All history is, perforce, a merciless abridgment, and yet too much can never be written concerning any nation, any people— since each contribution must have a definite value. In the offering of this compendium of history and biography, the publishers lay claim not to any amplification of data in the annals of Detroit and Wayne county, but rather to the condensed, narrative presentation of the history of a section whose records bear the graceful tales of romance and the sterner burdens of definite accomplishment.
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A Compendium of History and Biography of the City of Detroit and Wayne County, Michigan
C. M. BURTON
A Compendium of History and Biography of the City of Detroit, C. M. Burton
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
CHAPTER XIX.. 158
CHAPTER XX.. 164
All history is, perforce, a merciless abridgment, and yet too much can never be written concerning any nation, any people— since each contribution must have a definite value. In the offering of this compendium of history and biography, the publishers lay claim not to any amplification of data in the annals of Detroit and Wayne county, but rather to the condensed, narrative presentation of the history of a section whose records bear the graceful tales of romance and the sterner burdens of definite accomplishment. In the collation of the generic history, recourse has been had to the most reliable authorities, and the publishers have been most fortunate in securing in this department of the work the co-operation of Mr. Clarence M. Burton, than whom none has ever had more intimate and thorough knowledge of the history of Michigan and whose reputation in the field of historic research is especially notable. Mr. Burton has not only given careful revision to all subject matter in the general history but has also offered a most valuable personal contribution, in the chapters relative to the war of 1812 and conditions existing at that period. These chapters arc definitely credited to him in the initiation thereof. The form in which the history is presented is believed to have much of individuality and originality, so that the record cannot fail of cumulative value as a source of information and as offering a concise narrative, interesting to the reader who has no desire for mere detail and intimate research. The functions of the biographical, industrial and financial departments of the publication are such as offer their own justification and add materially to the intrinsic value of the work.
Origin of Detroit in Struggle for Supremacy Between England and France — Plans for Establishing a Fortress by Count Pontchartrain — Expedition Under Cadillac — Post Named Fort Pontchartrain — Record Concerning Cadillac — Conditions at the Frontier Post — Cadillac Succeeded by Dubuisson — Trouble with the Fox Indians— Regime of Alphonse de Tonty — Robert Navarre, Intendant at Detroit — Efforts to Increase Population and Military Strength—Beginning of Struggle Between France and England — French Lose Stronghold at Louisburg — Montcalm as Governor General of Canada— Fatal Conflict at the Heights of Abraham and its Results on Future of Detroit — British Gain Control of All Canada.
Man commonly believes himself to be lord of creation, but nature often dominates over man. Nine times out of ten nature decides where a great city shall rise and endure. For more than two hundred years the leading maritime powers of the Old World struggled with each other for the mastery of the New World. It was during the struggle between Great Britain and France that the city of Detroit was founded. It had its origin in that strife. France held Canada, the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi valley, — territory and trade. The only highways were the waterways, and France tried to keep vigil along the route from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi, but her thin line was constantly crossed by British traders who offered rum to the Indians on cheaper terms than the French offered their brandy. The French,, too, were morally restrained by the vigorous opposition of the early Jesuit fathers, while the British had no such embarrassment.
Before the seventeenth century began there was a well-established highway of commerce between the British Fort Orange, afterward Albany, New York, and the foot of Lake Erie, and up Lake Erie as far as the straits leading to the northern lakes. Count Pontchartrain, minister of marine for Louis XIV of France, decided that this inroad must be blocked. He had in his employ an adventurous and capable commander of frontier forces, Antoine de Laumet Cadillac, forty-three years of age, who had been in New France fifteen years or more and was well acquainted with the river St. Lawrence and the lake region. An outpost had existed at what is now known as Mackinac island for many years and in the hope of holding back the invasions of British traders Count Pontchartrain directed Cadillac to take one hundred white men and as many Indian allies as his judgment would approve and proceed to the region of the straits, for the purpose of establishing there a frontier fortress that would take advantage of the most defensible spot and serve the purposes of the empire.
The expedition set out from La Chine on June 5, 1701. It followed the Ottawa river along the old route by way of Lake Nipissing and reached Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.
There a flotilla of large canoes was properly organized to meet any opposition that it might encounter, with a force of one hundred Frenchmen and an equal number of Algonquin Indians. Duluth had erected a fort at the head of the Ste. Claire river in 1687, but it had soon been abandoned and was burned at the command of the French government. Cadillac had been commandant of the post at Mackinac for three years and he determined to establish the new fort in a more defensible place. The expedition passed through the Ste. Claire river and the lake of the same name and proceeded as far as the mouth of Detroit river. After camping overnight on Grosse Ile and examining the site for its strategic situation, Cadillac led the way back and landed somewhere near the center of the present water front of Detroit. He was guided in this selection by the favorable banks of the river, as they here rose to a commanding height— about forty feet. Immediately back of this bluff flowed a small but sluggish stream, afterward known as the Savoyard river. This, it was seen, would serve to a military post on the bluff as some protection against attack from the rear. So it happened that here, on July 24, 1701, Cadillac made his permanent landing and proceeded to lay out and direct the construction of a strong frontier fort. The outline measured one arpent of land about two hundred feet on a side, and included a plat of land between the present Wayne and Griswold streets in Detroit and extended to the middle of Jefferson avenue on the crest of the bluff facing the river front.
