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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 22, 2003 - Issue 83


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Interesting Sidelights on the History of the Early Fur Trade Industry (part 1)

From: The Eau Claire Leader - June 10, 1925
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

The talk given by W.W. Bartlett at the gathering of Chippewa Valley Historical Society at the Ermatinger place at Jim Falls on Saturday on early fur trading in this section of the state was a great revelation to those present and provided his listeners with much that was new and interesting in connection with the early history of this section.

The text of the address he presented is herewith given:

"We are certainly grateful to you kind people of Jim Falls for making this gathering possible. I am sure it will result in awakened interest in Chippewa Valley history, and that is the principle reason for our being here today."

"A few years ago, there was organized in Eau Claire what was originally designated as the Eau Claire Historical Society. As it was found neither practicable nor advisable to confine its researches to the boundaries of our county, the suggestion was made that we change the name to the Chippewa Valley Historical Society and open up membership to all residents of the valley. Action to this effect was taken at the last meeting. At that meeting we had with us your own Miss Anna Ermatinger, and it is largely due to her enthusiasm and effort that this picnic gathering was brought about."

"No more fitting place for a meeting of the Chippewa Valley Historical Society could be found than right here at Jim Falls, a locality associated with the early life and activities of the Valley to an unusual degree."

"As we all know, the one great early day industry of the upper Chippewa was that of lumbering. Large quantities of the finest of pine timber was to be found at and near Jim Falls, and all the early wood and river men were acquainted with the region here about as with their own back yards."

The Fur Trader
"In very recent years, considerable has found its way into print concerning the lumbering history of the valley, but there was another, earlier, and even more primitive industry concerning which little has been gathered and still less put into available form for public use. Although not to be compared in commercial importance with lumbering, nevertheless the fur trade on the Chippewa was no small industry and with it's own particular interests and appeal. In planning the program for this meeting, it was thought it would be well to make the fur trade story the main topic. Meeting as we are at the home of the son of an early fur trader with the site of his father's trading post in plain view, we are especially favored. The interesting relics associated with the fur trade and fur traders of this vicinity, gathered and preserved by Miss Ermatinger, adds much to the occasion."

Cadotte, Warren and Ermatinger
"Of all the names connected with the fur trade in the Chippewa Valley and Northern Wisconsin, I would be inclined to give the first place to those of the Cadotte and Warren families, these two being related as we shall see. To these names may be added the those of the fine old pioneer fur trader Jean Burnet and James Ermatinger, father of Edwin Ermatinger of this village."

"The connection of the Cadotte family with the Chippewa or Ojibway fur trade began a hundred years or more before the Revolutionary War. The name originally was Cadeau, but in the second generation as fur traders the name became corrupted to Cadotte, and has so remained. The original Monsignor Cadeau had a son Jean Baptiste Cadotte, an energetic forceful character, who married and Ojibway woman of a very similar nature. They had two sons, Jean Baptiste, Jr. and Michel. The former of these two operated largely in what is now northern Minnesota, but it is Michel in who we are particularly interested. Born in 1764, he received a good education, and then took up his residence at La Pointe. Michel had trading posts in various other places. It is a well-established fact that one of these is at or near Chippewa Falls, where a son Michel was born."

