« ПредишнаНапред »
six miles above the city. The flats are fan-shaped, and spread, I am inclined to think, upward of fifteen miles, on the line of their greatest expansion.
There are three principal channels, besides sub-channels, which carry a depth of from four to six fathoms to the very point of their exit into the lake, where there is a bar in each. This bar, as is shown by the chart of a survey made by officers Macomb and Warner, of the topographical engineers, in 1842, is very similar to the bars at the mouths of the upper lake rivers, and appears to be susceptible of removal, or improvement, by similar means. The north channel carries nine feet of water over this bar, the present season, and did the same in 1842, and is the one exclusively used by vessels and steamboats. To the latter this tortuous channel, which is above ten miles farther round than the middle channel, presents no impediment, besides the intricacies of the bar, but increased distance.
It is otherwise, and ever must remain so, to vessels propelled by sails. Such vessels, coming up with a fair wind, find the bend so acute and involved at Point aux Chcnes, at the head of this channel, as to bring the wind directly ahead. They are, consequently, compelled to cast anchor, and await a change of wind to turn this point. A delay of eight or ten days in the upward passage, is not uncommon at this place. Could the bar of the middle channel, which is direct, be improved, the saving in both time and distance above indicated would be made. This is an object of public importance, interesting to all the lake States and Territories, and would constitute a subject of useful consideration for Congress. Every year is adding to the number and size of our lake vessels. The rate of increase which doubles our population in a given number of years must also increase the lake tonnage, and add new motives for the improvement of its navigation.
Besides the St. Clair delta, I know of no other impediment in the channel itself, throughout the great line of straits between Buffalo and Chicago, which prudence and good seamanship, and well found vessels, may not ordinarily surmount. The rapids at Black Rock, once so formidable, have long been obviated by the canal dam. The straits of Detroit have been well surveyed, and afford a deep, navigable channel at all times. The rapids at the head of the river St. Clair, at Port Huron, have a sufficiency of water for vessels of the largest class, and only require a fair wind for their ascent.
The straits of Michilimackinac are believed to be on the same water level as Lakes Huron and Michigan, and only present the phenomenon of a current setting east or west, in compliance with certain laws of the reaction of water driven by winds. Such are the slight impediments on this extraordinary line of inland lake navigation, which is carried on at an average altitude of something less than 600 feet above the tide level of the Atlantic. When this line of commerce requires to be diverted north, through the straits of St. Mary's into Lake Superior, a period rapidly approaching, a short canal of three-fourths of a mile will be required at the Sault Ste-Marie, and some excavation made, so as to permit vessels of heavy tonnage to cross the bar in Lake George of those straits.
Dundas, Canada West, Oct. 26th, 1843.
Fortunately for the study of American antiquities the aborigines have, from the earliest period, practised the interment of their arms, utensils and ornaments, with the dead, thus furnishing evidence of the particular state of their skill in the arts, at the respective eras of their history. To a people without letters there could scarcely have been a better index than such domestic monuments furnish, to determine these eras; and it is hence that the examination of their mounds and burial-places assumes so important a character in the investigation of history. Heretofore these inquiries have been confined to portions of the continent south and west of the great chain of lakes and the St. Lawrence; but the advancing settlements in Canada, at this time, are beginning to disclose objects of this kind, and thus enlarge the field of inquiry.
I had, yesterday, quite an interesting excursion to one of these ancient places of sepulture north of the head of Lake Ontario. The locality is in the township of Beverly, about twelve miles distant from Dundas. The rector of the parish, the Rev. Mr. McMurray, had kindly made arrangements for my visit. We set out at a very early hour, on horseback, the air being keen, and the mud and water in the road so completely frozen as to bear our horses. We ascended the mountain and passed on to the table land, about four miles, to the house of a worthy parishioner of Mr. McM., by whom we were kindly welcomed, and after giving us a warm breakfast, he took us on. with a stout team, about six miles on the Guelph road. Diverging from this, about two miles to the left, through a heavy primitive forest, with occasional clearings, we came to the spot. It is in the 6th concession of Beverly.
We were now about seventeen miles, by the road, from the extreme head of Lake Ontario, at the town of Hamilton, Burlington Bay; and on one of the main branches of the bright and busy mill-stream of the valley of Dundas. As this part of the country is yet encumbered with dense and almost unbroken masses of trees, with roads unformed, we had frequently to inquire our way, and at length stopped on the skirts of an elevated beech ridge, upon which the trees stood as large and thickly a» in other parts of the forest. There was nothing at first sight to betoken that the hand of man had ever been exercised there. Yet this wooded ridge embraced the locality we were in quest of, and the antiquity of interments and accumulations of human bones on this height is to be inferred, from their occurrence amidst this forest, and beneath the roots of the largest trees.
