1813 Brown

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 ground.

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 sold.

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.