Stephen H. Long (1784-1864) made five exploring expeditions
between 1816 and 1823. On the 1823 trip he came to Detroit. Long's
expedition was scientific. His goal was to investigate the character and
customs of the Indians, describe the country, and determine the the
latitude and longitude of important points in the country. The
expedition cost more than had been budgeted by the government, hence
Long's concern about funds in Detroit.
October 10, 1823. The river St. Clair meanders thro' a very beautiful
country, apparently well adapted to cultivation. On its banks,
especially on the American side, the settlements are pretty numerous and
exhibit a flourishing aspect.
Passed into Lake St. Clair, a beautiful sheet of water,
about 20 miles long and 10 to 15 broad. On its shores are numerous
settlements in a flourishing condition and a few villages of respectable
size. Seven miles below the Lake is the Town of Detroit, at which we
arrived at 3 o'clock, P.M. Dist. 50 miles.
Saturday, October 11, 1823. At Detroit we expected to
receive letters from our friends and a fresh supply of funds from the
War Department, but with respect to the latter were completely
disappointed, none having been transmitted and no prospect of their
arriving in season to answer our purpose. On our departure from
Philadelphia no more than $500 were taken to meet the exigencies of the
Expedition, which was thought a sum sufficient to defray our expenses
till we had passed beyond the settlements. Thence to this place it was
expected that game of one description or another sufficient for the
subsistence of the party would be taken, but we very much deceived in
this calculation, the whole of the game taken on the tour being no more
than was necessary for our support for a single week. To make up for
these miscalculations, recourse was had to the credit of the expedition,
and by means of the polite credential furnished by Mr. Canning, the
British minister, to the comdg. Officer, as also by the credit of the
latter with some of his friends whom we chanced to meet with on the
journey, all needfull supplies were obtained at his own individual
responsibility. In order to cover the expenses of our journey from this
place to Philadelphia, $500 had been called for in two different
communications with an earnest solicitation to the War Department (thro'
Gen. McComb), that this small sum might be transmitted in season for
the use of the party on their arrival at Detroit. But being
disappointed, as before remarked, we again had recourse to the private
responsibility of Maj. L., who succeeded in raising a sum sufficient for
our present purposes.
At Detroit we were politely received by Gov. Cass who today
invited the gentlemen of the party to a dinner given by himself on their
Sunday, October 12, 1823. We were invited to attend church
by Governor Cass and accordingly accompanied him, not a little gratified
that we again were within the land of religious instruction. The
clergyman was a presbyterian and had for his subject the Decalogue on
moral law, which he expounded in a very able tho' not elegant manner.
The religious societies of Detroit consist of Presbyterians,
Catholics and Methodists, of which the two former have each a house of
public worship. That of the Catholics was constructed at a very
considerable expense, but the elegance of the building is by no means
answerable to its cost. It is a very spacious building, has two
steeples, two cupolas, and in the centre a dome. It is built principally
of stone. The Presbyterian Church is of respectable size, and in its
external has considerable claim to neatness if not elegance.
Monday, October 13, 1823... The country below the the Sault
of St. Marie assumes a very different aspect from that above. Its rocks
are uniformly of a secondary character, its surface undulating,
exhibiting hills of moderate height and gentle acclivity with occasional
precipices, which is characteristic of a large proportion of Michigan
Territory. The country is well timbered, its forests comprising an
extensive variety of timber-trees and shrubbery. Among the former the
sugar tree, maple, hiccory, oak, ash, beach, black-walnut &c. are
plentiful, & among the latter are the Hazle, the arrow-wood, grape
vine, wild hop, rasberry &c. &c.
The Lake shores present extensive sand beeches in many
places, tho' the coast is more generally rocky bound and precipitous.
The rivers St. Clair and Detroit are merely straights, the former
communicating between Lakes Huron and St. Clair, and the latter between
the Lake last mentioned and Lake Erie. They have a current of about 2
1/2 miles an hour, which moves with an accellerated velocity in one or
two places in the river St. Clair called rapids.
Lake St. Clair is a beautiful sheet of water of moderate
depth and consequently of difficult navigation in many parts of it, and
is handsomely adorned with numerous flourishing settlements which have
recently formed on its margin. A number of wind-mills which have been
erected at the lower end of the lake gave additional beauty and interest
to the scene.
It is obvious to the traveller that the settlements on the
American side are much more flourishing and numerous than on the Canada
Detroit is situated about 4 miles below Lake St. Clair on
the west, or rather SW, bank of the river bearing its name. It extends
along the shore of the river about one mile, and occupies a portion of
the beautiful plain commencing at the margin & reaching back from
the river nearly a mile, where it is terminated by low woodlands.
Indeed, the country along the banks both of St. Clair and Detroit rivers
is of a similar character, presenting very many sites eligible for
settlements, many of which are already occupied. A short distance below
Detroit on the opposite side of the river is the small village of
Sandwich, which like most of the English settlements in this quarter
exhibits no very thriving aspect.
Tuesday, October 14, 1823. During our stay at Detroit we
were treated with much politeness, especially by His Excellency Gov.
Cass, who kindly volunteered his carriage for the transportation of the
gentlemen of the party to such places as they wished to visit, and with
the utmost hospitality invited us to participate in the viands of his
Having waited for the Steam Boat from Buffalo, which arrived
early this morning, we embarked on board of her at 4 o'clock P.M. and
proceeded on our voyage.
From: THE NORTHERN EXPEDITIONS OF STEPHEN H. LONG, THE JOURNALS OF 1817 AND 1823 AND RELATED DOCUMENTS. Edited by Lucile M. Kane, June D. Holmquist, and Carolyn Gilman. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1978: 248 -251.
Nichols, Roger L. Stephen Long and American Frontier Exploration. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1980.
Wood, Richard George. Stephen Harriman Long, 1784-1864: Army Engineer, Explorer, Inventor. Glendale, CA: A.H. Clark, 1966.