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The History of EMMET COUNTY, 1884

Page 129-132



The location and chorography of the territory now embraced within the limits of Emmet Conuty encourage the belief that only a fragment of its early history has been preserved. What people may have crossed its domain or tarried here, or what scenes may have been enacted are questions still waiting to be answered.

It is our purpose to take up the county from the point where it begins to emerge from the mists of tradition, and trace the history of its progress. Earlier events have been sketched upon preceding pages.

The points most prominently associated with Indian and missionary history are L'Arbre Croche, Cross Village, Seven Mile Point and Little Traverse. L'Arbre Croche, meaning crooked tree, was a short distance above Middle Village. At that point stood a tall, crooked pine tree, which occupied an elevated position and could be seen far out upon the lake. The name was some time applied to the entire region along the shore. Running back to the year 1825 we find the Catholics returning to re-establish missions that had been abandoned. First a church was built at Middle Village, and in 1827 the mission was moved to Little Traverse. About this time a church was built at Cross Village.

In 1853 business began at Little Traverse, and in 1855 Father Weikamp established the convent at Cross Village. In 1852 an important movement was inaugurated at Bear Creek, which was continued until merged in the greater enterprise of modern progress.


The early history of Bear Creek is almost entirely confined to matters connected with the Presbyterian mission, which was established in the year 1852. The name Bear Creek is applied to the region in the vicinity of the mouth of the stream known by that name. The Indian name is Muhquh Sebing.

Dr. M. L. Leach, of Traverse City, and Rev. W. S. Potter, of Petoskey, have both written narratives of what transpired at this mission, and we quote portions of each: "About the year 1851 the number of Ottawas and Chippewas living at this point was increased by the coming of several families from Old Mission, where Rev. P. Dougherty had been laboring. Shortly after a request was made to Mr. Dougherty that a school might be established at Bear Creek. By order of the Presbyterian board, under whose authority he was acting, Mr. Dougherty visited them in the winter of 1851 and '52, and made so favorable a report that the board determined to accede to their request, and Mr. Andrew Porter, who bad previously spent some time as teacher at Old Mission, was appointed for the work.

"Mr. Porter, with his family, left his home in Pennsylvania early in May, 1852, arriving at his destination the first of June. From Mackinac he came in Capt. Kirtland's vessel, the Eliza Caroline, the captain bringing him for a very small sum. Mr. Dougherty had previously sent a vessel with a cargo of lumber for the construction of the necessary buildings. The pile of lumber on the beach served to guide Capt. Kirtland to the proper landing. On leaving the vessel, the party were kindly received by the head man, Daniel Wells, or Mwa-ke-we-nah, whom the band afterward elected chief, and who, a few years later, laid down his life for the country in the war of the rebellion. He placed his best room at the disposal of Mr. Porter, till the mission house could be built.

"The place selected for the mission was on the high land west of Bear Creek, half a mile back from the bay. How to get the lumber to the spot, was a problem that caused some anxiety. The only domestic animal in the settlement that could be put to such work was a single pony, and the only vehicle was a cart, and then the new road which had recently been cut through the forest by the Indians was too rough and uneven for a wheel carriage of any kind. The anxiety, however, was soon removed by the announcement that the Indians of Little Traverse were offering their assistance. Soon after, on a set day, about seventy men and seven ponies with 'sled ears,' were found to have come together on the beach, ready for work. The ponies did very well, but more than half the lumber was carried up the hill to the site of the proposed buildings on the shoulders of the men. "Mr. Porter found the Indians uniformly kind. He never failed to secure their services, when the services of a friend were needed. On first coming among them, he and his family threw themselves upon their honor and honesty, never turning a key to prevent them from stealing, and, though they were then poor and often hungry, the confidence reposed in them was not betrayed.

"The mission board adopted the plan of giving to the pupils in the school a generous lunch every day at noon. There seemed to be a necessity for this, as the corn soup, (min-dah-min-ah-boo,) which was the principal food of the Indians, could not be conveniently carried with them; and then it was found by experience that if they were allowed to go home for dinner, which was not generally practicable, as most of them lived too far away, they were not likely to return the same day.

