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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share of what was left consisted in a hundred
beaver skins, sixty raccoon skins, and six otter,
of the total value of about one hundred and
sixty dollars. With these earnings of my
winter's toil I proposed to purchase some
clothes of which I was much in need, having
been six months without a shirt; but on in-
quiring into the prices of goods I found that
all my funds would not go far. I was able,
however, to buy two shirts at ten pounds of
beaver each; a pair of leggings, or pantaloons,
of scarlet cloth, which with the ribbon to
garnish them fashionably, cost me fifteen
pounds of beaver; a blanket, at twenty pounds
of beaver; and some other articles at propor-
tionable rates. In this manner my wealth
was soon reduced; but not before I had laid in a
good stock of ammunition and tobacco. To
the use of the latter I had become much at-
tached during the winter. It was my principal

^lerantia: ipetirp

recreation after returning from the chase; for
my companions in the lodge were unaccustomed
to pass the time in conversation. Among the
Indians the topics of conversation are but few,
and Hmited for the most part to the transac-
tions of the day, the number of animals which
they have killed, and of those which have
escaped their pursuit; and other incidents of
the chase. Indeed, the causes of taciturnity
among the Indians may be easily understood
if we consider how many occasions of speech,
which present themselves to us, are utterly
unknown to them; the records of history, the
pursuits of science, the disquisitions of phil-
osophy, the systems of poUtics, the business
and tlae amusements of the day, and the trans-
actions of the four corners of the world.

Eight days had passed in tranquillity when
there arrived a band of Indians from the Bay
of Saguenaum.*^ They had assisted at the
siege of Detroit, and came to muster as many
recruits for that service as they could. For
my own part, I was soon informed that as I
was the only Englishman in the place they
proposed to kill me in order to give their
friends a mess of EngUsh broth to raise their

This intelligence was not of the most agree-
able kind; and in consequence of receiving it,
I requested my friend to carry me to the Sault
de Ste. Marie, at which place I knew the

** Modern Saginaw Bay. — Editor.


€rabd^ and ^tibcnturc^

Indians to be peaceably inclined, and that
M. Cadotte enjoyed a powerful influence over
their conduct. They considered M. Cadotte
as their chief; and he was not only my friend,
but a friend to the English. It was by him
that the Chipewa of Lake Superior were
prevented from joining Pontiac.

Wawatam was not slow to exert himself for
my preservation ; but, leaving Michilimackinac
in the night, transported myself and all his
lodge to Point St. Ignace, on the opposite
side of the strait. Here we remained till day-
light, and then went into the Bay of Bout-
chitaouy, in which we spent three days in
fishing and hunting, and where we found
plenty of wild fowl. Leaving the bay we made
for the Isle aux Outardes, where we were
obliged to put in on account of the wind's
coming ahead. We proposed sailing for the
Sault the next morning.

But when the morning came Wawatam's
wife complained that she was sick, adding that
she had had bad dreams, and knew that if we
went to the Sault we should all be destroyed.
To have argued at this time against the in-
fallibility of dreams would have been extremely
inadvisable, since I should have appeared to
be guilty, not only of an odious want of faith
but also of a still more odious want of sensi-
bility to the possible calamities of a family
which had done so much for the alleviation of
mine. I was silent; but the disappointment


^icjcantJcr l^cnrp

seemed to seal my fate. No prospect opened
to console me. To return to Michilimackinac
could only ensure my destruction; and to
remain at the island was to brave almost equal
danger, since it Idy in the direct route between
the fort and the Missisaki, along which the
Indians from Detroit were hourly expected to _
pass on the business of their mission. I
doubted not but, taking advantage of the
solitary situation of the family, they would
carry into execution their design of killing me.


Cl^apter 20


UNABLE, therefore, to take any part in
the direction of our course, but a prey
at the same time to the most anxious
thoughts as to my own condition, I passed all
the day on the highest part, to which I could
climb, of a tall tree, and whence the lake on
both sides of the island lay open to my view.
Here I might hope to learn at the earliest pos-
sible moment the approach of canoes, and by this
means be warned in time to conceal myself.

On the second morning I returned as soon
as it was light to my watch-tower, on which I
had not been long before I discovered a sail
coming from Michilimackinac.

