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Old Wing Mission: The Chronicles of the Reverend George N. and Arvilla Powers Smith, Missionary Teachers of Chief Wakazoo's Ottawa Indian Band in Western Michigan, 1838-1849

Robert P. Swierenga and William Van Appledorn


A.C. Van Raalte Institute

Hope College

Holland, Michigan



Charles J. Lorenz

Whose labor of love made this book possible

In Appreciation

Avis D. Wolfe

For her knowledge of the George N. Smith family history,
and her diligence in preserving it for posterity

Chapter 1 History of Old Wing Mission Robert P. Swierenga
Chapter 2 George N. Smith Memoranda and Diaries, 1839-1849
Chapter 3 Arvilla Powers Smith Diary, 1832-1845
Chapter 4 Arvilla Powers Smith, A Pioneer Woman
Chapter 5 Etta Smith Wilson, Life and Work of the Late Rev. George N. Smith: A Pioneer Missionary
Chapter 6 Annual Reports and Correspondence with the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, 1839-1850
1. Progeny of George N. and Arvilla Powers Smith
2. Chief Wakazoo Family Ancestry
3. Chronology of Construction of Old Wing Mission of Rev. George N. Smith
4. Ownership History of the Old Wing Mission Property


Old Wing Mission on the Allegan-Ottawa County border was preeminent among the Indian mission stations on the Michigan frontier, all of which were staffed by Presbyterian and Congregational missionaries under the jurisdiction of the superintendent of Indian affairs at the Mackinac Agency in Detroit. Old Wing was the only station to have a missionary teacher in the employ of the government. In all the other stations, churches or private societies had to support missionary teachers. Old Wing also had a government-appointed agricultural teacher, as did several of other stations.

The Protestant mission stations in Michigan, besides Old Wing, included the Mackinaw Mission to the Chippewas on Mackinac Island (1822-1837) run by the Reverend William M. Ferry and his wife Amanda White Ferry; the Thomas Station of the Reverend Isaac McCoy to the Ottawas and Chippewas at the Thornapple River near Grand Rapids, which closed in 1836; the Ottawa Baptist Mission of Elder Leonard Slater at Gun Plains in Barry County, established in 1838 to replace the Thomas Station; the Reverend James Selkrig's Griswold Episcopal Mission to the Ottawas at Bradley in Allegan County established in 1839; the Methodist Mission of the Reverend A.C. Fitch to the Pottawatomies near Marshall in Calhoun County; the Reverend Peter Dougherty's Presbyterian Station to the Ottawas at Old Mission in Grand Traverse County; Abel Bingham's Baptist Mission to the Chippewas at Sault Ste. Marie, the Reverend Wm A. Brockway's Methodist Mission at Little Rapids and at Kewawenon (near Sault Ste. Marie), and the Reverend George Bradley's Methodist Mission to the Swan Creek and Black River band of Chippewas at Flint. Stephen Fairbanks was appointed in 1843 as agricultural agent for both the Ottawa and Griswold missions. All these Indian ministries were spurred by the evangelical fervor awakened by the Second Great Awakening of the 1820s.

Government policy under president Andrew Jackson and his successors, Martin Van Buren and James Polk, was to force American Indians to move west across the Mississippi River into "Indian Territory" or become settled farmers like white settlers on the frontier. Chief Joseph Wakazoo (the chief signed his name without the "u" the corrupted spelling, "Waukazoo," came into general usage among Americans in the early twentieth century) and his Black River Band of Ottawas, one of the three tribes that dominated in Michigan, along with the Chippewa and Potawatomie, chose the latter course, as did all the mission Indians. With the help of the Presbyterian Church of Michigan, Wakazoo's band hired the Reverend George N. Smith (1807-1881) to lead them. Smith and his wife, Arvilla Almira Powers (1808-1895), both kept daily diaries, George for nearly fifty years and Arvilla for eleven years. These rare, historic documents, numbering in the thousands of pages, provide a clear picture of life on the Michigan Indian frontier. They also reveal the intense religious struggles between Catholic priests and Protestant preachers for the souls of the Indians and the cultural conflicts that marked Indian-white relations. Smith and the mission Indians shared a deep bond of affection and even deep love for one another, but troubles surfaced repeatedly because of differing expectations regarding schooling for the children, Sabbath observance, alcohol use (and abuse), farming practices, and other issues of life-style and values.

Smith family descendents preserved most of the writings of their progenitors, which are held today in the National Archives and the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan. In the 1980s, historian Charles J. Lorenz of Saugatuck, Michigan, uncovered these documents and laboriously transcribed the writings pertaining to the 1840s, which provide a detailed history of the Old Wing Mission. In 1849 Wakazoo's band relocated permanently to the Leelanau-Grand Traverse Bay region (now Northport), and the mission continued under a new name for another forty years.

This book includes the entire diary and reminiscences of Arvilla Powers Smith, but only that portion of George Smith's voluminous memoranda and diaries pertaining to the Old Wing Mission (1839-1849) located in the Black Lake watershed of Lake Michigan. When the mission was relocated to the north country in 1849, the geographical setting and community social networks changed drastically. The Northport mission deserves its own account, but our interest is primarily in the early history of what is now Holland. More importantly for our purposes, Smith's daily annotations degenerated into little more than reporting on the weather and the title and scripture text of his Sunday morning sermons. Climatologists and weather historians may find the daily record of high and low temperatures, rainfall amounts, and cloud conditions to be of interest, but the record is less gripping for social historians.

Sickness and death were common on the frontier, and both diarists recount in agonizing detail the misery of unhealthy living conditions and the primitive state of medical care. But students of midwifery, diseases, folk remedies, and medicines such as opium and quinine will be fascinated by the first-person accounts of the primitive practice of medicine on the Indian frontier.

Another aspect of the story of Old Wing Mission that will intrigue scholars of Indian-white relations is the decision of the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte in 1847 to plant his Holland Colony in the midst of the Ottawa Indian Mission Colony. Within two years, several thousand Dutch settlers fresh from the Netherlands were cutting down trees and opening farms in and around the Indian settlement. The white "invasion" was generally peaceful, although sharply differing cultural values caused friction, and in 1849, Chief Peter Wakazoo, Chief Joseph's brother and successor, in order to preserve the Indian way of life and culture, led the band to relocate to Northport. There they continued their hunting and gathering ways. But in less than a decade whites pushed into this region as well, and the Indians had to learn to live on their own farms among the whites. Some descendents of Wakazoo's band still reside in the Grand Traverse region.


"Old" Chief Joseph Wakazoo

Father Frederic Baraga

Judge John R. Kellogg

Father Andreas Viszosky

Dr. Osman D. Goodrich

Isaac Fairbanks

Old Wing Mission, 1892

George Harrington

The Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte

Gravestone of Smith children

The Rev. George N. Smith

Exemplar of George N. Smith Memorandum

Arvilla Almira Powers Smith

Exemplar of Arvilla Smith diary

George N. and Arvilla Smith, with daughters, 1868

Old Wing Mission, 2006


1.1 Protestant Indian Mission Stations in Michigan

1.2 Michigan Indian Land Cessions, 1795-1836

1.3 Old Wing Mission Indian Tracts, 1840

1.4 Old Wing Mission and Western Michigan Region, 1840s

1.5 Black Lake with the Indian Landing and Point Superior, 1840s

1.6 Old Wing Mission Site Today

6.1 Osman D. Goodrich Map of Old Wing Mission


Many people assisted in the publication of this documentary history, but none more than the late Charles J. Lorenz of Saugatuck, Michigan. In 1984 Lorenz and his wife, Christine, purchased the historic home of the Reverend George N. and Arvilla Powers Smith, which was constructed in 1844-45 and served as the heart and center of the Old Wing Mission, and converted it into a bed and breakfast. The building, Holland's oldest historic landmark home, has a rich history that is important to Native Americans, Dutch Americans, and all those interested in Christian missions to the Indians. The Lorenzes carried forward the restoration of the home and brought it up to code with new electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, and exterior materials.

More important for this publication, Charles Lorenz took upon himself the Herculean task of locating and transcribing the original memoranda and diaries of George N. and Arvilla A. Powers Smith. He learned to decipher the very challenging handwriting of both George and Arvilla, which task was further complicated by oft-faded ink or ink that bled through the paper onto the other side. Lorenz's quest for source documents took him to research libraries in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Leland, and Washington, D.C., and he also searched the U.S. Senate Executive Documents, known as the "Serial Set," to find reports and correspondence pertaining to Old Wing Mission in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Finally, Lorenz began the task of editing the diaries, compiling lists of Indian families living under the protection of the Old Wing Mission, and writing the first history of the Mission and the labors of George and Arvilla Smith on the Michigan frontier. Lorenz donated copies of all his materials and writings to the Holland Museum Archives before his death in 1994. We are very grateful to Christine Lorenz for granting us permission to use the material that Charles collected and transcribed.

As editors, of course, we were obligated to reread every word of the original diaries and other documents. But to do so in front of a computer screen containing the Lorenz transcription made our task so much easier. All we had to do was determine if our reading of each word and sentence in the original copies agreed with that of Lorenz or not, and if not, whether he or we had the better sense of the text. We take responsibility, of course, for the edition published here and believe it is the most accurate rendition humanly possible.

We also profited greatly from the knowledge of Avis D. Wolfe of Northport, the wife of Clarence B. Wolfe, a descendent of both the Wakazoo and Smith families. Clarence and Avis Wolfe remain active members in the church that Smith commenced in Northport. Avis Wolfe has shared her historical insights and documents freely over the years with Holland area scholars and local institutions, namely the Holland Museum, Herrick Public Library, and the Joint Archives of Holland. More important for this book, she allowed the Joint Archives of Holland to photocopy her voluminous transcriptions of George Smith's Memoranda for the years 1850-1879, and we learned much from them, though we decided not to include these years in this volume. Avis Wolfe and Will Reyer, a descendent of Arvilla Aurelia Smith, daughter of George N. and Arvilla, helped us compile the genealogies of the Wakazoo and Smith families that are found in appendices 1 and 2. James Evenhuis provided genealogical and historical information on the Isaac Fairbanks family and their ownership history of the Old Wing Mission house. Professional abstractor John C. Pahl of the Allegan County Abstract Office graciously compiled a detailed chain of title of the Smith property from 1840 to the present, which gave legal structure to the family recollections.

Special thanks are due Joanna B. Stormer Smith, who readily gave us permission to include the biography of George N. Smith by his granddaughter, Etta Smith Wilson, entitled The Life and Work of the Late Rev. George N. Smith: A Pioneer Missionary. The work was published in 1906 and forms chapter 5 of this volume. Steven Hainstock of Leslie, Michigan, gave us copies of letters of George N. Smith, which we transcribed and included in the book.

For insights into the diseases and primitive medicines and folk remedies of the Michigan Indian frontier, as noted frequently in these writings, we are indebted to Dr. Jan Peter Verhave, professor of parasitology in the Medical School, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and a visiting research fellow at the A.C. Van Raalte Institute in the fall of 2006. Based on his book, Disease and Death among the Early Settlers in Holland Michigan (Holland, Mich.: A.C. Van Raalte Institute, 2007), Verhave provided the information for the footnotes that describe each of the various medicines and folk remedies mentioned in George N. Smith's memoranda and diaries. Smith, though lacking medical training, quickly gained a rudimentary knowledge of drugs and diseases from the few physicians in the region, specifically, Dr. Osman D. Goodrich of Allegan (1839-44), Dr. Chauncey B. Goodrich (no relation) of Newark/Saugatuck (1845-47), Dr. Horatio N. Monroe of Grand Haven (1847-48), and Dr. C.D. Shenick of Holland (1849-54). These physicians provided Smith with medicines and medical instruments such as syringes to treat the mission Indians and his own family. Since neither a stethoscope (then made of wood) nor a clinical thermometer is mentioned, it is likely that Smith did not make use of these instruments, which first come into general use in the 1820s and 1830s.

Geoffrey Reynolds, director of the Joint Archives of Holland at Hope College, obtained photocopies or microfilm of the original documents from the Holland Museum Archives, the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan, and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Lori Trethewey, secretary in the Joint Archives, dutifully and cheerfully placed herself at our beck and call to bring from the archives vault the documents that we requested, sometimes several times a day. Reynolds also scanned all the photos and maps to create digital images. Elaine Bruins, a volunteer at the archives, transformed into electronic form the many hundreds of pages of typed transcriptions by Lorenz of the diaries of George N. and Arvilla Smith. Hope College student employee Alisa Juday keyed into electronic format other documents, notably George Smith's annual reports to the Michigan Superintendent of Indian Affairs and other pertinent correspondence (chap. 6).


The history of the American Indians has been told largely by white Americans. This book is no exception. The two major documents are the diaries of a Protestant missionary and his wife, who spent their entire married lives among a band of Ottawa Indians in West Michigan. The pair raised their five children in the Indian way, learned the Algonquin language of the tribe, sent their children to an Indian school, and worshiped with Indians as often as possible. Their eldest daughter married the chief's nephew. So, although the diaries relate the thoughts and ideas of white teachers, the fact that the Smith family lived among hundreds of Indians for forty years gives their accounts an authenticity that is lacking in many.

Here we see the rhythm of daily life on the Michigan Indian frontier in the 1840s, notably the semiannual migration of the Black Lake Band of Ottawas from L'Arbre Croche (present-day Harbor Springs) to the Black Lake watershed in the fall and the return migration to the north in the spring. Most of the winter was spent trapping fur-bearing animals to earn cash at the Mackinac Island rendezvous or to barter for essential supplies and manufactured goods. In late winter when the sap ran in the maple trees, the major task shifted to the manufacture of sugar cakes for the Chicago market, which also provided the Indians with cash income. The annual government treaty payment at Mackinac Island, and later at Grand Rapids, marked another milepost in Indian life. All the men gathered on the appointed day to meet the superintendent of Indian Affairs and to receive annuities of cash, goods, and provisions. Traders came in droves to ply the Indians with liquor and relieve them of their cash.

