Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Legends of Chief Cobmoosa & Pres. A.J. -28

      The Ottawas that left the Ionia, Michigan area in 1858 and had been waiting for Chief Cobmoosa to arrive at the Pentwater Reservation before the end of 1860.  Since he didn't arrive they feared he may have died along the way, but such was not the case.  He pushed himself to exhaustion and had to stop his labored journey to regain his strength.  The brutal winds and blinding snowstorms got the best of him, but after a little rest he trudged onward towards Grand Haven.
       Strange as it might seem word of his arrival that year would be short lived at the reservation.  Indians on the reservation heard reports about his arrival at Grand Haven.  Those who knew Cobmoosa feared he might try walking to the Reservation, but some, too, knew his fear of water and hoped he would regain his courage and step onto a steamer and forget the perilous walk.  His people were waiting patiently for him to arrive in the Spring of 1861 and once the new shipping season commenced he hoped to board an upward bound Lake Michigan steamer.  From where he would originate was unknown.  What they did know was that he would arrive by foot on his own accord.
      Someone in Grand Haven gave the aged Chief Cobmoosa shelter at the docks in Grand Haven during the winter of 1861-62.  It was during that time he began to hear rumors that Washington was preparing for war shortly.  The docks were abuzz with talk about a Civil War - the northern states against the southern states.  Cobmoosa for the first time in his Indian life was really alone and was looking forward to greeting old friends at the reservation when he was told that on April 12, 1861 the attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina started the American Civil War.
       Within the first week hundreds, then thousands of volunteers for military duty appeared at the docks.  Because of shipping security for men, military provisions for distant military operations up and down the lakes his chances for booking passage up the lake had stalled.  Men from all walks of life some that Cobmoosa recognized were the newest volunteer enlistees for military training in the Union Army and Navy. 
       Cobmoosa watched and listened intently as they talked about how the war would go or not.  Cobmoosa was informed that because of the onslaught of the Civil War supplies he might have to spend the entire year in Grand Haven.  The old Indian began to feel his true age and exercised to keep his aged muscle in check so when time arrived he would appear on foot and reclaim his legendary title as the "Last Ottawa Chief of the Grand River Valley. Alas, the amount of military provisions and men going south necessitated that he remain in Grand Haven.  During the spring, summer and fall Cobmoosa who although was known as a man of "respect and courage" found it would take him that amount of time before he'd step onto a vessel.  This was the man who wouldn't even sit in a canoe or wade across a fast moving stream more than knee deep let alone take a steamer.
       Finally in the Spring of 1862, the buzz on Lake Michigan had tempered and the government wishing to get Cobmoosa (aged 94) on the reservation paid for his passage to Pentwater and he arrived four years after the flotilla left the Grand River Basin in 1858.  Upon landing in Pentwater those who remembered him waited patiently to great the old Chief and he undertook the last leg of his journey to the Indian Reservation in Elbridge Township (Oceana County) just east/southeast of Hart, Michigan.  He was nearly the last of the oldest living chiefs of his generation.
       The government was so moved by his stamina and stature they quickly built him a new log house since the old fashioned wigwams of his life didn't last long.  Wigwams were too cold and drafty for an old Indian of advanced age.  Washington respected Cobmoosa and felt he deserved a warm log house as opposed to a cold wigwam built of bark and cattail thatched roof.  Washington remembered him as the Grand River valley "peacekeeper." (continued)

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