The sail was a white one, and much larger
than those usually employed by the northern
Indians. I therefore indulged a hope that it
might be a Canadian canoe, on its voyage to
Montreal; and that I might be able to prevail
upon the crew to take me with them and thus
release me from all my troubles.

My hopes continued to gain strength; for
I soon persuaded myself that the manner in
which the paddles were used on board the
canoe was Canadian, and not Indian. My
spirits were elated; but disappointment had

I S3

aiejranticr l^enrp

become so usual with me that I could not suffer
myself to look to the event with any strength
of confidence.

Enough, however, appeared at length to
demonstrate itself to induce me to descend
the tree and repair to the lodge, with my tidings
and schemes of liberty. The family congrat-
ulated me on the approach of so fair an oppor-
tunity of escape; and my father and brother
(for he was alternately each of these) lit his
pipe and presented it to me saying, "My son,
this may be the fast time that ever you and I
shall smoke out of the same pipe! I am sorry
to part with you. You know the affection which
I always have borne you, and the dangers to
which I have exposed myself and family
to preserve you from your enemies; and I am
happy to find that my efforts promise not to
have been in vain. " At this time a boy came
into the lodge, informing us that the canoe had
come from Michilimackinac and was bound to
the Sault de Ste. Marie. It was manned by
three Canadians, and was carrying home
Madame Cadotte, the wife of M. Cadotte
already mentioned.

My hopes of going to Montreal being now
dissipated, I resolved on accompanying Ma-
dame Cadotte, with her permission, to the Sault.
On communicating my wishes to Madame Ca-
dotte, she cheerfully acceded to them. Ma-
dame Cadotte, as I have already mentioned,
was an Indian woman of the Chippewa


nation; and she was very generally respected.

My departure fixed upon, I returned to the
lodge, where I packed up my wardrobe, con-
sisting of my two shirts, pair of leggings, and
blanket. Besides these I took a gun and am-
munition, presenting what remained further
to my host. I also returned the silver arm-
bands with which the family had decorated me
the year before.

We now exchanged farewells, with an emo-
tion entirely reciprocal. I did not quit the
lodge without the most grateful sense of the
many acts of goodness which I had experienced
in it, nor without the sincerest respect for the
virtues which I had witnessed among its
members. All the family accompanied me to
the beach ; and the canoe had no sooner put off,
than Wawatam commenced an address to the
Kichi Manito, beseeching him to take care
of me, his brother, till we should next meet.
This, he had told me, would not be long, as he
intended to return to MichiUmackinac for a
short time only, and would then follow me to
the Sault. We had proceeded to too great a
distance to allow of our hearing his voice,
before Wawatam had ceased to offer up his

" Thus appropriately Wawatam disappears alike
from Henry's tale and from recorded history. Some
fifty years later Henry R. Schoolcraft sought diligently
to discover trace of him or of his family, but in vain.
H. Bedford-Jones, whose criticisms of Henry's narra-
tive have been noted in our introduction, advances the

^llcranbcr l^enrp

Being now no longer in the society of Indians
I laid aside the dress, putting on that of a
Canadian; a molton, or blanket coat, over my
shirt, and a handkerchief about my head, hats
being very little worn in this country.

At daybreak on the second morning of our
voyage we embarked, and presently perceived
several canoes behind us. As they approached,
we ascertained them to be the fleet bound for
the Missisaki, of which I had been so long in
dread. It amounted to twenty sail.

On coming up with us and surrounding our
canoe, and amid general inquiries concerning
the news, an Indian challenged me for an
Englishman and his companions supported
him by declaring that I looked very like one;
but I affected not to understand any of the
questions which they asked me, and Madame
Cadotte assured them that I was a Canadian
whom she had brought on his first voyage from

The following day saw us safely landed at
the Sault, where I experienced a generous
welcome from M. Cadotte. There were thirty
warriors at this place, restrained from joining
in the war only by M. Cadotte's influence.

Here for five days I was once more in
possession of tranquillity; but on the sixth a
young Indian came into M. Cadotte's saying
that a canoe full of warriors had just arrived

opinion that Wawatam, like ]\Iinavavana, was but a
"creation of [Henry's] fancy." — Editor.


