SAULT ST. MARIE.
Nine days I passed alone at Mackinaw,
except for occasional visits from kind and agreeable
residents at the fort, and Mr. and Mrs. A. Mr. A.,
long engaged in the fur-trade, is gratefully remembered
by many travellers. From Mrs. A., also, I received
kind attentions, paid in the vivacious and graceful
manner of her nation.
The society at the boarding house
entertained, being of a kind entirely new to me.
There were many traders from the remote stations, such
as La Pointe, Arbre Croche, men
who had become half wild and wholly rude, by living
in the wild; but good-humored, observing, and with
a store of knowledge to impart, of the kind proper
to their place.
There were two little girls here,
that were pleasant companions for me. One gay,
frank, impetuous, but sweet and winning. She was
an American, fair, and with bright brown hair.
The other, a little French Canadian, used to join
me in my walks, silently take my hand, and sit at my
feet when I stopped in beautiful places. She
seemed to understand without a word; and I never shall
forget her little figure, with its light, but pensive
motion, and her delicate, grave features, with the
pale, clear complexion and soft eye. She was
motherless, and much left alone by her father and
brothers, who were boatmen. The two little girls
were as pretty representatives of Allegro and Penseroso,
as one would wish to see.
I had been wishing that a boat would
come in to take me to the Sault St. Marie, and several
times started to the window at night in hopes that
the pant and dusky-red light crossing the waters belonged
to such an one; but they were always boats for Chicago
or Buffalo, till, on the 28th of August, Allegro,
who shared my plans and wishes, rushed in to tell
me that the General Scott had come, and, in this little
steamer, accordingly, I set off the next morning.
I was the only lady, and attended
in the cabin by a Dutch girl and an Indian woman.
They both spoke English fluently, and entertained me
much by accounts of their different experiences.
The Dutch girl told me of a dance
among the common people at Amsterdam, called the shepherd’s
dance. The two leaders are dressed as shepherd
and shepherdess; they invent to the music all kinds
of movements, descriptive of things that may happen
in the field, and the rest were obliged to follow.
I have never heard of any dance which gave such free
play to the fancy as this. French dances merely
describe the polite movements of society; Spanish
and Neapolitan, love; the beautiful Mazurkas, &c.,
are warlike or expressive of wild scenery. But
in this one is great room both for fun and fancy.
The Indian was married, when young,
by her parents, to a man she did not love. He
became dissipated, and did not maintain her. She
left him. taking with her their child; for whom and
herself she earns a subsistence by going as chambermaid
in these boats. Now and then, she said, her husband
called on her, and asked if he might live with her
again; but she always answered, no. Here she was
far freer than she would have been in civilized life.
I was pleased by the nonchalance of
this woman, and the perfectly national manner she
had preserved after so many years of contact with
all kinds of people. The two women, when I left
the boat, made me presents of Indian work, such as
travellers value, and the manner of the two was characteristic
of their different nations. The Indian brought
me hers, when I was alone, looked bashfully down when
she gave it, and made an almost sentimental little
speech. The Dutch girl brought hers in public,
and, bridling her short chin with a self-complacent
air, observed she had bought it for me.
But the feeling of affectionate regard was the same
in the minds of both.
Island after island we passed, all
fairly shaped and clustering friendly, but with little
variety of vegetation.
In the afternoon the weather became
foggy, and we could not proceed after dark. That
was as dull an evening as ever fell.
The next morning the fog still lay
heavy, but the captain took me out in his boat on
an exploring expedition, and we found the remains of
the old English fort on Point St. Joseph’s.
All around was so wholly unmarked by anything but
stress of wind and weather, the shores of these islands
and their woods so like one another, wild and lonely,
but nowhere rich and majestic, that there was some
charm in the remains of the garden, the remains even
of chimneys and a pier. They gave feature to
Here I gathered many flowers, but
they were the same as at Mackinaw.
The captain, though he had been on
this trip hundreds of times, had never seen this spot,
and never would, but for this fog, and his desire
to entertain me. He presented a striking instance
how men, for the sake of getting a living, forget
to live. It is just the same in the most romantic
as the most dull and vulgar places. Men get the
harness on so fast, that they can never shake it off
unless they guard against this danger from the very
first. In Chicago, how many men, who never found
time to see the prairies or learn anything unconnected
with the business of the day, or about the country
they were living in!
