The Great Lakes

IF, as is believed by many statisticians, the census of 1860 should show that the centre of population and power in these United States is steadily advancing westward, and that by the year 1880 it will be at some point on the Great Lakes, then, certainly, the history and resources of those inland seas cannot fail to be interesting to the general reader.

It happens that the Indian traditions of this region possess more of the coherence of history than those of other parts of the country; and, as preserved by Schoolcraft and embalmed in the poetry of Longfellow, they show well enough by the side of the early traditions of other primitive peoples. The conquest of the Lake-shore region by San-ge-man and his Ojibwas may be as trustworthy a tale as the exploits of Romulus and Remus; and when we emerge into the light of European record, we find the Jesuit missionaries preaching the gospel at St. Ignace and the Sault St. Mary almost as early as the so-called Cavaliers were planting tobacco at Jamestown, or the Pilgrims smiting the heathen at Plymouth.

The first white persons who penetrated into the Upper Lake region were two young fur-traders who left Montreal for that purpose in 1654, and remained two years among the Indian tribes on those shores. We are not informed of the details of this journey; but it appears that they returned with information relative to Lake Superior, and perhaps Lake Michigan and Green Bay; for in 1659 the fur-traders are known to have extended their traffic to that bay. The first settlement of Wisconsin may be dated in 1665, when Claude Allouez established a mission at La Pointe on Lake Superior. This was before Philadelphia was founded by William Penn.

The first account we have of a voyage on Lake Michigan was by Nicholas Perrot, who, accompanied by some Pottawattomies, passed from Green Bay to Chicago, iu 1670. Two years afterwards the same voyage was undertaken by Allouez and Dablon. They stopped at the mouth of the Milwaukie River, then occupied by Kickapoo Indians. In 1673, Fathers Marquette and Joliet went from Green Bay to the Neenah or Fox River, and, descending the Wisconsin, discovered the Mississippi on the 17th of June.

In 1679, La Salle made his voyage up the Lakes in the Griffin, the first vessel built above the Falls of Niagara. This vessel, the pioneer of the great fleet which now whitens those waters, was about sixty tons burden, and carried five guns and thirty-four men. La Salle loaded her at Green Bay with a cargo of furs and skins, and she sailed on the 18th of September for Niagara, where she never arrived, nor was any news of her ever received. The Griffin, with her cargo, was valued at sixty thousand divres. Thus the want of harbors on Lake Michigan began to be felt nearly two hundred years ago; and the fate of the Griffin was only a precursor of many similar calamities since.

About 1760 was the end of what may be called the religious epoch in the history of the Northwest, when the dominion passed from French to English hands, and the military period commenced. This lasted about fifty years, during which time the combatants were French, English, Indians, and Americans. Much blood was shed in desultory warfare. Detroit, Mackinac, and other posts were taken and retaken ; in fact, there never was peace in that land till after the naval victory of Perry in 1813, when the command of the Lakes passed to the Americans.

Our military and naval expeditions in the Northwest were, however, remarkably unfortunate in that war. For want of a naval force on the Lakes,— a necessity which had been pointed out to the Government by William Hull, then Governor of the Northwest Territory, before the declaration of war, — the posts of Chicago, Mackinac, and Detroit were taken by the British and their Indian allies in 1812, and kept by them till the next year, when the energy and perseverance of Perry and his Rhode-islanders created a fleet upon Lake Erie, and swept the British vessels from that quarter.

