No Englishman knew the events transpiring at Sault Sainte Marie during this period as well as did Alexander Henry who, from purely mercantile reasons, had found his way to the village at the rapids.
He was born of English parentage in the colonies in 1739, and from his earliest manhood showed the thirst for adventure.
When twenty-one years old he joined Amherst’s army in order to get a footing in the newly acquired country as a trader, and in his ” Travels and Adventures,” he has left us a series of pictures invaluable to any who desire to know of those stirring times.
The year after Montreal was taken Henry pushed toward the West with a load of goods for trade with the Indians, and here it will not seem amiss if a description is given of the traders’ canoes such as he used on his journey.
‘The barques were five and a half fathoms in length with a beam of four and a half feet ; they had a carrying capacity of three tons of merchandise, irrespective of the eight men who acted as crew.
They were made of birch bark of a quarter of an inch thickness sown together with the inside fibrous root of the spruce tree, which was known when used for this purpose as wattup. The bark being sown and lined with cedar splints or strips, it was set up in the required form and ribs, held together from springing at the top were inserted and bound together with the transverse pieces so as to fcrm a frame. The ends were now trimmed off and sown and all seams covered with pine gum. The bars which held the ribs from springing acted as seats, and the craft was ready for launching. So steady were these that a man might readily stand upon the gunwhale without their upsetting. No party ever ventured out on an expedition without both wattup and pine gum, so that in case of accident repairs might at once be made.
The canoes were often worked with a sail and every four constituted a brigade with a guide.
The bowsmen and steersmen received double the wages of the other members of the crew and for the trip from Montreal to Michilimacinac and return their salary was $50.00 while the rest had to be content with $25.00 a piece.
The food of these voyageurs was as unique as their barques and belonged to the new country. It consisted of Indian maize from which the husk had been removed by boiling it in a strong preparation of lye. The maize was then submitted to pounding and drying and, fried in grease, formed their only food. A quart of this with a very little tallow or fat was a day’s ration, salt even was not mentioned, and bread and tea were never heard of. A bushel of corn with a pound of fat was a man’s provision for a month. Nor was there ever any complaining, for the supplies were satisfactory.
Alexander Mackenzie, who between 1789 and 1793 made his famous voyage from Montreal across the continent, relates the same fact with reference to the provisioning of his crew.
Henry, prepared for his trip, left Montreal for Michilimacinac where he found the natives instead of friendly, filled with hostility towards him.
Here he was robbed of part of his supplies, for the 6oth regiment which was to garrison the post had not as yet arrived and he was unprotected.
He had been previously warned as to his possible fate if his nationality were discovered, and at La Cloche, an island near the Manitoulin, he had taken the precaution to dye his skin and dress as a French Canadian that he might be well received. His ruse was however of no avail.
Arriving at the fort, he was most civily treated by the Canadians who told him, however, that the Indians would not permit English traders in their coasts. His apprehension was increased by the arrival of many of the Ottawas who demanded the goods on credit, while the interpreter, Farly, volunteered the suggestion that if the request were denied he would be murdered, Henry was here joined by two other traders, Solomon * and Goddard, and together they decided to withstand the demand.
Day and night were councils held and the traders, sent for and each time, presented with a new ultimatum, till one morning, much to their joy, they saw the Ottawas departing and presently not an Indian was to be found. The reason soon became plain, for ere long British uniforms were descried and Lieutenant Leslie with 30o troopers of the 6oth Regiment marched into the fort.
Henry remained at Michilimacinac for a time, but being desirous of visiting Sault Sainte Marie, he left the fort on the 15th of May in a canoe, and soon arrived at the foot of the rapids. Here was still standing the stockaded post which Repentigny had erected and which, now in the keep- a Solomon’s descendants live in St. Joseph’s Island at the present time.
He found a settlement of 5o warriors who still clung to the krall-shaped wigwams of earlier days. He described in his journal, written in later years, the mode of making rabbit blankets so common among the Indians then, and he mentions also the quantities of pigeons and of the less desirable but equally evident mosquitoes and black flies.
At rare intervals one may still see the Ojibway rabbit blanket. It is made by cutting and sowing the pelt in long strips about an inch wide and weaving them much the same as other blankets are woven, the ends of the strips being secured by stitches.
It was in the Autumn of that year that the ill-fated Jemette with his squad of soldiers arrived to take possession of the fort and the incidents up to the time of their journey to Michimilacinac have been related in the foregoing chapter.
The 10th March of 1763 saw Henry once again travelling back to Sault Sainte Marie where the natives were preparing for their annual sugar making camp.
But his journey was fraught with trouble, for he was overtaken by the affliction so common in the snowshoe country and known among the French settlers as the mal de raquettes.
It arose from the great strain on the muscles which were brought into play in snowshoeing, inducing inflammation, The pain was very great and the remedy prescribed, namely, holding a candle to the tendons of the legs till they cracked was hardly one to be submitted to without a degree of hesitation. The trader, however, recovered sufficiently to join the sugar makers and to aid them in the work of emptying the sap from the bark vessels into the pails and great moose skins preparatory to its being carried to the boilers.
On the 25th of April the labour was concluded and the tribe returned home with sixteen hundred weight of sugar and nearly forty gallons of syrup. The supply was very great although during their sojourn in the maple bush, the sugar, as it was made, had been their principal food.
Even then were tourists attracted to this country, for on his return Henry welcomed Sir Robert Davers who was passing through on a pleasure trip. Henry was one of the last white men seen by Sir Robert, for shortly after * the news reached the Commandant at Detroit that the traveller, together with a Captain Robertson, had been murdered above Lake St. Clair by Indians on their way to join Pontiac in his attack on that fort.