Came From New York State
"In the year 1818, two brothers, Truman A. and Lyman M. Warren came from New York state, and entered the employ of Michel Cadotte, Sr. They seem to have been men of high character and considerable education. Within three years, each married a daughter of Cadotte and his part Ojibway wife. Truman Warren died at Lake Superior leaving two sons Edwin and George and a daughter Nancy. They moved down into this region. Thomas Randall, in his History of the Chippewa Valley records the death of Edwin in a hunting accident. George engaged in the fur trade and later on farming, and became a capable and reliable farmer and was chosen chairman of the first board of supervisors for Chippewa County after its organization in the early 1850s. He later enlisted and served in the Civil War and died in 1884 at the age of 65. Lyman Warren lived some years after the death of his brother Truman, and for a considerable period had charge of the fur trade for The American Fur Company, making his home at La Pointe. I lately found at the Historical Society building in Madison, a report of a Lieutenant Allen who visited La Pointe in 1832 and describes the Warren buildings, also giving a very full account of the location of the various fur trading sections over which Lyman Warren had charge, also approximate numbers of the various skins obtained in each section with total value. All account go to show him to have been a capable and high-minded man. He was associated with Dousman and Jean Brunet in the erection in 1836 at Chippewa Falls of a sawmill, the first in the valley. He was also at one time during the early 40s; subagent, blacksmith, and farmer at a government post a few miles below here on the high ground just beyond Chippewa City. That fine old pioneer, Methodist preacher and Indian Agent, Father Brunson writes of visiting Warren's home at Chippewa City during the 1840s, also mentions what an excellent housekeeper his part Ojibway wife was, even though she could not speak a word of English."

"Lyman Warren's wife died at Chippewa Falls in 1843 and he died about 4 years later. Both are buried in La Pointe."

The Warren Children
"Mention has been made of Nancy, George and Edwin Warren, children of Truman Warren, but it is William Whipple Warren, a son of Lyman Warren to whom I would especially call your attention. To my mind he is the most interesting product of the fur trade in these parts. Born at La Pointe in 1825, he received a part of his education at a Protestant Mission school there, and then attended school in the east. The father of Truman and Lyman Warren in New York state seems to have taken great pains that the part Ojibway children of his fur trading sons should receive a good education. Miss Ermatinger has a number of textbooks used by the Warren children while at school in the east, and as these include such textbooks as Algebra, Geometry, Philosophy, etc., they would indicate considerable higher education.

Gathered Indian Lore
"The boy, William Whipple Warren, early showed much interest in the language, history, legends and traditions of his mother's Ojibway ancestry. He spent much time interviewing the chiefs, warriors, medicine men and aged folks of the tribe, recording their recollections. He was a great favorite with all. While still a boy, he acted as official government interpreter for the government in its dealings with the Indians. Father Brunson relates that he had himself delivered a 4th of July address to the Indians at the Chetek Lakes during the 40's, and the young Warren acted as his interpreter. The Honorable Henry Rice, who represented the government in making some of the Indian treaties, writing of Warren said that he was one of the most eloquent speakers he had ever heard, and that his command of the English language was remarkable. In the later 40s the family moved to Blue Earth, Minnesota, where in 1850 Warren was chosen a member of the territorial legislature. A newspaperman, noting Warren's unusual knowledge of the Ojibway induced him to furnish some articles for his paper. These proved so interesting that Warren was urged to put the material into book form. Before being able to do this, and while still a young man he died at the age of twenty-eight. Not long after his death, his manuscript came into the possession of the Minnesota State Historical Society, and was later published. The book is now out of print and difficult to secure. Our Eau Claire Library procured a copy some years ago, and I have it with me here today. It contains a picture of Warren. I think that we of the Chippewa Valley would do well to honor his memory."

Daughter Writes Letter
"A few months ago, I noted in the Minnesota Historical Bulletin that a Mrs. Julia Spears, a daughter of Lyman Warren, and a sister of William Whipple Warren had a year or two earlier written a letter to the society. Up to that time, William Whipple Warren was the only one of that family that I had heard about. In connection with the item about Mrs. Spears was also mentioned the name of Miss Frances Densmore. As a venture, I wrote to both, hardly expecting to hear from either. I enclosed some notes, which I had written concerning the Cadotte and Warren families, with the request that they be examined and any necessary corrections made. Within ten days I had received replies from both. Miss Densmore wrote that her work had been the gathering of Ojibwa songs for the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, that she personally knew Mrs. Spears, also a surviving sister, and that the latter had acted as her interpreter in her work. She said both of them were remarkable women."