The Smiths accepted the Indians as friends and dealt with them as equals, but relations were often strained. There was misunderstanding and differing visions on both sides. The Indians wanted their teacher to represent them before American authorities and help them preserve their traditional way of life. A rudimentary education for the children in the three R's was acceptable, but nothing more. But the missionary teacher and the agricultural agent had other ideas. Their object was to reshape the Indians into Protestant Americans. This meant that each family should farm their own land in the European way, send their children to school for the entire winter, and attend Christian (preferably Protestant) worship services each Sunday. Smith added his own goals to persuade the men to sign the temperance pledge and the parents to turn from the "black robes" (Catholic priests) to Protestant ministers for worship and the sacraments, and for the ceremonies marking the major passages of life, especially marriage and burial.

The first chapter offers a historical overview of the Old Wing Mission, under the leadership of George and Arvilla Smith, and the Ottawa Indian band of Chief Joseph Wakazoo. (Wakazoo wrote his name without the u, as in Waukazoo, which spelling came into general use in the twentieth century.) The story begins in the mid-1830s, when Smith and his young family arrived in western Michigan to find their way in Christian ministry within the Congregational Church. In the mysterious ways of Providence, Smith ended up in Indian mission work in the employ of the Presbyterian Classis of Michigan and under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society. This story is told in chapter 1, which ends with the arrival of thousands of Dutch immigrants in the Holland Colony of the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte. The tide of settlers forced the Indians to leave their winter haunts around Black Lake and remain permanently at their summer hunting grounds in the Leelanau Peninsula of Grand Traverse Bay.

Chief Wakazoo was eager to place his band under Smith's tutelage because in 1830 the Andrew Jackson Administration had Congress enact the Indian Removal Act, which intended to relocate all eastern tribes west of the Mississippi River. In a series of treaties, the Michigan Indian tribes had surrendered to the United States all their lands in the state in exchange for annual annuity payments. The natives could remain living on their ancestral lands only until white farmers wanted them. The only way to avoid this dire outcome was to buy their own farms (which required special dispensation by Congress) and go through the motions of becoming American farmers, under the tutelage of a teacher or farming agent, who would be their advocate and defender against capricious government actions.

The heart of the book is the lengthy second chapter, containing George N. Smith's daily memoranda entries from 1839, when the mission was founded, until December 31, 1850, some eighteen months after the relocation to Northport. Smith was born in Swanton, Vermont, the son of a strict Calvinist farm family. Besides learning the ways of subsistence farming, he was apprenticed to a millwright and carpenter. This work experience served him well in helping his family survive the rigors of frontier Michigan, where he had to provide for almost all the food, provisions, and housing. He traveled on foot or by pony, milked his own cow, hunted and butchered wild game for meat, preserved food by salting, and designed and helped build his own house and schoolhouse.

Smith made profession of faith in 1828 in the Swanton Congregational Church, after rejecting the appeals of his employer to join the Univeralist Church. He then felt called to Christian ministry and began studying Latin at St. Albans Academy. Here he met Arvilla Almira Powers, a Methodist who shared his Calvinist beliefs and was studying to be a teacher. The couple became engaged in November 1829 and married July 4, 1830. Both taught school while George continued theological studies under a learned and pious local cleric. The migration fever that was sweeping across Vermont at the time infected the struggling young couple, and they would have headed west but for Arvilla's difficult pregnancy and the birth of their first child, George Jr., in 1832.

The next year, after Smith completed his rudimentary ministerial studies, the couple and Arvilla's sister Jane, set off for the Kalamazoo region in Michigan Territory, where some acquaintances had gone before. The Lower Peninsula of Michigan was essentially a New England outpost in the 1830s and 1840s. George had little choice but to go west, because his path to the pastorate in Vermont was blocked by the refusal of his clerical patron to recommend him; the minister was an ardent Mason and Smith strongly opposed the secret order. Arvilla had serious misgivings about leaving the security of family, since she suffered ill health and the couple had no money. But George prevailed; "his will was law," Arvilla noted. Indeed, she lived her life in keeping with the Lord's curse on Eve: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen. 2:16).

The Smith family left Vermont virtually penniless, having only a sixpence between them, British coin worth six cents. George sold his watch en route for five dollars to tide them over. They journeyed to Michigan for twenty-one days, traversing the Erie Canal in a towboat, taking a schooner from Buffalo to Detroit, and from there a wagon to Gull Prairie (now Richland) in Kalamazoo County. There the young family found itself a thousand miles from home among total strangers "destitute of everything." A Presbyterian minister in Gull Prairie befriended the destitute family, took the Smiths into his home, and hired George to help put up a barn. Extreme poverty was to be their lot in life for the next decade, until 1844, when George Smith won a regular stipend from the U.S. government as teacher of the Ottawas.

During the first decade in West Michigan, Smith's career took so many agonizing turns that only a firm belief in God's providence could sustain the couple. Their second-born, another son, died shortly after birth. George worked with his hands and continued studying for the ministry at night. Finally, in 1835, he saw a ray of hope when congregations in Plainwell and Oswego hired him to preach on alternate Sundays, but the pay was meager. The next year the Congregational Presbytery of St. Joseph, Michigan, licensed him to preach and added the Gull Prairie and Gun Plains congregations to his circuit. In 1837 the presbytery ordained Smith as the first Congregational minister in Michigan. That fall, while in Allegan at a church meeting, Smith heard Ottawa Chief Joseph Wakazoo give an impassioned appeal for a missionary teacher for his band. Smith's heart melted and he felt led by God to respond. He and Wakazoo bonded quickly and Smith set about to meet his request for help.

In January 1838, a group of Michigan Congregationalists and Presbyterians, both clerics and laymen, founded the Western Michigan Society to Benefit the Indians, an Allegan-based organization under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society, to sponsor Smith as Indian missionary to instruct the Ottawas in the ways of God, the "three R's," western farming techniques, and the mysteries of the American government. The Presbyterian Classis of Michigan agreed to provide minimal financial support until such time as the federal government would hire Smith as teacher. The society's board appointed Smith to direct the mission in November, and within a month he began a school in Allegan for the children of Wakazoo's band.

The next year, 1839, as the band attracted new members, Smith and Wakazoo managed to obtain permission from the U.S. Congress for the Indian families to buy public land individually at the Ionia Land Office. They chose a site for the mission along the South Branch of the Black River in northern Allegan County (now Fillmore Township), and the Indians entered twelve hundred acres of fertile farmland on which they raised small amounts of corn, pumpkins, potatoes, and beans. The Indians chose the name Old Wing for the mission, in honor of Chief Joseph's famed brother Chief Wing who had died recently. Smith soon added Sunday worship services to his school teaching duties.

Smith began keeping a daily diary on New Year's Day of 1839, which swelled to several thousand pages over the next forty years. Most of the entries are mundane weather conditions, farm tasks and animal husbandry, sickness in the family, and activities with the Indians. A number of times he reports going to search for the family milk cow, who every few months would wander off from two to twenty miles. Once the cow wandered sixty [!] miles away, almost to Kalamazoo. The scenario would be humorous if it weren't so desperate; the young children needed the milk to live.

During the school months we find attendance reports, and each Sunday Smith recorded the Bible text, sermon topic, and number of Indians in attendance. In the early years, more often than not, no Indians came; they preferred the Catholic services to which they were accustomed. These took place at the Landing, as Smith referred to the Indian Village on the south shore of Black Lake (now Lake Macatawa)[1] that the Indians purchased for a church, cemetery, and tepee village. The Landing, the site of the Heinz Pickle Works since the 1890s, provided ready access to Lake Michigan. Old Wing Mission, in contrast, was five miles up the south branch of the Black River.

In 1842 Smith managed to hold services on twenty-two Sundays, usually for between two and ten Indians (out of a band of three hundred). Even Chief Joseph, who had recruited Smith, seldom attended. Most often, the Smith family simply worshiped alone. Smith spent far more time raising food for his family and laying in supplies from nearby market towns than ministering to the Indians' spiritual needs. The battle between Smith and Father Andreas Viszosky for the soul of the Indians came to a head in 1844-45, at the same time that sickness and death stalked the Smith family, including the losses of a three-year-old daughter and a stillborn daughter. These events tested the faith of the Smiths severely.

The third chapter contains the diary of Arvilla Powers Smith, which spans the period 1832 to 1845. She began with a brief overview of her personal and family history, starting with her birth in St. Albans, Vermont, November 27, 1808, and ending on the Indian frontier of western Michigan with the death of a beloved three-year old daughter that drove her to the verge of total mental collapse. From her childhood Arvilla recalls the cruelty of an alcoholic father and her minimal education. In 1830 she joined the Methodist church of her parents, began teaching school, and married George N. Smith, a Congregationalist who desired to study for the ministry.

Arvilla Powers Smith's diary offers a rare woman's perspective on westward migration and the trials and tribulations of missionary wife on the frontier. The Smiths were the first white family in Fillmore Township of Allegan County and later also in Northport in the northern Leelanau Peninsula. In 1985 the unusual diary prompted Amanda Jo Holmes, then a senior at Amherst College, to write an honor's thesis on Arvilla Smith, subtitled "A Missionary Wife Rediscovered," that analyzed her life and beliefs.

Arvilla's writing conveys her inmost thoughts in a sincere, unvarnished way that reflects the values and beliefs of the Yankee Protestants among whom she and her husband were raised. She saw her role as dutiful wife and childbearer. Indeed, every year or two she was pregnant again; five times the child lived and five times it died within days or weeks. The trials and tribulations caused her to cry out to God for relief and to her husband for understanding, which he had in short supply. His ministry and the needs of the Indians came first, before his wife and children. Indeed, George does not appear to be at all like his namesake, the knight in shining armor; he was quite the opposite.

Arvilla suffered greatly from homesickness, loneliness, hunger and want, helplessness, and at times resentment against God and her husband for placing her in a situation that overwhelmed her. At times in the early 1840s at Old Wing, she went nearly half a year without outside contact, except for the mission Indians, who treated her kindly. Her faith in God's providential purposes carried her through the hard times and helped her make sense of the troubles, but at times this belief bordered on fatalism.

Arvilla's pietistic faith brought her to repeated spiritual introspection. At the passing of each year, she assessed her spiritual health in the most excruciating detail, and she never measured up to her own, let alone to God's, standards. "I am a guilty, polluted worm," she wrote with anguished heart in 1836. "Satan fills my heart with wickedness and keeps me at a great distance from my God." But the assurance of God's forgiving love sustained her. "O, the riches of free grace; how is it that such a vile worm as I should taste of his dying love."

Twice Arvilla was pushed to the very edge of insanity. The first time was in 1844 when her second daughter, Esther Eliza, died at three years of age after a lingering and very painful illness. The second crisis came in 1851 when, after the family moved to Wakazooville (later Northport), her eldest daughter, Mary Jane, then sixteen years old, married the nineteen-year-old son of the chief's sister. Indian children had been Mary Jane's only school chums and playmates growing up and it was not remarkable that she would marry one. George apparently consented quite readily to the marriage, but Arvilla never could forgive him for making her the mother-in-law of an Indian and the grandmother of mitis.[2] This was despite the fact that the Indian was a practicing Protestant.

Esther Elisa was a precocious child who brought unusual joy into the Smith family. Arvilla often declared that she could not live without her promising daughter. The death broke her heart, and even the birth of another daughter could not quell the pain. Arvilla's memorial to "Ete," as she often called her favorite child, fills a dozen pages of the diary (June 16, 1844). The diary, in fact, ends after this emotional outburst. Arvilla became desperately ill during another pregnancy, and she was too exhausted emotionally to continue her diary after eleven years of faithful entries. The memorial to Esther Eliza is so poignant as to bring tears to the eyes. On the first anniversary of the child's death, Arvilla wrote (in one of her rare entries after mid 1844) of "the anguish of my heart, the pain and anguish which I feel. Where can I go but to Jesus; he will hear all my sorrows. I am sick today" (March 18, 1845).

Chapter four continues Arvilla's life saga in the form of reminiscences written late in life, when she was in her eighties. The editor of the Traverse City Leelanau Tribune enticed Arvilla to pen her reflections on life among the Indians, and the paper published them in serial form. The reminiscences lack the immediacy and authenticity of her dairy entries, because so many decades had passed between the events and her recounting of them. Most notable is the generally unfavorable picture of the Dutch immigrants in the reminiscences, whereas Arvilla's diary entries and also those of her husband portray a harmonious relationship between the Smiths and the Hollanders, especially the dominie and colonial leader Albertus C. Van Raalte.

In the fifth chapter Etta Smith Wilson, a daughter of George and Arvilla, recounts the "life and work" of her pioneer missionary father. The Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society published the piece in 1906 in its Historical Collections. Etta Smith's recollections provide an intimate picture of George Smith that is indispensable in understanding the man and his ministry. Her memory failed her in several minor historical details, but that does not mar the high value of the first-person account of her famed father.

The sixth and final chapter contains copies of all the official correspondence between Smith and his colleagues and their government supervisors, the superintendents of the Mackinac Agency, under the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, and ultimately, the secretary of the War Department. Some documents exist only in manuscript in the National Archives, and others were published in the annual Congressional executive documents series known colloquially as the "Serial Set." These contain Smith's detailed annual reports to the superintendents, correspondence pertaining to the hiring (and firing) of agricultural agents and interpreters, Indian requests to receive their annual subsidies in Grand Haven instead of on Mackinac Island and to buy and sell land in their own right, Indian schooling, the request to relocate Chief Wakazoo's band to Northport, and all other major aspects of life at Old Wing Mission.


Editorial Editing Policies

The editors have tried to reproduce the original texts as faithfully as possible. Where the handwriting cannot be deciphered or the meaning of the text is unclear, we inserted ellipses or added editorial comments in square brackets. Parenthetical inserts are always in the original text, except for the word [sic] to indicate an obvious misspelling or factual mistake. In chapters 2 and 3, in the interest of readability, we took the liberty to change punctuation, capitalization, sentence breaks, paragraphing, and other stylistic matters. This is especially the case in the frequent financial accounts that are interspersed within the diaries. George Smith treated his memoranda as both diary and account book. He recorded the cost of food and sundries purchased for the family or the mission, and the prices of services, such as lodging, food, and ferriage while away from home. He seldom included $ signs and usually added a zero and period to amounts less than $1 as, for example, 0.25 for 25 cents. Smith also indicated the cost of items per piece with a slash, such as 4/1.

