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Milo Milton Quaife.

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CHICAGO AND THE
OLD NORTHWEST

1673-1835



[.M.QJJAIFE



LIBRARY OF THE

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN

IN MEMORY OF

STEWART S. HOWE

JOURNALISM CLASS OF 1928

STEWART S. HOWE FOUNDATION

977



cop. 2



I.H.S.




CHICAGO AND THE OLD NORTHWEST



THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS



Agents
THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS

LONDON AND EDINBURGH

THE MARUZEN-KABUSHIKI-KAISHA

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LEIPZIG

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CHICAGO AND THE
OLD NORTHWEST

l6 73- l8 35

A STUDY OF THE EVOLUTION OF THE
NORTHWESTERN FRONTIER, TOGETHER
WITH A HISTORY OF FORT DEARBORN



BY

MILO MILTON QUAIFE, PH.D.

Professor of History in the Lewis Institute
of Technology




THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS



COPYRIGHT 1913 BY
THE UNIVERSITY OP CHICAGO



All Rights Reserved



Published October igij



Composed and Printed By

The University of Chicago Press

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.



PREFACE



There are many histories of Chicago in existence, yet none of
them supplies the want which has induced the preparation of the
present work. It has been written under the conviction that
there is ample justification for a comprehensive and scholarly
treatment of the beginnings of Chicago and its place in the evo-
lution of the old Northwest. I have endeavored to produce a
readable narrative without in any way trenching upon the prin-
ciples of sound scholarship. To what extent, if any, I have
succeeded must be for the reader to judge. I may, however,
claim the negative virtue of entire freedom from the motives of
commercial gain and family partisanship, which enter so largely
into our local historical literature.

In preparing the work I have made as diligent a study of the
sources as practicable, at the same time availing myself freely of
the studies of others in the same field. With one exception
acknowledgment of my obligations to the latter is made in the
footnotes. The manuscript of a lecture by the late Professor
Charles W. Mann on the Fort Dearborn massacre was put at
my disposal. I have used it as far as it served my purpose
without attempting to cite it in the footnotes.

In many places I have broken new ground and I can scarcely
expect my work to be entirely free from error. I am particularly
conscious of this in connection with chap, xiii on the Indian
Trade, a subject to which a volume might well be devoted. In
controversial matters I have written without fear or favor from
any source. If in many cases my conclusions seem to differ from
those of other writers, I can only say that the words of a recent
historian with reference to history writing in the Middle Ages,
"Recorded events were accepted without challenge, and the
sanction of tradition guaranteed the reality of the occurrence,"
apply with almost equal force to much of the literature pertaining
to early Chicago.



vi PREFACE

I desire to express my obligation for courtesies rendered,
or facilities extended, to the Chicago Historical Society, the
Wisconsin State Historical Society, the Detroit Public Library,
the Division of Manuscripts of the Library of Congress, the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the War Department. I am
indebted also for many favors to Miss Caroline Mcllvaine,
librarian, and Mr. Marius Dahl, record clerk, of the Chicago
Historical Society; to Mr. C. M. Burton, of Detroit; to the
descendants of Nathan Heald, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McCluer
and Mrs. Arthur McCluer, of O'Fallon, Mo., Mrs. Lillian Heald
Richmond and Dr. and Mrs. Ottofy of St. Louis, and Mr. and
Mrs. Wright Johnson, of Rutherford, N. J. ; and to my wife and
to my father-in-law, Rev. G. W. Goslin, for unwearied assistance
in the preparation and revision of the manuscript. Finally I
wish to record my deep obligation to Dr. Otto L. Schmidt, presi-
dent of the Illinois State Historical Society, for much sympathetic
advice and encouragement.

M. M. QUAIFE
CHICAGO

September, 1913



TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE CHICAGO PORTAGE j

II. CHICAGO IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 21

III. THE Fox WARS: A HALF-CENTURY OF CONFLICT ... 51

IV. CHICAGO IN THE REVOLUTION 79

V. THE FIGHT FOR THE NORTHWEST 105

VI. THE FOUNDING OF FORT DEARBORN 127

VII. NINE YEARS OF GARRISON LIFE . . . . . . . . 153

VIII. THE INDIAN UTOPIA 178

IX. THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 195

X. THE BATTLE AND DEFEAT 211

XI. THE FATE OF THE SURVIVORS 232

XII. THE NEW FORT DEARBORN 262

XIII. THE INDIAN TRADE 285

XIV. WAR AND THE PLAGUE 310

XV. THE VANISHING OF THE RED MAN 340

APPENDIX I: Journal of Lieutenant James Strode Swearingen . . 373
APPENDIX II: Sources of Information for the Fort Dearborn Mas-
sacre 378

