Landmarks of Detroit - Robert B. Ross - ebook

Landmarks of Detroit ebook

Robert B. Ross



While the history of most American cities is rather commonplace, there are a few which furnish a story of facts more fascinating than any romance. In the development of a new country the civilization, which in time leavens the great mass of barbarism, works from a few central points. In North America Boston became the nucleus of the New England colony, although it was not the first settlement. Jamestown was the first settlement of the Virginia colony, but the town never attained great importance. New York and Philadelphia became important towns, but for the first century of their existence their influence extended over but a small area. Detroit, from the date of its founding, nearly 200 years ago, became the metropolis of the region of the great lakes and the guardian of the straits. For a period of 125 years Detroit was both the rallying point and the emporium of the West. Three nations struggled and shed their blood for its possession.

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Landmarks of Detroit


A History of the City









Landmarks of Detroit, Ross/Catlin

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9



ISBN: 9783849650599

[email protected]



























































































While the history of most American cities is rather commonplace, there are a few which furnish a story of facts more fascinating than any romance. In the development of a new country the civilization, which in time leavens the great mass of barbarism, works from a few central points. In North America Boston became the nucleus of the New England colony, although it was not the first settlement. Jamestown was the first settlement of the Virginia colony, but the town never attained great importance. New York and Philadelphia became important towns, but for the first century of their existence their influence extended over but a small area. Detroit, from the date of its founding, nearly 200 years ago, became the metropolis of the region of the great lakes and the guardian of the straits. For a period of 125 years Detroit was both the rallying point and the emporium of the West. Three nations struggled and shed their blood for its possession.

Before the advent of the railroad it was almost the only gateway of the vast territory between the great lakes and the Pacific Ocean.

The French outstripped the British in pushing their colonies westward and founded Detroit as their stronghold for the defense of the great lakes in 1701. After fifty-nine years, the British crowded them off the soil of Canada and the West, leaving them only Louisiana. Then came the war of the Revolution and Detroit was the headquarters of British operations in the West. From this military stronghold, they maintained an Indian warfare upon the outlying American settlements, while the male colonists were fighting in the East. In 1783 the American Revolution ended, and the treaty of Paris acknowledged the independence of the United States and their possession of all the territory east of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes. But Great Britain saw the important position of Detroit as a headquarters for renewing the war to recover the lost colonies and refused to fulfill the terms of the treaty. During the next thirteen years the British commandants at Detroit were constantly employed in setting the Indians upon the American settlers in the Ohio valley, and stated prices were paid for the scalps of hundreds of white men, women and children at the fort in this city. After Gen. Anthony Wayne defeated the British and Indians on the Maumee River the Jay treaty was accomplished, which gave Detroit to the United States, but the British continued to incite the Indians against the Americans and afflict them in various ways until the war of 1812 became a necessity. Again, Detroit was the center of military operations, and one of the first acts of the British government was to secure its possession by treachery. Perry's victory on Lake Erie compelled them to evacuate Detroit in 1813, and since that time the city has been an undisputed possession of the American government.

From first to last Detroit has been a city of thrilling events. The wars with the Indians were all centered about this city, and it was here that the conspiracy of Pontiac, the greatest leader of his race, was foiled, although it succeeded in every other post attacked. These are but a few of the dramatic events which make up the history.

The development of the city as a commercial power is no less interesting than its early struggle for existence. The compilers have expended much conscientious labor upon the work, and have spared no pains to secure exact information from the most reliable sources. By the aid of manuscripts and correspondence, which have come to light during the last decade, many standard myths and fanciful traditions have been dispelled and disproved. It has been the aim to prepare a correct history of Detroit in the narrative style, giving the natural chronological order of events. This makes a work adapted for general reading as well as a book of reference, a book which it is believed will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

To avoid diverting the attention of the reader by the use of foot notes, all explanatory matter and references have been incorporated in the regular text of the book. Each prominent man is introduced with a succinct biography which describes his personal appearance and his most striking characteristics, without glossing over his faults, without detracting from his merits. The co-relation and significance of the principal events is also shown understandingly. Landmarks of Detroit is a narrative of extraordinary interest for which the compilers claim no particular credit. They have only taken the natural course of events and combined them in consecutive order.

We desire to express grateful acknowledgments to Mr. C. M. Burton, of Detroit, who has taken a personal interest in this work from the first. Mr. Burton is known everywhere as the possessor of the most complete historical library in the West. He has about 10,000 volumes, and at least 25,000 manuscripts, which relate either directly or indirectly to Detroit. He has complete files of most of the old newspapers of the city and the official and commercial correspondence of the early settlers. The correspondence of Cadillac and the other French commandants, the correspondence of the British commandants and later documents, showing the development of the western territory into States, is also to be found in his library. All this priceless material Mr. Burton placed at the disposal of the compilers, and he took so profound an interest in the work that he revised all the manuscripts and the proofs. The fact that this matter has passed through Mr. Burton's hands and has met his approval, is the best recommendation of the work we can offer. The matter has been culled from original sources in order to avoid, as much as possible, the errors which have crept into standard histories.

Acknowledgment is also due to Mr. Richard R. Elliott, who furnished valuable matter regarding the history of the early Jesuit mission, the affairs of old Ste. Anne's and the conspiracy of Pontiac. That the book contains many errors cannot be doubted. It is not given to man to produce perfect work. Landmarks of Detroit is submitted with a confidence which is supported by the hard and conscientious work which has been expended upon it.

The compilers, ROBERT B. Ross, GEORGE B. CATLIN.




On the 23d day of July 1701, late in the afternoon, when the Detroit River gleamed like molten gold under the hot summer sun, a fleet of birch bark canoes suddenly appeared off the head of Belle Isle, and, propelled swiftly by the sturdy arms of the rowers, bore rapidly down with the current in the direction of the high banks and the wooded slopes along the western shore. Neither friend nor foe came forth to greet the intrepid travelers, who thus arrived unheralded, and who were soon to bring to a welcome termination one of those remarkable journeys, at once the necessity and the extremity of pioneer days in this great northwestern country, of which Detroit was the center and most important post during a period of one hundred and fifty years.

