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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saw nothing from which I could suppose it to
proceed, I continued my employment, till,
advancing farther, I was alarmed by a repeti-
tion. I imagined that it came from above
my head; but after looking that way in vain, I
cast my eyes on the ground and there dis-
covered a rattlesnake, at not more than two
feet from my naked legs. The reptile was
coiled, and its head raised considerably above
its body. Had I advanced another step before
my discovery I must have trodden upon it.

I no sooner saw the snake than I hastened
to the canoe, in order to procure my gun; but
the Indians, observing what I was doing, in-
quired the occasion, and being informed,
begged me to desist. At the same time they
followed me to the spot, with their pipes and
tobacco-pouches in their hands. On returning,
I found the snake still coiled.

The Indians on their part surrounded it, all
addressing it by turns, and calling it their
grandfather; but yet keeping at some distance.
During this part of the ceremony they filled
their pipes; and now each blew the smoke
toward the snake, who, as it appeared to me,
really received it with pleasure. In a word,
after remaining coiled and receiving incense
for the space of half an hour, it stretched itself


along the ground in visible good humor. Its
length was between four and five feet. Having
remained outstretched for some time, at last
it moved slowly away, the Indians following it
and still addressing it by the title of grand-
father, beseeching it to take care of their
famiHes during their absence, and to be pleased
to open the heart of Sir William Johnson so
that he might show them charity and fill their
canoe with rum.

One of the chiefs added a petition that the
snake would take no notice of the insult which
had been offered him by the Englishman, who
would even have put him to death but for the
interference of the Indians, to whom it was
hoped he would impute no part of the
offense. They further requested that he would
remain and inhabit their country, and not
return among the English; that is, go east-

After the rattlesnake was gone, I learned
that this was the first time that an individual
of the species had been seen so far to the north-
ward and westward of the River Des Franjais,
a circumstance, moreover, from which my
companions were disposed to infer that this
manito had come, or been sent, on purpose to
meet them; that his errand had been no other
than to stop them on their way; and that con-
sequently it would be most advisable to return
to the point of departure, I was so fortunate,
however, as to prevail with them to embark,

aiejcanticr ^cnrp

and at six o'clock in the evening we again
encamped. Very little was spoken of through
the evening, the rattlesnake excepted.

Early the next morning we proceeded. We
had a serene sky and very little wind, and the
Indians, therefore, determined on steering
across the lake to an island which just appeared
in the horizon; saving, by this course, a dis-
tance of thirty miles, which would be lost in
keeping the shore. At nine o'clock, A. m., we
had a hght breeze astern, to enjoy the benefit of
which we hoisted sail. Soon after the wind
increased and the Indians, beginning to be
alarmed, frequently called on the rattlesnake
to come to their assistance. By degrees the
waves grew high; and at eleven o'clock it blew
a hurricane and we expected every moment to
be swallowed up. From prayers the Indians
now proceeded to sacrifices, both alike offered
to the god-rattlesnake, or manito-kinibic. One
of the chiefs took a dog, and after tying its
fore-legs together threw it overboard, at the
same time calHng on the snake to preserve us
from being drowned, and desiring him to sat-
isfy his hunger with the carcass of the dog.
The snake was unpropitious, and the wind
increased. Another chief sacrificed another
dog, with the addition of some tobacco. In
the prayer which accompanied these gifts he
besought the snake, as before, not to avenge
upon the Indians the insult which he had
received from myself, in the conception of a

Crabcl^ anH ^tJbenture^

design to put him to death. He assured the
snake that I was absolutely an Englishman,
and of kin neither to him nor to them.

At the conclusion of this speech an Indian,
who sat near me, observed that if we were
drowned it would be for my fault alone, and
that I ought myself to be sacrificed to appease
the angry manito; nor was I without appre-
hensions that in case of extremity this would
be my fate; but happily for me the storm at
length abated, and we reached the island

The next day was calm and we arrived at the
entrance " of the navigation which leads to
Lake aux Claies.'* We presently passed two
short carrying-places, at each of which were
several lodges of Indians,^^ containing only
women and children, the men being gone to
the council at Niagara. From this, as from a
former instance, my companions derived new

On the eighteenth of June we crossed Lake
aux Claies, which appeared to be upward
of twenty miles in length. At its farther end

" This is the Bay of Matchedash, or Matchitashk.
— Author. ^

'* This lake, which is now called Lake Simcoe, lies
between Lakes Huron and Ontario. — Author.

