AMERICAN PIONEERS AND PATRIOTS.
THE ADVENTURES OF THE CHEVALIER DE LA SALLEAND HIS COMPANIONS,
IN THEIR EXPLORATIONS OF THE PRAIRIES, FORESTS, LAKES, AND RIVERS,
OF THE NEW WORLD, AND THEIR INTERVIEWS WITH THE SAVAGE TRIBES,
TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO.
JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.
NEW YORK: DODD, MEAD & COMPANY, Publishers
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by DODD & MEAD, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
THE INHABITANTS OF THE GREAT VALLEY OF THE WEST, WHOSE MAGNIFICENT REALMS LA SALLE AND HIS COMPANIONS WERE THE FIRST TO EXPLORE, THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED, BY
JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.
There is no one of the Pioneers of this continent whose achievements equal those of the Chevalier Robert de la Salle. He passed over thousands of miles of lakes and rivers in the birch canoe. He traversed countless leagues of prairie and forest, on foot, guided by the moccasined Indian, threading trails which the white man's foot had never trod, and penetrating the villages and the wigwams of savages, where the white man's face had never been seen.
Fear was an emotion La Salle never experienced. His adventures were more wild and wondrous than almost any recorded in the tales of chivalry. As time is rapidly obliterating from our land the footprints of the savage, it is important that these records of his strange existence should be perpetuated.
Fortunately we have full and accurate accounts of these explorations, in the journals of Messrs. Marquette, Hennepin, and Joliet. We have still more minute narratives, in Etablissement de la Foix, par le P. Chretien Le Clercq, Paris 1691; Dernieres Decouvertes, par le Chevalier de Tonti, Paris 1697; Journal Historique, par M. Joutel, Paris 1713.
For the incidents in the last fatal expedition, to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, and the wonderful land tour of more than two thousand miles from the sea-coast of Texas to Quebec, through the territories of hundreds of tribes, we have the narratives of Father Christian Le Clercq, the narrative of Father Anastasias Douay, and the minute and admirably written almost daily journal of Monsieur Joutel, in his Dernier Voyage. Both Douay and Joutel accompanied this expedition from its commencement to its close.
In these adventures the reader will find a more vivid description of the condition of this continent, and the character of its inhabitants two hundred years ago, than can be found anywhere else. Sir Walter Scott once remarked, that no one could take more pleasure in reading his romances, than he had taken in writing them. In this volume we have the romance of truth.
If the writer can judge of the pleasure of the reader, from the intense interest he has experienced in following these adventurers through their perilous achievements, this narrative will prove to be one of extraordinary interest.
JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.
Fair Haven, Connecticut.
The Enterprise of James Marquette.
The Discovery of America. Explorations of the French in Canada. Ancestry of James Marquette. His noble Character. Mission to Canada. Adventures with the Indians. Wild Character of the Region and the Tribes. Voyage to Lake Superior with the Nez-Perces. Mission at Green Bay. Search for the Mississippi. The Outfit. The Voyage through Green Bay. Fox River and the Illinois. Enters the Mississippi. Scenes Sublime and Beautiful. Adventures in an Indian Village. 15
The First Exploration of the Mississippi River.
River Scenery. The Missouri. Its Distant Banks. The Mosquito Pest. Meeting the Indians. Influence of the Calumet. The Arkansas River. A Friendly Greeting. Scenes in the Village. Civilization of the Southern Tribes. Domestic Habits. Fear of the Spaniards. The Return Voyage. 41
Marquette's Last Voyage, and Death.
The Departure from Green Bay. Navigating the Lake in a Canoe. Storms of rain and snow. Night Encampments. Ascending the Chicago River. A Winter with the Savages. Journey to the Kankakee. The Great Council on the Prairie. Interesting Incidents. The Escort of Savages. The Death Scene. Sublime Funeral Solemnities. 61
Life upon the St. Lawrence and the Lakes Two Hundred Years Ago.
Birth of La Salle. His Parentage and Education. Emigrates to America. Enterprising Spirit. Grandeur of his Conceptions. Visits the Court of France. Preparations for an Exploring Voyage. Adventures of the River and Lake. Awful Scene of Indian Torture. Traffic with the Indians. The Ship-yard at Lake Erie. 81
The Voyage Along the Lakes.
The Embarcation. Equipment of the Griffin. Voyage through the Lakes and Straits. The Storm. Superstition of the Voyagers. Arrival at Mackinac. Scenery there. Friendship of the Indians. Sail on Lakes Huron and Michigan. Arrival at Green Bay. The well-freighted Griffin sent back. 104
The Expedition of Father Hennepin.
Seeking a Northwest Passage. The Voyage Commenced. The Alarm. Delightful Scenery. The Indian Village. Entrance to the Mississippi. Appearance of the Country. The Midnight Storm. Silence and Solitude. A Fleet of Canoes. Captured by the Savages. Merciful Captivity. Alarming Debate. Condition of the Captives. 128
Life with the Savages.
Ascending the River with the Savages. Religious Worship. Abundance of Game. Hardihood of the Savages. The War-Whoop. Savage Revelry. The Falls of St. Anthony. Wild Country Beyond. Sufferings of the Captives. Capricious Treatment. Triumphal Entrance. The Adoption. Habits of the Savages. 145
Escape from the Savages.
Preaching to the Indians. Studying the Language. The Council. Speech of Ou-si-cou-de. The Baptism. The Night Encampment. Picturesque Scene. Excursion on the St. Francis. Wonderful River Voyage. Incidents by the Way. Characteristics of the Indians. Great Peril. Strange Encounter with the Indian Chief. Hardships of the Voyage. Vicissitudes of the Hunter's Life. Anecdote. The Return Voyage. 163
The Abandonment of Fort Crevecoeur.
Departure of La Salle. Fathers Membre and Gabriel. Their Missionary Labors. Character of the Savages. The Iroquois on the War Path. Peril of the Garrison. Heroism of Tonti and Membre. Infamous Conduct of the Young Savages. Flight of the Illinois. Fort Abandoned. Death of Father Gabriel. Sufferings of the Journey to Mackinac. 188
La Salle's Second Exploring Tour.
Disasters. Energy of La Salle. The Embarcation. Navigating the Lakes. Sunshine and Storm, Beauty and Desolation. Ruins at Crevecoeur. Steps Retraced. Christian Character of La Salle. Arrival at Mackinac. The Enterprise Renewed. Travelling on the Ice. Descent of the Illinois River. Entering the Mississippi. Voyage of the Canoes. Adventures with the Indians. 210
The Great Enterprise Accomplished.
Scenes in the Arkansas Villages. Indian Hospitality. Barbarian Splendor. Attractive Scenery. The Alarm. Its Joyful Issue. Genial Character of La Salle. Erecting the Cross. Pleasant Visit to the Koroas. The Two Channels. Perilous Attack. Humanity of La Salle. The Sea Reached. Ceremonies of Annexation. 232
The Return Voyage.
The Numerous Alligators. Destitution of Provisions. Encountering Hostile Indians. A Naval Battle. Visit to the Village. Treachery of the Savages. The Attack. Humane Conduct of La Salle. Visit to the Friendly Taensas. Severe Sickness of La Salle. His Long Detention at Prudhomme. The Sick Man's Camp. Lieutenant Tonti sent Forward. Recovery of La Salle. His Arrival at Fort Miami. 249
Sea Voyage to the Gulf of Mexico.
La Salle returns to Quebec. Sails for France. Assailed by Calumny. The Naval Expedition. Its Object. Its Equipment. Disagreement between La Salle and Beaujeu. The Voyage to the West Indies. Adventures in the Caribbean Sea. They Enter the Gulf. Storms and Calms. The Voyagers Lost. 268
Lost in the Wilderness.
Treachery of Beaujeu. Accumulating Troubles. Anxieties of La Salle. March on the Land. The Encampment. Wreck of the Aimable. Misadventure with the Indians. Commencement of Hostilities. Desertion of Beaujeu with the Joli. The Encampment. The Indians Solicit Friendship. The Cruel Repulse. Sickness and Sorrow. Exploring Expeditions. The Mississippi sought for in vain. 290
A Trip toward Mexico.
Arrangements for the Journey. The Departure. Indians on Horseback. Scenes of Enchantment. Attractive Character of La Salle. Visit to the Kironas. The Bite of the Snake. Adventures Wild and Perilous. Hardihood of the Indian Hunter. The Long Sickness. A Man Devoured by a Crocodile. The Return. 311
The Last Days of La Salle.
Plan for the New Journey. Magnitude of the Enterprise. Affecting Leave-taking. The Journey Commenced. Adventures by the Way. Friendly Character of the Indians. Vast Realms of Fertility and Beauty. The Joys and the Sorrows of such a Pilgrimage. The Assassination of La Salle and of three of his Companions. 326
The Penalty of Crime.
Nature's Storms. The Gloom of the Soul. Approach to the Cenis Village. Cordial Welcome. Barbaric Ceremonials. Social Habits of the Indians. Meeting with the French Deserters. Traffic with the Indians. Quarrel between Hiens and Duhaut. The Assassins Assassinated. Departure of the War Party. Fiend-like Triumph. The March Resumed. 316
The Close of the Drama.
Ludicrous Scene. Death of M. Marle. Sympathy of the Savages. Barbaric Ceremonies. The Mississippi Reached. Joyful Interview. Ascending the River. Incidents by the Way. The Beautiful Illinois. Weary Detention. The Voyage to Mackinac. Thence to Quebec. Departure for France. Fate of the Colony. 366
ADVENTURES OF LA SALLE AND HIS COMPANIONS.
The Enterprise of James Marquette.
The Discovery of America. Explorations of the French in Canada. Ancestry of James Marquette. His noble character. Mission to Canada. Adventures with the Indians. Wild Character of the Region and the Tribes. Voyage to Lake Superior with the Nez-Perces. Mission at Green Bay. Search for the Mississippi. The Outfit. The Voyage through Green Bay. Fox River and the Illinois. Enters the Mississippi. Scenes Sublime and Beautiful. Adventures in an Indian Village.
Nearly three hundred and forty years ago, in April 1541, De Soto, in his adventurous march, discovered the majestic Mississippi, not far from the border of the State of Tennessee. No white man's eye had ever before beheld that flood whose banks are now inhabited by busy millions. The Indians informed him that all the region below consisted of dismal, endless, uninhabitable swamps. De Soto, world-weary and woe-stricken, died upon the banks of the river. In its fathomless depths his body found burial.
These cruel adventurers, insanely impelled in search of mines of gold, founded no settlements, and left behind them no traces of their passage, save that by their cruelties they had excited the implacable ire of the Indian against the white man. A hundred years of earth's many griefs lingered slowly away, while these vast solitudes were peopled only by wandering savage tribes whose record must forever remain unknown.
In the year 1641, some French envoys, from Canada, seeking to open friendly trade with the Indians for the purchase of furs, penetrated the northwest of our country as far as the Falls of St. Mary, near the outlet of Lake Superior. The most friendly relations existed between these Frenchmen and the Indians, wherever the tribes were encountered. This visit led to no settlement. The adventurous traders purchased many furs, with which they loaded their birch canoes: established friendly relations with these distant Indians, and greatly extended the region from which furs were brought to their trading posts in Canada.
Eighteen more years passed away, over the silent and gloomy wilderness, when in 1659, a little band of these bold and hardy explorers, in their frail canoes, with Indian guides, paddled along the lonely, forest-fringed shores of Lake Ontario, ascended the Niagara River to the Falls, carried their canoes on their shoulders around the rapids, launched them again on Lake Erie, traversed that inland sea over two hundred and fifty miles, entered the magnificent Strait, passed through it to Lake St. Clair, crossed that lake, ascended the St. Clair River to Lake Huron, and traversing its whole length, a distance of three hundred miles, reached the Falls of St. Mary.
Here, at the distance of more than a thousand miles from the least vestiges of civilization, and surrounded by numerous and powerful bands of savages, these hardy men passed an inclement winter. Amidst rocks and gloomy pines they reared their hut. Game was abundant, fuel was at their door, the Indians were hospitable, and they wanted for nothing. One event only darkened these wintry months. The leader of the band became lost in the woods and perished.
In the spring the men returned rejoicingly to Canada, with their canoes laden with the richest furs. They also brought such reports of the docility and amiability of the Indians, as to inspire the Christians in Canada with the intense desire to establish missionary stations among them. Five years passed away, when Father Claude Allouez, with a small band of Christian heroes, penetrated these wilds to proclaim the glad tidings of the Gospel. Two years after, he was followed by Father James Marquette, a noble man, whose name will never die.
As the explorations of Marquette opened the way for the still more wonderful excursions of La Salle, I must here introduce a brief account of his adventures. There is something in blood. The Marquette family had been illustrious in France from time immemorial. Generation after generation, many of its members had obtained renown, not only for chivalric courage, but for every virtue which can adorn humanity. Their ancestral home was a massive feudal castle on an eminence near the stately city of Leon. The armorial bearing of the family commemorates deeds of heroic enterprise five hundred years ago. They were generally earnest Christians.
James Marquette was born at the ancient seat of the family in the year 1637. His mother was a woman of fervent piety and of unusual strength and culture of mind. Her brother, John Baptiste de la Salle, was the founder of a system of Christian schools for the gratuitous education of the poor. Thousands were thus instructed long before the present system of public schools was introduced. It was to the instructions of his noble mother that James Marquette was indebted for his elevated Christian character, and for his self-sacrificing devotion to the interests of humanity, which have given his name celebrity through a large portion of the Christian world.
At the age of seventeen this noble young man, resisting all the brilliant allurements the world opened to one of his wealth and rank, consecrated himself to the service of religion by entering the ministry in the Catholic Church, in which he was born and educated, and by whose influences he was exclusively surrounded.
Two years were devoted to intense study. Then, for twelve years, he was employed in teaching and in many laborious and self-denying duties. As was natural, with a young man of his ardent nature and glowing spirit of enterprise, he was very desirous of conveying the glad tidings of the Gospel to those distant nations who had never even heard of the name of Jesus.
Canada and its savage tribes were then attracting much attention in France. Wonderful stories were told of the St. Lawrence River, and of the series of majestic lakes, spreading far away into the unknown interior, and whose shores were crowded with Indian tribes of strange aspect, language, and customs.
In the year 1666, Marquette set sail from France, On the 20th of September, he landed, on the banks of the St. Lawrence, at a little hamlet of French log-cabins and Indian wigwams, called Quebec. He was then but twenty-nine years of age. There was, at that time, another missionary, M. Allouez, on an exploring tour far away upon the majestic lakes of the interior. With adventurous footsteps he was traversing prairie solitudes and forest glooms, upon which no eye of civilized man had ever yet looked. His birch canoe, paddled by Indian guides, glided over solitary waters hundreds of leagues beyond the remotest frontier stations.
There was quite an important trading-post at the mouth of Saguenay River. This was a remarkable stream, which entered the St. Lawrence about one hundred and twenty miles below Quebec. It came rushing down, from unknown regions of the north, with very rapid flood, entering the St. Lawrence at a point where that majestic river was eleven miles in width.
Here the French government had established one of the most important commercial and religious stations of that day. At certain seasons of the year it presented an extraordinary wild and picturesque aspect of busy life. There were countless Indian tribes, clustered in villages along the banks of the St. Lawrence, the Saguenay, and their tributary streams. In the early summer, the Indians came by hundreds, in fleets of canoes—men, women and children—to this great mart of traffic. They came in their gayest attire, reared their wigwams on the plain, kindled their fires, and engaged in all the barbaric sports of Indian gala days. The scene presented was so full of life and beauty, that the most skilful artist might despair of his ability to transfer it to the canvas.
Father Marquette took his station at this point. Here for twelve years he patiently labored, trying to teach the Indians the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Full of enthusiasm, and naturally endowed with a very enterprising spirit, his heart glowed with zeal as he listened to the narrative of Father Allouez, of populous tribes, far away on the majestic shores of Huron, Michigan, Superior. These tribes had never heard of the mission of the Son of God, to save a lost world. They had but very faint conceptions of the Heavenly Father. Marquette could not resist the impulse to carry the Gospel to these realms of darkness.
It is difficult for us now to form any adequate conception of the little hamlet, at the mouth of the Saguenay, where Marquette commenced his missionary labors. The log-cabins of the French, their store-house, and, most prominent of all, the cross-surmounted log chapel, were clustered together. At a little distance, on the plain, were hundreds of Indian wigwams. Bark canoes, light as bubbles, were seen gliding over the still waters, which were there expanded into a beautiful bay. The glooms of the gigantic forest, spreading back to unexplored and unimagined depth, added to the sublimity of the scene.
There seemed to be no apprehension of hostility on either side. The intercourse between the two parties of civilized and uncivilized men was truly fraternal. The French conformed, as far as possible, to the modes of life of the Indians. They shared in their games, married the daughters of their chiefs, and in all points endeavored to identify the interests of the natives with their own.
M. Marquette had a remarkable facility in the acquisition of languages. There was a general resemblance in the language of all the tribes on the St. Lawrence. He could very soon speak fluently with all. Taking Indian guides with him, he commenced tours in various directions, paddled by Indians in the birch bark canoe. He visited tribe after tribe, met the chiefs at their council fires, slept in the wigwams, administered medicines to the sick, and, with zeal which no discouragement could chill, endeavored to point the living and the dying to that Saviour who taketh away the sins of the world.