"For a long time the Indians took a deep interest in the school. This statement is illustrated by a touching incident, related by Mr. Porter. Joseph Na-bah-na-yah-sung, or as he named himself, Gibson, a boy about ten years old, while the school was suspended for sugar making one spring, had the misfortune to break both bones of the leg between the ankle and the knee. When the school opened again he was still unable to walk. With a womanly devotion that stands as a living, argument against the doctrine of the total depravity of human nature even in those we call savages, his mother and sister alternately carried him three-quarters of a mile to school every day on their shoulders. If inquiry be made into the life and fate of the boy thus highly favored, it only remains to write ---and let it be written among the records of the honorable dead--- that he died, as many other noble men died, by cruel starvation in Andersonville prison.

"There were many hindrances to success which it seemed impossible to remove or entirely overcome. Some of these were incident to the Indian mode of life. There was of necessity a long vacation in the season of sugar-making, during which the village was deserted. In planting time the school was small, though never entirely closed. At the proper season for peeling cedar bark, collecting rushes for mats, or picking strawberries, raspberries, or huckleberries, the Indians would leave by boat loads, taking their children with them. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, the children made commendable progress, considering that they had to learn a new language, the teaching, being done in English. Many learned to read and write very well, and some made more or less advancement in arithmetic and geography. The success, however, was scarcely what the parents anticipated, and some degree of discouragement was the result. Add to this the fact that influences adverse to the education of the masses, emanating from the Catholic missions at little Traverse and Cross Village, at length began to be felt by the whole Indian population of the vicinity, and it is no wonder that the interest in the school fell to a lower degree of intensity than that manifested at the beginning."

In October following Mr. Porter's arrival, a Sabbath-school was organized, social prayer meetings were soon established, and religious work fully inaugurated. But as yet there was no preaching, for Mr. Porter was a layman and not a preacher. Mr. Dougherty, however, visited the mission occassionally and, preached by means of an interpreter to the Indians, conducted communion services and administered baptism.

This condition of things continued until the spring of 1855, when Rev. H. W. Guthrie, now of Chillicothe, Ohio, was appointed by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions as missionary to Bear Creek and Middle Village. During the year 1856 Mr. Guthrie organized a church, which after various experiences and changes is now known as the "First Presbyterian Church of Petoskey." When first organized there were sixteen members, which within two years was increased to twenty-five.

In June, 1882, Rev. W. S. Potter received a letter from Mr. Guthrie, touching upon his experiences while here, which we give herewith as follows:

Rev. W. S. POTTER:
Dear Brother:---In compliance with your wish that I should write to you concerning my participation in the work in Little Traverse Region, I submit the following:
A student of the Western Theological Seminary, I was licensed April 10, 1855, and on May llth set out for your field, then mission stations of our board. I went under commission of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. On arrival I immediately began the work of preaching by an interpreter, twice or three times a week, as opportunity offered, and continued thus until the last of August, when I returned to the Seminary to spend another term in study.

My stated places of preaching were Bear River (now Petoskey) and Middle Village, eighteen miles north by direct way, or twenty five miles around the bay.

At Middle Village I found Mr. J. C. Turner and wife; at Bear River, Mr. Andrew Porter, his wife, sister and mother, all of whom at both places were devotedly serving the Master's work in mission schools. Besides teaching they advanced the cause in various ways; their presence, example and life were efficient elements.

Mr. Porter rendered much medical advice and help to the Indians, his knowledge of their habits and language giving him great power.

During the summer of 1855, in going from point to point, I occasionally went in a canoe or a fishing boat; sometimes I went all the way by land around the bay on an Indian pony, frequently I walked the fifteen miles and then - crossed the bay in a boat. Without reflection on the past but for the guidance of others in the future, I give now as my judgment that such excessive labor or exposure is in no wise the best policy. It may sound well to distant ears as pious enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, but the sequel of suffering contains no romance, besides, years of labor are thus sometimes cut off for the future.

In my journal I find the following: April 8, 1856: This evening preached a sermon at Allegheny City on trial, in view of my ordination to the gospel ministry.