In 1814, an American squadron of six brigs and schooners sailed from Lake Erie to retake the post of Mackinac. Colonel Croghan commanded the troops, which were landed under cover of the guns of the squadron. They were attacked in the woods on the back of the island by the British and Indians. Major Holmes, who led the Americans, was killed, and his men retreated in confusion to the ships, which took them on board and sailed away. The attack having failed, Captain Sinclair, who commanded the squadron, returned to Lake Erie with the brigs Niagara and Saint Lawrence and the schooners Caledonia and Ariel, leaving the Scorpion and Tigress to operate against the enemy on Lake Huron. The British schooner Nancy, being at Nattawasaga, under the protection of a blockhouse mounting two twenty-four pounders, the American schooners proceeded to at tack her, and, after a short action, destroyed the vessel and the block-house, the British escaping in their boats. Soon after, the American schooners returned to the neighborhood of St. Joseph, where they were seen by some Indians, who reported at Mackinac that they were about five leagues apart. An expedition was directly fitted out to capture them; and Major Dickson, commander of the post, and Lieutenant Worsley, who had retreated from the block-house above-mentioned, started with one hundred men in four boats.

On the third of September, at six o’clock, P. M., they found the Tigress at anchor, and came within one hundred yards Unobserved, when a smart fire of grape and musketry was opened upon them. They advanced, and, two boats boarding her on each side, she was carried, after a short contest, In which the British lost seven men, killed and wounded, and the Americans, out of a crew of twenty-eight, had three killed and two wounded. The prisoners having been sent to Mackinac, the Tigress was got under way the next day, still keeping the American colors flying, and proceeded in search of the Scorpion. On the fifth, they came in sight of her, and, as those on board knew nothing of what had happened to the Tigress, were suffered to approach within two miles. At daylight the next morning, the Tigress was again got under way, and running alongside her late consort, the British carried her by boarding, after a short scuffle, in which four of the Scorpion’s crew were killed and wounded, and one of the British wounded. The schooners were fine new vessels, of one hundred tons burden each, and had on board large quantities of arms and ammunition.

This account of the earliest naval action on the Upper Lakes is taken from a British source; for, as may well be imagined, it has never found its way into any American Naval History or Fourth of July Oration.

It appears as if the American Government, during the War of 1812, either from, ignorance of the value of the Northwest, or, as some think, from a fear lest it might, if conquered, become free territory, were very inefficient in their efforts in that direction. As, however, the same imbecility was displayed in other quarters, for example, at Washington, where they allowed the capital to be taken by a handful of British troops, and as the Yankee who was in the fight said, “They didn’t seem to take no interest,” we must acquit the administration of Mr. Madison of anything worse than going to war without adequate preparation.

After the War of 1812 was over, the Northwestern Territory was held by our Government by a kind of military occupation for some twenty years, when, the Indian title having been extinguished, white settlers began to occupy Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. The Sacs and Foxes, having repented of their surrender of this fair country, reëntered it in 1832, but after a short contest were expelled and driven westward, and the working period commenced. Large cities have sprung up on the Lake shores, and the broad expanse of Lake Michigan is now whitened by a thousand sails; and even the rocky cliffs of Superior echo the whistle of the propeller, instead of the scream of the bald eagle.

Perhaps the ship-owners of the Atlantic cities are hardly aware of the growth of this Lake commerce within the last twenty years, and that it is now nearly equal in amount to the whole foreign trade of the country. Before entering on the statistics of this trade, however, we will give a brief description of the Lakes themselves.1

Lake Superior, the largest expanse of fresh water on the globe, is 355 miles in length, 160 in breadth, with a depth of 900 feet. It contains 32,000 square miles

of surface, which is elevated 627 feet above the surface of the ocean, while portions of its bed are several hundred feet below it. Its coast is 1500 miles in extent, with irregular, rocky shores, bold headlands, and deep bays. It contains numerous islands, one of which, Isle Royale, has an area of 230 square miles. The shores of this lake are rock-bound, sometimes rising into lofty cliffs and pinnacles, twelve or thirteen hundred feet high. Where the igneous rocks prevail, the coast is finely indented; where the sandstones abound, it is gently curved. Lake Superior occupies an immense depression, for the most part excavated out of the soft and yielding sandstone. Its configuration on the east and north has been determined by an irregular belt of granite, which forms a rim, effectually resisting the further action of its waters. The temperature of the water in summer is about 40°.

