Survey of the Boundary between
the State of Michigan and
the Territory Wiskonsin
Description of the Boundary
"To the mouth of the Montreal River [of lake Superior]; thence through the "middle of the channel of the said river Montreal to the middle of the Lake of the Desert; thence in a direct line to the nearest head of the Menomonee River; thence through the middle of that fork of said river just touched by the said line, down the centre of the main channel of the same, to the centre of the most usual ship channel of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan; thence through the centre of the most usual ship channel of Green Bay to the middle of Lake Michigan."
Such is the language of the description contained in the letter of instructions of date 30, July 1840, from the Govt. Bureau, and which is presumed to have been quoted from the Act of Congress concerning this boundary.
In the same letter of instructions explicit directions were communicated with reference to the place of commencing the survey.
In obedience to their directions, the survey was commenced on that part of the boundary which may be called imaginary, or that which is not characterized or marked by natural or physical features - viz - the portion between the head waters of the Montreal and of the Menomonee Rivers.
On a careful reading of the foregoing description of the boundary, it will be inferred
1st . . That "lake of the Desert" was supposed in the Act of Congress to be a head water of , and to discharge itself into Montreal River - for the words in the description are - "Thence through the middle of the channel of the said River Montreal to the middle of the Lake of the Desert."
2nd . . That somewhere between Lake Superior and Green Bay there was a known Lake bearing the name "Lake of the Desert" - for, the language describing the boundary specifies, that the middle of the Lake of the Desert "shall be a point in the boundary."
3rd . . That of all the head waters discharging themselves into the Menomonee River one would be found nearer to the said Lake of the Desert than any other - for, the description says - "Thence in a direct line to the nearest head of the Menomonee River."
4th . . That the nearest head of the Menomonee to the said lake would be found to be a branch of the Menomonee and not a lake - for, the description reads - "Thence through the middle of that fork [branch] of the said river just touched by the said line down the center of the main channel of the same."
The four suppositions here enumerated were doubtless made by the Committee of Congress who drafted the description of the boundary and predicated our information derived from a map similar to ours entitled
which was supposed to present a more accurate delineation of the waters between Lake Superior and Green Bay than any other map extents.
An exact copy of as much of said map as is necessary for illustration is attached to this Report and marked No.1. Upon this map it will be perceived, that the boundary between Michigan and Wisconsin is laid down as following direction from Lake Superior nearly South East to Green Bay; and that the courses of the Montreal and Menomonee Rivers taken together constitute a general route in the same direction; and that Lae Vieux Desert [Lake of the Desert] is not only represented as being the head of the Montreal but is likewise represented as the head of the Menomonee.
And altho' the map from which no. 1 has been copied bears the high sanction of a legislative assembly, it is proven by the survey that that portion of this map upon which the boundary is laid down is exceedingly erroneous: and therefore if it be true that this map or one similar to it was taken as a guide in drafting the description of the boundary, it is not surprising that the said description so far as it relates to the head waters of the Montreal and Menomonee is so worded that the conditions of the list defining the can not be compiled with to the full extent of all the requirements contained in said list.
The survey was presented as far as the inclemency and rigor of the advanced stage of the season would permit; but if there had been ever so much time and ever so genuine a temperature for field
operations, the survey could not have been carried any further, on account of having reached a point beyond which the description of the boundary ceases to be in accordance with the physical character of the country.
It was ascertained that Lae Vieux Desert or "Lake of the Desert" has no connection whatever with the Montreal River, and that the nearest distance between said Lake and this river is such that our Indian requires eight days without a pack to pass from one to the other: And it is also believed with much confidence that the Montreal River does not head in a lake but takes its rise in an extensive swamp. Neither is Lae Vieux Desert or "Lake of the Desert" at all connected with the Menomonee River, but this lake was found - contrary to the opinions of all except the Indians - to be the principle head of the Wiskonsin River!!!
The Montreal River is found to have a course different from what was supposed; so have the courses of the Menomonee and its principle branches been equally mistaken and misrepresented.
