The History of Genesee County is now presented, without apology, to its patrons, and their verdict is awaited, in full confidence that it will be a favorable one.
Philadelphia, Oct. 1, 1879.
BY FRANKLIN ELLIS.
LOCATION AND NATURAL FEATURES OF GENESEE COUNTY.
Genesee is an interior county of Michigan, situated in the southeastern part of the lower peninsula of the State; its capital city, Flint, which is also nearly its territorial center, being in latitude 43° 1′ north, and longitude 83° 4′ west; distant sixty-four miles in a northwesterly direction from Detroit, fifty miles east-northeast from the State capital, and sixty-six miles west from the outlet of Lake Huron, by the customary routes of travel.
The counties which join this and form its several boundaries are Saginaw and Tuscola on the north, Lapeer and Oakland on the east, Oakland and Livingston on the south, and Shiawassee and Saginaw on the west.
The limits of Genesee include eighteen townships of the United States survey, sixteen of which (being Nos. 6, 7, 8, and 9 north, in ranges 5, 6, 7, and 8 east) lie together in form of a square; and the two remaining townships (5 north, of ranges 5 and 6 east) join the square, upon the west half of its south line.
Thus the aggregate area is nearly 415,000 acres.
More than three-fourths of this area, embracing all the central and western parts of the county, is underlaid by the vast coal measures, which occupy a space of nearly seven thousand square miles in the center of the lower peninsula; comprehending, besides Genesee, the counties of Saginaw, Shiawassee, Clinton, Ionia, Montcalm, Gratiot, Isabella, and Midland, and the greater part of Tuscola, Ingham, Eaton, and Bay, with considerable portions of Livingston and Jackson.
“Over nearly the whole of this extent of country, the [coal] measures will be found productive.”
This is the prediction made by Dr. Alexander Winchell, State Geologist, in his “Report of the Progress of the Geological Survey of Michigan,” made to Governor Wisner, in December, 1860; from which document is also extracted the following, having reference to Genesee County:
“Between Ingham and Genesee Counties the boundary of the coal formation has not been traced.
In the southwestern part of the township of Mount Morris, and contiguous portions of Flushing, in the latter county, according to the observations of Dr. Miles, the shales and sandstones of the coal measures make numerous outcrops.
On the southeast quarter of section 26, Flushing, the following section is observed in the bank of the Flint River:
“Superficial materials 4 feet.
Black shale, containing Lingula, Chronetes Smithii, Pruductus Asperus, and Spirifer Cumeratus 3 feet.
Sandstone, tinged with iron 7 inches.
Shale 1 foot.
Sandstone 3 inches.
Shale to surface of water 10 inches.
“A short distance west of here the section is seen to be extended upwards by the superposition of seven inches of sandstone and five feet of overlying shale.
The bed of the river here is covered by somewhat undulating and shattered gray sandstone, which is considerably quarried for building.
At a point on the northeast quarter of section 35, Flushing, a sandstone was seen to attain a thickness of about twelve feet, in an excavation made by Mr. Miles.
“On the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 22, Flushing, a shaft was sunk on the farm of A. J. Brown, of which the following account was obtained:
“Superficial materials 14 feet.
Sandstone, below, bluish, gritty 8″
Coal 2.5 inches.
‘Horseback Claystone’ (Blackband) 2 feet.
Same with kidney iron-ore 2″
Sandstone and salt watter 3″
‘Black hard stone,’ combustible 4″
White fire-clay 2″
Hard white sandstone 2”
Darker sandstone unknown.
Striped sandstone 3 feet.
‘Coal blaze,’ with bands of iron-ore 11 feet.
“A small hole was bored from this point to a depth of twelve feet in the last-named material, making the whole depth attained eighty-three feet.
The work seems to have been directed by ‘Prof. Challis.’
The shaft is now filled with salt water.
“Coal crops out at numerous places in the vicinity.
It is said sometimes to show a thickness of two or three feet at the outcrop, but soon thins out.
“Mr. Patton, on the east side of the river, near the south line of section 22, made an excavation for coal, and found it seam eighteen inches thick, which is tolerably hard.
The sandstone taken from the quarry above Flushing is a pale bluish rock, abounding in scales of white mica, ferruginous streaks, pyrites, carbonaceous streaks and curls, and much oblique lamination.
What is quite remarkable, I saw in a block of this stone, in the vault of the bank, in Flint, a long club of fibrous talcose slate, a mineral said to occur in considerable abundance.
This rock does not answer to the characters of the Woodville sandstone at any point where its identity is undoubted, and I am induced to regard it as a sandstone included in the coal measures.
“If it is so, this is the only instance within my knowledge where, any of the included sandstones have attained sufficient, development to be worked.
It is likely, however, that the gray, homogeneous, fine, gritty, faintly-banded sandstone, found within a mile or two of the city of Lansing, will be found to hold the same position.
Sandstone—not unlikely the Woodville sandstone—is found outcropping in the township of Montrose, on the borders of Saginaw County.”
The center of the great coal measures of the Lower Peninsula falls nearly on the boundary between Gratiot and Saginaw Counties, and it is only their southeastern edge which falls within the county of Genesee.
Next east of these appears the belt of the Parma sandstone, which traverses the entire eastern side of the county from south to north; and next is found the belt of carboniferous limestone, which extends only a short distance into two or three of the townships in the southeastern corner.
Very few geological developments have been made in the county, and the student of the science finds little here of sufficient interest to reward research or exploration.
Genesee County lies entirely within the Saginaw Valley, upon a slope which has a general inclination towards the northwest.
The greatest altitude is at the southeast corner of the county, it being there about four hundred feet above Lake Huron, and about nine hundred and eighty feet above the sea.
From that point the descent is gradual and regular (leaving out of account the surface undulations) to the extreme northwest corner, where the altitude is but about fifty feet above the lake.
At the northeastern and southwestern corners of the county the elevation is nearly the same, being about two hundred and fifty feet above Huron.
All the waters of the county find their outlet to the lake through the channel of the Saginaw River.
The principal stream of Genesee is the Flint River, which, taking its rise in the east and northeast, in the counties of Tuscola, Oakland, and Lapeer, comes from the last-named county into Genesee across its eastern boundary, north of the center, and, flowing thence in a grand irregular sweep or, curve for a distance of nearly fifty miles within the county, passes out across its northern border, and then on through Saginaw County to its junction with the Shiawassee.
In its course through Genesee the Flint River flows first in a general southwesterly course to a point near the geographical center of the county, where it turns abruptly towards the northwest, and continues in that general direction until it has approached to within about three miles of the west boundary; then turns, and flows in a general course nearly due north to the place of its exit, which is about two and a half miles cast of the northwest corner of the county.
Of the tributary streams which Genesee gives to the Flint, the most important are Kearsley Creek and Thread River, both of which come from a number of small lakes in Oakland County; both enter Genesee near its southeast corner, and flow northwestwardly in very tortuous courses to near its center, where they unite with the main river; the Thread being augmented a short distance above its confluence with the Flint by the waters of Swartz Creek, which also takes its rise in numerous lakes in Oakland and in the southwest part of Genesee County, and flows north and northeast to its junction with the larger stream.
The tributaries above mentioned all enter the Flint through its left bank.
* The Indian name of this stream was Peiconigowink, or, as it has sometimes been written, Pcioonnukcuing, which, being translated, means “River of the Flint” (literally, “River of the Fire Stone”), from which came its name in English.
Among the early French traders and courcurs den bois it was known as “Riviere de la Pierre,” this having nearly the same signification.
The principal of those entering from the opposite side are Butternut Creek, which comes in from the northeast corner and Armstrong Creek and Brent’s Run, which are wholly in Genesee, and enter the river in the northwestern most township.
Pine Run has its sources in the northern part of this county, but enters the Flint several miles below, in Saginaw.
A large number of lakes are found within the county, chiefly in its southern and eastern parts.
Among those which lie in the two southernmost townships are Long, Silver, Crooked, Pine, Mud, Lobdell, Squaw, McKane, Bass, McCaslin, Hibbard’s, Loon, White’s, Byram, Murray, Day’s, Thompson’s, Myers, Ball, and Openconic Lakes, with a large number of smaller ones, all beautiful sheets of pure, limpid water.
Most of these contribute to swell the waters of the main stream and several branches of the Shiawassee River, which flows westward for several miles through this part of Genesee, then passes into and across Shiawassee County on its way to join its current with those of the Flint, the Cass, and the Tittabawassee.
In the extreme northeast corner of Genesee (and extending across the line into Lapeer County) is Otter Lake, which is the source of Butternut Creek.
At more southerly points on the east line of the county are Potter and Hasler Lakes, both of which are also partly in Lapeer.
The latter discharges its waters through Hasler Creek into the Flint, and the former is the source of Black Creek, a tributary to the Kearsley, which is also partially supplied by Neshinaguac Lake, near the southeast corner of the county.
Buell’s Lake, near the northern border, is the head of Perry’s Creek, which flows north and joins the Cass River in Tuscola County.
The surface of Genesee can nowhere be termed hilly, but is generally undulating, though flattening considerably towards the northwest.
The parts which are most rolling were originally covered with open forests, principally of oak, which were (and still are, where they remain) called “oak openings.”
The more level portions were generally covered with a denser and heavier forest, composed of oak, elm, hickory, beech, maple, ash, and a variety of other woods, interspersed in many places with pine of large growth and excellent quality, which, by its manufacture into lumber, has added largely to the wealth of the county.
The soil of the rolling country is a sandy or gravelly loam; that of the flatter lands is intermixed with clay and less friable, but in nearly every part very productive and well adapted for the requirements of the farmer.
In agriculture Genesee stands in the foremost rank among the counties of the State.
THE WHITE MAN’S PREDECESSORS IN THE SAGINAW VALLEY.
Ancient Mounds and Relies—The Sauks, and their Expulsion by the Chippewas —Early Indian Traders—Jacob Smith.
ANCIENT MOUNDS AND RELICS.
In hundreds of different localities in Michigan, and, indeed, through all or nearly all the States lying between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi, there have been found indisputable evidences that, centuries before the advent of the white man into this western land, its valleys and hills and forests had been inhabited by tribes, or nations of people, who were either the remote ancestors of the later Indians who were found in occupation, or, perhaps, of a race which is now extinct and unknown.
Many such evidences were found by the early settlers in Genesee County (as in every other part of the Saginaw Valley), chiefly in the form of ancient mounds of earth, which appeared to have been constructed for purposes of sepulture, as in nearly or quite every instance they were found to contain human bones,—sometimes sound and well preserved, but oftener in a condition of such friability that the lightest touch, or even exposure to the air, reduced them to fine powder; the latter circumstance seeming to indicate a very ancient period of inhumation.
And with these were sometimes found rude implements and parts of warlike weapons, which may or may not have been significant of the rank or consequence of the person with whom they were buried.
Instances are mentioned as having been noticed in the county, where the bones found were of unusually large size; one of these cases being that of a colossal skeleton, which was discovered some two or three feet below the surface, and was disinterred by workmen engaged in constructing a road across Crane’s Cove, on the west side of Long Lake, in the fall of 1877, and another instance in the east part of the county, where a number of skeletons (also of very large size) were found buried in a circle directly beneath the stump of a gigantic pine-tree of the oldest growth; but in both these cases the finding of the bones was wholly accidental, as there was no mound or other surface-mark to indicate the places of burial.
Many of the ancient mounds discovered in Ohio, Illinois, and other States seem to have been intended as defensive works; and in their construction, as well as in the material and finish of the implements, pottery, and weapons found within them, there appears the work of a people who, in enlightenment, engineering, and mechanical skill, must have been very far in advance of the later Indians to whom we are accustomed to apply the name of aborigines.
But the pre-historic works found in Genesee County were not of this class; they were in every case (it is believed) simply sepulchral mounds, inclosing the bones and relies of a race that may have been identical with that which the first white settlers found in possession of the soil.
There appears to have been nothing in the construction of the mounds, or in the mechanism or material of the implements discovered here, to compel a belief that either were the work of a superior people.
That any race of men different from the Indian ever had a home in the valley of the Saginaw is only rendered probable from the disclosure of skeletons, represented to have been of unusual size; and it is not impossible that even this peculiarity (in the absence of actual measurement) may have been unintentionally exaggerated on account of the atmosphere of mystery and romance which surrounded their discovery.
They may have been the remains of Toltec or Aztec mound-builders, or they may have been those of the ancestors of Pontiac or Tecumseh.
It is a question which can never be satisfactorily settled, and which, beyond the facts of the discovery of the tumuli and their mysterious contents, is not properly within the scope of this history.
THE SAUKS AND THEIR EXPULSION BY THE CHIPPEWAS.
When the first white explorers penetrated this wilderness region, they found it peopled by bands of both the Chippewa and Ottawa nations of Indians, though the former were by far the more numerous here, and have generally been mentioned in Indian history, and recognized in all subsequent treaties as the original proprietors of the country bordering on the Saginaw and its tributaries, and of the vast territory stretching away from thence northwestwardly to Lake Superior.
According to their own traditions, however (which, in this particular, are supported to some extent by authentic history), their proprietorship was of but comparatively recent date.
They said that, within the memory of some of their old men, all these streams and woods and hunting-grounds, this Indian paradise of fish and deer and beaver, was the home and possession of the Sauks and Onottoways (a kindred people), who lived near together in neighborly amity, and, both being strong and valiant tribes, and confederated for mutual defense, they felt perfectly secure in their fancied ability to hold their country against all invading enemies.
The Sauks were the more numerous, and occupied the valleys of the Tittabawassee, the Flint, and the Shiawassee, their domain extending as far south as the head-waters of the latter stream, along the present southern boundaries of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties.
The Onottoways lived in the valley of the Onottoway-Sebewing, or Cass River, and had their principal village a few miles above the mouth of that stream, nearly where is now the village of Bridgeport Centre, and where, as late as 1840, a large earthen work was still visible, though whether built by these people or by their successors, the Chippewas, is, of course, a matter of doubt.
The chief village of the Sauks was on the west side of the Saginaw River, opposite where Portsmouth now stands; but they had other small villages or encampments at different points on the rivers, and as far up as the lakes of Genesee and Livingston Counties.
Both these tribes appear to have possessed warlike traits, and were not only disposed to hold and defend their own country, but sometimes engaged in aggressive expeditions against the tribes whose country adjoined theirs on the north and south, which tribes, as a consequence, both feared and hated them.
Particularly was this the case with the Ojibways (Chippewas), who then inhabited a region far away to the north, bordering on the lakes,—Michigan, Huron, and Superior.
