1768 Lee

John Lees was a merchant in Quebec from 1764 to 1777. In 1768 Lees traveled from Boston to Detroit and then went on to Montreal in 5 1/2 months. His stay in Detroit in August was due to a business matter he was trying to resolve.


...By midnight, we got to the Isle de Bois blanc, rested there till daylight, which time I slept in the Canoe, she being made fast to a Stump in a small Creek; there are severall Islands here in the mouth of the River, which appear extreamly pretty, as does the River all the way up, expecially where you come in with the Settlements. At 10 O'Clock got to the first habitations, being about 3 Leagues from where we slept and at 4 O'Clock came up to the Town of Detroit, being Monday 15th August 1768. From Isle de Bois blanc is reckoned 6 Leagues up to the Town, From point Pele' to the Island is called 3 Leagues, but it is surely at least 5 good ones. Went ashore to Captain George Turnbull then the Commanding Officer, with whom I staid the time I resided there, and messed with him, Lieutenants Archibald, and Amiel, Mr. Fleming the Commissary of Provisions, for that fort, for the most of the time I was there, waited next morning on Mr. Chabbert, who made me the fairest promises etc. as pr a separate account of the Sundry meetings I had with him about his affairs. Detroit has been Settled about 70 years, The Land is uncommonly fertile, which makes the Settlers very indolent, they sow chiefly in the fall, the Country on both sides of the River is flatt, and the Wood not thick, There is a great Extent of very fine clear Plain, a little way behind the first Woods; on the South East side of the River is a small Village of Civilized Hurons. One Pere Potier is their Priest, he has been amongst them about Two and Twenty years, said to be a man of learning and Abilities, and bears a good Character. The Fort and Town stands on the North west side of the River. The Fort is stockaded round, with small Blockhouses mounting a few Cannons at the Angles towards the Land; it has been much repaired since we had possession of it. The French had not formerly a Garrison here of more than 25 men even in time of War, Monsr. Billeter Commanded at this Fort, when it was delivered up after the Capitulation of Canada, and it is said, would not give Credite to the report, that our Commanding Officer brought of that Country's Surrendring to our Arms; in the French time, this Garrison was chiefly found with provisions by the Settlers; The right of their lands is precarious, being formerly granted, or Confirmed by their Commanding Officers, and is frequently disputed by the Indians, particularly the Hurons, who have no great liking to the French. About 40 miles back in the woods behind the Fort, is the village of the Petawtomies called by the French Pous. They are a tribe we have never been able to depend on; about sixty miles above Detroit is a Village of the Chipawas, on the South of Lake Sinclair, they are a Warlike and numerous Nation, and are dreaded by the other Nations round; they were at this time in a hot war with the Sous a tribe that inhabit the North side of the River Mississippi -

On the Miami River, the greatest part of the nation of the Ottawas inhabit, they are a numerous Tribe, and are spread about it in a great many Settlements chiefly on the North side of Lake Huron, near Michaelmakinac and towards the North West. These, the Pous and Chipawas have almost the same language, and is called the Ottawa-Tongue they have been at a continual War with the Cherokees for a great many years. I was told that towards the Miami River they intimidate any Englishman to go and Settle amongst them, this very probably by the Intrigues of the French Traders, settled there. The Cherokees it's said, retaliate this among the French Men, as it is said they use them very roughly, when they find them their way.

The Chippawas are a very extensive Nation being scattered on the Banks of the Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontorio. The Missassagoes, inhabiting the North side of Lake Ontario are a Branch of them. The Sous, who are at Continual War with them, are said to be very numerous those of the large plains, far up the Mississippi in particular, another Tribe of them Inhabite the Mountains in that quarter, are are very wild; it's said Major Rogers, endeavored to make a peace between these two last tribes in Summer 1767, but it was soon after most treacherously broke, by the Sous, by cutting off a party of the Chippawas on their return from Michaelmakinac. The greatest number of the Pous live about St. Joseph, and are still much in the French Interest, and by the Intrigues of a Runaway Set of the latter at this place, and Miami, prevent any English Traders settling in that quarter. It is observed in general, that the Indians, that were reckoned in the French time a bad Sett are now much in our Interest, and have proved faithfull, and those of bad Character now, with us are reckoned to be much attached to the French. Upon the Wabash where it falls into the Ohio, is still a French Settlement called St. Vincelle, said to Consist of about 150 families. They are mostly run a way Traders; they are under no Command, as we have no Fort or Commanding Officer at that place; they are reckoned to be entirely devoted to the French Interest. They are supplied with their Goods by French Traders from Detroit, who steal out in the night time, without the Knowledge of the Commanding Officer. The Indians settled about the Islands of Sandusky, are a branch of the Hurons, The Traders on the Illinois brought in accounts that the Spainiards had built a Fort on our side of the Mississippi, a good way up at a place called Ouisconsin at a River which Communicates with the West side of Lake Michigan; and likewise, that they have built another, at a place called Pilowitimi, near the Confluence of the Illinois with the Mississippi; on our side of that River; as also that they take great pains by presents etc. to gain the Friendship of all the Indians in that quarter. The Banks of the River above Detroit, is very agreeably settled for about 7 or 8 miles; on the opposite side it is not settled further than 3 or 4 miles up; but below on that side the Settlements extend 7 or 8 miles; and below the Fort, on the other side about 2 miles; though the Land below this down to the mouth of the River, is very fine and levell. Major Gladwin Commanded at this Fort, when it was attacked in 1763 by the Savages; he had about 200 Men in the Fort, with him, Capable of bearing arms; including a few French that Joined him. The Settlers in the Country were suspected of favouring the attack of the Savages on the Fort and either keept quiet in their own houses, or fled to the Woods without giving the Fort any assistance. This Settlement is reckoned able to raise betwixt 250 and 300 Men, able to bear Arms, it supplies almost all the Forts a great way round, with Flour and Indian corn of which they have always very plentifull Cropts, and what is never known to fail; they use at this place, in lieu of Oil the fat of the Bear, melted down, which the Indians bring them in a kind of flask, made of Deer Skin; it was pretty palatable, and does not eat so strong as might be Imagined, about 4 miles above the Fort, I was shown the Spott where Capt. Dalziel and his party, were surprised by the Indians, they had a thing very unusual in their war, like Operations, thrown up in a small Intrenchment behind the pickets of an Inclosure and waited till Captain Dalziel's crossed a small Bridge facing this fence, another party of them were lodged in a house that flanked the Bridge, and on the parties Crossing it, they received them with a heavy fire on all sides, Capt. Dalziel has been blamed for undervaluing the Strength of the Indians too much and not sending out flanking parties when he was on his March in Quest of them -

