The Traverse Region - H. R. Page & Co., 1884


Physical Features‚€”Advent of Protestant Missionaries‚€”Movements at Old Mission‚€”Arrival of Settlers‚€”Removal of the Mission to Leelanaw County‚€”The First Bride-Mr. Duugherty as a Physician‚€”Reminiscence‚€”An Early Wedding.

Before following out the history of any particular county or section it is well to become acquainted with some of the distinguishing features of the territory under consideration, such as location, topography, etc.

A glance at the map (below) will show the location of Grand Traverse County to be at the head of the bay of the same name, and extending about ten miles on either side, eighteen miles to the south, and embracing the "Peninsula." A narrow strip of land dividing the bay into the east and west arms. It is bounded on the north by Leelanaw County and Traverse Bay, on the east by Kalkaska, on the south by Wexford, and on the west by Benzie. It has an area of 612 square miles, and had a population in 1880 of 8,422.

There were about 1000 acres of government, 1,100 acres of state swamp, 1,445 acres of primary school, 520 acres of agricultural college, and 80,440 acres of Grand Rapids and Indiana railroad Land subject to entry May 1, 1883.

A state road runs from Traverse City to Elk Rapids, thence northward to Charlevoix and Petoskey. Another runs southeasterly to Houghton Lake. The roads may be said to be in a fair condition for so now a country.

The soil varies according to locality from light sand to heavy clay. Near the bay shore, sand predominates, although in some places on the peninsula and in East Bay township good soil extends to the water's edge. Pine plains are quite extensive along the Boardman River, and cedar swamps (generally reclaimable) traversed by streams of running water, are found in nearly every township.

There are however, some tracts of clay and clay loam. The soil of the table land and its declivities is boulder drift of great thickness, in some places being fifty feet in depth, having the same mineral characteristics as that of the surface, except as it is modified by the influence of vegetation and the elements. The timber is mainly sugar maple, beech, bass wood, elm, hemlock, pine and cedar. Wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, clover, timothy, and all Varieties of roots do well in this county. Corn in particular does much better than would be expected in so high a latitude.

Grand Traverse is a great fruit county. Apples and grapes are raised on all but the swamp lands, but the more tender varieties of apples need the protection of the bay or of the moor elevated situations. Pears, peaches, plums, and cherries are very successful when proper attention is paid to the selection of the site. Thousands of bushels of huckleberries grow on the pine plains, while all other varieties of berries are perfectly at home, either in the field or garden. The general description of this region given on preceding pages will apply with especial forces to this county.

There is an abundance of water and that of (be purest quality. Boardman River and its tributaries water the eastern half of the county, while there are many smaller streams and lakes in every township. The larger lakes are: Long Lake, Green Lake, Duck Lake, Cedar Hedge Lake, Silver Lake, Fife Lake and Boardman Lake, varying from one to six miles in length. Long Lake being the largest. There is also in the northeast of Township 26 north, of Range 10 west, a chain of lakes, of irregular form, from half a mile to a mile in width and extending to several miles in length. The water is of the most perfect purity, all streams and lakes being fed by living springs. Further information may he found in the general chapter of soil, climate, etc.


The history of Grand Traverse County begins in the year 1889 with the advent of Protestant missionaries and the United States surveyors. These were the first intimations the Indians in this locality received of rival ownership.

In May, 1839, Rev. John Fleming and Rev. Peter Dougherty arrived at the little cove, known as Mission Harbor, and landed near where the wharf has since been built. They had come by boat from Mack nine where they had spent the previous winter and had now come to the Grand Traverse Hay region for the purpose of establishing a mission, having been sent to this country by the Presbyterian Board of Missions. From Dr. Leach's sketch in the Grand Traverse Herald we now quote as follows: Of the presence of man there were no signs visible, save at few bark wigwams, in a narrow break in the fringe of forest, from one of which a thin column of blue smoke curled lazily upward. They found only one Indian at the village. He informed them that the bond were encamped at the mouth of the river, on the opposite side of the bay. The Indian made a signal with a column of smoke which had the effect of bringing over a canoe, full of young men, who were to inquire who the strangers were and what was wanted.

The next day, a chief, with a number of men, came over. Messrs. Fleming and Dougherty informed him that they had come, by direction of their agent at Mackinac, and by permission of their great father, the president, to establish a school among them for the instruction of their children, and to teach them a knowledge of the Savior. The reply was that the head chief, with his men, would come in a few days, and then they would give an answer.

