Fred. (Frederick) Carlisle.

Chronography of notable events in the history of the Northwest territory and Wayne County online

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sleep in the Catholic cemeteries. I well remember the Chapotons,
Campaus, Cicottes, Beaubiens, Godfroys, Piquettes, Coquiards and
Berthelets. A few of their direct descendants are now living here and
many are mixed with the Saxon and Indian races. Their names sur-
vive, though often pronounced with an English accent. They will
remain on our records, will be seen on the street corner, "they are on
ratione soli (part of the soil), and you cannot wash them out."



1761. — Sir William Johnson came to Detroit. He was accompanied
by the father of Whitimore Knaggs, who was a noted scout and
Indian interpreter for Generals St. Clair, Wayne, Hull, Winches-
ter and Cass. His son, Col. James W. Knaggs, is now living in
Detroit, aged 88.

1762. — Pontiac conspired to destroy all the forts on the lakes. His
plans were communicated to the English commander, Major Glad-
wyn, by an Ojibeway Indian girl, who was held a prisoner by the

1763. — July 21, battle of Bloody Run (then called Parent Creek). Cap-
tains Gray, Dalzell and some fifty soldiers were slain. Fort Pont-
chartrain was held in siege by Pontiac until the treaty of peace
between France and England had been signed at Paris, Febru-
ary 3d. Pontiac held his last council with his allies at Ecorse, and
on September 7 a treaty was made.

1764. — General Bradstreet arrived at Detroit with a large force, which
relieved its citizens from apprehension of further Indian depreda-
tions, and a peace treaty was made with them by Bradstreet. The
garrison at Michilmackinac was captured by the Chippewas, led
by Minnawauna.

1775. — Governor Hamilton visits Detroit. He appointed one Captain
Phillip De Jean a magistrate, who tried John Continuncan for steal-
ing furs from Abbot & Fenchey, also a colored woman and slave
named Ann Wylie for stealing six guineas, and sentenced them
both to be hung. They were executed, but Hamilton and De Jean
were compelled to flee the country. Fort Ponchartrain was
destroyed, and earth works were thrown up near what is now Fort

1777. — Congress adopts a United States flag June 14.

1778. — Major Lenoult, or Leneault, commanding five hundred British
troops, erected a large earth work fort, between what are now
Griswold and Wayne and Lafayette and Fort, named after him
" Fort Lernoult." After the battle of the Thames, it was changed
to Fort Shelby, in honor of Governor Shelby, of Kentucky. Inde-
pendence of the United States recognized by France February

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6th. Daniel Boon, the noted hunter, was brought by the Indians
as a prisoner. General Clark captures Vincennes, Indiana, and
then starts for Kaskaskie.

1782. — Washington resigns as general. A large number of Moravians
from Ohio settled at the mouth of the Clinton river. They named
their village " Guadenhutten." General Macomb born at Detroit.

1783 — Treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States,
but the English governor, Sir Frederick Haldeman, refused to
cede the northwest on the demand of Baron Steuben, who had
been sent to Quebec by Washington to demand it.

1784. — Governor Hay visits Detroit July 12.

1787. — The constitution of the United States was adopted September
17th. The ordinance for the civil government of the Northwest
Territor}^ established at Marietta, Ohio. Congress passed an act
creating the Northwestern Territory, and the president appointed
General Arthur St. Clair governor, but the fort at Detroit had not
been ceded or embraced as a part of said territory; he was
the first civil magistrate of the northwest, aside from that portion
claimed as a part of Canada, Governor Haldiman insisting that it
was not included in the treaty of peace. Marietta, Ohio, was
created the territorial seat of government.

1788. — Cincinnati, Ohio, founded December 28th.

1 79 1. — General St. Clair defeated by the Indians. Michigan made a
part of Upper Canada.

1792. — Kent county, Canada, erected, and Michigan attached to it.

1794. — Treaty known as "Jay's" with Lord Grenville, by which all the
forts and military posts in Michigan were to be given up to the
United States by Great Britain. On the petition of the late
Joseph Campau, and other free and accepted masons, the grand
lodge of Canada granted a charter to a lodge in Detroit, styled
"Zion Lodge." General Wayne defeated the Indians at Fallen
Timbers, on the Maumee river.

1795. — Wayne made a treaty of peace with the Indian tribes of the
northwest at Greenville. Pontiac signed the treaty August 3d.

