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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than once represented to the world in colors capable of
deceiving fresh adventurers; and the statement in the
text will not have been uselessly made, if it should at
any time sen^e as a beacon to the unwary. The author
of Voyages from Montreal, b'c. has recently observed,
that the "Americans, soon after they got possession of
the country, sent an engineer"; and that he "should
not be surprised to hear of their employing people to
work the mine. Indeed," he adds, "it might be well
worthy the attention of the British subjects to work the
mines on the north coast though they are not supposed


The neighboring lands are good. I distributed
seed-maize among the Indians here, which they
planted accordingly. They did the same the
following year, and in both instances had good
crops. Whether or not they continued the
practice I cannot say. There might be much
danger of their losing their seed ; for their way
was to eat the maize green and save only a
small quantity for sowing. .

In the following month of August we
launched our sloop and carried the miners to the
vein of copper ore on the north side of the lake.
Little was done during the winter, but by

to be so rich as those on the south"; and Captain
Carver has given the following account of the identical
undertaking above described: "A company of ad-
venturers from England began, soon after the conquest
of Canada, to bring away some of this metal; bul the
distracted situation of affairs in America has obliged them
to relinquish their scheme. It might in future times be
made a very advantageous trade; as the metal, which
costs nothing on the spot and requires but little expense
to get it on board, could be conveyed in boats or canoes
through the Falls of Sainte Marie to the Isle of Saint
Joseph, which lies at the bottom of the strait, near the
entrance into Lake Huron; from thence it might be put
on board larger vessels, and in them transported across
that lake to the Falls of Niagara; then being carried by
land across the portage, it might be conveyed without
much more obstruction to Quebec. The cheapness and
ease with which any quantity of it may be procured will
make up for the length of way that is necessary to
transport it before it reaches the sea coast; and enable
the proprietors to send it to foreign markets on as good
terms as it can be exported from other countries." —
Three Years' Travels, Etc. — Author.


^Icranticr l^cnrp

dint of labor performed between the com-
mencement of the spring of 1773 and the en-
suing month of September they penetrated
thirty feet into the solid rock. The rock was
blasted with great difficulty; and the vein,
which at the beginning was of the breadth of
four feet, had in the progress contracted into
four inches. Under these circumstances we
desisted, and carried the miners back to the
Sault. What copper ore we had collected we
sent to England; but the next season we were
informed that the partners there declined
entering into further expenses. In the interim
we had carried the miners along the north
shore as far as the river Pic, making, however,
no discovery of importance. This year, there-
fore, 1774, Mr. Baxter disposed of the sloop
and other effects of the Company, and paid
its debts.

The partners in England were his Royal
Highness the Duke of Gloucester, Mr. Sec-
retary Townshend, Sir Samuel Tutchet,
Baronet; Mr. Baxter, Consul of the Empress
of Russia; and Mr. Cruickshank: in America,
Sir William Johnson, Baronet; Mr. Bostwick,
Mr. Baxter and myself.

A charter had been petitioned for and ob-
tained, but owing to our ill success it was never
taken from the seal-office.



PENDING this enterprise I had still pur-
sued the Indian trade, and on its failure I
applied myself to that employment with
more assiduity than ever, and resolved on
visiting the countries to the northwest of Lake

On the tenth day of June, 1775, I left the
Sault with goods and provisions to the value
of three thousand pounds sterling on board
twelve small canoes and four larger ones. The
provisions made the chief bulk of the cargo; no
further supply being obtainable till we should
have advanced far into the country. Each
small canoe was navigated by three men and
each larger one by four.

On the twentieth we passed the Tete de la
Loutre, or Otter's Head, so named from a
rock of about thirty feet in height and fifteen
in circumference, and which stands vertically
as if raised by the hand of man. What increases
the appearance of art is a hollow in the ad-
jacent mass of rock, which its removal might
be thought to have left. In the evening we
encamped at the mouth of the Pijitic, a river as
large as that of Michipicoten, and which in
like manner takes its rise in the high lands

^leranticr i^cnrp

lying between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay.
From Michipicoten to the Pijitic the coast of
the lake is mountainous; the mountains are
covered with pine and the valleys with spruce-

It was by the river Pijitic ^^ that the French
ascended in 1750, when they plundered one
of the factories in Hudson Bay and carried off
the two small pieces of brass cannon which fell
again into the hands of the English at Michili-
mackinac.^^ On the river are a band of Wood
Indians, who are sometimes troublesome to
the traders passing.