On the arrival of the head chief, Aish-qua-gwoa-aba, a council was held, for the purpose of considering the proposal of the missionaries. At its close, Messrs. Fleming and Dougherty were informed that the Indians had decided to unite the bands living in the vicinity, and locate near the river, on the east side of the bay. If the missionaries would go with them, they would show them the intended location of their new villages and gardens, so that they could select a good central site for their dwelling and school. About the 20th of the month, the white men in their boat accompanied by a fleet of Indian canoes, crossed the bay, landing at the mouth of the river, where the village of Elk Rapids is now situated. The Indians proposed to divide their settlement into two villages. After looking over the ground, the missionaries chose a location, something more than a quarter of a mile from the river, on the south side.

The day after the missionaries landed at Elk River, the Indians came to their tent in great excitement, saying there wore white men in the country. They had seen a horse's track which contained the impression of a shoe. Their ponies were not shod. Shortly after, a white man came into the camp. He proved to be a packman belonging to a company of United States surveyors, who were at work on the east side of Elk and Torch Lakes. He had lost his way and wanted a guide to pilot him back to his company. An Indian went with him several miles, returning in the afternoon with the man's hatchet in his possession, having taken it on the refusal of the latter to pay him for his services. The next day the whole company of surveyors came in and encamped for a short time at the river.

Immediately after deciding upon the location, Messrs. Fleming and Dougherty commenced cutting logs for the construction of a dwelling and school-house. Haniwork and the discomforts of a wilderness, the latter of which were doubly annoying to the inexperienced missionaries, filled up the next few days. Among other evils from which they could not escape, the sand flies were a terrible torment. Finally, the body of the house was raised, the doors and windows brought from Mackinac were put in their places, and the gables and roofs were covered with sheets of cedar bark purchased of the Indians. Then an unexpected blow fell upon the devoted missionaries, crushing the hopes and changing The life prospects of one, and plunging into deep sorrow. A messenger came from Mackinac, with intelligence that Mr. Fleming's wife had suddenly died at that place. The bereaved husband, with the four men who had come with him, immediately embarked in their boat for Mackinac. He never returned to the mission. Mr. Dougherty was left alone. With the exception of the surveyors at work somewhere in the interior, he was the only white person in the country.

After the departure of his comrade, Mr. Dougherty, with the assistance of Peter Greensky, the interpreter, busied himself with the work of finishing the house, and clearing away the brush in the vicinity. Once or twice the cedar bark of the roof took fire from the stove pipe, but fortunately the accident was discovered before any serious damage was done. Tho old chief Aish-qua-gwon-a-ba and his wife, perhaps to show their friendliness and make it less lonely for the missionary, came and stayed with him several days in his new house.

About the 20th of June, Henry H. Schoolcraft, Indian agent at Mackinac, arrived in small vessel, accompanied by his interpreter, Robert Graverat, and Isaac George as Indian blacksmith. From information received at Mackinac, Mr. Schoolcraft had come impressed with the notion that the harbor near tho little island near the peninsula (Bower's Harbor) would be a suitable point at which to locate the blacksmith, carpenter, and farmer, that, by the terms of the recent treaty, the government was obliged to furnish for the benefit of the Indians. Looking over the ground, and consulting the wishes of the Indians, he finally came to the conclusion that Mission Harbor was a more suitable place. Accordingly Mr. George was left to commence operations, and Mr. Schoolcraft returned to Mackinac.

Soon after the departure of Mr. Schoolcraft, Ah-go-sa, the chief at Mission Harbor, accompanied by the principal men of his band, visited Mr. Dougherty, saying that most of the Indians at that place were unwilling to move over to the east side of the bay, and offering to transport him and his goods across to Mission Harbor, and furnish him a house to live in, if he would take up his residence with them. Convinced that, all things considered, the harbor was a more eligible site for the mission, Mr. Dougherty at once accepted the proposal. Leaving what things were not needed for immediate use, and loading the balance in Indian canoes, he was ferried across the bay lo the scene of his future labors-‚€”the place where he had first landed, not many weeks before, and which, under the name of Old Mission, has since become famous as a center of development in the agricultural interests of northwestern Michigan.

The next day arrangements were made for opening a school, with interpreter Greensky as teacher, in the little bark wigwam that the Indians had vacated for Mr. Dougherty's use. Then followed a hard summer's work. Mr. Dougherty and Mr. George commenced the construction of a house for themselves. The logs for the building were cut close along the border of the harbor, located to a point near where they were to be used, and then it ragged to the site of the building by hand. Of course, the work could never have been accomplished without the aid of the Indians. The house was covered with shingles, such as the two inexperienced men were able to make, and a few boards brought from Mackinac with their fall supplies. The building was so nearly completed that the men found themselves comfortably housed before winter fairly set in.

