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Historic Diaries: James Doty, 1820

July 2, 1820: The Apostle Islands

Editor's Note:

Schoolcraft described the fur trade station of Michel Cadotte, on what is now Madeline Island, as " formerly an important trading post but is now dwindled to nothing. There is a dwelling of logs, stockaded in the usual manner of trading houses, besides several out buildings, and some land in cultivation. We here also found several cows and horses, which have been transported with great labour."


He also remarked that "The Indians appear very jealous of every attempt to explore the mineralogy of their territories, and are loth to communicate any information that would lead to discovery."


Michel Cadotte (1764-1837) was born at Sault St. Marie, Mich. and settled on Madeline Island sometime after 1792. He built a large and flourishing fur trade which tapped northern Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota for furs. His marriage to the daughter of an Ojibwe chief and his sympathetic understanding of the Indians won the affection of local tribes and gained him a monopoly of their trade in the early 19th century. The eventual success of John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company and a disastrous raid by a band of Ojibwe Indians in 1811 proved too much for him, however, and before his death Cadotte sold his fur interests and retired.


Location: Chequamegon Bay, Wis.


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At 1/2 past 4 A. M. we embarked, steering S. 65 W. to a point from which, S. W. to the Montreal river, 13 miles from our encampment, where we breakfasted… This stream is generally very rapid, and at its mouth where we landed a beautiful fall is seen of about 70 ft. — the banks are 100.' From the fall the banks widen, forming a fine bottom through which the river meanders 1/4 of a mile, in the middle of which the Indians have erected a weir for the purpose of taking whitefish and sturgeon.


Almost unlimited numbers of pigeons came flying over the banks into the gulf, from whence they ascended to the opposite. They flew so low that 30 or 40 were killed by our men with clubs & sticks thrown into the flocks as they passed. A little above the river on the lake shore there are several lodges of Indians on a piece of level ground bounded on 3 sides by mountains, through which a small creek runs…


We crossed over 3 miles to the lower end of St. Michaels Island and landed a short time near Mr. Cadotte's establishment. We met several Indians here who informed [us] that many years since, a young Indian had found about 3 miles from this on the Island a large piece of pure copper — that they had never been to the place nor had they heard from him or others whether there was any more there. He carried away the piece. Also that about 60 years since an English gentleman with several attendants came up and he must be informed of all the mines in the country. The Indian who told this said he was then so small he did not go with them but that he recollects they crossed over to one of 2 creeks on the main nearly opposite the Island, and which he does not know, where they found a silver mine. The Gent. left the Island saying he should come back the next spring and work both the silver and copper he had found, but he died on his passage home. Since that time the Indian had heard nothing of them. The Gov. did not deem this information sufficient to warrant a search and we proceeded on.


The land through which those streams mentioned run is high and mountainous, and in many respects would favor the assertion frequently made by the Indians that they contain silver.


This Island appears to be large — I should say not less than 10 miles long. Mr. Cadot was absent from his establishment below. He has a horse in the Island which he brought from the Sault in a batteau. We steered a north course 6 miles to a sandy point on which we encamped opposite to the "Isle au d'esprit" (Island of the Holy Ghost). The Islands, called by Charlevoix "the 12 Apostles," extend about 20 miles from point Chegoiamegon.

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