1796. — The British troops evacuated the fort at Detroit, which was
occupied by a detachment from Wayne's army under Captain

— 46 —


On the 29th of November, 1760, the flag of France was taken
down from the fort at Detroit, and that of England hoisted. This
event opened up Canada and the northwest to EngHsh enterprise.
Many young men from England, Ireland and Scotland settled first in
Montreal and Quebec. Among them was the subject of this sketch,
the American ancestor of the Abbotts of Detroit, and the first Irishman
that ever visited Detroit.

James Abbott was born in the city of Dublin in 1744, emigrated to
Montreal, remained there a short time, and came to Detroit in 1768.
Bringing with him habits of prudence, economy, industry and perse-
verance, he utilized them in establishing a mercantile and trading busi-
ness, which soon extended from Detroit to the Hudson river east, and
west to the natives and the settlements at Fort Wa3^ne, Ind., Prairie du
Chien and in the Northwest Territory, among the Sacs, who inhabited
what is now the State of Iowa, his associates being John Askin, Geo.
Meldrum, William Park, John Wallace, Geo. Sharp, Thos. Sheppard,
Geo. Eeith and Angus Mackintosh. Their association continued until
1779, when the profits and assets were distributed. Among the assets
assigned to Mr. Abbott were 4,500 acres of land in Knox county, Indi-
ana, which for a long period was held by the heirs of Mr. Abbott.
When he first came to Detroit, some of those settlers who came with
Cadillac in 1701 were still living, as well as many who came from
France in 1749. Mr. Abbott was contemporary with Thomas Barber,
the grandfather of Thomas Palmer; Thomas Williams, father of John
R. Williams; William and Alexander Macomb, Schieffer & Smith,
James May and many others, whose descendants are still living in
Detroit. In 1780 he associated with him his eldest son Robert, the
style of the firm being James Abbott & Son. James Abbott died in
1800, and the business was continued by Robert and James Abbott, the

James Abbott, Sr., was married at Schenectady, N. Y. He had
three sons, Robert, James and Samuel, and three daughters, Mary,
who married Mr. Hands, for many years sheriff at Sandwich; Frances,
whom arried Col. Francis Baby, long a merchant at Windsor, and the
youngest daughter married the Hon. James Baby, prominent in Can-
adian politics.

Robert Abbott, the eldest son of James ist, was born at Detroit in
1770. He was educated at Montreal. On returning to Detroit he was
in partnership with his father and with his brother until 1810, when he
retired to a farm *on the Rouge. He was appointed by Governor
Mason, Auditor General in 1834, ^"^ performed the duties with great
fidelity. He died in 1853 at Coldwater, and left a fine estate to his

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seven children, James 3d, who Hved on the River Rouge; Robert H.,
Samuel B. and Charles C, who lived at Coldwater, Michigan; Eph-
raim P., who resided in Ecorse. Lucretia Ann married E. V. Cicotte ;
Ellen Francis, wife of Albert Chandler, of Coldwater. There were
living in 1865 sixty-two grand children and fifteen great-grandchildren.
One of his great-grandchilden married Frank M. Smith, of Chicago.
Robert Abbott was a prominent, active man and one of the incorpor-
ators of the hrst Methodist Episcopal church in Michigan. He was the
first Anglo-American born in Detroit. He first united with the church
June loth, 1810, under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Case, w'ho came
to Detroit in 1809. Betsey, wife of Robert, died at Detroit March
24th, 1858.

James Abbott 2d was born at Detroit in 1776. He also was fitted
for commercial life, and received his education at Montreal, and on
completing it, engaged in partnership with his father and brother
Robert. He married Miss Sarah Whistler, daughter of Major Whist-
ler, then in command of the military post at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and
brought his bride to Detroit on horseback, a distance of 180 miles. He
continued with his brother until 1812, and when Hull surrendered
Detroit, was driven out, and removed to Dayton, O., and w^hen the
British were driven out, he returned to Detroit and resumed business
on the corner of Woodbridge street and Woodward avenue, his dwell-
ing and store being in the same building. He was postmaster and a
justice of the peace, holding the former position until 1838, when he
was succeeded by John Norvell. He became connected wath the
American Fur Compan}-, and was the agent of Pierre Chateau &
Co., of St. Louis, N. Y. He had three sons and two daughters. He
survived them all except Captain James Abbott, who died some years
since, leaving a widow' and five children. The wadow died a few years
ago. Their eldest daughter is the wife of Guy F. Hinchman. James
Abbott 2d died in March, 1859.

