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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here unites itself with the St. Lawrence, or
rather, according to some, the Cataraqui;
for, with these, the St. Lawrence is formed
by the confluence of the Cataraqui and Out-

At noon we reached the Indian Mission of
the Seminary of St. Sulpice, situate on the
north bank of the lake, with its two villages,
Algonquin and Iroquois, in each of which was
reckoned an hundred souls. Here we received
a hospitable reception and remained during
two hours. I was informed by one of the mis-
sionaries that since the conquest of the country
the unrestrained introduction of spirituous Hq-
uors at this place, which had not been allowed
under the former government, had occasioned
many outrages.

At two o'clock in the afternoon we prose-
cuted our voyage; and at sunset disembarked
and encamped at the foot of the Longue Sault.
There is a Longue Sault both on this river and
on the St. Lawrence.

At ten leagues above the island of Montreal
I passed the limits of the cultivated lands on
the north bank of the Outaouais. On the

" This is the Uiawas of some writers, the Ollaway of
others, etc., etc., etc. It is also called the Grand River
— la Grande Rividre. — Author.


^kjcauticr l^enrp

south, the farms are very few in number, but
the soil has every appearance of fertility.^

In ascending the Longue Sault, a distance of
three miles, my canoes were three times unladen,
and together with their freight carried on the
shoulders of the voyageurs. The rocky carry-
ing-places are not crossed without danger of
serious accidents by men bearing heavy burdens.

The Longue Sault being passed, the Outa-
ouais presented on either side only scenes of
primitive forest, the common range of the
deer, the wolf, the bear, and the Indian. The
current is here gentle. The lands upon the
south are low, and when I passed them were
overflowed; but on the northern side the banks
are dry and elevated, with much meadow^ land
at their feet. The grass in some places was
high. Several islands are in this part of the
river. Among the fish, of which there are
abundance, are catfish of a large size.

At fourteen leagues above the Longue
Sault we reached a French fort, or trading
house, surrounded by a stockade. Attached
was a small garden from which we procured
some vegetables. The house had no inhabitant.
At three leagues farther is the mouth of the
Hare River, which descends from the north,
and here we passed another trading house.
At a few leagues still higher on the south bank
is the mouth of a river four hundred yards

'2 Numerous and thriving colonists are now enjoying
that fertility — 1809. — Author.

wide, and which falls into the Outaouais per-
pendicularly from the edge of a rock forty feet
high. The appearance of this fall has procured
for it the name of the rideau, or curtain; and
hence the river itself is called the Rideau, or
Riviere du Rideau. The fall presented itself to
my view with extraordinary beauty and mag-
nificence, and decorated with a variety of colors.
Still ascending the Outaouais, at three
leagues from the fall of the Rideau is that of
La Grande Chaudiere,^^ a phenomenon of a
different aspect. Here, on the north side of the
river, is a deep chasm running across the chan-
nel for about two hundred yards, from twenty-
five to thirty feet in depth and without appar-
ent outlet. In this receptacle a large portion
of the river falls perpendicularly with a loud
noise, and amid a cloud of spray and vapor,
but embelhshed from time to time with the
bright and gorgeous rainbow. The river at
this place is a mile in width. In the rainy
season the depth of the fall is lessened by reason '
of the large quantity of water which is received
into the chasm, and which for want, as it
would seem, of a sufficient drain, in part, fills
it up. At such times an eddy and an accumu-
lation of foam at a particular chasm have led
me to suspect the existence of an opening be-
neath through which the water finds a sub-
terranean passage. The rock which forms the

1' La Grande Chaudiere, i. e. the Great Kettle. —

^Icrantier i^cnrp

bed of the river appears to be split in an ob-
lique direction from one shore to the other;
and the chasm on the north side is only a more
perfect breach.

