Indian and Primitave Record of Oakland County, Michigan
 
Orchard Lake And The Great Chief Pontiac—The Legend Of Me Nah-sa-gor-ing Primitive Tillage And Industries Contact With Known Tribes—Scars Of Battle—C. Z. Horton's ContriButions—Indian Camping Ground And Cemetery—Queer CusToms—The Passing Of We-se-gah. 
 
The legitimate history of Oakland county, so far as it relates to the settlement and civilization of the whites, commences with the abandonment of the siege of Detroit by the great Indian chief, Pontiac, in 1764. 
With this portentous danger removed, the interior of southern Michigan became a field of investigation to adventurers and those seeking homes; so that in 1815 the surveyor general of the state commenced to run his lines south from Detroit toward the Ohio boundary.
 
Orchard Lake And The Great Chief, Pontiac 
 
Orchard lake, southwest of Pontiac, was one of the homes of the chief after whom the city was named, and from that region he is said to have drawn not a small portion of his supplies, such as fish and water fowl, which enabled him to make such an alarming display of his strength and resourcefulness before the English stronghold.
 
Pontiac had not been slow in transferring his allegiance from his oldtime friends, the French, and the new British rulers of the country. 
In September, 1760, four days after the surrender of Montreal, Major Robert Rogers received orders from his superiors to take possession of Detroit, Michilimackinac and other western posts which fell to the British as the result of the war. 
On his way to Detroit he reached the mouth of the Cuyahoga river, the present site of Cleveland, and there encamped with his command of two hundred rangers who had come hither from Montreal in fifteen whale-boats.
 
Soon after the arrival of the rangers a party of Indian chiefs and warriors entered the camp. 
They proclaimed themselves an embassy from Pontiac, ruler of all that country, and directed, in his name, that the English should advance no further until they could have an interview with the great chief who was already close at hand. 
In truth, before the day closed, Pontiac himself appeared; and it is here for the first time that this remarkable character becomes a part of American history. 
He is said to have greeted Major Rogers with the haughty demand "What is your business in this country; and how dare you-enter it without my permission?"
 
Rogers informed him that the French were defeated, that Canada had surrendered, and that he was on his way to take possession of Detroit and "restore general peace to white men and Indians alike. 
Pontiac listened with attention, but only replied that he "should stand in the path until morning." 
Having inquired if the strangers were in need of anything which his country afforded, he withdrew with his chiefs at nightfall to his own encampment, while the English stood well on their guard until morning.
 
Pontiac then returned to the camp with his attendant chiefs and made his reply to Rogers' speech of the previous day. 
He was willing, he said, to live at peace with the English, and suffer them to remain in his country as long as they treated him with deference. 
The Indian chief and provincial officers then smoked the calumet together.
 
Up to this time, Pontiac had been the fast ally of the French, but, ignorant as he was of what was passing in the great world of the whites, his remarkable instinct told him that the English were in the decided ascendant; that it was the best policy to cultivate their friendship; and he hoped to secure them as allies in furthering his ambitions against tribes of his own race. 
In the latter expectation he was so bitterly disappointed that he became a fierce and stern foe long to be remembered. 
When Pontiac found that he could not use the English, he set about to exterminate them. In 1863 culminated his plans and conspiracies of several years' standing. 
Under his leadership, the Delawares. a portion of the Six Nations, the Wyandots, the Shawnees, the Ottawas (his own people), and the other western Indian nations, had agreed to fall simultaneously upon all the frontiers from Lake Superior to the Susquehanna. 
Pontiac's eastern coworker in the famous conspiracy was the celebrated Seneca chief, Kyasuta or Guyasuta, whose home was on the Allegheny river, but history has given the palm of greatness to the western leader.
 
The details and outcome of the conspiracy are known of all; how Pontiac and his Warriors attempted to enter the Detroit fort and massacre all therein; how this plan not only failed, but expected relief from the French as well, and how, in chagrin, he raisjed the siege, upon the approach of Braddock's army in August, 1764, and withdrew to the headwaters of the Maumee, where he still endeavored to stir up the red race against the whites. 
In 1766, at the great Indian council near Otsego, New York, he signed a perpetual treaty of peace with the English, and remained at Maumee until 1769, when he removed to Illinois. 
Soon afterward he visited St. Louis to call upon his former friend, St. Ange, the commandant of that post. 
He was dressed in the full uniform of a French officer, which the Marquis Montcalm had presented to him as a special mark of respect toward the close of the French war. 
Everywhere he was received and entertained as a great man.
 
