Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Letter of the Day: August 10

Fort Brady, Mich.

Augt. 10th. 1875.


My dear Doctor,


Having returned from the cruise which I had determined upon making when I last addressed you - I hasten to give the result of my labors. I left on one of the Canadian Steamers on Thursday, the 1st Inst., for Killarney, 150 miles from Ft. Brady on the north shore of Lake Huron. I there hired a Mackinac boat + two men + started for my hunting ground – an island called “Dead Island”, 45 miles East of Killarney, near the north of French River, in the extreme north east of Lake Huron. I reached Dead Island at 9 a.m. on the 3rd, after an exciting sail of 18 hrs. from Killarney – the coast is rocky + dangerous, +, as there are no lighthouses, the nocturnal portion of our journey was somewhat hazardous. The rocks extend many miles into the Lake, some just under water, + it is difficult to keep clear of them, with a small open sailboat. We had many narrow escapes, + if any accident had occurred, help is so remote that one wd [ie would] surely starve on one of these barren rocks before being discovered. However my men proved themselves skillful sailors, + we suffered no serious mishap.


I then commenced my explorations. Dead Island is situated 8 miles east of the north of French River, + about 2 miles from the mainland. It consists of one huge granite rock, flat + irregular in shape, being perhaps 3/2 of a mile across it, covered here + there with spruce + some underbrush – tamarack +c: it is rather pretty but a very lonely spot being seldom visited even by the Indians, + far removed from any line of travel.


The place where the Indians are buried is on the north east side, of the island, on an elevated ridge of rock – their remains have been collected together, covered with birch-bark, + then small rocks heaped on the birch-bark. These small rocks I am sure had never been disturbed, for they were moss-grown + every thing indicated they had thus lain for ages – or rather years. I removed the stones with my own hands (my men were so superstitious that I cd [ie could] not induce them to assist me) + discovered any quantity of minute fragments of bones (human) – too small I am sorry to say to be of any value – there was not a perfect skull – time + the elements had almost made an end of them. I gathered two parietal bones – one frontal - + one half of the vault of a cranium, which is fractured near the parietal eminence + looks like a wound from a tomahawk. I also secured a few other bones, a knife, two old iron pots, + a small glass vial, marked “King’s Essence Peppermint” on the glass – apparently showing that event took place during the reign of an English King. This vial doubtless fell into Indian hands from some Hudson’s Bay Co. Post.


I was fearfully disappointed in not obtaining more bones, having heard accts. Which justified me in supposing that I might almost fill my boat. It was very interesting examining the place, but you can imagine my feelings after getting nothing at the end of such a long journey.


I had a tedious sail back to Killarney, head-winds +c. 90 miles in an open boat on these waters is quite enough for one trip.


I have many more places to examine thoroughly + trust that I will, before the close of the season, make a good bone-harvest even yet.


Will you please tell me if there are any birch-bark curiosities in the Museum. I wd [ie would] like to send a few specimens of our Indian work here, if there are none.


Yrs. Faithfully,

J.T.H. King


P.S. I will send which bones I now have immediately.


Dr. G. A. Otis

U.S. Army

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