The fall of La Grande Chaudiere is more
than twenty leagues above the Longue Sault.
Its name is justified both by its form and by
the vapor, or steam, which ascends from it.
Above it there are several islands, of which the
land is higher at the upper than at the lower
extremities. The carrying-place is not more
than a quarter of a mile in length, over a
smooth rock, and so near the fall that the men
in passing are wetted by the spray. From
this carrying-place to another of rather more
length, called the Portage de la Chaudiere and
sometimes the Second Chaudiere, is only three

In this part of the voyage I narrowly escaped
a fatal accident. A thunder-gust having
obliged us to make the shore, the men went
into the woods for shelter while I remained in
my canoe under a covering of bark. The canoe
had been intended to be sufficiently drawn
aground; but to my consternation it was not
long before, while thus left alone, I perceived
it to be adrift and going with the current to-
ward La Grande Chaudiere. Happily I made
a timely discovery of my situation, and getting
out in shallow water was enabled by the
assistance of the men, who soon heard my
call, to save my property along with my life.

At twelve miles from the second Portage de
la Chaudiere there is a third Chaudiere, but
also called the Portage des Chenes. The
name of this carrying-place is derived from the
oak trees with which it abounds. It is half a
mile in length, level, and of an agreeable

The bed of the river is here very broad for a
space of twelve leagues, or thirty-six miles;
and in this part of its course it is called Lake
des Chaudieres, a name derived from the falls
below. The current in this place is scarcely
perceptible. The lands on either side are high
and the soil is good. At the head of Lake des
Chaudieres is the Portage des Chats. The
carrying-place is a high, uneven rock of diffi-
cult access. The ridge of rock crosses the
stream and occasions not only one but nu-
merous falls, separated from each other by
islands and affording a scene of very pleasing
appearance. At the distance of a mile seven
openings present themselves to the eye along a
line of two miles, which at this point is the
breadth of the river. At each opening is a fall
of water of about thirty feet in height, and
which from the whiteness of its foam might be
mistaken for a snowbank. Above, for six
miles there are many islands, between which
the current is strong. To overcome the diffi-
culties of this paf t of the navigation the canoes
first carry one-half of their loading, and at a
second trip the remainder.


^kjrantici: i^cnrp

Above the islands the river is six miles in
width, and is called Lake des Chats. The lake,
so called, is thirty miles long. The lands
about the lake are like those of Lake des
Chaudieres; but higher up they are both high
and rocky, and covered with no other wood
than spruce and stunted pine.

While paddhng against the gentle current of
Lake des Chats we met several canoes of
Indians returning from their winter's hunt to
their village at the Lake des Deux Monta-
gnes. I purchased some of their maple sugar
and beaver skins in exchange for provisions.
They wished for rum, which I declined to sell
them; but they behaved civilly, and we parted
as we had met, in a friendly manner. Before
they left us they inquired of my men whether
or not I was an EngUshman, and being told
that I was, they observed that the English
were mad in their pursuit of beaver, since they
could thus expose their lives for it; "for," add-
ed they, " the Upper Indians will certainly kill
him," meaning myself. These Indians had
left their village before the surrender of Mon-
treal and I was the first Englishman they had

In conversation with my men I learned that
the Algonquins of the Lake des Deux Mon-
tagnes, of which description were the party
that I had now met, claim all the lands on the
Outaouais as far as Lake Nipisingue; and that
these lands are subdivided between their


several families upon whom they have de-
volved by inheritance. I was also informed
that they are exceedingly strict as to the rights
of property in this regard, accounting an in-
vasion of them an offense sufficiently great to
warrant the death of the invader.

We now reached the channels of the Grand
Calumet, which lie amid numerous islands,
and are about twenty miles in length. In
this distance there are four carrying-places,^*
besides three or four decharges,^^ or discharges,
which are places where the merchandise only
is carried, and are therefore distinguishable
from portages, or carrying-places where the
canoe itself is taken out of the water and trans-
ported on men 's shoulders. The four carrying-
places included in the channels are short, with
the exception of one, called the Portage de la
Montagne, at which, besides its length, there
is an acclivity of a hundred feet.

On the tenth of July ^^ we reached the Port-
age du Grand Calumet, which is at the head of
the channels of the same name, and which
name is derived from the pierre a Calumet,"
or pipe-stone, which here interrupts the river,

" Portage Dufort, etc. — Author.

1^ Decharge des Sables, etc. — Author.

'^ The month was now August. — Editor.

" The pierre a Calumet is a compact limestone,
yielding easily to the knife, and therefore employed for
the bowls of tobacco pipes, both by the Indians and
Canadians. — Author.

25 .

