Our Visit to Fort Mackinac

                               A raven perched atop a stockade at old Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island…

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There is so much history on Mackinac Island, and for decades, much jockeying for position and control among the French, British, Native Americans and American colonists!  Construction on this fort was begun by the Brits in 1780.  It was built to replace Fort Michilimackinac, which had been constructed  down closer to the shore of the island by the French in 1714 as a means of controlling the fur trade and European development along the Great Lakes.  Fort Mackinac was built by the British during the American Revolutionary War so that they could control the Straits of Mackinac (water passage between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan).   The Fort was turned over to the United States in 1796, but recaptured by the British again in 1812.

Read a brief and interesting history of the fort HERE.

 

Fort Mackinac sits high on a bluff on Mackinac Island, 150 feet above the harbor

Fort Mackinac sits high on a bluff on Mackinac Island, 150 feet above the harbor

 

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Walkway from the street to Fort Mackinac

Walkway from the street to Fort Mackinac

If you want to read a first-hand account of what life was like here in the early days, read this exquisitely written biography by Juliette M. Kinzie, WAU-BUN – The Early Day in the Northwest.  It is the detailed life of an educated Eastern woman, when as a bride she came to unnamed Wisconsin (with an extended stop at Fort Michilmackinac on Mackinac Island), and shared the experiences of her husband, the Indian agent at Fort Winnebago.  Her description of the Indians, army officers, traders, modes of travel, and hardships are enlivened with a sense of humor, vivid feeling for nature, and a just sense of values.

 

Wau-Bun - The "Early Day" In the Northwest (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930) Newer edition of an old classic originally published in 1856

Wau-Bun – The “Early Day” In the Northwest (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930) Newer edition of an old classic originally published in 1856

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Below is a view toward the harbor from Fort Mackinac…

View toward the harbor from Fort Mackinac

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In the large stone building which was the “Officer’s Quarters” there is now a visitors’ tea room (Fort Mackinac Tea Room) with an outdoor dining patio.  It has good food and reasonable prices, and is operated by the Grand Hotel.

Dining patio off the Tea Room at Fort Mackinac

Dining patio off the Tea Room at Fort Mackinac

Some cheery geraniums along the wall of the Officers' Quarters

Some cheery geraniums along the wall of the Officers’ Quarters

Looking down toward the harbor and town from the patio…

 

20160715_104134Approach to the center area of the compound…

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Inside the compound of Fort Mackinac

Inside the compound of Fort Mackinac

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Here are some views from the interior of a house which is inside the compound of the Fort.  The rooms, doors, floors and staircase of this house was so similar to ours here at Old Scrolls that I felt I’d come home!  Also (like ours) constructed in the mid-1800’s.

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A Native American dwelling in the original style of the area at the edge of the grounds of Fort Mackinac

Another fascinating book to read about Mackinac Island is the historical novel titled The Loon Feather by Iola Fuller (Harcourt Brace, NY, 1940).   Winner of the Hopwood Award, this novel is the story of Oneta, daughter of Tecumseh, and granddaughter of the chief of the loon tribe of the Ojibways.  It takes place during the fur trading days on Mackinac Island.

The Loon Feather, by Iola Fuller (Harcourt Brace, NY, 1940 First Edition)

The Loon Feather, by Iola Fuller (Harcourt Brace, NY, 1940 First Edition)

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Juliette Kinzie’s Wau-Bun – The Early Day in the Northwest

I have just finished reading a book which has captivated me for many successive evenings.  Now that I have closed the final chapter, I feel like I’ve said goodbye to a most interesting friend!

The book is one I picked up in the Chicago area this summer (quite appropriately, as the book is very much about the early settlement of Chicago and the regions surrounding it.)  Wau-Bun, The Early Day in the Northwest, by Mrs. John H. Kinzie, is an historical autobiography that was first published by Derby and Jackson, New York, 1856.  It has been republished multiple times since, by  J. B. Lippincott  (1873),  Rand McNally (1901),The Caxton Club  (1901), George Banta (1930), Lakeside Press (1932),  National Society of Colonial Dames in Wisconsin (1948), and others.

Here’s a link to a photo and description of the first edition (Derby and Jackson, NY, 1856) on University of Wisconsin’s Digital Collections, (PBO – Publisher’s Bindings Online ).

The Rand McNally edition (1901) is an attractive decorated American trade binding, done in green cloth boards with a  brown and black illustrated background of high-rise Chicago buildings, with tee-pees and a canoe on a river in the foreground on the cover, and a small decoration on the spine.

 Here’s our 1930 Edition (George Banta Publishing Company, Menasha, WI), in its original dustjacket:

Wau-Bun - The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.

Wau-Bun – The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.)

 The endearing thing about this copy is its provenance;

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

This copy actually belonged to the Indian Agency House in  Portage, Wisconsin, about which the author wrote in the book and where she lived.   The Indian Agency House was built by the U.S. government for John Kinzie in 1832.  Kinzie was the Indian Agent to the Ho-Chunk Nation (Winnebago), and he and his wife, Juliette Magill Kinzie, lived at the portage from 1832-1834.