This nation had for years coveted the teeming hunting-grounds of the Sauks, and it had long been a cherished project with them to conquer and exterminate the prosperous tribes who held the Saginaw Valley, and the country stretching thence, for many a league, towards the north and west.
But they dreaded the power and prowess of their enemies, and this consideration held them in check until their ambitious desires could be controlled no longer, and, at last, they determined to attempt the execution of the plan of invasion and conquest which they had so king secretly entertained.
To this end they held council with the Ottawas of the north (whose country was contiguous to their own), and sent messengers to the southern Ottawas (whose domain lay along the northern border of that of the Pottawattamies), asking them to join in an expedition for the humiliation of the Sauks and Onottoways and the occupation of their hunting-grounds.
The proposition was favorably received, the league was formed, and the confederated bands set out on the war-path with great secrecy, hoping to take their enemies by surprise,—a hope that was fully realized.
As to the manner in which the attack was made, the traditional accounts differed to some extent; but that which seems the most complete and reasonable was nearly as follows:
The invaders entered the country of the doomed tribes in two columns,—one, composed of the southern Ottawas, coming through the woods from the direction of Detroit, and the other, made up of the Chippewas and northern Ottawas, setting out in canoes from Mackinaw, proceeding down along the western shores of Lake Huron and the bay of Saginaw, paddling by night, and lying concealed in the woods by day.
When the canoe fleet reached a point a few miles above the mouth of Saginaw River, half the force was landed; and the remainder, boldly striking across the bay in the night-time, disembarked at a place about the same distance below the mouth of the Saginaw.
Then, in darkness and stealth, the two detachments glided up through the woods on both sides of the river, and fell upon the unsuspecting Sauks like panthers upon their prey.
The principal village—situated on the west side of the river was first attacked; many of its people were put to the tomahawk, and the remainder were driven across the river to another of their villages, which stood on the eastern bank.
Here they encountered the body of warriors who had moved up on that side of the river, and a desperate fight ensued, in which the Sauks were again routed, with great loss.
The survivors then fled to a small island in the Saginaw, where they believed themselves safe, at least for the time, for their enemies had no canoes in the river.
But here again they had deluded themselves, for in the following night ice was formed of sufficient strength to enable the victorious Chippewas to cross to the island.
This opportunity they were not slow to avail themselves of, and then followed another massacre, in which, as one account says, the males were killed, to the last man, and only twelve women were spared out of all who had fled there for safety.
So thickly was the place strewn with bones and skulls of the massacred Sauks, that it became known as “Skull Island.”
(Mr. Ephraim S. Williams, one of the oldest and most respected citizens of Flint, but formerly of Saginaw City, verifies this statement. He has often visited the island in earlier years, and has seen numbers of skulls exhumed from its soil.)
After completing their bloody work on the Saginaw, the invading army was divided into detachments, which severally proceeded to carry destruction to the villages on the Shiawassee, Tittabawassee, Cass, and Flint Rivers.
Meanwhile, the co-operating force of Ottawas, coming in from the south, struck the Flint River near its southernmost bend, and a desperate battle was fought between them and the Sauk’s, upon the bluff bank of the river, about a half-mile below the present city of Flint.
Here the Sauk’s suffered a severe defeat, and retreated down the river to a point about one mile above where the village of Flushing now is; and there another battle was fought, as bloody and disastrous as the first.
Still another deadly struggle took place on the Flint, a little north of the present boundary between Genesee and Saginaw Counties; and on this field, as on the others, the bones of the slain were found many years afterwards.
Equally murderous work was done by the bands which scoured the valleys of the Shiawassee and the Cass, and everywhere the result was the same,— the utter rout and overthrow of the Sauks, only a miserable remnant of whom made their escape, and, finally, by some means, succeeded in eluding their relentless foes, and gained the shelter of the dense wilderness west of Lake Michigan.
After the Sauks had been thus utterly crushed, and their villages destroyed, the victorious allies did not immediately settle in the conquered territory, but held it as a common ground for the range of their hunting-parties.
After a time they found that some of the young men who went out with those parties did not return, and could never be heard of, and then it became their firm belief that the dim recesses of these forests were haunted by the spirits of the murdered Sauks, who had come back to their former hunting-grounds to take vengeance on their merciless destroyers.
And the result of the belief (so said the tradition) was that they abandoned this inviting region, and for years their hunters and fishermen avoided its haunted woods and streams, although the thickets swarmed with game and the waters were alive with fish.
No one can say how long their superstitious terrors prevailed, but it is certain that they were overcome at last, and the Chippewa and Ottawa tribes built their lodges in the land which their bloody hands had wrenched from its rightful possessors.
Those who came to the valley of the Saginaw, however, were principally Chippewa’s, and from that time the Indian inhabitants of this region were known as the Saginaw tribe of the Chippewa nation.
They possessed all the characteristics of the parent stock, and, until they were overawed and cowed by the power of the whites, they showed a disposition as fierce and turbulent as that of their kindred, the Ojibways of Lake Superior, who massacred the garrison of Fort Michilimackinac, in 1763.
(At both these places were found a number of mounds covering human bones. These were visible within the past few years, and have been seen by many persons now living in the county. One of the Indian accounts of this sanguinary campaign was to the effect that no Sunk or Onottoway warrior escaped; that of all the people of the Saginaw Valley not one was spared except the twelve women before mentioned, and that these were sent westward and placed among the tribes beyond the Mississippi. This, however, was unquestionably an exaggeration made by the boastful Chippewa’s; and it is certain that a part of the Scti1ks escaped beyond the lake.)
The country of the Saginaw’s was then an almost inaccessible fastness, and from this their warriors continually forayed against the unprotected settlements on the Detroit, St. Clair, and Huron Rivers; and many were the scalps and captives which they brought back from these hostile expeditions.
They joined the Indian league which was formed in 1786 in the interest of the British, for the purpose of destroying the American settlements and driving them beyond the Ohio River, and they took part with the other tribes in the hostilities which continued until checked by the victorious campaign of General Anthony Wayne.
Again, when the Shawanese chieftain, Tecumseh, and his brother, the “Prophet” Elkswatawa, instigated by the British, sent forth their emissaries to ask the cooperation of the northern and western tribes in a project to exterminate the white settlements within the Northwest Territory, the Saginaw Chippewa’s were found ready and willing to join the league; and they continued among the most active of all the Indian allies of the English during the war of 1812-15.
EARLY INDIAN TRADERS—JACOB SMITH.
Up to this time it is probable that not more than a dozen white men had ever penetrated into the country of the Saginaw’s.
They may have been visited by the enterprising and adventurous priests from the Recollet Mission at the foot of Lake Huron, but such is not known to be the fact.
It is known, however, that, sometime before the commencement of the present century, a French trader named Bolieu (named, in Indian, Kasegans) came among them, and lived at different points on the Flint and Saginaw Rivers; that he married a full-blood Chippewa woman, by whom he became the father of a number of half-breed children, one of whom, in after-years, was a claimant to one of the Indian reservations in Genesee County.
There is little doubt that (with the possible exception of a priest or two, as above mentioned) this trader, Bolieu, with perhaps two or three assistants, or coureurs de bois (forest-runners), were the first men of European descent who ever set foot upon the wilderness domain of the Saginaw Chippewas.
There was another French trader, however, named Tremble (frequently corrupted to TrombIey), who came to Saginaw very soon after Bolieu, but it is not shown that he was located anywhere else in the Indian country than at that point.
(The facts of Bolieu’s residence among the Saginaws at the time mentioned, of his marriage with the Indian woman, who was a near relative of the Saginaw chief Neome, and of the rearing of his half-breed family, were afterwards shown in a noted case of litigation (Dewey vs. Campau), involving the title to a part of the site of the city of Flint.
In mentioning this class of men, Judge Campbell, in his Political History of Michigan, says, “Many of these were of the lower classes, and dropped readily into the ways of the Indians, adopting their habits, and becoming adherents to the tribes.
But there were many also of respectable connections, who betook themselves to a wandering life of hunting and trading, partly from love of adventure and partly because they could find no other means of livelihood.
There is no reason to regard them as a despicable or essentially vicious race.”
They were generally employed by the early Indian traders to assist in the transportation of their merchandise through the woods, etc.)
Perhaps the next (and certainly one among the earliest) of the traders who came into these wilds was Jacob Smith, a man who should receive more than a cursory mention, not only because he was brave, true, and nobly generous in all his impulses, honest and benevolent in his dealings with the Indians of this valley, to a degree which gave him a firmer hold on their esteem and confidence than has ever been enjoyed by any other white man, but because, although an alien by birth, he was warmly devoted to the cause of America, an officer under her banner, one who braved great personal peril in her service, and gave his property, as he also risked his life, to rescue prisoners from the hands of their savage captors, and because his name is intimately connected with the early history of the region which is now partially included in Genesee County.
He was of German parentage or descent, and a native of the city of Quebec, Canada.
His enterprising and adventurous spirit drew him to the western frontier, and in the early years of the present century we find him, with a wife and several children, located in Detroit, as the base of his trading operations.
He came among the Indians of the Saginaw before the beginning of the war of 1812, at a time when their hostile disposition had been wrought up to a high pitch by the machinations of Tecumseh.
At this time, however, he was not permanently established among them, but merely made periodical visits to their country from his home at Detroit.
On the breaking out of the war, in 1812, it became a matter of importance to know what position the Saginaw tribe would take in the contest, and Jacob Smith undertook the task of gaining such information by going to their villages, ostensibly on a trading expedition, but really with the object above named, though it was necessary to the success of his mission, as well as for his own safety, that this object should remain unknown and unsuspected by the Indians.
He arrived safely at their main settlement on the Saginaw, but soon after reaching there the tongue of one of his two assistants became loosened by a too free use of the treacherous whisky, and while thus off his guard he incautiously divulged the secret which should have been jealously guarded.
Upon learning that the trader, whom they knew to be a British subject, had now come among them as a spy, in the interest of the Americans, they became so greatly infuriated that it was only by instant flight that Smith and one of his assistants were finally enabled to escape with their lives.
Abandoning the merchandise, they leaped on their horses and sped away with all possible rapidity on the southern trail, up the valley of the Flint, fording the river where Flint City now stands, and thence flying on through the woods and openings towards Detroit.
All this time the Indians were in pursuit and gradually gaining ground.
On reaching the Big Springs (in the present town of Groveland, Oakland County) the fugitives found themselves so hard pressed that, in order to embarrass their fierce pursuers, they separated, one continuing on the trail to the Clinton River, the other striking more towards the south, and by this means they finally escaped unharmed, except that Mr. Smith, in riding through a thicket, received a permanent injury to one of his eyes.
The assistant whom they were compelled to leave behind lost his life, and the goods were of course a total loss; but the main object of Mr. Smith’s mission was accomplished, for he had ascertained the disposition and intentions of the Saginaw’s most conclusively.
Either before, or immediately after, this expedition, he was made a captain in the United States service, and was present, under General Hull, at the disgraceful surrender of Detroit.
By reason of this surrender he experienced heavy losses, for which he was never reimbursed by the government.
During the war which succeeded, he on several occasions rendered admirable service by procuring the liberation of prisoners who had been taken by the Indians.
One of these cases was that of a family named Boyer, whose dwelling on Clinton River had been burned and themselves carried into captivity by the Saginaw’s.
To effect their release, Jacob Smith proceeded into the Indian country, taking with him (loaded upon pack-horses) a large quantity of goods, such as delight the hearts of Indians, to be given as a ransom for the unfortunate prisoners.
It was a bold movement for one who had once been compelled to fly for his life from these same Indians whom he now went to seek in their stronghold; but it was just such an act as might have been expected from one of his brave and generous nature.
The Indians admired his fearlessness and respected his mission, and the prisoners were released unharmed.
After the close of the war Mr. Smith continued to prosecute his traffic with the Indians, though he still had his residence in Detroit.
But after the death of his wife, in 1817, he became permanently established in the Saginaw country, and passed most of his time there during the remainder of his life.
In 1819 he located his store where Flint City now stands, and died there a little less than six years afterwards.
By the Indians he was known as Wahbesins (meaning “the young swan”), and his popularity and influence with them was almost unbounded.
He was kind and generous to them; he was unexcelled in bravery; and was the possessor of physical qualities such as invariably elicit the red man’s admiration.
No Indian hunter was more skilled in woodcraft than he.
He had to a great extent adopted their dress and mode of life and by his long intercourse with them had become so familiar with their language that he spoke it as fluently and perfectly as the Chippewas themselves.
Among all the principal men of the tribe there were few, if any, who were not friends to Wahbesins; and especially strong was the bond of amity between him and old Neome, who was one of the most respected and powerful of all the Saginaw chiefs, but an honest, simple-minded, and peaceable man.
The attachment which existed between him and Jacob Smith was so strong that for years after both were dead the Indians invariably spoke of Neome and Wahbesins as brothers, whose friendship had never been broken or clouded.
Conrad Ten Eyek was trading among the Saginaws nearly as early as Jacob Smith.
Louis Campau established himself as a trader among them in 1815.
His brother, Antoine, came about the same time, and Baptiste Cochios had his trading-post on the Flint.
General Riley, of Schenectady, N. Y., commenced trading here soon after the close of the war of 1812-15, and several other traders were in the Indian country as early as 1820, but among all these there were none who ever held the confidence and friendship of the natives to an equal degree with Jacob Smith.
THE SAGINAW-CHIPPEWAS AFTER THE WAR OF 1812-15.
Story of the Chief Nawahgo—Superstition of the Saginaws—The Chief Neome, and the Pewonigo band.
The close of the war of 1812-15, which resulted in the discomfiture of Britain and her Indian allies, seems to have marked the extinguishment of the fierce and warlike disposition of the Saginaw tribe of Chippewas, and from that time their progress was rapid towards that state of decay and demoralization which is invariably the result of the Indian’s contact with the white race, and his access to the white man’s whisky.
When they began to be well known by the traders who followed Jacob Smith, and by the United States officers and agents whose duties called them to the Indian country, they were found to be a dispirited and comparatively harmless people, who, realizing that their former power and prowess were broken, were little disposed to take the war-path or wield the tomahawk for the enforcement of the aboriginal rights which they knew had been justly forfeited by their acts of hostility against the government during the then recent war.
Mr. Ephraim S. Williams, now of Flint, who passed many years among these Indians subsequently to 1820, and who also knew the Chippewas of Lake Superior, says of the former that they were a people who possessed many good traits, but who, generally, were but degenerate representatives of the northern nation from whom they sprung; though he knew many instances of individuals to whom this criticism would not apply.