Lake Huron connects with Superior by the St Mary’s River, and is 260 miles long and 160 broad; its circumference is 1100 miles, its area 20,400. Georgian Bay, 170 miles long and 70 broad, forms the northeast portion, and lies within British jurisdiction. Saginaw, a deep and wide-mouthed bay, is the principal indentation on the western coast. The rim of this lake is composed mostly of detrital rocks, which are rarely exposed. In the northern portion of the lake, the trap-rocks on the Canada side intersect the coast. The waters are as deep as those of Superior, and possess great transparency. They rarely attain a higher temperature than 50°, and, like those of Superior, have the deep-blue tint of the ocean. The northern coast of Lake Huron abounds in clusters of islands ; Captain Bayfield is said to have landed on 10,000 of them, and to have estimated their number at 30,000.

Lake Michigan, called by the early voyagers Lac des Illinois, is next in size to Superior, being 320 miles in length and 100 in breadth, with a circumference, including Green Bay, of 1300 miles. It contains 22,000 miles of surface, with a depth of 900 feet in the deeper parts, though near the shore it grows gradually shoal. The rocks which compose its rim are of a sedimentary nature, and afford few indentations for harbors. The shores are low, and lined in many places with immense sand-banks. Green Bay, or Baie des Puans of the Jesuits, on the west coast, is 100 miles long and 20 broad. Great and Little Traverse Bays occur on the eastern coast., and Great and Little Bays des Noquets on the northern. One cluster of islands is found at the outlet of the main lake, and another at that ol Green Bay. Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes which lies wholly within American jurisdiction.

Lake Erie is 240 miles in length, 60 in breadth, and contains an area of 9,600 square miles. It lies 565 feet above the sea-level, and is the shallowest of all the Lakes, being only 84 feet in mean depth. Its waters, in consequence, have the green color of the sea in shallow bays and harbors. It is connected with Lake Huron by the St. Clair River and Lake, a shallow expanse of water, twenty miles wide, and by Detroit River.

Lake Ontario is 180 miles in length and 55 in breadth, containing 6,300 square miles. It is connected with Lake Erie by the Niagara River, and also by the Welland Canal, which admits the passage of vessels of large burden. This lake lies at a lower level than the others, being only 230 feet above the sea. It is, however, about 500 feet in depth.

The whole area of these lakes is over 90,000 miles, and the area of land drained by them, 335,515 miles.

The presence of this great body of water modifies the range of the thermometer, lessening the intensity of the cold in winter and of the heat in summer, and gives a temperature more uniform on the Lake coasts than is found in a corresponding latitude on the Mississippi.

The difference between the temperature of the air and that of the Lakes gives rise to a variety of optical illusions, known as mirage. Mountains are seen with inverted cones ; headlands project from the shore where none exist; islands clothed with verdure, or girt with cliffs, rise up from the bosom of the lake, remain awhile, and disappear. Hardly a day passes, during the summer, without a more or less striking exhibition of this kind. The same phenomena of rapidly varying refraction may often be witnessed at sunset, when the sun, sinking into the lake, undergoes a most striking series of changes. At one moment it is drawn out into a pear-like shape; the next it takes an elliptical form; and just as it disappears, the upper part of its disk becomes elongated into a ribbon of light, which seems to float for a moment upon the surface of the water.

Thunder-storms of great violence are not unusual, and sudden gusts of wind spring up on the Lakes, and those who navigate them pass sometimes instantaneously from a current of air blowing briskly in one direction into one blowing with equal force from the opposite quarter. The lower sails of a vessel are sometimes becalmed, while a smart breeze fills the upper.

The storms which agitate the Lakes, though less violent than the typhoons of the Indian Ocean or the hurricanes of the Atlantic, are still very dangerous to mariners; and, owing to the want of searoom, and the scarcity ot good harbors, shipwrecks are but too common, and frequently attended with much loss of life. A short, ugly sea gets up very quickly after the wind begins to blow hard, and subsides with equal celerity when the wind goes down.

