VII. THE MURDER OF THE GLASS FAMILY.
Excerpt From “The Saginaw Valley” by Judge Albert Miller in Pioneer Society of Michigan 1884 Vol. 7
In 1839 and 1840 there was a large tract of wild country between the settlements on the Maple River, in Clinton and Gratiot counties, and those on the Tittabawassee, in Saginaw County. About the time above mentioned, a family named Glass, consisting of a man and his wife and two or three children, pushed into the wilderness from the settlement on the west, built a log house within the jurisdiction of Saginaw County, and commenced clearing a farm remote from other settlements. After they had remained there some time in rather indigent circumstances, some Indians who were passing the house observed that the door was open and that no one appeared to be inside. They went in and found what had been left in the house in great disorder, indicating that it had been rifled of its most valuable contents. Upon further examination the dead bodies of the woman and children of the family were found in the vicinity in a mangled condition, indicating that a sanguinary struggle had taken place before they submitted to their fate. Diligent search was made for the body of the husband and father, but without avail; no trace of him could be found dead or alive.
In the absence of any other supposed cause for the horrible tragedy, it was conjectured that the Indians had murdered all the inmates of the house for the plunder it contained. As suspicion fell upon the Indians of the vicinity generally, efforts were made to trace the crime to some individual or family, so as to release the others from foul an imputation. With this view the Indians were requested to report any circumstance that would throw a suspicion on any individual or family of the tribe. A band of Chippewa had long resided at the Ob-to-wach-awen reservation, situated on the Tittabawassee, whose chief was Pa-mos-e-gay, with whom, at the time of which I am writing, I had been acquainted nearly ten years, and whom I had always considered one of the noblest specimens of his race. It appears that Pa-mos-e-gay, with his family, consisting of his own wives and his two married sons with their wives and children, was encamped on their hunting grounds, within a few miles of the scene of the murder when it occurred.
Soon afterwards an Indian hunter, who had been on a long tramp and was very hungry, called at Pa-mos-e-gay’s camp, and, after waiting the usual time for food to be presented and none appearing, he passed on to another wigwam, where he was supplied with food. The woman asked him why he did not stop at Pa-mos-e-gay’s camp. He said he did stop there but they had no provisions, as they offered him nothing to eat. She said they had plenty of flour and pork at Pa-mos-e-gay’s (articles not usual in an Indian’s hunting camp). The fact that they had such provisions and did not offer to share them with a brother hunter, who was hungry, was so contrary to their laws of hospitality that it was supposed they must have strong grounds for concealing the fact of possessing them. Thereupon the suspicion arose that they had committed the murder and plundered the house of its contents, among which were the provisions referred to. Upon that clue Pa-mos-e-gay; and his two sons were arrested by the sheriff and brought to Saginaw in irons. I was present at the examination, which took place at Jewett’s Hotel, and I shall always remember the dignity with which the prisoners conducted themselves during the trying ordeal. Harry Connor, who was then an old man, and had spent a lifetime among the Indians and understood their language, character and habits as well as any other man in Michigan, was sent for from Connor’s Creek to assist in the examination. He had the confidence of the Indians, and was familiarly known throughout the whole region inhabited by them as Wah-skin-dip (White Head.) In conversing with the prisoners in reference to their arrest and the suspicions that led to it, Mr. Connor found that they were entirely ignorant of the whole matter. Upon examining the witness upon whose statement the arrests were made, it was found that the suspicion grew out of a little matter of an old woman’s gossip. She supposed they might have had pork and flour, but there was no proof that they had, or of any circumstance that would throw the slightest suspicion of guilt upon the prisoners. Accordingly they were honorably discharged, and the circumstances surrounding the murder of the Glass family were still shrouded in mystery.
Some years after the circumstances related above, a letter was published. in some of the Michigan newspapers purporting to have been written from a Western State by a man who had once lived neighbor to Glass and known him well. The letter stated that the writer had met Glass in a Western State and was sure of his identity, but that he denied being the person whose family was murdered. The inference almost amounts to a certainty that Glass murdered his own family and absconded, but no efforts were made to secure his arrest and punishment, and the motives for perpetrating such a diabolical act will always remain a mystery.
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