APPENDIX III: Nathan Heald's Journal 402

APPENDIX IV: Captain Heald's Official Report of the Evacuation of

Fort Dearborn 406

APPENDIX V: Darius Heald's Narrative of the Chicago Massacre,

as Told to Lyman C. Draper in 1868 409

APPENDIX VI: Lieutenant Helm's Account of the Massacre . . . 415
APPENDIX VII: Letter of Judge Augustus B. Woodward to Colonel

Proctor concerning the Survivors of the Chicago Massacre . . 422
APPENDIX VIII: Muster-Roll of Captain Nathan Heald's Company

of Infantry at Fort Dearborn 425

APPENDIX IX: The Fated Company: A Discussion of the Names

and Fate of the Whites Involved in the Fort Dearborn Massacre 428

BIBLIOGRAPHY 439

INDEX 459



CHAPTER I

THE CHICAGO PORTAGE

The story of Chicago properly begins with an account of the
city's natural surroundings. For while her citizens have striven
worthily, during the three-quarters of a century that has passed
since the birth of the modern city, to achieve greatness for her,
it is none the less true that Nature has dealt kindly with Chicago,
and is entitled to share with them the credit for the creation of
the great metropolis of the present day. If in recent years the
enterprise of man rather than the generosity of Nature has
seemed chiefly responsible for the growth of Chicago, in the long
period which preceded the birth of the modern city such was not
the case; for whatever importance Chicago then possessed was
due primarily to the natural advantages of her position.

Since this volume is to tell the story of early Chicago, con-
cluding at the point where the life of the modern city begins, it
is not my purpose to dwell upon the natural advantages which
today contribute to the city's prosperity. Her central location
with respect to population, surrounded by hundreds of thousands
of square miles of country as fair, and supporting a population
as progressive, as any on the face of the globe; her contiguity
to the wheat fields of the great West; her situation in the heart
of the corn belt of the United States; the wealth of coal fields
and iron mines and forests poured out, as it were, at her feet;
her unrivaled systems of transportation by lake and by rail; how
all these factors, reinforced by the daring energy of her citizens,
have combined to render Chicago the industrial heart of the
nation is a matter of common knowledge. That in the days
before the coming of the railroad or the settler, when for hundreds
of miles in every direction the wilderness, monotonous and un-
broken, stretched away, inhabited only by the wild beast and
the wild Indian; when only at infrequent intervals were its



2 CHICAGO AND THE OLD NORTHWEST

forest paths or waterways traversed by the fur trader or the
priest, the representatives of commerce and the Cross, the two
mightiest forces of the civilization before the advance of which
the wilderness was to give way; that even in this far-away
period Nature made of Chicago a place of importance and of
concourse, the rendezvous of parties bent on peaceful and on
warlike projects, is not so commonly understood.

The importance of Chicago in this early period was primarily
due to the fact of her strategic location, whether for the prosecu-
tion of war or of commerce, at the head of the Great Lakes
on one of the principal highways of travel between the two
greatest interior waterway systems of the continent, those of the
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence and the Mississippi River. The two
most important factors in the exploration and settlement of a
country are the waterways and mountain systems the one an
assistance, the other an obstacle, to travel. 1 The early English
colonists in America, settling first in Virginia and Massachusetts
and gradually spreading out over the Atlantic coastal plain,
were shut from the interior of the continent by the great wall
presented by the Allegheny Mountains. The French, securing
a foothold about the same time at the mouth of the St. Lawrence
River, found themselves in possession of a highway which
offered ready access into the interior. The importance of the
rivers and streams as highways of travel in this early period is
difficult to realize today. The dense forests which spread over
the eastern half of the continent were penetrated only by the
narrow Indian trail or the winding river. The former was pass-
able only on foot, and even by pack animals but with difficulty. 2
The latter, however, afforded a ready highway into the interior,
and the light canoe of the Indian a conveyance admirably
adapted to the exigencies of river travel. By carrying it over
the portages separating the headwaters of the great river sys-
tems the early voyageurs could penetrate into the heart of the
continent.

