I will now go back and notice the Grand Rapids Indians in the last days of their settlements.
As early as 1780 we find two flourishing Indian villages located on the western bank of the Grand River, about midway of the rapids. They were about a quarter of a mile apart, and were under the government of two separate chiefs and councils; although the one was, to a small degree, subordinate to the other.
The larger of these contained about seven hundred inhabitants of the Ottawa and Chippewa natives, and was governed by the far-sighted and cunning Kewaykushquom, a chief of considerable renown; while the smaller did not contain more than five hundred souls, mostly Ottawas, and recognized Noonday as their chief.
At this time, all the land east of the Grand River, or the Owoshtenong, was owned by the Ottawas; and that west of the river was the joint property of that nation and the Chippewas.
The habits and customs of these savages differed in no essential point from those in other sections. They were industrious, honest and peaceful tribes, enjoying the advantages of the fur trade, and indulging all the curious customs characteristic of their race. The American Fur Company had, at this time, established a trading post about two miles below the present town of Lowell, on the Grand River, where agent, Mrs. La Framboie, exchanged the products of civilization for pelts.
It will surprise the reader to learn that a woman was the first pioneer of civilization who ever set foot upon the pleasant valley of Grand River; but such, indeed, is the truth. She was a French lady of more than ordinary force of character, a shrewd trader and a bold adventurer. Her life at this outpost is filled with thrilling incidents, many of which are enlivened by a vein of romance.
Although the American Fur Company constantly kept a supply of goods at this point, the Indians would often go to Detroit to trade, not so much, however, with a view of securing larger prices for their peltries, or to purchasing necessaries at a smaller cost, as to obtain a supply of fire-water, which could not be had at a nearer point. As the time for the "annual pow-wow" approached, a journey to Detroit was considered necessary, for the purpose of laying in a supply of rum for the occasion.
Mrs. La Framboie remained at this post until superceded by Rix Robinson, in 1821. She had been a successful agent for the company, but her advanced age and the growing interest of the fur trade demanded her removal. Remnants of the old store-house in which she transacted business with the savages still remain. There is a part of the chimney yet standing, and marks of the excavation in which the canoes were hid may be seen nearby. These are the oldest relics of pioneer life in Kent County.
TO BE CONTINUED
For more history on the fur traders in Kent County,
as well as Mrs. La Framboie and her husband, Joseph,
read "The Michigan Fur Trade" by Ida Amanda Johnson.