Louise Seymour Houghton.

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mile (on which Davenport, Iowa, now stands) should
be given to Mrs. Le Claire, who was the granddaugh-
ter of the Sauk Chief Acoqua, the Kettle, her father
being a French Canadian. Another square mile at
the head of the rapids, now the town of Le Claire, was
given Mr. Le Claire. By the treaty of Prairie du
Chien, when the Potawatomies stipulated that Le
Claire should receive two sections, lands now in
Molines, 111., and Keokuk, Iowa, became his, the last
by gift of his friend. Chief Keokuk.

Hardly was the Black Hawk Purchase concluded
when settlers rushed in. Two contending claims for
a tract of land in the lower part of what is now Daven-
port being put in by respectable parties, Le Claire
settled the contest by buying both claims, giving the
claimants $150 each for a quarter section. In 1835
the town of Davenport was platted by a committee
of seven men, Le Claire being one. It adjoined his
square mile, which he subsequently added to the city
in ''additions." Shares in the new town were sold
at $250 each. The first religious services (Roman


Odr Debt to the Red Man

Catholic) were held in Le Claire's house, a priest com-
ing from Galena ; but before long the need of a church
became imperative. The first brick building in Daven
port, named St. Anthony's Church, from its largest
donor, was dedicated in 1838. For this church Le
Claire gave a whole square in the very centre of the
town, besides meeting a large share of the expense
of bmldnig. In this church and the school nouse at-
tached to It were held the first public meetings of the

the httle church, which still stands in the heart of
the city on property immensely valuable. The same
spring 1838), "that well known gentleman, Mons Le
Claire, laid out his First Addition. As the locality
was desirable and the title perfect the lots were soon
sold, and on this Addition were erected several busi-
ness blocks, in which, among many other newly or-
ganized companies, the Roek River Railroad and the
Mississippi Steam Navigation Company had offices

the It v'T ""V ^' ^^^''' '"'-^ ""t ^"'l '^dded to
the city his Second Addition. As the town grew he

niade munificent gifts to all the churches of whatever

denomination be being a Roman Catholic ; and onThe

hill m his Eighth Addition stands St. Margaret's

£tt?' Len fr''*"^'^*^^ °' ^ - l-' "the
CatioMe n r" ""^ '"""^^^ ^""' * ^^^o^d Roman
presen e'.?^^^^^^ '' ""'' """ ^'^P - -d had

presented to the Congregationalists a lot for a church
with similar gifts to other denominations.

Metis Loyalty

From the earliest days Le Claire was closely asso-
ciated in all matters connected with the weal of the
place with Colonel Davenport, for whom the town was
named. When in 1838 Davenport was in a bitter
fight with Rockingham for the county seat, one
promise made by the Colonel was that a court house
"as good as the one in Stephenson" (now Rock
Island) should be given the county. On the sub-
scription list circulated for this purpose appears the
name of Le Claire for by far the highest subscrip-
tion — $3,000, the next highest being for $1,200, and
so on down to $5.00. When the contractor felt a doubt
as to the responsibility of the list, Le Claire told him
to go ahead. That appears to have been sufficient,
but the time came when there was no money for the
contractor, who promptly sued Mr. Le Claire. The lat-
ter had no money ; he went to St. Louis and appealed
for help to his friend, Chouteau, the wealthy Frenc)i
fur trader, offering as security a mortgage on his
Davenport lands. Chouteau bade him go to the strong
box and help himself, refusing any mortgage. Thus
the court house w^as built. The incident shows the
character of the man, the way business was done
among the French, and the debt that Davenport owes
to the French mixed-blood who established the first
commercial ferry, served as the first postmaster (for
some time carrying the entire mail across the river
in his pocket), was the first justice of the peace, who
built business blocks, carried on stores and machine
shops, dispersed a mob and saved a banker's life by


Our Debt to the Red Man

promising to stand good for the bank's issue; a man
who gave his physician a handful of gold when he
recovered from illness and later a half dozen blocks
of ground in the heart of the present Davenport. For
many years Le Claire was Justice of the Peace for all
matters between whites and Indians over all the terri-
tory bought of the Sauks and Foxes, from Dubuque
to Burlington.

In 1840 Le Claire, who had already built the
first tavern in Davenport, planned and erected a
hotel which was ' ' the finest on the upper Mississippi, ' '
"and thus," says the local historian, ''did more to
build up the place than anything else of the day."
(''Davenport Past and Present," Frank B. Walker,
1858). It cost $35,000 and was long a summer resort
for people of St. Louis and the South. One of its
early guests was the Prince de Joinville, who stopped
there with his suite in 1840.