Samuel Abbott w^as the youngest son of James ist, and was
bom at Detroit in 1778. In 1807 he located at Mackinaw, where he
continued business until his death, which occurred in 185 1. He w^as at
first agent of the American Fur Company, afterwards a stockholder.
He left a large estate. He married Miss Mary B. St. Cyre, of St.
Louis. They had no children. She survived him and subsequently
died in St. Louis. At the time of the death of Mr. Abbott, he was
indebted to the firm of James Abbott & Sons $72,000. He provided
by his will for its payment, but the probate court of Mackinaw county
refused to allow it to be paid. Under the then laws of Michigan, the
nusband dying without issue, the wadow became entitled to a life inter-
est in his estate. A portion of Mr. Abbott's property w^as real estate
in St. Louis, of but little value. Mrs. Abbott, knowing how desirous

— 48 —

her husband was that his father and brothers should be paid, pro-
posed to assign her life interest, provided she was permitted to, in
fee simple, the St. Louis property. This was accepted, and the debt


Commodore Alexander Grant was born in Scotland of a wealthy
and influential family (the clan of Glenmoriston). He was educated
for the navy of Great Britain, which he entered, and after several
years' service he resigned and joined a highland regiment designed for
service in America, in the army commanded by General Amherst. In
1759 he reached Lake Champlain. General Amherst, desiring to
operate a fleet in conjunction with the arm}', and knowing that Grant
was familiar with the naval service, placed him in command of a sloop
of fifteen guns. After the surrender of Quebec and Montreal to the
English, Grant was ordered to Lakes Erie and Ontario. On reach-
ing Detroit, he met Therese, the daughter of Charles Barthe and
Marie Therese Campau, whom he married in 1774, and resigning his
position in the naval and military service, he located at Grosse Pointe,
built a large house, known as the " Grant Castle," and turned his atten-
tion to the care of his farm. He did not become an American citizen
after Michigan was ceded to the United States, for as late as 1805
he still held a position in the executive council of Upper Canada, and
as such acted with the Canadians. It is said that while the English
held possession of Detroit, Tecumseh was a guest of the commodore.
He had ten daughters, whose descendants are mostly residents of
Canada. He died at Grosse Pointe in 1813.


Contemporary with the acquisition of Canada and tlie Northwest
Territory by the English, the grandparents of the subject of this
sketch were residents of what is now Detroit. The paternal grand-
father was of Welsh ancestry, and the maternal was of Holland Dutch.
They had four sons and one daughter, viz : George, William, Thomas,
James and Whitimore, and an only daughter, who married Colonel
John Anderson.

Whitimore^ the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in
Detroit in 1763. He received his education from his mother, and had,
before reaching his majority, acquired a knowledge of what would be
considered a good English education, and from his surroundings was
conversant with the French, Dutch and English languages, also the

— 49 —

dialects of five distinct Indian tribes, and was familiar with their cus-
toms and habits. This knowledge, together with his general intelli-
gence, made him prominent with the European settlers, as well as
feared and respected by the Indian tribes of the northwest, and subse-
quently secured for him the confidence of Generals St. Clair, Wayne,
Hull, Winchester and Cass, and the bitter enmity of the English,
among them General Proctor, who, at one time, offered $3,000 for him,
dead or alive. At the breakincj out of the war of 1812 he was made
the commander of a company known as Michigan scouts, and he him-
self was made an officer in the militia of the territory. At the surren-
der of Hull he, together with other officers and soldiers, was sent to
Halifax, where he was held a prisoner until exchanged, and on his
return, joined Winchester's army at V^incennes, and with him was cap-
tured at the battle of the River Raisin by George Bluejacket, a half-
breed. Proctor immediately sought to wreak his vengeance upon
the captain by formulating a charge to the effect that he had not
been regularly exchanged, but had been released from Halifax on
parole, which he had violated by participating with Winchester. He
was, therefore, sent in chains to Quebec, where he was held in close
confinement for nearly a year, during which period his property at
Detroit, consisting of houses, barns and furniture, were destroyed or
sequestered, and on his return he found only a barren waste of what
was before a home surrounded with elegant improvements and
appliances; for the loss of w^hich he has never been compensated,
although the same, in consequence of its having been occupied by
order of the government as barracks for United States troops, led
to its recognition by the enemy as public property, subject therefore to
be destroyed or taken possession of for their use and benefit.

