Rome, April 17, 1833 My Dear Sister
It is a long time since I wrote you a
few lines. I would write oftener if the time would permit, but I have
very few leisure moments. However, as we have a holiday to-day, I
determine to write a line or two. I have to attend to my studies from
morning till sunset. I thank you very much for your kind letter which I
received some time ago by politeness of Rev. Mr. Seajean. My dearest
sister, you may have felt lost after I left you; you must consider who
loves you with all the affection of parents. What can we return to those
who have done us much good, but humble prayers for them that the
Almighty may reward them for the benefit they have done in this poor
mortal world. I was very happy when informed by Father Mullen that you
had received six premiums at the examination; nothing else would more
impress my heart than to hear of the success of your scholastic studies.
I entreat you, dearest sister, to learn what is good and to despise the
evil, and offer your prayers to the Almighty God and rely on Him alone,
and by His blessing you may continue to improve your time well. You can
have no idea how the people here are devoted to the Virgin Mary. At
every corner of the streets there is the image of her, and some of these
have lights burning day and night. I think of you very often: perhaps I
shall never have the pleasure of seeing you again. I have been unwell
ever since I came to this country. However, I am yet able to attend my
school and studies. I hope I will not be worse, so that I may be unable
to follow my intention.
There are really fine things to be seen in Rome. On the
feast of SS. Sebastian and Fabian we visited the Catacombs, two or three
miles out of the city, where is a church dedicated to those saints,
which I have already mentioned in previous letters. Perhaps our
countrymen would not believe that there was such a place as that place
which I saw myself with my own naked eyes. We entered in with lights and
saw the scene before us. As soon as we entered we saw coffins on the top
of each other, in one of which we saw some of the remains. The cave runs
in every direction, sometimes is ascended by steps, and sometimes runs
deeper, and one would be very easily lost in it. There are some large
places and a chapel; I am told by the students that the chapel is where
Pope Gregory was accustomed to say mass. I assure you it would excite
any human heart to behold the place where the ancient Christians were
concealed under the earth from the persecution of the anti-christians.
Indeed they were concealed by the power of God. They sought Jesus and
Him alone they loved.
It is the custom of the College of the Propaganda, on
the feast of Epiphany each year, that the students should deliver a
discourse in their own respective languages. This year there were
thirty-one different languages delivered by the students, so you may
judge what kind of a college this is. At present it is quite full; there
are ninety-three, of which thirteen are from the United States.
On Easter Sunday the Holy Father celebrated mass in the
church of St. Peter. It is very seldom that his holiness is seen
personally celebrating mass in public except on great festivals. The
church was crowded with spectators, both citizens of Rome and
foreigners. On the front part of the church there was an elevated place
beautifully ornamented. After the solemn ceremonies the Holy Father went
up and gave his paternal benediction to the people. There is a large
square before St. Peter's, and it was crowded so that it was impossible
to kneel down to receive the benediction.
This week we are quite merry; we seem to employ our
minds on the merriment which is always displayed amongst us on such
occasions. Our secretary is now Cardinal, and to-morrow he will be
crowned with the dignity of the Cardinal. Our college has been
illuminated these two evenings. The congregational halls of the
Propaganda were opened on this occasion. The new Cardinal then received
all the compliments of the Cardinals, Bishops, Prelates, Ambassadors,
Princes, and other distinguished dignities. There are two large
beautiful rooms, in one of which the new Cardinal was seated and
received all those who came to pay him compliments. The visitors all
came through the same passage, and there was a man posted in each room
who received them and cried out to others that such man was coming, and
so on through all those that were placed for the purpose, and one called
the Cardinal gentleman introduced them to the new Cardinal. If there
were such a thing in America it would be quite a novelty.
It is time for me to close, and I hope you will write
me sometimes. My respects to the Sisters and Father Mullen. Farewell,
dear sister; pray for your Superior and for me.
I remain your most affectionate brother,
After his death, some one at Cincinnati wrote the
following, to be repeated before a large audience in that city by his
little sister Margaret, who was there at school. The poetry was
impressively recited and listened to by many people with wet eyes. This
gifted child of nature died June 25, 1833.
