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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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Ions. — Author.

*" Point du Detour, or Grand Detour, is the eastern
extremity of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Isle
aux Outardes is modern Goose Island. — Editor.



36



€rabri^ anti ^Dbcnturc^ef

which we passed the island called Isle aux
Outardes, and then leaving on the right the
deep bay of Boutchitaouy came to the island
of Michilimackinac, distant from Isle aux
Outardes three leagues. On our way a sudden
squall reduced us to the point of throwing over
the cargoes of our canoes to save the latter
from filling; but the wind subsided and we
reached the island in safety.

The land in the center of this island is high
and its form somewhat resembles that of a
turtle's back. Mackinac, or Mickinac, sig-
nifies a turtle, and michi (mishi), or missi,
signifies great, as it does also several, or many.
The common interpretation of the word Michi-
limackinac is the Great Turtle. It is from this
island that the fort, commonly known by the
name of Michilimackinac, has obtained its
appellation.^^

On the island, as I had been previously
taught to expect, there was a village of

^1 This is, perhaps, debatable. It is important for the
modern reader to remember that the term Mackinac
has been applied at different times to different points
in the region adjoining the head of Lake Michigan. In
the time of Marquette, Mackinac was on the north side
of the strait, upon Point St. Ignace. From 171 2 to 1781
it was on the south side of the strait, in the immediate
vicinity of modern Mackinaw City. In 1781 Governor
Sinclair established his British garrison on the island of
Mackinac, where the modern resort city stands. Thus
the Mackinac to which Henry came in 1761 , and where
the massacre occurred in 1763, was on the southern
mainland near modern Mackinaw City. — Editor.

37



^Icjcanticr i^ntrp



Chippewa, said to contain a hundred warriors.
Here I was fearful of discovery and consequent
ill-treatment, but after inquiring the news, and
particularly whether or not any Englishman
was coming to MichiUmackinac, they suffered
us to pass uninjured. One man, indeed,
looked at me, laughed, and pointed me out
to another. This was enough to give me
some uneasiness; but whatever was the sin-
gularity he perceived in me, both he and his
friend retired without suspecting me to be an
Englishman.



38



RECEPTION AT MACKINAC

1EAVING as speedily as possible the
island of Michilimackinac I crossed the
strait and landed at the fort of the same
name. The distance from the island is about
two leagues. I landed at four o'clock in the
afternoon.

Here I put the entire charge of my effects
into the hands of my assistant, Campion,
between whom and myself it had been pre-
viously agreed that he should pass for the
proprietor; and my men were instructed to
conceal the fact that I was an Enghshman.

Campion soon found a house to which I
retired, and where I hoped to remain in privacy;
but the men soon betrayed my secret, and
I was visited by the inhabitants with great
show of civiUty. They assured me that I
could not stay at Michilimackinac without the
most imminent risk; and strongly recommended
that I should lose no time in making my escape
to Detroit.

Though language Uke this could not but
increase my uneasiness it did not shake my
determination to remain with my property and
encounter the evils with which I was threatened ;
and my spirits were in some measure sustained

39



^icranticr l^cnrp



by the sentiments of Campion in this regard;
for he declared his belief that the Canadian
inhabitants of the fort were more hostile than
the Indians as being jealous of Enghsh traders,
who Uke myself were penetrating into the
country.

Fort Michilimackinac was built by order of
the governor-general of Canada, and garrisoned
with a small number of militia, who, having
families, soon became less soldiers than set-
tlers. Most of those whom I found in the fort
had originally served in the French army.

The fort stands on the south side of the
strait which is between Lake Huron and Lake
Michigan. It has an area of two acres, and
is enclosed with pickets of cedar wood;^^ and
it is so near the water's edge that when the
wind is in the west the waves break against the
stockade. On the bastions are two small
pieces of brass EngUsh cannon taken some
years since by a party of Canadians who went
on a plundering expedition against the posts of
Hudson's Bay, which they reached by the
route of the River Churchill.