The fluctuations in the level of the waters of these lakes have attracted much attention among scientific observers; and as early as 1670, Rather Dablon, in his “Relations,” says, —“As to the tides, it is difficult to lay down any correct rule. At one time we have found the motion of the waters to be regular, and at others extremely fluctuating. We have noticed, however, that at full moon and new moon the tides change once a day for eight or ten days, while during the remainder of the time there is hardly any change perceptible. . . . Three things are remarkable : 1st. That the currents set almost constantly in one direction, namely, towards the Lake of the Illinois, [Michigan,] which does not prevent their ordinary rise and fall; 2d. That they almost invariably set against the wind,—sometimes with as much force as the tides at Quebec, — and we have seen ice moving against the wind as fast as boats under full sail; 3d. That among these currents we have discovered the emission of a quantity of water which seems to spring up from the bottom.”

Father Dablon is of opinion that the waters of Lake Superior enter into the Straits by a subterranean passage. This theory, he says, is necessary to explain two things, namely : 1st. Without such a passage, it is impossible to say what becomes of the waters of Lake Superior. This vast lake has but one visible outlet, namely, the River of St. Mary ; while it receives the waters of a large number of rivers, some of which are of greater dimensions than the St. Mary. What, then, becomes of the surplus water ? 2d. The

difficulty of explaining whence come the waters of Huron and Michigan. Very few rivers flow into these lakes, and their volume of water is such as to fortify the belief that it must be supplied through the subterranean river entering the Straits.

A large number of facts have been collected by Messrs. Foster and Whitney on the subject of these oscillations of the Lake level; and, in fact, these phenomena have been for a long time familiar to the residents on the Lake shores. They are generally attributed by scientific men to atmospheric disturbances, which, by increasing or diminishing the atmospheric pressure, produce a corresponding rise or fall in the water-level. These are the sudden and irregular fluctuations.

The gradual fluctuations are probably caused by the variable amount of rain which falls in the vast area of country drained by the Lakes. Thus, at Fort Brady, where the mean of five years’ observations is 29.68 inches, the extremes are 36.92 and 22.44.

An idea has been long prevalent among the old residents, derived from the Indians, that there is a variation of the Lake surface which extends over a period of fourteen years,— that is, the Lakes rise for seven years, and fall for seven years. The records kept by accurate observers at various points on the Lakes for the last ten years do not seem to confirm this theory; but it has been well established by the recent observations of Colonel Graham, at both ends of Lake Michigan, that there is a semi-diurnal lunar tide on that lake of at least one third of a foot.

The evaporation from this great watersurface must be immense. It has been estimated at 11,800,000,000,000 cubic feet per annum; and in this way alone can we account for the difference between the volume of water which enters the Lakes and that which leaves them at the Falls of Niagara. Immense as is the quantity of water which pours over the Falls, it is small in comparison with the floods which combine to make up the Upper Lakes.

In the year 1832, about the close of the Black Hawk War, the tonnage of the Lakes was only 7,000 tons. In 1845 it had increased to 132,000 tons, and in 1858 it was 404,301 tons. Or, if we take Chicago, the chief city of the Lakes, we find that her imports and exports were, —

Imports. Exports. In 1836, . . $ 325,203 $ 1,000 “ 1851, . . 24,410,400 5,395,471 “ 1859, estimated 60,000,000 24,280,890

In the year 1858, there were on the Lakes, —

American vessels, 1,194. Tonnage, 399,443 Canadian “ 321. “ 59,5S0

Value of American tonnage on the

Lakes, .... $ 16,000,000

Value of Lake commerce, imports and exports, ... $ 600,000,000

Number of seamen employed, 13,000

Taking the island of Mackinac as the geographical centre of this navigation, we find the distances as follows: —


From Mackinac to head of Lake Superior 550 it " Chicago . . . 350

“ “ “ East end of Georgian

Bay . . . 300

“ “ “ Buffalo . . 700

“ “ “ Gulf of St. Lawrence 1,600

Or ninety thousand miles of lakes and rivers, extending half across the continent.

