Samuel R. Brown [1775-1817]
The American side of the strait receives the rivers Aux
Ecorces and Rouge; the first is at the distance of ten, the latter five
miles below Detroit. The Rouge is a deep slow stream, capable of
admitting vessels of three hundred tons five miles from its mouth, where
there is a ship yard; The United States brig Adams was built here: its
banks are thickly settled by French. Several Indian villages are
established on its head water. The mouths of Aux Ecorces and Rouge are
wide and contain many hundred acres of folle avoine. The road from Aux Ecorces to Brownstown passes on hard dry land and through several groves of lofty white oak timber.
Three miles below Detroit are the Spring Wells, or Belle
Fontaine. The bank is here about thirty feet high, and presents one of
the finest views imaginable. You have a full view of the Canadian shore
for ten or fifteen miles, Sandwich, Detroit, Les Cotes, and the
windmills of both shores.
The town of Detroit is situated on the western bank of the
strait, nine miles below lake St. Clair, and eighteen above Brownstown.
- The town contains about two hundred houses, which are inhabited by
more than one thousand two hundred souls; under one roof, are often
crowded several families. The town stands contiguous to the river, on
the top of the bank, which are here about twenty feet high. There are
several wooden wharves extending into the river upwards of one hundred
feet, for the accommodation of the shipping; the largest was built by
the United States, and is found very convenient for the unloading of
vessels. The principal streets run parallel with the river, and
intersected by cross streets at right angles. They are wide, but not
being paved, are extremely muddy in wet weather; but for the
accommodation of passengers, there are foot ways in most of them, formed
of square logs. Every house has a garden attached to it; the buildings
are mostly framed, though there are several elegant stone and brick
buildings. Before the great fire in 1806, the town was surrounded by a
strong stockade, through which there were four gates; two of them open
to the wharves, the others to the land; this defence was intended to
repel the attacks of the Indians.
The fort stands on a rise of ground two hundred yards in the rear
of the town; the fortifications consist of a stockade of cedar pickets,
with bastions of earth; near the foot of the ditch is a row of short
sharp pickets, inclining outwards - thirty pieces of cannon can be
mounted on the ramparts; the fort covers about an acre and a half of
The proximity of one house to another from lake St. Clair
to the river Rouge, gives the street the resemblance of the suburbs of a
great town. The farms are only twenty rods wide on the river, and
extend back one mile and a quarter; the same of those on the other
rivers, as well as those on the British side. The country round Detroit
is very much cleared. The inhabitants have to draw their wood a mile and
a half, from the United States lands, in the rear of the town. It sells
in market for three dollars a cord; almost every farm has an orchard;
apples, pears, and peaches do well - several hundred barrels of cider
are annually made, and sells as high as six dollars a barrel. The land
rises gradually from the river to the distance of three hundred yards;
it then recedes till the country becomes low and level, and continues so
four or five miles, when it rises by degrees, and at this distance is
represented as first rate land.
There are a number of stores, which appear to have a brisk
trade, and they know how to obtain an exhorbitant price for every thing
The United States have a long elegant brick store at the
water's edge, near the public wharf, this is completely filled the
spoils of the enemy taken on the Thames - and the [ ]of the volunteers.
This building is 80 feet long, 30 wide, and three stories high. The
enemy had partly unroofed it, but it was soon repaired.
The streets of Detroit are generally crowded with Indians
of various tribes, who collect here to sell their skins. You will hear
them whooping and shouting in the streets, the whole night. A few days
after Proctor's defeat, the town was so full of famished savages, that
the issue of rations to them did not keep pace with their hunger. I have
seen the women and children, searching about the ground for bones and
rinds of pork, which had been thrown away by the soldiers; meat, in a
high state of putrifaction, which had been thrown in the river, was
carefully picked up and devoured; the feet, heads, and entails of the
cattle slaughtered by the pubic butchers, were collected and sent off to
the neighboring villages. I have counted twenty horses in a drove,
fancifully decorated with the offals of the slaughter-yard.
It is no more than an act of justice, to the Indians, to
state, that during their p[ ]of the place, they conducted better than
could reasonably have been expected from Savages. What they wanted to
eat, they took without ceremony, but rarely committed any other outrage.
The inhabitants are plentifully supplied with many kinds
of excellent fish - the white bass, nearly as large as a shad, are
caught with seins, and in great quantities. The population is three
fourths of French extraction, and very few understand any other language
- They are excessively fond of music and dancing. There is a kind of
nunnery, a Roman chapel for devotion and singing: a wretched printing
office in which religious French books are printed in a rude style.
Learning is almost wholly neglected. In 1809, James M. Miller, of Utica,
established a weekly paper entitled the " Michigan Essay," but did not meet with sufficient encouragement to continue it beyond the third number.
From: VIEWS OF THE CAMPAIGNS OF THE NORTH-WESTERN ARMY, &c. COMPRISING, SKETCHES OF THE CAMPAIGNS OF GENERAL HULL AND HARRISON. By Samuel R. Brown. Philadelphia: Printed for William G. Murphey, 1815: 152 -156.