After spending two years in these labors, he obtained an appointment to connect himself with a mission established nearly a thousand miles west, far away upon the shores of Lake Superior. On the 21st of April, 1668, he left Quebec for Montreal. The distance was one hundred and eighty miles up the river. The voyage was made in a birch canoe, with three boatmen to aid him in paddling it against the stream. They could proceed about thirty miles a day. The voyage occupied about a week. There were Indian villages on the banks where they occasionally slept. At other times they encamped in the forest, the night wind lulling them to sleep, as it sighed through the leafless branches, which the returning sun of spring had scarcely yet caused to bud.
At Montreal there was a little cluster of cabins and wigwams, presenting a very different aspect from the stately city which now adorns that site. After a short tarry there, waiting for a suitable guide, to traverse more than a thousand miles of almost pathless wilderness, a party of Nez-Perce Indians, from Lake Superior, came down the river in their canoes. With them Marquette embarked. It was a wonderful voyage which this gentleman, from the refinement and culture of France, made alone with these savages.
They paddled up the Ottawa River a distance of nearly four hundred miles. Thence through a series of narrow streams and minor lakes, they entered Lake Nipissing. Descending the rapid flood of French River, through cheerless solitudes eighty miles in extent, they entered Georgian Bay. Crossing this vast sheet of water over an expanse of fifty miles, they saw the apparently boundless waves of Lake Huron opening before them. The northern shores of this inland sea they skirted, until they reached the river St. Mary, which connects Lake Superior with Lake Huron. Here two missionary stations were established.
One was near the entrance of the river into Lake Huron, about forty miles below the celebrated Falls of St. Mary. The other was at Green Bay, an immense lake in itself, jutting out from the northwestern extremity of Lake Michigan. Father Marquette reared his log-cabin in the vicinity of a small Indian village, on the main land, just south of the island of Mackinaw. He named the station St. Ignatius. In this vast solitude this heroic man commenced his labors of love. There were about two thousand souls in the tribes immediately around him. With great docility they listened to his teachings, and were eager to be baptized as Christians. But the judicious father was in no haste thus to secure merely their nominal conversion. The dying, upon professions of penitence, he was ever ready to baptize, and to administer to them the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. With the rest he labored to root out all the remnants of their degrading superstitions, and to give them correct ideas of salvation through repentance, amendment, and trust in an atoning Saviour.
Gradually Marquette gathered around him a little band of loving disciples. For three years he labored with them cheerfully, joyously. His gentle and devoted spirit won, not merely the friendship of the Indians, but their ardent affections. He was just as safe among them as the most beloved father surrounded by his children. Three years this good man remained in these lonely wilds, peacefully and successfully teaching these benighted children of the forest. During all this time his mind had been much exercised with the thought of exploring the limitless and unknown regions south and west.
He had heard rumors of the Mississippi, the Father of Waters; and his devout mind peopled the vast realms through which it flowed with the lost children of God, whom he perhaps might reclaim, through the Gospel of Jesus, who had come from heaven for their redemption. The Governor of Canada was desirous, for more worldly reasons, of exploring these regions, where future empires might be reared.
Even the Indians knew but little respecting this great and distant river. There was much uncertainty whether it ran south, into the Gulf of Mexico, or west, emptying into the Gulf of California, which Spanish explorers had called the Red Sea, in consequence of its resemblance to that Asiatic sheet of water, or whether it turned easterly, entering the Atlantic Ocean somewhere near the Virginia coast.
In the spring of the year 1673, Governor Frontenac sent a French gentleman, M. Joliet, from Quebec, with five boatmen, to Point St. Ignatius, to take Father Marquette on board and set out to find and explore the downward course of this much talked of river. M. Joliet was admirably qualified for this responsible enterprise. He was a man of deep religious convictions, had spent several years among the Indians, was a very courteous man in all his intercourse with them, was thoroughly acquainted with their customs, and spoke several of their languages. As to courage, it was said that he absolutely feared nothing. The good father writes, in reference to his own appointment to this expedition:
"I was the more enraptured at this good news, as I saw my designs on the point of being accomplished, and myself in the happy necessity of exposing my life for the salvation of all these nations. Our joy at being chosen for this enterprise, sweetened the labor of paddling from morning till night. As we were going to seek unknown countries, we took all possible precautions, that if our enterprise were hazardous, it should not be foolhardy. For this reason we gathered all possible information from the Indians, who had frequented those parts. We even traced a map of all the new country, marking down the rivers on which we were to sail, the names of the nations through which we were to pass, and the course of the great river."
On the 13th of May, 1673, this little band, consisting of M. Joliet, Father Marquette, and five boatmen, in two birch canoes, commenced their adventurous voyage. They took with them some Indian corn and jerked meat; but they were to live mainly upon such food as they could obtain by the way. The immense sheet of water, at the northwestern extremity of Lake Michigan, called Green Bay, is one hundred miles long by twenty or thirty broad. The boatmen paddled their frail canoes along the western border of this lake until they reached its southern extremity, where they found a shallow river, flowing into it from the south, which they called Fox River. They could propel their canoes about thirty miles a day. Each night they selected some propitious spot for their encampment. Upon some dry and grassy mound they could speedily, with their axes, construct a hut which would protect them from the weather. Carefully smoothing down the floor, they spread over it their ample couch of furs. Fish could be taken in abundance. The forest was filled with game. An immense fire, blazing before the open side of the hut, gave warmth, and illumined the sublime scene with almost the brilliance of noon-day. There they joyously cooked their suppers, with appetites which rendered the feast more luxurious to them probably than any gourmand at Delmonico's ever enjoyed.
Each night Father Marquette held a religious service, which all reverently attended. Prayers were offered, and their hymns of Christian devotion floated sweetly through those sublime solitudes. The boatmen were men of a gentle race, who had been taught from infancy to revere the exercises of the church.
They came upon several Indian villages. But the natives were as friendly as brothers. Many of them had visited the station at St. Ignatius, and all of them had heard of Father Marquette and his labors of love. These children of the forest begged their revered friend to desist from his enterprise.
"There are," they said, "on the great river, bad Indians who will cut off your heads without any cause. There are fierce warriors who will try to seize you and make you slaves. There are enormous birds there, whose wings darken the air, and who can swallow you all, with your canoes, at a mouthful. And worst of all, there is a malignant demon there who, if you escape all other dangers, will cause the waters to boil and whirl around you and devour you."
To all this, the good Marquette replied, "I thank you, dear friends, for your kind advice, but I cannot follow it. There are souls there, to save whom, the Son of God came to earth and died. Their salvation is at stake. I would joyfully lay down my life if I could guide them to the Saviour."
They found the navigation of Fox River impeded with many rapids. To surmount these it was necessary often to alight from their canoes, and, wading over the rough and sharp stones, to drag them up against the swift current. They were within the limits of the present State of Wisconsin, and found themselves in a region of lakes, sluggish streams, and marshes. But there were Indian trails, which had been trodden for uncounted generations, leading west. These they followed, often painfully carrying their canoes and their burdens on their shoulders, for many miles, from water to water, over what the Indians called the Carrying Places.
At length they entered a region of remarkable luxuriance, fertility, and beauty. There were crystal streams and charming lakes. Magnificent forests were interspersed with broad and green prairies. God seemed to have formed, in these remote realms, an Eden of surpassing loveliness for the abode of his children. Three tribes, in perfect harmony, occupied the region—the Miamis, Mascoutins, and Kickapoos. There was a large village with abundant corn-fields around. River and lake, forest and prairie were alike alive with game.
To their surprise they found that the French missionary, Father Allouez, had reached this distant spot, preaching the Gospel, eight years before. The Indians had received him with fraternal kindness. He had left in the centre of the village a cross, the emblem of the crucified Son of God.
"I found," Marquette writes, "that these good people had hung skins and belts and bows and arrows on the cross, an offering to the Great Spirit, to thank him because he had taken pity on them during the winter and had given them an abundant chase."
No white man had ever penetrated beyond this region. These simple, inoffensive people seemed greatly surprised that seven unarmed men should venture to press on to meet the unknown dangers of the wilderness beyond—wilds which their imaginations had peopled with all conceivable terrors.
On the 10th of June these heroic men resumed their journey. The kind Indians furnished them with two guides to lead them through the intricacies of the forest to a river, about ten miles distant, which they called Wisconsin, and which they said flowed westward into the Father of Waters. They soon reached this stream. The Indians helped them to carry their canoes and effects across the portage. "We were then left," writes Marquette, "alone in that unknown country, in the hand of God."
Our voyagers found the stream hard to navigate. It was full of sand-bars and shallows. There were many islands covered with the richest verdure. At times they came upon landscapes of enchanting beauty, with lawns and parks and lakes, as if arranged by the most careful hands of art.
After descending this stream about one hundred and twenty miles, they reached the mouth of the Wisconsin River, and saw the flood of the Mississippi rolling majestically before them. It was the 17th of June 1673, Father Marquette writes that, upon beholding the river, he experienced a joy which he could not express.
