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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
X. WHITE MAN'S PAGEANT
"Westward the course of empire takes its way."
... Bishop Berkeley.
THE PAGEANT OF THE WHITE MAN BEGAN.
They came, dramatic figures in a procession that for picturesqueness and romantic charm has scarcely, perhaps never, been paralleled in the history of any other nation: explorer, Jesuit missionary, coureur-de-bois, voyageur, adventurer, chasseur and huntsman, trapper, and trader; Protestant missionary, traveler, government agent, surveyor, land speculator, and pioneer settler. Onward they pressed, beyond the early frontier, into the wilderness of the red man, claiming and winning a vast new domain for the white man's civilization.
Each of these, in his coming and his passing, impressed and left an indelible mark upon the pages of the history of the great Mid-West that is today. Each contributed, in his own peculiar manner, to the making of the history of those political units, later to become part and parcel of the United States of America. Each, also, was an essential to the theme, of which we hear but the echoes that have come down to us through the chasms of Time. Each as a part, and all as a whale, we find in that historical background of a township in which we are concerned.
The pageant of the white man is a part of our township history. Romantic as this may seem, it is nevertheless true. And, while we prefer to think of history as the truth, we prefer history sprinkled through with the glamour of romance.
|XI. THE JESUIT BRINGS THE CROSS|
"From the farthest realms of morning
Came the Black-Robe chief, the Prophet
He the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face,
With his guides and his companions."
...Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
"WITH THE CROSS UPON HIS BOSOM," came the Jesuit missionary into the wilderness. With the first explorers he came, by the waterways, from the land of civilized peoples, a long journey distant, toward the rising sun. He remained, to convert the Indian to Christianity in the faith of the Catholics.
Far across the ocean, that journey began. And it ended in the wilds of the land of our story. So it was that, after weeks and months and even years of journeying, the black-robed Jesuit, pioneer missionary, at length reached his destination, which was this then remote and hitherto unexplored region. He came seeking that he might save the souls of the "savages." The French priest came to these parts simultaneously not only with the explorer but also with the adventurer bent on conquest, just as the Spanish padre came into the deserts and mountains of the Southwest simultaneously with the Conquistador. Like the adventurers of the Great Lakes region, those bold Spaniards of the Southwest were drawn on and on by the lure of "the loot of conquest!" While the friars were "covetous of souls!"
In our own little tract of wilderness, the Jesuits worked among the Indians with great zeal and patience. It was said by John Lord, in 1869, that "at no period and in no country were Jesuit missionaries more untiring laborers than a -mid the forests of North America." And they "by unparalleled. labors of charity and benevolence, sought to convert the savages to the Christianity of Rome." As early as 1635, they were at work among the red men. They Were in Montreal in 1641. "Before Eliot had preached to the Indians around Boston, the intrepid missionaries of the Jesuits had explored the shores of Lake Superior, had penetrated to the Falls of St. Mary's, and had visited the Chippeways, the Hurons, the Iroquois, and the Mohawks."
The French led the way in opening up the Mid-West. LaSalle was the father of western colonization. In 1684, Louisiana was colonized by Frenchmen. Thus, through the daring of such bold spirits as these, were the North American interior settlements effected.
Somewhat over one hundred years ago, or in 1827, it has been said, the Rev. Stephen Badin, the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in America, built a chapel near Twin Lakes village. The Indians called this little edifice of hewn logs, covered with clapboards, the church of Chi-chi-pe Ou-te-pe. As soon as the word had been circulated widely that the chapel had been erected, on the north bank of one of the lakes, and there were, already gatherings of people there, the different bands of Indians began to come from far and near, until at length they were sufficiently numerous to fill the building to overflowing.
Services were held in the Twin Lakes chapel until the Indians were driven away in 1838, then it was closed, never afterwards to be used for the purpose of worship. It was a curiosity to passers-by for many years, but finally fell to ruin and was torn down. No traces of it remain today.