^lejcautiet ^enrp

occasioning a fall of water. This carrying-place
is long and arduous, consisting in a high steep
hill, over which the canoe cannot be carried
by fewer than twelve men. The method of
carrying the packages, or pieces, as they are
called, is the same with that of the Indian
women, and which indeed is not pecuHar even
to them. One piece rests and hangs upon the
shoulders, being suspended in a fillet, or fore-
head-band; and upon this is laid a second,
which usually falls into the hollow of the neck,
and assists the head in its support of the

The ascent of this carrying-place is not more
fatiguing than the descent is dangerous; and
in performing it accidents too often occur,
producing strains, ruptures, and injuries for

The carrying-place and the repairs of our
canoes, which cost us a day, detained us till the
thirteenth. It is usual for the canoes to leave
the Grand Calumet in good repair; the rapids,
or shallow rocky parts of the channel (from
which the canoes sustain the chief injury)
being now passed, the current becomes gentle,
and the carrying-places less frequent. The
lands above the carrying-places and near the
water are low, and in the spring entirely

" A charitable fund is now established in Montreal
for the relief of disabled and decayed voyageurs. —


On the morning of the fourteenth we reached
a trading fort, or house, surrounded by a stock-
ade, which had been built by the French, and
at which the quantity of peltries received was
once not inconsiderable. For twenty miles
below this house the borders of the river are
peculiarly well adapted to cultivation. From
some Indians who were encamped near the
house I purchased fish, dried and fresh.

At the rapids called Des Allumettes are
two short carrying-places, above which is the
Riviere Creuse,^^ twenty-six miles in length,
where the water flows with a gentle current
at the foot of a high, mountainous, barren and
rocky country on the north, and has a low and
sandy soil on the south. On this southern side
is a remarkable point of sand, stretching far
into the stream, and on which it is customary
to baptize novices. Above the River Creuse
are the two carrying-places of the length of
half a mile each, called the Portages des Deux
Joachins; and at fifteen miles farther, at the
mouth of the River Du Moine is another fort,
or trading-house, where I found a small
encampment of Indians called Maskegons, and
with whom I bartered several articles for furs.
They anxiously inquired whether or not the
English were in possession of the country
below, and whether or not, if they were, they
would allow traders to come to that trading-
house; declaring that their families must starve

" Called by the English Deep River. — Author.

^lexanticr J^enrp

unless they should be able to procure ammuni-
tion and other necessaries. I answered both
these questions in the affirmative, at which
they expressed much satisfaction. Above the
Moine are several strong and dangerous rapids,
reaching to the Portage du Roche Capitaine, a
carrying-place of three-quarters of a mile in
length, mountainous, rocky, and wooded only
with stunted pine trees and spruce. Above
this is the Portage des Deux Rivieres, so
called from the two small rivers by which it is
intersected; and higher still are many rapids
and shoals, called by the Indians matawa}^
Here the river, called by the French Petite
Riviere, and by the Indians Matawa Sipi,^^ falls
into the Outaouais. We now left the latter
of these rivers and proceeded to ascend the

^''Mataouan (Matawan); Charlevoix; Matawoen. —
Mackenzie 's Voyages. — Author.
21 Modern Matawan River. — Editor.


Cl^apter 3


OUR course in ascending the Outaouais
had been west-northwest; but on enter-
ing the Matawa our faces were turned
to the southwest. This latter river is com-
puted to be fourteen leagues in length. In the
widest parts it is a hundred yards broad, and
in others not more than fifty. In ascending
it there are fourteen carrying-places and dis-
charges, of which some are extremely difficult.
Its banks are almost two continuous rocks,
with scarcely earth enough for the burial of a
dead body. I saw Indian graves, if graves
they might be called, where the corpse was
laid upon the bare rock and covered with
stones. In the side of a hill on the north
side of the river there is a curious cave con-
cerning which marvelous tales are related
by the voyageurs. Mosquitoes and a minute
species of black fly abound on this river,
the latter of which are still more trouble-
some than the former. To obtain a respite
from their vexations we were obliged at the
carrying-places -to make fires and stand in
the smoke.

