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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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Interesting Sidelights on the History of the Early Fur Trade Industry (Part 2)

Continued Article from The Eau Claire Leader - June 18, 1925
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Miigaadikanaang - The Road of War(By the Editor - The fur trade program recently put on by the Chippewa Valley Historical Society at Jim Falls aroused widespread and lively interest on the subject, and this paper has been asked by many for further amplification of the romance of the early fur traders, which was so interestingly presented by W. Bartlett of this city, president of the Society, in his talk before the Jim Falls gathering, and which was printed in full in this paper. Realizing there is an unusual human interest and appeal to the history of the early fur trading in this valley, which to date has received very little attention, and knowing that it would be difficult, if not all together impossible to find anyone in the valley who knows more about the early history of this section of the state, especially the Chippewa Valley, or who is better capable of gathering facts, statistics and especially human interest features bearing upon such a history and compiling them than Mr. Bartlett, the editor has finally prevailed upon him to prepare a series of articles on the subject , the fist of which this paper herewith presents. This will be followed by others from week to week.)



Fur Trade Letters
Among the principal fur trade families mentioned at Jim Falls gathering were the following: The Cadotte family, with special reference to Michel Cadotte, who operated in the Lake Superior region and who in the latter seventeen hundreds had a trading post at what is now Chippewa Falls. There were also the New Englander brothers Truman and Lyman Warren, who in the early eighteen hundreds entered the employee of old Michel Cadotte, and soon after both married daughters of Cadotte and his Ojibway wife. Reference was also made to a number of the sons and daughters of Truman and Lyman Warren, several of whom became persons of note. Two of the daughters of Lyman, now aged women, are still living. It was also noted that Truman died a few years after his marriage to the daughter of Michel Cadotte and that his widow was married to the fur trader, James Ermatinger, later of Jim Falls and whom Jim Falls was named. The marriage between the widow of Truman Warren to James Ermatinger completes a relationship among the Cadotte, Warren and Ermatinger families, and it is to these three families that the following letters pertain. Most of these letters were gathered and preserved by Miss Anna Ermatinger, whose home is at Jim Falls.

James Ermatinger was not, like the Warren brothers, new to the fur trade, as his father George Ermatinger, was a fur trader before him and was located at Sault Ste. Marie, where he had connections with the American Fur Company. Among the letters mentioned are a number written by this George Ermatinger and his son James, and it is theses letters which will be given first. George Ermatinger was evidently a man of considerable education, but he wrote a peculiar backhanded script, very neat in appearance, but rather difficult to decipher, which has made it necessary to leave certain blanks, especially in proper names, in the copy.

The first letter was addressed to James Ermatinger, at La Pointe in care of L.M. Warren, agent for the American Fur Company, and was written after James Ermatinger's marriage to the widow of Truman Warren, but before they came down on the Chippewa River.

Letter to James Ermatinger

"Red Cedar Lake (Minn?)
December 10, 1833.

"My Dear Son James;

I enclose your account with Abbott & Johnston, balance against you $5.05, I hope you will find it correct. I do not know as I have given you all the credits you have against them, however that can be done when we will be together. After your departure from the Portage Abbott was very sorry you went away. He told me so as well as the Doctor. He altered all his plans as soon as he got to Sandy Lake. After remaining two days waiting for Masse', and when he did not arrive, he sent the Doctor and myself off with four canoes loaded. He waited the arrival of Masse' and on his safe arrival he made a light canoe and overtook us on the Mississippi just as we had encamped for the evening. He slept with us that night and started out early in the morning. His plans were that Johnson should remain at Leech Lake and himself at Sandy Lake to make that his destination and to have the goods there. The different posts would send to him for their supplies. The intention is to strengthen the posts below. He says Aitkins plan to run him hard at Leech Lake, but below he would have no opposition. Then he could make up for his losses, as Aitkins expected Abbott would have no person below. That is why he hired Masse' and gave him three hundred dollars. He has left all the posts exposed with nothing to trade with. William on the second of October last had sixty-two pounds (Strand?) reported, after his trade was over. Now he has not a penny. I am well informed that he has given from eight hundred to a thousand skins in credit. The number of packs made by him are nine. He would go after the Indians and bring them to take a credit whether they wanted him to or not. What a trader? He does nothing but play on an Indian drum and sing with them. He conceives he has great influence with them. He is a great man in his own opinion. The Indians always laugh and say, "What sort of trader have we amongst us? He is like ourselves." The Doctor has been with me. He slept two nights here. He is heartily tired of William, says he is no companion whatever, as he is continually taking Indian. He is like one of them and prefers their company. He never saw such a waste of goods before. He keeps his credit book locked up. The Doctor says he cannot see it. He tells me Abbott has purchased the Masse' place and all the cattle for five hundred dollars, to return him as many at the Sault to the amount of that sum. I think Brewster will have something to say before he allows such extravagance. The man is out of his head, all to please that woman. She will be the means of ruining him. William will also give him a good start towards this year. I do not believe he will make many packs. He would have done better giving you six hundred dollars, you would have saved him $2,000.00 at Leech Lake."

"Stephen was here a few days ago, so the Doctor informs me. He made seven packs at the post on the Yellow River and came in for goods. He could not get any until they are sent down from Abbott. He made his furs principally from the Sioux. The Chippewas are making no hunts, continually feasting and playing at (?) with the Sioux."

"I expect the returns will be bad this year if they continue on their frolics."

"I am anxious to hear from you, how are you getting on, who are you with and what salary are you getting. I have not heard from the Sault, however I hope it will not be long before I get a letter from you."

"Give my regards to (Lyman) Warren and Michel Cadotte and his family, my love to Charlotte and kiss the young ones for me."

"Wishing you all abundant prosperity I remain, my dear son,"
"Your affectionate father"
"George Ermatinger"

(Note: The "Charlotte referred to was the wife of James Ermatinger mentioned in the introduction. The young ones at that time were two boys, both of who grew into manhood, enlisted in the Civil War and were killed in service. Two sons, born later, are still living. Of these Elisha is also a Civil War veteran and lives in Flambeau. The other Frederick lives at Jim Falls.)

Another Letter
"Sault Ste. Marie, August 5, 1936"

"My Dear James:

I have just time to write you a few lines before this vessel is off. I received your two letters. Your mother has written also and at the same time sends your trunk. I have put two bottles of brandy, marked 'Medicine.' Be careful it should not be known as it would cause a great deal of trouble if it should be found out."

"I wish you to ask Mr. (Lyman) Warren if he will be so good as to give me his certificate of what I mount I had to trade with at Mackinaw in the Indian trade for three years, to say as nearly as he has an idea off and send it down by return vessel. I would have written to Charles and got the amount from him, but I could not receive sufficient time. That is why I ask Mr. Warren. I am sure he can give a just account according to his opinion. Have it done as quickly as possible. Make no delay, to let the vessel go off without sending it, as it is of importance to me."

"I must conclude as the man is waiting, so you must excuse my scrawl."

"Give my best to Mr. Warren and Mr. Cadotte and all their family.

My dear son, your affectionate father,"
"George Ermatinger."

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