For every diary entry, we added the full date (month, day, and year), since the Smiths often wrote only the number of the day, e.g., 7, instead of July 7, to indicate the day of the month. We also completed abbreviations, such as Sab[bath], Gov[ernmen]t, Ind[ian]s, Br[other], etc. To aid in identifying persons mentioned in the text, we provided full names, if known, as for example, when Arvilla referred to her husband as "Mr. S," we changed it to Mr. S[mith]. Given names, if known, were inserted in square brackets whenever family names alone were given, e.g., Mr. Mann was changed at the first reference to Mr. [Ralph R.] Mann. Some persons and places mentioned in the text are footnoted with additional information to aid the reader in understanding the account.



[1] In 1934 the Ottawa County Board of Supervisors, upon the recommendation of the Holland Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations, plus many citizens in Park and Holland townships, unanimously approved the change from Black Lake to Lake Macatawa, on the grounds that the new name was far more appealing to tourists and that it was a unique name, given the scores of other Black Lakes in Michigan and surrounding states (Holland City News, Sept. 20, Oct. 11, 1934).

[2] People of mixed race, usually native American and French Canadian.


History of Old Wing Mission

Robert P. Swierenga

The Ottawa Treaties

            For centuries, Indian tribes inhabited the forests of the Midwest. Following the American War for Independence, Congress created the Northwest Territory with five future states marked off, including Michigan. Since white migration generally moved from east to west within a narrow band of similar terrain and climate in order to reduce the risk of uncertainty, settlers advanced into the Northwest Territory from three directions: Yankees from New England and New York entered the northern fringes of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; Pennsylvania Germans settled the central prairies of the three states; and Scotch-Irish from West Virginia and Kentucky migrated into the southern regions following the Ohio River. Fresh European immigrants joined the advance but in relatively small numbers. Foreign immigration would not become important until the 1840s after the frontier had reached Chicago and beyond.[1]

            After the second war against Great Britain (War of 1812) and the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, Yankees poured out of New York and Ohio into Michigan, took up the fertile farmlands, and built their typical barns, white churches, and red school houses. Eventually, all the southern counties from Detroit westward became Yankee land. The rest of the state was largely bypassed for several decades, except by the French Canadians who took over the northern part of the state.

            Michigan growth lagged because the territory gained an undeserved reputation for being unhealthy. The first unfavorable reports came from government surveyors, who described the lands as mostly swamps, underbrush, and forests. "The whole of the two million acres appropriated into the territory of Michigan," declared the surveyors, "will not contain anything like one hundred part of that quantity that is worth the expense of surveying it." Hardly one acre in a hundred or even a thousand would "admit of cultivation." War veterans of the Detroit campaigns reinforced the negative image, and the derogatory jingle arose:

Don't go to Michigan, that land of ills;

That word means ague, fever and chills.[2]

            But whites did come, if slowly. Under territorial governor Lewis Cass, who served for eighteen years (1813-31), the population grew and Indian tribes were forced to cede their lands in a series of treaties from 1795 to 1864, orchestrated under the federal Indian removal policy. Government policy was to push all Indian tribes west of the Mississippi River into a vast "Indian Territory," which in the case of the Ottawas would place them in the hands of their old enemy, the Sioux. Barring that, the Indians could remain if they chose to become "civilized," by living in colonies under Protestant clerics and teachers, sending their children to school, and settling on individual farms. In return for giving up their traditional hunting grounds and way of life, the Bureau of Indian Affairs canceled tribal debts and agreed to pay for farming tools and oxen, medicines, schooling, and instruction in American-style agriculture.

            The Ottawa (Odawa in the Algonquin language) tribes historically inhabited the area from the Straits of Mackinac to the southern shore of Little Traverse Bay centered at L'Arbre Croche (now Harbor Springs), but each fall they took to their hand-hewn birch bark Mackinaw boats and migrated south along the entire eastern shore of Lake Michigan as far as the Kalamazoo River. With five people to a boat, the voyage took two weeks. Divided into a dozen or more small family bands, one group under Chief Joseph Wakazoo (Indian name Ogamah or Ogema Winine [exact spelling unknown]), numbering about one hundred souls, wintered for years at Black Lake (later Macatawa, from the Indian word Mek-a-tew-gamie, meaning "Black Water"). Rich in fish and game, the Macatawa watershed lay in the heart of the region between the Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers known as the "Hunting Ground of the Ottawas."  Wakazoo located his favorite winter camp at the jutted narrows on the north shore of the lake, later called Point Superior (where Marigold Lodge now stands). The economy of Wakazoo's band was based on seasonal cropping, hunting, fishing, trapping, and making maple sugar. They lived mostly by hunting, judging from the large number of skins they traded at government posts.[3]

[Figure 1.1 Protestant Indian Mission Stations in Michigan]

            Wakazoo was a worthy successor to his father, "Old" Chief Joseph from Manitoba, Canada, who had been a great chief among the Three Tribes. Government Indian agent Henry Schoolcraft described the son as a "sober, intelligent, and worthy chief." Smith noted that he was “wise in council, noble in spirit, and upright in life." "Young" Chief Joseph demonstrated his wisdom when he decided in 1839 to put his group under a missionary and adapt to the government's civilization program. Then, for the next seven years, until his untimely death in 1845, Wakazoo paid close attention to Smith's teachings and advice, although he always put the interests of his followers first, even at the expense of frustrating Smith and the federal Indian agents.[4]

[photo cap: “Old” Chief Joseph Wakazoo, ca. 1800

credit: F.J. Littlejohn, Legends of Michigan and the Old North West (1875)]

            The federal government forced the Michigan Indians to cede their lands in two treaties. The Treaty of Chicago (1821) pushed the allied tribes of Potawatomi, Chippewa (Indian name, Ojibway), and Ottawa (Indian name, Odawa) out of their winter haunts between the Kalamazoo and Grand rivers. And in the Treaty of Washington (1836), negotiated by Schoolcraft, the "People of the Three Fires," as these tribes were known, gave up all their remaining lands from the Grand River to the Straits of Mackinac, except for small reserves. Algonquin was the common language of these tribes.[5]

[Figure. 1.2 Michigan Indian Land Cessions, 1795-1836] 

            Under the 1836 treaty, the government canceled Ottawa tribal trading debts of $300,000, and promised annuities of $30,000 a year ($8 per capita) for twenty years, plus $150,000 for food and tobacco, $3,000 for medicine, $10,000 for farming equipment, and $3,000 for missions. The Indians could remain on their lands for up to five years or until the federal land offices auctioned off the tracts under the provisions of the public land laws. The most far-reaching aspect of the treaties was the government funding of schools, Protestant mission work, and agricultural training, with the goal of remaking nomads into settled farmers each on a family homestead.

            Ottawa culture disintegrated in the decades after these treaties. As Michigan Indian scholar, James McClurken, noted, "Ottawa culture changed so rapidly that those born after 1850 shared as many material customs and values with Americans as they did with their own ancestors." Yet, McClurken added, the Ottawas found ways to adapt and compromise, so as to retain a measure of autonomy.[6] The Ottawas had professed Christian beliefs under itinerant French Catholic priests during the golden era of the fur trade in the eighteenth century. To do business with the white men, they learned that it was best to adopt the trappings of their religion. But the Indians' grasp of Christian doctrines remained vague because of language and cultural barriers, and they were masters at mixing "Ottawa meanings into Christian beliefs." Mission Christianity was thus another example of religious syncretism.[7]

            Catholic priests first made regular visits to L'Arbre Croche in 1825 and a resident priest was assigned in 1829. In 1831 Father Frederic Baraga, a native of Slovenia, built chapels at Harbor Springs and two years later at an Ottawa winter camp on the Grand River in Grand Rapids. Baraga came as resident priest at the behest of a few Catholic Ottawas, who had petitioned the bishop to send him. Even the non-Christian Ottawas saw the benefit of having the priests pray for the sick, dispense new medicines, vaccinate them against small pox, and defend the interests of the tribe in government treaty negotiations.[8]

[photo cap: Father Frederick Baraga

credit: Courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Library]

George N. Smith and Old Wing Mission

            In 1837 Michigan entered the union as the twenty-sixth state with a population of 175,000 and growing rapidly.[9] Even on the distant southwestern frontier, towns were growing along the rivers and harbors—Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Allegan, and Saugatuck. Pioneer settlers began encroaching and hunters decimated the wild game that sustained the Indians.[10] The handwriting was on the wall. Chief Joseph realized that unless his band adopted at least the veneer of white ways, as spelled out in the 1836 treaty, it would be permanently displaced. Soon after the treaty signing, he petitioned Congress for the right to buy a tract of land for a tribal agricultural colony. Only then would his people gain security.

            A happy confluence of events aided the chief. In Allegan, where he and his band often went to trade, he learned in 1837 that some Yankee Protestants, led by Judge John Kellogg, had formed the Western Michigan Society to Benefit the Indians, an agency intended for mission outreach and economic betterment. The society was under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society, one of the joint Congregational-Presbyterian endeavors under the umbrella of the Plan of Union of 1801. Leaders included Judge Kellogg; the Reverends Harvey Hyde, Samuel Newberry, and James Ballard; Dr. William Upjohn of Kalamazoo; and other locals. The purpose was to "civilize" the Indians and fully integrate them into American society, in keeping with the federal government's goals.

[photo cap: Judge John R. Kellogg

credit: Courtesy of the Holland Museum Archives]

            In late 1837 the society convened a meeting in Allegan to "missionize" the Chippewa and Ottawa Indians. Chief Joseph, who with his mother had converted shortly before from the Catholic to the Protestant faith, attended. So did the Reverend George N. Smith (1807-81), then a Congregational cleric fresh from his ordination in Richland (Gull Prairie) in Kalamazoo County and desirous of finding a ministerial post. George and his wife, Arvilla, had migrated to Michigan from St. Albans, Vermont, in 1833.[11]

            Chief Joseph, upon meeting Smith, quickly concluded that the thirty-year-old minister would be a trustworthy guide, and he pleaded with him to become the teacher of his band under the Treaty of 1836. This eloquent appeal caused the moral crusader Smith to commit his life then and there to the Indian cause. The Calvinist cleric would woo them from their "Catholic notions" to the Protestant faith, teach their children, and see to it that the men took up farming.[12]

            The society leaders readily approved and "called" Smith as their missionary. His first step in January 1838 was to convene a meeting in Allegan with chieftains of the Chippewa and Ottawa tribes and leaders of the Western Michigan Society. Thereafter, in consultation with the Reverend Isaac McCoy of the Thomas Indian Station in Grand Rapids, Smith readied a proposal on behalf of the society that he presented successfully to the Presbyterian Church’s Synod of Michigan, which met in Ypsilanti in October 1838. The synod responded enthusiastically:

            Whereas the Ottawa Indians are very anxious to enjoy the means of Education and the privileges of the Gospel, and

            Whereas they have for two years expressed such anxiety and pledged themselves to become subject to the laws of the United States, and

            Whereas a Society has been organized called the Western Michigan Society for the Benefit of the Indians of which Rev. George N. Smith is appointed missionary and at present Agent of said Society,

            Therefore Resolved:

            1. That Synod...deeply sympathize with them in their present degradation and earnestly recommend them to the sympathy and prayers of the churches within our bounds.

            2. That Synod highly approve of the formation and plan of operation of said Society....

            3. That Synod recommend the Agent of said Society to the confidence of our churches if he shall see fit to present to them its claims.[13]         

            With this ready endorsement, Smith preached his first sermon to Wakazoo's band in Allegan December 23, 1838. Soon he began an Indian school in a temporary building erected just outside of town. With the active support of Chief Joseph, enrollment grew from seven students to nearly thirty by April.

            Smith seemed to be the ideal pioneer Indian missionary, although time would reveal his flaws, which stemmed from an authoritarian mind and passionate nature. He was small in stature but strong and wiry, with boundless energy and endurance. He could walk twenty miles a day for supplies or mission work and think little of it. Once in 1840 the Indians asked him to take his dog and "help kill a bear." Smith jotted in his diary simply: "We killed. I had 13 lbs of the meat. It was very good." Arvilla Smith was a tireless spouse, and she taught the Ottawa girls and women to cook and sew.[14]

            Smith, unfortunately, had difficulty mastering the Algonquin tongue, so he needed a government-paid interpreter at his side for the first eight years. On Chief Joseph's recommendation, he hired Joseph Elliott for two hundred dollars per year, plus room and board. The next year Smith hired James R. (Jim) Prickett, an educated member of the church in Allegan of white and Indian parentage, at a salary of one hundred dollars a year, but Prickett was unreliable and verbally abusive at times.[15] Often Smith's diary contains the notation: "No meeting today for want of an Interpreter." Prickett's sullen attitude and Smith's language barrier made his ministry difficult in the early years, until Mary Ann Willard came from Green Bay in July 1841 to interpret. She worked with a warm heart for four years but was often laid up by ill health. When she left in 1845, Smith reluctantly gave Prickett another chance and he served one more year. By then Smith could read the scriptures and preach haltingly in Algonquin.

            Despite cultural barriers, the relationship between Smith and Wakazoo blossomed into a life-long friendship. The tie between the two families became blood-bound in 1851, when, six years after Joseph's untimely death, Smith's eldest daughter, Mary, wed Payson Wolf, the only son of Chief Joseph's sister and her husband, Chief Mi-in-gun (Wolf). From infancy, Mary Smith had known no other children than Indians.[16]

Superior, the First White Village

            Wakazoo had witnessed the demise of his favorite Macatawa hunting grounds several years before Smith came. In 1835 three investors from Kalamazoo, led by Edward H. Macy, captain of the Great Lakes steamer Governor Mason, had purchased the jutted triangle of land at the point, platted the town of Superior with nearly six hundred lots, and built a sawmill, blacksmith shop, and seven houses.