Desiring not to be left alone, while the Indians were absent on their annual winter hunt, Mr. Dougherty induced tho chief All-go- sa and two others, with their families, to remain till sugar-making time in the spring, by offering to help them put up comfortable houses for winter. Before they were finished, the weather had become so cold that boiling water had to be used to thaw the clay for plastering the chinks in the walls. Mr. Dougherty's house stood on the bunk of the harbor, east of the site afterward occupied by the more commodious and comfortable mission house. The chief's shanty was much on the south side of the little lake lying a short distance northwest of the harbor. The cabins for the other two Indian families were located a little south of where the mission church was afterward built.

In the fall Mr. John Johnston arrived at the mission, having come by appointment of Mr. Schoolcraft to reside there as Indian farmer. During the winter, the mission family consisted of the four men Dougherty, George, Greensky, and Johnston. Mr. Johnston brought with him a yoke of oxen, for use in Indian farming. Their was no fodder in the country, unless he may have brought a little with him. Be that as it may he found it necessary to browse his cattle all winter.

In tho spring of 1840 the log house which had been built at Elk Rapids the previous year was taken down, and the materials were transported across the bay and used in the construction of a School-house and wood-shed. Until the mission church was built, a year or two after, tho school-house was used for holding religious services as well as for school.

In the fall of 1841 besides Indian wigwams there were five buildings at the mission‚€”the school-house and four dwellings. All were built of logs, and all except Mr. Dougherty's house, were covered with cedar bark. The dwellings were occupied by Mr. Dougherty, missionary, Henry Bradley, mission teacher, John Johnston, Indian farmer, and David McGulpin, assistant farmer. Mr. George was still there, and there had been another addition to the community in the person of George Johnston, who had come in the capacity of Indian carpenter. As regards race, the little community, the only representative of Christian civilization in the heart of a savage wilderness, was somewhat mixed. John Johnston was a half Indian, with a white wife; McGulpin was a white man, with an Indian wife. All the others, except Greensky, the interpreter, were whites.


In the fall of 1841 Deacon Joseph Dame and Lewis Miller Arrived. Mrs. Dougherty had previously come to the mission. The names of Joseph Dame and Lewis Miller became intimately connected with the history of this region.

Deacon Dame had received the appointment of Indian farmer, as successor to John Johnston, and came to enter upon the duties of his office. With him were Mrs. Dame, their eldest son, Eusebius F., and two daughters, Almira and Mary. Another daughter, Olive M., came the following year.

Lewis Miller was an orphan, left alone to make his way in the world. His birthplace was Waterloo, Canada West; the date of his birth, September 11, 1824. The year 1882 found him in Chicago. From that city, in 1840, he made his way to Mackinac. Here he became acquainted with the Dames. A strong friendship grew up between him and Mr. and Mrs. Dame. When, in 1841, Deacon Darne received his appointment us Indian farmer, and commenced preparations for removal to his new field of labor, Miller, then seventeen years of age, resolved to accompany him, more for the novelty of the thing than from any definite purpose with reference to the future. Except the children who came with their parents, he was the first white settler in the Grand Traverse country who did not come in consequence of an appointment from the Presbyterian Board or the Mackinac Indian Agency.

Eusebius and Alinira Dame were in their teens; Mary was younger. During some portion of the time for the next year or two, the three, with young Miller, were pupils in the mission school. Except the Catholic mission school at Little Traverse, it was the first in the Traverse country.

About 1842. the construction of a more commodious dwelling and a mission church was commenced by Mr. Dougherty. The dwelling, since known as the Mission House, was the first, frame building erected in the Grand Traverse country. The church had solid walls, of hewn cedar timbers had one upon another and kept in place by the ends being fitted into grooves in upright posts. The timbers were brought from the east side of the bay, in a huge log canoe, or dug-out, called the Pe to-be-go, which was thirty feet long, and, it in said, was capable of carrying twenty barrels of flour. At the present writing, forty years after the completion of there-structures, the mission house, enlarged and improved, is occupied as a dwelling by Mr. H. Rushmore. The church is owned by the Methodist Episcopal Society of Old Mission, and is still used as a house of worship. The little school house, in which Mr. Bradley taught Miller and the young Dames, in connection with his classes of Indian boys and girls, was accidentally burned several years ago.

