A History of the Rice Lake Indians by Mary Jane Muskratte Simpson
Memoirs of Reginald Drayton
The memoirs of Reginald Charles Lumlei Drayton, an English gentleman who first came to Canada in 1871, and settled at Gore's Landing, give an intimate glimpse at the life of the Hiawatha Indians of those days which are of interest. Mr. Drayton came of an aristocratic family and lived for a time near Hiawatha. He was a painter of note and an accomplished pianist to the point of being dubbed "Mozart" by friendly fellow passengers on his first voyage.
Excerpts from his memoirs have been used with the kind permission of Nigel and Florence Drayton.
"I became acquainted with some of the Indians, especially William Anderson, a son of old Captain Anderson who was the Government agent for the Indians, and who had built the house at the point near the east mouth of the river. The old Captain had left quite a family of half-breeds; four sons, Andrew, generally called "Major" Anderson, John, William and Peter; and, I think, three daughters. The son Peter, to whom the homestead had been left, was dead before I came to the Lake; he had left it to William, who was swindled out of it by a rascally Scotch farmer. "Major" Anderson lived on the south side of the lake at Alderville; John and William both lived at Hiawatha.
John, the elder of the two, lived about two hundred yards from the Post Office; he had been twice married, and had two daughters and a son by the first wife; his second wife had been the widow Loukes, a fat, jolly, good-natured woman. John himself was very downright, more like a white man than an Indian, but with a violent temper which he could not always control. I think he was only a half-brother of William, as they were totally unlike in every way.
William was quite a character, in appearance and colour an Indian, but with a most suave, polite manner of speech; he at once interested and amused one; a large man, tall and straight. An accident in youth had made him lame; good features, a hairless face, an easy smile, together with a somewhat grave manner and a most courteous demeanor caused him to be pretty well-liked by the white people with whom he came in contact. His voice was low and soft, and his words well-chosen, though at times his grammar was faulty; still he was a curious character and I generally found him exceedingly entertaining. He also had been twice married; first to a white woman whose only child married Whetung, the Chief at Mud Lake village; William's second wife had also one daughter, Alice, a girl of ten years. William lived at the north end of the village, the last house in it; and he asked me to go and see him, which I promised to do. We had become by this time well-acquainted with most of the people of the village."
"I now went across the lake to the Indian village of Hiawatha; the Indians were of the Ojibway tribe and they had been for a long time settled on this reserve at Rice Lake; there were many log houses and a few frame. Also, there was a church, rather a pretty little building with a spire, all of course built of wood; the house of the Methodist Minister in charge was quite close to the church, with a good garden; and farther north on the top of a low hill was the cemetery. Almost opposite the church was their council-house."
"There were at this time somewhere about 189 Indians, inhabitants of the village. Henry Crowe was a great hunter and shot, and used to go out with Sir Henry Loose and other Englishmen after deer in the backcountry. Jerry, his younger brother, had a remarkable bass voice; I think one of the deepest and best I ever heard. Henry Howard was also a good singer and knew his notes, his voice was tenor, and he had an education."
The village of Hiawatha was built for the most part on the shore road which came from Peter's Point, and it faced south. The church, a frame building with a spire, stood, and still stands, opposite the council-house in the centre of the village; back of it was the Minister's house, and beside it the school; all along the road where the small school houses inhabited by the Indians. Close to the council-house was a large, square house inhabited by old Mrs. Tamnohe, who must have been a very handsome woman in her day. She had strong aquiline features, very stout in her frame, but quite active. She seemed to be 'Aunt' to almost all the village; a widow with no children of her own, very good-natured and well-liked by all who knew her. She took a fancy to me, and used to call me her "son".
There were Lombard poplars in the village street, a strange tree in this country, but rather picturesque, and it in some way suited the village, and set it off. I noted that at Chemong, the Indian village on Mud Lake, there were also these Lombard poplars.
The Chief, Mosang Paudash, and his son Robert lived opposite each other in a couple of rather pretty little houses. Mosang being a widower for years, and Robert having a wife and two sons, he was often away acting as an interpreter at different Indian Reserves; he had been at school a good deal.
At the east of Bob Paudash's orchard, a lane from the village street took one to the top of a low hill. Here was the dwelling of Robert Soper and his wife, a daughter of old Captain Anderson; they had no children, but her nephew, the orphaned son of Peter, lived with them, a young man whose name was Andrew. Mrs. Soper was a great Methodist, and was always haranguing, but what interested me more about her was that she had trained a young otter to follow her like a log; it would go into the lake and bring out bass to lay at her feet. Old Robert was very grey-bearded, and at times rather amusing as, for instance, when he told me of having been knocked down by two owls who flew in his face, and every time he tried to get up went at him again. I did not doubt it, for the Great-Eared Owl is very savage, and afraid of nothing; he must, however, have gone near where they were nesting.
There were some half-dozen or more houses before the road turned north. At the turn lived old Moses Muskrat, the patriarch of the village. He was a great character and well-liked by nearly all the white people who knew him. I do not know how old he was, but he told me that when he first knew the lake it was very full of black rice, very much smaller and that there were many more ducks. That was before the dam was made at Hastings, somewhere about 1820. I soon got to be very good friends with Moses, and he would come to see me at the Point House when he was passing.
I had been to the sugar bush across Herkimer's marsh where I had seen the Indian women making sugar; and there I found out the reason for the nasty, piggy taste that a good deal of the maple sugar has. For on approaching the place of boiling, where the big sugar or, rather, sap boilers were hung on a long, heavy pole, I saw suspended over each of them a big chunk of fat pork. As the bubbling liquor came boiling up over dripped some pork fat into it, and it subsided. I don't like that sort of sugar myself, but it was interesting seeing the manufacture of it. The sugarmaker's camp was quite an interesting looking place with lodges covered by birch-bark over a framework of poles. Some lodges were eighteen feet square and had a hole left in the roof for the smoke to escape. There seemed to be about twenty-five people; men, women, and children, at this sugar camp.
There were in Hiawatha beside Chief Paudash, who had been elected, a family of the name of Crowe who were hereditary chiefs; the old Chief John Crowe was dead, but he left two sons by his first wife, Henry and Jeremiah, who inherited from him that right. They were half-French, much younger than Paudash; both Henry, and Jerry were fine-looking men. Henry was a great hunter and much in request if any Englishman wanted a guide. He was an excellent shot with both shotgun and rifle, and his eldest son, John, a boy of fifteen, seemed to take after him. Jerry had a most wonderful bass voice, more deep and mellow than any I ever heard.
I took advantage of a boat making an excursion up to Peterborough to see that town; which, from very small beginnings in the early years of the century, is now in a very prosperous state, and much in advance of Lindsay which aspired to be the capital of Peterborough County. But this town, so well situated on a fine river like the Otonabee, and with so well-timbered and rich a back-country to the north of it, was bound to go ahead; and there are already signs of what it may become in future years. The trip on the river was very enjoyable, and I was quite sorry when it was over. There was at this time a man of Wood who had been an officer in the Austrian service living in Ferncliff, on the lakeshore road. He had a bad saber cut on the head, and at times used to go quite crazy. He was a married man with children; one morning an Indian whose name I now forget told me that as he was trolling near Brock Island he saw the man Wood take the two children he had in the boat with him, and throw them into the lake, one on each side; and then make for the house. The Indian picked up the children, and there was no more about it. Naturally, Wood was not popular.