Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

attention of Congress to the necessity of a military road from Detroit to Sandusky, through a trackless morass called the black swamp.

In the summer of this year, the first newspaper published in Michigan was started at Detroit. It was called the Detroit Gazette, and was published by Messrs. Sheldon & Reed, two enterprising young men, the former of whom published an interesting and valuable early history of Michigan.

The “ Western Sunwas the first newspaper published in the Indiana Territory, now comprising the four great States of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the second in all that country once known as the “ Northwestern Territory.” It was commenced at Vincennes in 1803, by Elihu Stout, of Kentucky, and first called the Indiana Gazette, and July 4, 1804, was changed to the Western Sun. Mr. Stout continued the paper until 1845, amid many discouragements, when he was appointed postmaster at the place, and he sold out the office.

May 6, 1812, Congress passed an act requiring that 2,000,000 acres of land should be surveyed in the Territory of Louisiana, the same amount in the Territory of Illinois, and the same amount in the Territory of Michigan, in all 6,000,000 acres, to be set apart for the soldiers in the war with Great Britain. Each soldier was to have 160 acres of land, fit for cultivation. The surveyors under this law reported that there were no lands in Michigan fit for cultivation! This unconscionable report deterred immigration for many years, and the Government took the whole 6,000,000 acres from Illinois and Missouri. The language of that report is so remarkable that we must quote it:

“ The country on the Indian boundary line, from the mouth of the Great Auglaize river and running thence for about 50 miles, is (with some few exceptions) low, wet land, with a very thick growth of underbrush, interinixed with very bad marshes, but generally very heavily timbered with beech, cottonwood, oak, etc.; thence continuing north and extending from the Indian boundary eastward, the number and extent of the swamps increase, with the addition of numbers of lakes, from 20 chains to two and three miles across. Many of the lakes have extensive marshes adjoining their margins, sometimes thickly covered with a species of pine called

tamarack,' and other places covered with a coarse, high grass, and uniformly covered from six inches to three feet and more at times) with water. The margins of these lakes are not the only places where swamps are found, for they are interspersed throughout the whole country and filled with water, as above stated, and varying in extent. The intermediate space between these swamps and lakes, which is probably near one-half of the country, is, with a very few exceptions, a poor, barren, sandy land on which scarcely any vegetation grows except very small, scrubby oaks. places that part which may be called dry land is composed of little, short sand-hills, forming a kind of deep basins, the bottoms of many

In inany

of which are composed of a marsh similar to the above described. The streams are generally narrow, and very deep compared with their width, the shores and bottoms of which are, with a very few exceptions, swampy beyond description; and it is with the utmost difficulty that a place can be found over which horses can be conveyed with safety.

“ A circumstance peculiar to that country is exhibited in many of the marshes by their being thinly covered with a sward of grass, by walking on which evinced the existence of water or a very thin iud immediately under their covering, which sinks from six to eighteen inches from the pressure of the foot at every step, and at the same time rising before and behind the person passing over. The margins of many of the lakes and streams are in a similar situation, and in many places are literally afloat. On approaching the eastern part of the military lands, toward the private claims on the straights and lake, the country does not contain so many swamps and lakes, but the extreme sterility and barrenness of the soil continues the same. Taking the country altogether, so far as has been explored, and to all appearances, together with the information received concerning the balance, it is so bad there would not be more than one acre out of a hundred, if there would be one out of a thousand, that wonld in any case admit of cultivation.”

It is probable that those Government surveyors made a lazy job of their duty and depended almost entirely upon the fur traders, who were interested in keeping settlers out of the country. But we must make allowance, too, for the universal ignorance existing at that time of the methods of developing the Western country which modern invention has brought to bear since the days of our furefathers. We must remember that our Western prairies were counted worth nothing, even by all the early settlers.

By the year 1818 some immigrants crowded in and further explored and tested the land; and in March, this year, Gov. Cass called for the views of the inhabitants upon the question of changing the civil authority by entering upon the second grade of Territorial government. A vote was taken and a majority were found to be against it; but for the purpose of facilitating immigration and settlement, Gov. Cass recommended to the Secretary of the Treasury that the lands in the district of Detroit be at once brought into market. The department immediately complied, and the lands were offered for sale the following autumn. Immigration was now increased more than ever before, and the permanent growth of the country became fully established.

In 1819 the people were allowed to elect a delegate to Congress. The population was now 8,806 in the whole Territory, distributed as follows: Detroit, 1,450, not including the garrison; the Island of Mackinaw, still the entrepot of the fur trade, a stationary population of about 450, sometimes increased to 2,000 or over; Sault Ste. Marie, 15 or 20 houses, occupied by French and English families.

The year

1819 was also rendered memorable by the appearance of the first steamboat on the lakes, the “ Walk-in-the-water," which came up Lake Erie and went on to Mackinaw.

