By Amorin Mello


This is one of many posts on Chequamegon History that feature the $90,000 of Indian trader debts that were debated during the 1854 Treaty and the 1855 Annuity Payments at La Pointe. 

In summary, the Chiefs of the Chippewas made it a condition of the treaty that they would be granted $90,000 to settle outstanding debts with Indian traders, under the condition that a Council of Chiefs would determine which debts claimed by the traders were fair and accurate.  The following quote is the fourth article of the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe, with the sentence about the $90,000 underlined for emphasis:

ARTICLE 4. In consideration of and payment for the country hereby ceded, the United States agree to pay to the Chippewas of Lake Superior, annually, for the term of twenty years, the following sums, to wit: five thousand dollars in coin; eight thousand dollars in goods, household furniture and cooking utensils; three thousand dollars in agricultural implements and cattle, carpenter’s and other tools and building materials, and three thousand dollars for moral and educational purposes, of which last sum, three hundred dollars per annum shall be paid to the Grand Portage band, to enable them to maintain a school at their village. The United States will also pay the further sum of ninety thousand dollars, as the chiefs in open council may direct, to enable them to meet their present just engagements. Also the further sum of six thousand dollars, in agricultural implements, household furniture, and cooking utensils, to be distributed at the next annuity payment, among the mixed bloods of said nation. The United States will also furnish two hundred guns, one hundred rifles, five hundred beaver traps, three hundred dollars’ worth of ammunition, and one thousand dollars’ worth of ready made clothing, to be distributed among the young men of the nation, at the next annuity payment.

~ 1854 Treaty with the Chippewa at La Pointe
Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties; Volume II by Charles Kappler, 1904


This $90,000 appear to have been an unexpected expense that the United States government incurred in order to successfully negotiate this Treaty.  Indian Agent Henry Clark Gilbert was a commissioner of the Treaty, and was obliged to explain this $90,000 to his superiors at the Office of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C.  The following is his explanation written a few weeks after the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe was concluded:

The Chiefs who were notified to attend brought with them in every instance their entire bands. We made a careful estimate of the number present and found there were about 4,000. They all had to be fed and taken care of, thus adding greatly to the expenses attending the negotiations.

A great number of traders and claim agents were also present as well as some of the persons from St. Paul’s who I had reason to believe attended for the purpose of preventing if possible the consummation of the treaty. The utmost precautions were taken by me to prevent a knowledge of the fact that negotiations were to take place from being public. The Messenger sent by me to Mr Herriman was not only trust worthy but was himself totally ignorant of the purport of the dispatches to Major Herriman. Information however of the fact was communicated from some source and the persons present in consequence greatly embarrassed our proceedings.

~ Treaty Commissioner Henry C. Gilbert’s explanation of the treaty concluded in 1854 with the assistance of David B. Herriman
Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters: Volume 79, No. 1, Appendix 5


Indian Agent Gilbert’s explanation suggests that there was some effort on his behalf to preemptively avoid the subject of outstanding debts from occuring during the Treaty negotiations.  In January of 1855, a few months after the Treaty was negotiated, President Franklin Pierce budgeted for this $90,000 in the fund appropriated for fulfilling the terms of the Treaty:

For the payment of such debts as may be directed by the chiefs in open council, and found to be just and correct by the Secretary of the Interior, per 4th article of the treaty of September 30, 1854…….. 90,000

~ United States House of Representatives Documents, Volume 11, 33d Congress, 2nd Session, Ex. Doc. No. 61.
1854 Treaty of La Pointe Appropriations


As quoted above, the $90,000 negotiated during the treaty were to be distributed by a Council of the Chiefs following the treaty.  How the $90,000 were actually distributed did not honor the intent or terms of the treaty.   The following is a public notice from Indian Agent Gilbert that invited Indian traders with claims against Tribe to come forth with their claims before or during the 1855 Annuity, and makes no mention of any distribution to be determined by a Council of Chiefs:

DETROIT, June 12, 1855.