Within the stockade are thirty houses, neat
in their appearance, and tolerably commodious;
and a church in which mass is celebrated by
a Jesuit missionary. The number of families
may be nearly equal to that of the houses;
and their subsistence is derived from the Indian
traders who assemble here in their voyages to

'- Thuya occidenlalis. — Author.
40



€rabd^ anti ^tibcnturc^

and from Montreal. Michilimackinac is the
place of deposit and point of departure be-
tween the upper countries and the lower. Here
the outfits are prepared for the countries of
Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, Lake
Superior, and the Northwest; and here the
returns in furs are collected and embarked for
Montreal.

I was not released from the visits and ad-
monitions of the inhabitants of the fort before
I received the equivocal intelligence that the
whole band of Chipewa from the island of
Michihmackinac was arrived with the inten-
tion of paying me a visit.

There was in the fort one Farley, an inter-
preter, lately in the employ of the French
commandant. He had married a Chipewa
woman and was said to possess great influence
over the nation to which his wife belonged.
Doubtful as to the kind of visit which I was
about to receive I sent for this interpreter and
requested first that he would have the kindness
to be present at the interview, and secondly
that he would inform me of the intentions of
the band. M. Farley agreed to be present; and
as to the object of the visit, repUed that it was
consistent with uniform custom that a stranger
on his arrival should be waited upon and wel-
comed by the chiefs of the nation, who on their
part always gave a small present, and always ex-
pected a large one; but as to the rest, declared
himself unable to answer for the particular

41



^iexantier ^cnrp



views of the Chipewa on this occasion, I
being an Englishman, and the Indians having
made no treaty with the EngUsh. He thought
that there might be danger, the Indians having
protested that they would not suflfer an
Englishman to remain in their part of the
country. This information was far from agree-
able; but there was no resource, except in
fortitude and patience.

At two o'clock in the afternoon the Chip-
pewa came to my house, about sixty in num-
ber, and headed by Minavavana, their chief.
They walked in single file, each with his toma-
hawk in one hand and scalping knife in the
other. Their bodies were naked from the waist
upward, except in a few examples where
blankets were thrown loosely over the shoul-
ders. Their faces were painted with charcoal,
worked up with grease; their bodies with
white clay in patterns of various fancies.
Some had feathers thrust through their noses,
and their heads decorated with the same. It
is unnecessary to dwell on the sensations with
which I beheld the approach of this uncouth,
if not frightful assemblage.

The chief entered first, and the rest followed
without noise. On receiving a sign from the
former, the latter seated themselves on the floor.

Minavavana ^^ appeared to be about fifty
years of age. He was six feet in height, and

" This chief, who figures so prominently in Henry's
story, has commonly been identified by historians as

42



had in his countenance an indescribable mix-
ture of good and evil. Looking steadfastly at
me where I sat in ceremony, with an interpreter
on either hand, and several Canadians behind
me, he entered at the same time into conver-
sation with Campion, inquiring how long it was
since I left Montreal, and observing that the
English, as it would seem, were brave men and
not afraid of death, since they dared to come
as I had done fearlessly among their enemies.

The Indians now gravely smoked their
pipes, while I inwardly endured the tortures of
suspense. At length the pipes being finished, as
well as the long pause by which they were
succeeded, Minavavana, taking a few strings
of wampum in his hand, began the following
speech :

"Englishman, it is to you that I speak, and
I demand your attention!

"Englishman, you know that the French king
is our father. He promised to be such; and we
in return promised to be his children. This
promise we have kept.

"Englishman, it is you that have made war
with this our father. You are his enemy; and
how then could you have the boldness to
venture among us, his children? You know
that his enemies are ours.

"EngHshman, we are informed that our father,
the King of France, is old and infirm; and that
the Grand Sauteur, an encounter with whom in 1767
is described by Jonathan Carver. — Editor.

43



^kjcantier ^cnrp



being fatigued with making war upon your
nation, he is fallen asleep. During his sleep
you have taken advantage of him and possessed
yourselves of Canada. But his nap is almost at
an end. I think I hear him already stirring
and inquiring for his children, the Indians; and
when he does awake, what must become of you?
He will destroy you utterly!

"Englishman, although you have conquered
the French, you have not yet conquered us!
We are not your slaves. These lakes, these
woods and mountains were left to us by our
ancestors. They are our inheritance; and we
will part with them to none. Your nation
supposes that we, Uke the white people, cannot
live without bread — and pork — and beef! But
you ought to know that He, the Great Spirit
and Master of Life, has provided food for us
in these spacious lakes and on these woody
mountains.