Easily they could be swept down by the rapid current into the sublime unexplored solitudes below. But to paddle back against the swift-rolling tide would try the muscles of the hardiest men. Still the voyagers pressed on. It was indeed a fairy scene which now opened before them. Here bold bluffs hundreds of feet high, jutted into the river. Here were crags of stupendous size and of every variety of form, often reminding one of Europe's most picturesque stream, where
"The castled crags of Drachenfels, Frown o'er the wide and winding Rhine."
Again the prairie would spread out its ocean-like expanse, embellished with groves, garlanded with flowers of gorgeous colors waving in the summer breeze, checkered with sunshine and the shade of passing clouds, with roving herds of the stately buffalo and the graceful antelope. And again the gloomy forest would appear, extending over countless leagues, where bears, wolves, and panthers found a congenial home.
Having descended the river nearly two hundred miles they came to an Indian trail, leading back into the country. It was so well trodden as to give evidence that a powerful tribe was near. It speaks well for the Indians—for the reputation which they then enjoyed—that Marquette, with his French companion, M. Joliet, far away in the wilderness, seven hundred miles from any spot which a white man's foot had ever before trod, should not have hesitated alone to enter this trail in search of the habitations of this unknown tribe. They left all their companions, with the canoes, on the bank of the river.
"We cautioned them," writes Father Marquette, "strictly to beware of a surprise. Then M. Joliet and I undertook this rather hazardous discovery, for two single men, who thus put themselves at the discretion of an unknown and barbarous people."
These two bold adventurers followed the trail in silence for about six miles. They then saw, not far from them, upon a meadow on the banks of a small stream, a very picturesque group of wigwams, with all the accompaniments of loafing warriors, busy women, sporting children, and wolfish dogs, usually to be found in an Indian village. At the distance of about a mile and a half, upon a gentle eminence, there was another village of about equal size.
As the Indians had not yet caught sight of them, they fell upon their knees, and Father Marquette, in fervent prayer, commended themselves to God. They then gave a loud shout, to attract the attention of the Indians, and stepped out into open view. The whole community was instantly thrown into commotion, rushing from the wigwams, and gathering in apparently an anxious group.
After a brief conference they seemed to come to the conclusion that two unarmed men could not thus approach them, announcing their coming, with any hostile intent. Four of their aged men were deputed to go forward and greet the strangers. They advanced with much dignity, not uttering a word, but waving, in their hands, the pipes of peace. As it afterwards appeared, they had often heard of the arrival of the French in Canada, of the wonderful articles which they brought for traffic, and of the missionaries, with their long black gowns. The name of Blackgowns was the one with which, in all the tribes, they designated these preachers of the Gospel. When they had come within a few paces of the strangers, they regarded them attentively and waited to be addressed. Both M. Joliet and Father Marquette understood that these ceremonies indicated friendship. Father Marquette broke the silence by inquiring
"To what nation do you belong?"
"We are Illinois," one of them replied, "and in token of peace we have brought you our pipes to smoke. We invite you to our village, where all are awaiting you with impatience."
The Frenchman and the four Indians walked together to the village. At the door of one of the largest wigwams, one of the ancients stood to receive them. According to their custom, on such occasions, he was entirely unclothed. This probably was the savage mode of indicating that there were no concealed weapons about the person. This man, with his hands raised toward the sun, which was shining brightly, said:
"How beautiful is the sun, O Frenchmen! when you come to visit us. All our people welcome you, and you shall enter all our cabins in peace."
He then led them into the wigwam. A large concourse remained outside in respectful silence. Only the principal men entered the wigwam. Mats were provided, for the guests, in the centre. The rest took seats around. The calumet of peace was passed. All in turn partook of the smoke of the weed which both the civilized and uncivilized man have prized so highly.
While thus employed, a messenger came in from the head chief, who resided in the village on the eminence to which we have alluded. He brought a message from the chief, inviting the strangers to his residence.
"We went with a good will," writes M. Marquette. "The people, who had never before seen a white man, could never tire looking at us. They threw themselves upon the grass, by the way-side, to watch as we passed. They ran ahead, and then turned and walked slowly back to examine us. All this was done without noise and in the most respectful manner."
The chief was standing, with two venerable men, at the door of his residence. The three were entirely destitute of clothing. Each one held the calumet of peace in his hand. The guests were received with smiles and a few cordial words of welcome. Together they all entered the spacious wigwam. It was very comfortable and even cheerful in its aspect, being carpeted, and its sides were lined with mats ingeniously woven from rushes. The Frenchmen, as before, were placed upon central mats, while all the dignitaries of the village silently entered and took their seats around.
The chief rose, and in a few very appropriate words bade the strangers welcome to his country. Again the pipe of peace was presented to them and passed the rounds. M. Marquette, who, as we have said, was quite at home in all matters of Indian etiquette, then arose, and addressing the chief, said:
"We have come as friends to visit the nations on this side of the great river." In token of the truth of these words, he made the chief a handsome present. He then added, "God, the Father of us all, has had pity on you, though you have long been ignorant of Him. He wishes to become known to all nations, and has sent me to communicate His will to you, and wishes you to acknowledge and obey Him." Another present was handed the chief. He then continued, "My king, the great chief of the French, wishes that peace should reign everywhere; that there should be no more wars. The Iroquois, who have been the enemies of the Illinois, he has subdued." Another present was given, in confirmation of the truth of these words. In conclusion of this brief yet comprehensive speech, he remarked, "And now I have only to say that we entreat you to give us all the information, in your power, of the sea into which the great river runs, and of the nations through whom we must pass on our way to reach it."
The chief rose, and addressing Father Marquette, said, "I thank thee, Blackgown, and thee also," bowing to M. Joliet, "for taking so much pains to come and visit us. Never has the earth been so beautiful to us, and never has the sun shone so brightly upon us as to-day. Never has our river been so calm or so free from rocks. Your canoes have swept them away. Never has our tobacco had so fine a flavor, or our corn been so luxuriant as we behold it to-day, now that you are with us."
Then, turning to a little Indian captive boy, at his side, whom they had taken from some hostile tribe, and had adopted into the family of the chief, he added:
"Here is my son. I give him to you that you may know my heart. I implore you to take pity upon me, and upon all my nation. Thou knowest the Great Spirit who has made us all. Thou speakest to Him and hearest His word. Ask Him to give me life and health, and to come and dwell with us, that we may know Him."
He then led the little captive to the side of M. Marquette. This was in return for the first present. Holding in his hand a calumet very highly carved and ornamented with feathers, he presented it to the father, saying:
"This is the sacred calumet. It signifies that, wherever you bear it, you are the messengers of peace. All our tribes will respect it, and will protect you from every harm."
The bowl of the pipe was of some highly polished red stone. The stem, elaborately decorated, was of a reed about two feet long. "By this present," said he, "we wish to show our esteem for your chief, whom we must all revere after the account you have given us of him." The third and fourth presents consisted, so far as we can judge from the rather obscure narrative, of two thick mats, one for each of the guests, to serve them for beds on their voyage. At the same time the chief said:
"I beg of you, in behalf of the whole nation, not to go any farther down the river. Your lives will be in the greatest peril.
"I replied," Father Marquette writes, "that I did not fear death, and that I esteemed no happiness greater than that of losing my life for the glory of God, who made us all. But this, these poor people could not understand."
The council now broke up, and a great feast was given. It consisted of four courses. The first much resembled what is called in New England hasty pudding. It consisted of Indian meal, and corn pounded fine, and boiled in an earthen pot, and was eaten with melted fat. The master of ceremonies took some on a wooden plate, and with a horn spoon, quite neatly made, fed the two Frenchmen as a mother feeds a child.
The second course consisted of three boiled fishes. Carefully the bones were removed, and the Indian who served them placed the food in the mouths of their guests as before. He blew upon it, to be sure that it was sufficiently cool. For the third course there was brought forward a large baked dog. This was considered a great delicacy, and was deemed the highest compliment which could be shown to a guest. But the prejudices of the Frenchmen were such that they could not eat dog, and this dish was removed. The fourth course consisted of fat and tender cuts of buffalo meat. This also was placed in their mouths as parents feed a child.
There were three hundred wigwams in the village. After the feast the guests were led into each one of them, and introduced to the inmates. As they walked through the streets a large crowd accompanied them. Some men, officiating as a kind of police, were continually haranguing the throng, urging the people not to press too close, and not to be troublesome. Many presents were made them of belts and scarfs woven from hair and fur, and other small articles of Indian manufacture, brilliantly colored and richly embroidered with shells. They had also knee-bands and wrist-bands which were quite ornamental.
That night the guests slept in the wigwam of the chief. The next morning they took leave of their generous entertainers. The chief himself accompanied them to their canoes, followed by a retinue of nearly six hundred persons.
We cannot record this friendly reception without emotion. How beautiful is peace! How different would the history of this world have been but for man's inhumanity to man!
The First Exploration of the Mississippi River.