The route of these weary travelers had led by baffling stages for several hundred leagues through tortuous streams and primeval forests, whose wild grandeur was intensified by vast solitude and whose dangers in the way of marauding bands of murderous red skins, untried rapids in unknown rivers, and the fierce assaults of wild animals, might well appall the stoutest hearts. Thence the course lay along the waters of the mighty inland seas, whose limits, whose storms and whose reefs and shoals were to these hardy invaders of the wilderness alike unknown. Encamped under the stars by night and guided by friendly voyageurs by day, the little band had come at last almost to their long journey's end; and never was time more auspicious to bid a welcome.

History records that the newcomers entered Detroit River upon a day splendid and golden, like their hopes of future fortune, and that never did the green groves edging the shores present a more superb appearance, being as they were absolutely guiltless of the desecrating contact of the hand of civilized man, his rude destroying axe, or his leveling plow, and being furthermore in the very height of summer's gayest livery of vivid green.

The sight the travelers gained of their future home was inspiring, and yet the groves edging the shores where lisped the peaceful blue river were merely the border of a mighty wilderness. Birds of rare plumage caroled forth a welcome, and the breezes whispered of peace and rest. Afar, rising here and there to the bright blue skies, soft as those of sunny southern France, curled an occasional thin column of smoke, marking the camp fire of some roving band of Indians; but no human sound awoke the echoes of the slumbering shores of the wide strait, nor disturbed the intense serenity of the peaceful groves. Had there been any Indians at this point on either side of the silent stream, whose currents ever ran toward the mighty ocean, a thousand miles away, they could have seen a fleet of bark canoes, whose occupants were clad with unconventional informality, for full clothing was not desirable on that warm July day. There were twenty-five large canoes, occupied by one hundred white men, and they were led by an escort of smaller craft propelled by one hundred Algonquin Indians. History and tradition aver that no human being saw from the shore the approaching flotilla at this point. The canoes were capacious crafts, each being about twenty-five feet in length and having a beam of six feet; their capacity was about two tons each.

The uniforms of the fifty soldiers (for such indeed was the official station of half the travelers) were those of the period, common to the army of France; dark blue coats with white facings, the garments being fastened at the neck and cut away tapering toward the bottom, with white narrow slashes of about three inches in length, which defined and covered the unused button hole; diagonally across from shoulder to hip were baldrics of white; and knee breeches and leggings of the same color completed the decorations of their uniforms. Some of the troopers, with a touch of that precision in dress that has ever been a characteristic of the French nation, even retained the white powder on their wigs, despite the fatiguing voyage on which negligence of toilet would be entirely excusable. All the soldiers wore the famous three-cornered chapeau of felt or cloth, surmounted with three feathers.

 The three officers wore substantially the same uniform, the only difference being in the texture of the cloth, and an occasional ornament in the shape of embroidery on the hat and coat. However, it is not to be supposed that a canoe voyage of forty-eight days, with exposure to dun and rain and with camping in primeval forests at night, bad not made sad havoc with military toilets. Nor could it be expected, therefore, that these half hundred soldiers could have passed a dress parade inspection at the hands of some military martinet. Be that as it may, neither privations nor dangers had dimmed the luster of the proud flag of France, which was flaunted to the breezes' caress at the stern of the canoe of the expedition's leader-a field of white with three golden fleurs de lis on a blue shield. From several of the canoes arose the inspiring strains of martial music, the drum and ear-piercing fife. Besides the soldiers there was an equal number of emigrants, so that the expedition numbered one hundred in all. These emigrants were agriculturists and artisans.

In the first canoe sat the Chevalier Cadillac, leader of the expedition, holding a small telescope in his hand with which he frequently surveyed the landscape. He was a man forty-three years of age, of distinguished mien, with the dark complexion of the south of France, for he was a Gascon; his eyes were bright and piercing and his expression denoted courage, persistency and buoyant spirits. His face bore traces of the battle of life, of conflict with opposing forces and of exposure to the elements. As sailor, soldier, explorer and statesman, he had already made many pages of French history. Such was Antoine Laurmet de La Mothe Cadillac, Lord of Donaquec and Mt. Desert, Knight of the Royal and Military order of St. Louis, and for five years commandant of the post of Michilimackinac. He surveyed with restless eyes the thickly wooded shores, seeking a convenient spot for disembarking.

Every available spot for the site of a military post was carefully observed. Cadillac wanted the most commanding situation on the river; a place where the cannon of the future post could defend the stream and keep the gateway of the lakes against all the enemies of France. The fleet passed down the stream to the mouth of the river. When passing Grosse Isle the commander thought of founding his post on that island, because Paris was originally founded on the Isle de Paris, but realized that such a location would make it difficult to transport heavy merchandise, wood and the other necessaries of life from the main land, and that at times the running ice would make it impossible to use the frail bark canoes for outside communication. They camped on Grosse Isle that night, and next morning the voyagers proceeded up the stream again, keeping time to their boat song with the strong sweep of their paddles. In the blazing heat of the afternoon they came again to the high terraces on the north side of the river, about two and one half miles below what is now Belle Isle. Cadillac's canoe was pointed toward the beach and all the rest of the flotilla turned likewise, the men setting up a rousing cheer.

The long voyage was over. It had started forty-nine days before, on June 5, from La Chine, on the St. Lawrence, a short distance above Montreal. Entering the Ottawa River the travelers had threaded the windings of that stream for more than three hundred leagues, making upward of thirty portages. Finally, the party reached the nearest point to Lake Nippissing, where the last and most fatiguing portage was effected to that body of water. The remainder of the route was down French River to Lake Huron; down the lake to the head of the straits, where Duluth in 1687 had built a fort which was burned down two years later; through the St. Clair River and Lake and thence on to the Detroit River, a land and water journey of over a thousand miles.

