Except as otherwise noted, all contents of this Web site are Copyright © Chief Noonday Chapter, the North Country Trail Association.
 

 

Specialized research notes
from LaVerne BeBeau

 

LaVerne BeBeau, who was a member of Chief Noonday Chapter until his death in June 2006, was an educator by profession with a specialty in history who loved to do historical research.  He spent some time examining the history of the area that the Chief Noonday Chapter section of the North Country Trail passes through.  Native American history was much a part of this exercise  As he released his studies, they were posted to this site.
 

2002-07-30:  Yankee Springs Inn

"Did you ever go out to Grand River, from Detroit to Kalamazoo, in a wagon without any river, through a country that looks very new?"

"If you’re hungry, and wish for a dinner, breakfast, supper, and lodging to boot; if you’re a Turk, a Christian, or sinner, Yankee Springs is the place that will suit."

"The landlord’s a prince of his order, Yankee Lewis, whose fame and renown, far and near throughout Michigan’s border is noised about country and town."

George Torrey, Sr., 1844

William C. Lewis, a native of New York, and an early pioneer of Barry County, Michigan, arrived in Yankee Springs in 1836, a few months after his brother Calvin, who had already begun construction of an oak and tamarack log cabin. William purchased the property from his brother, and expanded the cabin into an inn that he called the Mansion House. The previous year, however, a group of Massachusetts men had stopped there, and had carved the name "Yankee Springs" on a tree by a nearby spring. Although dubbed the Mansion House, the place quickly became known as the Yankee Springs Inn, and the proprietor as Yankee Bill.

Today only a clearing and the spring remains, but the North Country National Scenic Trail crosses the site of that once celebrated inn. It’s location lies just west of where the trail crosses Norris Road, and southwest of Yankee Springs State Park.

Yankee Bill brought his family (wife, son, three daughters, and an adopted daughter) with him in 1836. After traveling in a covered wagon through Canada to Detroit, the family headed west across an undeveloped Michigan.

In 1903 one of the daughters, Mary Lewis Hoyt, recalled of that trip; "After leaving Detroit the road was mostly through dense woods. The future sites of Marshall, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo were only a few small clusters of cabins at that time. After leaving Battle Creek we passed through Gull Prairie, now know as Richland, and just to the north of this location we met Leonard Slater, an Indian missionary. After leaving the Slater Mission we plunged into the wilderness and the road disappeared to become an Indian trail marked by blazed trees. After traveling through the woods for a distance of about 18 miles, and not having seen a single cabin we finally arrived at Yankee Springs."

During the late 1830’s and 1840’s Yankee Springs became a focal point to travel in Barry County, and Yankee Bill’s establishment prospered. The trails from Kalamazoo and Battle Creek joined at Gull Prairie, passed through Yankee Springs, and continued on to Kent (now known as Grand Rapids). In addition, the great Indian trail from Detroit to Kent passed through Yankee Springs.

As business increased, Yankee Springs Inn grew from one to seven cabins. (Mary Lewis Hoyt recalled that there were nine cabins, but other sources agree on seven.)

Travelers, in their letters east, frequently referred to the "little huts" at Yankee Springs, and some referred to the inn as seven storied with all the stories on the ground. The popularity of the place was such that it was not unusual for a hundred people to stay there on a single night, and on one night sixty teams were stabled at the inn.

Indians in the area supplied the inn with fresh fish and venison, as well as a variety of wild berries. Men were employed to plant and maintain an extensive garden. Other provisions were obtained in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. A memorable feast was put forth Thanksgiving Day in 1838. Wild turkey and pork ribs, slow cooked over the great open fireplace, were the entrees, while mince and pumpkin pies, as well as puddings were baked in the brick over on the side of the fireplace. To this feast Yankee Bill had invited all the new settlers for miles around, and on the day of the event he sent out men with wagons to bring his guests to the inn. With music playing, the crowd danced until morning.

The glory days of Yankee Springs ended in the late 1840’s. The coming of railroads, and the routing of stagecoach lines through Hastings to the east, began the decline of the inn, and the construction of a plank road from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids in 1855 completely diverted traffic from Yankee Springs, and sealed the fate of the famed inn.

One Saturday, during the heyday of the inn, Yankee Bill Lewis organized a foot race and a group of men took off down the hill. No one remembers who won, or what the prize was, but tradition does recall that one of the contestants shook some false teeth loose, and that a subsequent search failed to find them.

Hikers. As you walk the North Country Trail and cross the clearing where the Mansion House once stood, remember those other travelers who preceded you by over 150 years, and if you have time to linger awhile, look around and just maybe, you can find those missing false teeth.

2002-04-13:

(from a notation below: )  At 98 years of age, while visiting an Indian village near Bradley, Chief Noonday took ill and died in August 1855.  His body was returned to the Slater mission at Prairieville, and he was buried beside his wife. Their graves lie on the south side of Cressey Road, less than three miles off the North Country Trail.  Click on these links to see pictures of the actual headstone.

Front of Headstone     Back of Headstone

2002-03-18:

I want to share with you some thoughts I have had about Chief Noonday. 
 
1.  I have already communicated to Dave Cornell and Tom Garnett some reservations I have about the bust called Chief Noonday.  As you note, Noonday died before the advent of cameras, and I don't know of any artist's painting of him.  Therefore, we have no record of his image.  As I read the inscriptions on the bust I have reached the conclusion that the figured depicted is Charles Kobasguni (the model) of the Lake Superior Chippewa, and the name "Chief Noonday" was merely affixed to it.  I do not accept it as authentic.
 
