The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter III
Reservations to Individuals

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton

 

 RESERVATIONS TO INDIVIDUALS.

The difficulties of carrying into effect the provisions of the treaty of Saginaw, 1819, so far as they affected Genesee county, arose from disputes as to the identity of the persons for whose use the reservations, "at or near the Grand Traverse of the Flint," were made.

There were eleven of these. There were surveyed by the government in the early part of 1820, and the survey showed each reservation with the name of the person for whom it was reserved. Six of these were located along the north side of the river, each of six hundred and forty acres. They were irregularly bounded, by the river on the south, the other three bounds were right lines, but not parallel. They were numbered from east to west: Number one, for Taw-cum-e-go-qua, number two, for Meta-wa-ne-ne; number three, for Annoketoqua; number four, for Sagosequa; number five, for Nondasheshemau; number six, for Messawawkut. The five reserves south of the river were similarly surveyed, with the river for their northern boundary, and numbered from east to west: Number seven, for Nowokozhik; number eight, for Mokitchenoqua; number nine, for Che-balk; number ten for Petabonequa; and number eleven, for Kitchigeequa. These were al the Indian names; those ending in "qua" are feminine, the others masculine. All the persons named were, by the treaty, to be "Indians by descent," words which would seem to be unequivocal and quite incapable of misapplication.

To treat these various reserves seriatim: Number one, for the use of Taw-cum-e-go-qua, was the subject of long and strenuous litigation, the issue of the dispute depending on the identity of the Indian woman, Taw-cum-e-go-qua. Two Indian women were brought forward, each as the person so named in the treaty. One of these was a girl, of tender age at time of the treaty of 1819. She was the daughter of sub-chief Mixenene and was present at the treaty with her father and his family. She was also a niece of Ne-o-me, the head chief. Being a full-blooded Indian, she came within the treaty provision. She lived with her parents on the reservation at Pewonigowink until she grew to maturity and married an Indian by the name of Kahzheauzungh. They had three children. In 1841, she sold her interest in the reservation to John Barlow and Addison Stewart and later their rights passed by certain conveyances to George H. Dewey and Rufus J. Hamilton. Of all the claims put forth by various persons to the Indian reserves, theirs seemed the best. They had acquired by purchase the title from an Indian woman who it was conceded bore the name for which the reserve was made. She was an Indian by descent. Her relationship was such with the ruling chiefs who made the treaty, that she was the logical person for whom such provision would naturally be made.

Even with all these equities, the title of Dewey and Hamilton was tested. A trader by the name of Bolieu, the same who was called Kassaqaua by the Indians, and who figures in one of the romantic tales, had married an Indian wife, and their daughter, Angelique Bolieu, whose Indian name was said to be Tawcumegoqua, was claimed to be the true beneficiary of the first reserve. She had been sent to a school and educated, and afterwards married a man named Coutant, by whom she had two children, a son and a daughter. Her husband dying, she married Jean Baptiste St. Aubin. She was of middle age, and married, when the treaty was made in 1819, and she died about eight years after that date, leaving her two children. she had never had possession of the reserve, although it was said she had claimed it as her property. After her death, her two children, Simon Coutant and Angelique Coutant Chauvin, conveyed the reservation to Joseph Campau of Detroit. This was in October, 1833. In 1839, another deeds were made in confirmation of these deeds of 1833, and Joseph Campau, claiming the reserve, took possession by placing tenants on the same. A patent was issued to Campau by the United States government.

These two conflicting claims to the reserve came into court on a suit by Dewey and Hamilton against Campau. At the first trial, Campau was successful. The case then went to the supreme court, where it was affirmed. This case was determined on a technical defect in the deed and the merits involved were not decided. Dewey and Hamilton then secured other deeds that obviated the technical defects and another suit was begun, which was transferred to Saginaw county for trial because of the influences that might operate in Genesee county to prejudice the jury. The growth of population in flint, which had become a city before the suit was instituted, made the reserve a tempting prize. The best legal talent of the state appeared for the litigants. Moses Wisner, (at one time governor of Michigan, the father of the late Judge Wisner of Flint), M. E. Crowfoot and J. Moore, represented Dewey and Hamilton. S. t. Douglass, W. M. Fenton, J. G. Sutherland and Chauncey P. Avery were attorney for Campau. The trial of this suit at Saginaw in1860 resulted in a verdict to the effect that Tawcumegoqua, daughter of Mixenene, was the person of that name for which reserve number one was intended, and that Dewey and Hamilton, who had acquired her rights in the same, were the owners of it and entitled to its possession.