Up to this time no executive measures had been taken by the people to avail themselves of the school lands appropriated by the ordinance of 1787, except the curious act passed by the Governor and judges establishing the “Catholepistemiad," or University of Michigan, with 13 “didaxia,” or professorships. The scheme for this institution was a grand one, described by quaint, sesquipedalian technicalities coined from the Greek language, and the whole devised by that unique man, Judge Woodward. The act is given in full in the Territorial laws of Michigan, compiled and printed a few years ago. It was Judge Woodward, also, who laid out the plan of Detroit, in the form of a cobweb, with a "campus Martius” and a grand circus, and avenues radiating in every direction, grand public parks and squares, etc. Centuries would be required to fulfill his vast design." Like authors and artists of ancient Greece and Rome, he laid the foundations of grand work for posterity more than for the passing generation.

Settlements now began to form at the points where now are the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Jackson, Tecumseh and Pontiac. There were still some annoyances by the Indians. The Sacs and Foxes annually made their appearance to receive presents from the British agents at Malden, and as they passed along they would commit many depredations. This practice of the British Government had a tendency to prejudice the Indians against the Ameri. cans, and it thus became necessary to take some measures for removing the Indians beyond British influence or otherwise putting a stop to this dangerous custom. Accordingly, in the fall of 1819, Gov. Cass desired the Government at Washington to cause a more thorough exploration to be made of the lake region, estimating the number and influence of the Indians, their relations, prejudices, etc., with a view to the further extinguishment of Indian title to land, etc.; but the Government deemed it advisable at this time only to take 10 miles square at Sault Ste. Marie for military purposes, and some islands near Mackinaw, where beds of plaster had been found to exist. However, the general Government soon ordered an expedition to be fitted out for such an exploration as Gov. Cass desired, to travel with birch canoes. The men composing the expedition were Gen. Cass and Robert A. Forsyth, his private secretary; Capt. D. B. Douglass, topographer and astronomer; Dr. Alex. Wolcot, physician; James D. Doty, official secretary; and Charles C. Trowbridge, assistant topographer. Lieut. Evans Mackey was commander of the escort, which consisted of 10 U. S. soldiers. Besides these there were 10 Canadian voyageurs, to manage the canoes, and 10 Indians to act as hunters.'The latter were under the direction of James Riley and Joseph Parks, who were also to act as interpreters.

This party left Detroit March 24, 1820, and reached Michilimackinac, June 6. On leaving this place June 14, 22 soldiers, under the command of Lieut. John S. Pierce, were added to the party, and the expedition now numbered 64 persons. They reached the Sault Ste. Marie the 16th, where Gen. Cass called the Indians (Chippewas) together, in order to have a definite understanding with them concerning the boundary lines of the land grants, and thereby renew also their sanction of former treaties. At first the Indians protested against the Americans having any garrison at the place, and some of them grew violent and almost precipitated a general fight, which would have been disastrous to Gen. Cass' party, as the Indians were far more numerous; but Cass exhibited a great degree of coolness and courage, and caused more deliberate counsels to prevail among the savages.

Thus the threatened storm blew over. The next day the expedition resumed their journey, on Lake Superior, passing the pictured rocks,” and landing at one place where there was a band of friendly Chippewas. June 25 they left Lake Superior, ascended Portage river and returned home by way of Lake Michigan, after having traveled over 4,000 miles.

The results of the expedition were: a more thorough knowledge of a vast region and of the numbers and disposition of the various tribes of Indians; several important Indian treaties, by which valuable lands were ceded to the United States; a knowledge of the operations of the Northwest Fur Company; and the selection of sites for a line of military posts.

As the greatest want of the people seemed to be roads, Congress was appealed to for assistance, and not in vain; for that body immediately provided for the opening of roads between Detroit and the Miami river, from Detroit to Chicago, and from Detroit to Fort Gratiot, and for the improvement of La Plaisance Bay. Government surveys were carried into the Territory. Two straight lines were drawn through the center of the Territory,-east and west, and north and south, the latter being denominated the principal meridian and the former the base line. The Territory was also divided into townships of six miles square.

In 1821 there was still a tract of land lying south of Grand river which had not yet been added to the United States, and Gov. Cass deemed it necessary to negotiate with the Indians for it. To accomplish this work he had to visit Chicago; and as a matter of curiosity we will inform the reader of his most feasible route to that place, which he can contrast with that of the present day. Leaving Detroit, he descended to the mouth of the Maumee river; he ascended that river and crossed the intervening country to the Wabash; descended that stream to the Ohio; down the latter to the Mississippi, and up this and the Illinois rivers to Chicago!

At this council the American commissioners were Gen. Cass and Judge Sibley, of Detroit. They were successful in their undertaking, and obtained a cession of the land in question. On this occasion the Indians exhibited in a remarkable inanner their

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »