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1766 Carver

Jonathan Carver (1710-1780) was the first English speaking traveler to write about the land West of the Mississippi. Carver was making this trip for Major Robert Rogers who was looking to expand English knowledge of the fur-trade in the interior of America, and, possibly, to look for the Northwest Passage which would allow navigation across the continent to the Pacific Ocean and facilitate trade with China. Carver's book was very popular and went through many editions in several languages.

...left the ship, and proceeded in boats to Detroit. This lake is about ninety miles in circumference, and by the way of Huron River, which runs from the south corner of Lake Huron, receives the waters of the three great lakes, Superior, Michegan, and Huron. Its form is rather round, and in some places it is deep enough for the navigation of large vessels, but towards the middle of it there is a bar of sand, which prevents those that are loaded from passing over it. Such as are in ballast only may find water sufficient to carry them quite through; the cargoes, however, of such as are freighted must be taken out, and after being transported across the bar in boats, reshipped again.

The river that runs from Lake St. Claire to Lake Erie (or rather the Straight, for thus it might be termed from its name) is called Detroit, which is in French, the Straight. It runs nearly south, has a gentle current, and depth of water sufficient for ships of considerable burthen. The town of Detroit is situated on the western banks of this river, about nine miles below Lake St. Claire.

Almost opposite, on the eastern shore, is the village of the ancient Hurons: a tribe of Indians which have been treated of by so many writers, that adhering to the restrictions I have laid myself under of only describing places and people little known, or incidents that has passed unnoticed by others, I shall omit giving a description of them. A missionary of the order of Carthusian Friars, by permission of the bishop of Canada, resides among them.

The banks of the River Detroit, both above and below these towns, are covered with settlements that extend more than twenty miles; the country being exceeding fruitful, and proper for cultivation of wheat, Indian corn, oats, and peas. It has also many spots of fine pasturage; but as the inhabitants, who are chiefly French that submitted to the English government after the conquest of these parts by General Amherst, are more attentive to the Indian trade than to farming, it is but badly cultivated.

The town of Detroit contains upwards of one hundred houses. The streets are somewhat regular, and have a range of very convenient and handsome barracks, with a spacious parade at the south end. On the west side lies the King's garden belonging to the governor, which is very well laid out and kept in good order. The fortifications of the town consist of a strong stockade made of round piles, fixed firmly in the ground, and lined with palisades. These are defended by some small bastions, on which are mounted a few indifferent cannon of an inconsiderable size, just sufficient for its defence against the Indians, or an enemy not provided with artillery.

The garrison, in time of peace, consists of two hundred men commanded by a field officer, who acts as chief magistrate under the governor of Canada. Mr. Turnbull, captain of the 60th regiment, or Royal Americans, was commandant when I happened to be there. This gentleman was deservedly esteemed and respected, both by the inhabitants and traders, for the propriety of his conduct; and I am happy to have an opportunity of thus publickly making my acknowledgments to him, for the civilities I received from him during my stay.

In the year 1762, in the month of July, it rained on this town and the parts adjacent, a sulphureous water of the colour and consistence of ink; some of which being collected into bottles, and wrote with appeared perfectly intelligible on the paper, and answered every purpose of that useful liquid. Soon after, the Indian wars already spoken of, broke out in these parts. I mean not to say that this incident was ominous of them, notwithstanding it is well known that innumerable well attested instances of extraordinary phaenomena happening before extraordinary events, have been recorded in almost every age by historians of veracity; I only relate the circumstances as a fact of which I was informed by many persons of undoubted probity, and leave my Readers, as I have hitherto done, to draw their own conclusions from it.

From: TRAVELS THROUGH THE INTERIOR PARTS OF NORTH AMERICA IN THE YEARS 1766, 1767, AND 1768 by J. Carver, Esq. London: Printed for the Author by William Richardson, 1879: 150 -153.

See Also:

Dictionary of American Biography.

Bourne, Gaylord. The Travels of Jonathan Carver. American Historical Review 1906 11 (2): 287-302.

Kelsey, Harry. The Day it Rained Ink: Air Pollution in Detroit, 1762. Inland Seas 1971 27 (4): 279-282.

The Journals of Jonathan Carver and Related Documents 1766 - 1770. Edited by John Parker. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1976.