The canoes were drawn up on the beach and the provisions, tools and stores taken out; the latter included a small brass cannon. Camp fires were lighted and tents pitched, and the evening meal discussed. The two priests led in a vesper service of song; soon the shades of night fell on the unwonted scene, and the travelers laid down to well-earned repose. Next day, after morning mass in the woodland, Cadillac made proclamation that the land and the waters were the property of his majesty, Louis XIV. The building of log cabins for the settlers commenced and on the following day the work of erecting a church was begun, the edifice being dedicated to Ste. Anne, for it was the day on which that holy woman died. The commander also laid out a quadrangle for a fort, which enclosed about two hundred feet on each side, situated between Griswold street, Jefferson avenue, Shelby street and the river. The work was prosecuted with diligence in order that the fort should furnish immediate command of the strait and the opposite shore, and also because Cadillac knew that the winters were severe and good shelter was an absolute necessity. The new settlement was close to the hunting and trapping grounds of the blood-thirsty Iroquois, who were very changeable in their likes and dislikes, and so numerous that the wiping out of an inadequately protected outpost was for them an easy undertaking. In a few days, the whole space of one arpent square was enclosed by a substantial stockade, consisting of oak pickets fifteen feet in length sunk in the ground to a depth of three feet. There was a gentle slope of about forty paces to the river which formed a very desirable glacis. The best authority has it that Cadillac's fortified village had its southeast corner on the south side of Jefferson avenue, about where the Palms block now stands. Its northern wall reached westward to a point about thirty feet west of Shelby street. It was bounded on the west by a line running south from the last-named point to the river bank, which was then a bluff nearly forty feet high. The south wall ran along this bluff and the maps show that the stockade was laid out on the cardinal points of the compass. Inside the stockade there was a clear space of twelve feet, so that its defenders could quickly assemble at any threatened point of danger. The picket wall was pierced for musketry and there were bastions on each corner.

And thus Cadillac founded Detroit!

While the founder of the city was threading the tortuous windings of the Ottawa, on his way to Detroit, the Iroquois held a council with the British authorities of New York, and as a result they conveyed to King William III, of England, all their claims to lands in the west including the Straits of Detroit, which they called Tjeuchsaghronde (Teuscha Gronde). This was done to exhibit their resentment against the claim of Frontenac, the French governor, who answered their protest against erecting a post and fort on the Detroit or straits, by saying that the land belonged to his master the king of France. The conveyance was made on June 19, 1701, five days before Cadillac landed at Detroit.

Robert Livingstone, an English trader at Orange (Albany), wanted his government to establish a post on Detroit River in 1699, and he made a careful report of the advantages he had noted when making a trip to the upper lakes during the previous year.




In order to appreciate the significance of Cadillac's expedition and his selection of Detroit as a landing place, it is well to briefly outline the trend of colonization in America. Columbus landed at San Salvador in 1492, and took possession of the Bahama Islands in the name of Spain. In the course of his later voyages he slightly enlarged his range of discovery and the consequent claims of the Spanish crown.

Within a few years other explorations added Mexico, Florida, Louisiana, Peru, Chili, and other South American territory to Spain by claim of discovery. Don Pedro Cabral, a Portuguese, laid claim to Brazil.

The British founded a settlement at Jamestown, Va., in 1607, which was the pioneer colony in North America. The French, under Champlain, founded Quebec in 1608; and the third colony, Manhattan Island (New York), was settled by the Dutch in 1610, having been discovered by Hendrick Hudson the previous year. English Puritans founded the Massachusetts colony in 1620, while the British government laid claim to the entire coast north of the Florida line to the St. Lawrence, by virtue of the discoveries of John and Sebastian Cabot, who made landings at various places between Greenland and the South Atlantic coaSt. The fever of adventure and exploration possessed France, Spain, Portugal, England and Holland. While the Cabots were discovering Labrador and Newfoundland, Vasco De Gama, a Portuguese navigator, skirted the coast of Africa, rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached the East Indies, then the goal of all sea explorations at that time.

Gasper Cortereal followed the Cabots to Labrador and Newfoundland.

Italy, which did less exploring than any of the other nations, sent out Amerigo Vespucci to America in 1499; he discovered nothing which had not been discovered before his arrival, but by a strange irony of fate this most inferior navigator who had yet crossed the Atlantic gave his name to a continent four times larger than Europe and the new world was thereafter known as America. While these explorations were progressing in the north, Ferdinand de Soto, the Spanish explorer, was making a brilliant page in the history of America. In 1519, he accompanied Davila to Darien, where the latter was governor. De Soto explored the coast of South America; joined Pizarro in his conquest of Peru; wrested Florida from the Indians in 1540; located a line of forts reaching from Florida to the Mississippi, which he discovered at a point not far from the borders of Tennessee. He died of swamp fever on its banks in April 1541, and was buried in a weighted canoe in the middle of the great river in order that the savages might not mutilate his body.

In spite of the sweeping claims of the English, and their evident intention to crowd out all other claimants, the French were determined to have a liberal slice of the territory of the new world. In 1506 Denis de Honfleur, a French navigator, entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and twelve years later Baron De Lery established a convict colony on the barren sands of Sable Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia.

This was presently abandoned on account of the severity of the climate, and then John Verrazano made a superficial examination of the coast south of the St. Lawrence, and claimed the whole territory for Francis I of France. So far the French explorations were unfruitful, because the discoverers found that they had been preceded by navigators of other nations. Jacques Cartier visited the coast of Newfoundland in 1534, and on his second voyage he sailed up the St. Lawrence to the St. Charles River, near where Quebec was subsequently founded. He traded with the Indians and explored the region about the river, but finding no spices or precious metals he went back to France with discouraging reports of the new country.

