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History of Saginaw Valley Indians, by James C. Mills

1918 history. (Added Nov., 2008)

History of Saginaw County, Michigan,
by James Cooke Mills,1918



Page 338-339:


Daniel Wheaton – Indian Preacher

None of these white settlers, however, deserve more honorable mention in this history of Taymouth than the late Daniel Wheaton, a full-blood Indian, who spent a lifetime of Christian service among the people of his race. He was born about 1826 at Show-ko-kon, or Green Point, his father being Chem-e-gas, a Chippewa warrior of the Saginaw band. His grandmother was Ne-bom-o-quay, the noted “woman sachem”, often mentioned by the fur traders and pioneers.

In accordance with Indian custom his father and family, at various seasons, roamed up and down the river and tributary streams, and set up their wigwams at such places as convenience or pleasure dictated. At that time they lived at a place call Men-its-gow, the treaty reserve of Kaw-Kaw-is-kou, commonly known as Crow Island, and at Pe-won-o-go-wink, or Ne-ome's town, a place on the Flint River in Taymouth Township. In these migrations the young Indian warrior, whose name was Ash-atah-ne-qua-beh, meaning “Almost touches the clouds,” was an active member of the party.

“Here an event occurred,” relates Fred Dustin in his historical narratives, “that probably changed the whole after course of his life. It was Spring, and he with his older brother, Nathan, as he was called later on, (for then they bore only their Indian names) were making maple sugar on the banks of the Flint River. One day as they worked there came the sounds of music on the air. To them it was strange music in a strange tongue. It seemed to pass over them east to west and die away in the distance. Probably it was some settler following the trail on his way to Saug-e-nah, or perhaps it was a wandering missionary giving voice to his emotions in sacred song. Be that as it may, it had a strong effect on the impressionable and highly religious natures of these Indian boys.

“A year or two passed, and one of that band of Christian soldiers, who ever accompanied the van of the movement west, appeared at Pe-won-o-go-wink and induced a company of the red hunters to listen to his message, among them the sons of Chem-e-gas.

“The preacher prayed, exhorted and sang, and judge the surprise and feelings of the boys when from his lips arose the strange tune and strange words that had so mysteriously wafted to them on that spring day. It was the hymn “Oh! For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” and from that day a new light came into their lives, and a new rule of life. Later on the three sons of Chem-e-gas became three Methodist preachers. There were Nathan, Samuel and Daniel, the latter the subject of this sketch.


Page 340:


It is evident that the Indians of this loction were dwellers of the woods, a fact which leads to the observation that their habitations were of perishable nature, easily consumed by fire and quickly falling into decay by action the weather. Their summer camps were usually located o the higher lands, along ridges and river bluffs where the pines grew and the woods were free from the tangle of underbrush. In winter they chose the thick sheltering forest by the streams as locations for their wigwams, and in the lee of the very ridge that were their summer homes.

The implements however, of domestic use, and weapons of warfare and of the chase were of enduring stone. The arrow-point picked up in a newly-plowed field may be even a thoursand years old, speaking to us in certain indefinite terms, while pottery, fire-beds of stone, animal remains, and in some charcoal, form the basis for our knowledge of pre-historic places.


Page 378-379:


Close Relations With the Indians

During the early formative period of Saginaw the relations between whites and the native lords of the forest were generally very friendly. The fur traders as a matter of expidency treat the Indians kindly, while exchanging their furs for guns, “fire-water” and the trinkets of the East, with profit ever in mind. The whole enterprise depended upon the good will and liberal patronage of the redskins, and every incentive was given them in hunting and trapping in the interminable forests. The friendliness and kindly spirit of pioneer days extended to the permanent settlers, largely as a measure of personal safety. They were peaceable people, of which industry and thrift were dominant traits, and were not as a rule inclined to quarrel with the aboriginal holders of the land. In consequence of this policy the Indians came to the settlements in large numbers, and mingled freely with the white in general trade.

Some of the well known chiefs of the Chippewas, who roamed the forests about Saginaw and lived in the villages on or near the Tittabaswassee, were Au-saw-wa mic, O-saw-wah-bon, Nau-qua-chic-a-ming, Shaw-we-nos-se-ga, Miz-co-be-na-sa and later Shop-en-gons. Numerous incidents concern these chieftains have been related by our pioneers, some of which appear the early chapters of this work, which treat of the primitive times. One story in particular about the noted chief, Nau-qua-chic-a-ming, casts an amusing sidelight upon his character, and is here record.