ALL PERSONS having just and legal claims against the Chippewa Indians of Lake Superior are hereby notified that all such claims must be presented without delay to the undersigned, for investigation. Each claim must be accompanied by such evidence of its justice and legality as the claimant may be able to furnish; and in all cases where the idebtedness claimed is on book account, or is composed of aggregated items, transcripts of such accounts specifying the items in detail, with the charge for each item, and the name of the person to whom, and time when, the same was furnished, must accompany the claims submitted. The original books of entry must also in all cases be prepared for examination.

Claims may be presented at any time prior to the close of the next annuity payment at La Pointe, which will take place in the month of August next; but after that time they will not be received or acted upon.

This notice is given in accordance with instructions received from the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Indian Agent.
jy 10 4t

~ Superior Chronicle newspaper, July 10th, 1855
Library of Congress


The distribution of this $90,000 was hotly debated by Blackbird and other members of the Council of Chiefs during the 1855 Annuity Payments.  It is clear from the speeches transcribed from this important event that the Council was not being allowed to determine the distribution of this $90,000.  The following is one of many speeches that touched upon this subject:

In what Blackbird said he expressed the mind of a majority of the chiefs now present.  We wish the stipulations of the treaty to be carried out to the very letter.

I wish to say our word about our reserves.  Will these reserves made for each of our bands, be our homes forever?

When we took credits of our trader last winter, and took no furs to pay him, and wish to get hold of this 90,000 dollars, that we may pay him off of that.  This is all we came here for.  We want the money in our own hands & we will pay our own traders.  We do not think it is right to pay what we do not owe.  I always know how I stand my acct. and we can pay our own debts.  From what I have now said I do not want you to think that we want the money to cheat our creditors, but to do justice to them I owe.  I have my trader & know how much I owe him, & if the money is paid into the hands of the Indians we can pay our own debts.

~ Adikoons, Chief of Grand Portage Band
(Wheeler to Smith, 18 Jan. 1856)
Blackbird’s Speech at the 1855 Payment


With the above quotes as an introduction to this subject, we will now investigate what exactly happened to the $90,000 to be disbursed as “directed by the chiefs in open council”.  What we have found so far appears to suggest that the federal government did not honor their Trust responsibility to the Tribe:



Senate Documents, Volume 112

U.S. Government Printing Office, 1858



[Page 295 of audit]

Indian Disbursements

Statement containing a list of the names of all persons to whom goods, money, or effects have been delivered, from July 1, 1856, to June 30, 1857, specifying the amounts and objects for which they were intended, the amount accounted for, and the balances under each specified head still remaining in their hands; prepared in obedience to an act of Congress of June 30, 1834, entitled “An act to provide for the organization of the department of Indian affairs.”


[Pages 303-305 of audit]