"Englishman, our father, the King of France,
employed our young men to make war upon
your nation. In this warfare many of them
have been killed, and it is our custom to retal-
iate until such time as the spirits of the slain
are satisfied. But the spirits of the slain are
to be satisfied in either of two ways; the first
is by the spilling of the blood of the nation by
which they fell; the other by covering the
bodies of the dead, and thus allaying the resent-
ment of their relations. This is done by making
presents.

44



"Englishman, your king has never sent us any
presents, nor entered into any treaty with us,
wherefore he and we are still at war; and until
he does these things we must consider that
we have no other father, nor friend among the
white men than the King of France; but for
you we have taken into consideration that you
have ventured your life among us in the ex-
pectation that we should not molest you. You
do not come armed with an intention to make
war; you come in peace to trade with us and
supply us with necessaries of which we are in
much want. We shall regard you, therefore, as
a brother; and you may sleep tranquilly,
withdut fear of the Chipewa. As a token
of our friendship we present you with this pipe
to smoke. "

As Minavavana uttered these words an
Indian presented me with a pipe, which, after
I had drawn the smoke three times, was carried
• to the chief, and after him to every person in
the room. This ceremony ended, the chief
arose and gave me his hand in which he was
followed by all the rest.

Being again seated, Minavavana requested
that his young men might be allowed to taste
what he called my English milk (meaning
rum) — observing that it was long since they
had tasted any, and that they were very de-
sirous to know whether or not there were any
difference between the English milk and the
French.

45



^kjcantier l^cnrp



My adventure on leaving Fort William
Augustus had left an impression on my mind
which made me tremble when Indians asked
for rum; and I would therefore willingly have
excused myself in this particular; but being
informed that it was customary to comply
with the request, and withal satisfied with the
friendly declarations which I had received, I
promised to give them a small cask at parting.

After this, by the aid of my interpreter I
made a reply to the speech of Minavavana,
declaring that it was the good character which
I had heard of the Indians that had alone
emboldened me to come among them ; that their
late father, the King of France, had surrendered
Canada to the King of England, whom they
ought now to regard as their father, and who
would be as careful of them as the other had
been; that I had come to furnish them with
necessaries, and that their good treatment of
me would be an encouragement to others.
They appeared satisfied with what I said,
repeating eh! (an expression of approbation)
after hearing each particular. I had prepared
a present which I now gave them with the ut-
most good will. At their departure I distributed
a small quantity of rum.

Reheved as I now imagined myself from all
occasion of anxiety as to the treatment which
I was to experience from the Indians, I as-
sorted my goods, and hired Canadian inter-
preters and clerks, in whose care I was to send
46



Crabfi^ anil ^Dbenturc^

them into Lake Michigan and the River
St. Pierre, in the country of the Nadowessies; ^^
into Lake Superior among the Chipewa, and
to the Grand Portage for the Northwest.
Everything was ready for their departure
when new dangers sprung up and threatened
to overwhelm me.

At the entrance of Lake Michigan and at
about twenty miles to the west of Fort Michi-
limackinac is the village of L'Arbre Croche,
inhabited by a band of Ottawa boasting of two
hundred and fifty fighting men. L'Arbre
Croche is the seat of the Jesuit mission of St.
Ignace de MichiHmackinac, and the people are
partly baptized, and partly not.^^ The mis-
sionary resides on a farm attached to the
mission and situated between the village and
the fort, both of which are under his care.
The Ottawa of L'Arbre Croche, who when
compared with the Chipewa appear to be a
much advanced in civilization, grow maize
for the market of Michilimackinac, where this

"The "Nadowessies" are the Dakota or Sioux
Indians. The "St. Pierre" is the modern Minnesota
River, which empties into the Mississippi between St.
Paul and Minneapolis. — Editor.

"L'Arbre Croche, on the north shore of Little Tra-
verse Bay near modern Harbor Springs, was founded as
a mission village in 1742, and has ever since remained
a center for Catholic mission Indians. It is more nearly
south than west of old Mackinaw, and the distance by
water is about forty miles. — Editor.

47



^LlcxanDcr l^cnrp



commodity is depended upon for provisioning
the canoes.

