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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 5, 2003 - Issue 84


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Early Copper Mining History In the Lake Superior Basin (Part 2)

[From the Jesuit Relation of 1669--70.]
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

[Letter of Beauharnois and Hocquart to the French Minister, dated October 25, 1729. MS. in archives of Ministère des Colonies, Paris; pressmark, "Canada, Corresp. gén, vol. 51, c. 11, fol. 69."]

Monsignor--We have received the Letter you did us the honor of writing us on May 22, last, on the subject of the copper mine on the west point of Lake Superior. The Sieur de Cavagnial [Note: See note on Pierre François Rigault, Marquis de Vaudreuil, ante p. 31.--Ed.], to whom the Sieur Marquis de Beauharnois had ordered a specimen from the mine to be given in order that it might be presented to you, did not inquire closely into the cost of expressly sending a Canoe there when he told you that it would amount to a Thousand Livres only for the food and wages of three men; nor did he consider the difficulties that would be encountered in conveying Five thousand livres weight of the ore in Bark Canoes that would inevitably be wrecked if struck by a squall on that Lake while approaching shore--as ore cannot be landed as easily as packages of Furs.

We will neglect no steps, Monsignor, to procure information as to the quality and quantity of the ore in the mine, And to that End, the Sieur de Beauharnois will send orders next spring to the officer commanding at the point of Chagoüamigon to instruct some voyageurs who may pass by that Spot to bring as much ore as they can from the mine with a detailed Report on its situation and Extent, which we shall have the honor to send you when we receive it. It is impossible to get information about it, otherwise, since you do not deem it advisable to send an especial Canoe thither. [Note: Marginal note on MS., added at Paris: "They will send a detailed report next year on the Copper Mine. It is expected that they will omit no explanations."]

We have the honor to be with very profound respect, Monsignor, Your very humble and very obedient servants
Quebec, October 25th, 1729.

[The first is a letter dated Oct. 18, 1730, translated from a transcript from the Paris archives, in Macalester College library, St. Paul, Minn., and published in Macalester College Contributions, 1st Series, No. 4, pp. 112, 113. The second is a letter from Beauharnois and Hocquart to the French Minister, dated Oct. 22, 1730. MS. in archives of Ministère des Colonies, Paris; pressmark, "Canada, Corresp. gén., vol. 52, c. 11, fol. 103."]

We cannot as yet write anything positive as to the situation, extent, and richness of the copper mine in the neighborhood of the bay of Chagouamigon. The officer whom Monsieur de Beauharnois sent to find out about it, has not been able to enlighten us on the subject, as has been desired. He contented himself with bringing us a piece of copper weighing eighteen pounds, which has the odor, color, and weight of ordinary red copper. This ingot was given him by a savage from that locality, without his being able to learn from him the situation of this mine, in order to go there. The savages are superstitious about these sorts of discoveries. They feel they would rather die than reveal them. If we can get any more precise knowledge concerning this mine, we will have the honor of rendering you an account of it, and the measures necessary for transportation. We will neglect no means of ascertaining.

Monsignor--We have received the letter that you did us the honor of Writing to us on the 28th of March last. Monsieur de Beauharnois sent orders in the spring to the officer commanding La Pointe de Chagouamigon to obtain all the necessary Information respecting the situation, the extent, and also the quality of the Copper mine in the Neighborhood of that post. He has not yet received news from him. We Hope to be in a Position to give you information on this matter next Year. Monsieur de Beauharnois has recommended the officers and Voyageurs to notify him of all the discoveries that they may make and which may affect the welfare of the Colony.

Monsieur Hocquart informs us, Monsignor, by a private Letter of the Position of affairs of brother Chrestien with his creditors.

We remain with very profound respect, Monsignor, Your very humble and very obedient servants
Quebec, October 22nd, 1730.

[Letter of Beauharnois and Hocquart to the French Minister, dated Oct. 14, 1736. MS. in archives of Ministère des Colonies, Paris; pressmark, "Canada, Corresp. gén., vol. 65, c. 11, fol. 81."]

Monsignor--we have The honor to inform You that Monsieur De la Ronde who was instructed to work the Copper Mines on Lake Superior, came down from there in the month of August to report on his discoveries, and brought with him About 500 pounds of ore taken from two large masses of copper, one of which is at the Tonnaganne River, and the other on the Shore of Lake Superior near the Piouabic River [Note: Now Iron River, in northern Michigan. The word Piouabic (Pewabic) signifies iron, the terms being in the 18th century used interchangeably. Alexander Henry, in his Travels and Adventures (Bain ed., Boston, 1901), p. 187, refers to this as the "Piwatic or Iron River." Foster and Whitney, "Report on Copper Regions of Lake Superior," in United States Land Commissioner's Report, 1849, suggested Pewabic as the name of a town at the mouth of this river, and so laid it down on their map. A small village of that name is now in Houghton County, near the Pewabic mine.--Ed.]. We have drawn up the annexed memorandum from what he has told us respecting the situation of those mines, and everything connected therewith. From this you will be able to judge, favorable Hopes to which this first attempt gives Monsignor, of the rise, and of the advantages that may be expected from the working of those mines. Although, until now, there is nothing absolutely certain beyond the discovery of those two masses, there is every reason to believe that they are not the only ones and that, by digging at the Cape of the Piouabic River, similar Masses will be found. All the savages assert that Copper is to be found at a great many Places on Lake Superior; from time to time they have brought pieces which they have given to Frenchmen and in particular to Father St. Pé a Jesuit Missionary at Michilimakinac [Note: Jean Baptiste de Saint Pé was born Oct. 21, 1686, entered the Jesuit novitiate at the age of seventeen, and later joined the Canada mission. His first station was among the Miamis, whence he was transferred to Mackinac, 1735--36. After this he returned to Montreal, where he was resident superior (1748--54). Twice he served as superior of all Canada (1739--48, and again in 1754). --Ed.]. We consider that these discoveries cannot be too carefully followed up. But, in order to do so at present and with success, it is necessary to have the workman and the artificer asked for by Monsieur De la Ronde. We beg, you, Monsignor, to give orders that one be found.