On the twenty-first I left the Pijitic and
crossing a bay three leagues in breadth landed
on Pic Island. From Pic Island I coasted ten
leagues, and then encamped on an island
opposite the Pays Plat, or Flat Country, a
name borrowed from the Indians, and occa-
sioned by the shoal-water, which here extends
far into the lake, and by the flat and low lands

^2 According to Carver it was by the Michipicoten.
If he is correct, it must have been from Moose Fort, in
James Bay, and not from Fort Churchill, that they took
the cannon. — Author.

The raid by the French upon the Hudson's Bay
Company posts here alluded to actually took place in
1686, and the affair had long since become legendary
among the voyageurs of the Northwest. Henry is also
in error as to the route taken by the raiding party, which
was by the Ottawa, Lake Abitibi, Abitibi and Moose
rivers. — Editor.

^ The Pijatic is now known as White River. — Editor.

which he between the water and the mountain.

The Pays Plat is intersected by several large
rivers, and particularly the Nipigon, so called
after Lake Nipigon, of which it is the dis-
charge. By this river the French carried on a
considerable trade with the Northern Indians.
They had a fort or trading-house at its mouth,
and annually drew from it a hundred packs of
beaver of a quaUty more in esteem than that
from the Northwest. They had another trad-
ing-house at Caministiquia.^'* As we proceed
northwest along the lake the mountains re-
cede widely from the beach.

On the twenty-fourth I left the northern
shore and in four days reached the Grand
Portage.^^ The intervening islands consist

^* At the mouth of the Kaministiquia River, where
Fort William now stands. The latter fort was erected
by the North West Company in 1804. Here yearly
meetings of the factors of the Company were held, the
proceedings at which have been charmingly narrated
by Washington Irving in Astoria. — Editor.

^^ Grand Portage was at the beginning of the Piseon-
Rainy River route from Lake Superior to Lake Winni-
peg, a few miles south of the mouth of Pigeon River.
The place was well known during the French period, and
at the beginning of the British regime it became an
important center of fur-trade activities. Jonathan Car-
ver found many traders here in 1767. From about this
time until the establishment of Fort William in 1804
Grand Portage was the center of the fur trade of the far
Northwest. Its decay was owing to the discovery that
it lay south of the boundary between Canada and the
United States; since British traders were not permitted
to operate in the latter country, upon this discovery they

^lerantier l^cnrp

almost entirely of rock. The largest, called
He au Tonnerre, or Thunder Island, is said
by the Indians to be peculiarly subject to
thunder storms. At the Grand Portage I
found the traders in a state of extreme recip-
rocal hostility, each pursuing his interests in
ruch a manner as might most injure his neigh-
bor. The consequences were very hurtful to
the morals of the Indians.

The transportation of the goods at this
grand portage, or great carrying-place, was a
work of seven days of severe and dangerous
exertion, at the end of which we encamped on
the River aux Groseilles.'^® The Grand Portage
consists in two ridges of land, between which is
a deep glen or valley with good meadow lands,
and a broad stream of water. The lowlands
are covered chiefly with birch and poplar, and
the high with pine. I was now in what is
technically called the Northwest; that is, the
country northwest of Lake Superior. The
canoes here employed are smaller than those

were forced to seek headquarters and a trade route to the
West farther north. As a consequence the route by the
Kaministiquia River was opened, and Fort William
built at its outlet. — Editor.

^^ The same with what a recent traveler describes as
the "river du Tourt" (Tourtre) — Dove or Pigeon
River. — Author.

Modern Pigeon River was first named Groseilliers,
in honor of the first French explorer in this region. The
form of the name given in Henry's text is, of course, a
corruption of this name. — Editor.


which are used between Montreal and MichiH-
mackinac and in Lake Superior, being only
four fathoms and a half in length. It is the
duty of the head and stern men to carry the
canoe. I engaged two of these to winter with
me, at the wages of four hundred dollars each
and an equipment of the value, at the Grand
Portage, of one hundred more.