It is some five or six years since the discovery was made. It happened from the blowing down of a large tree, whose roots laid bare a quantity of human bones. Search was then made, and has been renewed at subsequent times, the result of which has been the disclosure of human skeletons in such abundance and massive quantities as to produce astonishment. This is the characteristic feature. Who the people were, and how such an accumulation should have occurred, are questions which have been often asked. And the interest of the scene is by no means lessened on observing that the greater part of these bones are deposited, not in isolated and single graves as the Indians now bury, but in wide and long trenches and rude vaults, in which the skeletons are piled longitudinally upon each other. In this respect they resemble a single deposit, mentioned in a prior letter, as occurring on Isle Ronde, in Lake Huron. And they would appear, as is the case with the latter, to be re-interments of bodies, after the flesh had decayed, collected from their first places of sepulture.
No one—not the oldest inhabitant—remembers the residence of Indians in this location, nor does there appear to be any tradition on the subject. It is a common opinion among the settlers that there must have been a great battle fought here, which would account for the accumulation, but this idea does not appear to be sustained by an examination of the skulls, which, so far as I saw, exhibit no marks of violence. Besides, there are present the bones and crania of women and children, with implements and articles of domestic use, such as are ordinarily deposited with the dead. The supposition of pestilence, to account for the number, is subject to less objection; yet, if admitted, there is no imaginable state of Indian population in this quarter, which could have produced such heaps. The trenches, so far as examined, extend over the entire ridge. One of the transverse deposits, I judged, could not include less than fifteen hundred square feet. The whole of this had been once dug over, in search of curiosities, such as pipes, shells, beads, &C., of which a large number were found. Among the evidences of interments here since the discovery of Canada, were several brass kettles, in one of which were five infant skulls.
Could we determine accurately the time required for the growth of a beech, or a black oak, as they are found on these deposits, of sixteen, eighteen and twenty inches and two feet in diameter, the date of the abandonment or completion of the interments might be very nearly fixed. The time of the growth of these species is, probably, much less, in the temperate latitudes, and in fertile soils, than is commonly supposed. I am inclined to think, from a hasty survey, that the whole deposit is the result of the slow accumulation of both ordinary interment, and the periodical deposit or re-interment of exhumed bones brought from contiguous hunting camps and villages. To this, pestilence has probably added. The ridge is said to be the apex or highest point of the tahle lands, and would therefore recommend itself, as a place of general interment, to the natives. Bands, who rove from place to place, and often capriciously abandon their hunting villages, are averse to leaving their dead in such isolated spots. The surrounding country is one which must have afforded all the spontaneous means of Indian subsistence, in great abundance. The deer and bear, once very numerous, still abound.
We passed some ancient beaver dams, and were informed that the country east and north bears similar evidences of its former occupation by the small furred animals. The occurrence of the sugar maple adds another element of Indian subsistence. There are certain enigmatical walls of earth, in this vicinity, which extend several miles across the country, following the leading ridges of land. Accounts vary in representing them to extend from five to eight miles. These I did not see, but learn that they are about six feet high, and present intervals as if for gates. There is little likelihood that these walls were constructed for purposes of military defence, remote as they are from the great waters, and aside from the great leading war-paths. It is far more probable that they were intended to intercept the passage of game, and compel the deer to pass through these artificial defiles, where the hunters lay in wait for them.
Ancient Iroquois tradition, as preserved by Colden, represents this section of Canada, extending quite to Three Rivers, as occupied by the Adirondacks; a numerous, fierce, and warlike race, who carried on a determined war against the Iroquois. The same race, who were marked as speaking a different type of languages, were, at an early day, called by the French by the general term of Algonquins. They had three chief residences on the Utawas and its sources, and retired northwestwardly, by that route, on the increase of the Iroquois power. Whoever the people were who hunted and buried their dead at Beverly, it is manifest that they occupied the district at and prior to the era of the discovery of Canada, and also continued to occupy it, after the French had introduced the fur trade into the interior. For we find, in the manufactured articles buried, the distinctive evidences of both periods.
The antique bone beads, of which we raised many, in situ, with crams and other bones, from beneath the roots of trees, are in every respect similar to those found in the Grave Creek mound, which have been improperly called " Ivory." Amulets of bone and shell, and pipes of fine steatite and indurated red clay, are also of this early period, and are such as were generally made and used by the ancient inhabitants prior to the introduction of European wrought wampum or seawan, and of beads of porcelain and glass, and ornamented pipes of coarse pottery. I also examined several large marine shells, much corroded and decayed, which had been brought, most probably, from the shores of the Atlantic.
Having made such excavations as limited time and a single spade would permit, we retraced our way to Dundas, which we reached after nightfall, a little fatigued, but well rewarded in the examination of an object which connects, in several particulars, the antiquities of Canada with those of the United States ,'