The fort was typical of the times and the frontier and consisted of a stockade of oak pickets fifteen feet long imbedded in the earth to a depth of three feet. Inside this there was a clear space twelve feet wide all around. A strong bastion was erected at each of the four corners and a parapet was built around the inside at a height of about seven feet above the ground, where pickets could patrol in security and keep watch over all approaches by land and water. The fort was named Pontchartrain, in honor of Cadillac's patron, and the church which was erected immediately was called Ste. Anne's.
Cadillac arrived none too soon, for on June 19 the British authorities in New York, while he was en route, obtained from the Iroquois such title as the Indians had to the western forests, which were called Teuscha Gronde. This territory included the land surrounding the straits, Robert Livingstone, English trader at Fort Orange, had urged his government to establish a post on the Detroit river in 1699, but the delay of a year deferred British occupation until the conquest of New France was achieved, more than half a century later, and until the bloody years of the French and Indian wars had intervened.
Cadillac was born in the department of Tarne et Garonne, at the village of St. Nicholas le Grave, December 4, 1663. His name on the parish records appears as Antoine de Laumet. The marriage record at Quebec shows that Cadillac was the son of Jean de la Mothe, Seigneur de Cadillac, conseiller of the department of Toulouse, and that his mother's name was Jeanne de Malefant. There is some confliction of names, due to the general practice of the time, which took great liberties with family names and often substituted others. Cadillac came to America in 1683. After a short stay at Quebec, he went to Port Royal, which was the French headquarters for privateers who preyed upon British shipping and the British colonial coast during many years when the nations were at strife. There he attached himself to a privateering commander named Guyon and presently became so well acquainted with the New England coast that he was able to pilot expeditions.
In the winter of 1686 he was at Quebec, where he had a serious quarrel with Sabrevois, who afterward figured in the history of the Detroit colony. He returned to Port Royal in the spring, and on the 35th of June, in Quebec, he married Therese Guyon and set up an establishment in the port, but two years later he obtained from the king a grant of land, six miles square, on the coast of Maine (the present site of Bar Harbor), and also the island of Mount Desert, by patent from Louis XIV. This was in honor of his valuable service in harassing the British. He was called to France in 169010 furnish information to Count Pontchartrain, minister of marine, in view of a possible war with Great Britain, and returned home after several months, only to be recalled in 1692. When he came back he bore a recommendation for special service under Frontenac at Quebec. In 1694 he was made commandant at Mackinac.
Mackinac proved a post of no particular value, since the Iroquois and British traders came up the lakes offering competition and making trouble. Cadillac advised a fort on the lower straits, but Frontenac died in June, 1698, leaving the succession to de Callieres, who had a poor opinion of Cadillac and gave no heed to his suggestions. Cadillac memorialized the king, who advised the adoption of his plans, but Callieres stood firmly against them. Cadillac went to Quebec and persisted until he secured the authority and backing which led to the founding of Detroit in the manner related.
The rivalry between the French and British was complicated by another factor which greatly embarrassed the civil and military head of the post and ultimately led to his removal. Trade in beaver skins was the principal traffic with the Indians. Blankets and gew-gaws were sold freely, guns and powder cautiously, but the favorite exchange was "fire-water," for which the Indians developed a craving that often induced them to make extravagant offers to procure it. As drink speedily demoralized the savages and made them impossible of control, the missionary priests, who were entirely devoted to the task of Christianizing them, made vigorous protests to their superiors and to the governments, and the clerical power exerted all the influence it could with the civil power. It had spent half a century of struggle and peril in the wilderness, had sacrificed the lives of many heroic missionaries, and thus it would not consent to see ail its good work undone by the Frenchman's brandy and the British rum.
Cadillac was a practical man: he felt that the interests of the empire were paramount, and cared little for the welfare of the Indian so long as he would be able to collect beaver skins and other valuable peltry. He proposed to meet rum with brandy and to make the western territory so uncomfortable for British traders that they would keep at a respectful distance from Fort Pontchartrain. For years there was strife between the plucky commandant and the church. Appeals went back and forth to Montreal, to Quebec, and to the capital across the sea, each side stating its case with all the persuasion that could be brought to bear, but Cadillac gradually lost favor. In 1710 he was promoted to the governorship of Louisiana, and that promotion was followed by the confiscation of his property in Detroit. In Louisiana he superseded Bienville, whose enmity he gained. He also made an enemy of Crozat, the foremost trader of the territory, and this led to his dismissal and his return to France in 1717. Cadillac died October 15. 1730, and his remains were interred in the old Carmelite church of Castel-Sarassin. His wife died sixteen years later. He was the father of thirteen children, eight of whom were born in Detroit.
