The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter III

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



"The subscribers, chiefs and head men of the Chippewa nations and subscribers of the treaty of Saginaw, do hereby certify that the five reservations at and near the Grand Traverse of the Flint river, made by the treaty of 1819, were made and intended for the five following named person, viz.: Meta- wanene, alias Albert J. Smith; Messaw-wakut (a man's name), alias Harriet M. Smith; Sagosaqua, alias Caroline Smith; Annokitoqua, alias Louisa L. Smith: Nondasho-man (man's name), alias Maria G. Smith (each six hundred forty acres); known to us and distinguished by the aforesaid names, as the children of the late jacob smith; and further certify that the aforesaid donations tot he children aforesaid were made in consideration of services rendered by said Jacob smith (deceased) to the Chippewa nation, and the friendly intercourse that subsisted between the parties for many years. We further certify that Metawanene, alias Albert J. Smith, now present at the execution of this certificate, is the son of Jacob Smith, deceased, and we recognize him as one of the four children to whom the before mentioned donations were made and intended.



Witnesses present. 


Saginaw, January 22, 1835. Totems.

"Territory of Michigan,
Oakland County, ss:

"Personally appeared before me the subscriber, a justice of the peace within and for the county of Oakland, Ephraim S. Williams, Esquire, who being duly sworn according to the law, deposeth and saith that he was present at the execution of the within certificate and saw the within named chiefs and head men make their marks to the said certificate. Deponent further saith that the subscribers, chiefs, and head men as aforesaid, reside in the vicinity of Saginaw, Oakland County, territory of Michigan. Deponent further saith that the contents of he certificate aforesaid were by him fully explained and were cheerfully assented to by the aforesaid chiefs and head men.

"(Signed) E. S. Williams,

"Signed and subscribed before me this twenty-second day of January, 1835.


"This statement of the Chippewa chiefs was made at a council that had been called for the purpose at the place and date mentioned, chiefly through the influence and instrumentality of the brothers, G. D. and E. S. Williams, who were then traders at Saginaw."

The council was attended by Albert J. Smith, and Col. T. B. W. Stockton, representating the Smith heirs. At the first meeting the "chief speaker," O-ge-maw-ka-ke-to, spoke, claiming that the reserves were made for Indians by descent and not for the white children of the trader. At the second meeting after "certain influences brought to bear upon the chiefs." To quote from William's account, the chief speaker and the other nine chiefs signed the certificate. Similar certificates were procured from other signers of the treaties, one at Big Rock village on the Shiawassee, one at flint River, and another at Grand Saline. We again quote Ephraim Williams, who had probably as great knowledge of these transactions as any disinterest witness:

"All the above documents were laid before congress in support of the petition of the Smith claimants; also a memorial from persons residing at Flint and vicinity. Here follows the names of fifty persons, not one in twenty of whom knew anything of the treaty besides what they had heard talked by others.

"How inconsistent and ridiculous to suppose for a moment that jacob Smith would have done so inconsistent a thing as to have presented, at the treaty of 1819, the names of three Indians for the names of three of his daughters as given in the treaty; not at all probably. I knew Mr. smith and I never believed he did any such thing.

"The result of the laying of all these things before congress was the passage of an act, 'To authorize the President of the United States to cause to be issued to Albert J. Smith and others, patents for certain reservations of land in Michigan territory.'

"In accordance with the provisions of this act, five patents were issued June 2, 1836.

"this was, at that time, considered a final settlement of the question of title to those reservations, but it was not very long before the question began to be entertained by some (an opinion that was afterwards sustained by the courts) that these patents did not and could not convey a title as against any person or persons who could prove themselves to be the rightful reservees in the true intent and meaning of the treaty. It would seem that the proofs adduced by the Smith heirs had been ample for the establishment of their claims, but there were still doubts whether they could hold under the article of the treaty which provided that the lands granted should be for the use of persons of Indian descent only.