Although the ardor of the French was dampened, Cartier returned in 1540 and visited what were to be the future sites of the cities of Quebec and Montreal, the latter being at that time the Indian village of Hochelaga. He built a small fort on the St. Charles, and then French enterprise slumbered for half a century. In 1598, the Marquis de la Roche added another failure to the long list of explorations made by his countrymen, but a more competent explorer was ready to carry the flag of France across the Atlantic, and plant it where it should wave for more than half a century. Henry IV had a rather poor opinion of the new world, but he granted the request of M. de Chastes, governor of Dieppe, to found settlements in the St. Lawrence region. De Chastes sent an able substitute in Samuel Champlain, of Saintonge, who sailed from Honfleur, March 11, 1603, accompanied by M. Pont-Grave, a sailor of St. Malo. After three voyages and nearly five years of exploration, Champlain in 1608 founded Quebec at the narrows of the St. Lawrence, because the place offered unusual advantages for military defense. He organized a settlement and took sides with the Algonquins against the Iroquois; discovered Lake Champlain, the majestic sheet of water which bears his name, and explored the valley of the Ottawa, which was the first highway of his countrymen to the great lakes. He reached Lake Huron, embarked on its waters and after reaching the foot of the lake, made his way back to the St. Lawrence. As to Champlain's route on his return from Lake Huron to the St Lawrence, there is no reliable account.

Having made his journey to the foot of Lake Huron over the route traversed by Cadillac ninety years later, it would appear that he would very naturally have entered the St. Clair River, traversed Lake St. Clair, and passing down Detroit River would have made his return to the east by Lake Erie. Then by a portage around Niagara Falls he could have reached Lake Ontario and eventually arrived at the future site of Fort Frontenac, which was established on the site of Kingston, Ont. It is a plausible theory, because he was a man who appreciated the value of water communication, which was the only means of transportation except the backs of the cozureurs de bois. The light birch canoes could be propelled swiftly along with a considerable load of furs or merchandise. In the trackless wilderness no pedestrian, except a trained Indian runner, could equal them as a means of communication, and they were beyond competition as carriers for the early commerce of New France. In spite of this reasonable conclusion and the subsequent claims of Governor Denonville in support of it, there is no evidence to prove the discovery. Champlain was spying out the new country for the purpose of making France the mistress of the northwestern region, which as yet was open to the undisputed claim of the French crown. Having such a purpose in view he would naturally have made a careful report of the most desirable route for reaching the upper lake region. He could hardly have failed to appreciate the beauty of the straits and their importance to future commerce, and among his papers describing his discoveries some reference should have been found in regard to the two rivers, Lake St. Clair, and of his voyage on Lake Erie. Thus, theory and reason would apparently have led the explorer to follow the outlet of Lake Huron as far as possible, upon the supposition that he had reached the head waters of the St. Lawrence River; but had he done so he would naturally have made an enthusiastic report of his discoveries.

The establishment of the colony of New France was due principally to the efforts of Champlain. In 1620, the new world was made up of New France (of which Acadia, afterward Nova Scotia, was a portion), Newfoundland, New England, New Spain, New Brunswick and Nieu Nederlands. Champlain was governor of New France from 1612 to 1629, and again from 1633 to 1635, and died in the latter year at Quebec. In 1628 France and England were at war. Charles I of England gave Sir David Kirke, a French refugee, a commission for an expedition against Canada. He appeared before Quebec that summer with a small fleet and demanded a surrender. Champlain made a show of great strength by cunning deception, and Kirke abandoned the siege.

In 1629 he came again, and Champlain being in desperate straits from lack of provisions, clothing and ammunition, was compelled to surrender all Canada to England. Champlain went to England a prisoner, but was released. The treaty of St Germain en Laye restored Canada to the French in 1632, and Champlain set out the next spring with three ships and once more took command at Quebec. He began his explorations when he was thirty-three years of age and was one of the most energetic as well as the most pious of explorers. He regarded the Indians with due respect, and he believed the first duty of the state was to convert them to Christianity. He was so strict in his integrity that he never engaged in the fur trade, which offered great profit. It was his ambition to make New France a thriving agricultural country, instead of a trading territory for amassing riches, and as far as he was able he filled the settlements with farmers and artisans, to whom seeds and tools were provided. But he was greatly hampered by the commercial companies who sought to make fortunes quickly. The De Caens, uncle and nephew, who were granted a monopoly of the trade of the colony, were turbulent and headstrong in their opposition to Champlain's plans, and acted as though the savages were the legitimate prey of the traders. Champlain saw their conduct was unbearable, and to get rid of them he went back to France. As he expected, the settlement became too hot for the De Caens during his absence, and they had to leave. At Lake Champlain, in the combined attacks of the Algonquins and Hurons upon the Iroquois, Champlain fired his ancient harquebus with deadly effect, and the sound of this firearm struck terror to the Iroquois, as they believed the weapon to be endowed with supernatural qualities.