The following table shows the amount of tonnage belonging to different cities in

1857 : —

Tons. Tons.

New York, 1,377,424 Charleston, 56,430

Boston, 447,066 Detroit, 57,707

Bath, 189,932 New Bedford, 152,799

Baltimore, 191,618 New Orleans, 173,167

Providence, 15,152 Cleveland, 63,361

Philadelphia, 211,380 Chicago, 67,316

Buffalo, 100,226 Milw&ukie, 22,339

This shows that Chicago had in 1857, being then twenty-five years old, a larger tonnage than Charleston, the capital of the Palmetto Kingdom; and Milwaukie, still younger than Chicago, owned a larger amount of tonnage than the old and wealthy city of Providence.

In 1857, the export of grain from the Lake ports was sixty-five million bushels; in 1860, it was estimated at one hundred millions.

The coal-trade of Cleveland, in 1858, was 129,000 tons. A large amount was also shipped from Erie.

In 1858, the salt-trade of the Lakes amounted to more than six hundred thousand barrels, most of which was shipped from the port of Oswego on Lake Ontario.

The lumber received at Chicago in 1858 amounted to: Boards, 273,000,000 feet; shingles, 254,000,000; lath, 45,000,000: worth $2,442,500.

The present navigable outlets to this great commerce are three in number. First, the Erie Canal, from Buffalo to Albany, which, in its enlarged form, takes probably two-thirds of the productions of the Lake regions. Second, the River St. Lawrence, which, by means of the Welland Canal, secures a good share of the trade. Third, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which conveys large quantities of lumber, salt, and other heavy goods to the Illinois River and the Mississippi. Of course, more or less produce is taken to the seaboard by the railroads; but, even if they could compete in price with watercarriage, it is evident that they are incapable of moving the surplus grain of the Northwest, as it now is. Another great navigable outlet to the Lakes is needed, so that vessels of the largest class may sail from the elevators of Chicago to the Liverpool docks without breaking bulk; and in reference to this, a survey has recently been made by Thomas C. Clarke, under the direction of the Canadian Government, for a ship-navigation between Montreal and Lake Huron, by way of the Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing, and French River. The Report shows that the cost of the work for vessels of one thousand tons burden would be twelve million dollars, — and that it would cut off a distance nearly equal to the, whole length of Lakes Erie and Ontario, thus saving from three hundred and fifty to four hundred miles of navigation. In view of the fact that the navigation of St. Clair and Erie is the most troublesome and dangerous part of the voyage, this plan certainly deserves attention.

It is easy to see what a prolific nursery of seamen this Lake commerce must be, and how valuable a resource in a war with any great naval power. It is a resource which was wholly wanting to us in the War of 1812, when Commodore Perry had to bring his sailors from the seaboard with great difficulty and expense. In any futnre war with England, supposing such an unhappy event to take place, our great numerical superiority upon the Lakes in both vessels and sailors would not only insure our supremacy there, but also afford a large surplus of men for our ocean marine.

But it may be said that these men are only fresh-water sailors, after all, and are not to be relied upon for ocean-navigation. We know there used to be a notion prevailing, that neither Lake vessels nor Lake men would do for salt water; but in 1856, the schooner Dean Richmond took a cargo of wheat from Chicago to Liverpool, beating a large fleet of ocean craft from Quebec across the Atlantic, and otherwise behaving so well as to cause the sale of the vessel in England, This voyage encouraged others to try the experiment, and in 1859 from thirty to forty Lake vessels loaded for ocean ports.

