Use the smaller-sized text Use the larger-sized text Use the very large text

Historic Diaries: James Doty, 1820

Click the date to read the full entry and further historic details

  • Aug. 6, 1820: Prairie du Chien to Green Bay, and on to Detroit
    Doty's last entry in his journal was Aug. 5th. He and the rest of the party left Prairie du Chien at 10:00 a.m. on Aug. 9th, bound up the Wisconsin River to Portage (reached Aug. 14th) and then down the...

  • Aug. 5, 1820: Prairie du Chien
    At 1/2 past 3 we embarked, as day was dawning....

  • Aug. 4, 1820: Chief Wabasha and Mount Trempealeau
    Embarked at 5. Weather cold & cloudy. Proceeded on 3 miles to the foot of the Lake, where the Chippeway or Sauteur river empties in. Stopt a short time at The Wings village [actually, the village of Wabasha, not Red...

  • Aug. 3, 1820: Lake Pepin and Red Wing's Village
    Embarked at 5. Having descended 3 miles we came to the mouth of the St. Croix river, off which is an island. This river is very wide for 12 miles from the Mississippi, and is sometimes called a Lake. Six...

  • Aug. 2, 1820: Carver's Cave and Little Crow's Village
    [Doty:] Before 9 this morning we bade the gentlemen of the garrison farewell, and embarked. They had been very polite and attentive to us during our stay… It is 4 & 1/2 miles to a cave generally called "the...

  • Aug 1, 1820: Cass Tries to Make Peace
    [Doty did not write in his journal this day, so we resume excerpts from that kept by Henry Schoolcraft:] A treaty of peace was this day concluded between the Sioux and Chippeways in the presence of Governor Cass, Colonel...

  • July 31, 1820: Doty, on the Founding of Fort Snelling
    ...A short distance above the falls of St. Anthony a river empties in which Carver calls Rum river. The Indians say it is the residence of good and bad spirits. Carver not understanding them must have entirely mistaken their meaning;...

  • July 30, 1820: Past St. Anthony's Falls
    [Schoolcraft:] It was five o'clock in the morning when we left our encampment. On descending six miles we reached the mouth of the Mississawgaigon or Rum river, a large and long stream coming in upon the east bank... The Falls...

  • July 29, 1820: Wolves and Owls
    [Schoolcraft:] ... In the course of the night a pack of wolves were heard on the opposite side of the river. There is something doleful as well as terrific in the howling of this annual, particularly when we start from...

  • July 28, 1820: A Buffalo Hunt
    [Schoolcraft:] Embarked at half past four... Being now in the region of buffalo, we concluded to land, in the course of the day, at some convenient place for hunting them. This we were soon invited to do by seeing one...

  • July 27, 1820: The First Buffalo
    [Schoolcraft:} ...We quit our encampment at five o'clock. The pine lands which commenced yesterday at the junction of Pine river with the Mississippi, continued to within a short distance of the mouth of the river De Corbeau. They are elevated...

  • July 26, 1820: Mosquitoes and Other Avian Life
    [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...

  • July 25, 1820: Down the Mississippi from Sandy Lake
    [For the next several days Doty again neglected his journal, so we continue excerpts from Schoolcraft's as the expedition travels downriver to the site of modern Minneapolis-St. Paul:] The expedition embarked at the Fort at twelve o'clock, in three canoes...

  • July 24, 1820: Reunited Once Again
    [Schoolcraft:] A change of wind took place during the night, and we were favoured with the most delightful weather. Proceeding under the double influence of a strong current and the force of our paddles, we progressed with surprising rapidity,...

  • July 23, 1820: Downriver toward Sandy Lake
    [Schoolcraft:] Between our sufferings from the stings of the mosquitoes, and our anxiety to rejoin our friends at Sandy lake, we obtained little rest, and decamped at a quarter past four in the morning. We reached the falls of Peckagama...

  • July 22, 1820: Turning Toward Home
    [Schoolcraft:] Quiting our encampment before day light, we reached lake Winnipec at eight o'clock, and performed the traverse against a strong head wind. This occupied two hours, during which our canoes were violently tossed upon the waves, and the voyageurs...

  • July 21, 1820: Schoolcraft Mistakes the Source of the Mississippi
    [Schoolcraft:] We continued our journey at half past four o'clock in the morning. Passing around the northern shore of Lake Winnipec, we observed at a distance a rocky island of such snowy whiteness, as to give it an appearance of...

  • July 20, 1820: To Lake Winnibigoshish
    [Schoolcraft:] ...We embarked at half past five; our route lay through a prairie country, similar in every respect to that yesterday passed. At the distance of ten miles we passed the mouth of Leech river, entering on the left. This...

