Wm. Soutar Collection, from Friends, 1871 – 1878

As briefly written of in a previous post, William Soutar was lumberman Wm. Jenkinson’s private secretary in Port Huron for many years (City Directories, 1893-94, page 226, and 1899-1900, page 297). Although Soutar was connected to Jenkinson in some way by 1879, when he first appears in Port Huron a couple of years later he is a bookkeeper for Brooks & Joslyn (1883 City Directory, page 134; he is not listed in the previous 1881 directory, but that doesn’t tell us or not if he had actually moved here by then).  Previous to living in Port Huron, Soutar worked and lived in Saginaw, although his actual home was in Rattle Run, St. Clair County, where his wife and other family members lived.

From the other letters in the collection, we know that Soutar was from Newport on Tay, Fife (or thereabouts), Scotland. The three letters here appear to be the only ones from friends, although the collection has not yet been fully studied.  The collection, too, is what seems to be only one group of papers that was saved by someone and does not at all include all of Soutar’s correspondence.  The documents relating directly to William Jenkinson were already posted.  Future posts will include letters from his wife, Agnes, and letters from his family members back in Scotland.  What remains, business documents, will also be scanned and posted.

The Sim letter was in excellent shape and needed no enhancing, but the writing of the other two letters was very dim (especially Gowling’s) and the images here are enhanced ones.  While the images alone (with captions) are posted first, the texts will be typed up and added to this post at a later date.  The images are provided as .jpg and are clickable for large-scale viewing.  Please give credit to PHAHPA if you use them.

From H. Batchelor, 1877, page 1 of 4; mentions farm life and thoughts on lumbering investment.

From H. Batchelor, 1877, page 2 of 4; mentions thoughts on land and lumbering investment.

From H. Batchelor, page 3 of 4, 1877; more thoughts on lumbering investment and lumberers cutting quickly, no matter the market, over fire fears.

From H. Batchelor, page 4 of 4, 1877.

From Gowling (?), pages 1 and 4, 1878; regarding Soutar’s illness (1), and, (4) “Henry Howard has bought the Hibbard Mill,” mentions McMorran’s mill and the mills doing well, the National Bank moving to building across the street.

From Gowling (?), pages 2 and 3, 1878; thoughts on future position, work that doesn’t just put money in other men’s pockets, and moving permanently to Port Huron (2), and, (3) business doing better than it has for some time, railroads came or expanded quickly, Mr. Batchelor has moved, the Phoenix (?) burned down on Butler Street and the owners building a new brick block in its place (3).

From Charles Sims, relating to Boston, page 1 of 4, 1871.  The entire letter includes information about the conditions of employment in various parts of the country, and gives some details on amount of pay and costs of living.

From Charles Sim, page 2 of 4, relating to Boston, 1871.

From Charles Sim, page 3 of 4, relating to Boston, 1871.

From Charles Sim, page 4 of 4, relating to Boston, 1871.

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Wm. Jenkinson Letters to Wm. R. Soutar, 1879-1892

Portrait of William Jenkinson (in Andreas 1883, page 576.5).

Below are some letters and other items from the William Robert Soutar collection (used by permission from Lynne Secory).  All are either written by William Jenkinson (1834-1896), or pertain to him and his family.  A brief but very telling biography of Jenkinson is included below.

William Soutar was Jenkinson’s private secretary for many years, and even served as the estate’s secretary after his employer and friend’s death (City Directories, 1893-94, page 226, and 1899-1900, page 297). Although Soutar was connected to Jenkinson in some way by 1879, as evidenced by one of the letters here, when he first appears a couple of years later in Port Huron he is a bookkeeper for Brooks & Joslyn (1883 City Directory, page 134; he is not listed in the previous 1881 directory, but that doesn’t tell us or not if he had actually moved here by then).  From the other letters in the collection, we know that Soutar was from Newport on Tay, Fife (or thereabouts), Scotland.  In a letter from his parents, dated January 31, 1880 (#2.0207), the writer answers his inquiry about the Tay Bridge Disaster (1879) and tells him that none of his friends were on the train.

The documents are provided as .png images and clickable for full, large-scale viewing.  Please give credit to PHAHPA if you use them.

______________________

“WILLIAM JENKINSON, manufacturer and dealer to pine lumber, is a native of the North of Ireland, and was born in 1834.  Upon reaching manhood, emigrated to the United States in 1853, and four years later came to Port Huron and engaged in buying white oak staves, and continued in that business for twenty years.  In 1874, he engaged in manufacturing pine lumber. He owns seven thousand acres pf pine land, and cuts from five to ten million feet annually; ships his lumber to Chicago, Buffalo, Rochester and other Eastern points.  He controls steamers and barges for freighting his lumber from the mills; he is a director and the largest stockholder in the First National Bank, and is largely interested in real estate and city property.  In 1856, Mr. Jenkinson was united in marriage to Miss Eliza M. Stettler, a native of Canada.  They have one daughter–Jennie” (History of St. Clair County, Michigan, A.T. Andreas 1883, page 577).  (Jennie later married Dr. Mortimer Willson.  It might be expected that Wm. Jenkinson’s house was built well, and no doubt it was, but it is no longer standing.)