On the eighth we ascended the Groseilles to
the carrying-place called the Portage du Per-
drix, where the river falls down a precipice
of the height of a hundred feet. At the place
where, after passing the Grand Portage, we
first launched our canoes on the Groseilles the
stream is thirty yards wide. From this spot it
proceeds with numerous falls to Lake Superior,
which it enters about six leagues to the north-
ward of the Grand Portage.

Next day at the Portage aux Outardes we
left the Groseilles, and carrying our canoes and
merchandise for three miles over a mountain,
came at length to a small lake. This was the
beginning of a chain of lakes extending for
fifteen leagues and separated by carrying-
places of from half a mile to three miles in
length. At the end of this chain we reached the
heads of small streams which flow to the north-
westward. The region of the lakes is called the
Hauteur de Terre, or Land's Height. It is an
elevated tract of country, not inclining in any
direction, and diversified on its surface with
small hills. The wood is abundant but consists

^Icjranticr l^cnrp

principally in birch, pine, spruce, fir, and a
small quantity of maple.

By the twelfth we arrived where the streams
were large enough to float the canoes with their
lading, though the men walked in the water
pushing them along. Next day we found them
sufficiently navigable, though interrupted by
frequent falls and carrying-places. On the
twentieth we reached Lake Sagunac, or Sagi-
naga,^^ distant sixty leagues from the Grand
Portage. This was the hithermost post in the
northwest estabhshed by the French, and there
was formerly a large village of the Chipewa
here, now destroyed by the Nadowessies. I
found only three lodges filled with poor, dirty,
and almost naked inhabitants, of whom I
bought fish and wild rice,^^ which latter they
had in great abundance. When populous, this
village used to be troublesome to the traders,
obstructing their voyages and extorting liquor

*^ This lake lies much nearer Lake Superior than here
indicated. Apparently modern Lake Nequaquon, on
the boundary of St. Louis County, Minnesota, is the
point reached by Henry. — Editor.

^* Folk avoine, avenafatua, zizania aquatica. — Author.

The wild rice plant, here mentioned, was widely
distributed over the continent of North America, and
was an important article of sustenance for many tribes.
It is still widely used by the natives, and has even
become an article of civilized commerce, being handled
regularly by the jobbing houses of Chicago and other
cities. For an exhaustive study of the wild rice and its
use see Albert E. Jenks, "Wild Rice Gatherers of the
Upper Lakes," in Nineteenth Annual Report of Ameri-


Crabri^ anti ^tibcnturc^

and other articles.^^ Lake Sagunac is eight
leagues in length by four in breadth. The
lands, which are everywhere covered with
spruce, are hilly on the southwest but on the'
northeast more level. My men were by this
time almost exhausted with fatigue, but the
chief part of the labor was fortunately past.

We now entered Lake a la Pluie,'" which is
fifteen leagues long by five broad. Its banks
are covered with maple and birch. Our en-
campment was at the mouth of the lake, where
there is a fall of water of forty feet called the
Chute de la Chaudiere. The carrying-place is
two hundred yards in length. On the next
evening we encamped at Les Fourches, on the
River a la Pluie,^^ where there was a village of

can Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1902), 1013-
1137. — Editor.

29 In a memorial of 1 784 Benjamin and Joseph
Frobisher state that the first "adventurer" who went
west from Mackinac in 1 765 was " stopt and plundered "
by the Rainy Lake Indians. The second attempt was
made in 1767, when the traders, on leaving a portion of
their goods at Rainy Lake, were permitted to proceed
with the remainder. In 1769 the Frobishers entered the
country for the first time, and were themselves plun-
dered by the "still ungovernable and rapacious " natives
of Rainy Lake. From 1770 onward, however, the trad-
ers were more successful ; the reason for the cessation of
the hindrance to their trade is evidently suggested here
by Henry. — Editor.

'" Modern Rainy Lake. — Editor.

'' Modern Rainy River, on the boundary between
Canada and the United States. — Editor.


^IcjcanDcr l^cnrp

Chippewa of fifty lodges, of whom I bought
canoes. They insisted further on having goods
given to them on credit, as well as on receiving
some presents. The latter they regarded as an
established tribute, paid them on account of
the ability which they possessed to put a stop
to all trade with the interior. I gave them rum,
with which they became drunk and trouble-
some; and in the night I left them.