Contemporaneous with the explorations by agents of the government were the labors of the Jesuit missionaries. Their heroic work of evangelization among the savage tribes, penetrating to the remotest parts of the wilderness, and carrying the cross wherever human beings could be found, makes a story as fascinating as the most thrilling of romances. In September 1641, Raymbault came to the Falls of St.Mary, or Sault Ste. Marie, being the first Jesuit missionary who visited that field, and the first among the Indian tribes of Michigan. Next came Fathers Jacques and Bressani, Jean de Breboeuf, Chaumonot, Claude Dablon, Mesnard, and others. In 1660 Mesnard, an aged priest, reached a bay on the south shore of Lake Superior, where he established a mission and called it St. Theresa; the year following he advanced to the bay of Che-goi-me-gon. He was lost in the forest and never seen again, but among the amulets of the Sioux were discovered his breviary and cassock. Another French Jesuit was Father Claude Allouez, who founded the Holy Spirit Mission at the bay of Che-goime-gon, on the south shore of Lake Superior in 1665; also one at Green Bay; and also explored portions of Wisconsin and Illinois. M. Louis Joliet was the first explorer who passed up Detroit River and left a clear record of the trip. He made a trip from La Chine, above Montreal, to Niagara in July 1669, and after visiting several Indian villages of the Senecas in that vicinity, he set out with three canoes and a company of seven men for a voyage of discovery. In his party were Fathers Galinee and Dollier, two priests of St. Sulpice; they made the trip in safety and passed up the Detroit River to Lake St. Clair early in 1670. Reports of their discoveries are but meager, but in the preserved correspondence of Father Gallinee there is an account of their discovery of an idol on the banks of the Detroit River, about six leagues from Lake Erie, at or near the site of the city of Detroit. It was a carved stone image, which the Indians undertook to propitiate by offerings, as it was supposed to exercise some influence over Lake Erie. The pious fathers fell upon it with great zeal and destroyed it at the expense of their hatchets, subsequently scattering the fragments in the river. Their pious zeal destroyed what would have proved a most interesting relic for the Detroit museum. A stone idol in this part of the country would appear to be a relic of a race much older than the Indians who occupied the territory when the French arrived-a race whose relics are rare and highly esteemed by archaeologists. They prepared the following certificate of discovery while on this trip and it was filed in the archives of state at Quebec.

"We the undersigned, certify that we have seen the arms of the king of France set up on the lands of the lake called Erie, at the foot of a cross with this inscription: ' The year of salvation 1669, Clement IX being seated in the chair of St Peter, Louis XIV reigning in France, Monsieur de Courcelles being governor of New France, and Monsieur Talon being intendant for the king, two missionaries from the seminary of Montreal having arrived at this place, accompanied by seven other Frenchmen, who, the first of all the European nations, have witnessed on this lake, of which they have taken possession in the name of their king as an unoccupied land, by setting up his arms which they have affixed at the foot of this cross. In witness whereof we have signed the present certificate: "Francois Dollier, priest for the diocese of Nantes in Britanny; "De Galinee, deacon of the diocese in Rennes in Britanny.'"

Father Marquette, another Jesuit missionary and explorer, was born of an illustrious French family in 1637, came to Quebec in 1666, and there became an Indian missionary. He learned and spoke the language of the three great confederacies-Algonquins, Hurons and Iroquois, and was esteemed the greatest of the Indian missionaries. In 1668, he established a mission at St. Ignace and preached the gospel to 2,000 Indians. In 1673, at the request of Governor Frontenac, he and Joliet began their wonderful exploration of the Mississippi, going within ten days' journey of its mouth, and ascertaining that this stream flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. Marquette also did much missionary work at Green Bay and visited the Chicago River as early as 1674. On May 27, 1765, he died while traveling toward Green Bay, from the country of the Miamis, and was buried in a sand dune near the present site of Ludington, Mich., but subsequently his body was removed by faithful Indians to the mission at St. Ignace, where it was buried under the altar.

Records of early days in New France, and particularly those relating to voyages of discovery, are but fragmentary, and in many cases there is nothing but correspondence of officials, who had no active part in the discoveries, to inform the later generations regarding the first visits of the white man to portions of the Northwest. One reason for this is that the explorers had to traverse dangerous waters where they frequently were fortunate in escaping with their lives, and many papers and journals were thus lost to the world. There are vague reports concerning a trip of unknown voyageurs from the St. Lawrence River to Lake Huron and Mackinac, by way of Lake Erie, as early as 1659, but the names of the travelers are unknown and the report is not authentic. It is generally supposed that previous to the time of Joliet's voyage coureurs de bois had visited Detroit, but they were usually illiterate fellows who were unable to leave a written record of their doings.



Robert Cavalier de La Salle, a native of Normandie, and a fur trader, was ever ambitious to extend the commercial supremacy of France.

After various explorations and a visit to France, he built the " Griffon,"

a ship of sixty tons, hewn out of green logs, on the shore of the Niagara River, at the mouth of Cayuga Creek, above the great cataract.

La Salle was an ideal explorer. He had the genius for discovery, and went to his destination by what he believed to be the most direct route, regardless of obstacles. For years, the early explorers had made their way to the great lakes by the Ottawa River route, because the Indians of Canada and those south of the St. Lawrence and the lakes, were almost constantly at war. The north shore of Lake Erie was avoided by the early voyageurs because it was frequently overrun by Indian scalp hunters from the Ohio region. Detroit was undoubtedly an important Indian rendezvous, being a beaver region, but there is no authentic record of any attempt to establish a trading post south of the foot of Lake Huron in the seventeenth century. La Salle with his small company of followers started out from Fort Frontenac resolved to solve the riddle of the great lakes. He no doubt believed that not only were they all connected together, but that they also communicated with the Pacific Ocean, and his first chosen task was to explore the unknown waters of Lake Erie in spite of the dangers which lay before him. He began felling timber on the banks of Cayuga Creek, where it empties into Niagara River. The Seneca Indians in that vicinity showed some hostility against these operations, and to avoid a collision La Salle sent Sieur de La Motte, Father Hennepin, an interpreter named Brassart, and three voyageurs, to Tagarondies, the capital of the Seneca nation, which is located near the present town of Victor, Ontario county, N.Y. The distance, nearly a hundred miles, was traversed on snow shoes. The Indians said they would oppose a French settlement at Cayuga Creek, but would not prevent the building of the vessel, provided it went away and did not return. The work of building a vessel of sixty tons capacity was steadily prosecuted, and it was launched in April 1679. The Griffon, or Le Griffon, named after the heraldic figure of La Salle's coat of arms, then set sail for the upper lakes, with La Salle, Henry Tonty, an Italian soldier of fortune, Louis Hennepin, the fearless Franciscan friar, and Fathers Zenobe and Riboirdier on board. They left on August 7, leaving Father Melethon in charge of stores at Niagara, and after coasting along the north shore of the lake turned up the Detroit River. The Griffon reached Lake St. Clair August 12, which according to the church calendar is Ste. Claire's day, and in honor of that pious maiden the explorer named the lake. Some writers and geographers, including Judge A. B. Woodward, have stated that the river which bears this name derived its title from Capt. Patrick Sinclair, an English officer who built a fort where Pine River flows into it, at the site of the present city of St. Clair. Some of the geographers have also made the mistake of naming the river Sinclair in their maps. They were thirteen days reaching Lake Huron; they called at Mackinac Island; and at the end of twenty-six days they landed on the shores of Green Bay.

