Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Legend of Chief Wabasis' Lost Treasure - 113

Someone killed a "little White Swan."

Who would kill an innocent White Swan? When and where did they kill it and by what means did they so viciously attack it?

How could anyone be so infuriated to so brutally kill it. Surely such a swan would never foul a dock or lawn at one of Michigan's most picturesque waterfronts. Most people if they saw it would simply scare such a magnificent bird away should it foul an area, but as reason would have it man and white swans don't always see eye-to-eye on who lives, owns or co-habits a scenic spot.

This white swan had lived under the penalty of death for approximately 28 years until it fell prey to several drunk individuals. Had this white swan done something so callous it needed to be eradicated from this earth? Its lifeless body was found lying on the blood-splattered grass beside Rum Creek in northern Cannon Township and the death of white swan is what caused another treasure mystery in Cannon Township, a community with a rich historical heritage. It's another ultimate treasure mystery where you can escape the perils of our crumbling economy and for a few moments dream about searhing for lost Indian treasure.

The "Little White Swans" murder spot happened a short distance off the Plainfield-Sheridan Indian Trail near a rum colored small trout stream that crosses Kies Avenue west of Myers Lake Road. Death came swiftly for the swan two miles north/northeast of Leach Swamp in Cannon Township on Rum Creek. The water was diluted blood, but actually it was diluted with decaying vegetation; leaves, grass and wood that made its coloration from early fall to early spring rains flushed it out.

To the south Barkley Creek flows northwest from the foot of the present Lake Bella Vista (formerly Grass Lake) just east of Blakely Road and meanders through Leach swamp. It enters the Rogue River near the old ghost town of Gibralter nestled in the valley below the Jericho Mountains. Directly across the river one can see the rise of the Rockford Mountains and to the west the Childsdale Mountains. These mountains never existed in little white swan's day, but for political correctness this is what geographers call the steep elevational rises above the Rogue River's glacial canyons. All are the geographical features of Rockford (formerly Laphamville) until 1866. If no roads existed in present day could you find your homestead? Most people couldn't because they don't study topography of their surroundings.

Several miles east and south Rum Creek's headwaters originate from Silver Lake, the jewel of Cannon Township. The rum stained ice water flows northeast and enters the Rogue River just above Rockford. It passes beneath the present day Wolverine World Wide's pigskin procurement plant and complex and spills into mainstream Rogue River dam impoundment. This entire river front complex is being demolished and the ghost that inhabits the WWW shoe factory is going to be ousted to take up residence elsewhere or find the oldest structure in town - maybe the Corner Bar. I hope it is not going to upset you that some dastardly persons murdered the little white swan?

I'm not talking about a Mute Swan, those magnificent large white birds that inhabit the Rockford Dam impoundment or the mated pairs that dot area lakes, but white swans aren't docile. They can be mean and nasty all the time and if you meet them you should never turn your back or challenge them near water. They hiss, spit and pinch bent over human butts when man turns his back side to them. Swans that challenge a mated pairs territory are viciously attacked, practically beat to death in a flurry of huge wings, then jumped upon and using its powerful beak it'll push the victims head down into the water and drown it. The challenging victim's only defense is to dive underwater.

Now the little white swan I'm talking about is Chief John Waba(e)sis (wab-ah-see), a half breed Indian Chief who walked among white settlers on two legs in Kent and Ionia County for 63 years. To pioneer settlers he was an honest man and nowhere near a savage. He was educated. He was quite the opposite for a revengeful crocodile named Chief Ne-ogg-ah-nah and his murderous white companion. White settlers trusted and respected Chief Wabasis, but not so for Wabasis' own tribal Potawatomi and Ottawa Indian brothers. They viewed Wabasis as a scoundrel and thief, a traitor to their own kind.

Wherever Chief Wabasis walked he introduced himself with firm handshakes and welcomed white settlers pouring into the wilds of Michigan to harvest lumber and plant crops. He himself was an accomplished farmer. He was banished into exile for 28 years and purchased a 40-acre garden plot on the western shore of Wabasis Lake (part of present day Wabasis Lake Park and Campground) from the Federal government in 1838. He lived here with his wife and children. Never did he ever have a cross argument with his white neighbors, but Wabasis sure raised the dander of certain Ottawa Indians (Blackskins) living near Greenville, who accused Wabasis of stealing their Indian payment funds and keeping it for himself, which according to Wabasis was false representation. The other Grand and Flat River Indian chiefs voted to have Wabasis pick up the Indian payment funds and disburse it, but many that left never left a forwarding address and he sure wasn't going to go hunting for them not when so many threatened to kill him if he left his garden plot. That'd be stupid!

Wabasis was killed near the Plainfield-Sheridan Indian Trail. It was a gruesome murder committed under bad circumstances. It was senseless. Blood stained campfire rocks, broken glass bottles of whiteman firewater (rum and whisky) and Chief Neoggahmah's bloody and flesh covered firebrand were left beside little White Swan's body. Marshal Albert Pickett of Laphamville and a Justice of the Peace from Cannonsburg both received a tip about the discovery of Wabasis' body by area farmers. The campfire embers still glowed and smoldered, the bluish smoke rising gently on a warm spring day. It was the most brutal murder that these two white pioneer Constables had ever seen, since the days previous of Chief Kewaygooschcum's murder in 1839 at the mouth of Coldwater Creek north of Grand Rapids. He was known as "Long nose". Drunken Indians killed him while he drank firewater. His crime - signing the Treaty of 1821 in Washington, D.C. for land south of the Grand River.

Historically speaking the discovery of Wabasis' body was found by those passing by who reported the gruesome murder to area farmers. News about the murder was already thrice old and both Constables didn't want to go investigate, because they felt the crime was none of their business. They had heard about the Indian squabble over Indian payment funds and felt it was a sanctioned killing by Indians. They went and saw, but never investigated the incidence. It was a crime of retribution from years of pent up Blackskin Indian anger towards the "Little White Swan" that stood tall amongst white pioneers, but short against Indians who felt they were dealt a raw deal by an educated Indian. The real scoundrels who killed Wabasis were met with disfavor amongst their own kind.

The lost funds would never be found and this is where the Legend of John Wabasis' Lost Treasure begins. It is still 'out' there waiting for discovery and its still a treasure worth finding.

It's what dreams are made of kid. See it!

Until next time I'll sign off with PBS "Red Green's" diddy. "Keep your stick on the ice. I'm pullin' for you!"