This suit went to the supreme court and the decision of that court, in the Ninth Michigan Report at page 381, et seq., contains a great deal of historical interest. "Evidence was adduced," says the Reporter, "tending to prove that at the time of the treaty of Saginaw, and for many yeas prior and subsequent thereto, a band of Chippewa Indians resided at the village of Pewonigowink, on the flint river, and about ten miles below the Grand Traverse of that river, in the place where the present city of Flint is located; that during all the time referred to, Me-o-me was the chief of this band; that Tonedogane was the principal warrior, or second chief of the band. And succeeded Neome in the chieftianship on his decease; that one Mixenene was also a member of this band, and a brother of Neome, and that Mixenene had a daughter named Tawcumegoqua, who was about six years of age at the time of the treaty, and was a member of Neome's family; that Neome also had three children--two females, Segosaqua and Owanonaquatoqua, the former about ten or twelve years old at the time of the treaty, the latter a woman grown, and one boy, Ogibwak, who was about fifteen years of age, and a grandson, Metawanene; that all the children named were full blood Indian children; that at the time referred to, jacob Smith had a store near the Grand Traverse of the Flint river, in which he carried on trade with the Indians of that vicinity, and was a man of considerable influence among them; that Neome, his children and said grandchild, and his band, including Tonedogane and also Mixenene and his little daughter Tawcumegoqua, were present at the treaty; that on the night prior to the last council, at which the treaty was read over, agreed to and signed, Jacob Smith came to Neome's tent and advised him to get special reservation of land for his children and promised to assist him in doing so; that at the grand council held the next day between the Indians and General Cass, Neome came forward before General Cass, with his three children, Owanonaquatoqua, Sagosaqua and Ojibwak, and said grandchild Metaquanene being with him, and jacob Smith standing by his side, and asked for reservations of land for these children; that General Cass assented, and that the names of the children were written down, and that it was talked of and understood at the treaty that these children got special reservations of land; * * * for that thirty years or more, subsequent tot he treaty, Neome's band continued to reside at Pewonigowink, upon the reservation described in article 2 of the treaty as 'one tract of five thousand seven hundred and sixty acres upon the Flint river, to include Rheaume's (Neome's) village, and a place called Kishkawbee'; and that during a portion of this time the Indian children above named, including Tawcumegoqua, resided with the band upon this tribal reservation, and a portion of the time Tawcumegoqua, with her family, and another family of said band, resided on the premises in question." The court affirmed the judgment of the court below, and so the verdict of the jury giving the land to Dewey and Hamilton stood. The result appears to have been eminently just.

Reservations numbers two, three, four, five and six, which were reserved for the following persons, "all Indians by descent." Respectively, Medawanene, Annoketopqua, Sagosequa, Nondasheman, and Messew-wakut, were the subject of litigation. The names Metawanene, Nondasheman, and Messaw-wakut are masculine, and the names Sagooequa and Annoketoqua are feminine names, so it might very reasonably be assumed tht numbers two, five and six were for males and numbers three and four for females. At least to the lay mind, to use the language of a Connecticut judge, "in the absence of judicial construction the writing would be held to mean what I says." In the case of these reservations, unfortunately, litigation arose, leading to judicial construction, with the following results:

Jacob Smith, the trader, who had so actively aided Cass in bringing about the treaty of Saginaw, soon after the treaty built a log storehouse for his trade. The site of this trading post was in the fifth ward near the corner of Lyon street and First Avenue and not far from the present situation of the office of the Durant-Dort Carriage company. Smith had been at the Grand Traverse of the flint for some years previously to the treaty. In1860 his home was in Detroit at the corner of Woodward avenue and Woodbridge street, and his white family continued to live in Detroit until after his death. He, like other traders, doubtless had his trading post at the most convenient place for communication with the Indians with whom he traded--that is, on the Flint river where the grand trail crossed it. His residence there can only be regarded as temporary, governed by the exigencies of his traffic with the Indians. He had during his stay there formed a strong friendship with the Chief Neome, who lived at the Mus-cat-a-wing, or the Grand Traverse of the Flint, in the early days of the nineteenth century, but who had move down the river to "Neome's town," in the present town of Montrose, some time before the treaty in 1819. The usual reference made by writers of local history to Smith's settlement at Flint, places the date immediately after the treaty. The fact is that he had a trading post there before that date, probably as early as 1810, and that he never settled there in the sense of becoming a permanent resident. He kept his family in Detroit and sojourned on the Flint for the purpose of traffic with the Indians; in 1819, he built a lot trading store, of a more substantial character than his previous tore of which we have no record except the deduction that during several years trading he must have had some place suitable for his business. His log store was built before the reservations there were surveyed, and when surveyed, the one numbered two, for Metawanene, included the site of his building. His store was built at the fort of the trail where the grand trail from Detroit after its Grand Traverse of the Flint separated into two trails, one going down the right bank of the river to Saginaw, and the other following the more direct route to Mt. Morris, Pine Run, Birch Run and Saginaw.