April 9th, ordained. Tuesday, May 8, started in return to Indian work.

Resuming the labors of the preceding summer, I put in the time much as before, with the addition of the study of the Ojibbeway language, in which I made some progress, aiming especially at an understanding of its construction, and by the help of a good interpreter, prepared, 'as I thought, a very correct grammar in manuscript.

I remained until November, 1857, and labored assiduously, though untiringly, to promote the welfare of the poor Indian, preaching, visiting, conversing and ministering as opportunity offered.

Just here a few extracts
Friday, July 25.-Made the long journey from Muhquh Sebing (Bear River) to Ah-pe-ta-whu-yuh-e-ing (Middle Village) in company with Mr. T.; we went around the bay twenty-five miles, and had one little pony, and rode and walked alternately.

Aug. 2d.-Today, after preaching, three presented themselves and professed faith in Christ, two of them leaving the Roman Catholics. One I baptized, also two children of Indian parents, after which, pursuant to previous announcements, I organized a Christian church at Bear River, now Petoskey, consisting of sixteen members (six white and ten Indian), calling it Muhquh Sebing, or Bear River Presbyterian Church.

Friday, Sept. 19th.-Preached at Middle Village. Saturday, Sept. 20th.-Preached. Sabbath, Sept. 21st. Preached twice and administered baptism to two Indians, one man and one woman, also administered sacrament of the Lord's Supper. One of the aforementioned was a daughter of Mr. Petosegay (Sunrise I believe), an Indian who then lived at the mouth of Bear River, after whom the place is now called Petoskey.

Friday, Nov. 7th.-One thought that has occupied my mind for some time, if; the possibility of having a religious paper for this people, with alternate columns of Indian and English.

My work was continued until Nov. 4, 1857, without any special change or interruption. The trials, privations and hardships we all experienced can scarcely be realized by those now in the fieId, as a few brief extracts may show.

Friday, Jan. 16th, 1857.-To-day received mail, the first since the 27st of last November, more than eight weeks.

Tuesday, Feb. 10th.-Very cold, mercury 16 degrees below zero. Came home on horseback, eighteen miles, without much suffering, except that my face and right arm were some frosted.

Monday, Feb. 16th.-Am much exhausted from hard labor. * * * Last Wednesday, prayer meeting, good attendance. Friday went to Cheboygan and preached first gospel sermon in the place. Returned home Saturday, preached twice yesterday. Three remained to inquire. One is to be received, the others return.

Tuesday, Feb. 24th.-Am again permitted to record the goodness of God. In his infinite mercy he allowed me to visit Middle Village again on Thursday last, to preach on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and to ordain and install an elder. Preached on Sabbath; received two young men (one white and one Indian) into the church, baptizing one; administered sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and preached again in the evening. I would thank God and take courage; to whom be all the praise evermore. Amen.

Monday, March 2d. - Very cold, mercury 17 degrees below zero. Yesterday cold and very stormy, yet good attendance in the morning, but in the evening not so many present. Goodly number at monthly concert this evening. But may not extend this already lengthy paper.

Nov. 4th.-I set out for Pittsburg; was driven by storm to Beaver Island; remained there a few days and preached several times.

Some time after Mr. Porter's arrival, a Catholic mission was established at this point. It was the intention to build a church upon the high ground, but Mr. Porter would not permit them to cross his domain, and a building was erected on the shore of the bay. It was a small frame building, and is still standing a silent monument of the past.

For a considerable number of years after Mr. Guthrie's departure, the Bear Creek Church had no settled pastor. Mr. Porter continued his school, and the building in which be conducted it is still standing on the mission farm. He also continued his religious work among the Indians, and kept up the church organization.