Fulfilling treaties with Chippewas of Lake Superior, September 30, 1854

When issued To whom issued. For what purpose. Amount of requisition. Am’t accounted for.
Amount unaccounted for.
July 3 John B. Jacobs Fulfilling Treaties, (due) $1,718.73 $1,718.73
22 Henry C. Gilbert …do… $7,000.00 $7,000.00
Do …do… $5,000.00 $5,000.00
Aug. 14 Henry E. Leman …do…(due)… $1,412.50 $1,412.50
18 Ramsey Crooks …do…do… $6,617.64 $6,617.64
Adam Noongoo …do…do… $66.00 $66.00
Wm. Parsons …do…do… $28.50 $28.50
Erwin Leiky …do…do… $119.75 $119.75
Robert Morrin …do…do… $163.56 $163.56
Charles Bellisle …do…do… $191.00 $191.00
Posh-qway-gin …do…do… $47.88 $47.88
22 W. A. Pratt …do…do… $50.00 $50.00
John G. Kittson …do…do… $1,280.93 $1,280.93
Asaph Whittlesey …do…do… $25.00 $25.00
Louis Bosquet …do…do… $72.00 $72.00
David King …do…do… $100.00 $100.00
P. O. Johnson …do…do… $10.12 $10.12
Henry Elliott …do…do… $399.02 $399.02
McCullough & Elliott …do…do… $475.78 $475.78
Edward Assinsece …do…do… $50.00 $50.00
John Southwind …do…do… $21.00 $21.00
Kay-kake …do…do… $35.00 $35.00
Goff & Co. …do…do… $556.21 $556.21
Jame Halliday …do…do… $67.88 $67.88
Peter Crebassa …do…do… $1,013.99 $1,013.99
S. L. Vaugh …do…do… $57.08 $57.08
David King …do…do… $191.72 $191.72
Peter B. Barbean …do…do… $1,200.00 $1,200.00
23 Antoine Gaudine …do…do… $3,250.94 $3,250.94
Peter Markman …do…do… $300.00 $300.00
Pat L. Philan …do…do… $90.08 $90.08
Treasurer of township of Lapointe …do…do… $224.77 $224.77
Michael Bosquet …do…do… $219.63 $219.63
James Ermatinger …do…do… $2,000.00 $2,000.00
Louison Demaris …do…do… $2,000.00 $2,000.00
Joseph Morrison …do…do… $250.00 $250.00
John W. Bell …do…do… $253.11 $253.11
27 Paul H. Beaubien …do…do… $600.00 $600.00
R. Sheldon & Co. …do…do… $1,124.71 $1,124.71
Abraham Place …do…do… $450.00 $450.00
Michael James …do…do… $195.00 $195.00
R. J. Graveract …do…do… $269.19 $269.19
Reuben Chapman …do…do… $71.11 $71.11
Miller Wood …do…do… $38.50 $38.50
Robert Reed …do…do… $21.60 $21.60
Louis Gurno …do…do… $179.00 $179.00
Gregory S. Bedel …do…do… $142.63 $142.63
Geo. R. Stuntz …do…do… $537.41 $537.41
Usop & Hoops …do…do… $49.43 $49.43
May-yan-wash …do…do… $45.50 $45.50
John Hartley …do…do… $41.01 $41.01
B. F. Rathbun …do…do… $8.07 $8.07
W. W. Spaulding …do…do… $258.92 $258.92
Stephen Bonge …do…do… $40.00 $40.00
Abel Hall …do…do… $160.00 $160.00
Louis Cadotte …do…do… $200.00 $200.00
John Senter & Co. …do…do… $17.00 $17.00
John B. Roy …do…do… $150.00 $150.00
L. Y. B. Birchard …do…do… $26.00 $26.00
Peter Roy …do…do… $250.00 $250.00
Jacob F. Shaffer …do…do… $150.00 $150.00
Peter Vandeventer …do…do… $216.31 $216.31
Sept. 4 John Hotley, jr. …do…do… $538.48 $538.48
G. B. Armstrong …do…do… $950.00 $950.00
Lathrop Johnson …do…do… $376.00 $376.00
6 Wm. Mathews …do…do… $1,741.50 $1,741.50
Cronin, Hurxthal & Sears …do…do… $4,583.77 $4,583.77
13 Henry C. Gilbert …do… $12,500.00
24 B. W. Brisbois …do…(due)… $4,000.00 $4,000.00
27 John Brunet …do…do… $2,000.00 $2,000.00
John B. Roy …do…do… $80.00 $80.00
Edward Connor …do…do… $600.00 $600.00
Alexis Corbin …do…do… $1,000.00 $1,000.00
Louis Corbin …do…do… $1,108.47 $1,108.47
Vincent Roy …do…do… $645.36 $645.36
Abner Sherman …do…do… $568.00 $568.00
John B. Landry …do…do… $502.64 $502.64
Thomas Conner …do…do… $1,050.00 $1,050.00
Augustus Corbin …do…do… $238.50 $238.50
Julius Austrain …do…do… $6,000.00 $6,000.00
Do… …do…do… $1,876.86 $1,876.86
John B. Corbin …do…do… $750.00 $750.00
Cruttenden & Lynde …do…do… $1,300.00 $1,300.00
Orrin W. Rice …do…do… $358.09 $358.09
Francis Ronissaie …do…do… $817.74 $817.74
Dec. 6 W. G. and G. W. Ewing …do…do… $787.02 $787.02
Jan. 2 Henry C. Gilbert …do… $674.73 $674.73
Feb 21 Do …do… $8,133.33 $8,133.33
24 John B. Cadotte …do…(due)… $1,265.00 $1,265.00
Cruttenden & Lynde …do…do… $1,615.00 $1,615.00
J. B. Landry …do…do… $560.00 $560.00
P. Chouteau, jr., & Co. …do…do… $935.00 $935.00
Vincent Roy …do…do… $5,000.00 $5,000.00
Northern Fur Company …do…do… $625.00 $625.00
J. B. Landry …do…do… $90.00 $90.00
$105,071.70 $84,363.64 $20,708.06



