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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"Travels and Adventures in Canada and the
Indian Territories, between the years 1760 and
1776. In two parts. By ALEXANDER HENRY,

IN CONFORMITY to the act of the Con-
gress of the United States, entitled, "An act
for the encouragement of learning, by securing
the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the
authors and proprietors of such copies, during
the times therein mentioned"; and to an
act, entitled, "An act, supplementary to an act,
entitled, an act for the encouragement of
learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts
and books, to the authors and proprietors of
such copies, during the times therein mentioned,
and extending the benefits thereof to the arts
of designing, engraving and etching historical
and other prints."

Charles Clinton,
Clerk of the District of New York.


The Right Honourable


Knight - Companion

of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath;

one of His Majesty's

Most Honourable Privy Council;

President of the Royal Society, F. S. A.

&c. &c. &c.

with great deference,

is most respectfully dedicated.


his very devoted,

and very humble servant,


Montreal, October 20th, 1809.


A PREMATURE attempt to share in the
fur trade of Canada, directly on the con-
quest of the country, led the author of the
following pages into situations of some danger
and singularity; and the pursuit, under better
auspices, of the same branch of commerce,
occasioned him to visit various parts of the
Indian Territories.

These transactions occupied a period of
sixteen years, commencing nearly with the
author's setting out in life. The details, from
time to time committed to paper, form the sub-
ject matter of the present volume.

The heads, under which, for the most part,
they will be found to range themselves, are
three: first, the incidents or adventures in
which the author was engaged; secondly, the
observations, on the geography and natural
history of the countries visited, which he was
able to make, and to preserve; and, thirdly,
the views of society and manners, among a
part of the Indians of North America, which it
has belonged to the course of his narrative to

Upon the last, the author may be permitted
to remark, that he has by no means undertaken
to write the general history of the American

Indians, nor any theory of their morals, or
their merits. With but few exceptions, it has
been the entire scope of his design, simply to
relate those particular facts, which are either
identified with his own fortunes, or with the
truth of which he is otherwise personally con-
versant. All comment, therefore, in almost all
instances, is studiously avoided.

Montreal, October 20th, iSog.

Adventures in Michigan, 1760-64

chapter i


IN the year 1760, when the British arms
under General Amherst were employed in
the reduction of Canada, I accompanied
the expedition which subsequently to the sur-
render of Quebec ^ descended from Oswego on
Lake Ontario against Fort de Levi, one of the
upper posts situate on an island which lies on
the south side of the great river St. Lawrence,
at a short distance below the mouth of
the Oswegatchie.2 Fort de Levi surrendered
on the twenty-first day of August, seven
days after the commencement of the siege;
and General Amherst continued his voyage

1 Quebec surrendered on the eighteenth of September,
1759. — Author.

2 Following the capture of Quebec by General Wolfe,
the French forces still remaining in the field retired upon
Montreal. To complete the conquest of Canada, the
British directed, in the summer of 1760, three simul-
taneous converging expeditions against Montreal.
The most formidable of these, led by Amherst, the
commander-in-chief, proceeded from Lake Ontario
down the St. Lawrence River — an army of about
11,000 men embarked in 800 bateaux and whale-boats.
Fort Levis, near modern Ogdensburgh, N.Y., built by
the French in 1759 to guard the western entrance to
the St. Lawrence, and garrisoned by 300 men, was
taken on August 25 after a brief siege. — Editor.

^Icrandcr l^cnrp

down the stream, carrying his forces against

It happened that in this voyage one of the
few fatal accidents which are remembered to
have occurred in that dangerous part of the
river below Lake St. Fran^ais, called the
Rapides des Cadres, befell the British army.
Several boats loaded with provisions and
military stores were lost, together with up-
ward of a hundred men. I had three boats
loaded with merchandise, all of which were
lost; and I saved my hfe only by gaining the
bottom of one of my boats, which lay among
the rocky shelves, and on which I continued
for some hours, and until I was kindly taken
off by one of the General's aides-de-camp.

The surrender of Montreal,^ and with it the
surrender of all Canada, followed that of Fort
de Levi at only the short interval of three
days, and proposing to avail myself of the new
market which was thus thrown open to British
adventure I hastened to Albany, where my
commercial connections were, and where I
procured a quantity of goods with which I set
out, intending to carry them to Montreal.
For this, however, the winter was too near ap-
proached; I was able only to return to Fort
deLevi (to which the conquerors had now given
the name of Fort William Augustus) and where
I remained until the month of January in the
following year.

^ Montreal surrendered September 8, 1760. — Editor.

At this time, having disposed of my goods
to the garrison and the season for travehng
on the snow and ice being set in, I prepared to
go down to Montreal. The journey was to be
performed through a country inhabited only by
Indians and by beasts of the forest, and which
presented to the eye no other change than
from thick woods to the broad surface of a
frozen river. It was necessary that I should
be accompanied as well by an interpreter as by
a guide, to both of which ends I engaged the
services of a Canadian, named Jean Baptiste

The snow which lay upon the ground was by
this time three feet in depth. The hour of de-
parture arriving, I left the fort on snowshoes,
an article of equipment which I had never used
before, and which I found it not a little dif-
ficult to manage. I did not avoid frequent
falls; and when down I was scarcely able to

At sunset on the first day we reached an
Indian encampment of six lodges and about
twenty men. As these people had been very
recently employed offensively against the
English, in the French service, I agreed but
reluctantly to the proposal of my guide and
interpreter, which was nothing less than that
we should pass the night with them. My fears
were somewhat lulled by his information that
he was personally acquainted with those who
composed the camp, and by his assurances

^leranticr Jpenrp

that no danger was to be apprehended; and
being greatly fatigued, I entered one of the
lodges, where I presently fell asleep.

Unfortunately Bodoine had brought upon
his back a small keg of rum, which, while I
slept, he opened, not only for himself but for
the general gratification of his friends; a cir-
cumstance of which I was first made aware in
being awakened by a kick on the breast from
the foot of one of my hosts, and by a yell or
Indian cry which immediately succeeded. At
the instant of opening my eyes I saw that
my assailant was struggling with one of his
companions, who, in conjunction with several
women, was endeavoring to restrain his
ferocity. Perceiving, however, in the coun-
tenance of my enemy the most determined mis-
chief, I sprung upon my feet, receiving in so
doing a wound in my hand from a knife which
had been raised to give a more serious wound.
While the rest of my guardians continued their
charitable efforts for my protection, an old
woman took hold of my arm, and making signs
that I should accompany her, led me out of the
lodge, and then gave me to understand that
unless I fled or could conceal myself I should
certainly be killed.

My guide was absent, and without his direc-
tion I was at a loss where to go. In all the sur-
rounding lodges there was the same howUng
and violence as in that from which I had es-
caped. I was without my snowshoes, and had

Crabcl^ anti ^Dbcnture^

only so much clothing as I had fortunately left
upon me when I lay down to sleep. It was now
one o'clock in the morning in the month of
January, and in a cHmate of extreme rigor.

I was unable to address a single word in her
own language to the old woman who had thus
befriended me; but on repeating the name of
Bodoine, I soon found that she comprehended
my meaning; and having first pointed to a
large tree, behind which she made signs that
imtil she could find my guide I should hide
myself, she left me on this important errand.
Meanwhile, I made my way to the tree and
seated myself in the snow. From my retreat
I beheld several Indians running from one
lodge to another, as if to quell the disturbance
which prevailed.

The coldness of the atmosphere congealed
the blood about my wound and prevented fur-
ther bleeding; and the anxious state of my
mind rendered me almost insensible to bodily
sufifering. At the end of half an hour I heard
myself called by Bodoine, whom, on going to
him, I found as much intoxicated and as much
a savage as the Indians themselves; but he was,
nevertheless, able to fetch my snowshoes from
the lodge in which I had left them, and to
point out to me a beaten path, which presently
entered a deep wood, and which he told me I
must follow.

After walking about three miles I heard, at
length, the footsteps of my guide, who had now

^lexanlicr i^rnrp

overtaken me. I thought it most prudent to
abstain from all reproof; and we proceeded on
our march till sunrise, when we arrived at
a solitary Indian hunting-lodge, built with
branches of trees, and of which the only in-
habitants were an Indian and his wife. Here
the warmth of a large fire reconciled me to a
second experiment on Indian hospitality. The
result was very different from that of the one
which had preceded it; for after relieving my
thirst with melted snow and my hunger with a
plentiful meal of venison, of which there was a
great quantity in the lodge, and which was
liberally set before me, I resumed my journey,
full of sentiments of gratitude, such as almost
obliterated the recollection of what had be-
fallen me among the friends of my benefactors.

From the hunting lodge I followed my guide
till evening, when we encamped on the banks
of the St. Lawrence, making a fire and supping
on the meat with which our wallets had been
filled in the morning.

While I indulged myself in rest my guide
visited the shore, where he discovered a bark
canoe which had been left there in the be-
ginning of the winter by some Indian way-
farers. We were now at the head of the Longue
Sault, one of those portions of the river in
which it passes over a shallow, inclining, and
rocky bed, and where its motion consequently
prevents it from freezing, even in the coldest
part of the year; and my guide, as soon as he

€raijrij0i anU 9lDbenturej^

had made his discovery, recommended that
we should go by water down the rapids, as
the means of saving time, of shortening our
journey, and of avoiding a numerous body
of Indians then hunting on the banks below.
The last of these arguments was with me so
powerful that though a bark canoe was a
vehicle to which I was altogether a stranger,
though this was a very small one of only six-
teen or eighteen feet in length * and much out
of repair, and though the misfortune which I
had experienced in the navigation of these
rocky parts of the St. Lawrence when de-
scending with the army naturally presented
itself to my mind as a still further discourage-
ment, yet I was not long in resolving to under-
take the voyage.

Accordingly, after stopping the leaks as
completely as we were able we embarked and
proceeded. My fears were not lessened by per-
ceiving that the least unskilful motion was
sufficient to overset the ticklish craft into
which I had ventured; by the reflection that a
shock comparatively gentle from a mass of
rock or ice was more than its frail material
could sustain; nor by observing that the ice,
which Hned the shores of the river, was too
strong to be pushed through and at the same
time too weak to be walked upon, so that in
the event of disaster it would be almost im-
possible to reach the land. In fact, we had not

* There are still smaller. — Author.

^Icrantier ipcnrp

proceeded more than a mile when our canoe
became full of water, and it was not till after a
long search that we found a place of safety.

Treading once more upon dry ground, I
should willingly have faced the wilderness and
all its Indians rather than embark again; but
my guide informed me that I was upon an
island, and I had therefore no choice before
me. We stopped the leaks a second time and
recommenced our voyage, which we performed
with success, but sitting all the way in six
inches of water. In this manner we arrived
at the foot of the rapids, where the river was
frozen all across. Here we disembarked upon
the ice, walked to the bank, made a fire, and
encamped; for such is the phrase employed in
the woods of Canada.

At daybreak the next morning we put on our
snowshoes and commenced our journey over
the ice; and at ten o'clock arrived in sight of
Lake St. Frangais, which is from four to six
miles in breadth. The wind was high and the
snow, drifting over the expanse, prevented us
at times from discovering the land, and con-
sequently (for compass we had none) from
pursuing with certainty our course.

Toward noon the storm became so violent
that we directed our steps to the shore on the
north side by the shortest route we could; and
making a fire, dined on the remains of the
Indian hunter's bounty. At two o'clock in the'
afternoon, when the wind had subsided and

the atmosphere grown more clear, I discerned
a cariole, or sledge, moving our way, and im-
mediately sent my guide to the driver with a
request that he would come to my encamp-
ment. On his arrival I agreed with him to
carry me to Les Cedres, a distance of eight
leagues, for a reward of eight dollars. The
driver was a Canadian who had been to the
Indian village of St. Regis, and was now on his
return to Les Cedres, then the uppermost
white settlement on the St. Lawrence.

