Friday, September 10, 2010

Reservations about the Term "Reservation"

Cooley's Dictum clears up some misconceptions about the so-called "Indian Reservations" in Flint:
By the Saginaw Treaty of 1819 a number of both "tribal" and "individual" reservations were created ranging in location from present day Bancroft, Flint, and Montrose to Saginaw, Vassar, and other points north.

The "reservation" at Flint was actually eleven individual "reserves" for the following individuals (in order per the treaty, and in order as appears on the survey map dated August 20th, 1821): Nowokeshik, Metawanene, Mokitchenoqua, Nondashemau, Petabonaqua, Messawakutt, Checbalk, Kitcheguqua, Sagosequa, Annoketoqua, and Tawcumegoqua. A section of land was reserved for each, a section being 640 acres in area. (I would have said "a square mile" but a "section" need not necessarily be "square".)

Now, were these individuals Indian? In the majority of cases, no, although that did not seem to be an impediment to litigators.

Let's deal with the only three reservees whose claims to the land were not contested in the courts. Nowokeshik was deemed to be Francis Edouard Campau -- mixed breed son of trader Barney Campau. Kitcheguqua was deemed to be Catherine Mene -- mixed breed daughter of trader John Baptiste Brillant dit Beaulieu. Petabonaqua was deemed to be Felicity Beaufait -- mixed breed daughter of Louis Beaufait.

The remaining eight reserves were contested and five of the claimants involved in the litigation were the white offspring of Flint's first resident, Jacob Smith. The Smith children eventually received patents to these lands but this was not until 1836 -- 18 years after the treaty and 16 years after the "survey" of the eleven sections.

Upon granting of the patents, the Smith children had a re-survey made of the five sections and four of these, Sections 3-6 were divided into farms by surveyor Hervey C. Parke. Now, this is not to say that the Smith children hadn't already sold off some of these lands. Typical for the day, when a land claim was contested on the frontier, and given the slow-moving court system of the day, land sales were made "subject to the claims of others" as the litigation made its way to conclusion. For example, John and Polly Todd had by then sold their inn and ferry service downtown and had moved downriver onto one of these farms. Thus, "Todd" appears as owner of 300 acres on both sides of the "River Road."

Now, all five of the Smith sections are north of the river. But the Smith children also eventually laid claim to a section on the south side and as this litigation proceeded, there were eventually three claimants for the name Mokitchenoqua -- one the supposed mixed-breed daughter of Smith, another the mixed breed daughter of fur trader Archibald Lyon, and the third, Marie Gouin, mixed breed daughter of another fur trader.

Eventually three full-blood Indians were involved in claims, two daughters and a niece of Chief Neome, who was granted a tribal reservation at Montrose -- Sagosequa, Annoketoqua, and Tawcumegoqua. The first two lost out to the Smith children -- the last, to one of the descendants of Louis Campau.

This is a rather rudimentary explanation and a much longer post would be necessary to detail all the complexities of getting title to the lands at Flint. But, imho, stating that Flint was originally "an Indian Reservation" is most definitely incorrect.


  1. Apologies for my math. Please make that "17 years" and "15 years" respectively.

  2. Interesting reading. There were hundreds of Indians living in and around Jacob's landing at the time of the Michigan Land distribution. The name Campau (Campeau) started in Quebec and moved eastward in the 16oos to Michigan territory. Louis Campeau was all over the place, founded Grand Rapids. Involved in land deals from Saginaw to Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids. His offspring must be the ones involved with the Flint reserves. Mostly Ojibwe peoples lived in the area, other natives were represented there too. Kind of a roots thing for me. My GGG Grandmother was one of the couple hundred that lived in Fort Gratiot(Port Huron)later. That's when Detroit was around six or seven hundred strong. She was killed there when the British and French warred in 1880.

  3. Well, damn.

    Not only was my math incorrect, but I forgot to mention the fourth uncontested reservee -- Jean Visger, deemed to be Checbalk in the Saginaw Treaty. To no avail, I have tried for years to link him with the Dutch fur trader, Jacobus Visger.

    All four of the uncontested reserves lie south of the river, and the patents for these reserves were issued in the years 1825-27. (Oddly enough, 1825 is the year that both Jake Smith and Neome shuffled off their respective mortal coils. Both had been present at the treaty proceedings and might have, perhaps, provided information as to the identity of the reservees.)

  4. Sorry, can't get "edit" function to work.

    Yo, Unclebuck -- does the name "Macons" or "Maconse" show up anywhere in the family lore? Also -- if she really existed -- Jake Smith's half-breed daughter was supposed to be from that area.

  5. The name Macons is an Ojibwa word meaning little bear or cub. I have a couple of friends up here by that name. First name though. When the gov't anglicized the names of natives back then they chose the first English combo of first and last name that came into their head. Like, Moses Henry or Henry Moses. Lots of native people's given names were lost over the years because of this. There are a lot natives of the Saginaw Band of Ojibwe today with the name Moses and Henry because of this.

  6. weird connections man. im a Beaufait who grew up in San Jose (yay mercury news!). my ancestors were all from michigan. i am very distantly related to Felicity. I don't think she had any children, but we share a common ancestor- louis beaufait from la rochelle, france. crazy stuff.

  7. From Dennisen, Rev. Fr. Christian, "Genealogy of the French Families of the Detroit River Region", Vol. 1 & 2, Detroit Genealogical Research, Detroit, 1976 (although I seem to recall the research was compiled during the Thirties):

    Felicity was born in 1804, baptized two years later, and married in 1829 to widower Charles Chartrand. I have no other info on her although her half-sibs by father Louis and Mary (Saucier) Beaufait were Teresa, Louis, Magdelene, Magloire, Vital, Scholastica, Francis, and Elizabeth.

  8. I know this is an old post, but I do have info on Felcity Beaufait: she had several children including a son William Chartrand (who was my GG Grandfather). If anyone is looking for information on her family, please contact me -- esp. Cooley -- I have some of the half sibs but not others. pk_fud at hotmail

    1. Felicity is in my tree, although I am not a direct descendant. I am a Eugene Beaupre/Theodore Beaufait descendant and I am eager to learn more about her family tree. More specifically, I am trying to learn more about the story of Petabonaqua (Felicite) and her father's marriage.

      Do you have a tree on ancestry?

      Do you know what happened to the lands in the Flint Reservation lands? Do you have a survey map?

      Do you know much about the story of Louis's marriage to a unknown native American woman (presumably Felicite's mom)?

      Please let me know what history you can share.

      Thank you in advance!

  9. Thanks for the offer Anon. At present my research needs don't extend much beyond Louis or his daughter, Felicity. If that changes in the future I'll be in touch.


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