« PreviousContinue »
very strange and in some ways a noble looking man. He was tall and spare, with long white hair which he wore parted in the middle and drawn back behind his ears like a woman's. He had a fierce eye, and his countenance was most forbidding. When he was not angry he was very pleasant and gentlemanly. He was very much like a white man, excepting for this terrible temper.
After I became quite a girl I remember him. When he was pleasant we were interested in seeing him but when angry, we were very much afraid of him. He used to sit in his door at sunset. When my sister and I were little and had to pass his house, and saw Tanner sitting on his doorstep we took hold of hands and ran past the house. Like an Indian, he nourished his feeling of revenge and hatred. Very often they were obliged to shut him up in jail until he got over these spells. He was however very lonely and about two weeks before the tragedy he came to my father's house and told father he could not endure this life any longer and that he must make some change. He made a proposition to father that he should come and live at the mission house of which father was in charge. He said if he could only eat at table with the family he would stay in his room and not disturb anybody. Father knew what a terrible thing his temper was, and refused to have him. He came down from the study, I remember, and passed through the sitting room where Mrs. Hulbert was sitting with several other persons. He was very angry but seemed only grieved at father's refusal. About two weeks after that time he began to be very crazy, acting as he did when he was in his frenzies. Father went over to the garrison to talk to Major Kingsbury about having Tanner shut up in jail. While he was talking to him an orderly told him that Mr. James Schoolcraft had been shot by Tanner. Father was the first one that arrived at the spot. Mr. James Schoolcraft was a sutler at the garrison. He was rather a gay man and very handsome. Saturday was the 4th of July, and he had gone over to the Canadian side to have a good time with the officers on that side. I do not know at what time he got back to his home. He was sleeping off his good time on the Monday after the 4th, and got up from his bed in the afternoon, put on his dressing sack and slippers, and took a walk in his beautiful garden across what is now Porter avenue where he had a vegetable garden. Just as he got to a clump of bushes in the garden some one fired a shot which struck him in the heart. There was a very great commotion. When father arrived upon looking about the place he found a wad of paper which he supposed was in the gun. He unrolled it and found this paper was part of a mission hymn book that was used in the chapel. There was very great excitement in town that afternoon. This was Mr. Peter White's first visit to this Lake Superior region. He was a boy of fifteen, a young roustabout looking for work. Everybody took guns to hunt Tanner, who was a very skillful marks
MICHIGAN PIONEER AND HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS
MICHIGAN PIONEER AND HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS
man. The men didn't go very far into the woods and didn't find Tanner. From that day to this John Tanner has never been heard of. The town hunted for him knowing that he had threatened to kill every one who had helped to get his wife away. Particularly did he try to kill Henry Schoolcraft, but he had gone away and only his brother James was at home. He said if he couldn't get Henry, he would get Jim. Mr. Hulbert and wife had gone to Detroit for a visit and Mrs. James Schoolcraft had gone with them. He also threatened to kill father and several other persons who had given money toward getting Mrs. Tanner away.
On Saturday night the Fourth of July this little house of Mr. Tanner was burned to the ground. When the people went there to try and put out the fire they could not get near as powder had been placed around it and every little while it would explode. Some thought Mr. Tanner was burned with his house, but afterwards when they looked they never found any part of him. It is thought he went away and hid in the woods.
They had a guard around my father's house for two months and nobody went out of the house in the evening because they were afraid of John Tanner. Whatever happened, John Tanner did it. It was called the “Tanner summer.” A great many stories about his having been seen here and there were told, and father who was much interested investigated all these stories and never found but one he thought had any claim to truth. It was supposed that he had gone to the north with which he was familiar. I went with a small party of girls down to Schoolcraft's home and saw him as he laid there. I was old enough to know all about it and remember it well indeed. An officer in the army named Lieut. Tilden had had difficulty with Mr. James Schoolcraft, and had been heard to say that "cold lead would fix it.” Nobody thought anything about it at the time however. Lieut. Tilden while serving in the Mexican War had gotten into some difficulty and was courtmartialed during which he wrote a letter to my father telling him that during the courtmartial he had been charged with Schoolcraft's murder instead of Tanner. He asked for a letter saying he had not done the deed, but when father, whg was sure that Tanner had murdered Mr. Schoolcraft, went out with a letter for signers, there was one man who said he would not sign it as he was afraid Tilden had done the deed. Some thought he had sent two soldiers out who did it. About a month after the murder these two soldiers came in, and the barrel of one of the guns was empty. But what had become of Tanner ?8 No one knew. Then they said that
STanner's family always hoped to find him. There is a story of his brother James finding him, told by Elizabeth T. Baird, Wisconsin Hist. Colls., Vol. XIV, pp. 47-55.
Tilden” had hired these two men to go into the woods and shoot James Schoolcraft.
A very remarkable thing happened about a month after this murder. These two soldiers were on guard. A sentinel was standing there and the men were standing about when a terrible thunder storm came up. I think I have never seen a storm come up so quickly, and it proved the most terrible shower ever witnessed. I was looking out of the window and saw a great commotion in the garrison. These two soldiers who had been supposed to have been hired to kill James Schoolcraft, were both struck with lightning and instantly killed. They were taken past my father's house with military honors to the cemetery. One thing I remember, they played the dead march on the way out and on the way back played "Yankee Doodle.” This of course made it impossible to find out anything about the murder from these soldiers, but I don't know how the courtmartial came out.