Pontiac remained at St. Louis for several days, when, hearing that a great number of Indians were assembled at Cahokia on the opposite side of the river, said he would cross over and see what was going on. 
St. Ange tried to dissuade him, but he replied that he was a match for the English, and, with a few of his followers, crossed to the Illinois shore. 
Entering the village, he was soon known and invited to a grand feast where liquor was freely circulated. 
The chief, with all his dignity and natural strength of character, could not resist the native passion for strong drink. 
After the feast was over and he was well under the influence of liquor, he strolled down the street into the adjacent woods, where he was heard to sing the weird medicine songs of his race, which proved for him to be his requiem. 
A Kaskaskia Indian followed close behind, and his dead body was soon after found in a thicket. 
It is believed that the savage had been hired to tomahawk the great chief by an English trader named Williamson, the wage for the dastardly act having been the promise of a barrel of rum.
 
A terrible vengeance followed this great crime. 
The Indians of the northwest united and almost exterminated the Illinois tribes, the remnants of whom never afterward cut any figure in history. 
 
Whether Pontiac ever made the Orchard lake region his actual place of abode is questionable, but he undoubtedly often passed through the charming region, and that his name is attached to the metropolis of the county is an added reason why his career and personality should be presented at some length.
 
The Legend Of Me-nah-sa-gor-ning 
 
One of the most noted of the Indian legends attaching to this region has to do with Orchard lake, or more strictly speaking with the beautiful Me-nah-sa-gor-ning (Apple island), which lies in its center. 
Many years ago, Samuel M. Leggett, one of the county's old settlers, told the story of this legend in verse, but at such length that it cannot be here reproduced. 
His introduction, however, furnishes matter which is both interesting and available. 
"In the state of Michigan," it says, "in one county alone—that of Oakland—is a chain of beautiful lakes, some hundreds in number, many of them miles in length and width. 
Around these wind the roadways, over beaches of white pebbles and shaded by the 'forests primeval.' 
Two rivers, the Huron and the Clinton, run through these lakes, and, in their tortuous forms, wind, and turn, and twist, till after a course of hundreds of miles, they at last rest in Lakes Erie and St. Clair. 
These rivers are in the summer dotted with the water-lily, as they flow on through the 'openings,' and on their banks are huge old oaks under which, in the days that are gone, stood many a wigwam.
 
"The legend which I have attempted to verify is founded upon an incident occurring at Orchard lake long before the coming of the white man and while the grand farms now lying around it were merely a vast oak opening, its sole occupant the Indian and the wild beast. 
Very near the center of this Orchard lake is a large island, wooded to its very shore. 
On it are a few apple trees, old and gnarled, remnants of an orchard planted so long ago that the Indians even have no data concerning it. 
Its name, Me-nah-sa-gor-ning, meaning "apple place," still lives in tradition.
 
"On this island the Algonquin chief, Pontiac, had his lodge after his repulse at the siege of Detroit. 
On the high bank of this lake, opposite the island, is still to be seen the ancient burial ground of the Sacs, Hurons and Wyandots.
 
"Tradition says that back beyond the memory of the tribe a young chief sickened and suddenly died. 
The maiden to whom he was betrothed became insane, and whenever she could escape from her guardians they would take the body of the chief from its resting place in the old ground across the lake and carry it back to the place where his lodge formerly stood.
 
"At last, weary of guarding her, with the advice of their medicine man the tribe killed her, upon her refusal to marry. 
This crime, so directly opposed to all former Indian custom, so offended the Great Spirit that he avowed his intention of totally destroying the tribe, and to give the maiden, 'as long as water flowed,' complete control over it. She alone 
 
has power to assume her form at any time. She can compel the attendance of the tribe at any time by the beating of the Indian drum. 
At this sound they must gather and wait where an old canoe has been gradually covered by the drifting sands. 
Upon the signal of her coming with her dead the warriors must meet her on the shore, bear the chief on his bier and lay him down by the ashes of his council fire and, waiting beside him until she can caress him, bear him back to his resting place. 
All, however, must be done between sunset and sunrise—a foggy night being always chosen to elude observation."
 