1 Farrand, Basis of American History, 23.
Ibid.



THE CHICAGO PORTAGE 3

Proceeding up the St. Lawrence, the French colonists early
gained the Great Lakes. Their advance rested here for a time,
but in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, by a great
outburst of exploring activity, the upper waters of the Mississippi
were gained and eagerly followed to their outlet in the Gulf
of Mexico. Thus New France found a second outlet to the sea,
and thus, even before the English had crossed the Alleghenies,
the French had fairly encircled them, and planted themselves
in the heart of the continent. From the basin of the Great
Lakes to that of the Mississippi they early made use of five
principal highways. 3 On each, of course, occurred a portage at
the point where the transfer from the head of the one system of
navigation to the other occurred. One of these five highways
led from the foot of Lake Michigan by way of the Chicago River
and Portage to and down the Illinois. The Chicago Portage
thus constituted one of the "keys of the continent," as Hulbert,
the historian of the portage paths, has so aptly termed them. 4

The comparatively undeveloped state of the field of American
historical research is well illustrated by the fact that despite
the historical importance of the Chicago Portage, no careful
study of it has ever been made. The student will seek in vain
for even an adequate description of the physical characteristics
of the portage. Winsor's description, a paragraph in length, is
perhaps the best and most authoritative one available. 5 Yet,
aside from its brevity, neither of the two sources to which he
makes specific reference can be regarded as reliable authorities

j Winsor, Narrative and Critical History of America, IV, 224.
Hulbert, Portage Paths: The Keys of the Continent.

s "What Herman Moll, the English cartographer, called the 'land carriage of Chekakou'
is described by James Logan, in a communication which he made in 1718 to the English
Board of Trade, as running from the lake three leagues up the river, then a half a league
of carriage, then a mile of water, next a small carry, then two miles to the Illinois, and then
one hundred and thirty leagues to the Mississippi. But descriptions varied with the
seasons. It was usually called a carriage of from four to nine miles, according to the stage
of the water. In dry seasons it was even farther while in wet times it might not
be more than a mile; and, indeed, when the intervening lands were 'drowned,' it was quite
possible to pass in a canoe amid the sedges from Lake Michigan to the Des Plaines, and so
to the Illinois and the Mississippi." Winsor, Mississippi Basin, 24. For similar descrip-
tions see Hulbert, Portage Paths, 181; Jesuit Relations, LIX, 313-14, note 41.



4 CHICAGO AND THE OLD NORTHWEST

upon the Chicago Portage. Moll, the cartographer, notable
for his credulous temperament, 6 relied for his knowledge of the
Great Lakes region upon the discredited maps of Lahontan. 7
James Logan, whose description of the portage is quoted, 8 was
a reputable official of Pennsylvania, but, in common with the
seaboard English colonists generally, his knowledge of the
geography of the interior was extremely hazy. This is suffi-
ciently shown by the fact that he located La Salle's Fort Miami,
which had stood during the brief period of its existence at the
mouth of the St. Joseph River, on the Chicago.

That there should be confusion and misconception in the
secondary descriptions of the Chicago Portage is not surprising,
in view, on the one hand, of the unusual seasonal variations in
its character, and, on the other, of the dispute which very early
arose concerning it. None of the other portages between the
Great Lakes and the Mississippi if indeed any in America
were subject to such changes as this one. The dispute over its
character goes back to the beginning of the French exploration
of this region. When Joliet returned to Canada from his
famous expedition down the Mississippi in 1673, filled with
enthusiasm over his discoveries, he gave out a glowing account
of the country he had visited. In particular he seems to have
dwelt upon the ease of communication between the Great Lakes
and the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Chicago and Illinois
rivers to the Mississippi. Joliet's records were lost, but both
Frontenac, the governor of New France, and Father Dablon
have left accounts of his verbal report. 9 Frontenac stated
that a bark could go from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of
Mexico, with only a portage of half a league at Niagara.
Dablon, who seems to have appreciated the situation more
intelligently than Frontenac, said that a bark could go from

4 Winsor, Mississippi Basin, 80, 104, in, 163.

* Moll's map in his Atlas Minor is simply an English copy of Lahontan's map of 1703.
For the latter see Lahontan, New Voyages to North America (Thwaites ed.), I, 156.

