Alexander Henry.

Alexander Henry's Travels and adventures in the years 1760-1776, ed. with historical introduction and notes by Milo Milton Quaife online

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Alexander Henry's
Travels and Adventures

^\)t iLafee0ioc Classics;

Alexander Henry's
Travels and Adventures

in the Years 1 760-1 776




iThe Lakeside

[Press Chicago



1^ -

y « H 3 H'




the publishers that


pnUi^l^tv^* J&reface

FROM time to time the preface to these
volumes has taken on the form of an
intimate talk between the publishers
and the reader about the ideals and the or-
ganization of The Lakeside Press. Apropos
of the extended strike for shortening an
already short work week which has recently
disrupted the printing industry throughout the
country, a statement of its labor policy may
not be amiss at this time.

It is the ambition of the publishers that
The Lakeside Press shall become a pecuUar
institution in the printing industry; one in
which its work shall be carried on in the spirit
of the highest traditions of the art and, by
a contented and permanent organization of
executives and workmen.

The Lakeside Press is neither a union nor
an open shop; it is honestly non-union. The
management of a great industry occupies the
position of a trustee both to the public and
to its employees. The public should receive
its commodities uninterruptedly and at a
price as low as is consistent with fair wages,
good working conditions, and reasonable profit.
The employees should be guaranteed as con-
tinuous employment as possible, an opportu-

^uhli^iyn^' ^preface

nity to earn high wages in return for increased
production, and protection in their rights as
American citizens. The officers of The Lake-
side Press believe that this trusteeship can
only be fulfilled when the relations between
the management and the employees are
unhampered by the arbitrary dictation of
union officials who have no direct interest in
the welfare either of the establishment or its

Whatever may have been the necessities in
the past for labor unions as a protection against
abuse, today the demand of modern industry
for contented, smooth-working organizations,
and the revelation through factory accounting
that high skill at high wages means lower
unit costs, are labor's greatest protection.
Labor unions to a great extent have become
the tools of ambitious leaders in labor union
politics and are kept in existence only for
their personal aggrandizement and profit,
and by the apathy and weakness of the em-
ployers. Most unions lay an unfair burden
on the public, stifle advancement in the art
of increasing production and lowering costs,
and are a millstone around the necks of the
workmen themselves.

Of the two thousand odd employees of
The Lakeside Press, not one is a member of
any labor organization, and in spite of the
repeated attempts of the labor unions to en-
tice away its employees, the organization has

^ubli^i^n^* preface

been successfully maintained on this basis for
sixteen years, through the application of the
principle of fair play, and the fact that, un-
trammeled with union restrictions, the men
have been able to earn more money than
elsewhere. During the war, when labor was
scarce, the employees did not leave for other
jobs; of the 205 men and boys who went to
war, four were killed and 196 came back to
the plant as "home," and during the many
strikes that have disturbed the printing in-
dustry in Chicago during the last sixteen years,
not one man has gone out on strike. These
facts seem satisfactory evidence that The
Lakeside Press is "a good place to work."

The Apprenticeship School, the Taylor
system of scientific management and weekly
bonuses for increased efficiency, and the quick
settlement of all differences and grievances
by frank discussion between the officers and
the employees are all contrary to union rules,
but are the very foundations upon which the
organization has been built up.

Should the national unions in the printing
industry accept the principle of the open shop
and recognize the right of every man to work
regardless of his union affiliations, comfort-
ably and without molestation, an open shop
would be practical and the only one that
would be fair. But the national unions do not
recognize the open shop except under com-
pulsion and accept it only as a temporary

5publi.Bf)cr^* ^tdact

truce in a perpetual warfare. The experience
of the last year has proven that the open shops
of the countr}^ had been secretly organized
and their production interrupted by the general
strike, while the shops that had been main-
tained on the non-union basis were undis-
turbed. Only fair dealing can successfully
maintain a non-union shop, and the manage-
ment of The Lakeside Press, realizing their
trusteeship to the public and to their em-
ployees, have deliberately assumed the burden
of so treating their employees that they
neither need nor desire the interference of
labor unions.