Though isolated from the Old World and cut off from the more firmly established French settlements along the St. Lawrence, by league after league of almost impenetrable forest, storm-swept lake and turbulent river. Fort Pontchartrain had taken permanent root. Soon a little group of log cabins began to nestle close to the walls of the stockade. Coureurs de bois, small parties of Iroquois and occasional white settlers built their rude habitations along the banks of the Detroit river. During the second year came the wives of the officers from Quebec and Montreal, to share with their husbands the low log huts.
With Madame Cadillac came the wife of Alphonse de Tonty, Cadillac's lieutenant, and these two were the first white women to set foot in the new settlement.
From Wayne street to a point near Griswold, along Lamed street, extended the northern extremity of Fort Pontchartrain, which seems to have stretched close to the river bank on the south. With the post as a nucleus, Cadillac attempted to establish a sort of feudal domain, with himself as liege lord, for it is a matter of record that he leased varying plots of ground to his men for cultivation, always stipulating that all grain should pass through the mill which he built, and be subject to a certain tax. To establish more firmly a friendly relationship with the Indians, he encouraged alliances between his men and the shy savage maidens, but in this he was opposed by the priests who had accompanied the expedition. Always at outs with the Jesuits, his scheme further embraced bringing to the settlement the Huron Indians from the post at Mackinac, and the consequent injury of the mission at that point.
As a result of this enmity and a growing jealousy, the Mackinac Jesuits, in turn, planned to establish a post at Fort St. Joseph, at the mouth of the St. Joseph river, on Lake Michigan. So keen was the feeling that extraordinary inducements were offered to draw settlers from the Detroit colony and thus weaken its support and strike a vital blow at its trade with the Indians. Cadillac's lieutenant, Tonty, ambitious to succeed his superior, became involved in the scheme with the priests to the northward, but upon its discovery and failure he confessed his treachery and was pardoned. Meanwhile bitter accusations were sent by each party to the disastrous controversy to the headquarters at Quebec, and later Tonty's cupidity led him into a second plot to undermine the commandant at Detroit. Finding their origin largely in the rapidly growing and remunerative fur trade with the natives, innumerable other jealousies took form, and in these, perhaps, lay the most formidable of the dangers that beset the struggling post.
Notwithstanding the ceaseless efforts put forth by Cadillac in the interests of the colony, he was finally notified, without previous warning, that the post had been ceded to "The Company of the Colony of Canada." This meant that the monopoly of the fur trade was to pass into other hands than his. As early as 1702, intersecting circles of intrigue were at work. The British saw with disfavor the advancement of the colony and straightway sought to breed discontent among the Indians friendly to the French. They offered more liberally for the peltries of the savages. The Iroquois already resented the intrusion of the French upon their trapping grounds, and the warnings spread by the English to the effect that their rivals sought not furs but lands, straightway took root in the savage mind. The various tribes became jealous of each other and only by the exercise of the utmost tact and caution was a most delicate situation made tenable for the little colony. Through his discovery of and attempted punishment for what he thought to be attempted fraud on the part of the company's agents, Cadillac was summoned to Quebec by Vaudreuil, governor of the French along the St. Lawrence, and imputations were openly made to the effect that the vigilance of the commandant at Detroit was inspired by a desire to regain for himself the Indian trade, rather than by any anxiety to serve the interests of the company. The fact that many of the clerks and company agents were relatives of its directors materially strengthened this contention.
While Cadillac was absent at Quebec, the command of the post fell temporarily to Tonty. He was finally relieved by M. Bourgmont, who was dispatched to Detroit on the day of Cadillac's departure. Bourgmont proved to be lacking in the exercise of that judgment which had made Cadillac popular with the savages, and soon affairs were in a serious state as the result of a clash between the Indians and whites. This culminated in the death of the first priest of Ste. Anne's church, Father Del Halle, and that of a French soldier.
Cadillac, after an acquittal under charges of promoting his own interests, returned to the Detroit post and succeeded in restoring a semblance of the old relationship between the settlers and the Indians.
A regime identical with that of the mother country obtained during this time in New France. The country was under feudal tenure. What was known as the sovereign council, consisting of the governor general, the bishop and the intendant, being in control of affairs. All lands were the property of the king, but were held by seigneurs who were empowered with certain judicial authority and who paid a rental to the crown, usually in the form of military service. Every tenant in turn owed an allegiance of arms to the seigneurs and was obliged to bring to the seigneur's mill for the grinding whatever grain was harvested. In this way taxation was commenced with the gathering of the first crop at Detroit, a quarter of a bushel of wheat being paid in addition to the military service, for each arpent of land the tenant might have under cultivation, outside the stockade.