River Scenery. The Missouri. Its Distant Banks. The Mosquito Pest. Meeting the Indians. Influence of the Calumet. The Arkansas River. A Friendly Greeting. Scenes in the Village. Civilization of the Southern Tribes. Domestic Habits. Fear of the Spaniards. The Return Voyage.
Father Marquette and M. Joliet had astronomical instruments with which they ascertained, with much accuracy, the latitude of all their important stopping places. As they state that the two villages, which they visited, were on the western side of the Mississippi, at the latitude of forty degrees north, and upon the banks of a stream flowing into the Great River, it is supposed that these villages were upon the stream now called Des Moines, which forms a part of the boundary between Iowa and Missouri. The Indians called the villages Pe-ou-a-sea and Moing-wena. They were probably situated about six miles above the present city of Keokuk.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon, of a day near the end of sunny, blooming June, when our voyagers resumed their adventurous tour. Nearly the whole tribe they had visited stood upon the bank to bid them adieu. They floated along through a very dreary country of precipitous rocks and jagged cliffs, which quite shut out from their view the magnificent prairie region which was spread out beyond this barrier.
Upon the smooth surface of one of these rocks, apparently inaccessible, they saw, with surprise, two figures painted in very brilliant colors and with truly artistic outline. They thought that the painting would have done honor to any European artist. The figures were of two rather frightful looking monsters, about the size of a calf, in red, green, and black. Stoddard, in his history of Louisiana, says that these painted monsters, between the Missouri and the Illinois Rivers, still remain in a good degree of preservation.
"As we were discoursing of them," writes Father Marquette, "sailing gently down a beautiful, still, clear water, we heard the noise of a rapid, into which we were about to fall. I have seen nothing more frightful. A mass of large trees, entire, with branches, real floating islands, came rushing from the mouth of the river Pekitunouei, so impetuously that we could not, without great danger, expose ourselves to pass across. The agitation was so great that the water was all muddy, and could not get clear."
This was the rush and the roar of the incoming billows of the terrible Missouri, the most tremendous river upon this globe. It enters the Mississippi through a channel half a mile in breadth, rushing down with a sort of maniacal fury, from its sources among the Rocky Mountains at the distance of three thousand and ninety-six miles. Its whole course, from its rise to its entrance into the Gulf of Mexico, is four thousand three hundred and forty-nine miles. More than two hundred and fifty years after this, Mr. George Catlin ascended this river in the first steamer which ever ventured to breast its torrent.
It took the steamer three months to ascend to the mouth of the Yellowstone, two thousand miles from the city of St. Louis. At this point the American Fur Company had erected a very substantial fort, three hundred feet square, for the protection of their property against the savages. The banks of the stream were lined with the villages of the Indians. Their wigwams were of a great variety of structure. The scenes presented were astonishing in their wild and picturesque aspect. Crowds of weird-like savages would often be collected on the bluffs, watching the appalling phenomenon of the passing steamer.
The Missouri is different, perhaps, from any other river in the world. Its boiling, turbid waters rush impetuously on, in an unceasing current, for hundreds of leagues, with scarcely a cove, an eddy, or any resting place where a canoe can be tranquilly moored. The Indian name of the river signifies Muddy Water. It is so opaque, like a cup of chocolate, that a newly coined shilling, placed in a tumbler, cannot be seen through the eighth part of an inch of the water.
For nearly a thousand miles the whole bed of the stream was impeded with gigantic trees, torn from the rich alluvial banks, forming snags and sawyers and rafts, through which, often with difficulty, the steamer cut her way. Every island and sandbar was covered with dreary looking masses of driftwood of every conceivable variety.
This desolate and savage aspect of the rushing flood is much relieved by the aspect of marvellous beauty often presented on the banks. It was almost a fairy scene. Hills and vales, bluffs and ravines, were continually presented in successions of sublimity and beauty which charmed the eye. Prairies were often spread out before them of boundless expanse, upon which vast herds, often numbering thousands, of buffaloes, elks, and antelopes, were seen grazing. In the gloomy forests, wolves were roaming. Mountain goats bounded over the cliffs. And at times, the air seemed darkened with the myriad birds which rose from the tall grass.
There was one twelve-pound, and three or four eight-pound cannon on board the steamer. At every village which was passed, the banks would be crowded with the astounded natives. Mischievously, the captain would order all the cannon to be simultaneously discharged. The effect upon the terrified savages was ludicrous in the extreme. They were all thrown into utter consternation. The more devout threw themselves upon the ground, and, hiding their faces, cried to the Great Spirit for protection. The cowards, with the women and the children, ran screaming back into the prairie, or behind the hills. Occasionally, a little band of veteran warriors, the bravest of the brave, would stand their ground, ready to meet the terrors of even a supernatural foe.
"Sometimes," writes Catlin, "they were thrown neck and heels over each other's heads and shoulders—men, women, children and dogs; sage, sachem, old and young, all in a mass—at the frightful discharge of the steam from the escape-pipe, which the captain of the boat let loose among them, for his own fun and amusement."
As our voyagers, in their birch bark canoes, passed the mouth of this wonderful stream, they had no conception of the scenes which were transpiring in thousands of Indian villages on its far-distant waters. They began now to think, from the course of the Mississippi, that it must flow into the Gulf of Mexico. They had however learned, from the Indians, that if they were to ascend the Missouri, or, as they called it, Pekitanouei, five or six days' sail, they would come to a very beautiful prairie, ninety-five miles long. This splendid country, which was represented as an Eden of loveliness, the Indians said could be easily crossed, carrying their canoes. They could then take another river which ran southwest into a small lake. This was the source of another large and deep river, which emptied into the western sea.
In subsequent years, this description of the Indians was found to be unexpectedly correct. By ascending the Missouri to the Platte River, and following that stream to its source among the Rocky Mountains, the traveller is brought within a few leagues of the Colorado, which flows into the Gulf of California. Having passed the dangerous rush of the Missouri, as it entered into the Mississippi, and floating upon the surface of their combined waters, they came, after the sail, as they judged, of about sixty miles, to the mouth of another large river, of gentle current, and whose waters were of crystal purity, flowing in from the east. The Indians very appropriately called it Wabash, which signified Beautiful River. The French subsequently called it La Belle Riviere. We have given it the name of Ohio, appropriating the name Wabash to one of its most important tributaries.
The voyagers learned that this stream was fringed with a succession of Indian villages. The various tribes were peaceful, averse to war. In one district there was a cluster of twenty-three villages; in another, of eighteen. But alas for man! It would seem that the fallen children of Adam were determined that there should be no happiness in this world. The ferocious Iroquois would send their war parties, hundreds of miles through the wilderness, to make unprovoked attacks upon these unwarlike people. They would rob them of their harvests, wantonly burn their wigwams, kill and scalp men, women, and children, and carry off captives to torture and burn at the stake, in barbarian festivities.
Near the mouth of this river they found deposits of unctuous earth, having quite brilliantly the colors of red, purple, and violet. Father Hennepin rubbed some of the red upon his paddle. The constant use of that paddle in the water, for fifteen days, did not efface the color. This was a favorite resort of the Indians to obtain materials for painting their persons.
They now entered the region of that terrible pest, the mosquito. Elephants, lions, tigers, can be exterminated. The mosquito bids defiance to all mortal powers. The Indians would build a scaffolding of poles, a mere grate-work, which would give free passage to smoke. A few pieces of bark, overhead, sheltered them from the rain, and the excessive heat of the sun. Upon these poles they slept, kindling smouldering fires beneath. They could better endure the suffocating fumes which thus enveloped them and drove away their despicable tormenters, than bear the poison of their stings. The voyagers were greatly annoyed by these insects.
As they were thus swept down the infinite windings of the stream, day after day, mostly at the will of the current, they perceived one morning, much to their surprise, a small band of Indians on the shore, armed with guns. The savages seemed very much at their ease, and waited the approach of the canoes. Father Hennepin stood up and waved toward them his peace calumet, with its imposing decoration of feathers. His companions held their muskets in readiness to repel any assault. Drawing near the shore, the father addressed them in the Huron language. They did not understand him, but made friendly signs for the party to land. The Indians led the Frenchmen into their wigwams and feasted them upon buffalo steaks, with bear's fat, and some very delicious wild plums.
It appeared that these Indians were a band of warriors, probably from the Tuscarora nation. They had seen the Spaniards, on the Florida coast, and had purchased of them guns, axes, and knives. They kept their powder in strong glass bottles. From them they learned that a ten days' voyage down the rapid current of the Mississippi would bring them to the ocean. The indefatigable missionary endeavored to give them some idea of God, and of salvation through Jesus Christ, who came to seek and save the lost.
And now, with renewed courage, our adventurers entered their canoes and resumed their paddles. The prairies, which had so long delighted their eyes, gradually disappeared, and the dense forest lined both sides of the stream. It was very evident, however, that upon the other side of the forest-crowned eminences, the prairies continued to extend in all their sublimity and beauty; for they often heard the bellowing, as the roar of distant thunders, from thousands of wild cattle roving the plains.