  • July 19, 1820: Past Pokegama Lake
    [Schoolcraft:] The night was so cold that water froze upon the bottoms of our canoes, and they were encrusted with a scale of ice of the thickness of a knife blade. The thermometer stood at 36° at sun-rise... Four miles...

  • July 18, 1820: Along the Great River Road
    [Schoolcraft:] There was a shower of rain during the night, -- it ceased at four o'clock. We embarked at five, -- the weather remained cloudy and misty. On ascending one mile, we passed Swan River, which enters, by a mouth...

  • July 17, 1820: Schoolcraft Heads for the Mississippi's Source
    [Schoolcraft's narrative:] We left the fort at half past nine in the morning, in three canoes, manned by nineteen voyageurs and Indians, and provisioned for twelve days. Our party now, exclusive of the working men, consisted of Governor Cass, Dr....

  • July 16, 1820: Council with the Sandy Lake Ojibwe
    Spent in reading and walking. Found several old curious works in the small library kept at this Est[ablishment]. These young gent[lemen], have had no communication with the civilized world for more than a year, and the narration of the events...

  • July 15, 1820: Reunited at Sandy Lake
    The Gov. arrived this afternoon. He appeared nearly overcome with heat and fatigue....

  • July 14, 1820: At Sandy Lake
    This morning Mr. S., Lt. M., & Mr. C. left for the portage to meet the residue of the party. I was well enough pleased to remain in a house among half civilized beings and gain a little rest....

  • July 13, 1820: Sandy Lake, At Last
    Before sunrise we commenced our march though some were complaining of lame knees, & others of blistered feet. One of my own was blistered from the toes to the heel, notwithstanding which I kept my pace with the rest...

  • July 12, 1820: Approaching Sandy Lake
    In our journey to day we had not all the difficulties to encounter we had yesterday — still they were not relaxed in any very sensible degree. We were animated during the day with the hopes of arriving at this...

  • July 11, 1820: Ojibwe Literacy
    Early in the morning we rose, shouldered our packs and commenced our route, which the whole of this day laid over wind-falls and through cranberry and tamerack Swamps. It is impossible to describe the fatigues of this day's march, and...

  • July 10, 1820: Overland into the Forest
    Early on the morning of the 10th Mr. S., Lt. M., Mr. C, Mr. T., and myself with a party of the soldiers and two Indian guides left the portage to cross the country on foot to Sandy Lake while...

  • July 9, 1820: Knife Portage
    The rapids in the river continuing strong the gent, and surplus of Soldiers over the number requisite to man the canoes, walked across a point of land 1 mile made by a bend in the river. At the point [where]...

  • July 8, 1820: Grand Portage Completed
    By 4 o'clock we had every thing across the portage, for all which we were blessing our stars over a piece of ham & a good dish of chocolate. This is considered a difficult portage and it is reckoned fortunate...

  • July 7, 1820: Second Day on the Grand Portage
    Rained all day. Voyageurs and Indians complained bitterly. They were all astonished at the determination to proceed to day, they never having been accustomed to move in such weather. The 12th pause is called "the grave," from a Frenchman named...

  • July 6, 1820: The Three-Day "Grand Portage"
    Early this morning we embarked and proceeded up the river against a strong rapid for 2 miles when the gent. of the party landed, the rapid becoming more difficult, and crossed over by land. The path lay over very...

  • July 5, 1820: An African-American Fur Trade Family
    We embarked at 1/4 before 3 this morn, and with the aid of a little fair wind we reached the Fond Du Lac river [St. Louis River, at modern Superior-Duluth] at 12 o'clock, 48 miles from the river Brule or...

  • July 4, 1820: Held Up Again
    Rose at sun rise — wind still ahead — at 7 A. M. air at 57 water at 58, In the afternoon the wind abating we struck our tents and embarked, steering N. 75 W. 2 miles out of...

  • July 3, 1820: Around Bayfield Peninsula
    We rose early & embarked, wind ahead, steering N. 33 E. to a point beyond Raspberry river which empties at the foot of a sandy bay 9 miles from our encampment. Our course was then N. 40 W. a short...

  • July 2, 1820: The Apostle Islands
    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...

  • July 1, 1820: The Porcupine Mountains
    Early this morning we embarked, the wind ahead though not very strong. In 15 miles we came to Iron river a stream of good size being about 4 rods wide at its mouth. It empties at the bottom of a...

  • June 30, 1820: Passenger Pigeons
    [Doty wrote only one line this day:] Killed a great number of pigeons this morning. Strong wind ahead all day....

  • June 29, 1820: Return to the Lake Shore
    Early this morning we rose and embarked, determined if possible to leave this river before farther difficulties & disappointments should reach us. A short distance above the copper rock, the 'Ntenagon' is divided into 2 forks of an equal size,...