From the very first of Cadillac's service to the king, and later in his capacity as agent for the Canada company, his old enmity with the Jesuits proved itself the basis of an unending conflict, making for the commandant almost innumerable enemies on all sides. Governor General Vaudreuil was a staunch friend of the Jesuit order, and Cadillac's repeated efforts to bring about the downfall of the Jesuit mission at Mackinac resulted only in his incurring the further dislike of the governor general. Naturally enough, when complaints were made to the authorities at Quebec by other enemies of the commandant, they found there a ready ear. Had it not been that Count Pontchartrain, French minister of marine, was a strong supporter of Cadillac, it is quite probable that the distorted reports made by various "inspectors," through Governor Vaudreuil, would have terminated Cadillac's command at Detroit after the second year, if not proving successful in their apparent object, — that of discouraging the continuance of the little post altogether. Between 1702 and 1709 a combined and persistent effort was made to discredit Cadillac with the king and the company, and repeated reports were sent to France flatly contradicting most of his statements as to the condition of the colony. So embarrassing was Cadillac's position made by this constant effort to undermine his authority and hinder his every effort to develop as he wished the resources at hand, that but slow progress was effected.
In 1710 came one Lieutenant Charles Regnault Dubuisson from Quebec, bearing dispatches relieving Cadillac of his command at Detroit and appointing him governor of Louisiana. M. de la Forest, who had at one time been mentioned as second in command under Cadillac, was named as his successor, but as he "was an old man, feeble and infirm, having spent thirty-two years in the wilderness," Dubuisson was authorized to serve temporarily in his stead.
Throughout the years of his service, Cadillac had apparently never had a doubt of the success of the colony, for it is recorded that such profits as he made he had persistently invested in lands and buildings at the Detroit post. To be thus peremptorily dismissed was a considerable hardship, even though made somewhat less poignant perhaps by the Louisiana appointment; but the man's loyalty to his home government must have been sorely tried when he discovered that he could realize nothing on his investments — there being no one in the colony with sufficient means to purchase his holdings. He was even enjoined from removing the supplies and stock he had purchased with his own money. His estate at this time was estimated as representing upwards of one hundred and twenty-two thousand livres, and an idea of the progress of the colony can be gathered from the statement that he was the owner of four hundred arpents of cleared land, a brewery, a grist mill, a warehouse and an icehouse. After being relieved he remained in Detroit for one year, in an effort to make some disposition of his property, but was finally forced to leave without any satisfactory adjustment of his affairs, after a fruitless appeal to his government.
Dubuisson, meanwhile, found himself facing the difficulties of maintaining a struggling and feeble post. Of the fifty soldiers who had come with Cadillac but twenty remained. The others, having become disgusted with the slow progress possible, because of the constant intrigue, had returned to Quebec or deserted, in order to engage in trade for themselves with the Indians. A year after Cadillac's departure (1712) Dubuisson became involved in a war with the Fox Indians, who came from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to attack the Detroit post. Though successful in his defense and in a subsequent offensive campaign, Dubuisson's trouble with the savages made necessary the presence in Detroit of La Forest, who was accordingly dispatched to take up the command of the post.
Lacking the youth and unable to proceed with the energy characteristic of Cadillac, La Forest made no effort to withstand the inroads made upon his little settlement by the ever more powerful and vindictive Jesuits at Mackinac, and finally gave up all effort to enlarge his post by attempting to secure additional settlers. He was relieved after less than two years' service by Charles Jacques Sabrevois. After two terms of three years each the colony fell to the tender mercies of Alphonse de Tonty, who began in 1720 a seven-year term, which was unprecedented in the annals of the settlement for its disregard for the rights of the settlers and for the dishonesty of the commandant. During this time free trading was abolished and agriculture allowed to become but a memory. This unfortunate state of affairs was terminated in 1727, by an investigation which resulted in the relief of Tonty as commandant and the rapid succession of M. Jean Baptiste Deschallions de St. Ours; Ives Jacques Hughes, Pean Sieur de Livandiere, 1733-36; Nicklas Joseph Des Noyellis, 1736-39; Pierre Pean Jacques de Noyan, 1739-42; Pierre Joseph Celeron Sieur de Blainville, 1742-43; Paul Joseph Le Moyne, 1743-48; Jacques Pierre Daneau, 1748-50; Pierre Joseph Celeron, 1750-53 (second term); Jacques Pierre Daneau, 1753-58 (died); Francois Marie Picote Sieur de Bellistre, 1758-60; St, Ours, who was an able soldier, was shortly succeeded by Charles Joseph de Noyelle, who was himself replaced by M. de Boishebert, whose six-year tenure terminated in 1734.
Four years prior to the above date, Robert Navarre, removed by but eight generations from the French throne, became intendant at Detroit, serving as a legal officer at the post and as the collector of revenues due the crown. A young man upon his acceptance of the office, Navarre served the post for more than thirty years, and is mentioned as having been retained as notary, even after the cession of the colony to the British.