Many of the Indian traders listed above make regular appearances in other primary documents of Chequamegon History.  Some of the names are misspelled but still recognizable to regular readers.  In summary let’s take a closer look at the top ten Indian traders that received the most disbursements related to the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe:


9½.)  James Ermatinger


James Ermatinger was involved with the American Fur Company in earlier years.  He seems to have become an independent Indian trader in later years leading up to the 1854 Treaty:

James founded Jim Falls, Wis., arriving by canoe from La Pointe, Wis. where he was involved in fur trading. He settled in Jim Falls, initially managing a trading post there for the American Fur Company. Others in the Ermatinger family were prominent fur traders in Canada, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Wisconsin.

~ Ermatinger family papers, 1833-1979


9½.)  Louison Demaris


According to Theresa Schenck’s research in her book All Our Relations, Louison Demarais may have been a son of Jean Baptiste Demarais who was an interpreter for Alexander Henry the Younger’s North West Company on the Red River:

Louison Desmarais residing at Chippewa River a ½ breed Chippewa 50 yrs of age born at Pembina and remained in the North until 9 years back when he came to Chippewa river where he has resided since claims for himself and wfie Angelique a ½ breed, 35 yrs of age born at Fond du Lac where she remained until she was married 23 years since when she went to the North with her husband and has since lived with him.

~ 1839 Mixed Blood Census
All Our Relations by Theresa M. Schenck, 2010, page 60


8.)  Cruttenden & Lynde

$1,615.00 + $1,300.00 = $2,915.00

“Here lie the remains of Hon. J. W. Lynde Killed by Sioux Indians Aug. 18.1862″

James William Lynde was an Indian Agent, Senator, and first casualty of 1862 Sioux Uprising.  Mr. Lynde was also a signatory of the 1854 Treaty, which may be a conflict of interest:

Hon. James W. Lynd was a native of Baltimore, born in 1830, but was reared and educated at Cincinnati. He had received a college education at Woodward College, having attended from 1842 – 1844. He was a man of accomplishments and ability. He thoroughly mastered the Indian language, married successively two Indian wives, and spent years in the study of the history and general character of the Sioux or Dakota tribe. For some time prior to his death he had been engaged in revising for publication the manuscript of an elaborate work containing the results of his studies and researches. Under the circumstances the greater part of this manuscript was lost. He was a young man, of versatile talents had been an editor, lecturer, public speaker, and was a member of the Minnesota State Senate in 1861.