The River a la Pluie is forty leagues long, of
a gentle current, and broken only by one rapid.
Its banks are level to a great distance, and
composed of a fine soil, which was covered with
luxuriant grass. They were perfect solitudes,
not even a canoe presenting itself along my
whole navigation of the stream.^- I was greatly
struck with the beauty of the stream as well as
with its fitness for agricultural settlements,
in which provisions might be raised for the

On the thirtieth we reached the Lake of the
Woods, or Lake des lies, at the entrance of
which was an Indian village of a hundred souls,
where we obtained a further supply of fish.
Fish appeared to be the summer food.

From this village we received ceremonious
presents. The mode with the Indians is first

'^ The scarcity of animal life in this vicinity at this
season of the year has been remarked by many explor-
ers. Thus, Keating, in 1823, did not meet with a single
quadruped from Rainy Lake to Lake Superior, the only
animals seen being thirty or forty birds, chiefly ducks. —


€rabcl^ anU ^Dbcnture^

to collect all the provisions they can spare and
place them in a heap; after which they send for
the trader and address him in a formal speech.
They tell him that the Indians are happy in
seeing him .return to their country; that they
have been long in expectation of his arrival;
that their wives have deprived themselves of
their provisions in order to afiford him a sup-
ply; that they are in great want, being des-
titute of everything, and particularly of
ammunition and clothing, and that what they
most long for is a taste of his rum, which they
uniformly denominate milk.

The present in return consisted in one keg
of gunpowder of sixty pounds weight; a bag
of shot and another of powder of eighty pounds
each; a few smaller articles, and a keg of rum.
The last appeared to be the chief treasure,
though on the former depended the greater
part of their winter's subsistence.

In a short time the men began to drink,
while the women brought me a further and
very valuable present of twenty bags of rice.
This I returned with goods and rum, and at
the same time offered more for an additional
quantity of rice. A trade was opened, the
women bartering rice while the men were
drinking. Before morning I had purchased a
hundred bags of nearly a bushel measure each.
Without a large quantity of rice the voyage
could not have been prosecuted to its comple-
tion. The canoes, as I have already observed,


^lerantier I^cntp

are not large enough to carry provisions,
leaving merchandise wholly out of the ques-
tion. The rice grows in shoal water, and the
Indians gather it by shaking the ears into their

When morning arrived all the village was
inebriated; and the danger of misunderstand-
ing was increased by the facility with which
the women abandoned themselves to my
Canadians. In consequence I lost no time in
leaving the place.

On the first day of August we encamped on a
sandy island in the Lake of the Woods, where
we were visited by several canoes, of whom we
purchased wild rice. On the fourth we reached
the Portage du Rat.

The Lake of the Woods is thirty-six leagues
long. On the west side is an old French fort
or trading-house,^^ formerly frequented by
numerous bands of Chippewa, but these have
since been almost entirely destroyed by the
Nadowessies. When strong they were trouble-
some. On account of a particular instance of
pillage they have been called Pilleurs.^ The

" This was Fort St. Charles, built by the French in
1732. It stood on the north bank of the inlet of the
Northwest Angle, west of Famine (or Buckett) Island.
— Editor.

" In Warren's History of the Ojibways, Chapter XVI
is devoted to an account of the event by which this band
of the Chippewa won the designation of "Pillagers,"
and the affair is described as having taken place in 1 781.
Evidently the affair had become a matter of tribal


pelican is numerous on this lake. One which
we shot agreed entirely with the description of
M. de Buffon.

On the fifth we passed the Portage du Rat,'^
which is formed by a rock of about twenty
yards long. Here we met several canoes of
Indians, who all begged for rum; but they
were known to belong to the band of Pilleurs,
also called the rogues, and were on that account

From the Portage du Rat we descended the
great river Winipegon which is there from one
mile to two in breadth and at every league
grows broader. The channel is deep, but ob-
structed by many islands, of which some are
large. For several miles the stream is confined
between perpendicular rocks. The current is
strong and the navigation singularly difl&cult.
Within the space of fifteen leagues there are
seven falls of from fifty feet to a hundred in
height. At sixty leagues from our entrance of
the Winipegon we crossed a carrying-place
into the Pinawa,*^ below which the dangers
traditions for Henry's narrative discloses that the name
was in use at a somewhat earlier date. — Editor.

