Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

changed to Schoolcraft. He died at the age of one hundred and two years. John, his third son, was a soldier under Sir William Johnson. Lawrence, John's son, distinguished himself during the siege of Fort Stanwix. He was afterward director of the glassworks of the Hon. Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, at Hamilton, near Albany; and established the manufacture of glass in western New York.

Henry Schoolcraft spent his childhood and youth in Hamilton, cultivated poetry, and maintained an excellent standing in scholarship. At an early age he manifested a taste for mineralogy and natural science, which were then (about 1808) almost unknown in the country; formed the beginnings of collections; and organized an association for mental improvement. He investigated the drift stratum of Albany County as seen in the bed of Norman’s Kill; and afterward, while living at Lake Dunmore, Vt., put himself under the teaching of Prof. Hall, of Middlebury College; added chemistry, natural philosophy, and medicine to his studies; erected a chemical furnace, and went into experimenting; and picked up a knowledge of Hebrew, German, and French. He began writing for books and periodicals in 1808– contributing, among other things, papers on the Burning Springs of western New York, and on archæological discoveries that had been made in Hamburg, Erie County. In the last paper, which was published at Utica in 1817, he pointed out the necessity of discriminating between the antique French and European, and the aboriginal period, in American antiquity. He was engaged for a time in directing the building of works connected with his father's glass-making enterprises in Vermont, New Hampshire, and western New York. The ideas and knowledge gained in these operations supplied the material for his proposed work on Vitreology, or the application of chemistry to glass-making, the publication of which was begun in 181%. The supervision of these works required the making of considerable journeys, and these created in him the desire to travel through the wilds of the “Far West,” which then hardly extended beyond the Missouri River.

He made some“ preliminary explorations” to his contemplated journey in western New York in 1816 and 1817, and started from Olean on the Alleghany River for a journey down the Ohio and up the Mississippi in 1818. A large company of intending emigrants had gathered there waiting for the season to open, and

he stopped to explore the geology of the Monongahela Valley, and was greatly interested in the rich coal and iron beds. He stopped to visit the Grave Creek mound and the ancient works at Marietta. At Louisville he found "organic remains" of several species in the limestone rocks of the falls, and published anonymously in the paper some notices of its mineralogy. At the mouth of the Cumberland River he exchanged the ark for a keelboat or barge, with which, propelled by poles pushing on the bottom, he made from three to ten miles a day against the swift current of the Mississippi to Herculaneum, Mo. On this voyage he traveled over a large part of the west bank on foot, and gleaned several facts in its mineralogy and geology which made it an initial point in his future observations. He spent three months in examining the lead mines, personally visiting every mine or digging of consequence in the Missouri country and tracing its geological relations into Arkansas. Hearing of syenite suitable for millstones on the St. Francis, he visited that stream and discovered the primitive tract; and he pushed his examinations west beyond the line of settlement into the Ozark Mountains. He now determined to call the attention of the Government to the importance of its taking care of its domain in the mines, and with this purpose packed his collections and took passage in the new steamer St. Louis for New Orleans. Hence, having inquired into the formation of the delta of the Mississippi, he sailed by brig for New York. He opened his collections and invited examination of them, published a book on the mines and physical geography of the West and a letter on its resources, and went to Washington to present his views on the care of the mines to the officers of the Government. While he was looking for a secretary within whose purview the matter fell, Mr. Calhoun invited him to accompany General Cass, Governor of Michigan, as naturalist and mineralogist on an expedition to explore the sources of the Mississippi and to inquire into the supposed value of the Lake Superior copper mines. He accepted the position, though the compensation was small, because, he says, “it seemed to be the bottom step of a ladder which I ought to climb.”

Mr. Schoolcraft left New York in March, 1820, reached Niagara Falls on the 1st of May, and Detroit by steamer a week later. While waiting for the completion of arrangements for embarkation, he attended to the correspondence which had been provoked by the publication of his work on the mines and the resultant awakening of interest in the varied resources of the Mississippi Valley and the subject of geographical and geological explorations. He determined to reply to all letters that appeared to be honest inquiries for geographical facts," which I only, and not books, could communicate.” The route of the expedition “lay up the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers and around the southern shores of Lakes Huron and Superior to Fond du Lac, thence up the St. Louis River in its rugged passage through the Cabotian Mountains to the Savannah summit which divides the Great Lakes

katiod,

the public of interestint of geog

from the Mississippi Valley. The latter was entered through the Cantaguma or Sandy Lake River. From this point the source of the Mississippi was sought up rapids and falls and through lakes and savannahs, in which the channel winds. We passed the inlet of Leech Lake, which was fixed upon by Lieutenant Pike as its probable source, and traced it through Little Lake Winnipeg to the inlet of Turtle Lake in upper Red Cedar or Cass Lake in latitude 47o. On reaching this point the waters were found unfavorable to proceeding higher. The river was then descended to the falls of St. Anthony, St. Peter's, and Prairie du Chien. From the latter point we ascended the Wisconsin to the portage into Fox River, and descended the latter to Green Bay.” At this point the expedition was divided. The party to which Mr. Schoolcraft was attached proceeded to Chicago, thence traced the eastern coast of Michigan, and rejoined the other party, which had gone north to trace the shores to Michilimackinack. About four thousand miles were traversed. Reports were made to the Government by Mr. Schoolcraft on the mineralogy and geology of the region; on the copper deposits of Lake Superior; on the botany, fresh-water conchology, zoology, and ichthyology; soil, productions, and climate received attention; and the Indian tribes were subjects of observation by General Cass. “In short, no exploration had before been made which so completely revealed the features and physical geography of so large a portion of the public domain.” A new interest in mineralogy and geology was awakened by this expedition, and Mr. Schoolcraft's narrative of it was hurried into press under the pressure of the public clamor for its results. The book was published in May, 1821.