This year we have taken for the subject
matter of the volume an early narrative of
travel centering around ISIackinaw. Henry was
the first EngHshman to venture out into the
wilderness after the French had been deposed
from its sovereignty. Outside of its interest
as a narrative of pure exploration, its chief
interest lies in the fact that the early history
of Chicago is so intimately connected with
that of Mackinaw. jSlackinaw for a century
was the center of the fur trade of the Great
Northwest, and until the beginning of the
nineteenth centur\^, all approach to Chicago
was through that trading center.

Mr. Quaife has again consented to act as
editor and to prepare the historical intro-

Christmas, 192 1.




Historical Introduction xiii

Part One: Adventures in Michigan, 1760-64 i

1 . Embarking upon the Fur Trade ... 3

2. The Voyage to Mackinac 15

3. Arrival at Mackinac 29

4. Reception at Mackinac 39

5. The Winter at Mackinac 54

6. A Visit to Sault Ste. Marie 59

7. Destruction of the Fort and Return to
Mackinac 63

8. The Gathering Storm 72

9. A Ball Game and a Massacre ... 78

10. First Days of Captivity 86

11. The Journey to Beaver Island ... 95

12. Rescued by Wawatam loi

13. The Adventure of the Bones . . . 107

14. The Arts of the Medicine Men . . . 113

15. Removal to the Au Sable 123

16. Lost in the Wilderness 130

17. A Bear Hunt 137

18. Death of a Child 143




19. Return to Mackinac 147

20. Flight to the Sault 153

21. Invoking the Great Turtle .... 161

22. Voyage to Fort Niagara 167

23. The Return to Mackinac 174

Part Two: Lake Superior and the Can.vdian

Northwest, 1765-76 .... 181

1. Journey to Chequamegon 183

2. The Winter at Chequamegon . . .189

3. Famine at the Sault 198

4. Legends of Nanibojou 203

5. A Tempestuous Voj^age 209

6. The Island of Yellow Sands .... 215

7. Operations of the Copper Company . . 219

8. Journey to Lake Winnipeg . . . . 227

9. From Lake Winnipeg to Beaver Lake . 243

10. From Beaver Lake to the Prairies . . 257

11. A Journey on the Plains 268

12. Hospitality of the Assiniboin .... 275

13. Customs of the Red Men 284

14. The Return to Fort des Prairies . . . 298

15. Journey to ^lontreal 305

Index 321

Historical Introduction

J^t^torical 31ntroDuctton

IT is the year of our Lord, 1760. Under the
masterful leadership of William Pitt, the
British Empire is just bringing to a trium-
phant conclusion the terrible Seven Years'
War which for long has deluged a world with
blood. From a somewhat narrower point of
view this war has been but another round in
England's second Hundred- Year Duel with
France for the poUtical dominance of the earth.
For almost two hundred years the rival mother
nations have been fostering in America a New
France and a New England. Stretched along
the Atlantic coastal plain from Maine to
Georgia is the thin line of colonies which go to
compose the latter. EncircHng these, with one
center of settlement on the lower St. Lawrence
and the other at the mouth of the Mississippi,
two thousand miles away, are the imperial
possessions of New France. Although her
population is but a handful, and that of the
English colonies but a few hundred thousand,
around and between which stretches the in-
terminable wilderness sparsely inhabited by
scattered tribes of savages, long and repeat-
edly have the two countries quarreled over the
issue as to which shall control and develop that

ipi^torical 3^ntroDuctioii

The Seven Years' War was the decisive
round in this long struggle for the domination
of the continent. It began in the backwoods of
America with a contest for the possession of
the Ohio Valley. It was ended when in the
autumn of 1759 a combined land and sea force of
twenty-seven thousand Englishmen conquered
the citadel of Quebec. The capture of Quebec
is one of the decisive struggles of military
history. It won for General Wolfe an early
grave and an immortal fame; it ended for all
time the dream of a greater France, while it
gave the future of North America into the
keeping of the Anglo-Saxon; it foreshadowed
the development of the British Empire on its
modern basis, and the birth of the United
States as an independent nation.

