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The Study of State History

With Illustrations from Michigan


The recent article in the HISTORY TEACHER'S MAGAZINE, copied from the "Independent," entitled "A Strange Visitor at School," helped to strengthen a lurking suspicion that I had had that the study of local and State history is too much neglected in our reschools.

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Several questions will at once arise in the mind of the teacher who is interested in the subject. Has local and State history educational value? Has it interest for boys and girls, and, if so, at what age? Where can suitable material be obtained? And how can time for it be found?

While it is true that, so far as government is concerned, the individual States are playing a relatively less and less important rôle and that nationalism is growing even under a Democratic administration, it is not desirable, it seems to me, that State pride should be lost or that interest in the neighborhood should not be stimulated. It is rather unfortunate that voters should be more interested in the election of a president than in that of a governor or a mayor. The local health officer more vitally affects our everyday life than the Secretary of State, and the enforcement of the truancy law is of greater importance than the Mexican question. There is not much danger of an undue development of provincialism in these days. The study of local history is good for the development of the historical spirit. By its study the pupil can easily be made to see how institutions have developed, how present conditions have grown out of the past. He can be brought face to face with his torical material. He can make use of the sources in their most valuable and interesting form. He can gain experience in investigation and the collection of material and


obtain the best training that history has for him in accuracy, the nice weighing of evidence, the sympathetic interpretation of the past." In the next place, through the study of local and State history, the pupil may be led to understand and interpret more easily and fully historical events and movements of a more general character. example, the life of the early settlers in the pupil's town or county will be typical of pioneer life in general; the movement of people into the pupil's vicinity will illustrate well the general westward movement of population; the varieties of nationality in the school or community will show the composite character of the population of the United States.

To have its greatest educational value, local and State history should not be isolated, but should be connected with and put into the proper relationship to the more general history of the country.

There is much in the history of any State, certainly in that of Michigan, that can be made of interest and profit to children of school age. In fact, there is an abundance of material that is suitable for children in the elementary school, for pupils in the high school, and even for students in the college and university.

What child in the lower grades, at that age when myths strongly appeal to him and are of value to him, would not be interested in the many Indian legends connected with various parts of the State? Take this one, for example, which accounts for the islands in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers:

Sleeping Bear, a great manitou, who lived on the point of land named after him on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, had a daughter of such beauty that he was afraid she would be stolen. He, therefore, put her into a box which he sank in the lake, tying it with a long rope to a stake on the shore. Every day the father would draw the box to shore and feed and caress his child.

The South Wind was passing one day while the. maiden was upon the shore and he tarried to woo her. While he stayed, the beautiful Indian summer prevailed throughout the region. But the North Wind and the West Wind also heard of the beautiful girl and they, too, came to woo her. A fierce rivalry soon arose among the winds which resulted in a terrible storm. So violent was the tempest that the rope holding the box which contained the maiden was broken and the box floated down to the lodge of the Prophet, the Keeper of the Gates of the Lakes, who lived at the outlet of Lake Huron, who made her his bride.

Sleeping Bear was angry at this and caused a mighty tempest to arise which swept away the lodge of the Prophet and the land on which it stood. Out of the land thus carried away were formed the numerous islands which may be seen in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. The Prophet was drowned and buried beneath Peche Island, to which the Ottawa warriors used to resort in order to consult his spirit.

The box in which the maiden had lived was broken up and out of its fragments was formed Belle Isle,

upon which the beauty lived forever after. Her father, in order to guard her and prevent any further trouble, placed many rattlesnakes upon the island as her guardians to keep off all intruders.

The early French explorers, stimulated by the sight of pieces of copper and by stories told by the Indians, were anxious to find the sources of supply. The Indians doubtless knew where the copper beds were located on Isle Royal and on the southern shore of Lake Superior, but they were loth to give information on the subject as they were superstitious about the matter, believing that the manitous, or spirits, guarded the copper deposits and would punish them if they revealed their location to the white men.

In these days when copper is such an important product and when strikes in the copper country occupy so much space in the newspapers, the following legend might be of interest: The Indians told the Frenchmen that copper had first been discovered by four hunters, who had landed one day on an island in the northern part of the lake. Desiring to cook their food, they placed it in some water in a vessel made of bark, and, according to their custom, gathered stones and, after heating them red hot, dropped them into the dish of water. After awhile they noticed that the stones were composed of pure copper. As soon as they had eaten, they hastened to their canoe to set out, as they were afraid of the hares and lynxes, which grew as large as dogs on this island, and which, they were afraid, would eat up their food and perhaps their canoe also.