Annexed hereto is The Statement of the specimens of Copper from Tonnaganne And Piouabic which We will put on board the King's Ship and which Monsieur Hocquart will be careful to deliver to you, Monsignor.

We remain with very profound respect, Monsignor, Your very humble and very obedient Servants
Quebec, October 14th, 1736.

Statement of the specimens of Copper Sent to Monsignor The Comte de Maurepas by The King's ship.
No 1 Three small pieces from the Tonnaganne Mine.
No 2 Another small piece of ore of two colors, red, and white, from the said Tonnaganne River.
No 3 Another small piece of Copper, or metal of some other kind which detached itself from the ore placed in the Crucible, and flew out of it during the melting, while an assay was being made by Monsieur De la Ronde. This small Ingot comes from the same Place aforesaid and from the same block of Copper mentioned in the memorandum of the said Sieur De la Ronde.
No4 several specimens of the Soil or kind of Soil adhering and contiguous to the same block aforesaid.
NoA A large piece of ore, weighing About 110 pounds, marked A. on one of the faces, from the Piouabic River.
Another Idem, weighing 65 pounds, also marked A, from the same Place.
Several other Pieces, large and small, also from the Piouabic River, without any number.
The Copper is in two cases, No & No 8, which Monsieur de Beauharnois, Intendant, is to take out in order to Send them to Monsignor.

[Extracts from the yearly report of Beauharnois. MS. in archives of Ministère des Colonies, Paris; pressmark, "Canada, Corresp. gén., vol. 67, c. 11. fol. 139."

Copper Mines. This year we have no Interesting Report to make to His Majesty with reference to the copper mines. The son of the Sieur de la Ronde merely wrote to the Sieur de Beauharnois that he had endeavored to approach the alleged Island of copper in his bateau, But that stress of Weather had compelled him to put into port, his Sail having been Torn by a Squall.

The Sieur La Ronde, the Elder, who left for his Post in the month of may, wrote us from Sault Ste Marie at the Entrance of Lake superior that he was waiting for the miners that are to be sent him and he promises that if they arrive we shall receive Information next year of everything connected with the Mines. A few Days after the arrival of the King's Ship we sent the Forsters, father and son, to Michilimakinac. They will pass the winter at that Post and next Spring They will be in a Position to proceed to the point of Chagoüamigon under the orders of the Sieur La Ronde. We have written that officer to make a profitable Use of them, to make them inspect the various Places where he has discovered copper mines and to Confer with them in regard to what is proper to do for the success of His Undertaking. At the same time we explained to him how greatly it was to his Interest to act promptly. If the Tonnagane mine can be worked, the peace just concluded between, the Cristinaux and the Sauteur of La Pointe is of the greatest advantage as regards the peaceful exploitation of the mines. But with respect to this circumstance as well as to all others connected with those Mines, We hope that the Sieur de la Ronde will, next year, place us in a Position to send an accurate Report thereof to his Majesty. We cannot at present compel him to build a second Bark at Detroit, as he bound himself to do, until he is more certain of the success of his enterprise. He would thereby be forced to incur expense, which he would be unable to meet and which, moreover, would be absolutely useless should his success not equal his Hopes.

The Sieurs de Beauharnois and Hocquart have received the Edict his Majesty has been pleased to issue in favor of the Coureurs de bois. This Edict has been Amnesty for the Registered in the records of the Council coureurs du bois and published in the usual manner. They have sent Copies thereof to all the Posts of the upper country so that all who are interested may be informed of the same. They will be careful to see that the new prohibitions against the contours du bois are enforced.

The Renards and Sakis have not struck a blow since the affair of the Sieur Des Noyelles. On the contrary they have always begged for their lives since Then and Renards and have again asked the same this year through the Sakis. Outaouacs, sinayes, Kiskacons [Note: These belonged to Ottawa clans; see Wis. Hist. Colls., xvi, pp. 30, 120.--Ed.], the Poutoüatamis of the river St Joseph, the folles Avoine, and the Puants who came down to Montreal.

The Chaoüanons must have gone on an embassy to Detroit this year. Their departure was delayed solely owing to the fact that they were waiting for the Kiliskouakis, Chaoüanons Their allies, who were bringing them Porcelain [Note: Probably this was one of the Shawnee tribes, which is ordinarily called Kiskapocke. --Ed.]. They caused themselves to be announced by means of two branches of Porcelain whereof Mekinac, the great chief of the Outaouacs was the bearer.

Oüiatanons The Sieur de Beauharnois has nothing to add to the report he made last year with regard to the Oüiatanons. Gentle measures have had a good effect, as that nation has not ceased to wage war against the Chicachas.

The post in the Sioux country has been evacuated by the Sieur de St Pierre. The Sioux struck the Sauteur of the point of Chagoüamigon in the month of May. The Sauteur Sioux raised a band to avenge the Blow struck at them. They induced the Puants to take part in their quarrel; this compelled the Sieur de St Pierre to abandon his Post and to burn the fort.

The Sieur de la Verandeire has come down to Montreal and reports that the Cristinaux, assiniboils and Cristinaux, Monsonis savages started at the melting of Assiniboils, etc. the Snows to Avenge the blow struck at the French last year.

Iroquois the sonontouans are to come down to Montreal next spring.

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