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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places at the depth of fifty fathoms; for the
trout having swallowed the bait, remains fast
and alive till taken up. This fish, which is
found of the weight of from ten to sixty pounds
and upward, constitutes the principal food
of the inhabitants. When this fails they have
recourse to maize, but this is very expensive.
I bought more than a hundred bushels at forty
livres per bushel. Money is rarely received
or paid at MichiHmackinac, the circulating
medium consisting in furs and peltries. In
this exchange a pound of beaver skin is
reckoned at sixty sols, an otter skin at six
livres, and marten skins at thirty sols each.^^

*° In North America there is no partridge; but the
name is given to more than one species of grouse. The
birds here intended are red grouse. — Author.

*i After the English conquest of Canada the value of
the livre was fixed at one shilling Canadian currency.


^llejcanticr i^enrp

This is only one-half of the real value of the
furs; and it is therefore always agreed to pay
either in furs at their actual price at the fort,
or in cash to double the amount, as reckoned
in furs.

At the same time that I paid the price which
I have mentioned for maize I paid at the rate
of a dollar per pound for the tallow, or pre-
pared fat to mix with it. The meat itself was
at the same price. The Jesuit missionary
killed an ox which he sold by the quarter,
taking the weight of the meat in beaver skin.
Beaver skin as just intimated, was worth a
dollar per pound.

These high prices of grain and beef led me
to be very industrious in fishing. I usually set
twenty lines and visited them daily, and
often found at every visit fish enough to feed
a hundred men. Whitefish, which exceed
the trout as a delicious and nutritive food, are
here in astonishing numbers. In shape they
somewhat resemble the shad, but their flavor
is perhaps above all comparison whatever.
Those who Hve on them for months together
preserve their reUsh to the end. This cannot
be said of the trout.

The whitefish is taken in nets which are set
under the ice. To do this several holes are
made in the ice, each at such distance from
that behind it as that it may be reached under

Twenty-five sols were equal to one shilling one penny
sterling. — Editor.


the ice by the end of a pole. A line of sixty
fathoms in length is thus conveyed from hole
to hole till it is extended to the length desired.
This done, the pole is taken out, and with it
one end of the line, to which the end is then
fastened. The hne being now drawn back by
an assistant who holds the opposite extremity,
the net is brought under and a large stone is
made fast to the sinking line at each end and
let down to the bottom; and the net is spread
in the water by Hghters on its upper edge,
sinkers on its lower, in the usual manner. The
fish, running against the net, entangle their
gills in the meshes and are thus detained till
taken up. Whitefish is used as a bait for trout.
They are much smaller than the trout, but
usually weigh, at Michilimackinac, from three
to seven pounds.

During the whole winter very few Indians
visited the fort; but two famihes, one of which
was that of a chief, had their lodges on a river
five leagues below us, and occasionally brought
beaver flesh for sale.

The chief was warmly attached to the Eng-
lish. He had been taken prisoner by Sir
WilUam Johnson at the siege of Fort Niagara,
and had received from that intelHgent officer
his liberty, the medal usually presented to a
chief, and the British flag. Won by these
unexpected acts of kindness, he had returned to
MicMUmackinac full of praises of the English,
and hoisting his flag over his lodge. This

^Icjtrantier IJcnrp

latter demonstration of his partiality had
nearly cost him his life; his lodge was broken
down and his flag torn to pieces. The pieces
he carefully gathered up and preserved with
pious care; and whenever he came to the fort
he drew them forth and exhibited them. On
these occasions it grew into a custom to give
him as much liquor as he said was necessary
to make him cry over the misfortune of losing
his flag. The commandant would have given
him another, but he thought that he could not
accept it -R-ithout danger.

The greatest depth of snow throughout the
season was three feet. On the second day of
April the ice on the lake broke up and the
navigation was resumed; and we immediately
began to receive from the Indians around us
large suppUes of wild fowl.


Ci^apter 6


BEING desirous of visiting the Sault de
Ste. Marie I left Michilimackinac on the
fifteenth of May in a canoe. The Sault
de Ste. Marie is distant from Michilimack-
inac thirty leagues and lies in the strait which
separates Lake Huron from Lake Superior.

