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Extracted from
History of St. Clair County, Michigan
by A.T. Andreas

History of Michigan

Chapter III


[38] Soon after the discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi in 1682, the Government of France began to encourage the policy of establishing a line of trading post and missionary stations, extending through the west, from Canada and the great lakes, to Louisiana; and this policy was maintained, with partial success, for about seventy-five years. British power was the rival upon which the French continually kept their eye. Of course a collision of arms would result in a short time, and this commenced about 1755. In 1760, Canada, including the lake region, fell into the hands of the British. During the war, occurred Braddock's defeat, the battles of Niagara, Crown Point and Lake George, and the death of brave Wolfe and Montcalm. September 12 of this year, Major Robert Rogers, a native of New Hampshire, a provincial officer, and then at the height of his reputation, received orders from Sir Jeffrey Amherst to ascend the lakes with detachment of rangers, and take possession, in the name of his Britannic majesty, of Detroit, Michilimackinac and other western posts, included in the capitulation of Montreal. He left the latter place on the following day with 200 rangers in fifteen whale boats. November 7, they reached the mouth of a river (Chogage), on the southern coast of Lake Erie, where they were met by Pontiac, the Indian chief, who now appears for the first time upon the pages of Michigan history. He haughtily demanded of Rogers why he should appear in his realm with his forces without his permission. The major informed him that the English had obtained permission of Canada, and that he was on his way to Detroit to publish the fact, and to restore a general peace to white men and Indians alike. The next day Pontiac signified his willingness to live at peace with the English, allowing them to remain in his country, provided they paid him due respect. He knew that French power was on the wane, and that it was to the interest of his tribes to establish an early peace with the new power. The Indians, who had collected at the mouth of the Detroit, reported 400 strong, to resist the coming of the British forces, were easily influenced by Pontaic [39] to yield the situation to Rogers. Even the French commandant at Detroit, Capt. Beletre, was in a situation similar to that of the Indians, and received the news of the defeat of the French from Major Rogers. He was indignant and incredulous, and tried to rouse the fury of his old-time friends, the Indians, but found them "faithless" in this hour of his need. He surrendered with an ill grace, amid the yells of several hundred Indian warriors. It was a source of great amazement to the Indians to see so many men surrender to so few. Nothing is more effective in gaining the respect of Indians than a display of power, and the above proceedings led them to be overawed by English powers. They were astonished also at the forbearance of the conquerors in not killing their vanquished enemies on the spot. This surrender of Detroit was on teh 29th of November, 1760. The posts elsewhere in the lake region, north and west; were not reached until some time afterward.

The English now thought they had the country perfectly in their own hands, and that there was but little trouble ahead; but in this respect they were mistaken. The French renewed their efforts to circulate reports among the Indians that the English intended to take all their land from them, etc. The slaughter of the Monongahela, the massacre at Fort William Henry, and the horrible devastation of the western frontier, all bore witness to the fact that the French were successul in prejudicing the Indians against the British, and the latter began to have trouble at various points. The French had always been in the habit of making presents to the Indians, keeping them supplied with arms, ammunition, etc., and it was not their policy to settle upon their lands. The British, on the other hand, now supplied them with nothing, frequently insulting them when they appeared around the forts. Everything conspired to fix the Indian population in their prejudices against the British Government. Even the seeds of the American Revolution were scattered into the west, and began to grow.

