculiarly favorable opportunity, both
for instructing those who pass here, and also for obtaining easy access and
conveyance to their places of abode.
"This place is the most noted in these regions for the
abundance of its fishes; for, according to the Indian saying, 'this is the
home of the fishes.' Elsewhere, although they exist in large numbers, it is
not properly their 'home,' which is in the neighborhood of Michilimackinac.
"In fact, besides the fish common to all the other
tribes, as the herring, carp, pike, goldfish, whitefish and sturgeon, there
are found three varieties of the trout—one common; the second of a larger
size, three feet long and one foot thick; the third, monstrous, for we
cannot otherwise describe it, it being so fat that the Indians, who have a
peculiar relish for fats, can scarcely eat it. Besides, the supply is such
that a single Indian will take forty or fifty of them through the ice, with
a single spear, in three hours.
"It is this attraction which has heretofore drawn to a
point so advantageous the greater part of the savages in this country,
driven away by fear of the Iroquois.
It is worthy of notice that those who bore the name of
the island, and called themselves Michilimackinacians, were so numerous that
some of the survivors yet living here assure us that they once had thirty
villages, all inclosed in a fortification of a league and a half in circuit,
when the Iroquois came and defeated them, inflated by a victory they had
gained over 3,000 men of that nation, who had carried their hostilities as
far as the country of the Agnichronnons.
"In one word, the quantity of fish, united with the
excellence of the soil for Indian corn, has always been a powerful
attraction to the tribes in these regions, of which the greater part subsist
only on fish, but some on Indian corn. On this account, many of these same
tribes, perceiving that the peace is likely to be established with the
Iroquois, have turned their attention to this point, so convenient for a
return to their own country, and will follow the examples of those who have
made a beginning on the islands of Lake Huron, which, by this means, will
soon be peopled from one end to the other, an event highly desirable to
facilitate the instruction of the Indian race, whom it would not be
necessary to seek by journeys of two or three hundred
leagues on these great lakes, with inconceivable danger
In order to aid the execution of the design, signified to
us by many of the savages, of taking up their abode at this point, where
some have already passed the winter hunting in the neighborhood, we
ourselves have also wintered here in order to make arrangements for
establishing the Mission of St. Ignace, from whence it will be easy to have
access to all the Indians of Lake Huron, when the several tribes shall have
settled each on its own lands.
"With these advantages, the place has also its
inconveniences, particularly for the French, who are not yet familiar, as
are the savages, with the different kinds of fishery, in which the latter
are trained from their birth; the winds and the tides occasion no small
embarrassment to the fishermen.
"The winds: For this is the central point between the
three great lakes which surround it, and which seem incessantly tossing ball
at each other. For no sooner has the wind ceased blowing from Lake Michigan
than Lake Huron hurls back the gale it has received, and Lake Superior in
its turn sends forth its blasts from another quarter, and thus the game is
played from one to the other; and as these lakes are of vast extent, the
winds cannot be otherwise than boisterous, especially during the autumn."
Peter Francis Xavier Charlevoix, who was born at St.
Quentin, France, October 16, 1682, was for some time a teacher in the Jesuit
College, made a tour from the St. Lawrence to New Orleans, via Lake
Michigan, in 1721. About the same time, he visited the Island, and also St.
Joseph's Island, in the St. Mary's River. His death occurred at Lafleche,
France, in 1761.
The American Fur Company.—John Jacob Astor, a German
by birth, who arrived in New York in the year 1784, commenced work for a
bakery owned by a German acquaintance, and peddled cakes and doughnuts about
the city. He was afterward assisted to open a toy shop, and this was
followed by trafficking for small parcels of furs in the country towns,
which led to his future operations in that line.
Mr. Astor's great and continued success in that branch of trade induced
him, in 1809, to obtain from the New York Legislature a charter
incorporating "The American Fur Company," with a capital of $1,000,000. It
is understood that Mr. Astor comprised the company, though other names were
used in its organization. In 1811, Mr. Astor, in connection with certain
partners of the old Northwest Fur Company (whose beginning was in 1783, and
permanently organized in 1787), bought out the association of British
merchants known as the Mackinac Company, then a strong competitor in the fur
trade. This Mackinac Company, with the American Fur Company, was merged into
a new association, called the Southwest Fur Company. But in 1815, Mr. Astor
bought out the Southwest Company, and the American Fur Company came again to
the front. In the winter of 1815-16, Congress, through the influence of Mr.
Astor, it is understood, passed an act excluding foreigners from
participating in the Indian trade. In 1817-18, the American Fur Company
brought a large number of clerks from Montreal and the United States to
Mackinac, some of whom made good Indian traders, while many others failed
upon trial and were discharged. Among them was Gurdon S. Hubbard, then aged
sixteen years. He was born at Windsor, Vt., in 1802; moved with his parents
to Montreal, left that city for Mackinac, May 13,
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