In the province of New Jersey in 1739 was
born a youth since known to fame by the name
of Alexander Henry. Of the first twenty years
of his life practically nothing is known. Of the
succeeding sixteen years, we have his own
record in the narrative which follows. The
slogan of recent years "Trade follows the
Flag" finds ready exemplification in the career
of Henry. When, in the summer of 1760,
General Amherst's army invaded Canada for
the purpose of reducing Montreal and thus
ending the war, Henry attached himself to the
expedition in a commercial capacity, and at
this point begins his narration of "travels and
adventures." Disaster promptly overtook him,

l^ijStorical S'ntroDuction

his boats being wrecked and all his merchan-
dise lost in the rapids of the St. Lawrence.
Not long after, he encountered by chance a
Frenchman who had spent long years in the
Indian country as a trader; and the stories
he told of the wealth to be won in the fur
trade fired Henry with the determination to
proceed to Mackinac and from this center
begin the prosecution of this hazardous calling.

Doubly hazardous was it at the time Henry
proposed going into the Northwest. Although
New France had fallen, the Indian tribes had
not been conquered, and they viewed with
sullen hostility the approach of the represen-
tatives of the nation which had vanquished
their French "Father." Under the inspiration
and leadership of Pontiac, one of the greatest
figures in the history of the Indian race, they
rose against the English, and all along the
far-flung western frontier the scalping-knife
gleamed and the tomahawk descended. Thus
Henry, at Mackinac, found himself in the midst
of the conflict, and his story of what befell him
has been incorporated almost word for word by
the master historian, Parkman, in his narra-
tive of the Great Conspiracy.

The war ruined Henry but it did not break
his dauntless spirit or satiate his appetite for
adventure. Upon its conclusion, therefore, we
find him embarking upon the fur trade anew;
pioneering for copper in the Lake Superior
region, whence in a later century almost untold

ifi^ttititai 3Fntrotiuction

wealth in mineral was to be drawn; resuming
again the fur trade, in pursuit of which he was
drawn to the utmost verge of the region
known to white men. The recital of these years
on Lake Superior and in the far Northwest
occupies the second part of our volume; it
constitutes a distinct narrative from that con-
tained in Part One, and the two might well
have appeared as separate volumes. But as
Henry himself put them together in his life-
time, so we reproduce them here, in a single
book of travel and adventure.

At the period when his narrative concludes,
Henry was a man of but thirty-seven. During
his years in the wilderness the quarrel between
the EngUsh colonies and the Mother Country
had arisen and progressed to its culmination at
Philadelphia, on the very day that Henry
set out upon his return to civilization, in the
Declaration of Independence and the birth
of the United States. From this succession
of events Henry had been as far removed as
though upon another planet. Reaching Mont-
real in the summer of 1776, he set out that
same year for England; crossing to France, he
was presented at court, and to the day of his
death almost half a centur\' later he retained
a vivid recollection of the attention bestowed
upon him by the beautiful and unfortunate
queen, Marie Antoinette.

Thenceforth Montreal was Henry's home,
although he made two more voyages to Europe

l^i^torical S^ntroDuction

and paid one or more visits to the Indian
country. From Montreal he prosecuted for
some years the fur trade, conducting, mean-
while, the business of a local merchant. He
remained one of the substantial citizens of the
place until his death in April, 1824. His
eldest son, William, was long prominent in the
Canadian fur trade; his second son, Charles,
was slain by natives on the Liard River of
northwestern Canada, while thus engaged;
and a nephew, likewise named Alexander
Henry, perished in the Columbia River, having
left behind a set of journals, which, unpub-
lished for almost a century, are among the
most valuable records of the time and place to
which they belong.

With this brief view of our author's career
taken, it remains to appraise his book. For
the record of the massacre at Mackinac and
its attendant events, Henry's work is our
only detailed narration. For the period of
northwestern trade and exploration described
in Part Two, Henry is an early and valuable,
although not unique, authority. Occupying
such a position in our historical literature, it
is obviously a matter of importance to deter-
mine what measure of credence may prop-
erly be accorded his narrative.