Le Claire was very generous, and his gifts, not
only to individuals but to the towns on his lands, were
so large that he left but a moderate fortune, which
after his wife's death was distributed among fifty-
seven heirs, Mr. and Mrs. Le Claire leaving no

"Antoine Le Claire," writes a citizen of Daven-
port, "became rich because he had so much that he
could not give it away fast enough to impoverish him-
self. He realized but little from his mile-square at
the head of the rapids. He had a friend who had
been sheriff for some time, and who was thrown out


Metis Loyalty

by the whirligig of politics. To this friend, Adrien
Davenport, he made the proposition to go to this small
settlement, lay out a town (Le Claire), sell the lots
and send him some of the money. His Keokuk mile
square, or whatever it was, went the same way. He
practically gave it to his French friends who needed
it more than he did."

During the early years Le Claire lived in a story-
and-a-half house on the "house site" stipulated by
Keokuk when he reserved the tract for Mrs. Le Claire.
When the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad was to
be extended across the town Le Claire took $25,000
worth of the stock and gave up his homestead, as the
company wanted it for a depot. He subsequently
built a "palatial brick mansion on the bluff," where
he exercised a generous hospitality. The first locomo-
tive to enter Iowa was named for him.

Le Claire was a genial, vivacious man, fond of
society, with conversational abilities of a high order.
The first ball ever given in Davenport was given in his
house in 1835. Part of the time he played the fiddle
for the dancing, but he was the lightest dancer on
the floor. The literature of this country owes him
thanks for having gathered from the lips of Black
Hawk all those traditions of the Sauks and Foxes in
which that intelligent chief was deeply versed. The
work was copyrighted and published in 1834.

Illustrations of Le Claire's generosity are num-
berless. In the first train to cross the first bridge over


Our Debt to the Red Man

the Mississippi (April 21, 1856), came a considerable
French contingent. Le Claire took them under his
wing and established them in one of his ' ' additions. ' '
Almost till his death, which occurred in 1861, he was
known as 'Hhe moneyed man of the town," celebrated
as ''the original proprietor of Davenport." In 1858,
when the Pioneer Settlers' Association was organized,
Le Claire presiding, a cane of native hickory with a
gold band bearing his name was presented to him,
to be handed down to succeeding presidents. The
eighth toast on this occasion was to ''Antoine
Le Claire, first in settlement, first in efforts to make
our city peerless among rivals, first in the esteem of
his fellow citizens, first President of this Society ; may
his shadow never be less" (from being very slight lie
had grown exceedingly stout).

Some of Le Claire's relatives still live in Daven-
port. A private letter says that Mr. Joe Le Claire
(also a mixed-blood) has been a useful citizen of
Davenport, has held a number of county and city
offices, and is greatly appreciated by a large circle of
the older inhabitants.

Though Le Claire left no direct descendants his
name is perpetuated by some who perhaps, hardly
know why they are proud of it. We find at least
two who bore it in the settlement of the far west,
though the relationship has not been traced. There
was an Antoine Le Claire in Carlisle School a few
years ago, and a recent issue of the Carlisle Arrow


Metis Loyalty

announces his marriage to another student of the
school. This Le Claire is in the Government employ
at Fort Hall Agency, "educated, sober, progressive,
and a first class man."


The Gift of Tongues

AS the French have never been noted for apti-
tude in languages, it is doubtless from their
Indian ancestry that the metis inherited that
gift of tongues which in their capacity of interpreters
and go-betweens perhaps enabled them to give their
largest service to this country throughout its early

Though not all metis interpreters have conferred
such large benefits upon this country as Antoine Le
Claire and other negotiators of treaties who have been
here mentioned, it is very certain that few of the
treaties by which the United States Government has
acquired clear titles to land ever would or could have
been made but for the assistance of French mixed-
bloods. Archbishop Tasse gives the names of sixty-
four treaties which were negotiated by metis, and
these are by no means all. Their names are affixed
to documents which by peaceable purchase give mil-
lions upon millions of acres to the United States,
acres which without their aid could only have been
acquired at the cost of many lives.

The Laroque name, with such variants as La
Roche, Le Rocque, etc., is famous among metis inter-
preters. Joseph Rocque interpreted between the Gov-
ernment and the Sioux in 1786. Two interpreters


The Gift of Tongues

named Jean Baptiste Larocque, father and son, were
with the younger Alexander Henry from 1799 to

Not only in the negotiation of treaties but, and
with perhaps still more important results impossible
now to trace with definiteness, in the every day inter-
course between the whites and the Indians who for
generations were their near neighbors, and upon
whose kindly feeling the very existence and growth
of white settlements depended, have the services of
metis interpreters, and their skill in languages, been
beyond all reckoning.