[Map--Black Lake region from Singapore/Saugatuck to Grand Haven, showing Superior and the Indian Landing]

            Superior held great promise for a brief time. Henry Knox began a tannery and A.C. Mitchell, a shipbuilder from Massachusetts, opened a shipyard and built a ship christened with his name; the leather and lumber products were shipped to Chicago. In 1837 Macy won an appointment as postmaster of the village (then called Tuscarora) and the state opened roads to Grand Haven and Kalamazoo. The tax assessor valued the entire village in 1838 at $38,950. A ferry service also began that year across the narrows of the lake to the southern part of the village of Superior, known as Central Park. Thus did the Indians' favorite winter camp give way to "progress."[17]

            But in 1839 the whole venture began to fail. Sandbanks blocked the mouth of the lake and cut off shipping by schooner. This in a harbor that Macy only two years earlier had predicted was "destined to rank among the finest in Michigan." His Black River Harbor Company went bust, and the sawmill stood idle. The whole venture collapsed with Macy's death in 1841. A true "wildcat city," Superior never exceeded four families.[18] The shifting sands had dashed the hopes of the first white developers of Black Lake as a commercial harbor; it would not be the last time.

Old Wing Mission

            Wakazoo, meanwhile, succeeded in his request for lands for his mission band. With the support of the United States Indian paymaster and recommendations from Judge Kellogg and Superintendent Schoolcraft, the Bureau of Indian Affairs gave Chief Joseph permission to purchase public lands. This rare government concession was a major coup for the chief.

            In the spring of 1839, Smith and the chief's party of ten traveled north as far as Petoskey, scouting lands for the mission. They returned after five weeks with double the number of Indians and $1,600 from the government's annual annuity payment. Having decided to buy land near their winter camp on Black Lake rather than their summer camp in the north, Wakazoo, Smith, and Kellogg went to the Ionia Land Office. Here on May 29, Smith purchased on Wakazoo's behalf 1,360 acres on the northern border of Allegan County in what is now Fillmore Township. The Indians paid an average of $1.17 per acre for the densely wooded high ground along the north branch of the Black River. (The site lies on the present 40th Street, just east of Waverly Road near the southeastern boundary of the city of Holland.) That the Indians chose land five miles inland from Black Lake was due entirely to Smith. He knew the soil was better suited to farming there than along the sandy lakeshore. Even more important, the inland site might remove the Indians from the pernicious influence of the fur traders, who exchanged tools and firearms, as well as whiskey, for furs up and down the lakeshore. Early traders were Pierre Duvernay at Black Lake, Augustus Campau in Grand Rapids, and Rix Robinson in Grand Haven and Singapore (later Saugatuck).[19]

[Figure 1.3 Old Wing Mission Indian Tracts, 1840]

[Figure 1.4 Old Wing Mission and Western Michigan Region, 1840s]

            Wakazoo's band met in council early in 1840 and chose for his colony the name Old Wing Mission, in honor of his recently deceased older brother, Chief Ning-wee-gon, The Wing, who was a distinguished chief in his own right. The colony numbered 29 families and 118 souls, according to the Indian census of 1840.[20]

            The timing of the mission was not auspicious, if Smith and Wakazoo hoped to enjoy the largess of the federal government promised in the 1836 treaty. Four years had passed since the treaty, and the Indian Bureau had already committed the money designated for education and civilization to other missions. For several years Smith and Wakazoo had to make do with a trickle of cash gifts and donated clothing from mission supporters in Michigan and New England. It was not enough, and the missionary family would have starved but for the kindnesses of the Indians. The government did not put Smith on the federal payroll as Indian teacher for four years, until 1844; and he had to wait two years to receive the promised team of oxen to clear his twenty-six acres of trees and thereby demonstrate to the Indians how to farm more efficiently than by scratching seeds into the dirt with a hoe. That year the Indians planted only fifty acres of crops—the typical mix of corn, potatoes, beans, and pumpkins, which was woefully insufficient to feed a hunting and gathering people, let alone a settled group. Crop yields at Old Wing in 1841 were only half that at other Indian missions in West Michigan. Smith had to tolerate Wakazoo's men going off for weeks at a time to the Kalamazoo River basin in Allegan County to hunt and fish and gather cranberries in the bogs and marshes. After government money came for the mission, Smith and his Indian agricultural agents never could break this pattern.[21]

            Smith arranged for James Everts and Andrew Hermon to construct a crude twelve-by-seventeen-foot log cabin for his home, while his family stayed in Singapore, a frontier village near the mouth of the Kalamazoo River. Hermon took sick and left before completing the work, leaving the cabin only partly chinked and without windows or a door. In September 1839 Captain Macy transported the Smith family from Singapore to Superior on his sailboat and provided them a "good house" free of rent for three months. "This was a volunteer movement on the part of the Capt. and a greater favor he could not well have done me," Smith noted. The Smiths returned the favor by asking Macy to provision the mission station, for which the Western Society provided needed funds.[22]

            Smith and Everts completed the cabin, such as it was, and the Smiths and their children trekked through the woods carrying their few possessions and bedding to the "pile of logs" that was to be their home. The last three miles were covered on foot, after paddling up the Black River for six miles. "My strength gave way several times with the children crying," Arvilla noted. They dedicated the log cabin in October with the prayer: "Bless God for His goodness, and pray that He will enable us to consecrate this our new dwelling and all our powers anew to His service. And may this mission field be a field of usefulness and though it now be a wilderness, may it soon bud and blossom as the rose and may a new day here dawn upon the benighted Indian."[23]

            Arvilla Smith sacrificed much to serve with her husband. "I fought a fierce battle," she confessed to her diary, "for my future among the Indians looked dark and lonely. Could I fight against God's work and...the elevation of the oppressed of the downtrodden people, who were calling for help, and for God's word? I put my trust in him who leadeth the way, and prayed for strength. We bid adieu to our loved home and Christian friends,…not daring to look back." Often in the early years, Arvilla went up to six months at a time with only Indian women for companions. From 1840 to 1842, only three white women visited Old Wing. "We are shut out from all civilized society," she lamented. In 1840 she had to deliver a baby with only the help of her husband. The nearest doctor was in Allegan twenty miles away by footpath. Arvilla, a true pioneer, suffered bouts of severe depression due to loneliness, numerous pregnancies and deaths of babies, and from the sheer isolation.[24]

            Smith assembled a staff to help him run the mission, including Edward Cowles, an Indian educated at Oberlin College, who came in December of 1839 to help in the work and to raise support among friends in Ohio. Smith often journeyed to Superior alone or with Cowles for foodstuffs and supplies, which Captain Macy obtained from Kalamazoo via the Kalamazoo River outlet at Singapore. Cowles had a falling out with Smith in 1842 and left the mission in a huff. Smith hired John Lesperance, a Frenchman with an Indian wife, to replace him.[25]

            In July 1840 Old Wing Mission was linked to the village of Richmond to the southwest when Smith and Christopher Martin of Richmond opened a trail for horses through the woods until it intersected with Martin's Road. The next spring Ralph R. Mann of Richmond, a German from Ann Arbor, came to Old Wing to scout the area for a "settlement of his countrymen. Is well pleased here," Smith reported, but nothing came of the German colony. In 1842 a half dozen American families bought lands and opened farms east of the colony. In 1845 the Gilbert Cranmer family settled a mile to the northeast, the first in the future Holland Township.[26]

            Smith foresaw a bright future. In 1841 the society's monies for operating the mission were augmented greatly when the first federal funds were dispersed to build a schoolhouse ($750) and to develop the farming department. Now the Indian children could be schooled and the fathers instructed in animal husbandry and the use of farm implements. The Indians, he reported to superintendent Robert Stuart, have shown a "warm interest" in education and an "earnestness...to hear the truth" at Sunday services, and the crops "look very promising." The Indians, Smith continued, "do their work in manly style; they fully evince what they are capable of doing if they have a farmer to assist them." Finally, Smith urged the superintendent to make the annual annuity payments in Grand Rapids, so the men would not be forced every summer to leave their farms for weeks to go to Mackinac Island.[27]

            In June 1841, the Indians helped Smith carry from Superior six thousand feet of sawed lumber, shingles, nails, glass, and other building supplies for the agricultural station. The shipment also included farm implements such as plows, axes, scythes, and rakes.       To ease the supply trips, Judge Kellogg, who dealt in real estate, gave the mission one acre of his land on the south shore of Black Lake (near the present Heinz plant). Smith surveyed the parcel himself with a compass and chain borrowed from William N. Ferry of Grand Haven. The mission now had a lake landing on the south shore only four miles distant, and it was also accessible by water up the Black River. Little did Smith know that the Landing would be so detrimental to his ministry; the Indians had ulterior motives in asking for the expansion.[28]

[Figure 1.5 Black Lake with the Indian Landing and Point Superior, 1840s]

Protestant-Catholic Rivalry

            While Smith maintained an upbeat tone in correspondence with his government supervisors, he often found ministering to the Indians discouraging work, given their nomadic lives, problems with alcohol, and general disinterest in Protestant worship. Throughout the entire year of 1840, Smith held Sunday services only eleven times, mainly in the winter months. The Indians camped on Black Lake in the spring and fall and went north for the entire summer. In May Smith noted: "Have not seen or heard anything directly yet from my little Indian band. It is strange to me that they can content themselves so long absent." Even when they were at the mission, "the Sabbath is treated as any other day," Smith lamented. In despair, Arvilla Smith confided in her diary, "Justice would say, leave them to themselves; they have distrusted me, let them trust in their own strength.[29]

            In March 1841, Father Andreas Viszosky, a native of Hungary and Baraga's successor at St. Mary's Mission Chapel in Grand Rapids, came to the Landing on the first of many visits to dispense the sacraments and bury the dead. The Protestant missionary treated the Catholic "interloper" cordially. "He came home with me, but left in a short time," Smith wrote in his diary. The first to be interred at the Landing in May 1841 was Petowekeshik, the very man who had called Father Viszosky to come.[30]

[photo cap: Father Andreas Viszosky

credit: Courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Library]

            The Landing undermined Smith's ministry because the Indians schemed to make it a rival Catholic mission site and cemetery. In 1842 Chief Wakazoo and Shininekossia, one of the leading families, complained that one acre was "too small for the Landing," and proposed that Smith ask Kellogg to sell the remaining fifteen acres. Smith did so reluctantly, and Kellogg sold the choice parcel to the Indians for seventy dollars, the amount they had earned from the county for felling trees to open a road running south along Section 3 (present-day 52nd Street) to Martin’s Road, which ran west toward present-day East Saugatuck, then south to Richmond (see Figure 1.4, page 24).

            One month later, the Indians' true intentions became clear when Joseph Maksabe, a Potawatomi chief, and his sons Louis and Francis and his extended family, who had joined Wakazoo's band, proposed to build a Catholic church at the Landing and have Father Viszosky consecrate the burial ground there. The priest seized the opportunity and subsequently tried to entice the mission band to live permanently at the Landing. Many did, and when the priest came on his regular circuit to say Mass, they stayed away from the meeting at the mission. Viszosky, unlike Smith, spoke fluent Algonquin, plus French and German. He was a handsome man and very popular with the Indians. He even consecrated one of them to serve as a priest. The 1847 census listed the Indian as a "public prophet." The priests also gained respect by their dress, ornate black robes (hence the Indians always called them "black coats"), whereas Smith simply wore "street clothes" that commanded no respect, though he did win warm friendships with the Indians.[31]

            These developments alarmed Smith and produced deep Protestant-Catholic divisions in the camp. Smith, on first learning of the plans, warned Chief Joseph that the Catholic encroachment "would ruin all if they took this course," and he commanded the entire band, "every man of them, to meet me at the schoolhouse next Sabbath." Only a part of the band showed up, and Smith preached a stern sermon from Acts 4:32: "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul...." His diary continues: "After sermon laid before them the subject of their building the house for Catholic worship at the Landing." Chief Joseph and his mother, who had recently committed themselves to the Congregational Church, vowed to stay loyal to Smith, but Maksabe and his sons said the missionary should only teach the Indians to read and write like the Americans; no preaching was wanted. Most of the Indians agreed with Maksabe; they would accept Smith as teacher but live at the Landing. Even the chief's brother Pendunwan (Peter Wakazoo) insisted that living at the Landing was preferable to "dying in the woods in the hot summer."[32]

            Just when it appeared that Smith had succeeded in getting the Indians to concentrate on farming, he made another misjudgment. The Indians wanted Isaac Fairbanks, who spoke fluent Algonquin, to be the first agricultural agent.  Against their wishes, Smith recommended a personal friend and fellow Congregationalist, Dr. Osman D. Goodrich, Allegan's first physician. Superintendent Stuart appointed Goodrich

[photo cap: Dr. Osman D. Goodrich

credit: History of Allegan & Barry Counties, Michigan (1880)]

in early 1842 at an annual salary of four hundred dollars, and he served more than two years amidst growing dissension. Chief Wakazoo acquiesced in the appointment; he was "displeased but submissive," said Smith. But Maksabe was openly defiant. "He abused us shamefully and said he would not come near the mission," Smith wrote in his journal. So opposed were the Indians to Goodrich that only three families remained at the mission throughout the summer of 1843. Smith blamed the Catholic clergy for the opposition, but in this case it was largely of his own making.[33]

            Three agents succeeded Goodrich: Francis Mills (1844-45), Isaac Fairbanks (1845-48), and James McLaughlin (1848-50). All were Yankees from the East. Fairbanks (1818-1903), a devout Methodist, proved to be the best, but he was dismissed under a cloud (see p. 00). He and his wife, a daughter of Goodrich, remained in town, and Fairbanks later purchased the Smith home. Fairbanks established one of Holland's first families, and he made numerous contributions to the community from 1847 until his death in 1903.[34]

[photo cap: Isaac Fairbanks

credit: Courtesy of Holland Museum Archives]

            Increasingly, Smith preached a strident anti-Catholic brand of Christianity rooted in Yankee Protestantism; no Catholic could be saved, he declared. "I told him [Chief Joseph] I know from the Bible that those who follow the Catholic Priest cannot go to heaven."[35] In a sermon to the congregation on the subject of the "broad and narrow ways and gates," Smith noted, "Hope they were led to see that Roman Catholics are very likely to be in the broad way that leads to destruction." The sermons fell on deaf ears; most of the Ottawas remained loyal to the faith of their fathers.