They had now descended to nearly the thirty-third degree of north latitude, when they came to a large Indian village, situated upon a plain raised but a few feet above the level of the water. These Indians had undoubtedly received some great outrage from the Spaniards; for no sooner did they catch a sight of the Europeans than they were thrown into great commotion, and all their warriors rallied for battle. They were evidently aware that a few men, armed with the dreadful musket, might overpower a large number who wielded only the Indian weapons of warfare.
These warriors were armed with bows and arrows, javelins, and war clubs. They seemed to know that the invisible bullet could strike with death far beyond the reach of any of their missiles. They moved therefore with great caution. In those southern latitudes the birch tree, from whose bark the canoes of the northern Indians were made, did not thrive. Their boats were made of large logs, hollowed out and neatly shaped. They were often ornamented with infinite labor. Some of the warriors prepared to overwhelm the strangers with a shower of arrows from the land. Others embarked in their larger boats to ascend the river, and others to descend, so as to cut off all possibility of retreat.
As the voyagers drew near the shore, Father Marquette stood up in his canoe, though exposed to imminent danger of being pierced by their arrows, and earnestly waved the calumet of peace, at the same time, as he writes, imploring the aid of "our patroness and guide, the Blessed Virgin Immaculate. And indeed," he continues, "we needed her aid, for we heard, from afar, the Indians exciting one another to the combat by continual yells."
In the terror and tumult of the moment the calumet had not been seen. But as soon as some of the chiefs caught sight of it, they rushed into the water, threw their bows and arrows into the canoes, which they seized and brought to the shore. Father Marquette and M. Joliet were so familiar with the customs of the Indians that they understood this to be a friendly movement, and they no longer felt any great anxiety; though they were aware that, through some sudden outbreak of the savage sense of revenge, they might lose their lives. The good father addressed them in six Indian languages, none of which they understood. At last an old man came forward, who spoke a little Illinois.
Very friendly relations were soon established. They made the Indians several valuable presents, and informed them of their desire to find the way to the ocean. "They perfectly understood our meaning," writes Father Marquette, "but I know not whether they understood what I told them of God, and the things which concerned their salvation. It is a seed cast in the earth, which will bear its fruit in season."
The Indians, in return, presented them with corn pounded into meal, and some fishes. They said that, at some distance farther down the river, there was a large village called Akamsea; that there they could learn all they wished to know respecting the course and the out-flow of the Father of Waters. The voyagers slept in the wigwams of the Indians during the night, though the father confesses that it was not without some uneasiness. The Akamsea, to which the Indians referred, was what we now call Arkansas.
It is supposed that this village was near the Indian village of Guachoya, where the unhappy De Soto, whose romantic history we have given in a previous volume of this series, breathed his last, one hundred and fifty years before. In the narrative which has descended to us of that ill-fated and cruel expedition the historian writes:
"The same day, July 2, 1543, that we left Aminoya, we passed by Guachoya, where the Indians tarried for us in their canoes."
It was at Aminoya that De Moscoso, who succeeded De Soto, built his little fleet of seven strong barges, with which the Spaniards descended, in a voyage of sixteen days, to the mouth of the river. The Spaniards were as ignorant of the sources of the mighty river upon which they were sailing, as were the French of the termination of the majestic flood, which they had discovered nearly two thousand miles, far away amidst the lakes and prairies of the north.
The next morning, at an early hour, the Frenchmen resumed their voyage. A party of ten Indians accompanied them, leading the way in one of their large boats. The old man, who understood a little of the Illinois language, also went with them as an interpreter. When they had descended the river nearly thirty miles, and were within about a mile and a half of the Arkansas village, they saw two boats, crowded with warriors, push out from the shore, and advancing to meet them. The keen eyes of the savages had probably discerned the Indian boat which led the frail canoes of the Frenchmen. They knew that persons thus approaching could come with no hostile attempt.
The chief of this party, distinguished by his gorgeous dress, stood up in his boat, and, waving the plumed calumet, sung, in a very plaintive but agreeable tone, some Indian ode of welcome. He came with smiles and friendly signs alongside of the two birch canoes which kept close together. First, having taken a few whiffs from the pipe, he presented it to them to smoke. Then, having given them some bread, made of Indian meal, he made signs for them to follow him to the shore.
The chief had a large scaffolding, such as we have before described, as a protection from the mosquitoes. It also afforded a cool shelter from the rays of an almost tropical sun. The ground floor was carpeted with very fine rush mats. In the centre of this spacious awning, the Frenchmen were seated, as in the post of honor. The head chief, with his subordinates, surrounded them. Then the encircling warriors, several hundred in number, took their seats. A motley but perfectly orderly crowd of men, women, and children gathered around as witnesses of the scene.
Fortunately there was a young warrior there who had travelled, and who was much more familiar with the Illinois language than the old man who had accompanied the voyagers as interpreter.
"Through him," says the faithful missionary, "I first spoke to the assembly by the ordinary presents. They admired what I told them of God, and the mysteries of our holy faith, and showed a great desire to keep me with them to instruct them."
In answer to inquiries in reference to the sea, they said that it could be easily reached, in their canoes, in ten days. They, however, stated that they knew but little about the nations who inhabited the lower part of the river, because they were their enemies. These Indians had hatchets, knives, and beads. This proved that, in some way, they had held intercourse with Europeans. Upon being consulted on this question, it appeared that they had obtained them through the Spaniards in Florida and Mexico. They warned the voyagers not to go any farther down the river, as they would certainly be attacked and destroyed by the war parties of these hostile bands.
While this conference was going on, which continued for several hours, the Indians were continually presenting their guests with plates of food, which consisted principally of meal-pudding, roast corn, and dogs' flesh. The Indians were very courteous. But it was not a powerful or war-like tribe. They often had but a meagre supply of food, as the ferocity of their surrounding enemies prevented them from wandering far in pursuit of game.
Their main reliance was upon corn. They sowed it at all seasons, raising three crops a year. While some fields were just sprouting, others were in the soft and milky state suitable for roasting, and other fields were waving with the ripe and golden harvest. These southern tribes were generally much more advanced in the arts than those farther north. They manufactured many quite admirable articles of pottery for household use. It is said that some of them were hardly inferior in form and finish to the exquisite vases found in Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Still they were in many respects degraded savages, of loathsome habits, but little elevated above the brutes. Many of the men wandered about without any clothing. The women were not regarded with any honor. They were beasts of burden, dressed in wretched skins, without any ornaments. Their wigwams were long and wide, made of bark, with a single central entrance. Almost like the cattle, they slept together at the two extremities, upon mat-covered elevations, raised about two feet from the ground. From the description of Father Marquette, we should infer that, in this melancholy village, the chiefs alone enjoyed the luxury of sleeping upon poles enveloped with suffocating smoke to drive away the mosquitoes.
"We ate no fruit there," writes Marquette, "but watermelons. If they knew how to cultivate their grounds they might have plenty of all kinds."
In the evening M. Joliet and Father Marquette held a conference in reference to their future course. They had ascertained that they were at 33 deg. 40' north latitude. The basin of the Gulf of Mexico was at 31 deg. 40'. Though the Indians had said that they could reach the sea in ten days, it was manifest that they could easily accomplish the distance in four or five. The question was consequently settled that the Mississippi ran into the Gulf of Mexico. To decide this point was the great object of their voyage. Spanish outrages had exasperated all the Indians along the southern coast. The voyagers could not prosecute their enterprise any farther, but at the imminent peril of their lives. Should they thus perish, the result of their discoveries would, for a long time, be lost to the world.
They feared the Spaniards even more than they did the savages. The Spaniards, jealous of the power of France, would certainly hold them as prisoners, if they could take them, and would not improbably put them to death to prevent the fact of their having descended the whole course of the Mississippi from being known. They therefore wisely determined to retrace their steps with all energy. On the 17th of July they left the village of Akamsea, near the mouth of the Arkansas River, to stem the strong current of the Mississippi on their return. At high-water the vast flood, a mile in width, rushed along at the rate of five or six miles an hour. They found it very difficult to force their way against this current. We have no particular account of the incidents of their long and laborious return voyage. When they had reached the latitude of thirty-eighth degree north, they came to the mouth of the Illinois River. The Indians informed them that this would be a shorter route to Lake Michigan than to go up the Mississippi still farther to the Wisconsin River. They therefore entered this stream, which takes its rise within six miles of the lake. In the glowing account which Father Marquette gives of this river, he writes:
"We had seen nothing like this river for the fertility of the land, its prairies, woods, wild cattle, stags, deer, wild-cats, bustards, swans, ducks, parrots, and even beavers. It has many little lakes and tributary rivers. The stream on which we sailed is broad, deep, and gentle, for sixty-five leagues. During the spring, and part of the summer, when the rivers are full, the portage is only a mile and a half in length."