February 18th, 1879, letter to Wm. Soutar. Envelopes in the collection from this time place him in either Sandusky, Ohio, or Saginaw, Michigan, while his home–where his wife lived–was in Rattle Run, St. Clair County, Michigan.  (#1.0074)

April 4th, 1881 letter to Soutar while in Saginaw, Michigan, with one subject seeming to address Soutar’s interest in moving to Port Huron. Since Port Huron is closer to Rattle Run, his interest in doing this would make sense. Wm Jenkinson’s simple calling card is included in this image also.  (#2.0294 and #2.0295)

July 8th, 1883 letter from Glasgow, Scotland. Please excuse that the pages are transposed.  (#2.0249)

Short letter from London, on their way to Rome via Liverpool. October 8th, 1883.  (#2.0199)

From San Francisco, after having visited Los Angeles. If you can decipher what Jenkinson is referring to regarding Mr. Upton, please leave a comment. Dated April 7, 1886.  (#2.0289)

A short letter letting Soutar know they were leaving and stopping at some other places before their expected arrival home on April 27th. Dates April 16th, 1886. Note the change in stationery during the 9 day interval.  (#1.0060)

You probably noticed that this letter from Jenkinson isn’t to Soutar, but to the president of Grand Trunk Elevator Company. As can be seen from the company stationery, Jenkinson was the treasurer. It is included because of its probably significance related to the company and to Botsford, and perhaps the rarity of the stationery. Why Soutar kept a few of these types of correspondence is not known. Dated January 3rd, 1887. I like Jenkinson’s endnote (and not because of the misspellings), “hope you will come home as Earley in the Spring as posable–remember I know nothing about an Elevator . . .”  (#1.0181)

This also is not a letter to Soutar, but included for any persons interested in the companies that are parties in the court case. Please see the district court (Detroit) summons for the names. Dated January 10th, 1888.  (#2.0209)

Dated March 6, 1891, this letter to Soutar was from Mexico City. They went sightseeing with the legate of Mexico and his wife (Mr. & Mrs. Butter?). I wonder if Mr. Soutar ever felt envious.  (#1.0100)

A bit longer letter with personal and business references. Note the testimonial on the hotel stationery–it’s no wonder health seekers rushed to California. This hotel is still in business, is a National Landmark, and the area is indeed nice; it must’ve been astounding when Jenkinson was there, however, without all the urban growth that now exists. Dated April 16th, 1891.  (#2.0201 and #2.0201A)

Eliza wrote this personal letter to the Soutars from Scotland, but what’s wonderful about this is that she sent heather from the Soutar’s homeland in the letter and its “shadow” is visible in the paper. A fitting ending to the Jenkinson correspondence within the Soutar collection. Dated September 15th, 1892.  (#1.0109)

Postcard Page Added

Hello everyone.  We added a new page for historic postcards, accessible from the top bar menu.  This post is an announcement only, and through time any new postcard images will be posted there, not here.  Please consider sharing post card images that you own with us, for public educational and research purposes; we will attribute all image “donations.”  Below are a few examples.

port huron postcard

County-City Building, postcard neither dated or mailed. Source: Vicki Priest

Huron Ave, Port Huron (east side of street, north of Black River, unless I am mistaken), 1913. Source: Wikipedia, Port Huron page; public domain.

The Jenkinson House as shown on a post card that was mailed in 1919. Source: Lynne Secory.

The Edward Petit House, Port Huron

The following article first appeared in Blue Water Healthy Living, and continues the research into the Petit family.  More research needs to be done in order to place the Edward Petit house in the best possible context, but what we know of the home so far clearly indicates its significance.


1426 Griswold Street, Port Huron. Photo (2016) by author.

By Vicki Priest (c) 2018

Some might say it’s fortuitous that an early home built by the first settled family of Port Huron is still standing. Some might also say that it’s quite amazing! While a few very old homes still grace our streets, many of course are gone. Some homes of very significant figures in the city’s history are no longer with us, notably Captain Moffat’s interesting home that stood near the library, Senator Conger’s house (and later, William Jenks’ second home) which used to grace the east side of Military Street where a vacant lot now languishes, the McMorran-Murphy mansion near the south end of town (also an empty lot), and Henry Howard’s house that stood where the Women’s Life building is. Akin to a soldier still standing amongst his fallen comrades, then, the Petit home at 1426 Griswold Street is made even more important by its rarity of survival.

The home is a two story brick Italianate built in 1859 or so by Edward Petit. Edward, born 1812 or 1813, was a son of Anselm Petit, who in historical accounts is afforded the distinction of being Port Huron’s “first white settler.” Edward made the first plat of the city, the “Peru” plat of 1835, and generally helped build up Port Huron until his death in 1875. Anselm, Edward, and Edward’s wife H. Victoria died in the home, and Marshal, one of Edward’s children who was also a city assessor for 23 years, lived in it as an adult for a time. So besides the house being one of the older residences in the city, it is made much more significant by those who built it and lived in it. Let’s get to know something of this early settlement family.

Anselm. Anselm (1776 to about 1862), a native of the Quebec area, came here as a very young man via Detroit in the early 1790s. Various historical accounts relate that he was the first nonnative to build a permanent type of house, of log, within the future city limits. The land the natives allowed him to farm and build on was south of the Black River’s mouth and down along the St. Clair River. He was eventually awarded the patent for the 19+ acre tract in 1825, when Michigan was still only a territory. We don’t know exactly what motivated Anselm to move to this particular wilderness area, but in a Times Herald article from June 17, 1872, he is said to have come with others for purposeful settlement, and it is often repeated that he was a fur trader. We don’t know much about him with certainty, but he did indeed farm.