So this captain, a man of strong sense
and good eyesight, rarely found time to go off the
track or look about him on it. He lamented, too,
that there had been no call which induced him to develop
his powers of expression, so that he might communicate
what he had seen, for the enjoyment or instruction
This is a common fault among the active
men, the truly living, who could tell what life is.
It should not be so. Literature should not be
left to the mere literati eloquence to
the mere orator. Every Cæsar should be able
to write his own commentary. We want a more equal,
more thorough, more harmonious development, and there
is nothing to hinder from it the men of this country,
except their own supineness, or sordid views.
When the weather did clear, our course
up the river was delightful. Long stretched before
us the island of St. Joseph’s, with its fair
woods of sugar maple. A gentleman on board, who
belongs to the Fort at the Sault, said their pastime
was to come in the season of making sugar, and pass
some time on this island, the days at work,
and the evening in dancing and other amusements.
I wished to extract here Henry’s
account of this, for it was just the same sixty years
ago as now, but have already occupied too much room
with extracts. Work of this kind done in the open
air, where everything is temporary, and every utensil
prepared on the spot, gives life a truly festive air.
At such times, there is labor and no care energy
with gaiety, gaiety of the heart.
I think with the same pleasure of
the Italian vintage, the Scotch harvest-home, with
its evening dance in the barn, the Russian cabbage-feast
even, and our huskings and hop-gatherings the
hop-gatherings where the groups of men and girls are
pulling down and filling baskets with the gay festoons,
present as graceful pictures as the Italian vintage.
I should also like to insert Henry’s
descriptions of the method of catching trout and white
fish, the delicacies of this region, for the same
reason as I want his account of the Gens de Terre,
the savages among savages, and his tales, dramatic,
if not true, of cannibalism.
I have no less grieved to omit Carver’s
account of the devotion of a Winnebago prince at the
Falls of St. Anthony, which he describes with a simplicity
and intelligence, that are very pleasing.
I take the more pleasure in both Carver
and Henry’s power of appreciating what is good
in the Indian character, that both had run the greatest
risk of losing their lives during their intercourse
with the Indians, and had seen them in their utmost
exasperation, with all its revolting circumstances.
I wish I had a thread long enough
to string on it all these beads that take my fancy;
but, as I have not, I can only refer the reader to
the books themselves, which may be found in the library
of Harvard College, if not elsewhere.
How pleasant is the course along a
new river, the sight of new shores; like a life, would
but life flow as fast, and upbear us with as full a
stream. I hoped we should come in sight of the
rapids by daylight; but the beautiful sunset was quite
gone, and only a young moon trembling over the scene,
when we came within hearing of them.
I sat up long to hear them merely.
It was a thoughtful hour. These two days, the
29th and 30th August, are memorable in my life; the
latter is the birthday of a near friend. I pass
them alone, approaching Lake Superior; but I shall
not enter into that truly wild and free region; shall
not have the canoe voyage, whose daily adventure, with
the camping out at night beneath the stars, would
have given an interlude of such value to my existence.
I shall not see the Pictured Rocks, their chapels
and urns. It did not depend on me; it never has,
whether such things shall be done or not.
My friends! may they see, and do,
and be more, especially those who have before them
a greater number of birthdays, and of a more healthy
and unfettered existence:
TO EDITH, ON HER BIRTHDAY.
If the same star our fates together
Why are we thus divided, mind from mind?
If the same law one grief to both impart,
How could’st thou grieve a trusting mother’s
Our aspiration seeks a common aim,
Why were we tempered of such differing frame?
But ’tis too late to turn this
wrong to right;
Too cold, too damp, too deep, has fallen the night.
And yet, the angel of my life
Upon that night a Morning
Star shall rise,
Fairer than that which ruled
the temporal birth,
Undimmed by vapors of the
It says, that, where a heart
thy claim denies,
Genius shall read its secret
ere it flies;
The earthly form may vanish
from thy side,
Pure love will make thee still
the spirit’s bride.
And thou, ungentle, yet much
Whose heart still shows the
“untamed haggard wild,”
A heart which justly makes
the highest claim,
Too easily is checked by transient
Ere such an orb can ascertain
The ordeal must be various
My prayers attend thee, though
the feet may fly,
I hear thy music in the silent,
I should like, however, to hear some
notes of earthly music to-night. By the faint
moonshine I can hardly see the banks; how they look
I have no guess, except that there are trees, and,
now and then, a light lets me know there are homes
with their various interests. I should like to
hear some strains of the flute from beneath those
trees, just to break the sound of the rapids.
no gentle eyebeam charms;
fond hope the bosom warms:
thinking the lone mind is tired
seems bright to be desired;
Music, be thy sails unfurled,
Bear me to thy better world;
O’er a cold and weltering sea,
Blow thy breezes warm and free;
By sad sighs they ne’er
By sceptic spell were never stilled;
Take me to that far-offshore,
Where lovers meet to part no more;
There doubt, and fear and sin are o’er,
The star of love shall set no more.