Thus, it happened that the Griffon with her crew of thirty-four men, was the first vessel to sail the western lakes, and was the forerunner of the splendid fleet which now carries the commerce of an empire every year. There was, previously, at least one vessel on Lake Ontario, but the Griffon was the first that showed the way of commerce through the chain of the great lakes; and it also furnished the first marine tragedy.

La Salle's long absence from Montreal and the dangerous reputation of the country into which he had plunged, convinced his friends and his creditors that he had been lost in the wilderness. While they had begun to divide up his personal property among themselves, La Salle was loading the Griffon with furs and peltry at Green Bay. The vessel sailed away with her cargo in charge of a crew of six men, intending to land at the launching place on Niagara River and forward the cargo to Montreal. The bold explorer and his companions stood on the beach of Lake Michigan and watched her tiny sail melt away in the distance. From that hour, no tidings were obtained of the missing bark, its crew or its valuable freight. She is supposed to have foundered in a September gale while crossing Lake Michigan, as she never reached Mackinac Island.

As soon as the Griffon had departed with her cargo, which represented all the fortune of the explorer, his restless spirit urged him forward to new discoveries. He set out southward in canoes and followed the shore of Lake Michigan to the mouth of the Chicago River; at length he reached the mouth of the St. Joseph River, where Father Allouez had founded a small mission among the Miamis. There he built Fort Miami and waited in vain for the return of his ship. Again his spirit rebelled at inaction and he pressed on with his little company, following the river into the Kankakee marshes, and finally by portage reaching the Illinois River. Down this stream they came upon a deserted Indian village, and found stores of corn buried under the wigwams.

Loading some of this food supply into their canoes they proceeded to Lake Peoria, an enlargement of the Illinois River. There they came upon a friendly party of Illinois Indians and erected another fort. It was evident that the ship Griffon had met with some mishap. Winter was at hand and the handful of explorers were in a far wilderness without supplies. In token of his discouraging position La Salle named the fort Creve Coeur, or " Broken Heart." Even the desperate straits which befell this expedition did not crush La Salle. Making his followers as comfortable as possible at Creve Coeur he set out with three companions to make the way back to Fort Frontenac on foot. It was early in March; snow covered the ground; hungry wolves lurked in the trackless forests; there were rivers to cross and vast swamps to tread-but the three men with no other food than the chase afforded them made the journey of 1,200 miles in safety. Arrived at Fort Frontenac, La Salle learned that his friends and agents, supposing him to be dead, had administered his estate by dividing among themselves what his creditors had not seized. He set out again for Creve Coeur with abundant stores, but on arriving there found that the Iroquois had made a raid against the place, and after Tonty and his followers had abandoned it to avoid a battle, burned it to the ground. It took some time to collect his scattered followers from the wilderness. That fall and winter of 1681 was spent in preparing for an expedition down the Mississippi. Making an early start be arrived at the mouth of the river in April, where he set up a wooden cross with an inscription claiming the country for Louis XIV.

While La Salle was on his way to Frontenac, Father Hennepin, accompanied by Anthony Auguells and Michael Ako, boatmen, started to explore the head waters of the Mississippi, but were soon captured by a war party of Indians. They were taken up the river as far as St. Anthony's Falls, which were named by Father Hennepin. Leaving their canoes at the future site of Minneapolis, the Indians took their captives up the St. Francis River far into the northern wilderness near the head of Lake Superior. While they were captives in this territory Duluth, accompanied by five French voyageurs, arrived at the village and Father Hennepin and his two companions returned with them to Montreal, making a journey of about 2,500 miles. They were six months in the hands of their captors.

La Salle returned to France with glowing reports of his discoveries, for like most other enthusiasts he had a vivid imagination with which to embellish his facts. Louis XIV commissioned him with the duty of building outposts along the Mississippi reaching northward so as to hold the connection of the great valley with the lake region. La Salle set out, filled with renewed enthusiasm. Three vessels and a force of 280 men departed from Rochefort to be guided by La Salle to the mouth of the Mississippi, but from the very beginning of the enterprise there was trouble between the explorer and the senior captain of the expedition, M. Beaujeu. Beaujeu was jealous of the leader and either through treachery, or misfortune, the little squadron failed to find the mouth of the great river. A norther came on and Beaujeu refused to obey La Salle's instruction to work back along the northern coast of the gulf. He proceeded to the Bay of Matagorda, on the coast of Texas, and put the explorer ashore with 230 followers. In the heavy sea that was running most of the supplies of the colonists were lost in landing, and the ships sailed away, leaving them in an unknown and desolate country almost without resources. La Salle attempted to lead his followers by land to find the mouth of the Mississippi, but the vast swamps and the intricate network of bayous proved most confusing. Swamp fever rapidly thinned their ranks. Then an attempt was made to find the river by the use of canoes. This too failed, and after traversing innumerable bayous, each of which promised to be the river, the expedition turned westward across the plains of Texas hoping to find gold. In a short time, the 230 men were reduced to thirty-seven. Failing to enforce discipline by gentleness and entreaty, La Salle began to use harsh measures, and the company was soon in a state of mutiny. Finally, he set out from the valley of the Colorado River, accompanied by his nephew, Moranget, and fifteen men, with the purpose of reaching Canada. Two of the men, L'Archeveque and Duhaut, quarreled with Moranget. While the latter lay asleep Litot, the surgeon of the party, cleft his skull with an axe, after which several of his followers were also killed as they slept. For fear of being called to account for their crime, one of them shot La Salle dead. Such was the end of the greatest explorer sent out by France to search out the new world. His intelligent reasoning, his boldness of movement, his ingenuity and invincible courage in surmounting difficulties in the face of stupendous obstacles, stamp him as one of the greatest figures in American history. It was to La Salle and Champlain that France owed her possessions in America. Robert Cavalier de La Salle was a Norman with all the characteristics of that people. He was large of frame, restless in disposition and tormented by strong passions. Admitted to the Jesuit novitiate at the age of fifteen, he spent two years under the discipline of Father Mouret, but after his novitiate and during his probationary period his restless disposition proved unconquerable.

