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.
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
I want to share with you some thoughts I have had about
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.
I want to share with you the sources that I used in
researching Chief Noonday
Cook, D.B., "Six Months Among the Indians, In the
Forest of Allegan County, Michigan in the
Winter of 1839 and 1840."
Goodyear, Henry A., "Personal Recollections of Indians
in Barry County"
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, "
Tanner, Helen H., "Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History"
University of Oklahoma Press, 1987
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
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
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.