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Indians Roamed The Area

Coral Centennial 1862-1962 (excerpt)
by Marion Greenberg

In an effort to give a brief but fairly accurate story of the Indian tribes who were most prevalent in the Michigan Territory in the early 1800's we find the following. After many battles with Indian and British fleets on Lake Erie this final battle extinguished the hopes of Victory entertained by Indians of the Northwest. The Michigan Indians and other tribes sent delegations to offer peace and the warriors returned to their villages and never more took part in the war which closed a little over a year later. By a treaty concluded at Springwells near Detroit on the 8th of September in 1815 ( Treaty With The Wyandot Etc 1815, a peace treaty between the US and the Indians after their alliance with Great Britain in The War Of 1812), it was stipulated that "The United States give peace to the Chippewa, Ottawa and Pottawattomie (Potawatomi) tribes". They had all their rights and privileges restored and agreed to place themselves under the protection of the United States and no other power what-so-ever.

Their followers thus wandered disorganized and practically subjugated in small bands over the Michigan peninsula. By the time the English speaking whites began to settle in Michigan it was no unusual thing to find all three tribes represented in one small band.Gen. Cass, then governor of the territory and Indian Commissioner, convened the Chiefs of Chippewas in Council at Saginaw in September 1819. There were 3 councils held. Then the treaty was signed, piles of silver half dollars were placed on the table as payment to the Indians (worth) 1,500 dollars. 

Under this treaty of Saginaw of 1819, there was a territory of about 6 million acres added to the United States government for which the government was to pay the Chippewa tribe the sum of 1000 dollars annually forever. This treaty covered land from Northern Ohio north to, and covering Jackson county, Kalamazoo, Barry, Ionia, Montcalm, Isabella, Clare, Roscommon, Crawford, and Oscoda Counties.

Under the treaty of Chicago in 1821 this covered all lands from a line with the south end of Lake Michigan, north to Grand River of Lake Michigan.

Next came the most important treaty of all of them, the Treaty of Washington in 1836. This treaty more important in results than the previous ones, is- a compact which extinguished the Indian title to much of the upper and a large part of the lower peninsulas, which invested the general government with the ownership of Keen, Otisco and Orleans townships in Ionia County and at least 4-5 of the present Montcalm. Hon. Henry R. Schoolcraft on the part of the United States and Chiefs of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians signed this treaty.

Thus we have followed and renewed the various treaties which led to the gradual extinguishment of the Indian titles. True many Indians were still here when the white settlers came, but, according to treaty stipulations, they had a right to be here until the lands occupied by them were wanted for actual settlement or had passed from the ownership of the general government to individuals. When the whites came as settlers, therefore, the Indians, as they had agreed in their treaties retired readily, yet mournfully from their old haunts, their cultivated patches, and their villages to still deeper wilds of the great Northern Wilderness.

In the Greenville area, up until 1844, the land was in sole possession of the wandering tribes of the Blacksmith and Wabasis Indians. On the Flat River north of here in 1849, a band called the Blacksmith Indians, numbering a dozen or more, occupied a 40 acre patch. They lived in huts and eked out a precarious existence by hunting and fishing and sugar making, until the filling up of the country drove out the game, then they made off more northerly latitudes.

When Eureka township was organized in 1850, the name chosen for it was Wa-ba-sis, long before this, after an Indian Chief (who relates his son) for having offended his tribe in deeding certain lands to the United States government, Chief Wa-ba-sis was condemned to be banished to that region of country lying north of Wa-ba-sis creek and west of Flat River, the understanding being that he was not to venture south of the creek under penalty of death. Unfortunately for him, he allowed designing Indians to persuade him to take part in a Pow-Wow at the mouth of the Flat River and during the ceremonies he was set upon and killed.

There were Indian Camps in the following places in Montcalm County.

The Village of Lakeview occupies the site of an Indian village near the shore of Tamarack Lake. This Indian village when first visited by white man, consisted of perhaps 50 lodges and a population of several hundred, the wigwams were arranged in two rows which formed a street.

The Douglass township, near the center, was an Indian settlement or nearly forty families under Shogwogino. In 1860 the entire tribe, with the exception of three families, were removed to the north by the government. It appears from the clearing made and being tilled and free of stumps, that they had lived here for many years. There are still a number of their graves and several apple orchards they had planted.

In Montcalm township in about the year 1845 an incident occurred which shows the strong reverence of the Indian for his ancient customs. In the spring of that year the band known as the Blacksmith family being a branch of the Ottawa tribe, went, as had been their custom, to the far north for the purpose of making maple-sugar. While so engaged one of their number, a woman, was taken suddenly ill and died. The Band set out at once to return to deposit the corpse in the cemetery of their forefathers, located near Greenville. In the northern part Montcalm County- probably in the region of Six Lakes, they secured a canoe, and by means of it descended the river as far as Lincoln's Mill, known then as Barr's Mill. Here they desired L. H. Pratt to take his team and wagons and convey the corpse to its destination, manifesting great anxiety that the burial should take place just as the sun reached the Meridian. The horses were soon attached, the corpse wrapped in a cloak, placed in the center of the wagon-box, while the mourners arranged themselves on either side.

Upon reaching the burial place they dug a shallow grave, and, with a spoon, knife, and bowl as an introduction of a faithful squaw to the happy land, they interred the corpse. The trio subsequently moved north.

Finally in Pine Township, to the east of Maple Valley in 1851-1852 a group of men known as the John Green Company, began the erection of a mill. At that time there were no settlers or human habitation, aside from those of the Indians within its confines.

There was also an Indian Camp ground on the north end of Townline Lake (now called Winfield Lake where Krampe Park is), north and east of the village of Coral.


Large Montcalm County Indian communities such as on Tamarack Lake where Lakeview town is now, the Entrican area, and a camp on the north end of Winfield Lake (the lake Krampe Park is on and previously known as Townline Lake), moved north or were removed by the US government for white settlers.

Trufant Indians (excerpt)
by Gerald Pike

Apparently at one time a band of Indians camped on the bank of the creek about where the ball-park is now.  The reason for believing this is the fact that several arrow heads were found in the area of the ball park and creek bank. 

Maple Valley Village Indians
by unknown

Tom Kain tells of the story where his Grandmother Mary (O'Conner) Kain had an illness and was being treated by the Indians.  They traded medicine for bread.  One time Mrs. Kain didn't have enough bread  to pay for the medicine so the Indians took the medicine outside and poured some on the ground and left enough to pay for the bread they were getting.  

Indian Trails
History of Montcalm County (excerpt)
by John W. Dasef

...two trails converging at Cocoosh village (Indian village near now towns Lyons and Muir in Ionia county MI) bore off to the northwest, through Ionia and Ronald townships, into Montcalm county.  Another left the Grand River trail in the side of the present city of Ionia, and taking a northwest course across the townships of Easton and Orleans, intersected in the vicinity of Kiddville the main Flat River trail, which followed the course of that stream from its mouth away northward into the pine forsts of Montcalm county (roughly along M-91?).

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