Page images
PDF
EPUB

ing three days NW.-the figure of a white man with a tongue near his inouth (like the Azteck hierolyphics) that he was an interpret

er, &c.

This told the whole story of how many, who, when and what. At Sandy lake they were joined by Gov. Cass and the rest of the party. Dr Wolcott who had been with them was requested by Mr Schoolcraft to take note of the geological character of the country through which he passed, which he did, and his observations upon it are given, but they are still more meagre and vague, than those with which we are favored by our author. All we learn from them is, that the vertical strata of slate which had been observed soon after leaving lake Superior continued but a short distance, and were succeeded by hornblende rocks, which extended as far as Sandy lake ; but these hornblende rocks, he says, were not in situ, and he does not inform us what the formation is through which the St Louis and the Savannah rivers flow, facts very important to be known, as these rivers rise in the ridge, which separates the waters of the Mississippi from those of lake Superior.

Sandy lake communicates with the Mississippi by a short outlet, and is therefore to be considered as one of its sources. North of it there are various other lakes, which send their tributary waters to form this mighty river, but it is difficult to say from which of them those drops proceed, which flow the farthest before they reach the ocean. Pike, on arriving at Sangsue lake, says, I will not attempt to describe my feelings, on the accomplishment of my voyage, for this is the main source of the Mississippi.' This may be ; but it is not the most distant point, from which it springs, La Beesh and Turtle lakes being a degree north of it, neither of which was visited by Pike or by our travellers. And how it is possible that men, who were possessed of a spirit of enterprise sufficient to carry them through all the toils and dangers of such expeditions, should turn back with their chief object unaccomplished, we are totally unable to conceive. Persons sent to explore the sources of a river should follow it till they reach the point, where they could hold all its water in the hollow of the hand. Objects of curiosity are not wanting in this quarter to occupy attention for days. A thorough search there would probably find out a spot as remarkable as the one on the Grison Alps, where a person may drink, without changing place, of water which flows into the Mediterranean, the Rhine, and New Series, No. 11.

31

the German ocean ; and it would be still more wonderful to find a like point of approximation of the waters of the St Lawrence, the Misssissippi, the Red river of Hudson's bay, and the River of the West, which are received into the ocean at the extreme east, and west, and north, and south parts of the North American continent. In other respects, also, there is a great want of exactness in the accounts of both expeditions sent out to explore the sources of the Mississippi, as well as a great want of accord between them. The latitude of Red Cedar, or the Cassina lake of our author, as determined by Pike, is 47° 42 40"; but on Mr Schoolcraft's map it is found nearly or quite a degree to the north. In the same way he has removed all the known points north of lake Superior to a like higher latitude, than has before been given them, and as it is done upon the authority of a single observer, with a single instrument, the alterations cannot be received without other confirmation. Two striking facts, in regard to the climate of these dreary regions, are found in the narratives of the two expeditions. When Pike was there in Jan. 1806, whiskey congealed to the consistence of honey, and our travellers found the bottoms of their canoes encrusted with a scale of ice of the thickness of a knife blade on the night of July 19, and the thermometer down to 36° at sunrise ; but the extremes of heat and cold of the two seasons are not noted. It must be presumed that the Fur Companies offer the highest pecuniary compensations to induce their agents to spend a whole life, as they often do, in these miserable solitudes; but to what a state of moral degradation must civilized man be reduced, before any reward could tempt him to wear out life in a condition, which places him so far below the wandering savage. An idea of the misery, which it sometimes produces, may be formed from the following picture.

Mons. D-bad, according to the custom of the country, taken an Indian wife, and spent several winters in that inclement region. During the last, he was, however, caught in a severe snow storm, and froze both his feet in such a manner, that they dropped off shortly after his return to his wigwam, In this helpless situation, he was supported some time by his wife, who caught fish in the lake; but she at last deserted him; and on our arrival he had subsisted several months upon the pig weed, which grew around bis cabin. As he was unable to walk, this had been thrown in by his countrymen, or by the Indians, and appeared to have been the extent of their benevolence. We found him seated in a small bark cabin, on a rush mat, with the stumps of his legs tied up with deer-skins, and wholly destitute of covering. He was poor and emaciated to the last degree, his beard was long, cheeks fallen in, eyes weak, but darting a look of despair, and every bone in his body visible through the skin. He could speak no English (for which God be praised,] but was continually uttering curses in his mother tongue upon his own existence, and apparently upon all that surrounded him.' It would not require a heart as sentimental as Yorick's to bleed at such a sight.