With the first light of dawn I was
up and out, and then was glad I had not seen all the
night before; it came upon me with such power in its
dewy freshness. O! they are beautiful indeed,
these rapids! The grace is so much more obvious
than the power. I went up through the old Chippeway
burying ground to their head, and sat down on a large
stone to look. A little way off was one of the
home lodges, unlike in shape to the temporary ones
at Mackinaw, but these have been described by Mrs.
Jameson. Women, too, I saw coming home from the
woods, stooping under great loads of cedar boughs,
that were strapped upon their backs. But in many
European countries women carry great loads, even of
wood, upon their backs. I used to hear the girls
singing and laughing as they were cutting down boughs
at Mackinaw; this part of their employment, though
laborious, gives them the pleasure of being a great
deal in the free woods.
I had ordered a canoe to take me down
the rapids, and presently I saw it coming, with the
two Indian canoe-men in pink calico shirts, moving
it about with their long poles, with a grace and dexterity
worthy fairy land. Now and then they cast the
scoop-net; all looked just as I had fancied, only
When they came to me, they spread
a mat in the middle of the canoe; I sat down, and
in less than four minutes we had descended the rapids,
a distance of more than three quarters of a mile.
I was somewhat disappointed in this being no more
of an exploit than I found it. Having heard such
expressions used as of “darting,” or, “shooting
down,” these rapids, I had fancied there was
a wall of rock somewhere, where descent would somehow
be accomplished, and that there would come some one
gasp of terror and delight, some sensation entirely
new to me; but I found myself in smooth water, before
I had time to feel anything but the buoyant pleasure
of being carried so lightly through this surf amid
the breakers. Now and then the Indians spoke
to one another in a vehement jabber, which, however,
had no tone that expressed other than pleasant excitement.
It is, no doubt, an act of wonderful dexterity to steer
amid these jagged rocks, when one rude touch would
tear a hole in the birch canoe; but these men are
evidently so used to doing it, and so adroit, that
the silliest person could not feel afraid. I should
like to have come down twenty times, that I might
have had leisure to realize the pleasure. But
the fog which had detained us on the way, shortened
the boat’s stay at the Sault, and I wanted my
time to walk about.
While coming down the rapids, the
Indians caught a white-fish for my breakfast; and
certainly it was the best of breakfasts. The white-fish
I found quite another thing caught on this spot, and
cooked immediately, from what I had found it at Chicago
or Mackinaw. Before, I had had the bad taste
to prefer the trout, despite the solemn and eloquent
remonstrances of the Habitues, to whom the superiority
of white fish seemed a cardinal point of faith.
I am here reminded that I have omitted
that indispensable part of a travelling journal, the
account of what we found to eat. I cannot hope
to make up, by one bold stroke, all my omissions of
daily record; but that I may show myself not destitute
of the common feelings of humanity, I will observe
that he whose affections turn in summer towards vegetables,
should not come to this region, till the subject of
diet be better understood; that of fruit, too, there
is little yet, even at the best hotel tables; that
the prairie chickens require no praise from me, and
that the trout and white-fish are worthy the transparency
of the lake waters.
In this brief mention I by no means
mean to give myself an air of superiority to the subject.
If a dinner in the Illinois woods, on dry bread and
drier meat, with water from the stream that flowed
hard by, pleased me best of all, yet at one time,
when living at a house where nothing was prepared
for the table fit to touch, and even the bread could
not be partaken of without a headach in consequence,
I learnt to understand and sympathize with the anxious
tone in which fathers of families, about to take their
innocent children into some scene of wild beauty,
ask first of all, “Is there a good table?”
I shall ask just so in future. Only those whom
the Powers have furnished small travelling cases of
ambrosia, can take exercise all day, and be happy without
even bread morning or night.
Our voyage back was all pleasure.
It was the fairest day. I saw the river, the
islands, the clouds to the greatest advantage.
On board was an old man, an Illinois
farmer, whom I found a most agreeable companion.
He had just been with his son, and eleven other young
men, on an exploring expedition to the shores of lake
Superior. He was the only old man of the party,
but he had enjoyed, most of any, the journey.