Margaret Montour, granddaughter of a French
nobleman who was captured by the Iroquois in 1665
and married a woman of the Oneida tribe, an edu-
cated woman of remarkable vigor and energy, was
"a marvel of linguistic accomplishments." She was
official interpreter to the Colonial government, first
appearing in that capacity at Albany in 1711, between
delegates of the Five Nations and Governor Hunter.
She acted in the same capacity at a conference be-
tween delegates of the (then) Six Nations and Lieu-
tenant-Governor Gordon^ and on various other occa-

The Montour family, by whom, as Justin Winsor

1 Mr. J. N. B. Hewitt in his article "Montour" in H.A.I., shows
what evidence there is to support the conjecture that Mme.
Montour was a French Canadian with no admixture of Indian
blood, who "for some unaccountable reason" preferred "the
life and dress of her adopted people." He himself traces her
parentage to "a French nobleman and an Indian woman." She
married an Indian, and in any case her linguistically gifted
children were metis.


Our Debt to the Red Man

says, the history of the 18th century was not a little
shaped, deserves a better notoriety than that which
clings to the career of Madame Montour's grand-
daughter, ''Queen Esther," the blood stained heroine
of Wyoming. Mme. Montour's daughter Mary was
''a living polyglot of the tongues of the West, speak-
ing the English, French, Mohawk, Wyandot (Huron),
Ottawa, Chipewa, Shawnee and Delaware languages."
No fewer than seven men of the name served the
government as interpreters. Mme. Montour's eldest
son Andrew, whose Indian name was Sattelihu, an
interpreter of exceptional ability, was long in the em-
ploy of the Proprietory Government of Pennsylvania.
His influence and power over the Ohio tribes was re-
markable. Governor Hamilton, giving him a com-
mission as captain of Indian allies, in 1752, speaks of
''your public character and the relation you stand
in to the Six Nations. ' ' Notwithstanding the damag-
ing fact that it was Captain Montour's Indians who
deserted Wasliington at Fort Necessity (he appears to
have misunderstood the proffered terms of capitula-
tion), he seems not to have lost credit with the au-
thorities, for in the same year we find him receiving
a grant of land at Carlisle, Penn., and nearly twenty
years later he went with the Moravians^ to ask per-
mission to establish a mission at Wyoming in that
State. He and his brother Henry received grants of

* Count Zinzendorf had visited Andrew's mother, Mme. Montour, in
her home at Shamokin, Pa. Andrew's nephews, Margaret's grand-
sons, joined the Moravian Church.


The Gift of Tongues

''Donation lands" from the government of Penn-
sylvania, in recognition of their services'.

A French mixed-blood who valiantly aided the
United States by interpreting for Col. Henry Dodge
in the Sank and Fox war was the Winnebago Pierre
Paquette or Pauquette ( Kau-kish-kaka, or White
Crow). Born in St. Louis in 1796, he was in charge
of the trading post at (Portage City) Fort Winne-
bago, where he kept fifteen yoke of oxen to haul
boats over the portage between the Fox and the Wis-
consin Rivers. He also interpreted for Generals Scott
and Armstrong at the treaty of Fort Armstrong in
1832, and was afterward deputed to teach the Winne-
bagoes to cultivate their ' ' Indian Farm ' ' town at Cale-
donia (formerly Black Earth, Wisconsin). At one
time Paquette had a farm and tavern at Belief ontaine,
and supplied beef and horses to the Winnebagoes
under government contract. He was killed by a
drunken Indian. The Hon. Henry Merrill, a native
of New York State, the first senator in the Wisconsin
Legislature, who was postmaster at Fort Winnebago
("the Indian Farm"), describes Pierre Paquette as
''the best specimen of nature's nobleman I ever met."
All who knew him would take his word as soon as
any man's bond. He used to trust the Indians from
year to year without books, carrying the accounts in
his head, and when they brought in furs they were

' Donation lands were unoccupied lands in western Pennsylvania and
the Ohio county, reserved to be allotted to soldiers of the Revolu-
tionary War in lieu of pay. Their use was later extended to
cover other claims against the United States.