Though Boishebert was an efficient commandant, and more popular with Indians, settlers and the Quebec authorities than any former officer at Detroit, his efforts were of little avail, under a system which sought the extraction of revenue rather than the healthful growth of the settlement and its thorough establishment as an effective military post. Unfortunately the policy obtaining in France at this time was one which made no provision for the difficulty of successfully maintaining regular communication between the isolated French posts in Canada, though Count Maurepas, then French minister of marine, was repeatedly petitioned by Governor Beauhamois to provide ships for this purpose and to recruit the depleted garrisons. Underlying the dishonesty of the commandants and the resultant discouragement of serious and permanent French settlers, was that continued cupidity of the French crown itself, which doubtless was an important factor in the failure of the king to secure at this time a permanent footing in a territory whose wealth has not been fully gauged, even to this day. Because of this insatiate desire to turn the most available of the natural resources of the territory into revenue, but little energy was directed to farming, the fur trade, which offered more immediate returns, being pushed to the utmost. The true source of permanent wealth—labor and land, and their healthful relationship— was almost completely overlooked, Cadillac being, apparently, the only commandant who appreciated their value. Even the Indians, it appears, were better farmers than the French, though neither ever succeeded in properly cultivating their fields.
During the regime of M. Sabrevois, who began his second term in 1735 as successor to the corrupt de Livandiere, a serious quarrel broke out between the Huron and Ottawa Indians at Detroit. This for a time bade fair to afford the English an excellent opportunity for supplanting the French in the affections of the Hurons, who were among the most peaceful and progressive of the savage tribes. The action of the Jesuit priests, who were at odds with the French officials at Quebec, considerably handicapped the successful solution of a most trying problem, — that of placating the warring tribes and securing a permanent camping place for the Hurons beyond the insidious influence of the British. A reservation was offered these Indians either in the vicinity of Montreal or near Quebec by the French governor, but the Jesuit priest at the mission which had been established at Sandwich, across the river from Detroit, was anxious to retain his flock and secretly worked to discourage the acceptance of either of the proffered reservations in lower Canada. The Jesuits were finally successful in inducing the Hurons to settle at Bois Blanc island, below Detroit, though but a portion of the tribe acquiesced in remaining within the territory comprising the Jesuit parish. In the meantime Sabrevois had been succeeded by M. Noyan. Pierre de Celeron de Blainviile and Joseph LeMoyne de Longueil served in the order named as commandants, the latter serving for two successive terms (1743-49). During this time affairs, which had been allowed to progress but slowly till then, became so complicated as a result of Indian uprisings and plots to slaughter the settlers, that some notice appears to have been given the necessity of supplying needed support to the post. Following an attack made by the Chippewa tribe residing near the Mackinac straits, and the discovery of a conspiracy entered into by nearly, if not quite, all the braves living about Detroit, Governor Beauharnois dispatched a relief flotilla bearing supplies and a considerable number of soldiers and merchants. During the next year. 1748, the fortifications were materially strengthened, as it became evident to the French authorities that, in view of the impending struggle with the British, forebodings of which were even then noticeable, Detroit would be of considerable strategic value. A policy embracing a consistent effort to increase the population and the military strength of the settlement was initiated.
This took tangible form in sending out, during the ensuing year, of a considerable number of farmers as a reinforcement to the struggling little colony. With them the settlers brought the implements of husbandry, and upon their arrival an encouraging and serious effort was made toward cultivation of the fields about the post. The timber of the forest was felled, adding considerably to the producing acres about the fort, and that stronghold was strengthened and enlarged till the settlement began to take on the air of a healthful and thriving community on the edge of the wilderness. Sabrevois, who was serving out a reappointment as commandant, was too feeble, however, to attempt to initiate methods sufficiently progressive to develop fully these added opportunities and the younger de Celeron was made his successor in 1751. He in turn was retired after serving three years, to give place to Jacques Pierre Daneau, who, during the next four years (1754-1758) proved himself an able officer. The effort put forth for the establishment of a definite relationship between the frontier French posts now began to bear fruit, and the governor general was enabled to strengthen still further the Detroit settlement by making it the depot or base of supplies for the outlying forts which had been established between Lake Ste, Claire and Fort Du Quesne, at the juncture of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers.
Desultory fighting was in progress between the English and French and the Indian tribes allied to each, far to the eastward, and Detroit's strategic advantages began to be undeniably demonstrated as the French were enabled to hasten reinforcements and supplies to the eastern points from this base on the straits.
Peculiarly enough, though each of the opposing nations was ready at all times to fight for the territory each one claimed, neither was apparently willing to put forth more than a half-hearted effort to settle the dispute permanently, by instituting a sharp and effective campaign. Brave and capable officers served equally well, perhaps, their respective governments, but were left for long intervals without support from abroad.
The interest across the Atlantic was but intermittent at best. Neither France nor England realized the value of the rich stake for which they gambled, though the new territory had been even then sufficiently explored to demonstrate its value in a general way.
From the time Cadillac beached his canoe on the site of the Detroit settlement, its fortunes were indirectly involved in the game of national politics being played thousands of miles away. The momentary humors of the French king and the incidents occurring in London, penetrated the leagues of virgin forests in the New World, and left their marks indelibly imprinted upon the future of that straggling row of rude cabins far to the west. The eastern Indians, incited by the French, spread terror among the settlers in the Atlantic colonies by a succession of indescribable outrages. These were repaid by no less severe attacks on the western settlements by savages driven to frenzy by British rum and by well-directed promises of reward from the English commandants.