During the continuance of the mission, the Indians made steady improvement in the art and practice of farming. In 1852 there was only one pony and one plow among them. The surface of the ground in their small fields was strewn with the trunks of fallen trees, among which cultivation was carried on with no implement but the hoe. Afterward, when they had to some extent been provided with teams and farming utensils -by the government, according to treaty stipulations, their fields were cleared and plowed. Oats, wheat, corn and potatoes were the principal crops. Of the last two, enough was usually raised to supply their own wants and leave a surplus for sale. Unfortunately the men sent to that locality by the agents of the Government as Indian farmers, whose duty it was to instruct them in the art and practice of farming, were frequently too shiftless to do anything but draw their own salaries. A well remembered case will illustrate the statement. The Indians had become dissatisfied with one of this kind, and resolved, if possible, to get rid of him. Accordingly an old chief was delegated to present a complaint to the agent, which he did in the following brief terms: "For the first year or two be would sometimes come out to the field where we were plowing, take hold of the plow handles and go half across the field, and then would say ' I am hungry,' and return to the village and remain there the rest of the day; but now he never comes near us at all." As the so-called farmer, who was sitting by and heard the complaint, had no defense to make, he was promptly discharged.

For the first two or three years the expense of the mission was borne wholly by the Presbyterian board. After the establishment of Indian schools by the government, the one at the mission was adopted by the agent as a government school, and the usual salary was paid to Mr. Porter as teacher. About 1871 the goverment let funds set apart by treaty for the benefit of the Indians being exhausted, and the board finding itself straitened for means, the mission was discontinued. The landed property of the establishment passed into other hands, and in 1875 Mr. Porter returned to his Pennsylvania home. The place is now occupied by Mr. Nathan Jarman, and is still known among the older residents of Petoskey as the mission farm.

Mr. Porter was for a long time justice of the peace and judge of probate. He was very popular with the Indians, and it is said had become so accustomed to their ways and habits that he was no longer contented after white people settled about him. In 1870 his mother, who was living with him, died at the age of ninety-six years. Hazen Ingalls was then living nearby, and at Little Traverse were three or four white people. Mr. Porter, however, called about him his Indian friends and conducted the funeral services himself. By means of strings along pole was fastened to the rude coffin, and with Indians as pall bearers, his aged mother was buried in the grave he had dug near by.

HAZEN INGALLS was the first settler who came to Bear Creek for the purpose of making a home, and to apply his industry to local development. He came from Jefferson County, N. Y., to Lee'anaw County in 1859, and from that time until 1866 lived about four miles from Northport. In the spring of 1866 he bought the water power and saw-mill, then standing, of Messrs. Fox & Rose. The saw-mill, a small affair, had been built by Harvey Porter, a brother of Andrew Porter, about the year 1862. Mr. Ingalls moved into a house that had been built by an Indian, and engaged in farming and operating the mill. Afterward the mill was changed into a grist-mill. He also kept a small store for their own convenience and to furnish Indians with supplies. At the time the village of Petoskey was started in 1873, Messrs. Ingalls and Porter were the only white people in this vicinity. Mr. Porter used to run a small grist-mill on the present site of W. L. McManus' saw-mill. Mr. Ingalls was born in the state of Vermont in the year 1802, and is still living on the high bank of the creek, where he first located in 1866. He is engaged in the milling business with one of his sons.

In 1873 the village of Petoskey came into existence. The postoffice was removed to the new settlement, and the name Bear Creek is applied either to the town or the stream that furnishes a splendid water power, much of which is yet to be utilized.

NATHAN JARMAN, present owner of the " Mission Farm," was born in Northamptonshire, England, May 5, 1841. Came to this country in May, 1856, and settled in Lorain County, O., where he was engaged in farming. Came thence to Charlevoix County in 1866, and settled in the town of Eveline. Moved to Emmet County in March, 1873, and located on the " Mission Farm." He bought the farm in the fall of 1880. Has 112 acres, about one-half of which is within the limits of Petoskey village. About twelve acres are platted. In March, 1863, he married Isabella Bartlett, who died in 1881, leaving four children. His second wife was Rebeeca H. Lee; they have four children. When Mr. Jarman came to Bear Creek, Andrew Porter, in charge of the Indian mission, and Hazen Ingalls, were the only settlers at this point.

From a position a little above the business portion of the village of Petoskey, looking to the southwest, one may see about a mile away the series of beautiful green fields, sloping in graceful suecession down the hillside. From their appearance one can readily see that, unlike most other fields in the vicinity they have been cultivated for many years. These fields make up what is familiarly known as the "Mission Farm."

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