The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Gazette (Detroit, MI), 7 Jan. 1820, page 4

Full Text
Report on the Upper Lakes &c.
Made in the Lyceum at Detroit by capt. Henry Whiting, of the 5th regt. U.S. Inf'ty
[continued from No. 127]

There are several families residing on both sides of the strait at the Falls; and just at the foot of them, on a projecting and commanding height, a military work has been suggested.* In returning, the vessel, after clearing Drummond's Island, steering a south-westerly direction, passed a cluster of small islands, which appear to stretch almost from the foot of the Straits of St. Mary to the island of Mackinaw--two or three of them are known by the name of St. Martin's Islands, on one of which a bed of gypsum has been found, (by Mr. Johnson, of St. Mary's, it is said,) specimens of which were lately received at Detroit. On the strait connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the French have had settlements for more than a century. It appears by the old maps of that nation, that a large settlement once existed at the point now called point ignace, which was destroyed many years ago. The present settlement on the island of Mackinaw is believed to be of quite recent date, compared with those on the two sides of the strait.

Passing between Point Waberchance and an island, called on the French maps, St. Helena, and steering a south-westerly course, the Beaver islands are made. They lie about the middle of the Lake between Mackinaw and the mouth of Green Bay; nearly south of them are two islands, called Fox islands. From Beaver islands to Green Bay is nearly a westerly course. The islands which close the mouth of this bay, are called the Grand Traverse. They are of various dimensions. The practicability of passing between them with vessels, appears to have been doubted at the time of Carver, who states the fact of a sufficiency of water, which he ascertained, as something new. This circumstance, however, appears to have been forgotten, for in the spring of 1816, when a military post was to be established at the mouth of Fox River, it was considered problematical whether troops could be transported thither in heavier craft than boats. But it is probable that there are channels of sufficient depth between most of them, as the vessel in which Gen. Macomb made his tour came out of Green Bay between point Ports des Moris and the Potawatamie islands, vulgarly called Isles des Poux, although that passage had never before been attempted.

Green Bay is about twenty miles wide and ninety miles long. It contains several small islands. At the head of it, it receives three rivers; Duck river, Fox river, and Devil river, whose converging streams come almost to a point at their entrance into the bay. Between Duck and Fox rivers, on a point which looks into the bay, stands Fort Howard, which was established in the spring of 1816, on the site of an old French fort, which was built, as it appears by the old French maps, under the mission of Francois Xavier, sometime about the beginning of the 18th century. Both sides of Fox river, for three or four miles, is [sic] settled and highly cultivated by the French. The Fox river is navigable for boats to the portage, which is about two miles long between that and the ouisconsin, which again is equally navigable to the Mississippi. There are several rivers emptying into Green Bay on the northern side. Both the Menominy river and the rivers that flow into the Bay des Noquets, are said to head very near the waters that run into Lake Superior. On the south side of Green Bay, about 80 miles from Fort Howard, there is a deep inlet, called Sturgeon's Bay, which can be ascended by boats within a mile and a half of Lake Michigan. This course is generally taken in coasting voyages between Green Bay and Chicago, by which an hundred miles distance is probably saved.

The coast between Green Bay and Chicago appears to have been little explored. A gentleman who went by land from the former to the latter, by the way of the Winebago Lake, struck the lake shore at a river which he calls the Millewakie, or Milcki, as it is called on the French maps, which he says (upon what authority I know not) heads so near the Rocky river, a stream which empties [sic] into the Mississippi, as to require but a short portage.

The two streams which form the river Chicago, take their rise in the neighbouring prairie in opposite directions, and running along nearly parallel with, and not far from the shores of the lake, join near Fort Dearborn, and reach the Lake just below. This river appears to be rather an arm of the Lake that a stream running into it, as it is upon a level with it almost to its sources, and sometime entirely excluded by a bar of sand thrown up at its mouth by the winds and waves. The southern fork heads to the same marsh with a branch of the Illinois, and nothing is more common than to pass with boats, in the wet season, from one to the other without any portage. Chicago was determined to be in lat. 41d. 53m. 11s. and long. and the head (or foot of the lake, as it is generally termed) 41d. 30m. long. 86d. 30m. At this southern bend are the little and big Calimicks, two short rivers much like the branches of the Chicaugo, excepting that they have their source together, and empty into the Lake in opposite directions. Both rivers nearly describe the form of an Indian bow, the point of the centre of the arc, in the case of Chicago, resting on the lake--the bow inverted, in the case of the Calimicks, and the two extremities touching the lake. From this end of the lake, tracing the eastern shore up to point Waberchance on the straits of Mackinaw, there are no less than twenty-three rivers, of various sizes, which run into the lake. As they have no generally been noted on the maps, and as a knowledge of their names and the order in which they relatively flow, has been obtained from two intelligent gentlemen, who information is mainly corroborated by the old French maps, I will enumerate them in the order they stand in ascending the coast from south to north. After passing the big Calimick, they occur, first, Little Fork river; River au Chene, a small stream; St. Joseph's; Black river,; the Calimazer, which is said to be a large and fine river; River Raisin, or Grape River, a small stream; Grand river, which is said to afford a good and practicable harbor for the lake shipping, and which heads very near the Upper Huron, that empties into the lake St. Clair; a small stream; the Mustiga or Maticon; White river; Rocky river; St. Nicholas; River Sable, near which is Point au Sable; Ministic river; Raspberry river; Small Drake river; Plate river; Carpe river, between which and the Plate river are two high bluffs of sand, called the Sleeping Bear and Red Cape, off which are the Manitoa Islands; Sun Flint river and Pine river, between which and Point Waberchance is the settlement of Arbre-croche. The Sun Flint river is a large arm of the Lake, which is said very nearly to connect by a number of small islands, with a river that empties into Lake Huron near the Island of Bois-blanc, and occasionally to be passable for boats.


*The Falls of St. Mary are about ninety miles from Mackinaw by water. Gen. Macomb calculates it to be about thirty miles by land, and believes it practicable, in case a post should be established at the former place, to cut a road across the neck of land, and thus render it independent of water communication.

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7 Jan. 1820
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Dave Swayze
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Gazette (Detroit, MI), 7 Jan. 1820, page 4