"About this time it was discovered that a young Chippewa whose name was jack, and who had been brought up and protected by jacob Smith, claimed to be the real Metawanene, and consequently, the owner of the reservation numbered two on the land plat, and that some Indian women made the same claim to sections that had been patented to the daughters of Jacob Smith.

"In March, 1841, the Indian claimant to reservation numbered two deeded this tract to Gardner D. Williams, of Saginaw, who, in June, 1845, conveyed one moiety of the same to Daniel D. Dewey, of Genesee, and by these persons a suit was commenced in the circuit court for the establishment of the claim of the true Metawanene and the possession of the lands.

"After many years of delay, this cause came to a final trial in 1856, at the March term, held by Judge Sanford M. Green, in the city of Flint. Plaintiffs, Messrs., Williams and Dewey; defendant, Chauncey S. Payne."

"Albert J. Smith had, in 1836, deeded to Mr. Payne an undivided three-fourths, and to T. B. W. Stockton, an undivided one-fourth of the reservation. In 1840 Mr. Stockton conveyed his interest to Mr. Payne, who thus became the sole owner. Attorneys for the plaintiffs were Hon. Moses Wisner and James c. Blades; for the defendants, Messrs. E. C. and C. I. Walker, of Detroit, John Moore of Saginaw city, and Charles P. Avery, of flint, which last named gentleman had then recently purchased an undivided half of Mr. Payne's interest in the property thus becoming equally interested with him in the result of the suit. Many witnesses, both white and Indian, were produced on both sides and, after an expensive and lengthy trial, it was decided in favor of the defendant, thus deciding a case which during years of litigation had caused much excitement and some bitter feeling, and which is a matter of general historic interest in the annals of the county of Genesee.

"The trial of a similar suit, involving the titles of reservations numbers three and four, was also had before Judge Green, at Flint, in the December term in the same year, resulting, as in the case of section two, adversely to the Indian title. The suit was brought in the name of two of the Indian women before mentioned, who claimed to be the real Annoket-qua and Sagosequa, and consequently owners of the tracts that had been patented respectively to Louisa L. Smith and the heirs of Caroline smith, deceased. For the plaintiff there appeared Indians who were, or claimed to have been, at the treaty of 1819, and whose testimony was given to show that the reservations of Ne-o-me, and that the Indian claimants in this case were the daughters of that chief. There were other claims made under the treaty, to those reservations, by persons of Indian descent, but they were defeated by the claims and influence of the white Smith children and the treaty set aside and violated.

"The violation of sacred treaties by the government, made with the Indians, has been one great cause of so much trouble with the western tribes of Indians, I think."

The above resume of the litigation over the five reservations by Mr. Williams seems very just in its conclusions. That the Indians, in parting with their title to their lands, reluctantly giving to the whites, whom they hated, the territories that had been their homes, should in making reserves from the grant consider the children of any white men in preference to their own children is quite unbelievable, and the final determination of the claim to these reservations adversely to the Indians must stand as an example of fraud, legalized by the white men's courts, and a justification of the distrust that the Indians have of the white man's justice.

From the contents of a letter written by General Cass in 1831, it would be implied that Smith has a flock of half-breed children, as well as a legitimate family at Detroit; from this letter it would appear that the provision as to reserving the lands for Indians by descent was inserted in the treaty to prevent the fraud afterwards legalized by congress and the courts, which Cass had reason to believe Smith anticipated. The letter is as follows:

Detroit, June 22, 1831,

I have been requested to state the facts connected with the reservation of eleven sections of land at Flint river, made under the treaty of Saginaw, as far as respects any interest held there in by the children of Jacob Smith. At the time this reservation was made, I understood that the Indians intended that a number of the sections--I believe five or six--should be granted to the children of Smith, and the names given by them tot he grantees of these section were said to be his children.