The following, connected with the capture of General Winchester
and Captain Knaggs, may be of interest: At the time of the mid-
night attack by Proctor, General Winchester was at the house of
Robert Navarre. Winchester, on finding himself surrounded,
mounted his horse and rode for the bay. On the way he overtook
Captain Knaggs on foot, and ordered him to get on behind him. As
they reached the margin of the bay, they were met by seven Indians,
who had crossed the point on the ice, thus intercepting them, and
called upon them to throw up their hands, when Captain Knaggs was
immediately recognized by one of them. Jack Brandy, a half breed
chief. Brandy at once laid his hand upon the captain, and, warning off
the other Indians, said, " My old friend Knaggs, you are my prisoner."
George Bluejacket, another half breed chief, did the same with Gen-
eral Winchester. Had they not thus recognized General Winchester
and the captain, they undoubtedly would have been killed. The Indi-
ans at once conve3^ed them to Proctor's quarters.

— 50 —

Immediately on his return from Halifax and reporting at Detroit,
he became chief interpreter to General Cass, and subsequently Indian

He married Josettie Labadie, the daughter of Pierre Descomptes
Labadie, and sister of Madoir Labadie, who, at the battle of the
Thames, took the girths from his horse, and making a sling of them,
carried Col. Richard M. Johnson from the field alone, and thus saved
his life.

James Knaggs, the brother of Whitimore, was also celebrated as
an Indian scout, and was with Harrison in all his battles in the capacity
of chief scout, and was always addressed by Harrison as " my friend."
He was a terror to the Indians, who believed him impervious to bul-
lets, arrows or tomahawks. He commanded Harrison's scouts at the
battle of the Thames.

Captain Whitimore Knaggs made himself invaluable to General
Cass in treating v/ith Indian tribes, he being conversant with all the
different dialects spoken, and personally knowing the principal chiefs,
over whom he exercised great influence. In person he was a man of
fine presence, physically well proportioned, capable of enduring the pri-
vations incident to the life of an Indian fighter, fearless of danger and
prompt to act at the call of duty. He was loved, feared and respected
by the Indians for his kindness, courage and sagacity. It is said that a
glance from his dark hazel eye was m.agnetic, and would subdue the
most turbulent, whether a white or red man. He died in 1826, leaving
a widow, four sons and one daughter, viz: Peter Whitimore, John,
George and James W., and Elizabeth, who married Charles Desnoyers,
all of whom he provided for by his will.

Col. James W. Knaggs, the only surviving son and heir of Whiti-
more Knaggs — he became the only heir through his mother, his father
having by will devised all his property to her, and at her death she
made him her heir, the other children being provided for. Col. Knaggs
was born at Detroit on what is now known as the Hubbard farm in
1801. His father, deciding to give him a good education, provided him
private teachers, there being at that time no schools in Detroit afford-
ing the advantages he desired to bestow. At the age of eighteen
years he had acquired a knowledge of French and Latin, as well as
Indian. He obtained his business education from the late David
Cooper, who for a long time made his home with Captain Whitimore

Col. Knaggs accompanied Governor Cass to Chicago at the time of
making treaties with the Indians of the northwest in 1821. He con-
tinued as a membar of the official family of General Cass during the
whole period of the latter's governorship of the territory, and the

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relation of intimate friends remained until they were severed by the
death of General Cass. Meanwhile he had acquired the title of colonel
by appointment on the military staff of the governor.

After leaving the service of Governor Cass, he continued to assist
his father in the duties of Indian agent, and in looking after his finan-
cial affairs, and also made some ventures on his own account, until
1 82 1, when he went to Chicago and established a trade with the Indi-
ans, where he remained until 1827, meantime his father dying and leav-
ing his mother sole executrix. She prevailed upon him to return to
Detroit and take charge of the settlement of the estate, conveying
to him all the powers conveyed to her by the will of his father.
He proceeded to close the estate and to provide for the support of
his mother until her death, which occurred at Detroit in 1840.

After settling up the estate he, in 1828, removed to what is now
Toledo, then known as Port Lawrence, where he engaged in the real
estate business, and accumulated considerable property. In 1865 he
disposed of his interests at Toledo and removed to Chicago, and from
there in 1867 to Cincinnati, Ohio. At Toledo he operated in lands in
various parts of the State of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. The colonel
has been an active man during his whole life, and has had a world of
experience with all classes of humanity for over seventy-six years. He
is now over eighty-eight years of age, and retains his physical and
mental powers, exhibiting far more of both than many men fifty years
younger. No one who forms his acquaintance can fail to be impressed
with being in the presence of a gentleman of the old school, and one
who is governed in his manner and action by a high sense of honor and
strict integrity.