In 1804 he married a young parish school teacher of Detroit, Angelique (or Angelica) Campau, and brought her to his humble home near the confluence of the Black and St. Clair rivers. For the first three births of their eight (known) children, they traveled to Detroit, but Edward, their fourth child, was born at their house here in 1812 or 1813. Not long after Edward’s birth the family was off to Detroit again, but for the less-optimistic purpose of fleeing native unrest before and during the War of 1812. After the war, Anselm is said to have built Port Huron’s first frame house, in 1819.

Edward. The builder of the Griswold Street home, Edward, made a name for himself in not only St. Clair County, but the upper thumb region. He had very little formal education, but became fluent in all three of the area’s languages: English, French, and the dialect of the local Native Americans. At some point the natives gave him the name Chief Maguatagenau (meaning unknown). He was an energetic and precocious youth, becoming a trader with Indians on both sides of the St. Clair at the age of 15. He had a trading post on the Cass River and in a feat of daring-do, he took a one-armed Indian guide with him to find a group of missing Indian families that other traders had unsuccessfully searched for.

He and his Indian guide went up to Sebewaing and then followed the lake all the way to White Rock, at which time their remaining food was a loaf of bread. Nevertheless, they kept the trek up and after five miles came upon the searched-for native families. The story goes that the Indians too had run out of food, and by both parties sharing what little they had left, the natives were happy to make trades that were quite advantageous to Edward. His employers, Gurdon and Ephraim Williams, were so delighted that they gave young Mr. Petit a huge raise. Edward’s adventures in the counties north of St. Clair included having a trading post on the Shebeon Creek, which he later moved to White Rock. How long he maintained that post is not known, but we do know that he operated a trading post in Port Huron in the 1830s (The Times Herald, May 16, 1891, page 6), and very probably longer.

In 1835, Edward platted his father’s homestead, which he called “Peru;” it was the first plat within the future City of Port Huron. No one knows why Edward called it “Peru.” There’s no known reason why he would name it after the South American country. Maybe it was a portmanteau of “Petit” and the word “Rue,” which in French means “thoroughfare.” Similarly, petit russeau means “small river.” So “Peru” could be both a play on words and “shorthand” for something like “Petit’s thoroughfare at the small river.” This is speculation, but it’s hard not to speculate about such an unusual first name for our city!

Even though Edward made the first plat, he was not averse to change and working with others for the common good. In 1838 he was one of the signers of the petition to the circuit court requesting that the then existing plats be recognized as the Village of Port Huron (the name Port Huron was apparently already the name of the established post office). This came after two big events of 1837: Michigan had been granted statehood and a severe financial panic gripped the nation, causing economic hardship until 1843.

In 1836, Edward purchased the land that was to become known as The Petit Farm, bounded by Griswold, 13th, 16th, and Petit streets. It may have been in the same year that Henriette Victoria Stephens (or Stevens) married Edward, as another Edward, who was born in 1837 but died in 1838, is buried in the family’s Lakeside Cemetery lot (39 of block G). Their second child Henry, named after his mother, was born in 1838 but kidnapped by Indians in 1842 and taken to Ohio. Henry later learned of his family in Port Huron, with the amazing story told in The Times Herald May 16th, 1891. Their third child, historically referred to as the oldest, was Victoria Louise (Smith); her dad called her Louisa. After Louisa’s birth Henriette Victoria had at least 4 more children (if the five additional burials in the family lot are her children, then she had 9 more!), including Marshal.

We don’t know all of Edward’s activities, or all his business ventures, but that’s not to say we don’t know anything. As mentioned, he grew crops on his property off of Griswold. Historically the property must have been quite nice, considering that Indian Creek still existed and ran through it. Edward appears to have sold the crops wholesale, and since he made trips to the Upper Peninsula to trade with the Indians there, he probably sold those items as well. For a short time—before he built the house at 1426 Griswold—the family lived in Disco, Macomb County (Mrs. Petit’s relatives lived in that county). The couples’ last child, John B. (or Jean Baptiste), was born there in 1857. Not long after John’s birth, or at least within a few years, the Petits moved back to Port Huron and built their 2-story brick house (this is according to Edward’s son Marshal). The home is not shown on an 1859 map of Port Huron, but since Anselm died in the home around 1862, we can surmise that the house was built some time between 1859 and 1862 (or, circa 1860).

Edward also built a brick business building (or a “block,” as referred to in those days) which is still standing at 914 Military Street. He had maintained his office in the upper floor. In 1874 he was involved with the “citizens’ movement,” a bipartisan effort that called for a nonpartisan ticket in the local elections. He died the next year, leaving a will that called for using some of his estate funds for the purpose of building an orphanage, but this was never done. The estate was divided among his living children (except Henry, who seems to have re-met his father shortly before his death): Louisa, Marshal, John, and Frank.

Marshal. Marshal (born 1849) was a spirited youth just like his father and grandfather. Anselm had struck out on his own early, coming to Port Huron as a teen. In turn, Anselm’s son Edward traded and trekked around the Thumb region and Canada when a teen. Continuing the tradition, Marshal at about the age of 15 ran off with his older cousin Edwin in an attempt to enlist for Civil War service.However, Edward caught Marshal in Detroit and promptly sent his son off to school in Toronto. Upon finishing at St. Michael’s there,Marshal continued his education at Eastman School of Business in Poughkeepsie, New York. But sitting around doing bookkeeping just wasn’t yet Marshal’s thing. While he helped his father sell produce for a time, he was soon traipsing about the wilds as a timber cruiser for various lumber companies.

