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BWHL OTTISSIPPI Ch. 6, continued part 3

By Cheryl Morgan

OTTISSIPPI is written by local author – Cheryl Morgan. It is the New Native History and culture of Southeast Michigan and beyond that has been untold. It was inaccessible due to the complexity of the many tribes, governments, states, and boundaries. The history was hidden and scattered everywhere due to time and the many changes of names of waterways, peoples and places. It is the result of 4 years of intense groundbreaking research that clarifies and reveals what happened here and in the Northwest Territory. Now available in one volume! Non-fiction 643 pages.

BWHL will be sharing excerpts from OTTISSIPPI with the readers each week. The book is available on Amazon.com/ottissippi.

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It is available as an ebook with a searchable Table of Contents and in Print – paperback.

Chapter 6 continued, part 3

THE QUEBEC ACT

The outcome was the Quebec Act of 1774. The British now exacerbated the colonists. The Northwest was annexed to Quebec. It guaranteed the French inhabitants’ religion, the Roman Catholic Church tithes, and set up a civil administration, rather than the arbitrary rule of the military commanders. The main purpose of the Quebec Act, says Alvord, was the alleviation of the wrongs of the Alien population to Indians of the North, a last effort to protect a part of the Mississippi Valley to prevent the disorders of the region.

The territory was divided into districts, with a lieutenant government in each: Henry Hamilton for Detroit, and Patrick Sinclair for Michilimackinac. The purpose was to exclude all further settlements therein and establish uniform regulations for the Indian trade. The outbreak of the Revolution partly suspending the Quebec Act.

The British merchants now had the Fur Trade in their hands. The prolonged hostilities cut off American traders to the Indian country beyond the Ohio. When the war ended, the Great Lakes were awarded to the Americans. With the trade went the formal allegiance of the Indian tribes. For an entire generation, the strange situation existed wherein the land was American, and the economic activities were British. This situation is the key to understanding the history of Michigan until after the War of 1812” (Fuller).

“The British believed that ample room was allotted for settlement east of the line along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. To the west, a vast country was assigned to the Indians and fur trader. Speculators and pioneers were transgressing the line, pouring through Cumberland Gap into Tennessee and through the Fort Pitt gateway to the fertile lands of Kentucky. The Ohio River was the barrier between the farmers and the Indian hunting grounds.

The Quebec Act stopped westward expansion. The French yet ruled British Quebec, north of the Ohio River. The colonies had no representation or claim from the king’s charters. The region was the chief arena for the collection and transport of furs. The fur provinces were dependent upon British goods, shipping, and merchants.

When it became evident that the colonies invading Indian land were trying to set up an independent nation, the Indians recognized their self-interest was on the side (British) upholding the integrity of the hunting grounds of the West” (Fuller).

“The British backing the Indian in attacking the invaders crossing the Ohio. Detroit was the British and Indian capital of the Northwest, supplying the troops of warriors in defense of the British fur trade.

Pressure from Americans increased, but there was little fear from the English traders, as long as the English held Detroit. James McGill wrote in 1786, It would be a very long time before the Americans could venture on the smallest part of our trade.

British Crown Loyalists settled in Detroit after 1783, seeking an asylum from the persecution they are subjected to in the States. There was, however, a great deal of concern for the fate of Detroit. Detroit was the key to the trade of the Great Lakes and Northwest. The Americans were extremely anxious to gain Detroit and its Indian trade. The British delayed giving up the Michigan Fur Trade and retained the posts and exploited the Fur Trade of Detroit. The British, also fearing the anger from the Indians with their departure, continued giving presents to their Indian allies in Michigan and the Northwest.

In 1784, George Washington examined routes to the West in a plan to bring the trade of Detroit and the Northwest to Virginia. The Potomac Company was formed to achieve this goal with George Washington as the president. Washington was eager to gain the Northwest trade for America, saying ‘I am not for discouraging the exertions of any state to draw the commerce of the western country’.

American militia troops crossed the Ohio River in 1790 and 1791, ending in the defeat of St. Clair and Harmar. A series of forts were built along the western boundary, stretching north from Fort Washington to Cincinnati, Ohio” (Farrel).

“Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton at Detroit called the traders the most worthless vagabonds imaginable: ‘they are fugitives in general from Lower Canada or the Colonies, who fly from their debtors or the law and, being proficient in all sorts of vice and debauchery, corrupt the morals of the Savages, without the family connections of the French traders or knowledge of the Indian customs’. The English were often brutal in their dealings and especially in the use of intoxicants, in the trade. Although the strong water was not new, it reached unprecedented proportions during the latter quarter of the eighteenth century (1700’s). The traders justified its use by citing strong competition between traders and Indian demand. In rum, they found the perfect trade good: cheap, addictive, and immediately consumed. Rum was consumed in large amounts by men and women, young and old. Violence and mayhem always accompanied the liquor; they were accepted parts of the trade” (Cleland, Rights of Conquest, pg. 132).

“Cheated by the traders, ravaged by the violence brought about by the use, of intoxicants, unfairly treated in the restriction of firearms in trade, and humiliated by the contempt of English soldiers and administrators, the Great Lakes Indians seethed in growing anger” (Cleland, Rites of Conquest, pg. 133).

“Whites with strong drink overthrew the honor of the Red man, and power over a worthless husband purchased the virtue of his wife or daughter. When she fell, the whole race fell with her. Before this calamity, a happier home could not be found than that created by the Indian women. There was nothing artificial about her person, a strength and poise not to be overcome by any ordinary misfortune” (C. Eastman, Soul of the Indian).

“The Jay Treaty of 1795 provided free trade in the United States and Canada, subject to only the uniform customs, duties, and regulations. The actual forts and trading establishments of the British were moved to their side of the boundary, but the privileges of the treaty enabled them to maintain uninterrupted contact with the Indians and the sources of supply on the American side. British agents remained in Michigan. Complete freedom of trade existed, though technically the movement of British goods over the border amounted to smuggling.

A revenue district was established in 1799, with Michilimackinac as the headquarters. This was only a minor obstacle to the powerful British companies that dominated the trade on both sides of the border. It was only by a narrow margin that the British failed to retain all the fur trading areas of North America within their jurisdiction. It is true, commercial relations were dominantly British for twenty years after the international boundary was proclaimed by treaty.

The French diverted trade to New Orleans. The Albany traders diverted trade to New York. The Philadelphia traders sent merchandise to Kaskaskia, Illinois to compete with the French at St. Louis. The English merchants attempted to monopolize the Indian trade. This was a sore grievance for the colonies on the Atlantic Seaboard” (Fuller).

“John Jacob Astor arrived in this country a penniless emigrant boy, son of a butcher. He was born in the Duchy of Baden, village of Waldorf. He bought and sold furs in New York, early acquainted him with the business. His early financial success was as a ship owner in the oriental trade. A fortune was made in the sandalwood trade with China alone, the possibilities of which Astor discovered by accident, which made him a rich man before his competitors knew anything about his operations in that line. His ships circumnavigated the globe and called at every Occidental port where a lucrative trade could be obtained. When John Jacob Astor entered the Western field to compete in the Fur Trade, he was equipped with a ripe experience, ample means, and remarkably shrewd business instincts and methods” (Fowle, Sault Ste. Marie and MI).

Peter Grewett was an Indian trader for the American Fur Co. He was well known from Detroit to Sault St. Marie. He wrote the history of the Ojibwe of Michigan, as told to him by Puttaguasamine, then 100 years old in 1834.

“The Ogima – Forest King traded food for whiskey; it was the great means of drawing from him, his furs and skins to obtain. He made a beast of himself and allows his family to go hungry and half-naked. And how feeble is the force of law where all are leagued in the golden bands of interest to break it! The fur traders were petty dealers of all sorts, though they profess to obey the laws” (Schoolcraft, 30 years among the Indians).