In 1828 Col. Knaggs married Miss Theresa Campau, a daughter of
Geodic Campau, of Detroit. The ceremony was performed by Father
Richards at St. Ann's church. She was born in Detroit, and died at
Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1868, leaving two married daughters, viz: Eliza-
beth, who married Mr. Charles O'Hara, a well known merchant of
Cincinnati. He died, leaving her a widow with seven children, Charles,
now a resident of Detroit, and Secretary of the Eagle Iron Works;
Elizabeth, the wife of Joseph B. Moore, cashier of the Peninsular Sav-
ings Bank, of this city; James, Stephen, Mary, Eva and Ellen, who
reside with their mother in Cincinnati. The second daughter married
General Stephen McGroarty, who enlisted in an Ohio regiment at the
breaking out of the late civil war, and was promoted through the sev-
eral grades to the rank of brigadier general. He served during the
entire war, receiving twelve severe wounds, from which he died soon
after its close, leaving a widow and one daughter, who now reside in

52 —


James May was born in 1756, and came to Detroit in 1778, and
engaged first in trade, and subsequently in manufacturing. He affili-
ated with and was upon excellent terms with the French families,
among whom he married, his first wife being Adele de St. Cosme.
But one child was the fruit of this marriage, Elizabeth Anne, who mar-
ried Gabriel Godfrey, Jr., son of Colonel Gabriel Godfrey, who died in
1 83 1. He was one of the few who had lived under French, English
and American rule, and saw a change of flags five times.

Judge May married the second time, Marguerite, fifth daughter of
Pierre Descomptes Labadie. Four daughters were born to them, the
first, Maria, who married Louis Moran, of Grand Rapids. Some of
her descendants still reside there. Marguerite Anne married Colonel
Edward Brooks, of the United States army. Her children were
proverbial for their beauty, intellectuality and musical talent. Her
second daughter, Annie Brooks, married Judge Charles W. Whipple,
the distinguished jurist and chief justice of Michigan. She died at an
early age, leaving two daughters, Eunice, who is the wife of Judge
William Jennison, and Adeline, the widow of Mr. Johnson, of Detroit.
Rebecca married Dr. J. B. Scoville, a well known physician of Detroit.
Octavia married J. C. W. Seymour, who for a long time was engaged
in banking at Detroit. Nancy, the fourth daughter of Judge May,
married James Whipple, son of Major Whipple and Archange Peltier.
In 1823 she married the second time, Francis Audrain. Caroline, the
fifth daughter of Judge May, married in 1829, Alexander Frazer, the
leader of the Detroit bar for many years. One son was born to
them, Alexander, Jr., who married Milly Mills, of New York. Alex-
ander died, leaving one daughter, Carrie, who died unmarried.

Judge May was a man of enterprise, and took an active part in all
that concerned Detroit and its material interests. In 1796 he took the
oath and became a citizen of the United States, and at once was prom-
inent in the establishment of civil law and order; was the first chief
justice of the court of common pleas, organized immediately after Gen-
eral Wayne took possession of the country under Jay's treaty of 1796.
Immediately after the fire of 1805, there being no bricks, he gathered
the stone previously used for chimneys, and built a stone house on the
north side of Jefferson Avenue, west of Cass, which, in 1836, was used
as a hotel, called the Mansion House, and was the headquarters for
army officers, government officials and leading Democratic politicians.
At the surrender of General Hull in 1812, when the American flag was
hauled down at the fort, he obtained possession of it, kept it secreted
until the approach of General Harrison's army the following year,
when he hoisted it as a signal that the British had evacuated.

— 53 —

He was a man of genial temperament, but independent in his
views and opinions, and firm but courteous in their maintenance.
Physically he was large, somewhat inclined to corpulency, and at his
decease weighed 340 pounds. He died in 1830.


Pontiac, the celebrated Indian chieftain, belonged to the Ottawa
tribe, and was born in 17 12. He was the leading spirit among all the
western tribes. He claimed to be in league with a higher power, which
appeared to him in a vision, and promised, if his instructions were faith-
fully fultilled, to sweep the English from the continent. In 1763 Pon-

Online LibraryFred. (Frederick) CarlisleChronography of notable events in the history of the Northwest territory and Wayne County → online text (page 5 of 51)