8 For the substance of Logan's report see the British Board of Trade report of Septem-
ber 8, 1721, printed in O'Callaghan, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State
of New York, V, 621. This will be cited henceforth as New York Colonial Documents.

' Winsor, Cartier to Frontenac, 246-47; Jesuit Relations, LVIII, 105.



THE CHICAGO PORTAGE S

Lake Erie to the Gulf if a canal of half a league were cut at the
Chicago Portage.

Probably Dablon's report represents more nearly than that
of Frontenac what Joliet actually said, for it seems unlikely
that he would ignore utterly the existence of the portage at
Chicago. Even so, however, his description of the ease of water
communication between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi
River was unduly optimistic. Its accuracy was sharply chal-
lenged by La Salle upon his visit to Chicago several years later.
Joliet passed through Illinois but once, rather hurriedly, know-
ing nothing of the country aside from what he learned of it
on this trip. He was ill-qualified, therefore, to describe accu-
rately the Illinois-Chicago highway and portage; at the most
he could describe only the conditions prevailing at the time of
his hasty passage. La Salle, on the other hand, was operating
in the Illinois country from 1679 to 1683, seeking to establish a
colony with its capital at the modern Starved Rock, one hundred
miles from Chicago. He was greatly interested in developing
the trade of this region, and, while he looked forward ultimately
to securing a southern outlet for it, for the present he must find
such outlet by way of Canada. In the course of his Illinois
career he passed between his colony and Canada several times,
and from both necessity and self-interest became thoroughly
familiar with the routes of communication which could be fol-
lowed. He himself ordinarily came by the Great Lakes to the
foot of Lake Michigan and thence by the St. Joseph River and
portage or the Chicago to the Illinois, but he became convinced
that it would not be practicable to carry on commerce between
his Illinois colony and Canada through the upper lakes, and that
a route by way of the Ohio River and thence to the lower lakes
and Canada was more feasible.

In discussing this subject La Salle was led to take issue with
Joliet as to the feasibility of navigation between Lake Michigan
and the Illinois, and so to state explicitly what the hindrances
were. 10 The goods brought to Chicago in barges must be

10 Margry, Dfcouvertes et ttablissements des Franqais dans I'ouest et dans le sud de
I'Amfrique septentrionale, II, 81-82. This collection will be cited henceforth as Margry.



6 CHICAGO AND THE OLD NORTHWEST

transshipped here in canoes, for, despite Joliet's assertions,, only
canoes could navigate the Des Plaines for a distance of forty
leagues. At a later time La Salle reverted to this subject, and
in this connection gave the first detailed description we have of
the Chicago Portage." From the lake one passes by a channel
formed by the junction of several small streams or gullies, and
navigable about two leagues to the edge of the prairie. Beyond
this at a distance of a quarter of a league to the westward is a
little lake a league and a half in length, divided into two parts by
a beaver dam. From this lake issues a little stream which,
after twining in and out for half a league across the rushes, falls
into the Chicago River, which in turn empties into the Illinois.

The "channel" was the main portion and south branch of
the modern Chicago River. The lake has long since disappeared
by reason of the artificial changes brought about by engineers;
in the early period of white settlement at Chicago it was known
as Mud Lake. La Salle's "Chicago River," into which Mud
Lake ordinarily drained, was, of course, the modern Des Plaines.

Continuing his description of the water route by way of the
Chicago and Des Plaines, La Salle pointed out that when the
little lake in the prairie was full, either from great rains in summer
or from the vernal floods, it discharged also into the "channel"
leading to Lake Michigan, whose surface was seven feet lower
than the prairie where Mud Lake lay. The Des Plaines, too,
in time of spring flood, discharged a part of its waters by way
of Mud Lake and the channel into Lake Michigan. La Salle
granted that at this time Joliet's proposed canal of half a league
across the portage would permit the passage of boats from Lake
Michigan to the sea. But he denied that this would be possible
in the summer, for there was then no water in the river as far
down as his post of St. Louis, the modern Starved Rock, where
at this season the navigation of the river began. Still other
obstacles to the feasibility of Joliet's proposed canal were pointed
out. The action of the waters of Lake Michigan had created a
sand bank at the mouth of the Chicago River which the force

Margry, pp. 166 ff.



of the current of the Des Plaines, when made to discharge into
the lake, would be unable to clear away. Again, the possibility
of a boat's stemming the spring floods of the Des Plaines, "much
stronger than those of the Rhone," was doubtful. But if all
other obstacles were surmounted, the canal would still have no
practical value because the navigation of the Des Plaines would
be possible for but fifteen or twenty days at most, in time of
spring flood; while the navigation of the Great Lakes was
rendered impossible by the ice until mid-April, or even later, by
which time the flood on the Des Plaines had subsided and that
stream had become unnavigable, even for canoes, except after
some storm.