€rabfl^ and ^LDbenturc^tf

from Michilimackinac ; that they had inquired
for me; and that he believed their intentions
to be bad. Nearly at the same time a message
came from the good chief of the village desiring
me to conceal myself until he should discover
the views and temper of the strangers.

A garret was a second time my place of
refuge; and it was not long before the Indians
came to M. Cadotte's. My friend immediately
informed Mutchikiwish,^^ their chief, who was
related to his wife, of the design imputed to
them of mischief against myself. Mutchiki-
wish frankly acknowledged that they had had
such a design; but added that if displeasing
to M. Cadotte, it should be abandoned. He
then further stated that their errand was to
raise a party of warriors to return with them to

*^ Mutchikiwish, or Matchekewis, was the chief who
had led the braves in the massacre of June 2. In 1866
Chief Alexander Robinson of Chicago gave Lyman
Draper this account of Chief Matchekewis: He was a
Chippewa, and lived at a place near Mackinac, called
Cheboygan. He took Mackinac Fort in Pontiac's War,
and when the British reoccupied that post Matchekewis
and two or three other ringleaders in that attack were
taken, sent to Quebec, and imprisoned awhile. But
the British authorities at length released Matchekewis,
as well as the others, gave him a medal, flag, and other
presents, and he returned home with increased honors.
He was with the Indians at the battle of Fallen Tim-
bers in 1794 and signed Wayne's treaty the following
year. He was a large, tall chief, and weighed over two
hundred pounds; and was a man of great distinction
among his people. He died about 1806, quite aged,
perhaps about seventy. — Wis. Hist. Colls. ,yil, 189—90.


^leranticr l^enrp

Detroit; and that it had been their intention
to take me with them.

In regard to the principal of the two objects
thus disclosed, M. Cadotte proceeded to as-
semble all the chiefs and warriors of the vil-
lage; and these, after deliberating for some
time among themselves, sent for the strangers,
to whom both M. Cadotte and the chief of the
village addressed a speech. In these speeches,
after recurring to the designs confessed to have
been entertained against myself, who was now
declared to be under the immediate protection
of all the chiefs, by whom any insult I might
sustain would be avenged, the ambassadors
were peremptorily told that they might go
back as they came, none of the young men of
this village being foolish enough to join them.

A moment after, a report was brought that a
canoe had just arrived from Niagara. As this
was a place from which everyone was anxious
to hear news, a message was sent to these fresh
strangers requesting them to come to the

The strangers came accordingly, and being
seated, a long silence ensued. At length one of
them, taking up a belt of wampum, addressed
himself thus to the assembly:

"My friends and brothers, I am come, with
this belt, from our great father. Sir WiUiam
Johnson.^^ He desired me to come to you as

** Sir William Johnson was a native of Ireland (born
1715) who came to America at an early age. Settling in


€ratjdj6f anD ^DbcnturciBf

his ambassador, and tell you that he is making
a great feast at Fort Niagara; that his kettles
are all ready, and his fires Ut. He invites you
to partake of the feast, in common with your
friends, the Six Nations, which have all made
peace with the English. He advises you to
seize this opportunity of doing the same, as you
cannot otherwise fail of being destroyed; for
the English are on their march with a great
army, which will be joined by different nations
•of Indians. In a word, before the fall of the
leaf they will be at Michilimackinac, and the
Six Nations ^^ with them. "

The tenor of this speech greatly alarmed the
Indians of the Sault, who after a very short
consultation agreed to send twenty deputies
to Sir William Johnson at Niagara. This was
a project highly interesting to me, since it
ofifered me the means of leaving the country.
I intimated this to the chief of the village, and

the Mohawk Valley, he was adopted by the Iroquois,
over whom he acquired great influence, becoming the
most noted and successful Indian agent in British
America. Johnson played an active and notable part in
the Seven Years' War, and in 1761, upon the fall of
Montreal, journeyed to Detroit to reconcile the western
tribesmen to the British cause. It was from this coun-
cil that the troops were sent out to garrison Mackinac
and the other posts around the Lakes. Johnson died at
his home, "Johnson Hall," in 1774. — Editor.

*' These were the confederated tribes of the Iroquois,
ancient and inveterate enemies of the Chippewa. —


^Icjcantier i^cnrp

received his promise that I should accompany
the deputation.