In 1873 Marshal was wed to Kate M. Young and their first child was born in 1874 or 1875. They lived in another house in Port Huron for a while, but by 1881 Marshal is farming and living at the Griswold Street property. Later, he was bookkeeping for F. J. Haynes & Co. He seems to have found his stride in public-minded work, however, becoming Port Huron’s Chief of Police in 1896. He held this position until January 1903, leaving for apparently political reasons after having been recently reelected. Before becoming a County Undersheriff in 1909, Marshal kept himself busy in the lumbering business as well as having fun ventures into Box Alley Bowling. He not only sold the alleys but set them up in different locales, and even had a team: Petit’s Angels. Marshal was appointed to the position of city assessor in 1913 (which made him a member of the Board of Supervisors), a position he held for 23 years. Even after his long service he desired to stay active, so took on the role of Chief Probation Officer for both the county and city. He was doing this until shortly before his death in 1939.

By all accounts, Marshal was a very social and even entertaining person, and this may help to account for his list of well-known friends. To name a few, he was friends with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, State Attorney General and later Governor, Alex Groesbeck, and Governor Frank Fitzgerald.

The Edward Petit House in Perspective. Marshal and his family moved out of the family’s Griswold Street house in the fall of 1902, ending the Petit connection there. Since Louisa and her husband continued to live at the house for some time after Edward’s death, and then Marshal moved back in, the house was continuously occupied by 4 generations of the founding Petit family for about 43 years. As far as Petit houses go, it appears to be the oldest one remaining within the city limits which is connected to both Anselm and Edward. In itself, the house is one of the older homes around. It would be a shame to forget this old soldier or to let him fall. It would seem better to recognize him, to honor the local history that he represents, in some way.

 

SOURCES USED

Books: Andreas, A. T. A History of St. Clair County, Michigan (Chicago: A. T. Andreas & Co., 1883); Black, William W. A Souvenir in Half-tone: Port Huron in 1900 (Port Huron: self, 1900); Doyle, William. An American Pioneer: The Story of Early Port Huron and its First Settler (Port Huron: self, 1986); and Jenks, William Lee. St. Clair County, Michigan; Its History and Its People (2 vol.s) (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912).

Directories: All available between 1871 and 1910.

Newspaper articles: Port Huron Daily Times, 1872, June 17, 1872, “A historical paper prepared by Mrs. B. C. Farrand, of this city, for the Pioneer Society of Detroit;” June 19, “The Times and Mr. Petit;” 1873, April 24, untitled entry regarding Mrs. Petit’s health; 1873, May 5, untitled entry on the death of Mrs. Petit; 1874. March 28, “The City Elections;” 1874, March 30, “A Card from Mr. Boynton;” 1875, March 20, “Edward Petit;” 1875, April 20, ad RE Petit Block; 1888, June 6, page 1, ad RE Petit Block; 1889, September 16, untitled public probate notice; 1891, May 16, page 6, “Romance of an Abduction;” 1892, December 21, page 6, untitled entry regarding Petit estate division; 1896, June 1, “Chief of Police;” 1902, June 3, “The Police Force;” 1902, October 3, untitled entry on the Petit family moving to Pine St. home; 1903, January 2, page 3, untitled entry on Petit and the Haynes company; 1904, December 19, 1904, “Expert Bowler;” 1905, January 10, “Petit’s Angels;” 1905, March 3, “Consolation Meeting;” 1905, October 6, 1905, “Box Ball Alley.” The Times Herald, Port Huron, 1920, July 20, house sale ad; 1939, May 15, “Death Ends Community Service of M. N. Petit;” 1939, May 16, “Marshall N. Petit” and “Marsh Petit;” 1946, August 11, “St. Clair County From Pioneer Days;” 1957, April 22, “To Raze Symbol of Bygone Era” [Moffat House]; 1966, June 19, “Early Thumb Settlers Recalled.”

Other: Estate of Edward Petit, Deceased. St. Clair County Probate Court, Calendar 3, No. 308, 1875; General Land Office Records via the Bureau of Land Management: Certificate No. 801, land grant (patent) to Anselm Petit, April 1st, 1825, and Certificate No. 14,614, land grant (patent) to Edward Petit, April 19th, 1837; Lakeside Cemetery Records, online search and personal communication with Lakeside Cemetery office (besides Doyle 1986, other genealogical sources were also checked, such as ancestry.com, familysearch.org, geni.com, and usgwarchives.net); Petit, Edward. Will. St. Clair County Property Records, Libre 102, page 94, October 4, 1889; and Maps: 1859 Map of Macomb & St. Clair Counties (Philadelphia: Geil, Harley & Siverd) and 1894 Port Huron, Michigan (map) (Chicago: C. J. Pauli). The 1897 and 1916 Standard Atlases of St. Clair County were also checked, as well as Sanborn Fire Insurance maps in reference to the first paragraph.

 

Downtown to Get Major Improvement: Rehabilitation of the Ballentine Building

Before winter set in, anyone who who noticed the paint being removed from the bricks of the old 3-story building at the northeast corner of Huron Avenue and Quay Street may have gotten a twinge of excitement about it. Well, anyone who appreciates the warmth and human scale of old buildings, anyway. And excitement is justified, since the brick facade will be put back in its natural state and repointed. Plain windows that had replaced some of the original arched ones will be removed and arched ones re-integrated. Missing cornice (most of which is gone) will be replaced.  (The more recent and modern treatment at the first floor will remain, however.)