The first Indian chief to raise the war-whoop was probably Kiashuta, of the Senecas, but Pontiac, of the Ottawas, was the great George Washington of all the tribes to systemize and render effectual the initial movements of the approaching storm. His home was about eight miles above Detroit, on Pechee Island, which looks out upon the waters of Lake St. Clair. He was a well-formed man, with a countenance indicating a high degree of intelligence. In 1746 he had successfully defended Detroit against the northern tribes, and it is probable he was present and assisted in the defeat of Braddock. About the close of 1762 he called a general council of the tribes, sending out ambassadors in all directions, who, with the war belt of wampum and the tomahawk, went from village to village, and camp to camp, informing the sachems everywhere, that war was impending, and delivering to them the message of Pontiac. They all approved the message, and April 27, 1763, a [40] grand council was held near Detroit, when Pontiac stood forth in war paint and delivered "the great speech of the campaign." The English were slow to perceive any dangerous conspiracy in progress, and when the blow was struck, nine out of twelve of the British posts were surprised and destroyed. Three of these were within the bounds of this State. The first prominent event of the war was the massacre of Fort Michilimackinac, on the northernmost point of the southern peninsula, the site of the present city of Mackinaw. This Indian outrage was one of the most ingeniously devised and resolutely executed schemes in American history. The Chippewas (or Ojibways) appointed one of their big ball plays in the vicinity of the post and invited and inveigled as many of the occupants as they could to the scene of play, then fell upon the unsuspecting and unguarded English in the most brutal manner. For the details of this horrible scene we are indebted to Alexander Henry, a trader at that point, who experienced several most bloodcurling escapes from death and scalping at the hands of the savages. The result of the massacre was the death of about seventy out of ninety persons. The Ottawa Indians, who occupied mainly the eastern portion of the lower peninsula, were not consulted by the Chippewas, with reference to attacking Michilimackinac, and were consequently so enraged that they espoused the cause of the English, through spite; and it was through their instrumentality that Mr. Henry and some of his comrades were saved from death and conveyed east to the regions of civilizations. Of Mr. Henry's narrow escapes we give the following succinct account: Instead of attending the ball play of the Indians he spent the day writing letters to his friends, as a canoe was to leave for the East the following day. While thus engaged, he heard an Indian war cry and a noise of general confusion. Looking out of the window, he saw a crowd of Indians within the fort, that is, within the village palisade, who were cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found. He seized a fowling piece which he had at hand, and waited a moment for the signal, the drum beat to arms. In that dreadful interval he saw several of his countrymen fall under the tomahawk and struggle between the knees of an Indian, who held him in this manner to scalp him, while still alive. Mr. Henry heard no signal to arms; and seeing it was useless to undertake to resist 400 Indians, he though only of shelter for himself. He saw many of the Canadian inhabitants of the fort calmly looking on, neither opposing the Indians nor suffering injury, and he therefore concluded he might find safety in some of their houses. He stealthily ran to one occupied by Mr. Langlade and family, who were at their windows beholding the bloody scene. Mr. Langlade scarcely dared to harbor him, but a Pawnee slave of the former concealed him in the garret, locked the stairway door and took away the key. In this situation Mr. Henry obtained, throughan aperture, a view of what was going on without. He saw the dead scalped and mangled, the [41] dying in writhing agony, under the insatiate knife and tomahawk, and the savages drinking human blood from the hollow of their joined hands! Mr. Henry almost felt as if he were a victim himself so intense were his sufferings. Soon the Indian fiends began to halloo, "All is finished." At this instant Henry heard some of the Indians enter the house he had taken shelter. The garret was separated from the room below by only a layer of single boards, and Mr. Henry heard all that was said. As soon as the Indians entered they inquired whether there were any Englishmen in the house. Mr. Langlade replied that he could not say; they might examine for themselves. He then conducted them to the garret door. As the door was locked, a moment of time was snatched by Mr. Henry to crawl into a heap of birch-bark vessels in a dark corner; and although several Indians searched around the garret, one of them coming within arm's length of the sweating prisoner, they went out satisfied that no Englishman was there.

As Mr. Henry was passing the succeeding night in this room, he could think of no possible chance of escape from the country. He was out of provisions, the nearest post was Detroit, 400 miles away, and the route thither lay through the enemy's country. The next morning he heard Indian voices below informing Mr. Langlade that they had not found an Englishman named Henry among the dead, and they believed him to be somewhere concealed. Mrs. L., believing that the safety of the household depended on giving up the refugee to his pursuers, prevailed on her husband to lead the Indians upstairs to the room of Mr. H. The latter was saved from instant death by one of the savages adopting him as a brother in the place of one lost. The Indians were all mad with liquor, however, and Mr. H. again narrowly escaped death. An hour afterwards he was taken out of the fort by an Indian indebted to himi for goods, and was under the uplifted knife of the savage when he suddenly broke away from him and made back to Mr. Langlade's house, barely escaping the knife of the Indian the whole distance. The next day he, with three other prisoners, were taken in a canoe toward Lake Michigan, and at Fox Point, eighteen miles distant, the Ottawas rescued the whites through spite at the Chippewas, saying that the latter contemplated killing and eating them; but the next day they were returned to the Chippewas, as the result of some kind of agreement about the conduct of the war. He was rescued again by an old friendly Indian claiming him as a brother. The next morning he saw the dead bodies of seven whites dragged forth from the prison lodge he had just occupied. The fattest of these dead bodies was actually served up and feasted on directly before the eyes of Mr. Henry. Through the partiality of the Ottawas and the complications of military affairs among the Indians, Mr. Henry, after severe exposures and many more thrilling escapes, was finally landed within territory occupied by white. [42] For more than a year after the massacre, Michilimackinac was occupied only by wood rangers and Indians; then, after the treaty, Capt. Howard was sent with troops to take possession.