On the twenty-sixth of August we reached
the Portages a la Vase, three in number, and


aicraiiDcr l^mrp

each two miles in length. Their name^^ ^jg.
scribes the boggy ground of which they consist.
In passing one of them we saw many beaver
houses and dams; and by breaking one of the
dams we let ofif water enough to float our
canoes down a small stream which would not
otherwise have been navigable. These car-
r>'ing-places and the intermediate navigation
brought us at length to the head of a small
river which falls into Lake Nipisingue. We
had now passed the countr>^ of which the
streams fall northeastward into the Outaouais,
and entered that from which they flow in a
contrary direction toward Lake Huron. On
one side of the height of land, which is the
reciprocal boundary of these regions, we had
left Lake aux Tourtres and the River Matawa;
and before us on the other was Lake Nipi-
singue. The banks of the little river by which
we descended into the lake, and more especially
as we approached the lake, were of an exceed-
ingly delightful appearance, covered with high
grass and affording an extensive prospect.
Both the lake and river abound in black bass,
sturgeon, pike, and other fish. Among the pike
is to be included the species called by the
Indians masquinongeP In two hours with the

^ Vase is the French equivalent of mud or slime. —

'^ Known to sportsmen of the present day as the
Muskellunge. — Editor.


Crabcl^ aiiti ^Dbcnturc^

assistance of an Indian we took as much fish
as all the party could eat.

Lake Nipisingue is distant two hundred
leagues from Montreal. Its circumference is
said to measure one hundred and fifty miles,
and its depth is sufficient for vessels of any
burden. On our voyage along its eastern banks
we met some canoes of Indians, who said they
lived on the northwestern side. My men in-
formed me that they were Nipisingues, a
name which they derive from the lake. Their
language is a dialect of the Algonquin ; and by
nation they are a mixture of Chippewa and
Maskegons. They had a large quantity of furs,
part of which I purchased. The animals which
the country affords them are the beaver,
marten, bear and o'tic, a'tic, or caribou, a
species of deer, by some called the reindeer.
They wished for rum, but I avoided selling or
giving them any.

Leaving the Indians, we proceeded to the
mouth of the lake at which is the carrying-
place of La Chaudiere Frangaise,^'* a name
part of which it has obtained from the holes
in the rock over which we passed; and which
holes, being of the kind which is known to
be formed by water with the assistance of
pebbles, demonstrate that it has not always
been dry as at present it is, but the phenom-
enon is not peculiar to this spot, the same
being observable at almost every carrying-

" Or, la Chaudiere des Francois. — Author.

9llcjt:anticr l^cnrp

place on the Outaouais. At the height of a
hundred feet above the river I commonly
found pebbles worn into a round form Hke
those upon the beach below. Everywhere the
water appears to have subsided from its
ancient levels; and imagination may anticipate
an era at which even the banks of Newfound-
land will be left bare.

The southern shores of Lake Nipisingue are
rocky, and only thinly covered with pine trees
and spruce, both, as in several instances al-
ready mentioned, of a small stature. The
carrying-place of La Chaudiere Franjaise is
at the head of the River des Frangais, and
where the water first descends from the level
of Lake Nipisingue toward that of Lake Huron.
This it does not reach till it has passed down
many rapids, full of danger to the canoes and
the men, after which it enters Lake Huron by
several arms, flowing through each as through
mill-race. The River des Franyais^" is twenty
leagues in length and has many islands in its
channel. Its banks are uniformly of rock.
Among the carrying-places at which we suc-
cessively arrived are the Portage des Pins, or
du Pin: de la Grande Faucille;-^ de la Petite
Faucille; and du Sault du Recolet.'^ Near the

^* Modern French River. — Editor.
-^ Faucille, Fr. a sickle. — Author.

2' So called, perhaps, on account of the resemblance
of this Sault to that of the Sault du Recolet, between


CrabdjGf and ^Ubenturc^

mouth of the river a meadow, called La Prairie
des Fran^ais, varies for a short space the rocky
surface which so generally prevails; and on
this spot we encamped and repaired our canoes.
The carrying-places were now all passed, and
what remained was to cross the billows of
Lake Huron, which lay stretched across our
horizon like an ocean.

On the thirty-first day of August we entered
the lake, the waves running high from the
south, and breaking over numerous rocks. At
first I thought the prospect alarming; but the
canoes rode on the water with the ease of a
sea-bird, and my apprehensions ceased. We
passed Point aux Grondines, so called from the
perpetual noise of the water among the rocks.
Many of these rocks are sunken and not with-
out danger when the wind, as at this time it
was, is from the south.