“The American Fur Co. proceeded to strip the land of every furred animal to be found, and some to the verge of extinct and rare. It crushed any trader it could not buy, pitching a tent near the enemy and undersell him; and there was often violence. To create hostile relations between him and the Indians was the most potent means to destroy his trade, by giving presents, denouncing, cursing, and sabotage.

When the Indians were paid for their furs, before they set out for their winter hunting grounds, the agents usually paid at one of the warehouses. In a large room would be a long table or counter upon which were seated the agents, clerks, and interpreters. The Indians would enter the front door, one by one, sign their receipts or make their marks thereon, receive their money, from there and walk out the back door, where stood a crowd of hungry traders, who would quickly transfer most of the money from the hands of the Indians to their own pockets for the payment of old debts. The traders commonly claimed all they could see, and the Indians, as a rule, gave it up without protest. They were generally in debt but were always ready to pay when they had any money. The traders never hesitated to give credit to an Indian. The Indians left the next day, except for the drunkards and those who stayed behind for a debauch” (C. Moore, History of MI).

“Rogues were few among the Aboriginals; they were usually the victim of baseness, rather than its author” (Calvin J. Thorpe, MPHC vol. 28).

The Hudson’s Bay Co. in the Ojibwe trade included venison, rice, fish, maple sugar, canoes, sleds, snowshoes, tents, fur pack wrappers, fat for candles, sturgeon oil for lamps, goose and duck feathers for mattresses and blankets, quills for pens, birch bark shingles, spruce gum to seal roof cracks and patch canoes, show shoe netting, making, and mending and cleaning of cloth, nets from twine for fishing, guiding, and freighting.

“A large number, of Mohawk near Montreal went as free traders with the Northwest Co., Hudson’s Bay Co., and Pacific Fur Co. Their contribution to opening the west is understated” (Metis Timeline, www).

Joseph Campau of Detroit, whose great grandfather was Jacques Campau, was a great trader. Joseph sold the British military alcohol, firearms, ammunition, pork, and other necessities. The market played to certain readily available commodities and outstripped even the Fur Trade, as the most lucrative endeavor, of the Eighteenth Century Frontier. Merchants would outfit expeditions, swapping merchandise for furs. Some of the items for trade were looking glasses, blankets, stockings, padlocks, scalping knives, mustard, spices, silk handkerchiefs, beads, bread, shoes, bowls, butter, buttons, hinges, etc. Trading stores were packed with merchandise, every square inch was crammed with a bewildering array of commodities. This was one-stop shopping. Detroit was crucial to the American economy, the metropolis of the Midwest, the inland seaport reaching all parts of the world.

In 1793, Don McKay reported, “the only thing necessary for trade is a good supply of rum” (Metis Timeline, www).

“Fort Gratiot was the natural point of destination for the products of the county surrounding it. It was also the key to the three Upper Lakes, Huron, Michigan, and Superior. A port of transportation, shipment, and original export, it was the central point for various diverging routes by water and rail. The first great landing and distribution point for all Western emigration, the natural depot for commodities intended for shipment” (Jenks II, 1912, Biographical History of St. Clair County).

Daniel and Jeremiah Harrington were on a fur trading trip to Saginaw country in 1819, with several other men. They were in an open batteau they had built in Fremont, Ohio, named the Saginaw Hunter. In passing Crow Island, they were met by a fleet of canoes led by Kishkaukau, who yelled, “Puckachee, go, go.” After some time, they were allowed, to go before the tribal chiefs and negotiate a permission to enter the country. They eventually settled 10 miles south of the mouth of the Saginaw River and built a trading house to pass the winter. They had great success using their dogs to hunt fur-bearing animals. Kishkaukau tried every means to drive them away. With diplomacy and making a great feast, they were accepted. At that time, there were only two houses in the Saginaw River area: one of Louis Campau, where his brother, Antoine, worked the Fur Trade post, the other Peter Riley, brother of John Riley.

The Harrington’s later settled in St. Clair County on Black River.

Judge Jewitt was at Saginaw. “By 1816, British traders were cut off from Michigan forests.