Mr Schoolcraft has attempted to estimate the height of the sources of the Mississippi above the level of the sea, which he makes to be thirteen hundred and thirty feet. The basis of his calculation is the altitude of lake Erie, as determined by the canal commissioners, which is five hundred and sixty feet above the tide waters of the Hudson, to which his estimate adds ten feet for the rise to St Clair, nineteen to Huron, fiftythree to Superior, making the last six hundred and forty two above the same level; from this to Sandy lake the rise is five hundred and twenty seven feet, and from that to Cassina one hundred and sixty two feet. If this estimate be correct, or nearly so, and the length of the Mississippi, as he gives it, three thousand and thirty eight miles, its average descent per mile is about three feet. It is deserving of remark,' says our author,

that its sources lie in a region of almost continual winter, while it enters the ocean under the latitude of perpetual verdure;' and adds, “to have visited both the sources and the mouth of this celebrated stream falls to the lot of few; and I believe there is no person living, beside myself, of whom the remark can now be made.' And had he but have gone to La Beesh lake, we would join him in the exultation. The observations of Mr Schoolcraft determine that this river flows through a primitive region from its rise to the falls of St Anthony, but this is covered in many places along the banks by recent alluvion. From St Anthony to the gulf of Mexico, it is secondary limestone and alluvion. Various tribes of Indians are found on its borders, some of which, particularly the Chippeways, are distinguished for not making use of salt. The name Mississippi signifies great river, but we would observe, that it is not safe to trust altogether to the explanations given by the Indians of the names they apply to sensible objects ; Mr Schoolcraft was told that Missisawgaiegon, their name for

lake Superior, signified a great lake, and we find it afterward applied to an inconsiderable tributary to the Mississippi, which enters it a little above the falls of St Anthony.

From Sandy lake the party followed the course of the Mississippi to the point where it receives the Ouisconsing. A greater part of this route is comparatively well known, we shall therefore detain our readers no longer with this part of the narrative, than to give them the following extract.

• In passing through lake Pepin, our interpreter pointed out to us a high precipice, on the east shore of the lake, from which an Indian girl, of the Sioux nation, had, many years ago, precipitated herself in a fit of disappointed love. She had given her heart, it appears, to a young chief of her own tribe, wh

was very much attached to her, but the alliance was opposed by her parents, who wished her to marry an old chief renowned for his wisdom and his influence in the nation. As the union was insisted upon and no other way appearing to avoid it, she determined to sacrifice her life in preference to a violation of her former vow, and while the preparations for the marriage feast were going forward, left her father's cabin without exciting suspicion, and before she could be overtaken, threw herself from an awful precipice and was instantly dashed to a thousand pieces. The name of this noble minded Indian girl was Oola Ita.'

A few leagues below the confluence of the Ouisconsing with the Mississippi on the other side is the district of country called Dubuque's mines, which abound with the sulphuret of lead. The right of working these mines was ceded by the Fox Indians some years ago to Mr Dubuque, who carried on the process of mining to great profit, the ore being very near the surface, and consequently obtained without much labor. His grant was for life only, and when he died, the mines reverted to the Indians, who have since worked them and sold the ore to the traders in the vicinity. The abundance of this metal in the alluvion of the great basin of the Mississippi forms its most remarkable geological character. It is without a parallel in the extent to which it spreads and for the manner in which its veins or rather beds lay themselves bare on the surface of the rock, in which it is found. A particular account of the several districts on the Missouri, in which this metal has been observed, and of the manner in which it is mined and smelted, is contained in a former work of our author, entitled a · View of the lead mines of Missouri, &c.

We must now leave the Mississippi, and accompany our travellers on their return to Detroit by the way of the Ouisconsing and the Fox rivers, and the lakes Michigan and Huron. It was precisely by this route inverted that Marquette first came out to the Mississippi in June 1673, and there is a most remarkable accord in the narratives of the two travellers. The only points of difference are in their estimates of the length of the portage from Fox river to the Ouisconsing and of the distance from where they strike this river to its junction with the Mississippi, and these may be satisfactorily accounted for oy considering that one descended and the other ascended it, and that the portage is not now just where it was then.

Marquette places the mouth of the Ouisconsing in 42° 30' N. latitude, and that is within 12 miles of the true parallel, which is very accurate, considering the means he had for determining it. At certain seasons a perfect water communication between the Mississippi and lake Michigan is formed through this river, canoes being able to pass easily from it into the Fox river of Green Bay, but the navigation is interrupted in several places by falls. The whole distance across following the courses of the rivers is four hundred and forty miles. The Fox river is described by Marquette to be so full of wild oats, that it looked rather like a corn field, than a river,' and by our author as .so prolific in the various species of water plants, that often, where it is a mile in width, there is scarce open space enough in its centre to allow the passage of a canoe.? Another circumstance mentioned by both these writers is the flux and reflux of the water in Green Bay, which is observed also on the other lakes, particularly Ontario, and is caused without doubt by the winds.

Being now arrived on the borders of civilization, the soldiers of the escort were sent to their stations and the Indians who had been taken to hunt, were dismissed. formed itself into two divisions, one going around the west and north side of the lake to Mackinaw, and the other around the south and east to the same place. The shores of this lake are described as much more beautiful than those of Huron and Superior, and are also more diversified in their geological character and mineral productions. Large boulders of granite and other primitive rocks are scattered along the shore, which was observed to be secondary limestone, wherever the strata appeared through the superincumbent alluvial.

The party

« PreviousContinue »