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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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Interesting Sidelights on the History of the Early Fur Trade Industry (Part 5)

From The Eau Claire Leader - Sunday August 15, 1925
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)


Detroit, Minn. May 12, 1925,
William W. Bartlett, Eau Claire, Wisconsin,

Dear Sir,
I am not well; I send you many thanks for sending the old letter. I was delighted to read. She was a cousin I thought a great deal of. She was a sister to the twins Edward and George Warren.

I have been married twice. Duncan Stuart lived two years. I have one daughter by him. I married again in three years to Mr. Spears. He lived seven years and by him I had two children. Two years after his death the village of Swan River was destroyed by fire. It was supposed to have been set by Indians. That was in 1863.

Julia A. Spears

On the reverse side of the letter Mrs. Alice Mee, a daughter of Mrs. Spears, and with whom Mrs. Spears was making her home, made a notation to the effect that her mothers health was very poor, she was confined to bed, and that the above letter was probably the last one she would ever write. She did however right a few lines later, only a few days before her death. With her last letter she sent a typewritten account she had prepared several years earlier of a trip she made from the Chippewa River to Northern Minnesota. No further explanation is necessary.

Mrs. Spear's Story

In 1850 (she was 18) my brother William W. Warren was appointed to conduct the male Chippewa Indians from the Chippewa River country to Sandy Lake, to which place the Government Agency had been removed. The agent sent word for the Indians to all come at the same time with my brothers and see the country. If they liked it they would all be removed the next year. My brother was in poor health and my mother urged him not to go, fearing the trip would be too hard on him, but he said he had started and did not wish to turn back. I then told my brother to let me go. Then if he got sick I could help take care of him and I could cook for him and I told him he would not be sorry. He was afraid I could not stand the walking; but finally consented to let me go. There were a great many Indians on the Chippewa River at that time. In September we started from our Uncle James Ermatinger's home at what is now Jim Falls, went first to Lac Courte Oreilles walking through the woods, the Indians packed canoes on their backs, some others with big packs of provisions and other things. My brother had two men hired to pack our canoe and tent. We walked all day and did not come to any lake or river to cross. We traveled in what were then the dense woods of Northern Wisconsin. We came to the St. Croix River and stayed for two days, then started for the mouth of the St. Louis River, near Lake Superior and camped near the sand bar near were the City of Duluth now stands. Some more Indians were waiting for us there. Altogether there were then about 800 in our party. We were now ready to start for Sandy Lake. That night my brother was taken sick with hemorrhage of the lung, and was unable to travel for four days, and then we started up the river to Fond du Lac. Just before we started my brother told the Indians he wished to say a few words, then pointing to where Duluth now stands, he said, that in this most desolate place will some day be a very great city, with a big harbor and many ships and pointing to the present site of Superior he said there would be another city there. He said he would not live to see it but that some of the younger ones would. We all thought he was losing his mind. From there we traveled towards Sandy Lake, and that was the hardest part of our journey, as we had to walk for about six days. Then the Indians went ahead of us and we camped altogether on this side of the lake. All the Chippewas, with their families, were waiting for us. In all there were several thousand, waiting to receive their payments. We had to wait three weeks for the money to come. It was then in the late fall. The measles broke out and many children died and some of the grown folks as well. It was a sad time for all us all.

Major Watrous held a council with the Indians in his front yard. I was there and heard every word. He urged the Indians to move and join the Mississippi Indians so they would be together on the same reservation and the government would move them the next year. The head chief of the Chippewa River, whose name was Kichi Makigan, Big Wolf, stood up, and he was a fine looking Indian. He said they would not move. They would not leave their homes, where their dead were laid, also they would never go to Sandy Lake again for their payments, so the removal at that time was a failure.

Julia A. Spears.

As already noted Mrs. Spears died only a few weeks ago at her daughter's home in Detroit, Minn.

Her daughter, Mrs. Alice Mee, sent a copy of the Detroit Tribune of June 25, containing the obituary given below. In the view of the connection of the Warren family with the early history of the Chippewa Valley we feel assured this will be of interest to residents here.