That this trade will be very much increased there is no doubt, since if affords occupation for the Lake marine in the winter, when the Lake ports are closed by ice.

On the western shore of Lake Michigan there are large settlements of Norwegians and Swedes, many of whom follow the Lakes as fishermen and sailors. Descendants of the old Northern seakings, they are as hardy and adventurous here as in their Scandinavian homes, and run their vessels earlier and later in the season than other men are willing to do.

Science might have anticipated, however, that vessels built for fresh-water navigation, and loaded at Lake ports, would have an advantage on the ocean over those loaded on salt water. As is the density of the water of any sea, so is the displacement, or the sinking of the vessel therein. Therefore a vessel can carry a larger cargo in salt water than she can in fresh; and so, a Lake craft, loading at Chicago as deep as she can swim, will find herself, when she reaches the ocean, much more buoyant and lively. So, also, as, the more sail a vessel carries, the deeper she penetrates the water, it follows, that, the more dense the water, the more sail she can carry.

In proof of these statements, the “ Merchants’ Magazine ” tells us, that English vessels bound up the Black Sea take smaller cargoes than those going to the Mediterranean, because, the former being much less salt than the latter, vessels are less buoyant thereon, and can carry less. This difference in buoyancy will probably be enough to offset the higher seas and rougher weather of the Atlantic.

Thus it appears that this great basin extends through so many degrees of latitude that its lakes and streams connect with the mineral regions and pine forests of the North, the wheatand cornlands and cattle-ranges of the Middle States, and the cottonand sugar-plantations of the South.

The pine forests of Maine, it is well known, have been for some time failing, under the great demand upon them ; and the only resource will soon be in those of Wiscousin, Minnesota, and Michigan, from which many cargoes have been already sent to the Atlantic ports. The amount of lumber made in these pineries in 1860 is estimated at twelve hundred million feet, worth between eight and nine millions of dollars. Most of this goes to the country west of the Lakes, — to Chicago, to St. Louis, and even down the river to New Orleans. Since railroads have penetrated the great prairies and made them habitable, the demand for pine lumber has greatly increased both for building and fencing; and it has been estimated, that, if every quarter-section of land in Iowa and Illinois were surrounded with a “ three-board ” fence, it would consume every foot of pine-timber in Michigan.

As to the copper and iron mines of Lake Superior, many dabblers in fancy stocks are but too well acquainted with them, and many burned fingers testily against those investments of capital. Still, the amount of mineral is immense, and the quality of the purest; and these mines will no doubt pay well, if worked with skill and capital.

Since 1845, one hundred and sixteen copper-mining companies have been organized in Michigan, under the general law of the State ; and the amount of capital invested in them is estimated at six millions of dollars. Most of this is lost. On the other hand, the "Cliff” and “Minnesota” mines have returned over two millions of dollars in dividends. The latter is said to have paid, in 1858, a dividend of $300,000 on a paid-up capital of $66,000. Mining is a lottery, and this brilliant prize cannot conceal the fact that blanks fall to the lot of by far the more numerous part of the ticket-holders.

The opening of the Sault Canal has very much aided in developing the resources of the Upper Peninsula. In 1845, the Lake Superior fleet consisted of three schooners. In 1860, one hundred vessels passed through the canal, loaded with supplies for the mining country, and returned with cargoes of copper and iron ore and fish. The copper is smelted in Detroit, Cleveland, and Boston. In 1859, 3,000 tons were landed in Detroit, producing from 60 to 70 per cent, of ingot copper, being among the purest ores in the world.

The iron ore of this region is also of extraordinary purity ; and for all purposes where great strength and tenacity are required, it is unrivalled, as the following table, showing the relative strength, per square inch, as compared with other kinds of iron, will prove : —

Best Swedish . . . . 58.184 English cable . . . . 59.105 Essex Co., N. Y . . . . 59.962 Lancaster, Pa. . . . 58.661 Common English . . . 30.000 Best Russia . . . 76.069 Lake Superior . . . . 89.582

With such iron to be had of American manufacture, why should we use a rotten English article for car-wheels and boilerplates, and so sacrifice the lives of thousands every year ? Because, by an unwise legislation, the foreign article is made a little cheaper to the American consumer.