^* These Indians are called Chippewas, of the par-
ticular description called Wissisakies; and from
their residence at Matchedash, or Matchitashk,
also called Matchedash or Matkitashk Indians. —


aiejt:anl)cr l^mrp

we came to the carrying-place of Toranto. ^*
Here the Indians obHged me to carry a burden
of more than a hundred pounds weight. The
day was very hot and the woods and marshes
abounded with mosquitoes; but the Indians
walked at a quick pace, and I could by no
means see myself left behind. The whole
country was a thick forest, through which our
only road was a footpath, or such as in America
is exclusively termed an Indian path.

Next morning at ten o'clock we reached the
shore of Lake Ontario. Here we were employed
two days in making canoes out of the bark of
the elm tree in which we were to transport
ourselves to Niagara. For this purpose the
Indians first cut down a tree; then stripped ofif
the bark in one entire sheet of about eighteen
feet in length, the incision being lengthwise.
The canoe was now complete as to its top, bot-
tom, and sides. Its ends were next closed by
sewing the bark together; and a few ribs and
bars being introduced, the architecture was
finished. In this manner we made two canoes,
of which one carried eight men and the other

On the twenty-first we embarked at Toranto

'^ Toranto, or Toronto, is the name of a French trad-
ing-house on Lake Ontario, built near the site of the
present town of York, the capital of the province of
Upper Canada. — Author.

"The present town of York" has since become, by a
happy transformation, the modern city of Toronto. —


and encamped, in the evening, four miles
short of Fort Niagara, which the Indians
would not approach till morning.

At dawn the Indians were awake, and pres-
ently assembled in council, still doubtful as
to the fate they were to encounter. I assured
them of the most friendly welcome; and at
length, after painting themselves with the most
lively colors in token of their own peaceable
views, and after singing the song which is in
use among them on going into danger, they
embarked and made for Point Missisaki,
which is on the north side of the mouth of the
river or strait of Niagara, as the fort is on the
south." A few minutes after, I crossed over to
the fort; and here I was received by Sir Wil-
liam Johnson in a manner for which I have
ever been gratefully attached to his person and

Thus was completed my escape from the
sufferings and dangers which the capture of
Fort Michilimackinac brought upon me; but
the property which I had carried into the
Upper Country was left behind. The reader
will, therefore, be far from attributing to me
any idle or unaccountable motive when he
finds me returning to the scene of my mis-

" The course of the Niagara is almost due north and
south. Fort Niagara was on the east side of the river,
Point Mississaga on the west.


chapter 23


/IT Fort Niagara I found General Brad-
/~\ street ^^ with a force of three thousand
men, preparing to embark for Detroit
with a view to raise the siege which it had sus-
tained against Pontiac, for twelve months
together. The English in this time had lost
many men; and Pontiac had been frequently
on the point of carrying the place, though
gallantly defended by Major Gladwyn, its

General Bradstreet, having learned my his-
tory, informed me that it was his design, on
'* Bradstreet was at this time a colonel. A native of
England, he had become a colonist by adoption and
won distinction at the siege of Louisburg in 1745. His
service in the Seven Years' War won for him the rank of
colonel, but on the expedition against the western
Indians, to which Henry became attached, Bradstreet's
conduct was far from notable. He became a general in
1772, and died at Detroit two years later. — Editor.

" The classic account of the siege of Detroit is by
Francis Parkman in his Conspiracy of Pontiac. Henry
Gladwin, commander at Detroit, had come to America
as a lieutenant in 1 755. He was wounded in Braddock's
Deeat of that year, and again at Ticonderoga in 1758.
He served efficiently throughout the war, and upon the
conclusion of Pontiac's War returned (in 1764) to
England. In 1782 he became a major-general, dying
nine years afterward. — Editor.


arriving at Detroit, to detach a body of troops
to Michilimackinac, and politely assured me
of his services in recovering my property there.
With these temptations before me I was easily
induced to follow the General to Detroit.

But I was not to go as a mere looker-on. On
the contrary, I was invested with the honor of a
command in a corps, of the exploits, however,
of which I can give no flattering account.

