Interesting Talk With an Old Timer.
Chicago Inter Ocean: "I remember many years ago, yes, it is nearly half a century ago, when the Indians used to paddle in their canoes from all points on the lake to Detroit to get their annual rations and allowances from the government." The speaker was Captain Grover, who began his career on the lakes in 1833.
"Going up Lake Huron," he continued, "we would come across hundreds of birch canoes filled with the savages. They would carry everything, including the squaws, papooses and the dogs. How they made the journey was always a matter of wonder to me, but, I never heard of an Indian being drowned. They would follow the shore all the way down, sometimes traveling in squadrons of twenty five to fifty canoes, each canoe holding from twelve to eighteen persons. In fine weather each canoe would have a sail made of birch bark, and then the Indians would cease paddling altogether.
"In stormy weather camps could be seen all along the west shore of Lake Huron from the mouth of the St. Clair River to Mackinaw, but as soon as it would settle the camps would be abandoned for the canoes. Sometimes they would keep along for whole nights and days without a single stop, subsisting on jerked beef, small fish and water, and sleeping in sitting positions in their narrow canoes. I have seen these frail vessels weather storms which would have foundered a good sized yawl boat, but I always thought that that was due to the skillful handling of the Indians. it took them from a month to six weeks to go either way, consequently they were afloat over one sixth of the time to get their annual allowance from the government.
"It used to be dangerous for vessels to get near those Indians on their return, for they usually provided themselves with lots of whiskey, and when they were filled with they would rob or murder a white man as readily as they would spear a fish. Sometimes they would chase a vessel into the lake for the purpose of procuring whiskey, but I never heard that they succeeded in boarding one.
"Down in Detroit, about the time the Indians' allowances were due, it was a peculiar sight to see them coming in from every direction. They would show up from every conceivable nook and point, paddling swiftly to the government dock. never a word would they utter until they got to the Indian agent's quarters, and you can bet there was noise enough around them. After getting their allowances, they would take in the town for a day or two, they spear enough suckers for a couple of days' rations, and start their return for their homes.
"The Indians do not cut the figure in lake navigation they did in those days. Then the impression prevailed that nobody but an Indian could pilot a vessel through the lakes, and they were used for that purpose."