            Maksabe from this point tried to undermine Smith any way he could. Within days he charged that the missionary's seven hogs were destroying his crops and that Smith was a "bad man and had better go back to Allegan." Smith urged Maksabe to fence his crops, which was standard practice on the frontier, but the Indian threatened to kill the hogs. "I shall have trouble with him," Smith opined. Maksabe soon spread the rumor that Smith was a bigamist; that his interpreter, Mary Willard, who lived in with the family, was his second wife. And the next summer, Maksabe shot Smith's last hog, leaving the family without any meat. Maksabe's actions prompted the majority of Wakazoo's band to distance themselves from him and his sons. The fact that the Maksabe clan was not Ottawa but Potawatomi no doubt made the rejection easier. Maksabe had also aligned his clan with the British in the War of 1812, while Wakazoo had sided with the Americans.[36]

            Despite the rejections, the Smiths always saw glimmers of hope and persisted. In 1842 they managed to double the number of Sunday worship services for the year to twenty-two, and attendance reached a high of forty. But usually less than ten and as few as two came, plus the Smith family. This was out of a band of three hundred. Even Chief Joseph, who had recruited Smith, seldom attended. Most often, the Smith family simply worshiped together at home. Smith spent far more time raising food for his family and laying in supplies from nearby market towns than ministering to the Indians' spiritual needs.

Civilizing the Indians

            The one-room schoolhouse at Old Wing had been dedicated in 1842. Silas F. Littlejohn of Allegan built the 24 x 32-foot structure for $250, including the writing desks. Several New Yorkers donated funds for the furnishings. The Ottawa children now had a place to learn the English language and American ways, which their parents wanted even at the risk of undermining Indian culture. Schooling was not a high priority, however, and the school year was limited to the winter months. In the early 1840s Indian enrollment (not attendance) was about twenty; it rose to thirty in 1844 and thirty-seven in 1845, which was the high point. By 1847 it was down to twenty-three. Seldom did even half the mission children attend regularly, and by 1847 only two students could speak English fluently. Indeed, seven years after the school opened, only sixteen Indians could read and write (fourteen males and two females).[37]

            When the sap ran in the early spring, the parents went to the sugar camp for a month and took their children out of school to help. Pulverized sugar cakes were a major product to sell or barter at the trading posts. In 1845 the Old Wing band produced more than fifteen thousand pounds of maple sugar for a cash income of $1,200. This was nearly three-quarters as much as the annual annuity payment. Cranberries, passenger pigeons and other wild game, and animal skins brought in more cash. On one day in September 1844, Smith reported that his Indians shipped six canoes full of cranberries for sale in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph, and they bought flour with the cash. In 1847 the Indians earned $747 by selling 210 animal skins. Hunting and gathering were lucrative as well as enjoyable activities.[38]

            Robert Stuart, an ex-fur trader who in 1842 had replaced Schoolcraft as superintendent of Indian affairs, turned up the pressure on the Indians to Americanize and become settled farmers. In a letter to Smith in April 1842, Stuart demanded that Wakazoo's band give up their regular practice of going north for the summer and stay in the Macatawa area to farm and send their children to school, or they must relocate permanently in the north. The Indians, fearful that the summer heat would kill them, dissembled and gave weak assurances.[39] That summer the Indians went north as usual, but it was the last time. Yet, even when they stayed at the mission, they left their farms for weeks on end to hunt, fish, and gather cranberries, using the Landing as their base.[40] Viszosky encouraged these traditional ways, while Smith did his best to break them. Viszosky tried to undermine the farming program by encouraging Maksabe and his dissidents to oppose the appointment of Goodrich as farming agent. But Superintendent Stuart backed Smith and Goodrich by threatening the Indians with the loss of their annuities if they did not settle down and farm. "They must not hear the advice of any but their teacher and farmer; others [who] would pretend to be their friends and pretend to advise them...are not their friends," Stuart warned. Only the teacher and farmer "are their true friends and are laboring for their good."[41]

            When the Indians returned from Mackinac in the fall of 1842, Maksabe, with the apparent support of Chief Joseph, petitioned Indian agent Stuart to replace Smith for being a "lazy teacher" who only held classes for five weeks during the past winter. Stuart admonished the Indians that they were the lazy ones.[42] At this, all but three families, led by Maksabe and his clan, left the mission for the Landing, where in 1842 they laid out a little village around the church. Finally, even Stuart urged Smith to acquiesce in the Indians living at the lake, so they might "enjoy the fresh breezes in the summer." Father Viszosky capitalized on this development and won over more and more Indians, both to the village and the church. He understood their culture and made few attempts to change it. He also plotted with Maksabe on ways to undermine Old Wing Mission. Eventually, Maksabe's group built some twenty small log houses covered with cedar bark, which were clustered on the western part of the clearing, facing the church and cemetery to the east. To protect the cemetery from wild animals, the Indians constructed a fence of ten-foot logs placed on end. A large black cross, tipped in white, adorned the cemetery.[43]

            Early in 1843 five members of the mission board, including Kellogg and Littlejohn, came from Allegan to the mission to meet with the Indians "in council," in order to reinforce a second letter from Stuart demanding a final answer. Would they remain on their farms, winter and summer, or return to Mackinac for good? Most of the 231 men pledged to settle down, work their farms, school their children, and "those who please shall go to meeting [church]." That summer, for the first time, the Old Wing band did not go north. Instead, they put fifty acres under cultivation and still more the next summer. But mission agricultural did not produce a surplus until 1846, and by then political fissures were opening that would undermine the colony. At its height, Old Wing Mission claimed more residents than any other Ottawa group in Michigan.[44]


            Smith's proselytizing went no better than Goodrich's agricultural tutoring. Maksabe convinced more and more Indians to boycott worship services at the mission. "I have no doubt he aims to put a stop to all Protestant influence, instigated no doubt by the priest," Smith wrote. Even Chief Joseph felt that it was "just as well to say prayers at the Landing." At this rebuff, Smith reflected: "Perhaps the time is near at hand where we shall find it our duty to leave them." Due to his boundless patience, he never did.[45]

            In 1844, the chief tried to salvage the mission by urging Smith himself to preach at the Landing where most of the Indians lived, but Smith did not deem this "consistent with our enterprise." The chief then urged Smith to move the entire mission to the Landing and offered to give him an acre of land, build a house and schoolhouse for him there, and even cultivate his garden. Again the missionary refused, believing that it  "would be a great injury to them to live there." The Landing was Catholic ground, and the priest had made it very clear that the Indians were his and Smith had "no business to preach to them." "Poor deluded Catholics!" Smith retorted. But the next spring, he relented and began preaching regularly at the Landing. It was that or have almost no preaching ministry at all.[46]

            Goodrich lost patience with the Indians sooner than Smith. The doctor complained bitterly about the Indians' disinclination to take on "squaws' work." "I find it very difficult to get them to do anything," he complained to Stuart. "They must have their own time for everything....They are not easily induced to abandon old habits and form new (especially industrious) ones." Goodrich resigned in frustration in July 1844, and Smith had Stuart appoint his brother-in-law, Francis Mills, to the post, with no better result. Stuart lectured the Indians again on the need to live on their farms, with little effect. They preferred their "darling project" at the Landing.[47] An 1847 census of the Old Wing Mission Band reported that only eleven of thirty-four families, or one-third, subsisted by farming. Even then, the women did the work while the men spent the summer at Black Lake.

            In 1844, Smith was able to augment his meager support from the Western Society and private donations by getting on the government payroll as schoolteacher at four hundred dollars per year. Stuart arranged this sponsorship, which brought Old Wing Mission under direct governmental supervision. Finally Smith could afford to replace the primitive log cabin with a substantial frame house, which doubled as the mission headquarters. He hired Isaac Fairbanks of Gull Prairie (Richland) to build the house, upon the recommendation of Mills, who knew him from Gull Prairie. Fairbanks, a skilled carpenter and farmer who had learned the Algonquin language, constructed a building worthy of the mission, after first putting up a small log cabin for his wife and young son. The chimney bricks were salvaged from the sawmill in the village of Superior.[48]

[Old Wing Mission, 1892. Albert and Mary Elizabeth Mayo Fairbanks, standing. Seated are (l.) sister-in-law Sarah Lucinda Averill Mayo and daughter Adah Fairbanks.

credit: Courtesy of Joint Archives of Holland]

            Over the next year, ten Indians and a number of American laborers from Allegan and surroundings worked on the mission building, which measured 24 by 50 feet and stood one and one-half story high. No sooner was the project completed in 1845 than Fairbanks was able to secure Mills's position as agriculturalist, the latter having resigned due to a debilitating eye disease. The Indians were so impressed with Fairbanks that they virtually demanded that the new Indian superintendent in Michigan, William A. Richmond, appoint Fairbanks in place of the ineffective Mills. Fairbanks was delighted with the annual salary of $440. This was a plum; to be on the government payroll was a rare privilege on the hard-pressed Michigan frontier. And Fairbanks felt called to help improve the lot of the Indians.[49]

            While the home was nearing completion and immediately after Fairbanks began his appointment as Indian farming agent, Smith returned to the family homestead in Vermont with his ill wife and children for some rest and relaxation. He placed Fairbanks in charge of the mission and rehired James Prickett as interpreter. Chief Joseph and his band trusted Fairbanks, and as he mingled among them they expressed openly their utter disdain for farming and their desire to continue hunting, trapping, and fishing. Rather than "become slaves to their cattle and their hogs," Fairbanks recalled, they would rather when they wanted meat "take their rifles and get it; and when they returned to their wigwams, lie down and rest, instead of waiting upon and feeding their dumb brutes." Similarly, ripe crops were left in the field to rot if the harvest would interrupt their normal ways.[50]


            The Smiths were away more than three months (July-September), and no sooner did they return than the mission faced its greatest crisis, the death of Joseph, from "congestion of the lungs." The chief, it was reported to Smith, had gotten drunk after receiving his annual annuity in Grand Haven and en route home fell off his horse in shallow water, where he lay until Smith and Fairbanks found him suffering from exposure. They took him to his cabin where he died from pneumonia October 28, 1845. Smith preached a sermon at Wakazoo's funeral based on Revelation 14:13. Then the Indians sang and said their Catholic prayers, led by Father Viszosky. Following the burial, Smith confided in his journal: "Perhaps in that grave is buried the hope of our Mission. True, God is able to raise up other help, but things to us look dark."[51]

            Wakazoo, despite his wavering Protestant faith, was Smith's supporter and friend from the outset. Earlier in the year the chief had won a showdown election against the dissident clan leader Maksabe, who challenged him as chief.[52] The loss of Chief Joseph was compounded by the death of the chief's mother in August, during Smith's trip home to Vermont. She was a sincere Christian and influential in her own right. "In the loss of our Chief and his mother," Smith noted, "our Mission has lost much, in fact almost all the influence among the Indians to bring them to meeting” [church services]. Fortunately, Peter Wakazoo defeated Maksabe in the contest to succeed Chief Joseph, but Peter lacked the charisma and leadership skills of his older brother, and he did not hold as strongly to the mission-sponsored civilization program.[53]

            The year 1846 saw a battle for the soul of the Ottawa band between the Reverend Smith and Father Viszosky and the priest won, although one would never know it from reading Smith's upbeat report to Superintendent Richmond in September. Viszosky tried to end the work of the Protestant "devils" by getting Maksabe named as chief, but Joseph's brother Peter gained the position. When Smith went to the village on Black Lake to preach at the behest of the few Protestant Indians there, Viszosky interrupted the service by blowing the horn to call his followers out to prayer. Fairbanks, who attended the service, chided Viszosky for bringing discord into the Christian community. During subsequent Protestant services, Maksabe blew the horn and otherwise interrupted the meeting.[54]

            Smith persisted in his crusade despite repeated rebuffs. The cool-headed Indians resisted his attempts to remake them into pietistic Protestant farmers. They liked the colorful Catholic rituals, the images and statues of saints, the tolerant "black robes," and the ready absolution for moral lapses such as drunkenness. The Catholic church would civilize the Indians without first "converting" them. And Catholic practices came closer to the Indians' traditional ceremonies of singing, dancing, and feasting than did the stern and boring Protestant services. Yet, while the Indians spurned Smith's religious teachings, they were drawn by his genuine personal concern for their welfare and his ability to deal with the complexities of the American government and society.[55]

            Alcohol was a perennial problem among the Indians, and Smith often preached against it. In 1844 he formed a temperance society at Old Wing Mission, and fifty Indians took the oath. Smith boasted to Stuart about the "great advances" in "moral conduct": "Not an Indian, to my knowledge, has been intoxicated in the colony for nearly two years."[56] The next year the Michigan legislature made it illegal to traffic in alcohol with Indians. Yet, away from Smith’s watchful eye, traders at the Landing plied the Indians with liquor, especially after the fall annuity payments. Fights broke out between Maksabe and others. It was even rumored that Maksabe had brought on Joseph Wakazoo's death by spiking his liquor bottle with poison.[57]

            Alcohol contributed to the death of Maksabe's brother in 1848 and Maksabe himself in 1849, when he froze to death in a drunken stupor near Allegan. His sons Louis and Joseph brought his body by sled on the Kalamazoo River ice to Saugatuck and then by Mackinaw boat to the Landing for burial. "O what a sad thing for so wicked a man to die in such a way. It is a legitimate result of the Roman religion," Smith declared. "I am sorry to say, the cause of temperance has not advanced." Indian traders, to their shame, "make an Indian drunk for the sake of a little paltry gain." The 1847 census reported that of seventy adults in Wakazoo's band, only seven had taken the temperance pledge of abstinence.[58] Smith's Protestant crusade was as ineffective in winning converts as was Fairbanks's futile efforts to make settled farmers of them.