The morning breaks; see how the glorious
sun, Slow wheeling from the east, new luster sheds O'er the
soft clime of Italy. The flower That kept its perfume in the
dewy night, Now breathes it forth again. Hill, vale and
grove, Clad in rich verdure, bloom, and from the rocks The
joyous waters leap. O! meet it is That thou, imperial Rome,
should lift thy head, Decked with the triple crown, where
cloudless skies And lands rejoicing in the summer sun, Rich
But there is
grief to-day. A voice is heard within thy marble walls, A
voice lamenting for the youthful dead; For o'er the relics
of her forest boy The mother of dead Empires weeps. And lo!
Clad in white robes the long procession moves; Youths throng
around the bier, and high in front, Star of our hope, the
glorious cross is reared, Triumphant sign. The low, sweet
voice of prayer, Flowing spontaneous from the spirit's
depths, Pours its rich tones; and now the requiem swells,
Now dies upon the ear.
But there is one4
who stands beside my brother's grave, and tho' no tear Dims
his dark eye, yet does his spirit weep. With beating heart
he gazes on the spot Where his young comrade shall forever
rest. For they together left their forest home, Led by
Father Reese, who to their fathers preached Glad tiding of
great joy; the holy man my brother, Who sleeps beneath the
soil the Father Reese's labors blessed. How must the spirit
mourn, the bosom heave, Of that lone Indian boy! No tongue
can speak The accents of his tribe, and as he bends In
melancholy mood above the dead, Imagination clothes his
tearful thoughts In rude but plaintive cadences.
Soft be my brother's sleep! At nature's call the
cypress here shall wave, The wailing winds lament above the
grave, The dewy night shall weep.
And he thou leavest forlorn, Oh, he shall come to shade my
brother's grave with moss, To plant what thou didst
love--the mystic cross, To hope, to pray, to mourn.
No marble here shall rise; But o'er thy grave he'll teach
the forest tree To lift its glorious head and point to thee,
Rejoicing in the skies.
And when it feels the breeze, I'll think thy spirit wakes
that gentle sound Such as our fathers thought when all
around Shook the old forest leaves.
Dost thou forget the hour, my brother, When first we heard
the Christian's hope revealed, When fearless warriors felt
their bosoms yield Beneath Almighty power?
Then truths came o'er us fast, Whilst on the mound the
missionary stood And thro' the list'ning silence of the wood
His words like spirits passed.
And oh, hadst thou been spared, We two had gone to bless our
fathers' land, To spread rich stores around, and hand in
hand Each holy labor shared.
But here the relics of my brother lie, Where nature's
flowers shall bloom o'er nature's child, Where ruins
stretch, and classic art has piled Her monuments on high.
Sleep on, my brother, sleep peaceful here The traveler from
thy land will claim this spot, And give to thee what kingly
tombs have not--The tribute of a tear with me, my brother.
He died almost the very day
when he was to be ordained a priest. He received a long visit from his
cousin Hamlin that evening, and they sat late in the night, talking on
various subjects, and particularly on American matters and his
ordination. My brother was perfectly well and robust at that time, and
full of lively spirits. He told his cousin that night, that if he ever
set his foot again on American soil, his people, the Ottawa and Chippewa
of Michigan, should always remain where they were. The United States
would never be able to compel them to go west of the Mississippi, for he
knew the way to prevent them from being driven off from their native
land. He also told his cousin that as soon as he was ordained and
relieved from Rome, he would at once start for America, and go right
straight to Washington to see the President of the United States, in
order to hold conference with him on the subject of his people and their
lands. There was a great preparation for the occasion of his ordination.
A great ceremony was to be in St. Peter's Church, because a native
American Indian, son of the chief of the Ottawa tribe of Indians, a
prince of the forests of Michigan, was to be ordained a priest, which
had never before happened since the discovery of the Aborigines in
America. In the morning, at the breakfast table, my brother William did
not appear, and every one was surprised not to see him at the table.
After breakfast, a messenger was sent to his room. He soon returned with
the shocking news that he was dead. Then the authorities of the college
arose and rushed to the scene, and there they found him on the floor,
lying in his own blood. When Hamlin, his cousin heard of it, he too
rushed to the room; and after his cousin's body was taken out, wrapped
up in a cloth, he went in, and saw at once enough to tell him that it
was the work of the assassin.