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They gathered a few of the wonderful stones to take with them; but hardly had they left the island when a deep voice like thunder was heard over the waves, Who are these thieves who steal the toys of my children? It was the powerful manitou of the lake calling to them. The hunters hastened away as fast as they could paddle. Three of them died before they reached land, while the fourth lived only long enough to get back to his village and tell of their adventure. The island upon which they had found the strange metal had no foundation, according to the Indians, but floated about with the movement of the winds and waves. No one had dared to land on its shores since the four hunters were there because of the wrath of the manitou.

This, of course, is not history, but such legends may well pave the way with young children for history stories, which may be supplied in abundance from the history of any State.

Can you imagine that a child would not be interested in the story of the two priests, Dollier and Galinee, who pushed up the Detroit River in their birch-bark canoes and landed one day, in 1670, near the place where Detroit now stands? Here they found a large stone roughly resembling a human figure. The Indians had daubed it with red paint and worshipped it as a manitou. About it were scattered offerings of tobacco, maple sugar, and different kinds of food. This idol was held in great veneration by the savages. They believed that it was his voice that they heard when the winds blew

over the Lakes, and that he controlled the winds and caused them to blow or not to blow as he wished.

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In some way the priests connected this device of the Devil, as they considered it, with misfortune which had befallen them. They believed that it stood in the way of carrying Christianity to the heathen. After the loss of our altar service," wrote Galinee," and the hunger we had suffered, there was not a man of us who was not filled with hatred against this false deity. I devoted one of my axes to breaking him in pieces; and then, having fastened our canoes side by side, we carried the largest piece to the middle of the river, and threw it, with all the rest, into the water, that he might never be heard of again. God rewarded us immediately for this good action, for we killed a deer and a bear that same day."

The Indians had a legend that after the missionaries had departed, a band of Red Men arrived to place their offerings at the foot of the idol. They could find only small pieces of it scattered about. These they carefully collected and placed in their canoes. As they were about to depart, they heard a deep voice sounding over the water which directed them to the place where the manitou had taken refuge upon what is now called Belle Isle. Here they were told to scatter the fragments of the idol. No sooner was it done than the pieces of stone were changed into rattlesnakes, which were to be sentinels to guard the home of the manitou from the invasion of the white man.

At the age when children are hungry for stories of adventure, what would please them better than accounts of the doings of French explorers, missionaries, fur traders, and coureurs de bois in the region of the Great Lakes? Marquette, LaSalle, and Cadillac, are as attractive heroes and of as much historical importance to people in the Old Northwest as Captain John Smith, Miles Standish, or William Penn.

Would not some "punch" be added to the study of the transfer of French territory to the English at the close of the French and Indian War, by reading how Major Rogers took possession of Detroit in the name of his Britannic Majesty?

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Rogers was one of the most noted Indian fighters of those days. This description of him would catch the interest of the boys at once: 'He wore a closefitting jacket, a warm cap, coarse woolen trousers, leggings, and moccasins. A hatchet was thrust into his belt, a powder-horn hung at his side, a long, keen hunting-knife, and a trusty musket completed his armament; and a blanket and a knapsack stuffed with bread and raw salt pork, together with a flask of spirits, made up his outfit. He could speak to the Indian or the Frenchman in a language they could understand; he knew every sign of the forest, every wile of his foes, and repeatedly his bravery and coolness had brought him safely through the most critical situation. He lifted a scalp with as little compunction as did any Indian, and counted it the most successful warfare to creep into an Indian encampment at night, to set fire to the lodges, and to




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make his escape by the light of the flames, with the screams of the doomed savages rejoicing in his ears." (Moore, The Northwest Under Three Flags, 103.) At the head of his "Rangers," famous for the part they had taken in Indian warfare, Rogers drew near to Detroit and sent a messenger to ask for its surrender. The French commander was disposed to resist at first and he tried to stir up the Indians against the English. He even put upon the flag-staff a wooden image of Rogers' head, upon which was perched a crow, to represent himself, scratching out the brains of the British leader.