One incident which he relates seems not inappropriate to mention here, as it occurred in the neighboring county of Saginaw, the actors in it being members of the same tribe who peopled the valley of the Flint, and Mr. Williams (who was an eye-witness of the scene) an old citizen of Genesee, personally known to a large portion of the people of this county, and recognized as among the best of authorities in all matters pertaining to early Indian history.
He tells the story as follows:
There lived upon the Saginaw a young Chippewa warrior,—a model of physical power and grace,—named Nawahgo, who, in a quarrel, had killed a son of the old chief, Red Bird (Wuzcobenasa), whose home was on the Tittabawassee.
By Indian law and usage the relatives of the murdered man might take the life of his slayer, in retaliation, and in this case they demanded the forfeit.
In response to the summons, Nawahgo presented himself before the warrior relatives of his victim, and bared his breast to receive their blows.
The avengers filed past him, and each in turn delivered a blow at his heart; but when all had struck, and Indian justice was sated, the young warrior still lived.
Weak from his wounds and loss of blood, he started to return to his wigwam, but on his way there was met by another Indian, who stabbed him in the back and left him there, believing that he had given a mortal wound.
There he was found by his faithful wife, who had tracked him by the blood-marks.
She succeeded in removing him to their lodge, bathed and bound up his wounds, and nursed him through weeks of prostration and suffering until at last he was completely restored to health.
It was then his turn to demand and to take vengeance on the coward who had struck him in the back, and he did not long lack an opportunity, for he soon met his enemy in the hunting ground, and drove a knife with sure aim to his heart.
Not long after this, large numbers of Indians were assembled at Saginaw to receive a payment from the agents of the government, and on this occasion Black Beaver (a brother of one of the principal chiefs) reviled Nawahgo as a murderer for killing the Indian who had struck him in the back.
The latter retorted that the act was justifiable, and that he had but killed a craven wretch who was unfit to live.
Black Beaver reiterated the accusation in still more insulting terms, and then Nawahgo, fierce with anger, leaped upon him and slew him in his tracks.
This took place upon the present site of East Saginaw.
Nawahgo, immediately after the homicide, crossed to the west side of the river, where his own band were encamped, but here, under the white man’s law, a warrant was issued for his arrest, and upon learning this he at once re-crossed to the east side.
“He sent word to two of his white friends, E. S. Williams and Antoine Campau, desiring them to cross the river and come to the woods in which he was secreted, when, by their giving a signal, he would come to them.
They did so, and he soon made his appearance.
He informed them that he had sent for them for advice; that the white man’s punishment, imprisonment, was only fit for cowards; death by the hands of his own race was glorious, in comparison, if any relative of Black Beaver should choose to make it a cause of vengeance.
They advised him to cross back to his own camp, present himself to his people, and let the affair take the course warranted by Indian usage.”
The advice was taken, and he re-crossed to his own camp.
The arrest was waived, and Nawahgo awaited the summons to appear before those to whom his life was forfeit under the Chippewa law.
The time came for the burial ceremonies of the dead chief, Black Beaver.
All the vast throng of Indians who had gathered for payment, and nearly or quite all the white people living at the place (each one acquainted with the circumstances of the homicide and each eager to know and see the sequel), were congregated in full view of the spot where lay the coffined form of the Beaver, encircled by mourning relatives and chiefs in black paint, among them being some of the head men of the tribe.
Suddenly, during an interval of silence which forms part of the Indian burial ceremony, the stately form of Nawahgo entered the group, and moved towards the center with a mien and step which might have befitted the great Pontiac, or Philip of Mount Hope.
He was habited in costume such as an Indian warrior would wish to die in, and his belt bore knife and tomahawk.
Advancing to the side of the coffin he laid his weapons upon it, then filled and lighted his pipe with great deliberation, drew a few whiffs, and offered it successively to each of the scowling chiefs and warriors who surrounded him, but all declined it.
Next he unslung from his shoulder a small flask of whisky, drank, and offered it to each in the same manner, but again all declined to partake.
“You refuse to smoke with me,” he said.
“You will not drink the fire-water with me in token of peace.
You demand my life, and I am here to give it!”
Then he sat down on the foot of the coffin, loosed his hunting-shirt at the throat, bared his breast, and again addressed his enemies:
“You demand my life! Here it is; take it!
But beware how you strike! Make no mistake; for if a warrior strikes and fails, or if he deals a foul blow, he shall feel my knife in his heart, as I have driven it to the hearts of cowards before!”
This speech was followed by a dead silence.
Nawahgo cast a proud and scornful glance around on the blackened faces of the hostile group, but there was not one among them who moved from his place to strike the waiting victim.
A little longer he sat there, and then—as none came to claim the vengeance due under Indian usage—he rose with deliberation, readjusted his hunting-shirt, resumed his belt and arms, and with the single withering epithet, “Cowards!” upon his lips, strode away, undaunted and unharmed, to the camp of his own band.
“This,” writes Mr. Williams,
“I was eye-witness to.
It was at a payment made by government, and nearly three thousand Indians were present, I was Nawahgo’s friend, and he was also mine, and would and did stand by me in all dangerous times.”
Immediately after the occurrence above mentioned, Nawahgo left the Saginaw, and removed to the shore of Lake Huron, where he lived during the remainder of his life.
He finally died a violent death,—in an encounter with a relative of one of his early victims.
They met on the hunting-ground, and each knew that a death-struggle was to follow; but, before fighting, they sat down, and drank together from the same canteen.
Having finished their potations, they rose, and, like Fitz-James and Roderick Dhu,
“Each looked to sun, and stream, and plain,
As what he ne’er might see again,
Then, tout, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious strife they darkly closed.”
And they fought on till both fell, mortally wounded.
From this narrative it seems evident that, in Nawahgo at least, the warrior blood and spirit of the northern Ojibways had suffered no degeneration.
SUPERSTITION OF THE SAGINAWS.
It has been mentioned that the ancient Chippewas imagined the country which they had wrested from the conquered Sauks to be haunted by the spirits of those whom they had slain, and that it was only after the lapse of years that their terrors became allayed sufficiently to permit them to occupy the “haunted hunting-grounds.”
But the superstition still remained, and in fact it was never entirely dispelled.
Long after the Saginaw valley was studded with white settlements, the simple Indians still believed that mysterious Sauks were lingering in their forests and along the margins of their streams for purposes of vengeance; that Munesous, or bad spirits, in the form of Sauk warriors, were hovering around their villages and camps, and on the flanks of their hunting-parties, preventing them from being successful in the chase, and bringing ill-fortune and discomfiture in a hundred ways.
So great was their dread, that when (as was frequently the case) they became possessed of the idea that the Munesous were in their immediate vicinity they would fly, as if for their lives, abandoning everything, wigwams, fish, game, and poultry; and no amount of ridicule from the whites could convince them of their folly, or induce them to stay and face the imaginary danger.
Some of the Indian bands whose country joined that of the Saginaws played upon their weak superstition and derived profit from it, by lurking around their villages or camps, frightening them into flight, and then appropriating the property which they had abandoned.
A few shreds of wool from their blankets left sticking on thorns or dead brushwood, hideous figures drawn upon the trunks of trees with coal, or marked on the ground in the vicinity of their lodges, was sure to produce this result, by indicating the presence of the dreaded Munesous.
Mr. Williams, whose authority has already been cited in the foregoing pages, writes of this matter as follows:
“There was a time every spring when the Indians from Saginaw and the interior would congregate in large parties for the purpose of putting up dried sturgeon, which made a very delicate dish when properly cooked, and was much used in those days by the first families of Detroit. . . .
The Indians would select the best, flay them, hang them across poles in rows about four feet from the ground and two feet apart, then a gentle smoke was kept under them until perfectly dry.
When this was nearly accomplished, poor, lazy, worthless Indians from a distance, having an eye to supplying themselves with provisions which they never labored to obtain, would commence, in different ways, to excite their fears that the Munesous were about their camps, until at last they would take to their canoes and flee, often leaving almost everything they possessed.
Then the Munesous (the thieving Indians from other bands who had cunningly brought about the stampede for the sake of plunder) would rob the camps of what they wanted, and escape to their homes with, perhaps, their summer supplies of fish, and often of sugar and dried venison.
I have often met them fleeing as above; sometimes twenty or more canoes; have stopped them, and tried to induce them to return, and we would go with them; but no, it was the Munesous, they said, and nothing would convince them differently, and away they would go, frightened nearly to death.
I have visited their camps at such times, gathered up their effects that were left, and secured them in some one camp from destruction by wild animals.
After a while they would return and save what was left.
During these times they were perfectly miserable, actually afraid of their own shadow.”
It was not alone on their annual fishing expedition to the lake that these things occurred; similar scenes were enacted by their hunting-parties in the forests of the Shiawassee and Flint, and at their summer camps among the beautiful inland lakes of their southern border.
“I have had them come from places miles distant,” says Mr. Williams, “bringing their rifles to me, asking me to examine and re-sight them, declaring that the sights had been removed (and in most cases they had, but it was by themselves in their fright).
I have often, and in fact always did when applied to, re-sighted and tried them until they would shoot correctly, and then they would go away cheerfully.
I would tell them they must keep their rifles where the Muncsous could not find them. …
At other times, having a little bad luck in trapping or hunting, they became excited, and would say that game had been over and in their traps, and that they could not catch anything; have known them go so far as to insist that a beaver or an otter had been in their traps and gotten out; that their traps were bewitched or spell-bound, and their rifles charmed by the Munesous, so that they could not catch or kill anything.
Then they must give a great feast, and have the medicine-man or conjuror, and through his wise and dark performances the charm is removed and all is well, and traps and rifles do their duty again.
These things have been handed down for generations.”
“And so, through all the domain of the Saginaws, their lives were made miserable by these superstitious fears; and thus they expiated the crimes committed by their ancestors against the unfortunate Sauks.
THE CHIEF NEOME AND THE PEWONIGO BAND.
The old chief Neome was, as has been mentioned, the most powerful and respected among the chiefs of the Saginaws, though it does not appear that he was or ever had been famed for skill or prowess in war.
His power had somewhat decayed in the latter years of his life, but he retained until the last the respect and confidence of his people.
He was a man well advanced in years when the white people first knew him, prior to 1819.
Then, and during the remainder of his life, he held with his band the southern frontier of his nation, though the territory of the Saginaw’s extended southward many miles beyond his village, which was named Pewonigowink, and located on the river of the same name (the Flint), near where it crosses the boundary between Genesee and Saginaw Counties.
Its site, however, was once or twice, moved,—being at one time in the present township of Montrose, in Genesee, and at another, farther down the river, in Taymouth, Saginaw County.
A large open tract of land, more than a hundred acres in extent, situated about seven miles south of Bridgeport Centre, is yet remembered by the oldest settlers as the “old Indian field.”
This had been used by the people of Neome’s band for their rude agriculture; but, after years of continuous planting, the corn was destroyed for two or three seasons by the grub-worms, which they believed to be the Great Spirit’s curse upon the land, and they therefore abandoned it, and planted in newer fields farther up the river.
Neome died at his village in the year 1827, and was succeeded in the chiefship by Tonedogane, who had been the principal war-chief of the baud and second in command during the life of his superior.
Neome had a brother named Mixanene, and it does not seem clear why he was not made his brother’s successor.
He appears to have been a fierce and bloodthirsty Indian, and it is related of him that in the year 1813, Mr. Joseph Campau paid to him a large sum for the ransom of a white prisoner, Mr. James Hardan, whom Mixanene had determined to torture to death.
But perhaps at that early time even the good Neome was less amiable than the whites found him to be in later years after the Indian spirit had been cowed and broken.
The Indians living in the valley of the Flint were known as the Pewonigo tribe, or band, from the Indian name of the stream.
The present county of Genesee was crossed in various directions by their trails, which, by being traveled for years by themselves and their ponies, had become hard-beaten paths, worn into the soft soil in some places to the depth of more than a foot.
The principal of these was the “Saginaw trail,” which was the Indian road from the Saginaw River to Detroit.
Its route through Genesee County was from Pewonigowink up the Flint River to its southern bend, and thence south by way of Grand Blanc and the Big Springs (Oakland County) to Detroit.
The place where it crossed the Flint was known as the Grand Traverse, or great crossing-place,—a name probably given to it by Bolieu the French trader.
A beautiful open plain, lying in the bend of the river, on the north side and contiguous to the crossing, was named, in Indian, Muscatawingh, meaning “the plain burned over.”
This is now in the first ward of the city of Flint.
A part of it had formerly been used by the Indians as a corn-field, and it was always one of their favorite camping-grounds.
As many as fifteen hundred of them having been seen encamped on it at one time by people who are still residing in Flint.
Over this great trail, too, for years after the first settlers came to Genesee County, thousands of Indians passed and repassed annually, the throng always being particularly large at the time when they went down to receive their annuities.
These yearly payments were made in the early times by both the United States and the British governments; the latter usually paying them at Malden.
The amount paid there was fifty cents a head to Indians of all ages, from the red patriarch of ninety years to the papoose upon its mother’s back.
On these occasions, therefore, every member of the tribe took the trail to be present at the muster for pay.
After a time the British payments ceased, and the United States adopted the plan of paying at inland points to avoid the demoralization which resulted from vast collections of Indians at Detroit.
These interior payments were oftenest made at Saginaw, but were on one or two occasions made ‘at Pewonigowink.
The money used was silver coin, and this was brought up from Detroit on pack-horses.
“Two boxes of one thousand dollars each, weighing one hundred and twenty pounds, slung on each side, were a load for a pack-horse.
The party (generally consisting of an interpreter and sub-agent) made in this way twenty miles per day, and slept out in the woods without fear, though without firearms.
The journey occupied four days from Detroit to Saginaw.”
The Indians were not given to plundering on so grand a scale as the robbery of a pack-horse train loaded with specie, though they sometimes engaged in small pilfering.
Beyond this it does not appear that the settlers stood in much, if any, fear of them.
They were comparatively harmless except when excited by liquor, and even when, under that influence, they were disposed to be defiant, they were easily overawed by a firm and determined course of treatment.
At the commencement of Black Hawk’s war, that chief sent his emissaries among these Indians to distribute his “war-quills,” inviting them to take part against the whites, but the message failed to bring the response he desired, for the warlike spirit of the Saginaws was dead, and they had buried the hatchet forever.