And that’s not all, of course, that will be repaired or retained. The smaller building connected at the north, where a Jimmy John’s now is, is part of this project also. There are four addresses here: 202, 204, 206, and 208. And Larry Jones, partner in Landmark Port Huron with Brent Marcell, proudly shared that his belief that 204-208 would be accessible via one hall some day has now come true. The (unfinished) hall in question is behind Jimmy John’s, but it will also be the rear passage for whatever store will lease the large space next door.

With renovations like this project, where the old is appreciated and married to modern conveniences and complimentary aesthetics, energy happens; the Vintage Tavern is one local example. Regarding city-wide successes, Seattle is an early and prime example, but there are many other downtown success stories in the U.S., like Fullerton, California.  As Larry shared, many have remarked to him that Port Huron could be like Holland (Michigan), or Traverse City, so why isn’t it? He and his partner are helping to affect Port Huron’s transition to a vibrant pedestrian hub, though, with Larry adding that if you just take your foot off, things’ll spring up.

As has been typical with rehabilitations in downtown Port Huron, the bottom floor will hold a mix of nonresidential establishments, while the 2nd and 3rd floors will be apartments. They’ll range from roomy 2-bedroom to small efficiency units (there will be 19 total). When asked about the possibility of condominiums instead, Larry said that it would be good to have ownership be a part of the residential mix downtown. The bottom floor will also hold some practical-use residential accoutrements like a laundry, and they’re hoping to include a children’s area in the basement. While most of the spaces were still maze-like with two-by-fours all over (that is, unfinished walls) when I visited, Landmark is opening up the building on April 10th for an open house. You can learn more about the project through the photos and their captions below (taken March 13th, 2018), but you can go and see it for yourself soon as well.

Google street view image, 2015, Ballentine building, 202-206 Huron Ave (at Quay Street), Port Huron.

(Also, more details about the project can be found in this article from November 2017, Jones Lines Up Financing for 19 New Lofts.)

Let’s start with what much of the building looks like now–the “before” project shot. This is so that it can be compared to the later “after” shot.  (Unless otherwise noted, all photos taken by Vicki Priest.)

Closer view of the Quay Street facade.  This building dates from 1875.

An old Arden’s store (former tenant) sign in the hall of 208 Huron Ave.  Historically, the building is known as the Ballentine Block, as the Ballentine family built it and had a store in the bottom floor for a great many years.

This is a very large sliding metal door that will be retained in a bedroom of one of the larger units. The loading open space was closed, of course, and this will be hung to the wall.

The large back unit which will be one of the only units with a outdoor patio. Nooks were added where a infill block wall used to be. The resting door is 4 foot wide and historic, and will be used at a closet.

Historic metal ceiling tile that will be put back in place. Such metal ceilings, of all different styles throughout the building, will be saved and reapplied.

This large cable hoist is in the short stairwell that can be seen in the photo of the room above, and it is being retained.

Amazingly, this old elevator, installed in 1908, will be updated and retained.

Detail of old wallpaper that still exists above the elevator at the 2nd floor.

Decorative metal that covers large beams at the third floor ceiling is being retained.

Decorative limestone features found during work on the building will now be integrated into the exterior plans.

One efficiency unit gets this view, via three windows, of the stairwell and open area of the adjoining Vintage Tavern.

And just for fun, a sample view from the third floor–this is looking south from the Quay Street side.

View south from third floor along Quay Street, on a snowy day.

An Account of Native American Activity in Port Huron and St. Clair County, Michigan

The original title to this relatively short piece is “Legends of Indian History in St. Clair County,” published in Volume 6 (1883) of the Collections of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan (Lansing, reprinted in 1907), pages 416-418.  It’s not really about “legends,” however, but of eyewitness accounts of events in the 1700s and 1800s; maybe that word was chosen because of perceived exaggerations?  After the verbatim text from the 1883 article, a related excerpt from Andreas 1883 (History of St. Clair County, Michigan) is also provided.

______________

By Hon. William T. Mitchell

Read at the annual meeting of the State Society, June 13, 1883

When the French explorers first came to the upper lakes, they found the lake country from Mackinac to Lapointe and the northern part of the lower peninsula, occupied by the Chippewas, or as the French named them, the Ojibeway Indians; a part of the great Algonquin family, then one of the most powerful Indian nations of North America.

The Hurons, who afterwards, and in about 1720, joined the confederacy of the six nations, and so became a part of the Iroquois, occupied the southern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan and of western Canada. The Wyandottes, also called Hurons by the French and in league with the Iroquois, occupied lands south and west of Detroit.* [this is reference to a note in the original appendix, which is included here]

When the Americans became possessed of Michigan the early settlers found none of the Iroquois, but in their place large numbers of Chippewas, and some Ottawas, under various tribal names.  It was from them the Indian titles to most of our lands were obtained, and to them most of the reservations in Michigan and western Canada were secured.  I am not aware of any authentic history of this change of possession, or how the Chippewas became possessed of the lands of the Iroquois.  The Hurons, by themselves, were not powerful, but associated with, and as part of, the Iroquois, they might well consider themselves invincible, and entitled to much of the renown that attached to that remarkable confederacy.

I have what follows, from one of the most venerable and worthy men of Michigan, Hon. Zephaniah W. Bunce, now approaching his ninety-sixth birthday.  As stated in the sketch of the history of St. Clair county, he came into the town of Port Huron in May, 1817, and soon after entered into the fur trade.  Great numbers of Chippewa Indians were in his immediate neighborhood with whom his business brought him in constant contact, and with whom and their language, he became familiar.  Among others that he knew, was Nimekance, a principal chief of the Chippewas, whose house was on the reservation, near Port Sarnia, opposite Port Huron.