There are ten large forges in operation in Michigan, with a capital of over two millions of dollars; and the shipments of ore from Marquette in 1859 were over 75,000 tons. The country back of Marquette is full of mountains of iron ore, yielding 60 or 70 per cent, of pure metal, sufficient to supply the world for ages.

Traces have been found, through the whole of this copper-region, of a rude species of mining practised here long before it became known to the whites. The existing races of Indians had not even a tradition by whom it was done; and the excavations were unknown to them, until pointed out by the white man. Messrs. Foster and Whitney, in their survey of the copper-lands, found a pinestump ten feet in circumference, which must have grown, flourished, and died since the mound of earth upon which it stood was thrown out. Mr. Knapp discovered, in 1848, a deserted mine or excavation, in which, under eighteen feet of rubbish, he found a mass of native copper weighing over six tons, resting on billets of oak supported by sleepers of the same material. The ancient miners had evidently raised the mass about five feet, and then abandoned it. Around it, among the accumulation of rubbish, were found a large number of stone hammers, and some copper chisels, but no utensils of iron. In some instances, explorers have been led to select valuable mining-sites by the abundance of these stone hammers found about the ground. Traces of tumuli have also been found in these regions, which would seem to indicate some connection between these ancient miners and the mound-builders of the Mississippi Valley,—especially as in those western mounds copper rings have frequently been found.

The economical value of the Lake fisheries is considerable. The total catch of white-fish, trout, and pickerel, the only kinds which are packed, to any extent, was estimated for 1859 at 110,000 barrels, worth about $880,000.’ These find a market through the States of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois ; besides a large quantity which are consumed in a fresh state, in the Lake cities and towns.

The White-Fish, (Coregonus Albus,) which is the most valuable of all, somewhat resembles the shad in appearance and taste. It is taken in seines and other nets,— never with the hook. The white-fish of Lake Superior are larger, fatter, and of finer flavor than any others. In this lake they have sometimes been taken weighing fifteen pounds. At the Sault they are taken in the rapids with dip-nets, by the Chippewas who live in that vicinity, and are of very fine flavor ; those of Detroit River and the Straits of Mackinac are also very good; but when you go south, into Lake Erie or Michigan, the quality of the fish deteriorates. Few travellers ever taste a whitefish in perfection. As eaten upon hoteltables at Buffalo or Chicago, it is a poor and tasteless fish. But, as found at the old French boarding-houses at Mackinac or the Sault, or, better still, cooked fresh from the icy waters on the rocky shores of Superior, it is, to our thinking, the best fish that swims, — better than the true salmon or brook-trout. The famous fish once so plenty in Otsego Lake, but now nearly extinct, was a Coregon us, and first cousin to this one of the Great Lakes.

So Sebago Lake, near Portland, some fifty years ago, boasted of a delicious redfleshed trout, of large size, which has in these latter times, from netting or some other improper fishing, nearly or quite disappeared from those waters, leaving upon the palates of old anglers the remembrance of a flavor higher and richer than anything now remaining.

The Lake Trout, or Mackinac Salmon, is the largest of the family of Salmonidæ, growing, it is said, sometimes to the weight of one hundred pounds. From twenty to thirty pounds is not uncommon, which is much larger than the average of Salmo Salar, the true salmon. Truth compels us to add, however, that our salmon of the Lakes is inferior to his kinsman of the salt water; though, as in the case of the whitefish, he has been slandered by ignorant people, such as newspaper letter-writers, and the like. When taken from the clear, cold waters of Lake Huron or the Straits, and boiled as nearly alive as humanity will permit, Salmo Namaycush is nearly equal to the true salmon ; but after two or three days in ice, “ how stale, flat, and unprofitable ! ”

The Muskelunge (Esox Eslor) is peculiar to this basin, and is the largest of the pickerels, weighing from ten to eighty pounds. It is a very handsome and game fish, and is the king, or tyrant, of the water, devouring without mercy everything smaller than itself; though its favorite food is the white-fish, which, perhaps, accounts for the superior flavor of this huge pike, which is one of the very best of fresh-water fishes.