INDIAN TREATIES AND CESSIONS OF LAND-INDIAN EMIGRATION.
Treaty of Greenville—Treaties of Detroit and Springwells—Treaty of Saginaw—Pewonigowink Reservation—Plans for Indian Emigration—Treaties of Washington (1836), Detroit (1837), Flint River (1837), and Saginaw (1838).
The United States government, from the time of its formation, has recognized the possessory rights of the Indian tribes in the soil; and the principle has been established that these rights can only be acquired by the government, or with its consent, and can only be alienated from the native Indians by their own voluntary act, done in public and open council, where the tribes are represented by their chiefs and head men, and the government by its accredited agent or commissioner.
This principle has always been acted on, and this method observed, by the government in its treaties with Indians for the acquisition of their possessory rights in the public domain.
TREATY OF GREENVILLE IN 1795.
The first Indian treaty by which the aboriginal title to lands now within the State of Michigan was extinguished was made on the 3rd of August, 1795, at Greenville, Ohio, by General Anthony Wayne, on behalf of the United States, with representatives of the Wyandots, Shawanese, Ottawas, Chippewas, Pottawattamies, and several other tribes.
By the terms of that treaty the Indians ceded to the United States government “the post of Detroit, and all the lands to the north, the west, and the south of it, of which the Indian title has been extinguished by gifts or grants to the French or English governments, and so much more land to be annexed to the district of Detroit as shall be comprehended between the river Rosine (Raisin) on the south, Lake St. Clair on the north, and a fine, the general course whereof shall be six miles distant from the west end of Lake Erie and Detroit River.”
Several other large tracts were also ceded by the treaty; among these being “the post of Michilimackinac, all the island, and lands on the mainland adjacent,” and the island of Bois Blanc, — mentioned as being an extra and voluntary gift of the Chippewa nation.
Also among the lands ceded by this treaty was “one piece of land six miles square at the mouth of Chikago River emptying into the southwest end of Lake Michigan.”
It was expressly stipulated in the treaty that, in consideration of the peace then and there established, and of the relinquishments made by the Indians, as well as to manifest the liberality of the United States as the means of making the peace strong and perpetual,'” the United States relinquish their claims to all other Indian lands northward of the river Ohio, eastward of the Mississippi, and westward and southward of the great lakes and the waters uniting them, according to the boundary line agreed on between the United States and the King of Great Britain in the peace made between them in the year 1783.”
And it was declared that ” the Indian tribes who have a right to those lands are quietly to enjoy them, hunting, planting, and dwelling thereon so long as they please, without any molestation from the United States; but when those tribes, or any of them, shall be disposed to sell their lands, or any part of them, they are to be sold only to the United States; and until such sale the United States will protect the said Indian tribes in the quiet enjoyment of their lands against all citizens of the United States, and against all other white persons who intrude upon the same; . . . and if any citizen of the United States, or any other white person or persons, shall presume to settle upon the lands now relinquished by the United States, such citizen or other person shall be out of the protection of the United States, and the Indian tribe on whose land such settlement shall be made may drive off the settler, or punish him in such manner as they shall think fit; and because such settlements, made without the consent of the United States, will be injurious to them as well as to the Indians, the United States shall be at liberty to break them up, and remove and punish the settlers as they shall think proper, and so to effect the protection of the Indian lands hereinbefore stipulated.”
The Indians were also allowed, under the treaty, to have the privilege of hunting and fishing over all the ceded territory during their good behavior.
TREATIES OF DETROIT (1807) AND SPRINGWELLS (1815).
The treaty by which the entire southeastern part of Michigan (including more than nineteen-twentieths of the present county of Genesee) was ceded to the United States government was made and concluded at Detroit on the 17th of November, 1807, ” by William Hull, governor of the Territory of Michigan, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and sole commissioner of the United States to conclude and sign a treaty or treaties with the several nations of Indians northwest of the river Ohio, on the one part, and the sachems, chiefs, and warriors of the Ottaway, Wyandotte, and Pottawattamie nations of Indians on the other part.”
The territory here ceded by the Indians, in consideration of goods and money paid and to be paid to them by the United States, was described in the treaty as “beginning at the mouth of the Miami River of the lakes [meaning the Maumee], and running thence up the middle thereof to the mouth of the great Auglaize River; thence running due north until it intersects a parallel of latitude to be drawn from the outlet of Lake Huron, which forms the river Sinclair; thence running northeast on the course that may be found will lead in a direct line to White Rock, in Lake Huron; thence due cast until it intersects the boundary line between the United States and Upper Canada, in said lake;
(In its relinquishment of these lands, however, the government excepted the post of Vincennes, on the Wabash, the post of Fort Marsac, towards the mouth of the Ohio, and lands at other places, actually in the occupation of French or other white settlers, to which the Indian title had before been extinguished.
then southwardly, following the said boundary line down said lake, through the river Sinclair, Lake St. Clair, and the river Detroit into Lake Erie, to a point due east of the aforesaid Miami [Maumee] River; thence west to the place of beginning.”)
For this session the government stipulated to pay (in money, goods, agricultural implements, or domestic animals, at the discretion of the superintendent of Indian affairs) the sum of $3333.33 each, to the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes, and one-half that amount each to the Pottawattamie’s and Wyandot’s, with a perpetual annuity of $2000 to each of the first-mentioned tribes, and one-half that sum to each of the others; all to be paid at Detroit.
And it was further declared in the treaty, that ” the United States, to manifest their liberality and disposition to encourage the said Indians in agriculture, further stipulate to furnish the said Indians with two blacksmiths; one to reside with the Chippewa’s at Saginaw, and the other with the Ottawa’s, at the Miami, during the term of ten years; said blacksmiths arc to do such work for the said nations as shall be most useful to them.”
The second line mentioned in the description of the tract here ceded—that is, the line running due north from the mouth of the Auglaize River, and a prolongation of it to the Straits of Mackinaw—was afterwards adopted by the United States surveyors as the principal meridian line of the lower peninsula of Michigan.
The territory ceded by the Indians at the treaty of Detroit embraced all of Michigan lying east of that line as far north as the center of the present county of Shiawassee, and extending from thence in a northeastwardly direction to the shore of Lake Huron, at a point a little above the northern boundary of the county of Sanilac; including all that is now in the county of Genesee, except the northern and western part of the township of Montrose and the northwestern corner of Vienna.
Within this ceded territory the Indians reserved several tracts for their own uses (none of them, however, being within the present limits of Genesee County), and they were also to have the privilege of hunting and fishing, under the same conditions as stipulated in the treaty of Greenville.
During the war of 1812-15, the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawattamie tribes sided with the British, and by this act, and their general conduct through that struggle, were considered to have justly forfeited the lands reserved to them.
Nevertheless, the government magnanimously determined not to enforce the forfeiture, but to adopt a conciliatory and friendly policy towards them; and in September, 1815, Gen. Wm. H. Harrison, Gen. McArthur, and John Graham, Esq., on the part of the government, held a council with them at Springwells, near Detroit, where, on the 8th of that month, a treaty was concluded, by which it was agreed that” the United States give peace to the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawattamie tribes.
They also agree to restore to the said Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawattamie tribes all the possessions, rights, and privileges which they enjoyed or were entitled to in the year 1811, prior to the commencement of the late war with Great Britain; and the said tribes upon their part agree to place themselves under the protection of the United States, and of no other power whatsoever.”
And, at the same time, the treaty made at Greenville in 1795, and subsequent treaties between these tribes and the United States, were confirmed and ratified.
TREATY OF SAGINAW—1819.
Soon after the close of the war with England, the attention of emigrating farmers from New York and New England began to be, directed towards the newly-opened agricultural regions of Michigan, and it was not long before it became evident to the comprehensive mind of Governor Cass—the most able as well as the most influential man in the Territory—that broad as was the domain acquired by the treaty of 1807, it would soon be found too narrow to receive the immigration which had already begun to spread westward and northward from Detroit.
He at once applied his tireless energies to the task of securing a further cession of lands from the Indians, and, being ex officio Indian commissioner for Michigan, he laid the matter before the President, and received authority and directions to negotiate a treaty for the extinguishment of the aboriginal title to adjoining territory on the north and west.
The result of his labors was the assembling of the sachems and chiefs of the Saginaw Chippewa’s, with a few of those of the Ottawa nation, in council at the present site of Saginaw City, in September, 1819.
Early in that month, Governor Cass, accompanied by a cavalcade composed of his secretaries, interpreters, and other assistants, set out from Detroit, and proceeded by way of Royal Oak, Pontiac, and the Grand Traverse of the Flint, to Saginaw, where they arrived on the 10th, and there found the warriors and chiefs already assembled, and assembling, for the convention.
The attendance, however, was less numerous than had been expected; and when it was found that some of the Indian bands and villages were unrepresented, runners were sent out in haste to such localities to give further notification, and to urge the absent chiefs to come in and join in the council.
Under instructions from Gen. Cass, suitable preparations had been made for the occasion.
Mr. Louis Campau, who had for three years been established at Saginaw as an Indian trader, had made an addition to his trading-house sufficient in size to furnish quarters for the governor, and also a commodious mess-room for him and his retinue.
Near the bank of the river had been erected the council-house.
It was a rude structure,—more a bower than a house,—and inadequate to afford shelter against inclement weather, but sufficient to furnish a shade for the general and the attendant chiefs, and to give some degree of dignity to their deliberations.
Moored in the stream were two small vessels, a sloop and a schooner, which had come round from Detroit, bringing subsistence stores, goods intended for Indian presents, and a company of the Third United States Infantry, under command of Capt. C. L. Cass, a brother of the governor.
The presence of these troops was considered necessary, in view of the possibility of violence on the part of the assembled Indians.
When all preparations were complete, the white and red dignitaries assembled in the council-house, near the center of which, upon a low platform of hewn logs, sat the commissioner, Gen. Cass, accompanied by his secretaries, R. A. Forsyth, Jr. (who was also acting commissioner), John L. Leib, and D. G. Whitney ; Capt. Cass; Capt. Chester Root, of the artillery; Lieut. John Peacock, of the 3d Infantry; Whitmore Knaggs, Indian trader and sub-agent, and, on this occasion, principal interpreter; Archibald Lyons, an Indian trader; Henry Connor, interpreter (known among the Indians as Wabishkindebay—meaning ” White Hair”); Louis Beaufait, William Tucky, and John Hurson, interpreters, and many others; while all around were grouped the dark faces of the Chippewa and Ottawa chiefs.
The council being opened with duo formality, Gen. Cass proceeded to inform the Indians of the objects for which they had been assembled.
He told them, through his interpreters, that the Great Father at Washington was earnestly desirous of promoting the welfare of his red children, and anxious to preserve and perpetuate the friendly and peaceful relations which had existed between their tribes and the government since the close of the war; that the tide of white emigration was pressing irresistibly towards their domain; that their streams were each year growing less prolific; that the steady advance of civilization would drive the game to the remoter hunting-grounds; and that for these and other weighty reasons it was manifestly the part of wisdom for them, the chiefs and notables of the tribes, to advise their people to abandon, or at least to depend less on, precarious hunting and fishing as a means of subsistence, and to give their attention to the pursuits of agriculture upon fertile and ample tracts of their own selection, to be reserved for their perpetual use from the territory which it was now the desire of the government to purchase from them, at a fair and generous price, for the use of the white emigrants who wished to come and settle among them as friends and neighbors.
The opening address of the commissioner was replied to by several of the chiefs; those most conspicuous by their speeches being Ogemawkeketo, Mishenenanonequet, and Kishkawko; the last named being an exceedingly wily and troublesome man, though really a Canadian Indian, an interloper among the Chippewa’s, with no proprietary interest in their lands or right to a voice in the questions before the council.
But he had managed by some means to obtain considerable influence among the Saginaws, and his violent speech against the cession produced an effect adverse to the cherished objects of Gen. Cass.
Here, however, his influence against the proposed treaty ended, for at the close of this day’s council he had fallen completely into the power of John Barleycorn, and during eight or ten days following remained in almost helpless intoxication.
The master-spirit among the Indians was Ogemawkeketo (“chief speaker”), who, though at that time scarcely more than twenty-one years of age, was possessed of remarkable powers of oratory; and his speech on this occasion was an eloquent outburst of indignant remonstrance, which was never afterwards forgotten by those who heard it.
Addressing Gen. Cass, he said, “Our people wonder why our white brethren have come so far from their homes.
Our English Father never asked us for our lands.
Our American Father wants them.
Your people gather in our country, and press in on our hunting-grounds.
Our lands are melting away like ice when the waters grow warm around it.
Our women reproach us.
Here are their homes, and the homes of our children.
Shall we sell the ground where they spread their blankets?
You do not know our wishes.
We have not invited you here.
Your young men have called us to meet you and kindle the council-fire, and we have come; not to give you our lands, but only to smoke with you the pipe of peace.”
To counteract the effect of such a speech it was necessary for the commissioner to show firmness and self-possession.
In his reply Gen. Cass said in effect that the Great Father at Washington, in the then recent war, had inflicted chastisement not only on the English king, but also on them, his Indian allies, and that they, the Chippewas, by their hostility to the United States during that war had justly forfeited all their lands to the government, but that notwithstanding this the Great Father had no desire to take the lands from them without paying a proper and generous equivalent; and that, in case a treaty should be made with them, it was not in contemplation to take the homes of their women and children, but to secure to them ample tribal reservations on which they could spread their blankets in peace, and not only live without fear of molestation from the incoming whites, but receive valuable assistance and instruction in their agriculture.
But when the day’s deliberations closed the Indians still remained intractable and defiant; and the commissioner, after having told them in a friendly manner to go to their wigwams ” and smoke and talk over the matter together,” withdrew with his company to their quarters, in a state of anxiety and disappointment in anticipation of a not improbable failure of the negotiations.
The council was not convened on the following day, nor for several days thereafter.
The Indians remained sullen and unyielding, and the prospect was looking very unfavorable for the consummation of the treaty, when a powerful influence, which had hitherto been quiescent, or adverse to the plans of the commissioner, began to be exerted in favor of the treaty.
This was the influence wielded by Jacob Smith, the Indian trader.
It is related that he had a personal acquaintance with every one of the principal chiefs who were present at this council; that there were few, if any of them, to whom he had not at some time extended some favor or act of friendship, either in entertaining them at his different places of business, or relieving their necessities by advances of blankets and food.
And among these chiefs, too, sat old Neome, steadfast and unwavering in his friendship, and willing and anxious on this, as on every occasion, to be guided by the wishes of his white brother, Wahbesins.