In 1816, Abbottsford, Michigan was settled around a sawmill on Mill Creek, also called Fairfield. Abbottsford had a post office from 1892 to 1942. Ruby, Michigan was just east of Abbottsford. Ruby later moved to the former Abbottsford location. Abbottsford was named after Judge James Abbott, a very large and influential fur and timber trader in Detroit, who sold many other goods. The mill site at Abbottsford was the same place that Ignass Morass had built on in 1786, having first choice of the vast timber surrounding the mill. Ignass Morass supplied spars and other timber for ships being built on the River Rouge and other locations for the coming war between Britain and America in 1812. This timber was hauled on horse trains over the ice down Black River, the St. Clair River, and over Lake St. Clair to the Detroit River. The axe and oxen the only tools to accomplish such a great feat in the woods.

Abbott was Chicago’s first bridegroom. In 1804, Abbott rode on horseback to Chicago from Detroit to marry Sarah Whistler, daughter of Captain John Whistler, builder and commandment of Fort Dearborn. John Whistler also served at Fort Gratiot at the foot of Lake Huron. Sarah was aunt to the famous American artist James A. McNeil Whistler. The couple spent their honeymoon on the return to Detroit, traveling by horseback 300 miles on the Indian trail. Abbott was postmaster at Detroit for over 25 years and a slaveholder. Abbott also owned vessels, bringing salt to Detroit from New York. Captain William Brown sailed for him.

This land at Mill Creek was originally deeded to Duperon Baby in 1780 by the Indians; he was the British Indian agent who abandoned his claim and mill to American Territory in 1796. Abbott’s mill was formerly owned by Ignass Morass, who built the mill in 1786. Abbott sold his mill to Judge Z.W. Bunce.

Many other sawmills were in the area along Black River and Mill Creek. Black River was the place of early lumbering in Michigan, having tremendous growth of white pine and pumpkin pine – fully mature pine. Shingles and staves were made also. Many of the lumber barons of Michigan and the nation had their start in St. Clair County, Michigan. There was heavy growth of timber.

The Beards and Glyshaws were lumbermen who called Ruby “Abbottsford Home”. There were two stages daily coming through Ruby and Abbottsford in the 1800s and early 1900s. In 1837, there were 339 residents in Ruby (Abbottsford). The Black River Valley reached its peak production in 1871, the first valley in Michigan to do so” (Hudgins, 1953, pg. 63). Some lumber trails which later became roads. The hills have been shaved down; they were at one time, steeper.

Abbottsford and Ruby were huge lumbering villages, eventually having eight or more hotels and numerous boarding houses in the area to accommodate the men who came to work in the woods and those passing through to other places. It was once a thriving town with many businesses, machine shops, stores, etc. Other small hamlets were nearby: Fargo, Hardscrabble, Atkins, Zion, Avoca, Brockway, Brockway Center, Merrillville, Kenockee, and Jeddo. Many more small towns were nearby. They all had their favorite bar, hotel, or boarding house. The Hardscrabble Hotel had a famous history in its day; it was on Beard Road and Kilgore Road. On Saturday nights in these small towns, musicians delighted the people at the dance halls.

“The Liquor Trade at Ruby – Abbottsford – caused many problems in the town. One fine establishment was burned to the ground by the women of the town who had had enough” (Jackie Praeter).

Fairfield appears to be a holdover from the British settlement in the area west of Ruby, Michigan. The Fairfield militia was commanded by James Abbot, who was a large trader in Detroit. In the book, West to Far Michigan, Kenneth E. Lewis (2002) lists Fairfield as having two retail places, 25 production activities, and 9 service activities.

The Dorsey House was a famous stop for travelers going in every direction Northwest of the St. Clair River and Black River. It was located on Wildcat Road and now M-136 Highway, east of Ruby Michigan.

“Usury – charging interest on credit, was a European tradition, unknown in America. Indian corn, wheat and rye were grown, nearly all were distilled into whiskey, the principle drink. Wine is hardly known here. Rye was also prepared to be used as a coffee substitute. Oats, flax, potatoes, and garden vegetables were also grown for the trade. A bushel of corn was traded for a gallon of whiskey, five quarts for a bushel of wheat or rye.