Primitive Tillage And Industries 
 
One of the most complete sketches of aboriginal history as it relates to Oakland county has been written by O. Poppleton, formerly president of the Oakland County Pioneer Society. 
It is mainly contained in his address delivered before that body in June, 1884. 
The portions applicable to the subject now being considered are as follows:
 
"Oakland county is not barren of traditional or legendary events of deep interest to the historian, and to her people. 
When the Jesuit fathers and French fur traders first visited this region of the country, and following them the very early pioneers, they found many evidences of a prior occupation by a semi-civilization, in the tillage of the soil by unknown and extinct agriculturists of a very remote period. 
Many rude agricultural implements have been found in the clearing and tillage of the land and by excavations; thus demonstrating theoretically that the country had been previously occupied by a people who were well versed in the knowledge of practical agriculture, and who subsisted by cultivating the soil, by mining, in pursuit of game of the forests, and the fish of the lakes and rivers.
 
"The very early surveyors in pursuit of their calling, and the pioneer in exploring this region for a favorable location for his homestead, found large areas which, evidently, had been tilled in hoed crops, judging from the regular and well defined rows of hills for corn and vegetables, upon which were then growing the largest oaks and other trees of the forests. 
By an actual computation of the yearly growth of these trees, the occupation of this region by those people must have been centuries before the discovery of this continent.
 
"The traditions were that corn, beans and other grains and vegetables were raised upon these aboriginal fields; that they had sustained a numerous population, who were proficient in the arts of rude manufacturing of cloths, pottery and copper utensils, silver and copper ornaments, stone axes, hammers, mortars and pestles, flint arrow heads, graining and skinning knives, many of which have been found during the early explorations of the missionaries and traders and since by the first settlements of the pioneers of the county. 
 
"At what period those people occupied the county is difficult even to approximate a date. Yet from the modified barbarism which is indicated by works left by a pre-historic race, there can be no other conclusion than that this county has been occupied by a race long since extinct, who were undoubtedly connected with the early civilization of Europe.
 
Contact With Known Tribes 
 
"In the early explorations of the Great Lakes by the French, commencing in 1534-5, they found the descendants of the Algonquin tribes of Indians occupying the country to the north and west of Detroit, with whom they held social and commercial intercourse, yet but little of the French and early Indian history has been preserved. 
It is known that the fur traders made their annual visits to this region, through the rivers Huron, Rouge, Raisin and Clinton, for the purpose of bartering with the Indians for furs and skins.
 
"But little has been preserved of the Indian history, or of the French nomadic occupation. One Micheau, a French and Indian trader, who died about the time of the first settlement of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, at the advanced age of one hundred and fifteen or one hundred and sixteen years, relates that one of the traditions of the tribes was that a sanguinary conflict occurred between the Foxes and Chippewas, upon the plains north and west, adjoining what is now the village of Birmingham, and known as the Willits, Doctor Swan and Captain Blake farms, on sections 24 and 25.
 
Scars Of Battle 
 
"The village of the Chippewas was situated near the present site of the cemetery and formed a nucleus from which they sallied forth upon their hunting, fishing and warlike expeditions and forays, returning with varied success and bringing game, furs and the scalps of their hated foe, the Foxes. 
Between these powerful tribes there had existed a deadly feud for many years, until it culminated in an attack by the Foxes upon the Chippewas, at their village. 
How many braves were engaged in the conflict, tradition has failed to hand down to us. 
That there were many on each side is evident from the number of dead redskins said to have been found in the trail of the retreating tribes and on the battlefield. 
The Chippewas were defeated after a desperate struggle in defending their children, squaws and camp fires, and their village burned. 
They retreated along the trails towards what is now Detroit, closely pursued by their foes, leaving about seven hundred dead bodies along the course of their retreat; and on the field of battle the dead were too numerous to be counted. 
The pride and prowess of this once powerful tribe was crushed and humiliated, and thereafter they declined in influence and numbers.
 