The month of May found the ubiquitous Henry again at Michilimacinac whither he had journeyed
Ninth of May, 1763.
with Davers on the latter’s trip to his death. Here Henry stayed till after the fateful fourth of June
He who would read a story of exciting adventure and well nigh incredible escapes must peruse the journal of the intrepid trader as he narrates day after day’s events following that dark ” King’s Birthday.” So long was the hope of regaining liberty deferred that the trader assumed more and more for protection the Indian ways, and as the Ojibways were now returning from Detroit where many had lost friends or relatives in the fruitless attack and were consequently more embittered against the English, Wawatuni, his friend, persuaded him to affect the Indian dress as even more effective disguise.
To this Henry readily assented and in a very short time the metamorphosis was complete.
His hair was cut off and his head shaved with the exception of a small spot on the crown, His face was painted with different colours, part black, part red, a tunic painted with vermillion and grease was substituted for his better garment and a large collar of wampum was placed around his neck and another suspended on his breast. Both his arms were decorated with bands of silver above the wrist and elbow, and his costume was completed by a pair of scarlet mitasses, or leggings, a scarlet blanket and a head dress of feathers. For months, from June till the following April, did Henry wander with Wawatum’s family, save for a short interval spent at Michilimacinac. He hunted and fished with the natives, starved when they starved and feasted when there was plenty. He joined them in their rites and customs, filled with admiration at the many qualities he saw displayed, until he confesses in his narration, ” If I could have forgotten that I had been ever otherwise than as I then was I could have enjoyed as much happiness in this as in any other situation.” Thus does man tend to revert to the Savage.
The Winter ended, Henry and Wawatum’s family returned to Michilimacinac where the Winter’s take ” in furs was bartered for stores’ and all settled down for a season of quiet.
It was not, however, to be of long duration, for eight days after their arrival there came a band of Indians beating up recruits among the Braves to war against the English, and these proposed that Henry be slain and a feast of his flesh be indulged in to raise their courage.
His only hope now lay in flight, and feeling sure that if he could but reach Cadotte at the Sault he would be safe, he easily persuaded Wawatum to accompany him on a journey thither, but en route Wawatum’s spouse took sick and declared that she had been warned in a dream that death awaited them if they continued on their course.
To argue would have been fruitless, to have returned meant disaster, and so camp was pitched on Isle aux Outardes in the direct course between Detroit and the Fort from whence they had fled.
Two days of apprehension followed which were spent by Henry watching from the top of a tall tree for the craft of friend or enemy. His watch was finally rewarded by the discovery of a sail which bore along a boat of Cadotte and which was carrying the latter’s wife back to the Sault.
Madame Cadotte cheerfully allowed the trader to become one of the party, so bidding Wawatum a deeply felt adieu, he embarked and the boat left the shore. Upon the beach stood the affectionate Indian with the members of his family invoking the solicitude of Kitchi Manido on behalf of his friend till they should meet again, and the craft had proceeded out of earshot before the Ojibway had ceased his prayer.
Once again was Henry to be threatened ere he reached his destination, for on the second day out the boat was surrounded by a number of canoes whose occupants denounced him for an Englishman. Madame Cadotte, however, resorted to subterfuge and finally, on the third day, the boat was beached at Sault Sainte Marie and Cadotte met them with a generous welcome.
Thirty warriors at the Sault were being kept in check by this loyal Frenchman who, but for Cadotte’s influence, would have joined the hostiles against Bouquet, and six days after Henry’s arrival, a canoe load of Braves pursuing him arrived and enquired where the fugitive was. Cadotte sent a message to Henry to conceal himself, and for a second time, first at Michilimacinac, then at Sault Sainte Marie, a garret afforded him a place of refuge.
A parley was held in which Mutchikiwish, the chief who led the pursuers and who was a relative of Cadotte, confessed that they wrshed to murder Henry and to raise a party of warriors to proceed against Detroit. An assembly was immediately called, and Cadotte and the chief of the village addressed the council in Henry’s behalf. While the trader’s fate trembled in the balance, a second canoe was reported as having just arrived from Niagara.
This indeed was the storm centre and the headquarters of Sir William Johnson, and word was sent at once bidding the strangers attend the council.
They came, and seating themselves, smoked for a time in silence. All were eager to hear the message, yet none would ask till they choose to speak. Finally, the spokesman rising and extending a belt of wampum, addressed the assembly.
” My friends and brothers,” he exclaimed, ” I am come with this belt from our great. father Sir William Johnson. He desired me to come to you as his ambassador and tell you that he is making a great feast at Fort Niagara : that his kettles are all ready and his fires lighted.
” He invites you to partake of the feast in common with your friends, the Six Nations, who have all made peace with the English.
” He advises you to seize this opportunity of doing the same as you cannot otherwise fail of being destroyed : for the English are on their march with a great army which will be joined by different nations of Indians. In a word, before the fall of the leaf, they will be at Michilimacinac and the Six Nations with them.”
The message delivered, the orator resumed his place, but his words had proved fruitful.
The fear of the invaders was upon the Braves, and they resolved to conciliate the British.
The council debated earnestly, and finally it was decided to send twenty warriors to Niagara as an evidence of the tribes’ good will.
But such a step was fraught with grave consequences, and that their decision might prove to be the best, it was decided to, seek the approbation of the Great Turtle, the chief Manido of the Ojibway people.