Monday, April 20, 2015

Legends of Chief Cobmoosa & Pres. A.J. - 12

        Cobmoosa was a friend to whoever came ashore at the "rapids" village.  Didn't matter whether white or red.  If someone asked a question this Indian historian could provide in the answer.     Cobmoosa and wives were just leaving the old rapids village bound for Chief Kewaycooshcum's permanent village on the north side of the Grand River near the mouth of Flat River. 
        Cobmoosa was surprised when a white man named Luther Lincoln stepped off his large raft and came onshore in 1831.  Cobmoosa, age 54 slowly walked down and welcomed Lincoln with a firm handshake and struck up a friendship.  Lincoln arrived several months in advance of the Dexter Party.  His rafts carried huge provisions of household goods and livestock.  Lincoln asked Cobmoosa if he could help him find his new parcel of land in Grandville and Cobmoosa agreed to lead the way, but he was going by land and Lincoln by water.  Cobmoosa had left during the night walking thru the thick brush along the river.  Without his wives he could move swiftly.
        By all accounts Lincoln was a friend to all Indians.  He was wealthy, a man of means and was well respected wherever he wandered.  Cobmoosa found Lincoln's property after a swift days walk in Grandville in 1831).   They became good friends.  Cobmoosa helped clear a spot for Lincoln's cabin.  Lincoln was the first pioneer settler.
        In a February 1832 letter to his relative living in New York he told them there wasn't any snow nor did the ground freeze and together with his Indian helpers they were able to cut down trees for a crude cabin and barns and till the ground for planting.  He referred to the area as a tropical paradise, but that was short lived when winter returned next season.  It was brutal that winter. 
        For hundreds of years Indians from the Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinaw regions each fall migrated south and stayed in villages within a half-mile of the Grand River and Kalamazoo River, because it was so brutal in winter up north.  This was their version of going south for the winter and was dubbed a tropical paradise.
        Lincoln reported that the wolves growled from the brush by day, but at dusk the livestock were brought inside the crude cabin with him and his Huron and Wyandot Indian farm laborers.  The wolves circled the cabin at night then attacked trying to claw, dig or chew their way inside.  Lincoln and his farm helpers would shack up together inside and take turns sitting in his crudely made rocking chair, their backs kitty-corner to the fireplace while guarding the door with their long rifles, knives and axes. 
        This enabled them to see the eyes and teeth of the wolves before they gained entry.  Firing any gun inside the small environment was dangerous and scared livestock.  It made human ears deaf for days.  Grandville, like the rapids village, was always under siege by wolves, cougars and bears.  The Indians always had huge bonfires at night to ward off the wilderness pests.
        The Grand River watershed was hostile territory.  The mosquitoes, deer and blowflys were relentless.  No matter how hot and humid it was nobody took a bath for weeks or months from June- August.  To do otherwise made man a magnet for biting insects.  It was untamed wilderness north of the Grand River and several years later the quietness of night sounds was broken by the sounds of war drums, which seemingly got louder with each rising moon.
        Lincoln, too, was a well-educated wealthy man who preferred living with the Indians.  He made friends easily, but when more and more white settlers arrived in Grandville, near the village of Chief Astaquet, he and his helpers thought it was getting too crowded so they packed up and left.  They scouted for months up the Flat River and after the Treaty of 1836 was signed they purchased a 100 acres of land on the east side of the Flat River a mile north of the Grand River near Chief Kewaycooshcum's village at Lowell. 
       Chief Kewaycooshcum was murdered by two drunken Indians at the mouth of Coldbrook Creek in late summer 1836.  His body taken upriver and buried near the top of Plainfield Village bluffs so his spirit could look across the Grand River to see what he sold to President James Monroe in 1821. 
        Several years later Lincoln felt crowded and moved to another chosen spot in the vicinity of Cobmoosa's favorite hunting spot.  Lincoln Lake in northeastern Kent County was named in honor of Luther Lincoln.
        History doesn't record who brought the Small Pox epidemic that killed upwards of 4000 Indians in the Grand River Valley from 1831-37.  Under the treaty approximately 17,000 Indians lived. When the Dexter Party came floating down they stopped for several months above Chief Kewaycooshcums village because they feared that disease, too, in 1832.  Another outbreak occurred shortly before the Treaty of 1836 was initially signed in Washington. More about that later. (continued)

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