There was no money, no shoes, no school, barely clothed a ragged state. Clothing was worn out, everything was scarce, there was one pot to do all. Home spun was worn. There was no church and no cellar. A hollow sycamore was used as a smoke house.

The Mack and Miller Distillery was at Harsens Island, Michigan” (MPHC vol. 4).

The New Vandalia Co., Indiana Co., Walpole Co., and Venice of America were land speculation companies in the Northwest Territory.

In the 1820s and 1830s, the Indians were forced to kill off their main source of meat for the trade. Deer and muskrats became the main furs when the beavers were decimated. The Indians began to starve.

FIRE WATER

Fire Water – Ish kuday wa bu – was the name for the alcoholic mixture made up for the Indian trade, it was often diluted. Brandy, rum, and whiskey – scoota wah boo – were indispensable trade items.

“Traders’ Whiskey: 2 gallons of unrectified spirits, 30 gallons of river water, ½ oz. of cayenne pepper, 2 oz. tobacco plug for color.

Ten Rod Whiskey: high wine to which brown sugar and tobacco were added to give it its color.

Indian Whiskey: one barrel, river water, 2 oz. strychnine, 3 plugs of chewing tobacco, 5 bars of soap, 1 lb. of red pepper, sagebrush leaves. Boil until the liquid turns brown, then bottle. Strychnine for its stimulating qualities, the soap gave it a bead, the tobacco gave the necessary nausea, for no Indian thought he was drinking whiskey unless it made him violently ill” (Robert Murphy, Saturday Evening Post 1947).

“Whiskey was a main trade item, sometimes the main trade item. The Indians also wanted blankets, tools, weapons, butcher knives, scalping knives, tomahawks, cloth, beads, mirrors, combs, needles, thread, fishing hooks, silver jewelry, ammunition, ball and shot, gunpowder, flint, steel, gun screws, kettles, flour, and other items. The Indians came to trade. They feasted and treated until incapable of business, and then they were induced to sign agreements they knew nothing of and of which they had no recollection.

Liquor – Devil’s Spittle – undermined tribal interests and destroyed their personal powers and social safety. They knew the danger but could not shun it. During the high time, all deadly weapons were removed. There were noise and demons of darkness and hate, broken property, bruised, maimed, and suffering people. The Indians borrowed and repaid with interest” (MPHC, 28, Calvin Thorpe).

Whiskey was an essential element of the backwoods life, a sovereign remedy for all prevailing ills, fever, and ague of a swampy country. It was the medicinal for pioneers.

MONEY

“A major problem for merchants was the aggravating lack of cash. Until 1775 and later, trade had been in the form of barter and value in terms of beaver pelts. Bills of exchange were often issued; these were only used in and around the city, their value and reliability depended upon the reputation of the issuer. Chief Pontiac had issued bills of exchange on pieces of bark, the value of each determined by the number and type of animals represented. These were faithfully redeemed.

French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English money were used, since silver and gold were scarce. As there were few small coins, the larger ones were cut into pieces, called hobnail currency. There were several types of English currency including Halifax, New York, and sterling, sterling being the standard of value” (Farrell, MI Archives).

“Trading was almost wholly by barter of furs, shingles, and labor; shinplasters, local made coinage, were used in the making of small change. The principal coins of the early century were foreign silver.

In 1837, the Saganaw’s sold to two traders the furs of 40 bears, 65 deers, 35 otters, 33 pounds of beaver, 570 muskrats, 140 minks, 55 fishers, 40 foxes, 17 elk, 4 moose, 890 raccoons, and 19 cats” (Letter from Henry Schoolcraft to C.A. Harris, Office Indian Affairs, 1838, NAM MI R.37:547 – 564).

In the later 1800s, the price of furs or skins were recorded in Judge Bunce’s records in American currency (McKay):

“Bear skin, well-furred and fine, 32/each; bear of a common quality, 16/ poor bear, 20/-, poor bear, or such as were killed in the fall, 6-8/. To 8/., cub bear, large size and well-furred, 16/; cub bear, small size and well-furred, 8-12/; cub bear about the size of a raccoon are worth 2/each, and some of them are worth nothing.

