Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 10, 2009

150 Years: Cartographer maps settlements


BEULAH -- Helen Hornbeck Tanner, a Beulah summer resident and historian of Great Lakes American Indians and cartography, created a new historical map of the Grand Traverse region that traces early American Indian and white settlement.

It shows the location of 16 early American Indian villages and seven settler "toeholds" in the 1850s, before the region had roads or railroads.

The map also details northwestern Lower Michigan terrain as it appeared 160 years ago, and identifies American Indian villages, cultivated fields, swamp land, sugar groves, and sugar camps, trails, logging roads and occasional wigwams or huts in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and part of Antrim counties.

Tanner, 93, also used information gleaned from her research of old diaries, journals and original documents to determine previously unknown locations of two American Indian villages on the southern part of Old Mission Peninsula.

What surprised Tanner most as she worked on the map was the short time it took for the Grand Traverse Region to shift from "American Indian country" to "settler country."

"It took just 10 years, from 1849 to 1859," she said. "It's interesting, I think, how rapidly that change came about."

Tanner is a senior research fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago and editor of the "Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History," published in 1987. She also served as an expert witness in court cases that led to U.S. District Judge Noel Fox's historic 1979 ruling that affirmed treaty fishing rights for Ottawa and Chippewa tribes who signed the 1836 treaty with the U.S. government.

The treaty ceded much of the western half of Lower Michigan and part of the Upper Peninsula to the federal government and ushered in statehood the following year.

Map completed last year

The map is the final version of one Tanner made last year, in collaboration with Odawa educator and Honor resident John Bailey for a new standing exhibit on American Indian history at the Benzie Area Historical Museum.

Large versions of the new map -- 40"-by-40" -- are now part of the Benzie Area Historical Museum's standing exhibit and the Grand Traverse Band's new Eyaawing Museum in Peshawbestown.

Smaller 24"-square color maps are available for $31.95 at the two museums, the Cottage Book Store in Glen Arbor, the Book Store Ltd in Frankfort and Horizon Books in Traverse City. Proceeds benefit the Benzie Area Historical Society.

The new map is based on a section of 16 Michigan maps, compiled in the 1960s by Minnesotan William Trygg, that include original surveyor notes and sketches. It outlines Grand Traverse Indian Reservation that existed on Old Mission Peninsula for a few years after Ottawa and Chippewa tribes signed the Treaty of 1836. The Treaty of 1855, which created the Leelanau Preserve for American Indians, officially ended Grand Traverse Reservation.

The map notes early American Indian settlements dating to the 1700s and also depicts post-treaty American Indian movement in northwestern Michigan from 1836 to about 1860. The region was settled "top down" by American Indians from Mackinac Island and St. Ignace, Tanner said.

"The headquarters for everyone was Mackinac Island," she said.

Early Ottawa and Chippewa villages on the map are: Chemogobin, founded about 1730 at present-day Leland; Aischquagonabe, north of Elk Rapids; and Shabwasson's Village at Omena Point, first mentioned in original documents in 1750 and 1760. The map also notes an unknown village at Cathead Bay as early as 1750, an American Indian village on Platte River in 1830 and an American Indian camp on the northeast end of Crystal Lake in 1831.

Old Mission became

American Indian center

Archaeological evidence indicates two significant earlier occupations and hunting grounds dating to 400 A.D., but permanent American Indian settlements in this region were sparse after about 1420, possibly because of conflict and disease. Tanner estimates that 300 people lived in the Grand Traverse Bay region by 1839, when the Rev. Peter Dougherty established his Presbyterian mission school at Old Mission.

That year, Agosa moved his Chippewa band from Bowers Harbor to what is today Old Mission to be closer to the mission and school, while Chief Aischoguagonabe moved his Chippewa band from the Elk Rapids area for the same reason. Odawas from Little Traverse Bay also settled on the peninsula in 1840 because they wanted their children to learn English, Tanner said.

From 1849 to 1852, many American Indians moved to the Leelanau Peninsula, which became an American Indian preserve in the Treaty of 1855. Waukazooville was founded in 1849 by Chief Waukazoo and his Black River Band of Ottawa, who had followed Congregationalist minister George Smith to the Northport area to escape incursions by Dutch settlers into their traditional lands near Holland.

Agosa moved his band to just north of Omena in 1852, the same year Chief Peshawbe moved his Ottawa band from Cross Village to Eagletown, now Peshawbestown. Dougherty followed in 1853 to start New Mission in Omena.

Four other American Indian villages that early surveyors noted along Leelanau Peninsula's western shore including Onomoneese, a village created about 1860 by American Indians escaping strife among Chippewa in northern Wisconsin, Tanner said.

The seven settler "toeholds" by 1850 were what became Leland, Frankfort, Northport, Elk Rapids, Traverse City, Glen Arbor and Benzonia, the only inland village, which originally was settled by Congregationalist educators from Oberlin College.

Historical information is included with the map.