Our Debt to the Red Man

always satisfied with what he said they owed. When
he died the Indians felt that they had lost their best
friend. Man-za-mon-aka, who killed him, was never
happy again, and dared not show himself anywhere
among his nation, but had to hide. At Paquette's
death, says Mr. Merrill, the Indians owed him, and
afterward paid, $22,000, but the Fur Company took
possession and his heirs never received a cent.
Paquette built the first (Roman Catholic) church in
that region.

When the Territorial government of Wisconsin
was formed in 1836 Ave find Governor Dodge appoint-
ing one Pascal Paquette his aide-de-camp with the
rank of Colonel, but the connection between him and
Pierre has not been traced. Pierre's son Moses was
made Indian agent at Portage, ''an earnest, truthful
man, ' ' says Thwaites. In the present generation there
are a number of Paquettes scattered through the
Northwest, all of them of good repute. The Rev.
Peter Paquette is Indian agent in Arizona; J.
Paquette is superintendent and agent of the Fort De-
fiance government school, of which his sister, Mary
Paquette, is Girls' Matron. Of the brother the Hon.
Warren K. Moorehead writes (''The American In-
dian," p. 252, 1914), "Superintendent Paquette at
Fort Defiance is extending educational work through-
out his Reservation, and reaches a larger percentage
of school age than are being reached elsewhere in the
Navaho country." The Rev. Frank Paquette is an
Episcopal minister in Duluth. The Rev. F. H.


'•»4t »J*4



I'lKliKK (iAKIM'lAl' ill 1«79

French- Arickara

Interpreter at Fort Berthold Agency

Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

The Gift of Tongues

Paquette, Methodist minister at Sawyer, Minn., is
doubtless a member of the same family, which in
Canada counts many members of pure French blood.

A metis of the Aricara tribe, Pierre Garreau, son
of the ' ' Mr. Garreau ' ' of Lewis and Clark, was taken
to St. Louis for education and taught the baker's
trade. He spoke French and several Indian lan-
guages, but never gained a thorough acquaintance
with English. He served as interpreter at the Fort
Berthold Agency, though in matters of importance he
would work through the medium of some Frenchman
who spoke better English than he. He was courteous,
very intelligent and highly esteemed by whites and
Indians alike. Notwithstanding his opportunities in
St. Louis he could neither read nor write, but under-
stood picture writing remarkably well. He died in

The complicated difficulties sometimes incident to
interpretation, suggested by the experiences of Gar-
reau, were well exemplified during the exploring ex-
pedition of Lewis and Clark, especially among the
unknown tribes of the Rocky Mountains. '^We spoke
in English," they write (2; 298), one of our men
translated into French to Charbonneau, he to his
wife (Sacajewea) in Minnetaree, she into Shoshonee,
and the young Shoshonee prisoner explained to the
Chopunnuh in their dialect."

As the gift of tongues was in the earlier days a
necessary part of the equipment of the successful
scout, we naturally find many French mixed-bloods


Our Debt to the Red Man

serving the government in this capacity. Scores of
names might be given where only a few may be men-
tioned. '^ Pierre Navarre, the famous scout of 1812"
(Toledo Commercial, 1874), was of distinguished
French lineage, as we shall later see. He was General
Harrison's scout, and was reported to have been
''among those who killed Tecumseh." Gabriel Ren-
ville, a Sisseton (Sioux) chief, a master in outing
and who rendered very brilliant service under Gen.
Sibley, was the son or grandson of a French trader.
His mother was the beautiful Winona Crawford,
daughter of Captain Crawford of the British army
and a Sisseton woman. Born in 1824, Gabriel was a
playmate of *Hhe Sibley boys," and hunted with them
when they all lived in St. Paul. During the Sioux
massacre and war of 1862 he was a valued friend of
the whites. Later he was instrumental in the return
of many white captives taken by the Sioux. In 1867,
when thirty-seven Sioux were taken to Washington to
sign a treaty, Gabriel Renville and Wakanto (Good
Medecine) went with them, the former as interpreter.
Gabriel Renville won distinction as Chief Scout under
Gen. Sibley, and for many years held the honorable
office of Chief of Scouts in the Army of the United

