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HISTORY OF MICHIGAN.
Michigan! If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you, in Michigan. Every visitor at St. Paul's church, London, is overawed with the magnificence of that structure, the work of Sir Chris. topher Wren. He wants to know where the remains of Wren are now; in the crypt of the church they lie, where the following is engraved upon the headstone: Si monumentum requiris, circunspice,- If you seek a monument [of Wren], look around [and behold the work of his brain in this mighty building]. The State of Michigan has appropriately adopted for her motto this expression, with a slight alteration, thus: Si quæris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice, If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you. And indeed Michigan may as justly feel proud of its resources as Great Britain, of St. Paul's church,-yea, and infinitely more.
What with her substantial foundation in agriculture throughout the southern counties, in horticulture throughout the lower peninsula and especially the fruit belt along her western boundary, in pineries in the central portion of the State, and with her crown of iron and copper in the upper peninsula, tipped with silver, she stands the real queen of the utilitarian world.
It is a pleasure to write the history of such a State. Contrast this pleasant task with writing and studying the histories of States and empires which we have been taught to ponder and revere from our youth up, histories of European countries cobwebbed with intrigue, blackened with iniquity and saturated with blood. What a standing, practical reproof Michigan is to all Europe! and what a happy future she has before her, even as compared with all her sister States!
Now let's to our chosen task, and say tirst a few words concerning the prehistoric races, observing, by the way, that the name
Michigan” is said to be derived from the Indian Mitchi-sawgyegan, a great lake.
The numerous and well-authenticated accounts of antiquities found in various parts of our country clearly demonstrate that a people civilized, and even highly cultivated, occupied the broad surface of our continent before its possession by the present Indians;
but the date of their rule of the Western World is so remote that all traces of their history, their progress and decay, lie buried in deepest obscurity. Nature, at the time the first Europeans came, had asserted her original dominion over the earth; the forests were all in their full luxuriance, the growth of many centuries; and naught existed to point out who and what they were who formerly lived, and loved, and labored, and died, on the continent of America. This pre-historic race is known as the Mound-Builders, from the numerous large mounds of earth-works left by them. The remains of the works of this people form the most interesting class of antiquities discovered in the United States. Their character can be but partially gleaned from the internal evidences and the peculiarities of the only remains left, -the mounds. They consist of remains of what were apparently villages, altars, temples, idols, eemeteries, monuments, camps, fortifications, pleasure grounds, etc., etc. Their habitations must have been tents, structures of wood, or other perishable material; otherwise their remains would be
If the Mound-Builders were not the ancestors of the Indians, who were they? The oblivion which has closed over them is so complete that only conjecture can be given in answer to the question. Those who do not believe in the common parentage of mankind contend that they were an indigenous race of the Western heniisphere; others, with more plausibility, think they came from the East, and imagine they can see coincidences in the religion of the Hindoos and Southern Tartars and the supposed theology of the Mound-Builders. They were, no doubt, idolators, and it has been conjectured that the sun was the object of their adoration. The mounds were generally built in a situation affording a view of the rising sun; when enclosed in walls their gateways were toward the east; the caves in which their dead were occasionally buried always opened in the same direction; whenever a mound was partially enclosed by a semi-circular pavement, it was on the east side; when bodies were buried in graves, as was frequently the case, they were laid in a direction east and west; and, finally, medals have been found representing the sun and his rays of light.
At what period they caine to this country is likewise a matter of speculation. From the comparatively rude state of the arts among them, it has been inferred that the time was very remote.
Their axes were of stone. Their raiment, judging from fragments which have been discovered, consisted of the bark of trees, interwoven with feathers; and their military works were such as a people would erect who had just passed to the pastoral state of society from that dependent alone upon hunting and fishing.
The mounds and other ancient earth-works constructed by this people are far more abundant than generally supposed, from the fact that wbile some are quite large, the greater part of them are small and inconspicuous. Along nearly all our water courses that are large enough to be navigated with a canoe, the mounds are almost invariably found, covering the base points and headlands of the bluffs which border the narrower valleys; so that when one finds himself in such positions as to command the grandest views for river scenery, he may almost always discover that he is standing upon, or in close proximity to, some one or more of these traces of the labors of an ancient people.
The Mound-Builder was an early pioneer in Michigan. He was the first miner in the upper peninsula. How he worked we do not know, but he went deep down into the copper ore and dug and raised vast quantities, and probably transported it, bnt just how or where, we cannot say. The ancient mining at Islé Royale, in Lake Superior, has excited amazement. The pits are from 10 to 20 feet in diameter, from 20 to 60 feet in depth, and are scattered through. out the island. They follow the richest veins of ore. Quantities of stone hammers and mauls weighing from 10 to 30 pounds have
been found, some broken from use and some in good condition. Copper chisels, knives and arrowheads have been discovered. The copper tools have been hardened by fire. Working out the ore was doubtless done by heating and pouring on water,-a very tedious process; and yet it is said that, although 200 men in their rude way could not accomplish any more work than two skilled miners at the present day, yet at one point alone on Isle Royale the labor performed exceeds that of one of the oldest mines on the south shore, operated by a large force for more than 30 years. Since these ancient pits were opened, forests have grown up and fallen, and trees 400 years old stand around them to-day.
Mounds have been discovered on the Detroit river, at the head of the St. Clair, the Black, the Rouge, on the Grand, at the foot of Lake Huron, and in many other portions of the State. Those at the head of the St. Clair were discovered by Mr. Gilman, in 1872, and are said to be very remarkable.
Mr. Breckenridge, who examined the antiquities of the Western country in 1817, speaking of the mounds in the American Bottom, says: The great number and extremely large size of some of them may be regarded as furnishing, with other circumstances, evidences of their antiquity. I have sometimes been induced to think that at the period when they were constructed there was a population here as numerous as that which once animated the borders of the Nile or Euphrates, or of Mexico. The most nunerous, as well as considerable, of these reinains are found in precisely those parts of the country where the traces of a numerous population might be looked fur, namely, from the mouth of the Ohio on the east side of the Mississippi to the Illinois river, and on the west from the St. Francis to the Missouri. I am perfectly satisfied that cities similar to those of ancient Mexico, of several hundred thousand souls, have existed in this country.”
It must be admitted that whatever the uses of these mounds-whether as dwellings or burial places--these silent monuments were built, and the race who built them vanished from the face of the earth, ages before the Indians occnpied the land, but their date must probably forever baffle human skill and ingenuity.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the places of sepulture raised by the Mound-Builders from the more modern graves of the Indians. The tombs of the former were in general larger than those of the latter, and were used as receptacles for a greater number of bodies, and contained relics of art, evincing a higher degree of civilization than that attained by the Indians. The ancient earthworks of the Mound-Builders have occasionally been appropriated as burial places by the Indians, but the skeletons of the latter may be distinguished from the osteological remains of the former by their greater stature.
What finally became of the Mound-Builders is another query which has been extensively discussed. The fact that their works extend into Mexico and Peru has induced the belief that it was their posterity that dwelt in these countries when they were first visited by the Spaniards. The Mexican and Peruvian works, with the exception of their greater magnitude, are similar. Relics common to all of them have been occasionally found, and it is believed that the religious uses which they subserved were the same. If, indeed, the Mexicans and Peruvians were the progeny of the more ancient Mound-Builders, Spanish rapacity for gold was the cause of their overthrow and final extermination.
A thousand other queries naturally arise respecting these nations which now repose under the ground. bnt the most searching investi.