Very little time was proposed to be lost in
setting forward on the voyage; but the occa-
sion was of too much magnitude not to call
for more than human knowledge and dis-
cretion; and preparations were accordingly
made for solemnly invoking and consulting the
Great TurtleJ"

'" The Great Turtle was the chief among the guardian
spirits of the Chippewa. — Editor.

1 60

Cl^apter 21


FOR invoking and consulting the Great
Turtle the first thing to be done was the
building of a large house or wigwam, within
which was placed a species of tent for the use
of the priest and reception of the spirit. The
tent was formed of moose-skins, hung over a
framework of wood. Five poles, or rather
pillars, of five different species of timber,
about ten feet in height and eight inches in
diameter were set in a circle of about four feet
in diameter. The holes made to receive them
were about two feet deep; and the pillars being
set, the holes were filled up again, with the
earth which had been dug out. At top the
pillars were bound together by a circular hoop,
or girder. Over the whole of this edifice were
spread the moose-skins, covering it at top and
round the sides, and made fast with thongs of
the same; except that on one side a part was
left unfastened, to admit of the entrance of the

The ceremonies did not commence but with
the approach of night. To give light within the
house several fires were kindled round the
tent. Nearly the whole village assembled in
the house, and myself among the rest. It was

^Icjcanticr J^enrp

not long before the pnest appeared almost in a
state of nakedness. As he approached the tent
the skins were lifted up as much as was neces-
sary to allow of his creeping under them on
his hands and knees. His head was scarcely
within side when the edifice, massy as it has
been described, began to shake; and the skins
were no sooner let fall than the sounds of
numerous voices were heard beneath them,
some yelling, some barking as dogs, some
howling like wolves; and in this horrible concert
were mingled screams and sobs, as of despair,
anguish, and the sharpest pain. Articulate
speech was also uttered, as if from human lips;
but in a tongue unknown to any of the

After some time these confused and frightful
noises were succeeded by a perfect silence;
and now a voice not heard before seemed to
manifest the arrival of a new character in the
tent. This was a low and feeble voice, resem-
bhng the cry of a young puppy. The sound
was no sooner distinguished, than all the
Indians clapped their hands for joy, exclaiming
that this was the Chief Spirit, the Turtle, the
spirit that never lied. Other voices which they
had discriminated from time to time they had
previously hissed, as recognizing them to
belong to evil and lying spirits, which deceive

New sounds came from the tent. During
the space of half an hour, a succession of songs


were heard, in which a diversity of voices met
the ear. From his first entrance till these songs
were finished we heard nothing in the proper
voice of the priest; but now he addressed
the multitude, declaring the presence of the
Great Turtle and the spirit's readiness to an-
swer such questions as should be proposed.

The questions were to come from the chief
of the village, who was silent, however, till
after he had put a large quantity of tobacco
into the tent, introducing it at the aperture.
This was a sacrifice, offered to the spirit; for
spirits are supposed by the Indians to be as
fond of tobacco as themselves. The tobacco
accepted, he desired the priest to inquire
whether or not the English were preparing to
make war upon the Indians ? and whether or
not there were at Fort Niagara a large number
of English troops ?

These questions having been put by the
priest, the tent instantly shook; and for some
seconds after it continued to rock so violently
that I expected to see it levelled with the
ground. All this was a prelude, as I supposed,
to the answers to be given; but a terrific cry
announced, with suflScient intelligibility, the
departure of the Turtle.

A quarter of an hour elapsed in silence, and
I waited impatiently to discover what was to
be the next incident in this scene of imposture.
It consisted in the return of the spirit, whose
voice was again heard, and who now delivered

^lleranticr i^cnrp

a continued speech. The language of the Great
Turtle, Uke that which we had heard before,
was wholly unintelligible to every ear, that of
his priest excepted; and it was, therefore, that
not till the latter gave us an interpretation,
which did not commence before the spirit had
finished, that we learned the purport of this
extraordinary communication.

The spirit, as we were now informed by the
priest, had during his short absence crossed
Lake Huron and even proceeded as far as
Fort Niagara, which is at the head of Lake
Ontario, and thence to Montreal. At Fort
Niagara he had seen no great number of
soldiers; but on descending the St. Lawrence as
low as Montreal, he had found the river
covered with boats and the boats filled with
soldiers, in number hke the leaves of the trees.
He had met them on their way up the river,
coming to make war upon the Indians.