Having passed Le Detour, a point of land at
the entrance of the strait, our course lay among
numerous islands, some of which are twenty
miles in length. We ascended the rapid of
Miscoutinsaki, a spot well adapted for mill
seats, and above which is the mouth of the
river of the same name. The lands on the south
shore of this river are excellent. The lake is
bordered by meadows, and at a short distance
back are groves of sugar maple. From this
river to the Sault de Ste. Marie is one con-
tinued meadow.

On the nineteenth I reached the Sault. Here
was a stockaded fort in which under the French
government there was kept a small garrison,
commanded by an officer who was called the
governor, but was in fact a clerk who managed
the Indian trade here on government account.
The houses were four in number, of which
the first was the governor's, the second the


^lejcanlier l^ntrp

interpreter's, and the other two, which were
the smallest, had been used for barracks. The
only family was that of M. Cadotte, the inter-
preter,^ whose wife was a Chipewa.

The fort is seated on a beautiful plain of
about two miles in circumference, and covered
with luxuriant grass; and wdthin sight are
the rapids in the strait, distant half a mile.
The width of the strait, or river, is about
half a mile. The portage, or carrying-place,
commences at the fort. The banks are rocky,
and allow only a narrow footpath over them.
Canoes, half loaded, ascend on the south side
and the other half of the load is carried on
men's shoulders.

These rapids are beset with rocks of the most
dangerous description; and yet they are the
scene of a fishery in which all their dangers are
braved and mastered with singular expertness.
They are full of whitefish much larger and more
excellent than those of Michilimackinac, and

*^ This was Jean Baptiste Cadotte, Sr., who came into
the Northwest toward the middle of the eighteenth
century. In accordance with the custom of his time he
lived with a Chippewa woman, and in 1756 the couple
were legally married by the Jesuit father at jMackinac.
Cadotte made Sault Ste. Marie his headquarters, and
from here pursued the Indian trade in the Lake Su-
perior region until in 1796, induced by the advance of
old age, he made over his property to his two sons, Jean
Baptiste and Michel. Both of these men married Chip-
pewa women, and both became prominent in the trad-
ing annals of the Northwest. The elder Cadotte died
in 1803. — Editor.


which are found here during the greater part
of the season, weighing in general from six
pounds to fifteen.

The method of taking them is this: each
canoe carries two men, one of whom steers
with a paddle, and the other is provided with a
pole ten feet in length, and at the end of which
is afi&xed a scoop-net. The steersman sets the
canoe from the eddy of one rock to that of
another; while the fisherman in the prow, who
sees through the pellucid element the prey
of which he is in pursuit, dips his net and
sometimes brings up at every succeeding dip
as many as it can contain. The fish are often
crowded together in the water in great numbers,
and a skilful fisherman in autumn will take
five hundred in two hours.

This fishery is of great moment to the sur-
rounding Indians, whom it supplies with a
large proportion of their winter's provision;
for having taken the fish in the manner de-
scribed, they cure them by drying in the smoke,
and lay them up in large quantities.

There is at present a village of Chipewa of
fifty warriors seated at this place; but the in-
habitants reside here during the summer only,
going westward in the winter to hunt. The
village was anciently much more populous.

At the south are also seen a few of the wan-
dering O'pimittish Ininiwac, Hterally Men of
the Woods, otherwise called Wood Indians and
Gens de Terres — a peaceable and inofifensive


^lejranticr l^enrp

race, but less conversant with some of the arts
of first necessity than any of their neighbors.
They have no villages, and their lodges are
so rudely fashioned as to afford them but
very inadequate protection against inclement
skies. The greater part of their year is spent
in traveling from place to place in search of
food. The animal on which they chiefly depend
is the hare. This they take in springes. Of
the skin they make coverings with much ingen-
uity, cutting it into narrow strips, and weaving
these into a cloth of the shape of a blanket, and
of a quahty very warm and agreeable.

The pleasant situation of the fort, and still
more the desire of learning the Chipewa
language, led me to resolve on wintering in it.
In the family of M. Cadotte no other language
than the Chipewa was spoken.

During the summer the weather was some-
times exceedingly hot. Mosquitoes and black
flies were so numerous as to be a heavy counter-
poise to the pleasure of hunting. Pigeons were
in great plenty; the stream supplied our drink;
and sickness was unknown.