  • June 28, 1820: Quest for the Giant Copper Boulder
    We rose and embarked at half past 3 o'clock. Having gone about two miles up a very strong current, and frequently a rapid, the Indians informed us there was a path leading across from that place to the copper mine...

  • June 27, 1820: To the Ontonagon Copper Country
    Everything being in readiness we embarked this morning before 4 o'clock… Having a fair strong wind we did not approach the shore but kept out in the lake. We arrived at the River Ontonagon a few minutes past 1 o'clock,...

  • June 26, 1820: The Destroyer of Rocks
    This morn I rose at 4, and walking on the shore of the lake found several fine specimens of cornelian and agate. A piece of copper was found by Mr. S [Schoolcraft]. Most of the stones on shore indicate they...

  • June 25, 1820: Portaging across Keweenaw Peninsula
    The three canoes crossed the bay early this morning, and by 8 o'clock we were ready to ascend the river. This river runs nearly a south course through a marsh bounded on each side by high land. In winding its...

  • June 24, 1820: Separated in a Gale
    We embarked 20 minutes before 6. The Thermometer last night stood at 70 [degrees]— this noon at 58. After passing out of the bay, 1 mile… From the 4 mile point we commenced a traverse across the bay steering S....

  • June 23, 1820: Approaching Keweenaw Peninsula
    At half past 5 we rose, breakfasted & embarked. The course from the point on which we encamped to one about 12 or 14 m. distant is N. W. About the middle of this point Garlic river enters, 15 miles...

  • June 22, 1820: Munising to Marquette and Beyond
    We rose and embarked early steering south 75 W. 4 miles to a point, off which lay a small Island near Grand Island… We then turned into a deep bay steering S. 70 W. to its bottom. The course across...

  • June 21, 1820: Storms at Pictured Rocks
    At 10 o'clock last night the most tremendous storm arose I ever witnessed. It came on from the N. W. and directly on the shore where we were encamped. From the continued flashes of lightning the Lake appeared on fire....

  • June 20, 1820: Grand Marais and Grand Sables
    The kind of timber which most predominates on this shore is pine, white and yellow. It is occasionally interspersed with birch. The shore is in no instance high or bold. If there is a marrais here it is not seen...

  • June 19, 1820: Into the Dunes
    As we were about starting, several of the S. W. Co. [Southwest Co. fur trading] boats came in, under the charge of Mr. Morrison. Of him we obtained much useful information relative to the upper country and of the course...

  • June 18, 1820: Starting along the Upper Peninsula
    We rose early and embarked, though we were threatened by a thunder storm. On turning the point above our encampment, the British shore at the mouth of the river was N. 70 W. The land appeared very high and mountainous....

  • June 17, 1820: Into Lake Superior
    We left the Sault at 1 o'clock. We walked across the portage of rather more than one mile in length, while the canoes at several trips took up the provision and baggage. This is a rapid fall of 22 ft....

  • June 16, 1820: Dramatic Confrontation at the Sault
    a council was held by Gov. Cass with the chiefs who claim the land around the Sault. They are of the Chippeway Nation. By virtue of a grant made to the French Govt, when this country was owned by France,...

  • June 15, 1820: Schoolcraft Meets His Future Wife
    [Doty did not write in his journal this day, so we have inserted excerpts from Schoolcraft's:] The Sault de St. Marie is the largest of three rapids which impede the navigation of the river St. Mary between Lake Superior and...

  • June 14, 1820: To Sault St. Marie
    At 5 we rose & embarked. We kept to the American shore, steering about N. 30 W. This river is so full of Islands that it is almost impossible to say when you are in sight of the main land....

  • June 13, 1820: West from Mackinac
    [James Doty's journal:] We left Mackinac at 10 o'clock this morning, accompanied by Lieut. Pierce in a barge with a command of 22 soldiers. The traverse to Goose Island is 12 miles. It is considered dangerous from the waves and...

  • June 12, 1820: Schoolcraft, on Mackinac's Indian Residents
    The etymology of the word Michilimackinac admits of a ready explanation. It is a compound of the word missi or missil, signifying "great," and mackinac the Indian word for "turtle," from a fancied resemblance of the island to a great...

  • June 11, 1820: Schoolcraft, on Mackinac's Geology
    The geological character of the island of Michilimackinac presents some features which, so far as observations have enabled us to judge, are peculiar to it. "It consists of a stratum of limestone of immense thickness, based upon a calcareous rock,...

  • June 10, 1820: Schoolcraft, on the Fish at Mackinac
    [Doty did not write in his journal again this day. Schoolcraft turned his attention to the fish of the vicinity:] Few persons have visited this Island without being struck with the variety and the delicacy of the fish, which are...