Late in the evening I reached Les Cedres,
and was carried to the house of M. Leduc, its
seignior, by whom I was politely and hospi-
tably received. M. Leduc being disposed to
converse with me, it became a subject of re-
gret that neither party understood the lan-
guage of the other; but an interpreter was
fortunately found in the person of a serjeant
of His Majesty's Eighteenth Regiment of

I now learned that M. Leduc in the earlier
part of his life had been engaged in the fur
trade with the Indians of Michilimackinac and
Lake Superior. He informed me of his ac-
quaintance with the Indian languages and his
knowledge of furs, and gave me to understand
that Michilimackinac was richer in this com-
modity than any other part of the world. He
added that the Indians were a peaceable race
of men, and that an European might travel
from one side of the continent to the other

^leranDcr l^cnrp

without experiencing insult. Further, he men-
tioned that a guide who Hved at no great dis-
tance from his house could confirm the truth
of all that he had advanced.

I, who had previously thought of visiting
Michilimackinac with a view to the Indian
trade, gave the strictest attention to all that
fell on this subject from my host; and in order
to possess myself as far as possible of all that
might be collected in addition, I requested that
the guide should be sent for. This man arrived,
and a short conversation terminated in my
engaging him to conduct myself, and the
canoes which I was to procure, to Michili-
mackinac in the month of June following.

There being at this time no goods in Mont-
real adapted to the Indian trade, my next
business was to proceed to Albany to make my
purchases there. This I did in the beginning
of the month of May, by the way of Lake
Champlain; and on the fifteenth of June ar-
rived again in IMontreal, bringing with me my
outfits. As I was altogether a stranger to the
commerce in which I was engaging, I confided
in the recommendations given me of one Eti-
enne Campion,^ as my assistant; a part which

* Etienne Campion, a native of Montreal, was for
several decades a prominent trader in the western
country. During the Revolution he was an active
British partisan in the Northwest. When, in Decem-
ber, 1780, the little raiding party of Cahokians fell
upon St. Joseph, Michigan, and plundered the traders
there, Campion led the party of pursuers that was

he uniformly fulfilled with honesty and fidelity.
His Excellency, General Gage, who now
commanded in chief in Canada, very reluc-
tantly granted me the permission at this time
requisite for going to Michilimackinac. No
treaty of peace had yet been made between
the English and the Indians, which latter were
in arms under Pontiac, an Indian leader of
more than common celebrity, and General
Gage was therefore strongly and (as it became
manifest) but too justly apprehensive that
both the property and hves of His Majesty's
subjects would be very insecure in the Indian
countries. But he had already granted such
permission to a Mr. Bostwick,^ and this I was
able to employ as an argument against his
refusal in respect to myself. General Gage
complied, and on the third day of August,

hastily formed and in the battle which ensued, Decem-
ber 5, 1780, somewhere in the vicinity of South Chicago,
all but three of the raiders were killed or captured.
Capipion's name appears in numerous Mackinac doc-
uments coming down to the year 1 794. — Editor.

* This was Henry Bostwick, the first English trader
to go to Mackinac after the surrender of Montreal.
Although in August, 1 761, he is reported as being at
Detroit (Diary of Sir William Johnson), he seems to
have made Mackinac his permanent headquarters.
He was captured here by the Chippewa, in June, 1763,
and carried by the Ottawa to Montreal for ransom.
Various documents show his residence at Mackinac in
the following years; among others, he was a signer in
1 781 of the treaty whereby Governor Patrick Sinclair
purchased Mackinac Island from the natives. — Editor.


Sllcranticr l^cnrp

1 761, after some further delay in obtaining a
passport from the town-major, I dispatched
my canoes to Lachine, there to take in their



THE inland navigation from Montreal
to Michilimackinac may be performed
either by the way of Lakes Ontario and
Erie, or by the river Des Outaouais, Lake
Nipisingue, and the river Des Fran^ais/ for
as well by one as the other of these routes
we are carried to Lake Huron. The second is
the shortest and that which is usually pursued
by the canoes employed in the Indian trade.

The canoes which I provided for my under-
taking were, as is usual, five fathoms and a half
in length and four feet and a half in their ex-
treme breadth, and formed of birch-tree bark
a quarter of an inch in thickness. The bark
is lined with small splints of cedar- wood; and
the vessel is further strengthened with ribs
of the same wood, of which the two ends are
fastened to the gunwales; several bars, rather
than seats, are also laid across the canoe, from
gunwale to gunwale. The small roots of the
spruce tree afford the wattap, with which
the bark is sewed; and the gum of the pine
tree supplies the place of tar and oakum.
Bark, some spare wattap, and gum are always

^ The Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing and French
River. — Editor.


