Lt. Robt. E. Clary, 2d U.S. Infantry, commanded a small detachment of troops, which was ordered to accompany me through the Indian country. I had invited Mr. Melancthon Woolsey, a printer of Detroit, a young man of pleasing manners and morals, to accompany me as an aid in procuring statistical information. I had an excellent crew of experienced men, guides and interpreters, and full supplies of everything suited to insure respect among the tribes, and to accomplish, not only the government business, but to give a good account of the natural history of the country to be explored. It was the first public expedition, authorized by the new administration at Washington, and bespoke a lively interest on the subject of Indian Affairs, and the topics incidentally connected with it. I was now to enter, after crossing Lake Superior, the country of the Indian murderers, mentioned 22d June, 1825, and to visit their most remote villages and hiding places.
It was the 27th of June when we left that point—the exploring party to pursue its way in the lake, and the ladies, in charge of Lt. Allen, to return to St. Mary’s.
Lake Superior—Its shores and character—Geology—Brigade of boats—Dog and porcupine—Burrowing birds—Otter—Keweena Point—Unfledged ducks—Minerals—Canadian resource in a tempest of rain—Tramp in search of the picturesque—Search for native copper—Isle Royal descried—Indian precaution—Their ingenuity—Lake action—Nebungunowin River—Eagles—Indian tomb—Kaug Wudju.
1831. LAKE SUPERIOR lay before us. He who, for the first time, lifts his eyes upon this expanse, is amazed and delighted at its magnitude. Vastness is the term by which it is, more than any other, described. Clouds robed in sunshine, hanging in fleecy or nebular masses above—a bright, pure illimitable plain of water—blue mountains, or dim islands in the distance—a shore of green foliage on the one hand—a waste of waters on the other. These are the prominent objects on which the eye rests. We are diverted by the flight of birds, as on the ocean. A tiny sail in the distance reveals the locality of an Indian canoe. Sometimes there is a smoke on the shore. Sometimes an Indian trader returns with the avails of his winter’s traffic. A gathering storm or threatening wind arises. All at once the voyageurs burst out into one of their simple and melodious boat-songs, and the gazing at vastness is relieved and sympathy at once awakened in gayety. Such are the scenes that attend the navigation of this mighty but solitary body of water. That nature has created such a scene of magnificence merely to look at, is contrary to her usual economy. The sources of a busy future commerce lie concealed, and but half concealed, in its rocks. Its depths abound in fish, which will be eagerly sought, and even its forests are not without timber to swell the objects of a future commerce. If the plough is destined to add but little to its wealth, it must be recollected that the labors of the plough are most valuable where the area suitable for its dominion is the smallest. But even the prairies of the West are destined to waft their superabundance here.