In the course of the season a small detach-
ment of troops under the command of Lieu-
tenant Jemette ^ arrived to garrison the fort.

*^ This was Ensign John Jamet of the Sixtieth Reg-
iment, who came to Mackinac with Captain Ethering-
ton in the autumn of 1 760. He was the first victim of
the massacre when Mackinac was taken by the Chip-
pewa in June, 1763. — Editor.


chapter 7


IN the beginning of October the fish as is
usual was in great abundance at the Sault;
and by the fifteenth day of the month I had
myself taken upward of five hundred. These
I caused to be dried in the customary manner
by suspending them in pairs, head downward,
on long poles laid horizontally for that pur-
pose and supported by two stakes driven
into the ground at either end. The fish
are frozen the first night after they are
taken; and by the aid of the severe cold of
the winter they are thus preserved in a state
perfectly fit for use even till the month of

Others were not less successful than myself;
and several canoe-loads of fish were exported
to Michilimackinac, our commanding officer
being unable to believe that his troops would
have need to live on fish during the winter;
when, as he flattered himself, a regular supply
of venison and other food would reach the
garrison through the means of the Indians,
whose services he proposed to purchase out of
the large funds of liquor which were subject
to his orders.


9lleji*anticr l^mrp

But all these calculations were defeated by
the arrival of a very serious misfortune. At
one o'clock in the morning of the twenty-
second day of December ^ I was awakened by
an alarm of fire, which was actually raging
in the houses of the commandant and others.
On arriving at the commandant 's I found that
this officer was still within side; and being
acquainted with the window of the room in
which he slept I procured it to be broken in in
time for his escape. I was also so fortunate as
to save a small quantity of gunpowder only a
few moments before the fire reached all the
remainder. A part of the stockade^ all the
houses, M. Cadotte's alone excepted, all the
provisions of the troops, and a considerable
part of our fish were burnt.

On consultation the next day it was agreed
that the only means which remained at this
late period of the season to preserve the garri-
son from famine was that of sending it back to
Michilimackinac. This was itself an under-
taking of some peril ; for, had the ice prevented
their reaching the place of destination, starving
would have become as inevitable elsewhere
as it threatened to be at the Sault de Ste.
Marie. The soldiers embarked and happily
reached Michilimackinac on the thirty-first
day of the month. On the very next morning
the navigation was wholly closed.

**The fort was destroyed December lo, 1762. —


The commandant and all the rest now lived
in one small house, subsisting only by hunting
and fishing. The woods affarded us some
hares and partridges, and we took large trout
with the spear. In order to spear trout under
the ice, holes being first cut of two yards in
circumference, cabins of about two feet in
height are built over them of small branches of
trees; and these are further covered with skins
so as wholly to exclude the light. The design
and result of this contrivance is to render it
practicable to discern objects in the water at a
very considerable depth; for the reflection of
light from the water gives that element an
opaque appearance and hides all objects from
the eye at a small distance beneath its surface.
A spear head of iron is fastened on a pole of
about ten feet in length. This instrument is
lowered into the water; and the fisherman, lying
upon his belly, with his head under the cabin
or cover, and therefore over the hole, lets down
the figure of a fish in wood and filled with lead.
Round the middle of the fish is tied a small
packthread; and when at the depth of ten
fathoms where it is intended to be employed, it
is made, by drawing the string and by the
simultaneous pressure of the water, to move
forward after the manner of a real fish. Trout
and other large fish, deceived by its resem-
blance, spring toward it to seize it; but by a dex-
terous jerk of the string it is instantly taken
out of their reach. The decoy is now drawn


^Icranticr l^enrp

nearer to the surface, and the fish takes some
time to renew the attack, during which the
spear is raised and held conveniently for strik-
ing. On the return of the fish the spear is
plunged into its back; and, the spear being
barbed, it is easily drawn out of the water.
So completely do the rays of the Hght pervade
the element that in three fathorns of water I have
often seen the shadows of the fish on the bot-
tom, following them as they moved; and this
when the ice itself was two feet in thickness.