Convinced, however, by a letter from the French governor in Canada which was sent to him by Rogers that the French cause was hopeless, and finding that the Indians would not fight on his side, the commander surrendered on the 29th of November, 1760. His soldiers were marched out upon the plain surla rounding the fort, where they laid down their arms, while the Indians jeered in derision, tauntingly shouting that Rogers must be the crow and the French commander the victim. The lilies of France, which thad been floating over Detroit since 1701, were chid hauled down from the flag-staff of Fort Pontcharhad train and the red cross of St. George was raised in Etheir place.


For the boy in the blood-and-thunder stage what a galaxy of good stories are furnished by Pontiac's "Conspiracy." These, as told by Parkman, might well be used to suppant the "penny-dreadful" and nickel-library" which the boy will read at this age it unless something better is given him. Hamilton, “the hair-buyer," and his capture by George Rogers Clark, the defeat of St. Clair and the victories of Wayne, Hull's surrender, the battle of the Raisin River, Perry's victory, and Tecumseh, furnish more material of the same kind.

How little do the graduates of Michigan schools realize that the State in which they live was for so long a part of New France and that it had a narrow escape from remaining a part of Canada! We do teach that the British held several forts in the Northwest long after the treaty of 1783 and that Jay's treaty secured their surrender. But how much more real would this seem to the pupils if they could have placed before them the following picture of the raising of the stars and stripes for the first time above Detroit, as given by a historian of the old Northwest: Sailing up to the great wooden wharf," the detachment of American soldiers that had been sent for the

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66 purpose disembarked and marched up one of the narrow, unpaved streets, with its footway of squared logs laid transversely, thence through one of the two gates on the water side of the strong stockade, and through the town and up the slope to the fort that had been built by the British when it was feared that George Rogers Clark would attack Detroit.

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"As the troops passed up the street, crowds of barefooted Frenchmen greeted them in a language they did not understand, and bevies of dark-eyed French girls gazed demurely from under the wide

brims of their straw hats, anxious to discover whether the homespun-clad newcomers were fitted to take the place of the gorgeous-hued soldiers and sailors whom the fate of war "had sent away. Nor were Indians wanting; old squaws leading their daughters, leered at the soldiers; chiefs and warriors of many tribes, hideous in their paint and more hideous in the wounds received in drunken orgies, moved about with what dignity they could command, or sat in the sun smoking their stone pipes, waiting for General Wabanz (General To-morrow) to distribute the presents he was ever promising and never bestowing.

"At the hour of noon the last of England's troops made their way to the ramparts, and, loosing the halyards, the flag that for thirty-four years had floated over the town of Cadillac's foundation dropped slowly to the ground. While the British soldiers gathered up the dishonored ensign, eager Americans bent the Stars and Stripes, and as the joyous folds of the beautiful banner streamed out on the July breeze a cheer went up from the little band of United States soldiers, whose feet at last trod the soil made theirs by the conquest of Clark, seventeen years before." (Moore, "The Northwest Under Three Flags," 878-4.)

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It might add interest and value to the discussion of the invention of the steamboat and its effect upon our industrial and social history to call attention to the first steamboat upon Lake Erie, the Walk-inthe-Water," bringing in such incidents as that it was not powerful enough to get out into Lake Erie against the current of Niagara River, where it was built, and so was hauled out by sixteen yoke of oxen, a "horned breeze as it was called; and that the Indians had been told that a great ship drawn by sturgeons was to make its appearance in the Detroit River, and when the steamer glided up the stream without any visible means of progress, the red men swarmed along the shore and filled the air with their noisy shouts of wonder," and when it blew off steam, many of them ran off to the woods greatly, frightened. A topic worthy of investigation might be the effect of the invention of the steamboat upon the settlement and development of the region about the Great Lakes. It would also be worth while to compare the "Walkin-the-Water with the giant boats of the Lakes today and show the importance of the traffic which they carry on.

How boys and girls love a hero! And how they would admire the heroism of Lewis Cass as shown in the following incident, and how much light would be thrown upon the character of the Indians and upon their relation to the British and to the Americans by it! Cass had gone to the "Soo" to obtain possession of a tract of land which had formerly been granted to the French and which the Indians had acknowledged by treaty to belong now to the Americans. The braves evidently restless and out of humor," writes Professor McLaughlin, "assembled to meet the Americans. Arrayed in their best attire, and many of them adorned with British medals, they seated themselves with even more than their wonted

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solemnity and dignity, and prepared to hear what Governor Cass desired. At first pretending not to know of any French grants, they finally intimated that our government might be permitted to occupy the place if we did not use it as a military station. The governor, perceiving that their independence and boldness verged on impudence and menace, answered decisively that as surely as the rising sun would set, so surely would there be an American garrison sent to that point, whether they received the grant or not.' The excitement which had been ready to break forth now displayed itself. The chiefs disputed among themselves, some evidently counseling moderation, others favoring hostilities. A tall and stately-looking chieftain, dressed in British uniform with epaulets, lost patience with moderation and delay. Striking his spear into the ground, he drew it forth again, and, kicking away the presents that lay scattered about, strode in high dudgeon out of the assembly.