In view of these facts, it is not hard to realize the extent of the power which was held (and exercised) by Jacob Smith to shape the action of the Indian council,—a power far greater, in that direction, than that of the commissioner, or of Kishkawko, or even of the chief orator, Ogemawkeketo.
It might have been supposed that Gen. Cass, who was personally acquainted with Smith, and well knew his pre-eminent qualifications as interpreter and negotiator with the Indians, would have selected and retained him in that capacity in this council, but such was not the fact, and his neglect to do so is regarded as proof that the commissioner regarded him with feelings of distrust.
It was supposed by many that the inflexible opposition manifested by Ogemawkeketo, Neome, and the other chiefs was incited by him, and this supposition does not seem entirely improbable.
But however this may have been, it is certain that all the efforts of the authorized interpreters and agents of the government, continued during several days succeeding the first council, were wholly unavailing, and no favorable word or sign of yielding could be wrung from the chiefs, until old Neome received through Mr. Knaggs, the interpreter, the promise that the wishes of his friend, Wahbesins, should be consulted, and his demands acceded to, in regard to the reservations to be granted by the terms of the proposed treaty.
This was agreed to by the interpreters (of course with the private assent of Gen. Cass), and the arrangement was definitely made that, in addition to the reservation of ample tracts for the use of the several Indian bands, there should be made eleven reservations of six hundred and forty acres each, to be located at and near the trading-house of Jacob Smith, at the Grand Traverse of the Flint River; these reservations to be granted to a corresponding number of individuals, under Indian names, which were handed in, written upon slips of paper, to Gen. Cass.
Several days after the first meeting, the chiefs were again convened in the council-house, where a considerable amount of discussion ensued; but as a principal difficulty had been surmounted by the granting of Wahbesins’ demand, and the consequent propitiation of Neome and the chiefs, and as Gen. Cass had ceased to press the original proposition of the government to remove the Chippewa’s beyond the Mississippi, or at least to the westward of Lake Michigan (finding that it was impossible of accomplishment, and that to insist on it would be to endanger the success of the entire negotiation), there was but comparatively feeble opposition to the treaty, which was finally agreed on and virtually concluded at this sitting ; all that remained to be done being to engross it in due form, and to affix to it the signatures of the commissioner, the chiefs, and the witnesses.
For the ceremonious signing of the treaty, the chiefs were convened in council for the third and last time.
Among them appeared Kishkawko, who had now partially recovered from the debauch which from the close of the first day until now had kept him confined to his wigwam, and prevented his participation in the later deliberations.
The attendance at this council was much greater than on either of the previous occasions, being estimated at no less than two thousand chiefs, warriors, and braves, while a great concourse of Indian women and children were crowded together on the outskirts of the assemblage.
The ceremony of signing was conducted with decorum and dignity, and was made as imposing as possible.
The first name written upon the instrument was, of course, that of Lewis Cass, United States Indian Commissioner, and underneath were placed the totemic signatures of one hundred and fourteen chiefs and head men of the Chippewa’s and Ottawas (though there were very few of the latter, and the whole number have usually been mentioned as Chippewas).
(In a trial before Chancellor Manning, held in 1843, touching the title to one of the tracts reserved by this treaty, Robert A. Forsyth testified that upon this occasion he had been private secretary to Gen. Cass, and, acting in that capacity, had copied the draft of the treaty; that “Jacob Smith handed to the commissioner the names of certain persons for whom reservations were to be made;” that he ” saw but two lists of the names; Jacob Smith handed in one, and Henry Campau or Louis Beaufait the other.”—Walker’s Chancery Reports ; Stockton vs. William, February, 1813.)
The subscribing witnesses were the commissioner’s secretaries, Leib and Whitney; Acting Commissioner Forsyth; Capts. Cass and Root; Lieut. Peacock ; G. Godfrey, sub-agent; Messrs. Knaggs, Tucky, Beaufait, and Hurson, interpreters; John Hill, army contractor; Barney Campau, V. S. Ryley, J. Whipple, Henry I. Hunt, William Keith, A. E. Lacock, Richard Smyth, John Smyth, B. Head, Conrad Ten Eyek, and Louis Dequindre.
Thus the treaty was concluded and executed Sept. 24, 1819.
When the ceremony of signing was over a large amount of silver money was brought out and placed in huge piles on the table before the commissioner, to be by him distributed among the chiefs and representatives of the several bands.
Many of these chiefs were indebted in considerable sums to the trader Louis Campau, who had received their promise that when the payment was made to them his claim should be liquidated, at least to the amount of fifteen hundred dollars.
He had already notified Gen. Cass of this agreement, and was now anxiously waiting, hoping to receive the money from the commissioner without having it pass through Indian hands at all.
But there were also present three other traders, who were not pleased at the prospect of having so considerable a part of the Indians’ money appropriated to the payment of their old debts.
One of these three was Jacob Smith, who at once set about the task of persuading the half-intoxicated Kishkawko and some of the other chiefs to demand that the entire sum due them should be paid to the Indians, to be applied by them “as they saw fit.
His diplomacy was entirely successful, and when the commissioner explained to the chiefs that Campau was expecting to receive his dues, and asked if they consented to the arrangement, they replied that they were his children, under his protection, and expected that he would pay the money into their hands.
The general could not disregard their expressed wishes in this particular, and he therefore directed that the money be paid to them.
Upon this, Campau, seeing that his money was lost, and believing Smith to be the cause of his discomfiture, leaped from the platform where he had been standing, and struck the latter two stunning blows in the face.
Quick as lightning Smith turned on his assailant, but Henry Connor and Louis Beaufait interposed between the belligerents and stopped the fight, much to the disgust of Campau, who was smarting under a sense of what he believed to be gross injustice in the non-payment of his claims, and furious at being denied the privilege of taking vengeance on the man who had circumvented him.
When all the business of the day was closed, Gen. Cass directed that the fire-water should be allowed to flow, and under this order five barrels of government whisky were opened, and the liquor was dealt out to the Indians.
Upon seeing this, Campau, still filled with wrath at the treatment he had received, and blaming the general almost as much as Smith for it, ordered up ten barrels of his own whisky, knocked in the heads, and posted two men with dippers to supply the Indians as they came up.
Of course the scene of intoxication that ensued was indescribable.
At about ten o’clock, the governor, having become thoroughly alarmed at the infernal orgies that surrounded the trading-house in which he was quartered, sent his private secretary, Forsyth, with orders to Campau to shut off the supply of liquor; but the trader only deigned the grim reply, “You commenced it, general!”
Then a platoon of the 3rd Infantry was detailed to guard the store-house.
Soon after they had been posted, a new arrival of Indians demanded whisky, and, upon being refused and held at bay, rushed on the guard to force an entrance, during which attempt one of them received a bayonet wound in the leg.
In an instant the war-whoop was sounded, and in a few minutes more swarms of savages, infuriated with liquor and tomahawk in hand, came rushing towards the store.
“Stop the liquor, Louis!” screamed the Governor of Michigan Territory, as he stood in the door of his quarters with a night-cap on his head.
“We shall all be murdered! Stop the liquor, I say!” “Certainement, mon general,” replied Campau, “but you begun it, and you allowed Smith to rob me.
I’ll keep you safe, but remember you commenced it, mon general.”
He appeared to think that the satisfaction of thoroughly frightening Gen. Cass (who he said had allowed Jacob Smith to rob him) was cheaply enough purchased by the expenditure of ten barrels of whisky.
By the combined efforts of the interpreters and traders, the Indians were at length pacified, and they retired to their wigwams to sleep off the effects of their intoxication.
After they had entirely recovered from their debauch they became perfectly friendly and tractable, and even after the commissioner and his staff of assistants had departed for Detroit, they sent the orator-chief, Washmenondequet, to overtake him, and express to him their pleasure and satisfaction at the result of the council.
The area of the territory ceded by the treaty of Saginaw was estimated at about six millions of acres; its boundaries, as described in the treaty, being as follows:
“Beginning at a point in the present Indian boundary line [identical with the principal meridian of the State) which runs due north from the mouth of the great Auglaize River, six miles south of the place where the base line, so called, intersects the same ; thence west sixty miles [this corner being about three miles northeast of the present village of Kalamazoo) ; thence in a direct line to the head of Thunder Bay River; thence down the same, following the courses thereof, to the mouth; thence northeast to the boundary line between the United States and the British province of Upper Canada; thence with the same to the line established by the treaty of Detroit in the year 1807; and thence with said line to the place of beginning.”
From this cession various tribal reservations were made for the use of the Chippewa’s, viz.: on the east side of the Au Sable, a tract of 8000 acres, including an Indian village; 2000 acres on the Mesaquisk; 6000 acres, to include an Indian village, on the north side of the Kawkawling; 640 acres on the same river, “for the use of the children of Bokowtonden;” 9640 acres in three tracts, on the Huron (Cass) River; an island in Saginaw Bay; a tract of 2000 acres ” where Nabobask formerly stood;” 1000 acres ” near the island in Saginaw River;” 2000 acres “at the mouth of Point Augrais River;” 10,000 acres at Big Lick, on the Shiawassee, and 3000 acres on the same river at a place called Ketehewandaugenink; 6000 acres at Little Forks, on the Tetabawasink (Tittabawassee) River, and 6000 acres, near the same stream, “at Blackbird’s town ;” 40,000 acres “on the west side of the Saginaw River, to be hereafter located ;” and individual reservations of lands on the Saginaw to John Riley, Peter Riley, James Riley, and to “The Crow,” a Chippewa chief.
The tracts reserved on the Flint River, were “one tract of 5760 acres, to include Reaum’s [Neome’s] village, and a place called Kishkawbawee,” and the eleven reservations at the Grand Traverse of the Flint, granted as before mentioned to persons under names furnished by Jacob Smith and Louis Beaufait.
It has been mentioned above that the cession made by the Indians in the treaty of Detroit, in the year 1807, covered all of the present county of Genesee, excepting a small fraction in the northwestern corner, therefore including, of course, all the lands at the Grand Traverse, and far to the northward of it; so that these lands, having already been ceded to the United States, were really not within the possible scope of the Saginaw treaty, nor within the power of the Chippewa’s to sell.
But the Indians did not so understand it.
They had no means of knowing precisely where the diagonal line terminating at White Rock (as named in the treaty of 1807), would fall, and they believed that the northern boundary of that cession passed considerably to the southward of the most southerly bend of the Flint; when, in reality, it crossed that stream nearly ten miles by its course north of the present village of Flushing, leaving all of the river which is south and east of that point within the territory previously ceded to the United States.
The fact, however, that they believed themselves to be still the sole possessors of the beautiful valley of the Flint, is proof that they had never intended to include it in the cession of 1807.
Whether Gen. Cass knew that this region was comprehended within the limits of that cession—or, indeed, whether the northern boundary described by the treaty of Detroit was ever accurately run—does not appear; but if the commissioner was aware of the fact, he did not, and could not, insist on the right of the government to the lands at the Grand Traverse.
Only by tacitly admitting the Indian proprietorship in those lands could he have secured Jacob Smith’s consent to the treaty, and without that consent it is not probable that the treaty could have been concluded.
In consideration of the cession made by the Saginaw treaty, the United States agreed to pay to the Chippewa nation, annually, forever, the sum of one thousand dollars, in silver coin, and, also, that all annuities to be paid them in pursuance of the stipulations of previous treaties should thereafter be paid in silver.
The terms of the treaty of Greenville (in 1795), giving the Indians the right to hunt and fish at will upon the ceded lands, so long as they remained the property of the United States, were applied to this treaty.
They were also to be permitted to make sugar wherever they chose upon the same lands and during the same period, but without any unnecessary waste of the trees and the government reserved the right to construct necessary roads through any part of the reservations.
It was likewise stipulated in the treaty that “The United States engage to provide and support a blacksmith for the Indians at Saginaw, so long as the President of the United States may think proper, and to furnish such farming utensils and cattle, and employ such persons to aid them in their agriculture, as the President may deem expedient.”
The tribal reservation of five thousand seven hundred and sixty acres on the Flint River, before mentioned as including the village of the old chief Neome, ” and a place called Kishkabawee,” became known as the Pewonigowink reservation, and embraced within its area all of section 4, the west half of section 3, the east half of section 5, the north half of section 9, and the northeast and northwest quarters, respectively, of sections 8 and 10 in the present township of Montrose, in Genesee County, and something more than double that amount of land in Saginaw.
In the latter portion was included the old Indian Field, so well-known to the early travelers who passed down the valley of the Flint, and used its broad open space as a camping-ground.
PLANS FOR INDIAN EMIGRATION—TREATIES OF WASHINGTON (1836), DETROIT (1837), FLINT RIVER (1837), AND SAGINAW (1838).
It had been the intention of Gen. Cass to procure from the Indians at Saginaw an agreement that they would gradually emigrate from their old hunting-grounds in Michigan and remove beyond the Mississippi River, or, at least, to the country lying to the westward of Lake Michigan; but in this the commissioner was disappointed, as we have seen.
This repulse, however, did not cause the government to abandon its cherished idea, and, finally, after many long years of persuasion, the minds of the red men seemed to have become fully prepared to entertain the proposition for ultimate removal to the new countries of the far West.
In the year 1836 a council was held at Washington by Henry R. Schoolcraft, United States Commissioner, with the principal chiefs of the Chippewa and Ottawa nations, by which those nations ceded to the United States all the remaining part of the lower peninsula to which the Indian title had not before been extinguished, with the exception of a few reservations.
This treaty was concluded on the 28th of March, and proclaimed on the 27th of May, in the year named.
At the commencement of 1837, Mr. Schoolcraft, as Indian commissioner, met the chiefs and delegates of the Saginaw tribe of Chippewas at Detroit, where, on the 14th of January, a treaty was concluded by which the tribe ceded to the United States all the reservations, except those granted to individuals, under the Saginaw treaty of 1819, but retained the right to continue for five years in undisturbed occupation of their tracts on the Augrais River, and on the Mushowusk River west of the Saginaw: no white man to settle or encroach on those tracts under penalty of five hundred dollars.
The United States agreed to furnish a farmer and blacksmith for the tribe as before, and to continue the donations of cattle and farming utensils.
The lands embraced in the ceded reservations were to be surveyed by the United States and placed in the market with the other public lands as soon as practicable, and the amount due the Indians from this source to be invested by the President in some public stock, the interest to be paid annually to the tribe in the same manner as their annuities were paid; and if, at the end of twenty years, the Indians should wish the said stock to be sold and the proceeds divided among the tribe it might be done with the consent of the President and Senate.