  • June 9, 1820: Schoolcraft, on the History of Mackinac
    The island of Michilimackinac, and the adjacent coasts, have been the theatre of some of the most interesting events in the history of the settlement of the northwestern regions of our continent. The ancient town, which was situated on the...

  • June 8, 1820: Schoolcraft, on the nearby St. Martin's Islands
    [Doty did not write in the official expedition journal during his six-day stay at Mackinac, so we substitute the account of Henry Schoolcraft, the expedition's geologist:] In consequence of a reported discovery of gypsum upon the St. Martin's islands,...

  • June 7, 1820: Doty, on Mackinac's Geography
    Mackinac is situated nine miles from point St. Ignace on the N.W. and twelve miles from the shore on the S.E. From the Island the entrance into Lake Michigan is plainly seen at about 15 miles distant. The summit of...

  • June 6, 1820: To Mackinac Island
    We rose at day break & embarked. Fifteen miles from Swan river is Wauqui-og, or Deep bay, into which a river of the same name empties, navigable for boats & canoes only a short distance. This river is frequented...

  • June 5, 1820: Presque Isle and Beyond
    The wind continuing boisterous, at 8 A. M. we started on foot for Presque Isle distant 8 miles, course nearly N., while the canoe-men proceeded with the canoes. On the lower side of Presque Isle is a large bay, which...

  • June 4, 1820: Delayed by Thunderstorms
    We rose at day dawn, breakfasted and embarked… We had not crossed the bay or from our encampment to the point 3 miles distant before a severe thunderstorm burst upon us, and compelled us to land immediately, which we did...

  • June 3, 1820: Toward Michigan's Northern Shore
    Early this morning we embarked, steering a N. course to Tamerack point, distance 4 miles, thence N. to a point 3 miles. From this to Rush point (Puck-wi-e-con-ing) course N. distance 9 miles the land is high — apparently mountainous....

  • June 2, 1820: Across Saginaw Bay
    Embarked at 5. …From point au Chene we steered across the Bay, making first to Mackinac Island of the Bay, distance 15 miles, course N. N. W… There being little wind we had a fortunate time in crossing the...

  • June 1, 1820: Port Hope to Port Austin
    Rose at 4, breakfasted and the wind having partially subsided, struck our tents & embarked. Crossed a bay 3 m to another point (Elm pt.), the wind increasing compelled [us] to land. I walked back into the country and...

  • May 31, 1820: Still Stranded; Fossilizing
    Wind N. E. Waves high, continued encamped all day. 7 A. M. Ther. 49, sunset 48....

  • May 30, 1820: Stranded at Port Hope
    In the middle of the night a heavy wind arose which has continued all this day from the N. E. The swells & wind were so powerful that it was impossible to get out. Several vessels passed the point...

  • May 29, 1820: The Sacred White Rock
    Rose at half after 4. Breakfasted and embarked at 6. Wind ahead. Course N. 20 W. to Kish-kah-bah-no-ne-kagong — (high clay bank) four miles — banks slate, clay and sand, from thence to another point 1 1/2 m. N....

  • May 28, 1820: Into Lake Huron
    Rose at 1/2 past 5. Wind fair but weather damp — rain expected. At 1/2 past 8 we embarked, wind ahead. After passing a rapid of near 1/2 mile, entered lake Huron. Passed Green point. Deer point, and 4...

  • May 27, 1820: At the Mouth of the St. Clair
    Rose at 4, breakfasted and at half p. 6 embarked. In a short time came into the Ship channel. Harsons Island lies opposite to our encampment. Passed several houses. The land appears fertile and the farms comfortable. The river is...

  • May 26, 1820: Under Way at Last
    Mercury at day light at 51 in the tent — at 7, 56 in the shade. Wind ahead. At 12 O'clock the Governor arrived, and the wind having ceased, we embarked, steering N. N. E. At 1/2 past 1...

  • May 25, 1820: Stuck in the Gate
    The wind continued strong from the N. E. and the swells were very high so that we remained encamped during the day. The men were occupied in gumming and fixing the canoes, and it was found necessary to arrange many...

  • May 24, 1820: Leaving Detroit
    The canoes which were to convey us had been bargained for with the Indians of Sagina[w], but as they did not arrive two others were obtained. The wind for two weeks has been from the East very strong which has...

  • May 24, 1820: Purpose of the Expedition
    This Expedition is fitted out at the suggestion of Gov.Cass by the Secretary at War, Mr. Calhoun. Its objects are understood to be the attainment of certain information of the moral & physical situation of the Northern Indians, their divisions,...



  • Questions about this page? Email us
  • Email this page to a friend
select text size Use the smaller-sized textUse the larger-sized textUse the very large text