            To get away from the Catholic influence, Chief Peter in 1846 recommended strongly that Smith relocate Old Wing Mission to the clay banks north of the White River (Whitehall), where they could perhaps join with a "wild" Ottawa band. Wild Indians are more amenable to the truth than Catholics, Peter noted. The White River locale was also a "more healthy location," Peter added. Smith saw the wisdom in the proposal. "Perhaps we shall conclude to make this move at some future day." But the time was not ripe; most of Peter's band did not want to move, even if he went alone, as he threatened to do.[59] Moreover, the interpreter Prickett, who Smith had recently rehired, was working behind the scenes to have an Episcopal priest named in Smith's place. The missionary informed Superintendent Richmond of the intrigue and asked that Prickett be replaced immediately.  Thereafter, Smith began to preach and teach haltingly in the Indian language without an interpreter. After eight years, he could finally make himself understood, but he still preferred a "faithful interpreter" at his side.[60]

            Another scourge—illness—struck the Indian colony worse than ever in the fall of 1846. Impure water and poor sanitation, especially at the Landing, brought on "fever and ague," bowel trouble, and respiratory ailments. Sixteen died, mainly women and infants. This was half of the total number in Wakazoo's group who died in the entire decade of the 1840s.  Smith's doctoring skills were called on daily. He dispensed quinine, "blue pills," "Dovers' powders," medicinal brandy, and a combination of calomel and opium, and applied blister casts and took up the bleeding lancet. But many Indians refused the white man's medicine in favor of folk remedies, like applying hemlock bark and hot ashes. This frustrated Smith intensely. "I think I could recover [heal] nearly all the cases, if not all," he lamented, "if some ignorant woman did not pretend that she could do something better and prevent my giving medicine." Visiting the sick and conducting funerals took up much of his time that fall, and Fairbanks stayed busy making coffins.[61]

Problems with the Dutch

            This was the sad state of affairs at Old Wing Mission just after sundown on December 31, 1846, New Year's Eve, when there came a knock on the door of Isaac Fairbanks's cabin. A stranger stood in the doorway, along with Judge Kellogg and an Indian guide. The stranger would change the life of the Indians and the Old Wing Mission immensely. Fairbanks's friend George Harrington had driven the men by sleigh from Allegan. Kellogg told Fairbanks

[photo cap: George Harrington

credit: Courtesy of Holland Museum Archives]

[The Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte (1811-1876)

credit: Courtesy of the Van Raalte Institute, Hope College, Holland, Michigan]

that the stranger, the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte, had left the Netherlands for the purpose of establishing a colony where his people could enjoy religious freedom. Kellogg advised Van Raalte to remain with Isaac and Ann Fairbanks as their guest and advised Fairbanks to assist the dominie in his work. So Van Raalte ate his first meal among the Indians with the Methodist agricultural agent's family, who hosted him graciously for several weeks while he explored the region.[62] The threesome had followed the road from Allegan to Old Wing that ran northwest, crossed the Rabbit River (a branch of the Kalamazoo), and entered Fillmore Township at its southeast corner and continued to the center of Section 3. Here stood the mission, with Smith's frame home, Fairbanks's log cabin, and the church and schoolhouse. Fairbanks very likely introduced the Dutch dominie to the American cleric on New Year's morning, but Smith makes no mention of the historic meeting in his daily diary.[63]

            Former Indian affairs superintendent Robert Stuart had met Van Raalte while en route from New York to Detroit and helped convince him to consider western Michigan instead of Wisconsin for his planned colony (see next chapter). Van Raalte's group of forty-seven immigrants was the vanguard of many thousands. He subsequently chose the neck of Black Lake as the site of his colony, and within eight months fifteen hundred Dutch were at work turning forests into farms. They turned their livestock loose to forage, as was the frontier custom. The Dutch, innocently enough, assumed that they were taking up virgin lands offered for settlement by the United States Government. Little did they expect to encounter problems with Native Americans, but that is exactly what happened.

            According to Smith, the Indians "are not prepared to defend their fields against the large number of cattle and hogs the Dutch are bringing in, especially as they [the Indians] have to be absent, and cannot watch them [the crops]. Considerable damage is already done." Smith's daughter Etta many years later voiced another Indian complaint, that the Dutch were so "filthy" that the Indians "could not live near them”; the Dutch women polluted the wells when they drew water. The smallpox epidemic that raged in the new Dutch colony also frightened the Indians, who were very susceptible. "They fear it as they do death," said Smith. The Dutch, for their part, were frightened when Indians came into the Dutch village drunk.[64]

            The Dutch did not understand Indian ways and they were desperate to survive. They arrived in the dead of winter and discovered the Indians' prized sugar camps with their large wigwams to cover the equipment. Here the Dutch took shelter and put to their own use the cast iron kettles, sap buckets, axes, and troughs. They slopped the hogs in the troughs or burned them for heat. The same fate befell the birch canoes. Later, when the Indians left their farms and went north for the entire summer, the Dutch, thinking them abandoned, harvested ripe crops of corn and beans and took hanging venison, rather than leave the food seemingly to go to waste.

            When the Indians returned in the fall from the north, they did not take kindly to these thoughtless acts of the desperately poor immigrants, and they complained bitterly to Smith, who in turn asked Van Raalte to educate the Dutch about Indian ways. Van Raalte took immediate action. According to Engbertus Van der Veen, "One Sunday our dominie announced from the pulpit that a chief had complained that the settlers had taken away their sugar troughs, and that the Indians were revengeful. He demanded that we punish the guilty persons and that the troughs be returned. The dominie told him that this happened perhaps by mistake or through ignorance." In any case, Van Raalte arranged for the offenders to reimburse the Indians for the property inadvertently "appropriated," and he named Bernardus Grootenhuis as the go-between. H. Nakken gave Chief Peter his note for $13 for 800 troughs destroyed, and his son added $4 for taking 5 axes. Huiskes [Derk Hekhuis (?)] paid $12 cash to an Indian for 500 troughs lost, and an unnamed Dutchman paid $11 to another Indian family for 450 troughs. So the sticky matter was resolved honorably.[65]

            The Indians were also known to pilfer from Dutch corncribs, pigsties, and smokehouses. Grootenhuis himself had two hams taken from his smokehouse by an Indian woman; he found the hams at her wigwam simmering in a pot over a fire. Anje Hofman found a better solution; she traded venison and wild turkey for coral beads, after the Indians requested "Wumpun." Anje obtained the beads from her family in the Netherlands.[66]        In another example of cultural clumsiness, Van Raalte ordered thirty dollars worth of lumber for the construction of his house from the intemperate Catholic Indian, Maksabe, rather than from one of Smith's faithful Protestant Indians. This while the Smiths were hosting the Dutch dominie in their home. [67]

            In 1848 Van Raalte won the gratitude of Maksabe's brother, Shashaqua, by saving his infant son from death with a timely use of quinine. The good deed came about in an unexpected way. While Van Raalte was bringing cornbread to the widow Sterk, who was sick with malaria, he encountered George Smith in the woods weak from hunger and sitting against a tree. Smith was also on an errand, to help Shashaqua's sick baby. Van Raalte volunteered to go in Smith's place, although Smith warned him of the Indians' lingering ill will from the Dutch thievery of their sap buckets. "God will take care of me," said Van Raalte. When he entered the Indian's log hut, Shashaqua was not home and his wife angrily tried to push him out. "Papoose sick. Will try to make it better," insisted the good doctor. "White man love papoose." The woman relented and after Van Raalte gave the baby some quinine - a sure remedy for malaria - the infant improved. Shashaqua arrived home just then and was about to expel the dominie by force when he realized that his papoose was much improved. The Indian then grasped Van Raalte's hand in gratitude, muttering, "He make papoose better. Dutchman, stay eat. Indian no hurt you now. Be medicine man's best friend till die."[68]


            The strained relations between the Dutch and the Indians rivaled that among the Indians, where the majority preferred Viszosky's Catholicism to Smith's Protestantism. Relations between Smith and his Indians were so strained in March 1847 that Chief Wakazoo and his rival, Maksabe, enlisted Henry Pennoyer of Grand Haven, a leading Presbyterian layman and a most respected businessman, to write a letter to Indian superintendent William Almy Richmond, asking him to fire both Smith and Fairbanks, because neither had "done them any good." Not a single Indian youth under age sixteen could read or speak English, Wakazoo and Maksabe complained, and Fairbanks had underfed the oxen to the point of rendering them unable to work. Fairbanks took such strong objection to the criticism of his work that Smith even came to oppose him.

Wakazoo threatened to move his band north "if they cannot get rid of their farmer and teacher in any other way." The complaints were "true," Pennoyer attested. "The two men seem to care for nothing but payday and themselves." Smith dismissed the charges. Maksabe was a perennial troublemaker and he had succeeded in getting Peter Wakazoo drunk. But the issues went far deeper, and the Dutch presence accentuated the existing problems.[69]

            In January 1848 Chief Peter convened a council of his band, at which he recommended that the entire group relocate north the next spring "to a place the Dutchmen couldn't find." In his speech, Peter declared that "God wished his people to live in peace and love," and he urged them to unite "heart and hand, and to go forward with the work of the mission." The body agreed, and with Smith's active direction and Richmond’s approval, they set about to relocate the mission.[70]

            The Dutch colony forced the decision, but the reasons for moving north were complex and antedated the Dutch coming. None of the Indian bands along the coast of Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to Pentwater were thriving. All were "dissatisfied with their location here and prefer a location further north," Smith reported in 1848. "Many of them are so situated as to have no fixed home and are surrounded by the very worst influences, which render them miserable in the extreme." Living in close proximity to white settlers increased the perennial problems of alcoholism and communicable diseases. "Many of the Indians themselves appear to be fully aware of these things, and to realize that they must do something to better their condition or perish."[71] Thus, Smith continued, "several other bands agreed to settle with us, and I have reason to hope and expect that all the Indians, or nearly all on this coast of the lake, will eventually concentrate at the same point." The grand plan of the Indian missionaries and government agents was obvious—to gather the scattered bands into one new colony in the northern wilderness, where the "benighted Indian" could continue to be civilized under the tutelage of Christian missionaries and agricultural agents. Eventually, more than half a dozen religiously conservative bands joined Smith's northern colony.[72]

            Having decided to move north, Wakazoo's Ottawa band prepared to sell their lands. In March 1848, after obtaining permission from the state legislature, they had Smith provide Van Raalte with a complete list of their parcels. But the Dutch, unfortunately, were out of money and had to put off the choice opportunity. In May Van Raalte bought the church at the Indian Landing for $26, which would serve well as temporary housing for fresh immigrants. In late June, after Smith returned from selecting the site for their new colony at Grand Traverse (now Northport), Van Raalte bought for $208 a forty-acre tract belonging to the Indian widows and heirs on the western edge of the mission property. He paid $5 per acre for the parcel, which lies today south of 32nd Street between US-31 and M-40 or Lincoln Avenue (Centennial Farms condominium community and Matt Urban Park). Isaac Cappon also bought for his first tannery an Indian tract on Black Lake for $4 per acre (later the site of the Western Machine Tool Works).

[Figure 1.6 Old Wing Mission Site 2006]

            In the fall and winter, a dozen other Dutch and American families bought most of the fifteen hundred acres of partially improved Indian farmlands for the going rate of $4-6 per acre in gold coins. Grootenhuis paid Chief Peter $20 per acre for a choice eight-acre parcel. Those with no money, such as the Smit family, rented Indian farms as sharecroppers, furnishing the seed for two-thirds of the produce. The American merchant in Holland, Henry D. Post, bought one tract by exchanging it for goods and provisions from his store.[73] Through it all, Van Raalte and Smith maintained cordial relations. Smith heard Van Raalte preach for the first time at the newly erected log church July 30, 1848, and at the dominie's invitation, Smith graced the Dutch pulpit every Sunday in August.

            That summer the complaints made the previous year by Wakazoo and Maksabe against Fairbanks came to a head, and Richmond fired him and, on Smith's recommendation, appointed in his place Smith’s brother-in-law, James McLaughlin of Saugatuck (McLauglin's wife was a sister of Arvilla Smith). McLaughlin was a shipbuilder whom Smith had hired to secure a schooner to carry the Indian band north the next spring. Most of the Indians liked Fairbanks and were very unhappy that he was replaced. Some, led by Maksabe, also bitterly opposed the relocation plan and used the threat of force to dissuade mission Indians from following Chief Peter and Smith north. Maksabe and his son Francis even physically assaulted the chief, first with fists to the face and then with an ax aimed at the head, which an Indian deflected so that it struck only a glancing blow.[74]

            This was the last straw for Peter. At the annual annuity payment in Grand Haven, he obtained permission from Superintendent Richmond to cut Maksabe and his clan off from the Old Wing Mission band. No longer would Maksabe poison the well for Smith and his Indian charges. Within months the rival chief was dead, having frozen to death while drunk at the Indian Village in the dead of winter.[75]

            In early 1849, Smith disposed of his home and the entire Old Wing Mission property. Two Grand Rapids men, Elisha Kellogg and Harmen Hudson, agreed to rent the lands for four years at forty dollars per year and plant an orchard "of the best kind of grafted fruit trees." Again the Michigan legislature passed a special act authorizing the sale. Four years later, Fairbanks bought the property and lived there the rest of his life. Fairbanks, together with the George Harringtons, had founded a Methodist congregation in Holland in 1848.[76]

            In the spring of 1849, Smith and the Ottawa band made their final preparations for the move. Smith sold the Indian school and its furnishings to the Manlius school board for sixty-five dollars, but he rented the school site to them. The Indians visited the mission for the last time, disinterring their dead to take with them to another consecrated place. The Smiths left at the mission the graves of five of their ten children; in 1867 Fairbanks reinterred the bones at the Holland Cemetery (now Pilgrim Home).[77] Meanwhile, agent McLaughlin completed refurbishing an old twenty-five-ton schooner he had bought in Chicago and renamed it the Hiram Merrill, after a missionary. On May 27, 1849, Smith attended the worship service at the log church and addressed the Dutch immigrants for the last time.