The price established at Detroit by Custom, for Peltries when received in payment, to witt-

Beaver 5/4 New York Currency Fishers 5/4

Raccoons 1/6 Woolves 4/-

Dear Skin 3/- Martins 3/-

Red do 1/8 Muskratts 4

Fall Skins 1/4 Scraped Leather 2/-

Otters - 10/-

Bears Male 10/-

do female 8/-

Cats and Foxes 2/8

Elks 10/8

Minks 2/-

Furrs, in the upper Country, are usually packed up as follows.

Beavers 80 or 90, in a pack.

Racoons, 150 Skins.

Pichoux, 100 Skins.

Peauxrouge, 50do.

Peaux de Chevreaux, 90 tt

Do. D'Ours 20 Skins.

Do. Otters, 100.

Do. De Cers, 10.

Do. d'Ilinois, 20.

The length of a French Canoe is ordinary 28 to 30 feet, that is those that go to the Upper Country, from Montreal. They Cost usually from 50 to 60 Dollars, and stow in common about 75 to 85 pieces, or packs, of dry goods, for small Barrells weighg. About 70 tt each, and it is computed that with the provisions, necessary for the Men, one of these Canoes, is capable is Carrying 4 Ton dead weight; in going up they Carry usually 6 Men, and in Coming down, only 4 or 5, it being easier to go down the Rapids then go up; on the Voyage the Men are allowed Biscit, Pork and Pease, but on the voyage down, they are allowed nothing but Indian Corn and Bears Grease, which they boil up together, and their Provisions are always found at the expenses of the Bourgeois that fits out the Canoe. The wages of the people in Canada in Spring 1766 was as follows.

A Steersman, or Gouvernail, out and home, Two hund. Livres -

A Front's man, or Avant, nearly the same -

A man in the middle of the Canoe or Ordinary Rower, from One hundred Twenty to 140 Livres.

In former years the wages used to be much higher; they are besides the above prices, allowed a Brigue, or Arse Clout with a pair of Metasses. It is common at Montreal, in engaging people to go in the Canoes, to hire them to go to Michilmakinac or Detroit, and return, and - at these places, they are found with provisions; and if an opportunity does not immediately offer, of loading their Canoes back, they sell their time to the proprietors of some other Canoes, that are bound down, sometime at a Considerable profit, if Men happen to be much wanted; with this the Engagies are Obliged to acquiesce, and for a Security that they are Satisfied with their Labour, the Canoe, nor any part of the furrs can be sold or Conveyed to another till they are Satisfied - for their Wages -

The Schenectady Batteaus are navigated with but three men, they hold at most 14 Rum Barls. generally only 12, Cost usually from 8 to 9 pounds N.Y. Currency a Batteau; a man's wages from Shenectady to Detroit is from L18 to L20, same Currency, to Niagara L12, to Oswego L7 , but they always find themselves and on their arrival at the Posts, are free to return on their own accot., in which Case they usually take the packs at 20/ York Currency pr. pack from Detroit, the Wages to Michilimakinac is commonly L25 N. York Currency, and they find provisions as before, These Batteau's Carry usually 25 or 26 packs, a french Canoe holding very nigh Double what they will - on which Account, and from the Cheapness of Labour in Canada, it is reckoned the Indian Trade is Carried on, on cheaper Terms in Canada, than from Albany or Shenectady. There is another kind of Batteau that is managed by five men, which they Call a French one and Carries about double the quantity of the others. In Crossing the Lake, all the hands must be Consenting in Case of bad Weather, before they get under way, which exempts the Party Objecting, from paying any part of the Loss, in case they are cast away, or meet with Damage, from the negligence of the others. These Batteau-Men are generally paid in Goods by the Merchants of Shenectady, and in generall work very hard for their Livelyhood. The Charge of Carrying Goods from Shenectady to Oswego, is about 20 pr. Ct -

August 27th 1768, having Settled my affairs with Mr. Chabt. As well as the Situation of Matters would admitt off, I set out from Detroit on board the Sloop Charlotte, Captain Gage, the Kings Vessell on Lake Erie.

From: JOURNAL OF J.L. OF QUEBEC, MERCHANT. Published by the Society of Colonial Wars of the State of Michigan: Detroit, 1911: 36-44.

See Also:

Dictionary of Canadian Biography 5: 483-484.