By the terms of the treaty the tribe agreed to remove from the State of Michigan as soon as a proper location could be obtained, and for this purpose it was stipulated that a deputation should be sent to view the country occupied by their kindred tribes west of the most westerly point of Lake Superior; “and if an arrangement for their future and permanent residence can be made there, which shall be satisfactory to them and to the government, they shall be permitted to form a reunion with such tribes and remove thereto.
If such arrangement cannot be effected, the government of the United States will use its influence to obtain such location west of the Mississippi River as the legislation of Congress may indicate.”
The above was amended by a new treaty concluded on the 20th of December, 1837, at Flint River, between Henry R. Schoolcraft, commissioner, and the Saginaw chiefs and delegates, by the terms of which the United States agreed to reserve a location for the tribe ” on the head waters of the Osage River, in the country visited by a delegation of the said tribe during the present year; to be of proper extent agreeably to their numbers, embracing a due proportion of wood and water, and lying contiguous to tribes of kindred language;” the meaning and intent of this being to nullify and abrogate that article of the treaty of Jan. 14, 1837, which entitled them to a location in the country lying west of Lake Superior.
It was provided by the treaty that the sum of fifty cents for each acre of Indian land sold by the United States should be reserved “as an indemnification for the location to be furnished for their future permanent residence and to constitute a fund for emigrating thereto.”
The attesting witnesses to the treaty were John Garland, major U. S. A.; Henry Connor, sub-agent and interpreter; T. B. W. Stockton, Gardner D. Williams, Jonathan Beach; Chas. C. Hascall, receiver in the land-office at Flint; Albert J. Smith, Robert J. S. Page, Wait Beach, Rev. Luther D. Whitney, T. R. Cummings.
This treaty, although not of very great importance in its results, is mentioned here, more especially for the reason that it was held at the place where now stands the beautiful and prosperous city of Flint, at a time when the spot was marked only by the straggling dwellings of a few pioneer settlers; and because, among those who were present at the deliberations, there were many whose names are well known in the annals of the city and county; some of whom still live, and distinctly remember the interesting occasion.
About a month after the conclusion of the treaty of Flint River, the chiefs were again assembled in council with Commissioner Schoolcraft.
This time the council-fire was kindled at Saginaw.
The reasons for the calling of this convention, as set forth in the preamble to the treaty which
was there concluded (Jan. 23,1838), were, that ” the chiefs of the bands have represented that combinations of purchasers may be formed at the sale of their lands [meaning the reservation lands, relinquished by the treaty of Detroit, Jan. 14, 1837], for the purpose of keeping down the price thereof, both at the public and private sales, whereby the proceeds would be greatly diminished; and such a procedure would defeat some of the primary objects of the cession of the lands to the United States, and thereby originate difficulties to their early removal and expatriation to the country west of the Mississippi.”
To quiet these apprehensions, and to insure satisfaction and justice to both parties, it was provided in the treaty there made that the reservation lands, ceded by the treaty of Jan. 14,1837, should be offered for sale by proclamation of the President, and that the sales should be conducted in the same manner as the sales of other government lands; and that all lands brought into market under the provisions of the treaty of 1837 should be put up and offered for sale by the register and receiver of the respective land-offices, at five dollars per acre, which was declared as the minimum price; and if that price was not bid, the sales should thereupon be stopped; and no reservation lands should be disposed of, cither at public or private sale, at a less price than the one mentioned, during a period of two years from the commencement of such offering for sale.
But if, at the expiration of that period, any part of the reservation lands should remain unsold, then the minimum price should be diminished to two dollars and fifty cents per acre, at which price they should be subject to entry until all were sold.
If any of the lands should remain unsold at the end of five years from the ratification of this treaty, they were then to be sold at such price as they would command, provided that no such sale should be made for a price less than seventy-five cents per acre.
And finally, it was agreed that if the Indians should consent to emigrate, and give up the tracts at Augrais and Rifle River (the usufruct and occupancy of which had been reserved to them for five years by the treaty of Detroit in 1837) at any time within two years, they should receive therefor, from the United States, the minimum price of five dollars per acre; and if they should fail to so relinquish within that period, but should relinquish within the period for which the minimum price of two dollars and fifty cents per acre was established, then they should receive that minimum price per acre for the lands so given up and vacated.
But the plan of Indian emigration from Michigan, formed and fostered by the government, and assented to by the tribes in the treaties of Detroit, Flint River, and Saginaw, was never carried into effect; for, long before the expiration of the time named in the treaty for their departure, they had bitterly repented of their promise to remove to the land of the setting sun, and prayed the Great Father that they might be permitted to remain on the poor remnant of their once broad hunting-grounds, and to be buried near the graves of their fathers.
The government did not insist on the performance of their agreement, and no general Western emigration took place; but eventually the bands became in a great measure broken up, and the individual members gradually scattered away farther towards the north and west, some of them afterwards becoming the owners of small tracts by purchase (a course which was encouraged by the government), many removed to reservations in Isabella County, where they or their children are still living, and some crossed the river and lake into Canada.
INDIAN RESERVATIONS ON FLINT BIVEB.
Description of the Individual Reservations at the Grand Traverse— Their Location and Survey under authority of the Government— United States Patents issued to several of the Reservees—Long Litigation between rival Claimants to the Lands.
The Indian tract of Pewonigowink having been relinquished to the United States by the treaty of 1837, the only reservations which then remained within the territory now comprised in the county of Genesee were the eleven tracts granted to individuals named by Jacob Smith and others in the treaty of 1819.
The article of that treaty providing for these individual reservations declares that “there shall be reserved for the use of each of the persons hereinafter mentioned, and their heirs,—which persons are all Indians by descent,—the following tracts of land,” and after specifying the tracts of the Rileys and “The Crow,” on Saginaw River, as before mentioned, proceeds as follows:
“For the use of Nowokeshik, Metawanene, Mokitehenoqua, Nondashemau, Petabonaqua, Messawwakut, Cheebalk, Kitehegeequa, Sagosequa, Annoketoqua, and Tawcumegoqua, each six hundred and forty acres of land, to be located at or near the Grand Traverse of the Flint River, in such manner as the President of the United States may direct.”
Immediately after the conclusion of the treaty Jacob Smith removed to the Grand Traverse of the Flint, and there established his post.
He had foreseen the future importance of this point, and had acted accordingly in securing the reservations; but he probably considered the lands on the north side of the river to be more eligible than those lying on the south side, and he therefore located on the former, opening his business in a log house, which stood near the river-bank, on the ” burnt plain” of Muscatawingh.
In the year 1820, President Monroe, in pursuance of the provisions of the treaty, caused the eleven tracts to be surveyed, and located on both sides of the Flint River, at its southernmost bend; that is, at and near the Indian crossing place known as the Grand Traverse.
Six of these tracts were laid out on the north side of the river and five on the south side.
They were laid out in irregular forms, but each contained an area equal to one mile square.
They were numbered from one to eleven, inclusive; and their respective locations and allotment among the several reservees was as indicated in the accompanying diagram, copied from the plat of the survey.
These tracts have frequently been mentioned and named upon maps, collectively, as “Smith’s Reservation,” and the designation is perhaps not wholly incorrect; for, although Jacob Smith never claimed more than five of them for the reservees named by him, yet it seems clear that none of them could have been secured except through the exertion of his powerful influence with the Indians at the treaty.
A remnant of the Pewonigo Indians, however, continued to live on this reservation for a number of years after it will formally ceded to the United States.
Within the limits of these reservations was comprised nearly all the area of the present city of Flint; and the great appreciation of the value of the lands, resulting from their rapid settlement, led to much controversy and years of obstinate litigation between different parties laying claim to their ownership.
Jacob Smith died at the Grand Traverse early in the year 1825, leaving as his legal heirs five children,—one son and four daughters,—residing in Detroit.
His location at the Traverse had been on the reservation numbered two, where, besides his trading-house, he had a small tract under cultivation.
To what extent he had ever been in actual possession of any of the other reservations does not appear, but whatever his interest was, at this place, it was taken possession of soon after his death, by Maj. (afterwards Gen.) John Garland, his son-in-law, in the name of the heirs, for whom it was claimed that they were the true owners of the Indian names Metawanene, Annoketoqua, Sagosequa, Nondashemau, and Messawwakut, to whom, respectively, sections 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 were allotted on the plat of the reservations made by direction of the President; these names, as was alleged, having been given them in infancy by their father’s Indian friends, who at that time frequently visited his house in Detroit.
There would have been nothing strange or unusual in their giving Indian names to white children and adults, the same thing having been done in the family of Maj. Oliver Williams, of Oakland County, every member of which received an Indian name from these same Chippewa’s, and many other similar instances are mentioned.
In this case, however, three of the five Indian names referred to were those of males, while four of the children of Jacob Smith were daughters.
When the tide of immigration began to set strongly in this direction, and it became apparent not only that the valley of the Flint Hiver must eventually take rank among the most favored and prosperous portions of Michigan, but that the Grand Traverse must become the most important point in all that fertile valley, the claimants to the five reservations above mentioned very naturally felt desirous of establishing an absolute title to the lands in question; and as an important preliminary step in that direction, all of those tracts (which had in the meantime been partially occupied by various lessees under Maj. Garland, the representative of the heirs of Jacob Smith) were taken in actual possession by Albert J. Smith, the claimant to the name and lands of Metawanene, he also acting on behalf of his three surviving sisters and of the heirs of their deceased sister Caroline.
This was in the year 1835.
At the next succeeding session of Congress these claimants memorialized the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, praying for the passage of an act authorizing the issuance of patents to them for the five reservations as surveyed in 1820, and numbered two, three, four, five, and six on the plat filed in the land-office.
Their petition—after setting forth the well-known and undisputed fact that their father, Jacob Smith, was present at the Saginaw treaty of 1819, and was greatly instrumental in bringing about a successful result to that negotiation— proceeded as follows:
“Although the reservations intended for your memorialists under the treaty of Saginaw have been partially occupied under them, and always known and acknowledged as being intended for them, yet they never have received or obtained such a title from Government as would authorize them to sell or convey any portion of the said lands, in consequence of their having been embraced— unintentionally, as your memorialists believe—among the number of reservations intended for persons being Indians ‘by descent;’ owing to which the General Land-Office has not felt authorized to issue patents for said land in the names of your memorialists. … In support of their prayer, your memorialists would respectfully refer you to the certificates of the chiefs and head men of the Chippewa nation, marked B, in which the claim of your memorialists is fully acknowledged and proven; also to the affidavits of respectable citizens of Michigan (numbered one, two, three, and four), who possess a knowledge of the facts and understood the intentions of the Indians.”
Indian Reservations in Genesee County image
The array of proof above alluded to as accompanying the memorial was, to say the least, exceedingly strong.
First, was a certificate or statement made by Chippewa chiefs, signers of the treaty of 1819, fully recognizing the rights and claims of the children of Jacob Smith.
This document, being an important one, is given here entire, as follows:
“The subscribers, chiefs and head men of the Chippewa nation, and subscribers to the treaty of Saginaw, hereby certify that the five reservations at and near the Grand Traverse of the Flint River, made by the treaty of 1819, were made and intended for the five following named persons, viz.: Metawanene, alias Albert J. Smith; Messawwakut, alias Harriet M. Smith; Sagosequa, alias Caroline Smith; Annoketoqua, alias Louisa L. Smith; and Nondashemau, alias Maria G. Smith (each six hundred and forty acres); known to us, and distinguished by the aforesaid names, as the children of the late Jacob Smith.
We further certify that the aforesaid donations to the children aforesaid were made in consideration of services rendered by said Smith (deceased) to the Chippewa nation, and the friendly intercourse that subsisted between the parties for many years.
We further certify that Metawaoene, alias Albert J. Smith, now present at the execution of this certificate, is the son of Jacob Smith, deceased, and that we recognize him as one of the five children to whom the before-mentioned donations were made and intended.
“Saginaw, January 22, 1835.
“Territory Of Michigan, Oakland County
“Personally appeared before the subscriber, a justice of the peace within and for the county of Oakland, Ephraim S. Williams, Esquire, who, being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith that he, this deponent, was present at the execution of the within certificate, and saw the within-named chiefs and head men make their marks to the said certificate.
Deponent further saith that the subscribers, chiefs and head men as aforesaid reside in the vicinity of Saginaw, Oakland County, and Territory of Michigan.
Deponent further saith that the contents of the certificate aforesaid were by him, fully explained, and were cheerfully assented to by the aforesaid chiefs and head men.
[Signed] “E. S. Williams.
“Sworn and subscribed before me this twenty-second day of January, 1S35.
This statement of the Chippewa chiefs was made at a council which had been called for the purpose at the place and date mentioned, chiefly through the influence and instrumentality of the brothers G. D. and E. S. Williams, who were then traders at Saginaw.
The meeting (which was not a formal treaty-council) was held in a building owned by the American Fur Company, and was presided over by Thomas Simpson,—known to the Indians as Lixaboga,—who was residing among the Chippewas to instruct them in agriculture at the expense of the government.
The chief interpreter on the occasion was Jacob Gravradt, who was assisted by Charles H. Rodd (who was regularly employed in that capacity by the American Fur Company), and also by Mr. Ephraim S. Williams, who spoke Chippewa as well as the chiefs themselves.
T. B. W. Stockton and Albert J. Smith were present as representatives of the Smith reservees, and the last named was at once and fully recognized by the chiefs as the Metawanene of the Saginaw treaty.
The principal personage among the chiefs was Ogemawkeketo, who had been recognized by Gen. Cass as the “chief speaker” of the Chippewas, and who still wore upon his breast the government medal of silver which had been presented to him by the general in 1819.
Here, as on the occasion of Cass’ treaty, this “chief speaker” opposed, at first, the object for which the chiefs had been called together.
He fully understood that the Grand Traverse reservations had by the terms of the old treaty been granted to certain persons who were mentioned as all being of Indian descent, and seeing in this a circumstance which might inure to the benefit of the tribe by causing the lands to revert to them, he made a strong speech to the effect that as the lands had been granted to individuals of Indian descent, which these children of Jacob Smith were not, and as during the sixteen years which had passed since the granting of the reservations no person bearing a trace of Indian blood had ever laid claim to them, it was plain that they had never yet passed from the ownership of the Chippewas; therefore, the tribe should retain them until the government or individuals should be ready to purchase at a fair price.