During the next ten years, some changes occurred at the mission. Mr. Bradley, as teacher, was succeeded by a gentleman by the name of Whiteside. Not liking the position, Mr. Whiteside soon resigned, and was followed by Mr. Andrew Porter. Changes were also made, from time to time, among the employees of the Indian agency. Some of them remained in the country after their connection with the agency had terminated and turned their attention to farming and other pursuits. Among such appear the names of John Campbell, Robert Campbell, William R. Stone, and J. M. Pratt Among the earlier settlers not connected with the mission or the agency, were II. K. Coles, John Swaney, and Martin S. Wait. 0. P. Ladd and his brother-in-law, Orlin Hughson, settled on the peninsula as early as 1850. but remained only two or three years. E. P. Ladd, having come on a

The little group or wigwams and log cabins at the harbor, had grown to a village of considerable size. The Indians had generally abandoned their early style of wigwams, and were living in houses built of hewn logs and whitewashed on the outside. Seen from a distance, the village presented a pretty and inviting appearance; a close inflection did not always confirm first impressions. According to their original custom, the Indians lived in the village, and cultivated gardens some distance away.

The gardens, or patches of cultivated ground, were of all sizes, from one acre to six. The Indians had no legal title to the soil. By the terms of treaty, the peninsula had been reserved for their exclusive occupation for a period of five years, and after that they were to be permitted to remain during the pleasure of the government. The period of five years had long since expired. Their landed property was held by sufferance, and was liable at any moment to be taken away. The project of removing them beyond the Mississippi was at one time seriously entertained by the government, or at least it was understood. The prospect was not pleasing to the Indians. A deputation sent to examine their proposed new home in the West reported unfavorably. They determined not to be removed, preferring to take refuge in Canada, as a large part of tho Indian population of Emmet County had done several years before.

At this juncture, the adoption of the revised state constitution of 1850 made citizens of all civilized persons of Indian descent, not members of any tribe. Here was a way out of the difficulty. They could purchase land of the government, settle down upon it, and claim the protection of the state and the general government as citizens. The land on the peninsula was not yet in market: that on the west shore of the bay was. By the advice or Mr. Dougherty, several families agreed to set apart a certain amount, out of their next annual payment, for the purchase of land. A list of names was made, and the chief was authorized to receive the money from the agent at Mackinac, which he brought to Mr. Dougherty for safe keeping. Having made their selections, on the west side of the bay, some of their most trusty men were sent to the land office, at Ionia, the following spring, to make the purchase.

If the general government ever seriously entertained the moment of removing the Indians of the Traverse country beyond the Mississippi it was abandoned, and several townships, in what are now the counties of Leelanaw, Charlevoix, and Emmet, were withdrawn from market and set apart as reservations for their benefit. Within the limits of these reservations, each head of a family and each single person of mature age was permitted to select a parcel of land, to be held for his own use, and eventually to become his property in fee simple.

As already indicated, the lauds on the peninsula were not yet in market. Tho Indians held possession of considerable portions, but could give no legal title to the soil. They could, however, sell their possessory rights, and white men, recognizing the eligibility of the location for agricultural pursuits, wore not backward in be- coming purchasers, taking the chances of obtaining a title from the government at a future time.

The combined effect of the several circumstances narrated above, was to cause a gradual scattering of the Indians of the mission settlement. Those who had purchased land on the west side of tho bay, removed to their new homes. Others removed to the lands they had selected in tho reserved townships. Seeing that the Indian community at the mission would finally be broken up, Mr. Dougherty wisely concluded to change the location of the mission itself. Accordingly, purchase was made of an eligible tract of land suitable for a farm and manual labor school, on Mission Point, near the place now called Omena, in Leelanaw County, to which he removed early in the spring of 1862.

Considering the scattered condition and migratory habits of the Indians, it was thought that the most effective work for their christianization and civilization could be done by gathering the youth into one family, where they would be constantly, and for a term of years, under the direct supervision and influence of teachers. And then, a well-managed industrial school, it was thought, could not fail to exert, in some degree, a beneficial influence on the parents and youth of the vicinity, who did not attend, by a practical exhibition of the advantages of education and industry. In this respect, the new location of the mission was well chosen, being in the vicinity of those families who hod purchased land of the government, and who, it might reasonably be expected, would profit by its example.

Mission Point had been occupied by a band of Indians, called, from the name of their chief, Shawb-wan-sun's band, some of whose gardens were included in the tract purchased by Mr. Dougherty. There were apple trees growing there, at the time of the purchase, as large as a man's body. Tradition says that the band had inhabited the western shore of the bay for a long time, and had once been numerous and powerful.