The Passing of Julia Warren Spears
Pioneer Settler and Teacher of Becker County
(Detroit, Minn., Tribune June 25, 1925)

Mrs. Julia Warren Spears, who has been a resident of Becker County for the past fifty years and who for many years has made her home with her daughter, Mrs. Alice Mee, died at her home Sunday morning, aged 92 years, 9 months and 18 days. Death was caused by the infirmities of age complicated by a mild attack of cerebral hemorrhage.

Mrs. Spears, whose maiden name was Julia Warren, was born September 3, 1832, at La Pointe, Madeline Island, Wisconsin, the daughter of Lyman Marquis Warren and Mary Cadotte. Through her father she traced he ancestry to Richard Warren, the Mayflower pilgrim and through him to William the Conqueror. Her mother, Mary Cadotte Warren was the grand daughter of Jean Baptiste Cadotte, the first white fur trader at Sault St. Marie, the daughter of Michael Cadotte and the grand daughter of White Crane, a Chippewa Chief. At six years of age she was taken to live in the family of her grandfather, Lyman M. Warren, until 1848, when she return to La Pointe, where she was placed in the family of Charles W. Borup, a well known fur trader and where she went to a private school and completed her education. In 1850, her brother, William W. Warren, was commissioned by the government to conduct the male Chippewas in the vicinity of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, to Sandy Lake Minnesota. As he was in poor health, his sister accompanied him. The journey was made by canoe up the Chippewa River to Lac Courte Oreilles, across to Lake Superior, up past the present site of Duluth, up the St. Louis River to Fond du Lac and thence to Sandy Lake. There were over 800 Indians and Miss Warren was the only woman in the party. A short time after she removed to Gull Lake. In 1852, she was united in marriage to Duncan Stuart at Swan River and one child, now Mrs. Mary Stuart Lambert was born. Mr. Stuart died in 1854 and in 1856 Mrs. Stuart married Andrew J. Spears of Swan River and of this union two children were born. Mrs. Alice Mee of Detroit and William R. Spears deceased. Mr. Spears died in 1861 and in 1862; incendiary fire destroyed the town of Swan River and Mrs. Spears was employed as a teacher at the agency seven miles from Crow Wing. This was closed in 1885 and she was given the position of matron of the school at Leech Lake. It was at this time that Hole-in-the-Day was murdered near Crow Wing and the next day the murderer appeared at Leech Lake. One of them who claimed to have fired the fatal shot, offered the dead chieftain's watch to Mrs. Spears for $5.00, but she refused and the watch disappeared. In 1890 Mrs. Spears removed to White Earth and in the fall began to teach school there, thus being the first schoolteacher in Becker County. This she continued for a few years until failing health obliged her to retire and make her home with her daughter, Mrs. Mee, with whom she has lived since that time.

For a number of years she has been in feeble health but has been active in mind and her reminiscences of early days, written from time to time, will be a valuable contribution to the history of the White Earth Reservation and of Becker County. Last week she suffered a paralytic stroke and the end came peacefully last Sunday morning at 10:30. Funeral services were held at the Episcopalian Church at 2 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, Reverend H.N. Tragitt officiating and interment was made in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Two sisters survive Mrs. Spears, Mrs. Mary English, of Cass Lake, who was prevented from being present at the funeral by infirmities; and Mrs. Sophia Warren of White Earth, who was present. One sister Charlotte, died many years ago, one brother William W. Warren died in 1853 and another brother, Truman A. Warren, died in 1888. Two daughters mourn her departure, Mrs. Isaac Lambert, of Ogema, and Mrs. C.W. Mee, of Detroit, besides whom there are eighteen grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren.

Mrs. Spears was a confirmed member of the Protestant Episcopal Church by Bishop Whipple at Little Falls in 1868 or 1869 and remained so till the time of her death. She was the oldest communicant of that church in Becker County and one of the oldest in the state. Her life was lived in conformity of the teachings of the great head of all churches and she was universally loved by all who came to know her.