We coasted along many small islands, or
rather rocks, of more or less extent, either
wholly bare or very scantily covered with
scrub pine trees. All the land to the northward
is of the same description as high as Cha'ba'-
Bou'an'ing, where verdure reappears.

On the following day we reached an island
called La Cloche, because there is here a rock
standing on a plain, which, being struck, rings
like a bell.

the islands of Montreal and Jesus, and which has its
name from the death of a Recolet or Franciscan friar,
who was there drowned. — Author.


^lex*anticr l^cnrp

I found the island inhabited by a large
village of Indians, whose behavior was at first
full of civility and kindness. I bartered away
some small articles among them in exchange
for fish and dried meat; and we remained upon
friendly terms till, discovering that I was an
Englishman, they told my men that the
Indians at Michilimackinac would not fail to
kill me, and that therefore they had a right to
a share of the pillage. Upon this principle, as
they said, they demanded a keg of rum, adding
that if not given them they would proceed to
take it. I judged it prudent to comply; on
condition, however, that I should experience at
this place no further molestation.

The condition was not unfaithfully observed;
but the repeated warnings which I had now re-
ceived of sure destruction at Michilimackinac
could not but oppress my mind. I could not
even yield myself, without danger, to the
course suggested by my fears; for my provisions
were nearly exhausted and to return was,
therefore, almost impracticable.

The hostility of the Indians was exclusively
against the English. Between them and my
Canadian attendants there appeared the most
cordial good-will. This circumstance suggested
one means of escape, of which by the advice
of my friend Campion I resolved to attempt
availing myself; and which was that of putting
on the dress usually worn by such of the Cana-
dians as pursue the trade into which I had


entered and assimilating myself as much as I
was able to their appearance and manners. To
this end I laid aside my English clothes and
covered myself only with a cloth passed about
the middle, a shirt hanging loose, a molton, or
blanket coat, and a large, red, milled worsted
cap. The next thing was to smear my face and
hands with dirt and grease; and this done, I
took the place of one of my men, and when
Indians approached, used the paddle with as
much skill as I possessed. I had the satisfac-
tion to find that my disguise enabled me to
pass several canoes without attracting the
smallest notice.

In this manner I pursued my voyage to the
mouth, or rather mouths, of the Missisaki, a
river which descends from the north, and of
which the name imports that it has several
mouths, or outlets. From this river all the
Indians inhabiting the north side of Lake
Huron are called Missisakies. There is here a
plentiful sturgeon fishery, by which those that
resort to it are fed during the summer months.
On our voyage we met several Missisakies of
whom we bought fish, and from whose stock
we might easily have filled all our canoes.

From the Missisaki, which is on the north
shore of Lake Huron, to Michilimackinac,
which is on the south, is reckoned thirty
leagues. The lake, which here approaches
Lake Superior, is now contracted in its breadth,
as well as filled with islands. From the mouth


9lleranticr i^mtp

of the River des Fran^ais to the Missisaki is
reckoned fifty leagues, with many islands along
the route. The lands everywhere from the
Island of La Cloche are poor, with the excep-
tion of those of the Island of ManitouaUn, a
hundred miles in length,^^ where they are
generally good. On all the islands the Indians
cultivate small quantities of maize.

From the Missisaki we proceeded to the
O'tossalon^^ and thence across the lake,
making one island after another, at intervals
of from two to three leagues. The lake, as far
as it could be seen, tended to the westward and
became less and less broad.

The first land which we made on the south
shore was that called Point du Detour,^'' after

2^ The Isle ManitouaUn was formerly so described.
It is now known that there is no island in Lake Huron
of a hundred miles in length, and that the ManitouaUn
are a chain of islands. The French writers on Canada
speak of the Isle ManitouaUn as inhabited in their
time by the Amikoues (Amicways, Amicwac), whom
they called a family (and sometimes a nation) , deriving
its origin from the Great Beaver, a personage of myth-
ological importance. The name ManitouaUn implies
the residence of Manitoes, or genii, a distinction very
commonly attributed to the islands, and sometimes to
the shores, of Lakes Huron and Superior, and of which
further examples will present themselves in the course
of these pages. — Author.

2^ Also written Tessalon, Thessalon, and des Tessa-

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