He had been the counsellor and playmate, too, of the
young ones. He was one of those parents, why
so rare? who understand and live a new
life in that of their children, instead of wasting
time and young happiness in trying to make them conform
to an object and standard of their own. The character
and history of each child may be a new and poetic
experience to the parent, if he will let it. Our
farmer was domestic, judicious, solid; the son, inventive,
enterprising, superficial, full of follies, full of
resources, always liable to failure, sure to rise
above it. The father conformed to, and learnt
from, a character he could not change, and won the
sweet from the bitter.
His account of his life at home, and
of his late adventures among the Indians, was very
amusing, but I want talent to write it down. I
have not heard the slang of these people intimately
enough. There is a good book about Indiana, called
the New Purchase, written by a person who knows the
people of the country well enough to describe them
in their own way. It is not witty, but penetrating,
valuable for its practical wisdom and good-humored
There were many sportsman stories
told, too, by those from Illinois and Wisconsin.
I do not retain any of these well enough, nor any that
I heard earlier, to write them down, though they always
interested me from bringing wild, natural scenes before
the mind. It is pleasant for the sportsman to
be in countries so alive with game; yet it is so plenty
that one would think shooting pigeons or grouse would
seem more like slaughter, than the excitement of skill
to a good sportsman. Hunting the deer is full
of adventure, and needs only a Scrope to describe it
to invest the western woods with historic associations.
How pleasant it was to sit and hear
rough men tell pieces out of their own common lives,
in place of the frippery talk of some fine circle with
its conventional sentiment, and timid, second-hand
criticism. Free blew the wind, and boldly flowed
the stream, named for Mary mother mild.
A fine thunder shower came on in the
afternoon. It cleared at sunset, just as we came
in sight of beautiful Mackinaw, over which a rainbow
bent in promise of peace.
I have always wondered, in reading
travels, at the childish joy travellers felt at meeting
people they knew, and their sense of loneliness when
they did not, in places where there was everything
new to occupy the attention. So childish, I thought,
always to be longing for the new in the old, and the
old in the new. Yet just such sadness I felt,
when I looked on the island, glittering in the sunset,
canopied by the rainbow, and thought no friend would
welcome me there; just such childish joy I felt, to
see unexpectedly on the landing, the face of one whom
I called friend.
The remaining two or three days were
delightfully spent, in walking or boating, or sitting
at the window to see the Indians go. This was
not quite so pleasant as their coming in, though accomplished
with the same rapidity; a family not taking half an
hour to prepare for departure, and the departing canoe
a beautiful object. But they left behind, on all
the shore, the blemishes of their stay old
rags, dried boughs, fragments of food, the marks of
their fires. Nature likes to cover up and gloss
over spots and scars, but it would take her some time
to restore that beach to the state it was in before
S. and I had a mind for a canoe excursion,
and we asked one of the traders to engage us two good
Indians, that would not only take us out, but be sure
and bring us back, as we could not hold converse with
them. Two others offered their aid, beside the
chief’s son, a fine looking youth of about sixteen,
richly dressed in blue broadcloth, scarlet sash and
leggins, with a scarf of brighter red than the
rest, tied around his head, its ends falling gracefully
on one shoulder. They thought it, apparently,
fine amusement to be attending two white women; they
carried us into the path of the steamboat, which was
going out, and paddled with all their force, rather
too fast, indeed, for there was something of a swell
on the lake, and they sometimes threw water into the
canoe. However, it flew over the waves, light
as a sea-gull. They would say, “Pull away,”
and “Ver’ warm,” and, after these
words, would laugh gaily. They enjoyed the hour,
I believe, as much as we.
The house where we lived belonged
to the widow of a French trader, an Indian by birth,
and wearing the dress of her country. She spoke
French fluently, and was very ladylike in her manners.
She is a great character among them. They were
all the time coming to pay her homage, or to get her
aid and advice; for she is, I am told, a shrewd woman
of business. My companion carried about her sketch-book
with her, and the Indians were interested when they
saw her using her pencil, though less so than about
the sun-shade. This lady of the tribe wanted to
borrow the sketches of the beach, with its lodges
and wild groups, “to show to the savages,”
Of the practical ability of the Indian
women, a good specimen is given by McKenney, in an
amusing story of one who went to Washington, and acted
her part there in the “first circles,”
with a tact and sustained dissimulation worthy of
Cagliostro. She seemed to have a thorough love
of intrigue for its own sake, and much dramatic talent.