Out of town attendants at the funeral were Mrs. Margaret Decorey, Valentine, Nebraska; Dudley Fairbanks, St. Paul; Dr. Oscar Davis, Minneapolis; George Stillwell and family, Brainerd; B.S. Fairbanks and family, Mrs. Grace Hull, George Warren of White Earth and Martin Blanchand of Waubun.

William Whipple Warren

In connection with these letters incidental reference has been made to William Whipple Warren, but something further is due him. In the writer's opinion he was the most notable and interesting product of the fur trade in these parts and a really remarkable character. As already noted Lyman Warren in 1821 married Mary, a daughter of Michel Cadotte and his Ojibway wife. Michel Cadotte was himself of part Ojibway blood, so that the daughter Mary was about three-fourths Ojibway. William Whipple Warren, their oldest son, was born at La Pointe in 1825. He learned to talk the Ojibway language from playing with the Indian children. His father gave him a good English education, sending him to the mission school at La Pointe and later at Mackinaw.

In the summer of 1836, his grandfather came from New York state on a visit and on his return took his young grandson William back to New York where he attended school two years at Clarkson and later three years at the Oneida Institute, near Utica. He then returned to his father's home at La Pointe. He was a great favorite with all and developed an unusual interest in the history and traditions of his mother's Indians ancestry and spent much of his time interviewing the chiefs, medicine men, and aged members of the tribe and making notes. While only a boy he was chosen to serve as official interpreter for the government in its dealings with the Indians. Hon. Henry Rice says of him 'In the Treaty of Fond du Lac made by General Verplanck and myself in 1847 William Warren was our interpreter. He was one of the most eloquent and fluent speakers I ever heard. The Indians said that he understood their language better than themselves. His command of the English language was remarkable, in fact musical.'

In 1842, at the age of 18, he was married to Matilda Aitkin, the daughter of a prominent fur trader. As already noted Lyman Warren, during the latter 30's and early 40's, had a trading post near Chippewa City, and the son, William spent some time in the valley. James Ermatinger, at Jim Falls, was his uncle, and it was from there that he started, in 1850, with the Indians to Sandy Lake, Minnesota, as described by his sister, Mrs. Spears.

In 1845 he had moved to Minnesota and in 1850 was elected a member of the legislature, from a district, which comprised about one half the present area of the state. He took his seat in the legislature in January 1851. A St. Paul newspaperman, Col. D.A. Robertson, had become acquainted with him and writes as follows, 'I had shortly before established in St. Paul The Minnesota Democrat newspaper. Someone introduced Mr. Warren to me and I wished to learn what I could in regard to the customs, belief and history of the Ojibways. I questioned him on these points and he very lucidly and eloquently gave me the desired information. I was amazed at his information in regard to the Ojibway myths as well as please with his style of narrative, so clear and graphic, which with his musical voice, made his recital really engrossing.'

'After Mr. Warren took his seat in the legislature I renew my talks with him about the Ojibway legends. Then asked him to write for me some articles on this subject, to which he consented, and began to prepare them during his leisure moments when not engaged in the legislature. The first article appeared February 25, 1851, and was followed by others. These sketches took well and seemed to please all who read them.'

Colonel Robertson goes on to state that realizing the value of the articles he urged Warren to put them in a book form. This he began to do, but by reason of his increasing ill health and lack of funds the publishing was delayed until too late as in June 1853, he died at the age of 28. Some years after his death his manuscript came into the possession of the Minnesota Historical Society and still later was published in Volume 5 of the Society's historical collections. The Warren article comprises the greater part of this volume and constitutes the best story of the Ojibway, or Chippewa Indians ever written.

In the preface of the story Warren states that it was his purpose, 'if his precarious health held out,' to follow this work with two and possibly three others, on different phases, which he enumerates, of Ojibway life.

Probably no writer that ever lived has been so qualified as William Whipple Warren to present these topics, and his early death meant much to those interested in Indian life.

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