Besides the sixteen Saulteurs, or Chippe-
wa, of the Sault de Ste. Marie, with whom I
had come to Fort Niagara, there were already
at that place eighty Matchedash Indians, the
same whose lodges we passed at the carrying-
places of Lake aux Claies. These ninety-six
men being formed into what was called the
Indian Battalion, were furnished with neces-
saries, and I was appointed to be their leader —
me, whose best hope it had very lately been to
live through their forbearance.

On the tenth of July the army marched for
Fort Schlausser,^" a stockaded post above the
Great Falls, and I ordered my Indians to march
also. Only ten of the whole number were ready
at the call, but the rest promised to follow the
next morning. With my skeleton battalion,
therefore, I proceeded to the fort, and there
waited the whole of the next day, impatiently

'" Fort Schlosser was built by the British in 1759 at
the upper end of the portage around Niagara Falls.
Near here, on September 13, 1763, occurred the mas-
sacre of Devil 's Hole. — Editor.


^icjtrantia: 1$mtp

expecting the remainder. I waited in vain; and
the day following returned to Fort Niagara,
when I found that they had all deserted, going
back to their homes, equipment and all, by
the way of Toranto. I thought their conduct,
though dishonest, not very extraordinary;
since the Indians employed in the siege of
Detroit, against whom we were leading them,
were at peace with their nation, and their own
friends and kinsmen. Amid the general deser-
tion four Missisakies joined the ten whom I
had left at Fort Schlausser.

For the transport of the army on Lake Erie
barges had been expressly built, capable of
carrying a hundred men each, with their
provisions. One of these was allowed to me and
my Indians.

On the fourteenth we embarked at Fort
Schlausser, and in the evening encamped at
Fort Erie. Here the Indians, growing drunk,
amused themselves with a disorderly firing
of their muskets in the camp. On this. General
Bradstreet ordered all the rum in the Indian
quarters to be seized and thrown away. The
Indians, in consequence, threatened to desert;
and the general, judging it proper to assume
a high tone, immediately assembled the chiefs
(for among the fourteen Indians there were
more chiefs than one) and told them that he had
no further occasion for their services, and that
such of them as should follow his camp would
be considered as soldiers, and subjected to


€rabcl^ anli ^Dbniture^

military discipline accordingly. After hearing
the General's speech, the majority set out for
Fort Niagara the same evening, and thence
returned to their own country by the way of
Toranto; and thus was my poor battalion
still further diminished!

On our fifth day from Fort Schlausser we
reached Presqu'isle,*' where we dragged our
barges over the neck of land, but not without
straining their timbers; and with more loss of
time, as I believe, than if we had rowed
round. On the twentieth day we were off the
mouth of the river which falls into .Sandusky
Bay, where a council of war was held on the
question whether it were more advisable to
attack and destroy the Indian villages on the
Miami or to proceed for Detroit direct. Early
the next morning, it having been determined
that, considering the villages were populous as
well as hostile, it was necessary to destroy
them, we entered the Miami ; but were pres-
ently met by a deputation offering peace.
The offer was accepted; but it was not till after
two days, during which we had begun to be
doubtful of the enemy's intention, that the
chiefs arrived.

When they came, a sort of armistice was

" Modern Erie, Pennsylvania. The French had had
a post here, which was abandoned and burned after the
fall of Montreal in 1760, in advance of the coming of
the English. The latter arrived on July 17, and pro-
ceeded to rebuild the fort. — Editor.


^IcranDer i^enrp

agreed upon;^- and they promised to meet the
General at Detroit within fifteen days. At
that place terms of peace were to be settled
in a general council. On the eighth of August
we landed at Detroit.^

The Indians of the Miami were punctual,
and a general peace was concluded. Pontiac,
who could do nothing against the force which
was now opposed to him and who saw himself
abandoned by his followers, unwiUing to trust
his fortunes with the English, fled to the

*- This occurred at Presque Isle, rather than Sandus-
ky. Bradstreet's highly injudicious procedure in this
connection was promptly disavowed by his superior
officers. "They have negotiated with you on Lake
Erie, and cut our throats upon the frontiers, " wrote
General Gage to Bradstreet on October 15, and in this
and other communications he spoke bitterly of Brad-
street's conduct. — Editor.