[photo cap: Gravestone of Smith children, Pilgrim Home Cemetery, Holland, Michigan, reinterred from the Old Wing Mission in 1868. The gravestone reads, “Esther Eliza, daughter of George N. & Arvilla Smith, died March 18, 1844 aged 3 years 7 months & 8 days. Three infants rest by her side.

credit: Photo by William Van Appledorn]

            The expedition began June 1, 1849, and it was reportedly quite a sight. The schooner carried seventeen people, a crew of two and three families—the Smiths with four children, the McLaughlins with four children, and McLaughlin's brother-in-law and assistant, William Case, with his wife and daughter. All the personal possessions and the mission's farm implements were crammed into the cargo hold. To the emotional farewell at the Indian landing came, among others, the Van Raaltes, the brothers Hoyt and Henry Post, and the Reverend Isaac Wyckoff from Albany, New York, who had arrived the previous evening to encourage the Dutch congregations in the colony to join his denomination, the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church (later Reformed Church in America). Wyckoff gave a brief address and prayed for the departing missionaries. As the schooner set sail, the party struck up a psalm and the melody wafted over the waters, leaving a deep impression on the Smiths. He and Van Raalte parted as friends, although there was no special intimacy between them.[78]

            The Indians followed the schooner, hugging the shoreline in their Mackinaw boats and birch bark canoes, carrying their belongings and the remains of departed loved ones. Smith hired three young American men to drive the mission animals—four cattle, three calves, three ponies, and a pair of oxen—overland along the Lake Michigan shoreline.[79] In twelve days the devoted missionaries disembarked on the Leelanau Peninsula at the wilderness site purchased by the Indians, which they aptly named Wakazooville. Here they set about clearing gardens and building homes. To their dismay, however, the isolation did not last long. Within four years white settlers overran this locale too, and Wakazooville was incorporated into the town of Northport. In 1857 Smith and Wakazoo's band moved their mission west a few miles to a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, where the government had given them land and money to build a church and school. Here Smith ministered among the Ottawas until his death in 1881. The settlement continued well into the twentieth century, until the Indians were assimilated into American culture.

            Although the Indian colony in Ottawa County gave way to the Dutch colony, this was not the last the Dutch saw of the mission band. For the next two decades, until at least 1870, they returned every year to winter on the shores of Black Lake, as they had done long before the Dutch came. The very first winter, in January 1850, Hoyt Post went to the Indian village and found Prickett in his house, Fouit fixing his muskrat traps, and Shawanaquam recovering from a drinking binge over the New Year's holiday. When Post visited again in the spring, he found about twenty families, but the wigwams were "falling to decay, probably never to be rebuilt, for the aversion of the Hollanders and Indians for each other is mutual, and the Indians say they will never make their home here again." However, they did come to trade, fish, and hunt.

            Indian trapping in the Holland area led James Veneklasen, a member of Van Raalte's church, into sin. In 1854 the young Veneklasen stole an otter from the trap of one of the Indians. Even though his father, B.J. Veneklasen, a brick maker in Zeeland, had mollified the Indians (presumably with a monetary payment), the church consistory judged that James had "caused much offence" to the natives and church alike, and he must publicly "confess his sin; otherwise the sin will be punished publicly." James learned a hard lesson in life and Van Raalte and his consistory made the point that the Indians must be treated with respect.[80]

            The Ottawas kept coming to Holland during the winter. In January 1860 Dutch housewives bought fresh river pike eagerly from the newly arrived Indians. They sell the "most delicious fish at our doors…for a reasonable price," reported the editor of De Hollander. The Indians also traded for muskrat and deerskins and, when the sap flowed in March, for maple sugar. But the Dutch considered the Indian sugar cakes to be fies [a colorful Dutch word, meaning dirty, grimy] and happily found another supply that year at eight cents per pound, according to Hermanus Doesburg of De Hollander. As late as 1870, Nancy Charter, who settled next to the Settler's House on Ninth Street in 1866, traded eggs with the Ottawas for baskets.[81]


            It is commonly said that the Dutch forced the Indians out. As Isaac Fairbanks's son Austin recalled, "The Indians said afterwards, 'The Bad Spirit says shoot every Dutchman, but the Good Spirit says, go away, let Dutchman be.'"[82] The Indians clearly saw that the swarming of the Dutch over the land jeopardized their way of life. It was the old story of white encroachment on Indian hunting grounds.

            Smith's nephew, Edgar P. Mills, in an editorial fifty years later in his Knights of Labor newspaper, the Workman (Grand Rapids), gave voice to this Indian perspective. As a child in the mid-1840s, Mills had lived at Old Wing Mission, when his father was the agriculturalist:

They [the Dutch] came, they saw, they conquered; yea, they met the enemy and in a little while the enemy were theirs—lands, houses, and all, and were kicked out into the cold world to shift for themselves by the soulless persecuted Christians from the land of dykes....The Hollanders had been gradually closing in around the Indians for the purpose of crowding them out and getting possession of their lands. To further their selfish ends they instituted a series of persecutions upon the savages. They beat them, cheated them, imprisoned them for alleged theft, and finally compelled them to give up their lands to their persecutors.[83]

            Editor Mill's screed bends the truth, at best, and is full of untruths, at worst. The aged Isaac Fairbanks, in his "Recollections," made this very point in rebuttal. The Indians, insisted Fairbanks, "were not forced to give up their lands, but sold them for a good price." And, Fairbanks continued, "The Indians were not persecuted or imprisoned."[84]

            Old Wing was at the point of disintegration when the Dutch arrived. From the outset, competition between kin groups and religious divisions had prevented the band from achieving its full potential. Neither missionaries nor government agents could end the fissures. After a decade of Smith's prayerful and earnest labor, the Indians had spurned his Protestant faith for "Catholic notions" and refused to live like "squaws" on their farms. As was their custom, winters were spent at the Landing on Black Lake and summers around Traverse Bay hunting and gathering. Thus, the decision in 1849 to relocate the mission was a natural one, and it offered the only way to preserve the Ottawa’s nomadic way of life for another generation or two.

            The Dutch did not understand the Indians’ way of life and feared that the Ottawas were not as Christian and civilized as they in fact were. There was "more or less trouble" from the outset, and the friction increased over time; the two cultures proved incompatible. But the Dutch harbored no ill will toward the Indians and did not beat, cheat, chain, or intoxicate them. The Ottawa, for their part, shared their knowledge and skills with the Hollanders and treated them with respect. Van Raalte and his people appreciated the help of the Indians in opening their farms and they paid a fair price for Ottawa lands and any personal property inadvertently taken.

            Smith and Chief Peter led the way and they planned the move carefully, after gaining approval and continued funding from the Michigan Indian superintendent. The Ottawas were not "kicked out into the cold world to shift for themselves." They moved of their own free will and for the best of reasons. Wakazoo's mission band had dwindled from 300 to 140 persons (34 families) by 1847, and these few could not have held their own at Black Lake, no matter which whites settled the area—Dutch or Yankees. Their position was untenable. They had to go north if they wanted to save the mission and their culture.

End Notes

[1] I am indebted to Joel Lefever for his helpful suggestions on this chapter. Robert P. Swierenga, "The Settlement of the Old Northwest: Ethnic Pluralism in a Featureless Plain," Journal of the Early Republic 9 (Spring 1989): 73-105; James Michael McClurken, "We Wish To Be Civilized: Ottawa-American Political Contests on the Michigan Frontier," 2 vols., Ph.D. diss. (East Lansing: Michigan State University, 1988).

[2] Jeanne M. Jacobson, Elton J. Bruins, and Larry Wagenaar, Albertus C. Van Raalte: Dutch Leader and American Patriot (Holland, Mich.: Hope College, 1996), quotes 8-9.

[3] Charles J. Lorenz, "Indians and Missions," in The History of Western Allegan County, ed. Kit Lane (Dallas: Curtis Media, 1988), 2; Mike Ellis and Tom Blissfield, "Waukazoo: A Forgotten Chief" Holland Sentinel, Jan. 5, 1985; Gerrit Van Schelven, William Ferry Interview, Sept. 18, 1903, box 2, Gerrit Van Schelven Papers, Holland Museum Collection, Joint Archives of Holland, located at Hope College, Holland, Michigan (hereafter Archives of Holland).

[4] H. Schoolcraft to T.H. Crawford, Apr. 23, 1839, and George N. Smith Memoranda, Mar. 2, 1845, both quoted in McClurken, "We Wish To Be Civilized," 313.

[5] James M. McClurken, Gah-Baeh-Jhagwah-Buk: The Way It Happened, A Visual Culture History of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Ottawa (East Lansing: Michigan State Univ. Press, 1991), 4-6, 18.

[6] Ibid, xiii.

[7] James A. Clifton, George I. Cornell, and James M. McClurken, People of the Three Fires: The Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibway of Michigan (Grand Rapids: Michigan Indian Press, 1986), 26.

[8] John W. McGee, The Catholic Church in the Grand River Valley, 1833-1950 (Grand Rapids: Saint Andrew's Cathedral, 1950), 34-81; McClurken, Way It Happened, 18-20; Ruth Craker, The First Protestant Mission in the Grand Traverse Region (Mount Pleasant, Mich.: Riverside House, 1932), 22-23.

[9] Richard A. Santer, Michigan: Heart of the Great Lakes (Dubuque, Iowa, 1977), 48-49, citing Alpheus Felch, "The Indians of Michigan and the Cession of Their Lands to the United States by Treaties," Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, 26 (1895): 282.

[10] Larry Massie, Haven, Harbor, and Heritage: The Holland, Michigan, Story (Allegan Forest, Michigan: Priscilla Press, 1996), 29-30.

[11] William Van Appledorn, Chief Wakazoo: From Roots to Wing (Holland, Mich., 2001).

[12] Charles J. Lorenz, "The Early History of the Black Lake Region—1836-1850," unpub. paper, 1987, Archives of Holland; “John D. Pierce on the Ordination of Rev. George Nelson Smith" (Apr. 6-7, 1837), Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, 12 (1887): 356; Arvilla A. Smith Diary, Dec. 30, 1838.  A scholarly biography of Arvilla Smith, written from the perspective of the New Women's History, is Amanda Jo Holmes, "'Art Thou Even in This Region.' The Diary of Arvilla Almira Powers Smith: A Missionary Wife Rediscovered," B.A. honors thesis (Amherst, Mass.: Amherst College, 1985).

[13] Minutes, Presbyterian Church, Synod of Michigan, Fifth Meeting, Ypsilanti, Oct. 8,1838, Bentley Historical Library, microfilm copy at the Archives of Holland.

[14] George N. Smith Memoranda, Dec. 2, 1840. A negative interpretation of Smith's life and career is J. Fraser Cocks, III, "George N. Smith: Reformer on the Frontier," Michigan History 52 (Spring 1968): 437-49. An uncritical accolade is by his granddaughter, Etta Smith Wilson, "Life and Work of the Late Rev. George N. Smith, A Pioneer Missionary," Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, 30 (1906): 190-212.

[15] Smith Memoranda, Nov. 11, 1838; Nov. 13, 1839. Prickett "sometimes refuses to interpret & sometimes I am fully persuaded that he does not interpret faithfully" (ibid., Apr. 9, 1840). He "abused me with the worst of language" and had "a heart as stubborn as steel" (Jan. 26, 1840). One evening Prickett came to Smith's home and "began his abuse again & carried so far that we had great reason to fear violence would be used." Even Chief Joseph and his band spurned Prickett (Apr. 12, 1840).

[16] Van Appledorn, Chief Wakazoo, 40-42; Wilson, "Life and Work," 208; Charles Henry Postma, "Isaac Fairbanks: An American in a Dutch Community," M.A. thesis (Muncie, Ind.: Ball State Univ., 1969), 33.

[17] Lorenz, "Early History." Macy's partners, all New Englanders, were Cyrus Burdick, Elisha Belcher, and Caleb Sherman.

[18] Letter, Macy to Alexander Walsh, Oct. 13, 1839, quoted in Lorenz, "Early History."

[19] Smith Memoranda, Apr. 13, May 26, 1839; McClurken, "We want to be civilized," 314; letter, Colonel Montague Ferry, Park City, Utah, to Mary A. White, Grand Haven, Mich., Feb. 16, 1897, in P.T. Moerdyke Collection, box 15, Archives of Holland. According to the federal land survey, the tract was in sections 3, 4, and 5 of Township 4 North, Range 15 West.

[20] Letter, Agent Henry R. Schoolcraft, Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the Mackinac Agency, to T. Hartley Crawford, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington, D.C., June 8, 1838, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C., copy in Archives of Holland.  A list of the families, based on the 1840 Indian census, is in George N. Smith Papers, copy in Archives of Holland.

[21]   McClurkin, "We Wish To Be Civilized," 311-12.

[22] Smith Memoranda, Sept. 3, 1839.

[23] Arvilla Smith's quote in Van Appledorn, Chief Wakazoo, 47; Smith's prayer in Smith, Memoranda, Oct. 6, 1839.

[24] Arvilla Smith Diary, Apr. 12, 1840; Jan. 10, May 11, 1841. The best analysis of Arvilla's bouts of depression is Holmes, "Arvilla Almira Powers Smith," 92-101.  

[25] Smith Memoranda, Apr. 26, June 24, Oct. 4, 1842.

[26] Ibid., July 30, 1840; May 17, 1841; Apr. 19, 1845. The Tarry, Knap, and Nichols families settled to the northeast and Isaac Fairbanks to the west (ibid., June 10, Aug. 26, 1842). The Jonathan Stratton family was another close neighbor (ibid., June 8, 1845); as was the Joseph Maloney family from New York, who settled to the east in section 2 in 1846 (ibid., Aug. 21, 1846).

[27] George N. Smith to Robert Stuart, Aug. 14, 1841 (see chap. 6). The Indians were paid in coin, ten to sixteen fifty-cent pieces in a roll; they came a thousand dollars to a box (Gerrit Van Schelven, William Ferry Interview, Sept. 18, 1903, Van Schelven Papers, box 2, Archives of Holland.

[28] Smith Memoranda, Apr. 30, 1841.

[29] Smith Memoranda, Aug. 11, 1839, May 10, 1840; Arvilla Smith Diary, Apr. 14, 1840.

[30] McGee, Catholic Church, 83-96; Smith Memoranda, Mar. 21, 1841.