From circumstances not necessary to detail here, I was let to suspect tht Smith designed the land for this white children, and that most of the names purporting to be those of his Indians children were, in fact, the names of his white children, which the Indians who were in the habit of frequenting his house had given to them. To guard against the consequences of their attempt, I therefore inserted in the article providing for these reservations a clause confining them to persons of Indian descent. I have an indistinct recollection that one young girl was spoken of as an Indian daughter of Smith, but cannot remember the name. I know Lewis Beaufait and Henry Connor well; they were both at the treaty of Saginaw, and they are very honest men in whose statements full confidence may be placed.

(Signed) LEWIS CASS.

Of reserve number seven, on the south side of the river, the beneficiary was plainly one Edward Campau, the half-breed son of the trader. His Indian name was Nowokezhic, and he was here in the possession of his reserve when John Hamilton, Ephraim S. Williams, Harvey Williams, and Schuyler Hodges came through flint, in the winter of 1822-23, en route for Saginaw with supplies for the garrison there. His title was conveyed to John Todd, the tavern keeper, and there is no reason to suggest that the intent of the treaty was not fully carried out so far as this one reserve was concerned. As to reservation number eight, to Mokitchenaqua, there were two claimants, one a half-breed daughter of Archie Lyons, who married a squaw by the name of Ka-zhe-o-be-on-no-qua. This woman outlived him and was a witness on the trial of Dewey and Campau at Saginaw in1860. The Mokitchenqua, daughter of above, was Elizabeth Lyons by her white name. Another claimant was Marie Lavoy, and still another was Nancy Crane. All of these were half-breeds, and so answered the requirements of the treaty that they should b e of Indian descent; all were Mokitchenaquas. As the Indians had no surname, the reservation to Mokitchenaqua was quite like a reservation for "Mary" in a white man's deed. The determination of identity naturally depended on evidence of facts and circumstances outside the document itself. Each of these three claimants had applied for and obtained certificates of identity from the authorities of the land office at Detroit. The Lyons woman received hers, August 2, 1824; the Lavoy woman received hers, February 27, 1827, and the Crane woman, claimed to be the half-breed daughter of jacob Smith, by name of Nancy Smith, received hers July 22, 1831. This certificate to Nancy Smith Crane as the Mokitchenaqua entitled to reservation number eight received sanction from the general land office, whose commissioner, on august 5, 1835, approved the same and a patent was granted to her on March 7, 1840. Major John Garland appears to have been the real party in interest in urging the claim of his wife's half-breed sister, for her rights had been transferred to him before patent issued. The interest of the Lyons claimant had been transferred to Gardner Williams and Kintzing Pritchette. Garland's title had been transferred to Payne and Stockton, and the litigation was between Williams and Pritchette, on the one hand, and Payne, Stockton and others on the other hand, involving the question as to whether Elizabeth Lyons or Nancy Smith was the Mokitchenaqua for whom the reserve was made. On trial, the court determined that elizabeth Lyons was the true owner of the reserve and that Williams and Pritchette were entitled to it under their deeds. In this case, Payne, who was the husband of one of Smith's white daughter and whose title had come through John Garland, the husband of another of Smith's white daughters, was confronted by a certificate of certain Chippewa chiefs similar to those upon which their wives predicated their claims to the reserves north of the river, to the effect that Elizabeth Lyons was the person entitled to the reserve and not the Nancy Smith from whom they claimed title. This case is reported in Walker's Chancery Report, page 120, and in Douglass's report at page 546 and the following pages, and forms an interesting chapter in our local history.

Reserves numbers nine, ten and eleven, from their location, had little value as compared to the other reserves, and consequently were not so alluring to the white men and did not become the object of their cupidity and litigation. They went to the half-breeds, Jean Visgar, son of the trader who was at the treaty, and who had been in the attempt to acquire land in Michigan at nine dollars a county (this reservation was probably intended for the son of Ne-o-me); to Phillis Beaufait, half-breed daughter of the French trader, and to Charlotte Mene, half-breed. It is to be noticed that in each case the reservations south of the river were given to persons of the gender suggested by the Indian name of the reservee, contrary tot he case of the claim of the children of Smith to certain of the reserves north of the river.


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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