9llcrantier l^enrp

carried in each canoe for the repairs which
frequently become necessary.

The canoes are worked, not with oars but
with paddles, and occasionally with a sail.
To each canoe there are eight men; and to
every three or four canoes, which constitute a
brigade, there is a guide or conductor. Skilful
men, at double the wages of the rest, are placed
in the head and stern. They engage to go
from Montreal to Michilimackinac and back
to Montreal again, the middle-men at one
hundred and fifty livres and the end-men at
three hundred livres each.* The guide has the
command of his brigade and is answerable for
all pillage and loss; and in return every man's
wages is answerable to him. This regulation
was established under the French government.

The freight of a canoe of the substance and
dimensions which I have detailed consists in
sixty pieces, or packages of merchandise, of
the weight of from ninety to a hundred pounds
each, and provisions to the amount of one
thousand weight. To this ig to be added the
weight of eight men and of eight bags weighing
forty pounds each, one of which every man is
privileged to put on board. The whole weight
must therefore exceed eight thousand pounds,
or may perhaps be averaged at four tons.

The nature of the navigation which is to be

' These particulars may be compared with those of a
more modern date, given in the Voyages of Sir Alex-
ander Mackenzie. — Author.



described will suf&ciently explain why the
canoe is the only vessel which can be em-
ployed along its course. The necessity, indeed,
becomes apparent at the very instant of our
departure from Montreal itself.

The St. Lawrence for several miles immedi-
ately above Montreal descends with a rapid
current over a shallow, rocky bed; insomuch
that even canoes themselves, when loaded,
cannot resist the stream, and are therefore
sent empty to Lachine, where they meet the
merchandise which they are to carry, and
which is transported thither by land.^ La-
chine is about nine miles higher up the river
than Montreal, and is at the head of the
Sault de St. Louis, which is the highest of
the saults, falls, or leaps in this part of the
St. Lawrence.

On the third of August I sent my canoes to
Lachine, and on the following morning em-
barked with them for Michilimackinac. The
river is here so broad as to be denominated a
lake, by the title of Lake St. Louis; the pros-
pect is wide and cheerful; and the village has
several well-built houses.

In a short time we reached the rapids and
carrying-place of St. Anne, two miles below

^ La Chine, or China, has always been the point of
departure for the upper countries. It owes its name to
the expeditions of M. de la Salle which were fitted out
at this place for the discovery of a northwest passage
to China. — Author.


^iejcantjcr l^cnrp

the upper end of the island of Montreal; and it
is not till after passing these that the voyage
may be properly said to be commenced. At
St. Anne's the men go to confession, and at
the same time offer up their vows; for the
saint from whom this parish derives its name
and to whom its church is dedicated, is the
patroness of the Canadians in all their travels
by water.^"

There is still a further custom to be observed
on arriving at St. Anne's, and which is that
of distributing eight gallons of rum to each
canoe (a gallon for each man) for consumption
during the voyage; nor is it less according to
custom to drink the whole of this liquor upon
the spot. The saint, therefore, and the priest
were no sooner dismissed than a scene of intox-
ication began in which my men surpassed, if
possible, the drunken Indian in singing, fight-
ing, and the display of savage gesture and con-
ceit. In the morning we reloaded the canoes

" Peter Pond, a Connecticut Yankee who went out
to the western countr>' as a trader in 1 773, thus quaintly
describes this aspect of the journey: "As you Pass
the End of the Island of Montreal to Go in a Small
Lake Cald the Lake of the [Two] Mountains thare
stans a Small Roman Church Aganst a Small Raped.
This Church is Dedacated to St. Ann who Protects all
Voigers. Heare is a small Box with a Hole in the top
for ye Reseption of a Little Money lor the Hole Father
or to say a small Mass for those Who Put a small Sum
in the Bo.x. Scars a Voiger but stops hear and Puts in
his mite and By that Meanes thay Suppose thay are
Protected."— PFw. Hisl. Colls., XVIII, 326.— Editor.


€rabcli0f and ^Hbrnture^

and pursued our course across the Lake des
Deux Montagnes.

This lake, like that of St. Louis, is only a
part of the estuary of the Outaouais, which

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