They ascended the Illinois until, by a short portage, they could transport their canoes across the prairie to the Chicago River. Descending this stream to its mouth, where the thronged city of Chicago now stands, but which was then only a dreary expanse of marshy prairie, they paddled up the western coast of Lake Michigan until they reached the mission at Green Bay, about the middle of September. About two months were spent in the toilsome voyage from Arkansas.
General Wool, Inspector-General of the army of the United States, has made, from a personal acquaintance with the route, the following estimate of the distances of the several stages of this eventful journey:
From Green Bay up Fox River to the portage 175 miles From the portage down the Wisconsin to the Mississippi 175 " From the mouth of the Wisconsin to the mouth of the Arkansas 1087 " From the Arkansas to the Illinois River 547 " From the mouth of the Illinois to Chicago 305 " From Chicago to Green Bay, by the lake shore 260 " Total 2,549
The accompanying fac-simile of a map attached to Marquette's Journal, reduced from the original, and which we take from Mr. Sparks's brief but admirable sketch of Marquette's Life, will give the reader a very clear idea of the route he pursued. The dotted line from the Mississippi to the Illinois, marked "Chemin du retour," is evidently a mistake, added by some other hand. It is clear, from the narrative, that the voyagers returned up the Illinois River.
Father Marquette, who was never known to utter a murmuring word, and who was serene and cheerful amidst the sorest trials, was so utterly exhausted by the toils of the expedition that he could proceed no farther than Green Bay. Here M. Joliet separated from him and continued his route, in a birch canoe, along the vast expanse of Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and down the St. Lawrence to Montreal. In descending the rapids of the river his canoe was over-set and all his papers lost, he narrowly escaping with his life. He subsequently dictated, from memory, a few pages of the incidents of the voyage; but the manuscript of Father Marquette alone remained to tell the wondrous story. This was sent to France, and there published.
Even Marquette had no conception of the true grandeur of that valley he had entered, extending from the Alleghany ridges to the Rocky Mountains. Still, when the tidings of his wonderful discoveries reached Quebec, the exciting intelligence was received with the ringing of bells, with salvos of artillery, and, most prominent and important of all, by nearly the whole population, led by the clergy and other dignitaries of the place, going in procession to the cathedral where the Te Deum was sung in thanksgiving to God.
Marquette's Last Voyage, and Death.
The Departure from Green Bay. Navigating the Lake in a canoe. Storms of rain and snow. Night Encampments. Ascending the Chicago River. A Winter with the Savages. Journey to the Kankakee. The Great Council on the Prairie. Interesting Incidents. The Escort of Savages. The Death Scene. Sublime Funeral Solemnities.
Father Marquette spent the winter and the whole summer of 1674 at Green Bay, actively engaged in the services of the mission, though in a very feeble state of health. It is said that he was remarkably genial and companionable, fond of pleasantry, ever greeting others with pleasant words and benignant smiles. He had promised the Illinois Indians that he would return to them, to teach them the religion of peace and good-will brought to the world by the Son of God.
His health being somewhat recruited, he set out, by direction of his superiors, with two boatmen, Pierre and Jacques, to establish a mission among these Indians, who were anxiously awaiting his arrival. The mission at Green Bay was at the southern extremity of that inland sea. Taking their canoe and all their effects upon their shoulders, they crossed the peninsula, which separated the bay from the lake, through an Indian trail about thirty miles in length. They then launched their canoe upon the broad surface of Lake Michigan. The cold gales of November had now begun to plough the surface of this inland sea. Their progress was very slow. Often the billows were such that the canoe could not ride safely over them. Then they landed, and, in the chill November breezes, trudged along the shore, bearing all their effects upon their shoulders!
Ice formed upon the margin of the water, and several snow-storms impeded their march, adding greatly to their discomfort. But not a repining word escaped the lips of Father Marquette. It was but a dismal shelter they could rear, for the night, on the bleak shore. Through this exposure his health began rapidly to fail. It took them nearly four weeks to reach the mouth of the Chicago River. They ascended the river several leagues, until they came to a small cluster of Indian wigwams. The savages were poor, but few in number, and their abodes comfortless. But Pere Marquette was so sick that they could go no farther. These Indians were of the Miami tribe.
Here the voyagers built a small log-cabin, and, destitute of what many would deem the absolute necessaries of life, passed the remaining weeks of the dreary winter. One would suppose that the lone missionary must at times have contrasted painfully his then situation, with the luxuries he had enjoyed in the ancestral castle in which he was cradled. A few wretched wigwams were scattered over the snow-whitened plains, where poverty, destitution, and repulsive social habits reigned, such as is perhaps never witnessed in civilized life.
His home was but a cabin of logs, with the interstices stuffed with moss. The roof was covered with bark. The window was merely a hole cut through the logs. In storms a piece of cloth hung over it, which partially kept out wind and rain. The fireplace was one corner of the room, with a hole in the roof through which the smoke ascended. Often the state of the atmosphere was such that the cabin was filled with smothering smoke. A few mats, woven coarsely from bulrushes, covered a portion of the earth floor. A mat was his bed. A log, covered with a mat, was his chair; his food was pounded corn, and fishes and flesh of animals, broiled on the coals; his companions, savages. Such was the home which this noble man had cheerfully accepted in exchange for the baronial splendors of his ancestors. It was two hundred years ago. Father Marquette has received his rewards. His earthly labors and sacrifices were for but about twenty years. For two hundred years he has occupied a mansion, which God reared for him in heaven. There he is now, with his crown, his robe, and his harp, with angel companionship. And there he is to dwell forever.
There is something exceedingly beautiful in the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ. God, in the person of his Son, came to earth and suffered and died to make atonement for human sin. All who will abandon sin, and try to live doing nothing wrong, and endeavoring to do everything that is right, He will forgive, and make forever happy in heaven.
This is the Gospel; the Good News. God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The loitering Indians, ignorant, degraded, wicked, gathered in constant groups around the fire, in the cabin of the sick Christian teacher. And when he told them of that happy world where they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, and where God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, the truth came home to their hearts, and became its own witness.
And yet here, as elsewhere, the Gospel of Jesus found its bitter antagonists. With the Indians, as in every city and town in Christendom, there were those who did not wish to be holy. They hated a Gospel which demanded the abandonment of sin. These men, with bloody tomahawks and gory scalping knives, and who, from infancy, had been practising the hideous war-whoop; who consider the glory of their manhood to depend upon the number of enemies they had slain, and whose greatest delight consisted in listening to the shrieks, and witnessing the convulsions of their agonized victims at the stake, denounced the Christian teacher, as the Jews denounced the Son of God, crying out "Crucify him."
Every day Father Marquette was sinking in languor, which both he and his companions supposed to be a monition of speedily approaching death. And yet he was a cheerful and happy man. All incomers at his cabin were greeted with smiles. Death had no terror. Brighter and brighter grew the path, as he drew nearer to the celestial city. His log-cabin was continually crowded with those who sought instruction. The two humble companions who attended him were devout men, though uneducated, and in life's lowly station. They joined heartily in the devotions of the cabin. The voices of the three were joined in matins and vespers, and floated sweetly over those dreary wastes, where such heavenly strains had never been heard before.
Louis XIV. was then upon the throne of France. He was one of the greatest, most powerful, most opulent of all earthly monarchs. The wealth and the genius of earth could construct nothing more grand than his palaces at Marly and Versailles. His banqueting-hall was unsurpassed by any other hall ever reared upon this globe. His chambers, his saloons, his galleries, are still visited by astonished and admiring thousands. And yet no one, familiar with his life, will deny that Father Marquette, in his log-cabin, surrounded by Indian wigwams, probably passed a happier winter than did Louis XIV., amidst the most dazzling splendors which ever surrounded a mortal.
Christmas came. It was made by the three a season of special devotion, that God would so reinvigorate Father Marquette, as to enable him to fulfil his promise, and visit the Illinois Indians, and teach them the Gospel. These devotions were called a Novena, which was a nine days' prayer-meeting. Their prayers were heard. Contrary to all reasonable expectation, he so far regained his strength as to be able, on the 29th of March, to resume his journey. The chill winds of departing winter still swept the plains. Storms of sleet often beat upon them. The ground, alternately thawing and freezing, was frequently whitened with snow. And still these heroic men, with chivalry never surpassed in the annals of knighthood, pressed on. Their journey was slow. Sometimes they floated upon the stream. Again they followed the Indian trail through forest and prairie. After traversing a route about a hundred and fifty miles in length, they reached, on the 8th of April, the Kankakee River, an important tributary of the Illinois. At this point, which is now in the present county of Kankakee, and near where the village of Rockport stands, the Illinois Indians had their large and populous village.
The missionary was received, we are told, as an angel from heaven. He assembled all the chiefs of the tribe, with the renowned warriors, that with imposing ceremonies he might announce to them the object of his coming, and impress them with the momentous importance of his message. There was no wigwam sufficiently capacious to accommodate such a multitude as the occasion would assemble.