By these pursuits and others of a similar
kind we supported ourselves for two months,
that is until the twentieth of February, when
we imagined the lake to be frozen and Michi-
limackinac therefore accessible; and the com-
mandant wishing to go to that fort, M. Ca-
dotte, myself, two Canadians, and two Indians,
agreed to accompany him. The Canadians
and Indians were loaded with some parched
maize, some fish, a few pieces of scorched pork,
which had been saved from the fire, and a
few loaves of bread made of flour which was
also partly burnt.

We walked on snowshoes, a mode of travel-
ing sufficiently fatiguing to myself, but of
which the commandant had had no previous
experience whatever. In consequence our
progress was slow, wearisome, and disastrous.
On the seventh day of our march we had only
reached Point du Detour which lies half way
between the Sault and Michilimackinac ; and

Crabd^ and ^Dbcnturc^

here to our mortification and dismay we found
the lake still open and the ice drifting. Our
provisions, too, on examination, were found to
be nearly expended; and nothing remained for
us to do but to send back the Canadians and
Indians, whose motions would be swift, for an
additional supply.

In their absence the commandant, M. Ca-
dotte, and myself, three persons in number,
were left with about two pounds of pork and
three of bread for our subsistence during the
three days and perhaps four, which they would
require for a journey of ninety miles. Being
appointed to act the part of commissary, I
divided the pro\asions into four parts, one for
each day; and to our great happiness at ten
o'clock on the fourth day our faithful servants
returned. Early in the morning of the fifth we
left our encampment and proceeded. The
weather this day was exceedingly cold.

We had only advanced two leagues when the
commandant found it almost wholly impos-
sible to go further, his feet being blistered by
the cords of the snowshoes. On this account
we made short marches for three days; and
this loss of time threatened us anew with
famine. We were now too far from the Sault to
send back for a supply; and it was therefore
determined that myself, accompanied by one
of the Canadians, should go as speedily as
possible to Michihmackinac, and there inform
the commanding officer of the situation of


^Icranber l^cnrp

those behind. Accordingly the next morning
at break of day I left my fellow sufiferers, and at
three o'clock in the afternoon had the pleasure
of entering the fort, whence a party was sent
the next morning with provisions. This party
returned on the third day, bringing with it
Lieutenant Jemette and the rest, in safety.
Major Etherington, of the Sixtieth Regiment,
who had arrived in the preceding autumn, now
commanded at the fort.

I remained at Michilimackinac until the
tenth of March, on which day I set out on my
return to the Sault, taking the route of the
Bay of Boutchitaouy ^^ which the ice had now
rendered practicable. From the bottom of the
bay the course Hes in a direct line through the
woods, a journey I performed in two days,
though I was now troubled with a disorder,
called the snowshoe evil, proceeding from an
unusual strain on the tendons of the leg,
occasioned by the weight of the snowshoe and
which brings on inflammation. The remedy pre-
scribed in the country is that of laying a piece
of Hghted touchwood on the part and leaving it
there till the flesh is burnt to the nerve; but
this experiment, though I had frequently seen
it attended with success in others, I did not
think proper to make upon myself.

*^ Modern St. Martin Bay, which indents the Upper
Peninsula of Michigan due north of Mackinac Island.
— Editor.


Ctabcl^ anil ^D^enturc^

The lands between the Bay of Boutchitaouy
and the Sault are generally swampy, excepting
so much of them as compose a ridge, or
mountain, running east and west, and which
is rocky and covered with the rock or sugar
maple, or sugar wood/® The season for making
maple sugar was now at hand; and shortly
after my arrival at the Sault I removed with
the other inhabitants to the place at which we
were to perform the manufacture.

A certain part of the maple woods having
been chosen, and which was distant about
three miles from the fort, a house twenty feet
long and fourteen broad was begun in the
morning, and before night made fit for the
comfortable reception of eight persons and
their baggage. It was open at top, had a door
at each end, and a fireplace in the middle run-
ning the whole length.

The next day was employed in gathering
the bark of white birch trees with which to
make vessels to catch the wine or sap. The
trees were now cut or tapped, and spouts or
ducts introduced into the wound. The bark
vessels were placed under the ducts; and as
they filled, the liquor was taken out in buckets
and conveyed into reservoirs or vats of moose
skin, each vat containing a hundred gallons.
From these we supplied the boilers, of which
we had twelve of from twelve to twenty gal-
lons each, with fires constantly under them

*^ Acer saccharinum. — Author.