Henry himself offers perhaps the best method
of approach to this problem. In his preface
he informs us that " the details [of his fur-
trade career] Jrom time to time committed to

i^i^Gftorical 3^ntrotiuction

paper, form the subject matter of the present
volume." It is obvious, therefore, that the
author did not keep a day-by-day journal of
events; and that his narrative as it comes to us
is the fruit of his recollections set down at
different times during the period of his life
subsequent to the conclusion of the travels and
adventures which are so vividly described by
him. A record thus produced may possess
great value, but to all lawyers and all histo-
rians it is a commonplace that this value,
however great it may be, will be different in
quality from that attaching to a day-by-day
record of events. The human memory is at
best a fallible instrument. Men in later years
frequently recall events which never took place;
as frequently they transform, in memory,
the true character and circumstances attend-
ant upon the occurrence of events; and it is
sometimes even possible for an observer to
trace the progressive steps in the transfor-

With these considerations in mind, we will
not expect to find in Henry's story that ac-
curacy of detail which characterizes the jour-
nal of contemporary events. It will not be
strange to find that distances are sometimes
misstated/ that dates given are frequently
incorrect, and that the story is subject to

1 An additional reason for this is, of course, the fact
that Henry is commonly giving estimates made by eye,

i^i^torical 3^ntrotiuction

correction in various other respects. But the
more important consideration, in appraising
the narrative, pertains to quite another ques-
tion; did Henry desire to set dovm a truthful
record; and was he capable, in general, of
doing so ?

On this point two opinions have been ad-
vanced. In general, Henry's bona fides has
been accepted by scholars without qualifica-
tion, following the lead of Parkman. More
recently, however, Henry Bedford- Jones, in a
booklet published at Santa Barbara, has de-
Hvered a sweeping attack upon Henry .^ The
spirit of the accusation is perhaps sufficiently
indicated in the following lines of verse which
preface the booklet:

Garrulous old trader, sitting with a jorum
Close beside your elbow, and tobacco blowing free,
Easy 'tis to picture you, spinning to a quorum
Of pop-eyed New York burghers your tales of

How you must have made them palpitate and

As you warmed up to your narrative of blood

and massacree!
How you must have chortled as you saw 'em shake

and quiver

rather than the precise determinations which result
from scientific surveys.

^ The myth Wawatam or Alexander Henry Refuted,
Being an Exposure of certain Fictions Hitherto Unsus-
pected of the Public; with which are also found some
remarks upon the famous old Fort Michilimackinac * * *
(Santa Barbara, 1917.)

l^tatortcal 3^ntroDuction

To your tales of shocking escapades by trail and

lake and river —
I'm afraid you were a liar, but you knew how to

Your auditors of Gotham from the shackles of


In support of this charge of willful mendacity
against Henry, the writer calls attention to
certain erroneous statements of detail, a form
of criticism to which Henry's narrative is
clearly vulnerable; but so carelessly have the
accusations been drawn that it would be easy
to retort upon the critic the very charge he
brings against Henry .^ Not to go farther
afield, the sole factual basis for the verse pic-
turing the "garrulous old trader" engaged in
spinning his yarns for the entertainment of
an audience of "pop-eyed New York burghers"
is the single circumstance that his book was
published by a New York printer. There is
no hint in it — or elsewhere to the present
writer's knowledge — that Henry ever lived in
New York, or indeed that he ever saw that

' Thus, Henry's account (in Part One, chap. VII)
of his trip from Mackinac to the Soo is described as
"ludicrously inaccurate; and from Point Detour, find-
ing the lake open, our hero pushes on and sends back
aid — but fails to say how he crossed the open straits."
But on turning to Henry's account we find that after
the party reached Point Detour a delay of more than a
week ensued, as to part of which it is expressly stated
that the weather was "exceedingly cold." Only a hyper-
critic could require further explanation than this as to
how Henry crossed the "open straits."

]^i^torical ^FntroDuction

Details aside, the most important accusa-
tion made by Mr. Jones is that the entire story
of Henry's relations with Wawatam and Chief
Minavavana is a myth, and that these charac-
ters never in fact existed. If this charge be
true, then indeed all confidence in Henry's
narrative becomes impossible. Looking to the
evidence in support of these assertions, how-
ever, we find that it practically reduces to
this, that Minavavana is unknown outside the
pages of Henry. "A son of Matchekewis,
captor of Mackinac," says the critic, "told
Schoolcraft that the name was entirely strange
to him." But when we turn to Schoolcraft for
confirmation, we find that his witness was
suspicious and unwilling to talk, and that
Schoolcraft expressly cites the incident as an
illustration of the difficulty of a white man's
getting the truth from an Indian!

