Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 28, 2003 - Issue 90


pictograph divider


Interesting Sidelights on the History of the Early Fur Trade Industry (Part 8)

From The Eau Claire Leader - Sunday September 6, 1925
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)


Martin McLeod(To the Editor: A few days ago the writer's attention was called to some materials, which, although different would seem to fit in well with the series of fur trade letters conclude with the last issue of the Leader. Practically all of the material furnished thus far has been in the nature of original letters and documents not hitherto in print. The article today, on the contrary, is taken from an issue of the Minnesota History Bulletin of several years ago. As it has probably never been printed anywhere else, it will doubtless be new to most of the readers. Some of the characters mentioned in the early Ermatinger letters are also found in this article, which is a diary account of a most unusual expedition to the Great Lakes region, in the early 1800s, by a Martin McLeod, who had joined up with a certain General Dickson, and who had been commissioned by said General Dickson as "Major of Artillery." A facsimile of this commission is shown in the History Bulletin article, the author of which article has the following in regard to the 'General': "In winter of 1835/6 a bizarre character appeared in fashionable New York circles, endeavoring as he then said, to secure recruits to aid Texans in their struggle for independence. He called himself 'General James Dickson' and told fascinating stories of his life in Mexico and his services in the Texan Army. His striking military dress and a very nice attention to the amenities of social life secured recognition for him but seem to have brought him few recruits. For officers of 'The Army of the Liberator' he went to Montreal and enlisted a number of young half-breed sons, in most instances, of well known factors in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. Apparently about the time he crossed the international boundary line he also changed the name of the organization to 'The Indian Liberating Army' and his purpose was to start an Indian kingdom in California. To different persons he gave somewhat varying accounts of his purpose, but to practically all he intimated that his design was to go by way of the Great Lakes to the Red River colony of the Hudson Bay Company, to secure an army of half breeds, and to ascend the Missouri River in the Rocky Mountains from which he would make an attack on Santa Fe. With the booty there to be obtained he proposed to set up an Indian Kingdom in California, for which, of course, he would be ruler, and his officers, statesmen. America had been the land of roseate dreams; but, among all its visions of wealth and power, where is the equal for novelty and adventure of this mad product of Dickson's disordered mind?  As stated at the beginning of this article this man Martin McLeod was one of the number to join in the Dickson adventure, receiving a military commission as already noted. McLeod was a Canadian born near Montreal.  Although Dickson recruited most of his officers from the half breeds there is nothing to indicate that McLeod had any Indian blood. He was a man of force and vigor and in later years was prominent in Minnesota territorial legislature and president of the fourth legislature. McLeod County was named after him.  The McLeod diary begins in July 1836, at which time, he left his native city of Montreal, to join General Dickson, whom he had never met. The entire diary account is interesting but in this article only some of the high spots will be touched.)

Excerpts from Diary

Friday, July 22, 1836 - Arrived at Waterloo (8 miles below Buffalo) at 6 pm. Met Green at the house of Mr. Smith and was introduced for the first time to General Dickson, who privately informed me of his plans etc. relative to the intended expedition to the north, via the Great Lakes and onward. God only knows where and when it may end. Dickson seems quite sanguine of success. As yet I know little of the man, but if I may judge from so short an acquaintance, he is somewhat visionary in his views. No matter, I wish to go north and westward and will embrace the opportunity but must look before I leap.

Leaves Buffalo on a Schooner

Buffalo, August 1, 1836 - 5 pm, left Buffalo on board the schooner Wave, chartered to bring our party to the Sault Ste Marie from whence he shall proceed through Lake Superior either in birch canoes or boats.

Tuesday, August 2, 1836 - Having passed Point Eppineans in the night had to return there this morning to take in tow a large boat belong to Dickson, besides taking on a number of men and himself who has been residing at the point for some days past, awaiting our arrival from Buffalo, where the schooner was delayed while I made the necessary arrangements for the voyage of our party through the lakes. Dickson's movements at Buffalo being looked upon with suspicion by the Americans, I had to take his place, where I succeeded but indifferently well. Having got our men on board and taken the boat in tow, endeavored to weather the point, but failing, we were obliged to anchor in the bay, where we remained the night.

Boat Wrecked in Gale

Wednesday August 3, 1836 - Early this morning a boat sent in charge of McLoughlin to row around the point, while we endeavored to beat out the schooner. This was not effect till 3 pm. Meanwhile the wind increased to a gale, which blew our boat ashore, a wreck. McLoughlin and his men saved themselves, at the expense of a good wetting, but some of our luggage, which was carelessly left in the boat, was lost.