From Queen Anne's war, in 1702, through King George's war and on until the termination of what is known as the French and Indian war (1755-63) a most inhumane and distressing period of guerrilla warfare prevailed. For this both the English and French were perhaps equally responsible. In nearly all the settlements, as in Detroit, every pioneer prayed, toiled and slept with his rifle close at hand. Children were threatened with the vengeance of the Indians for every misdemeanor, and wives parted with their husbands in constant dread of the savage scalping knife. A hardy, courageous race of men was thus bred, inured to the hardships of the frontier and to the dangers of the wilderness. Their livelihood and their very existence were dependent upon force of arms and sheer courage alone, a circumstance which made but the more certain the inevitable clash which changed the destiny of the western posts.
By the ceding to the British of Nova Scotia, under the treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, the French gave their adversaries a dangerous advantage in the foothold the English thus secured in the territory close to the gulf of St. Lawrence. Up this avenue every French ship was forced to pass in reaching the up-river settlements at Quebec and Montreal. The strongest fortification then existing in America was that at Louisburg, on Cape Breton island. The French had hastened at an early date to strengthen this the then most valuable strategic point on the Atlantic, thus offering a formidable barrier to England's advance northward. With a base from which to operate in Nova Scotia, the English looked covetously upon the frowning fortress at Louisburg. In 1745 an expedition of farmers and fishermen was organized in the New England colonies, whose purpose it was to drive the French flag from this valuable island in the gulf. Undisciplined as they were, the British were no more surprised than were the French when, after a vigorous attack, the banner of the fleur-de-lis was hauled from its staff on the fort and Louisburg was in the hands of the English,
Upon the restoration of Louisburg to the French in 1748, under the treaty of Aix la Chapelle, there began for each flag a series of alternating victories and defeats. These were destined to continue through campaigns of indescribable hardship, till the final fall of Quebec and the loss to France of her colonial prestige and of a territory richer by far in many natural resources than the mother country herself.
Following the fall of Louisburg, the French began to hold more tenaciously than ever whatever territory they could claim. Some sixty posts had been stretched in a thin line between the St. Lawrence and the Gulf of Mexico. The garrisons, and the settlers about these forts, resisted the encroachments of the English from Virginia with persistent tenacity. Formidable steps were necessitated on the part of the Virginia authorities to enforce the securing to Virginians of land grants made to then in the disputed territory. One of the French posts was located on the present site of Pittsburg. As many of the land grants included territory in the Ohio river valley, and as the French and their allies continued to forbid their definite location and occupancy, George Washington was sent to interview the French commandant and to offer a formal protest. This conference was unsatisfactory and the English constructed a fort on the Monongahela, which was promptly taken by the French, in 1754. Humiliated by their defeat, the English sent out an expedition under General Braddock, in an attempt to take the French Fort Du Quesne, but this effort was rewarded with a second crushing defeat, and it was not until 1758 that this inland fortress fell before a British attack.
Meantime there had come to Canada, as governor general, a man who promised through his relentless energy and dauntless courage, to sweep the enemies of Louis from the wilderness. This was Louis Joseph de St. Verain Montcalm, who took command of a scattered and undisciplined army in 1756. He captured two important British forts, and with but little more than three thousand men successfully repulsed an army of fifteen thousand under General Abercrombie, at Ticonderoga, between Lakes George and Champlain. This he accomplished before retiring to Quebec to prepare the citadel there for an attack which he even then anticipated, and which ended in the fatal conflict that has made famous in the history of the western continent the lar-sung Heights of Abraham. There, on September 13, 1759, the map of a continent was changed. The entire future fortune of the struggling little post miles away on the Detroit river was forever altered. Dear to the heart of every man is the story of that fight between the gallant young Wolfe and the no less admirable Montcalm, — a fight which resulted in the loss to each of his life; the loss to France of her colonies in the New World, and the winning for England of a glorious empire. Not quite a year later Montreal surrendered and all Canada was formally turned over to the victorious British.
The Detroit Post Surrendered by the French Commandant— One Hundred and Forty-Eight Years of French Misdirection— New Era Ushered in with English Control— Detroit Menaced by Indian Unrest and Antagonism— Regime of Captain Henry Gladwin— Treaties with the Indians— Conspiracy Under Pontiac, and Attempt to Capture the Detroit Garrison— War with the Indians Under Pontiac— Lack of Supplies at Detroit-Murder of Captain Campbell— Indian Victory at Bloody Run— Pontiac Sues for Peace— Colonel John Bradstreet Made Commandant— Conditions Following Indian Uprising— First Money Circulated in Detroit— Philip Dejean Commissioned First Chief Justice— The Northwest Company— Passage of the Quebec Act— Local Discontent with Policy of English Home Government; Lieutenant Governors Appointed—Nefarious Rule of Hamilton and Dejean at Detroit.