When the news reached to Little Traverse, now Harbor
Springs, all the country of Arbor Croche was enveloped in deep mourning,
and a great lamentation took place among the Ottawa and Chippewa in this
country with the expression, "All our hope is gone." Many people came to
our dwelling to learn full particulars of my brother's death, and to
console and mourn with his father in his great bereavement.
No motive for the assassination has ever been
developed, and it remains to this day a mystery. It was related that
there was no known enemy in the institution previous to his death; but
he was much thought of and beloved by every one in the college. It was
an honor to be with him and to converse with him, as it is related that
his conversation was always most noble and instructive. It was even
considered a great honor to sit by him at the tables; as it is related
that the students of the college used to have a strife amongst
themselves who should be the first to sit by him. There were several
American students at Rome at that time, and it was claimed by the
Italians that my brother's death came through some of the American
students from a secret plot originating in this country to remove this
Indian youth who had attained the highest pinnacle of science and who
had become their equal in wisdom, and in all the important questions of
the day, both in temporal and spiritual matters. He was slain, it has
been said, because it was found out that he was counseling his people on
the subject of their lands and their treaties with the Government of the
United States. His death deprived the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of a
wise counselor and adviser, one of their own native countrymen; but it
seems that it would be impossible for the American people in this
Christian land to make such a wicked conspiracy against this poor son of
the forest who had become as wise as any of them and a great statesman
for his country. Yet it might be possible, for we have learned that we
cannot always trust the American people as to their integrity and
stability in well doing with us.
It is said the stains of my brother's blood can be seen
to this day in Rome, as the room has been kept as a memorial, and is
shown to travelers from this country. His statue in full size can also
be seen there, which is said to be a perfect image of him. His trunk
containing his books and clothing was sent from Rome to this country,
and it came all right until it reached Detroit. There it was lost, or
exchanged for another, which was sent to Little Traverse. It was sent
back with a request to forward the right one, but that was the end of
it, and no explanation was ever received.
Soon after the death of my brother William, my sister
Margaret left Cincinnati, Ohio, and came to Detroit, Mich., where she
was employed as teacher of the orphan children at a Catholic
institution. She left Detroit about 1835, and came to Little Traverse,
where she at once began lo teach the Indian children for the Catholic
mission. She has ever since been very useful to her people, but is now a
decrepit old lady and sometimes goes by the name of Aunty Margaret, or
Queen of the Ottawa. She is constantly employed in making Indian
curiosities-- wearing out her fingers and eyes to make her living and
keep her home. Like many others of her race, she has been made the
victim of fraud and extortion. Some years ago a white man came to the
Indian country and committed many crimes, for some of which he is now in
prison. Soon after he came here, this wicked man pretended he was gored
by an ox-- although there were no marks of violence--which he claimed
belonged to Mr. Boyd, Aunty Margaret's husband, and he therefore sued
Mr. Boyd for damages for several hundred dollars; and although the ox
which he claimed had injured him did not belong to Mr. Boyd, and there
was no eye witness in the case, yet he obtained judgment for damages
against him, and a mortgage had to be given on the land which the
Government had given her. The Indian's oath and evidence are not
regarded in this country, and he stands a very poor chance before the
law. Although they are citizens of the State, they are continually being
taken advantage of by the attorneys of the land; they are continually
being robbed and cheated out of their property, and they can obtain no
protection nor redress whatever.
Before Mr. Hamlin, my cousin, left Italy, he was asked
by the authorities if William had any younger brother in America of a
fit age to attend school. He told the authorities that the deceased had
one brother just the right age to begin school--that was myself. Then
there was an order for me to be sent to Rome to take the place of my
brother; but when my father heard of it, he said, "No; they have killed
one of my sons after they have educated him, and they will kill
another." Hamlin came home soon after my brother's death, and some time
after the Treaty of 1836 he was appointed U.S. Interpreter and continued
to hold this office until 1861, at which time I succeeded him.
4. His cousin Hamlin.
Chippewa History |
Native American Nations