*■" Bradstreet's army reached Detroit on August 26.
— Editor.

^* It is very possible, nevertheless, that Pontiac sub-
sequently joined the English, and that a portion of
what is related by Carver concerning his latter history
and death is true. It cannot, however, be intended to
insinuate that an English governor was party to the
assassination :

"Pontiac henceforward seemed to have laid aside the
animosity he had hitherto borne towards the English,
and apparently became their zealous friend. To re-
ward this new attachment, and to insure a continuance
of it, government allowed him a handsome pension.
But his restless and intriguing spirit would not suffer
him to be grateful for this allowance, and his conduct
at length grew suspicious; so that going, in the year


Crabri^ anti Sttibcnture^ef

On the day following that of the treaty of
peace, Captain Howard was detached, with
two companies and three hundred Canadian
volunteers, for Fort Michilimackinac;^* and
I embarked at the same time.
1767, to hold a council in the country of the Illinois, a
faithful Indian, who was either commissioned by one
of the English governors, or instigated by the love he
bore the English nation, attended him as a spy; and
being convinced from the speech of Pontiac made in
the council, that he still retained his former prejudices
against those for whom he now professed a friendship,
he plunged his knife into his heart, as soon as he had
done speaking, and laid him dead on the spot. " —

Pontiac relapsed into obscurity following the un-
successful ending of the war against the English which
he had originated and led. In 1769, while paying a
visit to St. Louis, he crossed the river to Cahokia and
was there slain by a Kaskaskia Indian who was bribed
thereto by an English trader for the present of a barrel
of rum. His body was carried across the river to St.
Louis and there buried. "For a mausoleum," says
Parkman, "a city has arisen above the forest hero; and
the race whom he hated with such burning rancor
trample with unceasing footsteps over his forgotten
grave." — Editor.

*^ The figures have been transposed by Henry;
Captain Howard had 300 English troops and two
companies of Canadians of fifty men each. In 1775
Governor Hamilton of Detroit reported to General
Guy Carleton that he had been informed "by a person
of character here" that Colonel Bradstreet had prom-
ised to pay the Canadians who went with Captain
Howard half a dollar per day, which was never given
them, "tho they had neglected their harvest and
returned half naked. ^ Such a precedent," continued
Hamilton, "must be of the worst consequence and I


^Icranticc ipenrp

From Detroit to the mouth of Lake Huron
is called a distance of eighty miles. From the
fort to Lake St. Claire, which is only seven
miles, the lands are cultivated on both sides
of the strait, and appeared to be laid out in
very comfortable farms. In the strait, on
the right hand is a village of Huron, and at the
mouth of Lake St. Claire a village of Ottawa.
We met not a single Indian on our voyage, the
report of the arrival of the English army having
driven every one from the shores of the lake.

On our arrival at Michilimackinac the
Ottawa of L'Arbre Croche were sent for to
the fort. They obeyed the summons, bringing
with them some Chippewa chiefs, and peace
was concluded with both.

For myself, having much property due to me
at Ste. Marie's, I resolved on spending the
winter at that place. I was in part successful;
and in the spring I returned to Michilimackinac.

The pause which I shall here make in my
narrative might with some propriety have been
placed at the conclusion of the preceding
chapter; but it is here that my first series of
adventures are brought truly to an end. What
remains belongs to a second enterprise, wholly
independent of the preceding.

mention the fact to your Excellency as it has left a deep
impression upon those who were sufferers from such
a dishonorable breach of word and credit." R. G.
Thwaites and L. P. Kellogg Revolution on the Upper
Ohio (Madison, 1908), 133-34. — Editor.



Lake Superior and the Canadian
Northwest, 1765-76


UNDER the French government of Can-
ada the fur trade was subject to a
variety of regulations, established and
enforced by the royal authority; and in 1765,
the period at which I began to prosecute it
anew, some remains of the ancient system were
still preserved. No person could go into the
countries lying north-westward of Detroit un-
less furnished with a Hcense; and the exclusive
trade of particular districts was capable of
being enjoyed in virtue of grants from military

The exclusive trade of Lake Superior was
given to myself by the commandant of Fort
Michilimackinac; and to prosecute it I pur-
chased goods, which I found at this post, at
twelve months' credit. My stock was the
freight of four canoes, and I took it at the price
of ten thousand pounds weight of good and
merchantable beaver. It is in beaver that
accounts are kept at Michilimackinac; but in
defect of this article, other furs and skins are
accepted in payments, being first reduced unto
their value in beaver. Beaver was at this time
at the price of two shillings and six pence per
pound, Michilimackinac currency; otter skins,

^kjcanticr i^cnrp

at six shillings each; marten, at one shilling
and six pence, and others in proportion.

