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Historic Diaries: James Doty, 1820

July 26, 1820: Mosquitoes and Other Avian Life

Editor's Note:

Schoolcraft was by no means the only early explorer to comment on mosquitoes, but few others left such eloquent passages as the following:

"It certainly requires a different species of philosophy to withstand, undisturbed, the attacks of this ravenous insect, for that which we are called upon to exercise upon the sudden occurrence of any of the great calamities and misfortunes of life. He who is afflicted, without complaining, by an unexpected change of fortune, or the death of a friend, may be thrown into a fit of restless impatience by the stings of the musquito; and the traveller who is prepared to withstand the savage scalping knife, and the enraged bear, has nothing to oppose to the attacks of an enemy, which is too minute to be dreaded, and too numerous to be destroyed."

Location: vicinity of modern Palisade, Minn.

View Schoolcraft's complete description in his 1821 Narrative

[Schoolcraft:] It commenced raining during the night, and as we had neglected to have our tents pitched, we were first awoke by the falling rain, and during the intervals of the showers, the musquitoes assailed us in such numbers as to forbid the hope of rest. In this situation we passed the remainder of the night, around our fires, endeavouring to divert our reflections by the interchange of anecdote, and absolutely prevented from falling asleep by the labour of brushing away the voracious hordes of musquitoes, which unceasingly beset us with their stings, and poured forth their hateful and incessant buzzing upon our ears...

Ducks, the teal, and the plover, have been observed; -- also, the bald eagle, kingfisher, mock bird, robin, and pigeon. As night approached, we heard, for the first time in the region, the whipporwill, which is called by the Indians Muck-a-wiss, being the sounds, according to their notions, which it utters. Among the plants, at the spot of our encampment, we noticed the wild rose (rosa parviflora) and a flower, resembling in some of its characters the ipomaca nil, but with a short floriferous stem, and lance-oblong leaves: peduncle one-flowered, bell-shaped, white, downy. It appears to have escaped the notice of Pursh, in his botanical researches in the northwest...

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