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The Indian camp was on a small hill a few hundred yards from that of the Americans. The dissatisfied chiefs went directly to their lodges, and in a moment a British flag was flying in the very faces of the little company of white men. The soldiers were at once ordered under arms. Every one expected an immediate attack, for the Indians, greatly outnumbering the Americans, had not disguised their insolence and contempt. In an instant Governor Cass took his resolution. Rejecting the offers of those who volunteered to accompany him, with no weapon in his hands and only his interpreter beside him, he walked straight to the middle of the Indian camp, tore down the British flag, and trampled it under his feet. Then addressing the astonished and even panicstricken braves, he warned them that two flags of different nations could not fly over the same territory, and should they raise any but the American flag, the United States would put its strong foot upon them and crush them. He then turned upon his heel and walked back to his own tent, carrying the British ensign with him. An hour of indecision among the Indians ensued. Their camp was quickly cleared of women and children, an indication that a battle was in immediate prospect. The Americans, looking to their guns, listened for the war-whoop and awaited attack. But the intrepidity of Governor Cass had struck the Indians with amazement. It showed a rare knowledge of Indian character, of which his own companions had not dreamed. Subdued by the boldness and decision of this action, the hostile chiefs forgot their swaggering confidence, and in a few hours signed the treaty which had been offered them."

We talk much in general terms in our American history classes about the western movement of population. All too seldom do we take actual typical cases of emigrants moving to the West by way of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes, by the Cumberland Road and the Ohio River, or by other routes, bringing out the actual life on the road. By the study of the early settlement of our State we may often catch the spirit and enthusiasm of this westward movement in a way

that cannot be done by a general treatment of the subject.

For instance," By 1887," says a writer, "it seemed as if all New England were coming to the State [of Michigan]. The fever for emigration pervaded the whole region from Rhode Island to Vermont, and every one seemed to have adopted for his own the popular song, 'Michigania.' The first verse runs thus:

"Come, all ye Yankee farmers, who wish to change your lot,

Who've spunk enough to travel beyond your native

And leave behind the village where Pa and Ma do stay,
Come follow me and settle in Michigania,—

Yea, yea, yea, in Michigania!

No wonder that settlers poured into our territory when its praises were sung in this fashion:

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'Know ye the land to the emigrant dear,

Where the wild flower is blooming one-half the year; Know ye the land of the billow and breeze, That is pois'd, like an isle, amid fresh-water seas; Whose forests are ample, whose prairies are fine, Whose soil is productive, whose climate benign? Remote from extremes-neither torrid nor cold, 'Tis the land of the sickle, the plough, and the fold; 'Tis a region no eye e'er forgets or mistakes, 'Tis the land for improvement-the land of the lakes. "To you, then, I turn-and I turn without fears, Ye hardy explorers, ye bold pioneers;

Ye vot'ries of Ceres, with industry blest,
Whose hopes are still high, and whose course is still west;
Ye men of New England-ye emigrant race,
Who meditate change, and are scanning the place;
Who dig and who delve, on estates not your own;
Where an acre of land is an acre of stone;

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Oh, quit your cold townships of granite, or brakes,
And hie with delight to the land of the lakes!
Or who could resist this siren song:
"My eastern friends who wish to find
A country that will suit your mind,
Where comforts all are near at hand,
Had better come to Michigan.
"Here is the place to live at ease,
To work or play, just as you please;
With little prudence any man
Can soon get rich in Michigan.

66 We here have soils of various kinds
To suit men who have different minds,
Prairies, openings, timbered land
And burr oak plains, in Michigan.
"Our water's good, there's no mistake,
Springs, rivers, brooks, and little lakes
Will all be seen by any man
Who travels through our Michigan.
"You who would wish to hunt and fish
Can find all kinds of game you wish;
Our deer and turkey they are grand,
Our fish is good in Michigan.

"Ye who have led a single life
And now would wish to get a wife,
I tell you this, now understand,
We have first-rate girls in Michigan."