Map No. 2, which is attached to this Report, exhibits a more faithful delineation of the country between Lake Superior and Green Bay along the route of the boundary than any other map, for it has been made up from actual reconnoissances explorations and minute surveys of the route which it represents. Still, this map should be regarded only as an approximation to the truth - That part of it however which represents the district between Lac Brulé and Lac Vieux Desert and which it was necessary to survey is accurate - being made
from minute surveys. The same degree of accuracy is to be attributed to the portion between the mouth of the Menomonee and the White Rapids, and to that portion immediately north of Green Bay and to the portion representing Green Bay itself. The other parts of the maps are made from reconnaissances and explorations of the ground and from information derived from Indians whose representations are entitled to confidence.
And here it may be well to remark for the benefit of those who may hereafter be sent upon a similar duty into this wild region, that information derived from French Voyagers is (or more properly French Fur Seekers) who traverse the country to collect furs for traders, cannot be relied on, as a general rule with so much confidence as that which may be elicited from Indians. The chief aim of the voyagers, while collecting his pack of furs, is to pass from one point to another in the least possible time - so intent is he upon accomplishing this, that he performs his trip with no more observation upon surrounding nature than is evinced by a stage horse in passing from one relay to another not so however with the native born Indian hunter: He knows every stream, swamp, lake, hill or dale that comes within his circuit of his beat with a surprising minuteness: and there are those among the Band who will impart information to one who will take the trouble and proper course to win their confidence. Much valuable information pertaining to the route of the boundary was obtained from Indians.
I am under obligation to Ramsey Crooks Logan, President of the American Fur Company, for information derived from him as well
as from a small sketch of a portion of the Chippewa country with which he favored me in the fall of 1839. The information obtained from this gentleman has been of service and is embodied (with slight corrections consequent upon a personal examination of the ground) in Map no. 2.
Map no. 3, which is attached to this Report represents on a large scale that portion of the country which was initially surveyed between Lae Bruli and Lae Vieux Desert; it also represents a part of Brulé River - that "forks" as head of the Menomonee which was found to be situated nearest the lake called in the Act of Congress "Lake of the Desert" - which however is more generally known by the name Lae Vieux Desert. From this map it will be perceived, that the portion of the Act of Congress is of the description of the boundary which reads - "Middle of the Lake of the Desert; thence in a direct line to the nearest head of the Menomonee River" can now be complied with - provided the starting point.
"The middle of the Lake of the Desert" should be first fixed: But it may be asked - "what is the middle of the Lake of the Desert"? - from the contour of this lake which is exhibited on Map no. 3 it will at once be perceived, that the term "middle" be applied to it is very indefinite; and that it would require much labour to determine its middle line to establish a monument so as to mark a corner or point in the boundary.
The labor of course would not be objected to, but if required to be performed, means adequate to the end should be provided.
Again - in the description of the boundary - it says the line from the middle of the Lake to the nearest
head of the Menomonee shall be a "direct line". The _______ _______ of a direct line between two points would mean simply a straight line. But from an examination of Map no. 3, it will be perceived that ever so many straight _______ therefore direct lines could be drawn from the middle of said lake to the nearest head of the Menomonee River; and that every one of which lines would meet the conditions of the law as expressed in the ________of the boundary : And it might be asked "which one of such a system of lines would be the boundary?" Again - from the course the Montreal River is now found to have, even from the fact that Lake of the Desert has no connection whatever with this river, it will also be perceived that it would be impossible to run a line according to the meaning of the words - in the description of the boundary - "thence through the middle of the channel of the said river Montreal to the middle of the Lake of the Desert". It is true that the channel of the river might be followed to its very head, and from this head a line could be run over the ground to the middle of the Lake of the Desert. But it is not presumable that such a random line was ever intended by Congress to constitute any portion of the boundary in question: it was undoubtedly supposed, that Lake of the Desert was the head of the Montreal, and that a natural boundary would be found to be provided all the way from the mouth of the Montreal to the middle of said lake, and that it would only be necessary to work out a line from, the middle of said lake to the nearest head water of the Menomonee River.
From this interpretation it will be evident that the instructions from the Topographical
Bureau have been freely complied with, even that the survey of the boundary has been prosecuted as far as was intended in those instructions for this season.