The new dangers which presented themselves
came from this village of Ottawa. Everything
as I have said was in readiness for the de-
parture of my goods when accounts arrived of
its approach; and shortly after, two hundred
warriors entered the fort and billeted them-
selves in the several houses among the Cana-
dian inhabitants. The next morning they
assembled in the house which was built for the
commandant, or governor, and ordered the
attendance of myself and of two other mer-
chants still later from Montreal, namely
Messrs. Stanley Goddard and Ezekiel Solo-
mons.^®

After our entering the council room and
taking our seats one of the chiefs commenced
an address :

"Englishmen," he said, "we, the Ottawas
were some time since informed of your arrival

'^ These men were, with Henry, among the earliest
British traders to reach the upper country. James
Stanley Goddard accompanied Lieutenant Gorrell to
Green Bay, being driven from here by the uprising of
1763. Upon the restoration of British authority he re-
turned to the Northwest, where he was for many years
a prominent merchant. About the year 1 777 he became
government storekeeper at Montreal, and this position
he continued to hold as late as 1795. Ezekiel Solomon,
like Goddard, was driven out of the upper country in
1763 but later he returned, and in 1778 we find him
preparing a trading outfit to winter on the north shore
of Lake Superior. — Editor.

4S



€rabcl^ anti ^tibcnturc^

in this country, and of your having brought
with you the goods of which we have need. At
this news we were greatly pleased, beHeving
that through your assistance our wives and
children would be enabled to pass another
winter; but what was our surprise, when a few
days ago we were again informed that the
goods which as we had expected were intended
for us were on the eve of departure for distant
countries, of which some are inhabited by our
enemies! These accounts being spread, our
wives and children came to us crying and
desiring that we should go to the fort to learn
with our own ears their truth or falsehood.
We accordingly embarked almost naked as
you see; and on our arrival here we have
inquired into the accounts and found them
true. We see your canoes ready to depart and
find your men engaged for the Mississippi
and other distant regions.

"Under these circumstances we have con-
sidered the affair; and you are now sent for
that you may hear our determination, which
is that you shall give to each of our men, young
and old, merchandise and ammunition to the
amount of fifty beaver skins on credit, and for
which I have no doubt of their paying you
in the summer, on their return from their
wintering. "

A compHance with this demand would have
stripped me and my fellow merchants of all our
merchandise; and what rendered the affair still
49



^IcjcanDer l^enrp



more serious, we even learned that these
Ottawa were accustomed never to pay for
what they received on credit. In reply, there-
fore, to the speech which we had heard, we
requested that the demand contained in it
might be diminished; but we were answered
that the Ottawa had nothing further to say
except that they would allow till the next day
for reflection; after which, if compUance was
not given, they would make no further appU-
cation, but take into their owti hands the prop,
erty which they already regarded as their own-
as having been brought into their country be-
fore the conclusion of any peace between them-
selves and the EngHsh.

We now returned to consider of our situa-
tion; and in the evening Farley, the interpreter,
paid us a visit, and assured us that it was the
intention of the Ottawa to put us that night
to death. He advised us, as our only means of
safety, to comply with the demands which had
been made; but we suspected our informant of
a disposition to prey upon our fears with a view
to induce us to abandon the Indian trade, and
resolved however this might be, rather to
stand on the defensive than submit. We
trusted to the house in which I Hved as a fort,
and armed ourselves and about thirty of our
men with muskets. WTiether or not the Otta-
wa ever intended violence we never had an
opportunity of knowing; but the night passed
quietly.

so



€rabd[|tf anti ^tibcnture^

Early the next morning a second council was
held, and the merchants were again summoned
to attend. Believing that every hope of re-
sistance would be lost, should we commit our
persons into the hands of our enemies, we sent
only a refusal. There was none without in
whom we had any confidence, except Campion.
From him we learned from time to time what-
ever was rumored among the Canadian inhabi-
tants as to the designs of the Ottawa; and
from him toward sunset we received the gratify-
ing intelUgence that a detachment of British
soldiery, sent to garrison Michihmackinac, was
distant only five miles and would enter the
fort early the next morning.