The manual labor school was opened in the fall following the removal. The number of pupils were limited to fifty‚€”twenty-five of each sex. Young children were not received, except in one instance, the rule was suspended in favor of two homeless orphans. When received into the school, the pupils were first washed and clothed. The common clothing of both sexes consisted of coarse but decent and serviceable malarial. The boys were employed on the farm; the girls in housework and sewing. At five o'clock in the morning, the bell rang for all to rise. At six, it called all together for worship. Soon after worship, breakfast was served, the boys sitting at one table, the girls at another. After breakfast, all repaired to their daily labor, and worked till half past eight, when the school bell gave warning to assemble at the school room, The boys worked under the supervision of Mr. Craker. Every boy had suitable tools assigned him, which ho was required to care for and keep in their proper places. Mr. Craker kept the tools in order, so that they were always ready for use, and each boy could go to his work promptly. A considerable portion of the mission farm was cleared, and afterward cultivated, by tho labor of the boys. The girls were divided into classes, or companies, to each of which was assigned some particular department of domestic labor, changes being made weekly, so that all could be instructed in every department.

In the school-room were two teachers‚€”one for the boys and another for the girls. Miss Isabella Morrison, of New Haven, Conn., was for many years the girls' teacher. After her resignation, the place was filled by Miss Catherine Gibson, till the mission was discontinued. Miss Gibson was from Pennsylvania. In the boys' department, the teachers were successively Miss Harriet Cowles, Miss Beach, Mr. John Porter, and Miss Henrietta Dougherty. Miss Cowles came from near Batavia, N. Y., Miss Beach from White Lake, N. Y., and Mr. Porter from Pennsylvania. Concerning the mission, it only remains to mention that the financial embarrassment- of the Board, growing out of the war of the rebellion, necessitated the discontinuance of the work. The school was finally broken up, and the mission farm passed into other hands.

It has already been stated that Lewis Miller came to Old Mission in company with the Dame family, more for tho novelty of the thing than because of any definite plan for the future. At that time, the fur trade, having its center at Mackinac, was still profitable. When young Miller had been at the mission about a year, he entered into an arrangement with Mr. Merrick, a merchant of Mackinac, to open trade with the Indians on the bay. Mr. Merrick was to furnish the goods; Miller to conduct the business. A wigwam, rented of an Indian, served for a storehouse at the mission.

To carry on trade with the Indians successfully and profitably, involved a great deal of hard labor. Frequent journeys had to he made to Mackinac, and to various points along the shore, at all seasons of the year. When the lake was open, Indian canoes or Mackinac boats were used; when it was closed, there was no way but to travel on snow-shoes, on the ice or along the beach.

The winter journeys were always attended with hardship; sometimes with danger. Mr. Miller was usually accompanied by a man in his employ, and not {infrequently by two‚€”half-breeds or Indians. When overtaken by night, a camping place was selected on the shore, where there was plenty of fuel at hand, and where some thicket would, in a measure, break the fury of the wintry wind. With their snow-shoes for shovels, the travelers cleared away the snow down to the surface of the ground -not an easy task when, as was sometimes the case, it was three feet or more in depth. Then evergreen boughs were set up around the cleared space, as a further protection from the wind, and a thick carpet of twigs was spread on the ground. A fire was built, the kettle hung above it, and tea made. After supper the tired wanderers, each wrapped in two or three Mackinac blankets, lay down to rest. On one of his journeys to Mackinac, in the depth of winter, Mr. Miller and his companions waded Pine River, where Charlevoix is now situated, both going and returning.

Stopping over at Little Traverse, when on a boat journey in December, Mr. Miller was informed by the Indians that a vessel had gone ashore, near the " Dig Stone," on the south side of Little Traverse Bay. It was already dark, but, procuring a boat and two Indians to row, he lost no time in crossing the bay to the scene of the disaster. He found the vessel without difficulty. There was no one remaining on board, but a light could be seen among the trees, some distance back from the beach. Making his way to it, he found gathered round a campfire the crew of the vessel, which proved to be the Champion, and eighteen passengers. Had he dropped from the clouds into their midst, the company would have been scarcely more surprised. He was immediately overwhelmed with questions as to who he was, where he came from, and especially where they were. Neither captain, crew, nor passengers had any definite notion of the locality they were in. Learning their exact position, they set about making arrangements to get out of the wilderness. The captain willingly sold to Mr. Miller, at a low price, such supplies as the latter wished to purchase. Some of them bought boats of the Indians, and made their way to Mackinac. A party, led by the captain, crossed Grand Traverse Bay, landing in the vicinity of Omena, and proceeded south, on foot, along the shore of Lake Michigan. As far as known, crew and passengers all eventually reached their homes, but not without undergoing considerable hardship. Fortunately there were no women or children on board the Champion.

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