To carry the goods to my wintering ground
in Lake Superior, I engaged twelve men at
two hundred and fifty livres, of the same cur-
rency, each; that is, a hundred pounds weight
of beaver. For provisions, I purchased fifty
bushels of maize at ten pounds of beaver per
bushel. At this place specie was so wholly out
of the question that in going to a cantine,' you
took with you a marten's skin, to pay your

On the fourteenth of July, 1765 I embarked
for the Sault de Ste. Marie, where, on my arrival,
I took into partnership M. Cadotte, whom I
have already had frequent occasion to name;
and on the 26th I proceeded for my wintering
ground, which was to be fixed at Chagouemig.'

* The post canteen. — Editor.

^ See Part One, chapter v. — Author.

' Modern Chequamegon Bay, near whose head stands
the city of Ashland, Wisconsin. In this vicinity is one
of the oldest centers of French activity in the interior of
the continent. Here two daring traders, Groseilliers and
Radisson, established headquarters two decades before
William Penn founded the City of Brotherly Love.
Here for four years, beginning in October, 1665, Father
Allouez labored unavailingly to soften the hearts of the
contumacious red men. Trom here Father Marquette
followed the Ottawa and Huron bands, fleeing eastward
before the avenging Sioux, to establish at the Straits
of Mackinac the mission of St. Ignace. Following
Radisson and Groseilliers came a long succession of
traders whose names have now become commonplaces


The next morning I crossed the Strait of
Ste. Marie, or of Lake Superior, to a point
which the Chippewa call the Grave of the
Iroquois.** To this name there belongs a
tradition that the Iroquois, who at a certain
time made war upon the Chippewa, with the
design of dispossessing them of their country,
encamped one night a thousand strong upon
this point; where, thinking themselves secure
from their numbers, they* indulged in feasting
on the bodies of their prisoners. The sight,
however, of the sufferings and humiHation of
their kindred and friends so wrought upon
the Chippewa, who beheld them from the
opposite shore, that with the largest number
of warriors they could collect, but which
amounted only to three hundred, they crossed
the channel and at break of day fell upon the
Iroquois, now sleeping after their excesses, and
put one and all to death. Of their own party,
they lost but a single man; and he died of a

in the history of the Northwest — Duluth, Le Sueur,
La Ronde, Henry, the Cadottes, the Warren brothers,
and others. For the early history of the place see
Thwaites, "Story of Chequamegon Bay" in Wis.
Hist. Colls., XIII, 397-425. — Editor.

* Iroquois Point is in modern Chippewa County,
Michigan. Nearby is the village of Iroquois. The
tragedy which gave their names to point and village
occurred in 1662. A detailed narrative of the afTair
by Perrot is in Emma H. Blair's Indian Tribes of the
Upper Mississippi Valley and Region of the Great Lakes
(Cleveland, 191 1), I, 178-80. — Editor.


^Icranticr i^cnrp

wound which he received from an old woman,
who stabbed him with an awl. She was at
work, making shoes for the family, when he
broke into the lodge, near the entrance of which
she sat. Some of the old men of my crew
remembered at this place to have seen bones.

On the lake we fell in with Indians, of whom
I purchased provisions. One party agreed to
accompany me, to hunt for me, on condition of
being supplied with necessaries on credit.

On the nineteenth of August we reached the
mouth of the river Ontonagan, one of the
largest on the south side of the lake. At the
mouth was an Indian village; and at three
leagues above, a fall, at the foot of which
sturgeon were at this season so abundant that
a month's subsistence for a regiment could
have been taken in a few hours.

But I found this river chiefly remarkable for
the abundance of virgin copper which is on
its banks and in its neighborhood, and of which
the reputation is at present more generally
spread than it was at the time of this my first
visit. The attempts which were shortly after
made to work the mines of Lake Superior to
advantage will very soon claim a place among

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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 11 of 20)