'* The name is said to have originated from the fact of
muskrats crossing here in large numbers. Rat Portage
is near the northern end of Lake of the Woods. Here
the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway crosses
from the town of Rat Portage to Keewatin on the oppo-
site side of the river. — Editor.

'* The Pinawa River is a branch of the Winnipeg
which was commonly followed by the traders as far as
Bonnet Lake, who avoided thereby seven dangerous

^Iqrantier i^enrp

of the Winipegon are still further increased.
The adjacent lands are mountainous and rocky,
but some of the high hills are well covered with
birch and maple.

The stream of the Pinawa is shallow and its
bed rocky and broken. The carrying-places
are eight in number. The mosquitoes were
here in such clouds as to prevent us from taking
aim at the ducks, of which we might else have
shot many.

On the thirteenth we encamped at the Carry-
ing-place of the Lost Child. Here is a chasm
in the rock, nowhere more than two yards in
breadth, but of great and immeasurable depth.
The Indians relate that many ages past a child
fell into this chasm, from the bottom of which
it is still heard at times to cry. In all the wet
lands wild rice grows plentifully.

The Pinawa is twenty leagues long, and dis-
charges itself into Lake du Bonnet ^^ at three
leagues to the north of the mouth of the Wini-
pegon, which falls into the same lake, or rather
forms it; for Lake du Bonnet is only a broad-
ened part of the channel of the Winipegon. The
lake is two leagues broad, and the river in its
course below continues broader than it is
above, with many islands and deep falls; the

portages in this portion of the Winnipeg, and saved, in
addition, several miles of travel. — Editor.

'^ Cap Lake, in some maps written Cat Lake. — Author.

Instead of twenty leagues, the Pinawa is but eighteen
miles long. — Editor.


€rabd^ anti ^tibenturc^

danger of the navigation, however, is lessened.

On the sixteenth we reached Lake Wini-
pegon, at the entrance of which is a large
village of Christinaux, a nation which I had
not previously seen. The name is variously
written; as, Cristinaux, Kinistineaux, Killis-
tinoes, and Killistinaux. Lake Winipegon is
sometimes called the Lake of the Killistinons,
or Cristinaux. The dress and other exterior
appearances of the Cristinaux are very dis-
tinguishable from those of the Chippewa and
the Wood Indians.

The men were almost entirely naked, and
their bodies painted with a red ocher, procured
in the mountains and often called vermilion.
Every man and boy had his bow strung and in
his hand, and his arrow ready to attack in case
of need. Their heads were shaved or the hair
plucked out all over except a spot on the crown
of the diameter of a dollar. On this spot the
hair grew long and was rolled and gathered
into a tuft; and the tuft, which is an object of
the greatest care, was covered with a piece of
skin. The ears were pierced and filled with the
bones of fish and of land animals. Such was
the costume of the young men; but among the
old, some let their hair grow on all parts of
their head without any seeming regard.

The women wear their hair of a great length
both behind and before, dividing it on the fore-
head and at the back of the head, and collecting
the hair of each side into a roll which is fastened


3l!c]cantier ©cnrp

above the ear; and this roll, like the tuft on the
heads of the men, is covered with a piece of
skin. The skin is painted or else ornamented
with beads of various colors. The rolls with
their coverings resembled a pair of large horns.
The ears of the women are pierced and de-
corated like those of the men.

Their clothing is of leather, or dressed skins
of the wild ox and the elk. The dress, falling
from the shoulders to below the knee, is of one
entire piece. Girls of an early age wear their
dresses shorter than those more advanced.
The same garment covers the shoulders and
the bosom, and is fastened by a strap which
passes over the shoulders; it is confined about
the waist by a girdle. The stockings are of
leather, made in the fashion of leggings. The
arms to the shoulders are left naked, or are
provided with sleeves, which are sometimes
put on and sometimes suffered to hang vacant
from the shoulders. The wrists are adorned
with bracelets of copper or brass, manufac-
tured from old kettles. In general, one person
is worth but one dress; and this is worn as long
as it will last or till a new one is made, and then
thrown away.

The women, like the men, paint their faces
with red ocher, and in addition usually tattoo
two lines reaching from the Up to the chin or
from the corners of the mouth to the ears.
They omit nothing to make themselves


Meanwhile, a favorite employment is that of

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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 14 of 20)