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What interesting pictures of frontier life may be obtained from stories told by early settlers in our iter, own State! How vividly do they bring before us the o the work of clearing away the forest, the building of the per log cabin, the breaking up of the land, sometimes with Veron several yoke of oxen attached to the plow! How we realize some of the troubles of the pioneers when an old settler tells us that millions of mosquitoes, fleas, and bed bugs were annoying and sucking the life's blood out of us every night. These infernals," he says, "would get into the cracks and crevices of the log castles, and nothing but hell-fire and brimstone would remove them. We dared not resort to that and extreme remedy for fear of burning the castle."

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And the bite of some of these insects was more than an annoyance, it was a serious menace to health. The bite of the mosquito, bred in countless numbers in the OE undrained swamps, undoubtedly caused the terrible


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malaria, the so-called ague or chills-and-fever, which was so prevalent. How we realize the seriousness of the scourge and what an insight into the darker side of pioneer life we get, when we read such an incident as this, told by an early settler: "A family of three -man, woman, and child—were helplessly sick about one mile from us. In the night the child died. They fired alarm for assistance, but no assistance guns came, as there were none able to be out nights, and very few in day time. Three of us, then boys, were enlisted to conduct their funeral for them. We three were the undertaker, preacher, sexton, and funeral procession all together. So we buried their dead without a funeral note or gospel word spoken,' and left them in their helpless condition, as we three plooked more like escapes from a graveyard than liv-ing human beings."

But there was a brighter side to pioneer life. House-raisings, log-rollings, and husking-bees were made occasions for neighbors to get together for merry-making as well as for labor. After the work was done, athletic contests and horse races took place; and, commencing in the evening, to the music of the squeaking fiddle, young and old continued to dance until well toward morning, when they would "hook up" their teams and return home.

A study of early railroading in our State takes the pupil directly into the history of transportation in the United States. Stories of lumbering and logdriving on our rivers interest the pupil in one of the great industries of our country. A Michigan forest fire leads into the big subject of conservation of natural resources. Attempted Fenian raids from Michigan into Canada gets one into close touch with the relations between England and Ireland, home rule, and the Ulster trouble. King Strang of the Beaver Islands reminds us of the Mormons. A study of the working of the underground railroad and stories of attempts to capture runaway slaves within the borders of our State, of which there are several interesting ones, would bring home to the pupil the workings of the Second Fugitive Slave Law more effectively than a lot of general discussion.

Many topics can be found in our State history well suited for special reports or papers by high school students and even worthy of serious investigation by students in college or university. A few such topics that might be suggested are the personal liberty laws passed to protect fugitive slaves, liquor legislation, the suffrage, history of political parties in the State, "wild-cat" banking, the negro in Michigan, the copper fever of 1845, the history of the various religious denominations, how the State got its boundaries, the part played by the State in the Civil War, the history of railroad building, the school system, and many other topics in our political, economic, social, and religious development.

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How to obtain time for the study of State history is the problem. In the States west of the Alleghanies, less time might be given in the schools to the study of the history of the thirteen colonies, valuable as it is. Much, however, may be accomplished by connecting local and State history with the general history of the country as has been suggested above. In this way each will help the other. Topics in State history might well be assigned for papers and special reports in the American history class.

Doubtless in most of the States there is an abundance of material for this work. For Michigan, besides the various histories of the State and of the Old Northwest, there are the works of Parkman and Schoolcraft and other writers, the "Michigan Pioneer" and Historical Society Collections," and for research work, the local and State records. Anything like a complete bibliography would occupy considerable space.


A means that has proved fertile in giving a class of second year high school boys added interest in medieval and modern history, has been the use of music as illustrative material.

For the most part, this has been done through a Victrola, though the boys have been encouraged to join in the singing of familiar airs, and occasionally an outsider has consented to give selections.

The programs have included national airs, old English songs, selections from the great masses, which can enliven even church councils; Luther's hymn, Tschaikowsky's Overture of 1812, Schumann's "Two Grenadiers," and operas, such as Tannhauser," "William Tell" and "The Hugue



Whenever possible, a student has given the story of the opera or the setting of the selection. When there was no special historical background to present, the boys have interpreted the music for themselves. That they have taken a genuine interest in it is evidenced by the fact that a number have been willing to give up the recess period or return after school for a repetition of certain selections. FLORENCE BERND.

Lanier High School, Macon, Ga.

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