Nau-qua-chic-a-ming Draws His Will

This big chieftain was a “good” Indian, simple in his tastes, primitive in his ideas of right and wrong, but kind-hearted, sensitive and honest. While suffering from the effects of an accident, whereby several ribs were broken and other injuries inflicted, and because of his advanced age, he feared is end was near and decided to make a will for the legal disposition of his property. Like all Indians he was superstitious, but did not allow his imagination to lead him from his strict sense of truth.

To carry out this design he called to his wigwam a friend who was a lawyer, and with a clear mind laid the matter before him. First in the list of legatees he mentioned the children, by the two wives then living with him, then a favorite grandchild, and finally some other children by former wives.

“But,” said the friend, “you have neglected to make provision for the wives who are now living with you.”

“Oh! I forgot them, “replied the chief, “but never mind.” True to the barbarous instinct which regards woman as of little consequence, he decided not to change the will, but to leave the wives to the care of their sons, should he be taken away.

The list of children by other wives, all of whom he had thought of and cared enough about to provide in his will, though many were men and women grown, being somewhat lengthy, the friend remarked that the old chief had been much married in his time.

“Oh! Not so much,” he replied, somewhat abashed at the view his pale face friends took of his easy domestic habits for a period of more than fifty years, “only ten; but it's not my fault, they all fell in love with me.

Shortly after, on October 26, 1874, the old chief passed to the “happy hunting grounds,” at the advanced age, it was believe, of more than ninety years. His son, “Jim,” well know in these parts, was also a “good” Indian, and died about 1892.

Indian Landmarks.

The landmarks and relicx left by aboriginal owners of land in Saginaw Township are numberous, Green Point, at the confluence of the Tittabawsee and Shiawasse Rivers, having been a favorite camping place of the savages. The mounds at this place are still plainly marked, but so ancient are they that trenches made through the largest, by Fred Dustin several years ago, revealed nothing beyond decayed bones and a few teetch. Other remains were caches form by the redskins for the storage of chipped blades of chert, and implements and articles of domestic use, and cultural pits used for keeping corn, smoked meats and other provisions. The latter were merely excavations in the ground from five to ten feet in diameter, carefully lined with bark and supported by poles, and roofed with the same materials. An extended account of these finds is giving in Volume 1, Chapter 1.

Page 446:
James Nau-qua-chic-a-ming, son the famous chief Nau-qua-chic-a-ming, who passed to the happy hunting grounds in 1874, was born at Sebewaing in the early forties and died in 1892. He was a “good” Indian.


Page 400:


Sites of ancient Indian villages were frequently found in favored places, the soil which, including the mounds raised by repeated burials of their dead, always contained weapons, utensils, and relics of different character peculiar to the aborigines. For an authentic account of the ancient mound builders and of relics recovered in Saginaw County, see Volume 1, Chapter 1.

Page 404:
The name of the village and township was undoubtedly derived from the “lone rock” in the woods, for the reason that the name was not applied until after the stone in the river had entirely disappeared, though “Totush,” an Indian who died in the neighborhood about 1840, declared that the latter should have the honor.

Related Note & Pages
The Saginaw Valley was a part of Oakland County when the first settlers arrived, the area later was organized as a township of Saginaw, attached to Oakland County, before being organized, which later, after several divisions became the counties of Bay, Genesee, Midland and Saginaw.
Native Settlers
Seven pages, includes links to internet resources.
People Referenced
Dustin, Fred
Nau-qua-chic-a-ming, chief
Nau-qua-chic-a-ming, James
Wheaton, Daniel
Wheaton, Nathan
Wheaton, Samuel
Subjects Referenced
Chesaning Twp.
Flint river
Kaw-Kaw-is-kou reserve
- aka: Crow Island
Mounds builders
- aka: Ne-ome's town
Saginaw Co., MI
Saginaw Twp.
-- aka: Saginaw
Shiawasse river
- aka: Green Point
Tamouth Twp.
Tittabawassee river
Related Images

Chief Shop-a-gons
Chief Shop-a-gon, a Chippewa Indian, died in 1911 at Saginaw where he lived out his life after the white settlement period.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.