The chief had a third question to propose,
and the spirit, without a fresh journey to Fort
Niagara, was able to give it an instant and
most favorable answer: "If," said the chief,
"the Indians visit Sir William Johnson, will
they be received as friends?"

"Sir William Johnson," said the spirit
(and after the spirit, the priest) "Sir WiUiam
Johnson will fill their canoes with presents;
with blankets, kettles, guns, gunpowder and
shot, and large barrels of rum such as the
stoutest of the Indians will not be able to lift;


€rabcl^ anD ^tibcnture^

and every man will return in safety to his
family. "

At this the transport was universal; and
amid the clapping of hands, a hundred voices
exclaimed, "I will go, too! I will go, too!"

The question of public interest being re-
solved, individuals were now permitted to
seize the opportunity of inquiring into the
condition of their absent friends, and the fate
of such as were sick. I observed that the
answers given to these questions allowed of
much latitude of interpretation.

Amid this general inquisitiveness I yielded
to the solicitations of my own anxiety for the
future, and having first, like the rest, made
my offering of tobacco, I inquired, whether or
not I should ever revisit my native country.
The question being put by the priest, the tent
shook as usual; after which I received this
answer: That I should take courage and
fear no danger, for that nothing would happen
to hurt me; and that I should in the end reach
my friends and country in safety. These
assurances wrought so strongly on my gratitude
that I presented an additional and extra
offering of tobacco.

The Great Turtle continued to be consulted
till nearly midnight, when all the crowd dis-
persed to their respective lodges. I was on the
watch through the scene I have described to
detect the particular contrivances by which
the fraud was carried on; but such was the skill


^icranticr ]^cnrp

displayed in the performance, or such my de-
ficiency of penetration, that I made no dis-
coveries, but came away as I went, with no
more than those general surmises which will
naturally be entertained by every readerJ^

On the tenth of June I embarked with the
Indian deputation, composed of sixteen men.
Twenty had been the number originally de-
signed; and upwards of fifty actually engaged
themselves to the council for the undertaking,
to say nothing of the general enthusiasm at
the moment of hearing the Great Turtle's
promises. But exclusively of the degree of
timidity which still prevailed, we are to take
into account the various domestic calls, which
might supersede all others, and detain many
with their families.

" M. de Champlain has left an account of an exhibi-
tion of the nature here described, which may be seen in
Charlevoix's Histoire el Description Generale de la
Nouvelle France, Livre W . This took place in the year
1609, and was performed among a party of warriors
composed of -Algonquin, ^Montagnez, and Hurons.
Carver witnessed another among the Cristinaux. In
each case the details are somewhat different, but the
outline is the same. M. de Champlain mentions that
he saw the jongleur shake the stakes or pillars of the
tent. I was not so fortunate; but this is the obvious
e.xplanation of that part of the mystery to which it
refers. Captain Carver leaves the whole in darkness.
— Author.



IN the evening of the second day of our
voyage we reached the mouth of the Missi-
saki, where we found about forty Indians,
by whom we were received with abundant
kindness, and at night regaled at a great feast,
held on account of our arrival. The viand was
a preparation of the roe of the sturgeon, beat up
and boiled, and of the consistence of porridge.

After eating, several speeches were made to
us, of which the general topic was a request
that we should recommend the village to Sir
William Johnson. This request was also spe-
cially addressed to me, and I promised to
comply with it.

On the fourteenth of June we passed the
village of La Cloche, of which the greater part
of the inhabitants were absent, being already
on a visit to Sir WilUam Johnson. This cir-
cumstance greatly encouraged the companions
of my voyage, who now saw that they were
not the first to run into danger.

The next day about noon, the wind blowing
very hard, we were obliged to put ashore at
Point aux Grondines, a place of which some
description has been given above.^* While

" See ante, p. 2,3. — Editor.

^llcxanticr I^cnrp

the Indians erected a hut, I employed myself
in making a fire. As I was gathering wood,
an unusual sound fixed my attention for a
moment; but as it presently ceased, and as I

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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 10 of 20)