          Image of the map printed on the front fixed endaper:

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

This edition was published in 1930 to support the effort to preserve the Agency House:

From the front panel of the dust jacket of "Wau-Bun" (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

From the front of the dust jacket of “Wau-Bun” (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

Apparently it was a successful effort, as it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and still stands today with guided tours available during summer months for a nominal fee.

 This edition also has an Introduction and is edited with notes by Louise Phelps Kellogg, which contain some corrections and additional information.

 Juliette Magill was a well-educated young woman from Connecticut when she met the dashing young John Kinsey in Boston, Massachusetts, whom she fell in love with and married in 1830.   She moved with him to Detroit and then Fort Winnebago, a new trading post at the crucial portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.  At the time, it was the western-most outpost of the American frontier forts, where her husband was an Indian sub-agent to the Ho-Chunk nation (Winnebago).

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 Juliette M. Kinzie wrote with clarity, compassion, and intelligence.  Her narrative about the times in which they lived is beautifully written, with fascinating details on what it was like to travel, communicate and subsist on the early Western frontier.   Her experiences with the Black Hawk War and the Sauk War are recounted, and details of the Chicago Massacre (Battle at Fort Dearborn) are covered as they were related to her by members of her husband’s family who lived in Chicago at the time it occurred.  Wau-Bun was not her first published work.  In 1844 Juliette Kinzie published Narrative of the Massacre at Chicago, August 15, 1812, and of Some Preceding Events, anonymously.  Kinzie acknowledged authorship soon after publication.

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 She was a game young woman who enjoyed being on the frontier, sometimes covering over 60 miles a day on horseback as they journeyed between posts, sleeping outdoors or in makeshift shelters or as welcome guests at isolated homesteads.  They routinely dealt with blizzards, mud, storms, mosquitoes and summer heat, and the diverse cultures and idiosyncrasies of an assortment of Native American tribes.  She possessed a positive attitude and a subtle sense of humor, along with insight and compassion into the culture of the Native American people and their plight as white settlers encroached on their homeland.  Her writing style is honest and as readable as if it were written yesterday.

 For anyone interested in the history of the Great Lakes area, early American travel, fur trading, American Indian wars, and frontier forts (including Ft. Mackinac, Ft. Winnebago, and Ft. Dearborn),  this book is not to be missed.

An image of  Chicago in 1831 from "Wau-Bun"

An image of Chicago in 1831 from “Wau-Bun”

 In addition to her non-fiction work, Kinzie published one novel Walter Ogilby (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1869), and it must be exceedingly scarce, as I have not been able to locate a single copy for sale.

A few interesting footnotes: 

According to Wikipedia, Juliette M. Kinzie died at age 64 while vacationing in Amagansett, New York, Long Island, in 1870, after a druggist accidentally substituted morphine for quinine.  (How ironic, after a life of constant danger and close calls in Indian wars and hazardous frontier travel that she should be snuffed out by a pharmacist’s error in Eastern “civilization.”)

 Juliette Kinzie’s granddaughter was Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouting in America in 1912.

Rivers of America Series

One of my favorite books to stumble upon is a nice first edition of the “Rivers of America” series. Who wouldn’t like to make a collection of all sixty-five books in this fine series?

The Genesee (signed by author Henry Clune) Holt, Rinehart Winston, 1963

It all began in 1937 with Kennebec: Cradle of Americans by Robert P. Tristram Coffin, published by Farrar & Rinehart. The last book, The American: River of El Dorado, by Margaret Sanborn was published in 1974 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.   In all, four publishers were involved with the continuation of the series over a 37-year period. Excellent writers, illustrators and editors were utilized in producing high quality books which have become very collectible in their original editions, and continue to be reprinted to this day.

The Savannah, by Thomas L. Stokes; Rinehart, 1951

Here are some highlights (courtesy of Wikipedia):

The series includes the first book illustrated by Andrew Wyeth, The Brandywine; Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ The Everglades: River of Grass which successfully focused public attention on the plight of the Everglades; Paul Horgan’s Great River: The Rio Grande in America History, considered the definitive study of the early Southwest; and poet Edgar Lee Masters’ The Sangamon.

The series represents one of the finest long-term efforts by a publisher to blend the talents of both writers and artists to present a tribute to the rivers that played such a vital role in the development of America. A testament to the editors’ outstanding work is the fact that many of these volumes continue to be reprinted and the original editions are now considered highly collectible. On April 9 and 10, 1997, a group of Rivers of America authors and illustrators were brought together by the Library of Congress to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the series. The Library of Congress published an Information Bulletin highlighting the celebration on June 7, 1997. 1

A set of War Editions was published between 1942-1945 and also a series of paperback Armed Services Editions, which are also collectible.

The Connecticut, by Walter Hard; Rinehart, 1947

All books pictured above are first editions.  To view “Rivers of America” titles currently available at Old Scrolls Book Shop, click HERE.

1Wikipedia, Rivers of America Series.

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