Mr. Schoolcraft shortly afterward embarked, with General Cass, on another expedition. The route lay from the present site of Toledo, up the Miami of the lakes, down the Wabash and Ohio to Shawneetown, overland across the “knobs” and prairies, taking a famous locality of fluor-spar on the way, to St. Louis; thence up the Illinois to the rapids and on horseback to Chicago, stopping to find the fossil tree in the bed of the Des Plaines. In Chicago, a treaty was made with the Pottawattamies for the surrender of about five million acres of land, to which Mr. Schoolcraft should have given his signature among the others, but he was too ill“did not, indeed, ever expect to make another entry in a human journal.” The incidents and observations of the journey have been published as Travels in the Central Portions of the Mississippi Valley. In the next year (1822) Mr. Schoolcraft was appointed Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie, of which he says, giving his reasons for accepting it: “I had now attained a fixed position; not such as I desired in the outset and had striven for, but one that offered an interesting class of duties, in the performance of which there was a wide field for honorable exertion, and, if it was embraced, also of historical inquiry and research. The taste for natural history might certainly be transferred to that point, where the opportunity for discovery was the greatest.” The position afforded him excellent opportunities for studying the Chippewa language and Indian mythology and superstition, characteristics, and customs, of which he made the best use. He determined to be a laborer in the new field of Indian studies. His diary during the whole term of his office shows him leading a busy and varied life. We find in it notes on his subjects of study, of his readings on various general topics, observations on the natural features of the region, remarks on mineralogical specimens, and incidents of official work.

Mr. Schoolcraft spent the winter of 1824–25, on leave of absence, in New York, where he superintended the printing of his Travels in the Central Portions of the Mississippi Valley. “Society” was much interested in Mrs. Schoolcraft, the “ Northern Pocahontas," a lady of aristocratic Irish descent on one side, and tracing her ancestors on the other side to the royal house of the Chippewas, who was withal, having been educated abroad, highly accomplished and refined in her manners. She was the daughter of Mr. John Johnston, of Sault Ste. Marie, who had married the daughter of Wabojeeg, a distinguished Chippewa chieftain. In 1825 he attended a convocation of the Indian tribes at Prairie du Chien, where a treaty was signed, through which it was hoped internal disputes between the tribes might be settled by fixing the boundaries to their respective territories. In the next year he attended a similar gathering of the Chippewa tribes at Fond du Lac, where the principles of the treaty of Prairie du Chien were reaffirmed, and a new treaty was made, under which the Indians acknowledged the sovereign authority of the United States; ceded the right to explore and take away the native copper and copper ores, and to work the mines and minerals in the country; and provision was made for the education of the Indians and their advancement in the arts. The system of Indian boundaries established by these treaties was completed by the treaty of Butte des Morts, August, 1827. The three treaties embodied a new course and policy for keeping the tribes in peace, and were founded “on the most enlarged consideration of the aboriginal right of fee simple to the soil.” In 1827 he was elected a member of the Legislative Council of the newly organized Territory of Michigan-an office which was not solicited, and was not declined. As a member of this body during four sessions, he directed his attention to the incorporation of a historical society; to the preparation of a system of township names derived from the aboriginal languages; and to some efforts for bettering the condition of the natives.

A proposition was made to Mr. Schoolcraft in 1828 to go as one of the scientific corps of an exploring expedition which the Government contemplated sending to the south seas, under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy. In his reflections on the prospects of this expedition and the acquisitions to knowledge that might be expected to accrue from it, he regarded the experiments of Dr. Maskelyn, denoting a greater specific gravity in the central portion of the globe than in its crust, as opposed to a theory that was then advocated of an interior void. Yet he thought“we are advertised, by the phenomena of earthquakes, that this interior abounds with oxygen, hydrogen gas, caloric, and sulphur, and that extraordinary geological changes are affected by their action. It does seem improbable that the proposed expedition will trace any open connection with such an interior world; but it may accumulate facts of the highest importance.” There was something, however, about the getting up and organization of the expedition which he did not like, and an apprehension whether Congress would not cripple it by voting meager supplies and outfits. He declined to go.

A note from Mr. G. W. Featherstonaugh, giving a disparaging view of American scientific achievement, and inclosing the prospectus of a journal designed to correct these things, gave Mr. Schoolcraft opportunity for bearing strong tribute to the genuineness of real American scientific research. The critic's remarks might be true as to a certain class, who had not made science & study; but, if applied to the power and determination of the American mind devoted to natural history, it was “not only unjust in a high degree, but an evidence of an overweening selfcomplaisance, imprecision of thought, or arrogance. No trait of the American scientific character has been more uniformly and highly approbated by the foreign journals of England, France, and Germany than its capacity to accumulate, discriminate, and describe facts. For fourteen years past, Silliman's Journal of Science, though not exclusively devoted to natural sciences, has kept both the scientific and the popular intelligent mind of the public well and accurately advised of the state of natural science the world over. Before it, Bruce's Mineralogical Journal, though continued but for a few years, was eminently scientific; and Cleaveland's Mineralogy has had the effect to diffuse scientific knowledge not only among men of science, but other classes of readers. In ornithology, in conchology, and especially in botany, geology, and mineralogy, American mind has proved itself eminently fitted for the highest tasks.”

The Michigan Historical Society was founded, chiefly through Mr. Schoolcraft's instrumentality, in 1828, and the Algic Society on February 28, 1832. The latter organization had in view the

The Mofcraft's instrumhe latter or

« AnteriorContinuar »