~ Sketches: Historical and Descriptive of the Monuments and Tablets Erected by the Minnesota Valley Historical Society in Renville and Redwood Counties, Minnesota by the Minnesota Valley Historical Society, 1902, page 6


Joel D. Cruttenden was Mr. Lynch’s business partner:

Col. Cruttenden, of whom I have spoken briefly in another place, left St. Louis in 1846 and removed to Prairie du Chien, where he was employed by Brisbois & Rice. In 1848 he came to ST. PAUL and remained up to 1850, when he took up his residence in St. Anthony and engaged in business with R. P. Russel. He then went to Crow Wing and was connected with Maj. J. W. Lynde. In 1857 he was elected to the House of Representatives, and on the breaking out of the war was commissioned Captain Assistant Quartermaster; was taken prisoner, and on being exchanged rose to the rank of Colonel. At the close of the war he was honorably discharged, and soon after removed to Bayfield, Wisconsin, where he has held many offices and is greatly esteemed. He is a pleasant, genial gentleman, well known and well liked.

~ Pen Pictures of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Biographical Sketches of Old Settlers: Volume 1, by Thomas McLean Newson, 1886, page 95


7.)  Antoine Gaudine


~ Antoine Gordon
~ Noble Lives of a Noble Race by the St. Mary’s Industrial School (Odanah), page 207

Antoine Gaudine (a.k.a. Gordon) as one of those larger-than-life mixed-blood members of the La Pointe Band leading up to the 1854 Treaty and beyond:

Mr Gordon was the founder of the village of Gordon and for years had a trading post there which was the only store there. It is but a few years since he discontinued this store. He was a full-blooded Chippewa Indian, and came here from Madelaine Island, where he ran a post years ago. He was formerly the owner of the famous Algonquin, the first ship to come through the Soo locks, and used her in the lumber trade.

~ Eau Claire Leader newspaper, May 8, 1907



6.)  B. W. Brisbois


Bernard Walter Brisbois was a son of Michael Brisbois, Sr.:

Bernard Brisbois was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in 1808, to Michel Brisbois, a French-Canadian voyageur, and his second wife Domitelle (Madelaine) Gautier de Verville.

Like his father, Brisbois also began his career in the fur trade, working as agent for the American Fur Company. Bernard married Therese LaChappelle [daughter of metis Pélagie LaPointe (herself the daughter of Pierre LaPointe and Etoukasahwee) and Antoine LaChapelle]. Later he engaged in the mercantile business in Prairie du Chien until 1873 when he was appointed consul at Verviers, Belgium. He returned to Prairie du Chien in 1874 and lived there until his death in 1885.



5.)  Cronin, Hurxthal & Sears


Advertisement of Cronin, Hurxthal & Sears
~ The Prairie News (Okolona, Miss.), April 15, 1858, page 4

According to a receipt from this company, the partners behind this firm were John B. Cronin, Ben. Hurxthal and J. Newton Sears.  No further biographical information could be found about these individuals, who are presumed to have been New York City businessmen.  In general they appear to have been involved with trades associated with slavery and Indians.  Per their advertisement, they were the successors to the firm of Grant and Barton:

Grant and Barton nevertheless remained active in the [Texas] region, winning government contracts to supply the Bureau of Indian affairs with “blankets and dry goods” in the late 1840s and early 1850s…

The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860, by Calvin Schermerhorn, 2015, page 225


4.) Vincent Roy

$5,000.00 + $645.36 = $5,645.36

Vincent Roy, Jr. (III)
~ Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga, by Chrysostom Verwyst, 1900, pages 472-476

Vincent Roy, Sr. (II) and his son Vincent Roy, Jr. (III) were prominent members of the La Pointe Band mixed-bloods.  Sr. was recognized by Gilbert as the Head of the Mixed Bloods of the La Pointe Band of Lake Superior Chippewas.  Jr. was allegedly an interpreter at the 1854 Treaty, but is not identified in the Treaty itself and cannot find primary source.  Jr. is described as a skilled trader in many sources, including this one:

“Leopold and Austrian (Jews) doing a general merchandize and fur-trading business at LaPointe were not slow in recognizing ‘their man.’  Having given employment to Peter Roy, who by this time quit going to school, they also, within the first year of his arrival at this place, employed Vincent to serve as handy-man for all kind of things, but especially, to be near when indians from the woods were coming to trade, which was no infrequent occurrence.  After serving in that capacity about two years, and having married, he managed (from 1848 to 1852) a trading post for the same Leopold and Austrian; at first a season at Fond du Lac, Minn., then at Vermillion Lake, and finally again at Fond du Lac.” 