Like the chiefs of her nation, when on an expedition
among the foe, whether for revenge or profit, no impulses
of vanity or wayside seductions had power to turn
her aside from carrying out her plan as she had originally
Although I have little to tell, I
feel that I have learnt a great deal of the Indians,
from observing them even in this broken and degraded
condition. There is a language of eye and motion
which cannot be put into words, and which teaches
what words never can. I feel acquainted with
the soul of this race; I read its nobler thought in
their defaced figures. There was a greatness,
unique and precious, which he who does not feel will
never duly appreciate the majesty of nature in this
I have mentioned that the Indian orator,
who addressed the agents on this occasion, said, the
difference between the white man and the red man is
this: “the white man no sooner came here,
than he thought of preparing the way for his posterity;
the red man never thought of this.” I was
assured this was exactly his phrase; and it defines
the true difference. We get the better because
“Look before and
But, from the same cause, we
“Pine for what
The red man, when happy, was thoroughly
happy; when good, was simply good. He needed
the medal, to let him know that he was good.
These evenings we were happy, looking
over the old-fashioned garden, over the beach, over
the waters and pretty island opposite, beneath the
growing moon; we did not stay to see it full at Mackinaw.
At two o’clock, one night, or rather morning,
the Great Western came snorting in, and we must go;
and Mackinaw, and all the north-west summer, is now
to me no more than picture and dream;
“A dream within
These last days at Mackinaw have been
pleasanter than the “lonesome” nine, for
I have recovered the companion with whom I set out
from the East, one who sees all, prizes all, enjoys
much, interrupts never.
At Detroit we stopped for half a day.
This place is famous in our history, and the unjust
anger at its surrender is still expressed by almost
every one who passes there. I had always shared
the common feeling on this subject; for the indignation
at a disgrace to our arms that seemed so unnecessary,
has been handed down from father to child, and few
of us have taken the pains to ascertain where the blame
lay. But now, upon the spot, having read all
the testimony, I felt convinced that it should rest
solely with the government, which, by neglecting to
sustain General Hull, as he had a right to expect they
would, compelled him to take this step, or sacrifice
many lives, and of the defenceless inhabitants, not
of soldiers, to the cruelty of a savage foe, for the
sake of his reputation.
I am a woman, and unlearned in such
affairs; but, to a person with common sense and good
eyesight, it is clear, when viewing the location,
that, under the circumstances, he had no prospect of
successful defence, and that to attempt it would have
been an act of vanity, not valor.
I feel that I am not biased in this
judgment by my personal relations, for I have always
heard both sides, and, though my feelings had been
moved by the picture of the old man sitting down, in
the midst of his children, to a retired and despoiled
old age, after a life of honor and happy intercourse
with the public, yet tranquil, always secure that
justice must be done at last, I supposed, like others,
that he deceived himself, and deserved to pay the
penalty for failure to the responsibility he had undertaken.
Now on the spot, I change, and believe the country
at large must, ere long, change from this opinion.
And I wish to add my testimony, however trifling its
weight, before it be drowned in the voice of general
assent, that I may do some justice to the feelings
which possessed me here and now.
A noble boat, the Wisconsin, was to
be launched this afternoon, the whole town was out
in many-colored array, the band playing. Our boat
swept round to a good position, and all was ready but the
Wisconsin, which could not be made to stir. This
was quite a disappointment. It would have been
an imposing sight.
In the boat many signs admonished
that we were floating eastward. A shabbily dressed
phrenologist laid his hand on every head which would
bend, with half-conceited, half-sheepish expression,
to the trial of his skill. Knots of people gathered
here and there to discuss points of theology.
A bereaved lover was seeking religious consolation
in Butler’s Analogy, which he had
purchased for that purpose. However, he did not
turn over many pages before his attention was drawn
aside by the gay glances of certain damsels that came
on board at Detroit, and, though Butler might afterwards
be seen sticking from his pocket, it had not weight
to impede him from many a feat of lightness and liveliness.
I doubt if it went with him from the boat. Some
there were, even, discussing the doctrines of Fourier.
It seemed pity they were not going to, rather than
from, the rich and free country where it would be so
much easier, than with us, to try the great experiment
of voluntary association, and show, beyond a doubt,
that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound
of cure,” a maxim of the “wisdom of nations,”
which has proved of little practical efficacy as yet.
Better to stop before landing at Buffalo,
while I have yet the advantage over some of my readers.