Criticism of such character as this reveals
itself to be is of the stuflF of which dreams are
made, and unworthy of serious consideration;^
and a more candid and capable critic must enter
the Hsts before the historical repute of Henry's
narrative can be seriously shaken. For my-
self, I see no sufficient reason for doubting
Henry's honesty, and his narrative itself

* I have noticed it thus far only because, as far as my
knowledge goes, it is the latest publication on the sub-
ject of Henry's book, and as yet has evoked no notice
or answer. In editing a new edition of Henry, there-
fore, it seems proper to place his critic's attack in its
proper setting.

i^i-ertorical S'ntroDuctton

discloses internal evidence of shrewdness and
insight on the part of its author. Necessarily,
since it is a personal narration, his own doings
and point of view receive constant emphasis.
For this the intelUgent reader will make due
allowance, as he will for such errors of precise
detail as may disclose themselves. That these
should occur in the recital of sixteen years of
travel and adventure is inevitable. Equally
inevitable is it that the author could not have
abandoned himself to willful mendacity with-
out leaving evidences of the habit which would
be patent to the scholar who follows on his
trail; and when such a scholar as Francis
Parkman accords to Henry a certificate of good
faith we may be sure that his book is some-
thing other than a collection of yarns spun
for the delectation of a group of "pop-eyed
New York burghers."

From quite another point of view Henry's
narrative deserves attention. It is evident
that Henry must have received some educa-
tion, but in his twenty-first year he plunged
into the wilderness, not to emerge therefrom
for sixteen long years. Such a career is not in
close accord with the curriculum laid down in
the schools for the training of him who aspires
to become a writer. Yet in some mysterious
maimer Henry had become a master of Eng-
lish and this, his sole production, is literature
in the best sense of the term. The shelves of
our libraries are loaded down with books, dry

i^i^torical g^ntrotiuction

as the desert of Sahara, whose authors have
devoted their Hves to the professed pursuit of
learning. But here is a man whose formal
education could scarcely have gone beyond the
stage of the modern common school, and who
for a decade and a half lived in an environ-
ment of savagery wherein his life was at no
time worth an hour's purchase; yet he has
written a book instinct with literary charm
and artistry. How was the miracle wrought?
I do not profess to know, but I rejoice in the
opportunity which is afforded me of helping to
give Henry's narrative a wider circulation
than it has hitherto had, and of bringing it to a
fresh circle of readers.

Henry's book was first pubUshed at New
York in 1809 with the title "Travels and Ad-
ventures in Canada and the Indian Territories
Between the years i'/6o and 1776. How large the
edition was we have no information. Copies
of it have now become so rare as to be prac-
tically inaccessible to most readers. In 1901
a reprint edition of 700 copies was brought out
at Boston and Toronto under the scholarly
editing of James Bain. In this reprint the
typographical and other peculiarities of the
original edition were carefully preserved, so
that the text is "almost a facsimile" of the
earlier volume. In editing the narrative for
the Lakeside Classics I have thought proper to
adopt a different procedure. While faithfully
preserving the author's text and footnotes, no

i^ii^torical ^FntroDuction

effort has been made to repeat the typograph-
ical peculiarities of the original edition, for
which, presumably, the printer, rather than the
author, was responsible. On the contrary, the
punctuation, chapter heads, and other typo-
graphical details of this edition are the work of
the present editor; and in a few instances,
where propriety clearly dictated this course,
obvious errors in the text have been corrected.
This procedure will not, of course, commend
the book to professional scholars, but these
have, or can readily gain, access to the original
edition; the Lakeside Classics are issued for
the delectation of a different class of readers.
The footnotes of the original edition are dis-
tinguished from those supplied by the editor
by the signature "author" or "editor" (as the
case may be) appended to each note.

Madison, Wisconsin.






THE YEARS 1760 AND 1776

In Two Parts

New York

Printed and Published by I. Riley



twelfth day of October, in the thirty-
fourth year of the Independence of the
United States of America, ISAAC RILEY, of
the said district, hath deposited in this office
the title of a book, the right whereof he claims
as proprietor, in the words following, to wit:

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryAlexander HenryAlexander Henry's Travels and adventures in the years 1760-1776, ed. with historical introduction and notes by Milo Milton Quaife → online text (page 1 of 20)