Deer: grey deer, well-furred, 4-5/at 1/PH; grey deer, 2-3/ at .6 cents/PH; blue deer or such are more – killed in September, 15 cents/PH; red deer, 1/6 PH. Elk skins, 12/. For each skin. Fisher: prime no. 1, 16/; fisher, prime male, 12/each; fisher, not prime, 4/.6/.8/. Fox: red fox, 4/.6/.8/. grey fox, 2/. Martin: prime no. 1, 10/ male prime, 8/; martin not prime, 4/. To 6/. Mink: mink, full grown prime, 4/., mink, female prime, 3/ female no. 2, 4/ inferior mink, .6 cents/ 1 B. Muskrat: prime, .11 cents; muskrat, fall, 8 cents; muskrat killed November & December, 6 cents; kitten muskrats, 2 cents. Otter: full grown, prime no. 1, 28/ otter small but prime, 20/; otter no. 2, 12-16/no. 3, 8-10/cub, 4-6/. Raccoons: full grown, prime no. 1, 5/; raccoons, small but prime skins, 3/ to 3/B; raccoons, no. 2 – that is fall skins but well-furred, 2/ to 2/6 according to size, raccoons, no. 3, 1/; raccoons, no. 4, 5 cents; some raccoons no. 4 are worthless. Wild cat, prime, same price as raccoon”.

Edward Petit, born at now Port Huron, was a very early inhabitant, a fur trader for Gordon and Ephraim Williams. He had a post and traded on the bend of the Cass River in the thumb of Michigan. The Indians were numerous and usually intelligent; the traders had plenty to eat and plenty to do, looking them up and bartering with them.

In 1831, he found Chief Tawas and his band, after others could not, after a long winter, knowing they must have a great quantity of furs. Young Petit resolved to secure this prize and started out with a week’s provisions on his back, taking as guide an Indian with one arm. The other arm sacrificed to the revenge of the Indians who had shot him because he murdered his own wife at La Riviere Delude – Black River. They found Tawas near White Rock with only one loaf of bread remaining. Tawas was preparing to make sugar. They had brass kettles of all sizes. This spot was chosen for its fishing facilities. They were almost starving, having only moose tallow scraps. Petit divided with them his loaf and shared in their tallow scraps for several days. He purchased at this time 500 martin skins at 1.00 each, which were selling for 2.00 each. Only the finest could be taken away. He returned to camp rejoicing, his wages were quadrupled by his employers. Petit also traded in Ontario on the Sable about 40 miles northeast from Sarnia. He was the first White settler in Huron County, Michigan. He opened a trading post on Shebeon Creek and later moved the post to White Rock at White Rock City.

“Large canoes carried 10 men and 65 packages of furs, weighing from 50 to 80 pounds” (Lanmar, Red Book).

“The steamer Winslow carried 70 Negros from Virginia and Kentucky aboard, bound for Ste. Saint Marie to quarry stone. The rapids were difficult to ascend into Lake Huron with watercraft; the channel was shallow and the current very swift. Vessels waited for a favorable south wind to push them through; sometimes it was a long wait. Vessels were also towed through, by a long line, with Indians pulling it through. The tow ropes were made of boiled basswood bark. Later yokes of oxen were used to tow the vessels through the rapids and channel, upon the waterline. Often the line was chopped by an axe to prevent the oxen from being dragged into the resistance of the current” (OGS Hodgins).

Chapter 6 continues next week.

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This book came about after a visit to the library where I could not find local Indian History. I grew up in the St. Clair and Black River area of Michigan, fishing on all the area waters with my father and brothers. I loved books, libraries, horses and puzzles; I was not a tech person. I love to cook, garden, travel, and camp. I was determined to find and share the truth. This has been a difficult journey in every way. I give you, the reader, the truth and blessings I also reaped. Cheryl Morgan

Cheryl Morgan lives near Port Huron, Michigan with her husband Tom and dog Fred.

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