The boat belonging to the Wave swamped twice. No lives were lost fortunately. 11 o'clock a tremendous gale - obliged to put back to Eppinean Bay for shelter, in doing so our gallant little schooner struck the reef, the second time with a tremendous force. For a moment I thought all was lost, and turned round to speak to some of my companions in danger, when Dickson very coolly said to me, 'Now my dear fellow, watch the countenances around you and you will realize those beautiful lines in Byron's Don Juan - Then shrieked the timid and stood still the brave.'

Gradually the storm subsided and the expedition proceeded on its journey.

Detroit Growing Then Too

Thursday, August 11, 1836 - Rambled through Detroit. I think it a pleasant enough place. Increasing rapidly in size like all the American towns. People are inquisitive and rude. Many speculate as to who we are.

Overtaken by Steamboat

Saturday, August 20, 1836 - Sailing all day with a light breeze. At 12o'clock at night overtaken by the steamboat Gralot, which ran down upon us, and hailing our Captain ordered him to lower sail and repair on board the steamer, which he refused to do, meantime the schooner was kept under way, the steamboat following, or rather running parallel to us. After some altercations and loud talking our main sail was by request of Dickson and myself let down, when the steamer immediately ran close to our side and backed to schooner. The sheriff of Detroit and his posse then stepped on board and after blustering with the Captain of the schooner, about irregularity of papers, etc. and requested to get the names of all on board. I asked what our names had to do with his official business on board - nothing in particular, but he would like to have them no doubt, to blazon in your damned scurrilous newspapers. I replied. He was an ignorant brute and I longed to kick him. The steamboat, being bond to the Black River, near Lake Huron, continued upward with us in tow. Arrived at Black River a short time before daybreak.

Pay Sheriff $150

Sunday, August 21, 1836 - It turned out this morning that the sheriff had a charge against us for some animals said to have been killed - as matters looked rather serious Dickson has thought to give the sheriff and his loafers his draft for $150.

Friday, August 26, 1836 - Wind northwest, cold, hazy and unpleasant. Slept on deck last night - got wet from the waves dashing over the schooner. No prospect of getting out of the lake today, we are yet 80 miles from Sault Ste. Marie.

Sault Ste. Marie

Wednesday, August 31, 1836 - Sault Ste. Marie. Arrived at this place at 10 am and anchored on the British side, opposite the establishment of the Hudson Bay Company in charge of a Mr. Nourse, who was civil and polite to us. Took a boat and crossed over to the American side, where there is a village of about 20 houses and a garrison of two companies, commanded by Major Cobb, US Army. The people of this place were surprised to see us look so quiet and harmless, as the story of our affair at Black River has preceded us in the American newspapers under the ominous head of Pirates on the Lakes, with the rascally editor's additions and embellishments.

Meet Ermatingers

During our stay at Sault Ste. Marie we were treated with great kindness by Mr. Ermatinger and family.

(NOTE: This was probably George Ermatinger, father of James Ermatinger after whom Jim Falls is named. It will be recalled that his son James tells of having been with General Dickson, also stated that a man named Charles and another mane whose name could not be deciphered had been commissioned Major Generals by Dickson.)

River Ontonagon, October 9, 1936 - Arrived here at 2 pm this day. There is a fur post here and having letters to young Ermatinger, who has charge of this post, we were obliged to put in and deliver them.

(NOTE: This young Ermatinger was doubtless the James Ermatinger, later of Jim Falls)

First then the distance from the Sault to La Pointe is 450 miles, as we had to come. We are yet about 60 miles from La Pointe; consequently we have been 24 days coming 390 miles. In this route we met much danger. At this season the lake is in a state of agitation and a bateau with 21 persons and a quantity of provisions is no difficult thing to swamp, a misfortune which we luckily escaped a number of times. In making the traverse (of 21 miles) at Long Point, we fortunately got a few hours of fair weather, but no sooner had we crossed than there sprang up a breeze that would have immortalized us all in a few moments. The Indians wait a number of days for good weather to pass this dangerous traverse, then they paddle their canoe some distance from the shore and commence singing a hymn to the Great Spirit entreating him to give them fair weather to cross over, after which men, women and children take their paddles and work silently but diligently until they have crossed.

La Pointe, October 11, 1836 - Arrived at this place about 11 o'clock in this morning and encamped near the Indian huts about a half a mile away from the American Fur Company Post

(NOTE: More selections from the McLeod diary will be given in a second article.)

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!