2.  The Ottawa, the Chippewa, and the Potawatomi were all tribes of the Algonquian group.  The were allied with the French, and against the British and the allies of the British, the Iroquois.  One of the documents provided by Yankee Springs state park referred to Noonday as an Iroquois, and in my opinion, is certainly in error.
 
3.  The Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederation (the Mohawk, Cayuga,Onondaga, Odeida, and the Seneca)  were united with the Ottawa, Chippewa, and the Potawatomi under the leadership of Tecumseh, as were many other tribes stretching from Alabama to the Canadian border.  Since the French were gone from the North American continent, their former Indian allies joined the struggle against the American westward movement, and therefore joined the British cause in the War of 1812, of which the Battle of Thames was a part.  It was during the Battle of Thames that Tecumseh was killed.  A correction to our web page:  Tecumseh as a Shawnee chief, not a Pawnee.  The Pawnee were, and still are, a tribe of the Great Plains.
 
4.  Chief Noonday, who readily discussed his participation in the War of 1812, denied on different occasions that he was present at the burning of Buffalo; contrary to information provided on our web-site.
 
5.  Point of interest:  our web-site makes reference to a "Chief Penassee", and also makes relates the Penassee  means "the bird."  "Penassee" was also the name of a lake now known as Gun Lake.
 
I do not want to present myself as an expert, for I am far from that, but I am a student of history and of the Native peoples, and hopefully I  have something to offer as we put together the zigsaw puzzle of "Who was Chief Noonday."  I have been trained in historical research and analysis, and I hope I can use it on our Interpretive Trail Project.

2002-03-14:

I want to share with you the sources that I used in researching Chief Noonday
 
Primary Sources:
    Cook, D.B., "Six Months Among the Indians, In the Forest of Allegan County, Michigan in the
                        Winter of 1839 and 1840."  Published 1889
    Goodyear, Henry A., "Personal Recollections of Indians in Barry County"
                        Published 1915
Secondary Sources:
    Hastings Banner, "Chief Noonday's Involvement at the Battle of Thames, April 27, 1910
    Hastings Banner, "Biographical Sketch of Leonard Slater"  June 8, 1910
 
   Baxter, Albert,  "History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan"  published 1891
   Bernard Musuem, "Years Gone by"
   Watson, Ricky Lee, "A Glimpse of Early Barry County, "  Published 2001
   Tanner, Helen H., "Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History"  University of Oklahoma Press, 1987
 

2002-03-13:

His visage graces the side of our tool trailer, and his name adds a touch of romanticism to our chapter.  His name has been spelled in different ways; Nono-qua-he-zich, Noah-qua-ge-shik, Nah-qua-gee-shik, and Nowaaquakezick; but we know him as Chief Noonday.  A strapping six feet tall and very muscular, he was undoubtedly a great hiker, and walked the same land now traversed by the North Country Trail. 

Noonday, a member of the Ottawa nation, was born circa 1757 in a village near the Grand River.  He was the chief of the upper village on the Grand, on the site of where Grand Rapids now stand, when whites began moving into the area.  However, his contacts with whites began long before.  He had known the days of the French fur traders, and his conversations were sprinkled with French words and phrases.  Chief Noonday was allied with the British during the early years of our nation, and may have fought the Americans during the Revolution.  He was said to have been at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, but no documentation for that claim has been found.  He was, however, at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812, the Battle at which the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was slain. 

Support for Tecumseh and his cause, rather than devotion to the British, was what motivated Chief Noonday to lead the Ottawa in battle against the Americans.  During the Battle of the Thames an American soldier, Richard M. Johnson, was thrown from his mount when his horse fell while jumping a log.  Tecumseh was rushing in with an uplifted tomahawk when Johnson drew a pistol and shot him in the breast.  Chief Noonday, with the assistance of Chief Saginaw, carried Tecumseh from the battlefield, and as he later related, “we laid him down a blanket in a wigwam, and we all wept.  We loved him so much.  I took his hat and tomahawk.”  Years later Chief Noonday was still in possession of the tomahawk, but Saginaw had the hat.  Saginaw was the chief of a mixed group of Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi Indians living in the Gun Lake area.  

In 1825 a Reverend Isaac McCoy came to the Upper Village on the Grand River to discuss with Chief Noonday the possibility of establishing a mission at that location.  Permission was granted, and a young missionary, Leonard Slater, was placed in charge.  Among Slater’s first converts was Chief Noonday, who was baptized in the Grand River.  A close bond developed between the Slater and Noonday families, and when Leonard Slater moved the mission to Prairieville township in 1836, Chief Noonday went with them. Slater’s “desire to remove the Indians from the evil example of incoming white men was his motive for moving from Grand Rapids to Prairieville.”   

In 1838 Chief Noonday was described by D.B. Cook as, “six feet high, broad shouldered, well proportioned. with broad , high cheek bones, piercing black eyes, and coarse black hair which hung down his shoulders, and he possessed  wonderful muscular power. 

At 98 years of age, while visiting an Indian village near Bradley, Chief Noonday took ill and died in August 1855.  His body was returned to the Slater mission at Prairieville, and he was buried beside his wife. Their graves lie on the south side of Cressey Road, less than three miles off the North Country Trail.

 
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