Now 92 Years Old
"Mrs. Spears, now ninety-two years of age, wrote an interesting letter, which had been copied on the typewriter by her young granddaughter, with a portion in Mrs. Spears' own handwriting. She said my notes were correct, and expressed pleasure at what I had said about her brother William. She proved to be a mine of information concerning the Cadotte and Warren families. From her I learned that the widow of her uncle, Truman Warren, was married to James Ermatinger, a fur trader on the Chippewa. This James Ermatinger was the grandfather of Miss Anna Ermatinger, and their trading post was just across the river from here. James Ermatinger died about 1868, but his part Ojibway widow survived him many years, dying in 1887, at the age of nearly ninety years. Let me quote from an obituary notice published in a Chippewas Falls paper at this time:"

'Deserving of more than a passing notice is Mrs. Charlotte Ermatinger nee Miss Charlotte Cadotte who died at her own home near the Nine Mile House (Eagleton) last Monday morning. Of the Indian race skilled in all bead and ornamental work known to her people, she was remarkably neat in her appearance, as well as everything pertaining to household affairs. Never adopting the English tongue, although understanding French and English, she wore a modified Indian costume of black broadcloth with blanket of the same material trimmed with black silk, and her moccasin feet moved sprightly, her bearing was erect and free, despite her more than four score years, as in the days of her girlhood at Michilimackinac, her birthplace.'

'The dear old lady died aged nearly ninety years. Another landmark as well as a pioneer and civilizer of our western home is gone, who in her humble way did more for it than a score of famous names of our time.'

"Mrs. Spears said that she did not live here while her father was located at Chippewa, but was at school in the east. She did however, in 1845, with her cousin Nancy visit the Ermatinger home here."

"One of the many letter, which Miss Anna Ermatinger has preserved is written by Nancy Warren to her stepfather, James Ermatinger. Her mother did not write or speak English. The letter was written in 1852, at the time that Nancy was making her home with her cousin Julia, now Mrs. Spears. Recently, I forwarded a copy of this letter to Mrs. Spears, who was delighted to read it after nearly seventy-five years. She said Nancy was a favorite cousin of hers. On the back of the last letter received from Mrs. Spears, her married daughter made the notation that this was probably the last letter her mother would write, as she was confined to her bed and very feeble."

"Since there are a number of others on the program. I do not wish to make this talk too lengthy. In closing. I trust that what we have heard today may lead to a better understanding of the fur trading days and a more intimate acquaintance with its interesting characters."

From an Army Officer's Journal
PortageExtracts from the journal of J. Allen, lieutenant, 5th Infantry on a visit to La Pointe in 1832 (referred to in Mr. Bartlett's talk.)

Their present trader is Mr. (Lyman) Warren, a gentleman of the American Fur Company, who makes this his residence, and the headquarters of an extensive department and district, embracing the extent of country southwest of La Pointe, between the Snake River and St. Croix River and Lac Courte Oreilles and the Chippewa River. The value of his trade annually is as follows: At the post of La Pointe $2,000, or 250 beaver skins, 400 martens, 50 bears, 1000 to 1500 rat and 20 to 50 others. At the posts on the St. Croix post, $4,000, principle rats, bear, otter, with a few marten, raccoon, deer, fox, fishers and beaver. At the Snake River post $1000, same fur as at St. Croix. At Lac Courte Oreilles and Lac Chetac $1500, principally bear, otter, marten, rats, fisher and mink. At Chippewa River and Lake Vassale posts $2500, same furs as last but more beaver.

Mr. Warren has lived a number of years at his present residence on the island of La Pointe, and has given to the spot an appearance of civilization. He has built a large and comfortable dwelling, a storehouse and eight or ten other buildings, which with the houses of Cadotte and family and those of the subagents, formerly at La Pointe makes almost a village. All the buildings are handsomely situated on a rise about 200 yards from the lake and immediately in back of them are cultivated and enclosed fields, in which oats, peas, beans, potatoes, etc. are growing finely.

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