Miscellaneous materials related to Vincent Roy, 1861-1862, 1892, 1921


3.)  R. Crooks


Ramsay Crooks
~ Madeline Island Museum

Ramsey Crooks enjoyed a long history with the American Fur Company outfit at La Pointe in the decades leading up to the 1854 Treaty:

“Ramsey Crooks (also spelled Ramsay) was born in Scotland in 1787. He immigrated to Canada in 1803 where he worked as a fur trader and explorer around the Great Lakes. He began working for the American Fur Company, which was started by John Jacob Astor, America’s first multi-millionaire, and made an expedition to the Oregon coast from 1809-1813 for the company. By doing so he also became a partner in the Pacific Fur Company. In 1834 he became acting president of the American Fur Company following Astor’s retirement to New York. A great lakes sailing vessel the Ramsey Crooks was constructed in 1836 by the American Fur Co. A nearly identical sister ship was built in the same year and was called the Astor. Both ships were sold by the dissolving fur company in 1850. Ramsay Crooks passed away in 1859, but had made a name for himself in the fur trade not only in Milwaukee and the Great Lakes, but all the way to the Pacific Ocean.”  

~ Milwaukee County Historical Society


2.)  J. Austrian

$ 6,000.00 + $1,876.86 = $7,876.86

Julius Austrian
~ Madeline Island Museum

Julius Austrian was competitor and successor of the American Fur Company during the decade immediately leading up to the 1854 Treaty.  Chequamegon History’s research has explored the previously uncovered circumstances of Austrian’s purchase of the Village of La Pointe from American Fur Company in 1853, being the unnamed and de facto host of the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe, being the host of the 1855 Annuities at La Pointe, and the host of the 1855 High Holy Days at La Pointe:

In 1855 a number of Jewish Indian traders met on an island in Lake Superior in the frontier village of La Pointe, Wisconsin.  The Indians were assembled there to collect their annuities and the Jews were present to dun their debtors before they dispersed.  There were enough Jews for a minyan and a service was held.  That was the beginning and the end of La Pointe Jewry.

United States Jewry 1776-1985: Vol. 2; the Germanic Period, Part 1 by Jacob Rader Marcus Wayne State University Press , 1991, page 196


1.) Henry C. Gilbert

$0.00 ?

Henry Clark Gilbert
~ Branch County Photographs

Mackinac Indian Agent Henry Clark Gilbert was the Commissioner of the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe along with David B. Herriman. 

Gilbert submitted requisitions for $5,000.00, $7,000.00, $12,500.00, $674.73, and $8,133.33; which is a total amount of $33,308.06.  The amount accounted for in his name is $0.00, but his total amount unaccounted for is $20,808.06.  The difference between the total amount Gilbert requisitioned and his total amount unaccounted for is $12,500, which is the same amount that Gilbert requisitioned for on September 4th, 1856.

A closer look at all of the 1854 Treaty accounts as a whole suggests that Gilbert was paid his $12,500.00 despite what is shown on paper.  The total amount accounted for is actually $71,763.64; which is $12,600.00 less than the total amount on paper.  The total amount unaccounted for is $20,808.06; which is $100 greater than the total amount on paper (all of which was in Gilbert’s name).  We are left with a puzzle missing some pieces.  Did Gilbert obtain his $12,500.00 fraudulently?  Was the extra $100 accounted for taken from the unaccounted amounts by someone else as a bribe?

Did Gilbert abuse his Trust responsibility to the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe?  Or was this simply a case of sloppy reporting by a federal clerk?