"There is one other notable Indian tradition, of an event which occurred in the county—that of a hostile meeting between the great chief Pontiac and another tribe, in the vicinity of a large, while oak tree, in the township of Royal Oak, on section 16, from which the township derives its name; located near the junction of the Crook's, Niles and Paint Creek roads. 
At the time I first saw it, in 1825, it still bore the scars made by the tomahawks, arrows and bullets. 
But at what date this happened, or what tribe was opposed to Pontiac and his followers, I have never been able to learn, not even through traditional history." 
 
C. Z. Horton's Contributions 
 
C. Z. Horton has also made valuable contributions to the Indian pictures of Oakland county, some of which are given. 
They were originally published in the Rochester Era. As to evidences of former tillage, either by Indians or a more primitive race, he says: 
"In this connection I would state that the appearance of the woodlands when I first came here (to Rochester), especially south of the Clinton river, looked like an old corn field, or like hills where corn had grown, the rows running a little west of north and east of south, about four feet apart each way; besides all the stones had been piled up, as but few scattering ones could be seen and many of them were deeply imbedded in the earth."
 
Indian Camping Ground And Cemetery 
 
"Near the dwelling of Mr. Edwin T. Wilcox, on the Paint Creek road, some two miles south of Rochester," he continues, "there were deep indentations in the ground, and from ten to twelve feet across, some of them two or more feet deep. 
They followed the line of the ridge, were from four to six feet apart—perhaps ioo of them—and were parallel, showing the appearance of a winter camping-ground where the earth had been thrown up around their wigwams, as it was afterwards discovered, in digging in them, they contained the debris of ashes and charcoal. 
On the lot owned by Mr. Simeon P. Hartwell, the same broken surface appeared, also the corn hills. 
On the Chipman farm, now occupied by Mr. Weaver, some eighty or one hundred rods east and north, the same indications were observable, also an old burial ground. 
These signs I never observed north of the river.
 
Queer Customs 
 
"It was a custom with the Indians that when their young arrived at a proper age they were enclosed in a wigwam and had to remain thus in seclusion by themselves a number of days, or until they would dream of some animal, bird, or reptile, and be able to number and tell of it in the morning. 
Whatever the dream might be that would be an object of worship through life—such as a bear, a deer, a fox, an eagle, hawk, or smaller animals and birds, and even snakes and lizards. 
I have often seen trees in the woods, in this vicinity, with rude representations of this kind worked on them, which was their habit of doing. 
I saw two boys in their wigwams undergoing this ordeal—singing during the day and silent at night. 
This happened in front of Mr. William Burbank's residence in the summer of 1825, where Mr. Conrad Taylor now resides. 
I asked Mrs. Burbank what was the object of the Indians to be thus engaged on a sultry day? She said it was one of their religious ceremonies. 
I have since learned that such was the case.
 
"Here is another circumstance, or rather a ceremony of the Indians I have heard narrated by the old settlers, which will be of interest to all those living in this vicinity, which took place in 1824. 
It is this: south of the Barnes Brothers' paper mill, near the hill, on the land occupied by Mr. Ezekiel Dewey, the Indians cleared off all the flat, built a large logheap, and set it on fire; in building the heap they left an opening in the centre. 
They then brought forth two white dogs which they had fantastically decorated with red flannel around their necks, tied in their ears and around their legs and tails; and when the pile had fairly become ignited all through, they threw their canine victims into the aperture left in the middle of the blazing pile. 
They then commenced their songs and dances, which they kept up all night—as the old saying is, 'they made the welken ring.'
 
The Passing Of We-se-gah 
 
We-se-gah was probably one of the most turbulent of the Indians in this section. He was large and muscular, and when in liquor was ready for fight. 
Most of the settlers were afraid of him. Of his quarrelsome and pugilistic propensity none perhaps were better acquainted than Alexander and Benjamin Graham. 
They both had, several times, quarreled with him. 
We-se-gah at one time drew a tomahawk on Benjamin while he was at work on his shoe-bench, for which Benjamin gave him a very sound thrashing, and at another time he attacked Alexander. 
After a long tussle, of nearly an hour's duration, Alexander finally overpowered him. 
We-se-gah, drawing his blanket over his face, then sat down and waited for Graham to dispatch him according to Indian law—by burying a tomahawk in his head. 
Graham raised the blanket and said to him: 
"Go! Never come back. If you do, I will kill you " We-se-gah went, and was never seen in this section afterward."