Another excellent fish for the table is the Pike-Perch, (Lucio-Perca,) or GlassEyed Pike, from his large, brilliant eyes. In Ohio, it is called the salmon, and by the Canadians the pickerel, while, with singular perversity, they persist in calling our pickerel a pike. It is a very firm, well-flavored fish, weighing from two to ten pounds, and is found in all the Great Lakes.

Professor Agassiz was the first to describe a large and valuable species of pike, which he found in Lake Superior, —the Northern Pike (Esox Boreus). This is the most common species of pike in the St. Lawrence basin, though usually confounded with the common pickerel (Esox Reticulalus). It grows to the size of fifteen or twenty pounds, and is a better table-fish than Esox Reticulatus. It may be distinguished by the rows of spots on its sides, of a lighter color than the ground upon which they are arranged. It differs from the Muskelunge in having the lower jaw full of teeth; whereas in the Muskelunge the anterior half of the lower jaw is toothless.

All the streams which empty into Lake Superior, those of the north shore of Lake Huron, the west shore of Lake Michigan as far as Lake Winnebago, and all the streams’ of Lake Ontario, contain the Speckled Trout (Salmo Eontmalis) ; while they are not found in the streams on the southern coasts of Lake Michigan, or (so far as we know) in the streams of Lake Erie. What can determine this limitation of the range of the species ? It cannot be latitude, since trout are found in Pennsylvania and Virginia; It is not longitude, since they occur in the head-waters of the Iowa rivers. So Professor Agassiz found that Lake Superior contained species which were not to be found in the other lakes, and that the other lakes, again, contained species which did not occur in Lake Superior. He says, in his work on Lake Superior, “ It is the great question of the unity or plurality of creations; it is not less the question of the origin of animals from single pairs or in large numbers; and, strange to say, a thorough examination of the fishes of Lake Superior, compared with those of the adjacent waters, is likely to throw more light upon such questions, than all traditions, however ancient, however near in point of time to the epoch of Creation itself.”

In Lake Superior is likewise found that remarkable salmon, the Siscowet, — which is so fat and luscious as to be uneatable in a fresh state, and requires to be salted to render it fit for food. It commands a much higher price by the barrel than the lake-trout or white-fish, and is rarely to be mot with out of the Lake cities.

In this basin is also found the Gar-Pike, (Lepidosteus,) a singular animal, which is the only living representative of the fishes that existed in the early ages of the earth’s history,— and which, by its formidable array of teeth, its impenetrable armor, and its swiftness and voracity, gives us some idea of the terrible creatures which peopled the waters of that period.

We have thus hastily sketched the character and indicated the resources of that great Northwest, which, little more than fifty years ago a wilderness, is now a cluster of republics holding more than the balance of power in the Union. Idle speculatists, terrified by the violence of South Carolina, and believing that on her withdrawal the sky is to fall, are already predicting the dismemberment of East and West. But we think the chance of it is growing less, year by year. The two are now bound indissolubly together by lines of railroad, which, during a part of the year, are the most convenient outlet of the West toward the sea. Those States, just as they are arriving at a controlling influence in the affairs of a great and powerful nation, are hardly likely to seclude themselves from the rest of the world in what would, from its position, be at best an insignificant republic.

  1. We are indebted for our facts and details to Lapham’s Wisconsin, Foster and Whitney’s Report, Agassiz’s Lake Superior, and works of similar character.