Near the village there was a smooth, verdant, beautiful prairie, richly carpeted with the velvet green of early spring. On a mild and sunny morning a wonderful crowd of savages—men, women, and children—were seen crowding to the appointed station. The chiefs were dressed in truly gorgeous habiliments, of plumes, skins richly embroidered and fringed, and brilliantly colored. Their robes were more showy than any court-dress ever witnessed at Windsor Castle or the Tuileries. The warriors, with proud demeanor and stately tread, marched along, with quivers of arrows at their backs, and bows in their hands. Tomahawks and scalping knives were ostentatiously displayed, and the scalps of enemies dangled at their javelin points, as badges of their nobility. Of these they were more proud than were ever English, French, or Spanish grandees of the decoration of stars or garters. The women and the dogs came next. They were alike regarded as necessary drudges to bear burdens, and to be fed with the refuse which their masters left. Then came the boys and girls, many of them half naked, shouting, laughing, racing, engaging in all the uncouth merriment of a savage gala day.
The spot selected for the council was decorated according to the most approved fashion of the people and their times. The ground was covered with mats, made of the skins of bears and other animals. Posts were planted, draped and festooned with green boughs. Upon each of the four sides of the square, the good father, who had ever been taught to regard with the utmost veneration the Mother of Jesus, hung a picture of the Blessed Virgin, that all might gaze upon her sad yet beautiful features.
Father Marquette took his seat upon a mat, in the centre of the enclosure. Then the chiefs, and the veteran warriors, who in many a bloody foray had won renown, took their seats around him. Silently and with the dignity becoming great men, they assumed their positions. The young men, who had not yet signalized themselves, and who were ever eager to go upon the war-path, that they might return with their trophies of gory scalps, to receive the applause of the nation as braves, came next.
In respect to the war spirit, which is one of the most direful traits of our fallen race, there is but little difference between the civilized and uncivilized man. I was once breakfasting with one of the most distinguished officers of a European army. To my question whether the officers generally wished for peace or war, he replied:
"War, of course. In times of peace promotion comes slowly. But upon the battle field promotions are very rapidly made."
The young warriors counted about fifteen hundred. Outside of their circle, the women and the children were clustered. It was estimated that the whole population of the village amounted to about three thousand.
The Illinois Indians were at war with the Miamis, among whom Father Marquette had passed the winter. The Illinois chiefs had obtained of the traders a few guns. Immediately upon Marquette reaching their village, they hastened to entreat of him powder and ball, that they might fit out an expedition against their foes. Father Marquette rose at the council, and after presenting the chiefs with some valuable gifts, in token of the sincerity of his desire to be their friend and do them good, addressed them in substance as follows:
"I have not brought you any powder or balls. I do not wish you to fight your brethren the Miamis. You are all the children of the same Father. You should love one another. I have come to tell you of God, and to teach you to pray. God, the Great Spirit, came to the world, and became a man, whose name was Jesus. He died upon the cross to atone for the sins of all men. And now, if you will cease to sin; if you will love your Father, the Great Spirit, pray to Him and do everything in your power to please Him, He will bless you, and when you die will take you to dwell with Him and will make you happy forever."
Such was, in general, the address of Father Marquette. Such was ever, in substance, his teaching. Jesus the Christ, and Him crucified, was his constant theme. Two or three days were spent in similar exercises. The Indians crowded around the father constantly. They listened to his teachings with respectful and apparently with even joyful attention. He was pale and emaciate. Even the Indian could perceive, from his feeble voice and emaciate steps, that he was not far from the grave. On Easter Sunday, the faithful missionary, with solemn and imposing ceremonies, took, if we may so speak, spiritual possession of the land, in the name of Jesus Christ.
The rapidly failing health of the missionary, rendered it expedient for him to endeavor to return to his friends at Green Bay. The poor Indians really mourned at the idea of his departure. Time hung heavily upon their hands. They had but little to think of, and but little to do. Loitering indolently around, from morning till night, it was a great source of enjoyment to them, to crowd the large wigwam they had built for the father, to listen to his words, to question him, and to witness the ceremonies with which he was accustomed to conduct his devotions. They were therefore much troubled at the thought of his departure, and were but partially comforted by his repeated assurances that he would either soon return again, or send some one else to continue the mission which he had thus commenced.
Slowly and feebly he set out on his long journey back to Green Bay. It was ninety miles from Kankakee to the southern extremity of Lake Michigan. They could paddle in canoes over a portion of the route. But there were also weary miles of portage which they had to pass over, through Indian trails, carrying their canoe, and all their effects, upon their backs. It was a severe undertaking for a sick man, who was so feeble that even if a horse could have been provided for him to ride, he could scarcely have held himself upon the saddle.
A large party of the Indians accompanied the father, on this weary journey to the lake. They administered to his wants with the tenderest care, relieving him of every burden, and aiding him over the rough ways. At the night encampments, they provided for him a shelter, kindled his fire, cooked his food, and spread for him a couch of leaves and twigs. When they reached a small stream, which ran into the lake, they placed him as comfortably as possible in his canoe, and intrusting him to the care of his two faithful boatmen, Jacques and Pierre, bade him an affectionate farewell.
The savages, after these deeds of almost Christian kindness, returned to their wigwams, to sharpen the edges of their tomahawks, the points of their javelins, the barbs of their arrows; and were soon, with hideous yells, rushing upon their foes the Miamis, burning, killing, scalping—performing deeds of cruelty which ought to cause even demons to blush.
Father Marquette was too weak to wield the paddle. He reclined in the bottom of the canoe, with his head slightly elevated, so that he could see all the beauties of the scenery through which they were passing. His prayer-book was in his hand; his talk was of heaven; he was cheerful and happy. His companions have testified to the wonderful amiability, gentleness, and joy he maintained. He told them plainly that he should die upon the voyage, but encouraged them to bear courageously all the hardships they were to encounter on the way, assuring that the Lord would not forsake them.
As his attendants plied their paddles he read prayers to them, sang sweet hymns of devotion, and in many fervent utterances commended them and himself to God. He was in no pain. His eye sparkled with animation. His soul was triumphant. It may be doubted whether, on the broad continent of North America, there were, in these hours, an individual to be found more happy than he.
It was one of the mornings of lovely May, when this frail birch canoe, with its three inmates, emerging from a small stream, entered upon the ocean-like expanse of Lake Michigan. On the north and the east the majestic inland sea spread out to the horizon, with no bounds but the sky. For some unexplained reason they decided to take the eastern shore of the lake, on their return voyage, though their outward voyage had been by the western shore. They had still a journey of three hundred miles before them.
Father Marquette was so weak that he could no longer help himself. He could neither move nor stand, and had to be carried from the canoe to the shore like an infant. At each encampment the attendants would draw the canoe, with Father Marquette in it, gently upon the beach. They would then hastily rear a shelter, spread for him a couch of the long and withered herbage, and lay him tenderly upon it. The only food they could prepare for the fainting invalid, was corn pounded into coarse meal, mixed with water, and baked in the ashes, with perhaps a slice of game broiled upon the coals.
Thus they moved along, day after day, expecting almost every hour that the death summons would come. On Friday evening, the 27th of May, 1675, he told them, with a countenance radiant with joy, that on the morrow he should take his departure for his heavenly home.
He gave them minute instructions respecting the place he wished to be selected for his burial; directed how to arrange his hands and feet, and how to wrap him in his robes, for he could have no coffin. While one was to read the burial service the other was gently to toll the small chapel bell which he bore with him on his mission. The canoe was gliding along near the shore, as the father gave these instructions, reclining upon his mat. The setting sun was sinking apparently into the shoreless waters of the lake, in the west. They were all examining the land, the boatmen searching for a suitable spot for their night's encampment, and the father looking for a good place for his dying bed and his burial.
They came to the mouth of a small, pleasant river, which presented a sheltered cove for their canoe. There was an eminence near by, crowned by a beautiful grove, and commanding a wide prospect of the lake and of the land. It had a sunny exposure, drained of moisture, and composed of just such soil as seems suitable for a grave. Father Marquette pointed to the eminence in the lone, silent, solitary wilderness, and said, "There is the spot for my last repose."
The boatmen ran their canoe up the mouth of the river, a few rods, and landed. Hastily they threw up a frail camp, kindled a fire, spread down a mat for a couch, and placed their revered spiritual father upon it. He was then left entirely alone, with his God, while his companions were engaged in unloading the canoe. They were silent and sad, for they could not but perceive that the dying hour was at hand.
When they returned, Father Marquette gave them his last instructions. "I thank you, my dear companions," he said, "for all the love and tenderness you have shown me during this voyage. I beg you to pardon me for the trouble I have given you. Will you also say to all my fathers and brethren in the Ottowa mission that I implore their forgiveness for my imperfections. I am now very near my home. But I shall not forget you in heaven. You are very weary with the toils of the day. I shall still live probably for several hours. I wish you would retire and take that rest which you so greatly need. I will call you as soon as the last moments arrive."