This seemed to be a reasonable argument, and might have been fatal to the claims of the white reservees had it been adhered to; but the assembled chiefs had not yet forgotten their good and steadfast friend Wahbesins, and now they did not hesitate to declare that his white children were the rightful owners of the reservations in the true meaning and intent of the treaty.
Even the astute “chief speaker” receded from the position which he had first taken, and the name of Ogemawkeketo was placed at the head of all those of the chiefs who signed the instrument.
Certificates to the same effect—declaring the white children of Jacob Smith to be the persons to whom the Chippewas had intended to give the five sections of land in question—were procured from chiefs and head men at Big Rock village on the Shiawassee, Sept. 30, 1835: at Flint River, September, 1835; and at Grand Saline, Oct. 31, 1835; these being made through Capt. Joseph F. Marsac, interpreter to the Indian department, and in the presence of Stephen V. R. Trowbridge and Lieut. Alfred Brush, of the United States army.
The depositions of Major Robert A. Forsyth, who had drafted the treaty of 1819, and of James Connor, who also took part in the treaty (the former taken before Judge George Morell, and the latter before Judge Solomon Sibley), were to the effect that it was understood by them, at the time the treaty was made, that five or six reservations had been intended by the Indians for the children of Jacob Smith, who was a great favorite among them.
All of the above-mentioned documents were laid before Congress in support of the petition of the Smith claimants, as was also the following memorial from persons residing principally at Flint River and in that vicinity, viz.:
“To the Honorable, the Senate of the United States:
“The undersigned, citizens of the Territory of Michigan, residing in the vicinity of certain lands reserved to the heirs of Jacob Smith, under the treaty of Saginaw, having understood that a certain bill is now pending before your honorable body for the relief of the heirs of said Jacob Smith, have thought proper to represent that the confirmation of the said grants to the said heirs would greatly advance the settlement and improvement of this part of the Territory, and that the delay in the perfecting of the title to said lands has already been of serious injury to this portion of the Territory.
The undersigned would, therefore, respectfully petition that the above-mentioned bill may become a law, there being no doubt that the equitable title to said lands is in the said heirs, and that strict justice requires of the general government a confirmation of the same:
“Lyman Stow, “Thomas J. Drake,
This was, at that time, considered as a final settlement of the question of title to these reservations; but it was not very long before the opinion began to be entertained by some (an opinion which was afterwards sustained by the courts) that these patents did not and could not convey a title as against any person or persons who could prove themselves to be the rightful reserves in the true intent and meaning of the treaty.
It would seem that the proofs adduced by the Smith heirs had been ample for the establishment of their claims, but there were still doubts whether they could hold under the article of the treaty which provided that the lands granted should be for the use of persons of Indian descent only.
About this time it was discovered that a young Chippewa, whose English name was Jack, and who had been brought up and protected by Jacob Smith, claimed to be the real Metawanene, and consequently the owner of the reservation numbered two on the land-office plat; and also that some Indian women made the same claim to sections which had been patented to the daughters of Mr. Smith.
In March, 1842, the Indian claimant to reservation numbered two, deeded that tract to Gardner D. Williams, of Saginaw, who in June, 1845, conveyed one moiety of the same to Daniel D. Dewey, of Genesee; and by these a suit was commenced in the Circuit Court for the establishment of the claim of the alleged true Metawanene, and the possession of the lands.
After many years of delay, this cause came to final trial in 1856, at the March term, held by Judge Sanford M. Green, in the city of Flint.
Plaintiffs, Messrs. Williams and Dewey. Defendant, Chauncey S. Payne.
Attorneys for plaintiffs, Hon. Moses Wisner, James H. C. Blades. For the defendant, Messrs. E. C. and C. I. Walker, of Detroit, John Moore, of Saginaw City, and Charles P. Avery of Flint; which last-named gentleman had then recently purchased an undivided half of Mr. Payne’s interest in the property, thus becoming equally interested with him in the result of the suit.
In support of the plaintiff’s claim there were brought forward four Indian witnesses, who testified through the sworn interpreter to the court, the Rev. Henry P. Chase, of Muncey Town, Canada West. These witnesses were Nahwahchegome, Kahkagezhick, Francis Roy, and Pero Roy, of Saginaw; the first two being full-blood Chippewas and the others half-breeds.
Their testimony was to the effect that the Indian, Jack, who was associated with the plaintiffs upon the record, was known by them to be the true Metawanene for whom section two was reserved; that at the time of the treaty of 1819 he was about four or five years old, and that on that occasion he was brought into the council-house and placed before the commissioner, Gen. Cass.
Albert J. Smith had, in 1836, deeded to Mr. Payne an undivided three-fourths, and to T. B. W. Stockton an undivided one-fourth, of the reservation.
In 1810, Mr. Stockton conveyed his interest to Mr. Payne, who thus became sole owner.
These witnesses (who are represented as having been unenlightened pagans) did not sustain themselves well under cross-examination; and a part of their testimony was directly contradicted by that of Gen. Cass,—taken upon commission,—which was to the effect that no children were produced before him at the treaty as the designated reservees.
The defense brought twelve Indian witnesses,—among whom were several chiefs,—who testified that the Indian claimant was not the true Metawanene of the treaty; that he was the son of a Canada Indian whose name was Shayogemaus, and that his own name, from the time of his christening, was Ahnemekeens, and that they had been intimately acquainted with his personal history from the time when he was first laid in his bark cradle.
One of these witnesses, an old woman named Moosequay, said she was present at the birth of the claimant, the date of which she placed at about two years after the treaty of Saginaw.
This woman was a Christianized Indian, as were also several others of the witnesses for the defense. They also testified that Albert J. Smith, son of Jacob, had been adopted, while yet a small boy, by the old chief, Neome, in the place of a deceased grandson, and that from that time he had uniformly been recognized by the Indians as Metawanene; this adoption having taken place before the treaty, at Mr. Smith’s house in Detroit.
Among the white witnesses were the Rev. D. C. Jacokes, E. D. Young, Daniel S. Freeman, and P. O. Johnson.
Mr. Jacokes testified that he had made these Indian claims the subject of thorough and impartial examination at an early day, and at a time when it was his interest to establish them as rightful claims if it could be done, the result of which investigation was that in no instance did a single Indian allege that any one of those five sections had been intended for any other than the white children of Jacob Smith.
Both he and Mr. Freeman also stated that in conversation with them, at various times, the Indian, Ahnemekeens (or “Jack”), had told them that he had never thought of his having a claim, or that his name was Metawanene until it had been suggested to him by white men.
The defense also embraced the evidence contained.in the verified statements of the Chippewa chiefs, which were laid before Congress, as before mentioned, as well as several less interesting points.
The jury after short deliberation rendered a verdict in favor of the defendant, thus deciding a case which, during years of litigation, had caused much excitement and some bitter feeling, and which is a matter of general historical interest in the annals of the county.
The trial of a similar suit, involving the title to reservations numbers three and four, was also had before Judge Green, at Flint, in the December term in the same year, resulting, as in the case of section 2, adversely to the Indian title.
The suit was brought in the names of two of the Indian women, before mentioned, who claimed to be the real Annoketoqua and Sagosequa, and consequently owners of the tracts which had been patented respectively to Louisa L. Smith and to the heirs of Caroline Smith, deceased.
For the plaintiff there appeared several Indians who were, or claimed to have been, at the treaty of 1819, and whose testimony was given to show that the reservations were not intended for the children of Jacob Smith, but for the daughters of Neome, and that the Indian claimants in this case were the daughters of that chief.
The defense brought two Indians and three white men who were present at the treaty, whose testimony went to show the great influence exerted by Smith at the treaty, and that old Neome favored Smith’s wishes, but desired no lands for his own children.
The testimony of General Cass for the defense was to the effect that he understood the reservations to have been intended for half-breeds, and not to full-blood Indians, as the granting of reservations to the last-named class was contrary to the policy of the government.
(The Indian claimants in this case were full-blood Chippewas.)
He further testified that he did understand at the treaty that the design of Jacob Smith was to obtain reservations for his white children, and that to defeat that design he (General Cass) had caused to be inserted in the treaty the words “all of whom are Indians by descent.”
But it was held by the court that whatever the intention of General Cass might have been, yet if it had been the intention of the Indian grantors to give the lands for the use of the white children of Jacob Smith, the fee was thus vested in them, notwithstanding the insertion of the descriptive words “Indians by descent.”
The same counsel who had conducted the case of section 2 appeared also in this.
The trial occupied three days, and at its conclusion the jury, after a retirement of less than an hour, returned a verdict for the defendant representing the Smith interest.
But the end was not yet.
The case involving the title to these two sections (Gregory vs. Frost,—the defendant holding under the Smith heirs) was removed by change of venue to the Circuit Court of Oakland County, and came to trial there in September, 1860.
About the time when the question first began to be agitated, in reference to the validity of the title of the Smith children to the reservations, General Cass, in response to a request for a statement of the facts, wrote a letter, which was placed on file in the Indian Department at Washington, of which the following is a copy: “Detroit, Juno 22, 1831.
“I have been requested to state the facts connected with the reservation of eleven sections of land at Flint River, made under the treaty of Saginaw, so far as respects any interest held therein by the children of Jacob Smith.
At the time this reservation was made, I understood that the Indians intended that a number of the sections —I believe five or six—should be granted to the children of Smith, and the names given by them as the grantees of these sections were said to be his children.
From circumstances not necessary to detail here, I was led to suspect that Smith designed the land for his white children, and that most of the names purporting to be those of his Indian children were, in fact, the names of his white children, which the Indians—who were in the habit of frequenting his house—had given to them.
To guard against the consequences of this attempt, I therefore inserted in the article providing for these reservations a clause confining them to persons of Indian descent, I have an indistinct recollection that one young girl was spoken of as the Indian daughter of Smith, but cannot remember her name.
I know Louis Beaufait and Henry Connor well; they were both at the treaty of Saginaw, and they are very honest men, in whose statements full confidence may be placed.
(Signed) “Lewis Cass.”
The testimony here was the same as at the trial of four years before in Genesee, except that the defendant introduced, in addition, that of Mr. Le Parle, of Monroe, and Jean Baptiste Trudell, of Bay County, which was very strong in confirmation of the other evidence for the defense.
Testimony for the plaintiff, given by several Indian and half-breed witnesses, was successfully impeached, and a verdict was rendered for the defendant.
The plaintiff had urged, as a principal argument in favor of the change of venue, that a fair trial could not be had in Genesee County, for the reason, not only, that many individuals there were interested in sustaining the Smith title, because holding under it, but also that a large majority of the people of Flint were favorable to it, in the belief that its overthrow would be detrimental to the interests of the city.
The case, therefore, having been tried at a distance from all such alleged influences, was regarded as a test case, and the verdict was a final decision in favor of the Smith title to the five reservations numbered from two to six inclusive.
Protracted litigation resulted also from a controversy concerning the title to reservation eight, which was allotted in the survey of 1820 to Mokitchenoqua.
This Indian name was claimed (justly, as it afterwards appeared) by Elizabeth Lyons, a half-breed daughter of Archibald Lyons, an Indian trader.
She was one of three girls, or women, all half-breeds, who at different times laid claim to the reservation, and who received from the register and receiver of the land-office at Detroit, certificates of identification, as Mokitehenoqua, the rightful reservee under the treaty.
The certificate to Elizabeth was obtained Aug. 2, 1824.
The next claimant was Marie Lavoy, who obtained a certificate of identity Feb. 7, 1827; and the last was Nancy Crane (wife of Alexander D. Crane), formerly Nancy Smith, a reputed daughter of Jacob Smith.
She received her certificate July 22, 1831.
This was endorsed and confirmed by the Commissioner of the General Land Office at Washington, Aug. 5, 1835, and on the 7th of March, 1840, a patent was issued for the section of land “to Mokitchenoqua, alias Nancy Crane, wife of Alexander
* “Archie Lyons was a trustworthy agent of the Messrs. Williams [Gardner D. and Ephraim S. Williams, traders at Saginaw, and on the Tittabawassee], whose history is identified with the Saginaw Valley prior to the treaty.
He was a fine penman, well educated, and a musician of no little skill.
He was located at the Little Forks of the Tittabawassee (Midland City), and in coming down from that point on the ice upon skates for the purpose of playing the violin for a dancing-party at Saginaw he was drowned.
His track was found on the ice the next day, to the edge of the hole into which he had skated, leaving no doubt as to his fate.”—Hon. C P. Avery.
f Soon after the issuance of this certificate to Mario Lavoy, a council was held at Saginaw by Chippewa chiefs, who certified before Col. Stanard (a justice of the peace), and in presence of Archibald Lyons, that they had, at the treaty, reserved a section of land at the Flint River for Mokitehenoqua, tho daughter of Lyons.
This was testified to by Antoine Campau at one of the trials which subsequently grew out of her claim.
Not long after this Lyons was drowned in the Tittabawassee, but the above-mentioned fact proves that while living he recognized her claim to lands on the Flint (and not at Big Rock on the Shiawassee), and that he took measures to establish it.
D. Crane, formerly Naney Smith.”
In the meantime (June 30, 1835), she had united with her husband in a release of all their interest in the lands to Maj. John Garland.
The interest of Elizabeth Lyons was conveyed by her on the 4th of April, 1838, to Gardner D. Williams and Kintzing Pritchette, who, in February, 1840, brought an action of ejectment against T. B. W. Stockton and Chauncey S. Payne, occupants of the section under title conveyed to them from Maj. Garland.
Four months later (June 11, 1840), Stockton and Payne filed a bill in chancery, praying that Williams and Pritchette be restrained from prosecuting their action of ejectment, and decreed to release their claim to the premises.
Associated with these as defendants were Calvin Smith, Thomas J. Drake, and Elizabeth Lyons; Nancy Crane having on the 10th of February, 1837, joined with her husband in a conveyance of two-thirds of her interest in the section to Messrs. Smith and Drake, who were charged with notice of the deed of the same interest to Maj. Garland, made twenty months before.
This case was tried before Chancellor Manning in February, 1843.
In the testimony, as reviewed by the Chancellor, there were but few points of general interest.
Henry Connor, the interpreter at the treaty, testified that he did not know of any reservation being made for Elizabeth Lyons.
Robert A. Forsyth, who drafted the treaty, said he thought that the name of Mokitcheweenoqua was among those handed in by Jacob Smith to be inserted as reservees.
Louis Beaufait, interpreter at the treaty, said that Jacob Smith, a few months after the treaty, showed him a list of names of those for whom he had obtained each a section of land, and he thought that among them was Mokitcheweenoqua.
Cecil Boyer (a woman) was at the treaty, and heard there that a reservation had been made at the Grand Traverse of the Flint for Mokitcheweenoqua, who, she believed, was Jacob Smith’s only child of Indian descent.
She had also heard that Elizabeth Lyons had a tract reserved for her at Shiawassee.
Eshtonaquot, alias Macons, testified strongly in favor of the claim of Nancy Smith, but admitted that he did not know that Mr. Smith had ever claimed more than one section under the treaty.
The testimony for the defense was much stronger.
Rose Campau said that Elizabeth Lyons had been brought up in her family in Detroit, and had frequently been visited there by her Indian relatives, who always called her Mokitehenoqua, and that she had often heard them say that a section had been reserved for Elizabeth by the treaty.
Josette Knaggs, widow of Whitmore Knaggs (who was chief interpreter at the treaty), testified that her husband had told her, on his return from the council at Saginaw, that a section of land had been given to Elizabeth Lyons.
She had also heard the same from Indians of the tribe, and from the half-breeds, Peter and James Riley.
An important witness for the defense was Rufus W. Stevens, a prominent and most respectable citizen of Genesee County.
He testified that he had been told by Jacob Smith that section 7 had been reserved for Edward Campau, section 8 for Archibald Lyons’ daughter, and others for his (Smith’s) children, on the north side of the river, but that he made no claim for them to lands on the south side of the river.
Louis Moran testified that when, on one occasion, he had inquired of Jacob Smith as to the ownership of certain lands at the Flint, the latter replied that it was a section which had been reserved for Archibald Lyons’ daughter by the treaty.
John Baptist Trudell said he was present at the treaty; that all the chiefs told him at the time that Lyons’ daughter had land reserved for her; that Jacob Smith, while he resided at the Flint, told him that Lyons’ daughter had a section of land there on the opposite side of the river; that he (Smith) spoke of this a number of times, and only a short time before his death.
Nearly the same facts were testified to by Peter Whitmore Knaggs (who was at the treaty) and by several others.
The chancellor, in reviewing the testimony, said in effect that he did not consider that adduced by the complainants to be entitled to much weight, and that the preponderance of evidence was decidedly in favor of the defense.
The facts testified to for the defense by Rufus W. Stevens, Louis Moran, and J. B. Trudell, concerning Jacob Smith’s frequent admissions that his children claimed no reservations on the south side of the river, were held by the chancellor to be most important.
In reference to these he said: “The repeated declarations of Smith after the treaty that there was a section reserved at the Flint for Lyons’ daughter is almost conclusive of itself.
He claimed five sections at that place, under the treaty, for himself or children, and took possession of them, but he never claimed section 8.
No one, perhaps, was more anxious to secure personal advantage by the treaty, or knew better for whom reservations were made, than Smith himself.”
The court, therefore, refused to decree the release of the defendants’ claims, and the bill was dismissed.
The complainants then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, where it was tried at the January term in 1845, resulting in a decision affirming the decree of the Court of Chancery.
Upon this decision, Williams and Pritchette proceeded with their ejectment suit, and in due time it was brought to trial.
The evidence adduced by them here was the same as in the previous trials, but it did not prove sufficiently strong and convincing to establish the claim of Elizabeth Lyons.
The decision was in favor of Messrs. Stockton and Payne, and this was a final settlement of the case.
Reservation No. 1 has also been the subject of long and vexatious controversy at law between opposing parties, each of whom claimed to hold under the true Tawcumegoqua, for whom the section was reserved by the treaty, and to whom it was allotted in the survey of 1820.
One of the persons—for whom it was claimed that she was the true reservee of this section—was a half-breed daughter of the before-mentioned French trader, Bolieu, by his full-blood Indian wife.
This girl was named in French Angelique, but in Chippewa Tawcumegoqua.
At the age of about twelve years she was sent to the white settlements at or near Detroit, and there partially educated.
On attaining womanhood she married a Frenchman named Coutant, and settled near Connor’s Creek, in Hamtramck, Wayne Co., where she continued to reside (living after the manner of the French inhabitants of the neighborhood) during the remainder of her life.
By her marriage with Coutant she had two children,—a son and daughter.
After his death she married Jean Baptiste St. Aubin, but by him had no children.
At the time when the treaty of Saginaw was made she was fully forty years of age, and about eight years later she died, leaving her two children, Simon and Angelique Coutant, as her sole heirs-at-law.
Both these children married, the husband of Angelique being Nicholas Chauvin.
It appears that Madam Coutant (otherwise St. Aubin) had claimed to be the owner of the reservation in question, and that after her death her heirs made the same claim, though neither had had actual possession or had taken any legal steps to secure it.
But on the 17th of October, 1833, Simon Coutant and his wife Marie conveyed all their interest in the section, by deed, to Joseph Campau, of Detroit, for the consideration of four hundred and eighty dollars; and on the 18th of the same month, Nicholas Chauvin and his wife (formerly Angelique Coutant) conveyed all their interest in the tract, by deed, to the same grantee. Subsequently (June 24, 1839) these transactions were confirmed by a deed from the same parties to Campau, who, about the same time, took possession by the placing of one or more tenants upon the tract.
On the.26th of February, 1845, a patent for the section was issued to Mr. Campau, in pursuance of the authority conferred by act of Congress, approved June 15, 1844.
The other claimant to the reservation, under the name of Tawcumegoqua, was a full-blood Chippewa woman, the daughter of Mixanene, brother of the old chief Neome.
She was about six years of age at the time of the treaty, and about the year 1830 she was married to Kahzheauzungh, a full-blood Indian, by whom she had three children.
On the 13th of August, 1841, she joined with her husband in a deed conveying the whole of Reservation No. 1 to John Bartow and Addison Stewart, the last named gentleman having been for several years in possession of a small portion of the tract, though claiming no title to the land on account of such occupation.
On the 6th of April, 1855, Lucy Stewart, widow of Addison Stewart (deceased), and his minor heirs, by their guardian, conveyed their interest in the section to Daniel D. Dewey, and John Bartow conveyed his interest in it to William Hamilton, by deed dated July 3d, in the same year.
Thus, whatever title to the tract had originally vested in the full-blood daughter of Mixanene was now held by Messrs.
Dewey and Hamilton, while all the right to the tract which had formerly been possessed by the half-breed daughter of Bolieu (Madame Coutant) was held by Joseph Campau, who claimed to have been in actual possession since the year 1838.
Under these circumstances, Dewey and Hamilton commenced a suit in ejectment against Campau in the Circuit Court of Genesee.
The trial resulted adversely to the plaintiffs, who thereupon carried the cause to the Supreme Court, where the judgment of the court below was affirmed.
The loss of the case to the plaintiffs was on account of an informality in the acknowledgment of the deed from the Indian claimant.
This defect was remedied by a new conveyance from her husband and children, she having died in the year 1848.
On the 24th of November, 1856, Alvin T. Crosman (who had acquired title by mean conveyances from the heirs of Tawcumegoqua) quit-claimed his interest in the entire section to George M. Dewey and Rufus J. Hamilton; and on the 20th of July, 1857, Daniel D. Dewey and William Hamilton quit-claimed to the same grantees, who, in August of that year, brought action of ejectment in the Genesee County Court against Joseph Campau and Alexander McFarlan (the latter a lessee under Campau).
On the 29th of April, following, the venue was removed to Saginaw County, where the cause was finally tried in the Circuit Court, before Judge W. F. Woodworth, at the January term in 1860.
At this trial,* “evidence was adduced on the part of the plaintiffs tending to prove that at the time of the treaty of Saginaw, and for many years prior and subsequent thereto, a band of Chippewa Indians resided at the village of Pewonigowink, on the Flint River, and about ten miles below the Grand Traverse of that river, at the place where the present city of Flint is located.
That during all the time referred to Nome was the chief of this band; that Tonedogane was the principal warrior or second chief of this band, and succeeded Neome in the chieftainship on his decease.
That one Mixanene was also a member of this band, a brother of Neome, and that Mixanene had a daughter, named Tawcumegoqua, who was about six years of age at the time of the treaty, and was a member of Neome’s family.
That Neome also had three children,—two females, Sagosaqua and Owanonaquatoqua, the former about ten or twelve years old at the time of the treaty, the latter a woman grown, and one boy, Ogibwok [supposed by some to have been the real “Checbalk,” to whom section 9 should have been allotted), who was about fifteen years of age,—and a grandson called Metawanene; that all the children named were full-blood Indian children. . . .
That Neome, his children, and said grandchild, and his band, including Tonedogane, and also Mixanene and his little daughter Tawcumegoqua, were present at the treaty.
That Jacob Smith was there also.
That on the night prior to the last council, at which the treaty was read over and agreed to, Jacob Smith came to Neome’s tent and advised him to get special reservations of land for his children, and promised to assist him in doing so.
That at the grand council, held the next day between the Indians and Gen. Cass, Neome came forward before Gen. Cass with his three children and said grandchild, Metawanene, and also his niece, Tawcumegoqua, Mixanene being with him and Jacob Smith standing by his side, and asked for reservations of land for these children; that Gen. Cass assented, and that the names of the children were written down, and that it was talked of and understood at the treaty that these children got special reservations of land.”
The testimony of the chief Nocchicame, and others was also introduced by the plaintiffs to show that Mixanene’s daughter, Tawcumegoqua, was married about 1830 to Kahzheauzungh, and to identify her as the same person who joined with her husband in the deed to John Barton and Addison Stewart, April 29, 1846 ; that she died in the fall of 1818, and that the persons who joined with her husband in the deeds to John Moore and A. T. Crosman were her children and heirs.
The defendants introduced evidence showing that their Tawcumegoqua (alias Madame Coutant) was the daughter of the trader Bolieu, and an Indian woman (his wife) who was related by blood to the chiefs Neome and Tonedogane, and tending to prove that she (the daughter) was the true reservee.
Among this evidence was the deposition of Henry Connor (then deceased) taken before David E. Harbaugh, a justice of the peace for Wayne County, Feb. 20, 1839, as follows: “I, Henry Connor, of Wayne County, State of Michigan, do solemnly swear that I was an Indian interpreter at the treaty held with the Indians at Saginaw, in the year 1819, and that Tawcumegoqua, a half-breed Indian woman, was present at said treaty; that I acted as interpreter for her in the matter of her claim to a section of land at or near the Grand Traverse on Flint River, in the then Territory of Michigan.
I was well acquainted with said Tawcumegoqua during a period of more than thirty years, and I know that she was the identical woman to whom the Indians then granted and intended to grant a section of land situated near the Grand Traverse of the Flint River aforesaid.
I do also know that she was married to a Frenchman named Coutant, and was called by the French inhabitants Angelique Coutant.
That she had two children by said Coutant, called Simon and Angelique Coutant, and that these two children are the only heirs of the said Tawcumegoqua.”
It was urged that this testimony was of great weight and importance, from the fact that Connor (on account of the position held by him at the treaty) must of necessity have been fully acquainted with all the circumstances, and with the intentions of the Indians, and also from the fact that his entire truthfulness and honesty were vouched for by General Cass, and others who had known him intimately for many years.
George B. Knaggs testified for the defense that he knew Madame Coutant and that he saw her at the treaty, that she was the person to whom the Indians intended to give the reserved tract, and this was understood by common conversation among them afterwards.
This witness, however, did not sustain himself well under cross-examination, and his statements appear to have been received with distrust by the court.
Louis Campau, the old trader (who, at the time of this trial, was living in retirement at Grand Rapids), testified for the defense.
He was present at the treaty of 1819, and here gave a detailed account of the proceedings on that occasion.
He said Mrs. Coutant was present, and was then called by her Indian name, which the Indians accepted; that she was presented by that name to General Cass, and that after her interview with him in the presence of the chiefs, he (Campau) asked her if she got the land, and she replied, “Yes, my son, my relations have pitied me, and given me a piece of land.”
He said that he met the chief, Tonedogane, who spoke of Mrs. Coutant by her Indian name, and called her his aunt, and that not only this Indian, but also the chiefs, Neome, Kabamiscobe, and Podagnass, told him that they had given her lands.
This witness also testified that although he had been well acquainted with Neome since 1815, and knew all the hunters of his band, he had never known or heard that the old chief had any children, as had been stated by the witnesses on the other side.
The trial, which was a long and interesting one, terminated on the 15th of February by a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs.
Upon this a writ of restitution was issued, and Messrs. Dewey and Hamilton were placed in possession of the tract by Sheriff Lewis Buckingham on the 29th of November, 1860.
From the Circuit Court of Saginaw County the cause was carried by the defeated party to the Supreme Court, on a writ of error and bill of exceptions, and came to trial at the October term in 1861; resulting in an affirmation of the judgment of the court below.
The foregoing account of the principal suits, involving the original title to these reservations, may be thought unnecessarily extended; but it has been made so not only because of the great interest which was felt in them by the people of this vicinity, and on account of the singularly conflicting nature of the evidence adduced, but also for the reason that (as was remarked to the writer by one of the most prominent citizens of Flint, and one who is intimately acquainted with the matter of which he speaks) “the settlement of the titles to the seven thousand acres embraced in the Smith reservations has caused twenty times more trouble, anxiety, and litigation than all the other land-titles in the county of Genesee.”
This remark, however, does not properly apply to the reservations on the south side of the river, excepting number eight, which has been mentioned above at some length.
The first of these (commencing at the lowest point on the river) was the one numbered eleven, of which the reservee was Kitchegeequa, a half-breed, otherwise known as Catharine Mene, who died a few years after the treaty.
On the 30th of May, 1830, a patent was issued to Charles Mene and the other heirs of Catharine, and the title thus confirmed, proved good and valid.
The reserves of the adjoining tract (number ten) was Phillis Beaufait (otherwise Petabonequa), a half-breed daughter of Colonel Louis Beaufait.
Holders of titles derived from her found themselves secure; and this was also the case on reservation nine, which was granted to the half-breed Checbalk, otherwise Jean Visger, or John Fisher, a member of the “Fisher tribe” or band, several of whom are still living in the county.
Nowokeshik, to whom reservation number seven was allotted, was Francois Edouard Campau, a half-breed son of Barney Campau.
A patent for this tract was issued to him June 12, 1825, and on the 1st of April, 1830, he conveyed it by deed to John Todd, the pioneer of the Flint River settlement.
Within this reservation is now included all of the second, and the greater part of the third ward of Flint, embracing the most populous and valuable portion of the city.