The Rev. Stephen Badin left his Twin Lakes chapel in 1832, and returned to Notre Dame, where he was buried in 1853. His successor at the Twin Lakes chapel was Father De Seille, who ministered to the Indians, and who was held in great esteem by them. They loved him as a true friend and father. Father DeSeille was a grave man, reserved, a person of deep melancholy, borrowed it seems from the Indians. His face bore marks of suffering, though youthful.
Bishop Simon Brute’ de Remur, of Vincennes, visited the Menominee village and the mission of DeSeille. He describes that visit, made in 1836, about the time the first settlers were arriving at Lake Maxinkuckee, and gives a picture of a chapel of "logs with the bark on, with a cross erected behind and rising above it, and filled with rudely made benches." The chapel was primitive and simple in all its appointments.
Father Benjamin Marie Petit succeeded De Seille in about the year 1837, and was in charge of the chapel at the time of the removal of the Indians from Twin Lakes the following year. Born in France, Father Petit was only about twenty-five years old when he began his ministrations at Twin Lakes, probably in the summer of 1837. It was a brief charge, lasting until September, 1838. Father Petit was a man of ardent, youthful spirit. His enthusiasm in his work among the Indians was intense. "How I love these children of mine," he once exclaimed, fervently, "and what pleasure it is for me to find myself amongst them!" At another time, he said, "When I am traveling in the woods, if I perceive an Indian hut, or even an abandoned encampment, I find my heart beat with joy. If I discover any Indians on my road, all my fatigue is forgotten, and when their smiles greet me at a distance I feel as if I were in the midst of my own family."
"In the first three weeks of my pastorate," Father Petit said, "I baptized eighteen adults and blessed nine marriages." Anthony Ni-go, an Indian well known to the early settlers of this region, said he was married at the chapel at Menominee village in the year 1828, in accordance with the rites of the Catholic church by a missionary then in charge. His wife was a half-breed, French and Indian. Her name was Ash-nic, or Angeline, in plain English. Ni-go was baptized in this chapel as a Catholic at about the same time. He died in Plymouth in 1878.
In his recollections of early days in this section, the Rev. Warren Taylor, an itinerant Wesleyan Methodist preacher, says that the great mass of the Potawatomi nation had embraced the Catholic religion long perhaps before the settlement of northern Indiana by the whites. "French missionaries," he adds, "had been among them and among many other tribes of the Mississippi valley. In some of the villages in this region, the Sabbath was observed as a day of worship. Many of our old citizens can recollect the time when they attended Indian meetings at the chapel on the Menominee reserve ... Generally these meetings were conducted by ministers of their own nation, but occasionally French clergymen were present and took the lead."
So came the Cross to this section. And such were the beginnings of Christianity in this vicinity, brought first to the Indians in the wilderness by the Jesuit missionaries from afar.
|XII. THE WILDWOOD ROVER|
".... 'Oh, yes! we have seen him.
He was with Basil the blacksmith, and both have gone to the prairies;
Coureurs-des-Bois are they, and famous hunters and trappers'." ....Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
INTO THE WILDERNESS came the dauntless adventurer, the hardy, reckless coureur-debois of old; came also that dashing kindred spirit, the huntsman, the French chasseur. Like the explorer and the Jesuit missionary; they penetrated far into the remote backwoods regions at an early date in the history of the white man on this continent.
The coureur-de-bois was a gay French vagabond, a "wood ranger." He was a picturesque figure, dressed in fringed buckskin and embroideries, with a knife in the belt. He was a trapper and a hunter by trade, but an adventure by profession. Sometimes he was full-blooded French, sometimes a half-breed, and very, very rarely a coward. The chasseur (French for huntsman) was the same sort of fellow. His was a spirit, also, that thrived on adventure and the thrills of life in wild places far from the customary haunts of white men.
