He suffered greatly and unjustly in the war of 1812, in which his place was pillaged by the American troops, and some forty thousand dollars of his private property destroyed, contrary to the instructions of the American commandant. Low-minded persons who had been in his service as clerks, and disliked his pretensions to aristocracy, were the cause of this, and piloted the detachment up the river. He was, however, in nowise connected with the North-west Company, far less “one of its agents.” He was a civil magistrate under Gov.-Gen. Prevost, and was honestly attached to the British cause, and he had never accepted any office or offers from the American government. The Canadian British authorities did not, however, compensate him for his losses, on the ground of his living over the lines, at a time, too, when Gen. Brock had taken the country and assumed the functions of civil and military governor over all Michigan. The American Congress did not acknowledge the obligation to sustain the orders to respect private property, the Chairman of the Committee of Claims reporting that the actors “might be prosecuted,” and the old gentleman’s last years were thus embittered, and he went down to the grave the victim of double misconceptions—leaving to a large family of the Indo-Irish stock little beyond an honorable and unspotted name.
Treaty of St. Joseph—Tanner—Visits of the Indians in distress—Letters from the civilized world—Indian code projected—Cause of Indian suffering—The Indian cause—Estimation of the character of the late Mr. Johnston—Autobiography—Historical Society of Michigan—Fiscal embarrassments of the Indian Department.
1828. Tanner was a singular being—out of humor with the world, speaking ill of everybody, suspicious of every human action, a very savage in his feelings, reasonings, and philosophy of life, and yet exciting commiseration by the very isolation of his position. He had been stolen by the Indians in the Ohio Valley when a mere boy, during the marauding forays which they waged against the frontiers about 1777. He was not then, perhaps, over seven years of age—so young, indeed, as to have forgotten, to a great degree, names and dates. His captors were Saganaw Chippewas, among whom he learned the language, manners and customs, and superstitions of the Indians. They passed him on, after a time, to the Ottowas of L’Arbre Croche, near Mackinac, among whom he became settled in his pronunciation of the Ottowa dialect of the great Algonquin family. By this tribe, who were probably fearful a captive among them would be reclaimed after Wayne’s war and the defeat of the combined Indians on the Miami of the Lakes, he was transferred to kindred tribes far in the north-west. He appears to have grown to manhood and learned the arts of hunting and the wild magic notions of the Indians on the Red River of the North, in the territory of Hudson’s Bay. Lord Selkirk, in the course of his difficulties with the North-west Company, appears to have first learned of his early captivity.