Nimekance had been a great warrior, and with his nation, joined the English, and was with General Sinclair in most of his campaigns against our people.  As a reward for his services and bravery, the English had conferred upon him special marks of honor, and given him the dress and uniform of a brigadier general.  Within a year of his death, at the age of 106 years, he walked several miles to visit Judge Bunce, wearing and displaying with great pride, his English uniform.  Nimekance also loved to dwell upon the prowess and exploits of his father, Kioskance, the great chief of the Chippewas, and who, he said, had driven the Iroquois far to the east from Michigan.  As he related the story, his father, Kioskance, was the king or principal chief at the head of the Chippewas at Lapointe, on Lake Superior, and moved with most of the nation to the country and islands near the Sault and Mackinac.  They found the country to the east of Lake Superior as well as to the west, cold and bleak, and not abundant in game.

Iroquois, or more especially the Hurons and Wyandottes, their ancient enemies, held the warmer and pleasanter lands at the east and to the south of lake Huron.  The Chippewas claimed that they had once held and been unjustly driven from these favored hunting grounds, and the Iroquois being involved in the wars between the French and English, they resolved, under the lead of Kioskance to make a determined and well concerted effort to drive them from their possessions.  Kioskance gathered his warriors and launched in 400 canoes to traverse the waters of Lake Huron.

A part came up the Saginaw bay, and landing on that river pursued their course by land, so as to strike the Wyandottes near Detroit, while the larger part followed the coast to the St. Clair river, landing near the mouth of the smaller stream, since known as Black river, and passing a large camp of the Iroquois at the foot of the lake, near what is now known as Fort Gratiot.

Nimekance, then a young man, came with his father and described the canoes as holding eight warriors each, and enough to extend the whole length of the big river.

Scare [sic] had a landing been effected when the battle commenced; a battle, as described by him, unequaled in any strife where Indians alone were the combatants.  From side to side of the stream since known as Black river, the contest surged, till after days of terrible carnage, the Iroquois yielding, were driven across the great river and far into Canada.  The detachment sent against the Wyandottes had been equally successful, and the two conquering forces joining, stopped not in pursuit until they had driven their ancient foes across the Niagara.

Numbers of great burial mounds, filled with skeletons, Indian weapons, and ornaments, until a recent day attested the terrible slaughter.  One large one[,] on the ground now covered by the United States custom house was devoted to the distinguished Chippewa braves.  There were too many to be placed in bark tombs above ground, after the usual manner of Indian burials, and they were buried in a mound of earth.

Kioskance returning from his victorious pursuit, ever after made his home near Fort Gratiot, and died about 1800, at the advanced age of over 106 years, was buried in his English uniform, on the same mound with his father, great numbers of his people assembling to honor his memory.

How much reliance may be placed upon the story of Nimekance I will not pretend to determine, but there are many evidences that indicate its general truth, not perhaps of the number of canoes and warriors, but of the fact that the Iroquois were driven away and the Chippewas remained in possession as conquerors.  Judge Bunce gives it implicit credit.

Nimekance left five children, two sons and three daughters; one of whom, Mrs. Ogeetee, or Ogeetz, died on the Indian reservation, near Sarnia, in 1882, at the age of 107 years.

When the Indian reserve, known as the Riley reserve, covering the western portion of Port Huron and the ground on which the custom house stands, was released and put in market, the friends of the Indian chieftains caused their bones to be removed to a burial ground in the south part of the city.  That has since been vacated, and in the removal all trace of their remains have been lost.

On the spot where they first joined their fathers in the happy hunting-grounds of the Indian dead, the government that has ever been so unmindful of Indian rights and Indian memories, has unconsciously erected a monument, it is true not to their honor, but a memory that will for ages mark the place of burial of the Indian hero dead.  A fitting memento of the fast disappearing red man, and of the fact that all that they were, and all their rights have gone “glimmering down the dreams of things that were.”

A 1922 photo of Native American burials. This image was included in “Native American ancestral remains to be reburied at Michigan tribal cemetery.” It is presently unknown if the burials referred to in this post’s article, “bark tombs,” would look the same as these.

* [Endnote on page 524] This paragraph is open to correction and explanation.  The tribe of Indians who called themselves Wyandots were called Hurons by the French; by the English they were sometimes called the Tobacco Nation.  In 1649 they were defeated and scattered from Lake Superior to Quebec by the Iroquois; many of them were carried prisoners into the Iroquois country.  It was in 1680 that they formed their permanent settlement near Detroit.  They took sides with the French against the English and Iroquois, who were always, in historical times, their enemies, thought their language shows them to have been of common stock.  The Iroquois probably never had any permanent village in Michigan or immediately adjacent territory. (Parkman.)