Although no record definitely states, it is quite possible that the first of the white race to see this one-time obscure patch of wilderness, now called Union Township, was either Jesuit missionary, explorer, or wildwood rover. All of them came very early to Indiana. Who came before the other, is a mystery. So far as we know, they all came at about the, same time: Jesuit, explorer, coureur-de-bois, voyageur, trader, trapper, hunter. For it was far back in the early days, not long after the beginning of the 18th Century, that Frenchmen penetrated Indiana and Illinois. There were posts, well known to the school child of today, at Vincennes, Vermilion, and Ouiatanon on the Wabash, near the present city of Lafayette. And there were the portages of the Wabash and the Kankakee, the latter not far to the northwest of our township.
Trading with the natives, the French no doubt worked up the water-courses, the Tippecanoe and Yellow rivers providing passage for their lighter craft. And the territory was rich in furs. There is a possibility that they penetrated to the lakes near the upper reaches of these rivers. If so, how could they have missed Maxinkuckee? For here there were Indian settlements in the midst of a bountiful hunting-ground. And if Maxinkuckee really did escape them, that was their hard luck!
The question has been asked: If they came here, why did they leave no trace? The best answer seems to be that they did not stay long enough; they were not permanent. The French were naturally rovers in those days. They were restless. They kept moving Their permanency was confined to the trading posts: Vincennes, St. Joseph, and others already mentioned. If they came to the Union Township area, they did not settle down. Only the Jesuit stayed.
The history of this region lying contiguous to Lake Maxinkuckee is vague so far as details are concerned, looking backward beyond the past century. Prior to the first permanent white settlement. there is some likelihood of transient settlements, if we may call them such. Lone backwoodsmen may have had cabins, however temporarily constructed, in this Indian country. The French were the most likely persons to be able to squat awhile on Indian land, for they knew how best to get along with the red men. They obtained considerable sway among the Indians in the early days. They settled here and there in the wilderness, mingled with the natives, traded with them successfully, perhaps due to a conciliating manner or certain diplomacy inherent to the French as a people, and thus managed to subsist where others deemed it yet uninviting or unsafe to settle permanently with their families. Early writers, like Samuel R. Brown, spoke of the French inhabitants of Ouiatanon (near the present Lafayette) as "half civilized," as contrasted perhaps with people in the older settlements of the East.
No French Here?
Some wandering coureur-debois, some restless chasseur, some backwoods adventurer may have been the first white man to pick his way through the forests and across the oak barrens of our region, and to look upon lake and stream and all the land `round about, finding them good. As for our earliest permanent settlers, French names were conspicuous by their absence from the roll.
The coureurs-de-bois and the chasseurs, who left home to go westward and northward from eastern Canada, were led chiefly by the spirit of adventure. They wished to escape the trying poverty of the rural districts, the great moral languor and their narrow life. They had, heard wonderful stories of the vast and fascinating world west of them. They were full of energy and impatience. And they longed to see what that world was, and make their own use of it. "Doubtless the peculiarly narrow range of activities at home," was the opinion of Bracq, "led young men to join those wanderers from France who lived with the Indians and married Indian women." The coureurs represented the dash, the boldness which the early settlers displayed. They were as good as men of that type could be.
The remarkable courage of these care-free adventurers may be compared perhaps only with the fortitude of the "Black Robes," as the red men called the Jesuit missionaries. Says Dr. W. H. Moore, "Hennepin, the first white man to tell of the buffalo, although wearing the frock of a priest and writing with the pen of a Fenimore Cooper, possessed the soul of a coureur-debois." These missionaries often accompanied the early explorers on their expeditions, and shared the hardships and adventures which were to be expected during such undertakings.
So it was that the original and unsurpassed "Rover Boys" came a-roving into the picture . .. and kept on roving until they were out of it. And when they left the picture, they left also a blank (without record). Their disappearance was complete.
And regarding the blank that remained:
Though well versed in myth, magic and fable,
To fill it we have never been able.