During the last years of the struggle between the banner of the fleur-de-lis and the royal standard of Great Britain, the post at Detroit had been materially strengthened and amply provisioned. It had become a formidable stronghold. It was never the scene of battle between the opposing powers, but was surrendered by its last French commandant, Francois Marie Picote de Bellistre, upon the presentation to him by Major Robert Rogers of proof of the French surrender, without the firing of a single shot. With scant ceremony the colors of France were hauled from the staff at Fort Pontchartrain, where they had been raised by Cadillac fifty-nine years before, and the efforts of those years were thus declared failures. The story of French follies in seeking ever more and more revenue by the enriching of the few from the toil of the many— the evidence of the failure to encourage definite relations between the scant population and the land— was told in the miles of impenetrable wilderness that stood as mute witnesses of one hundred and forty-eight years of misdirected effort in New France.
It is said of the treaty of Paris, under which half the western hemisphere was surrendered, that no other agreement "ever transferred such an immense portion of the earth's surface from one nation to another."
"With the marching into the stockade at Fort Pontchartrain of the British troops under Major Robert Rogers and the passing out of the soldiers of France, there dawned upon the settlement at Detroit a new era. In it was destined to be born the embryo of a fresh standard of ideas underlying the political, religious and personal freedom and equality of a great and glorious people. With the felling of the forests between the lakes and the sea, there were to spring from the virgin soil those first tender seedlings that were to be nourished by the rigors of the winters and by years of strife with the savages, until they could stand as hardy and impassable barriers against the advance of oppression.
At Detroit, as elsewhere on the frontier, the change was to the Indians an unwelcome one. Accustomed as they had been to treatment as equals by the French, they resented from the first what they considered to be the presumption of the British, whose unbending condescension roused them to retaliation. Both France and England had sought allies among the savages, and this had led to the division of the native tribes into two great factions. While the wars continued, they were diametrically opposed and fought each other as lustily as did their principals. With the surrender of the French, however, and with the beginnings of that Indian distrust of the victors which immediately followed al! attempts at colonization, the Indians became reunited against a common white foe, who they saw was beginning at once to claim their hunting grounds as his own. The western Indians had ever been staunch friends of the French, and this new prejudice against the English but engendered a smoldering hatred that seriously menaced the Detroit settlement and eventually cost many a life. Captain Donald Campbell served until he was relieved by Captain Henry Gladwin, as the first English commandant. By his easy good will he made himself popular with the French settlers who remained at Detroit, as well as with the Indians in the surrounding territory. Under the influence of his natural tact, began the reconstruction of the business, social and military life of the post. Major Rogers, who received the surrender, mentions in his report that there were in Detroit at the time of the evacuation, approximately two thousand inhabitants.
Efforts were made to establish trade relations with the Indians and gain their friendship, but to these attempts the French, smarting under their recent defeat, offered what tacit opposition they could. Added to this, unscrupulous English traders sought the frontier posts and by the free use of rum set up a standard of dealing with the Indians whereby the latter were mercilessly fleeced and cheated in every possible way and thus more firmly than ever led to distrust the newcomers. Reports of unseeming activity on the part of the French and coincident uneasiness among the Indians were carried to the new seat of government at New York. The result was an attempt to secure treaties with the savages.
General Jeffrey Amherst, then in charge of the British affairs at New York, sent Sir William Johnson, who was considered the ablest of the Indian commissioners of his time, to the post at Detroit. With him came Captain Henry Gladwin, who was to succeed Captain Campbell as commandant. He led several hundred troops who served as an escort and guard for a large store of supplies. Treaties were made with most of the tribes about the post, with the Senecas of the Maumee valley and with the Chippewas to the northward. In spite of these efforts toward the establishment of friendly relations, however, the continuation of the unscrupulous methods of trading employed by certain of the English so inflamed the savages that they still believed the English would eventually dispossess them of their lands.
The most influential of the natives who entertained distrust and hatred against the British was Pontiac, chief of the Ottawas. This was then the most intelligent and civilized of the Indian tribes in the vicinity of Detroit From the very first of the English occupancy Pontiac had watched with disfavor their entrance into what he considered the God-given territory of his people. After a little more than two years of association with them he concluded they would forever be a source of danger to the sons of the forest.
While Gladwin was occupied with the administration of the affairs of the post and resting in assurance of friendly relations with his savage neighbors, Pontiac's home at Peche island in Lake Ste. Claire, became the scene of great activity. Indian runners were constantly arriving and departing, bearing mysterious messages to and from the chiefs and the medicine men of the western tribes. The crafty Pontiac had evolved no less a plot than that which sought the absolute extermination of the English or their expulsion from the chosen hunting grounds about the western lakes. Systematically, and with a care that would have done credit to a trained political organizer, were the chief's plans laid. Pontiac realized fully that the greatest strength of the English posts lay in their ability to aid each other in case of attack and he accordingly proposed in the councils of his brothers a simultaneous attack on the isolated forts, which would preclude the possibility of any such interchange of support.