Thus there was initiated by La Salle a dispute over the char-
acter of the water communication from Lake Michigan to the
Mississippi by way of the Chicago Portage which has been
revived in our own day, and in the decision of which property
interests to the value of hundreds of thousands of dollars are
involved. 12 Of the essential correctness of La Salle's descrip-
tion there can be no question. Considering its early date and
the many cares with which the mind of the busy explorer was
burdened, it constitutes a significant testimonial to his ability
and powers of observation. It may well be doubted whether
any later writer has improved upon if, indeed, any has equaled
La Salle's description of the Chicago-Des Plaines route.
From its perusal may be gathered the clue to the fundamental
defect in the descriptions of the Chicago Portage which modern
historians have given us. Overlooking the fact that the Des
Plaines River was subject to fluctuation to an unusual degree,
they err in assuming that the portage ceased when the Des
Plaines was reached. The portage was the carriage which must
be made between the two water systems. Hulbert is quite
right in saying, as he does, that none of the western portages
varied more in length than did this one. 13 In fact his words

" The United States of America vs. The Economy Light and Power Company. The
evidence taken in this case constitutes by far the most exhaustive study of the character
and historical use of the Chicago Portage that has ever been made.

"Hulbert, Portage Paths, 181.



8 CHICAGO AND THE OLD NORTHWEST

possess far more significance than the writer himself attaches
to them; for the length of the carriage that must be made at
Chicago varied from nothing at all to fifty miles or, at times, to
even twice this distance. At times there was an actual union
of the waters flowing into Lake Michigan with those entering
the Illinois River, permitting the uninterrupted passage of
boats from the one system to the other. At other times the
portage which must be made extended from the south branch
of the Chicago to the mouth of the Vermilion River, some
fifty miles below the mouth of the Des Plaines.

It is doubtless true that "truth, crushed to earth, will rise
again," but the converse proposition of the poet that error dies
amid its worshipers requires qualification. Certainly in the
matter under discussion La Salle as early as 1683 dealt the errors
of Joliet with respect to the Chicago Portage a crushing blow.
Yet these self-same errors were destined to "rise again," and in
the early nineteenth century it was again commonly reported
that a practicable waterway from Lake Michigan to the Missis-
sippi could be attained by the construction of a canal a few
miles in length across what for convenience may be termed the
short Chicago Portage, from the south branch of the Chicago
River through Mud Lake to the Des Plaines. Even capable
engineers threw the weight of their opinion in support of this
fallacy. 14 But the young state of Illinois learned to her cost, in
the hard school of experience, the truth of La Salle's observations.
The canal of half a league extended in the making to a hundred
miles and required for its construction years of time and the
expenditure of millions of dollars.

We may now consider the dispute between Joliet and La Salle
over the character of the Chicago Portage in the light of the
information afforded by the statements of later writers. It will
follow from what has already been said that the secondary
statements, whether of travelers or of gazetteers and other
compendiums of information, made in the early part of the
nineteenth century, must be subjected to critical examination.

E.g., Major Stephen H. Long. For his report see the National Register, III,



THE CHICAGO PORTAGE 9

The only way in which this may be done is by a resort to the
sources; and our conclusions concerning the Chicago-Illinois
Portage and route must be based upon the testimony of those
who actually used it, or were familiar with the use made of it by
others. A study of these sources makes it clear that the Des
Plaines River was subject to great fluctuation at different seasons,
or even as between periods of drought and periods of copious
rainfall, and that the length and character of the portage at any
given time depended entirely upon the stage of water in the
Des Plaines. During the brief period of the spring flood boats
capable of carrying several tons might pass between Lake
Michigan and the Des Plaines and along the latter stream with-
out meeting with obstacles other than those incident to the high



Online LibraryMilo Milton QuaifeChicago and the Old Northwest, 1673-1835; a study of the evolution of the northwestern frontier, together with a history of Fort Dearborn → online text (page 1 of 45)