It was a central point and especially favorable for trade with the surrounding Indians. There smith continued to remain and trade with the Indians, his family being in Detroit. In 1822 his mother and sister were with him, for a time at least. He continued to have friendly relations with ne-o-me and the Indians generally. At the time smith built his log house in 1819, another trader, a Frenchman by the name of Baptiste Cochios, was also located there in trade. The friendly relations between him and smith continued until Smith's death. An Indian boy, An-ne-me-kins, called "Jack" by the whites, also lived with Smith a considerable part of the time. Ephraim S. Williams, of Flint, whose knowledge of the matter makes his statement of high authority, says: "He (Smith) lived there [at Flint] during the trading season, making occasional visits to his family in Detroit. In 1825 he died, from neglect as much as form disease, at his trading post, after a lingering and pitiable sickness. A good-hearted Frenchman, by the name of Baptiste Cochios, who was with him upon the trading ground in 1819 and was himself an Indian trader, having his posts upon the Flint and on the Saginaw, performed for the brave bur unfortunate man the last sad rites of humanity. An Indian lad who had lived with Smith for several years and who attended him in his sickness, was the only household mourner--a few Indians gathered in mournful groups about the grave as the remains of the unfortunate man were committed to the earth. Ne-o-me was there, his trusty and reliable friend, mute with grief. With that feeling of gratitude which belongs to the Indians character, and which takes rank as a cardinal virtue in their untutored minds, the Indians proved true and faithful throughout his sickness to the last. The brave, warm-hearted, generous Indian trader, Jacob Smith, the earliest white pioneer upon the Saginaw and the flint, lingered and died in a sad condition and, but for the good Cochios and his Indian assistants, would have gone to his grave uncoffined. With in a few days after his decease, his son-in-law, C. S. Paine, came from Detroit to the trading house, which had so recently been the scene of such long, unrelieved suffering, and gathered up most carefully and carried away the few poor remnants of the earthly store left by the noble-hearted Indian trader. Sa-gos-e-wa-qua, the daughter of Ne-o-me, in recounting this history, expressed herself with a sententious brevity peculiar to the Indians, which is worth recording; it points to a moral if it does not adorn a tale: 'When Wah-be-sins (Smith) sick, nobody come; him sicker and sicker, nobody come. Wah-be-sins die, little tinker cone and take all him blankets, all him cattle, all him things.' Neome soon followed his friend, Wah-be-sins, tot he spiritland, he died in 1827, at the tribal home, a few miles above Saginaw city, faithfully attended through a long and severe sickness by his children and relatives, enthroned in patriarchal simplicity in the hearts of his people, beloved and mourned."

At the time of his death Smith had a family in Detroit, consisting of a son, Albert J. Smith, and four daughters, Harriet M. Smith, Caroline Smith, Louise L. Smith and Maria G. Smith. Soon after the death of Smith, Major Garland, the husband of one of these daughters, took possessions of the place where Smith had had his post, and made claim in behalf of the heirs to the title of the five reservations from 2 to 6 inclusive, his claim being that the Indian names of the persons for whom these reservations were made were the names of these children of the trader; that Metawanene, the owner of the second reserve, did not mean the grandson of chief Neome, an "Indian by descent," but it meant Albert J. Smith, the white son of Jacob Smith the trader; that Annoketoqua did not mean the daughter of Ne-o-me by that name, an Indian by descent, but it meant the daughter of Smith, of Detroit, a white woman; that Sagosaqua, the daughter of Ne-o-me, an Indian by descent, was not intended as the beneficiary of reserve number four, but that the real Sagosaqua was another white daughter of the trader in Detroit; that Nondasheman, a man's name, did not mean any man at all, but it meant the white daughter of Smith at Detroit; the sixth reserve, for Messaw-wakut, a male Indian by descent, also meant another white daughter of Smith. It was claimed that the Indians who had visited Detroit had given these names to the children. Such occurrences were not uncommon, but this casual use of such names by individual members of a tribe was not equivalent to adoption, which was a matter of ceremony and an act of the tribe. Only formal adoption by act of the tribe in its collective capacity could gibe any tribal rights and, in the language of the whites, such adopted member probably could not be called an "Indian by descent."

The great demand for lands in the vicinity beginning in the early thirties gave the five square miles involved a prospective value to which the claimants were fully alive. In 1839, Albert J. Smith came on and took actual possession of the lands in question for himself as reserve in number two, and for his three sisters then living and for the heirs of the one who had died. They claimed, and asserted, ownership of the same, and at the next session of congress they brought the matter before that body, asking its authority for grants of the five reserves to the children of Smith. Their claim was based upon the services of the trader at the treaty of Saginaw, the successful termination of the same being attributed largely to these services. The following is an excerpt from their petition to congress:

"Although the reservations intended for your memorialists under the treaty of Saginaw have been partially occupied under them, and always known and acknowledged as being intended for them, yet they never have received or obtained such a title from government as would authorize them to sell or convey any portion of the said lands, in consequence of their having been embraced--unintentionally, as your memorialists believe--among the number of reservations intended for persons being 'Indians by descent'; owing to which the general land office has not felt authorized to issue patents for the said land in the name of your memorialists."

The claimants had, in January, 1835, procured a certificate signed by ten of the one hundred and fourteen Indian signers of the treaty. Of the obtaining of this certificate from Ephraim S. Williams, of flint, gives the following account:

"This document being an important one, it is given here entire. Without it the heirs of Smith could never have obtained titles to their lands, for the government had refused for years to grant them; and many, even members of Congress, in those days doubted the right of congress to pass an act to set aside the treaty of 1819 and grant these lands to others than persons of Indian descent. Many persons have thought that Congress might as well pass an act to grant one man's farm to another. All those acts were a violation of the granted rights of the treaty of 1819.

 

History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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