To Robert Stuart

13 March 1843


[Ms in National Archives, Michigan Superintendency of Indian Affairs and Mackinac Agency - bound volume of Letters Received, pages 213-216: ]


Robert Stuart (1785-1849), from Scotland, was known as a pioneer fur trader with John J. Astor's American Fur Company until 1834, when he retired to Detroit and started trading in land. He had been converted in the late 1820s and became an elder in the Presbyterian Church in 1835. In June of that year, he visited Oberlin where he met Finney and other leaders of the colony and was so impressed with the place that he sent his son, David, to the College. In 1841 he was appointed to serve as federal superintendent of Indian affairs in the Michigan region; and in October 1842, he negotiated a treaty with the Chippewa Indians of the Mississippi and Lake Superior, which was ratified early the next year. Under its terms the Indians ceded lands, upon which they were allowed to remain for the time, and, in exchange, they were to receive annually for twenty-five years,

twelve thousand five hundred (12,500) dollars, in specie, ten thousand five hundred (10,500) dollars in goods, two thousand (2,000) dollars in provisions and tobacco, two thousand (2,000) dollars for the support of two blacksmiths shops, (including pay of smiths and assistants, and iron and steel &c.) one thousand (1,000) dollars for pay of two farmers, twelve hundred (1,200) for pay of two carpenters, and two thousand (2,000) dollars for the support of schools for the Indians party to this treaty; and further the United States engage to pay the sum of five thousand (5,000) dollars as an agricultural fund, to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of War.


To find people to fill these positions Stuart looked to Oberlin. Being already familiar with the place, and in tune with the religious aims of the college, he was aware of interest that had recently been generated in Oberlin for sending missionaries among the Chippewa in the Red Lake area in Minnesota. He therefore wrote to Chauncey T. Carrier, the farmer in charge of the Oberlin College farm, who was responsible for the manual labor program, to see if there were any people who would be willing to go under the government's scheme. Carrier replied as follows:


[page 213]

Oberlin 13th Mch 1843.

Robert Stuart Esq.

Dear Sir.

Yours of the 2nd inst. was rec.d. on the 4th. We read it with pleasure & were glad to hear that the treaty was ratified.

In answer to that part of your letter which asks for names, we have to reply that we have finally succeeded in obtaining a few.

We have found it much more difficult to obtain suitable men, than we anticipated. Those we send, are placed as you requested.

Respectfully Yours

C. T. Carrier.


Blacksmiths ( John. P. Bardwell

( Wm. Lewis

Farmers ( Peter. O. Johnson

( C. T. Carrier

Teachers ( Alonzo. Barnard

( Horatio. N. Thissell

Carpenters ( Cornelius. M. Johnson



[page 214]

Oberlin March 13. 1843

I am well acquainted with all the individuals named above with the exception of Mr Thissell & C. M. Johnson. I believe them well qualified as men & christians to exert an influence for good in the spheres for which they are recommended. Mr Thissell has been for some time a member of this Institution & is highly recommended by his teachers in whose judgement I have great confidence. With Mr C. M. Johnson my acquaintance is but partial. From all that I have been able to learn about him, my judgement is, that his appointment to the station to which he is recommended would be judicious

A Mahan Pres. O.C.I.


I most fully concur in the recommendation above given. My opportunities for an intimate acquaintance with the individuals named have been about the same as those of Bro. Mahan. Bro. C. M. Johnson & Bro Thissell are well recommended to us by those who know them, & I have no doubt of their qualifications for the stations proposed

Oberlin March 13. 1843. Henry Cowles



My personal acquaintance with several of the above named persons has been slight, they never having belonged to the theological department of this Institution. With Brs. Carrier Bardwell

& Lewis my acquaintance has been consi [page 215] derable. I can cheerfully concur in the recommendation of these from personal acquaintance, & am happy to express my confidence in the judgment of those who recommend the others from their personal acquaintance with them.

C. G. Finney


With messieurs Bardwell, Carrier & Lewis I have had considerable acquaintance & I fully concur with the above recommendations of them. Mr. C. M. Johnson is unknown to me. I have a partial acquaintance with the others which gives me a favorable impression respecting them, & they are highly recommended by respectable intelligent men who know them well.

John Morgan

Prof in O.C. Inst.


We have just rec,d a letter from Mrs. Boutwell. All well. And now sir, we submit the above names, and hope, that should any, or all of them be appointed by Govt., that they will prove faithful to the trust committed to them. Should you need any further credentials respecting any of them, please inform us. Mr. Dickinson, a carpenter of this place, may perhaps be had if needed. Not certain. Mr. C. M. Johnson is not a resident of this place. He is a sterling man. He is brother to P.O.J. whom I know well. We wait for an answer patiently. [page 216] We desire immediate answer in relation to the prospect you have, of nominating the men for Gov, Doty. and also the Teachers.

Should you nominate but one Farmer, I shall probably go in another capacity.

Yours Truly C. T. Carrier.



To. Robert. Stuart. Esq. Detroit. Mich.


Recd March 16th 1843 ansd. March 16th 1843.



With acknowledgment to William E. Bigglestone for alerting me to this letter, and for supplying a copy.

See Philip Ashton Rollins (editor) The Discovery of the Oregon Trail: Robert Stuart's Narratives of his Overland Trip Eastward from Astoria in 1812-13. (New York and London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935).

For his conversion and subsequent Christian life, see "Sketch of the Life of Hon. Robert Stuart." Pioneer Collections, Vol. 3 (Michigan: 1881), pp. 52-66.

In August 1836, the Reverend John Pierce, the Congregational pastor of Brookline, Massachusetts, whose son had been at Oberlin College, received a visit from Philo P. Stewart, one of the founders of Oberlin, who gave him first-hand details of the place. Pierce recorded in his diary what Stewart told him: "They say, that Judge Stewart and wife, of Michigan, visited the Institution last June, with prejudices against it. After spending 4 days, they left it not only with favorable impressions, but also with the resolution to establish a similar one in their own State." (See George Pierce Clark, "An Early Report on Oberlin College" Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly Vol. 63 [1956], p. 282). This "Judge Stewart" was undoubtedly Robert Stuart, who had served "at least in 1825, as a judge of the County Court of Michilimacinac County", and in that year, 1835, became secretary of the board of trustees appointed by the Presbyterian Synod of Michigan which founded Marshall College (Rollins, op. cit. pp. xli and xlv). For Stuart's connections with Oberlin College, see William E. Bigglestone, "Oberlin College and the beginning of the Red Lake Mission" in Minnesota History, Vol. 45 (Spring 1976), pp. 21-31.

Hester Boutwell and her husband William were missionaries with the American Board among the Chippewa in Red Lake, Minnesota.