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From Andreas 1883, page 608:

Nimecance, or Lightning, a son of old Kioscanee, served under Sinclair, on garrison duty, in the old fort at the mouth of Pine River.  Judge Bunce states that when he came to the county, this Indian was one hundred and five years old, five and a half feet high, energetic and capable of attending to his corn-field, four miles south of Black River, as well as to the chase.  Every New Year’s Day, he was accustomed to sail down the river in his large birchen canoe, on the bow of which he would fling the American colors to the breeze.  On such an occasion, he would don his gold-laced coat, beaded moccasins and leggins [sic], and all the ornaments in his possession.  Nimecance reached the age of one hundred and twelve years.  It is related that Kioscance was chief of the Otchipwes in their wars against the Wyandots and Six Nations.  In his expedition from Lake Superior to Lake Erie, his fleet was so extensive as to cover the St. Clair River from Fort St. Joseph, or Gratiot, to Walpole Island.  On his return from the lower lakes, he camped at Fort Gratiot, and afterward made the district his home.  Nicholas Plane, Sockscotowa, is a grandson of Nimecance, and chief of the Sarnia Indians.

Shignebeck, a brother of Nimecance, was one hundred and nine years old at the time of his death.  Mrs. Ogotig, a sister of the chief, lived to the age of one hundred and seven; old mother Rodd is said to have been one hundred and fourteen years old at the period of her death; Onsha, the third son of the chief of Kioscance, reached a very old age.  The Koscance, or Rapid Tribe, must be considered the first actual settlers of St. Clair County.  Previous to their coming, the Indian settlement was on the east bank of the river, about a mile northeast of the present village of Point Edward.

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A recommended article:  A Lost Chapter in Local History

Histories of Fort Gratiot and Port Huron Townships (including Marysville) from an 1876 Atlas

For reference purposes, the following word-for-word histories of Fort Gratiot Township and Port Huron Township (including Marysville) are provided here.  From the Combination Atlas Map of St. Clair County Michigan . . .  by Everts & Stewart, Philadelphia, 1876, pages XVII and XVIII.

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Fort Gratiot Township was organized as a township in the year 1866, with H. Stevens as the first Supervisor.  It is situated in the eastern part of the County, at the foot of Lake Huron.  It is a fractional township, and is designated Town 7 north, Range 17 east; it is bounded on the north by Burtchville, east by Lake Huron and St. Clair River, south by the city of Port Huron and Port Huron Township, and west by Clyde Township.  The surface of the country is mostly level, with some marsh land, and was originally timbered with pine and hemlock.  The soil is of a sandy nature, producing wheat, oats, hay, potatoes, and corn.  It is traversed by the Black River in the southwestern part.  T. Lymburner is the present Supervisor; and the population numbers one thousand three hundred and sixty-one.

Fort Gratiot, the principal village and post-office, is situated at the foot of Lake Huron, on the line of the Grand Trunk Railway, at the point where it crosses the St. Clair river, and contains a population of about eight hundred.

It is one mile north of the city of Port Huron, and sixty-three from Detroit, and derives its name from the fort of that name which is located here, on the site of the old French trading-post [this had been disputed and is not supported by the 1989 archaeological study of Fort Gratiot by Bruce Hawkins and Richard Stamps].  It is of importance as being the point where the traffic of the Grand Trunk Railway crosses the river, and contains one Methodist Episcopal church, a union schoolhouse, stores, hotel, express-office, and telegraph-office, and was settled as early as 1817, although the trading-post was established here many years prior to that date. This place is also of some notoriety as being the distributing-point for large numbers of emigrants who come direct from Portland [Maine, apparently].

Portion of page 32 of the atlas, showing the Fort Gratiot area.

Port Huron Township was originally known as Desmond, and was organized in 1828 (with J. Herrington as the first Supervisor), although the area embraced within these limits was settled many years prior.  It is reduced in size by the organization of other townships, and is fractional in its dimensions.  The city of Port Huron, within the original limits, now forms a distinct organization.

This township contains at present a population of one thousand and seven, and is designated Town 6 north, Range 17 east, and is bounded on the north by Fort Gratiot Township, east by the city of Port Huron and St. Clair River, south by St. Clair Township, and west by Kimball Township.  Its proximity to the St. Clair River and city of Port Huron makes it desirable as a place of residence.

This, like all the other portions of the County, was a timber region, in which pine, black ash, and hemlock abounded.

The characteristic feature of the soil is sandy, with considerable marsh land, producing corn and oats.

Among the pioneers of the township are Judge Z. W. Bunce, James M. Gill, B. Sturgis, S. Huling, A. F. Ashley, and James Young.  Judge Bunce located on the same place where he now resides (five miles south of Port Huron) in 1817, and has been prominently identified with the interests of the County ever since his settlement here.

The principal village post-office and shipping-point is Marysville (formerly Vicksburg), situated on the river St. Clair, in the extreme southeastern corner of the township, six miles south of Port Huron, and about the same distance from St. Clair.  It contains a population of about three hundred, and is the headquarters of the Mills’ Transportation Company, which is an extensive corporation.

Ship-building was formerly carried on at this point to a considerable extent, and it is a regular stopping-place for all river and lake boats, and has immediately in the village two large steam saw-mills, and two more closely by.

There is also a Methodist Episcopal church, a union school-house, store, hotel, and telegraph-office in the village.  The Chicago and Lake Huron Railroad, and the Grand Trunk Railway, both traverse the township, and the Black River touches the northeast corner.

There are many interesting facts connected with the early settlement of this section that will be treated in the history of Port Huron.

Portion of page 45 of the atlas, showing the layout of Vicksburg, now Marysville.

History of Port Huron from an 1876 Atlas

For reference purposes, the following word-for-word history of Port Huron (city) is provided here.  From the Combination Atlas Map of St. Clair County Michigan . . .  by Everts & Stewart, Philadelphia, 1876, page XVIII.