Reports of the strength of each of the western forts were brought to the lodge at Peche island, that the chief might the more wisely direct his campaign. Incendiary messages went forth, inciting the wrath of the subsidiary leaders and inflaming the young fighting men with a lust for English blood.
In April, 1763, a great council was called at Ecorse, just below Detroit, at which the chief's plans were fully made known to all the Detroit Indians and their complete enlistment insured. On the 1st of May Pontiac himself visited the fort at Detroit, to assure himself of the exact conditions of its defenses. Even then the commandant entertained no suspicion of the infamous conspiracy which was to result in a practical siege of the post and prove itself, perhaps, the greatest crisis in the history of the settlement.
Four days later a second Indian council was held, and the final details of the attack were arranged.
In just what way the English were warned of the intended attempt to take the post is a matter of some doubt. Several more or less romantic accounts of the circumstance are current, but certain it is that the settlement owes its very existence to the fact that before Pontiac's plans could be put into execution Gladwin was made aware that a conspiracy was on foot. Since the Indians were held in a certain easy contempt by the British, they were usually allowed reasonable freedom inside the stockade, and it was on this circumstance very largely that Pontiac staked the outcome of his plans. Having been careful to impress his great friendship upon the commandant, he foresaw that with but comparatively few warriors once inside the fortifications, he could effect a sudden attack and in the ensuing confusion make the post an easy prize.
Sixty chosen warriors were supplied with rifles whose barrels had been sawed so short as to permit their being carried in safe concealment under the blankets of the attacking party. To further allay all suspicion, the chief was to pretend that the visit was made for the purpose of more securely cementing the friendship between his people and the White Father. Then, if the circumstances were auspicious, he was to present to Gladwin a belt of wampum, holding the gift in a reversed position. If, however, any untoward occurrence should make the advisability of the attack doubtful, the wampum belt was to be presented in the usual way and the attempt postponed.
One account has it that a certain chief, Mohican by name, who was opposed to Pontiac's scheme, came by stealth to the gate of the fort and personally warned Gladwin of his threatened peril. Another chronicler asserts that the wife of one of the French habitants detected a party of savages in the act of sawing off the gun barrels and, by the air of secrecy attending the performance, was aroused to such an extent that she informed one of the artisans of the fort, thus giving the alarm. Whoever the informant may have been, Gladwin faithfully maintained the confidence, as no authentic report has been found to exist among his papers. Many years after the conspiracy, an unsigned manuscript was discovered, presumably written by one of the priests at the mission opposite Detroit. This substantiates the Mohican account, though a more popular legend has to do with an Indian maiden, Catherine by name, who is supposed to have formed an attachment for the commandant, and, in truly melodramatic fashion, informed the gallant young captain of the plot of the sixty warriors. However, the warning may have been given, the British were fully prepared for any denouement, and when Pontiac and his men appeared the garrison was under arms.
Seated in the council chamber, the commandant and his staff received the visitors, but gave no sign that they suspected treachery, save that they appeared with a full complement of side arms. As he passed through the narrow streets, Pontiac saw at once that every soldier was equipped with musket and bayonet and that small squads, fully armed, had been deployed about the gates of the fort. The disappointment was a bitter one, but retreat was impossible. The visit had to be carried out or additional suspicion would be aroused. Gladwin listened with apparent good humor to Pontiac's oration of friendship until the chief was about to present the wampum belt. Then, at the sudden signal from the commandant, the roll of the drums was heard. The crisis had arrived. The English soon perceived that even the renowned chief could not preserve his usual stoical expression. The white men had played the game with a reckless bravery that completely overawed the savages. At the psychological moment, Gladwin sprang from his chair and, pulling aside the blanket of one of the visitors, he exposed a hidden gun to the assembly. In a bitter arraignment of their treachery, the commandant assured the Indians that the vengeance of the White Father would be sudden and severe should any further instance of misconduct warrant their punishment, but that so long as they remained faithful to the conditions of their treaties, the friendship of the British would be ever generous. To further impress his tendency towards friendship and forgiveness, Gladwin served the conspirators with food and beer before dismissing them. The seeds of a great uneasiness were sowed among the whites by this verification of treacherous intentions and the humiliating experience of the proud chief only made the more bitter his hatred for the English and the more firm his intention of driving them from the land.
Repeated efforts on the part of Pontiac to regain the English confidence that he might make effective his original plans, met with failure. The garrison was kept almost constantly under arms in anticipation of an attack in force.
Goaded to a frenzy by this unexpected turn of affairs, the chief shortly gave up all semblance of friendship and openly attacked three settlers, who were put to the torture within sight of the fort. Following this, a settler, one James Fisher, his wife and two soldiers were massacred on Belle Isle and a herd of the garrison cattle, pastured there, was stolen. On the same day, Pontiac moved his camp across the river to the Michigan shore, thus formally beginning a war destined to place Detroit in the position of a beleaguered citadel and to continue for many days.
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