From the foregoing discussion of the subject, it will appear that it would be exceedingly difficult yea utterly impossible to run the boundary line in complete accordance with the description as it now reads in the Act of Congress - particularly as that part of the ground between the Montreal River and the head of the Menomonee (the Brulé River) which comes nearest to the Lake of the Desert.
Under this view of the subject - it is evident that another action of Congress will be required in relation to this boundary - to the end of defining it in such a manner that it can be established with that degree of definite ______ ______ upon a _____ upon the ground that should characterize a boundary line between the two states.
There the subject might be dropped by me - but as the survey has developed information which may be of use in the event of any future legislation, it certainly would be proper, and in any event I trust it will not be regarded extra officious in use, to present the following suggestions as a part of this Report:
There is no doubt of Lae Vieux Desert (as written on the map and generally so called) being the identical lake with that intebded in the description of the boundary and therein called "Lake of the Desert", and whose middle point is made one point of the boundary.
The three Islands of this lake have from their relative positions been renamed - South
Lae Vieux Desert now being known might be brought into the boundary, by specifying some point within its periphery for one physical point of the boundary. All indefiniteness, much labour and expense would be avoided by simply saying in the law, that the highest point of ground (whether of rock or earth, upon Middle Island) shall be the point - instead of saying "middle" of the lake.
The present description of the boundary makes the "middle of the channel" of the Montreal River a part of the boundary. The term "middle of the channel" is indefinite - because Islands may occur, which would of course cause more than one channel. By specifying which channel in such cases should be followed by the boundary lines, another ambiguity would be avoided -: It is also evident, that it should be specified how far up the Montreal River the boundary shall extend before leaving for Lae Vieux Desert: For example - the law might specify that the boundary in ascending shall follow the extreme right hand channel from the mouth of the river up to where it shall be found to be intersected by a straight line drawn from the highest point of Middle Island North 30 degrees west .
Such a description would be divested of all vagueness and would allow of this portion of the boundary being established but comparative on cost.
As an infinite number of lines can be drawn from any point in Lae Vieux Desert
to the nearest head of Menomonee River, all ambiguity would be avoided in reference to this part of the boundary by saying in the law, that the boundary shall be the shortest line (instead of direct line) that can be drawn from the highest point of Middle Island to the middle of the channel of the water that flows into the Menomonee River, and which comes nearest to Lac Vieux Desert; thence through the middle ___ - But as the stated line from said point on Middle Island to the nearest water flowing into the Menomonee would probably terminate in a swamp (see Map no. 3), it would be better to say that this part of the boundary shall be a direct line from the highest point of Middle Island to the middle of the channel of the outlet of Lac Brulé; then on through the middle of Brulé River &c.
The "centre of the main channel" of the Menomonee River is made a part of the boundary. This river contains numerous Islands, and consequently more than one channel where these Island's occur. It will be impossible in many of these cases to know which is the "main channel" without minute surveys.
In many cases it was tried and found impossible to decide by a simple inspection or reconnaissance which was the "main channel". It should also be remarked here that the term "main channel" applied to the numerous channels of the Menomonee would be somewhat ambiguous in any event. For, it may be asked - Is the main channel the widest channel of the river? Or is it the deepest? If it be the widest or deepest now, will it be the widest or deepest hereafter? Or shall the main channel be that through which the greatest
quantity of water shall be found to pass at the time of the survey? And if it should occur that two channels at the same Island pass equal quantities of water, which would then be regarded as the boundary? These questions are sufficient to show the indefiniteness of the term "main channel". There are also a few Islands in the Bruli River to which similar questions might apply in reference to the term "main channel".
To avoid all ambiguity in reference to these channels, it might be specified in the Act defining the boundary, that in descending the stream, the boundary shall follow the extreme left hand channel of the Bruli and the extreme right hand channel of the Menomonee down to a well known point of the river - say - Pe-me-ne Falls; and thense to follow the extreme left hand channel of the remainder of the Menomonee to its mouth.
Such a division would leave some of the Islands in Michigan and the remainder in Wiskonsin, and would avoid much expense in minute surveys to ascertain the "main channel" and would leave no indefinition upon this part of the boundary.