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In the year 1819, when the Hon. D. B. Harrington came to this place to make it his abiding place, nothing but a vast wilderness met the eye on every side.  The Chippewa tribe of Indians were the occupants of this region; and during the fishing and hunting season they congregated at the mouth of the Black River in large numbers; and their huts and wigwams dotted the shores for a long distance north and south.  There were at this time a few French families scattered around, whose names are mentioned in the early history of the County, and who at times were seriously annoyed by the Indians.  The propensity to steal was largely developed among them.

The first house ever built in Port Huron, or, as it was then called, Desmond, was located near the Hogan House, in Court Street, and was occupied by Anselm Petit.  The second building was occupied by a half-breed named John Riley, and was located on the site of William Stewart’s hardware store.  These two buildings comprised the village in 1819.  There were no inhabitants north of Fort Gratiot at that date, on the eastern slope of the lower peninsula, with the exception of three or four families scattered along the Black River and Mill Creek.  On the Canada side a wilderness prevailed, with nothing to indicate the presence of humanity except the wigwams of the Indians.

The village of Port Huron was originally in Desmond Township, embracing all that part of St. Clair county north of Township 5.

The first meeting held to effect its organization was at Fort Gratiot, on the first Monday in May, 1826, when the following officers were elected:  Martin Pickens, Supervisor; Jeremiah Harrington and Isaac Davis, Assessors; Morris McGarvey, Isaac Davis, and Richard Sansbury, Highway Commissioners; Reuben Dodge, Lewis Facer, and Francis Duchein, Constables.  The first village plat was made in 1835, by Mr. E. Petit, and was called Peru.  The next made was in the fall of 1835, by D. B. Harrington, and the lots sold by White & Harrington.

In 1837 the third piece of land was platted and sold by Major John Thorn, and called Paris.

The name of Port Huron is accredited to Mr. D. B. Harrington in 1835; and the projectors of the other village plats followed his example, and the whole assumed the name which it has since borne.

The first school-house erected was by Francis P. Browning, and was located on the west side of the park and north of Black River.  The first hotel built was of logs, in 1827, on Quay Street.

Early map of Port Huron showing the park west of which was built the first school. This early era area of Port Huron is now taken up by McMorran plaza and the community college.
Detail from the 1859 Geil map of Macomb and St. Clair counties.

In 1833 the road now known as Military Street was built, and a bridge erected across Black River.  In 1832, during the Black Hawk war, the citizens of Port Huron rendered effective service in palisading the fort.  John B. Phillips built the first steamboat at this place.

The village of Port Huron became a city under a charter obtained April 8, 1857, at which time the City Council met for the first time, W. L. Bancroft presiding as Mayor.  The city of Port Huron of to-day looms up grandly beside the little straggling hamlet that nestled on the shores of the St. Clair River forty years ago.  The natural advantages possessed by this place surpass by far those of any other section of the County, and it is only a question of time when this city shall take a prominent position among the first cities of the State in population and business interests.

It has a very large lake and river traffic, and the great railroad lines centering here bring a heavy trade to this point.

The Grand Trunk, and Chicago and Lake Huron Railroads on the Port Huron side, and the Great Western Railroad on the Sarnia side, give to it an air of busy importance.  For Gratiot is located on the northern limit of the city, and was occupied in 1814 by a detachment of United States regulars and militia, under Major Forsyth of the regular army.  Captain Gratiot was the engineer officer who built the first fort, and after whom it is named.  Its original cost was three hundred dollars.  In 1822 it was abandoned, and the buildings turned over to two Presbyterian missionaries named Hart and Hudson, who occupied them until 1828, when they were reoccupied by the Government, and the buildings and grounds were enlarged and strengthened.  The fort has since been occupied as a military post, with the exception of a period during the Mexican war and the war of the Rebellion [the Civil War].  The date of the first village organization is not clearly established, but from the most reliable information obtained, it was incorporated about the year 1842, and the first paper published was in 1835 or 1836, by D. B. Harrington, and was called the “Lake Huron Observer.”  The most important business interests here are the cutting of lumber and ship-building, furnishing employment to large numbers of men.

The marine interests of the city are large; many officers and sailors residing here with their families, and many vessels being owned here.  A large wholesale trade is also being rapidly developed with the country north and west, especially in the grocery and hardware lines.  This is the market for the produce of St. Clair, and large portions of Sanilac, Lapeer, and Macomb Counties.

The city has a population of eight thousand three hundred, and is rapidly increasing.  It is the County seat of St. Clair, and contains among its public buildings and enterprises three public or graded schools, two on the south side of Black River, and one on the north side; a very handsome structure occupying the site of the one burned in 1873, with two more contracted for, and to be speedily erected, one in the Fifth and the other in the Sixth Wards.  A new city hall and court-house, and engine-house on Water Street, a new custom-house of elegant design, Pine Grove Park, city cemetery, now water-works building, all owned by the city, except the custom-house, which is a Government building.  The fire department consists of one stream and one hand engine.  The water-works are of the Holly pattern, with four engines, having a pumping capacity of three million gallons per day.  The city is divided into six wards, with regularly laid out streets and fine side-walks, principally of wood.  There are street railways, and the city is well supplied with gas.

There are eight churches, two large iron bridges spanning the Black River, two lines of ferry-boats plying between Port Huron and Sarnia, Masonic, Odd-Fellow, Good Templar, and other lodges, besides stores, hotels, and shops in large numbers.  The United States Signal Service Bureau have also established a station here, and render excellent service to the shipping interests.