Near at hand, however, as relief was reported
to be, our anxiety could not but be great; for
a long night was to be passed, and our fate
might be decided before the morning. To
increase our apprehensions, about midnight we
were informed that the Ottawa were holding
a council, at which no white man was per-
mitted to be present, Farley alone excepted;
and him we suspected, and afterward positively
knew, to be our greatest enemy. We, on our
part, remained all night upon the alert; but
at daybreak to our surprise and joy we saw the
Ottawa preparing to depart. By sunrise not
a man of them was left in the fort; and indeed
the scene was altogether changed. The inhabi-
tants, who, while the Ottawa were present,
had avoided all connection with the EngUsh
SI



^Icjcantier l^cnrp



traders, now came with congratulations. They
related that the Ottawa had proposed to
them that if joined by the Canadians they
would march and attack the troops which were
known to be advancing on the fort; and they
added that it was their refusal which had
determined the Ottawa to depart.

At noon three hundred troops of the Sixtieth
Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant
Lesslie, marched into the fort; and this arrival
dissipated all our fears from whatever source
derived.^^ After a few days detachments were
sent into the Bay des Puants ^^ by which is the
route to the Mississippi and at the mouth of

" The last French commander of Mackinac — Beau-
jeau de Villemonde, brother of him who fell gloriously
while leading his men against Braddock's doomed army
in 1755 ^- abandoned the post in the autumn of 1760,
and retired by way of Wisconsin to the Illinois country.
Not until September 28, 1 761 , did a British detachment
arrive to take possession of Mackinac. The leader of
the English force was Captain Henry Balfour of the
Eightieth Regiment, better known, perhaps, as Gage's
Light Infantry. With Balfour, however, was Lieu-
tenant William Leslie of the Sixtieth Regiment — the
Royal Americans — who was left at Mackinac with a
garrison of twenty-eight men, while Balfour with the
remainder of his force went on to take possession of the
remaining French posts in the Upper Country. The
following year Leslie asked to be "relieved from this
disagreeable station," but instead the post was rein-
forced by Captain George Etherington, Leslie remain-
ing as second in command. — Editor.

'* Modern Green Bay: the post was on the site of the
modern city of that name. — Editor.

52



€rai)fl^ anti ^Dbniturcjef

the St. Joseph ^^ which leads to the lUinois.
The Indians from all quarters came to pay
their respects to the commandant; and the
merchants dispatched their canoes, though
it was now the middle of September, and
therefore somewhat late in the season.

" Fort St. Joseph stood in the outskirts of modern
Niles, Michigan, some thirty miles inland from the
mouth of the river. The old fort site is now covered by
water, due to the building in recent years of a dam
across the river at Niles for purposes of power develop-
ment. — Editor.



53



Cl^apter 5

THE WINTER AT MACKINAC

THE village of L 'Arbre Croche supplies, as
I have said, the maize, or Indian corn,
with which the canoes are victualled. This
species of grain is prepared for use by boiling
it in a strong lye, after which the husk may be
easily removed; and it is next mashed and
dried. In this state it is soft and friable like
rice. The allowance for each man on the
voyage is a quart a day; and a bushel with two
pounds of prepared fat is reckoned to be a
month's subsistence. No other allowance is
made of any kind, not even of salt; and bread
is never thought of. The men, nevertheless,
are healthy and capable of performing their
heavy labor. This mode of victualling is
essential to the trade, which being pursued at
great distances, and in vessels so small as
canoes, will not admit of the use of other food.
If the men were to be supplied with bread
and pork the canoes could not carry a suffi-
ciency for six months; and the ordinary
duration of the voyage is not less than four-
teen. The difficulty which would belong to an
attempt to reconcile any other men than Cana-
dians to this fare seems to secure to them and
their employers the monopoly of the fur trade.

54



The sociable disposition of the commandant
enabled us to pass the winter at Michili-
mackinac in a manner as agreeable as cir-
cumstances would permit. The amusements
consisted chiefly in shooting, hunting, and
fishing. The neighboring woods abounded in
partridges'*'' and hares, the latter of which
is white in winter; and the lake is filled with
fish, of which the most celebrated are trout,
whitefish, and sturgeon.

Trout are taken by making holes in the ice
in which are set fines and baits. These are
often left for many days together, and in some


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