[31] Smith, Memoranda, Jan. 10, 29; Mar. 22, 29, 30; June 5, 9, 1842; 1847 census of the Indians, Archives of Holland; Gerrit Van Schelven, William Ferry Interview, Sept. 18, 1903, and Blackbird Interview at Chicago Semi-Centennial (1887), by Gerrit Van Schelven, both in box 2, Van Schelven Papers, Archives of Holland; Holland City News, May 10, 1890; E.J. Harrington, "Early Reminiscences," Holland Daily Sentinel, Feb. 25, 1913. Besides his ministry to the Ottawas, Father Viszosky founded St. Andrews Catholic Church in Grand Rapids and served as its first and only priest for eighteen years, until his death in 1853 at age fifty-seven. See John W. McGee, The Catholic Church in the Grand River Valley, 1833-1960 (Grand Rapids, 1950).

[32] Smith Memoranda, May 2, 8, 1842; Jan. 11, Apr. 26, Dec. 14, 21, 1843; McClurken, "We Want To Be Civilized," 316-17.

[33] Smith, Memoranda, July 12, 13, Aug. 8, Nov. 14, 18, 21, 1843, all cited in McClurken, "We Want To Be Civilized," 317-18.

[34] Lorenz, "Early History." For Fairbanks' career see Postma, "Isaac Fairbanks."

[35] Smith Memoranda, June 26, 1843; Jan. 7, 1844.

[36] Ibid, May 23, June 7, 1842; Apr. 4, June 9, 1843. Why Maksabe joined Wakazoo's band is unclear. McClurken suggests that the two groups may have shared the same hunting grounds along the Black and Kalamazoo rivers and intermarried over the years. Maksabe also saw the advantages of joining the mission colony to ward off removal to the West (McClurken, "We Want To Be Civilized," 313-14, citing Smith, Memoranda, Sept. 15, Oct. 24, 1841). Isaac Lamoreux claimed that "the trouble between Wakazoo and Mc Sauba [Maksabe] was that Mc Sauba was British" (Gerrit Van Schelven, Isaac Lamoreux Interview, "Van Schelven's Historical Notes," undated, Van Schelven Papers, box 2, Archives of Holland.

[37] Reports, George Smith to Robert Stuart, Aug. 23, 1844; June 30, 1845; Sept. 10, 1846; Aug. 31, 1847; Smith's "Census of Indian Tribes," Old Wing Mission, 1847.

[38] McClurkin, "We Wish To Be Civilized," 312.

[39] Reports, George Smith to Robert Stuart, Jan. 11, 1843.

[40] "Indians being out of meat started this morning to Pigeon River hunting.... Inds returned [two days later]. They killed 8 deer" (Smith Memoranda, Dec. 21, 23, 1840).

[41] Summarized in ibid., Sept. 30, 1843.

[42] Ibid., Oct. 12, 1842.

[43] Letter, Superintendent Robert Stuart to Paymaster William S. Lee, Grand Haven, Oct. 1, 1843; J. Wakazoo to R. Stuart, Dec. 23, 1843; Osman Goodrich to R. Stuart, Dec. 30, 1843, cited in McClurken, "We Want To Be Civilized," 318. All records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths at the Catholic Indian church were lost in a fire at St. Andrew's Parish in Grand Rapids in 1850. Father Viszosky died in 1853 without leaving any written history. Only Smith's Memoranda provides some information.

[44] Smith Memoranda, Jan. 11, Feb. 19, 1843; Letter, George N. Smith to Robert Stuart, Acting Superintendent Indian Affairs, Sept. 1, 1843, U.S. Senate, Executive Documents No. 2; Letter, Osman D. Goodrich to Robert Stuart, Sept. 30, 1843; McClurkin, "We Wish To Be Civilized," 312.

[45] Smith Memoranda, Apr. 24, June 13, 16, 26, 1843.

[46] Ibid., May 13, 25, 27, 1844; Feb. 2, Nov. 23, 1845; May 17, 1846.

[47] Letters, Osman D. Goodrich to Robert Stuart, Dec. 30, 1843; Apr. 30, 1844; Smith Memoranda, June 29, 1844.

[48] Report, George N. Smith to Robert Stuart, Aug. 23, 1844; Postma, "Isaac Fairbanks," 13, 17-28, 32.

[49] Postma, "Isaac Fairbanks," 13, 28-31, 35. Fairbanks's father, Stephen, a farmer, had been appointed in 1843 as agricultural agent at the Griswold Indian Mission in Allegan County.

[50] Report, Rev. George Smith to Superintendent Robert Stuart, June 30, 1845, cited in Lorenz, "Early History"; Postma, "Isaac Fairbanks," 30-32, 38. The quotes are from Fairbanks's speech at the Holland semi-centennial celebration of 1897.

[51] Smith Memoranda, Aug. 19, Oct. 28, 1845.

[52] The vote was twenty-five for Joseph and three for Maksabe, two of which were his sons (Smith Memoranda, Apr. 13, 1845); quote in ibid., Oct. 30, 1845.

[53] Report, Smith to William A. Richmond, Detroit, Sept. 10, 1846, U.S. Senate, Executive Documents No. 41; Postma, "Isaac Fairbanks," 36; McClurken, "We Want To Be Civilized," 320.

[54] Smith Memoranda, Nov. 1, 1845; May 17, June 7, 1846; Report, Smith to Richmond, Sept. 10, 1846, U.S. Senate, Executive Documents No. 41.

[55] Report, Rev. George Smith to Superintendent Robert Stuart, Sept. 10, 1846; Cocks, "Smith," 49; Three Fires, 26; Abram W. Pike, "Recollections," typescript, p. 6, Van Schelven Papers, box 9, Archives of Holland.

[56] Report, George Smith to Robert Stuart, Aug. 23, 1844.

[57] Isaac Lamoreux, a old Indian trader in Richmond, claimed many years later that Maksabe had poisoned Joseph at Black River, Gerrit Van Schelven, Isaac Lamoreux Interview," Van Schelven Historical Notes," undated, Van Schelven Papers, box 2, Archives of Holland.

[58] Smith Memoranda, Dec. 22, 1844; Oct. 28, 1845; Feb. 4, 1849; Report, George N. Smith to William A. Richmond, Sept. 4, 1848, U.S. Senate, Executive Documents No. 17B; Lamoreux interview; In 1846 the Grand Rapids Enquirer reported that to foil the white traders from intoxicating and then cheating the Indians at the annuity payment in Grand Rapids, as had happened in 1845, Indian superintendent Stuart divided the tribes and paid them in three places instead of one—Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Gull Prairie (Nov. 13, 1846).

[59] Smith Memoranda, Feb. 20, Mar. 2, 13, 22, 1846.

[60] Father Viszosky had been trying hard to win Prickett to the Catholic faith and was probably behind his machinations (ibid., Nov. 1, 1845); Report, George N. Smith to William A. Richmond, Aug. 31, 1847.

[61] Ibid., Oct. 5,1846. Charles Lorenz compiled a list of Indian deaths by date, based on Smith's Memoranda.

[62] Postma, Fairbanks, 38-40; Henry S. Lucas, Netherlanders in America: Dutch Immigration to the United States and Canada, 1789-1950 (1955, reprinted, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 76. There is no question of the day of Van Raalte's arrival, since his party stopped at the cabin next door of Isaac Fairbanks, who later recalled: "I remember the time from the habit of the Indians of firing a salute around our dwellings to usher in the New Year" (I. Fairbanks, "Incidents in the History of the Founding of Holland," cited in ibid., 76).

[63] Lucas, Netherlanders in America, 75-76. Amazingly, Smith in his voluminous and meticulous daily Memoranda books made no mention of this very significant visit of Smith and Kellogg, although he did make an entry on Jan. 1, 1847: "Last evening the Indians fired three salutes in very fine order, most of the young men. This is their invariable custom [to welcome in the New Year] and they give us the first compliment." The remainder of Smith's 1847 daily memorandum book is missing and presumed lost, which is the only gap in his series that runs from 1839 to 1888. A complete microfilm copy of the Memoranda is in Archives of Holland.

[64] Report, George N. Smith to William A. Richmond, Aug. 31, 1847, U.S. Senate, Executive Documents No. 28; Letter, George N. Smith, Old Wing Mission, to Rev. William M. Ferry, Grand Haven, Mar. 23, 1840; Smith Memoranda, Mar. 3, 1848; Etta Smith Wilson, "Life and Work of the Late Rev. George N. Smith, A Pioneer Missionary," Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, 30 (1906): 190-221, quote 204. William Van Eyck, Holland's second historian after Van Schelven, blames this Dutch behavior on their lower-class origins ("A Story That is Filled With Indian Lore," n.d., Wm. O. Van Eyck Papers, Archives of Holland. 

[65] Engbertus van der Veen, "Life Reminiscences," in Henry S. Lucas, Dutch Immigrant Memoirs and Related Writings, 2 vols. (Assen: Van Gorkum, 1955, rev. ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 1: 511; Smith Memoranda, Jan. 22, 24, Feb. 10, 22, 1848.

[66] Ruth Van Ingen, "The Story of the Beads," undated manuscript, Ruth Van Ingen Papers, Archives of Holland. Isaac Henry Fairbanks, Isaac's son, stated that "the Indians were lazy and rather than work on a farm, they stole food from the Hollanders." See "Holland Man Was Indian Boys' Playmate" and "Isaac Fairbanks Was First White Man in These Parts," Holland City News, Apr. 1, 1937.

[67] Lorenz, "Early History"; Albert Hyma, Albertus C. Van Raalte and His Dutch Settlements in the United States (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947), 159-60.

[68] Letters, Wm. A. Richmond, Acting Superintendent, Grand Rapids, to Rev. George N. Smith and Isaac Fairbanks, Old Wing Mission, Apr. 6, 1847; Richmond to Smith, Dec. 27, 1847; Richmond to Fairbanks, Dec. 27, 1847, Richmond Family Papers, Collection 94, box 2, Grand Rapids Public Library. See also Smith Memoranda, Jan. 3, 4, 1848. Teunis Keppel, "Historica," P.T. Moerdyke Papers, box 11, Archives of Holland.

[69] Letter, Henry Pennoyer to William A. Richmond, Acting Superintendent of Indian Affairs, 27 Mar. 1847; Letter, Geo. N. Smith to Wm A. Richmond, 28 Apr. 1847, both in "Letters of the Indian Superintendent and the Agent at Mackinac," Records of the Michigan Superintendent of Indian Affairs, National Archives.

[70] Quote from Arvilla Smith's recollections, Van Appledorn, Chief Wakazoo, 56; Smith Memoranda, Apr. 12, 1848.

[71] Report, George N. Smith to William A. Richmond, Sept. 4, 1848.

[72] George N. Smith to Charles P. Babcock, Superintendent Indian Affairs, Oct. 7, 1850.

[73] Smith Memoranda, Apr. 16, 24, May 1, 13, June 24, 1848; Mar. 31, 1849. The Dutch purchasers were the families Isaac Cappon, Jan De Haan, Jacob Ellens, Jan Helder, Pieter Naber, Albert Kapenga, Egbert Pilon, Jacob Van Putten, and Cornelius J. Voorhorst. Kapenga, Naber, and Pilon were new arrivals from Groningen. The state legislature by special act of both houses authorized the Indians to convey a valid deed to their lands, provided that Smith and the Allegan County probate judge approved of the terms. See Acts State of Michigan (1848), Act 114, March 27, 1848, 134-36; copy in Archives of Holland.

[74] Smith Memoranda, Mar. 19, Apr. 28, 1848; Letter, John Kellogg to Wm A. Richmond, May 12, 1848, "Letters of the Indian Superintendent and the Agent at Mackinac."

[75] Smith to Superintendent William Richmond, Sept. 4, 1848.

[76] Act 116, dated Mar. 21, 1849, copied verbatim in Lorenz, "Early History;" Smith Memoranda, Mar. 19, 1848; Jan. 3, 4, Mar. 9, 1849.

[77] Smith Memoranda, May 15, 1849. Fairbanks paid the cemetery director, Kommer Schaddelee, $1.50 to reinter the bones in a common grave (Lot 3, Block F) under a headstone naming the only child to live beyond a few hours, three-year old Esther Eliza Smith. See also Wm. O. Van Eyck, "Indian Lore," Van Eyck Papers, Archives of Holland.  That the Indians overlooked a number of graves was discovered in 1898 during construction at the Heinz pickling plant. Again during later expansions in 1923 and 1946, more human remains were uncovered (Holland City News, Dec. 12, 1923; recollections of 1946 by Heinz employee William Dykens, per William P. Vande Water). 

[78] This is Hoyt Post's opinion, stated in his interview with Gerrit Van Schelven in the fall of 1898. Post described the emotional farewell in detail in his diary entry of July 1, 1849, both documents in Post Family Papers, Archives of Holland. Smith's daughter Mary Wolf also recalled the farewell in 1898 ("When the Indians Left Holland," Holland City News, Sept. 2, 1898.

[79] Wilson, "Life and Work," 204-05.

[80] First Reformed Church, Holland, Consistory Minutes, April 11, 1854, Art. 2, Archives of Holland.

[81] Hoyt G. Post Diary, Jan. 13, May 27, 1850; De Hollander, Jan. 19, 26, Feb. 8, 29, Mar. 7, 14, 1860. Louis Maksabe's death was reported in Holland City News, Oct. 16, 1897; cf. printed letter, Louis Mikisabey [Maksabe], Holland, Ottawa County, to Josebi, Dec. 20, 1860, copy in Archives of Holland. This letter is written in Algonquin. It is not yet translated, nor is the place of publication known. Joel Lefever is the source for Mrs. Charter's Indian bartering. Her obituary is in the Holland Daily Sentinel, Aug. 12, 1929.

[82] "Interview with Austin Fairbanks," typescript by Barbara Lampen, Isaac Fairbanks Papers, Archives of Holland.

[83] Edgar P. Mills, untitled article in the Workman, Mar. 19, 1898. The weekly paper later became the Grand Rapids Chronicle.

[84] "Incidents in the History of the First Settlement of the Holland Colony" [1898], typescript in Isaac Fairbanks Papers, Archives of Holland. Fairbanks gave six examples of factual errors in Mills's statement, which "appears to have more zeal than knowledge."