^Icrantiet i^cnrp

day and night. While the women collected
the sap, boiled it, and completed the sugar, the
men were not less busy in cutting wood, mak-
ing fires, and in hunting and fishing in part of
our supply of food.

The earlier part of the spring is that best
adapted to making maple sugar. The sap
runs only in the day; and it will not run unless
there has been a frost the night before. When
in the morning there is a clear sun and the night
has left ice of the thickness of a dollar the
greatest quantity is produced.

On the twenty-fifth of April our labor ended,
and we returned to the fort, carrying with
us as we found by the scales, sixteen hundred-
weight of sugar. We had besides thirty-six
gallons of syrup; and during our stay in the
woods we certainly consumed three hundred-
weight. Though, as I have said, we hunted
and fished, yet sugar was our principal food
during the whole month of April. I have
known Indians to live wholly upon the same
and become fat.

On the day of our return to the fort there
arrived an English gentleman. Sir Robert
Dovers,^'^ on a voyage of curiosity. I accom-
panied this gentleman on his return to Michi-
limackinac, which we reached on the twen-
tieth of May. My intention was to remain

*^ Sir Robert Davers of Suffolk, England, came to
America, apparently in the spring of 1761 on a tour of
observation. He was at Detroit in the spring of 1762,


€rabd^ anti ^tibcnturc^

there till after my clerks should have come in
from the interior, and then to go back to the
Sault de Ste. Marie.

In the beginning of May the geese and
ducks made their appearance, in their progress
northward. " '

whence he left for a tour of the Upper Lakes. He was
again at Detroit during the winter of 1762-63, and in
May of the latter year was slain, the first victim of
Pontiac's uprising. His body was eaten by the Indians.
It is apparent that Henry is in error as to the date
here given. — Editor.


chapter 8


WHEN I reached Michilimackinac I
found several other traders who had
arrived before me from different parts of
the country, and who in general declared the
dispositions of the Indians to be hostile to the
EngHsh, and even apprehended some attack.
M. Laurent Ducharme ^^ distinctly informed
Major Etherington that a plan was absolutely
conceived for destroying him, his garrison and
all the English in the upper country; but the
commandant, believing this and other reports
to be without foundation, proceeding only
from idle or ill-disposed persons, and of
a tendency to do mischief, expressed much
displeasure against M. Ducharme, and threat-
ened to send the next person who should
bring a story of the same kind a prisoner to

The garrison at this time consisted of ninety
privates, two subalterns and the commandant;
and the English merchants at the fort were

*^ Laurent Ducharme was a resident of Mackinac at
least as early as 1758. At the time of the American
Revolution he seems to have been stationed at Mil-
waukee. A cousin, Jean Marie Ducharme, was a prom-
inent fur trader in the Northwest in this period. —


four in number/^ Thus strong, few entertained
anxiety concerning the Indians, who had no
weapons but small arms.

Meanwhile the Indians from every quarter
were daily assembling in unusual numbers,
but with every appearance of friendship,
frequenting the fort, and disposing of their
peltries in such a manner as to dissipate
almost every one's fears. For myself, on one
occasion I took the liberty of observing to
Major Etherington that in my judgment no
confidence ought to be placed in them, and
that I was informed no less than four hundred
lay around the fort.

In return the Major only rallied me on my
timidity; and it is to be confessed that if this
officer neglected admonition on his part, so did
I on mine. Shortly after my first arrival at
Michilimackinac in the preceding year a
Chipewa named Wawatam began to come
often to my house, betraying in his demeanor
strong marks of personal regard. After this
had continued for some time he came on a
certain day, bringing with him his whole

*^ Here, as often, Henry's figures are erroneous. In-
stead of ninety, the garrison numbered thirty-five.
Francis Parkman suggests that Henry meant to include
"all the inhabitants of the fort, both soldiers and
Canadians" in his enumeration; but his language
plainly does not admit this interpretation. The four
merchants were Solomon, Bostwick, Henry, and one
Tracy. Of the latter, who was killed in the massacre,
I have learned no more than Henry himself sets forth.
— Editor.


Sllcranticr l^ciirp

family, and at the same time a large present,

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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 5 of 20)