He went from place to place carrying on his studies and teaching. His passions frequently led him into unseemly conduct. He pined for the career of an adventurer, and on being refused permission to go to Portugal he asked to be released from his vows. After eight years of life in the order he was dismissed at his own request. His character has been carefully portrayed by Father Camille Rochementiex, who pictures him as a man of superb gifts of mind and body; a profound scholar, skilled in the arts and sciences, but restless, taciturn and morose under restraint. When he came into a commanding position, such as his talents merited, his uncurbed passions, and despotic disposition cost him the friendship of his followers, and were indirectly the cause of his untimely end at the age of forty-three years.

Of the Jesuits, who sometimes conducted expeditions themselves, and who almost invariably accompanied the expeditions of the French, it may be said that they were loyal soldiers of the cross whose holy ardor neither heat nor cold could diminish, hunger or torture daunt, or fear of death divert from their sacred purpose. Their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, were rigorously observed and their self-sacrificing devotion to God and the cause of religion made them the greatest heroes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

It will be seen that the explorers of various nations had practically closed up the Atlantic coast with their claims. England, Holland and Spain held the ocean front, and the latter country had rounded into the Gulf of Mexico, and started up the Mississippi, besides penetrating to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and over to the Pacific coast. France had entered a wedge of territory at the mouth of the St. Lawrence and the scheme of the government was to claim the region of Canada, the great lakes, the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, and all territory which might be discovered to the westward. Quebec and Montreal were the strongholds at the head of river navigation and from that point the claim of France was to be supported by a chain of forts; Fort Frontenac commanded the foot of Lake Ontario, the fort at Michilimackinac was their station for the upper lakes. Duluth built a fort, in 1687, at the foot of Lake Huron, on the west side, where the upper portion of the city of Port Huron, Mich., is now situated. It was first called Fort Detroit, but was more generally styled Fort St. Joseph. The English and Iroquois were about to move against it in great force in 1689, when Hontan burned it rather than have it fall into their hands. It then became apparent to the French that their chain of forts must be extended not only through the Mississippi valley to the Gulf of Mexico, but that the wonderful straits described by La Salle must be fortified to protect their fur trade from the aggressions of the English and the Iroquois. All the traffic of the lakes and their tributaries must come through these straits, the rivers Detroit and St. Clair, and a strong fort, planted in a commanding position, would keep the great seas of sweet water for France. Cadillac, the shrewd and doughty Gascon, who was one of the originators of this scheme, was chosen for that service, and the forging of the most important link in the chain of colonization was entrusted to his hands. The upbuilding of this splendid scheme of conquest and colonization was ably planned and faithfully executed, so that finally the interior of the country from Quebec to the headwaters of the Mississippi, and from thence to the Gulf of Mexico, belonged to France.

Through the neglect of the home government to provide for the maintenance of the colonies, the settlements languished as mere trading posts until the English soldiers and American colonists closed the door upon the French by capturing their stronghold on the St. Lawrence in 1759.           

 Among the heroic figures of French colonial days was Daniel Grisolon (or Duluth, as he is known), who deserves more than passing mention. His name appears in the old manuscripts as Du Lhu or Du Lhut, and the records show that he was one of the chief instruments in opening up the great west to the fur trade. He was born near Lyons, France, about 1645, and like other Frenchmen who came to the new world his family name was almost forgotten, and he was known by the place of his nativity. Duluth was the friend and companion of La Salle and the elder Tonty, and after making one trip with them he turned to the far north for individual exploration. His headquarters were established at Mackinaw, in the earliest days of that settlement, and he was the agent among the Indians of the Northwest, inducing them to be friendly with the Frenchmen and to bring their furs to Mackinaw for trade. He was next to Commandant Durantaye in authority and his associates were M. de la Forest, De Lusigny and Grisolon de la Tourette, his brother. Frontenac trusted his judgment in important matters, and the friendship between them aroused the jealousy of the Intendant Duchesnau, who feared Duluth's influence. The intendant declared Duluth to be a dangerous man to the crown, as he had more than 500 men in the upper country who acknowledged him as their commander and would follow wherever he might lead. He was certainly the leader of the coureurs de bois in the Northwest. At Thunder Bay, on the north shore of Lake Superior, he built a fort near the site of the present Fort William, in 1677. In 1678, he went to the headwaters of the Mississippi. In 1679, he visited the Sioux Indians and the Assiniboine Indians, who inhabited the region now known as Manitoba. In 1680, he went once more to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where he found Father Hennepin a prisoner among the Indians, he having been adopted as the son of a chief. He brought the priest down the river and crossed the country from the mouth of the Illinois River to Montreal. Duluth was a man of superb qualities; his courage was marvelous and his tact admirable. In 1684 two of his followers were waylaid and murdered by Indians on the north shore of Lake Superior. He realized that if the crime went unpunished, the Indians would hold him in contempt, and his followers would lack confidence in his ability. He walked boldly into the camp of a large band of Indians and asked for the warriors who had taken white scalps. Then he demanded their heads of the chief, but was refused; he seized the two offenders and shot them dead, regardless of the yells and threats of the savages who surrounded them, and thus gained their respect. In 1687, as already stated, he built Fort St. Joseph, at the foot of Lake Huron. His courage and tact were again displayed when the Iroquois descended upon Montreal in 1689. They came in such force that the settlers were seized with panic. Duluth took twenty-seven Canadians with him in a large canoe and went out to meet a party of twenty-two Iroquois, who were paddling on the river. The Indians opened fire and kept it up, but Duluth made his men stand to their paddles until they closed with the savages. Then eighteen were killed, three were taken prisoners and one was allowed to escape to tell the story of the white man's valor to the Six Nations.