The free use of either channel for the purposes of navigation would, from an established principle of law, be open at all times to the citizens of either state, and the Islands would be evenly distributed in equal proportions between the two states.
After descending the channel of the Menomonee "to the centre of the most usual ship channel of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan" the boundary is made to run "through the centre of
the most usual Ship channel of Green Bay to the middle of Lake Michigan".
From map no. 4, which accompanies this Report, it may be inferred that the Islands which exist in the eastern part of Green Bay would canse several ship channels. It is a well known fact to all who have any personal knowledge of the navigation of this Bay, that there are at least two ship channels which are in use by all classes and kinds of craft that navigate the Great lakes. It would be next to an impossibility to collect the testimony that would be necessary to decide the question - Which of these is the "most usual ship channel of Green Bay"? And it is not easy to conceive any other mode than by testimony, by which the "most usual ship channel" could be ascertained. But suppose this method of evaluating testimony practicable, it might occur that all the evidence that could be collected on the subject would prove that one of these channels is just as much in use as the other; in which case it would only be shown that there is no such thing as the "most usual ship channel" in this part of the bay.
Although the term "most usual ship channel" is now in the description of the boundary, still, it is rather to be presumed, that this term was intended to imply in the Act of Congress the best ship channel of all that may be found in that portion of Green bay referred to. An equitable construction of the law would convey this idea; for it is not to be presumed, that, of two states bordering upon navigable ship channels either state would or could in equity
claim to appropriate the best of these channels exclusively to herself.
If the interpretation of the term "most usual ship channel" implying the best ship channel be correct, it will be an errancy to make a complete hydrographic survey of all the channels that exist in that portion of Green Bay east of the mouth of the Menomonee River, in order to discern the best ship channel (if there be such), assuming all ship channels were in use in that part of the Bay. After this survey shall have been made the particular channel along which the boundary shall run may be declared. It is important to the interests of Michigan and Wiskonsin, that this part of the boundary be immediately ascertained on account of the question of jurisdiction over the Islands in the center part of the Bay.
With the modifications now respectfully suggested, the description of the boundary would be to the following effect, vir.
". . . to the mouth of the Montreal River (of L. Superior); thence (in ascending) through the centre of the extreme right hand channel that the said Montreal River may be found to have as far up the same as where the said channel shall be found to be intersectid by a direct line drawn from the highest point of ground on Middle Island of Lae Vieux (Desert north 30 degrees west; thence from the said "intersection) along the first described direct line to the said point of Middle Island; thence (from the said point of Middle Island) in a direct line to the centre of the channel of the outlet of
Lake Brulé; thence following the centre of the extreme left hand channel of the Brulé River (Wesacota sepe) down to the middle of the "channel of the Menomonee River; thence following the centre of the "extreme right hand channel of the Menomonee River down the same "to the head of Pe-me-ne Falls; thence following the centre of the "extreme left hand channel of the Menomonee River down to the "centre of the best ship channel of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan; "thence following the centre of the best ship Channel of Green Bay to "the middle of Lake Michigan".
Such a description as this if authorized by Congress would allow of the boundary being established without any material difficulty; and it would cause no material change or departure from what is conceived to have been the instruction of the law as it is now worded. The proposed clarification would moreover leave the state of Michigan and the territory of Wiskonsin with nearly the same relative quantities of territory as they would have respectively possessed had the Montreal, and the Menomonee and Lae Vieux Desert been found situated as was supposed in forming the present law of the boundary. Besides, the field operations which will be necessary to establish the boundary would be attached with much less emphasis on account of having to make no minute surveys of the Islands and consequent channels in the Montreal, Brulé and Menomonee Rivers.
Owing however to the absence of all facilities in a wilderness - like that of the north of this boundary - the cost of the recovery operations for establishing the boundary between the mouth of the Montreal River and Lae Vieux Desert, thence to the outlet of Lae Brulé will not be less than 10,000 dollars; and the cost of the survey of the center point of Green Bay to discover the best ship channel will be not less than $3,000. These sums being inclusive of what has already been expended -