A number of years ago, about forty years after the murder, I was visiting at Mackinac, and came across the oldest daughter of John Tanner. She was a half-breed named Martha and lived to a very great age. She told me a very strange story. She said she had had a letter from Mrs. Tilden that it was her husband who had shot James Schoolcraft. But she didn't want her to say anything about it until her husband was dead. I didn't believe it. She herself was a Roman Catholic and had shown the letter to the Bishop and he had told her it had better be destroyed. He took care of it, and put it in the grate. Mrs. Hulbert, Mrs. Schoolcraft and Mr. Peter White had believed that James Schoolcraft was shot by Tilden, but father investigated the thing very thoroughly, and he did not think the thing possible. A United States soldier would not have had a leaf from a mission hymn book as wadding for his gun, and Mr. Tilden would not have known about Mr. Schoolcraft sleeping off his 4th of July celebration.
Nobody knows who burned the house or who killed James Schoolcraft.
THE VALUE OF LOCAL HISTORICAL DATA
BY FRANK TRACY CARLETON1
History is a science; it belongs to the family of social sciences. History is concerned not with the string of events held together by the colorless thread of chronology; historical science is a study of causation. In the social and political world, social and political structures are
"Tilden resigned in 1848 and died ten years later.
evolved, and changes take place, in response to modifications in the social and physical environment, or in the industry of the people. History is the social physics of the past; sociology, of the present. Unless the study of history aids in the solution of the social problems of to-day, it remains in the lower rank of leisure class, cultural studies,—the value of which is chiefly traditional and putative.
The medieval mind had no idea of causation in the physical world; only comparatively recently did we of modern times begin to throw off medievalism in regard to social progress. According to the early metaphysical conception of history, data and investigations were of no value, or of negative value. In a similar way, the medieval authorities considered inductive physical science to be improper and dangerous. However, metaphysics and supersition in regard to the evolution of political institutions are fortunately rapidly giving way to scientific hypotheses based upon exact and detailed investigation of historical data.
Furthermore, history consists of more than the mere record of events. It is the function of real historical study to ascertain in a measure the reason for the rise and fall of specific nations, parties and principles. Before broad and reasonable generalizations can be drawn an enormous mass of exact, uncolored historical data must be gathered and digested. This data must relate not merely to political events or to the work and ideas of certain great and more or less spectacular personages who have stood in the foreground in generations which lie forever behind the present. This data must, if it be highly valuable, tell the true story of the life, ideals, customs, industrial and social relations of the mass of the people. Each locality, class and individual can add its quota toward the accurate knowledge of the true history of a given nation.
In the past our historians have often been guilty of presenting a false picture of the history of a nation. Their conclusions have often been very much prejudiced and distorted. In part this unfortunate situation was the direct and inevitable result of a lack of minute and local historical data. In part, it was due to a false idea of patriotism which led the writers to over-emphasize the good qualities of certain historical personages and to accentuate the moral weaknesses of others; it caused the historians to find altruistic and broad-minded ideals where in reality egoistic and particularistic ambitions were uppermost. Not only were false ideas presented, but the glorification of the past inevitably made the student and reader pessimistic in regard to the present and the future. The past was seen constantly surrounded by an unreal halo. The imaginary good old days and the more or less mythical heroic heroes of the past when placed in comparison with the somber, but actual, present checked the enthusiasm of many a young idealist. With this contrast in view the present seemed hopelessly degenerate; corruption, graft and political chicanery were believed to be of recent origin whereas in reality these evils are as old as history.
American history has suffered greatly in the past because of superficial and prejudiced interpretation of facts, and because of the lack of definite and accurate data. Fortunately, great progress has been made in the last two or three decades. Libraries and associations like the one under whose auspices this meeting is held, have been busy collecting manuscripts, newspapers, letters, old books, anything which will give a clue to the real life, ideals, customs and conditions of the people of this country. Many earnest and devoted students have studied portions of this constantly growing material and have given to the world valuable monographic studies relating to some specific historical movement or event. Others have presented more general historical works based upon the two preceding classes of material. As a result we are beginning to get a new view of our national past; and this new view is much truer and much less distorted than the older sentimental presentation. Our revolutionary heroes, for example, are no longer pictured as supermen; they are seen to be like men of today,-men affected by the same motives and influences as are those who to-day walk the streets or sit in the halls of Congress. The great man theory of history is also displaced by the view that economic and environmental forces mould, in a large degree, the political movements which stand out so prominently in our history. Unfortunately, there are still some writers, lecturers and ministers who either through ignorance or wilful perversion of facts, continue to misuse their opportunities by drawing false conclusions and presenting highly colored pictures of historical epochs and movements.
Careful study of the medieval period in European history is greatly handicapped because scholars are unable to find much material as to the common, the ordinary, events and methods of carrying on the routine of daily life. The kind of data which is important is missing. Only the exceptional and unusual happenings were generally recorded. In order that a comprehensive and trustworthy knowledge of American history be obtained, it is necessary that a mass of material be collected and studied which will accurately and truthfully tell of the actual routine of life among the mass of the people in every locality of the United States. For example, a president of the American Historical Association has pointed out that the diaries and letters of the Methodist circuit riders of the frontier districts ought to furnish a vast amount of valuable information because these men were typical frontiersmen and came very closely in contact with the life of the people. To gather this fugitive material is, or should be, the mission of this Association. From the standpoint of a student, such work is fundamental. It is absolutely