Duluth suffered from articular rheumatism from his youth, and in many of his long journeys every step gave him a pang. He died in 1709 at the head of Lake Superior, and the thriving city of Duluth is a monument to his name.

As soon as La Salle had described the importance of Detroit River to Denonville at Quebec, and had shown the danger of its being seized by the English, the governor resolved to be first on the ground. The following extract is from a letter from Governor Denonville to Duluth, dated Ville de Marie (the ancient name for Montreal), June 6, 1686: "I hereby send you word to join M. Durantaye who is to be at Michilimaquina [Mackinaw] to carry out the orders I am sending him for the safety of our allies [the Huron Indians] and friends. You will see from the letter I am writing M. de la Durantaye, that my intention is that you should occupy a post in an advantageous spot so as to secure this passage to us, to protect our savages who go hunting there, and to serve them as a refuge against their enemies and ours [the Iroquois]. You will do nothing and say nothing to the Iroquois, unless they venture on an attempt against you and against our allies. It is my intention that you shall go to this post as soon as ever you can with about twenty men only, whom you will station there under command of whichever of your lieutenants you may choose as being the fittest for the command. After you have given all the orders you may think necessary for the safety of this post and have strictly enjoined your lieutenant to be on his guard, you will repair to Michilimaquina to wait for the Rev. Father Anjabram there, and receive instructions and information as to all I have communicated to him. You will then return to this post with thirty more men whom you will receive from M. de la Durantaye. I have no doubt some trade in furs may be done, so your men will do well to take some goods there. I cannot recommend you too strongly to keep a good understanding with M. de la Durantaye, without which all our plans will come to nothing and the service of the king will suffer greatly."

In obeying this order Duluth made an error of judgment, for he selected for the site of his fort the spot now occupied by Fort Gratiot and named the post Fort St. Joseph. His mistake soon became apparent. On June 7, 1687, there was a gathering of the French colonial celebrities on Detroit River, and a deed of possession was formally prepared in the name of the king of France by Olivier Morel, esquire, Sieur de la Durantaye, commandant for the king in the land of the Outaouan (Ottawas), Miamis, Poutouamies (Potawatamies), Cioux (Sioux) and other tribes, under the orders of the Marquis Denoiville, governor-general of New France. It reads in part as follows: " This seventh day of June, 1687, in the presence of Father Anjabram, M. de la Forest, M. de Lisle, our lieutenant, and M. Beauvais, of the Fort of St. Joseph at the strait between Lakes Huron and Erie, WE DECLARE to all whom it may concern that we came to the margin of St. Deny's River [supposed to be identical with the River Rouge] situated three leagues from Lake Errier [Erie], on the strait between said lakes Huron and Errier, to the south of said strait and lower down toward the entrance to Lake Errier on the north. On behalf of the king and in his name to repeat the taking possession of the said posts which was done by M. de la Salle to facilitate the journeys he made and had made by barge from Niagara to Michilimaquinac in the years [left vacant in MSS.], at which said stations we should have had a post set up again, with the arms of the king, in order to mark the said retaking possession, and directed several small dwellings to be built for the establishment of the French and savages, the Chaouannous [Shawnees] and Miamis, for a long time owners of the said lands of the straits and of Lake Errier, from which they withdrew for some time for their greater convenience."

This instrument indicates that the French based their claims upon the discovery of La Salle and upon the posts or camping grounds where his party encamped during the historic voyage of the Griffon.

They took pains to forestall any claims the British may have set up by later discovery, and also any claim the Iroquois, who were friendly to the British, might have set up on driving the Miamis and Shawnees from the trapping grounds along the Detroit River, which region the Iroquois claimed under the name of Teuscha Gronde.

As soon as Fort St. Joseph was built at the foot of Lake Huron, the Iroquois, who had been urged on by the British, went to Fort Frontenac to protest, as they claimed the whole region. That protest was disregarded, and the British set to work to prevent the French from gaining possession and from securing the highway to the fur country of the north. The Iroquois delegation went from Frontenac to Orange (Albany) and, as appears in the first chapter of this work, surrendered all their claims to the British. Governor Dongan, of New York, protested for the British against the French claim and took steps toward establishing British posts in the territory. It proved to be a close race and the French only won because they came in superior force. As Commandant Durantaye came down with his canoe fleet from Mackinaw, he came upon a party of English and Dutch traders from Orange or Albany, under command of a Dutch captain named Roseboom, which had passed Fort St. Joseph unobserved by the garrison and had reached a point twenty miles above in Lake Huron. This party numbered but thirty men, and, as Durantaye had about one hundred and fifty French and Indians with him, he took them prisoners and they were unwilling witnesses of the act of claim by the French. When the formalities had been observed, the party which now numbered nearly three hundred, set out for Niagara. Half down Lake Erie they came upon a party of thirty under command of Major McGregor, who were on their way to Detroit River. There were sixteen Englishmen and thirteen Iroquois in the party, and they too were made prisoners and carried back to Niagara. Next year Fort St. Joseph, being badly situated, was abandoned, and to prevent it from falling into the hands of the British, it was burned to the ground by Baron La Hontan while on his way to Mackinaw in 1689.

Duluth's party, which took formal possession of the Detroit River, may not have known it, but there was a much earlier claim on file for the French in the archives at Quebec, set up by Fathers Dollier and Galinee, in 1669, eight years before, which has already been alluded to.