Joseph La Framboise of tlie well-known La

Framboise family was army scout under Gen. Sibley

and figured largely in the surrender of the Eastern

Sioux after the Menominee outbreak. John Bruyier


The Gift of Tongues

was Gen. Miles 's scout and ''one of the best he ever

It was interesting to see that almost without
exception the interpreters who accompanied the In-
dian delegations to the Inauguration of President Wil-
son were metis. Joseph Packineau, the Gros Ventre
from Fort Berthold ; Gus H. Boileau or Beaulieu, the
Ojibway lawyer, who worked hard and valiantly for
his people* ; the Menominee Mitchel Dick from
Keshena Agency, the Flathead Louis Pierre (descend-
ant of Pierre Pierre, who was killed by Iroquois at
Lachine in 1690) ; Antoine Denomie from South
Dakota, a graduate of Carlisle; Chancey Yellowrobe,
the successful young rancher of the Sioux tribe, also
a graduate of Carlisle, who believes that ''the basis
of success for the Indian is remaining on the soil,"
and "being wary of the white land shark," and who
finds that the three great problems before the Amer-
ican Indian today are "the successful solution of
the bread and butter question, intelligent and effective
control of tuberculosis and trachoma, and complete
emancipation as a government ward, ' ' — all these have
French blood.

* Gus Beaulieu' s father was Paul Beaulieu, one of two brothers
who in 1853 accompanied Gen. Stevens on his exploring tour
from the Mississippi to the Pacific, (Supra, p. 125,6). He was
born in 1852 at Crow Wing, Minn., a town founded by his
father, an agent of the American Fur Trading Company. He
was a leader among the Chippewas and devoted much time and
money to fighting for their interests. In this struggle he made
himself obnoxious to the Indian Bureau, but his motives appear
to have been unselfish. His popularity is shown by the fact that
at his funeral at White Earth (August, 1917) both the Episcopal
and the Roman Catholic rectors took part, and the Agency
flag was lowered to half mast.


The Metis as a Trader

THAT the French mixed-blood has a marked
aptitude for trade appears on every page of
the history of this continent. Mr. Andrew
Macfarland, writing in Justin Winsor's "Narrative
and Critical History" of the bushrangers who mar-
ried freely into Indian nations, says that their off-
spring were conspicuous among traders for their skill
and courage. Of like opinion was Gen. Lewis Cass,
who wrote to Secretary James Buchanan that ''the
half-breeds scattered through the Lake Superior re-
gion, principally the descendants of French voy-
ageurs, have for many years been engaged in the
laborious duties of the Indian trade. ' ' This is natural
enough; the first relations between French and In-
dians were trade relations. The early civilization of
much of our Middle West may be traced to metis

We have seen the attitude of England on the
subject of the Indian trade and we find the govern-
ment of the United States from the beginning alive
to the value of Indian and later of metis aptitude
for trade. State papers from 1785 (American State
Papers, Vol. 2, p. 116, and passim for more than fifty
years) show treaties with the Indians carefully foster-
ing their trade for the benefit of the whites. The

r 102 ]

The Metis as a Trader

methods of trade in those early days made such foster-
ing important, but it was the French mixed-bloods
who in every case blazed the trail for the American
trader. In 1775 Louis Viviat, a trader in the Illinois
country, negotiated for the purchase of two large
tracts on the Wabash from the Piankeshaw Indians,
who, as we have seen, had intermarried freely with
the French settlers in Ouatenon (not far from Vin-
cennes), and were friendly to the Colonies through
the Revolutionary War/ All the traders on the Red
River of the North in 1801 were evidently metis. The
names Michel Langlois, J. B. Desmarais (a Huguenot
name) Louis Dorion, Charbonneau (both of whom we
meet four years later with Lewis and Clark), Auguste
Brisebois, whose son Michel was twenty years later a
trader in Prairie du Chien, are identified with the
Indian trade. In 1803 the future Chicago consisted
of only four rude huts or cabins of Canadian-French
traders with Indian wives, on the site which the
earliest explorers who came this way, in 1670, had
found occupied by a Miami village. La Salle's party,
on. their way through this region, met "the noble
savage" Chief Chicago of this tribe.

In the region of the Great Lakes the way of trade
had largely been opened before American occupation,
and such men of pure French lineage as John Baptiste
Beaubien in Fort Dearborn (Chicago) and Solomon

1 The Wabash Indians were deeply disturbed, after American occupa-
tion of the Ohio valley, that they had not the French traders to
deal with, (instead of Gov. St. Clair). The French traders are
leaving, they complained to him, ' 'because you plunder them
every day.''


Our Debt to the Red Man

Juneau in Milwaukee (both of whom had Indian
wives) carried on an extensive business by sailing
vessels with Detroit, Mackinac and the Lake Superior
region. Joseph Lacroix came to Milwaukee in 1804
with his Ottawa wife and family, one of a number of

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Online LibraryLouise Seymour HoughtonOur debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States → online text (page 7 of 14)